Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rear End Review, Part 2

Last chance to pick apart the carcass of 2011 in search of anything of any value:

MOST EGREGIOUSLY RIDICULOUS BULLSHIT OF 2011: As usual the Republicans have a lock on this topic. Hurricane Horseshit started on January 1st, when the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy were renewed for two years. The Republicans were positively giddy that President Obama caved in to their extortionist demands that the tax cuts remain because the "job creators" needed them in order to create the millions of jobs that were lost in the financial collapse of 2008. The Republicans harped unmercifully on how important the "job creators" are and the jobs would surely follow. And a lot of them did - in China, India, and other parts of the world, just not in the United States. These mythical and elusive "job creators" would be invoked incessantly as a favorite Republican mantra. Every time a proposal would come up to change the tax code the Republicans blocked it because the "job creators needed stability." Every time the administration would try to get a jobs bill passed and pay for it with a surcharge on the wealthiest 0.5% of taxpayers the Republicans blanched in horror, because the "job creators couldn't possibly create any jobs if they had to pay more in taxes." As of this writing, blubbery, carrot-colored buffoon John Boehner and his Republican-controlled House of Representatives have not come up with a single jobs bill, and the "job creators" have so far created nothing. It also is pathetically hilarious every time the Republicans say that there is "class warfare" going on because the billionaires are being attacked merely for being successful. What a horrible thing this "class warfare" is on the ultra-rich, they say without a hint of irony, when everyone knows the Republicans have been waging class warfare against the middle class and the poor for decades. It's almost like the part of the Theory of Relativity that says space is curved, and if you could look far enough in one direction you would see the back of your own head. In the crazy, curved-space world of the Republicans, the same thing happens except you see your own ass.

MOST OBNOXIOUS PERSON OF 2011: There certainly is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to obnoxious people in 2011. To the surprise of no one, most of the political ones are Republicans. Whom shall we pick? It could be Sarah Palin, who inexplicably continues her high-pitched bleating on Fox News, or as Keith Olbermann consistently calls it, "the political whorehouse that is Fox News." Is it Michelle Bachmann, who always shows that women can be every bit as ignorant, misinformed and just plain stupid as men? Is it perennial toilet monkeys Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich? Or how about a broomstick-up-the-butt prig like Rick Santorum? And I'm more than willing to bitch-slap former Democrat Representative Anthony Weiner for sharing photos of his junk with the world. Maybe we should look to the world of entertainment, there must be plenty of candidates there. Oh, I know - how about someone who pretends to be in both worlds? That would be none other than roadkill-crested gargoyle Donald Trump. Whether he's boring everyone on the planet with that birther nonsense, or wasting everyone's time with his farcical campaign for president, Trump has shown that there is nothing too underhanded or idiotic or just plain deadheaded for him to do, as long as he can get his puffy, Botoxed face in front of the cameras.

MOST PROMISING POLITICAL MOVEMENT: Occupy Wall Street, and all the other "Occupy" offshoots which have taken hold. This is quintessentially American - citizens coming together to raise their voices against the Republican-supported notion that corporations can do anything and everything they damned well please, regardless of how many people they injure. Of course the slimy douchebags on the political whorehouse that is Fox News (thanks again, Keith) take every opportunity to ridicule and mock the Occupy protestors, characterizing them as filthy hippies and malcontents allergic to employment. How very odd that they had nothing but praise to heap on the Tea Party, choosing to portray that motley bunch of corpulent, racist rednecks and senile, confused old people blissfully unencumbered by anything higher than a third-grade education as a true "grass roots" movement of righteously indignant patriots.

MOST APPALLING POLITICAL CONCEPT: That would be "personhood," which is the idea of bestowing the full rights, privileges and protections of a real human being on entities that normally wouldn't have them. This has turned into the latest ploy of anti-abortion activists to strike down abortion rights, by claiming that a fertilized human egg is a "person" from the instant of conception and should be protected as a real live human being. This would obviously preclude any form of abortion, even when the health of the mother is in jeopardy, but also would outlaw what is referred to as the "morning after" pill and other forms of birth control and family planning which have been around for decades. Clearly a draconian, over-reaching attempt to take away rights from the American people by marketing it as "protecting the unborn," its advocates saw it as a slam-dunk in conservative southern states with large Christian populations. That is, until the state of Mississippi stunned everyone by soundly and decisively rejecting a personhood ballot initiative last month. This is not the end of the story, unfortunately, and proponents will be back with a state-by-state battle plan to shove their radical agenda down everyone's throats. Equally disturbing is the trend to give corporations a measure of personhood, blithely articulated by presidential candidate Mittens Romney when he simply said at an August 11th, 2011 campaign stop in Iowa, "Corporations are people!" Presumably because they pay taxes like normal people do, Romney and others seem to think they should be afforded free-speech protections. Coupled with the horrendously awful Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case which gave the green light to corporations to pump as much money as they want into an already-choked political system, "personhood" is rapidly becoming a political monstrosity of Frankensteinian proportions.

TV WORTH WATCHING: Sons of Anarchy, Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, The Walking Dead, Homeland, True Blood, and if they ever get off their butts and finish it, Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome.

BEST REASON TO GET UP IN THE MORNING: Rabbits! Oh, and fresh-brewed coffee.

2012 NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS: I resolve to read more books and watch less television. I resolve to get off my lazy ass and start painting and drawing again. I resolve to do my best to become a vegetarian. I also resolve to be kinder, more understanding and more respectful toward conservative Republicans and fundamentalist Christians. Guess which resolution I'm lying about.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rear End Review, Part 1

Actually this is supposed to be a "Year End Review" but not surprisingly I could not resist the bad pun. Yes, I am 12 years old and thank you for noticing. Here are some of the things I feel made 2011 a year best forgotten quickly, like at 12:01am on January 1st, 2012:

TRAINWRECK OF THE YEAR: Has to be the Republican Debates. A comprehensive, visually repellent summation of everything that is evil, corrupted, debased and cancerous about the American political system, this on-going crapfest of historic proportions is like one of those zombies on "The Walking Dead." It fairly lurches on to your television screen, all disgusting and awful, and you can't watch it for more than a couple of minutes without wanting to kill it. I'm not going to list here the candidates' individual psycho-pathologies, having done that more than once on this blog and it gets more depressing each time. I will say that if you put Batshit Bachmann, Neuter Gingrich, Rick Sphinctorum, and Rick "Oops" Perry on horses, you would have the Four Horsemen of the Dumbpocalypse. Now everyone knows that these candidates are trying to appeal to the rank-and-file Republicans who will be voting in the primaries, and therefore will pull out all the stops in trying to appear as intolerant, bigoted, racist, homophobic and elitist as they possibly can. After all, they are politicians and you expect such soulless, shameless pandering on their part. But what does that say about the composition of the Republican party when you see them eating up all this rancid, toxic garbage and demanding more? In its quest for money and electoral power, the Republican party has swung so far right it is barely recognizable as American. Party of Abraham Lincoln, indeed.

CULTURAL ICON ON ITS WAY OUT: Facebook. Everybody is on Facebook and it has like 500 million subscribers or something. Huge, to be sure, but new users have leveled off, and there is an increasing perception that Facebook is poised to follow the path of MySpace, and look where that is now. It's now considered cool if you are NOT on Facebook, and that's the beginning of the end. But we can't write its obituary yet. Facebook is too big and too entrenched in the public psyche, and no worthy successor is yet visible on the radar to take its place. Certainly not Google Plus, which is weird and not easy to use. Not Linkedin, which is not nearly trashy enough, and whatever the hell they're trying to do on Yahoo is never going to catch on. But, Facebook may hang on a lot longer than it should. It may turn into America Online ( - one of these Internet things that was real big about 100 years ago but now just hangs on forever because your parents and your aunts and uncles and grandparents are on it and will never, ever give it up. I would be much more agreeable to letting Facebook continue to take over our lives and get rid of Twitter, which is a horrific abomination.

MOST ENCOURAGING CULTURAL TREND: I noticed this holiday season there was a lot of people who rejected the oppressive, spirit-killing commercialization of Christmas and opted out of participating in the mindless materialism and shopping mania of the season. Still more people are also jettisoning the religious overtones of the season and returning to the ancient, much more sensible and inclusive celebration of the Solstice as their holiday of choice. I have made both these changes in my life and can honestly say this has been one of the happiest, most enjoyable and stress-free holidays in years. I heartily recommend it if you want to get back to the so-old-it's-new concept of actually having fun during the holidays.

MOST ANNOYING TELEVISION TREND: Apparently the powers that be in network television (and by that I mean NBC, ABC, CBS, etc) have decided that there are no original ideas to be had anymore, and for some reason think it's a good idea to resurrect long-dead shows, tart them up with a little high-definition make-up, and then throw them up on the screen like it's something new and wonderful. ABC tried to do that with a re-launch of "Charlie's Angels," and it was a very pleasant surprise when the American public turned their noses up at it like a bowel movement in a punchbowl. NBC is doing the same with "Fear Factor," a 2001-2006 show in which exhibitionistic fame-whores with a death wish do stupid things like jump off a building into a septic tank or eat live scorpions and camel testicles. It's nice to see Joe Rogan working again but if he can't do his filthy stand-up routine, what's the use of having him there? Just because the reboot of "Battlestar Galactica" worked incredibly well doesn't mean it's guaranteed to apply to everything. Even if it's not a direct reboot, there's a good chance that a new show's writers will dredge up every ridiculous, contrived stereotype and plot situation that we've already seen about a thousand times, as the idiotic, unwatchable Fox show "Terra Nova" demonstrates. That's why subscription channels like HBO and Showtime are vastly more interesting than the free-to-air networks, and it's not because people can say "fuck" any time they want.

MY FOOD OBSESSION FOR 2011: Greek yogurt. Mmmmm!

GET OVER IT, PEOPLE: "Civility" and "civil discourse" are dead. The Tea Party effectively put the final nail in the coffin of civil discourse in the summer of 2010 when fat, loud-mouthed old people got up at town hall meetings across the country and shouted everybody down every chance they got, but civility in everyday life has long been heading into extinction. In the past decade, right-wing talk radio found that it's very profitable to spew all manner of hatred and bile and disrespect toward anyone who doesn't share their narrow-minded, bigoted views. Anti-abortion zealots, many with supposedly "Christian" backgrounds, have created a climate of hatred against those people who choose to exercise a reproductive option guaranteed by the Supreme Court and have encouraged their followers to believe that murder and physical coercion are completely acceptable means to make their point. And through every fault of their own, members of Congress have demonstrated that they are completely unworthy of any kind of respect and are regularly criticized in the harshest of tones. This country has become far too polarized on many different levels to even entertain the notion that opposing sides can have a reasonable debate and discussion of the issues that separate them. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will be able to move past it and toward some kind of middle ground, we can only hope.

More mindless carping and indiscriminate slander coming in Part 2, soon.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eve of Christ's Mass

So here we are on Christmas Eve, 2011. A time when we like to think a hush of peace descends all over the world and everyone contemplates a child born to a virgin mother in a dirty, dark stable, cushioned by a manger full of hay and warmed by the breath of barnyard animals lucky enough to be there at the right time, at the dawn of a new era of human existence.

For Christians in the civilized world, it is the holiest time of their year, a time when everything stops and everyone steps away from their regular routine and gathers around a crackling fireplace to gaze dreamily at a tree covered in lights, sheltering a pile of brightly-wrapped gifts. Songs are sung, glasses raised in toasts of family and friends, hearty meals are partaken, and people travel great distances to be with the ones they love. We will not trouble ourselves with the fact that the vast majority of people in the world are either Hindu or Buddhist and to them Christmas has no meaning. This is one day that is very special, and we all drink deep from the cup of shared cultural experience.

Let us consider what might be happening this day:

Somewhere in America, a family pet is outdoors in a dirty, drafty shelter on a cold, damp night, shivering in the darkness, away from the company of his family. Looking at his empty food and water bowls, he knows the only thing in abundance is loneliness and the bite of the cold wind. He can hear their voices as he gazes at the warm light coming through the windows of the home, so near yet so very far.

Somewhere in America, through either the ignorance or carelessness of its owner, an animal is giving birth to a litter of babies. Humans will take the babies, put them in a cardboard box, and leave them by the side of a road. The box will not be found for three days.

Somewhere in America, an animal will languish in a cold, sterile metal cage in a pound, huddling in fear of the terrifying sights, sounds and smells which surround it. It will not understand why, just a very short time ago, it was living in a home with a family it had grown to love. It was taken out of that home and roughly shoved into a tiny carrier, and watched as the family it loved turned their backs and walked out the door, without another word. It knows that it is a good animal, and will continue to hope in vain that its family will return and take it home again.

Somewhere in America, a good, sweet, friendly dog will be brought to a shelter and will sit next to its owner as he fills out the surrender form. The dog has no idea what is about to happen to him; the only thing he knows is that he is happy to be with his owner. He will take his paw and place it on the arm of his owner to try to get him to play, but the man only continues writing. He looks at his owner with love-filled eyes, and trusts him so very much. The paperwork is completed, and the dog's life will change forever.

Somewhere in America, a skinny, mangy cat, looking far older than its actual age, walks down a filthy, trash-strewn alleyway of a big city, looking for any scraps of garbage or discarded food it can possibly eat. It has learned that humans cause it nothing but pain and injury, and is constantly chased and targeted by rocks, bottles, anything that can be used as a missile. It will watch the rain as it puddles up on the grimy streets, and will never know the gentle touch of a loving hand.

Yes a lot of things will happen tonight, and some of them will be very bad. Right now, an automobile crash is happening and lives will be lost. Right now, an elderly woman lies in a hospital room, alone, with no one to hold her hand, her life slowly slipping away. Right now, a married couple will sit in silence in a neonatal intensive care unit and look at an impossibly tiny human form in an incubator, covered with wires and tubes and tape, taking short, labored breaths, and they will wonder why a merciful and loving God would do this to them and their firstborn.

These things, and a lot worse, will happen tonight. But since I try to be a "glass half full" kind of guy, I like to think that some good things will also happen.

I like to think that people are gathering together and sharing stories of the solstice, and of traditions and customs past, and forming bonds that will last a lifetime.

I like to think there are families where children are taught to accept everyone for the kind of person they are, rather than judge them on what color their skin is, or what kind of accent they speak with, or who they love, or how much money they make, or whether they worship a god or not.

I like to think we can live in a world where all children and animals are loved and wanted, and everyone has a home, enough to eat and medical care when needed.

I like to think there are people who are beginning to awaken to the understanding of the unimaginably vast universe in which we live, and how there are billions and billions of galaxies, each one containing many billions of stars, millions of which have planets similar to our own, and how some of them might harbor life with sentient beings who do as we do: look out into the vast starry expanse of a clear night and wonder if there's anybody else out there.

I like to think that not all people in the world are ignorant and bigoted and hateful, although so often it seems politicians, celebrities and athletes go out of their way in a very public fashion to prove otherwise.

I like to think that someday humans will rid themselves of the arcane, discredited and destructive notion that they are the superior form of life on this planet and all other forms are to be abused and exploited as we wish. I completely and utterly reject and condemn with every fiber of my being the Biblical idea that mankind has been given "dominion" over the earth. With each passing day, it's becoming more critical that mankind understands and accepts that it is a part of the immense web of life that exists on this planet, and we must coexist with every other life form. We have the ability to destroy this planet and with that comes the responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen. We have no right to ruin this planet for other life forms just because we're unable to control our primitive urges.

I like to think that we can create a world where people are freed from the tyranny of religion and are fully able to realize their true potential. I want to live in a world where laws are just and fair and rooted in compassion and mercy, instead of hatred, fear and antiquated superstition.

I wish we could take a little bit of the peace and serenity of this day and keep it close to us and nurture it, and find a way to make it last through the other 364 days.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dump the Trump

The Republican presidential nomination process is like a toilet overflowing with backed-up sewage. Things just seem to lurch from ridiculous to horribly awful. Part circus freak show, part media shitstorm from hell, this political Theatre of the Damned is like a really unfunny caricature of what a nominating process would be if all the participants were dangerously mentally ill, addicted to meth, and completely and utterly without morals or any redeeming value whatsoever.

In retrospect it seems that Tim Pawlenty made the best move ever when he bailed out of this revolving crapfest early, only because he was as boring as white bread with mayonnaise and nobody liked him at all. He has since become a full-time pimp for Romney, but even that is a huge step up from associating with the likes of Batshit Bachmann and Rick Santoilet, even though Pawlenty is blatantly campaigning for the vice-president spot on the ticket, should Romney be nominated.

These past couple of months have seen the spectacular flame-out of Rick Perry, governor of Texas and once regarded as a shoo-in for the nomination. An astonishingly unqualified and incompetent candidate, his callousness and limitless stupidity rapidly became too apparent to ignore because of a series of jaw-dropping gaffes, flubs and misstatements. How anyone could even consider this simple-minded dolt as Oval Office material shows how degraded and corrupted the American political system has become. I said it before, but Perry has succeeded in what was universally regarded as an impossible task - making George W. Bush look good.

We also witnessed the equally-spectacular downfall of Herman Cain, a black conservative who seemed to revel gleefully in a level of arrogant stupidity usually reserved for politicians in the Deep South or the Arizona state legislature. I don't know if he really thought his faux-populist shtick of acting like jus'-plain-folks was going to catapult him into the White House, but he openly mocked and ridiculed things that any President would have to take seriously, as with his "Uz-Becky-Becky-Becky-Stan-Stan" comment. For a while, his poll numbers were inexplicably rising, but the media firestorm about his penchant for cheating on his wife and breaking his marriage vows (such is the Republican "family values" rule - do as I say, not as I do) will kind of serve as a pre-echo for what will happen to fellow candidate Newt Gingrich should he survive this process and make it to the general election.

There is nothing to be said about bottom-feeding, second-tier candidates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santoilet that hasn't been said before, so I will skip over them and give them the attention they deserve, which is none at all. I will mention that Bachmann's latest mental health call-for-help is her statement about the Iraq war, saying that we should not pull our troops out after 8.5 bloody, hideously expensive years but instead stay there longer. I think the $800 billion that that ill-advised conflagration cost this country will haunt us for a much longer time than Bachmann will spend in a mental institution after she is inevitably committed.

The grandest media grandstand of all for this blathering smorgasbord of idiots, dopes, bigots and racists has been the debates, which amounts to a well-lit, televised, cautionary tale of what might happen if human evolution suddenly reversed itself several million years. The comparatively-sane John Huntsman and Ron Paul were also thrown into this toxic stew of ignorance, presumably for a sassy little splash of color.

The cast of ancillary supporting characters that came along with this pathetic parade of drones and morons is equally appalling. Sarah Palin had the national news media inexplicably enthralled for a while, waiting for her to say she's in the running for President. Luckily even a slatternly egomaniac like her realized that it would be pointless. Land whale and future Subway sandwich spokesblimp Chris Christie threatened to jump into the running, and the thought of him jumping anywhere is enough to send you running for the nearest earthquake shelter, but decided otherwise when he noted that every comedian in the country was dredging up every fat joke known to man and aiming them at him. Suprisingly, dimwitted amateur witch Christine O'Donnell appeared out of nowhere and endorsed Mitt Romney's candidacy, saying that she likes him "because he's been consistent since he changed his mind." I did NOT make that up.

But there is one person in this repellent, unsavory witches-brew of recessive genetics who has consistently proven over and over again that tacky, classless and boorish behavior knows no socioeconomic boundaries, and that is oafish, stubby-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump. Whether he is beating the bushes with that tired, discredited birther nonsense or staging a publicity-stunt campaign for presidency himself, this roadkill-crested gargoyle has shown there is no depth too low for him to sink to in order to keep his name in the public eye. Feeding on self-promotion like a vampire feeds on Type O negative, Trump has shown a preternaturally creepy talent for turning one of his many ridiculous screw-ups into a publicity bonanza for himself and his obnoxious, flatulent image. The latest fiasco was to stage a Republican debate with Trump as moderator. When only two of the candidates agreed to show up and all the others refused, the "debate" was exposed for the absurd fraud that is was, and was canceled. Just how f**ked up do you have to be to make Michelle Bachmann think you're too crazy to deal with? I don't think there's a way to measure that.

This has got to be the weirdest, most bizarre and depressing nomination season in decades, and it shows no sign of dying down. Now, the flabby, pudgy-faced Newt Gingrich, him of the three wives, is having his turn at the top of the polls, but even Republican pundits expect him to start falling pretty darned soon. And for some unknown, damnable reason we have to be concerned with what a bunch of overweight, pasty-faced, religious-nutjob farmers in Iowa are thinking about as their January 3rd caucuses draw near. I mean, who gives two shits about what those idiots think? They are not even slightly representative of the American populace and their opinions should not even matter. All this points out how irretrievably wrecked and poisonous the American political system is. It's probably the worst possible way to pick the person to fill the most critically important job in the world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Boycott Christmas 2011

It's that time again, time for my annual anti-Christmas screed. Just can't get through the holidays without one. I did my annual torture session this afternoon, venturing out to the local post office to get holiday stamps. It was packed to the gills, as it always seems to be this time of year no matter when you get there. There are six service windows at the post office, and I've never seen more than two of them in use at any one time. It's really kind of amazing how unprepared people are when they show up at the post office. They bring some stuff they want to mail someone, buy one of those flat rate boxes, and bring everything up to the counter and expect the postal employee to pack it, tape it up, put the label on it, stamp it a couple of times with some ink stampers and then send it on its way. While observing all this I have to amuse myself in order not to get completely psychotic, so I imagine they're stamping rude stuff all over the package. Like "Eat Shit," "Bite Me," or "Christmas Crap." That should give Grandma pause when the package is delivered.

So after that ordeal was over I had to start decorating the outside of the house, so I went to the garage and dragged out the Big Box Full Of Holiday Joy. This is the 16th December that I have lived in my home, and you'd think I would have this decorating thing pretty well down by now. But Martha Stewart I am not. I do have the outside of the light boxes marked as to which lights go where and how the plugs get connected together without causing the fusebox to ignite in a major conflagration. There are several cacti growing in the front of my house, and this year has been a banner year for them (who could have known that plants will "grow" if you "water" them regularly?). They have grown like crazy and have stretched their fishhook-laden arms wide and far in many directions, which makes hanging the lights a bit dicey. I know that if I slipped off the small ladder I use and fell on one of them, my Christmas would be over in about two seconds.

The holiday season got an early start this year, and I was treated to my first Christmas TV commercial the day after Halloween. It was some jewelry store flogging tacky, overpriced baubles and they did a full-on Santa-and-the-Reindeer push. I looked at that and then I looked outside at the 98-degree sunshine and I thought to myself, this is going to be a long season. The commercials which continue to baffle me are the ones for the luxury car dealers, like Lexus and Mercedes. They encourage us to come to their showrooms and purchase a very expensive car for that certain-someone as a gift. Really? Giving a car as a present? That is so far off my gift-giving radar it's like science fiction to me. People actually do that? I think it's a ploy to keep the Gigantic Red Bow manufacturers in business.

But of course, it doesn't have to be so. As in past years, I choose not to participate in the hoopla, the blind greed, the crass materialism, and all the phony hokum that is part-and-parcel to the holiday season these days. I've reduced greatly the amount of time I waste parked in front of the TV, and what I do watch I choose with a lot more care, leaning toward HBO and Showtime, the commercial-free networks. I avoid like the plague the local Phoenix channels, which are pathetically, laughingly provincial in their deliberate lack of anything resembling sophistication. I guess I was spoiled after living in Washington DC and San Francisco for almost 15 years and watching the world-class television coverage of their local stations. Phoenix television is incredibly amateurish in nature, and much more suited to a medium-sized television market somewhere in the lower Midwest, instead of the sixth largest metropolitan area in the nation.

But, I digress. I'm really enjoying my time reading lots more books on my e-reader, writing my stories and my blog, spending time with my friends and my bunnies, and just relaxing at home dressed in my flannels and staying warm and cozy while an early December cold snap has the desert locked in an unfamiliar but refreshingly chilly grip.

While I would certainly never presume to tell anyone how to celebrate the holidays, I always recommend to my friends to say no to the hysterical consumerism of this season. Things always get off to a big bang with the loathsome, execrable pseudo-holiday "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, followed by "Cyber Monday" and "Green Tuesday." I'm sure in the near future they'll be coming up with other shopping themes for the rest of the week following Thanksgiving.

To that end, I ask my friends not to buy me any kind of gift this year. I have far too much stuff as it is, certainly everything I need and most of what I want. I suggest they send their money to their favorite charity (and mine is Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue), or spend it on themselves, their pets or someone who could really use it. But as I get older I realize the gift that is truly important to me and imparts a lasting feeling of gratitude, is spending time with my chosen family here in Phoenix. Whether it's sharing a meal, or a coffee at Starbucks, or just a long conversation on the phone, these types of things are the most gratifying and the most memorable to me. I've certainly forgotten whatever gifts I got five years ago, but I remember the times I've spent with people I love, and the warm friendship and camaraderie shared. That, to me, is the true spirit of the holiday.

Oh, and yes, it just wouldn't be the holiday season without the religious nuts whining and moaning about people using the term "holiday" or "Xmas" instead of "Christmas." Well guess what, Xians? Not everyone in this country celebrates Xmas. People of the Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, Wiccans celebrate the Solstice, etc. But, with their usual narrow-minded selfishness and their unhealthy preoccupation with ramming their beliefs and delusions down everyone's throats 24/7, the Xians rail on and on about "their" holiday and how everyone is corrupting and ignoring it. As far as I'm concerned, they can have their holiday back with all the greed and avarice and single-minded obsession with buying and receiving crap. It makes so much more sense to celebrate the solstice, which is much more inclusive of everyone and really, that was the way things used to be before the Xians stole the pagan celebration for their own nefarious purposes.

Because as with our lives in general, it doesn't matter what you give or get, or how much junk you have when you die; what really matters is how you spend the time that you have.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Just In: Time Marches On!

My, my, I've been really bad lately. It's been over a month since I've posted anything here. I know, the world has not ended but it hasn't gotten measurably better, has it? Coincidence? I think not.

Autumn is in full swing here and I must say I am really enjoying the weather. We've had a little bit of rain recently and it's made everything smell and look wonderful. My roses bushes in the front of the house are blooming, and these autumn roses are quite beautiful. Even better, the little shamrocks in the front are growing like crazy and getting their little white flowers on them. I have these shamrocks that grow every year, they will be lush and green with dozens if not hundreds of little white flowers that open during the day and close at night. They'll do that until it starts getting hot, next May, and then the die off, only to remain dormant throughout the hot summer, and start to grow again right around Halloween.

I've been busy writing, just not in my blog. I am writing Chapter 7 of my "Archangel Chronicles" book, my science fiction opus. This chapter is called "Fallen Angels" and one of the things I am going to deal with is the death of a major character. I love writing stories, because it allows me explore my own emotions through my characters. It allows me to take a look at my own beliefs and analyze them. "Fallen Angels" is about death and betrayal, about growing older and feeling left behind as the world changes all around you, and about the value of friendship and relations with others.

I've been working pretty hard on "Fallen Angels" for the past two weeks, and that's the way I write. I usually have two or three writing projects going on at the same time. Sometimes, I'll be working on one project and another project will suddenly become ready to write, so I will switch projects and concentrate on the newer. An idea will bang around inside my head, sometimes for months and even a year or more, and then all of a sudden it will be ready to write, and then it just pours out. Sometimes I can't even keep up with how fast the story evolves and comes out. When I'm in this dedicated writing mode, I think about the story incessantly, night and day. Usually I spend two to three hours every night writing, until I get everything out of my head and written in a Word document.

I am also writing a book of rabbit stories, titled "Songs of Abundance and Beauty: The Stories of Josiah." I have three stories completed out of a projected 8 to 10 individual stories. I have an idea for another Josiah story but it is not ready yet. I tried to start writing it back in the spring but it just wasn't fulled developed yet. I have no doubt when it is ready, it will come pouring out of me, as the other stories have.

There are some really silly, ridiculous things going on with the Republican race for their presidential nominee. Far too much nonsense has transpired since stubby-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump insulted everyone's intelligence with his ersatz faux-candidacy for me to really address everything individually. Trump's "candidacy" was much more of a publicity stunt or a failed reality show than a serious attempt at a presidential run, and he certainly did not present himself in the best possible light during that exercise in stupidity. But plenty of other candidates have stepped up and showed the world in amazing detail just how stupid, ignorant and pathetic Republicans can be.

There's Mitt Romney, who has apparently been running for president since 1994 and hopefully taking his final crack at it right now. He is an arrogant, two-faced, hypocritical liar, and will say and do anything, no matter how contradictory or ridiculous, to get votes. His Mormon background is doing him no favors, and it will be hard to imagine all the good-ole-boys and bigoted Christian fundamentalists getting behind someone whose religion is widely regarded as a dangerous cult of people wearing magic underwear.

Texas governor Rick Perry burst on to the scene last spring with much fanfare, and he was widely expected to coast into an easy win as the Republicans' choice. Trouble is, there were a couple of little bumps in the road, and those bumps were his own stupidity. It's hard to believe that someone would make a complete idiotic dunderhead like George W. Bush look halfways intelligent, but damned if Perry doesn't do that. Perry is an astonishing dope, totally without class or any redeeming qualities, and was definitely proven during a recent televised debate how totally and utterly unqualified he is to be anything other than governor of Texas. Because apparently Texans elect only stupid idiots to be their governor.

The very execrable, loathsome Newt Gingrich has somehow decided he needs to run for President this year, even though he has more bad baggage and generalized ickiness from his multiple marriages and two decades in politics than he can ever get over in the general election. Maybe this is his last attempt at some kind of relevance since his heyday, such as it was, was fully 15 years ago. Anyway, he is far less intelligent than he or his supporters like to believe, and if he gets the Republican nomination, that's fine by me, because he will be shredded like Chinese chicken during the general election.

Herman Cain, what is there to say about him? A black conservative whose every speech and pronouncement is a celebration of idiocy and stupidity, Cain is a gender-and-race mirror-image of Sarah Palin. Pizza Boy is being called on the carpet for his predilection for getting touchy-feely with women who crossed his path when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. He seems to have an eye for blonde white women, and when one of them tried to blow the whistle on his hanky-panky, he had the Restaurant Association pay her a whole year's salary if she would just shut her trap and go away. Then he insists that such pay-offs are standard practice in the world of Washington lobbyists, because apparently no one in that line of work can keep their hands to themselves. Now all these little dalliances and indiscretions are starting to come back to haunt him, like the Ghosts of Pizzas Past, and personally I think it would be a lot of fun to watch if it wasn't so stomach-turning and just plain tawdry.

There are a couple more people, like Ron Paul and John Huntsman, who are far too normal and comparatively sane to be attractive to the conservative scumbags and batshit-crazy Tea Partiers that make up most of the Republican party these days. Then you get to the really mentally ill, beyond-batshit candidates like Michelle Bachmann and Rich Santoilet. There's not much I can say about either of them, other than the fact that Bachmann needs some very serious and intensive mental health care, along with her gigantic nelly queer of a husband, and Santoilet needs to get laid or something because he's just far too sanctimonious and fake-pious for this planet. Realistically neither of these "candidates" has a snowball's chance in hell of getting anywhere near the White House, which is as it should be, and Bachmann in particular needs to go back to wherever she came from and spend her days exchanging shoes and underwear with her "husband."

My prediction is that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee and will go against Obama in the 2012 election. Unless there is some major economic disaster in this country, in which the stock market drops below half its current value, or the Eurozone completely collapses, or North Korea or Iran lose their minds and start waving nukes in the air, Obama will coast to his second term. The Republicans themselves will tell you they are very unhappy and unenthusiastic about the current roster of candidates, and that will be their downfall in November, 2012.

As for me, I'm just going to continue caring for my rabbits, writing my stories, painting my artwork, spending time with my friends, and enjoying life every single day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Price of Moderation

I'm reading a book by Sam Harris, noted atheist and free thinker, called "The End of Faith." In it, Harris makes an interesting point about the dangers of religious moderation.

Everybody thinks religious moderation is a good thing. Live and let live, people say. Different strokes for different folks. Various cultures have their own ways of eating, dress, speech, art, and it stands to reason they would have their own ideas about religion, too.

When compared to religious extremism, the case for moderation is even stronger. Everybody hates religious extremism, right? After all, it was extremism that caused the jet planes to fly into buildings on September 11, 2001. Extremism entices people to do extreme things. If everyone was a religious moderate, there would be no extremism and no extreme acts.

Well, the world doesn't quite work that way. There will always be religious literalists; that is, those who believe that their scripture of choice needs to be interpreted word-for-word. A prime example is, of course, the Bible. There are a lot of people in the world who feel the Bible is the unadulterated Word of God. Other people of faith kind of roll their eyes and say that a lot of the more outlandish pronouncements in the Bible really don't mean what they say, and you can opt to live by them or not, your choice. To the moderate, an extremist is rigid, didactic, strident and inflexible. To the extremist, a moderate is a "failed fundamentalist," someone whose faith is not strong enough to hold up to strict interpretation.

Where does religious moderation come from? Harris points out that maybe a thousand years ago, people were much more amenable to allowing the Bible to dictate their everyday lives because it offered some structure and understanding to the universe that science, at that time, could not. Nowadays, the education level of the general public is considerably higher than a millennium ago, and many people understand how the world works. They integrate this knowledge into their faith and back away from the strict, literal interpretation of the Bible because it just does not fit the modern world into which they were born and have come to understand on a detailed level.

The main failing with religious moderation is that it requires the moderate to tolerate extremism. The religious extremist must be accepted unconditionally, and when their extremism leads to violence, the religious moderate is left in the uncomfortable position of trying to condemn the violence without condemning the extremist and their beliefs.

Just when does "extremism" become intolerable? Again, moderation insists that we tolerate all religious viewpoints, but in a practical sense even the most moderate will have some line they will not cross. Not that I'm a moderate, but for me any ritualized killing of animals is completely unacceptable. I don't care if you believe in God, Mammon, Isis, Buddha, Zeus or the lady with snakes in her hair, I will never ever be okay with taking the life of an animal just to appease some invisible being who's having a hissy fit over some imagined infraction. Others will disagree and are okay with killing animals. Maybe they draw the line at ritual sacrifice of humans. Or maybe seriously object to the Islamic tradition of arranged marriages between children. Point is, moderation says all religious viewpoints must be respected, until you come across something you can't tolerate. Then, moderation breaks down and in fact, turns into a form of extremism.

Harris says, "By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally." This is the price of moderation. a niche in the middle where extremism on one end and secularism on the other continually pull at the moderate, forcing them to accept everyone's positions, no matter how incompatible they are. By leaving the door open to all opinions and beliefs, the moderate will find themselves more and more isolated in the no-man's land of the middle.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

As everyone knows unless you've been trapped in a 60s-era bomb shelter and can't get out, it's the tenth anniversary of the WTC terrorist bombings.

I'm really not much for anniversaries because I'm not sure they mean anything. Sure, these past ten years amount to one-sixth of my entire life. Anniversaries are human conceits, ways for us to acknowledge the limited time we have on this planet. Things are not the same as they were ten years ago. Everything is different now, and will never be as they were.

I'll leave it to other people more qualified than I to summarize the national trauma and grief we went through. I will say it was one of the worst days of my life, that warm September morning ten years ago. I remember looking at the television news thinking, "This is really REALLY bad." Little did I know what an understatement that was. To this day I avoid looking at any coverage or video footage. To say it was nightmarish is pitifully inadequate; there are no words to describe an unprecedented catastrophe of that nature. Anyone who watched it unfold that day has their own memories deeply, indelibly etched in their consciousness. We don't need video footage to remember; we can never forget.

It's also unbelievable how much our lives have changed. We now have many words and phrases we never could conceive of before. Things like "Al Qaeda," "jihadists," "Al Jazeera," "threat level," and so many more. Air travel has become even more of a spectacular pain in the butt than it ever had been. I used to love to travel so much but now I avoid it like a letter full of anthrax. The Department of Homeland Security was unknown ten years ago. Now we have to remove our shoes at the airport and ridiculously mundane items like bottles of shampoo are regarded as serious threats. Anyone who even looks vaguely middle-Easternish is automatically assumed to be a terrorist, and every U-Haul truck is a potential car bomb.

How can such drastic changes happen in such a short time? There is much discussion on the Internet about the role religion had to play in all this. And the term "religion" includes Christianity and Islam and every other belief system in the world. People are saying that religion is the cause of all this. As anti-religion as I am, I know that is not true. Religion by itself did not do this, but when religion is distorted and corrupted by extremists whose lives are ruled by irrationality and hatred, then these kind of things can happen. People blame Islam for the aircraft plunging into buildings and Pennsylvania farm fields but really, there is barely any noticeable difference between Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists. Religious extremism of any kind can be responsible for unimaginable horror, as history has proven again and again.

So, while I do remember that September morning ten years ago, I prefer to look forward rather than backward. If I thought for one second it would be possible to go back and undo everything and get those 3,000 innocent lives back, I would do it in a nanosecond. But we all know that is impossible. For me, the only rational thing to do is live my life the best way I can, knowing that we only get one life to live and when it's over, it's over. I will live in the present and anticipate the future, and remember everything we lost.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day 2011

Today is Labor Day, and it's always been one of those funny little "second tier" holidays like Presidents' Day or Columbus Day that people feel obligated to take notice of, but if for some reason it would go away, no one would care a whole lot. Get rid of Christmas or Thanksgiving and yeah, people would go nuts. But Labor Day, not so much.

Originally created to honor the hard work and contributions of workers, Labor Day started off with good intentions but seems to have gotten derailed somewhere along the way. Maybe they needed some kind of holiday to mark the end of summer, something to break up the monotony of the long stretch between Independence Day and Halloween. I think that's how most people view Labor Day, as the end of the summer season. We should be so lucky here in Phoenix, because summer is still in full force for at least another month, maybe longer. The old-timers around here will tell you it doesn't really cool off until the end of October, and after 18 years I can vouch for that.

The connection of Labor Day to actual labor is diminishing, reflecting the fading influence of labor on the national scene. Time was, back in the day, when 25% of American workers were in some kind of union. Now it's very much less. When I was young my father was an officer in the local Steelworkers' Union and it was always a big deal. They wielded political clout and a lot of power. When they spoke, politicians listened. Pundits are always bemoaning the fact that America doesn't "make anything" anymore, that we've moved from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. It's true that the unions have suffered, because making cars and steel carries a lot more influence than nursing or waiting tables.

Now, the unions are being attacked from all sides. Governors in a number of states - Wisconsin and Ohio to name a few - are actively and blatantly going after the public worker unions and stripping them of their collective bargaining rights. Candidates for the highest office in the land criticize and bad-mouth unions as being behind-the-times at best and greedy bloodsuckers at worst. How did this major change in perception happen over just a couple of decades?

First of all, times have changed, a lot. Unions were powerful back in the 70s and 80s and negotiated some very lucrative contracts for their members in many fields of work. In particular, public workers in major American cities got some very cushy deals regarding salaries, pensions and benefits. During boom times, that is not perceived as excessive or out of line. These labor contracts got locked in at high rates and were rarely adjusted downward. Now, with the economy in the tank and money a great deal tighter than ever, the labor contracts are viewed as insane, greedy and excessive.

Another thing is that decades ago, many unions negotiated full health care benefits for their members and retirees. These days, health care costs are through the roof and these full benefits have become a severe and substantial drain on the resources of the companies who must pay them. Companies are just no longer able to provide full health care benefits for everyone who does or used to work for them. Just today, the news had a story of the U.S. Postal Service drifting toward insolvency, and if Congress does not do something to help they will default on some of their obligations by the end of this month. The Postal Service is running an annual deficit of over $9 billion, and they have a $5.5 billion payment for retiree benefits due soon which they do not have the cash to cover. To be sure, a lot of the Postal Services woes are because of reduced revenue due to the overwhelming popularity of email and online shopping, but they said that unless they are able to curtail some of their services (such as Saturday delivery), close literally thousands of small-town post offices across the country and make changes to retiree benefits, which the Postal Service Employees Union will frown upon, the Postal Service will be broke very soon.

To be sure, unions are at least partially to blame for this seismic shift in public opinion. Everybody became aware of union workers who could not be fired no matter how incompetent they were. They got very liberal pay and vacation benefits for their members, usually unmatched by the private sector, and they fought back ferociously if anyone tried to adjust these benefits to fit changing financial realities. Unions were gradually perceived as bloated, overreaching and standing in the way of progress.

A cultural shift occurred in the 1980s which proposed that if earning a fair amount of profit was a good thing, then earning a huge amount of profit was a better thing. This shift was encapsulated in the famous line from the 1987 movie "Wall Street," when iconic character Gordon Gekko delivered his famous line, "Greed ... is good!" Stockholders put pressure on major corporations to show enormous profits all the time. Something that corporations had to do to achieve this was to reduce costs and overhead, and one of the biggest, fastest rising costs was labor. Unions were perceived as standing in the way of reducing labor costs and subsequently, higher profits.

More recently the surge in outsourcing meant the same amount of work could be done by offshore workers who worked for a small fraction of what American workers were paid and cost the corporations nothing in terms of expensive benefits. Unions were caught asleep at the switch when outsourcing became prevalent and found themselves pretty much powerless when it came to staunching the critical hemorrhage of jobs overseas.

Throw into this toxic witches' brew of rising costs and changing times, the political climate in this country has shifted far to the right in the past decade. A number of states, particularly those in the South, have always been antagonistic to unions and have declared themselves as "right to work" states, curtailing the power of the unions to organize employees. Republicans and their obnoxious little lap dogs the Tea Party have managed to increase their hold on government at every level, from local school boards to the House of Representatives. Unions have long been strong supporters and financial backers of the Democrats, and have thus come under unrelenting, merciless attack by the Republicans. Cripple the unions and you cripple the Democrats, the Republicans reason. Hurt the unions, and turn off the money spigot to the Dems. Amazingly, this line of action, coupled with completely idiotic and spineless moves by the Obama administration, seems to be working.

Political bickering aside, getting rid of the unions would be a really bad thing to do. Unions have always been an opposing force, a check-and-balance system against the greed and avarice of Corporate America. Corporations make no effort to hide the fact that they choose profit over the best interests of their workers. The unions were a counterbalance to this, advocating the good of the worker over the singular pursuit of profit. Just the way that divided government used to ensure that neither political party would gain too much power and go off the deep end, unions served to be defenders of the interests of the middle class. But now that the middle class is being marginalized into extinction, and the majority of this country's wealth gets concentrated in the top 1% of the population, unions are finding it very difficult indeed to stand against greedy, rampaging corporations.

So this Labor Day finds the state of unionization in the country to be deeply in peril. A hostile and very polarized political climate, weak economy and out of control health care costs, have conspired with the unions' own bloated and anachronistic sensibilities to sap them of almost all of their political and bargaining powers. If the unions do essentially disappear from the scene, which is completely possible, then the corporations and the wealthy will indeed have won, and it will be a very bad thing for the people in this country who don't make over a million dollars a year.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Morning Rain - Part 2

This is an excerpt from my book in progress, "Songs of Abundance and Beauty: The Stories of Josiah."

In the beginning Human got along with all the other animals. We shared with them the generous gifts of Mother Earth and they were a part of the great community of life that encircled the entire world. They lived among us, and their babies played with our babies. We watched as their numbers grew and they gathered together in towns and villages. From the start Human and Wolf seemed to have a special relationship. Wolf came down from the mountains and lived with Humans in their villages. All animals had a common language which we used to speak to each other, but Human and Wolf had a special bond. Wolf taught Human everything they knew about the sun and sky and movements of the stars and how the earth was born. Wolf showed Human which plants were good for food and which were good for medicine. Humans learned about the different songs to sing and how to read the messages in the wind.

Dog thought it was a little strange how well Human and Wolf got along, but they didn't much care. They were having too much fun running and playing with their own kind. With Coyote, it was different. Coyote saw how Wolf lived among the Humans and shared in their food and helped each other, and he wondered why he could not do the same. Human hated Coyote, and drove them away every chance they got. Coyote became upset and jealous of Wolf and Human, and decided to do something about it.

Coyote went to their cousin Dog and started to tell them lies about Wolf having a plan to come to their territory and take away all their hunting grounds and food and water. Dog did not believe Coyote at first, but so skillful were the lies Coyote told that the seeds of doubt were planted in Dog's mind. At the same time Coyote went to Wolf and told them that Dog was conspiring with Human and was preparing to take Wolf's place among them and force them back into the mountains. Coyote continued weaving his intricate web of lies by telling Human that Dog and Wolf were preparing to join forces and take over their villages. They also told Human that Wolf would turn on them and murder their children.

One fateful night when Grandfather Moon was absent from the sky, Human was alarmed to see Dog, in large numbers, moving toward their village. Dog was coming to confront Wolf about their plans to force them out of their home. Human assumed the time had come for Dog to join Wolf and attack them. Wolf saw Dog approaching and thought they were also being attacked and would be forced to flee to the mountains. Fear and tension raced through the village as Dog grew nearer. Right then, Coyote sent one of their own to sneak undetected into the home of a Human family that lived on the outskirts of the village and took the life of a child. Human discovered the terrible act just as Dog reached the village and a horrendous fighting ensued. Wolf, Human and Dog fought each other in an epic battle with previously-unseen savagery and violence. The destruction raged all night long, and the next morning Father Sun awoke to find a horrible scene of death and chaos.

When Mother Earth discovered what had happened she was extremely angry, and created fierce rainstorms and torrential flooding to try and cleanse the area. A great many other animals suffered and died in the aftermath as the earth and sky ripped themselves apart in pain and sorrow. Human and Dog together had inflicted great suffering on Wolf who retreated to the mountains, never again to cross paths with Human. Dog slowly moved into the place that Wolf had occupied next to Human and became subservient to them, convincing Human that they would forever do their bidding and be at their service. Human then turned on all animals, except for Dog, and felt that they were superior to the animals despite having lived as equals with them. They began to take many, many animal lives without reason to satisfy their own greed and hunger, and the animals came to fear Human.

But Mother Earth saved the worst punishment for Coyote, whose lies and deceit were responsible for so much damage. From now on Coyote would live in barren, forbidding places, and will never live with Dog, Wolf, Human or anyone else. They will be shunned by other living creatures and will live solitary, lonely lives, trapped between worlds. Their plaintive, sorrowful calls will fill the night air and they will lament and regret their actions for the rest of time.

Many rabbits had lost their lives in the terrible fighting. So appalled were they at the wanton destruction and killing that Rabbit had decided at that point, that even though their lives had been taken by senseless barbarism, they themselves would never, ever do the same. So it is to this day, even though Rabbit may be prey to many other animals, they themselves never take the life of another animal, no matter what.

Mother Earth was very sorrowful when she saw what her children had done, and to remind everyone of how wonderful things used to be, she created some new constellations in the nighttime sky. She created a Human made of stars and placed him in the cold, crystal winter sky, to commemorate the beautiful, pure relationship Human had with the Earth but was now gone forever. She placed a handsome, noble Wolf constellation next to the Human, to celebrate the once-great relationship the two had had and was now also irretrievably lost. And finally, she placed a Rabbit constellation under them, being sheltered and protected by Human and Wolf.

Humans nowadays will tell you something different. They named the Human constellation Orion, and exalt him as a great Hunter. They also say that Orion's companion is a Great Dog, instead of Wolf, and that Orion and Dog are hunting the Rabbit, instead of protecting him and keeping him safe.

"This is what the humans say happened," said Auntie Jools, "but we know differently." She looked around at all the young bunnies in front of her, with their bright, sparkling eyes wide open, ears straight up and noses twitching. Lowering her voice to nearly a whisper, she said, "We are Rabbit, and never forget that we above all other creatures are favored by Mother Earth. Life can be hard for us and Humans and other animals can do terrible things to us, but Mother Earth has given us great gifts and blessings. We will survive and..." She looked down at the very youngest rabbits, peacefully sound asleep and nestled in the soft, warm expanse of her own fur, and said, "...we will thrive!"

Morning Rain - Part 1

This is an excerpt from my book in progress, "Songs of Abundance and Beauty: The Stories of Josiah."

It started to rain last evening, right after the sun went down. We were all back in our barn so no one got wet, but we heard the noise of the rain on the roof, like many little rabbits thumping at once. We could smell the fresh smell of the rain and felt the cool, moist air coming in under the door. It reminded me of sweet grass and moss and tiny mushrooms, and I found it to be really pleasant. We all went to sleep to the music of the steady rainfall, and felt safe and content. At one point during the night we heard loud booming noises outside and saw flashes of blue and purple light, and some of the bunnies got scared and upset, but it passed quickly and we were left with the loud, angry noises fading off into the distance and being replaced by the soft purring of the rain.

The rain continued all night and morning came dark and gray. The nighttime just sort of blended into the morning and you couldn't really tell where one ended and the other began. The barn was unusually still for quite a while, with none of my rowdy friends waking me up and demanding to go outside to play. It was a quiet, restful and slow kind of morning, and we liked it.

One of the humans came in with our breakfast and I couldn't tell if they were upset or not. Sometimes on cold mornings when they bring us breakfast you can see that they are cranky and didn't want to do it. They sometimes mumble about staying inside their own barn and drinking warm stuff. I don't know, but that didn't happen this time. The human dropped off the food, petted and stroked a couple of the bunnies, cleaned up the mess that somebody made (but wouldn’t admit to), and then left. We knew it was one of those days when we would be by ourselves mostly and would not be able to go outside and play chase or nibble on plant leaves, but we didn't care. We had lots of food, were warm and dry, and we were all together! We knew we would have a good time.

Often during these rainy days one of the female rabbits will gather all us younger bunnies like me around her for a storytelling session. They take these stories pretty seriously and tell us that it is our rabbit history we are learning, not just listening to an entertaining tale, but we just like to hear stories. This time it was Auntie Jools who would be doing the storytelling. Auntie Jools is a big white bunny lady with red eyes who has been around for a long time. Everyone calls her "Auntie," just as we call all the other female bunnies like her. I think she is very nice and knows so many wonderful stories, but she will cuff you behind the ears in a second if you act up or make noise while she is talking. Sometimes a couple of the very youngest bunnies will fall asleep during the storytelling but Auntie Jools doesn't seem to mind. In fact she will let the littlest ones snuggle right next to her and listen to her heart beat while she talks. She knows that they will not hear every word she says but she doesn't get upset; she knows that just by being there they are learning important lessons nonetheless. She loves the little ones and will always give them kisses any time they want.

Auntie Jools got more comfortable, sitting down on the ground and allowing a couple of baby bunnies to cuddle in the big flap of fur around her neck. She lifted her head and said with her stern voice, "Who would like to hear a story?" Some of the bunnies are scared of Auntie and think she is mean, but I know she isn't, it is just her way of speaking. "ME! ME!" a bunch of us called out, "I want to hear a story!" She just looked at us and we quieted down immediately. Auntie Jools is one of those rabbits who doesn't have to say anything to get her point across.

I was sitting between my two best friends, Zachary and Constance, and I could feel their warm fur next to me. I felt completely happy right then and there, and I knew this is one of those times in life when everything is perfect and we really don't need anything else to feel totally satisfied. We all hunkered down on the ground and settled in for a good, long story. This is the story Auntie Jools told us on that dark, rainy morning:

A very long time ago, the world was a different place than it is now. It was a time when everything was clean and fresh and new. The air was fragrant with the aroma of many different flowers and every gentle breeze carried with it a new story of the richness of life. The rivers and streams were crystal-clear, and ran cold and pure. During this time, Mother Earth, Father Sun and Grandfather Moon existed in perfect harmony. There were many different kinds of animals that lived on Mother Earth, and all coexisted in peace and tranquility. Some animals ate other animals, as was their nature, but it was never done out of cruelty or malice. Everyone knew their place and the role they played in making the world a very lovely place to live.

We rabbits have always occupied a special place in the heart of Mother Earth. In fact, the original word for "rabbits" meant "children of earth." Rabbits spend their lives mostly in the bosom of Mother Earth, digging tunnels and chambers into her soft body. We are born there and return there over and over again. We come up to find food and water, of course, and to run and play in the warm sunshine, but we always come back to the cool, dark embrace of our Earth Mother to live our lives and sing our songs and have our babies. We are creatures who need to feel the firm presence of Mother Earth under our feet, and we are not happy unless we do. Life can get a little harsh for us sometimes, with floods or drought or freezing cold, but we know that Mother Earth will always take care of us. She holds us close and always makes us feel we are beloved to her.

Besides us rabbits, there were lots of other animals on earth. There were the creatures of the air, so many different kinds and in such vast numbers the sky was sometimes darkened with their presence. They rode the wind and played among the clouds high above. Some of these creatures chose to live on the water, and others had very beautiful and colorful feathers. There were many animals that lived under the surface of the water and we could sometimes see them moving about silently when we came to a pond or a stream for a drink. Still others crept and slithered among the grasses and bushes, and some lived with us in the earth. But everyone got along and the world was a place of peace and contentment.

Also favored among all animals was Wolf, a big, strong, noble animal with great skill and abilities. Wolf lived in the cold, austere highlands and mountains, many of them leading solitary lives. After dark we could often hear them calling to each other and speaking to Grandfather Moon, their faint and ghostly songs drifting in on the luminous night air. They sung of dreams and phantoms and yearning, and seemed to be constantly searching for something. Wolf was a very strong presence and a protector of all other animals. They made sure everyone behaved and if someone got a little out of control, Wolf would come down from the mountains and set them straight. In particular Wolf was our protector and made sure we rabbits were safe at all times.

Wolf had a cousin, named Dog. Dog was not as mighty and powerful as Wolf, and lived in big, gregarious packs of many families in the lowlands and valleys. They could be heard playing and chasing and shouting at each other, and usually made quite a ruckus for no good reason. What Dog lacked in strength and power it made up for in intelligence and sociability. Dog seemed to thrive the most when living among a lot of other animals where things were very busy and active.

Wolf and Dog both had another cousin, Coyote, who was a little bit different. Coyote could not make up his mind who he wanted to be or where he wanted to live. He was bigger than Dog but not as big as Wolf. He lived in small family groups who were moving around all the time, never staying in one place for very long. Sometimes they would come into the lowlands to look for food, other times they would go up into the mountains where Wolf lived. They could never seem to find enough to satisfy them and sometimes stole food from other animals. Coyote also sang songs at night, but they were songs of unhappiness and resentment and conflict. The other animals didn't know what to think of Coyote but understood that they were exactly as they should be, as Mother Earth intended.

One night something extraordinary happened. Grandfather Moon slipped into the shadow of Mother Earth and hid his face. A new star appeared in the sky with a long tail. It moved slowly across the black sky and disappeared into the east, where Father Sun brought the dawn every day. A few days later a new animal appeared. It was tall and slender and mostly hairless, and moved about on its two back feet, looking quite different and strange. It didn't look very strong or able to run very fast, but we all got the impression it was very crafty and cunning. It moved about timidly at first but then with more assurance, and it wasn't long before it was moving about with confidence. It called itself "Human".

To Be Continued...
click here for Part 2

Friday, August 12, 2011


I watch a lot of news and public affairs television. I mean a lot, probably more than I should. I watch Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and Ed Schultz on MSNBC, and Keith Olbermann on Current. It will come as a surprise to no one that I have the Fox News Channel blocked from my TV, and CNN has become a ridiculous travesty, with shrill harpies like Nancy Grace all over it. The only reason I watch the three over-the-air networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) is for the nightly news programs. Anything else on these networks is pure drivel. I mean, there is some idiotic program the name of which I can't remember where a bunch of people with helmets and foam rubber padding try to climb over and through a bunch of cartoonish contraptions that seem only geared to maim and cripple them. I don't know if that kind of juvenile nonsense goes over big in Nebraska, but it leaves me completely cold and decidedly un-entertained. After you get used to really interesting, intelligently-written, provocative programs like Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, True Blood, Nurse Jackie, Sons of Anarchy, and Real Time with Bill Maher, you just can't go back to the saccharine, dumbed-down crap the big networks serve up.

Back in the day when I was growing up, the big three networks, plus an educational channel, were all you had to work with. The only way you could get a television signal was through your rooftop antenna. There was no HBO, Showtime, AMC, or Syfy. Everything was in black-and-white, and HDTV was decades in the future. Prime time was 7pm to 11pm. Most first-run shows were telecast in the fall, winter and spring, and you could count on the summertime being nothing but repeats. I'm sure that young people probably can't understand this kind of restricted set-up, and put it in with other incomprehensible oddities like dial telephones or the absence of anything digital, from computers to Facebook to iPhones.

But, I digress. One thing these news shows seem to have in common is a really irritating vocal tic a lot of the talking heads exhibit. That is, whenever they are asked a question or state their opinion they always start it with "Look,.." As in:
Q: What do you think will happen with the budget deficit talks?
A: Look, this is something we've seen before..

Or "Look, there's going to be a legislative logjam no matter what...."

This habit of saying "Look,.." at the beginning of every sentence annoys the living crap out of me because it reeks of arrogance and condescension. It sounds like the way you would talk if you're getting really exasperated trying to talk sense into an idiot Tea Partier, or trying to converse with a really irritating child who keeps responding "Why?" to everything you say. It's the way someone talks when they're losing patience having to deal with someone of obviously inferior intelligence, or they are just too darned busy being important to waste time talking to you. It's a peculiarly Beltway phenomenon, and I bet it's something you hear about a million times a day if you work in any government office. It's the kind of thing that seeps into a culture and stands out like a red flag to anyone not familiar to it. While not as widespread or insidious as Valley Girl talk, it's nearly as annoying.

But, it's not enough to discourage me from my steady diet of news, views, opinions, breaking news, and the massive cavalcade of information that the information channels provide. I'll just cringe a little and squirm in my seat every time I hear that "Look..."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

American Exceptionalism

I've been hearing a lot about something called "American exceptionalism." Chris Matthews on MSNBC has a promo spot in which he relates how Barack Obama came from a relatively lowly background and ascended to the heights of American politics. He made the point that someone couldn't go over to China and become the President of China. Matthews attributed it to "American exceptionalism".

I wasn't sure what that meant, so I went to that Oracle of the Internet, Wikipedia. They said that is the belief that the United States is qualitatively different from, and by inference superior to, other nations. This supposedly came from the fact that America was born from a revolution, and developed it own ideas of egalitarianism, populism, laissez-faire capitalism, and individualism. It traces its roots to Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) who first referred to the United States as "exceptional."

This concept has also been linked to another concept, manifest destiny, which said that it was inevitable that early settlers of the United States would in time spread across the entire North American continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was their destiny, and it would happen in spite of the fact that Native Americans and untold billions of other mammals were there first.

There is something about American exceptionalism that kind of creeps me out. I think that while it's something that has a tinge of validity, it is also something that can be monstrously perverted to suit a particular agenda or justify a whole range of activities. Any idea that seeks to set up one group of people as somehow having better attributes and qualities than others for no discernible good reason other than it sort of sounds good and fits roughly in with historic events, seems a bit desperate to me. It's just one short step from claiming to be the divinely "chosen ones" and whenever you get the approval of some religious deity, then you assume you have carte blanche to do anything you damned well please, no matter how awful and hideous. History abounds with examples of this.

Now, "animal exceptionalism" is something I can totally get behind, because I believe that animals are far superior to human beings and have every reason to be considered exceptional. You never hear of animals calling each other racist names, or killing enormous numbers of each other in pointless, ill-conceived wars, or making themselves miserable by wallowing around in bottomless pools of regret or resentment. Animals don't really concern themselves with what happened yesterday or 50 years ago, and they don't spend their lives fretting about stuff that may or may not happen tomorrow or 50 years from now. They live wholly and completely in the present moment.

Humans, however, do not do the same. Is it this human understanding of time and history that separates them from the animals and makes them "exceptional?" Probably not, since as far as I know all humans understand the concept of past, present and future pretty much the same, so I can't see how that can be used to establish some kind of superiority of one group over the other.

I'm not sure Americans are all that exceptional. We have an exceptional country, blessed with enormous natural resources, but the same can be said for Russia and China. We have a system of government which at least in theory allows people the opportunity to succeed as much as they are able or want to succeed, but so do a lot of European countries and some Pacific Rim countries like Australia, Singapore and Japan. We have a culture that values egalitarianism and rugged individualism, but so does Canada, South Africa, Chile and Argentina. We have a legal system that, while corrupted with money, favoritism and biases of every kind, still argues the point that anyone is innocent until proven guilty. But much of our system of laws is based on British Common Law which has its origins in Teutonic Germany, so it isn't a uniquely American construct.

So what is it that makes America exceptional? Maybe it's the belief that we are a "shining city on a hill," as crotchety, Alzheimers-ridden buffoon Ronald Reagan said. Maybe it's our common belief that freedom is the cornerstone of our country, even though our freedoms get eroded more and more every day by politicians who constantly hide behind the shield of patriotism, while doing very unpatriotic things. And most of all, even though our country is reviled and criticized in many corners of the world, it's still the Promised Land for many people and an irresistible draw for the talented and ambitious. We have our flaws, but we are also the best the world has to offer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

An Intelligence Deficit

The past week or two we have been reluctant, unhappy witnesses to one of the worst displays of just how dysfunctional Congress is that I can ever remember. The whole garish, shameful scenario of extending the debt ceiling, something which happens fairly often and with hardly a whimper in the media, until now, was truly an extremely destructive and ultimately unnecessary abomination.

It's all the more galling because it was an artificial, completely manufactured crisis, instead of an actual crisis. And by "actual crisis" I mean things like the economic collapse of 2008, the bombing of Libya, or an earthquake or hurricane laying waste to a wide area. This "debt ceiling" is an man-made abstraction, a conceit of the pointy-headed economists of the nation and is about three degrees of separation away from anything most people can even understand, or care to understand.

As usual, the Republicans are at the bottom of this heinous, hell-spawned mess, and in particular this was the fault of the god-forsaken Tea Partiers in Congress. The gang of 85 representatives which presumably were elected through a wave of Tea Party support in the 2010 midterms, decided to take the entire country hostage and link the debt ceiling with lowering the deficit, something which has NEVER been done before and something which is completely invalid.

First of all, the debt ceiling represents money that has ALREADY been spent and debt which has ALREADY been incurred, not future debt. That's like saying, I'm not going to pay this month's electricity bill until I'm sure that next month's electricity bill will be lower. WTF is that supposed to mean? Sounds like idiotic crap, and it is. You're responsible for paying this month's electric bill NOW, for electricity you have already used, and it does NOT depend on what you do next month. But somehow, the pretzel logic of the Tea Baggers linked those two concepts and both political parties were powerless to change it. How on earth can it happen that a small minority of deadheaded legislators can pervert and twist around an economic concept like that?

As the clocked ticked down last week toward a credit default, which is what would have happened if the debt ceiling had not been raised and the U.S. had no available funds to repay its debts, the political theater and bickering was immense in its scale. The House of Representatives insisted on passing its own Tea Party-driven deficit reduction measure, which consisted mostly of shielding their wealthy sponsors from any kind of financial contribution to repaying this country's debt in the form of moderately increased taxes or tax loophole-closing, even though everybody and their uncle knew that such a measure would be dead-on-arrival at the Senate, but they had to waste time anyhow making a big "show" of it.

At the last minute a "compromise" bill was cobbled together which, according to orange-skinned Speaker of the House John Boner, I mean, Boehner, gave him "98% of everything" he wanted. Some f**king "compromise." Most people thought a "compromise" is when each side in an argument gives some concession to the other side in hopes of coming up with a mutually-agreeable solution. The only thing the Democrats and the Obama administration gave up is their integrity, and the confidence of their base supporters that they would stand their ground against the Republican onslaught. The Republicans railroaded and overran the Democrats, I have to give them credit for that, and the wealthy puppet-masters of the Republicans must be very proud of the investment they made in that party.

Once AGAIN, Obama caved to the demands of the other side. To try to deflect attention from him being Senate minority leader Mitch O'Connell's bottom bitch, Obama is now saying that since the debt ceiling problem is over, he's going to focus exclusively on jobs and putting America back to work. The problem with that is that the only way the government can put people back to work is by spending a bunch of money on badly-needed public works and infrastructure repair projects, but the Republicans have stated clearly that they would not support any such expenditures. So how is the administration supposed to create these new jobs which will bring sorely-needed tax revenues into the Treasury, without any money for these projects? Obama hasn't figured that out yet, but I'm sure he's thinking really hard about it. That, and $3, will buy you a grande house coffee at Starbucks, if you can afford it.

What's much more disturbing and dangerous is that the Republicans have learned that their hostage-taking style of negotiating works pretty well. They were ready to let the country go into default and risk a credit downgrade, which would have been catastrophic to the extreme to the national and the global economy, and they didn't give a crap how badly it hurt the country. This is what we're going to see from now on, this scorched-earth practice from the right wing, in which they will risk heaping much more pain and misery on the people of this country without any concern for the consequences. The ultra-wealthy are insulated and protected from such things, and that is all the Republicans care about. And that will surely have very dire results in both the short- and long-term.

Yesterday the stock market took a header into the shitter, dropping over 500 points in a single day. All the stock market gains for the year have been erased. Seven months and nothing to show for it. The market has dropped over 10% in the past two weeks. Many billions of dollars have been obliterated, and it will be difficult getting them back. And all for what? A manufactured crisis that didn't have to happen. After all, conservative idol Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times in his presidency, with nary a whisper of dissent from anyone. All of a sudden, now that we have a black man for President, raising the debt ceiling is a big deal. The Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular have made it very clear that they will do anything and everything to destroy Obama's presidency. And apparently, if they destroy the economy of the country and the well-being of all its citizens in the process, well that is too damned bad.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Arizona Anniversary

July 31st is my Arizona anniversary, that's the day in 1993 when I moved to Phoenix from Burlingame, in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have been living in Phoenix for 18 years now.

I still remember a lot about that time 18 years ago. My life in the Bay Area was kind of disintegrating; I lost my job at IBM which I had for 13 years, my roommate had passed away unexpectedly and I was starting to become very unhappy. I had visited Phoenix about a year or so previously and I loved it, and decided that there is where I would move. I didn't know a single soul in Phoenix or had a job lined up, but that didn't matter. I was going and I knew I was going to be all right.

So on Friday July 30, 1993, I packed up my two cats, Eunice and J.R., and my clothes and some personal belongings (my furniture and the bulk of everything else had been picked up by the moving van a couple of days prior) and I got in my car and headed out. The cats were in separate carriers right next to each other and knew something big was going on. They started this "meow-meow" back and forth to each other for the next 5 hours, and I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind. As I headed eastward across the San Mateo Bridge to reach Interstate 5, I took one last look at my home of over 4 years in my rear-view mirror. The fog over the coast range was a luminous white band over dark green, brooding hills. I still have that image frozen in my mind. It was one of those moments when you just knew something huge was happening to you and you would remember it for the rest of your life. There are many aspects of living in the Bay Area which I really miss, but I knew my life was elsewhere.

Cruising south on I-5 through the Central Valley was uneventful, even a touch boring. I went down what's called the Grapevine into the Los Angeles area, and that's when traffic started getting really thick. Seven arduous hours later (and the cats didn't shut up for more than 15 minutes) I decided I had had enough and found a motel in Palm Springs to spend the night. I didn't bother to mention my two cats when I checked in, since I was only staying the night. I went out for a quick dinner and a short walk around, and when I returned to the motel I saw my big black cat J.R. sitting on the window sill in front of the curtains, happily looking at everyone who passed by.

I got up early on a pleasant Saturday morning of the 31st, packed everything up again and headed east on Interstate 10 toward Phoenix. On the way I was mesmerized by the vast, empty desert around me and marveled at such names as the Chuckwalla Mountains and the Chiriaco Summit. I started to feel the heat as I passed through dusty, surreal desert outposts like Blythe, CA and Quartzsite, AZ. I got to Phoenix around noon and settled in to my new apartment. I let the cats explore their new house, and unpacked a little. My furniture would not be delivered for 5 more days, so I spent a lot of time sitting on an air mattress on the bedroom floor, looking out the window listening to the doves in the trees outside.

The next day it was 117 degrees. I went outside for a walk after lunch and thought to myself, are they kidding me? It was really HOT! The heat formed a thick blanket that muffled any sounds, and the cicadas in the trees lulled everyone into a hypnotic trance. I learned quickly that the Mexican custom of siesta, or taking a nap during the very hottest part of the day, was a really good idea.

But I settled into my new home quickly and found I really like it here. I got a job a couple of months later and that allowed me to have a very comfortable life and purchase a great house in 1995. I have been here ever since and feel that I made exactly the right move in coming to Phoenix. I have found very good friends and chosen family here, and I think things have worked out amazingly well.

There are some things I don't like about Arizona, most of all the politics here. It is an extremely conservative, Republican-oriented state, something that I really loathe since I am the exact, diametrical-opposite of that. I really detest the influence of religion in politics, both on the local and the state level. As far as I'm concerned religion is a private matter and has no business in the governance of the state. I don't begrudge anyone their religious beliefs, but when they push to codify their religious beliefs into the laws of the land and thus shove them down everyone else's throats, well I have a big BIG problem with that. I firmly believe that 99.9% of politicians in this state are corrupt morons and amoral dirtbags who really deserve to be in prison. The gun "laws" are a joke around here, and that results in incredibly stupid people and burned-out crack addicts running around here fully armed, because they think the Constitution says they can.

But most of all I hate the way animals are treated in this state, as property and "things," instead of as living, breathing, sensitive creatures meant to share the earth with us. This gives rise to the most horrific and terrible cruelties I have ever witnessed, and I believe it is impossible to overestimate the arrogance and stupidity of human beings. The human race will never be able to consider itself enlightened and civilized as long as such horrible, awful things are done to animals.

I never watch local television here because it is made by idiots, for idiots. Even more disgraceful is the local newspaper, the Arizona Republic(an), which is a laughingly provincial, unsophisticated excuse for a newspaper for the sixth largest metropolitan area in the United States. It would be more suited to a small-to-medium city in the upper Midwest rather than one of the larger cities of the Southwest. The income disparity around here is also pretty jarring, when you go from the gated communities and palatial estates of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley to the grungy, dilapidated wastelands of south Phoenix.

All these distractions aside, we do have a lot of things to appreciate, such as wonderful weather most of the year (not right now), beautiful scenic vistas, cool places to visit like Sedona and Flagstaff and Prescott and Tucson, and driving through fragrant pine forests to the visual feast that is the Grand Canyon. We also have opportunities to be dazzled by really, really dark night skies, when you think you can see a billion stars with a clarity that will literally take your breath away. As I start my nineteenth year in Sand Land, I find I really have much more for which to be grateful, rather than critical.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer

Summer is going full blast here in the Valley of the Sun. The solstice occurred last month and on that day the sun was so far north when it set that it shined into my living room through the French doors to the patio, which only happens for a couple of weeks a year about this time. Now, the sun is starting to recede southward and no longer shines into my living room at sunset. Too bad, I was starting to get used to the room being filled with that nice orange glow.

We managed to get through another Hell On Earth Weekend, which is the weekend closest to July 4th. As I remember a couple of days before the 4th it reached 118 degrees for the high temperature. It's pretty hard to tell people what heat of that kind is like, because unless they've served some time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia or one of those type of places, they just have no frame of reference for that kind of excess. The old standby description still works: Take a hair dryer, turn it on high, and point it at your face. It feels exactly like that.

I was in a fairly severe automobile accident on the 6th of July. I was coming back from the spay/neuter clinic with 9 bunnies in my car when some asshole who couldn't wait two damned seconds to make sure it was safe, pulled out in front of me from a sidestreet and I slammed into him. It was pretty nightmarish - my beloved Santa Fe was totaled, and had to be towed away. Asshole in the other vehicle was able to drive away, although the police were thoughtful enough to give him a traffic citation on the spot. So I went car shopping today, and bought a new 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring. It's a nice little car at a good price, and I look forward to picking it up tomorrow. I had no idea being in an accident would be such a mental and physical trauma. I was kind of in shock and pretty scatter-brained for a good 24 hours afterwards, besides being black and blue and banged up. The airbags went off in my car upon impact, and it smashed the carrier in the front seat, carrying a sweet little rabbit named Winston who had come to us all the way from Yuma. Had to sit in a carrier for three hours to get to Phoenix, only to be put in another carrier and then be in a nasty accident. Luckily, neither Winston nor any of the other bunnies were injured.

In national politics, it's been proven once again that it's impossible to over-estimate the stupidity of the average American voter, as a heinous, insidious black hole of ignorance and fakery by the name of Michelle Bachmann befouls the airwaves and news programs at every possible opportunity. There aren't enough bad things I can say about this obnoxious, pasty-faced, simple-minded old scarecrow, so I'm not even going to try. But for some inexplicable reason people listen to her dead-headed stupidity and seem to revel in every twisted, mindless, idiotic pronouncement that comes out of her eternally-flapping mouth.

Her husband is a real piece of work, too. A big, stupid-looking lunkhead, he looks like a fat drag queen who is trying for some reason to pass as straight and clearly failing at it. He runs the family business, a Christian counseling center, and is virulently anti-gay, to the point of trying to foist "reparative therapy" on evil homosexuals. This therapy, also known as "pray away the gay," is used to try to "convert" homosexuals to heterosexuals so they can be in miserable, loveless marriages, go through bitter, acrimonious divorces, beat their beards (I mean, wives), screw up their kids for the rest of eternity, and sneak around behind everyone's back going to gay bars and drag shows. Her husband has "closet case" written all over him, and he must spend a lot of time dressed up in women's clothing and heels, prancing around the house and singing "I Feel Pretty" while Wifey is out on the road spreading her toxic stupidity from coast to coast. It's just a matter of time before Fat Boy gets caught in some airport restroom doing a tap-dance with the person in the stall next to him, but what else can we expect? Being married to Michelle Bachmann must be a truly hideous experience and will twist you so far around you will see the back of your own head.

So, what do we have to look forward as we come into mid-July? For one, the looming debt ceiling deadline is August 2, and the pundits are threatening that financial armageddon is on its way. The Republicans are doing what they always do, demanding tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy people in this country, those who already have so much. Astonishingly, the Repubs refer to these people as "job creators," and are still flogging the long-discredited Reagan-era dead horse of "trickle down economics." Oh, the rich people and corporations are creating jobs alright - in China, India and Indonesia. It's almost as if the Republicans are thumbing their noses at American workers and the 9.2% unemployment we've been enduring for many months now. And lots of people in this country are so dumb they fall for it hook, line and sinker. Sigh.

It's been a pretty exciting couple of weeks, and there have certainly been a few things I could have done without. But, when life tosses you a flaming bag of crap, you just have to deal with it and move on. I keep thinking about the lovely cool weather that is still three months away, and I can't wait to wake up on a nice, chilly, autumn morning and wonder how I ever managed to get through another Arizona summer.