Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Dispatches: Don't Go to North Korea, a New Poll, and Facebook Lab Rats

To steal a bit from Bill Maher and his HBO show, "Real Time:"

New Rule--If you're an American, don't go to North Korea.

The Korean Central News Agency announced today Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle, who were both nabbed earlier this year, will be put on trial, "for committing hostile acts confirmed by evidence and their own testimonies." They are the third and fourth Americans arrested by the North Koreans since 2012.

Kenneth Bae was popped in November of that year. He got 15 long of hard labor. Korean War veteran, Merrill Newman was detained late last year and was let go only after he signed a "confession" in which he admitted he fought in the conflict against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Miller was arrested for rash behavior, which wasn't a real stretch. When he hit the border he tore up his visa and asked for shelter in the DPRK. It is highly doubtful he is, at the moment, enjoying the type of shelter he was expecting, although when you're looking for asylum in a place like North Korea there is no telling what is going on in your mind.

Fowle was accused of acts inconsistent with the purpose of a tourist visit. He allegedly left a bible behind in his hotel room. I suppose one could interpret that as a hostile act, although to do so you'd have to be a bureaucrat in a paranoid Stalinist state run by a bizarre de facto monarchy. Unfortunately for Jeffrey Fowle, North Korea is just that.

There are a lot of places on this bright blue ball to go see, but why the northern half of the  Korean peninsula would be on any one's list is a bit beyond comprehension. Obviously the only American who can get out of there without being arrested is Dennis Rodman and honestly, now that Kim Jong-un knows for sure he doesn't have Barack Obama's ear, even Rodman might not make the cut.

Meanwhile, speaking of Barack Obama a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has hit the internet. According to the numbers 41% of Americans approve of the president while 45% disapprove of him.

That's certainly is great news for John Boehner and the rest of the crew gumming up the works isn't it? Well, not really. The same poll shows a mere 7% of Americans have confidence in congress. That sort of figure is usually reserved for used car salesmen and loan sharks. Obama's rating in the same category is 29% and the Supreme Court's is 30%. Only 29% of those polled view the republicans favorably, while 45% see them unfavorably. The numbers for democrats, while a little better than the GOP's, aren't awe inspiring. Their favorable number is 38% and the unfavorable figure is 40%.

Finally, the public in general and 600,000 Facebook users specifically, found out someone besides the NSA is watching what they were doing. According to NBC, in 2012 researchers, with the approval of Facebook, altered the social media's content, manipulating the news feeds of users without their knowledge. This was during a psychological study which was trying to determine if the negative feelings of others can affect someone elses mood. The test was grandly titled, "Experimental Evidence of Massive Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks" and was just published by the National Academy of Sciences.

While not nearly as nefarious, or deadly as, say, MK Ultra, the outraged reaction to the secret study stunned the researchers. So much so in fact, one of them felt compelled to apologize to the unwitting participants via--you guessed it--his Facebook page.

Facebook isn't going to be liable for this little exercise in lab rat science. No, you can't can't count on slicing a piece out of Zuckerberg's big ol' pie. That's because their terms of use contract--you know--that page hardly anyone reads while they are signing up, tells you they can pretty much do whatever they want with your posts and FB history.

Welcome to the 21st century, baby.

Hey, if you're on line, someone is watching and what you say never goes away. It is the price we pay for the world wide web.

sic vita est


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Five Murders in Four Months: Carina Saunders, Kelsey Bransby, Alina Fitzpatrick, Jaymie Adams, and Jessica Brown

In many ways it seems like it was ages ago, but in reality it has been less than three years. Perhaps in this era of hyper media, when everyone who owns a laptop, or smart phone has become a video journalist with a world wide audience, a quarter of a decade does equal ages.

On November 2, 2011 this blog debuted. The first post concerned the murder and dismemberment of Carina Saunders. She had been reported missing on September 28th of that year, although, in reality, her family hadn't been in contact with her for longer than that. On October 13th her dismembered body was found stuffed into a duffel bag behind a grocery store in Bethany, OK.

Over the course of the next year plus the Bethany police investigated the case which became more and more lurid with each news release. Witnesses reportedly told the cops shocking accounts of drugs, violence, and human trafficking, while rumors ran rampant a cell phone video documenting the murder was out there somewhere. People were dragged in for questioning and nearly a dozen names were mentioned by the media in connection with the terrible mystery. By July of 2012, Jimmy Massey and Luis Ruiz were charged with the gruesome crime.

There was a problem though. The Bethany cops, who were in over their heads from the word go, apparently decided bringing charges against a couple of suspects was a far more important thing than actually proving them. Their "evidence" came primarily from inmates at the county jail looking to cut a deal and elements of the drug and prostitution cultures in Oklahoma City, who, as we all should have known, proved less than reliable.

In early February, 2013 the Bethany Police Department gave up and turned their now stale and for the most part, disproven evidence over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Within three weeks the charges against Massey and Ruiz were dropped. The killer, or killers of Carina Saunders remain out there, on the prowl.

Kelsey Bransby was discovered dying in her apartment on October 28th of 2011. Like Saunders, she was struggling with drugs and the people who haunt that dark netherworld. It turned out two friends she'd been shooting up with that day were involved. Cole Hopper was apparently screwing around with a gun as all three of them kissed the sky.The weapon went off accidentally. He and Danielle Cooley, instead of calling for medical assistance, immediately deserted their dying  friend and began to concoct alibis.

Last summer Hopper was given nine years. Cooley, who had pleaded guilty and testified against him, violated the terms of her probation. In November of last year she was also sentenced to nine years.

On November 4th, 2011, Alina Fitzpatrick, the youngest of all these victims, was reported missing. She was last seen near the intersection of N.W. 23rd St. and Classen Blvd. in OKC. It didn't take long to find her. Her nude body was discovered on November 9th in far north east Oklahoma City. Besides being naked, she had suffered numerous bruises and abrasions and there was a wad of paper or cotton stuffed in her mouth.

Unfortunately for her and her family, the medical examiner's report came back saying none of her injuries were life threatening and she had, in fact, died of a meth overdose. At that very moment, you could almost hear the OKC police department slamming the file cabinet drawer shut on her case. To this day her disappearance and death are not considered a homicide and remain a mystery.

On December 12th of the same year, Jaymie Adams was reported missing by her husband, Justin. According to him she was going to meet a friend in Midwest City, a suburb of Oklahoma City. Her was body found on January 7th, 2012 near lake Stanley Draper. She had been stabbed 29 times and her jaw was broken in three places.

Justin Adams' story shifted to and fro so the police initially charged him with two counts of murder, because his wife was pregnant at the time of her death. Over the next few months it was revealed Jaymie Adams had been pimped out over Craigslist by her husband and had gone to meet a potential John.

A man named Joseph Cyr is now awaiting trial for her murder. Justin Adams pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter, because, according to the DA, he facilitated her death by putting her in harm's way. A deal was struck for the guilty plea and Mr. Adams won't face any time other than what he has already served.

Four days after Adams' body was discovered, police found Jessica Brown, who was also pregnant, shot to death in her Midwest City home. From the very beginning her case was different from the other four  She wasn't out roaming around in a drug and sex infested world like Saunders, Bransby, and Adams had been--or Fitzpatrick possibly was. She was, in fact, at home asleep with her two other children in the house.

Her estranged husband, Fabion Brown, his freshly minted girl friend Emily Matheson, Brodric Glover, and Laquan Ashley were eventually charged with the crime. According to the prosecution, Brown paid Glover to shoot his wife while Matheson knew of the plot and Ashley drove the getaway car. Brodric Glover's price for the hit was a whopping $250.

According to The Oklahoman's Matt Dinger, on Thursday a jury found Fabion Brown guilty of two counts of first degree murder. Yesterday they sentenced him to death. Dinger noted Glover, who was known on the street as "Savage," Matheson, and Ashley had all struck deals with the DA last summer and fall. "Savage" got life without parole, Matheson 15 years, and Ashley was hit with eight.

Fabion Brown chose to serve as his own attorney during the trial. His defense was he didn't know a thing about the plot and it was Matheson who came up with the whole plan. The defendant may be many things, but he clearly isn't Perry Mason. The jury took all of 30 minutes to convict him.

So there we have it on a rainy Saturday afternoon here on the southern plains.

Less than 36 months ago five young women were murdered in a period of 125 days.Two of the crimes are solved and those who committed the acts are now in jail. A third is pending, while one was so mishandled by the authorities the perps might never be found. Then finally, when it comes to Alina Fitzpatrick, it appears the OKCPD, despite overwhelming evidence of foul play, hasn't given a rat's ass about her death from the second they received the ME's report.

And now you know why television police procedural dramas are the rankest sort of fiction.

sic vita est


Friday, June 27, 2014

A Mississippi Journalist

I told him not to do it. But he really wanted to get his name out there as a journalist.

Tara Kelly, wife of Clayton Kelly in an interview with Slate.

Well his name is out there, but journalism isn't the first thing you think of when Clayton Kelly's name is mentioned. He is the right wing blogger/Youtube video guy who snuck into Rose Cochran's nursing home room and shot a video of her as she was sleeping. His thinking was he could use it as a political "hit" piece in the heated primary race between her husband, Senator Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel.

As with many things, what apparently seemed to be a good idea at the time turned out to be a disaster. Kelly posted the video on Youtube and within a couple of hours some of McDaniel's people saw it. At that moment McDaniel, the clean white face of the Mississippi tea party, was ahead in the polls. The staffers, who saw it, being brighter bulbs than Kelly, immediately realized what a monumental fuck up it was. Let's face it, if a campaign is connected to something as vile as a video of a 72 year old woman suffering from chronic dementia, you are going to find it tough to sell your guy to sewer rats, not to mention the average human being.

Someone got in touch with the journalist and told him take the disgusting nonsense down which he did. At least one phone call was made to Cochran's people from the McDaniel staff explaining young Mr. Kelly had nothing to do with their campaign and they were appalled by what had happened.

Cochran, being a republican himself and therefore as ruthless and amoral as a rabid wolverine, sat on the whole thing for nearly three weeks--that would be until seven or eight days before the date of the primary. At that point he called the cops and went to the media to express his shock and outrage. He charged there was ample evidence the McDaniel campaign knew of  Kelly, so somehow they had to be connected, something McDaniel vehemently denied.

Kelly was arrested and chucked into the slammer. After some investigating the Mississippi authorities decided he wasn't the only one in on this slimy deal. In short order, a high school soccer coach named, Richard Sager was popped, as was John B. Mary, and an attorney, Mark Mayfield. Mayfield was the chairperson of the Central Mississippi Tea Party and vice chair of the statewide organization. They were all charged with conspiracy to photograph someone without their permission. In addition Sager was charged with felony tampering with evidence.

Cochran was able to force a runoff and then win it two days ago. McDaniel is threatening a court challenge over voting irregularities.

Today, various media sources are reporting Mark Mayfield shot and killed himself. One friend was quoted as saying the affair cost him many of his clients and that the last time he saw him, the attorney appeared to be a shell of his former self.

Everyone knows politics is inherently a cut throat profession. However, it is one thing to call someone a liar and a fool and another entirely to post a video of an opponent's invalid wife, or claim, without any evidence, some state senator had an affair with a staffer--as Al Gerhart did here in Oklahoma. When you pull that sort of foul chicanery it can be reasonably argued you are nothing more than a soulless ghoul.

Well, none of this should come as a surprise. After all, these people are utterly convinced that anyone who doesn't think like them is a treasonous bastard. To them decency and civility are considered weaknesses.

Perhaps now at least some of them will realize there are consequences to words and actions. Tragically, it might have taken Mark Mayfield's death for them to come to that conclusion.

And people wonder why I'm a democrat.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Tea Party Takes it on the Chin There and Here, While Oklahoma Democrats are Road Kill

It was a long night in Mississippi and it may not have ended yet. Incumbent Thad Cochran won the republican senate nomination with 50.2% of the vote, barely edging out tea party savant Chris McDaniel. To win the race, Cochran needed a lot of help and there are a few people saying some of it might have been questionable.

Proving politics do make strange bedfellows and desperate politicians will suck up to anyone in a crunch, Senator Cochran, spent the last days of an ugly, bitter, campaign appealing for help from democrats. Apparently he got just enough of it to win, but McDaniel is screeching foul and threatening to challenge the results.

According to Mississppi's quirky election laws a democrat can cast a ballot in the republican primary, or runoff if, he or she didn't vote in the democratic race and intends to vote for the same person in November. Therein lies the rub. If any of the democrats who voted for Cochran in the runoff had voted in the democratic primary a few weeks ago, or, in theory, don't plan to vote for him in November, their ballots must be ruled invalid.

McDaniel knew the problem was coming. His campaign workers, some from out of state tea party organizations, stationed themselves as poll watchers in precincts all over the place. NBC quoted him as saying, "Before this race is over, we have to be absolutely certain that the republican primary was won by republican voters."

Waiting in the wings while the GOP bloodletting continues is democrat and former congressman Travis Childers. At the national level, democratic leaders consider him a strong enough candidate that they were actually pulling for Cochran to lose. They felt McDaniel's toxic rants while hosting a radio talk show and his crude style would make him an easier target than a sitting senator, one who has been running campaigns for over four decades. 

The only thing we know for sure at this moment is both candidates pulled out all the stops. McDaniel received major money from groups like, Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Tea Party Patriot Citizens Fund. Cochran got help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce among others, while dragging John McCain and even former NFL quarterback, Brett Favre into the fray.

In Oklahoma, James Lankford kicked T.W. Shannon's ass in the republican senate primary by winning 57.2% of the vote. Shannon was the tea party's man in the state. A few weeks ago Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin dropped in to endorse him and ultra right wing pac money paid for ads which accused Lankford of committing just about every ideological crime imaginable.

That Lankford won isn't particularly a surprise--that he won without a runoff is. Local speculation is the tea party brain trust diverted money from Shannon's campaign the last couple of weeks because they thought he was a lock to force a runoff, while they knew McDaniel was starting to flounder in Mississippi.

If that was indeed the scenario, it's obvious the rubes on the right still can't figure out how to conduct an accurate pre-election poll.

Actually there were two senate seats up for grabs here yesterday. Shannon and Lankford were dueling over Tom Coburn's soon to be vacated spot. Coburn is retiring early and Lankford will have to run again in two years if he wins in November, which he will. Meanwhile Jim Inhofe was facing four challengers who had about as much name recognition and money as some homeless guy hanging out at the abandoned bus station on Walker Street. He won 87.7% of the vote, meaning we're stuck with the ruthless son of a bitch for another six years. The democrats couldn't find anyone to run against him in November.

Lankford will face either state senator, Connie Johnson, or Jim Rogers. Johnson received 43.8% of the vote while Rogers was able to get 35.3%.

Johnson, from Oklahoma City, has held her seat in the OK senate since 2005. Rogers, who is basically a recluse, has been thrashed in state elections many times over many years.

Yes, that is what democrats have sunk to in Oklahoma. 35 plus percent of us voted for a 79 year old perennial loser with no legislative experience who refuses to debate, or even make public appearances. Rogers' wikipedia page says that while he claims to have been a professor at a number of universities he won't name any of them.

So there it is. We learned a couple of things from yesterday. One, getting endorsed by Sarah Palin doesn't do you any good. She backed both Shannon and McDaniel. In fact the only tea party guy to win lately was David Brat in Virginia and he didn't get any help from her, or the tea party money people. Second, democrats in Oklahoma are about as viable and relevant as day old road kill.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why The Good Lord invented martinis.

sic vita est


Monday, June 23, 2014

Another Weekend in the Books: The Road to Majority Conference and Stupid People

Herman Cain, the former fast food CEO and alleged adulterer, has decided he knows why the republicans lost to Barack H. Obama a couple of times. Over the weekend he addressed Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition. They were having a get together optimistically called, "The Road to Majority Conference."

According to Cain, who has never won an election, the reason both he and the GOP continue to get whacked by the voters is because "stupid people are ruining America." In other words if you don't vote for republican candidates and presumably Herman Cain you are stupid. In fact he assured the gathering of 1,000 or so evangelical zealots he is glad huge numbers of Americans have given up on the democratic process because if they're too stupid to understand how much trouble the country is in they shouldn't vote.

In his grand analysis of the political situation, he didn't entirely blame we poor souls who are too intellectually challenged to function like--well--Herman Cain. He claimed "the democratic-media complex" was keeping us uninformed. That's right, it isn't completely our fault we're a bunch of drooling idiots, it's that our barely human minds have been kept in the dark from the time we were born.

We've certainly heard that line before and it looks as if guys like Cain are going to continue to trot it out despite vast and verifiable numbers of people watching Fox News. Of course if we want to go Real Conspiracy Theory we could speculate Fox is in on the plot too--that O'Reilly and Hannity are actually devious moles delivering subliminal liberal messages to the masses. Hey, it could be happening. Check out Youtube and see if anyone has posted a video on the subject.

When it is boiled down to the basics, Cain's rant is nothing but a different, although uglier twist on the GOP theory put forth after the 2012 debacle. That would be the one which says the party has lost two presidential elections in a row simply because it isn't communicating its ideas to the public well enough. Now, according to Cain, the politics of the GOP and its communication skills are fine, the problem is the rest of us are just too dumb to listen. His final words of advice were, "Those of us who are informed have got to out vote the stupid people."

Cain wasn't the only speaker at the gala. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was there. He told the crowd democrats were waging a "silent war" on religious liberty. He promised between this November and the one two years down the road there would be a "hostile takeover" of Washington by a livid and energized conservative electorate. There was other stuff, about restoring American liberty, but it wasn't anything we haven't been subjected to before.

Piyush Jindal, who took the nickname Bobby after watching reruns of the situation comedy "The Brady Bunch" as a child, is considered a possible candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. There is even a political action committee set up to help finance a run, although the governor maintains he has no connection to it.

Why not? Let's face it, he can't do any worse than the rest of the clowns jostling for position right now. And, given the recent trend of republican presidential candidates to melt down during primary debates, being off the radar at this point might not be as bad as it seems.

So there we have it. Another weekend is in the books and we've been provided with keen insight into our intelligence by a guy who used to work for not only a pizza chain, but Burger King, home of the "Whopper."

Hey, what more could we ask for?


Friday, June 20, 2014

Back to Iraq Part Two: Here We Go Again

It would seem we've taken one more step down that slippery slope.

Yesterday Barack Obama announced he is sending 300 military advisers to Iraq. It means there will soon be close to 600 U.S. troops on the ground in a country which appears about as stable as a house of cards in a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

In Washington politicians and media analysts are trying to blame the lunacy on everyone from the president to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and his dog. In the mean time that collective groan you just heard was the American public saying to itself, "Oh my God, here we go again."

The only real resistance the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham have met has come not from the Iraqi army, but the Kurds. Their fighting force, known as the Peshmerga, has taken the town of Kirkuk, the adjoining oil fields, and refinery. They're also holding onto a critical reservoir outside of Mosul which provides most of Baghdad's drinking water.

In fact, the Kurds have been so successful and the Iraqi army so spectacularly bad, Kurdish officials are now openly talking about a completely independent Kurdistan. NBC reports one went so far as to say, "The Iraq we knew has come to an end."

Of course the Iraq we knew has only been around since 1920, which in the grand scheme of things isn't all that long. The modern borders were set by the League of Nations during the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after the first world war.

Even then the country was referred to as The British Mandate of Mesopotamia. So if we're looking to blame someone the Brits should be included in the line up with the rest of the usual suspects. They established the original monarchy and government, then manned the throne and the whole system with Sunnis.

In 1932 they granted Iraq independence, but still had considerable influence. In 1941 there was a coup led by Rashad Ali al-Gaylani. The British felt he was a little too cozy with Adolf and Benito so they invaded to protect the oil supply and re-instated the monarchy which hung around until 1958 when it was overthrown.

However, even then the people in charge remained Sunnis.

The Shia didn't turn the tables until after we got there and made sure there were free elections. And, as we've seen over the last three years, they've done a real cracker jack job of running the place.

John Kerry has stated ISIS, as it known in the media, is more extreme than al-Qaeda. Middle East expert, Patrick Skinner is quoted by NBC as saying that really isn't the case. Both groups have the same goals, just different leaders who don't particularly like each other, or anyone else for that matter.

The problem is ISIS has accomplished something al-Qaeda never could. They now have an army in the field and are gobbling up turf, creating a perverse homeland which can serve as a base for further expansion.

This past Sunday Kentucky Senator Rand Paul showed up on NBC's "Meet the Press" and told David Gregory he didn't blame Obama for the chaos in Iraq. It was a gutsy assessment given Obama bashing is not only fun, but mandatory for membership in the republican party. He also said, in far more tactful language, if we hadn't invaded the fucking country in the first place none of this shit would be happening now.

In a final moment of lucidity Rand Paul admitted there might not be an answer to the sectarian violence in Iraq.

It is a concept to mull over because there has been almost continuous violence and war in and around Iraq since Muhammad got the Divine Whisper in his ear 1,400 years ago.

To believe we can stop it simply because we're America is naive to the point of delusion.

The truth is brutally clear. If there there isn't a solution, don't go in. We won't accomplish a thing other than chewing up money we don't have and more importantly, causing the deaths of people we can't afford to lose.

Hey, let's face it, Teddy Roosevelt's big stick doesn't work against a couple of swarms of pissed off hornets.

Now, if you want me I'll be in the bar. As always the first round is on me.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back to Iraq: Dick Cheney, Jack the Ripper, and the Nature of Politics

We never should have gone into Iraq, but thanks to an evil cabal of lying sociopaths we did. We were there for eight years beginning in 2003. By the time we left 3,572 American service people had been killed in combat. Another 961 had died from other causes, 32,222 had been wounded, and 2 were declared missing in action. Only God knows how many Iraqis were killed, or wounded.

For what?

Right now the answer to that question is becoming increasingly difficult to ascertain.

In theory we went there because we were assured time and time again Saddam Hussein was a mad son of a bitch who was ready to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction. The exact nature of those weapons and how he was going to magically deliver them over the 10,000 plus miles from Iraq to our shores remained a tad fuzzy, but because of the imminent threat there wasn't any time for details. In other words go right now, or we'll be screwed. Besides, he was a tyrant who treated vast numbers of his people badly. After the invasion, when it turned out Iraq and it's leader didn't have any WMDs the guys who pressed for the war kind of shrugged their shoulders and collectively said something along the lines of, "Oops, we were misinformed."

Hussein was a Sunni, however the majority of Muslims in Iraq were and are Shiites. When he was alive the Shiites didn't like him and felt persecuted by him and his fellow Sunnis.

Enter the good ol' U.S. of A. In short order Saddam was doing the End of the Rope Polka and elections were being organized, because there isn't an American alive who doesn't firmly believe everyone in the whole wide world wants a democracy just like ours.

The Iraqis elected a government which was top heavy with Shiites. At that moment there were two possible courses for the new regime to take. One was to actually run the country as a democracy and not act like--well--Saddam Hussein. The second option was to yell, "It's pay back time, baby lets kick some Sunni ass."

The temptation of the latter was apparently too sweet to turn down.

Now things are falling apart. Did any of us really expect it wouldn't? Why the United States ever thought the Sunnis and Shia of Iraq would get along speaks to the blind naivete of American foreign policy. These two sects of Islam have been at each other's throats for nearly 1,400 years. Honestly, did we actually expect them to kiss and make up just because we rid them of Saddam and initiated free elections?

As these words are being typed hordes of Sunni extremists are laying siege to the largest oil refinery in Iraq. Mosul and Tikrit have fallen. There is evidence at least some of the Iraqi soldiers who surrendered to them were taken out and shot in large numbers.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has blamed the Saudis for financing the militants who are called by a couple of different acronyms, depending on who you reference. The Iranians, in their never ending quest to become The Next Big Power are itching to get involved and al-Maliki looks suspiciously like he is in their pocket.

The U.S. has moved an aircraft carrier and a couple of missile destroyers into the Persian Gulf and the president is mulling over some sort of military intervention. He claims he won't do it without al-Maliki making substantial reforms to ease the sectarian tensions in Iraq.


Number one, we know that isn't going to happen. In fact if the Iraqi army does turn the military situation around it will just get worse. Number two there are already at least 275 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq in order to protect, American Assets. The odds are better than even more will join them soon.

Here at home, in an act of gall so incredible it cannot be accurately described, Dick Cheney climbed out of his coffin to blame Obama for everything. He went so far as to tell the media he is forming a new foreign policy group called, Alliance for a Strong America.

Cheney's foul presence on the airwaves moved Senator Harry Reid to declare, "To the architects of the Iraq war who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say thanks, but no thanks. Unfortunately we tried it your way and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country."

Indeed. Listening to advice from Dick Cheney on Iraq is rather like a med student taking a class in anatomy taught by Jack the fucking Ripper.

Meanwhile, until the fighting subsides watch for the oil companies to begin a campaign of price gouging at the gas pumps. After all, that refinery is under siege you know, therefore prices must go up, up, and up.

This nightmare began when George W. Bush decided he had to prove his balls we're bigger than his old man's and Dick Cheney realized how much money Haliburton and it's subsidiaries would make off it. Every other reason we were given in 2003 was absolute bullshit.

Now we're watching all the sacrifice, pain and yes, money, we spent in Iraq go down the drain because the current government is only barely more tolerant than the regime of Saddam Hussein and their army sucks just like his did.

The President of the United States doesn't have an answer to this, not because of incompetence on his part, although the republicans will paint it that way.

And while they may screech like harpies the GOP honchos know they don't either. But, hey, it's an election year so they'll pretend they do.

The truth is the leadership of the United States, both left and right doesn't have an answer to the sectarian violence, quite simply, because there isn't one.

Unfortunately, in order to win votes, they will all say they have the solution. That is the nature of politics. It is also the reason so many brave men and women die for causes which are both fraudulent and useless.

If you want me, I'll be in the bar.

sic vita est 


Monday, June 16, 2014

Health Care in the United States of America: It's Simple, Ignore the Data

In November of last year the dizzying nonsense about defunding Obama Care was still hanging in the air like so much smoke from a recently doused camp fire. On the 14th of that month NBC quoted the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, John Boehner as saying, "This (The Affordable Care Act) is going to destroy the best health care delivery system in the world."

He was either misinformed, or out right lying because the statement the Speaker made seven months ago was demonstrably wrong then and still is now.

The Commonwealth Fund was established in 1918 by Anna M. Harkness with an initial gift of around $10 million, a really big wad of cash back in those days. She could afford it. According to Wikipedia she was the widow of Stephen Harkness who was a principal share holder in Standard Oil. The motto of the organization is, "A private foundation working toward a high performing health system."

Nowadays The Commonwealth Fund examines health care systems, both here and abroad using statistics from The World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and their own research. They also issue a yearly report.

The 2014 study looked at health care in the U.S. the U.K. Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia. It compared things like, cost, efficiency, access, fairness of care levels, and the overall health of the citizens in those eleven countries.

Take one guess where the good ol' U.S. of A. ranked. If you said dead last you'd be correct, although it shouldn't come as a surprise. Similar studies during 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 found we were last then too.

Some other tidbits pointed out by The Commonwealth Fund are these:

37% of Americans won't go to a doctor when they are ill, won't follow recommended care, and will either not get a prescription filled, or will fail to dose themselves properly because of cost concerns. That is compared to 6% of Swedes and 4% of the British.

23% of Americans either have a serious problem paying medical bills, or can't pay them at all. In France that number is 13%. In Norway, Sweden, and the U.K. it is 6%, or less.

The average health care cost per capita in the United States is $8,508. In Norway it is $5,669. It keeps going down from there. If you live in the U.K. the price is, $3,405.

The fact is, the study found the big bugaboo of all things republican, nationalized medicine, consistently outperforms the American system. So much so, Canada is the only nation on the list where patients average a longer waiting time to see a doctor than Americans do.

Well, you'll never be able to accuse John Boehner in particular, and the republicans in general of letting a few hard facts get in the way of a good solid sound bite. Indeed, ignore the data and plow ahead as if it doesn't exist.The truth is guys like Ted Cruz and the rest will look at these findings and simply claim they're a bunch of lies perpetrated by a liberal outfit who is pro ACA. For one it is the path of least resistance and secondly, the idiots on the far right will believe anything they say, no matter how crazy.

Think not? At one point last year Senator Cruz went on a talk show and told CBS' Bob Schieffer he never wanted to shut down the government over Obamacare--that the whole big mess was caused by the democrats who refused to compromise. He even did it with a straight face, something Schieffer couldn't maintain as he listened to Cruz's prima facie bullshit. He spent half the interview smiling incredulously as he reminded the senator of his vile threats to shut down the entire government of the United States unless he got his way. Ultimately, Schieffer did have the class to avoid something many of us would have jumped on in a New York minute. It was telling Ted Cruz the marathon faux filibuster he staged in opposition to Obamacare was the greatest act of egotism ever witnessed in the senate. That it was nothing more than a putrid attempt to make him a super star on the right edge of everything..

In that bizarre interview, it was like we were listening to a torturer blame his victim for the indescribable pain and suffering. "That's right, baby, I told you before I started gutting you like a boated tuna all you had to do is agree with me, but you didn't, so this blood on my hands is completely your fault." For me the interview was a breathtaking instant of clarity. It was the moment when I realized, without a doubt, Rafael Edward Cruz is utterly insane.

It drives Americans absolutely nuts to think someone else might be better at something--anything--than we are. The reason the Affordable Care Act was passed in the first place was to eventually pull us even with other industrialized nations when it comes to health care. Tragically, however, when vast numbers of us are confronted with evidence we're not the best, instead of accepting it and trying to improve, we just wallow in bluster and denial. In the end, the only thing the shrill caterwauling accomplishes is to convince the rest of the world we are, collectively, the oldest and most spoiled adolescent the planet has ever seen.

Meanwhile, the sick keep getting sicker and the medical bills, many people can't possibly pay, keep piling up like autumn leaves falling from elms and oaks.

This is another hard fact yokels like Boehner and Cruz like to ignore--because ultimately, according to them, it is better to let the uninsured die in the streets rather than admit we're wrong.

sic vita est


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Here is a Clue

This is how low we've sunk. At this moment in the United States of America there are those among us actually arguing about what exactly constitutes a real school shooting.

It all began shortly after the latest episode of gun violence which occurred Tuesday at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon. A freshman, 14 year old Emilio Hoffman was murdered by 15 year old Jared Padgett who had smuggled an AR-15 into the gym by concealing it in a guitar case. The shooter also wounded a teacher before engaging in a brief gunfight with police. The media is now reporting Jared Padgett ended the violence by taking his own life. That is nothing astonishingly different,  neither is the news he got the weapon from his family's weapons cache which was supposedly secured.


As usual, no one knows why he went off the deep end. According to several reports he was devoutly religious and a member of the high school JROTC. He and his father loved to hunt, so there were a lot of guns around his home and he was familiar with them. His parents were divorced, but the emotional effects young Jared suffered are not clear at this time. And, unlike Jerad and Amanda Miller, the right wing fiends in Las Vegas who, on Sunday, killed two cops and a civilian, he didn't have a criminal record. In addition, police have not been able to find a connection between him and either victim. Yes, it appears they had made the mistake so many have. They were in what they thought was a safe place at the wrong time.

Shortly after this newest outrage a group called Everytown for Gun Safety sent out a press release claiming the Oregon shooting was the 74th since the nightmare at Newtown, CT a year and a half ago. Everytown is a group being financed by former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg. CNN, Jon Stewart from "The Daily Show," and Barack Obama among others have cited the number.

Now right wing hacks are crawling out of the woodwork claiming Everytown's figure is wildly exaggerated. They maintain it is just another piece of left wing propaganda which is geared to stoke the fires of anti gun hysteria. One of these yokels, Barney Franken goes so far as say Everytown's figure is 1000% too high.

Today even CNN felt it necessary to differentiate between the "types" of gun violence in American schools. According to their updated statistics there have been only 15 "active shooter" incidents since Newtown. In other words since December 2012 about once every five weeks, or so someone has walked into a school, or onto the grounds of one and opened fire at students and teachers for no other reason than they were nuts and could. The remainder of the 74 shootings have been due to "personal arguments, gang activity, drug deals, or accidents."

Oh yeah, I'm so glad we up cleared that discrepancy. Obviously things are far more under control than we've been led to believe. Besides, we wouldn't want to confuse those other 59 perpetrators and idiots with crazy people like Adam Lanza, Elliot Rodger, or Jared Padgett. Indeed, if you have a real reason to open fire--you know, at someone specific--it really shouldn't count as a school shooting. Hey, you're not nearly as crackers as a wolverine on meth if you have a motive we can all, at some level, understand.

The truth is no other industrialized country in the world allows the proliferation of guns like we do. At the same time no other industrialized nation expects, or suffers through, school shooting tragedies as often as we have. They and their peoples simply won't tolerate the barbarity of these monstrous attacks.  

Will somebody please finally do the math? Afterwards, you can then explain to me how we're any more free than people in places like Japan, Britain, Australia and western Europe.

Ok, you probably won't. Today's OKC newspaper relegated the story of Emilo Hoffman's death to not much more than a paragraph on page three. He has become, within 72 hours, old news.

Such is the state of the union--we watch as our kids and their teachers are gunned down time and time again while many of us howl to the moon their deaths are the price we pay for the privilege of being Americans.

The ultimate tragedy here, beyond the grotesque firearm fetish, is after all the never ending carnage, we've become so brutally calloused and politically divided, we are capable of carrying on a debate about what counts as real gun violence in our schools and what doesn't.

Well, pardon me, but here is a clue--if the little fucker shoots, no matter what the reason, it is gun violence.

No wonder we are held in such high regard across the globe when it comes to this issue.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Down Goes Eric Cantor

Woe to those who take things for granted.

Think not? Just look at Eric Cantor.The guy wins a seat in the house back in 2001 and over the next few years blows through re-election campaigns like they didn't even happen. Then because of some deft maneuvering and serious schmoozing he ends up the House Majority Leader in 2011. That put him second in command and one step from the Speaker's chair.

As of May 21st this year he had raised $5,447,290 to finance the run of 2014. By the same date his campaign staff was so awash with money and confidence they had spent $168,637, not for TV time, robo calls, or mailers, but on meals at a couple of steak houses.

During that time frame, Cantor's opponent in the republican primary, an economics professor named, David Brat, raised a mere $206,663. By May 21st, his entire campaign had spent $45,844 less than Cantor's people had on t-bones cooked medium rare and baked potatoes with butter, sour cream and chives.

Then came last night and to paraphrase the late Howard Cosell, "Down goes Cantor! Down goes Cantor! Down goes Cantor!"

Today tea party wags are running around bragging their guy beat an establishment republican. Well, while Dave Brat is one of their guys if you look at his politics, he certainly didn't get any help from the tea party money people. In fact his campaign was completely ignored by super pacs such as Tea Party Patriots, Freedomworks, and Club for Growth. Of the 200 plus grand he managed to raise, not one dime was from any sort of political action committee. In comparison, 39% of the Cantor campaign war chest came through super pacs.

Now, Virginia republicans have Brat as their man in November. The candidate is an unwavering opponent of any sort of gun control. In addition he is virulently anti choice and quite possibly against any sort of birth control. Most significantly, in this race anyway, he is also one of those guys who says, "we must secure our borders before talking about immigration reform." And just like the rest of them he hasn't the foggiest notion of how to do it. His campaign web site simply says he supports "various proposals" to make sure no one on the south side can get to the north side.

According to NBC and other media outlets the immigration issue is what he hammered away at during the campaign. Over and over again he claimed Cantor wanted to create a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal aliens--that he was in collusion with Barack Obama to hand the country over to vast hordes of Hispanics.

Yes, in the right hands and in the right place xenophobia makes up for a lot of bucks.

Last night, Brat, who is Catholic and has a masters in divinity from Princeton, claimed, "This is a miracle from God that just happened."

It remains unclear if God Almighty was directly involved in the 7th Virginia district primary. However, the truth is Dave Brat clearly out worked his opponent during the campaign and used, with devastating efficiency, the first rule of Nixonian politics--charge what they can't deny and deny what they haven't charged.

He also got lucky. He was Cantor's only opponent. There was no one else in the race to siphon off votes.

So, was it the tea party politics of David Brat, or the crass hubris of Eric Cantor which caused this sudden void in the republican house leadership?

Take your pick. Both choices are probably right.


Monday, June 9, 2014

A Weekend to Remember: Cruz Gets an Ego Massage and the Revolution Ends Quickly

It was quite a weekend for the anti-government crowd, both in Texas and Nevada.

South of the Red River, the Texas state republican party held their convention in Ft. Worth. It pretty much turned into a contorted ode to Ted Cruz as the hard right rammed through platform language which sounds like it could have been written by a coven of the Ku Klux Klan.

State Senator Dan Patrick addressed the delegates about immigration reform. He parroted the oft heard line we shouldn't reform the immigration system until our southern border is, "secure." He didn't go into any details on how to secure it, but given the tone of his speech, one can imagine it involves armored divisions and free fire zones.

He also promised the raucous gathering, "The idea we're not going to be able to attract Hispanic voters over immigration is wrong." It is uncertain what drug the Senator ingested prior to making that statement, but it must have been something heavy, since he was clearly delusional. Despite the dementia, he was preaching to the choir. One delegate was holding a sign which read, "No, not even a hint of amnesty," while another speaker claimed a softer immigration policy, "is like negotiating with terrorists."

You bet, words like those will certainly appeal to the 70% of Hispanic voters who cast ballots for Barack H. Obama a couple of years ago. Patrick is currently running for Lt. Governor. His democratic opponent is a Latina state Senator named Leticia Van de Putte, who has called his rhetoric on immigration, "toxic." While I'm not an professional political analyst I think it is safe to say, Dan Patrick probably shouldn't count on carrying the Hispanic demographic just yet.

In another effort to expand the party's base the convention approved platform language which called for "reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle." Reparative therapy is such dangerous quackery both California and New Jersey have outlawed the practice on minors.

Through all the hubbub there was no doubt, Cruz was the super star. He delivered the keynote address while preening on stage, bathing in the chants of, "Run Ted run." In addition the dude from Alberta won a presidential straw poll with 43% of the votes. His nearest competitor was conservative pundit and author, Ben Carson who pulled in 12.2%. The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who has some delusions of his own, came in 4th.The Washington Post dubbed the Texas republican party as, the party of Cruz. It would seem the publicaton has a point.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Jerad and Amanda Miller took a stroll out of their Las Vegas home. They were armed and pushing a shopping cart filled with guns and ammo. Since this is America a neighbor wasn't particularly concerned with the sight, even though Jerad told her, "we gotta do, what we gotta do," and Amanda hugged her while saying, "I'm so very sorry."

The neighbor, Kelly Fielder told the media, Jerad Miller often talked about his hatred of the government and his desire to over throw it and Barack Obama. Even more darkly, he talked about killing police officers. Ms. Fielder said in retrospect she wished she had called the authorities as soon as she saw them leave yesterday.

Yeah, that might have been a good idea. Later in the day the Millers walked into a Cici's Pizza and announced, "This is the start of a revolution," because--you know--pizza joints are where all successful revolutions begin.That is when a tragedy unfolded. Two Las Vegas police officers, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were there eating lunch. Both were killed when the Millers opened fire.

The couple stole Beck and Soldo's weapons and ammunition. Then they covered their bodies with a Gadsden flag--that would be the yellow one with a coiled snake and the words, "Don't Tread on Me." Most of the time you see them flying at tea party rallies and NRA gatherings.

The Millers then walked to a Wal-Mart, murdered another person and became engaged in a gun fight with police. The gruesome episode ended when they both saved everyone a lot of time and expense by killing themselves.

Yes, so there we have it--a weekend to remember. Ted Cruz got his ever expanding ego massaged as he told an adoring mob of Texans Washington D.C. isn't part of America and the revolution in Nevada ended quickly, but, as always, not without casualties. The rest of us simply shook our heads and ordered another round.

sic vita est


Friday, June 6, 2014

The Week That Was: A Good Guy Without a Gun, A Bad Guy with a Couple of Them, Hillary and a Patio Chair, and A Toast to Those Who Were on the Beaches

The latest American model is named, Aaron Ybarra. On Thursday he walked into Otto Miller Hall on the 43 acre campus of Seattle Pacific University. NBC reports he was armed with a shotgun, extra ammunition, and a knife. He opened fire, killing one student and wounding three more, one critically.

It could have been worse. When Ybarra stopped to reload, SPU student John Meis, who was working the front desk of the building, went into action. He unleashed a stream of pepper spray into Ybarra's face, then took him to the floor. Other students jumped in and they held the shooter down until police arrived--all of which goes to disprove the tiresome mantra of the NRA's, Wayne LaPierre, which tells us, "The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." It also illustrates what happens when there are a limited number of rounds in an ammunition magazine.

The rest of the details are so numbingly familiar it is like we're all participating in a looping Twilight Zone episode which never ends. Ybarra, who isn't a student at the school, reportedly lives with his parents and is described as--you guessed it--"angry, anti social, and disaffected." He bought the weapon used in the attack two years ago. According to the NRA, the state of Washington does not require a person to obtain a permit prior to buying a shotgun, or rifle, or to carry one. Nor does an individual need to purchase a license to own either type of weapon. In addition the state doesn't mandate an owner register them with police. In other words, Aaron Ybarra, who was busily researching other mass shootings while sitting at home with mom and dad--he was particularly fond of the Columbine High School massacre--was completely off the radar.

The day before, up in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada had debuted their own version. Justin Bourque allegedly shot and killed three officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was armed with a shotgun and sniper style rifle. At least that is what it looked like in a photo someone took of him as he wandered around a Moncton neighborhood on Wednesday.

Early this morning the Mounties got their man. Bourque was located in some woods behind a home. He surrendered without offering any resistance. NBC says members of the RCMP SWAT team found him unarmed, but discovered a cache of weapons nearby.

Reports are his Facebook page contains postings from gun rights groups and anti police rants.

When he surrendered a witness said the only thing he told authorities was, "I'm done."

Finally, on a different subject, Hillary Rodham Clinton made the cover of the most recent issue of "People Magazine." It didn't take long for right wing slugs to launch an attack.

A tweet from the Drudge Report read, "Is Clinton holding a walker?" That bit of speculation immediately spurred a tweet from the Wall Street Journal--Capital Journal, telling us, "Is that a walker? Hillary Clinton's latest magazine cover is raising eyebrows."

No, it wasn't a walker, it was a patio chair which just happened to be nearby. Although it will, no doubt, be only be a matter of minutes before some astute conspiracy theorist points out the chair was put there on purpose to support her, in order to hide the fact she really does use a walker. Indeed, first there was the murder of Vince Foster and now this terrible subterfuge. Obviously the evil chicanery of the Clintons knows no bounds.

We might as well get used to this type of bilge. The former Secretary of State's age and health are going to be center stage every time a FOX News panel sits down to analyze the coming presidential contest. They're going to howl that by 2016 she'll be 69 and therefore far too old and frail to guide the republic. Meanwhile, they will scrupulously ignore the fact their guy, Ronald Reagan was 69 years and 349 days old when he became president.

If someone does bring up Reagan's age in rebuttal, without actually saying it aloud, the same pundits will gleefully infer there is a major difference between an elder statesman and some wrinkled old lady. Just wait for it.

So there we are. The first week of June has appeared disturbingly like the last couple of weeks of May. And, it seems we have only ourselves to blame for it.

The bar is open and the first toast will be to the people who hit the beaches in Normandy 70 years ago today.

Here is to them.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The NRA Mistake

Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners. That's not the Texas way. And that's certainly not the NRA way.

A NRA grass roots email sent to members late last week.

The email, which reportedly was also posted on a NRA website, was in response to a group called Texas Open Carry. They are the clowns who showed up en masse, armed with assault style weapons at a Chipotle's restaurant a little while ago. The group claimed their get together wasn't a demonstration, or political statement, although no one in their right mind believed that assertion for a second. Chipotle's certainly didn't.

The corporation quickly issued a statement which asked gun owners to leave their weapons at home, or in their cars, or just about any place else, while they are in their restaurants. Sonic Drive Ins and Chili's quickly followed suit. Starbucks had already made a similar request.

Various media outlets said the NRA message also used words and terms, like "counterproductive, scary, and downright weird." It is a report which can't be confirmed because a quick search earlier today of the NRA's home site and their lobbying site, the regally named, Institute for Legislative Action found no trace of the statement.

Yes, that stunning moment of, "common sense, consideration, and manners," was fleeting indeed.

After Texas Open Carry started to raise hell, Chris Cox, who heads the Institute for Legislative Action, went on a NRA produced radio show claiming the email was a, "mistake." Although he hedged just a tad, by saying different groups prefer to use different tactics, he made it clear the NRA was all for open carry laws, and the offending email did not reflect official NRA philosophy. He blamed some poor schmuck staffer by saying it was his, or her personal opinion which should have never been sent out under the NRA banner. If true, apparently anyone at the NRA , no matter how far down the totem pole, can post something on the official website without any editorial oversight, or permission.

He also told the audience he had a, "conversation" with the staffer. Although, he didn't divulge the contents of the talk, if Cox's explanation is true, the odds are about 50-50 it came in the form of an exit interview.

Prompted by the host of, "the talk show," with a series of leading questions, Mr. Cox went into a rambling account of how the NRA would always support the expansion of pro gun legislation. There was also a lot of the usual stuff about the anti gun mainstream press and people having the right to defend themselves--yada yada yada.

A spokesperson for Texas Open Carry quickly accepted the mea culpa by saying something along the lines of, "Oh that explains everything. It was some low level employee."

So what does it all mean? Was it exactly as Cox, who heads up a phalanx of blood thirsty lobbyists, said it was, simply a merry mix up? Was it was a rogue NRA staffer whose conscience has been riddled with guilt after years of having to write absolute bullshit? Or, was it an attempt by the NRA to be more mainstream, at least in appearance, by distancing themselves from a bunch of crude yokels, too stupid to realize they're making all gun owners look like crazed fanatics and provocateurs?

There is an argument for the latter. After all, no one wants to be sitting in a restaurant when a bunch of unknown geeks, dressed in camo, armed to the teeth with semi automatic assault weapons, comes storming through the front door. In that awful moment, as far as anyone sitting in the violated establishment knows, they might be the local version of Boko Haram, or Westboro Baptist, who are there to drag their daughters into the wilderness somewhere outside of Monroe, Louisiana. That's not to mention the quite public and incredibly raw reality of the anger and anguished passion of, Richard Martinez, whose only son was killed by a gun wielding nut a week ago simply because he was standing outside a deli in Isla Vista, CA.

Indeed, given recent events, some might think it's best to at least try to seem reasonable.

Well, if there was a bright flash of clarity it is snuffed out now. One reason might be the mass media ran with the story as if it was the second coming of Jesus of Nazareth. Who can blame them? It seemed, for an an instant, there was a break in the ranks of those who think owning a Bushmaster .223 validates their sexuality. Cox told his, "interviewer" the media attention was a crass attempt to divide and conquer. That's right, no matter what, never let the opposition know there might be a disagreement among the faithful.

Hey, who knows? If there hadn't been all the publicity the email might still be on the NRA's web site, serving as a rebuke to those who want to carry a semi automatic rifle into restaurants, hospitals, football stadiums and bars--to those fools who are so convincingly able to make the rest of us think every gun owner out there is a dangerous loon.

I will admit it is a quaint fantasy.

I'll go with it though, at least until the next outrage is perpetrated by some monster who hears voices and sees demons, but is still allowed to buy everything short of a fucking bazooka.

sic vita est


Monday, June 2, 2014

The Long Voyage of Bowe Bergdahl.

The late Michael Hastings wrote about Bowe Bergdahl in Rolling Stone two years ago. The piece painted a picture of a complex young man who was actively seeking a life of edgy adventure. He was born, raised, and home schooled in Hailey, Idaho. It is a town of 7,900 plus souls near the resort area of Sun Valley. Up until now Hailey's most famous, or depending on how you look at it, infamous, native son was the poet turned fascist, Ezra Pound. Of course Pound didn't stick around long. His family moved when he was only 18 months old.

Bowe Bergdahl desperately wanted to do the same thing. So much so, Hastings pointed out the U.S. Army was actually Bergdahl's second choice. He had, prior to his enlistment, tried to join the French Foreign Legion, but they turned him down. He also fantasized about becoming some type of hybrid mercenary in Africa in order to teach villagers how to protect themselves from people like Boko Haram and The Lord's Resistance Army.

In the end he settled on the American army and began his training for deployment in Afghanistan. According to Michael Hastings he arrived with the bright eyes of an idealist. He studied the language of the Afghans so he could communicate with them and even Russian military manuals in order to see how they failed. An officer described him as quiet and well behaved. Others began to call him, SF for special forces because of his intensity. Unfortunately, if Hastings was correct, Bergdahl found himself in the midst of a company of fuck ups from the top down. Try to imagine the characters of the cartoon strip Beetle Bailey with real guns preparing for actual combat.

Hasting writes the situation was so bad Bergdahl believed his company was unfit for combat. Shortly before the outfit shipped out he told one of his few friends in the unit, "If this deployment is lame, I'm just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan."

The deployment turned out to be lame indeed. The commanding officer was canned, leaving an inexperienced sergeant in charge. What little discipline was left in his platoon disintegrated. Morale went to hell and the soldiers were openly hostile toward the people they were supposed to be helping. It didn't take long for Bowe Bergdahl's idealism to turn into bitter disillusion. In emails sent to his father he complained about incompetence, dishonesty, and the miasma of military politics which, he alleged, rewarded brown nosing suck ups and penalized honesty and innovation. Ultimately he began to question the entire conduct of the war.

Not long after a unit vehicle ran over and killed an Afghan child--a tragedy apparently shrugged off by at least some of his comrades--he grabbed a compass, a bottle of water, and took a hike toward the mountains of Pakistan.

He didn't get far.

That was in June, 2009. A couple of days ago, the Obama administration traded five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay for the only U.S. soldier taken prisoner by insurgents in Afghanistan.

It took less than 48 hours for the shit to hit the fan. Right wing hacks all over the place are screeching to the heavens that Barack H. Obama traded five mass murderers for a--take your pick--traitor, deserter, or AWOL. A "We the People" online petition calling for Bergdahl's court martial has, as of a couple of hours ago, been signed by a little over four thousand people.

John McCain is yapping about the, "hardened terrorists" who were let go. Ted Cruz speculated we've just set a price on the heads of American service people and yokels like Jim Inhofe are complaining Obama didn't give congress 30 days notice before he released someone from Guantanamo. Representative Buck McKeon, R-CA the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has promised there will be hearings.

Well sure there will be. And each and every republican will get up and say Barack Obama broke the law and he should be censured, or impeached, or whatever it is you do with a guy who isn't a fellow tea party savant.

Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel says the deal was struck to save the life of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier and citizen. It was, in his words, that simple.

The five Taliban who were given up for an American sergeant will be in living in Qatar for at least a year. Intelligence sources call them gray beards. In other words, they're old and out of the loop. The Taliban is calling the exchange a, "great victory."

Despite all this political nonsense his parents and the population of Hailey are ready to welcome Bowe Bergdahl home with open arms.

That would be unlike a guy on FOX named Ralph Peters, who a couple of years ago, after the Rolling Stone story hit the stands, said the Taliban should save the U.S. not only a few bucks, but considerable time and effort by executing him.

Such is the nature of the right wing.

Thankfully, there are a few people left who refuse to cave into that sort of jingoistic bullshit--much to the relief of Bowe Bergdahl's mother and father.

sic vita est