Changing of the Guard

January 29, 2013

Fox News has announced that the contract for Sarah Palin as a “contributor” to their dendrites will not be renewed. Along with the dismissal of Carl Rove this might represent a changing of the guard at the extremist cable network. Oh, there’s plenty of sub-cortical nuts and blonde-haired bobble-heads left to assure a continuing reign of fear-mongering and misinformation, but the release of two of the G.O.P. standard bearers might indicate less of a change in the networks philosophy than one in the G.O.P.

 Rove may have been released because he poured a lot of the Kool-Aide about Obama losing big – or at least wasted too much of the money of the real corporate sponsors of the G.O.P. to be overlooked. However, Sarah “Barracuda” Palin represents a more nuanced firing. Always well known for her flamboyant, if not vacuous, commentary, she was a spokesperson for the Republican base: a Cougar whose appeal to old, angry white men was more than enough to forgive her many mistakes and misstatements. I suppose she should be sent off with a grudging admiration for stretching her 15 minutes of fame to a half hour and a hearty goodbye.

So with the image of the G.O.P. clearly in transition from the image of old, angry white guys (watch out Hannity and O-Reilly), who will be the next “bella figura” on the Fox Network? My money is on a token Hispanic woman or two, and possibly a young gay male to compliment Ryan and Rubio as the new face of the G.O.P.

Like that will really help. 

You Know You Are Conservative If…

January 28, 2013

The G.O.P. National Committee met in North Carolina this week to lick their wounds and to figure out how to recruit “women, young people and Hispanics” (the press notice was remarkable in its not mentioning African-Americans), while adhering to their “core conservative principles”.  As we all realize this is a center-liberal Country, with liberal policies on social issues (such as the right to abortion, immigration and gay marriage) and social programs very popular among the majority of Americans, but especially among women, the young and among minorities. If the G.O.P. wants to remain faithful to their  conservative core their best option may be one suggested by Stephen Colbert – to find a way to “genetically enable Hispanic women to give birth to old white men”.

In case you were wondering what it means to be “conservative” here is a short quiz, based on the Tea Party admission forms:

1.            Do you ignore and totally mistrust science and scientific research?

2.            Do you believe that evolution is an idea spawned from the depths of Hell?

3.            Do you believe that Government is far too intrusive in our personal lives, but that Government should  force women seeking abortions for medical reasons to have an ultrasound probe into their vagina and have people imprisoned if they practice certain forms of sex acts (even consensually)?

4.            Do you believe that Government policies should be in conformity with Christian religious principles (except Catholicism)?

5.            Do you believe that we should defend Israel no matter what their government does because God is going to come and take us all away when the Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem?

6.            Do you believe that you have an unlimited right to any weapon to shoot government agents when they come to take those weapons away?

7.            Do you believe that all abortions should be illegal because women have a natural ability to not become pregnant if raped?

8.            Do you believe that President Obama is: a Marxist, a Socialist, a Fascist, a Muslim and a foreign agent?

9.            Do you believe that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid should be eliminated?

10.          Do you believe that the government should not provide any disaster relief for any State outside of the South? 

Answering “yes” to 3 or more of these questions means that you are a genuine Conservative, and functioning sub-cortically. 

Inauguration 1965 (2013)

January 25, 2013

“A nation that spends more money on military defense than on social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”                         Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


I have to say that while watching the inauguration of President Obama for his second term, I had some mixed feelings. Of course, his election probably saved the Country a lot of grief, but isn’t it a sad commentary that simply preventing the Republicans from totally destroying the economy and the social safety net is the best we can do? President Obama said all of the right things regarding focus on social programs and saving the middle-class, and ending the war(s). I hope that his failures in his first term in these regards were a function of a slow learning curve, but recent revelations suggest differently.

For example, when considering the “surge” in Afghanistan a few years back Obama was told by Leon Pinetta  “you can’t go against the Generals.” The Commander in Chief was told her can’t tell the generals what to do! The last President who tried to rein in the power of the Pentagon was Kennedy. He was assassinated two months after signing a Presidential Directive to withdraw forces from Viet Nam. Full one-third of our spending is on Defense (more proportionally than during the Viet Nam War), while poverty levels are nearly at the same levels (after decades of reductions).

I remembered the words of Dr. King in an era where were fighting an interminable war on behalf of a corrupt government because the Generals felt it was necessary, and I wondered if indeed we had become a nation spiritually dead – killed by the cancer of a military-industrial complex. 

Military (Gun) Madness

January 24, 2013

Back in the day… there was a popular song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young called “Military Madness” which captured the popular sentiment of the day. It had a refrain of “Military madness is killing the country. Solitary sadness creeps over me.”  Nothing seems to have changed, except maybe for the worse.

Consider the fact that we have been at war continuously for nearly 12 years. It is the longest period of war in our country’s history. It has robbed us of our wealth, not to mention the most precious loss of the heroes who serve in the military. The continuous warfare has exhausted and demoralized our troops and bankrupted the Country. Military suicides are at an all time high, and the loss is exponentially higher when you consider the families that have been broken as the result of endless deployments, deaths and PTSD.

When “Military Madness” was first released it reflected the sadness over a war to protect a corrupt government and against the popular will of the population. It was a nonessential war which accomplished nothing except the deaths of millions of Asians and over 50,000 Americans. The wealth of our country was diverted from necessary social programs to arms merchants and the military industrial complex. Literally, money was diverted from education, health and anti-poverty programs to endlessly rain down bombs on people – to no apparent success or purpose other than to kill them. Here we are in 2013, doing the exact same thing…

It occurred to me that the madness is not just in our foreign policy – the carnage isn’t just directed to other peoples in other nations. Mass killings are being perpetrated in our own country and our society seems just as unwilling or unable to stop it as any war elsewhere. Nothing significant will be done to curb gun violence in our own schools and streets because the same people who have owned and directed our foreign policy since WWII now own our government, at least the Congress.

It’s sad.  

NRA Membership Up, Intelligence Down

January 22, 2013

The vast majority of what the NRA does as an organization is laudable. Training people on the safe use of guns is one example. However, there can be little doubt that it’s leadership has steered the organization toward lunacy, and in so doing has become a destructive force in our society. Many prominent NRA members have denounced their membership even as the NRA has announced a sharp increase in membership recently (i.e. since the Newtown massacre).

Everyone, except the majority of their membership, recognize that the policy positions of the NRA are determined more by corporate profits of gun manufacturers than reflects the beliefs of their own membership or what would be good for the country. For example, most NRA members support background checks for ALL gun sales and improvements of gun ownership data files. The NRA leadership have rejected even these essentially cosmetic gun control measures. I have a simple solution for their ridiculous proposal to turn schools into armed camps. How about this: put a well trained and vetted armed guard in every school and on every school bus. Pay for it by imposing a 100% tax on all gun owners, gun and ammunition purchases. What do you think the NRA leadership would say to that? The over-under on their rejecting the proposal would be 1 second and 2 seconds, because the NRA is owned by the gun manufacturers.

Even more destructive has been the hatred and fear-mongering sponsored by the NRA. Remember all the rumors before President Obama was elected the first time about his plans to “confiscate every privately held gun” or “restrict the purchase of ammunition”? They were lies then and being resurrected again. Fear is their tool to enslave our society in a cycle of increasing gun violence. Why otherwise intelligent people continue to be a member of an organization increasingly seen as the lunatic fringe is a mystery to me, or maybe I am making an assumption about the quality of the remaining membership?   

Gun Nuts and AIG

January 18, 2013

I think the Tea Party has finally found the intellectual and inspirational successor to lead them after Dick Armey absconded with some of their corporate sponsored loot: radio talk show personality Alex Jones. Anyone watching Piers Morgan (you have better things to do with your time), or have seen the YouTube videos of the interview of Mr. Jones will probably react with a mixture of amusement and revulsion.

However, I saw all of the prerequisites of a Tea Party leader: paranoid delusions, extreme agitation, a breathtakingly ignorant understanding of history and unfocused hatred rooted in fear. At one point he voiced the belief that guns were necessary to fight the government (our government) seeking to take the guns away. I guess since the government possesses nuclear weapons, he would advocate the right of every American to own their own nuclear weapon to defend against the Government.

The bottom line to the resistance to attempts to minimize gun violence is the same paranoid delusions voiced by Mr. Jones, although they are rarely as honest as Mr. Jones. It is an irrational and illogical belief system (and they have the guns). This is one of the more convincing arguments in favor of gun control: gun nuts. You know who I mean… the same guys who claimed that Obama would take away all private guns during his first campaign. I guess that delusion has been resurrected, even though Obama has actually made it easier to purchase and carry guns!

On the other hand, the decision of AIG to sue us (i.e. the taxpayers) for bailing them out of bankruptcy could be enough to motivate a little violence of its own. It turns out that they feel that we taxpayers didn’t pay them enough to purchase the shares we did (we owned 80% of their stock at one point) to help prevent those shares from becoming totally worthless. It simply confirms our suspicion that many bankers possess greed unbounded by any sense of conscience. I would LOVE to be on that jury and send them a message they will remember…  

It’s So Cold In the “D”

January 7, 2013

A few years back a You-Tube video made by some kids in Detroit went viral. “It’s So Cold in the D” was the object of derision because it was so poorly written and sung by a group of poor black kids, and because it offered a glimpse of a culture very foreign to most white Americans. (It even had a moment on the infamous “Beavis and Butthead” cartoon). On the surface, it seemed to confirm many stereotypes of urban, black youths. I couldn’t help but see past those stereotypes and listen to what they were saying. The message was sublime and profound at the same time.

The song laments the violence that is an everyday aspect of life in Detroit. Last year, Detroit set a record on the number of homicides – more than 1 homicide everyday was committed in Detroit. Add on countless incidents of less deadly violence, and one can only wonder how any family could survive in Detroit. I am not bashing Detroit, there are many families surviving and many good aspects of living in Detroit. However, what these children were singing about was as much a plea as it was a statement. It is so cold in the “D”, and the question is spot on “what are we going to do?”

Hopes for the New Year

January 4, 2013

Hope and faith are emotions that constantly straddle a thin line between the rational and the irrational. I hope for some things that are likely to happen based on the past, and sometimes I hope for things that have no basis in evidence in the past or present. I hope for some things that I can somewhat reasonably expect can happen and sometimes for things that are nearly impossible.

For example, at the end of every trial I hope that I have done enough to persuade a jury in favor of my clients. It is a reasonable hope, because far more often than not the verdict has been in their favor and I always try to do my best. There have been times over the years where hope for a verdict turned out to be terribly unfounded – there was no chance of winning over some juror(s) no matter what the evidence was or how I presented it. Still, it is a hope for an outcome that I can control to some extent, and rooted in the larger hope for a just society.

Politics is an arena where I (we) have little control and dwindling hope. When I consider the current politics in Washington, I have to confess that my hopes are much less rational. I know historically, our Nation has survived more challenging times. In the words of Winston Churchill “The Americans always do the right thing… after everything else fails.” Yet I have this persistent feeling that we lack the leadership we need to weather this economic and cultural storm. Sure the system itself has been so perverted with money that it has become a rare instance when the welfare of Americans in need are considered, but what is to prevent President Obama from exercising leadership? He could present a budget that would correct the problem with entitlements, even if it were to adopt Simpson-Bowles. I think most Americans would accept sacrifice if we knew it was a shared sacrifice. I hope that he will become the leader he needs to be.

On the other hand, I am grateful that the GOP lacks any leadership at the moment, and hopeful that this will continue. The Republicans are battling a malignancy that could very well kill it (i.e. the Tea Party). They are rooted in the irrational (they are anti-science for a reason) and driven by the illogical. The problem is that as they dither and wither, so does our economy because they cannot act for the good of the Country. If they use the debt ceiling as a hostage tool again, we may be suffering a great deal more until the next Congressional elections – when the GOP will experience its electoral death knell – I hope. 

Idiocracy of the Right Wing

January 3, 2013

The Right Wing has weighed in on the mass murder at Newtown, and if nothing else, it illustrates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of American Conservatives. Consider the analysis and proposals of the Right.

Some on the Right have identified the “feminization” of the American education system, meaning that schools are filled with women and children and vulnerable. Never mind that it was a man in the school who did the killing, and men as a rule who commit these atrocities, their solution is to put manly men in schools.

Others on the Right have concluded that this happened in a school because we have taken “God” out of schools. Maybe God has changed, but I always understood that God is everywhere. Would children praying in the classroom have saved their lives while some lunatic was shooting them? Maybe this was “God’s” judgment on that school for the country allowing gay marriages (as suggested by some Evangelicals).

The brilliant minds at the NRA weighed in with a proposal to have elementary schools turned into armed camps. This is a strategy of reaction, but apparently the murder of 1 or 2 children before the assailant is shot is an acceptable price for them to pay for being able to own an assault weapon. That’s a moral solution fit for Fox News viewers. Why stop there? If the idea is that only armed guards can save children, why not station armed guards at every playground, at every day care center and escort every child walking to and from school? No doubt the NRA would support that idea too, since it would involve purchasing even more weapons.

If we had an armed guard at every school it would cost approximately $80 to $100 billion dollars (calculating $80,000/year for a guard, training and equipment). I wonder what the NRA would say to this counter-proposal: since gun owners are the source of the problem with gun shootings, the guards should be funded by a tax on every weapon and bullet. A 150% tax on every bullet and weapon purchased an owned each year should do it.

More men in schools, hiring God to roam the halls and more guns in schools: that’s their best thinking. And the irony is that Conservatives can’t understand how immoral and sub-cortical they have become since the days of William F. Buckley. 


January 2, 2013

What if… the mass murder in New Town, CN had been an attack by a Muslim? What if the killer had been a terrorist sent to kill from a foreign country? We would be activating the National Guard to protect the Country and mobilizing the military to invade another country and kick some ass. We would authorize billions of dollars to support the elimination of every potential terrorist, intent on doing the same thing. No effort or expense would be spared.

If the slaughter of children in New Town had been committed by a foreign terrorist instead of a mentally ill kid armed to the teeth with assault weapons, we would move Heaven and Earth to make sure it doesn’t happen again. However, thanks to the terrorists at the NRA and their sympathizers in Congress, we will do absolutely nothing. If we flooded our streets and schools with law enforcement personnel… invested millions in mental health services to identify and intervene on sick, violent people… assured that all gun purchases were legally vetted then we could slow down the slaughter of innocents in this Country.

Too bad we can’t call in drone strikes on NRA leadership like we do foreign terrorists…