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Thursday, June 30, 2011

WONDERWIFE AND THE COOKIES

Howdy, y'all:

Sometimes, I repeat a column that I've posted previously. In view of what's happened in New York regarding marriage equality, I thought this was a good time to repost this one. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy 4th of July to you all!
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My wife, who is normally a rational and intelligent woman, decided the other night that she wanted to make some chocolate chip cookies for herself. I need to explain to you all that she is a wonderful engineer, a terrific electrician, a designer and constructor of structures par excellance – and a not-so-great cook. Not that she’s afraid of the kitchen, oh, NO – but, by mutual decision, we split up the household chores a long time ago, and cooking is not something that she normally does (although, I must say, she makes the best chicken-fried steak in the world - but I digress). I do all of the easy and mundane stuff, like housework, cooking, balancing the checkbook, formulating plans for world peace – y'all know, the inconsequential stuff – and she does all the hard stuff, like designing and building machines that are 50% more energy-efficient and 40% less polluting, holding down an engineering job in a male-dominated profession, starting and successfully running an engineering consultancy that builds factories all over the world - and changing light bulbs.

So, on this eventful evening, we went into the kitchen, took down 60 or so cookbooks (out of the 3 bajillion or so that I've collected over the years), and set out to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe that we could find. She finally decided on the one that’s on the back of the chocolate chip package (what a surprize), and we got the ingredients all gathered together, and I left her to her own devices. I went into the living room for some quiet, philosophical time alone (read serious Nintendo playing), and, about 20 minutes later, she came into the living room in tears. Something wasn’t working right and her cookie dough was not turning into cookie “dough”, and she wanted my help.

I went into the kitchen, and looked at the gooey, sticky mess in the bowl, and said ECH, YUCK, and various other wifely sounds of absolute disgust, and asked her how on earth she had managed to concoct such a mess (and a very gooey, slick, oily, nasty-looking mess it was, too). She told me then that she had used cooking oil, like the recipe said to do, and that this was the result. I just looked at her, completely dumbfounded, and asked her if she’d read the recipe. She said that, yes, she had, and since she couldn’t find the solid shortening (or the butter, which was sitting smugly in the butter compartment of the 'fridge), she’d used what she could find, which was the liquid cooking oil, and that she did not understand why it had turned out so badly. I didn’t laugh in her face – which, believe me, took a lot of doing – and pointed out that solid shortening or butter was required, found the solid shortening for her, and beat a very hasty retreat from the kitchen while she was dealing with the mess and starting over.

So, I can hear you asking, what on earth was the problem? After all, don’t all little girls learn how to cook when they’re very small? Well, yes, under normal circumstances, they do – but there’s a joker in this deck that y’all aren’t aware of. Let me explain:

My wonderful, feminine wife, you see, didn’t start life out as a girl. She is a male-to-female transsexual and started life out as a male – and everyone “knows” that “boys don’t cook”, unless, of course, they’re one of those fags on the Food Channel.

Oh, and the cookies? The second batch? Best darned cookies I ever ate!



Sunday, June 26, 2011

SOMETIMES, JUSTICE DELAYED DOESN’T MEAN JUSTICE DENIED


I don’t know if I ever told any of y’all this, but I used to be a big advocate of capital punishment. The “kill ‘em all and let their version of God sort them out”. That changed a bit ago, and it changed with two words: Clarence Brandley. Typical Texas story: He is an African-American male, who, in 1981, while a janitor at a high school in Conroe, Texas, was wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of Cheryl Dee Ferguson, a 16 year-old student. OF COURSE, he was the only black janitor in the school, so equally of course, he HAD to be guilty, regardless of evidence to the contrary, right? Mr. Brandley was held for nine years on death row.  He was actually strapped to the table preparatory to being executed when his sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After lengthy legal proceedings and community outcry - lots and LOTS of outcry, from all sorts of folks both black and white - , the case eventually ended in the Supreme Court of the United States. Clarence Brandley was freed in 1990. He's since become a Baptist preacher, has married, and has moved on with his life. He is a compassionate, loving, dedicated man who has done and is doing a lot of wonderful work within the community.

The point of all of the above, of course, brings me to yet another shameful incident here in Texas. Not that THAT should be a surprize to anybody; after all, Texas is *THE* death penalty state. Let me tell you about Anthony Graves. Anthony Graves was locked up for nearly two decades for a crime he did not commit. In 1992, Graves was arrested and charged with capital murder in the deaths of a grandmother and five children in Somerville, Texas - murders he didn't commit. "I went from home to death row," Graves said.

From the Texas Monthly article (http://www.texasmonthly.com/2010-10-01/feature2.php):

“Since August 23, 1992, Anthony Graves has been behind bars for the gruesome murder of a family in Somerville. There was no clear motive, no physical evidence connecting him to the crime, and the only witness against him recanted, declaring again and again before his death, in 2000, that Graves didn’t do it. If he didn’t, the truth will come out. Won’t it?” In point of fact, it did. From the same article: “Editor’s note: On October 27, 2010, just a month after the publication of this story, the Burleson County district attorney’s office dropped all murder charges against Anthony Graves and released him from the county jail, where he was awaiting retrial.”

The follow-up article (again, thanks to Texas Monthly (http://www.texasmonthly.com/2010-11-01/webextra6.php) goes on to document what happened when Burleson County – and the county prosecutor Bill Parham and Kelly “HANG ‘EM HIGH” Seigler – finally sat down and reviewed the case together with the group of St. Thomas University students that initially brought the case to their attention. Both of them became completely convinced that Anthony Graves had been wrongfully convicted, that there was absolutely NO evidence to support the allegations of his guilt, and that he was innocent. PERIOD.

You’d have to know the two individuals involved to know just how very rare this is. I called Ms. Seigler by her nickname, “HANG ‘EM HIGH”; in the state of Texas, that nickname applied to this woman is both accurate and apt. Her conviction rate is formidable, and she, like Bill Parham, is a person that follows the rule of law and the evidentiary rules with a zealot’s fervour. This is a good thing; the lady does her homework. Which, of course, is why her conviction rate is so high, and why she enjoys the reputation that she has of complete and spotless integrity. I’m glad that we’ve got somebody like that on our side – and even gladder that she is open to the possibilities that someone might actually be innocent, even though convicted by a jury of his supposed peers. He was declared innocent by a special prosecutor in October 2010, but Graves was denied compensation by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs because the order detailing his exoneration lacks the phrase "actual innocence."

That one statement is so shameful and chuckle-headed as to defy belief. I mean, what else is needed? A special dispensation from On High? I can see her point, but this is really ridiculous.

Well, I’ll say this for GovGoodHair at least. He’s a bigoted fool (as witness the “Jose Cuervo” remark that he made while addressing the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) last week), but at least even he can recognize injustice when it whaps him in the face. On Friday, Governor Rick Perry signed a special bill that was specifically designed by the legislature that will allow the former death-row inmate to receive $1.4 million in state compensation.

Mr. Graves filed a lawsuit in February against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the state's top law enforcement officer, seeking a declaratory judgment of innocence that would pave the way for him to receive the compensation. Graves' attorney, Jeff Blackburn, said Wednesday he will press on with the suit even though the money issue has been resolved. "Without a declaration of innocence, Anthony will never have his name and reputation restored," said Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas. "He will always be a man convicted of capital murder. He has the right to have that stigma removed."

This is some of the best news that I’ve seen in a long, long time. It actually gives me hope that all of the innocent folks that are sitting on death row and in prison right now will receive their justice. Sometimes, the system does work right.

Sometimes.

THE CASE FOR LEGALIZING POT

T'other day, one of the stranger incidences of politicians climbing in bed with each other happened, and I’m still not sure exactly how I like it – except that I DO like what they were proposing, up to a point.

Representative Barney Frank and Representative Ron Paul have introduced a bill to attempt to reconcile the illegality of the drug under federal law with the 16 states who have already made medical marijuana legal. The House bill is being deemed the "the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition," by the Marijuana Policy Project. This is supposed to “end the federal war on marijuana and letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference."

Understand, y’all – this is not a bill to legalize pot – more’s the pity. The bill, designed to limit the federal government’s role in enforcing marijuana laws, would allow states to legalize, regulate, and tax the drug, according to a press release from advocacy groups. The release was confirmed by Rep. Frank’s office, where a spokesman for the Massachusetts liberal emphasized that the measure “is not a legalization bill.” According to the release, “The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.”

More than a dozen states have laws that allow the sale of marijuana for medical use; Texas, unfortunately, is not one of them. Again unfortunately, the practice is not legal under federal law, regardless of what the states that have legalized medical marijuana are doing within their borders, and federal authorities have raided marijuana dispensaries.

OK, so what exactly are Rep. Frank and Rep. Paul trying to accomplish?

For one thing, they are trying to get the FedGov’s draconian grip on what constitutes a legal drug that doesn’t have to go through the FDA’s approval process relaxed. For another, and this is explicitly stated in the bill, Dr. Paul is following his Libertarian principles and trying to get the FedGov OUT of the drug war, at least as far as pot is concerned; for him at least, this is a state’s rights issue, and the way that he's going about getting THAT door opened a bit is really pretty slick. There are other issues, of course, that are equally pertinent.

The War On Drugs has been an abject, ruinously expensive failure. There are more drug addicts these days getting less treatment and longer jail sentences than ever before. Yeah, yeah – I know that using pot SUPPOSEDLY leads to use of harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, which has been rather conclusively proven to be at best a misrepresentation of fact and at worst a lie. Access to pot does lead to access to other, harder drugs, but 99% of regular pot smokers are not interested in hard drugs. I know at least a double dozen folks here in Texas that grow their own, and I know several folks in other states that hold licenses to either grow and sell or obtain legally and sell medicinal marijuana. Except for pot, every single one of them abhors the use of hard drugs, and most of them are actively involved in trying to stop kiddos from using pot as well – at least, until the kids are of legal age and can make that decision for themselves.

I’ve lost count of the number of chemistry teachers that have publicly been busted for making PCP, crystal meth, crack, crank or any number of designer drugs in the chem labs at school. Some of them were junior high school teachers. Do we have a wonderful educational system or what? However, that’s a column for another day.

What, exactly, is wrong with decriminalizing marijuana, at least in a medicinal sense? Nothing at all that I personally can see – and, trust me, I do NOT have a dog in this particular hunt. I am violently allergic to THC; just being around somebody that’s smoked pot makes me violently ill. So why am I advocating decriminalization, and, ultimately, complete legalization of a substance that I can’t use?

Very simply put, two reasons: One, it’s a cash crop that can be regulated and taxed. This would help the farmers that are currently going broke trying to grow food crops, both animal and vegetable. The hemp plant, basically, is a weed that will grow anywhere, with very little encouragement. It can be used for a variety of other purposes, such as biofuel feedstock, clothing, rope and oil, to name just the ones that I can think of offhand. Two, it would cripple the illegal drug trade that is making such a mess of Mexico. The biggest market for pot from Mexico is the United States. Check out the news stories on pot busts if you don’t believe me.

This is a source of revenue that this country sorely needs. Right now, the Mexican drug cartels are getting rich off two things: Pot and black-tar heroin. By allowing medicinal marijuana to be licensed and sold, the way is cleared for the complete legalization of and legitimate growing of pot in this country. By doing so, this country makes money and helps cripple the illegal drug trade – plus it helps people that really need the medical benefits of marijuana use for pain control, glaucoma, and the estivation that comes from being treated for a variety of life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer.

Plus, it would give the states themselves a ready revenue source that all of them sorely need. I can still remember “Blue Sundays”, when you could buy groceries on Sunday, but if you needed a new spatula, you had to wait until Monday because nothing that wasn’t food could be legally sold on “The Lord’s Day”. I can still remember “local option” elections, and “dry counties”, where you couldn’t legally buy a bottle of booze unless you went to a country that wasn’t “dry” in the alcohol-sales sense. Shit, I can still remember “WHITES ONLY” drinking fountains, segregated lunch counters and segregated busses and schools.

All of those silly regulations are now dead and gone – well, except for “local option” towns, usually in the Bible Belt of Texas – and good riddance. Decriminalizing pot with an eye to eventually legalizing it entirely is another idea whose time is long overdue.

Let’s get behind Rep. Frank and Rep. Paul and see if we can’t inspire our elected officials to show some sense, first by getting the fuck RID of the Drug Czar and the whole stupid apparatus of the War On Drugs (and incidentally use that money for something better, like Medicare for all, or restoring the Social Security Trust of all the money that has been looted from it over the past 30 or so years), and secondly, by showing the rest of the world that we are at least mature enough as a society to legalize a substance that will do a lot more good than harm. At any rate, the debate’s going to be an interesting one. I’m personally looking forward to seeing it, myself.

This is something else that I didn’t think would happen in my lifetime, either. Wonder what else I’m going to live long enough to see?

Monday, June 20, 2011

DON’ WANNA STUDY WAR NO MORE

Rep. Ron Paul won a straw poll vote over the weekend, and opined that “young people are tired of war”. He said his candidacy is a response to "endless, undeclared, unwinnable wars dumped on the young people" and a soaring national debt. He also said the U.S. "shouldn't be warmongers. We shouldn't be the policemen of the world." I hate to agree with him, but he’s right, at least in this instance. We were not divinely appointed to bring peace, justice and the American Way to the world. We’re supposed to show folks and lead by example, not force them into a mold that we think they should want, and that’s just what a war does: forces a different world-view on the people that are conquered, mostly to the detriment of their own society.

I’m in my early 60s, and *I* am tired of war. Before all of y’all start squalling that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I do. I spent time – a LOT of time – in the military during the Vietnam “war”.

I’m also tired of the United States being used as the world’s janissaries. The definition of janissary (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissary) is “captive young boys, usually Christians (and usually tribute children from the provinces of the Empire), who were indoctrinated into Islam through madrassas”. They were the first standing army of the Ottoman Empire. They were also as scary a group as any that could be found, for literally hundreds of years. As with all groups of this sort, they turned into the government and, by 1826, were running things. Their end was both bloody and predictable.

From Wikipedia, same article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janissary#Revolts_and_disbandment):

“By 1826, the sultan was ready to move. Historian Patrick Kinross suggests that Mahmud II incited them to revolt on purpose, describing it as the sultan's "coup against the Janissaries". The sultan informed them, through a fatwa, that he was forming a new army, organized and trained along modern European lines. As predicted, they mutinied, advancing on the sultan's palace. In the ensuing fight, the Janissary barracks were set in flames by artillery fire resulting in 4,000 Janissary fatalities.] The survivors were either exiled or executed, and their possessions were confiscated by the Sultan. This event is now called the Auspicious Incident. The last of the Janissaries were then put to death by decapitation in what was later called the blood tower, in Thessaloniki.”

The United States has become, by default, the world’s janissaries, and if we’re not real careful, our military is going to suffer the same fate as the Ottoman Empire’s janissaries. We’re already seeing that happen in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are more deaths of OUR SOLDIERS every week, and for no good reason other than the countries that we’re in are sick of our being there. It’s time and long past time that we brought our troops home.

Then, there’s the cost. We are spending an inordinate amount of money in both of these countries, and I’d like to see us leave. Iraq owes us money (regardless of the 6 billion in cash that’s so “mysteriously missing” and for which they are going to sue the US to get); I’d like to see us recover at least some of the money that we’ve already spent there, or at least get the oil that pResident Bu$hit and his cronies sent us to invade the country for. I’d also like to see us out of Afghanistan. Nothing much has changed in that country; the Taliban is going to be back in there before much longer, and it’s going to be running the country, and all the uppity wimmenfolk are going to be back in burkas, dead or in exile. The cost of the Afghan war is over 430 BILLION dollars so far. Just think what we, this country, could have done with that money. New schools, new libraries, new roads and bridges, new electrical transmission lines and towers – and that’s just for starters. Factor in the Iraq war at nearly 800 BILLION, and there’s the money for Social Security and Medicare – forever and ever.

Ron Paul is right. He just didn’t take it far enough.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

TO DIE OF THIRST IN THE DARK AND THE HEAT: THE LOOMING WATER SHORTAGE CRISIS

I have been reading lately that there’s a water shortage in the world. No. Seriously. Water is now being treated and traded like any other commodity.

I've found the most striking piece of evidence yet that we're facing imminent widespread water shortages:
The Mississippi River has disappeared.

Not literally, of course. If that had happened, maybe something would be being done about it. Here’s the skinny: a new study has shown that in the past 60 years reduction in water flow to the Pacific Ocean has been about equal to shutting off the Mississippi River. This report, recently published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate, found that a third of major rivers have had significant changes in flow. Of the 925 rivers analyzed, their total discharge is less now than it was 60 years ago. We are losing water. According to lead author Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, "freshwater resources will likely decline in the coming decades over many densely populated areas at mid- to low latitudes. . . we are likely to see greater impacts on many rivers and water resources that society has come to rely on."

The integrity of our water infrastructure is also declining at an alarming rate; as with most water issues, unfortunately, the evidence is abundant. For example, there are 700 water main breaks in North America on any given day. That works out to over 255,000 per year. No wonder water pipes are in high demand. To give just one horrid example: in Baltimore recently a large water main broke and shut down the entire Inner Harbor area. Ironically, public works was aware of growing problems in the area and had a meeting scheduled on the day of the break to coordinate a $2.6 million project to fix it.

The meeting was canceled due to the water main break.

Waste and inadequate management of water are the main culprits behind these growing problems, particularly in poverty-ridden regions. The wide-ranging report, part of the UN's designation of 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, also documented problems such as steep drops in the size of Asia's Aral Sea, Africa's Lake Chad and Iraq's Marshlands; the deterioration of coral reefs; and the rise of coastal waters because of climate changes. Some developing nations could face water shortages, crop failures and conflict over shrinking lakes and rivers if nothing is done to prevent wasteful irrigation and slow evaporation from reservoirs, and drinking-water systems are not repaired.

Based on data from NASA, the World Health Organization and other agencies, the report also found the following:

Severe water shortages affecting at least 400 million people today will affect 4 billion people by 2050. Southwestern states such as Arizona will face other severe freshwater shortages by 2025. Adequate sanitation facilities are lacking for 2.4 billion people, about 40% of humankind. Half of all coastal regions, where 1 billion people live, have degraded through overdevelopment or pollution.

About 90% of the severe problems are in developing nations where solutions to wasting water lie in better irrigation and water supply practices. In developed nations such as Japan, the USA and in Europe, most water shortfalls arise from politically popular but inefficient subsidies and protections of agriculture, which accounts for 85% of freshwater consumption worldwide.

So what is the answer that most of the industrialized nations give when confronted with this information? And this affects us how?
Shift from a local to a global water perspective, and the terms dramatically change. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the worlds, more than 2 billion people, have no access to clean water or sanitation. More than a dozen nations receive most of their water from rivers that cross borders of neighboring countries viewed as hostile. These include Botswana, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Congo, Gambia, the Sudan, and Syria, all of whom receive 75 percent or more of their fresh water from the river flow of often hostile upstream neighbors.

More frequently water is being likened to another resource that quickened global tensions when its supplies were threatened. A story in The Financial Times of London began: "Water, like energy in the late 1970s, will probably become the most critical natural resource issue facing most parts of the world by the start of the next century." This analogy is also reflected in the oft-repeated observation that water will likely replace oil as a future cause of war between nations. A prime cause of the global water concern is the ever-increasing world population. As populations grow, industrial, agricultural and individual water demands escalate. According to the World Bank, world-wide demand for water is doubling every 21 years, more in some regions. Water supply cannot remotely keep pace with demand, as populations soar and cities explode.

Population growth alone does not account for increased water demand. Since 1900, there has been a six-fold increase in water use for only a two-fold increase in population size. This reflects greater water usage associated with rising standards of living (e.g., diets containing less grain and more meat). It also reflects potentially unsustainable levels of irrigated agriculture. Meanwhile, many countries suffer accelerating desertification. Water quality is deteriorating in many areas of the developing world as population increases and salinity caused by industrial farming and over-extraction rises. About 95 percent of the world's cities still dump raw sewage into their waters.

Smelled the Ganges River lately? Now imagine drinking that water and bathing in it.

Climate change represents a wild card in this developing scenario. What effect will it have on water resources? Some experts claim climate change has the potential to worsen an already gloomy situation. With higher temperatures and more rapid melting of winter snowpacks, less water supplies will be available to farms and cities during summer months when demand is high. Yeah, I know – sounds insane, doesn’t it? It’s not insane, though. Any of the heavy grains such as corn or wheat are at least 35 – 45% water, and that’s on a per ear/bunch basis. Ok, so what? you’re saying. Well, here’s what: roughly 15% of that water is lost during processing. Yeah, it turns into water vapor, which goes into the atmosphere, which is then rained down when the atmosphere gets heavy, and the cycle goes on. Just one problem with this scenario: Every time, there’s less water to recycle in this way.

Take a really good look at what’s been happening in Australia. Look at the coastal areas in the United States. Less and less water to serve more and more people means that agriculture is going to have to be curtailed, to make room for more people who will need more water, which means less food can be grown, and more drought because there are more and more people to use less and less water – and the vicious cycle just gets worse.

Ok, so what about desalinization? Isn’t that a successful way to ameliorate the water crisis? Well, yes and no – mostly no. It is indeed a technological solution that some believe would provide ample supplies of additional water resources is desalination. Some researchers fault the United States for not providing more support for desalination research. Once the world leader in such research, this country has abdicated its role, to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Japan. There are approximately 11,000 desalination plants in 120 nations in the world, 60 percent of them in the Middle East. Just one TINY little problem: the more water we desalinate, the less there is in the oceans for the aquatic life, and the more saline the ocean becomes, and the more acid, the LESS aquatic life there’s going to be to feed more and more people.

I won’t even try, at this point, to go into T. Boone Picken’s short-sighted and completely contemptible plan to supply water here in Texas for a very stiff price to a very small clientele, or the atrocious commodities brokering of water that’s taking place in California right now. Both of those are columns for another day. I do know that, if we don’t take a good, long and hard look at the water shortages that are already extant here in this country and elsewhere, and solve those problems, in addition to freezing (or roasting) to death in the dark, we’ll all be dead of dehydration long before that day ever comes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NOW, CHILLLLLLLLDREN – PLAY NICE!

I’ve seen a lot of silly, boring and dangerous crap on the television lately, but none so silly, boring and potentially dangerous as that “debate”, so-called, last night amongst the Republicans, the ReThugs©, and the Tea Partiers. I watched it both times, and oh, my, was the entire thing counterproductive. There wasn’t much difference between the candidates and their stated positions, except for this: It was fairly obvious from the outset that they had ALL without exception been told to play nice and NOT attack each other. The publicity blurb courtesy of the New York Times, reads thusly:
“Opening a new phase in a race to define the direction of their party, the leading Republican presidential candidates gathered Monday night for the first time to begin drawing distinctions among themselves in a vibrant competition to be seen as sufficiently conservative for primary voters, but electable enough to defeat President Obama.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/us/14repubs.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2). If the entire thing hadn’t been so staged and so stage-managed, it might actually have been hilarious. As it was, it was pointless. And boring. Did I mention that it was boring?

Let’s see: Newt was a groveling mess, Ron Paul was a fiery mess, Herman Cain was a blustery and clueless mess, Mitt Romney was a tight-ass mess, Tim Pawlenty was a “LOOKIE AT ME! I’m ACTUALLY a blue-collar worker!” mess, Rick Santorum was a homophobic mess, Ms. Bachman was a “Mom and apple pie” mess, and the one contrarian that might actually have sounded like he knew what he was talking about was banned from the debate: Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico. Basically, this was a meet ‘n greet on the grand scale, a great opportunity to prove just how adept a candidate-to-be is at dodging the asked questions while promulgating their own views, and hopefully to sway the future voters into their respective corners and then chain them up to the wall for later use. Ms. Bachman used the occasion to formally declare her candidacy, for which she had filed the papers that morning. WOW, whatta girl – GOT to love her sense of timing.

OK, I watched the entire thing, as I said earlier. Twice. I couldn’t believe that I was actually hearing what I was hearing. You know that you’re in deep doodoo when Michelle Bachman, who is a loon to match her state’s bird, actually sounds sane. I think that what I found both the most personally repugnant and disturbing was Mr. Cain’s remarks on Muslims. He doesn’t believe in Sharia law, for example. He says that there have been attempts to “sneak” Sharia law into our Constitutional law framework in Oklahoma and New Jersey, and that while he makes a distinction between “good” Muslims (the ones that aren’t trying to kill us or suborn our legal system), there are too many “bad” Muslims who would like nothing better than to do just that. Mr. Cain wants to give some sort of loyalty test to a Muslim that he wouldn’t ask – like how committed are you to the Constitution and the rule of law. In other words, take a loyalty pledge. Wow, sure sounds like Muslimophobia to me. Does this oath come with a HEIL CAIN, I wonder?

Ron Paul, fortunately, didn’t deviate from his tired old shtick about get RID of Medicare, get RID of Medicaid, get RID of Social Security, NO health care for any illegal immigrants, secure the borders by any means necessary, get rid of marriage licenses, get rid of special tax statuses – in fact, get rid of taxes altogether (This is Ayn Rand’s philosophy filtered through the Libertarian Party. Objectivism doesn’t work very well in the real world, by the way.). Then, he got loonie about the Roman Catholic Church – seems that the illegals are upset with them because the Church isn’t really helping. Herman Cain agrees with him. A baby born here in the US of illegal parents is NOT a citizen, should not be allowed access to anything including health care, and they all should be expelled from the country. Mr. Cain said that nobody would be denied care, but the solution to the problem is to secure the borders (guess that means shoot on site and bury the mistakes). Tim Pawlenty agreed and went even further: Send the National Guard in to secure the borders no matter how it needs to be done, since the states would do a better job of it. He also made the point that border security is something that the FedGov has failed at, so make sure the National Guard is there. Something else he wants is to forbid “birthright” babies by law, by appointment of conservative Federal judges appointed by conservative Republicans. Newt thinks that the force necessary to control the borders should come half from Homeland Security and half from the National Guard. One thing that I did agree with him on was that it was insane and futile to run the 20 million illegals out of the country in a heartless way (not to mention extremely expensive). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich quickly jumped in to push back on Romney, siding more with Cain over the issue of Islam. Gingrich invoked Faisal Shahzad, the so-called Times Square bomber of 2010, who is a U.S. citizen from Pakistan.

“Now, I just want to go out on a limb here,” Gingrich said. “I'm in favor of saying to people, 'If you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period. We did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists,” Gingrich continued. “And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.” Cain’s and Gingrich’s religiously intolerant comments on American Muslims supplied some of the night’s biggest applause lines.

If that alone doesn’t make you ill, maybe you need to listen to the entire thing. Believe me, there’s a lot worse to come.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who spoke next, appeared to brush aside Cain’s concerns about Sharia and his suspicions of American Muslims. “Of course, we're not going to have Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That's never going to happen,” Romney said. "We have a Constitution and we follow the law.” Romney then appeared to defend American Muslims, even if he didn’t mention them specifically. “We recognize that people of all faiths are welcome in this country,” he said. “Our nation was founded on a principle of religious tolerance. That's in fact why some of the earliest patriots came to this country and why we treat people with respect, regardless of their religious persuasion.” Yah, but you’d make them sign a loyalty oath – which, if you know anything at all about the Muslim culture means absolutely NOTHING to them. They answer to a higher authority who says that lying to infidels is OK. Kinda like McCarthy forcing the words “UNDER GOD” into the Pledge of Allegiance on the grounds that a Commie wouldn’t say the words and thus would be CAUGHT OUT, RED-HANDED. Of course, it didn’t work that way – but that’s a column for another time.

All the candidates went after the President in various ways. All the candidates went after the Vice President in various ways. The seven competitors repeatedly deflected the questions to attacks on President Obama. Tim Pawlenty called the Affordable Health Care Plan ObamNeyCare but was smart enough to refrain from any direct criticism of the Romney plan while the two stood on the same stage. He said he was merely
quoting Obama, who had previously said that he had modeled the federal law on the one in Massachusetts. while standing next to Governor Romney.

Biggest surprize all night was the announcement by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., that she has filed paperwork to begin her campaign. She had previously indicated that she would not make a formal announcement until later this month. The newer energy in the party was represented onstage as well, particularly by Bachmann, a tea-party favorite and the lone woman among the seven. She noted that she was the first House member to introduce legislation to repeal the health-care law and the Obama administration's financial regulatory overhaul. "I fought behind closed doors against my own party" on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in 2008, Ms. Bachmann added, describing the George W. Bush administration's initiative as "a wrong vote then" and saying: "It's continued to be a wrong vote since then. Sometimes, that's what you have to do. You have to take principle over your party." Ms. Bachmann has attracted considerable grass-roots support during her recent visits to Iowa, and she is likely to make the first-in-the-nation caucus state the centerpiece of her strategy to win the Republican nomination. She also claims something of a home-court advantage, having been born in Waterloo.

"This president is a declinist," Pawlenty said. "He views America as one of equals around the world. We're not the same as Portugal, we're not the same as Argentina. This idea that we can't have 5 percent growth in America is hogwash. It's a defeatist attitude. If China can have 5 percent growth and Brazil can have 5 percent growth, then the United States of America can have 5 percent growth." Well, pumpkin, you’ve got that backwards. Get rid of the tax loopholes that encourage folks to LEAVE the US and take their jobs with them because they can hire what is basically slave labour to maximize their profits, and make it financially attractive to re-open the factories here, and we’ll have, reasonably, at LEAST 5% growth a year, although I’d bet it would be something more along the lines of 10 – 15% growth a year. Get OUT of the way, you ReThugs, and at least let us try.

Well, this was only the warning shot across the bows, so to speak. I found it interesting that not ONE of these clowns said anything about regulating the banking industry, or pursuing the banks for the robosigning foreclosure fraud and scandal, and, when it was brought up that Governor Romney was pro-choice before he was pro-life, everybody was reasonable nice about the subject. It was pretty obvious that all of them had been warned to BE NICE, BE REASONABLE, MAKE YOU POINTS NICELY, PLAY NICE, and DO NOT UPSET folks with the idea that there just MIGHT be some dissension in the ranks. Even Representative Santorum didn’t give his infamous gay speech that starts out with the contemptible phrase “I’ve got gay friends, and I love them all. I just condemn their lifestyle.” This, I’ll add, is the man that is absolutely convinced that gay marriage is going to lead to folks wanting to marry sheep, the family dog, a horse . . . Some of *MY* best friends are straight people, and I would never demean them with that phrase.

It’s going to be a pretty interesting season. Eventually, I think, the field is going to be some combination of Romney and Bachman, or Pawlenty and Bachman. Either way, unless the President drops dead before the election, I don’t think that any of the current crop of wannabes is going to be able to defeat him.
It’s going to be fun to watch, too. Just imagine a President that wears magic underwear coupled with a Vice-President that thinks that all women that have an abortion should summarily be shot (and she’s a woman!).

As Chris Matthews would say, HAH!











































Saturday, June 11, 2011

GOT BIGOTS?

 I’ve been watching, with a great deal of interest, the public reaction to Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant in which he stated (among other things) that, if his son were gay he'd "pull out a knife and stab that little n**ger to death." Whoa! Now, however, Morgan has come forward to say he's sorry.


Sure he’s sorry. So was Michael Richardson. So is every single, solitary bigot that rants and raves and then is surprized when the vast majority of folks get on his or her case for their bigotry. Here’s the text of the “apology”: "I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville," Morgan said in a statement. "I'm not a hateful person and don't condone any kind of violence against others," Morgan said in a statement. "While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context." Reports of the tirade began to circulate when Kevin Rogers -- a gay man in attendance at last Friday's Ryman show - took to his Facebook page to condemn the comic in a post titled "WHY I NO LONGER 'LIKE' TRACY MORGAN." According to Rogers, Morgan went off on homosexuals in a big way, saying, "Gays need to quit being p**sies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying."

Don’t know about the rest of y’all, but bullying in any context, particularly when the victim of said bullying is either a kiddo perceived as being GLBT, or a kiddo of colour being called ugly names, is NOT insignificant. In point of fact, there have been a lot of suicides of GLBT youth whose proximate cause was bullying, from the 12 year old Texas boy to the college student whose sexual encounter was filmed by his roomie and put on the Internet. Columnist Dan Savage started the It Gets Better project as a response to the bullying, and as a way to get the message out to troubled teens that "it gets better." Personal videos poured in, and are still pouring in, and the issue of bullying (not just of LGBT teens, but of all teens) took center stage.

Tracey Morgan obviously has a big problem with that. It’s very unfortunate that this is not the first time Morgan has been accused of homophobia. In comedy shows in the past, he has referred to being gay as a "choice," and he reiterated that thought in Nashville. According to Rogers' Facebook post, Morgan said that "(Lady Gaga's) 'Born this Way' is bulls**t, gay is a choice, and the reason he knows this is exactly because 'God don't make no mistakes' (referring to God not making someone gay cause that would be a mistake)."

Morgan himself seemed to anticipate that his words would have repercussions, so he went ahead and lashed out at his critics during the show. "I don't "f***ing care if I piss off some gays, because if they can take a f***ing d**k up their ass... they can take a f***ing joke," he said. The nuanced fact that some gays are actually women appears to be lost on Mr. Morgan. He also said that “people laughed at his remarks”. I’d like to know who they were, and if the laughter was real or just the noises of a bunch of extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable folks.


Know why the man “apologized”? GLAAD got after him. The public got after him. He got a lot more criticism than he bargained for, and why? Because he’s black, and to bigots like him, being black and a “comedian” gives him an automatic pass to be as vicious and vile as he (or she) pleases, with no repercussions. At least, that’s what Roland Martin of CNN says (http://www.rolandsmartin.com/blog/index.php/2011/06/10/wtf-comic-tracy-morgan-has-offensive-material/). Among other things, Mr. Martin, who I always thought had at least a modicum of common sense, defended Tracy Morgan – and defended a lot more comics for their atrocious routines, including George Carlin. Carlin’s explanation of the N word has made me cringe from the first time that I heard it. Chris Rock, Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac, the late Robin Harris all do/did routines that make me and a lot of other folks cringe as well. I’ll ad George Lopez to that list as well for his rants. I find Steve Harvey’s routing about Willie Turner to be particularly offensive, since it not only plays to but reinforces the stereotype that a black man will go postal when he’s fired and threaten everything and everybody in sight.

It’s been my experience that the African-American culture is very homophobic. The few openly gay black men that I know lead very lonely and dangerous lives. The few openly gay black women lead very lonely and extremely dangerous lives. They are subject to be beaten at any time. They are subject to be raped at any time. They are subject to being murdered because of their sexual orientation at any time. WHO would choose this if they HAD a choice? I'll tell you who: NOBODY.
Oh, and Mr. Martin? I’ve never laughed at any of the following: any jokes that are sexist, homophobic, ageist, obese or racist, said by comedians of all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations. I don’t even like blonde jokes, because they are demeaning. I don’t find that sort of self-hatred to be cute, amusing, fun or funny. I never have. I never will. Guess that makes me a humourless person.

Better that than a bigot.



















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Friday, June 10, 2011

OBITUARY FOR A FAILURE – AND GOOD RIDDANCE

Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich is dead. Rather, his campaign to be the “new” face of the ReThugs©, Tea Party and the Old Guard Republicans, is, if not dead, at least moribund. Good riddance, sez I. So long, farewell, adieux – and please don’t let the door hit you on your fat ass on the way out (or, come to think of it, your 3rd wife’s skinny one, either). 


Facts are thus: On Thursday, his entire senior team and top staffers in the early decision states abruptly quit, after confronting Gingrich about the degree of his seriousness in running. Gingrich has tried to position himself as somewhat of a conservative theoretician, when in reality he was no more prepared for this particular task than a monkey. Just vanity, like The Donald. He was withering away in obscurity, and he apparently was using the campaign trail to flog his latest book – the one that nobody wants to read. After his formal announcement, he attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the architect of the GOP's budget plans, which include sharp changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid and deep spending cuts to try to eliminate the deficit and long-term debt. Gingrich was forced to apologize for referring to the key GOP policy plank as right-wing social engineering - an especially galling phrase since in the American political lexicon, social engineering is epithet reserved to be hurled at liberals, not fellow conservatives. What’s both sad and hilarious is that he was simply enumerating philosophies and political positions that he has held for at least 20 years. Where he went wrong was in thinking that he was more the darling of the party than Paul Ryan is.


Gingrich was forced to apologize for referring to the key GOP policy plank as right-wing social engineering - an especially galling phrase since in the American political lexicon, social engineering is epithet reserved to be hurled at liberals, not fellow conservatives. Then, he was forced to deal with charges that he maintained a credit card debt of up to $500,000 at Tiffany and Co., the posh jeweler. While there was nothing illegal or improper, it was still uncomfortable for any candidate seeking popular support (particularly from an electorate focused on the lack of jobs and poor economy) to be tied to doing extensive business with such a high-end luxury establishment. Still, all is not completely lost for Gingrich, whose role in the 2012 cycle seemed destined to be more of a voice than a major player. He still has a bully pulpit, which he is expected to use on Sunday, when he gives a foreign policy speech in Los Angeles on Mideast affairs, and next week in the party presidential debate.

Man does LUUUUUUURV his spotlight, doesn’t he?

A brief history of the man shows that he’s got some pretty impressive credentials (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newt_Gingrich). Unfortunately, both his temper and his dick got in the way of his ambitions, and his fall from public grace was as spectacular as Representative Anthony Weiner’s has been – but a LOT more egregious. All Rep. Weiner did was act like a horny junior high school student with his sexting. Newt Gingrich had affairs with all of his wives WHILE HE WAS STILL MARRIED TO THE PREVIOUS ONE, and lied his ass off about them. He was having an affair with the woman that he’s currently married to while he was pushing for President Clinton’s impeachment, saying that a man that commits perjury about an extramarital affair lacked character and had no business running the country. When he himself was caught, he lied about his affair, and it cost him his political career. Now, he’s trying to be the most moral man in America. Trust me, Newt honey, the most moral man in America is already IN the White House, and there’s no room for you, there or anywhere else.

The final straw for most of the folks in the campaign was Gingrich’s decision to suddenly absent himself from the fray earlier this month to take a luxury Greek cruise with his wife, Callista - an odyssey one Gingrich insider called “the Greek tragedy.” Some of the folks on Gingrich’s campaign staff had strongly urged the candidate not to abandon the field for an opulent vacation (which could only be seen as a declaration that he wasn’t really serious about his bombast. In my opinion, at least). Gingrich’s insistence on taking the cruise reflected the deep disconnect between his staff’s idea of what was required to win the nomination, and Gingrich’s own. Gingrich sometimes “seemed almost annoyed at the process,” one top staffer said. Of course, a lot of blame for the implosions lies with his wife, Callista. Working in Congress doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the reality of campaigning, where your entire life is open from the day you were born to the day that you’re currently living. There aren’t a lot of people that can take that kind of scrutiny; it’s worse than being a member of Britain’s Royal Family in that you live constantly in the fishbowl with all the eyes and all the lights focused on you 24/7. Obviously, Mrs. GingrichTheThird wasn’t comfortable with the glaring lights and the constant stream of news media folks following them around, and I for one don’t really blame her. Plus, of course, there was that embarrassing episode where a gay protestor showered them both with a box of glitter during a book signing at a campaign stop. I think that she decided then that she was SO not interested in campaigning.


Gingrich told ABC News that he was prepared to go out and to campaign intensely, but that he wanted to campaign on ideas and on solutions and that he wanted to do it in a way that brings Americans together into a large movement. Excuse me, what? Doesn’t that sound like the Tea Party to y’all? And if he was so invested in his campaign, why take the time to go on a cruise, when he should have been fundraising and schmoozing? "There is a fundamental strategic difference between the traditional consulting community and the kind of campaign I want to run. Now we'll find out over the next year who's right," Gingrich said on Friday. I’ll tell you who’s right: the anonymous man who told Gingrich to get OUT before he made a bigger fool out of himself than he already had. Of course, politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and there is space in the current GOP field for candidates like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom are said to be eyeing a possible run. That match-up would really be hilarious. Rudy the Red-faced transvestite, and GovGoodHair, who just finished gutting the state school systems of Texas.
So, sic transit gloriouso to a faithless, immoral man, whose appetites far outran both his capabilities, his intellect and his common sense.

Goodbye, and GOOD RIDDANCE. And DON’T come back.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND . . . POLITICANS

I’m not a conspiracy theory nutcase. No, really, I’m NOT. However, judging from what’s been going on in Washington and various other places this last week would make just about any conspiracy theorist worth of the name cream her/his jeans.

I’d intended to write another WEASLES ON PARADE post. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, I was too sick to write it on Friday, and by the time the dad-ratted sinus infection was on the mend on Monday, so much had happened that I was glad – sorta – to not have finished it up for publication. Over the weekend, two politicians that I always thought were good guys turned out to be in more trouble than the two of them can handle. Former Senator John Edwards was charged with four counts of illegal campaign contributions along with conspiracy and manufacturing fictitious statements concerning his affair, and Representative Anthony Weiner finally came clean about his “sexting” through his Twitter account. Both of them got into the massive amounts of trouble that they currently are being drowned by because they did what they were accused of, tried to “spin doctor” the events, and lied their silly fool heads off about it in order to cover it up.

Doesn’t speak well of their common sense, does it? It also doesn’t speak well to either one of their ethical base, either. From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_ethics):

There is a big difference between personal ethics and situational ethics. Situational ethics, or situation ethics, is a Christian ethical theory that was principally developed in the 1960s by the then Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher. It basically states that sometimes other moral principles can be cast aside in certain situations if love is best served; as Paul Tillich once put it: "Love is the ultimate law." The moral principles Fletcher is specifically referring to are the moral codes of Christianity and the type of love he is specifically referring to is 'Agape' love. Agapē is a Greek term meaning absolute, universal, unchanging and unconditional love for all people. Fletcher believed that in forming an ethical system based on love, he was best expressing the notion of "love thy neighbour," which Jesus Christ taught in the Gospels of the New Testament of the Bible. Through situational ethics, Fletcher attempted to find a "middle road" between legalistic and antinomian ethics. Fletcher developed situational ethics in his books: The Classic Treatment and Situation Ethics. Situational ethics is a teleological, or consequential theory, in that it is concerned with the outcome or consequences of an action; the end, as opposed to an action being intrinsically wrong such as in deontological theories. In the case of situational ethics, the ends can justify the means. There are four presuppositions that Fletcher makes before setting out the situational ethics theory:

Pragmatism - This is that the course of action must be practical and work.

Relativism - All situations are always relative; situational ethicists try to avoid such words as "never" and "always".

Positivism - The whole of situational ethics relies upon the fact that the person freely chooses to believe in agape love as described by Christianity.

Personalism - Whereas the legalist thinks people should work to laws, the situational ethicist believes that laws are for the benefit of the people. Or, in other words, suit your ethics to the situation, since there are no moral absolutes. What I find to be of particular interest is the emphasis on Christian principles. Does this set of “ethics” mean that it’s OK to be a slime and a sleaze because you aren’t really bound by either good sense, good morals or personal ethics?

Also from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics) is this brief explanation of ethics: Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice, etc. Major branches of ethics include:

Meta-ethics, about the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions and how their truth-values (if any) may be determined.

Normative ethics, about the practical means of determining a moral course of action.

Applied ethics, about how moral outcomes can be achieved in specific situations.

Moral psychology, about how moral capacity or moral agency develops and what its nature is. Descriptive ethics, about what moral values people actually abide by.

Confusin’, ain’t it? And how do these two descriptive explanations of situational and personal ethics apply to the lies that were told by these two men?

Here’s how I understand the differences, at least. Situational ethics hold that it’s OK to lie, cheat, steal, prevaricate and generally be both obstructing and obfuscating when it’s a matter of the greater good for the greatest number. Personal ethics hold that it’s NOT OK to lie, cheat, steal, prevaricate and so on, simply because your worth as a person who tells the truth is far more important than saving yourself embarrassment and humiliation. There are cogent arguments for both schools of thought, but in the end, I would far rather be remembered as a person that didn’t lie, cheat etc. It’s simply easier that way.

When you’re a politician and a public figure, you don’t have a personal life that isn’t under the microscope of public scrutiny 100% of the time. When you make a mistake, the consequences are far more severe precisely because of this. You’re not even safe in the bathroom fer cry-yi-yi, as Larry Craig found out the hard way.

So, why lie about what’s happening in your life to begin with? John Edwards had a girlfriend, and she had a baby? So what? I’ll practically guarantee that Mrs. Edwards knew about it from the minute that it started. I’d even bet that, when she knew she wasn’t going to beat the cancer the last time, she TOLD him to go out and find himself a nice woman that could be a companion to him after she was gone, and to do it immediately, so she’d at least have the comfort of knowing that he’d be taken care of after her death. One of the details, of course, would have been no children until after Mrs. Edwards had died, a suitable period of time after the death had passed, and they married. Rielle Hunter didn’t do that, of course, although any man in that sort of situation that doesn’t use a rubber regardless of circumstance is a very stupid man. Where the situational ethics come in is that, when he was confronted about the affair and the baby, he lied. He got an old friend to give him money that did not go through his campaign coffers to take care of her, and he bullied one of his campaign workers to say that the baby was his, and that he, Ms. Hunter and his wife were having a merry threesome. Ultimately, of course, he was caught completely out in his lies. This wasn’t anything other than an ethically-challenged man utilizing the principles of situational ethics, rather than a man who was both honourable and decent telling the truth to begin with. There was no “greater good” to be served by his lies – and by branding his child as first not his and then his nameless bastard, he did more harm than anybody will ever be able to undo.

In the case of Representative Weiner, the same thing applies. “Sexting”, which is sexual content text messaging, is not a harmless occupation. Regardless of the supposed fact that Representative Weiner and his online flirts never met, and that everybody that he sexted was of or over legal age, it’s still creepy. It’s also disgusting, in *MY* humble opinion. He’s harmed a lot of people with this little proclivity, and he’s done quite a bit of damage to his image. If he’d ‘fessed up to the silly nonsense that he was indulging himself with, and said, “Yeah, that’s me, and yeah, that’s my penis, and so what?”, I seriously doubt that there would have been the media feeding frenzy that his lies ignited.

The major point for me at least was that, when they had the chance to tell the truth and defuse the situation, they both lied about it, for whatever reason. In Senator Edwards’ case, these lies did a lot more harm than good. In Representative Weiner’s case, there was harm done, but mostly to him and his credibility due to his junior high school attitude.

What I find curious is just how hard the two of them are being swatted, and the timing on the “revelations”. Senator Edwards, of course, will not be convicted because he didn’t use campaign funds to keep his girlfriend in the style in which she desired to become accustomed. He solicited and received a gift from a rich friend. Representative Weiner didn’t do anything that a junior high school kid doesn’t dream of (and in a lot of cases, actually does). So, why now? and why use Andrew BreitBrat to do it? Rumours abound that ABC News approached him, and not the other way around, and that he was paid for what he did. This is the same Andrew BreitBrat whose shading of the truth got Shirley Sherrod fired for something that she didn’t do. This is also the same Andrew BreitBrat whose machinations were ultimately responsible for the demise of ACORN.

It’s both interesting and curious that these two men, who are ardent champions of equality, taking care of the poor and the dispossessed, and who are both personable, fiery and outspoken, have been targeted in this fashion. John Edwards won’t be convicted, but he has no credibility and basically is finished in politics. Anthony Weiner has already been convicted on the altar of public opinion, and, while I don’t believe his career is over, he has certainly been rendered a lot less effective in the public arena. O’course, that means that, from now on, both of them will never, EVER be able to tell another public lie.

Sheesh – HONEST politicians? WhatEVER is the world coming to?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

WHAT ABOUT THE WPA?

Hi, all:

Every so often, I repost an older blog entry, and, in view of what House Leader John "WHINEY CRYBABY" Boehner is NOT proposing, I thought that this one was particularly apt. It’s LONG past time to look at some of the older programs that were ultimately treated with scorn and derision – like the National Recovery Act, The County Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration.


I first posted this blog 4 years ago back in 2007, before our current President was elected. I believe that it's as relevant today as it was then, maybe even more so. With the unemployment numbers at 9.1%, with fewer than 56K jobs created in May, with the double-dip recession about to rear its ugly head, and with the unemployment claims dropping only because the 99ers are now without any sort of resources, I thought that it might be timely to re-present a set of ideas that were first proposed by a personal hero of mine, Herbert Hoover, and then stolen by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who wouldn't have recognized a new idea if it bit him in the balls.


Thanks for reading!

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WHAT ABOUT THE WPA?

I was watching, as is usual for this time of night, Keith Olbermann's show COUNTDOWN, and was struck by an idea floated by Rachel Maddow of AirAmerica Radio, who was a guest (this is before she got her own show, which is both interesting and relevant). She mentioned that this country is in a recession, headed down the steep and slippery slope of the economic BS that pResident Bu$hit and his "economists" have been pushing for the last 7 years, and added, almost as an afterthought, that setting up something similar to the WPA and some of the various other programs of the New Deal might be in order.

WOW, what a concept. Something that that parlour pink Delano Roosevelt supposedly thought up that might actually be a GOOD thing for our struggling country and our struggling economy? Take me, Jesus, I'm ready!

Just in case y'all out there in ReaderLand might have missed the sarcasm, I loathe Franklin Delano Roosevelt and just about everything that he pretended that he stood for and just about everything that he espoused. As far as I have been able to find out, he didn't have an original idea in his life; he stole everything that he put together for his New Deal from his predecessor, Herbert Hoover, and took credit for all of it - except the parts that didn't work or that were declared unconstitutional. THOSE, he blamed on Hoover.

OK, so what was the New Deal, and why should any of us be excited about it? More to the point, how could anything that is almost 80 years old be relevant to our situation today - and why should we care?

The New Deal set in place and promoted the following programs: the Forest Service, which takes care of the national parks and all publicly-owned lands, The National Recovery Act (declared unconstitutional), The Agricultural Adjustment Act (farming subsidies and soil banking, also declared unconstitutional although later revised - and part of it are still in operation today), the TVA, The Wagner Act (empowering labour unions by mandating by law that all employees in a business join a union and/or pay dues if the majority of workers agreed to form one), the CCC, the FDIC, the SEC, (OF COURSE) Social Security (which is one of the things that is propping up the economy and providing for the below-poverty-level subsitence of seniors, among other folks), the rural electrification programs that are still in force today, the National Youth Authority, and the WPA, or Works Progress Administration.

After Ms. Maddow made her suggestion, I went and did some research. The list above is only a partial list of all the New Deal programs, by the way. Here's what I found out about the WPA:

The administration employed millions of people and affected almost every locality, especially rural and western mountain populations. It was created in April, 1935 by Presidential order, and activated with Congressional funding in July of that year (U.S. Congress funded it annually but did not set it up). It continued and extended relief programs similar to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) started by Herbert Hoover in 1932. The program built many public buildings, projects and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media and literacy projects. It fed children, redistributed food, clothing and housing. Until the program was closed down by Congress and the war boom  began in 1943, the various programs of the WPA added up to the largest employment base in the country ; indeed,  the program was the largest cluster of government employment opportunities in most states. Anyone who needed a job could become eligible for most of its jobs.

Let me repeat the most salient point: This program fed children, redistributed food, clothing and housing. This is a good thing, no? By the way, hourly wages were the prevailing wages in most of the areas; the rules said workers could not work more than 30 hours a week but many projects included months in the field, with workers eating and sleeping on worksites. In other words, the EMPLOYER provided food, housing, all training if needed, and clothing TO THEIR WORKERS ON SITE - and the workers sent their wages home to their families. Before 1940, there was some training involved in teaching new skills and the project's original legislation went forward with a strong emphasis on family, training and building people up.

WOW, what a concept. People being helped by the FedGov, instead of being turned out to starve to death in the heat/cold and the dark. People being taught how to help themselves and how to exercise their new skills.
About 75% of WPA employment and expenditures went to public facilities and INFRASTRUCTURE, such as highways and streets, public buildings, airports, utilities, small dams, sewers, parks, city halls, public libraries (free libraries, which nobody had ever heard of before!), and recreational fields. The WPA built 650,000 miles of roads, 78,000 bridges, 125,000 buildings, and 700 miles of airport runways. Seven percent of the budget was allocated to arts projects, presenting 225,000 concerts to audiences totaling 150 million, and producing almost 475,000 pieces of art. Some of the art is beautiful, some is garbage - but all of them gave employment to people. ALL of the projects gave something else intangible but absolutely necessary: HOPE.

HOPE. What a concept.

When I first started at Sam Houston State University, all of the sidewalks, the quadrangle, 3/4 of the married students' housing, 2/3 of all the buildings and about 3/5 of the streets and roads within the university proper  were all marked as being done under the purview of the WPA, with the year added. I'll add at this point that most of the buildings, all of the sidewalks, roads and the quad were still in terrific shape. They were, at the time, 50 some-odd years old. Better built than a lot of newer buildings, and much nicer looking. I didn't even know what the WPA was, or why I should care.

Now, I do, and this is something that we all need to check into, and, if it's feasible, get behind and promote the absolute HELL out of. Microloans and microcredit could be a part of this as well, and those are already proven to work. With a 99% repayment rate.

Hope. It's the best of things. It's what we all need.