Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's the American Way: James Holmes is Old News

Sadly, we've never had much of an attention span in this country. It is rather like our addiction to fast food. Get in, get out, eat it, then forget about it. That's right, keep moving and don't think about the past, because if the burger had been bubbling with e coli it would have killed us by now anyway.
Yes, tomorrow is a new day and there will always be another burger, deadly, or otherwise. All we have to do is drive a couple of blocks to find it.
Not quite three years ago James Eagan Holmes entered a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. It was just after the start of the midnight premier of the film, "Batman, The Dark Knight Rises." He wasn't there to see the flick.
For nearly three months prior to his appearance in front of the audience, young Mr. Holmes had been planning mass mayhem. He had stocked up on all manner of weapons, ammunition, and explosives. He had bought body armor and a gas mask. No one at any of the sporting goods stores who sold him all the hardware gave him a second thought.
However, other people were starting to realize he might be dangerously short of a few cards in the deck. His psychiatrist at the University of Colorado, Denver was so alarmed she told campus police they should look into what he was doing. He slipped through the cracks by dropping out of school. The moment he ceased being a student he was no longer their problem. They didn't think to notify any other law enforcement agencies. By that point his behavior was, in fact, so weird a local gun club refused to offer him a membership.
On July 20, 2012, about eight or nine minutes into the movie Brother Holmes came through an exit door he had blocked open earlier. After tossing a tear gas grenade he began to fire on the patrons. When he was done 12 people were dead and 70 were wounded. The police arrested him almost immediately after he left the auditorium.
The media and public were, once again, shocked and appalled by the savagery wrought by a middle class white guy gone completely berserk. Reasonable people wondered out loud how such a whack job could get his hands on what amounts to weapons of mass destruction. The gun crowd claimed if the people in the audience had been armed the body count wouldn't have been so high. The conspiracy clowns blamed everything from the MK Ultra mind control plot, to a FBI false flag operation. One that went so far as to include dead people who never existed and actors posing as the wounded. 
The great gun control debate flared up white hot for about two weeks and then, as it always does, died down when the NRA put the clamps on it's wholly owned subsidiary, the Congress of the United States of America.
Monday, the nation, preoccupied by the ongoing nightmare in Baltimore, barely noticed, Jimmy Holmes went on trial for murder in an Arapahoe County, CO courtroom. It is unclear if the collective reaction would have been any different even if nothing at all was happening in Maryland. Nearly three years after the fact, for too many of us, he is the burger we survived so long ago we barely remember eating it. 
The jury of 11 women and one man is backed up by 12 alternates. They have three choices. James Holmes is guilty of murder and will be sentenced to either life without parole, or death. Or, he is legally insane and will be committed to a state mental hospital for an indefinite period. No one on the planet earth, excluding a handful of cashews on You Tube, thinks he didn't do it.
His defense team has done everything in their power to save their client's life. They've petitioned for a change of venue and they've moved to keep the jury from seeing crime scene photos. They'll parade battalions of psychiatrists onto the witness stand and each one of them will claim James Holmes is as mad as a hatter.
And they'll be right. You don't do what he did without being insane. Unfortunately for the defense, their problem is two fold. One, was he "legally insane?" Yeah, he was nuts, but can anyone reasonably believe, during two and a half months of planning, plus buying body armor for self protection, he didn't understand that what he was doing was wrong? If you vote innocent that's the conclusion you must arrive at. Two, the jurors are human and there isn't a soul in that box who will vote Mr. Jimmy innocent if she, or he thinks he'll ever walk around free again.
Hey, the crank who shot Ron Reagan is hanging out at his Mom's place in Williamsburg, Virginia as I type. There is always the possibility somewhere down the road a shrink will claim James Holmes is cured and should be allowed to stand in line with you and your date at yet another movie theater. The prosecution won't even have to mention it. Everyone in the courtroom already knows it. 
No, that isn't going to happen. The odds are he will go away for life without parole, despite the gruesome and tragic evidence presented by the DA. The odds are also, that unless it is a slow news day when the jury finally does arrive at a verdict, barely anyone outside of those immediately impacted by this awful lunacy will notice.
It is The American Way. In the end, James Eagan Holmes is old news and as a nation we need a fresh rush--one with new names and different scenery. Think not? How many of us remember the identity of the student who shot up the Virginia Tech campus, or even the name of the kid killed in Ferguson, Missouri a little while ago?
Indeed. Case rested.     
sic vita est

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Burning Down a Pharmacy Isn't Justice

What is known is this--on April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was arrested by Baltimore police. He was allegedly in possession of a switch blade knife. He initially ran, was chased down,  taken to the ground, then hand cuffed, and finally put in the back of a van. Before they transported him to the lock up officers slapped leg cuffs on him. Reportedly no one involved in the arrest strapped him in with a seat belt, which is in violation of Baltimore Police Department policy.

At some point Gray suffered a severe spinal injury. No one knows, or at least will admit they know, what happened to cause it. He died a week later. Six officers were suspended with pay and the investigation is on going.

His funeral was held yesterday. By the end of last night, 144 cars had been torched, 15 structures set on fire, 15 cops injured, six of them seriously enough they had to be hospitalized, and 200 arrests recorded. This morning units of the Maryland National Guard were deployed in the city.

Yes, we've been down this road before haven't we.

The main question being asked at the moment is how did local authorities let things spiral so far out of control? Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was quoted as saying, "They just outnumbered and out flanked us. We needed to have more resources out there."

Commissioner Batts' assessment of the situation no doubt caused many--mainly the people who run and watch Fox News--to shake their heads in disgust. In fact one could almost hear them banging their fists onto desks and coffee tables in a terrible rage as he spoke those words.

Indeed, what were those fuckers in Baltimore thinking? Didn't they see what happened in Ferguson, Missouri?

Actually Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake saw exactly what happened in Ferguson and she was doing everything in her power to avoid a repeat of it. She knows her police department has a reputation which is deteriorating even more quickly than the city's infrastructure. The very last thing they needed was the world wide media showing them firing rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, and who knows what else into loud, yet peaceful demonstrators. There can be no question she was desperately wanting a quite public display of restraint from her officers.

Unfortunately, as we all saw, there were people out there on the streets who saw Freddie Gray's death as nothing more than a great opportunity to score a few bottles of scotch and some prescription drugs from behind the counter of a local CVS drug store. They were abetted by scores of high school students who threw a sort of flash mob rave based on the movie, "The Purge." It is a film which portrays a future society that lets its citizens run completely amok for twelve hours once a year without fear of penalty.

Yeah, I know, but no one has ever accused high school kids, white, black, or brown of making great decisions when they get together in large numbers. As proof we could take a look at the exploits of the Oklahoma City John Marshall High School class of 1968 one fine spring day nearly half a century ago. At the time there were 500 of us, two of whom were African-American.

There will always be criminals and stupid people who hijack legitimate causes for their own profit and, or, adrenaline rush. If any good came out of this most recent nightmare it is that Mayor Rawlings-Blake erred on the side of tolerance. During the Ferguson riots the national media was focused on the indiscriminate violence perpetrated by overly aggressive Missouri authorities. Today we're talking about how cynical, callous and rotten the rioters in west Baltimore were.

Tragically, no matter how the media social and political analysts dissect and attempt to explain what happened yesterday in Baltimore City, or what the fools on the streets did, Freddie Gray is still dead. All of us need to figure out why he died, then, who, or what caused his death. Everything else, no matter what the cost, is a distraction from that single, most important, question.

Finding the answer to it and prosecuting those who could be responsible is known as justice. Burning down a pharmacy serving the community isn't.


Friday, April 24, 2015

The Big Government Thugs Known as the Oklahoma Republican Party

So much for all that slavish devotion to small government and local control conservatives love to yammer about. In yesterdays, The Oklahoman, writer Rick M. Green reports the Oklahoma House passed a bill which will prohibit city and county governments from banning oil and gas drilling within their jurisdictions. The bill will now go to the Oklahoma Senate for final approval, which apparently is a done deal and then head to the governor's desk for signing.

Yes, sometimes one has to sacrifice his, or her alleged ideals for the greater good. Especially if the greater good turns out to be big ass oil and gas companies. You know, the ones who pay for your political campaigns, not to mention junkets to places like Las Vegas so you can attend conferences on how to best perform fellatio in the board room of Devon Energy.

The Oilies started to get the shakes when voters in Denton, TX approved a ban on fracking last year. The whole thing came to a head in Oklahoma when people living in Stillwater and Norman began making the same sort of noises. Both town's economies depend on the state's two largest universities. Neither need the dubious benefits of hydraulic fracturing, or waste water wells, which are a bi-product of fracking.

Green writes the State Chamber of Commerce backed the bill, which should come as no surprise. He quotes a chamber spokesperson as saying, "We understand concerns about public safety and this bill provides protections at the local level while also ensuring that one of the state's key economic pillars can continue to use the modern techniques that have kept Oklahoma moving forward."

The safety protections in the bill, Arnella Karges was talking about allows local governments to pass reasonable regulations when it comes to road use, traffic noise, odors, and fencing. Unfortunately the bill is a bit vague about what reasonable is. But, hey, even if it wasn't fuzzy on the definition of reasonable, when the discussion is about fracking and waste water wells none of those things are the first issue everyone thinks about.

That's right--the elephant in the living room, Ms. Karges so deftly ignored would be the fucking earthquakes. Over the past few years Oklahoma has experienced more 3.0 tremors than California, the most seismically active place in the contiguous 48 states. In 2011 a 5.6 quake near Prague destroyed 14 homes, injured two, and brought down one of the spires at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee. According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, "its very unlikely," the flurry of activity is a natural phenomenon. The U.S. Geological Survey says waste water injected deep into the ground under high pressure causes fault lines which have been dormant for hundreds of thousands of years to become active. In other words, despite the rabid denials of Senator James Mountain Inhofe, humans really are making a difference in the environment and it isn't a good thing.

The two immediate results of this roller coaster ride have been a rush by homeowners to buy earthquake insurance and some good old fashioned price gouging by the people who sell it. In recent years the cost of earthquake coverage in Oklahoma has risen over 500%.

If you've ever been to a football game in either Norman, or Stillwater you know the residents of both towns can put up with some occasional jammed roads, traffic noise, and even odors. What they're really worried about when it comes to fracking is the foundations and walls of their homes ending up resembling a bunch of fine china which has been dropped onto concrete.

Now, thanks to those big government thugs known as the Oklahoma Republican Party, no one in either burg will be able to protect their property from the greed heads running Chesapeake Energy, Devon, or anyone else who owns a drilling rig.

It is what the right wing toadies down at NE 23rd and Lincoln call free enterprise. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day: The Old, "If We Don't Talk About This Stuff it Isn't Happening Policy," and Stopping Climate Change Republican Style

 In some places it is Earth Day. It is a time when people are supposed to take notice of and celebrate this little blue ball we call home. It's also a day when many among us take to lecterns in order to talk about climate change and the short and long term consequences of it.

Don't count on that happening in either Florida, or Wisconsin--at least not by any state officials. Last month Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a directive forbidding all state environmental staffers from using the terms, "global warming," and "climate change." Earlier this month their counterparts in Wisconsin were ordered to do the same thing.

That's right, it's the old, if we don't talk about this stuff it isn't happening policy. Count on other places to follow suit, because you can say many thing about right wing politicians but they'll never be accused of not being slaves to fads. Once one of them goes in, like ice coming off the front of a melting glacier, they all go in one right after the other.

It isn't like it hasn't happened before. A Tribune News Service report notes that former Bush official Philip Clooney removed, or altered climate research findings in several reports when they inconveniently disagreed with what people like James Mountain Inhofe were spewing on a daily basis. In addition, 2012 North Carolina legislators, always an enlightened bunch, voted to ignore predictions of the rising sea level when it came to planning development along the state's beaches. In Virginia the legislature voted for a study into the future of the state's shoreline, but only if it didn't include the effects of global warming.

All this nonsense is part of the thickly muddy and amoral right wing psyche. They loathe scientists because as a group scientists don't give a rat's ass about some industrialist's bottom line. On the other hand conservatives do. Big profits mean big donations which lead to all sorts of perks. You know, like fat campaign war chests and fact finding missions that include wives and children to places like Aruba. Scientists also want the federal government to reign in corporations who are pumping mega amounts of pollutants into the air, sea, and ground water . Of course any time you mention the words Washington and regulations people like Inhofe, Cruz, Rubio, and Paul begin, as Kurt Vonnegut once said, "whirling like dervishes while speaking Babylonian." This, despite the fact they're all in Washington right now and, at least, in Inhofe's case, have been for decades.

Of course, republicans in general have a problem with all their scoffing denials of climate change. The GOP base is an ever shrinking population of old white people. In the last presidential election they got their heads handed to them because Hispanics, young people, and women voted for Barack H. Obama by the bucket load. Among Hispanics--where they have another problem--and young people, climate change is a very real concern.

Even a sophomore political science major can tell you it is tough to attract either demographic if you run around claiming, as Ted Cruz has done, that all climate change is bull shit and the people who believe it are, "Flat Earthers."

This conundrum probably explains the sudden admissions of ignorance when it comes to the issue by various GOP hot shots. Florida Senator and presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, has clammed up when it comes global warming. He now answers media questions by tersely saying, "I'm not a scientist." Mitch McConnell recently said exactly the same thing. Indeed, when in need of voters, if you can't say something they'll agree with, mumble any sort of vapid cliche, even if it makes you sound like an complete idiot. Over in the house, Speaker John Boehner was quoted as saying, "I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change." Well, Mr. Boehner isn't qualified to be the third person in line of presidential succession either, but there his ass is.

All the recent fogginess raises at least one question. If you can't speak to an issue because of your lack of knowledge, or qualifications, then what the hell are you doing voting on regulations which pertain to it? After all that is why there is neutral choice available in both houses. It's called abstain. Well, in truth, we've already visited the answer to that particular query in paragraph five of this post. Please refer to the whole campaign war chest and trips to Aruba thing.

Immigration, women's health care rights, the environment, and even gay marriage are issues any viable republican candidate will have to duck and dodge during the 2016 national election. They're deal breakers for too many voters. Unfortunately by November of next year there will be ample evidence the candidate representing the party of Warren G. Harding had to sell out the middle ground on each of them in order to win the primary season. That's what happens when the nomination process is disproportionately influenced by both the Chock Full O' Nuts wing and the Koch brothers.

Now you know why so many republican state legislators are working as busy as ferrets on meth to make it impossibly difficult for lower income groups and legal immigrants to register and vote. Their working theory is Hillary Clinton and the rest of the democratic bastards can't beat them, if their supporters are shut out of the polls.

In the end, such evil chicanery is the right wing version of--you guessed it--stopping climate change.

sic vita est


Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Cost of Guns in America, an 800 Pound Gorilla, and House Hunting in Belize

Every so often there is an urge to stop writing about America's perverse gun fetish. Let's face it, there are powerful forces at work out there who will pay, do, or say anything to keep us all locked in this particular BDSM dungeon. They range from the National Rifle Association and their wholly owned savants in congress, to every gun manufacturer and coward who is so frightened of his fellow Americans he, or she can't leave home without packing a piece.

Yes, at times there is an overwhelming temptation to simply shrug at the frenzied madness, have a beer, and investigate property costs in someplace like Belize. Invariably, though, things show up on the internet which are so appalling they just have to be commented on.

In the latest edition of Mother Jones, economist Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation threw together some stats about the price of gun violence in these United States of America. He based his numbers on the year 2012, so it could be things have gotten worse since then.

According to Miller, gun violence costs each and every American $700 per year for a grand total of $229 billion every twelve months. In addition each murder carries an average price tag of  $441,000. He notes 87% of the bill is footed by taxpayers. The vast majority of it is what we pay to incarcerate the perpetrator.

His research shows 57% of gun related homicide victims are African American and that  black men are 10 times more likely to be shot to death than their white counterparts. Black women are four times more likely to be killed by a gun than white women. The other side of the coin is that 93% of all suicides committed with a gun are white people. Anglo men are three times more apt to kill themselves with a gun than black men while white women are four times more likely to shoot themselves than black women.

Miller also found that firearms are used in 70% of all homicides and in over 50% of suicides. In addition the people who decide to kill themselves with a gun are really good at it. 80% of attempted suicides involving a gun are successful.

In all, 33,000 Americans are killed every year by guns and another 80,000 are wounded. To put that in perspective over the last 14 years, 5,281 American service people have been killed in combat both in Iraq and Afghanistan while 50,897 have been wounded.

Earlier in the week Public Radio International published a report about a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study which was conducted in conjunction with the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The study itself is old news. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1993. What it found was if you keep a firearm at home for self defense, or any other reason, you are running three times the chance of becoming a victim of homicide than people who don't have one. If there is a teenager, or young adult living with you they are 10 times more at risk of committing suicide with your weapon than others in their age group who live in a household without a gun.

As you can imagine the National Rifle Association took one look at those stats and went bat shit crazy. Even though there wasn't a word about limiting access to guns in the report, they knew it exposed all the crap they had been drilling into the heads of Americans for decades as deadly nonsense. Such a moment of distinct clarity is known as The Big Tobacco Paradigm. Indeed, once  people found out cigarettes really would kill them, they quit smoking by the millions. Fearing similar results, the NRA immediately ran to then republican senator Arlen Specter who was, at the time, the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. Proving he knew who paid for the butter on his bread, Specter called the CDC, accused them of bias, and threatened to cut all federal funding for injury research.

PRI says he didn't go that far, but quoted Dr. Fred Rivara, who was involved in the project, as saying, the committee did cut CDC funding by exactly as much as the study cost. Additionally Specter made sure there was a clause inserted in the appropriation rules for the CDC which blocked all gun research for 20 years.

The NRA wasn't satisfied. They wrote a letter to the National Institutes of Health demanding a review of the study by the Office of Scientific Integrity. Rivara explained, the letter basically questioned the credentials of everyone involved and accused researchers of lying, or at least falsifying the results of their work.

Eventually the NIH and Office of Scientific Integrity found nothing wrong with either the methodology, or findings, however the message was clear to all those who participated. Not only was the funding gone, but in the wake of the grotesque bullying no one wanted to take another swing at the 800 pound gorilla known as the NRA out of fear of what could happen to their careers.

In the end it isn't unreasonable to describe the NRA's response to the CDC report as a quaint variation of Don Corleone's offer you can't refuse.

Hey, that's how the ruthless bastards define liberty

It is also what makes some shack on a beach in Belize more and more attractive with each passing year.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chancey Luna in the Box, Joe Cyr on Deck, No One Has a Clue About Carina Saunders and Alina Fitzpatrick, but at Least Oklahoma is More American

Defense attorney Jim Berry knows a loser when he sees one. And his current client, Chancey Luna certainly falls into that category.

A story in today's The Oklahoman by Nolan Clay quotes Mr. Berry as telling potential jurors, "We're not going to try to establish to you that Mr. Luna did not shoot Mr. Lane." (Christopher Lane was an Australian baseball player who was preparing for his senior year at East Central Oklahoma State University) Berry went on to say, "He shot him. There was no motive, no plan to kill anyone. This is a reckless action by a 16 year old child."

Yes, it is the old, "my client is as stupid as a brick and it was a practical joke that went bad," defense. The prosecution contends things were a little darker than some sort of oops moment that might have been inspired by the movie, "Animal House." After the shooting, Stephens County Sheriff, Danny Ford told the media, Michael Jones, the driver of the car involved, answered the question of why by saying, "We were bored and decided to kill someone."

In a preliminary hearing, the third person in the car, James "Bug" Edwards testified he was busy rolling a joint in the front seat when the vehicle swerved and Luna, who was sitting behind him, fired a single shot. In addition he claims he heard Luna say to Jones afterward, "I thought there were supposed to be blanks in the gun." Jones' response was, "Me too. I'm sorry."

Last month Jones copped to a second degree murder plea. He got life, but will be eligible for parole in 36 years. "Bug" Edwards has been charged with accessory to murder after the fact and will testify once more in the case. If Chancey Luna is convicted of first degree murder he will get life without the possibility of parole. He's now 17 years old. Clay reports the defense plans on asking the judge to allow the jury to consider a charge of second degree murder which would put him away for anywhere from 10 years to life, with a chance at parole somewhere down the line. In either event young Mr. Luna is in for a long stay at a place, or places no one wants be at.

Meanwhile, Joseph Cyr will face trial next month in Oklahoma County. He is accused of murdering Jaymie Adams in December of 2011. Ms. Adams was pulling down tricks with the approval and encouragement of her husband, Justin Adams. At the time of her disappearance and death she was pregnant with her fifth child.

The whole sordid and deadly affair has led everyone down a long and twisted road. Police and the DA's office initially charged Justin Adams with the murder, but couldn't make a case against him, for what now appears to be obvious reasons. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, nothing is certain when it comes to the crew of prosecutors working out of the county courthouse in this burg. Let's face it, they're the same outfit who accused Luis Ruiz and Jimmy Massey of murdering of Carina Saunders only to drop the charges seven months later when it turned out they couldn't prove squat.

The gruesome killing of Ms. Saunders in the fall of 2011 remains unsolved, as does the death of Alina Fitzpatrick. Saunders' dismembered body was found stuffed in a duffel bag behind a supermarket during the second week of  October that year. Fitzpatrick's nude body was discovered a little over a month later in an empty lot in far eastern Oklahoma City. Despite several obvious signs she had been the victim of violence, once the medical examiner determined Alina Fitzpatrick had enough meth in her system to be potentially lethal, the police lost all interest.

Oklahoma is a run amok conservative place. The politicians constantly rail on about God, guns, and the Marxist-Leninist-Muslim son of a bitch who currently resides in the White House. The local op-ed page letter section has been rife with indignation that a savagely racist fraternity was booted off the University of Oklahoma campus because a few of its members were simply exercising their right to free speech. Born again Christians rage to the heavens about the "liberal attacks," on their religion without any reference to that same free speech. Large numbers of these awful cretins, not to mention the local media, spew intricate, yet, utterly unfounded fairy tales about how the state is somehow more American and therefore better than New York, California, and other blue strongholds.

Given the circumstances it is easy to testify that the notion Oklahoma is better than anywhere else in this nation is a bit of a stretch. Tragically, the term more American may well apply.

sic vita est


Friday, April 10, 2015

Hillary Makes it Official, Republicans Perform Deviant Sex Acts in Nashville, and Rand Paul Thinks the NRA is a Bunch of Wimps

Well, it's not like it is a surprise. NBC is reporting Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce she is running for the democratic presidential nomination as early as Sunday. Everyone knew it was coming and that it was just a matter of when. Why she is making it official at this particular moment isn't entirely clear, but chances are it has to do with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul throwing their hats in and Marco Rubio's impending announcement. Historically candidates see a surge in their poll numbers when they formally announce and she probably wants to blunt any momentum Cruz and Paul might gain, while at the same time stealing at least part of the spotlight from Rubio.

NBC also says the Clinton campaign will play small ball at first by going door to door and holding informal meetings with voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Actually, given her numbers, she can probably use that strategy right up until she knows who the GOP candidate will be. According to a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 44% of voters view her favorably, while 36% don't. However that number changes dramatically when it comes to democrats only. At the moment her favorable rating among them is 77% vs. 7%. In addition 83% of democrats said they would support her while only 13%--possibly the far left wing--would not.

The only troubling number for Mrs. Clinton is that 51% of everyone asked thinks she represents the politics of the past, while 44% believe she would bring new ideas to the table. She isn't the only one with that problem. The same poll revealed 60% of everyone surveyed considers Jeb Bush a trip in the way back machine, while only 27% feel his policies would have some sort of originality to them.

When it comes to potential democratic opponents, she leads Joe Biden by 56 points in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

There are two major pitfalls looming ahead for Clinton at this point. First, the voting public traditionally does not like keeping the same party in control of the White House for more than eight years. It has happened only once since Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. That was when George H.W. Bush succeeded Ron Reagan. It was an experiment which lasted only one term. Second, former Maryland governor and possible democratic rival, Martin O'Malley touched on what could be a deal breaker for some voters. MSNBC quoted him as saying, "I think the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth between two families." Indeed, while many Americans are fascinated by the British royal family, a lot of us get a tad squeamish when it comes to handing the oval office over to a succession of sons, brothers, and wives.

Meanwhile nearly the entire republican field is flying into Nashville this weekend in order to speak at the National Rifle Association convention. It will be an ugly and decadent display as each candidate performs fellatio on people like Ted Nugent and Wayne LaPierre in front of vast numbers of the gun totin' faithful. Yes, no sexual act will be considered too deviant as Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and the rest of that amoral gang grovel shamelessly before the NRA leadership in order to get their approval and more importantly, their money.

The one notable candidate missing will be Rand Paul. NBC reports the NRA is none too fond of Senator Paul, because of his involvement in and support of a group known as the National Association for Gun Rights. It is an outfit so far out there it considers the NRA a bunch of wimps who are too willing to compromise when it comes to gun rights.

That's correct. The,  everyone should pack a deadly piece bunch,  Rand Paul likes is even more militant than the NRA. You may now consider your mind officially boggled.

And with that, for obvious reasons, the bar has opened.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rand Paul is in, but Hedges His Bet: The Intoxicating Teat of the Washington Machine

Defeat the Washington Machine.

A sign displayed on the lectern in a Louisville, KY hotel ballroom as Senator Rand Paul announced his intention to run for president.

Yeah, we're going to be seeing a lot more signs like that over the next year plus. In fact every yahoo the republicans trot out of the paddock and onto the track will have supporters carrying them. Quite simply, all you have to do is take a glance at congressional and executive branch poll numbers, to realize it is the path of least resistance. Yes, that's right, portray Washington as some sort of amorphous, yet institutionalized beast which is utterly out of touch with reality, not to mention control and you'll get very little argument from anyone who lives in these United States.

The problem is Paul, along with Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, who will announce he's in the hunt next week, are all currently part of that roiling mass of dysfunction. Both Rubio and Paul have been there since 2011 while Cruz showed up in 2013 with his travelling Shut the Government Down dog and pony show.

Although Paul has only been there five years both he and Jeb Bush are the scions of entrenched Washington politicos. Ron Paul served in congress for a total of 23 years and everyone, sadly, knows the legacies of the two previous Bush presidencies.

Actually the senator from Kentucky has more problems than just being part of the problem. Every time he talks he sounds more and more like a professional politician doing a spectacular job of the old bob and weave--just the sort of bull shit behavior he says he wants to root out of the District of Columbia.

To get the nomination he has to court the religious right and it's never been his strong suit. The Huffington Post says he was baptized as an Episcopalian, but since then he has been a little bit of several traditions. He attended Baylor, a Baptist university, but reportedly was part of a secret society known as the NoZe Brotherhood, which takes particular delight in making fun of the school's religious roots and rules. He also attended Duke, which was founded by Methodists and Quakers. At the moment he is attending a Presbyterian church, a denomination not usually associated with, or approved by all those born again, come to the rail, or you'll burn in hell types.

The Huffington Post also reports he once attended a prayer breakfast during which he told the audience, "The first amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn't say keep religion out of government. So you have a role and a place here." Meanwhile, Americans for Separation of Church and State gave him a 100% rating. In other words the group decided Rand Paul had a perfect record when it came to keeping religion out of politics.

Then there is an issue near and dear to all evangelicals, which is Israel. In 2011 Senator Paul said the government should end all foreign aid, including the money earmarked for the Israelis. At the time, he blathered on about how curtailing aid to the country would make Israel stronger in the long run. By 2014, with the White House in his dreams, a sweaty epiphany set in and he was denying he ever wanted to end American aid to Israel.

In 2007, he claimed Iran wasn't a threat to the United States. To paraphrase an old saying, that dog won't hunt when it comes to your average republican. Paul now says he only spoke those words because he was helping "another person" run for office. That other person was his father.

NBC points out there are other issues he is going to have to address during the primary campaign. He is at odds with huge numbers of his own party over things like normalizing relations with Cuba. In addition, he has repeatedly agreed with his old man's policy of neo isolationism, especially when it comes to the middle east. Right--sell that to your average GOP chicken hawk who is reading about and watching the horrors perpetrated by Islamic State on a daily basis. Hordes of them are already screaming for another full blown war in Iraq.

The truth is, there isn't a single candidate out there who energizes the entire angry and splintered mob known as the republican party. They hate each other nearly as much as they hate Barack H. Obama.

Rand Paul might have staying power next year, but he has to know Jeb Bush is the national chamber of commerce--country club republican guy. He also must know Ted Cruz might be many things, foremost among them a bald faced liar, but he is going to get the majority of votes cast by the lunatic right. That means between now and the GOP convention it is imperative he convince huge numbers of the faithful he is the perfect hybrid of them both. To do so will take a juggling act the likes of which few of us have ever witnessed.

It won't be an impossible task, but it is one so daunting the republican's latest self proclaimed outsider, Rand Paul has hedged his bet. He is not only running for the presidential nomination, but for re-election to the senate at the same time. This, in some corners, is known as having your cake and eating it too--or, to put it another way--the senator is displaying a tell tale symptom of the classic, Washington Machine Junkie.

Indeed. Many enter the beltway, but few leave it willingly, no matter what they might say when the cameras are rolling. In the end, the town is a teat far too intoxicating to give up.

sic vita est


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Those Guys Haven't Told Anybody, but Ted Nugent

It is tough to decide whether to laugh, or get really pissed off when some group of dreadful fools hand Ted Nugent a microphone, then encourage him to speak into it. It happened once again the other day during, what is being reported as, the Maricopa County, AZ Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner.

Brother Nugent was introduced to the crowd by none other than Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. He is the one of the guys who had been howling that Barack Obama is in office illegally because he wasn't born in the United States. In fact he spent years attempting to prove Obama was born anywhere, but here. Lately he has abandoned his marathon birther campaign because, as we all know, current republican presidential candidate and tea party Screaming Mimi, Ted Cruz really was born someplace else. Given the circumstances even a vicious right wing geek like Arpaio can figure out that continuing the whole place of birth argument would, at best, be a tad awkward.

Nugent, who serves on the board of the National Rifle Association when he isn't belting out 40 plus year old rock tunes to raucous crowds numbering in the low three digits, is a well known Obamaphobe. He once compared the president to a coyote urinating on people's couches. Last year went so far as to call Mr. Obama, "a subhuman mongrel." It was a pronouncement so vile republican politicians--at least the ones who want to be considered viable--immediately distanced themselves from him. Nugent, who seemed stunned by the reaction, finally issued an apology.

The other night he revealed another side of himself. Unknown to many of us, apparently Mr. Nugent is a confidant and counselor to vast numbers of military veterans. A video, initially put on line by, "Right Wing Watch," shows him telling the faithful, "Here's your job republican party. 20 to 25 of those guys kill themselves every day and they haven't told you why and they haven't told anybody else, but they told me why: because the commander in chief is the enemy."

It isn't clear when Nugent became a professional therapist, or why he decided at that particular moment to violate the protocol of doctor-patient privilege. It's equally uncertain how, or when the information of each individual case becomes available to him. Does he receive 20 to 25 suicide notes per day in the mail? If not, do the tortured souls call him up prior to killing themselves in order to explain Obama is the reason they're going to do it? And, finally, if they do, what measures does he take to talk them out of it, or does he simply shrug then tell them something along the lines of, "I hear you, man."

Obviously the aging rocker felt his speech would become bogged down by such details. After all, when delivering a snappy pep talk, timing and pace are everything. Indeed, you have to keep things moving along in order to maintain engagement with the audience.

Before he was done Mr. Nugent also suggested an immigration policy which included shooting people who were attempting to illegally cross the southern border of the nation. It's an idea which might float in front of a bunch of ancient white republicans, but probably won't do much to attract the Hispanic demographic which proved not just elusive, but fatal to the GOP in 2012.

Meanwhile reports are that Rand Paul will officially announce his intentions to run for president in three days, while Marco Rubio will do so a week a later. There is also news that New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie has decided to delay his announcement until at least June. Yes, when your national poll numbers are in single numbers, like Christie's are, it is probably best to keep mum until they at least spike into the lower teens.

At this moment there isn't any word on who Ted Nugent will support for the nomination, or which candidate would actually be crazy enough to accept it.

But--hey--someone will, because, as we all know, there is a sucker born every minute. And right now there's more than a few of them in the GOP field pandering to the nightmarish clods who think Joe Arpaio and Ted Nugent are cool.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The April Fools Arrive Early: Winning the Lottery in Ft. Worth, Irony in Bangladesh, and Defending the Crown in Thailand

Every so often the April fools show up early. Unfortunately many times when they do tragedy and unspeakable mayhem accompanies them.
Take the case of Terry Martin and Laurice Hampton. Reuters reports the couple had lived together for a number of years in Ft. Worth, TX. According to Tarrant County authorities their time together could best be described as, "volatile."
That's one way to put it. Either Friday night, or early Saturday morning one of the pair bought a lottery scratch ticket which turned out to be a $500 winner. Proving the definition of a "big jackpot" is all in the eye of the beholder, the two love birds quickly began arguing over either who would get the cash, or what they'd spend their new found fortune on.
The scene quickly degenerated and because this is America a loaded gun was laying around for just such a moment. Terry Martin shot Laurice Hampton multiple times before turning the weapon on himself. He was declared dead at the scene. Ms. Hampton, despite her wounds, was able to call 911, then tell responders what had happened. She died later at a local hospital. The story didn't mention who would inherit the lottery ticket.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Mr. Washiqur Rahman was attacked and killed on the mean streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is the second blogger to be murdered there in the last month. In February, American/Bangladeshi writer, Avijit Roy was also dispatched with sudden and savage prejudice. Roy, an avowed atheist, had been using his blog to attack Islamic extremism while Rahman's recent posts had expressed his solidarity with the victim of the earlier assault. 
The gang who attacked Avijit Roy with machetes has been described as anywhere from conservative to radical Islamists. Rahman's assailants were knife wielding students from local madrassas. Since the members of both groups aren't the brightest of bulbs it probably never dawned on them their gruesome crimes simply validated everything Roy and Rahman had written about their religion. Hey, let's face it, such ironies are usually far too subtle for the average true believer.
Then we come to Mr. Tiensutham Suttijitseranee and Thailand's criminal code 112. Code 112 makes it a crime to defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne, or a royal regent.
Current Thai Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha takes the law pretty darn seriously. He is described as a staunch royalist and he's been in charge since a coup last May ran the previous government out of office.
Suttijitseranee was described in a Reuters report yesterday as a 58 year old businessman. After he posted five photos with captions on his Facebook page he was accused of violating code 112. Although the photos weren't displayed, or described in the story they must have been doozies, because Brother Suttijitseranee was looking at ten years apiece for them.
He went before a military tribunal the other day, because they're the ones actually running the country and honestly, you really can't count on civilians to bring the hammer down on these irreverent swine. In the end, the defendant's attorney was able to cut a deal with the court. Mr. Suttijitseranee copped a guilty plea and now he is going away for a mere 25 years. If he does the whole sentence he'll be 83 when he gets out.
The Reuters story says that when he isn't defending the crown from insidious Jon Stewart wannabes, Mr. Chan-ocha is urging, 87 year old King Bhumibol Abulyadej to lift the "temporary" state of martial law which has been in force for the last 10 months. He wants it replaced with what amounts to--you guessed it--permanent martial law.
Yes, it's good to be king, but in most places, Thailand included, it is even better to be in command of the army and air force.
And so there we have it--deadly stupidity, murder in the name of God, and the complete lack of a sense of humor.