Saturday, August 31, 2013

George W. Bush will be remembered, but probably not for the reasons you think

I predict that George W. Bush, our 43 president, is going to play a far larger role in American history books of the future than many expect and than he would like.

We all know the obvious blunders during his two terms, the war on Iraq, tax changes that benefited the wealthy, an economy in a nosedive, creation of the surveillance state, destructive educational policies, but these aren’t his most lasting legacies. I think what historians are going to look most closely at is how he and Cheney and his advisors drastically altered the presidency itself and opened a Pandora’s box of real and potential abuses of power for generations to come.

In the weeks, months and years after 9/11, Bush, Cheney and others demanded and got more and more power handed to the executive branch. One could argue that in the immediate wake of 9/11 the president needed the authority to make decisions quickly and without burdensome oversight. However, the new powers were granted, but they were never repealed. A spineless, ineffective Congress allowed the President to keep his new executive powers without challenge.

A lot of people, myself included, thought that the election of Obama would somehow bring more balance to the three branches of government, that this self-proclaimed agent of change would refuse to abuse his authority in the same way Bush did. How wrong we were. The promised transparency never happened. Sketchy surveillance programs were expanded instead of stopped. Administration officials lied to Congress without repercussions. Drone killings increased. Guantanamo stayed open for business. And now, against the will of most of the world, Obama is going to drop bombs on a foreign country that does not pose a direct threat to the United States.

All of this was made possible by a congenial dullard from Texas and his nearsighted puppeteers who saw an opportunity for a power grab and took it. They let the genie out of the bottle, and no future President, however well intentioned, is going to willingly put it back in. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The legacy of Bush lives on

So bombing Syria is now going to happen, it’s just a matter of time. Great. The thing that is so maddening about the Obama Administration’s arguments for violence is that it is presented as the only possible option. Not true. We could be in talks with world leaders and the UN working on a truly global response to the use of gas by Assad. Bombing isn’t the only answer, and from what I’ve been reading over the past few days, many military experts don’t believe this kind of “tailored” attack is going to prove effective.

Bombings always result in collateral damage and it will surely lead to civilian deaths, which is supposedly what we are trying to prevent. In addition, our unilateral action will further inflame anti-U.S. rhetoric in Muslim countries. Assad should be punished for using poison gas on his people, but not by the self-appointed world sheriff, but by an actual worldwide consensus.

Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again? It’s almost as if George Bush never left the White House. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top 10 Reasons Why We Should Bomb Syria

10. Will definitely bolster U.S. image in the region

9. CNN has a name and rockin’ theme song for the war

8. Drones are so last week

7. Assad tweeted that he liked Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs

6.Widespread enthusiastic support from the American public

5.Summer doldrums

4.Killing civilians with bombs to stop them from being killed by poison gas just makes sense

3. NSA revelation fatigue

2. Military Channel needs more “B” roll

1. Iraq and Afghanistan; huge wins

Monday, August 26, 2013

Top Five Ugliest Americans, Week of August 26

Miley Cyrus

Demented Disney diva has issues that should be worked out in a therapist’s office, not in front of millions at the VMAs. I’ll apologize for her, Smith family.

Ted Cruze

Tiny-brained Texas senator thinks Obama might sign a bill to defund the signature legislation of his two terms in office, the Affordable Care Act. Uh huh.

Eliot Engle

Daffy Dem representative from New York thinks we should start bombing Syria right now. Sure, El. All of our other incursions in the Middle East have worked out so well, let’s do it again.

George Zimmerman

Myopic man who (figuratively) dodged a bullet and was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin visits Kel-Tec Firearms factory, the company that manufactured the gun used to shoot Trayvon Martin.

Donald Trump

Bloviating billionaire birther runs a sham university to bilk people trying to create better lives for themselves. Well done, Sir. Well done.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Never forget our true heroes

Thirty-five years. Bradley Manning has been sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for releasing documents showing illegal and immoral actions committed in our country’s name in Afghanistan and Iraq.

No one died because of his revelations. Yet the architects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ones who covered up the atrocities that Manning’s documents exposed, go free.

Bush and Cheney and their cadre of neocons who lied us into a war with Iraq where thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died get to go on playing golf and hosting parties and painting childish pictures and watching grandchildren grow up while Manning languishes in a federal jail.

If this isn’t a case of shooting the messenger I don’t know what is.

Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and the whole rogues gallery of neocons from the Bush administration should be tried in an international court for crimes against humanity; for waging war on a country that had nothing to do with international terrorism.

Instead, we send some poor schmuck away to prison for virtually the rest of his life merely as a lesson to others. Don’t reveal our secrets. Don’t let the world see our real face, because that face is not Brad Pitt or John Wayne. It’s a bloated hog’s head, an overweight billionaire licking a bowl of caviar, a grotesque caricature of Uncle Sam stomping his way across the globe, destroying villages in order to save them.

Bradley Manning is a hero. Daniel Ellsberg is a hero. Edward Snowden is a hero. Never forget that.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bumbling U.K. agents should concern us all

Of all the side stories spinning off of the Snowden saga, yesterday’s report that U.K. “security experts” invaded the offices of the Guardian newspaper and destroyed computer hard drives in an attempt to stop any further revelations has to be one of the most mind boggling.

The security experts were from GCHQ intelligence agency, which had earlier demanded that the paper’s editor either hand over all Snowden related materials or destroy the files. When the editor refused, the agency sent in the so-called experts to physically smash the hard drives of the newspaper’s computers.

There’s so much wrong in this single event it’s hard to know where to begin. The first issue is the embarrassingly thuggish approach taken by a government agency. It’s like a scene pulled from the script of a bad mafia movie. “You want I should break his thumbs, Boss?” “Not yet. Just bust up the computers. We’ll save the fun stuff for another time.” What sly and sophisticated tactic will the government try next? A dead fish wrapped in newspaper? Cutting off the head of the editor’s pet hamster and putting it in his bed?

The second part of this PR disaster is the apparent ignorance displayed by the security experts regarding current data storage capabilities. Smashing hard drives to stop further security leaks is like smashing a TV set to stop the broadcast of a television show. It’s as if the U.K.’s security experts were frozen in 1995 and just thawed out yesterday.

All of this brilliance comes from an agency in charge of the country’s most important secrets. And in our country, Obama has the nerve to scoff at people concerned about the possible abuse of blanket surveillance.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tomorrow’s headlines today v2

Director of the NSA Says Office Bugged by FBI at Request of CIA on Tip From DEA Originally Provided by ATF. Obama responds: STFU.

SWAT unit raids child’s tea party on tip from uninvited toy. Winnie-the-Pooh tazed repeatedly.

Plastic Surgeon Reveals He Has Reduced Length of Obama’s Nose Dozens of Times in Past Months

Samsung Introduces New Smart-Ass Phone With Exclusive Insult Apps

Taylor Swift Institutionalized After Day When No New Photos of Her Appear On Internet

Pulitzer Prize for fiction goes to Fall Lake by John Andreini

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

America Behind Bars

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, the land of the free and the home of the brave incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country on the planet. Higher than Russia. Higher than Cuba. Higher than Rwanda.

Of course our prisons are bulging at the seams. Good for the private prisons industry, but bad for just about everyone else. Yesterday Attorney General Eric Holder announced some very modest sentencing reforms that include scaling back mandatory sentences for some small-time drug offenders and letting out a few non-violent geezers. One more timid step in the right direction from the president who stood on a platform labeled “change” when he ran for the office.

Change. The only substantive change we’ve seen in Washington is watching Obama slip-sliding to his right on just about every major issue he’s faced.

The sad reality is that when you have an administration that’s been frozen in the headlights for as long as Obama’s executive branch has been, even the smallest amount of movement is hailed by the press as a major step forward.

The steps that need to be taken are the decriminalization of marijuana and an entirely new approach to drug use and abuse by emphasizing treatment and education over incarceration. That would be real change.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Little Timmy watch: Day 5

Yes, today is day 5, the day of reckoning. I want to thank you all for your generous support, but unfortunately we have come up about $44 million short on the bill, give or take a million. I don’t know how Jerry Lewis does it. Anyway, in anticipation of this shortfall, we smuggled Little Timmy out of the hospital last night.
Our disguises worked perfectly.
Now we are on the run, as they say, but thankfully our escape vehicle blends right in.
So, with Little Timmy at least stabilized and in good spirits,
we can resume our lives. Thank you again.

For less than $5, you can help us resume our lives.

Buy a copy of “Fall Lake.” The link is over there on the right. We all thank you. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Little Timmy watch: Day 4

Thankfully, Little Timmy’s condition improved last night. In fact, Dr. Mengele said our boy has had made so much progress that he could be moved to a new section of the hospital were he would be more comfortable.

This is his new roommate Denise.
Meanwhile, the family is settling into our new accommodations. Our neighbors in the alley have been very helpful. This is Captain Craptastic.

His vocal chords were damaged in a knife fight so he writes everything on a notepad. Great sense of humor. Just a little while ago, a nice young man asked our teenage daughter Margo out on a date.
But my thoughts are always on Little Timmy. Soon we will be presented with a bill.

For less than $5, you can help us pay Little Timmy’s hospital bill. 

Buy a copy of “Fall Lake.” The link is over there on the right. Little Timmy thanks you.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Little Timmy watch: Day 3

Little Timmy’s situation has taken a turn for the worse. Dr. Mengele’s experimental treatments have resulted in some unpleasant side effects.
Poor child may have to reconsider his dream of being a concert pianist. Another hope dashed. At least he has a roommate to help keep his spirits up.

On the brighter side, psych ward patients dressed in costumes visited the children’s floor and brightened up an otherwise gloomy day.
After twenty minutes of clownish antics, which included setting the nurse’s station on fire, the goofy troop was escorted back to their ward by a local SWAT unit. At least they were able to put a smile on Little Timmy’s face.

Won’t you help me brighten Little Timmy’s day?

For less than $5, you can give Little Timmy the hope he needs.

Buy a copy of “Fall Lake.” The link is over there on the right. Little Timmy thanks you.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Little Timmy watch: Day 2

My brave little man keeps smiling in the face of adversity.

I spoke with Little Timmy’s doctor a few minutes ago, Dr. Mengele, and he is not happy with our boy’s progress. He is recommending a radical new treatment

that has, up to this point, only been tested on sea urchins. We’ll do anything for our Little Timmy, so we agreed, even though the regimen costs $3,000 a session. Apparently the cone hat is made with meteorite dust and eagle droppings.

Unfortunately, hospital security evicted us from the emergency room waiting area and we were forced to find new accommodations.
We are trying to make the best of a bad situation, but the bills keep mounting. Our daughter Gina ran away with a band of gypsies, but they brought her back and demanded money for housing and feeding her for a week. Of course, we have no money. Thankfully, they were satisfied with a pair of flip flops and a broken umbrella.

Please, don’t force me to sell my children to gypsies.

For less than $5 you can help pay for Little Timmy’s medical treatments,

Buy a copy of “Fall Lake.” The link is over there on the right. Little Timmy thanks you.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Little Timmy watch: Day 1

I regret to report that Little Timmy’s Xerostomia flared up last night and we had to take him to the hospital for treatment. As you can see in the photo above, he’s putting on a brave face, but the doctor

told me that his chances for a full recovery are 50/50 at best.

Since we were also evicted from our apartment yesterday, our family is living in the hospital waiting room, washing our clothes in bathroom sinks, eating when we find change under seat cushions. Seth, our third oldest son

is the only family member with a steady job, but twenty-six cents a day doesn’t go very far.

The hospital administrator 

said Little Timmy’s treatments will cost $40,000 a day. When I told him of our financial situation, he said we have five days to come up with the money or they will pull the plug on Little Timmy.

Please don’t let them pull the plug on Little Timmy.

For less than $5, you can help pay for Little Timmy’s medical treatment.

Buy a copy of “Fall Lake” today. The link is over to your right. Little Timmy thanks you.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Buy my book. Do it for Little Timmy

Well, it’s come to this.

As my family (all twelve of us) huddled around the single bulb dangling from the ceiling of our dank, windowless basement apartment (we’ll have electricity for a few more days), Little Timmy looked up at me, his dirty face stained by tears of hunger and hopelessness, and he asked me,
            “Daddy, will we eat today?”
I blinked, holding back my own tears, trying to come up with reassuring words for my little barefoot boy who’d only consumed an Altoids and a cricket in the past two days.
            “Someone will surely buy one of my books today, Timmy.”
            His big brown eyes widened. “But what if they don’t?”
            All I could do was wrap my arms around his bony little body and squeeze.
            “They won’t let us perish. I promise you.”

I made a promise to Little Timmy. Please, won’t you help me keep it?

For less than $5, you can help Little Timmy have his first decent meal in weeks (did I mention he suffers from Xerostomia?).

Buy a copy of “Fall Lake” today. The link is over to your right. Little Timmy thanks you.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Dark times

I’ve been experiencing a strong sense of helplessness lately.

Our political system is no longer “our” — as in “the people’s” — political system. It now belongs to a cabal of ultra wealthy individuals and multinational corporations who regularly buy house and senate members and send lobbyists to crawl all over Capital Hill like maggots feeding on a corpse.

We have no control over what government feels it can do in our name. Revelations of spying by the NSA and other government agencies makes it clear that those who supposedly represent us are actually fearful of us, enough so that they are willing to shred the Constitution to keep tabs on our every word. Civil protests are treated as terrorist gatherings. Peaceful protesters are beaten, maced and arrested. Those who dare expose government malfeasance are locked away in prisons or forced into exile. Drones are sent in our name to execute people who have never had a trial or been convicted of a crime, and in many cases, innocent civilians are collateral damage.

You can still vote, can’t you? Yes and no. Republican statehouses are doing everything they can to keep minority citizens from voting. Then there’s gerrymandering. And when we do vote, our choices are limited to corporate lackey A or corporate lackey B. Voting machines are highly susceptible to manipulation and there is strong evidence they have been secretly tampered with in past elections. And, if a national election is close, we can count on the Supreme Court to step in and choose a winner based on the political preferences of the majority.

Finally, there is the corporate propaganda machine that some still refer to as the American media. Under the control of a handful of companies, our media works at the behest of its masters, conveying corporate friendly news and entertainment designed more to mesmerize than inform, distract more than engage, while it continually reassures the masses that everything is under control as the world burns around them.

I see fewer and fewer avenues for citizens to realistically exert their will. That’s a bad sign in a country that calls itself a democracy. We elected Barack Obama on the promise of change, but that promise turned out to be a blatant lie, and the last six years have seen us move inexorably closer to an oligarchy rather than away from it.

So where do we go from here? How do we make our voices heard? How do we return the balance of power to the people of America? The unfortunate reality is that the list of possible responses to these questions is growing shorter and shorter with every passing day.