Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another Day, Another Poll

Well why not? It gives us something to do while we wait on the next lunatic to open fire in a school, or mall.  Besides, those big dollar contributors need to know who to start thinking about as a possible winner and who to stay away from. After all we wouldn't want a repeat of 2012 when Sheldon Adelson bet the house's money on a 12th century leper named, Newt Gingrich.

The latest  poll was conducted by The Washington Post and ABC and the numbers show us a couple of interesting things and some so obvious you have to wonder why the question was even asked.

In the latter category we find that among democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton is the preferred nominee by 73% of those polled. Her closest possible opponent is Joe Biden with a pitiful 12%. Elizabeth Warren came in at 8%, although she insists she won't run. Looking at the numbers who can blame her? Even at this early juncture the best strategy on the left side of the road would be to start jockeying for the second spot on the ticket. Indeed, barring some unforeseen catastrophe, the only reason the democrats need a convention in 2016 is to get some free network air time.

On the right end things are a bit murkier. Leading the field right now is Paul Ryan, congressman from Wisconsin, failed vice presidential candidate, and the darling of people who describe themselves as white, protestant, and evangelical. He polled at 20% in a crowded field. Interestingly enough, besides uber anglos, he also scored biggest with less conservative members of the party and younger voters. Admittedly the real race starts next year, but the early betting was, Rand Paul would do best with the twenty something crowd.

Speaking of the junior senator from Kentucky, at least in this survey, he didn't fare well. Paul was favored by 11% and is mired in 5th place in a 6 man pack. The only person who trails him at this point is Marco Rubio who polled 10% and is as dead as any duck can get.

The good news for Paul, if one can call it that, is Ted Cruz, late of Alberta, was the first choice of only 12%, despite being preferred by 28% of the tea party wing. Once adrift from that dizzying realm however, the Texas senator pulled in only 4% of those asked.

Actually the second place name was a bit of a surprise, although it probably shouldn't be. Running only 2 points behind Ryan is former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. When you think about it this bunch isn't overwhelming and Bush has the royal purple pedigree. On one hand he might be able tone down the fire and brimstone without alienating the far right. On the other, is the American public ready for a third Bush dynasty? Not to mention, someone around here is bound to remember both his old man and brother screwed the economy beyond belief during their tenures, so why should we trust the latest reboot of the Bush family. 

Chris Christie is stuck in the middle of the maddening crowd with 13%, proving he might have gone, as Cornelius Ryan wrote, a bridge too far. It is no surprise his weakest showing was among the tea party howlers, but still, he did 2 points better with them than Cruz did in the real world.

The most interesting message which can be read into all of this is the media is so focused on Christie as the republican candidate they appear to have ignored Ryan and Bush altogether. The poll included the now seemingly mandatory hypothetical match up between the NJ governor and Mrs. Clinton, which she won by 12 points. But no one asked a similar question when it came to Clinton vs. Ryan, or Clinton vs. Bush and both of them, at least at the moment, have what, in some quarters, could be called substantial leads over him among republicans.

Of course any poll this far out is rather like picking a fantasy baseball team before the season starts. There is no telling who will have a great year, go into a dreadful slump, or blow out a knee in April and be done before he ever really gets started.

What we do know is the latest numbers indicate the tea party act is starting to wear thin. Their influence definitely seems to be ebbing. Hopefully, we'll soon remember them as just another genetic anomaly--one which can't reproduce--a mutant of evolution gone so  terribly wrong it was condemned to the trash heap of species too gruesomely weird to survive.

The next stop is Sochi and every Islamic terrorist who can build a bomb and buy a ticket on a Russian bus.

Hey--be there, or be square.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Oklahoma Politics: The Arch Liberal James Lankford and T.W. Shannon Knows Something We Don't

Here is how weird things have gotten on the right side of the aisle. The state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, reported today OK congressman James Lankford had this to say in response to the president's state of the union speech last night:

"I heard no constructive recommendations to Congress, or the American people to reduce our debt, remove federal barriers to economic growth, or strengthen our families. Oklahomans want to pick their own health care plans, and they want to keep their doctor. They want a thriving economy and safe communities. In a state that has driven the energy industry nationwide, we do not want to endlessly wait on a federal permit from Washington to lead us to energy independence. Oklahoma families want conservative solutions, not more sound bites."

Boy, he sounds pretty darned conservative doesn't he? Indeed, try as you might you can't find anything in that statement that contains even a trace of some crazy ass liberal philosophy.

Well, not everyone sees it that way. The uber conservative super pacs/hit squads, Heritage Action and Club for Growth claim long tall Jim is way too liberal. So much so they vow to work as hard as they can against him when he runs for Tom Coburn's soon to be vacant senate seat later this year.

Both super pacs have been a tad fuzzy on who they'll spend their big bucks on, but there could be a clue, also tucked away in the pages of today's, The Oklahoman. The paper reports two republicans have announced they will run and a third is considering entering the race. Tulsa Congressman Jim Bridenstine is the one on the fence. Not one to waste time, Eric McCray, whose main career experience is in the heating and air conditioning business, has thrown his hat in the ring. Then enters one, T.W. Shannon.

Mr. Shannon hails from Lawton, home of Ft. Sill, down in the southwestern part of the state. He was elected to the Oklahoma state house in 2006. He took over as speaker of that august body in January of last year. He is another one of the fire breathers from the right rim of the local party. He is also African-American and a card carrying member of the Chickasaw Nation.

According to The Oklahoman correspondent, Chris Casteel, "He has been courted by the national republican party and was apparently being groomed for higher office."

He, seemingly, has a problem though. Because of campaign finance laws young, Mr. Shannon can't use any of the money he's squirreled away for re-election to the Oklahoma house in a race for a federal seat. On the other hand, Jim Lankford, because he is currently in congress, doesn't have to deal with such an inconvenience. Every dollar he has raked in for his re-election run to the U.S house can be used for a senate campaign. As Casteel puts it, " Lankford will have a huge head start (when it comes to a political war chest)..." That's an even a bigger deal than usual in this race, because Coburn quit early with little or, no real notice. In reality there is no time for, "exploratory committees," to test the water for potential sugar daddies. You are either in, or out and you'd better hit the ground running, gunning, and spending the big bucks a state wide campaign requires right now--as in yesterday.

Casteel writes, Shannon has released a list of backers which includes some local movers and shakers, but since time is of the essence, the odds are the speaker knows several things you and I don't--and--Lankford and his people are probably just realizing. Two of those things would be the cell phone numbers of the the guys who run Heritage Action and Club for Growth. The third would be how much cash they're willing to give him.

Yes, God bless America. The actual votes still count, well, some of the time, but they're expensive buggers and it's best not to dive into the pool without knowing how deep it is.

The real time wager is that, T.W. Shannon knows exactly where the bottom lays.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The S.S. Chris Christie Flounders, Rand Paul Creeps Toward the Center, and Hasta Luego, Marco

The good ship, S.S. Chris Christie continues to take on water and as the engine room floods, people like Rand Paul are attempting to sound more centrist--more, how should we put it--Christiesque. Indeed, it seems Paul has read the polls and he has begun a direct play to the passengers and crew who are taking to the boats.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Christie's favorability rating has dwindled to 22%. That is down 11 points from last October. During the same time frame the percentage of those who rate him as unfavorable has risen from 17% to 29%.

The coalition the governor was hoping would carry him to the white house included conservative democrats, independents, and mainstream republicans. It is a no nonsense, screw the gridlock, let's get something done group, both the right and left extremes have no use for. Unfortunately Governor Christie's numbers have suffered there too. While his favorable status among republicans shrank by only 7%, he took a 35% hit among democrats, and more importantly, a 20% whack upside the head by independents. It would seem people want to get stuff done, but they'd prefer it without rigged traffic jams and political arm twisting better suited to back alley shakedowns. To drive home the point, when asked who they would vote for if Christie ran against Hillary Clinton, the poll showed Clinton leading, 50% to 37%. Before his aides clogged the pipe at the George Washington Bridge on purpose, her lead had been a mere 48% to 45%.

Sniffing a void, Rand Paul has suddenly begun to appear on television screens across the land, talking about how, "out of ten issues we can agree with the president on two or three of them and that is what we should focus on." That certainly sounds reasonable, especially when you compare it to the fire and brimstone of Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and the perpetually confused Marco Rubio.

On NBC the other day Paul claimed, among other things, women were winning the war against women. He talked in glowing terms about how American women are growing influential and successful without any help from the government. In doing so he deftly ignored the plank in the GOP platform which calls for an end to all abortions, no matter what the reason. He also dodged the issue of women catching a break from their health insurance companies when it comes to purchasing birth control meds and devices. Perhaps he considers both matters not a war, but rather minor skirmishes. He added, "I think the victimology and all this other stuff is trumped up." On the same subject he took a shot at Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, calling the former president a, "predator." While letting us know who he would run against in 2016, Bill rather than Hillary, he fudged a few details in regard to Monica Lewinsky, but they were so minor only someone like, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis would have been held accountable for them.

His final bit of television wisdom was that while the GOP needed to be more inclusive, Christie would be in trouble during the primary season because the game, at that point, is so conservative in nature.

His astute observation is a bit of an understatement. If the hard right wing could have found anyone with half a brain in 2012, Mitt Romney would have never been the party's nominee. However, they couldn't, so the republicans had to settle for a wooden loser suffering from total disconnect to anyone making less than six figures a year.

Meanwhile, the junior senator from Kentucky is showing some 21st century campaign savvy. He has established a site where people can, "join him" with his class action law suit against the National Security Agency. Those who do are then asked to contribute, "generously" to the legal expenses incurred by the suit and not coincidentally added to a growing data base of possible supporters.

Obviously the great danger with any shift toward the center, even if it's only lip service, is that those same tea party hacks who found Romney unacceptable will turn on him--and when they do it will be with a terrible vengeance. Yes, in some parts around here, the words compromise and bipartisanship are simply unacceptable and only the true of heart need apply.

In all honesty, Paul carries the stench of an also ran with him. His libertarianism only goes so far, especially when it comes to things like immigration reform, drugs, and what amounts to a neo isolationism. At certain intersections no one, left, or right, likes what his politics are all about.

Everything is speculation at the moment--after all the prom has just started and there is no telling who will be elected the king, or queen. My money is on Christie continuing his slow slide into quicksand during the next few months, an eagle eye on Paul's speeches and the accusations of plagiarism that accompany them, especially if his numbers climb--then finally, masses of tea party loons swooping down onto the streets like rabid gargoyles, howling that Ted Cruz is the next messiah.

And lastly--Marco, we hardly knew ya and tragically, that's all it took. Hasta luego, hermano.

sic vita est


Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Long Saturday at The Mall in Columbia

It is never going to end. In fact the acts of violence and mayhem are coming so quickly now it could be the United States has reached the tipping point and is headed straight into the black hole of absolute anarchy.

The scenes on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX yesterday were all too familiar. Helicopter views of a shopping mall, spread out over several acres, its parking lots filling quickly with all manner of police tactical squads. Yes, just another day and another demented guy with a gun here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

The details are fluid, but the big picture remains numbingly the same.

A 19 year old dude named Darion Marcus Aguilar, who still lived with his mom, buys a Mossberg shotgun in December. It is a perfectly legal transaction, because the police have never heard of him. He has absolutely no criminal record and hey--it's a shotgun, not some sort of assault style weapon like an AR-15, or even a hand gun. For all anyone knows the guy is nothing more than a big fan of the A&E television series, "Duck Dynasty," and just wants to take up the sport of hunting.

He resided in, College Park, MD, the same burg as Brianna Benlolo. She was 21 years old and the mother of a two year boy. That is when things get a little hazy. NBC reports local police have yet to find any connection between the two. However the online edition of, "The Mail," claims Aguilar and Benlolo had dated, but she ended the relationship and was now involved with a 25 year old guy named Tyler Johnson. Both Johnson and Benlolo work at Zumiez. It is a store that specializes in skate boards, snow boards, plus sports clothing, and accessories. It is located a short drive away at The Mall in Columbia.

Whatever the case, Aguilar takes a cab to the mall yesterday morning. He is carrying a couple of bags which contain the shotgun and, according to police, a whole lot of ammunition, plus, just for fun, a crudely made explosive device.

He walks in the Zumiez store after hanging out in the mall for an hour or so and opens fire. Benlolo and Johnson are killed. Another person is wounded in the foot. Four more are injured as mall patrons are thrown into a panic. Finally, as these frenzied losers always seem to do, Aguilar kills himself and the nightmare ends--well, at least for everyone who isn't related to, or is friends with Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson.

Police have searched the house Aguilar and his mother shared. NBC says they confiscated computers and "documents." They are still actively looking for a motive--that would be the one besides the obvious--that Darion Marcus Aguilar was as crazy as a bed bug on meth.

The gun crowd, as usual, is saying everything would have been fine and no one, but the shooter would have been killed if everyone in the mall had been carrying a concealed weapon. There is little doubt a new round of conspiracy theory videos will appear on You Tube. Every single one of them will claim the whole gruesome episode was just another government psy-ops, false flag, plot--one backed by the MK Ultra gargoyles, the New World Order, the Illuminati, and the fucking tuba section of the University of Oklahoma marching band--you know, all those devious sonsofbitches hell bent on depriving us of our guns and precious bodily fluids.

Think not? Go to You Tube and enter, Sandy Hook Hoax and see what comes up. Or, you can simply read any of the comments sections below the NBC reports to catch a whiff of what the NRA cranks think. Believing them is to believe, everything and everyone is to blame--except the guns.

Thanks to the overwhelming presence of firearms and wide spread insanity, we have basically become a third world nation in the throes of civil warfare so perverse it can't even be described as tribal. We are, in the end, quite demonstrably, too immature and dangerous to possess them.

Every time you think of the simplistically cruel NRA line which maintains banning guns would mean only criminals would have them, keep in mind the names, Darion Marcus Aguilar, Jimmy Holmes, Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold and scores of others who have murdered family, friends and strangers over the past few decades. Not a one of those deadly geeks had a criminal record.

Hell, at least with the armed criminals we know where we stand. The terrible truth is, it's all the law abiding citizens who own guns we have to worry about. They are the ones killing us in the schools, malls, shopping centers, and theaters. They are the reason huge numbers of people at that Columbia, MD mall knew, as the cable news networks reported, what to do after they heard the first shots.

Indeed, the supposed good guys are the real killers. And--tragically--they are the ones who have lowered us to what Hunter S. Thompson once said is the level of, dumb beasts.

sic vita est





Thursday, January 23, 2014

See You Around Joe, Hillary in Your Den, and the GOP Prison Riot

See you around, Joe, thanks for the last eight years, and here is a gold watch for your trouble. We all hope you enjoy where ever it is vice presidents go to retire.

Yes, Brother Biden  may have had an inclination to run for the 2016 democratic presidential nomination at some point, but inside he had to know any such enterprise was doomed with Hillary Rodham Clinton in the mix. Now it has become official.

NBC News is reporting the democrat's largest Super Pac, Priorities U.S.A. Action is endorsing the former first lady and secretary of state. That means bucks--lots of them--and they are all headed straight onto the airways enabling Mrs. Clinton's puffy mug to appear in your den sooner than you think.

If that wasn't enough, the final nail was the naming of Jim Messina and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as co chairs of the Clinton fund raising committee. Messina was the brains behind the first true 21st century presidential campaign. It was a sleek machine which utterly befuddled Mitt Romney's crew, handed Barack Obama the 2012 election, and established a new paradigm in American politics--one where the role of electronic and social media is preeminent.

Given today's report there is really only one question left regarding the democrats when it comes to 2016. Who will Hillary pick as her running mate? Indeed, the only thing which could possibly stand in her way now is some sort of unforeseen health issue.

The same cannot be said when it comes to the republicans. In fact by the time we get to 2016 it appears various factions of the GOP will be in the throes of what amounts to the political equivalent of a prison riot.

The Joe McCarthy wing will feature crazed jitterbuggers like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and God only knows who else. These are the yokels playing hard and fast to the delusional tea party hacks who have an inordinate amount of influence in republican primaries, especially the ones held south of the Ohio River. In truth, the party is so divided, Utah Senator Mike Lee will be giving the tea party express response to the 2014 state of the union address. It is unclear who will make the, "official" republican party reply. This isn't the first year someone from the tea party edge has tried to rebut the president's agenda independently of the mainstream, but Lee's rant will certainly highlight the splintered nature of the GOP. It is also a sure and painful indication the divides aren't healing, even in the face of a well financed pro like Clinton looming on the horizon.

On the other side of the republican coin, NJ Governor, Chris Christie has problems of his own making. NBC is reporting his staff's skulduggery has begun to catch up to him. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll show his local numbers beginning to shrink. His job approval rating in the Garden State is still 53%, but that figure is 15% lower than it was in November. In addition his favorability rating has gone from 65% to 46% and those who think of him negatively have grown to 43%. The bad news is the numbers may be worse. According to NBC, the poll was part way finished before Dawn Zimmer, the Mayor of Hoboken, started howling about extortion when it came to Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Who knows what it might have shown if everyone taking it had known about Zimmer's accusations?

Nationally, in the last NBC-Marist poll, the governor was viewed positively by 26% of those asked and negatively by 28%. Those aren't exactly, "Go out there and knock 'em dead, Chris," figures.

It is easy to see Hillary Clinton moving back into the white house at this point, but 2016 is a long way off. Besides, in addition to everything else, there could be some reservations in the voters minds when it comes to one party holding onto the presidency over an extended time. In the last six plus decades a single party has controlled the oval office more than eight years in a row only once, although Al Gore had to get mercilessly screwed to keep the record intact. There is something about the same, or similar leadership over long periods that makes Americans of both parties a tad queasy. Mrs. Clinton got a small taste of it when she ran against Obama in the 2008 primaries. There was, during that pre convention season, the distinct feeling of Clinton Overload among some democrats.

Whatever the case, stay tuned--the endless search for power is going to start heating up before we know it. And that is whether we like it, or not.

sic vita est


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Deadly Tuesday

Some days the bodies pile up so quickly it is hard to keep track. The truth is it gets so bad on an afternoon like this, there is a huge temptation to simply shut down both the computer and TV, then kick back with some Beethoven in a shadowy room. Yes, let the mind drift with the music and imagine you're on a peaceful, solitary, journey to someplace civilized, like the planet Neptune.

Alas, it isn't to be though. There is, at least today, no escaping this violent and grotesque ball.

Last night on the Chester, PA campus of Widener University an unnamed student was shot to death as he sat in his car outside an athletic facility. The campus was locked down until 6am this morning when a school spokesperson issued a statement saying, "All indications are this was not a random act of violence."

Not to be outdone, some guy at Purdue University walked into a class room in the electrical engineering building this morning and shot yet another student to death. The gunman surrendered himself to a police officer after he left the scene. Apparently this was a personal beef too. He didn't threaten, or shoot anyone else.

Also, earlier today, three bodies were found in an on base housing unit at Ft. Hood. Early reports state one man and two children, described as military dependents, were discovered. Other details have yet to be released so it is unknown what weapon, or weapons were used in the killings.

In New York City, police have been picking up various body parts along the shore of the East River since last Thursday. Today they announced a DNA match with a missing teenage autistic boy who disappeared 3 months ago.

Out in Oakland, Dinyal New told the media, "Somebody is failing these kids. They feel like it is okay to murder these kids. They have no remorse or understanding afterward." Ms. New speaks from experience. 21 days ago she had two sons named Lee and Lamar. Lee was gunned down New Year's eve. Lamar was shot to death Sunday along with a friend. Neither of New's kids were out of their teens. According to the MSN report, Oakland police have yet to identify any suspects.

Finally, Bert Sanders was interviewed in Roswell, NM today. Bert's daughter Kendal was wounded last week as she stood in the gym of Berrendo Middle School. She was one of two who were shot by a fellow, still unidentified, student. Bert assured us the shooter, "is not a bad boy," and his parents are, "good people." Well that might be, but police say the good boy planned the assault prior to the attack, although he didn't have any specific targets in mind. In fact he went so far as to warn a couple of his pals to beat it before he pulled the weapon out of a duffel bag. The shotgun he used belonged to the good people who had altered the stock so it had a pistol type grip--which isn't something you normally see in, say, "Field and Stream." Sanders finished his chat by saying his daughter thinks the shooter made some bad choices.

That's one way to put it. Another would be, as Warren Zevon once wrote, "Well, he's just an excitable boy."

Ah yes, just another deadly Tuesday here in the home of the free.

As always, stay low, keep moving, and don't bunch up. There is no telling who will open fire next.


Monday, January 20, 2014

More Jersey Politics, Ransom Notes From the DPRK, and Bad Craziness in Maryland

Admittedly, it could simply be another rotten acid flashback, but at this terrible moment it appears New Jersey governor Chris Christie is morphing into Richard Milhous Nixon right before our very eyes. Yes, the closer we look, the more we hear, all things political in Jersey are starting to look petty, vengeful, vile and corrupt--everything Nixon aspired to be.

The latest revelation is by Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer. She is running around telling everyone who will listen, including the U.S. Attorney for NJ, super storm Sandy relief money is being withheld from her burg because she won't support an urban redevelopment plan Christie wants. According to her, the governor is set on a specific real estate development company for the construction. The firm is represented by a law firm headed by David Samson, who Christie appointed as the chairman of the NJ Port Authority. Zimmer also maintains it ignores a large section of Hoboken she says is in similar distress just because the company isn't interested in investing in those areas.

Zimmer claims Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno approached her in a parking lot and told her if she didn't play ball the city's share of the recovery money would be delayed. Guadagno flatly denies it, calling the charges, "false, illogical, and offensive." Zimmer claims that is exactly what Guadagno told her she'd do if the mayor went public with this ugly little bit of extortion. Zimmer also says she is willing to tell her story under oath and take a polygraph exam.

Christie's spokespersons, "categorically" denied the accusation, then blamed "partisan politics," and MSNBC in that order for the whole mess. The Gov's people also pointed out while Hoboken has received only $340,000 in recovery funds so far, it is scheduled to get $70 million in the near future.

So here is what has transpired in the last month and a half. There was the September traffic nightmare in Ft. Lee which, by December, was directly linked to a Christie Port Authority appointee and a senior member of the governor's staff. A promising set of meetings between the mayor of Jersey City and high ranking officials of the governor's, office regarding economic development were suddenly cancelled after he refused to endorse Christie's re-election. Then there was a questionable tourism ad campaign, financed with relief money, which prominently featured Christie and his family during an election year. And now we are looking at  possible dirty dealings in Hoboken featuring both political extortion and a buddy-buddy urban renewal plot meant to profit close associates of the man in the governor's office.

Oh yes, Dick would have been proud. Just imagine what will, or won't happen in all those blue states if Brother Christie is elected to the white house. Here is a man who knows what to do with a grudge.

Meanwhile the North Koreans paraded American Kenneth Bae in front of the cameras for a press conference of sorts. Bae, dressed in a prison uniform, "confessed" to anti government acts. He also said, "I believe my problem can be solved by close cooperation and agreement between the American government and the government of this country."

This is known in other parts of the world as a video ransom note. At least Bae hasn't gone the way of Kim Jong-un's uncle, who was reportedly fed live to a pack of ravenous hunting dogs in front of a crowd of 300 animal lovers.

Unfortunately for Bae, the Ambassador to the World, Dennis Rodman couldn't do anything for him while he was there earlier this month. Rodman, upon his return to the U.S. immediately entered re-hab because apparently that is what you do after you've been a pal of the North Korean leader over an extended period of time.

Finally, last Friday police in Germantown, Maryland were called to a house where they found two chidren, ages one and two, stabbed to death. Two others, ages five and eight, were taken to the hospital with multiple stab wounds. The cops arrested Monifia Sanford and Zakieya Avery and charged them with two counts of murder and two of attempted murder. Sanford and Avery were living together after having met at a church called, Exousia Ministries. A quick check of the site. Bible Study tells us Exousia is a New Testament Greek term meaning, among other things, "power of choice and liberty to do as one pleases." In addition it can also mean "power of authority and right."

Both Sanford and Avery have told police they stabbed the children as part of an exorcism rite being performed in order to drive the devil and demons out of their bodies. Avery is the mother of all four victims. She is also utterly--to use another Greek word--trelos.

So there you have it, just another Monday in the books.

As Dan D. Dynamo used to say, "Watch out for flying chairs."


Friday, January 17, 2014

Trying to Make a Deal in Jersey, Justice in Pennsylvania, and a Date That Won't Go Away

Everyone wants to make a deal now days. David Wildstein certainly does. He was appointed to the New Jersey Port Authority by Governor and GOP presidential hopeful, Chris Christie. He is also the guy who threw the monkey wrench into the works at the Ft. Lee entrance ramps to the George Washington Bridge last September. It was an act which, among other things, stalled ambulances carrying patients to hospitals and made scads of children late for school--and--it was all because Ft. Lee's democratic mayor wouldn't endorse Christie's re-election bid.

Earlier this month he sat in front of a committee of NJ Assembly members and took the 5th. They were having none of it and charged him with contempt. Today MSN News is reporting Wildstein's attorney, Alan Zegas issued a statement saying, "If he (Wildstein) has immunity from the relevant entities he'll talk." According to MSN Zegas told the AP, as of today, there has been no such offer from the U.S attorney's office.

Which, of course, begs the question, why would they offer this goof anything? The U.S. attorney has just begun reviewing the affair and they already have reams of damning emails and texts. Wildstein, former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, and Christie Port Authority appointee Bill Baroni appear to be geese fully cooked. The only thing, Wildstein might possibly offer at this point, which could be worth immunity, is the semi rotund head of the New Jersey governor himself.

It is a revelation that seems highly improbable. Christie might be a brute thug, but he isn't stupid. The denials he has issued about the ugliness in Ft. Lee are as black and white as you can get. There was no song and dance, no smoke and mirrors. When it comes to him, he knew nothing of the disastrous lane closures--end of story. The governor also understands, as well as anyone, that everyone squeals these days. Screw prison, there are simply too many book deals floating around, too many talk show opportunities, too much cash on the speaking circuit for people not to spill the beans. The fact is if he was involved in any way there is someone out there who will eventually rat him out, then take the money and run. His stone cold denials are a rock solid indication he really didn't have any idea of what was going on up in Ft. Lee. Well, it is either that, or Christie knows the only persons who could connect him to the scandal are currently sleeping with the fishes.

NJ Assembly member John Wisnieski chairs a committee probing the mess. He claims 20 subpoenas have been issued. Odds are when this is done several heads, known and not known at this time will roll, but the governor's won't be one of them.

Meanwhile a Pennsylvania judge threw out the state's voter photo ID law. MSN reported Judge Bernard McGinley ruled the statute, "places an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote."

Oopsie daisy. Yes, in theory voter suppression is a great idea. Lets face it, if you're a tea party purist compromise and tolerance just doesn't go down, even with a spoon full of sugar. You bet, rather than give in to the teeming mobs of unwashed who aren't as pale as you in the sunlight, just keep 'em from voting. Besides, if you're really an over the edge right wing sort, you're convinced they're all here illegally anyway.

Unfortunately there is that whole constitution thing and the people who aren't like you have rights too. The state, led by a republican controlled legislature, is going to appeal. Of course they are. Never say die and all that. It is the True American way.

Finally, twenty five years ago today, a guy named Edward Purdy exited his van after he had parked it in front of Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California. He pulled out a Chinese version of the AK-47 assault weapon he had bought legally in Oregon, despite a criminal record, drug abuse problems, and issues with mental health. Then he fired 105 rounds into the student body just because he could. He killed five kids under the age of 10 and wounded another 30 students and teachers. He ended the rampage by blowing his brains out with a handgun.

MSN News quoted retired teacher Judy Weldon, who was there that day and helped the victims, as saying, "This just doesn't go away. I think that's something the outside world just doesn't get."

No, it doesn't go away. And besides the outside world, the people running this country certainly don't get it.

sic vita est


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Only Thing That Will Stop a Bad Guy With a Cell Phone is a Good Guy With a Gun

My client has no propensity whatsoever for violence.

Attorney Richard Escobar, arguing in court for the defense during a bail hearing.

Actually that statement is demonstrably false. Mr. Escobar's client is one Curtis Reeves. Mr. Reeves is a 71 year old retired Tampa, FL police captain whose service included establishing the department's first SWAT team. In addition he was, for a while, director of security at Tampa's Busch Gardens.

You bet, just another good guy with a gun as the NRA likes to say. Unfortunately for 43 year old Chad Oulson, this good guy with a gun has a really short fuse.

The details are still a bit sketchy, but apparently this is what happened: Reeves and his wife settled into their seats at the Grove 16 theater in Tampa to watch the Mark Wahlberg film, "Lone Survivor." Seated in front of them was Oulson and his wife. Before the actual film started, but while the trailers were running, Oulson was texting on his cell phone which pissed off  Reeves. An argument ensued. Reeves left the auditorium for a few minutes. When he returned Oulson was incensed and demanded to know if Reeves had complained about him to the theater's management. Things got heated, both parties rose and began to yell. Someone--it isn't clear who--threw popcorn.

Then, because it is Florida and people in Florida are both nuts and heavily armed, Curtis Reeves pulled out a .380 caliber hand gun and shot Chad Oulson to death. Oulson's wife was wounded in the hand by the single shot. She was either trying to pull her husband out of the line of fire, or restrain him in some way.

An off duty cop detained Reeves afterward and confiscated his weapon. Two nurses who were in the theater tried to administer aid to Oulson, but his wound was too severe. NBC reported he was texting his daughter.

Brother Reeves is, at the moment, sitting in a Tampa jail charged with 2nd degree murder. The judge denied bail, but not before he heard, Mr. Escobar state that his client had, "every right to defend himself."

Where have we heard that excuse before? It looks like the George Zimmerman defense is right around the corner. "That's right ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Curtis Reeves was standing his ground in the face of a deadly assault involving hurled popcorn husks and he simply defended himself in a manner allowed by Florida state law." Why not? We've seen it work before. Of course Oulson wasn't a black teenager wearing a hoodie, but then every white person in America knows race had nothing to do with the death of Trayvon Martin, so it shouldn't matter here either.


The next step is a pat down search of every movie goer in the nation prior to admission. Indeed, if the NRA is going to fuck us with the second amendment, why can't AMC Theaters screw the fourth in order to keep everyone wanting to see, "American Hustle" safe?

If this wasn't enough, reports out of Roswell, NM today are that a shooter entered Berrendo Middle School this morning and gunned down two kids. A 14 year old boy was flown to a Lubbock, TX hospital in critical condition while a 13 year old girl is in serious condition. There aren't any details at this time about the age, gender, or race of the assailant. Police apparently have him, or her in custody.

It is unclear when we began to believe paranoia, stupidity, and violence equaled safety and freedom. We're certainly at that point though. And, quite honestly, at this 21st century moment it isn't working out real well for us, because, obviously, we're neither safe, or free.

In fact we might want to rethink that whole e pluribus unum thing on our money. Something along the lines of, mors vincit omnia  somehow seems more appropriate in this, the golden age of the NRA's reign.

Hey, who says anarchy isn't fun?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Chris Christie: Steady as He Goes, While the Wolves Gather

NBC News reports that poll numbers for NJ governor, Chris Christie are remaining what they call, "steady." The service says a Pew Research Center poll shows 60% of those asked haven't been influenced one way or another by the George Washington Bridge scandal, which caused the big man to jettison a couple of members of his staff. The poll goes on to say 6% have a more favorable view of him since the story hit the air, while 16% view him less favorably. In addition NBC cites a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll which says Christie's job approval rating in New Jersey remains at a solid 59% while 52% indicate they believe him when he claimed he knew nothing about his staff's involvement in the partial highway shutdown that caused a series of massive traffic jams in Ft. Lee.

The governor might want to enjoy those results while he can. A very large pack of ravenous wolves is starting to close in on the camp fire and they appear to be preparing for a feeding frenzy. Things could get extremely ugly before it is over.

First, democratic NJ Assemblyman, John Wisniewski, who is chairing a committee looking into the whole affair, made an announcement earlier today. Wisniewski contends that back in July of last year, Christie's aides were seeking the endorsement of Jersey City Mayor and democrat Steve Fulop. In fact they felt so sure they'd get it, up to six members of the governor's cabinet and, or appointees were scheduled to meet with him on July 23rd. The discussions were to be about how the state could assist in Jersey City's immediate future. Before the date arrived the Christie staff found out Fulop would not be endorsing their man. On July 18th, within a single hour, four of the meetings were canceled due to, "scheduling conflicts. Mike Baroni, the deputy executive director of the NJ Port Authority who quit in December because of all the nonsense, cancelled his meeting with the mayor on the 19th and the head of Jersey's Economic Development Authority cancelled a little later. No one rescheduled.

Oops. Well, these things happen sometimes. I'm sure it was all just an odd set of coincidences. Or not. A couple of emails released last week showed an electronic exchange between Christie Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly and Christie Port Authority appointee, David Wildstein. The messages were sent after Ft. Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich desperately tried to get Baroni on the phone during the traffic crisis

Kelly to Wildstein: Did he (Baroni) call him (Sokolich) back?
Wildstein to Kelly: Radio silence. His name comes up right after Mayor Fulop.

So much for the Rachel Maddow theory that the Ft. Lee mugging had more to do with a couple of Christie's judicial appointments rather than political endorsements. It looks like Steve Fulop and Jersey City, along with Mark Sokolich and Ft. Lee made a hit list Dick Nixon would have been proud of.

So far, no one has linked Christie directly to all the skulduggery. However hearings are going to continue and NJ democrats seem more than ready for some political payback of their own. Wisniewski even threw out the word impeachment when describing his committee's powers, although absolutely no one is ready to--wait for it--cross that bridge now.

Of course the whole Ft Lee/Jersey City ugliness might end up being the least of the governor's problems. Congressman Frank Pallone, D-NJ announced the department of Housing and Urban Development is beginning to audit of a chunk of federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds which the state used to mount a TV tourism campaign rather than, say, rebuild something.

Obviously everyone understands you have to spend money to drag tourists back to the shore, but last year the state had a choice between two separate ad campaigns geared to do just that. One cost $2 million and a second carried a tab of $4.7 million. Guess which one the aforementioned Economic Development Authority, which awarded the contract, went with?  You bet--and why, you may ask, did they spend that extra $2 plus million? That is a little fuzzy at the moment. What we do know is the more expensive campaign ended up prominently featuring none other than Chris Christie and his lovely wife, Mary Pat. All of which is okay, except the ads aired in a  year during which Christie was running for re-election.

Yessiree, who needs super pacs when you have the feds financing your media campaign? Hey, there is no time like free TV time, unless it is doing hard time afterward.

Those nifty poll numbers might start to shrink if dominoes begin to fall. Once you've opened the door even a little, God only knows who will come charging through it demanding to look at, not only the books, but for skeletons buried in shallow graves.

The other republican presidential hopefuls have yet to latch onto all this, at least publicly. It is doubtful they will at this time. The situation is fluid and the Ron Reagan code of GOP omerta probably applies at this point. Indeed, the grueling run for the white house is still down the road. If all this goes away they can hammer him on it later. If it doesn't, the governor will be a duck so dead and buried, no one will have to worry about him.

In the end we can't expect the fat lady to sing until the fat man is finished dancing. And right now it looks like he has just begun his performance. As they say, the band plays on. Settle into your seats, this musical is going to last for months.

sic vita est



Friday, January 10, 2014

A Bridge and Troubled Waters

I am not a bully.

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and possible candidate for the office of President of the United States.

Well that depends on who you ask. Last year during his re-election campaign Governor Christie's staff was putting together a list of democrats who were supporting him, thereby proving to voters their man could be a sort of bi-partisan messiah. His Honor, Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Ft. Lee, NJ declined to lend his name to the endeavor.

It isn't entirely clear how many people were pissed off by his decision, but one of them was certainly Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff. She sent an email to Christie appointee David Wildstein who worked for the NJ Port Authority. They and their New York counterparts are the ones who control the operation of the George Washington bridge, which is the busiest in the world. Her terse little message said simply, "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee." He emailed back, "Got it."

Shortly afterward, on September 9th, a couple of entrance lanes from Ft. Lee onto the bridge were closed for a, "traffic study." The ensuing chaos turned Ft. Lee into a parking lot for a few days. Accusations began to fly and outraged denials were issued. By December things were starting to fall apart. Wildstein resigned as did Christie's pal Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority.

Then, as they always do, the emails and a text or two became public. In one, Wildstein referred to Sokolich as, "this little Serbian," in another he claimed all the kids on school buses stuck in traffic were the children of Christie's gubernatorial opponent Barbara Buono. The implication being it was alright to make them late to class because of who their parents might be voting for.

Yesterday Governor Christie went with the Ken Lay defense and claimed he was completely unaware of not only his staff's involvement in the affair, but also Sokolich's refusal to back him. To prove it he fired Kelly and his campaign manager, Bill Stepien and took a trip to Ft. Lee in order to apologize to the little Serbian. In a lengthy news conference he told the press he was--not necessarily in this order--"blind sided, betrayed, heart broken, humiliated, and sad." He also called his staff, the people he hired, "stupid." Well, what are you going to do? Good help is so hard to find these days.

It is the first real hit Christie has taken since his name started being bounced around as a republican presidential candidate. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC put it this way to NBC News, "He is kind of a bully. I just don't see how people that close to him could have felt comfortable enough to do this if they thought their boss wasn't of this mind set."

Of course, Christie's road to the nomination isn't going to be easy, bridge scandal or not. That bi-partisanship stuff he likes to brag about works with the general public, but not the tea party loons who have an inordinate amount of influence in GOP primaries. In fact many of them called him, among other things, a traitor when he thanked President Obama for federal help in the aftermath of super storm Sandy. He may be the sort of brute thug they admire, but he is too much of a wheeler dealer and isn't the true believer like Ted Cruz. For the lynch mobs of the screaming right, as the bard said, therein lies the rub.

Luckily for the governor, 2016 is two years away. As long as new and more damaging revelations don't emerge, by the time Iowa rolls around, this ugly little tale of political retribution will have all the relevancy of a Mitt Romney campaign button to the voting public.

Meanwhile, if you're in West Virginia, don't drink the water--at least not in nine counties. An outfit called Freedom Industries managed to dump the chemical, 4-methylcyclonhexane methanol into the Elk River. News reports say the good people who run the company still aren't exactly sure how much of the stuff went into the water. However, one hint might be found on the corporate web site. It claims their plant in Charleston, where the spill occurred, has the capacity to store four million gallons of chemicals. The site also promises us, Freedom can, "process large volumes of chemicals rapidly and cost effectively."

Yes, well tell that to the 300,000 or so people who now have a water supply so incredibly fouled that not even boiling it will help. At this point the only things it is good for is flushing a toilet and fighting fires. If you drink it, cook with it, or bathe in it you can, according to the reports, suffer severe burning in the throat and eyes--be hit with violent vomiting, have trouble breathing, and experience skin irritation and blistering.

Can there be any doubt battalions of lawyers are busing into the state as I type? I didn't think so.

So there we have it, another week down the drain.

The good news is it is nearly 5pm in Poughkeepsi and the bar is open. See you there.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Only Way Georgia is Going to Change

God bless 'em. They just can't help themselves.

Down in Georgia Congressman Paul Collins Broun is running for the U.S. Senate. He went on Georgia Public Radio and had this to say about the democrat's chances of winning the seat. (sic) "The only way Georgia is going to change is if we have all these illegal aliens in here in Georgia, give them the right to vote. It only helps the democrats if we legalize all these illegal aliens in this country who the democrats want to put on federal welfare programs."

It would seem Representative Broun failed to get the memo from GOP chairman, Reince Priebus. You know, that one about trying to convince Hispanics to vote republican. Well, sometimes these things slip between the cracks. It was probably some junior aide's fault.

Broun is in the middle of a crowded primary field which contains eight republicans running for the office being vacated by Saxby Chambliss. And right now, by golly, each and every one of them are trying to be the most gosh darned conservative hep cat in the whole wide world. NBC News reports the closest thing to a moderate in the race is a guy named Jack Kingston.

Of course some people's idea of a moderate is a tad different than others. Kingston has previously urged that the kids who qualify for the federal free lunch program be forced to sweep cafeteria floors in order to earn their keep. Either that or pay a nickle or a dime per meal, so they understand, in this country, "there is no free lunch."

Yes, yes, that is all fine and good--there is nothing quite like a little old fashioned humiliation to build character--but lets get back to Broun. Actually none of us should be surprised by anything he says. He was first elected to congress in a 2007 special election and we've been stuck with him ever since. He is a licensed physician, but doesn't have hospital privileges any where in the state of Georgia. In addition, proving he is strictly a family values type of guy, he is currently working on this fourth marriage.

In the past he has routinely called Barack Obama a socialist. In fact, according to Wikipedia. at one point in an earlier interview he speculated that Obama's proposal to create a national service corps was an evil ruse to establish a shadow military which the president would use to turn the nation into a Marxist dictatorship.

He currently sits on a few committees. One of them is the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Another is the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

His knowledge in these critical areas can best be described as unique. First, the Congressman claims global warming is a hoax meant to destroy the United States. Second, in an address to the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman's Banquet, he said embryology, evolution, and the big bang are, "lies straight from the pit of hell."  He also assures us, with a straight face, the planet earth is approximately 9,000 years old and was created in six days, "as we know them." The statements moved PBS' Bill Nye, the Science Guy, to say of him, "He is, by any measure, unqualified to make decisions about science, space, and technology."

You know you've made an impression when the host of a children's TV science show is publicly ragging on you.

Will he be the republican candidate in November? Who knows? It's Georgia for God's sake. There is a series of seven debates, the first of which will be held on January 18th. Before they are done the least lucid of these cranks will have disappeared. The primary will be held in May. If no one gets over 50% of the vote there will be a runoff.

Sitting in the wings, waiting on the winner, is democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of retired Georgia Senator, Sam Nunn. Her campaign received a $5,000 contribution from a PAC which was affiliated with former Senator Richard Lugar. He was bushwhacked by a tea party geek in the 2012 Indiana republican primary. Former Senator John Warner of Virginia has also kicked in $500. All of which shows what mainstream members of the GOP think of these clowns.

The Pew Hispanic Center says Latinos make up 9% of the Georgia population. It is unknown how many of them are registered voters. One thing can be certain at this point however, Congressman Broun isn't going to get a lot of support from that demographic. The truth is, he might even want to avoid fast food joints and Tex-Mex restaurants for a while. There is no telling what sort of odd bits of hardware will end up in the burrito when the kitchen staff finds out he is in the dining room.

It is a dark, dank, afternoon here on the southern plains, but that is okay. With guys like Paul Broun running loose my day will aways remain bright.

sic vita est


Monday, January 6, 2014

Making Sure We're Fiscally Responsible and Warming Republican Hearts

It is a tough time to be out of work, especially for more than 26 weeks. Right now in the Senate democrats are trying to muster enough votes to push through a measure to extend federal unemployment benefits for three months. It is not going well. Apparently safe guarding the only income of 1.3 million people doesn't rank up there with buying a new rocket launcher, or some similar military toy.

NBC is reporting the bill, sponsored by Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV is four votes short of the 60 needed. All 55 democrats and independents are for it, while only one republican, the aforementioned Mr. Heller, is in favor. It probably doesn't matter anyway since an extension would never get through the republican controlled House of Representatives. The GOP leadership of that august body is calling the act "fiscally irresponsible." At least that is what the right wing super pac, Club for Growth is telling them to say.

Actually it isn't so easy now days even if you have a job at say a fast food establishment. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If you're lucky enough to be working full time at that rate your salary comes out to just a shade over $14,000 per year.

Well that isn't bad for some teen aged kid, right? I suppose not, but the problem is, according to economist, Paul Krugman teenagers make up slightly less than 25% of everyone working at minimum wage. 38% are in their 20's and another 38% are 30 years old or older. In fact, Krugman notes 43% of everyone toiling away at $7.25 per hour has at least some college education.

Krugman goes on to write that in terms of real spending power the minimum wage has decreased 32% over the last 46 years. In a moment of whimsy he also informs us if the minimum wage had increased percentage wise as much as the income of the top one percent of  American earners the last few years, that the friendly greeter at Walmart's front door would be making $22.62 per hour at this very moment.

Obviously you can't have everything. The trouble is minimum wage workers might not get anything.

There will be a push by the Obama administration this year to raise the minimum to $10.10 per hour. NBC and the Wall Street Journal took a poll in December and found, 77% of democrats are in favor of it. Unfortunately only 47% of main stream republicans are in favor and when you get to that stiff upper right lip of the GOP, the tea party--wait for it--a full 55% are against any sort of increase at all.

I hate to be a pessimist, but who do you think John Boehner is going to listen to? This is the same guy who shut down the entire United States government because he was scared of pissing off those heartless wretches sitting on the far edge of delusion and cruelty. No, as long as the tea party virus is infesting the house in the sort of numbers it is now I wouldn't expect a raise for the cashier at the local McDonald's any time soon.

All the jabbering about becoming more inclusive after Uncle Mitt took it on the chin has gone out the window because the republican center is being held hostage by the tea party. That same NBC/WSJ poll showed overall, white voters approved of the $10.10 per hour figure 59% to 40%. However, 82% of African Americans are for it and 73% of Hispanics agree with them. Yessiree, saying screw you to overwhelming numbers of black and Latino voters is certainly an innovative way to expand your base.

Of course that's only if you were truly interested in expanding your base, which now seems like either an outright lie, or a moment of clarity quickly snuffed out by the tea party rubes. Yes, it looks like the whole don't let 'em vote thing is what the GOP is going all in on. In some ways you can hardly blame them. After all, voter suppression is far easier than trying to accommodate the needs and ambitions of tens of millions of people who aren't really American, or white.

So, there we have it on this frigid Monday.

There is nothing that warms the heart of a republican quite like cutting down the safety net for people in need and making sure the working poor remain really poor.

Hey, bitch, if scads of people aren't suffering then it ain't capitalism!

That's right. E Pluribus fuck 'em.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

When I'm 64

A few months ago my youngest daughter, who is 30 years old, asked me the question. "Dad, why have you kept moving to the left politically when everyone else your age has become more conservative?"

By your age, she meant someone born way back in the first week of the first month of 1950--an era about as relevant to her as the one which contained the Ichthyosaurs.

Well, what are you going to do? I mean it was a long time ago--so far back into the foggy past that Herr Hitler had been dead a little less than five years when I came kicking and squawking into the world. And, I suppose it is a valid question given the number of 64 year old white guys born in Muskogee, Oklahoma currently running around claiming to be a leftist.

As with everything there is a history to the long trail which began that frozen night six plus decades ago. First off, as hard as it is to imagine today, almost everyone of voting age in Oklahoma back in the 1950's, including my parents, were democrats. The generation that was our mothers and fathers had not only lived through the second world war, but the great depression. They knew who caused the most devastating economic crisis in American history and it certainly wasn't the party of Roosevelt, or Truman.

Of course the democratic party back in the day was capable of deep and egregious sins. The conservative wing of it was also pro segregationist. It was them, not the republicans, who made sure African Americans couldn't eat at the same restaurants, drink from the same water fountains, and go to the same schools as white people. The anglo southern migration to the republican party was still a decade, or so off.

Be that as it may, the truth is because my parents loathed republicans I did too. To put it simply, I never unlearned what they initially taught me, even when they drifted to the right after the Kennedy assassination and Johnson presidency. Beyond that history the reality is, I ended up where I am now because of a few other reasons

First, after Eisenhower retired to Gettysburg, the republicans were fielding national candidates who appeared to be oily gangster types (Nixon) or were stark raving loons (Goldwater). Given who the GOP was running it was extraordinarily easy to lean toward democrats even before 1972, the first year I was eligible to vote.

Second, there was the war in Vietnam. I know, it is almost trite to even mention it now, but it was true. It wasn't that I was fond of  Uncle Ho, or the VC, or anyone else, but the more I studied it the more it seemed to me the motley parade of military tough guys who ran South Vietnam were every bit as bad, if not worse than the regime in the north. In short it became clear to me our government really didn't give a shit about freedom and democracy--in fact we were so obsessed with stopping the red menace we were willing to sacrifice both those ideals, not to mention hundreds of thousands of lives, in order win a civil war we had no business being involved with in the first place.

Before then, back at my high school, we had an enrollment of right around 2000 kids, four of whom were black. It was the first time I had gone to a school with any black kids. I wish I could tell you I wasn't a racist, but I was. In fact my racism was based on the worst of all reasons. I said things about black folks not because I really felt it, but frankly, because that is what most of my friends were saying. During my senior year I was on the school yearbook staff and one of those four black kids was too. She was a classy, intelligent girl and the first African American I actually knew. No, there wasn't a single moment, no blinding light on the road to Damascus. There was, however, a growing awareness over the next three or four years that racism was just so much bullshit. Not only that, it was evil bullshit and all of us--black and white--were in this together and despising someone because of their skin tone was not only useless, but downright counter productive to the nation as a whole. Besides, why take the time and energy to hate someone because of what they look like? I had better things to do and bigger axes to grind.

There were other things. Minor episodes in the big picture, but still stuck in my memory. The day I came out of a grocery store in 1972 and found my car vandalized because of a McGovern for president bumper sticker and peace symbol decal on the windshield was one. Then there was the time I was fired by Hertz as I attempted to organize a union election at their Oklahoma City reservations center.

Finally, I grew up in a gun free home. My father never owned one because his father, my grandfather, wouldn't allow them in his house. To this day my father quotes his old man as saying, "Nothing good ever comes from owning a gun." To prove his point, when I was three, my maternal grandfather bought a hand gun at a pawn shop and promptly blew his brains out with it.

The cold truth is I haven't moved to the left. I've stayed pretty much where I've been forever. Decades ago I was, on more than one occasion, called a communist. Then we moved to Massachusetts for five years and I was considered a quaint, middle of the road, democrat by the activists working for Mike Dukakis' presidential campaign. After we came back I was once again, that communist sonofabitch.

You see, in the end it is all a matter of perspective.

So there you have it. Do with it what you will.

If needed, I'll be at the bar with the other old geezers, my age.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Eating Uncle Jang: Welcome to the New Year

I'll admit it. Sometimes I have to retreat from the real world into a strange sort of alternate universe where there is no news, death, destruction, rape, severe craziness, and stupidity so cruel and bestial that in comparison a pit full of king cobras seems decent company.

Let's face it, when you get up in the morning and find NBC is reporting the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un --Dennis Rodman's "awesome guy"--fed his uncle to a pack of dogs it is fairly easy to trip off into never never land.

That is the unconfirmed report, initially published by a Hong Kong paper which allegedly has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The publication, "Wen Wei Po," claims Kim and his brother, Kim Jong-chol hosted the one hour gala event which was attended by about 300 invited guests. According to the story Jang Song-thaek and five close aids were stripped naked and thrown live and kicking into a cage with 120 "hunting dogs" who had been starved for five days. The paper noted Jang and company were, "completely eaten up." It is unknown if a cash bar was made available to those in attendance, or if drinks were on the house.

How the media outlet secured these details is a bit murky. In fact NBC quoted an American official as saying, "This is not ringing any bells here." That is all fine and good, but the recent track records of  "American officials," have been a tad spotty. I mean these are the same clowns who told us the ACA web site was up and working in October, so what the hell do they know?

Obviously, if true, the little pudge who is running things north of the DMZ is a roaring psychopath. I understand purges and that sometimes you must make a vivid point when it comes to treason, but turning your uncle into dinner for a pack of wild dogs in front an avid crowd seems bit over the top.

NBC pointed out the veracity of any news coming out of North Korea is always iffy. It could be Kim simply wants people to think he is capable of such an act--a fairly disturbing notion in itself considering the guy has his hands on nuclear weapons. However if he really did do it, there is no doubt the 300 member audience was there not for just an evening of entertainment, but a very real message. That's right--toe the line fuckers, or you'll end up being Kibbles 'n Bits too.

There was some speculation that the story is pure fabrication meant to demonize Kim. The theory being at least some members of Chinese elite want to distance themselves from him because--well--he is as crazy as a rabid gerbil. That would not be completely out of the realm of possibility. The last serious round of saber rattling by the DPRK didn't play well in Beijing. In fact the Chinese seemed utterly exasperated by the bellicose threats of apocalyptic war. The truth is, when your economy has evolved into quasi capitalism and is completely dependent on what happens not only at home, but across the rest of the industrialized world, your tolerance for the yapping Stalinist mutt in the yard next door grows thin--especially when you're the one having to feed him.

Yes, given events such as this, sometimes it is simply easier to lose myself in the wasteland of awful television and the civil war fantasies of college football. Why not? If I didn't read it, hear it, or see it, it didn't happen, right? That's as good a reality as any I suppose.

Too bad it ends up wearing on me even worse than Kim and his dogs.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the New Year and the Same Old World.

Or as they say in North Korea--woof, woof.