Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Here, Mad Englishmen Over There, Green Friday in Colorado, and God Bless the Germans

There's a man going around taking names
and he decides who to free and who to blame
everyone won't be treated quite the same...

From the Johnny Cash song, "The Man Comes Around"

Hopefully the greedy twits who came up with the idea of "Black Friday" will be among those who, as Cash sang, won't be treated quite the same. Yes, there is nothing like kicking off the Christmas season, which supposedly celebrates the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--aka--the Prince of Peace, with a mad and some times riotous dash for stuff. 

Of course the corporate marketing slugs who plotted this nonsense aren't the only ones to blame. If huge mobs of people didn't continually act as abysmally as those brutes predicted this insanity would go away in a year, or two. That's right, if everyone would actually spend time with their families on Thanksgiving and the day after, rather than stampeding like great herds of buffalo through the aisles of places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy the same assholes who created the problem would quickly put an end to it.

Tragically that isn't going to happen and now the madness is spreading. Agence France-Presse is reporting huge angry crowds of shoppers ran wild all over the United Kingdom last night after the British gurus of retail decided to import the ridiculous phenomenon. It got so bad the AFP story said Tesco, Britain's largest retail chain, actually had to close a number of stores because their customers were so out of control. One person quoted in the story said it was bad enough that the woman, "at the till was crying she was so terrified." Police were called to several locations in order to help with crowd control.

And--although it appalls me to no end to have to say this--given the current level of local education, I feel I'm forced to. Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, the British don't observe a Thanksgiving Day. Now whether that makes them crazier than us, or not, given what happened last night, is clearly up for debate.

Every year the greed heads begin the lunacy a little earlier. Here in the states more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day itself. That means their employees are stuck dealing with fully functioning, if only temporary, psychopaths rather than enjoying the traditional feast with their loved ones. The collective company philosophy being--well--screw 'em. They're minimum wage and need the money anyway.

This year in Colorado some retailers are calling it, "Green Friday." They would be the ones selling legal marijuana to the local population. Sure, why not? Get in the mix and offer deep discounts on the bud just because it is the day after the holiday. Hey, if it works for the electronics department of Target, why won't it for someplace with a name like, Tommy Chong's Emporium of Magic Brownies.

Western civilization should be grateful there are a few places who, for now anyway, still avoid the temptation to jump into the deep end with us and the Brits. The International Business Times reports there are no signs of Black Friday craziness spreading to Spain and France. When asked if German stores had considered holding massive sales on the day after an American holiday, one retailer had this terse reply, "We are not Americans."

I didn't think I'd ever say it, but, God bless the Germans.

Indeed. Someone on this blue ball has to remain sane.

Now, given the circumstances, I'd like to thank Mr. Gordon of Linden, New Jersey for his patience. Sir, I will be with you shortly.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Darren Wilson Knows He Did His Job Right, Everyone Else Isn't So Sure

I know I did my job right.

Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer, Darren Wilson.

A lot of people are taking exception to that statement right now. So much so hundreds, if not thousands have taken to the streets not only in Ferguson, but other cities across the land. A few of them have decided Michael Brown's death and a grand jury's failure to indict Wilson, is a great excuse to set things on fire. Not to mention score the ultimate Thanksgiving weekend sale price on merchandise--you know--for free. That's right, nothing shows solidarity with the Brown family quite so much as smashing a store front window, grabbing as many bottles of scotch as you can, and then taking off for parts unknown.

Everything about this entire rotten affair stinks to high heaven. No one can agree on the way the shooting went down, or how the subsequent investigation was handled. Even the timing of the announcement of the grand jury's finding is coming under fire. Indeed, the verdict, if it can be called that, was reached at noon. The results weren't announced until 8pm, well after sundown, putting the police, who were charged with maintaining the peace, at a distinct disadvantage. It was a move criticized both by law enforcement experts nationwide and local officials.

It appears even the governor utterly screwed the pooch. Last week, prior to the decision, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and activated units of the National Guard. Then in a move so incompetent it calls into question his higher brain functions, he didn't actually put them onto the streets of the St. Louis suburb until after things went out of control and businesses were lost. Everyone from Ferguson mayor James Knowles to community leaders bitterly complained about it yesterday.

The prosecutor who ran the grand jury, Robert P. McCulloch has been condemned and praised for the way he handled the proceedings. The New York times quoted Noah Feldman, who teaches constitutional law at Harvard, as saying, "It looks like he wanted to create the the appearance that there had been a public trial when in fact there hadn't been." He went on to add, "...the prosecutor didn't want an indictment and didn't want to be blamed for not getting one."

McCulloch bent over backward to be neutral in the presentation of evidence to the 12 person jury. Such neutrality is extremely rare when it comes to grand juries. Usually the prosecutor aggressively goes after an indictment, although there was and is nothing usual about what is happening in St. Louis County at the moment. Under normal circumstances evidence isn't presented to a grand jury until police feel they have probable cause and an arrest has been made. Wilson had not been arrested. Syracuse, New York D.A. William Fitzpatrick said because of that fact, "It absolutely should have been a neutral presentation." Others are claiming that by being neutral McCulloch was intentionally steering jurors away from an indictment.

With that in mind, McCulloch bombarded the panel of three African Americans and nine white people with 60 witnesses during 70 hours of testimony. Much of the eyewitness testimony was so contradictory the transcript reads like a story composed by Franz Kafka.

Depending on the witness, Michael Brown was described as either charging Wilson like an enraged bull, or staggering toward him with his hands out and palms up, as if offering to surrender. Others said his hands were over his head, while one went so far as to say he was on his knees. When asked why he pursued Mr. Brown, Wilson said he did it because that's what he is trained to do. In other words he wasn't going to just sit there and wait on back up while his assailant fled the scene. This despite knowing he was physically over matched and Brown was wounded and bleeding.

The autopsies, all three of them, told the jury how many times Brown was shot and approximately at what distances, but all the science in the world can't determine exactly what his intent was in that fatal moment. Even the position of the final kill shot--in the top of the head--could be interpreted in a couple of different ways.

There won't be any word on how the grand jury voted, but it would have taken nine of them to agree in order to indict. No one knows, but it could have been an eight to four vote to send Wilson to trial, or some other combination.

We do know one thing though. The grand jury was not required to find beyond a reasonable doubt the evidence proved, Officer Wilson should be indicted. An indictment is not a guilty verdict. It is simply a call for a criminal trial to take place. Then and only then, will a judge and another 12 souls, determine guilt or innocence.

The other thing we know is, at least right now, an actual trial isn't going to happen. At least not as far as the state of Missouri is concerned. Legally, they are done with Darren Wilson. What they aren't done with is the aftermath of that early Saturday afternoon in August.

sic vita est


Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri and Presidential Polls: Only Time Will Tell

That Missouri grand jury apparently has come to a decision on whether to indict Ferguson police officer, Darren Williams in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. According to reports both the St. Louis County prosecutor and the Missouri governor are preparing for news conferences to be held later in the day.

So, as police and possibly National Guard units prepare to deploy perhaps it is best to consider another subject until we know what is going to happen on the banks of the Mississippi.

Late last week NBC and The Wall Street Journal commissioned a poll to look at where potential 2016 presidential candidates stand at the moment. The results show Americans don't like any of them very much.

On the democratic side, for an unfathomable reason, the poll covered two candidates. When asked about Jumpin' Joe Biden 35% of respondents viewed him favorably while 38% considered him negatively. Of course a Biden candidacy is a doomed enterprise unless Hillary Rodham Clinton stuns everyone by deciding not to run.

Mrs. Clinton's positive rating was 43% while her negative number was 40%. If there is such a thing as a perfect example of the political divide in this nation, she is it. 78% of democrats who were asked gave her a favorable rating while 81% of republicans ranked her unfavorably.

It gets bleaker on the GOP side.

Rand Paul's positive number was 26% versus the negative which is 23%. Marco Rubio was up 21% to 19%. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, currently a FOX News shill, was viewed positively by 35% and negatively by 24%.

Those three potential republican candidates were the only ones with their heads above water. The two good ol' boys from Texas, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry polled 16% positive to 26% negative and 20% positive to 29% negative respectively. Jeb Bush, who is mulling over an attempted extension of the family dynasty, polled 26% positive and 33% negative. NJ governor, Chris Christie broke even at 29% each.

The big man has a problem though. His negative rating among republicans--you know--the people who will be voting in the primaries, is 19%. Cruz's negative rating among the faithful is 12% and Bush's is 13%. Huckabee seems to be the only one who energizes the grass roots at this time. His favorable rating among fellow travelers is 52% while his negative number is 8%.

What all this means is any one's guess. Cruz has never done well outside of that bad acid trip known as the tea party and Perry could well be considered an abject loser by many on the right. A backlash to anti immigration reform might have something to do with it, although Bush's pro reform stand certainly hasn't given him any momentum.

Obviously Huckabee's presence on FOX has helped his image. Let's face it, it's impossible not to look and sound presidential when you're on a network populated by lying cretins like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Wisconsin governor Scott Wilson and Dr. Ben Carson were also thrown in the mix. Wilson's positive number with members of the GOP is a respectable 27%, but falls to 15% overall. Carson's positive is just above 10%, although Carrie Dann's article says he does much better with tea party types. Unfortunately there are a couple of stunning stats both men will have to overcome between now and 2016. According to the poll, 54% of everyone asked didn't realize Scott Wilson is a governor of anything. Then--when it comes to Ben Carson--61% said they don't know who the fuck he is. In the initial months of their campaigns, the two of them are going to have spend a ton of valuable advertising dollars on time which does nothing more than let the general public know who they are.

So there we have it here on what could be a long night in the greater St. Louis metro. In both cases only time well tell--although one is going to happen much quicker than the other.

sic vita est


Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama Acts, Republicans Rage, and Who is That Laughing?

Whether you voted for Barack H. Obama, or not, you'll have to admit one thing--he certainly knows how to piss off the right wing.

A little over 500 days ago the senate passed an immigration reform bill. In a moment so rare it almost ranks as science fiction the measure was put together and supported by both democrats and republicans. Unfortunately after moving out of the senate it had to go through that mob of miscreants who are known as the house of representatives.

As we know all too well, the lower chamber is infested with a frighteningly large number of tea party cranks who think the only true answer to the immigration question is shoot all the immigrants. John Boehner, who in theory is in charge of the house, not to mention the republican caucus, has about as much control over these clowns as the Iraqi government does over ISIS.

Because he lacks any semblance of balls, Mr. Boehner's response to the immigration issue in general and the senate's bill in particular has been to do nothing at all. That's right, ignore it, maybe it will go away.

Last night the president decided he'd had enough of the speaker's bull shit. He employed an executive order which will take the heat off nearly five million people who are living here now without proper documentation. The vast majority of them are parents of citizens of these United States. The action doesn't provide a pathway to citizenship for anyone, nor does it mean we're going to stop patrolling the southern border. Actually it will free up money and personnel so border security can be tightened.

Boehner's initial response was, "Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system the president is acting on his own. That's just not how our democracy works." The speaker did not mention how the president would be able work with a house that has repeatedly wasted its time by voting to repeal The Affordable Care Act and he didn't make any counter proposals. In fact he didn't even drop a hint there might be a house bill in the works on the issue.

Anticipating such blatant nonsense the president said in the speech last night, "To those members of congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting when congress has failed, I have one answer. Pass a bill."

Indeed. Pull your heads out of your tail ends and do something.

Today Boehner began to ratchet up the rhetoric. He was quoted as saying, "By ignoring the will of the people President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left."

He isn't the only one yammering away wildly. Republicans great and small are screeching to the high heavens. Outgoing OK senator Tom Coburn went so far as to tell USA Today, "The country is going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president and it is going to be a very serious situation. You're going to see--hopefully not--instances of anarchy. You could see violence." Of course when Coburn says, the country, what he really means is conservative white people. It is highly doubtful the Hispanic population, among others, will take up arms because of what the president did.

Out in Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio filed a law suit to stop the order. Arpaio has spent the last six plus years claiming Obama was born someplace other than here and is ineligible to be president. His department has also been whacked on the wrist for racially profiling Latinos.

When it comes to immigration, Jack Kennedy used executive action and so did, Ronald--by God--Reagan. George Bush and Billy Jeff Clinton did also. The only differences between then and now are the number of people impacted and the president doing it is named Barack Obama.

Yes, because it is Obama this time around one can almost hear that railroad named impeachment clickety-clacking  down the tracks in the distance. The proudly righteous have been aching for an excuse. Now they will believe they have one. Unfortunately, for them, even in January, they won't have two thirds of the senate which is needed to convict and remove the president from office.

That's right, sometimes real life simply doesn't play out the way you want.

Then, finally, for those of you currently rending your garments in rage, if you listen closely there is something else you will be able to hear--it would be the ghost of Crazy Horse laughing his arse off.

Hey, can you blame him?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Expecting the Worst, a State of Emergency in Ferguson, Missouri

Around noon on Saturday, August 9th of this year 18 year old Michael Brown and a friend named, Dorian Johnson were walking down the middle of a Ferguson, Missouri street. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis is located on the near north west side of the city, close to Lambert International Airport. It is over 60% black. The police department is almost exclusively white. Officer Darren Wilson, driving alone in his unit, spotted the pair and pulled up next to them. Within a minute of the meeting, Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death by the six year veteran of the department.

At least two witnesses, one of them Johnson, claim Brown, who was an African American, was shot at a distance as he faced Wilson with his hands raised in the air. Johnson added that Brown had attempted to flee the scene, but after the officer opened fire he stopped and turned. Then, while he was walking back toward Wilson, attempting to surrender, the cop opened up on him. Darren Wilson, who is white, claims Brown came through the window of the car at him and attempted to grab his weapon--that he fired his first shot inside the vehicle during the struggle. Which version you believe depends almost entirely upon your color.

Things began to get ugly the very next night. A candlelight vigil on Sunday and a string of peaceful demonstrations over the next few evenings turned violent and businesses were vandalized and looted. The police didn't help matters when they handled the situation and crowds with all the subtle deftness of the Wehrmacht turned loose in Warsaw. They ran so wild they not only aggressively arrested two reporters as they sat in a local McDonalds for reasons never explained, they tear gassed one television crew as it attempted to film what was happening.

Because they were dressed and equipped more like marines in Kandahar than cops on American streets a national debate began on the "militarization of America's local police." The governor of Missouri finally pulled both the Ferguson and the St. Louis County departments off the streets and put the state highway patrol in charge. They were under the command of Captain Rod Johnson--an African American who grew up in the community.

The feds jumped in to conduct civil rights violations and determine what actually happened that fatal Saturday. As usual they haven't figured out squat.Three separate autopsies were performed on Michael Brown's body. One by the local authorities, another by a federal medical examiner, and the last by a private pathologist hired by the family. The only thing all three determined, at least publicly, is that Brown was hit with six rounds. He took four in the right arm and two in the head. All the entry wounds were in his front.

Later the, police claimed the deceased was the prime suspect in a strong arm robbery committed at a convenience store just before the shooting. Dorian Johnson, through an attorney, admitted both of them were in on the heist. The loot was a box of Swisher Sweet cigars. The family screamed their son's character was being assassinated. A security camera tape was released to the press and it was obvious to everyone he did muscle his way out of the store. Yes, yes, Michael Brown was less than perfect and might have even been a thug, despite having no criminal record whatsoever. However, it  didn't change the reality he was unarmed and at the time of the confrontation, Darren Wilson didn't know he was a suspect in a crime.

Eleven days after the shooting occurred a grand jury was convened. It is still meeting and hasn't rendered a decision on whether to indict, Darren Wilson, or clear him of any wrong doing.

The verdict might not be in, but, Missouri governor Jay Nixon not only thinks the panel is close to one, it's obvious he is expecting the worst. In what could be interpreted as a provocation rather than a precaution he has already declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and activated units of the Missouri National Guard.

No matter what happens, this bad acid trip back to the 1960's has taught us the myth of a post racial America is just that.

As if we didn't know it already.

Obama doesn't look like most of us even though his mother did, so he had to be a foreigner and therefore not eligible for office. You think that wasn't about race? Ted Cruz is a foreigner and no one is ranting about his verified place of birth, not to mention the fact his old man wasn't an American citizen when little Edward came slithering out of the womb.

It appears there will always be a racial divide. George Zimmerman didn't jump out of his car and follow Trayvon Martin just because he was carrying a bag of Skittles. That other deadly goof in Florida--the one who opened fire on a car full of black kids in a convenience store parking lot--didn't do it just because their music was too loud.

Indeed. In all probability if it had been Willie Nelson on that CD he would have been right in the groove no matter how high the volume.

The next time you hear the horse shit argument that racism is dead in this country consider the source. It will almost always come from some right wing screecher trying to justify his hateful bile to black people.

Luckily for all of us the bar is open. And--for a few minutes anyway--we can avoid contemplating such on going tragedies. You know, like the one called the United States of America.

sic vita est


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reports: Obama is Ready to Go All Executive Action and the Excrement is About to Hit the Fan

That's right, the excrement is about to hit the fan. The New York Times is reporting the president of these United States, Barack H. Obama is tired of waiting on congress to do something about immigration reform so he is preparing to take matters into his own hands.

According to the Times at some point between today and the end of December, Mr. Obama will use executive measures, which will bi-pass the nit wits and cowards in congress. The actions will protect up to five million immigrants, who are now considered illegal, from deportation. Most of them--nearly 3.3 million--will be the parents of children who are either U.S. citizens, or legal residents. With the move they'll be able to get valid work permits and no longer have to worry about being separated from their kids when an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent comes knocking on the door.

The Times' source was careful to say deportation proceedings will continue to take place for convicted criminals, those people who are determined to be national security risks, and anyone trying to cross the border illegally. In other words, Obama's plan would only apply to law abiding people who are already here.

The story also notes the president wants to beef up security at the Mexican border. In addition, since ICE agents will no longer have to worry about the kitchen staff at your local McDonalds, they'll be able to put their full focus on gang members, drug dealers, and suspected terrorists.

While that sounds reasonable to many of us, the reaction from the right side of the room will most assuredly be described in terms such as, vein bulging outrage and high pitched screeching hysteria. Soon to be senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell has already said executive action on immigration by the president will be, "like waving a red flag in front of a bull." It is unclear if the senator from Kentucky was trying to be ironic by using a metaphor involving a traditional Mexican sport, or was just being a complete dope.

Tea party honchos, Ted Cruz, R-TX, Mike Lee, R-UT, and Jeff Sessions R-AL are attempting to put together a plan to stop the president, although it doesn't sound very original. Let's see if you've heard this one before. Their idea is to block the passage of the federal budget in order to shut down the government unless the bill specifically prohibits Obama from granting what they call, "executive amnesty."

Yes, we've been down that road before with the Affordable Care Act and it certainly didn't work out for them then. Why they think it would now is just about anyone's guess.

Of course the tea party vulgus was hot to trot on message boards all over the net after the story broke. They are using terms like, "rapists, drug dealers, and welfare cheats." In addition more than a few claim they are tired of, "financially carrying illegal immigrants who are given a free ride."

As usual, no one I've seen has offered up any statistics regarding illegal immigrants committing rape, dealing drugs,  or idly sitting around collecting welfare. It would also be fair to mention none of those fire breathing loons appear to know who installs the roofs on new houses, grooms lawns, or makes the tasty pancakes at the IHOP down the street. Those honest jobs would involve career paths very few legal Americans choose to take considering the pay scales and advancement opportunities.

The Times also pointed out the Obama people have told members of congress he would reverse any executive action if both houses would just get off their asses and pass a comprehensive reform bill he could sign. That's right, if you great gang of goofs would do something, I wouldn't have make these decisions on my own.

It isn't likely to happen though, because the republicans are deeply divided on immigration reform. The Bush wing of the party knows some sort of compromise must be reached. The tea party groupers want a spin off of Herr Hitler's final solution and won't budge until the feds start building camps and kicking in doors.

As for Obama? Well number one he doesn't have to run again so fuck 'em--he can do whatever is right no matter what the immediate consequences. Number two, in the long term, as the heated rhetoric from the republican fringe reaches levels which will be correctly interpreted as a plate of spicy hot xenophobia served with a side of racism, the Hispanic vote will be forever lost to the GOP.

The end of white rule is near for all those Anglo-European types who are convinced it is their inherent right to run this place. They aren't going to go quietly, but trust me, they are going to go.

The truth is, no matter how much you want, you cannot stop the prime dynamic of America which is change. In the end the greatest American tradition is we don't have any traditions. We are constantly evolving. Every age is different and every person is different. Unless you can trace your roots back to a native American tribe you are the descendant of an immigrant.

No matter how much you loathe it, or fear it, as the song said, "a change is gonna come."

That is the way it has always been in this nation.

If you can't deal with it you should probably move someplace else. You know--immigrate.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice, Remembrance, and Veterans Day: Nearly 5,000 Years of War

It started out as Armistice Day. On November 11, 1918 the Germans signed an agreement with allied powers in a rail car at Compiegne, France to stop four plus years of awful bloodshed. At 11 am, British time, on the 11th day of the 11th month the cease fire took effect. News papers everywhere west of Berlin claimed the war was over.

Actually it wasn't. Although hostilities ceased on the western front, battles still raged in the east and in parts of the Ottoman Empire and would continue to do so for a while.

The original Armistice Day ceremonies were conducted in London by King George V and the president of France. Traditionally two minutes of silence were observed at 11am. The first minute was for the war dead, the second was for their widows, children, and families.

It is easy to see why the western allies chose to recognize the moment. Right now there are 888,246 ceramic poppies floating in the moat surrounding the Tower of London. Each one of them stands for a British service person who died in the conflict. That number represents a little over 2% of the population of the United Kingdom at the time. According to Wikipedia, if you throw in eight British colonies in Africa, plus India, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and South Africa the empire's body count rises to 1,118,760.

Wikipedia also tells us France and 16 of its colonies ranging from Vietnam to Tunisia lost 1,397,800 military personnel while over four million of its troops were wounded.

In the east it was worse. It is estimated the Russians lost 2,254,369 army personnel. The figures for Serbia fluctuate wildly depending on the source, but the high end is 365,164 which, if correct, means in a little over four years Serbia lost 18.11% of its population.

The Italians signed a separate armistice with what was known as the central powers a week before November 11th. By then they had suffered approximately 651,000 killed in action.

In comparison 116,708 U.S service people lost their lives in the war, but then we were only in it for 18 months.

On the other side the Germans and five of their colonies lost over two million in the trenches, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, nearly one and a half million, the Ottoman Empire over 700,000 and the Bulgarians close to 100,000.

Pretty soon the name Armistice Day evolved into Remembrance Day throughout the British Commonwealth. It is a day where not only the dead of WWI are honored, but also the dead of all the wars. Unfortunately there are plenty of both. In the United States Armistice Day became Veterans Day and it is meant not so much to honor the war dead--for us that is Memorial Day--but anyone who has served in the armed forces of the nation.

Of course the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed the following year, didn't accomplish anything other than giving Europe a 21 year break from the carnage. Instead of learning from the nightmare everybody just re-armed with more efficient weapons and--except for the French--came up with better tactics. By 1939, thanks to Herr Hitler, they were all back at it again. The only difference in round two, besides the lack of trenches running from one end of France to the other, was the added charm of a virulent strain of eugenics which was played out in the most gruesome sort of ways. Well that and the Italians who, thanks to Benito Mussolini, switched sides and managed to get their vast and beautiful peninsula utterly ravaged.

Yes, "The Great War" ended up being just a precursor to even more barbarity. And while America tried to slip back into the coziness of isolationism it couldn't avoid the second conflict either.

So as the French, Belgians, and British lay wreaths and play their versions of taps, we in America say thanks to everyone who joined, or was drafted into the armed forces. The huge majority of them have been honorable, many were brave, and a few, because the military is nothing more than a reflection of the national population, were complete assholes and criminals.

Sadly we'll never be able to stop having these Remembrance and Veterans Days because we're never going to stop conducting wars. The first recorded one was fought about 2,700 BC. The combatants were Sumer, located in Iraq and Elam, which is present day Iran. A couple of sources say there were probably earlier ones, but writing hadn't been invented yet, so we simply don't know about them. That is nearly five thousand years of almost constant human conflict somewhere on this blue ball.

Psychologists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, theologians and a myriad of other academics have and will continue to try to explain this terrible human affliction. They'll compose scholarly papers which will delve into social, religious and ancient tribal traditions, not to mention some genetic memory hoo doo.

Being a tad simplistic I have another couple of terse reasons we go to war. First we're good at it. Second, somewhere deep down in that reptilian part of our brain, we really, really like it.

Think not? Just ask any eleven year old boy what he thought of that ultra violent war movie he watched a few moments earlier. Invariably he will tell you it is coolest thing he's ever seen.

That would be seven years, or so before he actually ends up sitting in a shallow hole in the sand and sees his best friend's head blown to smithereens.

It is only in that awful second he'll understand there isn't a thing cool about war and that reality is a bitch. .

Too bad we can't teach it to everyone before they run for political office, listen to a recruiter, or pick up a gun.

sic vita est


Friday, November 7, 2014

The Doctor is Running

It sounds as if there will be a full fledged--out of the closet so to speak--republican candidate running for the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination by the end of the weekend.

Yes, while people like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and even big Mitt Romney himself hem and haw about joining the chase, ABC is reporting Dr. Ben Carson will charge out of the gate within the next 48 hours.

Carson, an African American, is a retired neurosurgeon of note. Most famously he is the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins who were connected at the head. It was considered such a remarkable feat a made for TV movie was produced and shown on the cable channel TNT. Cuba Gooding Jr. played his part.

At this point that is all behind him. Now he is a rootin' tootin' conservative hot shot. Besides writing six books he has been a weekly op-ed columnist for the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times. In addition he has been a regular guest commentator on FOX News which shouldn't be surprising. After all, FOX will air the opinions of just about any conservative who can string together more than three coherent sentences at a time.

Because of his speeches and books he has become such a hot commodity a, "Draft Ben Carson for President Committee" was formed.

In response to questions about him running for the highest office in the land he frequently said he'd leave it up to God. As late as a month ago, during an interview on Fusion, he told the host he didn't want to be president because, in his words, "Why would any sane person want to do that?" Moments later in the same conversation he said so many people were asking him to run, he would, despite the whole sanity issue, consider seeking the presidency. Indeed, when the cause is so great and the people demand it, why not consider risking your mental health in order to move into the White House and take charge? He also said he'd come to a decision early next year on whether, or not to run, presumably after conducting in depth talks with the Supreme Being.

Well, apparently the good Lord spoke to him a little earlier than expected because, according to ABC, the newly minted Carson campaign will kick off things with a 40 minute advertisement this weekend. It will run in 22 states plus Washington D.C. The ad is reportedly shot in the style of a documentary which will introduce the public to Carson's personal history, qualifications, and philosophy.

So what is his philosophy? Well there are a couple of hints. According to Wikipedia during a 2013 speech Dr. Carson called the Affordable Care Act, "The worst thing that has happened to this country since slavery." In the same speech he quoted Vladimir Lenin as saying, "Socialized medicine is the keystone to the establishment of a socialist state." That Lenin never said it is of little consequence. The conservative crowd believes he did, or at least thinks he would have if he'd thought things through a little.

On another occasion he showed up on Sean Hannity's FOX venue. While explaining to us that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, he appeared to equate homosexuals with pedophiles and people who love animals a tad too much. During the controversy which followed he claimed he had not only been quoted out of context, but was also completely misunderstood. At a later date he apologized for his choice of words.

Yes, it looks like he'll fit right in with the other clowns, grifters, and sociopaths who will seek the GOP nomination in a couple of years.

Can he win though?

He'll certainly do better than the sexual deviant Herman Cain, the memory challenged Rick Perry, and the ever pert and sassy  Michelle Bachmann. However the truth is, in this 21st century political reality, he has to convince people like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers he is not only a true believer, but once in office he'll perform as a loyal employee. That's right. A four year ticket to the oval office is not only hard to score, but so expensive it makes the heart skip a beat.

Hey, if the money people don't believe you're their guy, or think you can win, there isn't a 40 minute ad created anywhere in the world which can carry you through a two year trek across America as you try to convince people you are the next best thing.

The truth is, at this moment, the only people who think Ben Carson is credible are the mainstream media looking to hike the political news ratings and his less than impressive, but wildly enthusiastic supporters. Let's face it, first, he can't win a republican primary in the south which is crucial. Second, he hasn't faced a full on nationally televised debate--you know--where someone actually disagrees with him. And, as much as we say we hate professional politicians, we really do get queasy when a newbie struts into the arena and claims he has all the answers.

The good physician is, quite frankly, chasing windmills and while some will believe his campaign is idealistically admirable, many others will consider it an exercise in doomed egotism

Doc, in the end, my suggestion is don't burn your bridges at FOX News. You're probably going to need that gig in the next few years no matter how slick your ad is this weekend.

sic vita est


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alina Fitzpatrick: Three Long Years

It has been a three long years. On Friday, November 4th, 2011, seventeen year old Alina Fitzpatrick stepped into the darkness and never returned.

According to her obituary she was last seen around 10 pm that evening. Various reports say a friend dropped her off at an apartment complex near NW 24th St. and Western Ave. on the near north west side of Oklahoma City. Shortly afterward her cell phone was turned off and calls were routed directly to her voice mail. At least one accounting of the events says she never made it to the apartment she was intending to visit.

Other reports assert that in the days prior to her disappearance she told friends and family she had become frightened of a, "suspicious," man. If the teenager knew his name she kept it to herself, although she did tell people she suspected he'd found out her cell phone number. The situation was apparently disturbing enough that she went to the trouble of having it changed.

News stories said she had attended Putnam City North High School, but switched to the Putnam City Virtual High School home schooling program because of bullying. A Putnam City School District spokesperson was quick to issue a statement claiming the system showed no record of her being bullied.

For her parents, alarm bells began ringing almost immediately after she went missing. According to them she had never disappeared without a word like that before. Flyers were posted in the area she was last seen in. A web site, was quickly put together to facilitate tips to her whereabouts. Other appeals for help and information were posted on facebook.

On November 9th a man and his mother went to check on family property in far eastern Oklahoma City near the intersection of NE 50th and Anderson Road. What they found there was the nude body of a young white girl. It didn't take long for it to be identified as the remains of Alina Fitzpatrick.

Besides being found naked, reports indicated she had suffered what looked to be blunt force trauma to the head, plus cuts and abrasions to her face and body. In addition police said there were remnants of what appeared to be a gag in her mouth made of, "paper, or a cotton like substance."

Despite the obvious signs of foul play police refused to rule her death as a homicide until they received the medical examiner's autopsy report. Three years to the day after she disappeared they still haven't.

When the ME's report did come in it showed she had methamphetamine in her system--possibly enough to kill her. In conclusion the Medical Examiner called the circumstances of her death, "suspicious." In that awful moment you could almost hear detectives slamming file cabinet drawers shut.

When questioned about the case on the 20th of January, 2012, Oklahoma City Police spokesperson, Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow told a reporter, the case wasn't considered a homicide, but police were keeping an open file on it.

That assessment of the situation hit a raw never somewhere, because nine days later, OKCPD Captain, Dexter Nelson told the press, "Homicide is just a legal term that gives us grounds to prosecute someone. We are still investigating it as a suspicious death. You investigate them the same way." He went on to say none of the obvious wounds suffered by Ms. Fitzpatrick were serious enough in themselves to cause her death. He also told a reporter, "She was with people who were involved in illegal behavior at the time, no doubt." He finished by saying detectives needed help from the public in order to solve the case. The department has yet to get the break it asked for that day.

Nelson spoke to the press on the 29th of January, 2012. It was pretty much the last time anyone in the mainstream media has mentioned the death of Alina Fitzpatrick.

News stories about her disappearance and death still exist on the internet simply because once something is there it never goes away, at least not until the almighty electrical grid collapses. Almost everything you find about her though was written in either late 2011, or early 2012. The world, it would seem, has moved on. There are new outrages, fresh bodies, and more calamity to talk about.

Her funeral was held on November 22, 2011. According to the online obituary she had wanted to go to the University of Central Oklahoma to study nursing. It also mentions she was buried in a hand made casket built and blessed by the Benedictine monks of New Melleray Abbey in Iowa. One set of grandparents lived here, the other in Siberia. Her mother called her Alineichka.

Saying her murder is tragic is an understatement. Believing the police did everything they could is, honestly, nothing more than a hopeful fantasy.

In the end, to paraphrase John Donne, any person's death diminishes us.

Yes it does. And, ultimately, we are lessened even more by both forgetting the death of Alina Fitzpatrick and the crime which caused it.

A Person, or persons out there killed her. They need to pay the price for committing the heinous act. Finding those beasts is the very least we can do--not just for her parents, but, Alina herself.


Donne famously wrote the bell has tolled. If you listen carefully to the echoes, even  three years after she was killed, you'll  realize, when it comes to Alina Fitzpatrick, it has, as the poet also said, tolled for us  too.

sic vita est


Monday, November 3, 2014

The Mid Term Elections, The Same Old Traffic Jam, and Three Years Old

Well it looks like republicans think they've reached high tide and green grass. Party officials and the faithful are utterly convinced the GOP will control the senate after the dust settles tomorrow. Polls indicate those good ol' boys have every reason to be confident.

All they need is a net gain of six seats, which is easily within reach.

According to the latest NBC/Marist polls the republicans are favored to win in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. That leaves them needing a mere three additional seats, so long as they don't lose any they already hold.

The numbers crunched by the NBC/Marist people make that possibility seem faint indeed. Much to the chagrin of democrats everywhere, not to mention republican senator Ted Cruz, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be pulling away from challenger Alison Grimes in Kentucky. He currently leads her 50% to 41%.

The Grimes campaign is suing the Kentucky republican party because of what is being called "official looking mailers," sent to voters in the eastern part of the state. On the outside of the envelopes, in bold print, are the words, "Election Violation Notice." The Grimes' people say the mailing was meant to intimidate potential voters and keep them from the polls. While they may have a point it is doubtful a court action at this late date will help her win.

In Georgia, where republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss is retiring, GOP candidate David Perdue leads democrat Michelle Nunn 48% to 44%. However, there is a kicker. Libertarian candidate, Amanda Swafford could pull down just enough votes to cause tomorrow's winner to come in under 50%. If that is the case, Nunn and Perdue would face each other in a runoff election which would be held during the first week of January. Estimates of exactly how much national money both parties would pour into a Georgia runoff are so high even the Koch brothers might flinch at the final tab.

A similar situation exists in Louisiana where democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is currently leading two challengers. One is an establishment republican named, Bill Cassidy, the other is Rob Maness, a tea party wank who has the support of our old pal, Sarah Palin. Landrieu has 44% of the vote at the moment and if she fails to get 50% she'll face either Cassidy, or Maness, who is running a distant third, in a runoff. Unfortunately for her the same poll shows she will lose to either one of them in a face to face contest.

In Iowa democrat, Tom Harkin is retiring. Republican, Joni Ernst--known primarily for her TV ads which show her firing handguns and bragging about castrating hogs has a slight lead over opponent, Bruce Braley.

In the end, all this means, if you throw in Iowa and Louisiana, the republicans need only one more win in places like Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, and North Carolina to control the senate.

Yes, conservatives everywhere will be high fiving themselves while claiming Americans have finally returned to their senses. They will call the results a complete repudiation of Barack Obama's presidency.

Yeah, yeah, that is all fine and good, but they continue to have problem--Obama will still be president. And while they'll chair committees and drive the legislation in the next congress, republicans will still be required to get 60 votes to get something passed in the upper house and they certainly won't have the numbers to override a presidential veto.

So, where does that leave us? Why it would be the same old traffic jam we've been stuck in for the last six years.

Tomorrow might be a symbolic victory for the right wing, but it is by no means the same sort of tectonic shift on the scale which accompanied Ron Reagan's election.

Let's face it, after tomorrow night's debauched orgy of alcohol, grotesque sexual displays, and self congratulation, the republicans will face two years of abject legislative failure. Then comes 2016 when they get to face Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a presidential election. Good luck with that one guys and gals. 

Finally, for those of you counting, as of yesterday this blog is three years old.

In honor of the occasion the first round is on me.