Sunday, January 30, 2011

Walk Like an Egyptian

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

OK, so now in a reprise of June of 2009 when blood literally ran down Tehran's streets, our president is once again, no pun intended, Tut Tutting the violence and chaos that's essentially replaced the Egyptian government. Egyptians are so hostile toward authority figures that they're literally ripping the heads off Pharaoh mummies and otherwise looting or vandalizing their national treasures.

The very fact that the violence is escalating and that the protesters are winning proves that saturnine Obama calling for restraint and siding with a tyrannical, oppressive regime such as Mubarek's makes the leader of the free world look about as effective as a junior high school cafeteria monitor during a food fight.

If nothing else, the metastasizing unrest and bloodshed (at least 74 Egyptians have been killed since this week's riots) puts our government in an extremely uncomfortable, and untenable, position. As stated earlier, Obama is forced to stick with his man Hosni despite the fact that Africa's one superpower is among the most brutal, barbaric and oppressive nations on earth, the kind of sadistic dictatorship to which the Bush administration turned when it wanted to extraordinarily rendition terror suspects.

In other words, Egypt these past 30 years has no more resembled a democracy than post-Soviet Russia. At the risk of oversimplification, a vote for Egypt is a vote against democracy. Hosni Mubarek had literally turned off the internet, shut down al-Jazeera while revoking press credentials, sent troops onto the streets to kill at least 74 protesters, place Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed elBaradei under house arrest and fired his entire government while naming a puppet as his "successor", thereby officially making Egypt a one man dictatorship. Yet Obama still stands by his man at a time when even his own son wouldn't, even flying in the face of a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The desire for democracy across the Middle East and North Africa these past two weeks, if nothing else, had brought into razor-sharp focus our ongoing hypocrisy as regards democracy. Our pious platitudes about democracy, belied by years of deadly adventurism across Latin America from the 50's to the present day, ring hollow. We'd rather support one dictatorship after another in the Middle East as long as they momentarily ally themselves with the United States' War on Terror.

Here's a something else that's huge that ought to be getting more play in the media: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is actually encouraging the protesters in direct contravention to Obama's "policy" of noninvolvement. In fact, as long as Obama chooses to remain saturninely detached from these proceedings as if they really don't involve the United States, then Mrs. Clinton's hands are tied. It's telling that Clinton, in direct and almost unique contravention to a president whose policies she is constitutionally bound to support, is instead supporting the unrest in Cairo and elsewhere while her immediate predecessor, Condi Rice, had called for Egypt to move closer to a democracy. If that doesn't put Mrs. Clinton and Dr. Rice on the same page, it certainly puts them in the same chapter.

In short, what's happening in Cairo is actually fragmenting our government so that now our commander in chief and secretary of state are at stark odds with each other.

For all its massive faults and foreign policy failures, it had to be said that the Bush administration was at least cognizant that Egypt had nothing than a mere sham of a democracy and, however lazily or timidly, attempted to make some inroads toward effecting that.

To listen to the Obama administration, the unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa doesn't really affect us or our foreign policy but it's impossible to see how this will not involve a necessary paradigm shift from Foggy Bottom to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This ought to force the Obama administration to rethink its foreign policy priorities both for our present nation as well as the generations of Americans and presidential administrations to come. If you need a predictor of how disastrous it is for one administration to blindly and stupidly take up the initiatives of the previous one, look at Obama's very insistence on supporting the dying dictatorship in Egypt, look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan and tell me how Obama has improved things in those geopolitical arenas.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New World Order

"It's time for this government to change. I want a better future for me and my family when I get married." - Amal Ahmed, a 22-year-old Egyptian protester.

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)

If one takes even a cursory, hurried look at events in the Middle East this month, especially Tunisia and Egypt, it makes Time's Choice of "Person of the Year" seem unforgivably shallow and superficial. In an unexpected turn perfectly delineated by his apparently clueless and astonished face on the cover, the always-dubious honor went to 26 year-old billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, founder of an online community that made its, and his, fortune not the old fashioned way with advertising revenue through ads but by selling personal information to marketing companies, information we gladly give away to an overachieving Harvard grad nerd so we can more easily supplant actually meeting people.

To bring his amorality into conspicuous relief, Zuckerberg has recently climbed into bed with Goldman Sachs, a bailed-out Wall Street bank that no doubt can give the billionaire boy wonder another Ivy League education in corporate sleaziness. So far, all this has done is to grossly inflate Facebook's net worth and share price and, if one is smart, one will reserve a front row online seat to wait for the bubble to burst like a massive prank cigar.

In the meantime, as Time is quick to point out, the "Person of the Year" award doesn't necessarily go to the best, most do-gooding or even the most popular but to the person or organization that was the most catalytic. Zuckerberg's elevation puts him in rarified company, including presidents, other corporate titans and tyrants like Adolph Hitler. And it only serves to bring into merciless focus our own bottomless superficiality in that Facebook's founder would prove to be more catalytic to American society than President Barack Obama, former Senator Russ Feingold, former Rep. Alan Grayson or, (here's a crazy-ass idea), Wikileaks.

Not to give short shrift to Zuckerberg's Facebook, which easily toppled in a couple of short years MySpace's hegemony in the online networking community (It can be easily argued that as recently as the 2008 general elections, MySpace was much more instrumental in getting then Senator Barack Obama elected president than the still-fledgling Facebook). But a volatile online community that's just one major hack or Conficker virus away from complete and utter oblivion should not be considered more catalytic to American society than Wikileaks' Four Horsemen of Disclosures. Yet it is and last year's winner is as pitilessly reflective of our current values as the year in which the mirror-covered Time named us as the "Person of the Year."

There is a New World Order taking shape that's far more profound and important than a domain that plasters spam ads all over the place, harvests our too-free personal information and features groups such as "I'll Bet This Steak Can Get More Friends Than Sarah Palin."

Julian Assange's Wikileaks, to descend into a platitude for a moment, simply changed the world forever. It put and continues to put the largest and most powerful governments and corporations on notice that secrets are no longer safe and that they will not be allowed to practice their Machiavellian schemes in the shadows any more.

Of course, Wikileaks, as laudable as their intentions and catalytic effects is, is a mere conduit and Julian Assange is a mere conduit of a conduit. The power of Wikileaks comes from people like Bradley Manning, people who seem to have a sincere vested interest in proclaiming, "Enough is enough!" and effecting that change through disclosures of information much, much more devastating than anything your 13 year-old daughter or co-worker will post on Facebook.

"But, but... What does this have to do with me or my Facebook avatar?"

There's a New World Order that's superimposing itself over the world we used to know, a more transparent and (if you'll pardon the alliteration) pitilessly punitive palimpsest in which the people of the Middle East are also rising up against decades-long tyrannies such as the ones in Tunisia, Egypt and now Yemen. Understandably, the hypocritical and dictatorial Saudi Royal Family is nervously eying shaping developments with their neighbors.

It's notable that a few rock-throwing young men with bandannas over their mouths achieved in mere days in Tunisia what George W. Bush tried and failed to do in eight years and with the world's most powerful military at his disposal: Kickstarting the democratization of the Middle East. And the protests against autocratic rule puts our own president in the ridiculous position of actually supporting these despotic regimes simply because they're "our allies in the war on terror" (so was Yemen's dictatorship).

The riots in Tunis, Cairo and elsewhere in the Muslim world have brought about some startling changes and things we would've thought impossible a mere year or two ago: That the once popular Hosni Mubarek, Egypt's answer to Lyndon Johnson, would have his image disrespected by shoe soles (a grave insult in the Muslim/Arab world). For once, the mainstream media had actually gotten it right: This appears to be a region-wide revolution on a Che Guevaran scale.

But it's easy to scan the headlines and to assume that developments in the Middle East have nothing to do with us but they do.

One of the reasons the people of Tunisia rioted against the quarter century-long autocratic rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was there simply weren't enough jobs to go around. And they were organized and energized enough so that they'd actually routed the police and even regrouped when they themselves were routed. Now we're seeing the same thing in Egypt. As something of a sidebar, it also ought to be noted and remembered that this wave of democratization we're seeing in the Middle East is being effected from within with no need of invasions, carpet bombings, smashing of economic infrastructures nor the bank-busting involvement of American war profiteering corporations. Regime change is almost always untidy but ultimately streamlined and less costly in terms of life when effected from within.

Joblessness is and was during the 2010 midterms the single biggest concern for the average American voter. It would be easy to claim that online entities such as Facebook have taken the place of Juvenal's circus and that we're too distracted or anesthetized to similarly gather on Wall Street and Washington, DC to demand our jobs back. But we must remember that Facebook is also available in Tunisia and Egypt as well as virtually everywhere else in the Middle East. Yet these people were able to tear themselves away from their computer chairs and Facebook mood updates to risk (and give) their lives in the endless and timeless call for freedom.

What's happening in the Middle East isn't a Middle Eastern or a Muslim thingie. We are all human and have the same anxieties and concerns as Amal Ahmed and others 7000 miles away. We all want jobs, security for our families present and future, we all yearn to live freely and to have a voice in our governments, hence our destinies.

And, the last time I checked, these things were far from being guaranteed in our own country. The world is indeed changing and not necessarily for the worst. I see the Tunisian, Egyptian and Yemenese protesters, I remember the protesters in Iran, Mexico and Kenya and I see hope that the eternal flame of the human demand of freedom is far from extinguished. In the meantime, I wait and wonder when the day will come when the United States finally gets meaningfully involved in a worldwide cause that's even larger than national corporate interests.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

HMO Drops Cancer-Stricken Vietnam Vet Over 2¢.

I wish I was making this up. But I saw a link to this on the Kindle political boards just now and I have to share this with you all.

A Florida-based health "provider" had decided to drop a cancer-stricken Vietnam Vet because he accidentally underpaid his November premiums by two pennies. Paying the bill online, he'd mistakenly hit the "7" instead of the "9" and when he went in for a bone biopsy, his wife was informed their coverage had been dropped. Prior to being dropped, the Flanagans were paying Ceridian $328.71 a month in basic premiums, not including co-pays, deductibles and what other out of pocket expenses they incurred.

They'd received no notice from Ceridian that they were in default for this unforgivable amount, despite the HMO's story to the contrary, and Ceridian had even cashed their subsequent December payment with admirable dispatch. In other words, they knew that Ronald Flanagan, who's suffering from cancer due to exposure from Agent Orange, was about to hit them with lots of medical bills because he needs stem cell transplants to get a handle on his cancer. In other words, he was a potential liability.

If this latest outrage proves anything, it's that HMO's, even Cobra programs like Ceridian Cobra, are such rapacious, money-grasping, bottom line-driven cocksuckers that will actually risk bad PR by dropping a cancer patient and putting his very life at serious risk over two fucking cents.

So when's that fabulous Obama health care reform bill going to start preventing things like this from happening and even if and when it's fully implemented in the distant future of 2014, how will it stop avaricious HMO's that are bound and determined to drop people on the very flimiest of technicalities from getting around the provisions of the HCR such as dropping those with pre-existing conditions?

And, it only stands to reason, with Darwinian capitalism mania sweeping the nation, the Flanagans' story is just a mere synechdoche of what evil state insurers are capable on a state-wide scale, such as this story out of Minnesota in which the state's budget will be balanced by Minnesota's seven biggest HMO's, Allina, Blue Cross, Fairview, HealthPartners, Medica, Park Nicollet and U Care, will slash services for the disabled, poor and elderly and hike taxes in the name of fiscal responsibility.

So give Ceridian your own 2¢ by writing or calling them here and tell them what you think of them dropping the Flanagans over the tiniest innocent mistake.

American History 101 with Congresswoman Bachmann

Lesson One:

Regardless of color, religion, class or creed, everyone was treated fairly once they got to America.

There were no slaves, no bigotry against Catholics or Jews, no bigotry against Japanese during WWII, against Germans in WWI, against the Chinese in the 19th century, no bigotry aimed against Mormons and forcing their exodus to Utah, against Muslims after 9/11 and certainly NO animus aimed at Native Americans even though they were audaciously encroaching on our land and our dream of White Man Infest Destiny.

Al-righty, then!

One is at a loss to wonder why Minnesota's 6th congressional district elected and keeps electing this intellectual hairball, someone who by conspicuous relief makes Sarah Palin look like a foreign relations wonk and Christine O'Donnell a Constitutional law professor.

In a world that makes total sense, Michele Bachmann should have been the Alvin Greene of Minnesota and laughed into obscurity with a hearty, national "Nyuk nyuk nyuk." Yet the media, Anderson Cooper aside, keep giving this Bible-banging lunatic enough house room that she can steal Congressman Paul Ryan's thunder to deliver her own Republican rebuttal to Obama's State of the Union Address.

And it would be easy to laugh Bachmann off the national stage on every occasion she's opened her pie hole except Bachmann doesn't stand out because she's fast becoming the standard bearer for the Idiocracy that is the latter day Republican Party.

Rand Paul said on Election night last November, "There is no rich, there is no middle class, there is no poor." One could've almost heard a watery Oriental nocturne by DeBussy and we could've called it "Delusions of the Socialist Aqua Buddha."

And Republicans make the late Howard Zinn and other historians aerate their graves at the rate of 30,000 RPMs every time they try to rewrite history in their desperate, pathetic Winston Smith attempts to quell any notion of class warfare.

Let's take stock: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 wasn't enacted until 101 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

We have had exactly one Catholic President.

We have had exactly one full-blooded Native American in the Senate.

We have no African Americans in the Senate and still have not seated one from the South since Reconstruction.

Wingnuts foamed at the mouth and given serious consideration when Bachmann's fellow Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, Congress's only Muslim, took the oath of office on a Koran.

Wingnuts are still foaming at the mouth over "the Ground Zero Mosque" that's actually a community center two blocks from Ground Zero, something already screamed about by none other than Bachmann.

Unemployed Americans are now being classified as hobos by other wingnuts who keep insisting that the unemployment insurance we need to barely stay alive is a form of welfare and not something into which we've been kicking 6.2% of our paychecks for decades.

There is something seriously, dangerously wrong with a country that not only tolerates and gives house room to such whiteboardings of history but actually elects and re-elects in many states other idiots like Bachmann. Our apathy, complacency, whatever you wish to call it, is what's dumbing down this country.

And, at the rate we're going, Bachmann's, Paul's and every Republicans' idiocy will become communicable (it's already airborne) and this may be the State of the Union Address we'll see a year from now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Icanlickanypoliticalbloggerinthisroom!" (Hic)

OK, I know what I said at Jill's place (Brilliant at Breakfast) and that I was going to boycott the President's State of the Union Address so I could watch the instant streaming premiere of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest on Netflix.

But, being the political junkie that I am, the first thing I thought of this morning wasn't the final leg of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, nor my upcoming job interview nor my new book on Kindle nor anything else. No, the first thing that crossed my still sleep-fogged mind was, "He's our president, for better for worse, and I have an obligation to at least listen to the SOTU Address even if only in the interests of heckling him in real time."

Plus, the kindness of certain people these last two and a half days in light of our recent and very serious financial troubles makes it more incumbent on me to continue producing political content for my fellow political junkies despite having a fairly good idea of what Mr. Obama is going to say.

Since we're not big drinkers, we won't be playing the usual drinking game and hoisting one every time the President uses the words "bipartisanship", "centrist" "reaching across the aisle" and lumping in liberals and progressives with the napalm-laced rhetoric that surely resulted in the near death of a Democratic Congresswoman. Were I to play such a drinking game, I don't think my liver could take the overwhelming alcoholic insult.

So, despite having no TV or cable, here on Daily Dread I'm going to be live-blogging the SOTU Address while listening to the speech on a live C-SPAN feed.

And I can guarantee you there will be a lot of hung-over people on Hump Day tomorrow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Let Us Put Aside Childish Things

...and nail the toy box shut, to paraphrase Corinthians 13:11.

What you see is the cover art dreamed up today by Mrs. JP and I for my new novel, The Toy Cop, which is being uploaded on Kindle right now. It ought to be up for sale by tomorrow afternoon and you can be sure I'll give you the URL as soon as it becomes available on my Kindle dashboard.

To give you a basic overview of the book, here's the synopsis that worked its hypnotic magic on dozens of literary agents desperately in need of some brrraaaaaiiiinnnnnssssss:

In the middle of the Utah badlands four years ago, 10 canisters of VX nerve agent disappeared from an Army truck miles from the Dugway Proving Grounds. In the truck were found two dead soldiers, setting a bleak stage for the most disastrous hostage scenario in FBI history. Special Agent Michael Brodie, head of the elite FBI crisis negotiating corps, had lost his chance at the Bonneville Salt Flats to capture IRA terrorist Seamus Hannigan, the man responsible for the VX theft and his daughter’s death as well as the destruction of his credibility and career when Hannigan blew up himself and three other people.

Four years later up the eastern seaboard during a freak October nor’easter, former Navy Seal Jack Gallagher and three other men have taken hostage a United States Senator and 12 other people and have holed them up at the Eastbridge, MA armory. The 13 make up the entire team assembled to witness the televised federal execution of Edd Corn, the most notorious child killer in US history. Corn nearly killed Jack Gallagher’s daughter Deirdre three years ago. Now determined to mete out justice personally, Gallagher seems determined to end his life to that end while his ex wife, rookie patrol officer and ad hoc negotiator Penny Gallagher, helplessly watches outside.

Now a crisis negotiation instructor at Quantico, Brodie sees that Penny is out of her depth, and tortured by the memory of his slain FBI daughter Leighann, he pulls every string and calls in every favor to get involved in the negotiations while somehow avoiding the emotional mine fields put up by his skeptical superiors and Jack Gallagher. Among his detractors: Special Agent Ray Cardoza, his one-time future son in law and the first FBI agent at the armory. And Ray is one of many who hold Brodie accountable for Leighann’s death.

The nor’easter has paralyzed traffic up and down the entire eastern seaboard, making it impossible for the FBI’s elite Critical Incident Response Group, or CIRG, to respond. It’s just Penny, the distant Brodie and a smattering of local and state law enforcement already divided between the televised high profile execution and the barricade situation.

Then, during the negotiations, Brodie hears a voice from the grave: Seamus Hannigan. Could the hostage scenario be a mere coverup and is Jack Gallagher somehow involved with the IRA plot four years ago to appropriate and use 10 canisters of VX on countless innocents? Or has Jack unwittingly invited one of the world’s most lethal terrorists in his midst in the blind pursuit of his own agenda?

Adding to the complicated matrix, the Gallaghers’ nine year-old daughter Deirdre, the only victim of Edd Corn who survived, sees her parents on television and runs away from home and tries to reach the armory during the blinding blizzard at roughly the same time a freak helicopter crash gives Edd Corn his release. And when he finally captures Deidre and shoots Penny before joining the standoff, the already unstable situation at the armory turns into a double hostage scenario, setting up an explosive and brutal climax.

With a wide cast of characters, most of whom pursuing personal agendas, The Toy Cop involves national tragedies from Waco, Ruby Ridge as well as the 1998 Omagh bombing in Ireland. And these previously unrelated tragedies set off a chain of chaotic events, gradually but inexorably coalescing into what could become the greatest tragedy in American history. The lives of 13 people are at stake, including that of a United States senator during a reelection bid. And unless the Gallaghers and Brodie and Cardoza can put aside ancient antagonisms and broker a peaceful outcome, many more lives will be lost in what could become the worst holocaust since September 11th.

So be there or be square.


Crossposted by Susan Lindauer, former U.S. Asset covering the U.N. Mission of Iraq

He's got the smirking grin of a politician who knows that he got away with his crimes. He escaped responsibility for his political murders and the full brunt of moral outrage for the wasteful public sacrifice on his behalf.

I can see it in his eyes. They don't know half the truth. They don't know they're asking the wrong questions. I'm scott free.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair got a second grilling in London last week over his decision to force Britain into the Iraq War, though U.N. weapons inspectors had uncovered no caches of illegal weapons to justify the invasion. Iraq was already broken by United Nations sanctions and had no capacity for self defense at all.

In the aftermath of sectarian strife and daily bombings, Blair's delusion of nation-building has collapsed. Not so his preening moral rectitude to justify the War.

That smirk tells it all. Blair knows his legacy of public deception has prevailed.

Until now.

What the British people don't realize is that up to this point, while Blair's government fabricated nonsense stories of Pre-War Intelligence and phony moral arguments, intelligence Assets involved in Pre-War Iraq have been locked up in prison or otherwise silenced by phony indictments that functioned as a gag on political discourse. So much for the moral courage of Washington's favorite puppy dog.

I myself covered the Iraqi Embassy at the United Nations in New York from August, 1996 until March, 2003. A few weeks after requesting to testify before Congress about a comprehensive peace framework that would have fulfilled all U.S. and British objectives without killing a single Iraqi child, I got indicted as an "Iraqi Agent" in "conspiracy with the Iraqi Intelligence Service."

I got hit with all the bells and whistles of the Patriot Act-- secret charges, secret evidence and secret grand jury testimony. My demands for a trial were blocked to protect the government. Instead, I "disappeared" into prison on Carswell Air Force Base in Texas for 11 months, where I faced threats of indefinite detention up to 10 years without a trial. Actually that proved to be the least of my worries. In prison, I had to fight off a Justice Department demand to forcibly drug me with Haldol—a rhinoceros tranquilizer that imitates the effects of Parkinson's Disease—so that I could be "cured" of knowing the unhappy truth about the Iraqi Peace Option and Iraq's substantial contributions to the 9/11 investigation.

Making matters worse, my team had delivered advance warnings about the 9/11 attack to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's private staff and the Office of Counter Terrorism in August, 2001. I was definitely persona non grata at the White House and 10 Downing Street.

My indictment continued five years. It ended five days before the inauguration of President Obama. Those five years gave pro-war leaders in Washington and London ample time and free rein to invent a totally fictitious story about Iraq and anti-terrorism that beefed up their personas in the corporate media.

I watched it all on prison television at Carswell Air Force Base. And I watched it again when Blair testified last week. In the absence of public knowledge, Blair has manipulated silence and secrecy to his own advantage. He has abused security classifications to obfuscate his weakness and policy mistakes. And Blair's government has continued to promote policies that have caused grave harm to global security, and perhaps most ironically, the War on Terrorism.

Unhappily for Blair's legacy of deception, today Assets are free from prison and false indictment. Now it is our day to defend the public's right to disclosure and accountability.

And so I challenge the British Government to summon Blair back to face the Inquiry. Only this time the British people should ask Blair about the comprehensive peace framework negotiated by the CIA in the two years before the War.

Oh never fear. MI-6 tracked our back channel talks exhaustively, even appearing at restaurants in New York at lunches with senior diplomats on the Security Council. British Intelligence had full knowledge of the Peace Option. Blair's top intelligence staff understood that every single objective demanded by Washington and London could be achieved through peaceful means.

That included major oil contracts for the United States, and a package of highly innovative democratic reforms proposed by Baghdad to guarantee the successful repatriation of Iraqi Exiles and international election monitoring. Iraq also offered major reconstruction contracts for U.S (and British) corporations in any post-sanctions period. Iraq promised massive engineering contracts, translating to thousands of jobs and billions in revenues for any U.S. (or British) corporation that helped rebuild Iraqi infrastructure after sanctions.

Everything the U.S and Britain wanted was free for the taking. No blood had to be spilt. And this was no last ditch appeal for peace. It was a rock solid framework, with careful attention to all potential flash points for future conflict identified by the CIA. The truth is not remotely similar to what the international community has been told.

Once the British people understand the right line of questions, let us start again— with the truth this time. For the sake of historical integrity, Tony Blair should face the people to answer questions that would have been asked if Assets like myself had not been locked in prison to protect pro-War leaders in Washington and London. If Tony Blair deceives the British people in this next round of questioning, let him face criminal prosecution for perjury and obstruction of justice, like any other British citizen who lies under oath.

For that matter, I am prepared to stand before Parliament myself—as one of the very few Assets covering Iraq before the War. I am ready to look the people in the eye, and raise my hand to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Assets are primary sources of intelligence, in direct contact with people and events after all. As it stands, for all the tens of thousands of pounds financing this inquiry, the British people don't know anything. Why not ask those of us who do?

That would wipe the smirk off Tony Blair's face. Because now Assets are free from prison and phony indictments. And Tony Blair's legacy of deception is finished.

-Susan Lindauer covered the Iraqi Embassy at the United Nations for seven years before the invasion. She is the author of "Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No Alternative But an Alternator

At first, I thought it was just the battery. A week ago, when this cold snap on the northeast began, all six cells were low, with ice crystals in half of them. It shouldn't have happened since I'd just gotten the battery at Wal-Mart (I know, I know, but I've been on a low budget for two years now) last summer.

So I filled up the cells with warm water, got a jump start from a neighbor and I was golden... for about three or four days.

Until today, I needed a jump start from one person or another and very quickly my neighbors started getting tired of my asking them for jumps or to move their cars so the guy jumping me could park alongside me. At 11:30 last night, a 5 degree night, I had a friend come by after work to jump me. That worked last night and by this morning the battery was again deader than Ronald Reagan's political career.

I brought him back today, he got it started again and he told me about a local mechanic who is actually open on Sundays. I took the car to him, he hooked it up to a diagnostic machine and it proved that the alternator, not the battery, was at fault. I told him to change it out, knowing it would be over well over $200. Right now, the car's running better than ever and the battery's holding a charge.

It was over $275. Now I won't come close to making the rent on the 1st or most of my bills. So why did I have this done?

Well, just on general principle, everyone ought to have a car. We scrimped, saved and battled to buy ours, to get it on the road and keep it on the road. But there was another, more specific and urgent motivation for authorizing this work to be done.

Since the week before last, I've had three phone screenings with a company that for now shall remain nameless but they're in northwestern MA. They're looking for a quality assurance guy and they responded to my resume. Then they called back the next day and, after that screening, they said they might or might not be in touch within 20 days to set up an interview.

About four or five days later, the HR Director called me up and scheduled an interview to talk to their most senior Quality Assurance people on Tuesday afternoon. You see where I'm going with this, right?

My interview's in a day and a half and this company seems to treat its employees as well as they treat their customers. Optional pension and non-matching 401(k) plan, 11 paid holidays, two weeks paid vacation, 5% bonus based on your annual income, free health and dental insurance (making me responsible for just the co-pays) and a starting wage that's far more than anything I've ever made.

It's a ways out and it would be 3rd shift (they call it "7th shift") but it's an opportunity I simply cannot afford to turn down and I need to get to this place the day after tomorrow (in fact, until the battery started fucking up, I've been meaning to make a dry run to this place so I'd know the way better on the actual day of my interview).

But paying this garage nearly $300 when my bills are due in a week put us so far behind I'm too scared shitless to even look at my bank balance online.

It was a crappy decision I was forced to make and the alternative would've been unthinkable. I simply would not have been able to turn the car over again once I'd turned it off.

I don't want to jinx myself but I think I have a better than decent chance of getting this job. They seem high enough on me thus far to call me 15-16 days earlier than expected to line up an interview with their top QC people and at least one of their executives. If I get the job, we'll be golden and I'll never have to make another public appeal for money ever again.

Yeah, I know, I've told the same story before. "I got a great job lined up and I need help just this one more time." But none of those companies (some of them were temp agencies) have showed the level of enthusiasm this one has. These guys, a 100+ year-old company, are Old School and seem to take care of their people the way companies used to before the shit hit the fan.

I didn't ask for this to happen to us and I was forced to make an unpalatable decision, the lesser of two evils. It wasn't as if I blew what little money we had on coke and hookers. I need to get to this interview. Even Job finally got a break and I think this is mine.

I need about $300 to barely stay solvent and now that I've provided myself with the means to drive to northwestern MA to get to this job interview, we need a bit of a cushion until I get hired to pay for the alternator work. Anything you can kick in will be deeply, greatly and incredibly appreciated and, whether I get this job or not, this will be the absolutely last public appeal I'll ever make. I know a lot of you are also hurting and those aren't the people to whom I'm appealing. But I am appealing to those of you who are a little luckier than most.

It's a miracle, perhaps a miracle of friendship and spirit of giving and an unshakable belief in the efficacy of random acts of kindness that's the reason we still do not owe anyone. But we have an $84 gas heating bill that's due in days, $650 in rent that's due in a week plus other bills and little food in the house. That's a lot of expenses for a household that's bringing in just $272 a week. Plus, there are no shelters in the area to which we can go even if we do get evicted and no place to store our belongings.

What donations you can voluntarily continue to make will of course be, as always, personally appreciated. Yet, come what may, this will be the last public appeal I'll ever make for help. I really am working my ass off toward self-sufficiency even to the point of interviewing for a job 40 minutes away and for third shift. So whatever you can do will make a difference, trust us. Thank you in advance.

In fact, I'll do this: As a token of my appreciation, if you can help us out to any degree, I'll offer to send you a file attachment containing either the full manuscript versions of either my comedy/drama American Zen or my new hostage negotiation thriller, The Toy Cop.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beck and Call to Arms

As far as I can tell, this hasn't been getting a lot of play in the blogosphere but Glenn Beck's new target, political theorist Francis Fox Piven, has been getting death threats. In fact, the threats on Ms. Pivens' life are getting so numerous and virulent that the Center for Constitutional Rights has been forced to write a letter to Roger Ailes to do something about it (I'm sure he'll get right on it, too).

I don't know what it will require to get Beck off the air as easily as we got Hal Turner off the air. Will it require another 300 sponsors to pull their ads off Beck's show or will the local constabulary have to find Beck standing over a gunshot murder victim with a smoking pistol in his hand?

Beck is a frequent contributor to a Drudge-wannabe right wing rag called The Blaze and one such (understandably) anonymous article about Piven makes use of highly edited sound bytes to "prove" Beck's conspiracy theories. The comments, 336 strong as of this writing, are pretty revealing of the mindset that praises Beck as a national hero for "confirming" all their fears about elitist, leftist radicals while wishing or even outright threatening a 78 year-old woman with death.

Imagine the furor that would ensue if Keith Olbermann or Michael Moore wrote a pack of lies about Phyllis Schlafly or Nancy Reagan that resulted in dozens of death threats. Here's a sample of some of the wit and wisdom of Beck's Crazy Base (Note: I'm deliberately ignoring all the stupid, offtopic and immature comments about this nearly 80 year-old woman's loss of pulchritude and championing Communist China's human rights violations and deliberate devaluing of their currency to undercut foreign trade):

The cemeteries are half empty and this witch is still running around living?

Choking on her tongue would be a fitting way for this POS to die!

@ M4Colt…. I’ll pay up for the bullet….I”m $1.07 bid….I’ll just have to let Glenn shoot her though…. he’s the best shot out there… :-)

Why hasn’t she had an “accident” yet?…lol…

Prison? No, traitors are usually executed. The Rosenbergs got fried in the Chair. Hanging is cheaper, and you can reuse the rope.

I have a Home Depot right up the street from me….

She needs to ch oke at her next meal.

She’d break a rib gagging at least.
Old b!tc# needs to just die.

Remember her kind are the first ones to be taken out and shot after the revolutions!

Just let me know when she dies so I can piss on her grave.

Please meet your maker…TY

Hang this witch for treason ! She don`t even deserve a trial because she has convicted herself with her words .

This creature is a prime candidate for one of those infamous death panels.

If you were to read all 336 comments, as I just have, you'll note that about half seek to discredit or rebut Piven's call for Chinese workers to strike with disparaging comments about her appearance and twisting her words while grossly inflating her influence with the current administration.

These criminally misinformed right wing cunts have also disparaged unions, call federal laws requiring a minimum wage and taxation "government meddling" while actually championing or deliberately overlooking Communist China's countless human rights violations that go back to the days of Mao.

In short, the sons and daughters of Glenn Beck, these Constitutionalists who only trumpet the First Amendment when someone agrees with them, are among some of the most insane people in America.

Just keep in mind by Election Day next year that these right wing freaks also have the right to vote.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

35 at 50

This is partly what John F. Kennedy said 50 years ago today. He stood tall against Communism, then a very real threat, and genuinely tried to usher in a prosperous time for all Americans, not just Wall Street and the wealthy.

Today, the spineless cunt in the Oval Office, #44, is playing Hu's your daddy with a figurehead from the only Communist superpower left on earth and essentially making the dollar, and us, weaker. At best, Obama's is taking to intolerable extremes what JFK said about "never fearing to negotiate", especially as regards the Arabs, the Chinese and the Republicans.

Lo, how the mighty have fallen. Kennedy would be ashamed that Obama's a member of his party.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kabuking the Odds

House Speaker John Boehner and comic relief Michele Bachmann announce the repeal of health care in the House today.

So the House repealed the health care reform bill on their end. Their employers in the pharmaceutical and health insurance rackets will give the Republican Party a little something extra in their Christmas stockings this year.

Now all they have to do is get the Democrat-controlled Senate to vote accordingly then get Obama to sign it, thereby completely abolishing his (sadly) signature domestic achievement on which he's (unwisely) staked so much of his political capital. Yeah. That'll happen when James Sensenbrenner wins an Olympic gold medal in figure skating.

So, in the event this sci fi, speculative fiction scenario actually plays out, what would they replace it with?

Nothing. That's the whole point. This was political kabuki theater, lots of incoherent, Tea Party screaming, signifying nothing. It was a waste of perhaps millions of dollars when the House could've been focusing on passing bills that actually would've benefited the American people and would've had an actual chance of passing.

Never mind that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that repealing health care would add about $230 billion to the deficit over the next ten years. Forget the fact that millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions would have no protection if the health care reform was completely repealed, which would mean the immediate end of the high risk pools that were implemented until the law fully takes hold in 2014.

The Republican Party wants to take all that away from you and whatever little good the HCR reform would've done us. They want to go back to the good old days, that wonderful slice of time between 1971 and last year, when the Nixon administration essentially let Kaiser Permanente run roughshod over its policy holders and set the standard for the most expensive and least efficient health care infrastructure in the industrialized world. Let's just do away with those middling little protections churlishly disguised as actual reform, even though it never addressed single payer universal coverage and didn't have a public option and had covered end of life counseling removed after Sarah Palin held up and shook poor Trig and started screaming about death panels.

Let's just go back to the good old days when health care wasn't a right but a privilege available to the relatively few who could afford it.

The problem is, and this point seems to elude the Republican Party, much of our health care is employment-based and many, many people are out of work and are under-employed. Those who are underemployed are either told to go to their state health connector, which, as with Massachusetts, has been co-opted by the biggest private HMO's, or that they'd have to assume a higher and higher percentage of the weekly premiums.

Theater is more important than real life. And the real life fact is that 45,000 people, or one every 12 minutes, dies through lack of health care. Perhaps Alan Grayson wasn't being facetious when he said the GOP's health care plan can be boiled down to two words: "Die quickly."

We're at a Moral Crossroads

It's a dilemma, a dichotomy. And we have to make a choice soon.

Rep. Gabby Giffords was almost killed two Saturdays ago and six other people near her did die. Over a dozen more were wounded. We did the proper thing and deplored the violence and heated rhetoric that almost surely caused Jared Lee Loughner to shoot up a shopping center in Tucson.

If you've been paying attention these last couple of years, you'll know this was merely the latest example of extremist violence that had claimed the lives of dozens of innocents. There was Dr. Tiller's murder, Joe Stack flying his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. Three Pittsburgh police officers murdered by a neo Nazi. Another neo Nazi shot up the Holocaust Museum, taking the life of a guard. Two people were killed in a Unitarian church in Tennessee by a homophobic right winger whose home contained right wing hate literature that was published by major, mainstream publishers. A Glenn Beck fan was stopped just in time by California Highway Patrol officers before he could kill members of the ACLU and the Tide Foundation. A Rand Paul staffer curb stomped a liberal activist, dislocating her shoulder.

The list, tragically, goes on and on.

Violence, we piously say, isn't the answer. We mourn the loss of rational political and social debate, wring our hands that so many of us had lost our faith in the ballot box, that we've forgotten the noble art of agreeing to disagree.

Violence is not the answer.

But then we read about the stunning turn of events in Tunisia, in which the stupendously corrupt government was toppled after a few days of mass protests. The President fled to Saudi Arabia and the Prime Minister smoothly stepped in, promising an end to rule for life and an all-inclusive coalition government that guarantees all political factions in the small North African country would have a say in their governance.

The people of Tunisia, a flea-bitten country with a George Lucas-based economy, took to the streets and dozens died protesting the lack of jobs and the government's corruption. Time and again we see this: Violent protest spilling out into the streets and young men throwing rocks when all peaceful avenues have been blocked. Sometimes, as in Tunisia, it works. Other times, as in Iran and Mexico, it doesn't.

So where does that leave us? For every Alan Grayson we elect, we elect literally about 500+ crooks, multimillionaires capitalizing on and thriving in a system that cuts off access to government to anybody who isn't or doesn't play ball with the big boys. They schmooze with lobbyists and special interest groups and are licking their chops and rubbing their hands at the prospect of the SCOTUS's Citizen's United vs the FEC decision that will allow any US-incorporated group, foreign or no, to contribute unlimited sums of cash and can do so in secret.

Lobbyists have so infiltrated our government, they're the unofficial 4th branch. They attend the weddings and baptisms of lawmakers, are their landlords and, eventually, their coworkers. The current political system is so staggeringly corrupt that a complete cleaning out of all corporate and special interest influence would hollow out the government and Washington, DC would be a ghost town.

The ballot box, if the 2010 midterms are any indication, is no longer the answer to our problems, let alone the solution. A CEO, Chairman or high-ranking lobbyist is a person who will never be put on hold when they call a Senator while the rest of get short shrift if we write that same senator with a legitimate concern. If we're lucky, we'll get a form email thanking us for contacting them.

A subverted Golden Rule applies: Whoever has the gold or money gets to make the rules and automatically gets access. Only a tiny handful of lawmakers care about bringing jobs back to America. Your president doesn't care. He created about a million and a half jobs with a half-assed stimulus bill and archly pimp-sticked liberals time and again for saying that wasn't enough. He had undermined the power of the unions who'd backed him. He has broken every major campaign promise from Iraq, to closing Gitmo to a public option to disclosure of torture photos and videos.

He saddled us with a health care "reform" package that essentially amounts to a massive bailout of an industry that was already wealthy enough to spend tens upon tens of millions of dollars and sent an army of 3300 well-paid lobbyists that protested that massive bailout because they wanted more.

We're spending over $700,000,000,000 annually on war and war profiteers while undercutting public education, ramping up Afghanistan, dragging our heels in Iraq, killing innocents in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere, have ramped up extraordinary rendition and now, in direct contravention of the 4th amendment, our persons can now be groped in the most intimate of places while our electronic devices are confiscated, often without being returned.

To the last administration we willingly gave up all of our civil liberties and constitutional protections in the name of national security. In return, they set up a neofascist dictatorship that has only gotten worse with time, one that Obama has absolutely no intention whatsoever of dismantling. He is as arch, churlish and as defensive as the last idiot who occupied the Oval Office and, while making us all criminals and suspects, he instead protects the corrupt and bloated war criminals of the last junta before him.

They have met the enemy and it is us.

And no one, to my knowledge, had ever hit upon the irony that the Constitution that granted us those sacred liberties and rights was written by the Founding Fathers at a time when our national security was at its most tenuous and vulnerable, certainly a time in which it was far more vulnerable than when the PATRIOT Act that replaced the Constitution was ratified.

Does that sound like people who can be dealt with in a civil, rational way?

So here's our dilemma: Do we continue pretending this government will listen to us when we vote, when we mass once a year or so at the Capitol a couple of hundred thousand at a time with signs, that they'll actually take under serious advisement our concerns about joblessness, the deteriorating economy, the nation-hollowing wars we finance decade after decade?

Or do we take a cue from Tunisia and topple the whole rotten, dog-eared deck of cards with blood and rocks and not care how history judges us?

Monday, January 17, 2011

They Have a Dream: If the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Was a Republican

The Pentagon's Chief counsel, Jeh Johnson, and the (snicker) National Black Republican Association keeps insisting that Dr. King, who'd preached and practiced nonviolent opposition throughout his entire life, was actually a closeted Republican and would've been happy to see us go to war with Iraq and Afghanistan. Actual Republicans just loves them dead liberals and Democrats like Dr. King, FDR and President Kennedy when it suits them.

So let's theorize what a Martin Luther King speech would've sounded if all these right wingers and war hawks were right in their daydreaming that Dr. King was one of theirs.

I had a dream.

I had a dream in which godless multinational corporations like Exxon, Halliburton and General Electric would eventually replace nations and political ideologies, a world in which these new nation states would hire Blackwater and other security firms to kill and subjugate the poor and brown who would stand up to them in the name of the Almighty dollar and it was good.

I had a dream in which these brutally, savagely avaricious corporations would lead us to The Promised Land of Iraq's oil fields and untapped trillion dollar mineral deposits of Afghanistan and work in solidarity and brotherhood with our lobbyist-infested Congress as they led us to a new frontier of corporate, industrial profits.

I had a dream, my Republican brothers, in which all men, black or white, yellow or red, male and female, adult and child, poor or middle class, would achieve equality and be subjected to across the board sodomy at the hands of these divine corporations, where a man is judged by his credit history score and not merely the content of his character, I had a dream!

I had a dream, my fellow conservative-Americans, in which the baby Jesus who had also practiced nonviolent opposition, would one day like a juvenile Scientologist cult member be shanghaied, reprogrammed and matured by my evangelical brothers and sisters and armed and militarized to reign supreme over the heathens in the Middle East and Central Asia.

I had a dream in which the First Amendment no longer constrained God Almighty and our armed forces would be properly evangelized, proselytized and churched in direct contravention of the establishment clause and the First Amendment.

I had a dream (Testify, my black Republican brother!) in which the greatness of this country and its most precious resource, the American people, would be sold piece by piece to Asian dictatorships and parted out like an old Ford Edsel, in which a man of education, training and experience could not get a job slinging hash in a fast food restaurant unless he knew the manager and was willing to work nights for minimum wage and no health care benefits.

I had a dream, brothers! I had a dream in which no shiftless, black welfare queen as described to us by our Great Communicator Ronald Reagan, may his soul rest in peace, will ever again drain the national coffers, in which every man, woman and child of all races, all colors, all religions and all creeds save the white and wealthy would have to relearn their frontier survival instincts and fight in alleyways and in dumpsters for scraps of cat food.

I had a dream, brothers and sisters, of a nation that is second to many and first to none, a nation so dumbed down by budget cuts to education and all Americans not in white, Ivy League colleges would have to educate themselves like their forebears, like my Republican brother Abraham Lincoln, who conditionally freed my ancestors and wouldn't've let me vote or let me hold public office.

I had a dream in which corporations would be judged as equals to ordinary American citizens, granted personhood by a misinterpreted Supreme Court ruling, a nation in which no corporation would be judged but by its stock portfolio and not on the content of its character, its morals and ethics and complete lack of a corporeal being.

I had a dream of an America such as this, brothers and sisters. But when I woke up I realized my divine dream had come true and we are in the Promised Land.

Hallelujah! Free at last, free at last, Thank the Lord, we are free at last to starve as men!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Being a Baby Boomer Sucks

Today's my 52nd birthday and while I guess at this age I should be happy for any day I wake up, I'm also not very happy about it. Being a baby boomer suddenly isn't very fun, anymore, and here are some reasons why:

  • 10) I'm now getting, I shit you not, offers from the AARP and news alerts about hip replacement recalls. I suppose after today, I'll be getting brochures from Forest Lawn.

  • 9) My still-living friends are now vastly outnumbered by the celebrities I don't recognize.

  • 8) I find myself talking more and more about "the good old days" that I complained about while I was living through them.

  • 7) I still remember back when cars had points, credit cards were made of cardboard and you could actually grab a pack of cigarettes before buying them.

  • 6) Teenagers started calling me "sir" years ago and the only people who call me "young man" are nursing home residents.

  • 5) My health insurance, if I had it, would be almost eight times what my car insurance costs.

  • 4) Even kids and dogs think twice before jumping on me.

  • 3) Movies I've seen and books I've read are brand new again after more than a year.

  • 2) I still remember Ronald Reagan in Death Valley Days, sponsored by Borax.

  • 1) For the first time in my life, the President of the United States is younger than me.

  • So yeah, it sucks being a baby boomer. If you want to make my birthday a little happier, you know where the Paypal button is (bottom of the page) or you can buy a copy of my novel American Zen, which is still on sale for $2.99 on Kindle.

    But later today, Mrs. JP and I will go a local pub and hoist a couple while watching the Patriots annihilate the Jets in the first round of the playoffs. Go Pats!!!

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Sometimes Right Wingers Will Surprise You

    ...and not always in a bad way.

    What follows below is a proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution and it came from a very surprising source: Mrs. JP's right wing mother. She didn't write it, obviously, but she got it in her email inbox, it made sense to her and she passed it along to her daughter and several others.

    It makes sense to me, too. In fact, if I was writing the language of this amendment, I'd also propose that no member of Congress register as a lobbyist ever instead of making them wait a year or so. No member of Congress ought to be able to capitalize on their political connections on K Street. I would also propose that Congressmen and Senators get docked a commensurate amount of their salaries for every vote they miss, including during election years. In the real world, we get docked if we don't show up for work. Why shouldn't they?

    Pass this along to 20 people on your email list ( I will) and let's start snowballing some consensus.

    Worth considering.

    Subject: Fw: Congressional Reform Act of 2011

    The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971... before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

    Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

    I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

    In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

    Congressional Reform Act of 2011

    1. Term Limits.

    12 years only, one of the possible options below.

    A. Two Six-year Senate terms

    B. Six Two-year House terms

    C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

    2. No Tenure / No Pension.

    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

    3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

    4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

    5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

    6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

    7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

    8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11. (will have to pro-rate current plans since those currently serving may have no independent retirement plan-Norm) The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen.

    Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

    Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

    If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

    THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Assclowns of the Week #86 the Maniacs edition

    (Artist unknown but poached from D r i f t g l a s s's blog.)

    For going on six years, Assclowns of the Week has been a satirical feature in which I've rarely played it straight, one that's played mainly for laughs through political and social satire. In the wake of Saturday's heinous and horrific shooting in Tuscon that stole six innocent lives and wounded about a dozen others, this is one of those times.

    There's enough blame to go around (and if you were to listen to right wingers and "sensible" mainstream media pundits on CNN and elsewhere, liberals are equally to blame for the heated rhetoric), thereby making a new edition of ACOTW inevitable and all too easy to write.

    As expected, Saturday's shooting that put a US Congresswoman in a critical care unit and six others in the morgue didn't account for all top ten spots. There was also Tom DeLay and Judge Pat Priest (2) for the Hammer being able to dance out of the courthouse before he saw the inside of a jail cell and in advance of an appeal.

    So I hope you can understand the almost complete paucity of humor. This just isn't the week for it. Consider this a PSA that warns about the fascistic and intolerant rightward tug that's ironically turning us into the very nations that we're invading and occupying in the name of democracy.

    10) Jack Shafer

    .oO Why am I hearing that farting sound between my ears? Oo.

    Usually Jack Shafer gets it right. That's why I cannot understand what he was thinking, or if he even was, when he wrote this brain fart for Slate entitled,, "In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric." In fact, there's so much stupid to wade through, I'll just have to cherry-pick the parts that don't paralyze my brain. Like this, for instance:
    The call by Sheriff Dupnik and others to take our political conversation down a few notches might make sense if anybody had been calling for the assassination in the first place, which they hadn't. And if they had, there are effective laws to prosecute those who move language outside of the metaphorical.

    Yeah, technically, no one called for the assassination, despite Sarah Palin targeting Giffords' district with a crosshair gun sight and Giffords' opponent Jesse Kelly vowing to remove her from office and giving his supporters the chance to shoot an M16 with him.

    But if there were actual laws that were actually being enforced and those responsible for the hate rhetoric that Shafer is downplaying, then we have to believe it would've lessened the probability of the assassination attempt. He also criticizes Sheriff Dupnik for his calls for civil political discourse. Shafer makes the assumption that Dupnik was out of the loop and knew exactly as much we knew when the fact is that law enforcement is almost always ahead of us by a news cycle or two. Elsewhere, Shafer says,
    Any call to cool "inflammatory" speech is a call to police all speech, and I can't think of anybody in government, politics, business, or the press that I would trust with that power. As Jonathan Rauch wrote brilliantly in Harper's in 1995, "The vocabulary of hate is potentially as rich as your dictionary, and all you do by banning language used by cretins is to let them decide what the rest of us may say." Rauch added, "Trap the racists and anti-Semites, and you lay a trap for me too. Hunt for them with eradication in your mind, and you have brought dissent itself within your sights."

    Our spirited political discourse, complete with name-calling, vilification—and, yes, violent imagery—is a good thing. Better that angry people unload their fury in public than let it fester and turn septic in private. The wicked direction the American debate often takes is not a sign of danger but of freedom.

    Shafer seems to be making the same conflation here that the mainstream media are making: That all heated rhetoric is equal in terms of vitriol, passion and culpability and that it's all good. Once again, we were not the ones targeting Republican districts with crosshairs, shooting members of Congress, physically assaulting members of Congress on victorious election nights, curb-stomping liberal activists, revealing their addresses and those of their families, vandalizing congressional offices and homes and so forth. The liberals are not the ones that need policing. And the "freedom" that Shafer champions was taken over the line to irresponsible hate speech that is, or should be, an actionable federal crime.

    9) Tammy Bruce

    Tammy Bruce surveying the land for liberals.

    Surveyor's symbols? Uh huh.

    It would be a stretch to say that 2nd amendment zealot Tammy Bruce represents the mainstream media but she certainly didn't help to clear the waters any when she broadcast an interview with Sarah Palin aide Rebecca Mansour across the "The United States of Tammy."

    Mansour, typically, was puling that people were holding Palin at least indirectly responsible for the Tucson shooting and pathetically trying to claim the crosshairs weren't crosshairs at all. At one point, Bruce said, "Well, it's a surveyor's symbol." Despite the fact that Palin herself called the symbol a “bullseye icon” on her Twitter account.

    Poor, poor Tammy. It must suck being the anti-Rachel Maddow while being deprived of about 95% of her intelligence, charm, integrity, credibility, popularity, talent, good looks, celebrity and audience.

    8) Jeh Johnson

    Last Friday, Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s General Counsel, made an amazing pronouncement that could’ve been concocted by the Texas Board of Education: Dr. Martin Luther King would’ve been in favor of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is what the African American Johnson said at a Pentagon shindig honoring Dr. King (for some bizarre reason):
    “I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack. Every day, our servicemen and women practice the dangerousness -- the dangerous unselfishness Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968.”

    No, Jeh, nonviolent opposition's greatest champion would’ve been fucking appalled to see that we repeated history 40 years after the Gulf of Tonkin non-incident, that we’d invaded two sovereign nations on equally flimsy and false pretences, that we’d merely substituted napalm for white phosphorus, that we’d been practicing torture and extraordinary rendition on a massive scale, enriching war profiteers at an exponentially greater clip than we ever saw in Vietnam, that millions of Iraqis, Afghanis and Pakistanis have died while thousands more US soldiers were killed and tens of thousands maimed while we continue to neglect our infrastructure here at home and that we’ve been continuing these policies for the last two years under the genial eye of our nation’s first African American president and a fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, especially upon realizing that invading said sovereign nations not only did not enhance our national security but even endangered it.

    Or, if he’d lived, maybe he would’ve turned Republican and bought a giant foam finger to wave at Bush-Cheney town halls, who knows?

    7) Trent Humphries

    Some right wing nut job had to say it so Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries bravely went where angels fear to tread by claiming that Rep. Giffords’ shooting was her own fault.
    It's political gamesmanship. The real case is that she [Giffords] had no security whatsoever at this event. So if she lived under a constant fear of being targeted, if she lived under this constant fear of this rhetoric and hatred that was seething, why would she attend an event in full view of the public with no security whatsoever?

    There are so many things that are wrong with this “She had it coming to her” argument that‘s been used all too many times against rape victims, one hardly knows where to begin. First, I’ve never known for a victim of a political assassination or attempt to be blamed for being attacked. And secondly, on a deeper level, how he can square Giffords’ unproven trepidations with Sarah Palin’s equally unproven innocence of any wrongdoing is a marvel of intellectual gymnastics. If there was a credible danger, then we must first look to the people who threatened to use “Second Amendment remedies” and did use crosshairs over specific districts, then to those who cross that line, not to those who didn’t put up a rope line and keep their constituents at bay with security. Thirdly, I know of no politician who would willingly endanger their life and those of their constituents simply in the interests of “political gamesmanship.” Fourthly, obviously the irony was lost on Humphries that MSNBC and the Guardian were seeking his opinion because they know fully well the Tea Baggers are largely to blame for the rhetoric that has surely led someone somewhere to resort to a “Second Amendment remedy.”

    And, as always when disaster strikes, Republican opportunism is always half a step behind. Here’s a quote from a (typically misspelled) fundraising letter from the Tea Party Express:
    “Instead of prayers for the victims and their families, the Left was consumed with using this massacre to score political points by blaming the tea party movement, Gov. Sarah Palin and now Rush Limbaugh.”

    They don’t have much of a problem, however, being consumed with using the massacre to score some donations.

    6) The Westboro Baptist Church

    What do these inbred lunatics hope to accomplish by inappropriately protesting funerals? That we'll change our minds and decide not to bury the dead?

    The pathologically homophobic Westboro Baptist Church out of Kansas has been a national embarrassment for decades, especially when they began protesting funerals of our war dead and high profile public figures such as Elizabeth Edwards. But even the progeny of Fred Phelps hit a new low when they announced they'd protest the funerals of the six innocents who were killed in the mass shooting at Tucson last Saturday.

    These hillbillies who serve as nothing more than the acid test for the limits of the First Amendment would protest the interment of Jesus Christ fresh off the cross if they thought they could score points with the Lord whom they profess hates us for our tolerance of homosexuals. Seems to me Fred needs a hug. I say we send GOPROUD and the Log Cabin Republicans to their compound for a group hug so they can all ignite each other in a matter / antimatter-like reaction.

    5) Sarah Palin

    (Courtesy Father Tyme at Blondesense)

    "Don't Retreat, Reload" (provided your Daddy's there to do it for you), is what professional victim Sarah Palin said last spring when she put up a map consisting of crosshairs over 20 Democratically-held districts, including that of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8), who was gunned down and almost killed last Saturday.

    Shortly after the shooting in Tucson, Mooselini made another balcony appearance to offer "condolences" to the Gifford family, inappropriate considering the congresswoman is, thankfully, still very much alive and expected to pull through. Gee, that was a nice gesture, considering that she'd literally and personally targeted Congresswoman Gifford's district using incendiary symbols and rhetoric.

    Problem is, before her Facebook comment went up, Palin's people also took down the Take Back the 20 site that had originally put up the offending map but not to worry. The original image is still up... on Palin's own Facebook page.

    It seems that Palin's flying monkeys took a cue from their Athena hunter queen and began a vigorous, rigorous campaign to delete any and all negative comments about Palin within minutes, often within seconds. So much for reverence of the Constitution. Apparently the only part of that document that right wingers have any use for is not the First amendment but the Second.

    It’s also pretty telling that the last tweet put out by Palin before acknowledging the Tucson shooting was to crow about the price of gold going up to almost $1400 an ounce. And speaking of gold and its fools...

    4) Glenn Beck

    Sometimes, you've just gotta love random image generators.

    If you were to listen to self-styled Minute Man Glenn Beck, you'd have to go aaaaalllll the way back to 2005 when he openly fantasized about killing Michael Moore on his radio show to find the latest example of violent rhetoric. Uh huh.

    Well, Glenn Beck’s own War Room (a louder, weepier and sweatier place than Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room) begs to differ. Two years ago, Beck imagined a war game scenario for 2014 and asked viewers what they’d do. Later that year, he fantasized about poisoning then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Then last year, after obsessing about the Tides Foundation for a solid week one summer, Byron Williams took a cue from Beck and packed an SUV full of weapons and was going to shoot up the ACLU and the Tides foundation and wound up wounding two Oakland police officers, instead. He cited Beck as an influence, thereby officially giving us one degree of separation between a right wing gun nut and a Fox host.

    So if you were to discount all these things, then, yeah, Beck hasn’t threatened anyone or incited violence as a response to imagined conspiracy theories in going on six years.

    3) Rush Limbaugh

    Shorter Rushbo: "Thank you, Jared Lee Loughner, from the Democrat Party, for almost killing one of the most beloved members of our caucus." At least, that's what Goebbels' reincarnation spat last Tuesday into his gilded microphone from the place where Viagra and Oxycontin Went to Die.

    Rush is usually made the poster child for the Republican Party but we should also make him the poster child for the right wing media and this week proves a point: That Limbaugh is spearheading a conspicuously and suspiciously defensive wind machine that immediately geared up within seconds of the Giffords shooting. Limbaugh and Co. is acting as if we’d verbally put the gun in Palin’s hand. We did not. We have merely been stating that Palin, as well as Limbaugh and too many other right pundits to enumerate, have contributed to the toxic atmosphere of hatred, conspiracy fears and bigotry that feebler minds will interpret as license to take up arms and seek “second amendment remedies”.

    .oO Has anyone noticed that I'm using this tragedy to score political brownie points? No? Good. Oo.

    2) Tom DeLay and Judge Pat Priest

    The news this week wasn't all bad. Tom DeLay, one of the most stunningly corrupt politicians in American history, which is saying something, was "sentenced" to three years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering but not the actual money laundering charges. Since DeLay was convicted of laundering $190,000 to other Republicans to finance their own campaigns, that means DeLay stands to serve one year in jail for every $63,333.33 that he'd laundered. But that's not as good as it would sound at first.

    Because that stands in stark contrast to another case in which two Mississippi sisters serving double life were recently released by Gov. Haley Barbour because one sibling needs a kidney that the other sister is willing to donate. The Scott sisters, who are African American, had already served 16 years in prison for stealing $11, which amounts to one year in prison for every .69¢ that was stolen by three other people (Barbour's real reason for springing them was because dialysis cost too much).

    Meanwhile, at about the same time, in DeLay's home state of Texas, 51 year-old Cornelius Dupree, Jr. was recently released after spending 30 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit when DNA evidence eventually exonerated him.

    Dupree is also African American.

    DeLay got sprung on $10,000 bail (or $1000 cash bond) and will likely remain free for months or even years while his lawyer Dick Deguerin will spend untold amounts of time and money tying up the courts through an endless appeals process. While the three innocent African Americans have been class acts after their racial persecution and openly grateful for their freedom, an unrepentant DeLay railed on for 10 minutes before Pat Priest about partisan politics playing a part in his conviction, even though DeLay never saw the inside of a jail cell and got to walk out of the courthouse. Bleeding heart judge Pat Priest, after giving a DeLay a slap on the wrist and only 10 years probation on the actual money laundering charges in lieu of 5 more years, became one of the few judges to allow a man to walk free while appealing his conviction, something denied the abovementioned money-, influence- and melatonin-challenged African Americans.

    Let's hope next time we see DeLay on TV, it'll be a full season of Dancing With the Cons.

    1) Jared Lee Loughner

    Last Saturday morning, Jared Lee Loughner became merely the latest and most talked about lone right wing nut in a seemingly endless goose-stepping procession of right wing, gun-clutching insurrectionists. But to hear the right wing and establishment media talk about it, Loughner just (Poof!) spontaneously appeared in a vacuum.

    To date, not one major right winger has ever taken responsibility for what was put into this young man’s addled brain during his formative years (he was only six when Timothy McVeigh carried out Oklahoma City). No one is born hating or distrusting the government and people like Glenn Beck are the ones most loudly talking about debt, tyranny and gold and, gee, how nice would it be if we just all went back to the wildly fluctuating gold standard?

    The grinning psychopath pictured above isn’t directly affiliated with the Republicans or the Tea Party. But he is a feeble-minded, incoherent young man who, inspired by hateful, paranoid rhetoric, shot up a shopping center in Tucson, killing six and almost killing a US Congresswoman. Someone reached him and it’s high time somebody fess up and admit it instead of trying to propagate fantasies that we’re just having a robust national debate or that liberals are just as responsible for the toxic discourse as conservatives. And whoever had reached him and turned him to the Dark Side, it damned sure wasn’t Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, PETA or the ACLU.

    Dishonorable Mention:

    Louie Gohmert of Texas must think it's still the mid 19th century when redneck congressmen could go to the Senate and beat liberal Senators half to death with impunity. Because Gomer's bill is by far the most peckerheaded of all the ones thus far in this 112th Congress: Let's arm all the Congressmen and allow them to bring their guns into the Capitol Building.

    (In memory of Judge John Roll, Christine Green, Gabriel Zimmerman, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard and Phyllis Schneck, who died in Saturday's shooting.)