Friday, July 25, 2014

What could possibly make Congress even less popular than it already is? Trying to impeach Obama.

One of Obama’s top aides said today that he expects Boehner and his Congressional minions to ultimately file articles of impeachment against the President. Why? Does it really matter? Blah, blah, blah Affordable Care Act, blah, blah, blah, immigration. What they couldn’t stop at the ballot box and through congressional action, they are going to try and stop with impeachment. The least popular, least effective Congress in history is going to spend time and money trying to impeach Obama over some technicalities that they ignored up to this point.

Let’s compare a couple of presidents just for the heck of it. Oh, how about Bush and Obama. George Bush used the Supreme Court to steal the 2000 election; broke international law by invading a sovereign nation on trumped up charges; broke international law by allowing torture and secret renditions; suspended parts of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. law through the Patriot Act; killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians during an illegal war; used drones to kill suspects in foreign countries, resulting in hundreds of dead civilians; gave the NSA and other agencies carte blanche to spy on anyone they wanted to; lied to the America public on numerous occasions.

Then there’s Obama who’s black and did some stuff Republicans don’t like. Let’s lynch him. Don’t get me wrong, Obama has been a pretty lousy President, but if you compare the Obama presidency against the Bush presidency, there can be no question which President actually deserved to be impeached.

The popularity of the U.S. Congress is in single digits, but Boehner and company seem intent on driving it even lower with a ridiculous impeachment circus.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Author’s Prerogative - A short short story

The fire cast the only light in the room, a hazy copper glow that reached as far as Armand’s well-worn easy chair. He held a cigarette in one hand, a glass of good scotch in the other, wondering what else a retired writer does during his last night on earth. He could imagine a few things, but at 75 and ill, they were the wistful and wishful desires of a younger man. He took a drink and savored the smoky tang around his tongue before swallowing. As he set the glass back down on the chair’s arm, the air behind him began to chill and wrap around the back of his neck and shoulders like an icy blanket. He dabbed his dying cigarette in the glass ashtray.
“Are you preparing, Armand?” came a hoarse, hollow whisper behind him.
“I’m afraid you’re too late,” said Armand, taking another long drink. “I’ve finished the last chapter.”
“You couldn’t know. No one ever knows.”
            The old man responded with a dusty laugh. “Not even you, apparently.”
“I make the decision. What’s that smell?"
Armand’s glass fell to the floor. “What? You don’t recognize the smell of death?” he rasped, his heart’s final beat a triumphant exclamation point to a life ending exactly when he knew it should.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A monster lives among us

You know how in so many Hollywood movies, the bad guy (or girl) is completely amoral? They have absolutely no redeeming qualities or allegiances, no heart, and have only one goal in their miserable lives (world domination, killing the hero, the Holy Grail, the gold in Ft. Knox, etc.)? Well, think about it. What is the one real-world parallel that turns people into amoral, single-minded tyrants? Profits.

If companies are people, as the Supreme Court says they are, they are amoral organisms that have one purpose and one purpose only: to make a profit. Everything else is superfluous or incidental and subservient to the goal of staying in the black. Today’s large corporations have no national allegiance, no community allegiance, no concern for their workers other than that they perform their assigned duties competently, and absolutely no conscience.

To argue against free market capitalism in America is to invite stoning, shunning, career suicide and any number of other punishments. It’s not a serious part of anyone’s political discourse, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, and, to Tea Partiers, calling Obama a socialist is the modern day equivalent of labeling him a son of Satan.

Unregulated or even poorly regulated capitalism is a recipe for disaster, and that disaster is playing itself out as I type this. The economy has limped along since 2008, but much worse is on horizon as we continue to allow unchecked companies to move to lower wage countries, pay little to nothing in taxes, pay CEOs exorbitant salaries and keep hordes of money stockpiled in offshore accounts.

Politicians working with lobbyists have created an amoral corporate monster that lives only for profits and gives almost nothing back in return.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Obama’s legacy: Not much “there” there

Good article in Salon today by the always insightful Thomas Frank on what the Obama presidential library of the future will contain. Frank guesses that much of the museum will be devoted to hyperventilating over the Republicans in Congress and the obstructions they threw up at every turn of Obama’s presidency. Frank argues, and I think most progressives would agree, that Obama could have and should have done much more to fight the bastards rather than constantly wishing for the never attainable consensus he always seems to want. He simply hasn’t pushed hard enough for his agenda, hasn’t gone to the American people a la Reagan, hasn’t gotten angry, and therefore, hasn’t got much to show for the last six years.

No one expected Obama to walk on water or perform miracles. All we hoped for was that he would follow through on his pledge to change the destructive course set by Bush and Cheney and point America in a new direction. He hasn’t done that. He hasn’t even really tried to do that. If I were to design the Obama presidential library, it would be a very large room with nothing in it. Hidden speakers would play Obama’s speeches in an endless loop. Inspiring, hopeful words with nothing concrete to show for it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why third parties in America are doomed to failure

Why is it impossible to start a serious third political party in the U.S.? It’s been tried many times, but even billionaire Ross Perot couldn’t sustain his efforts. To me, the answer is pretty straightforward: If you have money, and you want influence, you need to back a winner. For many large companies, it doesn’t even matter if the next president is a Republican or Democrat, they give money to both candidates. Throwing away dollars on some third party dark horse wouldn’t make good business sense. Add to this corporate unfriendly progressive politics, and we have nowhere to go but down.

This brings me to a mantra I chant often; campaign finance reform. Until there is serious campaign finance reform, starting with overturning recent Supreme Court blunders, there will never be a serious third party. And, of course, there is no upside for Republicans or Democrats to encourage a more participatory democracy that could threaten their very elite status.

The status quo assures that we on the left end of the political spectrum are locked out of the political process. We can’t even get on Sunday news shows. Right-wing crazies like Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachmann are given access and money because they are free enterprise zombies who will jump into a volcano if the Koch’s tell them to.

A slight detour in this argument leads me to net neutrality. As I mentioned, progressive voices are rarely heard in the mainstream media. You can, however, find many liberal and progressive sites on the Internet, and when they rally together, they can be politically potent. Companies salivating to end net neutrality see dollar signs for sure, but they also see a way of silencing pesky Netnick lefties and their stubbornly persistent world view that unfettered capitalism shouldn’t be the golden calf we all worship.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Short story accepted

My story "Unlucky in Love" has been posted at a short story site. 

Check it out here!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rumors here. Get your red hot Obama rumors here.

Republicans really, really want to impeach Obama. The problem is, they can’t decide on what to impeach him for. Being black isn’t going to get out of the starting gate. Being born in Hawaii seems un-American, but apparently, it’s not. He’s hiding something. Everyone knows it, but what? We need an Edward Snowden in the White House, a patriotic American who will finally pull back the curtain and expose the President for what he is, whatever that might be.

Meanwhile, we have the rumor mill. This is the conservative fantasy land where fevered dreams about Obama can be let loose to be repeated on FOX as fact. Here are a few of the latest that I give as a gift to frustrated Republicans:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is Obama’s half-brother.

Obama routinely flies Kenyan relatives to Washington D.C. to attend raves in the White House basement.

Obama gives copies of Mein Kampf as Christmas gifts.

Obama has a live video feed to a secret room in the White House where kittens are tortured.

Obama is about to issue an executive order making it legal to hunt white Christians.

An anonymous whistleblower claims to have been in a meeting with Obama where he shape-shifted into a reptile, Karl Marx and Elizabeth Taylor.

Obama will occasionally slip out of the White House at night and perform at local clubs as his alter ego, rapper Commander Bro.

Obama is about to suspend the Constitution, declare martial law and make narwhal tattoos mandatory.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New short story: A girl can't be too careful

Here is an excerpt from my newest short story. Read the rest at They're only Shadows.

An early December snowstorm choked downtown Minneapolis with a blinding, blustery assault, keeping would be Christmas Shoppers and Warehouse District employees inside for the afternoon. The lunchroom of Hobbs & Linderman, a large design agency in the Twin Cities, was busier than usual as employees grumbled over Lean Cuisine and stale sandwiches from the vending machines. Senior designer Alice Nolan and copywriter Conner Farmington occupied a small table in a corner of the noisy room.
            “Is that a new tat?” asked Conner.
            Alice lifted up her arm. “Yeah. It’s a butterfly with Jeffrey Dahmer’s face.”
            “Of course it is. The expiration date on this cinnamon roll is in Roman numerals.”
            Alice smiled. “Well, since you’ve eaten half of it, I hope that’s not a problem.”
            “I’ve had worse. Do you or do you not find it weird that most of the people we work with on a daily basis are total strangers? I mean, here’s an example. I interact with Janice Dempsey almost every day. Project coordinator. She’s nice, capable, good at her job, but I know exactly nothing about her. No wedding ring. Okay. Not married. A bit gamey and course at times, but not outrageous. Beyond that, nothing. Even though I converse with her probably more than anyone else in my life, I don’t know a damn thing about her.”
            “And this troubles you.”
            “I find it odd. That’s all. On a given workday, I spend more time with you than I spend with my boyfriend. Okay, more conscious time, yet I only know bits and pieces of your life, but it’s a whole lot more than I know about Janice. Do you not find that strange?”
            “I live with two cats who know me better than my parents. Go figure. You gonna eat that pickle?”
            “The copy for Dow?”
            “Yeah?” said Alice with a twinge of dread.
            “Full of cryptic satanic references that will make fundamentalist Christians instantly evacuate their bowels when they read it.”
            “That’ll win us more work. Do you really want to know more about Janice Dempsey’s life? And if the answer is yes, why?”
            “My point is a simple one. I spend a lot of my life with a group of people I know nothing about.”
            Alice leaned in. “That can be a good thing.”
            “If you have a lot to hide, maybe.”
            “I wish. Besides, this is 2014. You can find out almost anything about anyone online.”
            “Please. That’s too much like stalking for me.”
            “Listen, you’re interested in the life of Janice Dempsey? In a half-hour of searching I bet I can find out a ton of information about her.”
            “Okay, but why?”
            “Call it a personal challenge.” Conner arched an eyebrow. “Okay. My life is so boring and empty even this sounds exciting.”

The sinking U.S.S. America

The ship of state is listing. A new Rasmussen Reports Poll finds that nearly half of Americans believe that elections are unfair. That’s the highest percentage since the poll started ten years ago.

Only 19 percent of those polled think the government has the consent of the governed and only seven percent think that Congress listens to voters more than party leaders. Seven percent.

What’s interesting to me is that poll after poll indicates that a large number of Americans understand the political problems we face, but that understanding does not seem to translate into action. Reality-challenged Republicans will still win congressional seats and be elected governors, perhaps even President. Truckloads of campaign cash from delusional billionaires are clearly trumping the will of the people.

We have a comatose Congress, a President under daily assault from the Right, a Supreme Court majority ruling as if this was the 15th century, a mainstream media controlled by corporate interests, and a citizenry unable or unwilling to turn their anger into meaningful change.

The U.S.S. America is sinking, and unless you’re a billionaire, there ain’t no lifeboats.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The coal rolling clowns of the Confederacy

The above photo should be enough to clue you in on the IQ level of the latest Obama “protesters.” Primarily Southern boys who drive big, fuel gulping trucks, this group of Einsteins enjoy demonstrating their disdain for Obama’s support of clean air by modifying their diesel trucks with chimneys and equipment that forces extra fuel into the engine causing thick black smoke to pour out of the smoke stacks. They call it coal rolling.

“I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all,” a salesperson of custom coal rolling equipment told David Weigel of Slate magazine. “If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck — that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”

Clean air? Screw you.

What’s next, fellas? Cow dung in the town’s water supply? Clean water? Screw you. Cover our crops with toxic chemicals? (Wait, we’re already doing that). Michelle Obama wants kids to grow up healthy. Screw you. We want ‘em to grow up…not healthy. Obama supports our troops. We don’t? This argument isn’t going the way it should.

“Wait a minute, Elmer. It’s a trap.”
“It is?”
“They’re tryin’ to get us to analyze stuff.”
“Damn them.”
“You know Obama probably likes to analyze stuff.”
“Analyze stuff? Screw you.”
“That’s the spirit.”

Sunday, July 06, 2014

I Miss W.

According to a Huff post article:

The Republican National Committee is celebrating former President George W. Bush's birthday this weekend by selling wistful "I Miss W." t-shirts to its supporters.

I miss W, too. I miss his boyish smirk and Texas drawl. I miss his sense of humor. Remember the time when he joked about not finding WMDs in Iraq while American soldiers were dying? That cracked me up. And he kept joking around trying to convince everyone that we would find WMDs when there weren’t any. What a kidder.

Then there was his compassion. He sat for over seven minutes listening to children read in a Florida classroom while America was being attacked. Even though his eyes said “I’m scared shitless,” he said he did it so he wouldn’t frighten the children. He did it for the kids.

He cared so much for America that he didn’t even allow the Constitution to stand in the way of his love of country. To protect us all, he approved of torture, drone attacks, unwarranted surveillance, black sites, renditions (kidnapping), Abu Ghraib, secret military trials, the Patriot Act…good times.

Back to 9/11. Ever the jokester, Bush claimed no one could imagine terrorists flying planes into buildings when only five days before 9/11, the U.S. military was conducting exercises that simulated terrorists hijacking planes in London and blowing them up with bombs over New York City. What a nut!

And I miss his razor sharp ability to surround himself with intellectuals and highly experienced politicians who…well, okay, they didn’t get anything right about anything, but they believed they were right, and that’s what counts for me. I mean, look at Dick Cheney, a man of unbounded compassion and love for his fellow man. Even now, he is so selfless and generous he wants to give Obama credit for all of our stunning successes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The guy’s a saint.

Yes, I miss W, too. George, you were the worst of the worst, and hopefully, they’ll never be another like you.

Friday, July 04, 2014

New short story: "The Pond"

Here is an excerpt from my latest short story, "The Pond."

That night at dinner, Vin’s discovery was lost in the chatter. “It’s something with three fingers.”
            “Pass the mashed potatoes,” said his father. “Animal tracks. Christ, can you believe the Cubs lost again? Five in a row. I don’t know why I care—“
            “Jim, watch the swearing, please.”
            “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” joked his father in a deep voice.
            “I wish.”
            “Mom, I want a bikini,” pleaded Alice.
            “Over my dead body. Is the pork done enough?”
            “It’s fine. A bikini?”
            “What animal has a hand like a human with only three fingers?”
            “Emily’s mom let her get one.”
            “Get what?”
            “A bikini.”
            “Well, we don’t do things simply because somebody else does them. Especially the Lamberts.”
            “What’s wrong with the Lamberts?”
            Vin gave up and put his half eaten dinner in the sink. It was Wednesday, so he was supposed to be cleaning his room, but he was soon lost in the Encyclopedia Britannica looking at animal tracks with background music from his sister’s room courtesy of the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown.” Nothing matched the prints he saw in the mud earlier. Tink. Tink. Vin went to the window and peered out. Derek stood in the yard looking up. “I got a surprise,” he said, wearing a clownish grin.
            Derek had on a jacket on a very warm, muggy evening. He looked around Vin’s bedroom suspiciously.
            “What’s wrong with you?” asked Vin.
            The boy slid a magazine out from under his jacket and held it up triumphantly. “Playboy. July, 1961.”
            Vin grabbed it out of his friend’s hand. “What? Are you kidding me?”
            “It’s the real deal, my friend. The best thing is that my dad will never ask me where it is because then he’d have to explain why he has it in the first place.”
            “You are good. Very, very good.”
            The boys spent the next half hour ogling the voluptuous women of July, until Vin’s mother knocked on the door. “Bath time.”
            “Derek’s here, can’t I do it in a half hour?”
            “Okay. A half hour.”
             “Look at those tits,” said a dreamy Derek.
            “There’s no animal that makes prints like the ones by the pond.”
            Derek looked at Vin as if he was speaking a foreign language. “What?”
            “The prints by the pond. It’s not an animal.”
            “So what made the prints?”
            Perturbed that Vin was off topic, Derek closed the magazine. “How the heck should I know?”
            “What if it’s a monster? Huh?”
            Derek rubbed his nose nervously. “A monster? Monsters are in the movies. There aren’t any real monsters. Are you crazy?”
            “Then explain the prints.”
            “The prints. The prints. I bring you the latest issue of Playboy, and you’re worried about some prints in the mud. You can be pretty strange sometimes.” Derek put the magazine back under his coat and walked to the door. “See you later, Vin.”

Check out the rest of the story at They're Only Shadows.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Dumb and Dumber rate the US Presidents

How can a person stay positive and optimistic after a week like this, and it’s only Wednesday? We started with the outlandish Supreme Court decisions that set women’s rights back 50 years, then there’s this AP article released this morning, indicating that Americans have the political savvy of a garden gnome.

The AP states: “President Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II, according to a plurality of voters in a new poll published Wednesday. The Quinnipiac University survey found 33% of American voters named Obama as the worst while 28% named his predecessor, George W. Bush.”

I’ve wrapped my head in an Ace bandage to try and keep it from exploding. Now I am not a big fan of Obama. The man got into office by hoodwinking liberals and progressives into thinking he was one of us, but clearly he is not. That said, to compare Obama’s performance to George Bush’s is like comparing apples and elephants. It’s like going up to a member of an arena cleaning crew right after a big game and blaming that person for the mess fans left behind.

Obama inherited the war on terror, an out-of-control NSA, the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, Iraq and Afghanistan, GITMO, drones, torture, a crippled economy, bin Laden, a broken healthcare system and an obstructionist Congress. My criticism, and that of many progressives, is that Obama hasn’t done nearly enough to undo these mistakes, but we have to acknowledge that he did not create this mayhem.

George Bush did.

Is the recent push by Cheney and his fellow neocons to rewrite the history of the Iraq war actually working? Perhaps it is. There is little if any disagreement among historians that George Bush was one of the worst presidents this country has ever had, but Obama? Are Americans really that dumb?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Supreme Injustice

The Supreme Court’s recent horrendous decisions, which primarily attack women’s rights, remind me of a phrase from the Eagle’s Hotel California — We are all just prisoners here, by our own device. We voted for the Republican presidents who then nominated a cadre of conservative ideologues to the highest court in the land, and these guys have decades left to make our lives as miserable as humanly possible.

Anton Scalia is proof positive that time travel is possible. How else can you explain a 21st century man basing his legal decisions on a pre-Enlightenment worldview? He was powdering his wig somewhere in Italy one day and “poof,” he was transported to the current chambers of the Supreme Court. And then there’s Clarence Thomas, a man so confused by the complexity of modern life that he can’t put together a single coherent sentence expressing his opinions.

The conservatives on the court are also corporate toadies who consistently decide in favor of Wall Street over Main Street. Corporations have the same rights as people? Pulleeeze. Their decisions have turned our elections into auctions where the congressional seat goes to the highest bidder. The Koch brothers and the Waltons and the Coors are spending billions to turn Congress into an extension of their boardrooms.

And to top everything off, even if Obama were given the opportunity to nominate a judge to the Supreme Court, I don’t have any confidence that he would choose a liberal judge. His pathological need to be seen as a bi-partisan centrist has led him to make some pretty poor choices in the past. Let’s say Obama goes crazy one day and nominates a liberal judge. Would that person stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting confirmed by our current congress?

Term limits for Supreme Court judges is the only thing that can change the nightmare scenario that is our current reality. Give judges 10 years on the bench, then they can go out and make their millions in the private sector. It’s a win/win.