Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All Aboard!


Hop on board the train for 2015. It's pulling out of the station tonight at midnight. Some of us may not be ready to go yet but we have no choice. The Time Train keeps to its annual schedule whether we like it or not.

When you're young, it seems like that old train is just chugging along at about 20 miles an hour. "Come on!" you want to say, "I want my driver's license!  I want to graduate! I want to be able to go in the bars! I want to be an adult!"

As you get older, the train seems to pick up speed. "Can my little baby really be in school already, have we really been married 20 years, is that really a gray hair I see?"

The Time Train drags a little into your late 50's and early 60's, at least if you're like I was. "Man, I've worked 50 years, I am so so ready to retire and do as I please with my time." Finally, it happens. You get your Medicare card. You turn in your retirement letter. You work your last day.

And now, you want the damn train to stop altogether for a while. You had to walk right up to old age for retirement to happen but you'd really don't want to get any older. "I think I'll stop right here, thank you very much."

But, nope, darned if the engineer doesn't kick it into overdrive and you're 66, 67, 68 before you know it and next year you'll be 69 (at least if you my age, you will be be) and the year after that, oh, my God, 70!

So, you know, if I had my druthers, I'd just hang out in 2014 for another year but of course, I don't have my druthers and neither does anyone else.

I hear the whistle now. Time to climb on.

I hope you all have a wonderful ride through 2015.

Friday, December 12, 2014

No Excuses for Torture


Here is my unequivocal statement: torture is always wrong; it is always immoral; it should always be forbidden by peoples and governments that consider themselves civilized members of  the species. Period. No if, ands or buts.

Per the recently released Senate Intelligence Report on Torture, these are some of the things we did to our captives: we subjected them to "rectal rehydration", we beat them, we exposed them to extreme temperatures (at least, one man died of hypothermia), we forced them to maintain stress positions (hanging from their wrists with toes barely touching the floor, for instance) for up to 48 hours, put them in ice baths, confined them in small boxes. We isolated them with no human contact for over a month. We shocked them and deprived them of sleep for days at a time, bombarded them with constant bright lights and loud music. We threatened their children, threatened to rape their mothers, threatened to cut their wife's throat.  And, of course, we waterboarded them, some many times.

They often suffered hallucinations, paranoia (well, yeah!), insomnia and other psychological issues of various kinds. They often attempted to commit suicide. Doesn't this sound like the ideal candidate from whom to receive valid intelligence to you?

So, you might say, "who cares, they were Al Qaida monsters who killed our people". (Sort of makes you think of the "who cares, they're thugs" meme, doesn't it)? But one reason we should care is that we didn't necessarily know that. We didn't take great pains to make sure. It was often a matter of "well, they might have...." So, we most likely did these things to some innocent people.

Another reason we should care is that torture doesn't work. Before our new torture program started, the F.B.I. was in charge. They were skilled at interrogation techniques that didn't involve torture and they were getting results. Abu Zubaydah, for instance, was our first high value capture. He answered all the F.B.I.'s questions until the C.I.A., booted the agency out and took over, subjecting Zubaydah to their new torture techniques. He never gave them anymore actionable intelligence.

John McCain, who endured torture himself, told us that from the git-go but the Bush administration did not want to hear it.

We often hear the scenario about imminent threat as a rationale for torture (the so-called "dirty bomb" scenario") but when the C.I.A. took control of Zubaydah, they kept him in solitary confinement for 42 days. Does that sound like they thought any information he might have was "urgent"? They waterboarded him at least 83 times (and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed over twice as many times). Really? It takes that many times to "break" someone or did they just keep doing it for the pure vindictiveness of it?

Many of both the F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents themselves were aghast at the new program. Many of them quit because of it. The whole program was amateur hour from the word go. The report notes that "numerous CIA officers involved had serious documented personal and professional problems, including histories of violence and records of abusive treatment to others". Well, hell, that's no surprise, is it? It takes a certain kind of individual to be able to perform this kind of "task".  On one occasion, they accidentally detained and tortured two of their own informants before they realized their error.

Much of the program was out-sourced (about 85 percent were private contractors toward the end). Quoted in the report: "two contract psychologists devised the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program." This, although they had no experience with Al Qaida or interrogation. These two eventually incorporated themselves precisely to continue their CIA contract work for which American taxpayers paid them $81 million. Jesus, and we worry about our taxes going for a welfare mom getting food stamps or an immigrant child getting medical treatment!

And the final reason we should care about torture is because of what it does to us. When we brutalize other people, we brutalize ourselves. When we radically go against our own moral code, we are no longer moral ourselves. There are no excuses. I am not religious so I don't base my objections on faith but if you actually believe all these things your god tell you, then you should.

We in the U.S. like to think of ourselves as the "best" country and in many ways, we are, although we've fallen down on the job often enough. But when we approve of torture, it's hard to make that claim. I don't care what they did, we are not them, or at least, we like to believe we're not.

Lastly, I'd like to share my thoughts on what torture is. It isn't violence and it isn't even murder. To me, torture involves time. If you believe someone has intelligence that could save your child, I could easily see threatening to, say, shoot that person in the kneecap and then if they refuse to tell you, actually doing it. Then threatening to shoot the second one. Even killing them in the end. So, it is not like I am saying that any form of painful coercion is necessarily wrong or unjustified.

What defines torture is the long, systematic application of unbearable pain or fear or humiliation. Keeping someone in seclusion for 42 days doesn't seem like intelligence-gathering, it seem like sadism. Waterboarding someone 83 times doesn't seem like intelligence-gathering, it seems like vengeance. Sticking a tube up someone's butt and letting food flow into it until their belly swells, doesn't seem like intelligence-gathering, it seems like the actions of someone who simply gets off on inflicting pain.

I don't want it done in my name....not ever. I want to believe my country is better than that.

Many of our captives who were released from custody have now joined ISIS. Are you surprised? Torture simply ups the ante. They think of even worse things to do to us, we think of worse things to do to them.....and on and on.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My Experience With Cops

I have written a lot about Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and other recent police shootings. Generally, I have been critical of the officers and the way the legal system reacted to these incidents. As a result, I have often been called anti-law enforcement. The truth is that it is exactly the opposite. It is because of my experience with law enforcement that I've been so negative about some of the events that have occurred. 

I worked for the Wabash County Sheriff's Department for almost 10 years. Ours was a small department and many of us engaged in duties not strictly listed on our job descriptions. For instance, although my job title was Sheriff's Secretary, I was made a special deputy in order to do things like transport females to detention, go with detectives on drug buys to search the females to ensure they were not carrying drugs in, participate in serving warrants of females, accompany officers transporting mentally ill females to mental health care facilities. I attended Reserve Officer training and did firearms qualification with the deputies.

I was taken aback the first time I was told to go into the restroom to watch a female change from her street clothes to jail clothes to make sure she didn't have a weapon. My boss, the Major, chuckled and said, "do you know what the last sentence in your job description is?" I told him no and he said, "....and other duties as required. Consider this one of them". 

Incidentally, the inmate laughed at the expression on my face, - "don't be embarrassed for me, Honey, I've been through this 100 times."

In the same way, the first little gal I had to search prior to a drug buy also smiled at my reluctance. "I wore a tube top to make it easy on you and I ain't got no boobs so you can easily tell I don't have anything extra under my top!"

I was pleasantly surprised when I first went to the Sheriff's Department at how accepting the deputies were of a female in their midst. They often invited me to ride with them, particularly on the night shifts, simply for company. 

I saw the gamut of offenders during those years. Aggressively resistant mentally ill people off their meds, wildly crazed drug users and drunks, dangerously furious wife beaters, robbers and assaulters. I saw my deputies hit, bitten and scratched as they fought to take someone down. I saw them pepper spray perpetrators (we didn't have tasers then). I saw them draw their guns but I never saw them have to resort to shooting anyone.

By contrast, they were comparatively kind once the suspects were in custody. Usually, they shared their cigarettes (or mine). They generally spoke to them courteously unless the prisoners themselves were being assholes. 

On long transports, I usually functioned as the "good cop" convincing the "bad cop" to let them smoke and buying them a candy bar and pop when we bought ourselves one. My compatriot told them, "I'm being nice because of her but if you give me any trouble, the smokes and the treats will go away." It was an effective system. We never did have any trouble.

We worked closely with the Wabash City Police Department and the Department of Natural Resources officers and the State Police. 

I liked some better than others, of course, but mostly, I respected all of the officers I worked around. I took for granted that they would use good judgement and they did. 

I talked to one of those officers, one I've known and admired since he was first a jail officer and then a police officer. I asked what he thought of the cop in Alabama who shot a naked student high on drugs. The kid,  a slight boy (5'7", 140 pounds), banged on the University police department door. He was deranged from drugs but the officer obviously knew he had no weapon since he was naked. It took only 30 seconds for the cop to decide to shoot him dead. He was exonerated by a grand jury.

"Do you think that's what you would have done?" I asked my friend. Of course, he hemmed and hawed and refused to answer, said he didn't know the circumstances, or how the officer felt, so he couldn't say. But, my opinion, knowing him, is that there is no way he'd have shot the boy. He'd have called for back up; he'd have used less-than-lethal force - something besides killing him. 

So, it is knowing these guys and having seen how they did their jobs that makes me so critical of the "shoot first and ask questions later" mentality that seems to have become so pervasive in modern law enforcement. The officers in my county showed me by example the way it should be done. 


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Hypocrisy.....It Burns

Well, I have spent most of my day pissing people off on Facebook. I probably have a lot fewer friends than I did 24 hours ago. It's all about Ferguson, of course.

Oh, those terrible black people, many of my white friends say - looting and burning and vandalizing. We would never do any of that because we aren't violent animals. We respect the rule of law and obey authority. We have faith in our wonderful justice system.

Except when they are and they don't.

Except when they want to walk into restaurants carrying AK-47's over their shoulders. Except when they form militias to threaten government agents in defense of Cliven Bundy. Except when they protest carrying signs that show our president hanging in effigy. Except when they want to disobey duly passed legislation like gun control laws and abortion rights they disagree with. Except when they call out their fellow citizens to start the revolution and "take our government back" by force. Except when they shoot young black kids coming home from the store. Except when they don't like the president the majority of voters voted for. Except when they cheer for a foul-mouthed and murderous Ted Nugent.

Because, you see, violence is in the eye of the beholder and when they do it, of course, it is justified but when those black people do it, it's because, well, you know, they're not quite civilized.

Many middle and lower-middle class white people seem innately incapable of even attempting to put themselves in another's place. Their lives are their lives and the way things are. There's no excuse for what people in Ferguson did. You can ask - "but haven't you noticed that this killing of black boys by police officers seems to be happening more frequently and most often, nothing is done about it. Can you imagine how frustrating it might be if you felt the authorities would just as soon kill your child as not?" or "If your child was shot to death because a police officer saw a game remote in his hand and thought it was a gun, do you not think your level of rage would be through the roof"?" or "if he was killed simply walking home from the store?" Yeah....but, he had Skittles and that kind of drink and we all know what that means....he's a thug!

(Thug - I swear to God, I wish we'd banish that freaking word from our vocabulary!)

All you get in return for your questions are blank looks, or maybe anger. That isn't the world they know and it is beyond their conception.

All this began many years before Michael Brown was killed. I wonder, did it never occur to the town fathers of Ferguson to say, "you know, this situation with a majority of black citizens and a vast majority of white cops just isn't good. In fact, it's a tinderbox. There is no respect or trust between the two sides. You know, maybe we should make a big recruiting effort to bring our police department more in line with reality." No, evidently that never happened. In fact, they hired an officer, Darren Wilson, who came from a department that was disbanded because of racial animosity. Oh, yeah, that's smart.

And did it never occur to the African-American leaders in Ferguson to say, "you know, we need to get off our asses and vote. If every one of us voted, we could elect whoever we wanted. So, by God, we're going to register every eligible voter in this city and we're going to get everyone to the polls in the next election if we have to drag them kicking and screaming." Nope, that didn't happen either.

So the the way things were just dragged on. The hostility just dragged on. The fear and mistrust just dragged on.

And then came Michael Brown's death and it hardened attitudes even more than they had been before. Will it also act as a catalyst for change? I guess that remains to be seen but judging by past experience, I'd probably take the "against"

Sunday, November 23, 2014



At my age, most of what I'm thankful for are memories. I'm glad I lived through the times I did. I'm happy my parents were who they were. I'm thankful my Dad had a traveling bone and my Mom was eagerly willing to hitch a ride right along with him.

I remember waiting impatiently on the platform for our train to come whistling and screeching down the track like a huge living thing coming to take us to unknown places. I remember as a little girl being at the station in Chattanooga so that ever afterward the song, Chattanooga ChooChoo, had a special meaning for me. I remember kindly Black porters, taking the time to admire a proud four-year-old's new cowboy boots. And eating at tables with snowy white tablecloths.

And I remember traveling by car. My parents usually both worked and Mom's paycheck was set aside for "traveling funds" so we never had to hurry but could afford to meander across the country from north to south and east to west. I remember the anticipation of motels and restaurants. Now, I mostly go to predictable places that all the look the same and taste the same - the Hampton Inn and Cracker Barrel - but back then, there were no chains so every stop was an adventure. Today might the a piece of salty county ham as tough as shoe leather and tomorrow, the most heavenly biscuits and gravy you ever put in your mouth.

I remember passing through deserts and forests and mountains and crossing wide rivers and struggling through blizzards and blinding rain. I remember going to the rodeo in Laramie and the horse races in Phoenix and beach in Southern California.

I'm glad I grew up in a time when children were free. My cousins and I wandered the town dump hoping to find the secrets hidden in letters and down back alleys scavenging in the trash for magazines and catalogs for our scrapbooks. We rode our bikes across town to the library and down to the river. And in the dusk of the summer, all us kids of all ages played Ditches through the backyards amid the lightning bugs.

I remember buying two nickel ice cream cones (because it was the same amount of ice cream but you got two cones) at the corner store and waiting in a long line at the movie to see Elvis in Love Me Tender. I remember that we were given 15 cents in addition to the dime to get in - 5 cents each for a pop, a bag of popcorn and a candy bar. On some lucky days, we got to go to the drug store for a chocolate soda after. I remember poodle skirts and fringed plastic jackets and bloomer shorts and penny loafers.

My family treated children equally. If we all went out to eat and you wanted a T-bone steak, you got it. When the whole big bunch of them went to the Eagles on Saturday night, our dads and uncles and cousins danced with us like we were grown ups.

When they got together for their beloved marathon poker games, we were allowed to play too but it was a learning experience. If you thought you were old enough, you didn't whine if you lost your allowance. You didn't ante out of turn. You paid attention and played, seriously, by God, or not at all. I hate poker to this day.

I'm glad I was young and running around when every bar had a live band and no cover charge and every place was jam-packed. The Club Royal and Stonyridge and the Fox and Hounds and there was a favorite place in Elwood...I forget the name. It was a time when the authorities turned a blind eye to marijuana and I guess to drunk driving too because I never knew anyone back then who got arrested for D.U.I. although many probably could have been.

I remember going to the drag races at Bunker Hill (the track is for sale now, I read) and the motorcycle races at the track on Dora Road. Decked-out choppers were the prestige bikes to have then and Jim Driscoll (Cisco) had the most beautiful one of all.

And I remember Vietnam, not so thankfully. Back then the guys coming home still wore flack jackets and boonie hats and long hair and an attitude of wariness. We swore after that we'd never let it happen again but, of course, we did. We watched our brothers go and then we sent our sons. I can never quite understand how that works.

I remember Canal Days and the looked-forward-to sidewalk sales in front of all the shops downtown - Beitman and Wolf and the Francis Shop and Resnecks and Wassman's and Max's Gentry shop and Woolworths and Kresge's and Mark's Camera Shop and Gillespie's and Sonda's. Shopping to be followed by lunch at the Sweet Shop and maybe bag of Pop Morris' wonderful candy. Yes, all those places were on the downtown block then.

I still think of those days as the glory years of rock and roll but I suppose every generation feels that way about their own era. Are there bands now that will become legends like the Beatles and the Stones and Led Zeppelin and CCR.....? I expect there are.

I'm thankful I was in love once and was loved in return. That's not to say it turned out so well in the end. Jim was far from an ideal husband and I was far from an ideal wife but still, I wouldn't have given up those feelings for a more mundane life. I was sort of into roller-coasters back then although eventually, I got off and never wanted to experience those stomach-churning emotions again.

Motherhood was much the same. I was not a natural mother. Although I loved John dearly, I had no aptitude for understanding babies. While other mothers sighed and regretted their children growing up, I couldn't wait. My best time as a mother was the teenage years. I enjoyed teenagers then and I still do.

I'm glad Jim and I moved to the farm out past Lagro though two people more ignorant and ill-suited to be farmers you couldn't find. But I remember all the animals and the garden and the creek that ran by the yard and the hilly woods. I remember Marty the great silver Collie and Buddha the enigmatic yellow cat whom we inherited with the house and Spot the calf and Spot the other calf and Tessie the hateful milk cow and the pigs and the rabbits and my beloved chickens and ducks and geese and guineas. I loved that place and that life.

So, memories. They are what last when everything else goes away. Hopefully, your, like mine, are mostly good ones.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saint Ronnie and Saint Dale


I am a political junkie and a NASCAR fan-atic and these are the two heroes in the world I inhabit...which pretty much puts me totally out of step with most of those around me.

Ronald Reagan, President, the Great Communicator.

Dale Earnhardt, Stock Car Driver, The Intimidator.

They have both long passed out of reality and into the stuff of myth.

Reagan devotees have put time and money into an effort to name everything but the kitchen sink after him - airports and schools and highways and ships and mountains and money. I wouldn't be surprised if some Republicans don't have a little bronze plaque in their kitchen - Ronald Wilson Reagan Memorial Kitchen Sink. In fact, the new country planned by some secession enthusiasts is tentatively named Reagan.

Dale Earnhardt worshipers are much the same. To them, Dale was the epitome of daring cool and no one else will ever measure up. No matter if they pass him in poles and laps led and wins and championships because everyone knows that NASCAR has become a woosified sport compared to back in the day when men were men and Dale was the manliest of them all.

Of course, the people who love them know what they would have thought and done in every situation. Like now. Ronald Reagan would have thrown down against Putin for invading Ukraine. Forget that he didn't do a thing when Russia shot down one of our passenger planes - and when a truck bomb killed 242 of our Marines, we simply packed up and left Lebanon. Forget that Reagan's "claim to fame" as a war president was the invasion of the tiny little island of Grenada. What would Reagan's response have been to Ebola? Ask yourself how he reacted to AIDS and that will probably give you some idea. (Hint: he ignored it).

And Reagan would never have shredded our revered constitution by using executive orders to grant clemency to illegal immigrants....except he did. Reagan would never have signed a gun control bill in defiance of the Second Amendment....except he did. As Governor, Reagan would never have approved any legislation that weakened the pro-life position....except he did. Reaganites have either forgotten, or found excuses for all these actions.

In the last many years, NASCAR has created a play-off system called the Chase. Many old-line NASCAR aficionados hate the Chase. They swear that Dale would have marched into the executive offices at NASCAR and demanded that it be repealed. They boast that Dale would have refused to drive in such a travesty of a series and NASCAR would, of course, have backed down rather than alienate its most popular driver.

Dale Earnhardt was before my time in NASCAR. Perhaps he was all that and more that his fans thought about him. But my belief is that he would have done exactly as every other driver has done - he would have raced and tried to win based on the rules mandated by NASCAR.

Saint Reagan. the Great Communicator, told the American people how unions were bad and firing all Air Traffic Controllers, banning them from practicing their profession again, ever, was what they deserved. Instead of being aghast at the pure brutality of his actions, we believed and yelled, "right on, Ronnie!" He told us that tax cuts pay for themselves and that if you pile the profits onto the rich, their left-overs will trickle down to the rest of us and we believed and yelled, "right on, Ronnie!" So, even though, lo' these many years later, time has proven over and over again that he was wrong, we go right on believing.

Saint Dale is to NASCAR what Ronald Reagan is to the Presidency. His ubiquitous number # 3 race car is tattooed on body parts and flown on banners and painted on the sides of campers. How many times do I hear, "Dale, would have done this" or "Dale wouldn't have put up with that" or "Current Driver wouldn't have made a pimple on Dale Earnhardt's ass"?

I don't understand this penchant Americans have for idolatry. Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton were two of my favorite presidents but I acknowledge their weaknesses while still honoring their accomplishments. Jimmie Johnson is my favorite NASCAR driver. I think he is by far the best of modern times but I don't insist that he is is super-human.

And that's the problem with deifying  our heroes. It causes us to scorn the heroes of now. No one will ever be able to live up to Saint Ronnie and Saint Dale. No pedestals will ever be high enough to reach them. And while our rose-colored glasses are focused on the past, we let the present slip through our fingers.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Mixed Message of the Election


Yes, I'm still suffering from an election night hangover but like most addicts, it won't keep me from opening that next bottle of political poison. I'm a political junkie, what can I say?

I was going to write about how totally disgusted I am with the party I usually claim as mine but Jim Wright at Stone Kettle Station said it better than I ever could. Democrats, overall,  are kinder and fairer and yes, I think, smarter than Republicans over all, but they suffer from the malady of Chronic Spinelessness. They prefer to play defense to going on offense and their defensive team isn't worth shit. I remember watching Al Gore lose in large part, I believed, because he was afraid to claim Bill Clinton. Now I just watched the Democrats lose in large part, I believe, because they were afraid to stand with Obama and recite the good things they've done in the last six years. Did you vote for Obama, Allison Lundegan Grimes? But read Jim's piece. It's the best.

Now, ole Mitch Baby, who swore to destroy Obama's presidency from day one is talking bipartisanship. Screw that! I could have been talked into it once but I'm out of the mood now. Obama doesn't have to account to anyone anymore so I hope he rides as roughshod over the Republican congress as it is legally possible for him to do (with the benefit of the doubt going to the president as it did with Bush and the Torture Gang). I hope he vetoes everything they send to him - good, bad or indifferent. They won't like him any better if he tries to compromise with them so why bother?

Unfortunately, I don't think being unreasonable is in Obama's nature. I believe, for the most part, he'll continue to try to work with the Republicans as best he can although they'll continue to claim he isn't.

I honestly hope they bring impeachment proceedings on the first day they take over. I've heard so much about impeachment and treason and not-really-an-American and Muslim sympathizer, blah, blah, blah, that I feel as if I'm choking on it. Hey, you guys were balls to the wall when it meant clicking "like" on a Facebook post. But now you have the luxury of putting your money where your mouths are so do it if you think you have the evidence.

Ditto repealing Obamacare. For all those that they hate it, I doubt they'd be very happy to see pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps come back. There would be horror stories in the media about people who....finally managed to obtain health insurance under Obamacare going without again. I don't think the Republicans have the guts.

This election created befuddlement in trying to figure how Americans make the choices they do. In all the states (and D.C.) where legalization of marijuana was on the ballot, a majority voted for it. (In Florida, 57% of voters approved medical marijuana but in that state, it takes 60 percent to move forward). In the two (red) states where a Personhood Amendment was on the ballot, it was defeated soundly (although Tennessee did vote for a very restrictive abortion bill). In every state where it was on the ballot, increasing the minimum wage won big. In the small Texas town of Denton, an anti-fracking bill passed. In Washington State, on a referendum to require background checks on all gun sales, the measure passed.  In Connecticut and Colorado the voters retained governors whom the NRA had sworn to defeat.

Okay, so on all these issues, the liberal leaning side won. So, what explains the fact that those very same voters also elected politicians who actually sponsored the Personhood Amendment they voted against and all the politicians who were opposed to a minimum wage increase that voters supported in huge numbers or were against legalization of pot.

Have we all simply become a nation of raging political schizophrenics?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Don't Vote

Well, here we go....Election Day. I used to love the suspense of elections more than I do now. That's because I wasn't terribly concerned about which party won back in the day. I usually leaned toward the Democrats but I wasn't literally afraid of the Republicans as I am now. I believed yesterday's Republicans had the country's best interests at heart even if I disagreed with them on some issues. I basically thought the country would be okay no matter who won.

But somehow those Republicans morphed into the Tea Party and then the Tea Party morphed into the Mean Party. In the beginning, I thought some of their principles were idealistic if sort of wacko. Uh, yes, we probably all agree that lowering the deficit is a good thing (and, in fact, it has been going down steadily under Obama) but to end all deficit spending RIGHT NOW would plunge the country into a depression that would make this last one look small.

What would they cut to end the deficit immediately. Well, one of their core principles is a strong military so I guess that means the cuts would have to come from social programs? Social security? Medicare and Medicaid? Education?

None of us particularly like taxes but the Tea Party really, really doesn't like them and want major cuts. So they want to end deficit spending but give the country less income to do it with. What's that saying about being able to hold two conflicting thoughts in your head at the same time?

Anyway, the original Tea Party barely mentioned social issues. They simply "encouraged' traditional values but the latter day Tea Party swung sharply to the social (versus economic) side with gay marriage and abortion in the forefront of what should be outlawed in a Tea Party country.

Guns, of course, are sacred. Literally. It's in their platform. Isn't that a form of worshiping false gods?

And we began to see the kind of crazies the Tea Party supported - Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, Steve Stockman and Ted Cruz, Louis Gohmert and on and on. The birthers. The science-deniers. The "I.U.D.s are a form of abortion" folks. The "legitimate rape" guys. The Personhood people. The "oh, my God, I can't say Christmas anymore" victims. The "Obama is a Muslim" insisters.  The "billionaires are better than you and me" believers.

And all done in the name of religion. Pretty much exactly the opposite of what Jesus preached.

The accepted thing to say is that everyone should vote (unless you're trying to suppress the votes of your opponents, of course). "Go, Vote" posts are all over Facebook. I'm not going to be a hypocrite and say, "I just want everyone to vote their conscience" because actually what I'd prefer to see is all the conservatives struck with apathy today and not vote at all.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Secession, Yes!


Okay, I give up. Some people are already planning how secession would work, such as Douglas MacKinnon, a conservative columnist and former Reagan administration aide who has written a new, book, "The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country...Now." 

In the book, MacKinnon describes his vision for a new country that will consist of southern states breaking away and establishing the Religious Right’s political agenda as the law of the land. This country would be named, at least for now, Reagan. (Huh? Imagine that!) The new country of Reagan would consist of: South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. (Sorry, Texas, you're not welcome....too many Mexicans - ha!ha!)

I'm finally ready to accede to the desire of so many conservative Americans to secede from the union. I'm so tired of their threats and hate and meanness. Let them try it their way. More power to them if they can make that work for them.

My final capitulation to breaking up the union came with a Facebook post by one of my oldest and dearest friends. It was one of those - "Obama is destroying America, it's time to take up arms to take our country back" posts.

I responded by pointing out that we'd been friends for over 30 years. We've helped each other through tough times, confided in one another, shared food and laughs and tears. I found it exceedingly sad that if this revolution she desires comes about we'd be on opposite sides. She agreed that would be sad but necessary. I don't think she believes I am a deliberate traitor, more like an inadvertent one, because I just refuse to see the president for what he really is.

It is Douglas McKinnon's belief that the South should have been allowed to secede peacefully the first time and Abraham Lincoln illegally and unconstitutionally declared war to stop them. He thinks that couldn't happen now because in our modern era, the world would know about it and the government wouldn't dare. (Like the world doesn't have problems of it's own and would give a damn).

Of course, I doubt if the new country would long be content with only three states. Reagan may not want Texas but I expect Texas would want Reagan. My own state of Indiana would probably throw in with the secessionists. Soon, all the red states would be clamoring to secede. Us too! Us too!

I haven't read MacKinnon's book so I don't know all the details about how this would work but I listened to a long radio interview with him and he foresees Reagan as a theocratic conservative fundamentalist nation. I expect all the gays would feel compelled to move to the good old tolerant U.S. And all the women who want to take contraceptives and control their own reproductive destinies. And certainly, all the Muslims in Reagan would probably want to relocate and maybe most Latinos. Blacks, too. And agnostics and atheists.....and scientists. I don't know how Reaganites feels about Jews. They certainly love Israel so maybe Jews would be okay, although they were the ones who crucified Jesus.

They could get rid of welfare. The lazy bums who don't want to work could be transported and left inside the boundaries of the pussy original America. All their schools could be voucher schools. Going to church on Sunday would be mandatory. Men would be declared the Heads of the Household. Everyone would carry a gun although maybe they wouldn't need so many guns with a government they agree with.

What would the citizens of Reagan have to give up? They surely don't expect to keep their military bases and the soldiers that go with them do they? Those military people signed their oath to the United States of America. And the tax money they get over what they pay in to the feds (as is the case with most red states), that would have to end. I guess they could frack and pollute and drill and de-top mountains to their heart's desire. If they ended welfare and public schools and medicaid and school lunches and Head Start, oh, yeah and Social Security and Medicare, hell, maybe they wouldn't have to pay any taxes at all!

I fought the very idea of America breaking up for a long time. But then I began to see how unsatisfactory it was to have a large group of people who had given up on democracy and came to believe that if they don't get their way in every election, the answer is to obstruct and destroy and overthrow. That's not the America I remember or the America I want. So now I'm ready now to say, "go, then, if that's what you want to do." Better that than having or shoot one of my best friends or her having to shoot me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sorry, Chris, Your Day Has Passed.


 Columbus Day or Indigenous People's Day?

Ah, good old Christopher. He sailed off into the vast unknown looking for a shorter route to the Indies, not realizing that two huge continents barred his way. Though it is a falsity that people in his time still believed the earth was flat, no one can deny that it was a courageous thing to do. Whether he was driven by the hope of a path to riches, the spirit of exploration, or both, he deserves credit for bravery and for sort of accidentally bringing America to the attention of the "civilized" world. He was a product of the culture of his time and tended to see natives as not really human or deserving of respect. As a matter of fact, he was equally as cruel to his crew. Most of our most famous explorers treated the people they met along the way with one degree or another of brutality.

Having said all that, if you think I'm an apologist for Columbus, you're wrong. I believe the states and cities that are changing Columbus Day to Native American Day or Indigenous Peoples Day are doing the right thing. Sometimes, political correctness actually is correct and now that we've had our consciousnesses raised about the horrors that Columbus' travels brought to the people who already populated America, I just don't see how we can continue to revere him as we have in the past.

In the 1400's and beyond, Europeans believed that they were favored by God so if they "found" a land, they naturally owned it. The natives, being godless heathens, were beside the point. If those natives resented their treatment and fought back, well, then, they had to be eliminated and/or rounded up and kept in what we would call today, concentration camps (always placed in what the white people of the time considered the most valueless parts of the country, of course). Genocide? Well, hey, they brought it on themselves by not acknowledging and bowing before the superiority of their betters.

That's how we felt then but surely, we can recognize now how wrong we were, how immoral we were. Surely, we can take steps to correct those ugly beliefs and actions now. It's far too late for apologies, none of us alive today had any part of it anyway. But it isn't too late to honor Native Americans with their own day of celebration for the contributions they made to this land....long before Columbus and his crew boarded the the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Put Your Money Where Your Mouths Are, Conservatives


I jump on lots of political posts on Facebook and argue with conservatives about many different subjects but if I had to pick one issue that epitomizes the difference between the two sides of the political spectrum, it would be gay marriage, as illustrated by these two pictures.

Liberals tend to be inclusive, content to allow people to live their lives as seems best to them. Liberals don't care if men love men and whites love blacks, as long as love and respect is present in the equation. Liberals don't use the Bible to beat people into the ground. Even when liberals disagree with conservatives, they tend to do it somewhat gently. (And, yes, I know if you search worldwide web, you can find some exceptions, but they'll only prove the rule).

Liberal Christians don't think Jesus would approve of carrying a sign that says - "Death penalty for fags" to promote his philosophy of peace and love. They are more into the "judge not, least ye also be judged" side of things, believing that it is God's responsibility to judge, not ours.

Even if conservatives sincerely believe that God hates homosexuals (or, to use their favorite term, fags) and homosexuality and it's their Christian duty to show people the light, hateful statements like the ones above are probably not the best way to go about it.

Conservatives use the Bible as a blunt weapon. They pick and choose among chapters and verses to highlight what they want to force the rest of us to believe, while ignoring others. While they rant about homosexuality, they leave adultery and eating pork and wearing clothing of mixed materials strictly alone. In fact, you can be an adulterer and they will elect you to Congress. Hey, the R in front of your name is more important than the purity of your heart, right?

Liberals don't believe gayness is harmful in any way. Most of us love someone, or maybe several someones, who are gay. We don't believe gay marriage affects us in any negative way and in fact, more caring in this often ugly world is a net positive.

We shake our heads at conservatives who believe it is anathema to be forced to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, when baking cakes is what their business is all about, I co-owned a pizza business once but we didn't vet everyone who ordered a pizza to see if their morality coincided with ours.

Children who are adopted by loving gay couple are better off than before they were part of a family. And why are they waiting to be adopted anyway? We know they are all a product of good old heterosexual sex and many were born to couples who had no more business having a child than the man in the moon. Perhaps they were abusive or addictive or neglectful or simply didn't want their children and thank God, someone stepped in to take up the slack.

And yes, I know there are gay pedophiles and gay murderers and gay alcoholics. They should be treated the same way straight pedophiles and murderers and alcoholics are treated.

Conservatives' attitudes about gay marriage fall right into line with their attitudes about other issues. Conservatives seem to live their lives in fear. Not only are they afraid of homosexuals but they are also afraid of immigrants and Muslims and African-Americans (all of whom they tend to see as thugs unless they are sanitized like Allen West and Dr. Ben Carson, Condi Rice or Clarence Thomas. (Colin Powell used to be one of the favored few until he stepped over the line into independent thinking).

Conservatives appear to expect to be attacked by these hordes of scary people at any moment. After all, they've already forced us to press "1 for English", can Sharia law be far behind?

Oddly, it is the conservative Christians who most often post inspirational messages on Facebook - like, "let go and let God" and "trust God, he knows the way" and "Put your faith in Jesus". So, why don't they, I wonder?

In the end, none of this is going to matter. When the Supreme Court declined to hear any of the recent suits regarding gay marriage, it let the lower court rulings in those cases stand. That means tens of thousands of gay couples will be getting married in 30 states (including my own backward state of Indiana - hurray!) And I say - onward and upward to 50.