Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Coverage of the Baltimore riots reveals the media's true bias

These are two of the most enduring lies promulgated by conservatives: Taxes are evil and the news media in America is liberal. They are both nonsense, but the latter lie should (but won’t) be laid to rest after a week of news coverage on the Baltimore riots.

What flickered by on our screens and monitors was the blatant and clumsy attempt to create a narrative that serves the interests of this country’s corporate elite rather than the truth. From Wolf Blitzer to Geraldo Rivera to CNN’s Erin Burnett, the narrative has been this: Look at those black kids breaking windows and setting things on fire. Isn’t that horrible? Say it with me, “that’s horrible.” To their credit, a number of interviewees pushed back and said no, that’s not the narrative from the black community’s point of view. Our narrative is this: Police officers are murdering unarmed black people, and their police superiors and the courts are not bringing these criminal cops to justice.

The media’s focus on acts of violence is like a doctor treating a skin rash and not considering the internal issues causing the rash. Video of people running amok in city streets is much more enticing than graphs and data about police violence and murder in black communities, and it also serves to confirm the biases and bigotry of the news media’s advertisers and older, white demographic.

Coverage of the Baltimore riots lays bare the corporate media’s servitude to the interests of the elites. It’s 2015 and whistleblowers are jailed instead of those responsible for the criminal acts they revealed, major financial institutions and Wall Street are exempt from the law, and cops can still get away with murdering black people. These are clear signs of a democracy in decline.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Be Prepared For a Long, Hot Summer

As a teenager in the 1960s, I can remember clearly the televised images of the riots that erupted in a number of American cities. It was as if there were embers floating through the air that landed on gas soaked rags in city after city. In Newark, Detroit, Watts and even my hometown of Oakland, our television screens were filled with images of blocks and blocks of buildings billowing gray smoke from fires, looters running from store to store grabbing anything they could carry, vehicles engulfed in flames and dead bodies lying in the streets.

I now watch the news on a computer monitor instead of a giant TV console, but the images of the Baltimore riots could have been from an incident fifty years earlier, and for me, that’s very discouraging. It doesn’t feel as if race relations in this country have progressed much at all over the intervening half century. Read the comments section of any Baltimore related news story or tune into FOX News, and you’ll be enveloped by the stench of persistent racism, some of it couched in code words and subtle inferences while much of it is blatant and straightforward bigotry hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet.

The one dramatic difference between today and the 1960s is the number of people with video cell phones. Citizen videographers are now able to capture confrontations between police and the policed, and what we are seeing as a result is not a pretty sight. Many have claimed over the years that there are two systems of justice in America, one white and one black. The videos that we’ve seen over the past year or so only seem to confirm this assertion, as unarmed blacks are shot to death for infractions you know most white people would escape unharmed.

This has been a winter of highly visible, racially charged incidents. From Ferguson to Staten Island to Los Angeles to Baltimore, unarmed black men have been killed by police officers. They’ve all been under different circumstances, and not all of them can be labeled a police murder, but the videos do show how quick the police are to use lethal violence in confrontations with black men.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that this will be a long, hot and violent summer across the U.S. as tensions over police conduct in black communities boils over to the streets. Rioting is not the answer, especially when it destroys the very communities in which black people live and work, but the frustration level of those who are the victims of justice by skin color is on the rise, and with a judicial system that lets them down time after time after time, where do they turn for help?

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Road Rage Incident in Victorian England

“My good man, I must inform you that your driving skills are wholly inadequate.”

“Dear sir, since we have not had the pleasure of meeting before, I excuse you for not knowing that I am, in fact, an excellent carriage captain.”

“It may be true that on some other day at some other time you are a skilled driver, but that day and time is not today. Your vehicle veered into my path.”

“I must assume that you have left your spectacles on your bedside table, My Good Man, otherwise you would have seen that I clearly signaled my intentions to merge.”

“Ha. No one would require spectacles to see something that was not there. And where, pray tell, did you purchase your driving certificate? Ye Olde Shoppe of Forged Documents?”

“You are testing my patience, Sir. If a constable were within shouting distance, I would insist that he arrest you for your insulting and boorish behavior.”

“Arrest me? Arrest me? The only one who should be shackled on this day is you. Your maniacal driving is a threat not just to me, but to other poor defenseless pedestrians who could be run over and disfigured or killed in your haste to get to the pub.”

“I’ll have you know I am as sober as your mother. Oh, how silly of me. Everyone knows your mother is drunken sot.”

“How dare you speak of my mother that way. She is a saint who resides in heaven. When I am finished with you, I will pray to her and ask her to wave at your ancestors who are most certainly burning in hell.”

“Your insolence cannot stand. I have in my hand my cane, which I will now use to teach you lesson in civility and good manners, since you have demonstrated you possess neither.”

“My answer is this umbrella. Its intended use is to protect one from rain, but I will now use it to protect society from a mindless brute intent on murder and mayhem.”

“En Garde!”

“En Garde!”

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Threesome of Short Scary Stories

A new trio of short scary stories. Find them here.

Jesus Junkies Caught On Video

You’ve heard the horror stories: People playing with poisonous snakes like they’re kittens; shouting gibberish in a trance-like state; traversing neighborhoods like zombies looking for strangers to accost. They’re the Jesus Junkies, hopped up and brainwashed addicts shackled to a mind-numbing drug called “Jesus Juice” or JJ, as it’s known on the streets.

Many of us have only heard about the destructive nature of JJ and it’s adverse affects on the mind, but now we have video of a gathering of Jesus Junkies in their “church” and can witness the terrifying behavior of addicts high on JJ. You’ll see the drug transform grown men into prancing, dancing lunatics shouting nonsense at each other as they gyrate and flail their arms about. Having lost all self-control, they skip across the stage like five-year olds, twirl their coats over their heads and make mysterious hand gestures displaying their Jesus Junkie creds.

This is not a video for the faint of heart, but if it helps just one person think twice before drinking JJ, it will have served its purpose. Watch the video here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Some odd, fun and disturbing random facts:

One in four Americans believes Obama is the antichrist.

One in four Americans think the sun revolves around the Earth, according to a National Science Foundation survey.

Mark Twain didn’t graduate from elementary school.

Until 1796 the state of Tennessee was called “Franklin.”

Nearly 30% of the Americans surveyed in a National Geographic Study (2003) could not locate the Pacific Ocean on a world map.

A 2004 survey found that 51% of Americans believe in creationism.

A study found that ¼ of Americans did not know we won our independence from Great Britain.

Seventy-three percent of people surveyed in a 2011 Newsweek poll did not know why there was a Cold War.

More than one-third of Americans believe sexual orientation is a choice.

Percentage of American men who say they would marry the same woman if they had to do it all over again: 80

Percentage of American women who say they would marry the same man: 50

If the government has no knowledge of aliens, then why does Title 14, Section 1211 of the Code of Federal Regulations, implemented on July 16, 1969 make it illegal for U. S. citizens to have any contact with extraterrestrials or their vehicles?

In 2012, more people were killed by toddlers than terrorists

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Where does right wing conservatism end and mental illness begin?

A big story in this election cycle is how far to the right Republicans have turned in recent years and how they continue winning elections at all levels of government while holding views with which the majority of Americans disagree. How do they get away with calling Obama a socialist (he’s not), climate change a hoax (it’s not) and Muslims evil (they’re not) and myriad other lies and still be considered fit to hold public office by so many voters?

In speech after speech after speech, Cruz, Rubio, That-White-Guy Walker and the other Republican Presidential wannabes make outrageous accusations and tell flat-out lies with a conviction that is unnerving. Do they actually believe the garbage they are hurling at their audience? Are they so brainwashed by FOX News and their own demagoguery that they think merely by saying something it is therefore true? Doesn’t that break from reality fall into some category of mental illness?

A major reason why these clowns win elections is that America’s richest citizens reward them for their craziness with millions in campaign checks. These borderline mental cases are more than willing to be tools of the elites if they get to sit in big leather chairs and ride in a limousine. Despite the fact that they are destroying America for future generations through their greed, the .01 percent has no concerns about our democracy going to the highest bidder, because they’re always the highest bidder.

The bottom line: If you want to run for political office as a Republican and be lavished with money, being mentally ill isn’t a requirement, but it will definitely give you an edge.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

America’s Elites Have Us Right Where Thy Want Us

A question many of us ask ourselves is, “How can we wake up the masses to the reality of America’s decline and inspire them to action?” I can’t help but look back at the 60s and wonder what made that era so different. Hundreds of thousands of people of all racial backgrounds took to the streets during that decade to protest the Vietnam War, racial segregation and the prospects of nuclear war. Many were college age, but if you go back and look at photos of the marches you’ll find plenty of middle-aged and older citizens as well. Why not now?

One major reason is the state of the economy in this country then and now. In the fifties and sixties, a family could live a modest yet comfortable life on one blue-collar salary, as mine did. Unions were strong, wages were high and the post-war economy in America was booming. Students could attend college without having to bear the burden of soul crushing debt and a person without a diploma could still get a job that paid a living wage. There was a sense of economic security in those days that simply does not exist today, and people could turn their thoughts to issues beyond simple survival.

Today, the economy is anemic at best, income inequality is staggering and attending college requires tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. Americans are struggling to survive economically and families need two jobs just to keep the lights on. Our lack of economic security is keeping us focused on getting and keeping our jobs to feed our families and avoid bankruptcy, and this is just fine in they eyes of today’s elites. They’re grateful we don’t have the time or energy to look behind the curtain and see what they’re really up to.

In fact, we are right in the sweet spot from the perspective of the .01 percent; not so bad off financially that we start turning our frustrations on our leaders en mass, yet not so well off that we can take the time to reflect on our situation and determine who’s to blame. And, best of all, our billionaires are raking in almost all the income that’s to be made in this economy. What’s not to love?

We’ll have a new President soon, and which way the economy goes will have a direct impact on whether the slumbering giant wakes up and begins demanding change.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Jade Helm, Walmart and Martial Law — Dust off Your Tin Foil Hat

What better way to spice up a cool, cloudy Monday than with the hottest conspiracy theory circulating on the Internet? This summer, between July 15 and September 15, elite service members from all four branches of the military will be conducting exercises throughout the Southwest, including Southern California, in an operation called Jade Helm 15.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command said the exercise is designed to train special units to “successfully conduct worldwide operations in support of our nation’s interests.” This is the kind of vague gobbledygook that you might expect from the military, but it should be noted that these types of operations have been conducted before in various areas of the U.S., although this one is the largest to date.

Since the first mentions of Jade Helm, conspiracy theorists across the Internet have been telling anyone who will listen that this is the prelude to martial law in America. This seems a severe stretch of the imagination to me. Obama? Martial law? I don’t think so. However, there is a tantalizing sidebar to all of this that will only add fuel to the conspiracy fire.

Last week Walmart closed five stores on the same day, two in Texas, one in California, one in Oklahoma and one in Florida. The official excuse for shutting down the stores (and putting nearly 2000 people on unemployment) was plumbing problems. This response was met with skepticism, which was heightened when reporters found that none of the affected stores had applied for any plumbing permits from their respective municipalities.

Fast forward to today. A woman with a video camera went to the Pico Rivera, California store to check things out. That store has kept its pharmacy open to allow people with prescriptions there to continue getting their meds. The first thing she noted was that there were police cruisers parked at every entrance and exit to the Walmart. She then went into the section of the store that was open. There she found that shelving had been erected around the pharmacy that blocked any view of the rest of the store. She was eventually kicked out because she wasn’t filling a prescription.

There you go. There will be a huge military exercise in the Southwest this summer where four Walmarts closed unexpectedly and are under police guard. I seriously doubt that plumbing repairs would require that level of security. What’s really going on? I have no idea, but stay tuned.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Congress Pays Fealty to its Masters

The United States Congress is home to a large community of corrupt, self-serving, money-grubbing psychopaths who have pledged their allegiance to the 0.01 percent and have no interest in the needs of their constituents. This past week they made an offering to their masters by voting to repeal the estate tax, which mostly benefits the heirs of billionaires. Why not let the next generation of elites know who they can count on to fight for them?

Citizens United opened the bank vaults and we are now watching the corporate funded puppets dancing to their masters’ tune. The Koch’s and friends are buying Washington as a gift to their children. It’s a lot better than a pony.

Many Americans can see what’s happening to our government, but many others cannot, and they seem to make up the segment of Americans who actually go to the polls and vote. Will we ever be able to convince this older, white demographic that they are voting against their best interests? Probably not, and we will all suffer as a result.

What will it take to inspire the rest of the country to take action? That remains to be seen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Cult of Cruelty in America

Over the past six years the number of homeless children in America has increased by an incredible 60 percent with 16 million kids now on food stamps. The U.S has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the world, ranking us with Latvia, Lithuania and Romania at the bottom of the list.

How is this even remotely okay in a country that claims to be the leader of the free world, the country supposedly ordained by God to be the example of democracy for everyone else to follow? Every day there’s a new headline about the improving economy, but that supposed improvement isn’t reaching a whole lot of people. 

What do you expect when one of the two major political parties in America believes that the poor are in that condition because they are lazy and dependent on government handouts? In other words, Republicans blame the poor for their poverty, and constantly demean and demonize the most helpless class of people in the country. People like Cruz and Rubio and Cotton are members of a cult of cruelty, blaming the victim and rushing to unravel the remaining safety net that in some cases is literally the difference between life and death.

Poor children don’t vote, so they mean nothing to Tea Party conservatives. Like everything else conservatives believe, their perspective on poverty is supported not by science or data, but by twisted religious beliefs and a reality challenged adherence to the idea of free markets with absolutely no government intervention. In other words, they would prefer a dog-eat-dog world over even the slightest government regulation.

And who suffers the most in this Ayn Randian nightmare of free-for-all capitalism? Our children, of course. They pay the price for conditions they had nothing to do with creating. The cult of cruelty is the result of white elitists in positions of power who want no government regulation over how they make their money, calling any interference with their schemes socialism. Children are not as important as the bottom line, and neither apparently, is our future as a country.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mass Media Hypnosis

How people make decisions interests me. People can look at the very same world I’m looking at and make decisions about things that are the polar opposite of what I would decide. Are they smarter than me? Do they know something I don’t? The 2012 mid-term election is a case in point. It’s true the turnout was low, but people throughout America made a conscious decision to vote into office the very culprits who were responsible for this country’s myriad problems. What seems so crystal clear to me is seen through a completely different pair of glasses by a large chunk of American voters. Why is that?

There is no one answer, of course, but I believe the mainstream corporate media plays a critical role in shaping and contouring people’s perceptions about their country, and how they choose to pull the lever on election day. I’m not breaking any new ground here (See Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent for a thorough, well researched analysis of how the media molds public opinion), but I’m simply trying to understand how and why my own views differ so greatly from those of my fellow Americans.

After all, I grew up in a solid blue-collar home with parents who were loving, but not well educated. My father was an auto mechanic and my mother the stay-at-home parent, a pretty typical household unit in the nineteen fifties, and one that you would suspect would be a fertile breeding ground for conservative ideology. I even went to church regularly as a child.

But there was one important variable. Despite his lack of formal education, my father was a natural born critical thinker and he questioned things that others around him took for granted. He opposed the Vietnam War. He would argue for hours with his sister, a devout Catholic, about the problems with religious dogma. He was a huge fan of Mark Twain, as am I. So something unusual happened during my upbringing, my interactions with my parents and the larger world, that turned me to the left politically at an early age.

It may be my upbringing that has allowed me to elude the siren song of the status quo. The corporate media is a powerful force that has many people captivated and under its spell. Since its infancy, television was a vehicle to sell things, with some entertainment stuck in between commercials to keep eyes fixed on the screen. Pitching products and services is still a primary function of the networks, but it has an additional corporate/government responsibility to de-radicalize Americans and numb them into a state of obedience.

Tens of millions of Americans rely solely on the major networks for their news, so the political spectrum they are exposed to both overtly (i.e. the Sunday news panel shows) and covertly, runs from the far right to the wobbly center. Progressive views are marginalized and rarely heard. The so-called liberal press is one of the great myths of our generation. The media today is a for-profit enterprise that purposefully shapes its news programs to offend as few viewers as possible and support the institutions and ideas it considers “mainstream.” This soft, easy to digest pablum is served up on a daily basis and reinforces already internalized beliefs and biases. It does not challenge, it lulls. It is a form of hypnotism, keeping viewers in a certain state of political obliviousness while at the same time, inciting people to be good little consumers and spend, spend, spend.

Instead of encouraging critical thinking, the news media emphasizes group think and constantly reinforces the importance of “fitting in” to be cool, sexy and hip. By ignoring critical voices and a truly comparative analysis of the political candidates’ positions, viewers are left with little substantive information, and revert to picking the candidate that most closely mirrors their personal values, with little understanding of his or her record or policies.

Look into my giant eye. You are getting sleepy, very, very sleepy….

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Messing with Texas

Is it just me or is Texas full of the looniest people in America? The news seems to be filled daily with stories about Texans acting and talking crazy. From Tea Party darlings in Washington like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Louie Gohmert to the marketing CEO (a female) who says a woman can’t be President because of hormones and Biblical sound reasoning to the Texas mother who objected to the regular visits to her son’s public school of “Bible Man.” Her complaints about overt Christian proselytizing in a public school were met with death threats and a photo of a house burning down. She said, “We just can’t get over how much hate there is in their loving, Christian hearts.”

George Bush is a Texan. And let’s not forget the ever-quotable governor of Texas Rick Perry, the man who never lets anyone forget he hates Obama, guberment and gun laws. His positions include eliminating the federal income tax, ending the direct election of U.S. senators and allowing states to opt out of Social Security and Medicaid. He has also suggested that Texas might secede from the United States.

How bad is Texas? Here are a few indicators:

  • Texas is 43rd in graduation rate
  • Texas ranks 50th in adults with a high school diploma
  • Texas ranks 46th in SAT scores
  • Texas ranks 49th in teacher pay
  • Tax Expenditures per Capita 47th
  • Percent of Uninsured Children 1st
  • Percent of Children Living in Poverty 4th
  • Per Capita State Spending on Mental Health 50th
  • Teenage Birth Rate 7th
  • Rate of Incarceration 9th
  • Texas ranks 38th in funding per pupil
  • Texas ranks 43rd in voting age population that is registered and 45th of voting age citizens who actually vote!
  • Texas is the biggest polluter in America, according to the EPA
  • Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country

    Sure, every state has its issues, but Texas seems to breed a particularly virulent strain of wackiness. Everything’s bigger in Texas, including its problems.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    Hillary’s campaign logo: An unfortunate early misstep

    As someone who has spent a career in the marketing/design world, I’ve seen some great logos and some ghastly ones. One thing about creating a logo is you have to think long and hard about all of the possible connotations of your image, because it’s going to be scrutinized by everyone and their mothers. Here are two examples of logos that somehow got through the approval process without the appropriate amount of scrutiny:

    At the top of the page is the logo for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. Maybe it’s a subject I’m too close to, but I don’t know how anyone can look at her logo and not be reminded of the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. I understand the intent of the logo, moving forward, progress and all of that, but it boggles the mind that no one on her team said, “Hey, doesn’t that remind you of the World Trade Center buildings?"

    Symbols are important communications tools both in their obvious connotations and the deeper, subconscious meanings that they convey. Think of the power of the simple cross or a swastika. The popular Da Vinci Code books and movies were all about the age-old mysteries of symbols. It’s unfortunate that Hillary’s campaign team missed the troubling implications in her logo. Not the best first step on the road to the White House.

    Monday, April 13, 2015

    The Republican Clown Car Bound For Washington Has a New Passenger

    The Buffoon Brigade of Republican candidates running for President increased by one over the weekend as the first-term Florida Senator Marco Rubio selflessly offered his un-asked for services to the country. During his announcement to donors, he said that there is a real choice in this election between the past and the future. I assume he considers himself the future, which can be chalked up as the first ludicrous statement of many, many to come during his campaign.

    As a Tea Party zealot, you don’t have to do any research at all to know what Rubio stands for: Tax cuts for the wealthy; war everywhere; privatize everything; demonize gays, blacks, immigrants; theocracy, anti-science, etc. There is no meaningful difference between Rubio and Cruz and Walker and Carson when it comes to their political beliefs. They all want to turn back the hands of time to some golden era of American conservatism that never really existed.

    If any of the current Republican candidates wins the White House, it’s match, set, game over for America. These are people who believe the world is literally going to end soon, so who really gives a shit about anything anyway? In fact, there are those among their ilk who want to hasten in the end times and are willing to take drastic action to see their delusional prophecy fulfilled. Tell me again you want this person to have the codes to our nuclear weapons.

    It remains to be seen how badly Americans have lost touch with reality and common sense. Will they send a certified lunatic to the White House? Stay tuned.

    Sunday, April 12, 2015

    Hillary Clinton: The Stop-Gap President

    Hillary Clinton announced today she’s running for President. I have mixed feelings about it, but they’re mostly negative. Yes, it would be a giant step forward in many ways for this country to have a woman in charge, and I am looking forward to that day. Beyond the fact that Hillary is a woman, however, there is little to cheer about.

    Mrs. Clinton is the establishment Democrat. She voted with conservatives to start the Iraq war and has been a consistent hawk on military issues her entire political career. She has deep roots in both Washington and Wall Street and is a veteran of backroom negotiating. The biggest issue I have with Hillary is that I don’t see her halting or overhauling any of the Bush/Obama policies such as mass surveillance, the perpetual war on terror, the use of drones or our insanely large expenditure on national defense.

    One thing I know for certain is how Clinton will campaign. As the primaries draw closer, Hillary will start courting the Left with much talk about helping the middle class, taking on the financial elites and fixing our broken economy, all hot button issues for liberals and progressives. Once she has the nomination, the rhetoric will shift to the right, to appeal to the broader group of voters resting in the middle of the political spectrum. Should she win the election, we would see her surround herself with Washington insiders and Wall Street veterans and she would move back to the middle/right where she naturally resides.

    With no fresh ideas or bold initiatives, Bush’s corrosive policies will live on in a Clinton administration and America will continue its gradual slide into oblivion. Isn’t Hillary better than a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul? That depends. If you’re anxious to get the nightmare over with quickly and have a President who will put America out of its misery quickly, go Republican. Want some extra time? Vote for Hillary.

    Saturday, April 11, 2015

    “Take our country back” is Rand Paul’s confusing campaign theme

    The Huffington Post is airing a new cable show called…wait for it…The Huffpost Show. Brilliant. Anyway, I caught a few minutes of it and the subject of the day was a phrase that Rand Paul is using in his stumbling, bumbling campaign for the Presidency: “We’re going to take our country back.” The two hosts were like “from whom?” and then a singer did a satirical song about it.

     Since the phrase is a center point of his campaign and, from a brief clip they showed of a Paul speech, very popular with his supporters, it seems fair to me to exam it a bit more thoroughly.

    “We’re going to take our country back” implies that there was a time in the past when America was a conservative utopia and it exemplified the basic tenets of conservative ideology. Okay. When, exactly was that time?

    Perhaps America’s golden era was as recent as the Reagan years where Ron and his band of neocons began the destruction of the Middle Class, made a secret pact with Iran to keep the American hostages until after Carter left office, illegally sold guns to the Contras and left this country in an economic mess when his term was up.

    No? Well, we can definitely rule out the sixties. Maybe they really like the fifties, when taxes on this country’s richest individuals was as high as 80 percent, teen pregnancies were at the highest level they’ve ever been, Jim Crow laws still applied, and American citizens were persecuted if rabid officials eve thought you were a communist. It was, however, the Golden Age of television, that fictional world where father always knew best and children apologized if they disappointed their parents.

    How about the thirties and forties? What? Turn back the clock to the New Deal and all of FDR’s socialist programs? No thank you. The twenties and thirties? The stock market crash, the Great Depression, prohibition, the Dust Bowl, etc. etc. The turn of the century? Robber barons, Tammany Hall, Native American genocide? Pre-Civil War? 1200 B.C.?

    Obviously, there is no “back” to go back to for Conservatives. Whatever utopia they have in their fevered minds is a delusional blend of Ayn Rand, fifties sit-coms and racist dreams of a time when white people lorded over everyone without question.

    What a minute. Hold on. Maybe the phrase “take our country back” actually means, “take our country backwards,” in which case I apologize and give Paul kudos for his brutal honesty.

    Friday, April 10, 2015

    We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Thank God.

    I want to feel sorry for the citizens of Kansas. Their governor, Republican Sam Brownback, is imposing a doggedly conservative political agenda that is turning Dorothy Gale’s loving home state into a welfare dependent, gun slinging, poor bashing, economic hell. I say I want to feel sorry for them, but for reasons that escape all logic, the voters of the Sunflower State sent Brownback back to the Capital for a second term knowing that his economic policies were dragging them to the poor house.

    Brownback and his Republican cronies are now resorting to stealing money from education and much needed infrastructure to try and stave off the economic hemorrhaging caused by his tax cuts and misplaced trust in trickle-down economics. And on top of everything else, Brownback thought it was important that gun owners in Kansas be allowed to carry firearms around with no license or gun safety training requirement.

    My hope is that Democrats running for office in 2016 will shine a big bright light on the Brownback debacle. “Kansas is what America will look like if you vote for Republicans,” they should pound home. “The conservative policies of Brownback have been a total failure and are a destroying a once great state. Do you want that to happen to your country?” Kansas is a laboratory where conservative policies are being tested, and the results so far are painfully obvious: They don’t work.

    If Dorothy went to Oz in 2015, I don’t think she would be so anxious to get home.

    Thursday, April 09, 2015

    Ted Rall is right about revolution, but convincing the masses is another story

    I’ve always liked and admired political cartoonist Ted Rall. He’s actually much more than a cartoonist, and his articles and books are no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners progressive rants of the highest order. He’s got a new book out, “The Anti-American Manifesto,” and, in an excerpt I read on AlterNet, it’s classic Rall, but uniquely important at the same time. In this book, Rall spells out clearly what so many progressive writers and thinkers have been dancing around for years now, myself included: The American government is going to collapse soon. There will be a power vacuum, and the Tea Party/gun nuts/militia groups/crazy Christians are ready and poised to step into that vacuum if no one else does.

    Rall stands up and says it out loud: Progressives need to start the revolution now, before the actual collapse, or we will find ourselves shackled, imprisoned or worse.

    “We can wait for the system to collapse of its own accord, for the rage of the downtrodden and dispossessed to build, for chaos of some sort to expose and destroy it. But implosion might take a long time. And when it happens, we may find ourselves even more powerless than we are now. They -- the hardcore, racist, undereducated, fundamentalist Christian, anti-civil liberties Right -- are preparing to step into the breach, to seize power. They can't wait to unleash their venomous hatred on the city-dwelling commie hipster fags they despise. They are armed. They recognize that the system is doomed. They've seen this coming. They're organized and willing to merge their disparate brands of conservatism under a common leadership. Most importantly, they get it. They don't need to be convinced that everything is in play. They're putting it in play.

    Strong stuff, but we all know that he is right. It is time for resistance, action and effort. Rall doesn’t offer any easy answers to the obvious question, “What should I do, Ted?” He claims his role is to get people to think, and then choose their own course of action.

    I’m in total agreement with Rall, and I admire his courage writing this manifesto, but I also live in this world, and I look around me daily at the people of the Twin Cities and I don’t see any revolutionaries. I live in an economic strata of people who are focused on families and careers, working harder than ever, but still able to afford a new car when they need one or to go out to dinner when they want to or take a summer vacation.

    For a variety of reasons, the coming calamity we are facing in America is not on their radar. If I was to have lunch with anyone I know here at work and tell them that we need to start a revolution, they’d smile and discreetly move to another table. I can only speak for my own experience, but the people I know will only be motivated to act if (when) the economy goes south in a big way and they are deprived of the things that they now take for granted. Then, and only then, will the ground be fertile for planting the desperate idea of revolution.

    Raising political awareness among the masses is extremely difficult at the moment. The corporate news media is keeping the average American woefully misinformed of the political realities in this country, and while many people have a vague uneasiness about what’s going on in Washington, very few truly understand the gravity of the situation.

    Rall is right in his evaluation of our current dilemma, but I don’t think there will be much movement or support for the idea of revolution until we reach a critical mass of economic discomfort among people in what’s left of the middle class. I hope I’m wrong about this.

    Wednesday, April 08, 2015

    Dick Cheney’s “Blame Obama” tour

    Merriam-Webster defines the word “chutzpah” as, “Having personal confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.” It derives from a Hebrew word hutspa meaning “insolence,” “cheek” or “audacity.”

    There is no better word in any language to describe former Vice President Dick Cheney. Every time the sneering sack of soulless spin opens his mouth, the words that fall out are so maddeningly insolent, cheeky and audacious, he makes Darth Sidious sound like a Sunday school teacher.

    The Tin Man of modern politics is now crisscrossing the country promoting the book he wrote with his daughter Liz, Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America. In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Chaney said of the recent Iran deal, “I can't think of a more terrible burden to leave the next president than what Obama is creating here." He added that he thought Obama “was the worst president we’ve ever had.”

    Chutzpah, anyone? This truckload of bullshit has me gagging. To have the audacity to call Obama the worst president in this country’s history after having served under the dimwit Bush who, according to actual historians is considered one of the worst American presidents, is unbelievable. The man whose boss was President during the worst terrorist attack this country has ever faced, who handed Obama a $450 billion dollar deficit when he left office (which ballooned to $1.4 trillion the following year), and who arrogantly and illegally started wars in the Middle East that Obama was left to clean up, this man has the audacity to pretend that all of this is Obama’s fault.

    With his new book and interviews by the conservative media, Cheney is undertaking the arduous task of rewriting history. He knows Americans have notoriously short memories, and he’s capitalizing on that fact with his “Blame Obama” tour. And no one in politics does this kind of damage control better than Cheney. It’s up to the rest of us to remind Americans that the majority of the problems we face today, from a struggling economy to the eternal war on terror to abuses of the surveillance state, all have their genesis in the Bush era.

    Cheney should be writing his autobiography with a crayon from a jail cell at a federal prison and not being showered with attention and accolades from the right wing media. In that arena, Cheney’s chutzpah is not merely indulged, but rewarded. What a world.

    Tuesday, April 07, 2015

    The Iraq War: No Apologies, No Justice

    This is the golden age of unaccountability. In the past week, Bush’s Brain Karl Rove and the Bush Administration stenographer, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, have both refused to apologize for their roles in selling the disastrous Iraq war to the American people. Like the snakes that they are, they both wriggled and squirmed and hissed indignant rejoinders to those who believe in the antiquated concept of justice. Having thrown the gas and lit the match that set the Middle East on fire, Rove and Miller and Cheney and all of the other pyromaniacs associated with President Bush retain their jobs and esteemed status in Washington.

    Despite sending thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths, sparking violent clashes throughout the region and creating new terrorist groups, no one is paying any price for one of the biggest international blunders in American history. Obama’s reluctance to bring anyone to justice over the Iraq debacle is maddening. Clinton was impeached for lying about a brief romantic fling, yet no one today has the courage to indict actual war criminals who were responsible for torture and untold death and destruction.

    The rewriters of history are already trying to work their magic by claiming the Bush Administration didn’t actually “lie” to the American people, but were simply misled by the intelligence. This is, of course, a blatant lie, but as time goes by, who knows which version of events will become the historical record. With their power, influence and money, the Bush’s have a long record of avoiding accountability and escaping punishment. Why should Iraq be any different?

    Monday, April 06, 2015

    Headlines we would like to see

    Grand Jury Indicts Bush, Cheney for War Crimes

    Ted Cruz Apologizes To Nation For Being a Complete Douchebag

    Rush Limbaugh Inhales Lit Cigar Stub, Burns Vocal Chords

    Cold Case Solved. “We know who let the dogs out,” says Detective

    Alaska Evicts Palin Family. Lower 48 States On High Alert.

    Congress Votes to Give Itself a Pay Cut For Poor Performance

    Hidden Cameras in NSA Restrooms Linked to North Korea

    As Ratings Tumble, FOX News To Call It Quits

    Obama Ends the War On Drugs With a Round of Bong Hits in the Oval Office

    U.S. Celebrates First Year of Bombing Abstinence

    Admitting They Had “Royally Fucked Up,” Roberts, Scalia and Thomas Resign Their Supreme Court Seats

    Jim Inhofe Stunner: I Was Wrong About Climate Change. Let’s Fix This Problem.”

    Sunday, April 05, 2015

    A terrifying trio of new short scary stories

    Three more dark and twisted tales for your late-night reading pleasure. Go here to find them, if you dare.

    Friday, April 03, 2015

    Obama hatred takes center stage in deal with Iran

    This week in politics didn’t start off very well, and it’s been going downhill ever since. Instead of pats on the back and long-winded toasts to U.S. diplomats for successfully concluding nuclear talks with Iran with better-than-expected concessions from that country, we are treated to the wailing and braying of conservatives who are comparing Obama to Neville Chamberlain (He's also often compared to Hitler, so please make up your minds, haters).

    The comparison is wrong on several counts, but Chamberlain’s concessions to Hitler are considered to be the first step in Hitler’s march to war with Europe. So are conservatives worrying that this agreement will eventually lead to war? That would be rich because they have proposed no other alternative to diplomacy except bombing Iran, an act of aggression that would probably lead to war.

    Of course we all know that much of their caterwauling has less to do with Iran than it does with Obama himself. Any victory for the President, no matter how big or how small, is guaranteed to send conservatives into an apoplectic frenzy of condemnation. If Barack done it, we’re agin’ it. Obama hatred runs deep through the veins of Republicans and, as we’ve learned over the past six years, there is no antidote.

    Those who are condemning the agreement with Iran have absolutely nothing constructive to offer in its place except violence. Some of these people are running for President of the United States. I’m reminded of John McCain’s psychotic episode during a speech when he sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys “Barbara Ann.” This is the bomb first, ask questions later mentality of today’s Republican’s. None of them should be allowed anywhere near the White House.

    Thursday, April 02, 2015

    The pre-candidate screening test

    Dear prospective candidate,

    In order to qualify to run for national office in the United States, you are required to answer the following questions and submit this document to the National Elections Council, who will tabulate the results and approve or deny your request to run for elected office. Thank you. 

    1. The Earth is 6,000 years old.



    2. America is officially a Christian nation.



    3. The words "God," "Creator" and "Jesus" are mentioned numerous times in the U.S. Constitution.



    4. The issue of man-made global warming is still hotly debated among climate scientists.



    5. Weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.



    6, President Obama was born in Hawaii.



    7. Supply-side economics, fiscal austerity and lowering taxes on the wealthy have proven to be highly successful economic approaches.



    8. Christians in America are an oppressed minority.



    10. It’s my right as and American to discriminate against people with whom I disagree.



    11. George Bush is considered by experts to be one of this country’s greatest Presidents.



    Wednesday, April 01, 2015

    Dick Cheney thinks Americans are the April fools

    Speaking to a crowd of Republicans recently, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that the Obama administration has been the worst in 70 years. He told them he expected the Iranian nuclear negotiations to fail and argued that America's traditional allies in the region have “all lost faith and confidence” in the U.S.

    This is not an April Fools Day joke. I don’t think. This is the everyday foolishness spewed by the war criminal Cheney. He and his little lapdog Bush lied to the American people to gain support for war, illegally invaded Iraq, had no post-war plan, incited long-time rivals to war with each other, inspired the creation of ISIS, gave Saudi Arabia a pass although all but two of the 9/11 hijackers were from that country, lost billions of dollars in Iraq, broke international laws by torturing people, began the drone program, created the Patriot Act and Homeland security, which flung the door wide open to illegal mass surveillance, and then handed this hot mess over to Obama in 2008.

    And Cheney has the audacity to claim that the Obama Administration is the worst in 70 years. Cheney and Bush and others should be in prison for war crimes, not running around the country trying to salvage their nightmarish legacy by shifting the blame to others. It’s like Hermann Goering traveling around Germany after WWII blaming the devastation of Europe on the allies. And, as an aside, Goering was a decorated fighter pilot during WWI, not a cowardly draft dodger like Cheney who was more than willing to send Americans to die in the Middle East.

    Cheney, Bush and their merry band of neocons are evidently too big to jail, despite their horrendous crimes.

    Justice is blind in America. Ha, April fools.