Hillary For President? They’ve Gotta Be Kidding

Just read an interesting piece by Andrew Sullivan, a bright and very well informed guy.  He brings up a couple of relevant points regarding the Clintons.

Based upon Mrs. Clinton’s possible run for the Presidency,  they need repeating.

Point one, is that Goldman Sachs, “has donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation.”  Point two, is that the payoff  has continued.  Last year, Sullivan reports, “she gave two paid speeches to Goldman Sachs audiences. (Her customary fee is $200,000 a speech.) …”

Hillary for President?  They’ve gotta be kidding.

The Argument For A Return To Typewriters

 

Good morning sports fans, including those of you who got hooked on the World Cup, and are now going through post-event depression with nothing to look forward to.  At least not for another four years.  Why does it have to be every four years?  Why not every two years?

If the world can get together every couple of years to stage a form of international tribal warfare without any death or destruction through the good clean fun of international futbol, then maybe we can figure out a way to stop slaughtering our own kind through endless warfare with bullets and bombs?   If we truly are at the top of the chain of life intellectually, and it appears we are, as our big brains are the only thing we really have going for us, then why have we continued killing one another, presumably since the dawn of man (and woman)?

Keeping in mind, with consideration for the timeline of the Universe that we’re barely out of the cradle as a species, one wonders if the U.N can’t stop the killing, then maybe FIFA can?  Maybe a common love of sports can overcome our primal need for self-destruction?  Maybe FIFA can come up with a set of rules to run the world?  To get Hamas and the Israelis to stop shooting at one another and possibly control government spying in the process?  Although getting the United States to stop spying on its allies is really a stretch, even in the absence of a declared war.

One of the most interesting stories out there today - which means you almost surely will not see it on local tv news - is that some German officials, still stinging from American electronic spying on their Chancellor, are now considering a return to typewriters.  Wait, let me do that again.  A RETURN TO TYPEWRITERS!”  That’s better.

Can you imagine?  Going back to those old Royals and Smith & Coronas, although they wouldn’t need to take it quite that far.  They could just print it out on their laser printers using word processing technology to keep things moving along while eliminating the need to get ink all over their hands from changing those messy ribbons.  They’d still have to deliver their messages via some sort of “snail mail,” but hey, think about the payback.    They’d have to beef up the post office, and that would mean job creation, as we return to the comfort of relative privacy in moving forward by taking a step back into the world of snail mail.   Top, top, top security, might mean delivering messages by hand using…..gulp….actual people with security clearances or old fashioned messenger services.

Putting people back to work through a combination of government and private payrolls, as opposed to laying them off to increase corporate profits to line the pockets of the already wealthy?   Something that might help rather than hurt the once great American middle class?  Now we’re really getting radical.  Karl Marx, might even like it.  Which means people who don’t read would surely condemn the idea.

Think of it.  Being able to communicate with another human being without the certainty that someone has the capability of either listening in on your conversation or peering over your shoulder reading every word of every email and text message you send.   Feel the hot breath of the NSA on the back of your neck?

Maybe humanity isn’t ready for all this hi-tech?  Maybe we’re getting ahead of our ability to control this monster of our own creation?  It’s nothing new, you know.  Mary Shelly, came up with this very same idea back in 1818 with Frankenstein.  The difference, of  course, is that Shelly’s creation was imaginary.  Ours, on the other hand, is real.  Its video screen glow stares back at us on a daily basis.

Feels like something needs to be done.  It feels like we’re whirling out of control with no electronic privacy at all.  None.   If they can get to Angela Merkel, they can get to you.  Making matters even worse, our credit card numbers are out there bouncing around all over the place, just waiting to be scooped up by sociopaths eager to drain our accounts and wreck our credit ratings.

Isn’t there a certain feeling that it’s only a matter of time before you become a target?  Just a matter of numerical elimination before your number comes up and you get your brains hacked out?  Kicked to the economic curb with the rest of the peasants?  Wonder why you’re stressed out and maybe a little paranoid?

This is better living through technology?    Same old story.  We thought we were buying beachfront and ended up in a swamp.

A return to snail mail is starting to sound pretty good.  Or we can wait for the villagers to grab their torches and pitchforks and go nuts again, in yet another universal admission of how underdeveloped and arrogant we truly are.

World Cup Final - No Goals But “Keeping Us Entertained”

 

Meanwhile, over on World Cup Soccer at half-time, “No goals, but loads of talking points.”

Really threw me when they switched their coverage from ESPN over to the local ABC station. Found it, following some momentary expletive-laced panic.   I’m hooked on the World Cup, and I wish they wouldn’t play with me like this.

Even when you get the channel right, there’s a lot of catching up to do.  First I had to learn the rules, then the point system for pairings (which I still don’t understand, but I’m re-reading “Algebra Made Easy”) and now they’re changing channels on me.

Every time the announcer mentions  “Schweinsteiger” Mel Brooks pops into my head and I start laughing.  That leads to a mental association with Inspector Clouseau trying to pronounce “Mr. Stutterstat” and Mrs. Leeverlilly from “A Shot In The Dark,” and I’m off to the races.  None of it has anything to do with soccer, of course.   Or futbol, sorry.  It’s just the way my mind works when nothing’s happening.  Probably better not to try and understand.

A German player obviously suffered a concussion in the first half but they left him in the game. Pulled him out a couple of minutes later when he fell down. Gotta start taking concussions more seriously? Of course that would pretty much be the end of American football as we know it.

The director, apparently getting edgy about the lack of scoring and nothing happening other than the apparent concussion, breaks away from the game twice to go to beauty shots of Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue, with Christ appearing to hold the setting sun in his arms.   One of the announcers remarks that as beautiful as the shot is, the director should probably stay with the action, as it would be a shame to miss it should one of the teams actually score.

I’m fully enjoying the World Cup, but plan on taking a short nap unless somebody scores in the next ten to fifteen minutes.

Oops, there’s a yellow card.  Not sure, but I think it was Schweinsteiger who just threw a body block into Frau Blucher.

It helps to have an active imagination when there’s no scoring going on.  I sense a shootout may be on the way but I can’t be sure.   A.B. Normal and I are still trying to figure things out.

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Okay, I’m back and we are now into the first overtime.  The British announcer has once again proven his people to be grandmasters at understatement by saying these are “Two good teams just canceling each other out a little.”  Works best if you imagine it with an English accent.

Somebody wake me when they get to the shootout.

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The fans screaming brought me to.   Players for both sides are on the ground, grimacing and holding various body parts.  It looks bad.  Schweinsteiger is down.  Now he is back on his feet, but with blood streaming down his face.   He’s out of the game.  He’s back.  The announcer has just suggested that Schweinsteiger might have set a record for the amount of time spent on the ground nursing injuries. What a guy.

Wait a minute, Mario Gotze just scored for Germany.  That, could be it.  It is.  Final score, Germany wins, 1-0.

What a great game.  Wish we didn’t have to wait 4 years for the next one.

Germany Tells Top U.S. Spy To Get Out

So Germany is telling our top spy to get out of their country?  Let’s take stock.

Our top spy is being booted out of Germany, our ally, whose leader, Angela Merkel, is among the most popular contemporary national figures in Europe, while two whistleblowers (heroes to many), have been forced to seek asylum, one in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the other in Russia while the NSA is broadly condemned for unnecessary spying on American citizens and Republicans pretend that children crossing the border (under the protection of an Act signed by George W. Bush) is a “crisis” demanding immediate attention above all else and that President Obama and the Democrats are to blame.

I’d say the Obama Administration is to blame for all of this except that I’d be playing right into the hands of the Republican Party whose leaders created this mess, from his holiness Ronald Reagan to Cowboy Dubya Bush, and who continue to place their party above the good of the nation.

The New York Times reported on July 7th, “Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin.”

Bush, signed the bill and the kids are arriving at our doorstep by the thousands.

But you say!  Obama, should be doing more!  What can he do?  Whatever he tries will either be stonewalled by a Republican filibuster in the Senate or stomped on by the Republican majority in the House or slighted for requesting more money to deal with problems at the border.  Texas Governor, Cowboy Rick Perry (who acts like a first cousin to Dubya Bush), suggested that the President could solve the problem with an executive order rather than even attempting to request funding from the Congress?  Not very clever and very obvious,  Governor Perry.   Another executive order.  And another condemnation from the Republican Party for circumventing the process.

But the real big one for the President, is that he is utterly helpless to do much of anything with regard to pulling in the reigns on the NSA and its illegal spying on American citizens (and Angela Merkel).  If he does, and if there is another attack on the U.S., he will be roundly blamed by the Republicans for letting it happen.  And they know it.  They’re already blaming him for illegal immigration prompted by an Act signed by Cowboy Dubya Bush.   This blame game has been their plan from the very beginning.

Senators Introduce Bill To Secure Women’s Health

Received the following from Senator Elizabeth Warren, regarding a bill she is co-sponsoring to fight the impact of the Hobby Lobby Case.

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         Sen. Elizabeth Warren

I was stunned by last week’s Hobby Lobby ruling.

Stunned that we live in a world where the Supreme Court of the United States of America would even consider putting the interests of big corporations before the fundamental rights of American women.

Stunned that the Court would establish precedent for one enormous slippery slope on letting employers deny individuals health coverage for any medical treatment.

Today, my Democratic colleagues and I are fighting to do what the Supreme Court failed to do: to protect the basic rights of American women and families.

Led by Senators Patty Murray and Mark Udall, we’ve just introduced a new bill – the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act. The bill reverses the Supreme Court’s decision by making it clear that employers cannot deny access to any of the health benefits required by the ACA – not immunizations, not blood transfusions, not HIV treatments, and not birth control – while preserving reasonable accommodations for religiously exempt employers.

If we’re going to respond to Hobby Lobby, it’s got to be through a legislative fix. And if the Republicans won’t fight for the women they represent, then we’re going to take that fight to them. Let them explain why they think employers should decide what health care a woman can get covered by her insurance .

Sign up now to show your support for the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act.

I cannot believe that in 2014 I have to send you an email about protecting access to birth control. We’ve got a lot of other big problems in our country to tackle right now.

Millions of people still haven’t recovered from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. More and more young people are drowning in student debt. Too many workers are struggling to stay out of poverty on a minimum wage, and millions of others are struggling to save for retirement. Seniors keep getting told they’re going to have to get by on less.

But the Republican Party has made it clear: They want to spend their time working to deny women access to birth control and punch as many holes in the Affordable Care Act as they can.

Just look at the facts:

  • In 2012, Republicans tried to pass the Blunt Amendment – legislation that would allow employers and insurance companies to deny women’s health care services – even birth control – based on any vague moral objection.
  • When the Blunt Amendment failed, the Republicans resorted to hostage-taking. Remember last year’s government shutdown that nearly tanked our economy? That all started with a GOP threat to get Democrats to change the law so employers could deny coverage for birth control.

When Democrats wouldn’t cave and the government shutdown backfired, the Republicans turned to their conservative friends on the United States Supreme Court – five justices who are among the top ten most pro-corporate justices to serve in the last half-century – to do what Congress and the American people would not: give corporations rights to determine women’s access to health care coverage.

We cannot stand by while the radical right of our country conducts a full-scale assault on women’s rights and basic health care.

Help us fight back against the Hobby Lobby ruling. Sign up now to show your support for the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act.

This is 2014, not 1914 – and we’ve had enough.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

So (gasp) There Were WMD’s In Iraq?

This could be a real problem for progressives, me included, who have been carping about the “fact” that Dubya Bush took us into Iraq, even though no WMD’s existed.   This is not to say I’m progressive about everything.  Just some things, and the claim that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s, is one of those things.  I never believed it.

This morning I’m reading that the “ISIS” army has sized a chemical munitions storage facility north of Baghdad, containing some  “2,500 degraded chemical rockets filled decades ago with deadly nerve agent sarin or their remnants were stored along with other chemical warfare agents,” according to a report in the Guardian.

So Bush, Cheney and Conde Rice were right?  There were WMD’s in Iraq?  What will ISIS stumble across next, a stockpile of deteriorating nukes Saddam had hidden away in some giant spider hole?

Ah, but wait.  It may not be that simple.

A report from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies states-

“Although the damaged Bunker 13 at Muthanna contained thousands of sarin-filled rockets, the presence of leaking munitions and unstable propellant and explosive charges made it too hazardous for UNSCOM inspectors to enter. Because the rockets could not be recovered safely, Iraq declared the munitions in Bunker 13 as ‘destroyed in the Gulf War’ and they were not included in the inventory of chemical weapons eliminated under UNSCOM supervision.

And from another section of the report-

The UNMOVIC inspectors were forced to leave the country in March 2003, shortly before the start of the Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom). In the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion and the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime, the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG) scoured Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, but found none. The ISG concluded that contrary to the pre-war intelligence estimates, the Iraq had unilaterally destroyed most of its undeclared CW stockpile after the 1991 Gulf War and had not resumed the production of chemical weapons.

And another-

Because of the hazardous conditions in Bunker 13, UNSCOM inspectors were unable to make an accurate inventory of its contents before sealing the entrances in 1994. As a result, no record exists of the exact number or status of the sarin-filled rockets remaining in the bunker. … In the worst-case scenario, the munitions could contain as much as 15,000 liters of sarin. Although it is likely that the nerve agent has degraded substantially after nearly two decades of storage under suboptimal conditions, UNMOVIC cautioned that ‘the levels of degradation of the sarin fill in the rockets cannot be determined without exploring the bunker and taking samples from intact warheads.’ If the sarin remains highly toxic and many of the rockets are still intact, they could pose a proliferation risk.”

 

 

 

 

It appears that Iraq, had destroyed most of its chemical weapons stockpile and that the chemical weapons that were left behind were deemed to be so old and degraded as to be useless.   According to the report in the Guardian, “A US state department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, expressed concern on 20 June about Isis seizing the complex, but played down the importance of the two bunkers with “degraded chemical remnants”, saying the material dates back to the 1980s and was stored after being dismantled by UN inspectors in the 1990s.  She said the remnants “don’t include intact chemical weapons … and would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely use this for military purposes or, frankly, to move it”.

So the threat from WMD’s claimed by the Bush Administration continues to have been fiction, although you can be sure some on the right will seize upon this “degraded” and unstable stockpile, as evidence that the Bushies were right and the lefties were (and still are) wrong.

Free Ray Nagin!

 

Poor Ray Nagin.  His head must be spinning.  He’s been sentenced to 10 years in prison and all he did as Mayor of New Orleans, was to (allegedly) accept some stuff from some people who wanted to be nice to the now former Mayor, in the hope that he would keep them in mind when the City issued contracts, including some following Hurricane Katrina.

What’s wrong with that?  Our entire federal system operates on bribery.  Why should Nagin go to prison for something our federal legislators accept as their norm?   It’s D.C. SOP.  But it’s not, you say?   This was personal remuneration and not campaign funding, you say?   What’s the difference?, I say.  Funding is funding.   Federal officials can receive it now, in the form of campaign “donations” (legal bribery), or they can get it later, by accepting high-paying positions with private companies including lobbying firms once they leave the House or Senate.

Call it what you will, a pay-off is a pay-off.   A bribe, is a bribe.

We need to either free Ray Nagin, or throw much of the Congress in the pen with him.   Or we could change campaign finance law and rewrite other laws so that public service would be just that, public service, as opposed the the current corrupt and self-aggrandizing system we are forced to endure.

Poor Ray Nagin.  He didn’t do anything some of our esteemed Senators and members of the House do every day.  And then they go on the tube an smile about it.  I’d be smiling too.

The Great American Immigration Distraction

Texas Governor, Rick Perry, has refused to greet the President of the United States with a handshake at the airport.

Perry’s people said there would be no handshake, that the Governor would prefer a formal meeting to discuss the crisis on the border.  President Obama, has agreed.  There will be a meeting, at which, I hope, the President of the United States will look Perry in the eyes and demand to know why he is telling people that he, the President, could be part of a conspiracy to bring illegal immigrants from Central America, across Mexico and into the United States.

The President of the United States is promoting illegal immigration?   Wouldn’t that be similar to the Republican Party refusing to move forward on an immigration reform bill in the House  for purely political reasons?

It’s nuts, right?  Of course it is, or I should say Perry is, for suggesting something so absolutely ludicrous.  Even if he made  the allegation on FOX News. Which he did.

Under President Obama, the number of border patrol agents has reached an all-time high.  So has the number of deportations.  But then, nothing this president does will satisfy the Republicans.  That’s their game plan.  Has been from the beginning.   Acting more like a crime syndicate than a political party, Republican gang leaders met at a D.C. watering hole on the night of the inauguration and decided to opposed everything the Democrats and the Obama Administration would propose, even if that meant doing harm to the country.   It’s a torch Rick Perry, continues to carry as he lies to anyone who will listen about the President being involved in a conspiracy to increase illegal immigration.

To borrow from Bill Maher, it’s all just “batshit crazy.”

Apparently the Governor of Texas has been spending too much time at his “Niggerhead” hunting camp, dreaming up new attacks on Obama, now that he and the other wingnuts of the Republican Party have played out their other insane charges against the President, who, I admit, needs to swing back more often than he does.

Obama’s greatest fault may be that he continues to try and be far too reasonable with people who have no interest in reason or compromise.  Their only interest is self-interest.  Everything else is a ruse.   Like this latest immigration “crisis” which Perry and other wingnuts lay at the doorstep of Mr. Obama. Never mind that in 2008, then President George W. Bush signed the  William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act,”  making it mandatory for the U.S. to grant special protection to undocumented children entering the country, or that for decades Republican growers and businessmen eagerly hired illegal immigrants who came to the country seeking employment while Republican political leaders, supported by those same growers and businessmen, condemned the system for its failure to fix the nation’s “immigration problem.”   It’s been hypocrisy at its worst.

Truth be known, the real ongoing conspiracy, is undoubtedly that Republicans don’t want the country to solve its immigration issues.  The immigration “crisis” which regularly drives them to near hysterics,  has in the past, and continues in the present, to provide them with cover for their multiple misguided deeds and efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, their failure to get Osama bin Laden, their outing of a working CIA agent, their ramping up of illegal spying on U.S. Citizens, their move to eliminate due process for Americans on American soil, their abject failure at dealing with Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of the American middle-class and on and on, including their ongoing refusal to pass any legislation that would benefit the country for anything other than warfare, because it might give the appearance of accomplishment for President Obama.

And what has Mr. Obama done?  Or perhaps I should say, what was he able to do before a newly elected Republican House set out to block every single initiative he sent their way?  Barack Obama, set us on the path to national healthcare for all Americans.  That alone, that one accomplishment, is monumental.

The Republican Party’s willingness to do whatever they must to damage the image of this president with near total disregard for the cost to the nation is at best anti-American.  At worst, it’s clearly sedition.

The issue of illegal immigrants is not new.  In 1982, while working for KABC-TV, I accompanied Immigration and Naturalization Service agents (this was before the creation of ICE) on a raid of the onion fields in Ventura County.  The grower had sirens installed in the trees around the fields.   When he saw the INS trucks, he blew the sirens and his illegal employees began to run.  They didn’t get away.  They were rounded up not like human beings, but like so many animals, and placed in buses to be taken back for processing.  While riding back to Los Angeles I commented to one of the INS agents that I couldn’t believe what I had just seen, that it wasn’t the kind of thing I imagined was happening in America.  “Do you speak Spanish?” he said.  “No,” I said, “I don’t”  “Better learn it fast” he told me.

So here we are, 32 years later and Rick Perry and the Republicans have just discovered we have an immigration issue?  Give me a break.  None of it, of course is Barack Obama’s creation.  None of it is his fault.  It’s been going on for decades while our politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, looked the other way because the illegals were coming here for jobs, most of which, the American public had no interest in doing.  Do you want to go out and pick onions from sunrise to sunset?

Federal legislation providing immigration reform won’t happen until Republicans in Congress let it happen.   That hasn’t happened, and it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, because the Republican Party needs the immigration “crisis” to hide behind, lest the American people begin discussing just how badly they’ve mismanaged the nation.

The immigrants will continue to arrive, so long as there are jobs.  So long as they can improve their lives by doing so.   It’s an American tradition of more than 350 years.   And Republicans will continue to claim it’s a “crisis,” to deflect the American public’s attention away from their many failures.

The Hobby Lobby Decision - Another Symptom Of Broken Government

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

This snippet from “rawstory.com”  is one of the the most concise explanations of why the U.S. Supreme Court horribly overstepped its judicial function, with five conservative Roman Catholic men, letting their personal religious beliefs override federal law.

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned in a scathing, 35-page dissent that her colleagues had “ventured into a minefield” with their ruling, arguing that the majority had invited “for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.”’

Boom.  There it is.   It is not the job of the Supreme Court to make law, it’s the job of the Congress.  And they did, with the Affordable Care Act.  And the five conservative justices struck a piece of it down.  They re-wrote the law and that is not their job.

What happened to the balance of power between the Judicial, the Executive and the Legislative?  When did the the U.S. Supreme Court become all powerful?   Who is directing the thoughts and beliefs of the highest court in the land?

Is the conservative majority on the court being directed by a clear vision of the need to interpret laws written by the Congress and signed by the President?  Or are their rulings being unduly influenced by Vatican dogma, leading them to strike down any law they find to be in conflict with their personal religious beliefs?

Words To Remember On The 4th

                          (photo courtesy bernie sanders)

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The following is reprinted from the website of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont.

“As we celebrate this July 4th weekend, it’s important that we not forget the profound vision embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Today, while the very rich become richer, the poor become poorer and the middle class disappears, the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%, and 95% of all new income goes to the top 1%.

Today, in terms of life expectancy, poverty has become a death sentence.  With better health care, education and nutrition, the top 1% has seen an increase in their longevity.  They now live 12 years longer than the people at the bottom of the economic ladder, people who are actually seeing a decline in how long they live.

Today, while it is projected that 60% of the electorate will not vote in the next national election because they don’t see much to vote for, the top 1% will be spending hundreds of millions to elect candidates to make them even richer.

Remember the Declaration of Independence: “…… governments are instituted among Men (and we would add Women), deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it….”

Now is the time to alter our government.  Now is the time to stop the movement toward oligarchy.  Now is the time to create a government which represents all Americans, and not just the 1%.

No more excuses.  We must all become involved in the political process.

Happy July 4th weekend.”

Bernie

Happy 4th Of July - Please Don’t Dump On Old Glory

 

 ”Character is much easier kept than recovered.”  -  Thomas Paine

Happy 4th of July.  Back in my hometown in Minnesota, it was a day to let our colors fly, and God help anyone who did anything to show disrespect for the stars and stripes.  The town was populated by veterans of World War II, who had fought and bled for the American ideal represented by the flag.   Some of their friends and neighbors had died for the colors.  The people in my hometown were ready to do it all over again should the need arise, should they again be called out to protect our freedom.

There was a national sense of propriety with regard to the flag.   It was a time before marketers had cheapened the image of the stars and stripes by putting it on nearly every piece of clothing and accessory imaginable from pens to sunglasses.  What’s next?  Red, white and blue diapers and condoms?   Wait….they’ve already done it.  I searched the Web and found a “Stars and Stripes Patriotic Bloomer Diaper Cover for the 4th of July.”  On ebay you can buy a 3-pack of “Stars and Stripes Cloth Diapers.” 

I can see a scarf or maybe a cap, but diapers?  Seriously?

Who started this?  Wonder Woman and Captain America?  At least they’re superheroes.  Who are we when we’ll put the symbol of our national pride on almost anything if it’ll sell?  If it’ll sell, then anything goes?  Is that who we are?

Were those vets back in Minnesota taking things too seriously?  Or have we lost our way?

No Money For Peace?

 

Al Jazeera reports that the UN’s budget for peacekeeping missions is empty. No money left, and the nations can’t agree on restoring the fund. Funding for warfare on the other hand, appears to be limitless. One wonders what the impact would be if the trillions being spent on war were instead spent on the promotion of peace?

Perhaps humanity will never evolve to the point of being able to settle our differences without war? Perhaps the people who wrote “The Day The Earth Stood Still” had it right? Perhaps we need to give the UN a literal nuclear option, the ability to completely annihilate those who refuse to settle their differences peacefully?  Maybe then we would stop slaughtering one another? 

 

Happy Birthday, Yosemite

 

Seeing that today is the 150th birthday of Yosemite National Park, I felt compelled to comment.

Best wishes go out to Yosemite on its 150th birthday.  After cancelling a trip to Lake Louise in Canada due to a new-found fear of flying immediately following the attacks of 9-11, we arrived in Yosemite by car, where we were told we needed to strip the interior of our vehicle of any kind of liquid or foodstuff.  Even a single stick of gum or a bottle of water we were told, might cause the bears to tear our car to bits in the night.  We were assured that it was a distinct possibility.

We then entered the lodge to discover that my wife had left most of her luggage back in Los Angeles.   Having nothing to wear was no problem though, as the lodge had lost our reservation.   After finally getting a room, my wife found a small note on a bedside table informing us that we shouldn’t be startled to see field mice running about, as it was a very old building and apparently the mice were permanent residents.   Whatever the case might be, they were there and clearly we were going to have to live with it.  That’s pretty much what the note said.

Badly in need of liquid sustenance, we went to the bar where we paid a small fortune for two drinks only to be threatened by a swarm of what appeared to be either bees or yellowjackets on the bar’s veranda.  I’m not sure exactly what type of stinging insect they were, as my wife and I were busy running away.

Later, Karen remembered she had forgotten half a protein bar in the car.

I saw the photos posted by the front desk of cars with their doors torn off by the bears, who would undoubtedly find even half a protein bar to be irresistible.  With that in mind we headed for the parking lot which was through the woods and badly lit.  So there we were.  In the woods.  In the dark.  Without a valet in sight.   Alone, except for the bears who were surely somewhere nearby, huddling in a confab trying to decide which car to attack.

We decided to let them have the car and the half-eaten protein bar and returned to the lodge, walking fast enough to get the hell out of there but not so fast as to make the bears think we were afraid  - which might have given them a reason to chase us, maul us to death and then eat us.

Just to keep the good times going my brother then called from Minnesota, with news that my mother was dying.  I now had to  go to  the front desk and cancel the reservation I had been forced to engage in verbal warfare to obtain only a day before.

Back in L.A., I was relieved to find U.S. airspace was once again open, the airlines were all up and running, and I was able to buy two tickets to Minneapolis.   Neither of us wanted to fly anywhere, but what were we supposed to do?   When your mother is dying, you go.

So happy birthday Yosemite.  I know none of this was your fault, except maybe for the field mice and screwing up our reservation, but you’ll have to forgive me if I never return.

U.S. Supreme Court Rockets Us Into The Past

 

More than 40 years in journalism have left me just a bit jaded.   However, some days continue to leave me speechless.  This is one of those days.  It is nearly inconceivable to me that the Supreme Court of the United States, or perhaps I should say, the five boneheaded, backward thinking, Neo-feudal justices that make up the conservative majority, could in their infinite stupidity rule that pregnancy is not a health issue and that public-sector unions have no real right to collect dues from their memberships.

So the five Neo-feudal justices mystical and ancient religious views on sex trump the reality of people actually having sex and needing to deal with it in the 21st Century?  Did the justices consider that their decision could be viewed as a refusal to separate church from state, and that it could also be interpreted as meaning that companies will now be allowed to order their employees to attend church services twice a day, or pray to Mecca regularly?  If a company owner can impose his will with regard to his workers sex lives based upon his personal religious beliefs, then why not other aspects of their lives as well?  It’s already happened.  Henry Ford, did it with workers on his first assembly lines.

Does this open the door for a Christian Scientist business owner to refuse offering any traditional healthcare at all?

Moreover, if a company owner can impose his religious belief system on his employees, then don’t his employees have a right to practice their system of beliefs while on the job, regardless of what their belief systems might be?   Shouldn’t Scientologists be able to take time off for regular auditing breaks?  Or is this whole freedom of religion thing a one-way street?   And if the Court is doing away with it, then why not our other freedoms as well?   Sadly, the boneheaded conservative five are working on it.

The other Neo-feudal ruling, limiting a union’s ability to collect dues, plays right into the hands of the masters and kings of big business who are destroying our middle-class and turning us into a two-class society with only the very wealthy at the top, hiding in their gate-guarded estates, and the rest of us on the bottom, trying to scratch out a living on whatever pittance the wealthiest 1% will allow.  “Gathering up the crumbs from their tables,” if you will.

We need to begin recognizing contemporary liberals and conservatives for what they actually are.  They are progressives and regressives.   Being a true conservative has little or no linkage with those on today’s far right who wish to take back us into the 19th Century.

Most frightening of all is the number of Americans who, with the assistance of an increasingly negligent news media,  do not understand or do not care, as they continue to believe somebody “up there” is going to take care of it all for them.  I’m convinced that many of these folks belong to the “pray the gay away” crowd.

This isn’t to condemn people of faith.  I was raised as an acolyte in the Episcopal Church, and went through years of Bible study.  We were people of faith.  But, we were also common sense Minnesotans who understood that “God helps those who help themselves.”  That too, was drummed into me to provide some balance between the value of blind faith the obvious need to deal with reality.   So often in life, balance is everything.

Those on the far-right in the United States are no better than the crazed and largely unschooled ISIS fighters marching across Iraq, who are willing to kill in their drive to make church (mosque) and state, one and the same.  Is there any difference between that kind of religious mania and the greed-driven promotion of carbon-based fuels that’s destroying the planet?

Ignorance is the tyrant’s friend and Fascism, his byproduct.

Time For The West To Stop Meddling With The Middle East

Some wonderful thoughts from Bill Moyers, on the need to honor the lessons of history and the words of T.E. Lawrence.

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