Friday, January 29, 2016

A Thursday Night in Iowa: Donald Trump Runs Away From Megyn Kelly, the Vets Get Screwed by Ted and Carly, and It Isn't the Art of the Deal, but the Magic of the Spiel

How much stranger, cruder, and outrageous can the republican campaign for the presidential nomination get?

The days leading up to last night's GOP debate in Iowa hovered somewhere between a no holds barred game of king of the mountain and an episode of Pawn Stars on Acid.

There are so many tales of what went down prior to the debate there will probably never be a true accounting of the facts. It goes without saying we won't get them from Donald Trump and frankly, Fox News has never distinguished itself as a reliable source of the truth.

What we do know is Trump didn't want any part of Megyn Kelly. He was so frightened of her questions he threw a fit and demanded she be replaced at the moderator's table. That put Fox chief, Roger Ailes in the position of reopening a feud with El Donald, or caving into an ego maniacal diva who is convinced he not only owns the conservative movement, but should be in charge of its information machine.

In short, last night was a power play to see who is really in control of the American right wing media. The outcome of the struggle remains unclear. 

When Ailes wouldn't give in, Trump, faced with not getting his way, decided to hold a separate event at the same time as the Fox sponsored debate. He claimed his presence elsewhere would pull the plug on Fox's ratings because, of course, everyone in the world really wanted to see him rather than the losers who were stupid enough to be running in opposition to his craziness.

To show his charitable side he also promised the event would become a fund raiser for the benefit of several military veteran charities.

That's when things went a little sideways. Ted Cruz, proving he cares about veterans--but only if he gets something out of it--announced he'd donate $1.5 million to the same charities, as long as Trump would debate him one on one tomorrow night.

Not to be left out, Carly Fiorina offered the charities $2 million, but only if she could debate Trump last night. As a back up plan she said her campaign would match Cruz's $1.5 million if the two of them allowed her to participate in a threesome on Saturday night.

Trump didn't bite on any of the offers, so the charities and the vets they serve ended up getting fucked.

Well, maybe not entirely. Trump claims last night's appearance, carried live in part by CNN and MSNBC, raised $6 million for the vets. Unfortunately we only have Trump's word for it, so no one can really be sure how much, if any, of the money will reach the organizations. After all, this is the same guy who tweeted that 15,000 people attended one of his rallies in a Tulsa, OK arena which only holds 9,000 for such events and, by all accounts, still had a few seats available by the time the candidate showed up a half hour late.

By today The Don was claiming Fox was begging for him to come to the debate as late as yesterday evening. Fox, on the other hand was saying Trump's ego was so out of control he was demanding $5 million in order to appear on stage with the rest of the hopefuls. It is the exact sum he promised to raise for the charities at his separate event.

This afternoon, Mr. Trump has, with great flourish, declared victory in his war with Fox. He told a crowd in New Hampshire, "When someone doesn't treat you properly you gotta be tough. You gotta be strong. That goes for the country. When you're not treated properly you gotta stick up for your rights."

It's a response which begs the question, how is running out on a debate moderated by a woman, you've described as a bimbo, prove you're tough?

Indeed, when the Russian thug, Vladimir Putin treats you, "improperly," which is a sign of strength? Facing the ruthless bastard down at the table, or running away, to hold a glitter filled American flag draped, fundraiser for charity?

Unfortunately for us and possibly the world the normal rules don't apply to Donald Trump. He could get the living shit beat out of him by Floyd Mayweather in less than one round , but he'd still say, despite video evidence clearly showing otherwise, he won the fight. And the yokels who follow him will believe every word he says.

That's the nature of Trump reality. Think about it. In that amorphous world of treating people properly, the NY Times reported that today, at the same rally in NH he claimed victory over Fox, Mr. Trump used the terms, "a bad guy, a liar, a psycho, and a dirty dog," to describe the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader because he endorsed Governor Chris Christie for the nomination. If memory serves, Megyn Kelly didn't use any of those terms when she was questioning Don Trump a few months ago.

His claim, last night during a CNN interview, to have won most of the debates is--like the crowd size in Tulsa--simply another fanciful boast. Trump knows it and ultimately realizes he can't intellectually compete with the rest of the GOP field. However he, even more than a gullible media, understands his strength. Like any good carnival midway barker, Don Trump is best at selling the rubes on the idea of winning those bright pink stuffed toy elephants hanging in the kiosk. When it comes to answering questions about the legitimacy of the game he's offering and what it will cost the players, he isn't nearly as glib, or convincing.

No wonder the man ran away from confrontation on a Thursday night in Iowa.

For him, it isn't the art of the deal--it's the magic of the spiel.

sic vita est


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Faux Siege in Oregon Gets Real and How ISIS of Cliven Bundy

We're just trying to figure out how a dead cowboy equals a peaceful resolution.

Jason Patrick, one of the remaining occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Mr. Patrick would be referring to the late, Robert, "Lavoy," Finicum who, prior to Tuesday's confrontation with federal and state law enforcement officials, told NBC News he'd rather die than go to prison. He had also promised Oregon Public Broadcasting the endangered bird habitat and Native American sacred sites his group had taken over would never be returned to the federal government, "ever."

Until yesterday afternoon, thanks in large part to the fed's reluctance to force any sort of confrontation with the armed yahoos behind the take over at Malheur, he must have felt pretty confident about his promise. After all, members of the group, headed by Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan had been allowed to run all over Harney County, OR and beyond at will.

That's right. The whole laid back affair was so bizarre that for weeks sympathizers have been left free to deliver food to the rubes holed up at Malheur. Meanwhile members of the group were able to drive into Burns, OR, 30 miles away so they could pick up what amounted to care packages mailed to the post office in order to aid them, or, in some cases, ridicule their notion of, The American Way. Yes, since the occupation began on January 2nd it appeared this particular platoon of the wild west mujahideen had the bull by the horns, so to speak.

All that ended a little after 4pm local time yesterday on a stretch of U.S. Highway 395. The Bundy's, Finicum, and two others had departed the refuge to attend what was billed as a community meeting in John Day, OR about 100 miles away.

According to reports they made it about half way there when agents of the FBI and members of the Oregon state police stopped them. The feds are still a bit vague on the details, but apparently, the always armed, Finicum and Ryan Bundy refused to surrender. At this time no one is saying who opened fire first, but by the time it was over Finicum got his wish. He died before going to jail.

A second person was slightly wounded in the confrontation. Ryan Bundy has been named as the most likely candidate. The suspects, Ammon and Ryan included, were hauled off to the slammer and now face charges of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from performing their official duties through force, intimidation, or threats.

Two additional people were arrested in Burns and a third was picked up in Arizona.

The question of how many armed extremists are left at Malheur is up in the air. When asked, Brother Patrick, fully aware his situation is rapidly deteriorating, refused to give out that intel to the media.

What we do know is the authorities, recently chastised for their inaction by state Governor, Kate Brown, have sealed off all the roads leading into the refuge and are promising to arrest anyone trying to get in.

Yes, it appears the faux siege has finally turned into the real thing and now names are being taken and asses are being kicked.

It's about time.

When these yokels say they want all western federal property to revert to its original owners, they aren't talking about Native Americans who actually have a legal and moral claim to it. They're yakking about white ranchers--you know--them. Or, to put it another way, a ruthless gaggle of would be land barons who weren't around southeast Oregon, or other places until the United States government--the same one they say they hate--forced all the aboriginal people out of their homes and into over sized concentration camps.

As should be expected, the Godfather of this bunch of outback holy warriors, Cliven Bundy issued a statement via social media. It said, "Now we've got one killed and all I can say is he's sacrificed for a good purpose."

How very ISIS of him.

But then, hey, what would you expect from a guy who firmly believes he is the final authority on everything from history, to constitutional law, and race relations.


sic vita est


Monday, January 25, 2016

Walmart Moves In, Walmart Moves Out, and Everyone in Oriental Gets Screwed Twice

Ah yes, capitalism.

Way back in 2011 the suits at Walmart decided to try out a new concept which was named, Walmart Express. The idea was to move into small, many times really small, rural communities with stores ranging in size from 12,000 to 15,000 square feet. The outlets would be a combination grocery store, convenience store, gas station, and, in a lot of instances, they'd include a pharmacy.

By May of 2012 things were looking so bright, thanks to a few test sites, the corporation announced the start of a full blown, national roll out which would eventually bring the number of, "Express," stores to over 200. They would be located in places like Oriental, NC, which is where one landed in 2014.

Good news for Oriental, population 900, right? Well maybe not if you own and operate a 44 year old local institution known as "Town and Country Groceries." Bloomberg reports that former Town and Country manager, Renee Ireland Smith said the family owned business saw an immediate 30% drop in sales when the Walmart opened. Town and Country tried to compete, but according to her, every time the store dropped its prices, Walmart dropped theirs even further.

Of course you can do that when you're a multi-billion dollar corporation who views rural communities the same way a giant vampire bat does sleeping cows. The Town and Country folks hung on until last October, when they finally gave up the ghost and closed the doors after nearly a half century of operation.

Hey, these things happen. After all that's the way things work in free enterprise isn't it? Compete, or die, baby. It's, The American Way.

Yeah, but the problem is that sometimes marketing plans, not to mention the big picture, don't quite work out the way all those University of Arkansas MBA's thought they would.

On the 15th of January, a little less than three months after Ms. Smith shuttered her business, Walmart announced it will be closing all 200 plus, "Express," locations,. The usual suspects for the sudden move have been cited, up to and including, the higher wages the company is being forced to pay employees. In truth the whole chain has taken a turn for the worse.

Bloomberg says Walmart announced 2015 profits were down 12% from the previous year. And, while the corporation pours more and more cash into its internet operations, as it desperately tries to grab a major chunk of the online retail market, the value of an individual share in the company has dropped 29%. In other words, enough to make the Walton family and their investors say to hell with everyone in small hamlets scattered from North Carolina to Oklahoma, we have to protect our condos in Aspen.

Meanwhile, back in Oriental, hard on the banks of the Neuse River--a short distance from Pamlico Sound--those 900 citizens are fucked once again. The town's people are left without any grocery store, or pharmacy and the nearest ones are a 50 minute out and back drive. That's a pretty big deal considering the latest demographic of the burg tells us, the median age there is 57.2 years and 35.8% of the citizens are over the age of 65.

Closer to home, in Okemah, OK, the birth place of Woody Guthrie, the Walmart Express--which was recently forced to add an additional check out lane because of its high volume of business--will shut in three days. 30 full and part time employees will be out of work. If all of them live in town the closing will push Okemah's unemployment rate to over 6%.

The Walmart wankers say they're meeting with local governments and community leaders in order to ease the transition. Yes, they'll talk and talk and talk. What they won't do after saying, "buh-bye," is lift a finger to help fill the gaping holes they've left behind in places like Oriental and Okemah.

When interviewed by Bloomberg, Ms. Smith summed up the rural American Walmart experience this way. "They ruined our lives. They came in here with their experiment and ruined us."

Yes they did and trust me--after a couple of weeks of rough press and a handful of overtly insincere PR Department Mea culpas to the natives--Walmart won't ever look back.

That's how they roll in Bentonville. It's how they've always rolled. Old Sam would be proud.

sic vita est


Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Armed Donald Trump Wannabes in Oregon Stretch the Limits of Tolerance

All they are doing is making enemies out of the people they've professed to support.

Charlotte Roderique, Tribal Chairwoman of the Burns Paiute, speaking about the armed yokels occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Yeah, there is a lot of that going around lately. Just ask the average native of Raqqa, Syria.

Ms. Roderique's main concern is that Malheur is home to not only Paiute archaeological and religious sites, but over 4,000 priceless Native American artifacts which are housed in the very buildings Ammon Bundy and his merry band of pranksters now occupy. She has reason for concern. In a story published online by "Indian Country," the Bundy's crew has previously been accused of destroying the ruins of Puebloan homes in Utah by crushing them during ATV runs. In addition the Southern Paiutes claim members of the Bundy family went out of their way to deface ancient Paiute petroglyphs in the Gold Butte area of Nevada, near their ranch.

None of it should come as a surprise since this entire evil enterprise, which began on January 2nd, is nothing more than a land grab meant to enrich a few pot bellied whiter than white ranchers. In the end, all the patriotic posturing is a grotesque sham. In reality their ideology says, let's get the government, the taxpayers, and Native Americans out of the way so we can graze our cattle for free, dig whatever type of mine we want, and cut down every tree in sight. In short, they're Don Trump wannabes with guns.

At this point the Burns Paiutes are so outraged they refuse to meet with anyone from Bundy's gang of vandals. They're also asking the Feds to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law if any Native American site, or relic is damaged, or destroyed during the course of the occupation--a distinct possibility since the group has been busy using a bulldozer to build new roads within the refuge.

Of course the Paiutes aren't the only people who have run out of patience. Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, a democrat, made that perfectly clear this afternoon. In a public statement she said the FBI had initially asked her to stay quiet about the situation in an attempt to keep a lid on tensions in Harney County. Up until now, she has pretty much followed their advice.

However tolerance has it's limits. Especially since various members of the group have wandered around the streets of nearby, Burns unimpeded while they pick up supplies in order to facilitate their unwanted stay and occasionally--rather like outlaw bikers--harass government employees and other locals. To date only two of the bunch have been arrested while in town. One, for stealing a federal vehicle, which he used to drive to a grocery store and another for possession of a firearm after--you guessed it--being previously convicted of a felony.   

During her meeting with the press, she also said, "The situation is intolerable and must be resolved immediately. The very fabric of the community is being ripped apart." She added, "Federal authorities must move quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrong doers responsible. The spectacle of lawlessness must end."

In other words, screw a peaceful settlement of the crisis. Take the place back by any means available and make the crazy fuckers pay.

It might be time for just that. The other day, a self proclaimed spokesperson for the group, Lavoy Finicum, told Oregon Public Broadcasting, "The facility will not go back to the federal government, ever."

Governor Brown said the standoff is costing the county $100,000 per week. According to her the state will underwrite those costs, but because of their reluctance to stop this nonsense Oregon is going to bill the Feds after a total amount is calculated.

After 19 days of blatant sedition one can only wonder what the national response would have been if the outfit holding Malheur was comprised of Muslim American citizens demanding that the government cede the land so they could establish a free Islamic state.

If that were the case one has to think Governor Brown wouldn't have had to express her exasperation about the lack of federal intervention. Indeed, the issue would have been settled within days, if not hours.

As it is, we, along with her, will have to put up with these two bit thugs for a bit longer. At least until someone on the federal level decides enough is enough and grows a pair. 

Hopefully that moment of clarity and courage occurs soon, because for many of us this Bundy shit has grown really old.



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Weirdness on MLK Day, GOP Super Pacs Like Bernie, a Brief History of Iowa and New Hampshire, and When It's Really Important

So, as we hurtle toward the Iowa caucus process and New Hampshire primary things have taken a decidedly weird bent. How else can you describe it when Donald Trump addresses the students of Liberty University in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day? Besides another rambling, repetitive, speech, one which illustrated his complete lack of familiarity with the bible, the ever present social media butterfly, El Donald, tweeted that if elected, he would be great for, the blacks.

As Jerry Falwell, the younger, was lavishly praising Brother Trump--while not explicitly endorsing him, because that's against school policy--members of the British parliament were debating on whether to even let the guy into their country. They decided they would, but only after calling him things such as, a buffoon, an idiot, a xenophobe, and flat out crazy. This is from the elected leadership of a nation which, other than perhaps Canada, is our closest ally in the world.

Word is also spreading Ted Cruz's director of communications will be, "deeply disappointed," if Sarah Palin throws her support to Trump. It's unclear at this time exactly how many votes her endorsement would swing to whoever she eventually supports. But, given Governor Palin's success as a national candidate, Fox News contributor, and television personality, a figure in the low three digits is a distinct possibility.

Meanwhile there are reports the GOP super pacs know exactly who they want to spend their cash against. Several of them went out of their way to talk about how great Bernie Sanders was in the latest democratic debate. Most were kind enough to point out he would be a more preferable candidate to a nation ready for change than Hillary Clinton. Among the sudden converts to Senator Sanders included the super pac controlled by the eminent progressive, Karl Rove. As many will remember Mr. Rove was last seen on Fox News a little less than four years ago. Minutes after the network declared Barack Obama would win Ohio and a second term he began ranting wildly that his figures showed otherwise and Mitt Romney would become president after carrying the state.

Yes, these are strange times, not that they haven't been in the past.

As the frenzy about the results in Iowa and New Hampshire builds to a crescendo, perhaps it is time to look at a little history when it comes to these two early bell weather states.

In Iowa things have been a bit muddled over the years. In fact, if you throw out sitting republican presidents who ran unopposed, or nearly so in the years, 1984, 1992, and 2004, the eventual republican nominee has won in Iowa only twice since 1980.

Bob Dole took the state in 1996, then got his ass kicked by Bill Clinton that November. Four years later, George W. Bush won a few months prior to his minions stealing the White House from Al Gore.

In 1980 GW's old man, George H.W. Bush beat a guy named Ronald Reagan, who ended up being a two term president and conservative saint. Bush didn't do so well in 1988, when he would actually win the presidency. Bob Dole won Iowa that year and the future one term president placed 3rd. In 2008, Mike Huckabee came out ahead with 34% and the eventual nominee, John McCain placed a dismal 4th with 13%.  Then four years ago, Rick Santorum stunned favorite Mitt Romney and put into motion a grueling process which saw an almost weekly tea party infatuation with some other shop worn retread, or abject loser. After the dust settled Romney finally won the nomination, but despite Rove's ghostly numbers, lost the general election.

Up in New Hampshire, where people actually go to the polls, rather than a local gym, or some home owned by a guy named Walt, things are a little more indicative of how they will end up, but not by much. Mitt won in New Hampshire during the 2012 primary and John McCain won it in 2008. Actually, McCain first won there in 2000, but G.W. Bush ended up being the nominee. In 1996, Pat Buchanan knocked off Bob Dole. That day was the closest the Nazi apologist ever came to sniffing the fertilizer on the White House lawn. Both G.H.W Bush and Reagan won during the years they first hit the west wing.

And there we have it. As ol' Yogi said, it ain't over 'til it's over. For the winners in both places that has usually been the case. Just ask cranks like Mike Huckabee and Pat Buchanan.

Let's face it, to date, the current ghastly political circus has been media driven. At this point even the poll numbers seem a tad dubious. The suspicion is they're more reflective of the free coverage granted to loons like Trump, rather than what the vast majority of the electorate--you know, people who aren't glued to cable news networks--actually think. Right now, for the talking heads desperately in search of ratings, not to mention relevance, Iowa and New Hampshire have become the focus of their hysteria--at least until the next tweet, or phone call from Big Don.

Indeed. Welcome to the twisted world of American politics in the 21st century. It's only important if the media says it is and it's only REALLY important if the media goes absolutely ape shit--like they are now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the bar is this way.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Last Hurrah For Many, Loans to Ted and Heidi, and Protecting Donald Trump's Brand

The casualties have been light so far, although the field of candidates for the republican presidential nomination has thinned some. We are, however, on the eve of battles which will slash their numbers like a giant scythe. That's right, in a little over three weeks actual people will begin to decide the outcome of these wildly dark proceedings rather than various polls which appear to be driven primarily by the media's coverage of some candidates and the lack of it for others.

Tonight on a South Carolina stage there will be seven hopefuls front and center during the sixth and final GOP debate before the people of Iowa and New Hampshire start the ball careening across the national map. Don Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and John Kasich will make their pitch to a national audience on Fox Business in a few hours. For many of them it will be the last time the public considers them anything more than just an answer to a trivia question when the subject of the 2016 campaign comes up. Let's face it, even at this early date, how many of us recall that Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and George Pataki were, at one time, part of this toxic mix?

Relegated to the sparse undercard are Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. Rand Paul was invited, but he declined because it's his personal delusion that his campaign still has some relevancy. Instead he appeared on Comedy Central's, "The Daily Show." The good news for Senator Paul is he got access to an entirely different demographic than the one he has been appearing in front of previously. The bad news, besides his campaign being completely in the tank, is there won't be a whole lot of, "Daily Show," viewers voting in either Iowa, or New Hampshire a few weeks from now.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump, who is ahead in this melee and Ted Cruz, who keeps sticking his head above water now and then, have run into a couple of bumps in the road.

First is a recent report by the New York Times which says Cruz and his wife Heidi took out loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank four years ago in order to give his senate campaign a final and decisive push. The loans, amounting to around one million dollars, were perfectly legal so long as their political purpose was reported to the Federal Election Committee. The trouble is they weren't reported to anyone, the FEC included.


Then as now, Cruz was running as a tea party populist, one who was against the federal bail out of corporate malfeasance on Wall St. At the same time his wife was a managing director  at--you guessed it--Goldman Sachs. Given his rhetoric and yet their ability to secure a low interest loan from her company--one of those gluttonous Wall St. firms--to help finance his run, things were going to seem a tad hypocritical even to those dim bulbs buying into his bullshit. Indeed, sometimes it is best to keep things under the table, so to speak, for the greater good.

Facing a potentially damning report, the Cruz people are predictably claiming it was all a merry mix up and say they will be filing the correct paperwork soon. In addition Citibank has been paid off and the balance of the Goldman Sachs loan has been whittled down to less than, $100,000.

On another front, a pro Bush lawyer is claiming the Trump people have been violating campaign laws for months and it looks like he has a valid case.

It would seem that various super pacs who have run negative ads against El Donald have been receiving letters which threaten massive law suits unless the organizations cease and desist. The letters aren't coming from the Trump campaign's lawyers though. They are being sent by one, Alan Garten. He is chief legal counsel for the Trump business empire. It is a corporate entity, which according to law, must be completely separate from the Trump campaign for president.

Garten's somewhat cracked theory is, political attack ads harm Donald Trump's businesses and his, "brand." In other words, you can't say anything bad about Trump the candidate and his crazed policy proposals, because it damages his business interests.

Charles Spies, who represents the pro Bush super pac, Right to Rise claims Garten's letters and position outside the campaign clearly violates election laws which prohibit corporations from providing money, or in kind services directly to federal candidates.

The Don's reality, as always, is whatever benefits him the most. A statement was issued which reads, "Going forward the company will continue to zealously protect Mr. Trump's brand and business interests wherever and whenever necessary. This is in no way any form of campaign activity and does not run afoul of federal election laws."

Oh sure, that's perfectly believable.

Legal, or not, as Right to Rise points out, all this raises an important question. If Trump is elected president will his corporation threaten to sue various heads of state, such as Vladimir Putin, when they are critical of him because it's bad for his business? And, taking it one step further, how exactly will such bizarre litigation enhance the perception of the United States in the world community and make America, "great again?"

My God, how do we manage to find these clods who bring us to insanity such as this?

sic vita est


Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Current State of the Party of Lincoln

When we last saw the republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, he was ordering his state's national guard to be on alert. That was this past April. The "stand to" call had nothing to do with some natural catastrophe, or immanent civil unrest. It wasn't even because vast hoards of illegal Hispanic immigrants were preparing to storm the walls of the Alamo. No, it was because the United States military was preparing to conduct an exercise known as Jade Helm 15.

According to Abbott, he wanted to make sure the citizens of the state and their property were safe from the ravages of a U.S. military run amok at the behest of Barack H. Obama.

What goaded the governor into action was a series of far right wing internet rumors swirling about which claimed Jade Helm was a terrible ruse. The lunatic edge was howling that not only were the feds coming for their guns, property, and possibly wives and daughters, but they would be abetted by U.N. troops. A wave of Wal-Mart store closings was even weaved into the demented narrative. Those on the fringe claimed the empty retail outlets would be used as either supply depots for use by the forces of evil, or detention centers for people opposed to the liberal-one world-Illuminati plot. Abbott spoke publicly about the threat of federal troops taking, "political prisoners."

Others--those who actually have a firm grip on reality--didn't agree. One former Texas GOP lawmaker was quoted as saying, the governor was, "pandering to idiots." The White House issued a statement saying it didn't know what the hell he was talking about.

However, by April things were so out of hand, thanks largely to, not only chatter in the ever measured and accurate tea party chat rooms, but also Greg Abbott, that Ted Cruz, of all people, had to act as the voice of reason. Well, sort of. He issued a statement which said something along the lines of, while he understood the paranoia and panic, he had been assured by people he trusted that Jade Helm wouldn't end up as a military take over of Texas--at least not this time.

The little Canadian proved to be right. The training exercise came and went and no one was taken prisoner and not one gun was confiscated. All the dire predictions from vague internet sources, cracked radio talk show hosts, and Governor Abbott himself proved just so much abject craziness. In the end, it was just another dive into the deep pool of bizarre and, in many instances, cruel conspiracy theories

Now, Greg Abbott is back in the news. The same guy who was worried about martial law in Bastrop County, Texas wants to lead the charge toward a constitutional convention which will roll back the increasingly dangerous liberal plot voters nationwide have endorsed in the last two presidential elections. His rallying cry is state's rights. That's pretty much what your average southern politician babbled about when he wanted to avoid the indelicate reality of human slavery in a pre-civil war debate with some loathsome Yankee.

Abbott assures us he has a nine point plan which the convention should consider, although he might want to rethink the first one. It would prohibit congress from regulating any activity which occurs in one state. You know, like Colorado legalizing marijuana.

But then things get serious. The governor proposes that the Supreme Court would have to rule 7-2, rather than 5-4 to invalidate a, "democratically enacted," law. In other words, if the people of, say South Carolina, were to vote in favor of reinstating strict segregation of the races as a state statute the court couldn't overturn it without a 7-2 majority.

He also wants the states to be able to override any Supreme Court decision they don't agree with by a 2/3 majority and sue the feds any time they deem Washington has, "overstepped its bounds." In addition he wants to prohibit administrative agencies from creating laws. It's something they can't do now, but it would appear one can never be too careful. There is some other stuff. The most important of which is an amendment requiring a balanced budget, which might sound good, at least until we get to that next, inevitable, war we'll have to pay for.

This would all be nonsense, but thanks to cold blooded republican gerrymandering and increasingly draconian voter ID requirements, the right wing has a lock on a bunch of state legislatures which it shouldn't. And, as we've seen from the Trump campaign, once these conspiracy theorist wankers get up a head of steam, they're as tough to stop as a lynch mob.

Speaking of which.

The other night in Rock Hill, SC, Ms. Rose Hamid showed up at a Donald Trump rally. She is a 56 year old flight attendant, who also happens to be a Muslim. She was wearing a white hijab and a blue tee shirt which read, "Salam, I come in peace."

Predictably, the Trump people weren't in the mood to put up with any sort of, "I come in peace," shit from a Muslim. When the candidate started his now daily rant about Syrian refugees, "probably," being members of ISIS, Ms. Hamid stood quietly. She didn't heckle El Donald, or confront any of those around her.

Her serene and dignified demonstration drove the crowd into a maddened frenzy and security was called. As she was led out of the hall she was booed loudly and many chanted, "Get out, Get out."

According to Ms. Hamid, some of those seated near her apologized and treated her decently, but as she was escorted to the doors, at least one person yelled, "She has a bomb!." Her response was, "No, I don't have a bomb, do you?"

After she was gone, Donald Trump told the roaring faithful, "There is hatred against us that is unbelievable. It's their hatred, not ours."

And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have in a nutshell, the current state of the party of Abraham Lincoln.

sic vita est


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Obama's Order: A Little Bit of an Elbow Poke and Being a Suspect While Shopping in Texas Wal-Marts

It wasn't much, but at least Barack Obama gave the Chock Ful o Guns crowd a little bit of an elbow poke.

Yesterday he went public with his latest executive action--one which was designed more to close loop holes and tie up loose ends in existing gun laws, rather than implement any new restrictions.

Indeed, despite his emotional speech and obvious anger at the brutes who run the NRA and the pack of congressional hyenas who do their dirty work, the new regulations were so mild the GOP response was, for the most part, oddly muted. Republican presidential candidates generally limited their outrage to the nonsensical.They feigned anger that the president put the measures in an executive order rather than work with congress.

Obviously they know, like everyone else in the republic, there is no working with congress on anything that has to do with guns as long as this House of Representatives and the NRA exist on the planet. He tried that route in the months following the nightmare at Sandy Hook and the right wing house membership turned their backs on both him and the victims, not to mention their survivors. In fact it got so ugly scores of Trumpesque trolls took to the internet and claimed the madness in Connecticut that December was entirely faked and the dead either never existed, or were whisked off to some deserted island to live out their lives in government financed luxury.

The part of the action which will cause the most blood curdling howls is the one which says every for profit gun seller, either private dealers at gun shows, or those controlling internet sales sites, will not only have to possess a license, but their customers will be required to pass background checks like everyone else. In other words a felon will no longer be able to jump on the internet and buy a weapon with impunity.

In order to close another loop hole, people purchasing restricted firearms through either a trust, or corporation will also be required to pass a background check.

It also calls for the hiring of 230  new FBI personnel to conduct the checks. It will increase the number already on the job by 50%.

In addition, barriers preventing states from making mental health records available to the FBI people running the background checks will be removed.

Finally, there will be a tightening of the laws when it comes to reporting guns that are stolen, or lost.

No, that's not much, but it was enough to cause one NRA official to say the executive order is, "...ripe for abuse by the government."

Maybe, but without some sort of caveats on gun purchases the general public is ripe for abuse by the cruel and unusual fucks who buy them without any questions asked.

Which, in the end, begs the question--at what point does your right to own a gun outweigh mine to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Meanwhile in Texas some of the open carry yokels are feeling put upon, despite getting their way as of January 1st. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission prohibits any establishment which sells alcohol for carry out to allow a person on its premises if he, or she is carrying a gun without a proper permit. If the store does it can lose its license to sell wine, beer, and spirits.

As long as the boobs kept their weapons concealed there wasn't an issue, because store employees could plausibly say they didn't see the piece. Now that these cowboys and gals are proudly carrying in the open, Wal-Marts which sell beer and wine, are requiring management personnel to approach gun toters in order to verify the legitimacy of their permits.

Oops. Guess they didn't see that one coming in Austin.

Bloomberg quotes one open carry advocate as saying, "I find it offensive. I don't want to be treated as a suspect at a place I'm shopping at." Another was quoted as saying, "The whole time I felt like I was looking over my shoulder. To me I'm lawfully carrying. I should not be stopped for something that I'm not doing wrong."

Well folks, welcome to the world of the average African-American teenager who walks into a retail outlet anywhere in this country.

Yes, it would seem freedom not only has a cost, but a delightful splash of irony.

sic vita est


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ammon Bundy, Get Off Our Land

Those weird and wild Bundys are at it again. People should remember the Nevada based clan, headed by ol' Cliven, because of a 2014 standoff with federal authorities over twenty plus years worth of unpaid grazing fees. Cliven doesn't believe in them--in fact, despite a multitude of media photos showing him waving an American flag--he claims he doesn't even believe in the United States government and refuses to recognize it.

When the Bureau of Land Management went into Nevada that year to confiscate some of Bundy's cattle for non payment all manner of bushy faced "militia men" came rushing to his aid. There was a tense standoff during which everyone from Rand Paul, to Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck claimed Brother Bundy was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Well, at least until he started talking about black people and revealed himself as an overt and repulsive racist. At that point politicians and talking heads everywhere dropped him faster than the Soviet Union dropped Germany as an ally in WWII.

Now, his sons have moved on to another cause in southeastern Oregon.

This year's confrontation actually started back in 2001 after Dwight Hammond and his son Steve set fire to about 130 acres of land leased from the feds. They claimed they had to do it in order to protect their property from invasive vegetation and to stave off possible wildfires. A United States attorney accused them of setting the fires to cover up a poaching operation.

The Hammonds were found guilty of arson and sentenced to five years. Dwight was in the joint for only three months and Steve was jailed for a year. A federal judge recently found that unacceptable and ordered both men back to prison for another four years.

Enter one more group of militia dudes, mainly from Idaho, who held a peaceful march in the Hammond's hometown of Burns, which is located about thirty miles from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. At the end of it, Ammon Bundy and two of his brothers led a group of armed yokels down the road and took over the empty headquarters building of the refuge.

According to Bundy the younger, who is speaking through--what else--social media, there are dozens of armed people there and they are ready to stay for a long time if need be.

A couple of things happened right away. The feds, not wanting to create martyrs and preferring to let these vile goofs expose themselves as nothing more than a bunch of cheap jack hick thugs, haven't done anything about the situation. Secondly, everyone else involved with the Burns protest, including the militia leader in charge and the Hammonds themselves, have vociferously insisted they didn't know about the takeover in advance and had nothing to do with it.

In fact, Dwight and Steve Hammond are insisting they will peacefully surrender to authorities this week. Even Cliven Bundy says he didn't know it would happen. Indeed, when things go all criminally askew, it's best to deny everything.

Meanwhile Ammon Bundy posted a video on Facebook and the caption below it read, "All Patriots it is time to stand up not stand down!!! We need your help!!! Come prepared." He also responded to a question on Facebook by saying, "We are staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we've made at the last minute."

After admitting to a conspiracy against the duly elected government of the United States, he threw in some other bullshit about returning the land to local ranchers so they could use it as they wished. What Bundy the younger doesn't seem to realize, willingly, or not, is that ranchers never owned the vast majority of the refuge. But, hey, what do you expect? The genes which determine the levels of stupidity and hypocrisy run amok in his family--as proven by his old man.

According to the Malheur web site, the refuge was established in August, 1908 by President Teddy Roosevelt. The area it occupied at the time consisted entirely of--unless you count Native Americans--unclaimed federal land. In 1935 another 65,000 acres were added by Franklin Roosevelt who then sent in members of the federally funded Civilian Conservation Corps to develop and improve the refuge. In 1942 the U.S. government bought another 14,000 acres to enlarge it to its present size.

The reason for the establishment of Malheur was to provide a wetland sanctuary in order to protect the native bird population which was being hunted to extinction by people lusting, not for food, but their plumage.

One local witness, who delivered food to the Bundy bunch, says there are about 15 people wandering around Malheur's headquarter building. Bundy, in true ISIS fashion, claims there are 150.

People like Bundy and the militias claim to be patriots, but they are in reality the first cousins of Tim McVeigh, who murdered 161 people in Oklahoma City, 19 of whom were babies and toddlers. These backyard Minutemen seem to boil at a temperature only slightly less than his. At some point, just like McVeigh, they're going to go off, not because of the constitution, but in opposition to it.

Let's face it. They don't believe in this government simply because it doesn't let them do exactly what they want to. And what they want to do is run the country.

I hate to tell you ladies and gentlemen of the lunatic fringe, but that ship has sailed. Unquestioned white rule in the United States has gone the way of the Dodo.

And by the way, as a taxpayer, the Malheur Wildlife Refuge belongs to me and hundreds of millions of others. I have helped and continue to help pay for it. So, with all the due disrespect you deserve, I say to you hypocritical assholes , "Get the fuck off our land!"

Now, given the circumstances, I declare the bar open. The first round is on me.