A poetic death

One of my favorite customers came into work this morning.  She's a nice person, with a ready smile and an air of kindness about her.  "Hi, how ya doin'?", I asked.  "Not great.  My husband just died.", she replied.

That caught me off guard, but I responded the best I could.  There was something in her eyes. Grief, sure, but something else.  I couldn't put my finger on it.  We spoke for a short time about him.

His name was Steve Orlen, a UofA English professor, and poet.  I didn't know his work, but I'm fond of poets in general, believing them a necessary part of civilization.  They speak what the rest of us feel, but cannot voice. We're all indebted to them for that.  By all accounts, he was well loved by his friends, colleagues and students.

As she was leaving, she turned to me with a smile and said, "His last words were, 'Never mind'".


After she left, it came to me what it was I saw in her eyes.  She was proud of her husband.  She had every right to be.

That didn't take long...

From the Daily KOS:
The Tea Party Patriots, one of the the largest Tea Party umbrella organizations, with over 1,000 local chapters, hosted a press conference this morning to offer its reactions to last night’s elections and its vision going forward.
Co-founder Mark Meckler tried to pre-empt expectations among the faithful that Washington would shrink and the federal deficit would close overnight, instead alluding to a “forty-year plan” that the group was busy working out with its members. The plan, according to Meckler, was a highway with four lanes, only one of which was explicitly political. The other three were educational, judicial and cultural.
“All civilizations and empires have fallen because their cultures became decadent,” Meckler said. “We need to lift up conservative culture, family values and wholesome things by supporting conservative musicians, writers, artists and producers.”
A forty-year plan.  They wouldn't even give us two.  All civilizations fall because of greed, self-righteousness, and stupidity.  Nothing can be done to stop it.  We may or may not evolve past the self-destructive parts of human nature someday, but I'm not holding my breath.

When they talk about lifting up conservative culture, they don't tell you that they fully intend to suppress all others.   We're well on our way to becoming Iran, or worse.  Political, educational, judicial, and cultural ministries.  This from the people that supposedly want smaller government.

Days like today tend to make me believe that sentience itself is an evolutionary dead-end.  I'm not exactly alone in this.  The galaxy should be teeming with life, but there are scientists at SETI who theorize that we've heard nothing because all technological civilizations reach a certain point, then end.

When the end comes for us, it'll probably be no more than we deserve.  I say 'when' because all things end.  Such is nature's wisdom.  The trick is to leave something positive behind.

Class Warfare

I had an experience yesterday that illustrated, for me, the way the affluent view those even slightly less fortunate.  One of my customers referred me to a person who needed some computer work done.  When I called him, he stated that he needed a fan replaced in his PC.  I thought to myself, "Fine.  If this guy wants to pay me 50 bucks for a 10-minute job involving 4 screws, who am I to argue?"  I began to question him about the symptoms his computer was displaying in order to eliminate any other problems he might have.  Aside from being a little, well, stupid, his answers were short, abrupt, and a bit rude.  Maybe he was just having a bad day, I thought.  I told him that I'd be at his house when I got off work, and took down his address. 

When I googled the directions, I found that he lived on the outskirts of town, in a very affluent area.  The bus services that area, but just barely.  I don't own a car.  I could probably afford to buy one, but I couldn't afford to maintain one (gas, insurance, maintenance, etc).  I try not to live beyond my means because rich conservatives hate it when us poor folk do that.  After all, it is we, not greedy, immoral bankers and brokers, that are the root of our economic troubles. 

Anyway, as it would take longer than I anticipated to get to his house via public transport, I called him back to let him know that.  As soon as I used the word "bus", his demeanor changed from rude, to rude and condescending.  He stated that he decided that my services weren't required.

As much as I could have used the money, I was a bit relieved.  An hour long bus ride, and a pretentious, rude customer isn't my idea of a good time after working a 10-hour day.  It does bother me, however, that he made certain assumptions about my use of public transport.

Since I was young, I've always wondered why the affluent tend to exhibit characteristics that my mother would have slapped me for.  The lack of compassion, and common courtesy, the sense of entitlement, the shallowness, and, of course, the stupidity.

It's simple.  Greed makes people stupid.

The American mythology is a twofold fantasy. The first is the myth of social mobility, i.e., that anyone with drive, determination and a modicum of intelligence can "make it" --  that is, become rich. That is the Horatio Alger Myth. The other is that America is a middle class country. The truth is that most Americans are working class, dependent on receiving a paycheck from an employer for their livelihoods. The use of the term "working class" is practically unknown. However, there has been an assault on the American working class for a long time now, but because so many Americans, under the illusion that they are middle class, cannot see that it is they that are under attack by the upper class until it is too late. At that point, they are encouraged by the rightwing media to blame immigrants and racial minorities for their misfortunes. So far it has worked very effectively.

I wonder if Americans will wake up from their American Dream as it becomes more and more of a nightmare.

My choice...

OK. You win.  After months of blogging about all the craziness of American politics, there appears to be no way to stop our spiral into insanity.  I say if we're gonna go that route, let's go all the way.  Here's who I'm voting for -- for everything.

Vote for Xrazy Yraxaz...or he'll eat your face.

Black, White and Gray

Today, our local college newspaper published an op-ed regarding the crazy tea-bagger of the month, Christine O'Donnell.  I thought it said what needed saying:

Recently, political comedian and host of HBO's "Real Time" Bill Maher vowed to show a new video each week of O'Donnell's borderline lunacy and completely erroneous beliefs until she appears on his show. O'Donnell appeared on Maher's old show "Politically Incorrect" more than 20 times in the 1990s and provided more than a flurry of outlandish commentaries for Maher to choose from. In one such appearance, she asserted her firmly held "no lying" lifestyle. Hey, she does not lie! That's a good thing, right? We teach our children not to lie. However, when pressed by fellow panelist, comedian Eddie Izzard, proceeded to ask, "If Hitler was at the door and you had Anne Frank in the attic, you wouldn't lie?" She responded, "No."

Now, yes, we do teach our children not to lie. However, we also hope to teach them other values of right and wrong, i.e. we attempt to foster in them a moral compass that can guide them through the complex situations human beings find themselves in. Most everyone can firmly agree that if Hitler was at the front door and Anne Frank was upstairs in the attic, that they would lie. Not because if he found her he would probably kill her, and you for hiding her, but because it is the right thing to do. Despite being a grown woman, O'Donnell has not dispensed with elementary notions of moral correctness when it comes to just actions. Rather, she holds on to the black and white perception that rests diametrically opposed to a clearly vivid world of grays.
Read the whole article here.

These are the people who are being elected.  People who's world view is arbitrary and simplistic.  Who will never be swayed by reason, logic, or proof.  The world is billions of years old, not 6000.  Evolution ceased to be a theory long ago.  E=Mc² is not some liberal, satanist plot.  It's a physics equation that describes the relationship between matter and energy, nothing more.  The separation of church and state is meant to protect religion -- All religion.  To protect the basic right to believe (or not believe) according to one's conscience, without fear of retribution.  It is not an assault on belief.

Our nation's problems are complex.  What I've noted above isn't.  But they can't even handle that.  We've now got poster children for mediocrity holding public office.  People without the intellect or imagination to handle anything resembling a gray area.

Came across this tweet...

@brianbeutler: Who among us wouldn't refuse to lie to protect a Jewish girl from Hitler, but happily lie about attending Oxford and dabbling in witchcraft?

Is America a Christian nation?

Well, yes and no.

In 1779, as Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson had drafted a bill that guaranteed legal equality for citizens of all religions—including those of no religion—in the state. It was around then that Jefferson famously wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Jefferson’s plan did not advance—until after Patrick (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”) Henry introduced a bill in 1784 calling for state support for “teachers of the Christian religion.”

Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.

Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every...man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”

Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.

I've always described myself as a "devout agnostic ", but as I get older, that description seems more and more like a cop out.  While I still believe that it's possible that some intelligence may have created life, or, more likely, created a universe where such things are possible, I can say with confidence that it bears no resemblance to the Judeo-Christian deity that most of us grew up hearing about.  One could speculate endlessly about what, if anything. could have brought all of this into being, but it's not exactly constructive.  It's one of many, many reasons I now refer to myself as an Atheist. 

That being said, I'm also an American.  I consider it my duty as such to protect the religious freedoms of my countrymen.  As Jefferson stated above, " It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  The larger issue, of course, is freedom itself.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Americas-True-History-of-Religious-Tolerance.html?c=y&page=2#ixzz10ZmREIX1

You had me at Leonard Nimoy

  • Henry Ford
  • Walt Disney
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Leonard Nimoy
  • Barack Obama
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Joan Rivers
  • Fred Astaire
  • Dean Martin
  • Vera Wang
  • Bobby Jindal
  • Colin Powell
  • Olympia Snowe
  • Frank Zappa
  • Henry Mancini
  • Eugene O'Neill
  • Henry Heinz
  • Groucho Marx
  • George Gershwin
  • Nikki Haley
  • Renée Zellweger
  • John Cassavetes
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Michelle Kwan
  • Spiro Agnew
  • Joan Baez
  • Oscar Hijuelos
  • Ralph Nader
  • Norah Jones
  • Larry King
  • Eric Holder
  • Benny Goodman
  • Narcisco Rodriguez
What do all these names have in common?  They all meet the definition of the term "anchor baby".  When someone presents you with the idea of altering the 14th amendment, think of the mothers and fathers, who came here to seek better lives.  Then think about how this country has benefited from their sons & daughters.

If there is any reason to consider this the greatest country on earth it is because of these people, and those like them, and the freedom and diversity that allowed them to grow as people.

American culture didn't arise from a vacuum.  It was brought here by our ancestors.  By its very nature, if one thing assimilates another, both are changed.

And that is as it should be.

Thanks to Time Magazine for the list

Not exactly comedy

Rep. Bob Inglis — a Republican congressperson with "a 93 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union" — will not be returning to Congress next year. That's because he lost his primary campaign to Teapproved candidate Trey Gowdy.

That is because he is a stinking liberal who thinks that maybe God is not speaking through the mouth of Glenn Beck.   (from IndecisionForever)

One of the few Republicans left who is not clinically insane just lost his job.  What we're left with is people who exhibit all the characteristics of a rat on a sinking ship.  People who have given up reason, replacing it with the base instinct for self-preservation.

Rep. Inglis describes a meeting with a number of tea party activists:
I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I'm trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, "You don't know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don't know this?!" And I said, "Please forgive me. I'm just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.
This saddens me beyond words.  Read the full story here.

Some statistics...

If you don't think that big business and their right wing lackeys are systematically destroying the middle class, take a look at this:

•    83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
•    61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up  from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
•    66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
•    36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.
•    A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
•    24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
•    Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
•    Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
•    For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
•    In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
•    As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
•    The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
•    Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
•    In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
•    The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
•    In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
•    More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
•   For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
•    This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
•    Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.
•    Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
•    The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.
Read the full story here.

And so it begins...

A recent ruling by US District Judge Susan Bolton took the teeth out of SB1070. Personally, I feel that the injunction should have applied to the whole of the law, but I'll take what I can get.  Still, in the desert, south of here, we've got armed neo-Nazis patrolling with the tacit permission, and even encouragement, of law enforcement and elected officials.  Anyone see a problem here?  Anyone?

Meanwhile, in Summit NJ, an immigrant dishwasher from El Salvador was beaten to death in an unprovoked attack by three teenagers, one of whom took cell phone video of it to show his friends.  Kids who have probably spent time listening to hatred spewed by their parents, not to mention the likes of Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, Bachmann, Arpaio...the list goes on ad nauseum.

All of this -- The anti-immigrant sentiment, the tea-baggers, obstructionism by the right, all of it.  It isn't about states rights, or big government, or the Tenth Amendment.  It's about every bitter, ignorant, redneck racist in this country crawling out from under their rocks  and into the light. 

Because we left the door open.

Best political ad ever

Why can't Arizona have politicians like this?  Oh, right...

The Tea Party & the NAACP

Recently, the NAACP called on the Tea Party to "repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches.".  I initially viewed this with a bit of skepticism.  It's not that it wasn't true.  After all, the Tea Party was founded by middle-aged white men who woke up the day after the election, and upon realizing that a black man was President, could not contain their outrage.  No, aside from stating the obvious, I thought it only served to cause more division, and was maybe even a little self-serving.

As usual, the Tea Parties' response was swift and stupid.  Mark Williams, who for some odd reason still has a job as the spokesman for the Tea Party, wrote something so vile, so full of revisionist history and outright lies, not to mention blatantly racist, that I'll not repeat it here.  This obviously caused me to rethink my initial opinion.  The NAACP wasn't name-calling.  They weren't calling the Tea Party racists.  They were simply asking them to state as much.  Publicly.  The Tea Parties' response speaks volumes.

The Tea Party is very good at a particular form of racism, as eloquently noted by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is a senior editor for The Atlantic:

I think it's worth, first, considering the record of American racism, and then the record of the Tea Party and its allies. Racism tends to attract attention when it's flagrant and filled with invective. But like all bigotry, the most potent component of racism is frame-flipping--positioning the bigot as the actual victim. So the gays do not simply want to marry, they want to convert our children into sin. The Jews do not merely want to be left in peace, they actually are plotting world take-over. And the blacks are not actually victims of American power, but beneficiaries of the war against hard-working whites. This is a respectable, more sensible, bigotry, one that does not seek to name-call, preferring instead change the subject and strawman. Thus segregation wasn't necessary to keep the niggers in line, it was necessary to protect the honor of white women.

This is a pattern that I've noted before.  The economy gets bad, and the first thing we do is find someone to blame.  Because working together to solve our problems seems to be beyond us.  Therein lies the true tragedy of all of this.

Terry Savage loses it over little girls, and lemonade.

 This is one of things you think is funny at first, then realize the true sadness of it.  Terry Savage is a columnist for the Chicago Sun Times.  I've only read one of his articles, an excerpt of which follows. It was enough.  I tried to do a little research on him, but the only Terry Savage I could find was a Libertarian candidate for the California legislature in 1995 (ended up with 14% of the vote).  Perhaps they are one in the same.

Mr. Savage, his brother, and his brother's fiancée were driving on July 4th, when they came upon three little girls at a lemonade stand.

...The three young girls -- under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them -- explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.

Then my brother asked how much each item cost.

"Oh, no," they replied in unison, "they're all free!"

I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: "But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I'm really thirsty!"

His fiancée smiled and commented, "Isn't that cute. They have the spirit of giving."

That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.

"No!" I exclaimed from the back seat. "That's not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They're giving away their parents' things -- the lemonade, cups, candy. It's not theirs to give."
 I'm surprised he didn't call the cops, or better, try to make a citizen's arrest.  That would teach those little felons a lesson.

First of all, (as if this is important) if there was a nanny present, that implies adult supervision (which is prudent).  Being an adult, she would have notified the crime victims parents of the girls' intent, if the girls had not already done so, which is likely.


Seriously.  Is this is what we're gravitating toward?  A world run by bean-counters and actuaries, where every labor is accounted for and every motive questioned?  Hoarders who live in fear that what they have will somehow be taken from them by the scary minority of the week.  These are people who find the very concepts of kindness, tolerance, sacrifice, or even common courtesy abhorrent.

Really, It's not about lemonade.

The tragedy is that Mr. Savage has made it to adulthood without learning that there are some things in this life that can't be measured.

He's got it wong...

Well, the march of Arizona's idiots through the political system continues.  I've become convinced that, before we're done, every bitter, ignorant, racist moron in this state will hold some sort of public office.

The latest in this very long line of clowns is one Barry Wong, who is running for a seat on the Corporation Commission.  In a recent interview with the Arizona Republic, he proposed shutting off electricity to any building in which authorities suspect illegal immigrants may reside.  I'll let that sink in for a moment.

An interviewer pointed out “the fact that it would be unconstitutional, illegal, and wildly impractical,”  But Wong insisted that as he had “been traveling around the state,” he saw support for the idea. After all, the commission on which he wishes to serve is the commission that sets power rates, so he would have the power to cut energy from homes in order to keep the rates low.

I was hoping that it was a bad joke.  No such luck.  Failing that, I assumed that he would regain some semblance of reason, and backpedal away from the statement.  Nope.  He's serious.

In any other state, with a voting population that isn't made up of bitter rednecks,  he wouldn't have a chance in Hell of being elected to anything.

But this is Arizona, and, as usual, we're screwed.


Maybe we should quit teaching history in schools.  One only has to look at current events to realize that it's all happened before.  Oh, the players change.  The good become evil, and the oppressed become the oppressors,  but the events stay the same.

I was reading an article recently, and was a few paragraphs into it before I realized that it was written in 1961 - almost a half century ago.  It could have been written yesterday.

On one hand, it depresses me that we've learned so little.  On the other hand, I have hope that we'll get through this dark time in American history, and some semblance of reason will eventually return.

A certain amount of Irish fatalism tells me not to hold my breath...

If China jumped off a bridge...

Entirely too many WTF moments on the Internet as of late.  Joe Lieberman wants to give the President executive power over the Internet.  An effective "kill switch" for the Internet in case of some cyber attack. 

Let me get this straight.  A person (or persons) attacking the Internet would, I assume want to somehow disable it.  So in order to protect ourselves, we need the ability to break the Internet.  Huh?  I don't know the President's position on this, nor do I care.

His reasoning is that China has this capability, so we should, too.  In the words of Jon Stewart, "Well, if China says it's OK...".

(Comedy Central won't let me embed...)

Daily show 6/21

Zero Tolerance

Tolerance, empathy, reason, compassion, diversity.  Growing up, I'd always believed these to be good things.  Apparently, I was wrong.  I've been trying to assimilate everything that has happened over the last couple of years.  In that, I've failed.  The hope, however fleeting, I felt when Obama was elected is a distant memory.  Tea parties, corporate malfeasance, firearms at Presidential speaking engagements, threats of violence from public officials, more corporate malfeasance, an unconstitutional immigration law, a vendetta against education by public officials...

This goes on ad nauseum. I've felt all along that all this nonsense had a ring of familiarity about it.  The anti-immigration sentiment, especially, reminds me of Nazi Germany, just after they took power.  People hate that comparison, but it is valid.  The Nazis were in power for over a decade before their "final solution".  They started off small, too.

I recently read an article at Metafilter, regarding the American Third Position, yet another white supremacist group that is trying to gain a foothold here in Arizona.  A comment made on that article stated it more eloquently than I ever could:
This is the pattern. There are always a small percent of people who blame somebody, and somebody will always be someone different. Skin color and religious symbols are easy targets, but ask the Irish how much good being white, christian and english speaking did them.

In good times, these idiots get little traction. In bad times, however, people get depressed and angry, and when someone comes up with something along the line of "You'd have a job if it weren't for those fucking Martians...." and suddenly, they start getting traction.

The worse the economy, the more traction it gets -- more people are depressed and angry, and they're more depressed and angrier as it gets worse. Now, add in hopelessness -- they become convinced that things won't change, so they don't really care if they survive. Now you have angry people who are willing to fight because they don't really care if they die.

Then we get the fucktards, now flying high, with the "If we just kill all the fucking martians, and the fucking government who supports the fucking martians" and suddenly, things get very ugly very quickly.

This is why the extremist's first target is the moderate. Moderates provide moderation and rationality, which directly cuts the fuel off from the extremist. The extremist goal is to remove the moderates -- force the opponent to one extreme, and get rid of those in the middle. Suddenly, the *only* message is "Kill the Martians, and we're just the government you need to kill the Martians."

Oh, I mean Jews. Or Slavs. Or city dwelling Cambodians. Or any number of minorities in the past. This is an old trick, killing the people who don't look like you in bad times goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, if not further.

Hitler and Pol Pot were just reading a script that has been read hundreds of times before -- and, it seems, we're now in rehearsals for the next big production of Kill The Minority.
I read a great suggestion recently regarding the immigration law.  Enforce it to within an inch of it's life.  Make everyone show proof of citizenship.  No exceptions.  You show it when you check out a library book, or pay a water bill.  Let's see how long it lasts, then.

I know of no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.
                                                              -Ulysses S. Grant

It's been a year...

Almost a year ago, I wrote about Neda Agha-Soltan after I, and most of the rest of the world saw a video of her murder.  A video that went so viral that it is now said that it is the most widely witnessed human death in history.  At the time, I knew little about her.  I've since learned a little more.  She was an aspiring singer and musician, who was studying violin.  She had ordered a piano, which had yet to arrive.  She was studying the Turkish language, and worked for her family's travel agency.  She had a fiancé, and in all other respects, a bright future.

She was murdered by a Basij gunman, who had been hiding on a nearby rooftop.  He was later captured, then freed.  Aside from hardships imposed on her family and those close to her, little has changed in Iran since then.  Ahmadinejad is still in power, and will hopefully only be remembered by history as the murderer and madman that he is.  Neda's grave has been desecrated.  Dr. Arash Hejazi, who tried in vain to save her life, was later accused of her murder by the state and has since fled Iran.

History keeps repeating itself.  Oh, the roles change.  The oppressed become the oppressors, but nothing is learned.  But on June 20th, and every year until it's time for me to go, I will light a candle.

And remember.

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The following two quotes, to me, illustrate our time in history better than anything else I've read recently.
"I didn't vote for him, but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."  --John Wayne, after the election of John F. Kennedy, 1960
"I hope he fails" -- Rush Limbaugh, after the election of Barack Obama, 2008
As a liberal, I never thought I'd say this, but I miss William F. Buckley. Remember him?  To me, he represents a time when Americans were still able to iron out their differences with reasoned discourse.  A time when the losers of those debates were willing to accept the will of the people.

On the other hand, politics -- American politics in particular -- has always been a dirty business.  President Obama noted this in a recent speech to graduates of the University of Michigan:
But I think it's important that we maintain some historic perspective. Since the days of our founding, American politics has never been a particularly nice business. It's always been a little less gentile during times of great change. A newspaper of the opposing party once editorialized that if Thomas Jefferson were elected, "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced."  Not subtle. Opponents of Andrew Jackson often referred to his mother as a "common prostitute," which seems a little over the top.
Sound familiar?

I haven't written in a while because recent political events in my home state of Arizona (yeah, I know) have had me curled up in a fetal position for the last few weeks. It's legislation that concerns me on both a political and personal level.  I worry that someday my wife will be out shopping, and end up at INS because some over-zealous cop decides that a driver's license and social security card aren't proof enough of citizenship.  It's ill-conceived, poorly thought-out legislation that my state is famous for.  One can build bigger and better fences, or station troops on our border, but it will only provide the illusion of security.  True immigration reform won't happen until the same opportunities are available on both sides of the border.  That is a noble endeavor and, as such,  will take hard work.  Unfortunately, too hard for some.

I've just ordered a book from Amazon: Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking AmericaGive it a read.

Really, Arizona?

This is from Fox 11 news:

Report: Most AZ prison inmates are violent
Posted on March 30, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Updated today at 7:30 PM

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A new report says more than 94 percent of Arizona prison inmates are either violent or repeat felony offenders or both.
As of September 2009, more than 40,500 inmates were in the custody of the state Department of Corrections. The report found that more than 65 percent of those inmates could be classified as violent offenders and more than half were incarcerated for one or more violent offenses.
The 90-page report called "Prisoners in Arizona: A Profile of the Inmate Population" was released Tuesday by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council.
APAAC was created by the state Legislature in 1977. The council coordinates and provides training, education and support to Arizona prosecutors.
Gee, prosecutors wouldn't be at all biased, would they?  Gotta love that headline.  Fear-mongering really is an art form with these guys.

Here is my own experience as a guest of the State.  A few years ago, I had a drug problem.  Socially unacceptable?  To be sure.  A threat to society?  I didn't think so.  I didn't commit any of the crimes usually associated with drug use, (burglary, fraud, domestic violence, etc.)  I am, in fact, a pacifist.   Hurting one's self is one thing.  It takes a whole other mindset to do harm to another.  I had the nasty habit of imagining myself in another's shoes.  That whole empathy thing.

It began one night when 30 armed, masked men invaded my home and terrorized my family.  The spared no expense.  Full body armor, assault rifles, concussion grenades, the works.

For $40.00 worth of dope. 

Why so much for so little?  It was a small town.  They knew me.  They knew that I kept no weapons, and posed no danger to them or anyone else.  I found out later in county lockup.  One of the Sheriff's Deputies who was involved in the raid let it slip.  (We had been coworkers in another job and another life.)  He said one word to me -- "Overtime".

You see, it really is all about money.  Budgets are dependent upon conviction rates, so here's what they do:  They charge you with something completely outrageous, something totally off the wall.  (They initially told me 8 to 12 years, though the presumptive sentence for my crime was only 2 1/2).  They do this in the hope that they can plead you down to what they should have charged you with in the first place.  It works, for the most part.  Even though you know that they are using deceit and intimidation, there is a part of your mind that tells you not to take the chance.  So I signed the plea agreement.

Most prison yards in the State of Arizona are minimum security yards.  And still there aren't enough of them to house those who qualify.  This fact alone negates the above "report".  I found that 85% of those I was incarcerated with were like me -- in for non-violent, non-repetitive crimes.  The other %15 were hard-core, career criminals.  The gang-bangers, the racist skinheads, the dregs.  Those were the guys who ran things.  This was encouraged by the staff (wink, wink).  As reprehensible as they were, they did one thing.  They kept the peace.  Those in authority will invariably take the path of least resistance, and they're not that great at imagining the long-term consequences of their acts.  Society is done no favors by sending young, impressionable men to prison, only to be recruited as "soldiers" by those who consider them to be inherently expendable.  Because they are eventually released at some point.  Usually with a whole new set of skills.

Since I was older, I didn't have to worry about that sort of thing.  All It took was convincing them that I wasn't afraid to die.

So, I had the luxury of using that time to better myself.  I read.  I worked as much as I was allowed.  And I observed.  I still find human nature fascinating. 

One of the things that I found was that, if someone does you harm, it is often for no other reason than that they can.  This applies to both criminals and cops. 

You say "Social Justice" like it's a bad thing...

Some of what I've watched and read today...

"How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far."
Read the rest here.

"A few months ago, Sarah Palin mockingly asked them (democrats), "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?" Great, actually. Thanks for asking. And how's that whole Hooked on Phonics thing working out for you?"
 Read the rest here.

That's not so cool, Jesse James...

"Dear Jesse James,
Really, dude?  You’re cheating on an Oscar winner with “The Illustrated Skank”?  Seems like a bad choice, brah.  Look, we get it – mixing it up is what guys do.  On a base level, we totally understand.  Kinda…"
Read the rest here.

 Sarah Palin, flip-flopping at the speed of light:

Yesterday:  “Our vision for America is anchored in time-tested truths that the government that governs least governs best, that the Constitution provides the path to a more perfect union — it’s the Constitution,”
 Today: "In these volatile times when we are a nation at war, now more than ever is when we need a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor lecturing us from a lectern."
Read the rest here.

Another Sign...

I had originally planned to write about the upcoming health care vote, but something else decided to sneak up on me from behind.  (Suffice to say that "compromise" means that no one's going to be happy.)

A few months ago, I read about the case of Peter Watts, a Canadian science fiction writer who had been stopped at the US/Canadian border, leaving the US after a business trip.  It was there that he was beaten and arrested by US border guards, charged with assaulting a federal officer.

At the time, I felt only irritation at the arrogance of the US border guards.  Like other occupations involving a badge, it attracts a certain type of individual.  In my naiveté, I thought that the charges would be dropped, or drastically lessened, and apologies made to Mr. Watts, and Canadians in general. 

It didn't work out that way.  Peter Watts was convicted of obstruction for getting out of his car at a US Border crossing and asking what was going on, then not complying fast enough when he was told to get back in the car. He faces up to two years in jail.  His lawyer did an excellent job, catching numerous falsehoods in the guards' testimony, and finally getting them to admit that Mr. Watts assaulted no one.  But this is America, and as recent events have shown us, truth doesn't really matter all that much here.  He was convicted because the law is written in such a way (as most are, now) as to make any action on your part a felony.  As Mr. Watts explains:
The press has frequently characterized the charge against me as “assaulting a federal officer”. The alleged (and discredited) “choking” episode has been repeated ad nauseum. Here at the Sarnia Best Western I don’t have the actual statute in front of me but it includes a lengthy grab-bag of actions, things like “assault”, “resist”, “impede”, “threaten”, “obstruct” — hell, “contradict” might be in there for all I know. And under “obstruct” is “failure to comply with a lawful order”, and it’s explicitly stated that violence on the part of the perp is not necessary for a conviction. Basically, everything from asking “Why?” right up to chain-saw attack falls under the same charge. And it’s all a felony.
As Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing noted:
That's apparently the statute: if you don't comply fast enough with a customs officer, he can beat you, gas you, jail you and then imprison you for two years.
This isn't about safety, it isn't about security, it isn't about the rule of law.
It's about obedience.
Authoritarianism is a disease of the mind. It criminalizes the act of asking "why?" It is the obedience-sickness that turns good people into perpetrators and victims of atrocities great and small.
Mr. Doctrorow is right.  It is a disease.  This incident is but one relatively small symptom.  In the weeks, months and even years after 9/11, we did some incredibly stupid things.  One of which is to give anyone with a badge carte blanche to do whatever they will, with whomever they will.  We did these things out of fear and rage.  I suppose we can be forgiven that to a degree.  

But, at some point, reason should return.

There are those, both here and abroad, that have a vested interest in keeping us afraid.  

As a nation, we have consistently failed to live up to ideals we set for ourselves in the beginning.  And if, in the end, we lose that nation and our liberty, it will be no more than we deserve.


I have been absent as of late.  No excuse except my own inherent laziness.  I hope this finds everyone who reads it well.  Sadly, 2010 has already witnessed its first disaster.

By now, everyone has heard about the earthquake in Haiti.  I'm sure everyone has also heard the responses from folks like Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh.
Their lack of compassion and common decency should be self evident to everyone.

I won't respond to it, mostly because Jon Stewart has already done so with his usual good humor and common sense.

Luckily, most Americans are decent and compassionate, as evidenced in the great outpouring of support and help from those who have little to begin with.  Those that don't feel this way all seem to be posting on Craigslist's R&R
section.  Let them.

This morning I watched an interview with former Presidents' Bush and Clinton on Face the Nation.  They have been appointed by President Obama to coordinate and expedite relief efforts.  Both men are a great example of putting aside political differences for the greater good, and America is fortunate that they, and those like them, are willing to serve when called.

And so, I urge everyone reading this to check the sidebar and give what you can to the Red Cross.  We live paycheck to paycheck, and have done so.  If we spend a couple of weeks eating more beenie weenies and top ramen than normal, we still have many, many blessings to count.