Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Holidays - There, Take That!

I always dread the months of December, January and most of February. First, because there is no NASCAR and life without NASCAR is, well, like a day without sunshine. Second, television programming sucks during this period. I watch NASCAR and news and that's pretty much it for me and television. In December and January, regular programming is more often than not preempted. Guest hosts fill in for the vacationing regulars with whom I've grown comfortable. News stories focus on a lot of soft stuff, like how to cook a Christmas ham and what gifts children want most and inspirational bits, such as young Christmas carolers serenading shut-ins.

During the Christmas portion of this period, there are many religious shows, which is natural, of course, but not my cup of tea, so I skip them. Fox News invariably rails about the so-called War on Christmas....a non-issue if ever there was one. Christmas has never "belonged" to any particular religion, despite what Christian fundamentalists believe.

Pagans were celebrating the winter solstice clear back in the mists of time. Probably even Neanderthals, whose lives revolved around the weather, recognized with joy when they were on the downhill side of winter. Our own Christmas was very likely deliberately created as a direct reaction against the Roman holiday, Saturnalia. Saturn being the God of Agriculture and the winter solstice when he was paid homage.

No one knew for sure when Jesus was born so why not proclaim his birthday, December 25, and give Christians something holy to celebrate rather than being tempted to engage in the drunken revelry that characterized Saturnalia.

So, Christmas with all its various trappings was borrowed from one generation to another and one country to another and one religion to another, despite Fox News and the rigid Christians wanting to claim it for their very own. It would be easier to believe in the sincerity of the Christian warriors if they confined themselves strictly to what they say they believe Christmas represents....Christ's Mass...a time of spiritual renewal. But, they buy into Christmas trees and Santa Claus and elves and mistletoe and wrapping paper and ribbons and decorated cookies....

Instead, they've now turned Christmas into something to be anxious about. I used to abbreviate Christmas to Xmas when I wrote long messages in cards (X, after all, being chi in Greek, the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, Xristos) but now I'm afraid I'll offend my correspondent if I do that....causing them anger instead of pleasure...defeating my purpose entirely. I used to use the terms Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays interchangeably (the word holiday, after all, meaning Holy Day) but now I'm afraid some outraged Christian will hit me if I inadvertently use the wrong greeting.

What a bunch of nonsense it all is. I'm happy if anyone wishes me glad tidings whatever form they take. Christmas should be about love and friendship and family and the generosity of giving from the heart. It should be a joyful state of mind. It shouldn't make you worry that you've stepped out of some person's cramped little view because they own it and get to be the ones to define it.

Happy Holidays, everyone!  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

No Middle Ground

Well, Christmas is over. My kids are back in Florida. We had a bit of a snowstorm - nothing major compared to some of the blizzards I've lived through but it was enough to make me appreciate retirement and being able to sit at home and watch it from the window. It was my little Pekinese, Chantilly's, first experience with snow and she loved it. She raced across the yard through all the pristine white, dove into it, tried to catch in her mouth, scooped it up with her nose and flung it everywhere, then came in wet and panting and happy. It was fun to see her get so much joy from snow.

During the Christmas stuff, I took a break from the news. Well, it would be more accurate to say the news took a break from me. Most of the normally-news networks featured religious programming or human interest stories. So, now it's back to real life and I tune back in to find that we're still teetering on the edge of the fiscal cliff but oh, well, the House of Representatives has gone home for the holidays. I guess they figure they'll worry about their responsibility for America's economy later...sometime....maybe.

My son and I watched the Wizard of Oz together while he was here. I told him the Republicans in Congress remind me of the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, all rolled into one. They have no heart, no brain and no courage. I have followed and written about politics for 30 years and while there have been political differences, huge debates, even impeachments during that time, I don't ever remember our political "leaders" being so much the victim of their own dysfunctional behavior.

They make me think of the Sandy Hook shooter. They have broken into the government with their assault rifle and extra clips, driven by an incomprehensible rage at the president and all of us who dared to vote him back into office, seemingly determined to force us to see their mentally unhinged light by raining death and destruction down upon us. Let us go over the cliff; let the markets collapse, let our credit rating tank, refuse to increase the debt ceiling so America can't pay its bills, let taxes go up and allow government employees be furloughed and the unemployed lose their checks. Let us look like immature idiots to the rest of the world. Sometimes you have to destroy the village to save it and they seem ready to destroy our national village if we, the president and the Democrats and even the sensible Republicans (what few are left) don't agree to give them their way. Forget the election and what they people voted for. As with their religious beliefs, they are so cosmically sure they are right, they can justify using any means to reach their ends.

And running counterpoint to their kind of political "no middle ground" game, is the NRA doing exactly the same. Gun lovers couch every argument as if those of us who support sensible gun control legislation want to send out the storm troopers to confiscate every gun in America. They have to argue that case because if they told the truth, people would see the reasonableness of banning assault rifles and high capacity magazines and closing the gun show loophole. Most people would probably agree that just maybe it might be wise for the Republicans to finally confirm a Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for the first time in six years or allow the ATF to computerize its database so that if cops are trying to track down a gun used to commit a crime, ATF employees don't have to search manually.

But, this is the Republican party circa 2013. There is no such thing as meeting halfway. You can tell a gun fanatic - "so, okay, I'm willing to try Wayne LaPierre's suggestion of putting armed guards in school if there is even the slightest possibility that it might prevent the next massacre". Are you then willing to try my way...banning assault weapons and high-cap mags based on the same possibility? Let's work together on this.

Oh, my God, no. No way! You give 100 percent; I give zero. That's the way it works in crazy Republicanville.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Semantic Games About Gun Control

"Guns don't kill people, people do." - If ever I have been sick to death of hearing a simplistic freakin' excuse for why we can't even attempt to make the slightest changes to gun laws in an effort to cut down on gun violence, it is this one. Some people on Facebook rush to make their point about the inviolability of firearm ownership even before posting the 20 stars meant to represent the children shot to death in the Sandy Hook Elementary School and the beautiful pictures of God welcoming them to heaven. It is, in effect, a shrug of the virtual shoulders - "of course, it's terrible, horrific but (shrug)...but there's nothing we can do. Let's change our avatars and turn off our Christmas lights for a night and then move on....until the next time.

"People get killed in automobile accidents, but we don't ban cars." That's another good one. No, we don't ban cars but we do have to take a test to get a driver's license - proving at least minimal qualifications to operate a vehicle, such as knowledge of laws and signs and ability to read an eye chart. We have to carry a photo i.d. to prove that the State has given us their stamp of approval. If we violate the laws, our licenses may be suspended. We can even be designated Habitual Offenders and garner a lifetime suspension if we persist in disobeying. We are all entered into a national database so that if we get a speeding ticket in Florida, we'll lose our Indiana license until we make things right with Florida. And, in addition, our vehicles must be registered. We pay taxes on them. We have to insure them. So, no, we don't ban cars but the government does do a lot to regulate them.

Some say that the difference is that driving a car is a privilege but owning guns is a constitutional right. Ironically, the same conservative types who are foaming-at-the-mouth militant that we should never submit to having our names entered into a gun registration database are the most approving of having to provide our Bureau of Motor Vehicle identification in order to vote, the most elementary of all of our constitutional rights. Go, figure. It appears they have seriously conflicting opinions about the acceptable use of power by Big Brother.

The same people who post on Facebook about the powerful God they serve, then theorize that this is all happening, these massacres, because we removed God from the schools. Seriously? We "removed" God from the schools? And this powerful God supposedly just slinked obediently away like a whipped pup? And is he a vengeful God who then said, "they made me leave so too bad about those kids but I'm out of it." Come on, people. If there is a God, such as the one you tell me you revere, He is surely not this weak...or this petty. You are imputing to him all-to-human attributes.

Aurora, Colorado - Jovan Belcher - a mall in Oregon - a Sikh temple in Wisconsin - a school in Connecticut - and who know how many other less-publicized gun homicides in that same time period. Are we ever going to reach a critical mass of anguish and at least begin a rational discussion about gun laws and what basic changes we might all agree to? Closing the gun show loophole so every single sale of a firearm requires a background check? Is that too much to ask. How crazy is it that we obsess over illegal aliens crossing our border and stopping potential terrorists from boarding planes but once here, insist, that there should be no method of stopping them from going to gun shows to buy weapons.

Mother Jones did a study on gun violence in America. Some of what they found:

1) Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders by means of firearms in the US. They've happened in 30 states and in most cases, the shooters obtained their weapons legally.

2) Eleven of the worst mass shootings in the last 50 year took place in our country.

3) America is one of the world's most violent countries....but our rate of violence has been going down.

4) The South is the most violent region in the U.S.

5) Believe it or not, from what what you read, gun ownership in America is going down.

6) More guns lead to more gun homicides....which would seem to be self-evident, even if the NRA tries to convince you that it isn't so.

7) Further, states with stricter gun control laws have fewer death from guns. Duh.

I support closing the gun show loophole. I support re-instituting the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. (And please don't cry to me about how you absolutely need these things for your own personal pursuit of happiness. For what?) I support anyone applying for a gun permit having to take a class and a test to show they have at least a passing knowledge of the proper use of firearms.

The NRA and the right-wingers profess a profound belief that we need our guns to prevent our very own government from staging a coup and taking our freedoms by force. People, I hate to tell you but if the government ever decides to to do such a thing, your little Glock and mine won't stop them.  The military has bombs, for Pete's sake. They have drones. They have fighter jets and the most sophisticated forms of intelligence beamed to them by satellite. They have biological and chemical weapons they can put in the water supply or spray into the air.

On the other hand, there are a gazillion guns in America. It would be an impossible task to confiscate them all even if Obama and the United Nations truly wanted to, which they don't. No one is going to come knocking at your door to demand you hand over your weapons. Most cops would refuse to obey such an order, even if it ever came, which it won't. Most soldiers would refuse, as well.

So, isn't the slaughter of twenty innocents by one man with guns enough of a reason for us to forego our knee-jerk reactions and rationally discuss what, if anything, we might do to lessen the possibility that it will happen again?

Monday, December 3, 2012

No Guts, No Glory

No Guts, No Glory

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off the cliff we go!

I feel exactly the same as I did the two times in my life that I voted to go on strike. I was so tired of being pushed around, I was ready to walk out and let the chips fall where they might. On both of those occasions, I was overruled by the majority of more fearful employees. On both occasions, the result was that labor got royally screwed by management. If the president and the Democrats back down from the Republicans this time, the middle class will get royally screwed....again.

It's not as if this current situation isn't a tired re-run of the same old bad movie we've been forced to sit through already. It's not as if we believe that this time it will, magically, have a happy ending.

We've watched the Republicans dominate through obstructionism for the last four years. We watched them kowtow to Grover Norquist. We watched them suck up to the greedy corporate interests while throwing the middle class under the bus. We've watched them stand in front of cameras and microphones and declare that white is black and black is white. We've watched them perfect the ploy of political blackmail via the filibuster. We watched them piss and moan about the president's unwillingness to compromise when we knew it was flatly the other way around. They even told us their agenda, right out loud. It wasn't a secret...their first priority was ensuring that Barack Obama was a one-term president. They went all out to do that - both in Congress and on the campaign trail - at the expense of the country's best interests.

For the first time ever, raising the debt ceiling became an issue although Congress had routinely upped it numerous times before under presidents, Republican and Democrat. "Czars" became an issue, as if naming a czar to oversee an issue was something Obama invented. He didn't....Ronald Reagan did. Executive privilege became an issue, executive orders became an issue...even the president's freakin' vacations became an no other president had ever claimed executive privilege, signed an executive order or gone on vacation before!

After eight years of spending money like crazed jackpot lottery winners, the Republicans were suddenly hysterical about deficits. It was if they woke up from a coma as soon as Obama took office and wanted something doneimmediately, although their own purchases they'd run up on America's credit card were still racking up on-going charges - two wars, huge tax cuts, Medicare Part D. For the first time, in their four-year-long fit of venal pique, they allowed our credit rating to be downgraded. They've tried to make something out of nothing with their endless hearings about Fast and Furious. All the cabinet members they've treated with utter contempt and destroy have been African-Americans - Eric Holder, Shirley Sherrod, Susan Rice. Imagine that. Streams of crocodile tears flood down their cheeks at the allegation that they are racists - even as their racism jumps out and socks you in the gut, add in there, homophobia and misogyny for good measure. Oh, and they don't like working people and poor people very well either.

Who does that leave? The same groups the Republicans will always go to the mat for - the rich and corporations. They'll let interest rates on Pell grants go up, leaving students in the lurch, while fighting tooth and nail not to regulate the same bankers who practically broke us (talk about your fiscal cliffs). They'll let payroll tax cuts expire while charging to the front lines for oil company rebates. They'll move heaven and earth to protect lower tax rates for the top 2 percent while sticking a shiv in old people who depend on Medicare and social security. Down with Equal Pay for Equal Work, Violence Against Women, Planned Parenthood, Head Start, free lunches and food stamps and up with rescinding the Death Tax, zero taxes on dividend income, rebates for taking jobs overseas!

Well, you know what? We had a campaign. They got to present their side and we got to present ours. The American people voted and we won. That means we're in charge. You got that Obama and Democrats? It's time to go balls to the wall for our principles. If that means going over the cliff, then hold your breath and jump!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oh, No, David Gregory, Not Again!

I don't know about you but I'm goddamned sick of John McCain and Lindsay Graham and Kelly Ayotte, the three piously self-important senators who have taken it upon themselves to be the kangaroo court prosecutors of Benghazi though they have not a shred of credibility or authority on which to hang their hats.

Whatever their true reasons, they have decided to crucify Susan Rice, our U.N. ambassador, who famously went on the Sunday talk shows early on to give a statement about what supposedly happened in Libya. Those talking points, provided to her by the C.I.A. (the same ones, incidentally, that were provided to Congress) turned out to be wrong. They may have been in error due to the the rapidly changing nature of intelligence coming in during a time of crisis or they may have been deliberately manipulated in order not to reveal classified information.  (Gee, that would be the first time the intelligence community has ever done anything like that, wouldn't it?)

Either way, Susan Rice was caught in a Catch 22 and the senators are gleefully using that position to paint her as either a) stupidly incompetent for not knowing the truth, b) a political hack deliberately lying to the American people to protect Barack Obama (an African-American woman named Rice giving incorrect information to cover for a president - I wonder where they could ever have gotten that idea?) or c) I don't know, deliberately traitorous, I guess, because we all know these black people are secretly in league with our subversive Kenyan-born Muslim president.

And what do you suppose the Big Three would have said about Susan Rice if she had decided on her own, that damn it, she was going to by-pass the talking points and tell all, classified information be damned? Do you suppose the self-righteous triumvirate would have excoriated her then for disclosing national security secrets (which is illegal, by the way)?

This is why I could never be a successful politician. If I were Barack Obama, I don't think I could resist telling McCain, Graham and Ayotte to go screw themselves. But no, instead, the administration bent over backwards with this latest effort to please them wherein Ms. Rice and the Intelligence Director actually had a special meeting with them to try to alleviate their concerns. Did anyone not know how that was going to turn out? Did anyone think there was the remotest possibility that anything at all could have been said to satisfy the three Don Quixotes, viciously tilting at their windmills? (Can it be possible that this president still harbors illusions that the Republicans will deal with him rationally or was he simply trying to prove a point?) Or did we believe they'd emerge from their face-to-face still firmly in possession of their preconceived biases, their loathing and their obsession? I know that's certainly what I figured would happen because this is the Senators' grandstand and there's no way they are going to give it up.

How else could John McCain maintain his "if it's Sunday, it must be John McCain" persona? Seriously, is he at the top of every freakin' list of potential guests on every single Sunday show every single week? And how did he get to be the Republican expert on foreign policy anyway? And once you've established that position, is it secure into perpetuity even if you're wrong about every single prediction you've ever made? When you promised us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the war would be over sooner rather than later and the Iraqis would meet us as beloved liberators and it wouldn't cost all that much, how can David Gregory still hang on your words as if you were the Oracle on the Mount?

And Lindsay Graham, the unctuous Mutt to McCain's Jeff, echoing everything the great man says. The purse-mouthed picture of pissy disapproval.

And now the original pair have been joined by yet a third sidekick, the school-marmish Kelly Ayotte who always looks as if she'd love nothing more than to pull out her paddle and whale away on somebody's bare butt.

Geez, this is the best the Republicans have to offer in the way of "loyal" opposition? Not the Three Musketeers, more like the Three Stooges.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Selling Solidarity Cheap

There are so many places I've made it a point to avoid through the years, although I sort of wish I'd patronized them before so I could boycott them on principle now - Walmart, Papa John's, Denny's, Chik-Fil-A, et al. I initially stayed away because their products were crap but if I could, I'd re-stay away because their policies are even crappier.

Papa John Schnatter recently "clarified" and minimized his remarks about Obamacare. I never believed he would follow through on what he said about cutting employees' hours so the giant pizza chain wouldn't have to comply with the ACA or how it would cost an additional 11 to 14 cents per pizza (OMG!) to provide healthcare to his employees. I took his threats for what they were - the sulky sour grapes of a very rich man whose candidate lost the presidency thanks to the united efforts of lots of (to his mind) ignorant lower class people....exactly the same people who have made him rich, incidentally. Ditto all that in regard to Denny's CEO.

I had Chik-Filet-A a couple of times when the girls at work brought in breakfast sandwiches. They didn't impress me enough to encourage me seek them out on my own. After it was revealed that part of the money customers ponied up for their chicken went to fund the suppression of civil rights for gays, I was glad I hadn't become a Chik-Filet-A devotee.

More recently, we learned that Hostess executives were giving themselves multi-million dollar raises even as their company was going bankrupt, for which they blamed their union employees.

And, of course, during the presidential campaign, "vulture capitalism" became a new phrase in our economic lexicon, thanks to Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.

Walmart is the biggie, of course, and always has been. The mega-company is now the largest retail seller in the world, employing 1.4 million Americans and 2.1 million globally (as what they laughingly call, "associates"). Each week, one/third of all Americans visit a Walmart.

Eventually, Walmart will  probably add a car dealership on one end of their stores, a hospital on the other end, a movie theatre in front and a mortuary in back. Whenever we leave our houses, we will just automatically head for Walmart, having no need to go anywhere else. It will be like the world's company store. We'll be in debt to them from our birth right through to death. They'll probably start paying in Walmart scrip soon like the mines used to do decades ago.

I read on Facebook, which granted isn't the font of all truth but its probably close enough, that the Walmart heirs now own as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of Americans. (Upon further research, I confirmed this is true). In other words, almost half of us! It has been well-documented by now how they manage to retain so much of their profit. It's because we, the tax-payers, (who are also their employers and customers), help them do it. Because they pay so poorly and offer so few benefits, we subsidize their work force through the food stamps and health care for which that work force qualifies. Hey, that's a great system they've created for themselves, isn't it? And that only includes American store employees, of course. I don't suppose that happens in other countries, like China, for the peons who grow and assemble Walmart's products. (And we certainly have cause to be aware by now that the giant corporation's quality control standards are less than rigorous).

Years ago, when I worked in factories, management touted what they called a "closed loop system". Back then it applied to not having to maintain a large inventory due to "just in time" ordering and assembling. They didn't know the half of what a closed loop system could really mean. Walmart has taken it to the nth degree.

We know from experience that Walmart is brutally relentless about firing employees who try to unionize or even form non-union collectives in so-far ineffectual attempts to negotiate for higher pay and more generous benefits and most of all, convenient work schedules so positions at Walmart are more like normal jobs and less like belonging to a plantation.

Black Friday 2012 brought "Boycott Walmart" efforts in which 1,000 Walmart stores in 100 cities and 46 states were picketed to convince customers to stay away. Organizers were hoping at least ten percent of shoppers would cooperate. The boycott was spear-headed by a group, OUR Walmart, in conjunction with several unions.

The results appear to have been mixed. Lots of honks and shouts of support but shoppers who were interviewed by the media said that while they sympathized with the workers, they really, really needed those sale items Walmart was offering. Walmart itself pooh-poohed the boycott stating in a press release that the response was negligible and proved it by releasing figures showing they sold a gazillion television sets, towels and bicycles on Black Friday.

Solidarity among working people has toppled dictatorships, forced social change, created optimum conditions for a thriving middle-class citizenry. It appears the majority of Americans have been willing to trade it away in return for a cheap flat-screen t.v. or, even, a crummy pizza.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roller-Coaster Ride

Life was a roller-coaster ride in November - a joyful November 6 when Obama won the election - a devastating November 17 when Jimmie lost the NASCAR championship. Rather like meeting a wonderful new man and believing it is love sweet love, then a couple of weeks later, he walks out of your life, leaving you broken-hearted. Well, Obama is still the president - cling to that. And Jimmie can always come back and win the championship next year - cling to that.

In the meantime, there's Thanksgiving and Christmas and the kids coming home to visit. There are the everyday worries of Mom's continuing mental deterioration and my home repair guy informing me that I need a new water heater and a notice from Chevrolet that there is a recall on my car and I should make an appointment to have it corrected.

We are having gorgeous weather for mid-November - high 50's and sunny. Back in the day, we'd just have accepted this gratefully as a gift from Mother Nature but in 2012, you worry that it is just more evidence of global warming, more retribution than reward.

I'll forego the political shows and the NASCAR blogs for a while. I'm temporarily sick of hearing about Fetal Heartbeat laws and fiscal cliffs and "oh-my-God Benghazi! and hearing that other guy, who won the NASCAR championship (Brad Keselowski), extolled to the moon when Jimmie would have pulled off a phenomenal comeback but for want of a single lugnut and a pin-sized hole in an oil line (maybe).

I tend to disappear into fiction this time of year. I have a stack of books from favorite authors I've been saving for just this time: John Sandiford and Lee Childs and Andrew Vachss and Iain Banks and I've been hoarding the last volume of the Outlander series for when I need to escape from real life. notified me that the latest Stephanie Plum has shipped. Ole Stef has been refusing to choose between  her two hot men, Morelli and Ranger, through 19 books now. I wonder how long she can pull off that balancing act? And I have some new e-books that have been recommended to me. I'm trying to support more new e-authors now that I am one myself.

I'm at a creative place in my own latest novel - the 7th in the Rafe Vincennes series. The plot is flowing so that every time I bring up the on-going manuscript, I feel an anticipatory thrill about what is going to happen next, which not being an organized writer, is always a total mystery to me until it happens.

There are always household projects to keep me occupied....not that I'm very excited about the prospect of those. It's probably a good thing my son and daughter-in-law are coming home for Christmas. That will force me into deep cleaning mode. It will be extremely satisfying to have the house in perfect shape....once it's all done.

There are good things to consider. For instance, my Pekinese puppy, Channie (or as I call her DB, for Dumb Blonde) seems finally have gotten it through her head about going potty outside (knock on wood). And I hardened my heart this year and let the Ugly Plant (a 20-plus-year-old Schefflera) expire. Mom got it at my grandmother's funeral and insisted it had sentimental value so I had to drag it in and out every spring and fall. Over the decades, it got taller and heavier and scragglier and balder. When I lugged it in before winter, it promptly lost what few leaves it had and stood, like a concentration camp survivor, taking up one whole corner of the dining room. I felt a little guilty but I left it out on the porch until we had a hard frost. There was a huge sense of relief when I saw that the damn thing had passed into plant heaven at last. (Mom having forgotten all about it by now).

So give me a little break and I'll be ready to plunge back into politics and stock car racing.  What will happen during my brief sabbatical? Will the entire Middle East be at war? Will John McCain (who is living proof that even being a genuine hero doesn't give you lifetime license to be a fool) have succeeded in having Susan Rice burned at the stake? Will the Republicans steadfastly stand by their single remaining Principle, that being that taxes CANNOT be raised on the rich? Will Texas (or any other state) have seceded? Will Obama have accomplished his secret Muslim mission of removing every gun from every American household? Will any American Christian be the victim of an angry mob of securlarists for making the unforgivable error of saying "Christmas"? Will Obama be facing impeachment for the high crime and misdemeanor of pissing the Republicans off by winning an election (as happened with Bill Clinton)? Will any Republican politician or pundit pay a price for being so spectacularly wrong about the outcome (so far it appears they are, shamelessly, still making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows just as if they'd known what they were talking about)?

And NASCAR? What will happen there? Sprint Cup will be using a brand new car which is bound to shake up the series. What teams will adapt to it the quickest and come out of the box strong and fast at Daytona?

Ah, it is all so delicious to contemplate, isn't it?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Is It Time For Americans To Get A Divorce?

 This the latest post-election post making the rounds on the internet. My response is below it.


The person who wrote this is a college student. Perhaps there is hope for us after all.
Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al: We have stuck together since the late 1950's for the sake of the kids, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course.
Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.
Here is a our separation agreement:
--Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a similar portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes.
--We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them.
--You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU.
--Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military.
--We'll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and the coal mines, and you can go with wind, solar and biodiesel.
--You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell. You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them.
--We'll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street.
--You can have your beloved lifelong welfare dwellers, food stamps, homeless, homeboys, hippies, druggies and illegal aliens.
--We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks.
--We'll keep Bill O?Reilly, and Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood .
--You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.
--You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security.
--We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values.
--You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, political correctness and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U.N. but we will no longer be paying the bill.
--We'll keep the SUV's, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Volt and Leaf you can find.
--You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors.
--We'll keep "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "The National Anthem."
--I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute "Imagine", "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", "Kum Ba Ya" or "We Are the World".
--We'll practice trickle-down economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.
--Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag.
Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like-minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I'll bet you might think about which one of us will need whose help in 15 years.
John J. Wall
Law Student and an American
P.S. Also, please take Ted Turner, Sean Penn, Martin & Charlie Sheen, Barbara Streisand, &
( Hanoi ) Jane Fonda with you.
P.S.S. And you won't have to press 1 for English when you call our country.
Forward This Every Time You Get It ! Let's Keep This Going, Maybe Some Of It Will Start Sinking In!!

 Dear John Law and American conservatives, evangelicals, corporation worshipers, aristocracy adorers, science deniers and Romney supporters, et al - you're right. As much as our side has tried, you all seem to have decided that if you can't have your way every single time, you are ready call it quits on America's grand political adventure. Obviously, you believe that anyone who doesn't agree with you is simply too stupid to be allowed to participate in the democratic republic that has served us so well for so long.

But, John, as a law student, you surely realize that in any legal agreement, there is negotiation. You don't simply present the other side with a document and expect them to say, "oh, okay, then, just show me where to sign."

As far as separating our actual landmass, I suppose the easiest way is simply to split the U.S. up from north to south. After all, we did it that way once before and that turned out pretty well, didn't it? There might be some unhappy states this way but we could make some trades - Florida for Alaska, for instance. But if not that way, then let's just divide us up the way we voted in the presidential election. You guys get the Romney states and we get the Obama states. That seems fair.

We will happily take the liberal judges and the ACLU and you can keep Clarence and Sam and the rest. They can then outlaw abortion and the voting rights act and affirmative action and, I don't know, public schools too, I guess. Along with them, you're welcome to keep the Neanderthals you put on the Science Committee like Dana Rohrbacher and Todd Akin. You can re-name it the Un-Science Committee.

You can collect taxes however you please. You already have all the poorest states in our great union and they will only keep getting poorer. You healthcare system with continue to suck as the number of uninsured grows, your public education system will continue to crumble as you forbid sex education and knowledge-based history and science. You will continue to have more unwed mothers and a higher infant mortality rate - gee, I wonder how you allow that when you love babies so much? The condition is that you have to keep your own poor people and children and disabled people and do with them as you will. You can't be sending them all to us where we believe in healthy mothers and babies and a safety net for the poor and vulnerable just to get rid of them and then be able to say, "look how successful we are at eliminating poverty!"

You can have the NRA, for sure, but you know, as an Obama-voting Democrat I have guns, which I plan to keep, and even blue states have law enforcement (and some cops probably even voted for Obama - hard as you may find that to believe - after all the COPS program was a Clinton initiative. It is in red states where more public safety workers lost their jobs and/or their right to collectively bargain). We'll keep our half of the military too, thank you very much. I find it a little presumptuous on your part to suggest that all soldiers are necessarily in lock-step with conservative Republicans because they aren't.

I think we'll keep parts of the oil and gas industry. After all, we're pumping more oil and gas now than we did under George Bush but we won't give the oil companies that are making record profits billion-dollar rebates in our half of America. We will use those dollars to fund alternative sources of energy (which will also provide alternative sources of American jobs). And you can keep the monster trucks and SUVs and we'll take the more energy-efficient vehicles but we want you to pay for a system of enormous fans lining the border to blow all your pollution back onto your side.  (And if your gulf beaches are despoiled by oil spills, you can't come use ours. Ditto, fish and wildlife.)

We will keep Oprah and Michael and Rosie and you can keep Rush and The Donald and Glenn and the hot Alaskan hockey mom, but you need to be responsible for finding the funds for their therapy. Since you don't believe in taxes, maybe you could take donations.

You can have your pure capitalism and your greedy corporations and pharmaceutical companies and Walmart and Wall Street. We actually like things on a more human level so we'll take Main Street and making things in America and the auto companies and buying products in stores run by people in the community. We do have our own billionaires, you know, and I expect they'd be willing to step in maintain the banks in our half of the country. And probably if Medicare and Medicaid (which you won't have, of course, or if you do, they will be privatized and voucherized) in our part of America were allowed to negotiate lower prices with Big Pharma, I sort of bet they'd be willing to strike a deal....because they'd have lots more customers in blue state America seeing as how we'd have everyone insured.

We'll keep our welfare dwellers and food stamps and homeboys and hippies and druggies. But are you implying you won't get custody of any lower class people in Red America? Isn't Oxycontin called "hillbilly heroin" and doesn't hillbilly imply southern? Aren't there a few redneck alcoholics? What do you plan to do with your welfare mothers and their sick and hungry children (of which I assume you will have lots seeing as how they won't have access to contraceptives or abortion or prenatal care). Are you going to put them in "poor people refugee camps". 

We'll take immigrants because they are the source of lots of new small businesses and are characterized by a desire to succeed and a strong work ethic. Hell, lots of them would probably be part of your natural conservative constituency if you weren't such assholes. 

We'll keep NBC and Hollywood and you can have Fox and O'Reilly. I think we're coming out ahead there. Again with the presumption though. Are you making the claim that no Democrat or liberal or Obama-voter can also be a good Christian? Do you truly think that is a high ground that you alone hold? I'm an agnostic so it wouldn't matter much to me but I assume lots of liberals would fight you for their bibles. 

Seriously? Have you forgotten that it wasn't your kind that finally got Osama and most of his crew by using intelligence (actual, true intelligence, not the trumped up kind about weapons of mass destruction and yellowcake uranium) and unmanned drones? And this was while your timid candidate was saying Obama was being too "bold" to go into Pakistan without permission. 

Judeo-Christian values? I don't even claim to great faith but I was raised a Catholic and I seem to remember that Jesus was characterized by tolerant, loving statements about sinners and the vulnerable like "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and "suffer the little children to come unto me" and "give what ye have to the poor and follow me" and "as you treat the least of these..." and on and on. I don't recall Jesus promoting a kind of selfish, hard-ass, "I got mine, screw you" kind of Romneyish Prosperity Theology. Somehow, I think Jesus would be more blue than red but maybe I'm remembering wrong. 

Wow, this is such a typically Republican conservative document you are offering us here. No compromise or cooperation about anthems. This is the way you guys like to do business, isn't it? You just tell us what you're taking while giving us unwanted advice on what we should choose in return. 

Yes, you go ahead and practice trickle-down economics. We already know how it will turn out because we tried it under George Bush. Your rich will get richer, your poor will get poorer, your sick will get sicker. And you'll think it is a wonderful thing as the Mitt Romneys of your country bankrupt more and more companies and lay off more and more workers in order to send more and more jobs to China....all while putting their own profits in the Caymans or Switzerland. That's the kind of success we admire in good old Red State America!

And we'll do what we did under Clinton - give more support to the middle class, let the rich pay a little more and still create more millionaires in 8 years than Bush managed to do in spite of the tax breaks he gave them. (When is it the job creators are going to start creating jobs again?)

We'll keep our name and our history and our flag, thank you very much. You're the one who is no longer happy in this marriage and filed for divorce so it is up to you to pack your bags and start over with a new name, history and flag.

And my guess is that in 15 years, blue America will be prosperous and progressive and red America will be little more than a third world country with power and assets concentrated in the hands of the few while the many live in poverty.

And PS - please also take Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers and Clint Eastwood and Charlie Daniels and Snookie and Sheldon Adelson and Governor Transvaginal Ultrasound Bob Donnellson and Ted Nugent and Hank Williams Jr.......


Vicki Williams 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Republicans - The Ostriches and the Aftermath

Right before I shut down Facebook to go watch the election returns come in, one of my especially militant Republican friends told me that he was going to go crack a beer and settle in to watch his candidate "smash" mine. I had been feeling mildly optimistic about Obama winning all along but I wouldn't have dared to make such a declarative statement without allowing myself even the slightest wiggle room in case I had to eat my words later. I wondered where that boldness was coming from since the polls didn't reflect such a definite outcome.

Well, sure enough, it turned out that the polls were exactly right, maybe even underestimating Obama's strength by a bit.

The next day, Romney supporters appeared genuinely stunned by the result. It wasn't what their leaders had promised them was going to happen. Not only were they stunned but bitter as well. Because they'd cast this election as literally a war between the forces of good and evil, they saw Obama (and, thus, his brain-washed minions like myself) winning a second term as the ruination of America. (I think I may have reached a personal best for the amount of times I was called stupid in one day).

I have watched them all campaign long, and even before that, constructing the most elaborate (and, as it turned out, precarious) of alternate realities.They had their own media including a network dedicated to feeding their biases with Fox, and their own talk show hosts (Rush, et al) and their own newspapers and magazines and oh, yes, definitely their own fenced-off section of the blogosphere - "True Believers Only - Everyone Else Stay Out!" They had an abundance of nutty billionaires like Trump and Adelson and the Koch Brothers, who pledged comforting gazillions to the cause. They even had their very own God whispering to them, not to worry, he was involved behind (or perhaps that should be above) the scenes.

When they needed reasons to hate the president, they created fantasies out of whole cloth, casting him as an alien, a traitor. When he wasn't an undercover Muslim Brotherhood mole, he was a European-style Socialist (aren't those two designations in conflict with one another?) When the polls weren't positive for them, they pooh-poohed the pollsters and their methods. When the Congressional Research Office (a non-partisan group whose findings had been accepted by both R's and D's for generations), issued a report at odds with Mitt Romney's economic conclusions, they scoffed at the CRO and demanded the report be pulled. When they didn't like the unemployment number, they claimed that the numbers had been "manipulated" to favor Obama. They turned tragedies like Fast and Furious and Benghazi into scandals, then blamed the "lamestream" media for not covering them the same way. One of their representatives on the Science committee attributed climate change to dinosaur flatulence. Another one, the infamous Todd Akin, stated that women couldn't get pregnant in cases of "legitimate rape". Romney's campaign scornfully stated that it would not be bound by fact-checkers and its supporters, who'd cast fact-checkers aside long ago, heartily agreed.

Through the entire campaign, they floated happily along in a fragile bubble of denial. I think they were truly shocked when that bubble popped upon collision with the reality of an election to discover how many every day Americans had turned against their increasing radicalism. Even people who would normally have leaned red shied away this time. In my own state, the Tea Party gave away a Senate seat that could have belonged to the Republicans forever when they cast out Dick Lugar in favor of the "severely" conservative, Richard Mourdock.

In addition to all of that, their tactics were more like those of Attila the Hun than Mahatma Ghandi. They forswore any attempts at persuading leaners to their side in favor of bullying and badgering and name-calling.  They told their opponents they were idiots who must not "care about America", users who had no higher motive in supporting Obama than wanting food stamps and free cell phones.

It was never enough for them that they disagreed with Obama's policies. It couldn't be as simple as competing philosophies about governance but rather that Obama, and by extension his voters, were ready to overthrow America's very constitution and way of life.

It never occurred to them to consider how many groups they were turning off in their arrogant insistence that they know what's best for all of us and we should just shut up and fall in line - Latinos and women and union workers and young people and Asians and Jews and African-Americans and gays. In the end, their largest constituency was white men and in the America of 2012, that's not enough to win, especially when so many of those men seemed not to have the best interests of the rest of us at heart.

So, it is time for Republicans to re-evaluate but if Facebook is any indication, they don't seem to be anywhere close to doing that. They are mostly either a) wringing their hands about the downfall of America or b) ready to take up arms because if they can't win by election, they'll, by God, take their country back by force.

I hope their voices of moderation prevail but I fear there aren't enough of them to make a difference. America needs two strong parties to counter-balance one another. Believe it or not, I want a strong Republican party that I can respect even when I disagree with them. For that to happen, the party has to be willing to re-join the reality-based community.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

My House - American Electorate in Microcosm

I have recently come to realize that my house is America's electorate in microcosm. First, you have the Democrats. That would be me and the cats. We are patient and cooperative. We always use our litter box. We will agreeably move over and give someone else room on our chair. We respect one another's possessions. We survey each situation calmly and react rationally.

Then we have the Republicans, which would be Mom, who used to be a fervent liberal - generous-hearted and compassionate - until Alzheimer's turned her severely conservative, and lastly, Chantilly (whom I call DB for Dumb Blonde), the little blonde Pekinese puppy, who is totally heedless of anyone's needs but her own. The cats and I are capable of deferring gratification. Tell Paisley you'll fill her food bowl as soon as you finish a blog and she'll sit quietly until you're ready. Meanwhile, the Republicans throw a fit at the mere suggestion that their wishes should be postponed - barking, jumping, yelling and whining incessantly until they get their way.

Oddly enough, the dynamic that is in play here makes me understand the electoral process more clearly.The immature, self-centered conservatives win more often simply because they beat the liberals down with their absolute relentlessness.

If Mom has misplaced her glasses, yet again, she expects you to drop what you are doing and start searching right now, even if it is the last two laps of the NASCAR race. If Channie tells you that she has to go potty, you had better be quick because, otherwise, she will simply go on the floor to teach you a lesson. And I hop to please both of them because it is easier than seeing Mom start throwing things out of drawers in which there is no likelihood she left her glasses or having to pick up poop.

Mom and Channie live in a world of denial. Mom no longer thinks she lives here. She constantly fills sacks to take "home". If I remind her that she can no longer remember what pills to take or how to make coffee, she scoffs. "I could get along perfectly fine without any help from you." It is rather like the Republican - "I built that myself" mantra that was the theme of the Republican convention. (Oh, except for that government contract, of course, and the public schools and interstate highways and trade agreements and small business loans and tax abatement and government research and development and maybe a little rebuilding assistance when you got hit by a hurricane....)

Channie thinks every toy is hers and every treat is hers and first choice of where to be is hers. If one of the cats is on the loveseat, she'll heckle them, then only stay a few minutes before moving herself. It wasn't the loveseat she wanted but simply to prove that she could have it.

Paisley and Slate and I watch the other two with bemusement. The two cats sit on the back of the sofa pondering Mom's choices for filling her bags. I expect they wonder, as I do, why she includes several shoes (sans mates) and red shoe polish but no red shoes, a pair of salt and pepper shakers and a package of needles (although she no longer sews). I notice she's snagged my precious new bottle of vanilla from the pantry (real vanilla now sells for approximately the same price per ounce as Chanel No. 5). The bags also contain a clock and a doll and one of the t.v. remotes.

To me and the cats, there seems to be no method to her madness which is much the same as I feel about Republicans. As when Obama took over after Bush, I have to come in and empty all the useless sacks and put things back in order again, i.e. ending a war we should have never started. Now the Republicans appear to be gung-ho to start refilling those sacks again

One inviolable quality that Mom and Channie share with the Republicans is a complete unwillingness to compromise...Not.At.All. Offer them a deal like the Democrats did of $10 worth of deficit reduction for each $1 of a tax increase on the rich and they will tell you flatly - "no way - it's my way or highway." If that means no jobs bill when unemployment is high, so be it. If it means lowering the country's credit rating - if it means no exceptions for abortion - if it means not extending the Violence Against Women Act - if it means saying no to Equal Pay for Equal Work - if it means means voting 33 hopeless times to repeal Obamacare while letting the rest of the country's business go to hell, so be it.

Like the Republicans, Mom and Channie can keep you in a state of perpetual befuddlement. You can offer them something they approved of yesterday but they've decided they hate it today. Channie, for instance, once loved her tennis ball but now she scorns it. Mom, for her part, has always had a taste for strawberry jello so I bought 6 boxes in order to have plenty on hand. This morning when I asked if she wanted me to make some, she looked at me like I was crazy - "I've never cared that much for strawberry jello." Huh? (Remind you of anything? Like Cap and Trade or the Individual Mandate?)

You cannot appeal to Mom and Channie's sense of fairness because they have no sense of fairness. You can't try to shame them because they are shameless. You can't beg for sympathy because the pointer doesn't even budge on their Compassion Meter.

The cats and I give up in the face of their implacable intransigence. Paisley and Slate go upstairs, ceding the whole lower level to the dog, simply to avoid her harassment. "Okay, Mom," I tell my mother wearily, to get her off my back,  "I'll take you home tomorrow."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Call Me Radical but What's Your Theory?

Well, my own Indiana Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, caused quite a stir with his "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something that God intends to happen" judgment, concluding that therefore, there should be no abortion exception for rape victims. There was a flurry of media attention, mainly because Mitt Romney had endorsed Mourdock only the day before and declined to rescind that endorsement.

It was much the same as the firestorm that followed Todd Akin's declaration that women couldn't get pregnant if they were "legitimately" raped. There was much huffing and puffing and faux disapproval on the part of his peers but after enough time had passed for the controversy to simmer down, they slipped him safely back into the conventional Republican fold.

And why not? Many us may gasp at Akin and Mourdock's extreme positions but conservative Republicans don't, because these are actually the mainstream beliefs of the right-wing of the party (and, face it, there isn't any other wing left in the GOP).

Their own vice-presidential candidate echoes the same dogma, for God's sake. A baby is a baby from the second an egg is fertilized and rape is just another form of conception.

Right next door to Indiana, Illinois House member, Joe Walsh stated unequivocally that " with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance" where abortion is necessary to protect a woman's life or health, which, to use Joe Biden's word, is so much self-serving malarkey.

In state after state, Republican candidates have taken the no exceptions stance. Not just one or a few but dozens.

Mitt Romney, the presidential nominee himself has said he'd be happy to sign a Personhood Amendment which would ban all abortions. He has said he'd name Supreme Court justices like Samuel Alito. Good-bye, Roe v. Wade.

What is missing in all of this? I would argue that it is any compassion or empathy whatsoever for the baby-producing machines known as mothers. Put a living, breathing woman next to a petri dish containing a fertilized egg and every bit of Republican concern flows toward that petri dish. The female who carries it is just a side issue. Her own anguish, her trauma, her emotional fragility in the aftermath of rape or incest are nothing compared to that all-important egg. "Sorry, lady," the mostly male Republicans tell her, "suck it up, you're just a carrier and that's the only intrinsic value you have."

Why is that, I wonder? What about this issue makes Republican men so much more preoccupied  with a zygote than an actual person? It's not as if they carry their love for eggs beyond birth. Once they've asserted their will to ensure a baby is born, they lose interest. Food stamps to feed them? Schools to educate them? HUD to house them? School lunches? Medical care? Head Start? Nah, it's every child for himself once he or she comes crying into the cold light of day. And Mom loses even what bit of worth she had as an incubator. Now, she's just a contemptible part of the 47 percent, a user who want to take from the Mitt Romneys and Richard Mourdocks and Todd Akins of the world.

What twisted logic they use, condemning her for not wanting to take responsibility for her life when they won't take responsibility for the new life they insisted she be responsible for bringing into this world in the first place!

Here is my unscientific, totally biased theory: I think conservative Republican men are obsessively attached to their own macho maleness. The woman is a passive receptacle; it is their courageous little sperm that goes boldly into a strange land to plant its flag and stake its claim. As long as that fetus is still inside the woman, it is "them", still exercising their right of dominance over the colonized territory. Once a baby is born, it becomes an individual person. It now becomes the primary property of the mother and Dad loses interest.

We know there are African-American men in the ghetto who exhibit this same behavior. Their sense of pride stems from impregnating as many girls as they can, then walking away from the resulting children. Their ego is invested in the impregnation itself, not the end result. Republican men have this same "Baby Daddy" syndrome which manifests itself in a somewhat different way being that they have the power and clout to shield their sperm from attack by way of government policy.

Even men who don't participate in the fertilization process still maintain that sense of possessiveness toward male occupation....the males who rule the Catholic Church, for instance. My former church has always considered women third-class citizens, of less importance than 1) men and 2) fetuses. And there's not much difference that I can see between the Catholics and the Mormons in this respect.

These men, of course, see God as totally male Himself and as such, they judge him by their own personal moral yardstick. The Richard Mourdocks see no problem with letting God off the hook for the rape itself , (of which he would naturally never, ever ever, approve!) while still giving him full credit for the pregnancy.  Talk about holding two conflicting beliefs before breakfast!

I sort of understand the self-centered place that men are coming from. I haven't yet been able to get a grip on why women go along with it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hitting Rock Bottom

Someone asked me - "what would you choose if God let you decide between Jimmie Johnson winning the NASCAR championship or Barack Obama winning a second term?"

I had to think about that one for a while. NASCAR and politics are my twin passions. Jimmie is only seven points behind first place with four races to go. The presidential campaign is a virtual tie with less than two weeks to go.

Of course, I understand that in the scheme of things, who sits in the White House is vastly more important than who hoists the Sprint Cup trophy. And, it is true, that the one elemental factor that rules both politics and NASCAR is money. That always has been, and probably always will be, the way of the world. People who have money generally come out ahead of people who don't. But beyond that, NASCAR is purer, more of a meritocracy than politics. The media, no matter how biased, can't influence the outcomes of races. The fans, no matter how passionate about who they love and hate, can't influence the outcomes of races. Ads, no matter how negative and/or clever, can't influence the outcomes of races. Super-pacs, no matter how powerful, can't influence the outcomes of races. Put 43 cars and drivers on a track and the final result will depend on the fastest car, the smartest driver, the most strategic crew chief and oh, yes, a bit of luck as well.

So, I think I would tell God that I vote for Jimmie. That's not because I don't want Obama to win but that I almost think his winning may not matter in the long-term. In 2012, I see America as an alcoholic who hasn't yet admitted her addiction. Until she hits rock bottom, I'm not sure she'll start to come back. I think rock-bottom would come with a Romney election so maybe we should just go ahead and do it. Let's have that intervention now and get it over with.

The conservative-dominated Supreme Court we have has already given us the travesty of Bush v Gore. It has already given us the malignity of Citizens United. It has already given us "corporations are people, my friend" and gazillions of dollars in political contributions by unnamed millionaires. This bunch may do away with affirmative action in this term. And certainly if we let Romney have a couple of nominees, Roe v Wade will be gone. Will America really like what it gets with an even more radical Supreme Court?

Women are now virtually second-class citizens in this era's Republican party. We don't deserve equal pay for equal work, we don't deserve to be protected from domestic violence and we certainly don't have the mental capacity to make our own family planning decisions without wise old white men to guide us down the proper path. All anyone has to do to understand the contempt the Republican party has for women is check out what has been happening in Republican-led states. If a Personhood Amendment ever passes, as it seems sure to do if Romney wins and has a Republican congress, women will be of lesser value than a one minute old fertilized egg! Baby-making machines is what we are to Republicans but once the babies are born, all bets are off. Better not need food stamps or school lunches or health insurance to raise those babies. Republicans lose interest in children after they actually come into this world.

Science in Republican bizarro world is now a thing of the past. They proudly put their most Neanderthal members on the science committee! Men like Todd "women who were legitimately raped can't get pregnant" Akin. Men like Paul "the world is 9,000 years old and evolution is a theory straight from hell" Braun. Men like Dana "earlier climate change was caused by dinosaur flatulence" Rohrbacher. Credible scientists are stunned by the ignorance of the men Republicans have selected to determine our science policies. As the ice bergs melt and the evidence of climate change is overwhelming, Republicans remain in total denial.

Politics have become progressively more vicious with this new breed of Republicans, who seem no longer to espouse the principles of democracy. They are so positive of their own inalienable rightness in contrast to the obviously mentally challenged voters who occasionally out-number them, that they have come to believe that the ends justify the means. Thus, impeaching Clinton on grounds pathetically less than "high crimes and misdemeanors". Thus the willingness to go to the mat on and the Supreme Court to ensure that George Bush won in 2000. Thus the "swift-boating" of John Kerry. All of this culminating in the denial that Obama is even an American, the insistence that he is a Muslim and a traitor, which is common fodder on Facebook. And no, the Democrats have done nothing remotely similar to Romney.

The Democrats have some strong partisans but they have no one who begins to compare in sliminess to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Donald Trump and Glenn Beck. They have no credible leader like Sarah Palin who recently wrote a blog accusing Obama of "shucking and jiving". The Republicans have moved beyond silent dog whistles ("food stamp president" - "should learn to be an American" - dropped work requirements for welfare for the sake of his base") to full-blown racial bullhorns to remind everyone that Obama is black. Wink, wink.

And on the economy, working class Republicans will fight tooth and nail to defend the pedestal on which they've placed Mitt Romney. He's the Man. Yes, he and his cronies deserve to pay lower taxes because he's so much smarter than the rest of us. And we doan need to see no steenken' tax forms (even though he lied about his taxes in Massachusetts - oh, well, he went back and amended them when they found him out. No harm, no foul, eh?) Why, you can tell just by looking at him that he is would never do anything to hurt the 47%. No matter that he says right out loud how much disdain he has for them. No matter that people lost their jobs and pensions so that he and the Bain Boys could pose with big smiles and dollar bills (or maybe that was $100 bills) sticking out of their pockets. No matter that Sendata employees are very minute fighting for their economic lives as Bain, who owns 51% of the company, prepares to send it to China, despite the fact that it is making profits. Never mind that Bain called in law enforcement to arrest protesters begging for their jobs to stay in America. Never mind that this is happening even as he had the gall to take Obama to task in the debate for not being tough enough on China. Is this sort of like "it takes one to know one"?

We have never had a Congress so intent on thwarting anything good for America. In every other recession we ever had, we agreed on an infrastructure bill and an increase in the debt ceiling...until the Republicans said no. They said no to Equal Pay for Equal Work, no to renewing the Domestic Violence Act, no to taking tax rebates from oil companies, no to immigration reform, no to individual mandates, no to giving gay people their full civil liberties. They said no to policies they've agreed with in the past, even those they created, if it might help Obama. They signed on to a sequester rather than asking the rich to pay more in taxes. That seems their single most cherished ideal....that and abortion. This Congress has filibustered more than any other. They have wasted time voting to repeal Obamacare 33 times even though they knew they'd lose. They have practically taken out billboards saying they mean to screw over the middle and lower classes and yet many of these same people refuse to see it. Have we become a nation of submissives? Are we all 50 Shades of Grey now?

And that whole "disagreement ending at the water's edge" attitude toward foreign policy we used to believe in? Another victim of Republican partisanship. Forget supporting your president and your government in times of war or attack. Forget Americans coming together in tragic circumstances. To today's Republicans, those are just more opportunities to score political points.

So, let's do it. Let's take this new breed of ultra-conservative Republicanism to its ultimate conclusion. Maybe that's the only way we'll start on that long painful road back to sobriety.

In the meantime, go Jimmie #Sixpack!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poor Mitt, Poor Ann

Average Income and Change In Share of Income

I don't get it. My friends on Facebook...single women who are limping along financially....seem ready to fight to the death for Mitt Romney. They quote things like, "you can't help the poor by destroying the rich," - that was one I saw just today. But destroying the rich certainly hasn't been what America has been doing for decades now. The difference between what a CEO makes compared to a laborer on the factory floor is now 300 times. (Consider that Henry Ford thought 7 times was the right ratio, and Henry was no bleeding heart!) Wall Street honchos are making higher salaries than ever. Oil companies are making record profits.

We have done  nothing but make the rich richer under both Republicans and Democrats. The rich benefited under Bill Clinton and benefited even more under George W (who told us they are the job creators as his rationale for pumping even more of our aggregate income to them - sound familiar?). They've continued to benefit under Barack Obama. So, it's not like the Democrats actually put any kind of hurt on the rich but simply close the disparity gap by the merest bit.

If the rich had actually taken the tax bonuses Bush gave them (and that the Republican Congress maintained for them) and passed along some of it to the rest of us in the form of jobs as we were told they would, we probably wouldn't even be having this discussion. I don't think the working class is greedy. They want to go to work every day. They want to buy a house and a car. They want to send their kids to school. They want to take an occasional vacation. Give them that and you can get as rich as you want and they won't complain.

But is this what happened? No. The rich took their money and ran....ran to China, ran to India, ran to Mexico. Because, hell, why should they waste their dollars paying American workers big money (!) and benefits when they can get virtual slave labor in other parts of the world? Why should they build factories in America where there are expensive environmental and worker safety regulations in place when they can pollute at will in poor countries? Why should they pay taxes to support America when they can incorporate in the Caymans?

And, truly, I understand that. Greed is part of human nature. Getting and keeping as much as you can is the American Dream. I understand it from their point of view, I really do.

What I don't understand is our side. Where is our greed to at least reclaim at least some small part of the pie for ourselves? Why are we so submissive, so worshipful of the rich? I thought that was one of America's claims to fame? I thought the remarkable declaration that all men were equal was part of what we stood for in the family of nations. No more royalty for us. No king or duke or earl is any better than any of the rest of us.

In fact, we seem well on the way to turning America into an aristocracy. We can't wait to get in that voting booth and cast our vote for King Mitt and his cohort of court followers. We can't wait to tug our forelocks when the royal carriage passes by.

Talk to my friends about the Blunt Amendment and the Personhood Amendment and transvaginal ultrasounds and another right-wing justice on the Supreme Court and forcible rape and they put their hands over their ears. "Nyah, nyah, nyah, we don't want to hear it."

That's because they are over in the corner obsessing about some little welfare mother who collects $239 a month from Temporary Aid to Needy Families and who just might smoke or have a cell phone or get her nails done. They worry incessantly that guy on Medicaid who is probably faking it because he looks fine to them. They turn their burning resentment toward people who are the smallest blip on the radar screen of Americans who can hurt them while letting the extortionists off scot-free.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is the David Copperfield of politicians, the master illusionist. He distracts our attention by making a plane disappear with one hand while he's making our money disappear with the other. He changes his position to whatever he thinks we want to hear. He convinces us that we're one of him. He pats us on the back, "you're not part of the deadbeat 47 percent, you're like us. Come on down to Boca Raton and pull up a seat at the table." And I guess we want to believe it but the fact is, most of us are one hell of a lot closer to the welfare Mom than we are Mitt and the Capital Bain boys. In fact, they are the main reason so many of us are standing in the unemployment and the food stamp lines.

We gave them the pay-off up-front but they welshed on their share of the deal. Now Mitt wants to do it again. And many of my friends seem happily willing to take the same leap of faith that has never worked in the past. George W Bush once famously said, "fool me once, can't be fooled again."  

But, evidently, we fooled again...and again....and again.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seriously? You're Still Undecided?

My first thought about last night's second Presidential Debate was: did MSNBC have to hire a search team to assemble so many stupid people for their focus group? Good Lord, Undecideds, these two men are night and day! Their policies are night and day! Their personalities are night and day! How could you possibly have watched them campaign for months and debate twice and seen a million ads about each of them and still not have made up your freakin' minds?

You either think Obama has done as well as possible with what he inherited four years into his administration or you don't. You either think Romney has better ideas for where to go from here or you don't. You either think abortion should be made illegal or you don't. You either think gays should be able to marry or you don't. You either think Dream kids should be able to stay in America or you don't. You either agree with Mitt Romney that it is fair for him to pay less taxes on a $20 million income than a teacher or you don't. You either believe 47 percent of Americans are freeloaders or you don't. How hard could it be? I don't understand you. Are you going to go with the last ad you see before going into the voting booth?

My second thought in reflecting on the debate was that Mitt Romney is an arrogant asshole. I used to work in a corporate office in which the executives left every Friday at noon for lunch at the country club followed by an afternoon of golf. They made a special point to inform us that they'd be out for the rest of the day, seeming to enjoy rubbing it in. The Plant Manager always said, "wish me luck." And I always thought, "luck? I hope you trip over a tee and break your neck." All the employees despised him and his cronies for their attitude of smug superiority toward the "little people". Mitt Romney makes me feel the same way.

And you know what finally happened to that plant? The executives bought it. They ran it into bankruptcy. They walked away with big $$$ and the workers walked away to unemployment lines and lost pensions. My  bosses were pioneers in what eventually became the Bain Capital model of investment.

My third thought about the debate was: thank God, Obama brought his A-game this time and didn't let Romney get away with the obfuscations (okay, call them lies) and bullying tactics of the last one. And thank you, Candy Crowley for not being a door mat as Jim Lehrer was. The cracks in Romney's facade showed last night when he actually had to face an opponent who fought back. He was hectoring; he was contemptuous; he was in-your-face; he was holier-than-thou. Obama doesn't like Romney either and that was plain to see but his reactions were more direct. Romney's most naked moment came when he thought he was moving in for the kill when he questioned whether Obama had called Libya an act of terrorism in the Rose Garden. He was wrong, of course, and both the President and Crowley called him on it and deflated his "gotcha" balloon.

And lastly, I wonder what effect the debate will have on the electorate. When I went to Facebook, all the Romney supporters were still Romney supporters who thought he had won or at least, that he would have won if Candy Crowley hadn't been in the tank for Obama. All the Obama supporters were still Obama supporters who thought he had won in a breeze. The spinners were all there spinning like tops.

Are there really a significant group of people out there who continue to agonize about their decision? Are there enough of them to make a difference? Romney was gaining some momentum prior to this debate. Was that because of the last one and will they now swing back to Obama? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Myself, I wonder how any woman could vote for Romney when he so clearly is laps behind on women's issues. Do women know about forcible rape and Personhood Amendments and the Blunt Amendment and what another conservative justice will do on the Supreme Court and the abolishing of Planned Parenthood and how they will cope with a child with a pre-existing condition if Obamacare goes away?  I wonder how any gay person could vote for Romney when he is so clearly behind the curve on their issues. Do gays know that he opposes their full equality? I wonder how any Hispanic could vote for Romney when he is so clearly out of touch with the future. Do Latinos know about self-deportation and the "papers, please" act that Romney lauded as a model for the nation? I wonder how any young person could vote for Romney. Do students know that he was opposed to eliminating the banks as the middle man and giving the funds directly to students for student loans which Obama did? I wonder how any poor person could vote for Romney. Are poor people aware of how he demeaned them by calling them victims who refused to take responsibility for their lives? I wonder how any union worker, especially auto workers, could vote for Romney. Do they know he advocated letting Detroit go bankrupt, despite what he says now?

Rich people yes, I understand Romney's appeal for them. Bankers, yes. Lobbyists, yes. Oil companies, yes. But the rest of us are nuts if we vote for Mitt Romney.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gall - The Word That Characterized the Debate

A word of caution to my Republican friends - I remember how excited I was because I thought Hillary killed Barack Obama in every debate between them. You see how that turned out for her. A caution to my Democratic friends - I remember how excited I was because I thought Hillary killed Barack Obama in every debate between them. You see how that turned out for him.

I think the Republicans may be placing a little too much of their hope in the first debate basket. Not that I don't agree that Obama did poorly. Throughout the debate, I kept thinking, "put me in, Coach!" I know I could have been more passionate in countering Romney's attacks than the president was.

On the other hand, I wasn't as enamored with Romney's style as many others seemed to be. If Obama was on downers, then Romney was on steroids - attacking, charging, bullying the moderator, accusing the president of being a liar, speaking so manically he was almost spitting on himself. It was the difference between a diplomat trying to be an honest broker and a salesman willing to make any false claim to close the deal.

I think the word that most characterized this debate was gall. I think Obama was taken aback by Romney's gall in denying his entire past history in the sweep of a 90-minute debate. I know I was. "I never said that." "I don't believe that." "I'm not going to do that." Huh? But, but  those are all the things you've been saying all along. "No, I haven't."

Some other misstatements: "My plan covers pre-existing conditions." "I've never heard of companies getting rebates for moving jobs overseas." "President Obama is going to take $716 billion out of Medicare but I wouldn't do that." I could go on and on.

How do you counter that kind of breathtaking hubris? Well, the fact checking afterwards might show some of what was going on but how many people will pay attention to that? Romney had his 60-million strong audience on the night that counted.

In any contest, when one person is bound by the rules and the other one hits below the belt, the cheater has the advantage. It will be curious to see what happens in the Vice-Presidential debate because we already know from the Republican convention that Paul Ryan has any more qualms about being under-handed than Romney did.

I think the statement of Romney's that made me the angriest was his supreme chutzpah is telling us how he will go to Washington and work cooperatively with the Democrats to get things accomplished. As if it hasn't been the Republican ploy from Day One...and it was literally Day One, Inauguration Day, when the Republicans met - to plan how to obstruct Obama at every turn. It is the Republicans who have voted no on every program Obama put forth...even policies that were always bipartisan before, even policies that were initially their idea, even policies that were necessary to help the country recover. It is the Republicans that have filibustered more than any other Congress in our history. And Romney has the unmitigated gall to suggest that by his power of sweet persuasion, he will convince the Democrats to side with him.

And since we Democrats are the party that believes it is our duty to try to govern and they are the party that believes it is their duty to consolidate power, it could possibly work. Let's say, theoretically, that Romney is elected and proposes something that is a pet Democratic program - raising the minimum wage, for instance. This is something the Republicans hate but what do you think they'd do? Swallow hard and vote yes? And, of course, the Democrats would vote yes as well because they are convinced a higher minimum wage helps working Americans. It would pass and Romney could then say, "see, that's how you get things done." Having established his "able to work with the other side" creds, he and the Republicans would go on to propose the middle-class killing programs they really believe in.

The American people are the question mark in all of this. Do they recognized gall when they see it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Race for The Chase

That's my guy, Jimmie Johnson, the one in the middle. The 10-race Chase, which is NASCAR's version of the season play-offs is in full swing. Three races down and seven to go. Brad Keselowski, driver of the iconic Blue Deuce #2 Miller Lite Dodge, is leading the points standings. Jimmie is second, five points behind (Go Lowe's 48 Chevy!) Denny Hamlin, the #11 FedEx Toyota driver, is 16 points behind the leader. Part of the fun of NASCAR is that it is totally unpredictable. It isn't like stick and ball sports where you know its going to come down to two teams in the end. The top twelve teams after the end of the 26-race regular season are competing for the championship but they have to continue to race the entire field of 43 on every track. By the time we get to the last race at Homestead Miami Speedway, it could be one driver so far ahead no one can catch him or it could be five and whichever one gets the best finish that day wins it all.

The three pictured above have been the class of the field all year so it's no surprise that they seem to be separating themselves from the rest but wait, Talladega looms this week. Talladega is called a crap shoot for good reason. It is a 2 1/2 mile high-banked super-speedway. Speeds average roughly 200 mph. The cars race in packs, three rows of speeding vehicles inches from one another - in front, in back and on each side. You can see there isn't much room for error. If a driver makes a small mistake and nudges the car ahead of him, causing it to spin, the resulting wreck can easily take out 20 race cars. That's why it's called "the big one", a chaos of screaming engines, shearing sheet metal, burning rubber, and twisted cars skidding in all directions, hitting walls, tumbling down the track end over end. Fans are kept in suspense waiting for the big one, then holding their breath until the smoke clears, hoping their driver wasn't in it and hoping his competition was.

The three drivers who lead the points right now are as different as men can possibly be. Jimmie Johnson is the old hand. He's won the Sprint Cup 5 times in a row - 2006 through 2010. He cool, calculating and generally, unflappable. His crew chief, Chad Knaus, is called the NASCAR garage's evil genius. Jimmie never brags or complains much. He's a master at making "chicken salad out of chicken shit." If he qualifies poorly, he calmly slices and dices his way through the field to get to the front. If the car isn't handling well, he deals with it until Chad can make it better. Lots of fans call Jimmie too vanilla. They don't like him for that bland exterior. NASCAR fans get off on passion and they don't think Jimmie has enough. As a driver, he uses his car as a scalpel rather than a blunt instrument.

Brad Keselowski is the new kid. He's brash and bold and smart and aggressive. He made the Chase in only his second year in Cup. In 2012, he's leading the points, a feat few would have predicted when he first moved up to the top series. Back then, fans nicknamed him Crashalotski. He's excelling despite the fact that he only has one teammate to rely on for information and assistance. And that his owner, Roger Penske, has already announced that he's leaving his current manufacturer, Dodge, to go with Ford next year so he's racing for what is, in effect, a lame duck team. One of the main things he has going for him is his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, who is starting to be called the "new Chad Knaus". Like Brad himself, Paul figures all the angles and when he makes a decision, it is more often than not the right one.

Brad was the first to Tweet from the track when the Daytona 500 was under a red flag for a safety vehicle on fire. He gained 100,000 Twitter followers during that event. Brad is outspoken, you might even call him mouthy, but he generally doesn't make statements he can't back up. Like Jimmie, Brad is the very definition of "clutch". He doesn't blow his cool, regardless of what circumstances befall him.

And that is the concern about our third guy, Denny Hamlin. He is an exceptionally talented driver with an extremely talented team but Denny seems, so far, to be unable to level out his emotions, or at least, not to show them. When he is on a high, it is plain for all the world to see. He can be supremely confident. The week before last he called his shot, predicting that he would win the race at New Hampshire, which he then proceeded to do. When the race was over, he made a motion like hitting a home run, aping Babe Ruth. Denny has had, arguably, the fastest cars on the track toward the end of the regular season. He has a lot to be confident about.

But last week was Dover, the Monster Mile, one of Denny's worse tracks. He had a rocket ship of a race car. He and his teammate, Kyle Busch, led the most laps. It looked like he was going to end up second, if not first. Then it turned into a fuel mileage gamble and the Fed Ex Toyota placed the wrong bet. They had to come in for quick pit stop to top off on gas. In doing so, they fell out of the top five and came home 8th. It was a great finish for Denny compared to his previous performances on The Monster Mile, but instead of being thrilled to have out-achieved his expectation, he seemed devastated, falling to the wrong end of the emotional scale.

In 2010, Denny was leading the points with two races to left. The next to the last race turned out to be a fuel strategy race. Denny had to make a pit stop when Jimmie didn't, allowing the 48 to cut his lead in half. He came out Phoenix demoralized and never found his way back to an even keel. Going into Homestead, he still had a fairly substantial 15 point lead but he lost his focus and ended up losing the championship as a result. In 2011, he gave the appearance of a beaten man.  He swore he'd found his way back in 2012. He wasn't going to be so up-tight. He was going to have fun. He was working with a sports psychologist to to find the mental toughness needed to win a championship. And until Dover, it appeared he'd done just that but then we saw his emotional balloon pop again.

We'll see where things stand after Talladega, where one twist of the  kaleidoscope has the potential of turning the pattern we see completely upside down.

Will it still be the experienced Zen Master, the cocky Kid or the Drama King? Or will someone new rise from the Smoke?