Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Year End Review: Part 2

Oh I'm not finished yet.  2012 offered an embarrassment of riches when it came to batshit-craziness.  To wit:

Most Baffling Cultural Phenomenon:  Gangnam Style.  Not that I follow popular culture all that closely (yes I do), this "Gangnam Style" thing completley blindsided me.  Apparently some South Korean rapper (and I can't quite wrap my head around THAT concept) named Psy came out with this song and accompanying spazzy dance moves which has swept the nation and the world too.  I just read where the YouTube video of this has just passed one billion views.  That by itself is astonishing and worthy of some kind of recognition, but everything boils down to the question of "Why this?" and not something else?  The music is not that remarkable, and the pretend-pony-riding dance step doesn't seem all that inspired, either.  In fact, "Gangnam Style" makes the Macarena look like the Bolshoi Ballet.  So I'm left scratching my head wondering what the hell is going on.  I'm sure this Psy person has had a field day being the center of the world's attention for more than his alloted 15 minutes, but now he's facing the unenviable, Herculean task of coming up with something new and better to surpass this big splash he just made (not likely), or getting thrown on the next bus to oblivion and never being heard from again.  We will see if anyone remembers what Gangnam Style is in a month or two.

Most Hysterical Meltdown of 2012:  Has to be Karl Rove's total schizophrenic breakdown on Faux News' election night coverage. Things started going south early on for the Mittster, as state after state went into the Obama column.  But when the race in Ohio was called and thus the election, Karl Rove crapped his Depends undergarments right on camera and had some sort of grand-mal seizure that made him get all flustered and bug-eyed like a walrus getting a prostate exam.  He looked like he was going to pop a sphincter blathering about two or three Republican votes not being counted in some hinterland Ohio county, even though several HUNDRED THOUSAND votes in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga county were still outstanding.  But the piece de resistance was when some siliconed Fox newsskank toddled off backstage on her stripper heels and confronted the numbers geeks at the "decision desk" where the Ohio call was made.  The math nerds were NOT HAVING any of this "Are you reeeeally sure?" whining, and bitch-slapped that newstrollop (and Karl Rove, by proxy) back to whatever passes for reality on Fox.  In the end, Obama won, Karl Rove got banished (for a while) from spewing lies on Faux News, and I had a big ol' glass of chocolate wine.  Now THAT was a good night!

The "You Want To Do WHAT?!" Award for 2012:  Okay so, there's this dude, right?  And he has this balloon thing with a space capsule attached to it and rides it up to over 120,000 feet, which is like 700 miles or something, I don't know.  And he opens up the capsule and he's like, right on the edge of outer space!  No kidding, it's like the Starship Enterprise could run his ass over if he's not careful.  And it's like 500 degress below zero, too.  So he starts to crawl out of his space capsule like he totally wants to jump out or something!  I KNOW!  This other camera shows him looking downward probably thinking either, "Yeah, I can do this, no sweat!" or "This is one of the most f**ked-up things I've ever tried."  So he says YOLO and jumps out!  On the way down there's no air resistance and he hits over 800 miles an hour, and my cousin told me that's like four times the speed of light.  Dude starts to spin and twirl around until he finally remembers to press the SAVE MY ASS button and his parachute opens.  Believe it or not he lands safely, but I don't care how many dry cleaners he goes to, he will never get the puke and nasty B.M.s out of that space suit.

Biggest Buzzkill of 2012:  Climate change.  People keep screwing up the climate and most are completely oblivious to what they are doing.  This summer saw the biggest ever melting of Arctic ice, and that by itself has world-wide consequences, mainly in the disruption of long-established weather patterns and warmer-than-normal sea temperatures, which generate bigger, meaner and more destructive storms and hurricanes (hello, Hurricane Sandy).  The shape of things to come?  Yeah, most likely. Is anything going to be done about it?  Not until it's too late.

Best Things of 2012: "The Walking Dead," chocolate wine, Greek yogurt, board game parties with friends, sushi, "Sons of Anarchy," vegetarianism, desert sunsets, more states approving same-sex marriage, clear dark moonless nights, and of course RABBITS!

Worst Things of 2012:  Republicans, conservative trolls on Facebook, Fox News, the NRA, religion, terrorism, bigotry, hillbillies with guns, animal abuse, murdered children.

Proof That Some People Still Live in the Dark Ages in 2012:  The astonishing, unrepentant and deliberate ignorance of some Republican legislators regarding rape.  The very idea of "legitimate" rape, and the belief that a woman's body can "shut down" the pregnancy process after a rape clearly shows that they are beyond any kind of help or redemption.  The fact that they are anywhere near a public office shows that their supporters are equally pathetic and worthless, and they deserve nothing but the highest contempt and most strident condemnation.

Extra Credit for Scientific Achievement in 2012:  The landing of the Curiosity Mars Rover.  Sheer joy, and an absolute, unmitigated triumph.  The fact that they were receiving photographs from the surface of Mars within SECONDS of landing is completely mind-blowing.

Mr. "No I Can't Keep It In My Pants and Thank You for Noticing" for 2012:  Gen. David Petraeus.  Really?  Are you that desperate?  You just threw away your marriage, your career, your reputation and your legacy.  I hope it was worth it, but I'm sure it wasn't.

Loathsome Disgusting Toilet Scum of 2012:  Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Jim DeMint, Orrin Hatch, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Allen West, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, that token Negro in the Republican primary debates, Sean Hannity or anyone on Fox News.  Sadly, this looks like last year's list.  Nothing changes.

Ultimate Obnoxious Blowhard of 2012:  Donald Trump.  Once again, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that a huge amount of money can't buy even the tiniest iota of class.  He truly is a national embarrassment and a disgrace.

Best Reason To Remain Hopeful in 2013:  Rachel Maddow said it best in a short promo-segment on MSNBC.  She said that in the last election, we had an opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood, institutionalize bigotry by outlawing same-sex marriage, continue giving outlandish, obscene tax breaks to people who already have so much, privatize Social Security and Medicare, pack the Supreme Court with right-wing creeps for decades into the future, and listed a number of other horrible legal consequences of electing Romney president.  She said we had the opportunity to do all that... AND WE SAID NO!  That fact, that the American electorate finally said enough of the extremist conservative bullshit and decisively kicked the Republican party square in the crotch, means that there is still hope for our democratic form of government.

I'd like to think that 2013 will be better than 2012, but I'm starting to realize that these days, the best you can hope for is that 2013 won't be quite as awful.

2012 Year End Review: Part 1

2012 was a year dominated by politics, from beginning to end.  The batshittery started early, like on January 1st, and did not let up through the November elections and beyond.  2013 looks like it's going to do much the same, as scary as that sounds, but for right now let's review shall we - Why 2012 Sucked:

Theatre of the Damned (Presidential Election Edition):  The Presidential election this year was a galaxy-class train wreck, populated by the creepiest characters this side of a zombie apocalypse.  It was like someone loaded up your DVR with the most badly-written, incomprehensible, nonsensical, parallel-universe, bad-LSD-induced, four-month-long psychodrama imaginable.  Possibly the zenith (or the nadir, if you prefer) of that whole passion-play-from-hell was the Republican National Convention.  Almost derailed at the beginning by a hurricane, even devout atheists like myself knew that was a big "thumbs-down" from the Old Man Up In The Clouds.  It most certainly did not disappoint when it came to utter, total disappointment.  Spectacularly boring, this celebration of fat, old, white people had something to offend and annoy everyone.  The most unbelievable thing of the whole convention was aging, grizzled movie icon Clint Eastwood having some sort of bizarro-world conversation with a chair.  Once revered as the ultimate big-screen tough guy in edgy, stylized westerns (like High Plains Drifter or The Outlaw Josie Wales) and shoot-the-uppity-minorities cop potboilers (the Dirty Harry series), it was more than a little disconcerting seeing him degenerate into a disheveled, wild-eyed, crazy old man who could easily be mistaken for a deranged old coot having a political shouting-match with his dish of lime Jell-o in any cafeteria in this country.  It showed once again that mental illness is not at all pretty, and I can only hope when I turn into an unkempt, babbling, glassy-eyed old geezer, I can hopefully get caught talking back to a radio or something.  At least THAT would make a tiny bit of sense.

2012 Douchebag of the Year:  Hands down, the leader in this sorry category has to be Willard Mittens Romney, The Asshole That Roared.  Republicans have this uncanny talent for choosing the most repellent, unattractive and unelectable candidates for national office, and we didn't think they could do any worse than John McCain, the goofy, senile old dickhead they nominated for President in 2008, or the execrable Queen of the Inbred Sarah Palin, but damned if they didn't top themselves this year.  Apparently they base their choices on the highly questionable premise that if you stick around on the political radar for years and years, losing more primary elections that you can count, eventually that will make you look supremely qualified for the highest office in the land.  Romney's candidacy was its own worst enemy, and it was very entertaining to watch him torpedo his own chances at every turn - the leaked "47%" comment, his disastrous European visit - the list goes on.  At nearly every instance he came across as a creepy, awkward, socially inept douchenozzle with a very unfunny sense of humor, and I think a lot of Americans decided early on that they did not want to put up with his weirdly stilted persona and scary, sexual-predator smirk for four long years.  Dishonorable mention in this category has to go to anyone who participated in the Republican primary debates, a veritable smorgasbord of everything that's wrong with American politics, but the mildly-surprising runner-up to Mitt is his own wife, Ann.  Ostensibly brought into the campaign to "humanize" her husband to wary, unfamiliar voters, she managed to hammer the last couple of nails into the coffin of his candidacy by coming across as nasty, imperious, short-tempered, sharp-tongued, condescending, bitchy and elitist.  I find it endlessly amusing that Ann Romney turned out to be the one who needed "humanizing," and I'm just waiting for all the tell-all post-election books that will document her sloppy-drunk (I wouldn't be surprised if she has a drinking problem, Mormon or not), profanity-laced, behind-the-campaign-scenes tirades.  You just know she used the N-word a lot.

Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends: Gun violence is like a big ugly wound across the heart of America. Gun violence in this country left its mark in a big way on 2012, most horribly on December 14th when 20 young children and 6 adults lost their lives to one deranged, monstrous murderer with a semi-automatic rifle.  Earlier this year another psychotic loser shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  There was also a smattering of mall shootings and workplace violence incidents and incredibly, on Christmas Eve, some scumbag shot to death two firemen responding to a building fire.  But, the 20 dead children in Newtown, Connecticut, seem to have really set people off, maybe because of the sheer immensity of the horror or the fact that it has happened so close to the holidays.  Not surprisingly, the NRA held a news conference in which they blamed everyone and everything in the world for what happened, without even touching, however tangentially, on the fact that some of the blame just might be due to the easy availability of ridiculously powerful assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition delivery systems.  Even for a bunch of ignorant douchebags like the NRA, it was an astonishingly stupid, arrogantly defiant, self-serving, tone-deaf non-response to a really critical national problem.  Their "solution" is to place armed guards in every school in the United States, at an estimated cost of nearly $7 billion a year.  Yeah, I'm sure the Republicans in Congress are going to pass THAT appropriation.  According to the NRA, the answer is guns, guns, and more guns.  It's really amazing that the NRA can't see what everyone else can - what hopeless, pathetic assholes they are, and what spineless, evil cowards the members of Congress are who buckle under it like wet cardboard.

Death We Regret The Most:  Lots of notable people passed away this year (Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Armstrong, Whitney Houston, Phyllis Diller, Donna Summer to name a very few), but one passing hardly anyone noticed was the death of representative democracy. We learned this year that Congress does not give a single crap about doing its job - which is representing their constituents and working to, you know, get stuff done and accomplish things.  Instead, we learned that they prefer to spend their time manufacturing financial-Armageddon events in order to scare themselves into doing something (i.e. THEIR JOBS), and then when they do nothing and the contrived financial-Armageddon event actually begins to draw near and - much to their surprise and horror - MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN, what do they do?  Bail out of town on a Christmas break, leaving the rest of us to peer over the edge of the so-called "fiscal cliff" they created and wonder how the hell we got into this situation.  It's pretty easy to understand - Congress is utterly and totally devoid of integrity and courage, does not give a rat's ass about what's best for this country, and would much rather postpone uncomfortable decisions so they can screw stuff up not only in the present but in the future, too.

More vicious slander and blatantly biased criticism in 2012 Year End Review Part 2, coming up next!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice 2012

It's the longest night of the year, the night of the winter solstice.  Today was a pretty nice day, with the high temps in the upper 60s and lots of sunshine.  In honor of the solstice I hiked up Squaw Peak this afternoon in my shorts and a tee-shirt, and I was keenly aware that I live in a a singularly fortunate part of the country.  Most of the rest of the country was grappling with a strong winter storm wreaking havoc at airports in the midwest, and moving eastward just in time to screw up the most heavily-traveled weekend of the year.  Me, I was hanging laundry in my backyard and enjoying the view from on top of a mountain.

This evening I'm sitting on my couch at home, all snuggly and warm, a houseful of happy, healthy bunnies, watching my fabulous new television.  I have it very good, and my life is very comfortable and full of riches and blessings.  The winter solstice lends it self to such self-reflection and contemplation.  I think about how many people, in various cultures around the world, over the millenia since mankind first started noticing things like solstices and equinoxes, have taken note of this particular day of the year.

The winter solstice occurs in the dead of winter, when the world seemed the most lifeless, although you would never know it where I live.  In European cultures everything was usually covered with a thick blanket of snow and locked in the icy vise-grip of winter.  The fields were barren and desolate, and the trees devoid of any leaves, looking as if they were dead.  But people also understood that this is the day when light and life would begin to return to the world, for buried deep in the dead of winter are the seeds of spring, and soon enough the world will be blooming and fertile again.

Yes, the days will start to get a little bit longer from now until next June, and six months from now I will be griping and moaning about the horrible, ghastly heat which threatens to kill us all.  But right now, I am very happy to contemplate the cycle of the seasons, and enjoy the chilly weather outside.  As I get older I become more sensitive to the passage of time, and the cold realization that I will not alive on this planet forever.  We only get a limited time to live here, and I realize more and more each day that all of us have a responsibility to live a good a life as possible.  I want to live my life kindly and intelligently, to leave the world in a better shape than when I entered it - a life marked by kindness, empathy, defending the rights of animals in a world where they are so often abused and devalued, and wisely using the resouces this planet provides to us.

That is what I'm thinking about on this night, the longest night of the year.  When my time is over, I want to feel like I have accomplished something, and I have made a little bit of difference in the lives of the people and animals who have graced my life with their presence.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Monstrous Evil

A monstrous evil has again been visited on the country.  And again, it comes from of the unholy, explosive nexus of guns and mental illness.  And as always. the most innocent among us are the tragic victims.

I'm not going to detail the Sandy Hook school shootings of December 14th.  That has been and still is being reported by the media.  Rehashing the details in my head is far too debilitating and difficult.

In the supreme, ultimate act of cowardice, the shooter took his own life after gunning down 20 children.  Someone told me that was good, he deserved to die.  Obviously that's true but he needed to ANSWER for his horrific deed.  He had to stand up in a court of law and tell the world why he did what he did.  He needed to look into the shattered, hollow faces of the parents and be made to realize the incalculable damage he wreaked on totally innocent families.  He had to understand that he not only took 20 lives who had not yet reached their eighth birthdays, he destroyed the lives of their mothers, their fathers, their siblings, their grandparents and extended families, their friends and neighbors, and those of the community in which they lived.  For many families, the holiday season will be forever stained by the memory of this act.  The total damage will be incomprehensible and will be felt for decades, maybe even generations.

I can't help thinking that for everyone in that town, December 14th was just another day.  Kids got dressed and hustled off to school, parents went to work or tended to their household chores.  Maybe the kids were getting pre-occupied by the approaching holiday season, and were resolutely counting down every single day until Christmas Eve.  I know I did when I was that age; December seemed to drag by achingly slow and it felt like Christmas would never get here.  I would run to get the newspaper every evening and check down in the lower-left corner of the front page where they would have a little cartoon box that said, "11 Days until Christmas!"  Then after what seemed like a whole year, the next evening's paper would declare, "10 Days until Christmas!"  Thus it went until the little cartoon finally said, "1 Day until Christmas!" and I knew the excruciatingly long wait was almost over.

These 20 children will never have the joy of tearing into Christmas presents, of spending time with their families, of running in joyous abandon through a snowfall, feeling the entire world was a big Christmas card.  They will never dance, laugh and sing again.  They will never feel the love of their favorite pet, or feel their parents' embrace.  They will never feel like they are so filled with love they are about to burst.  They will never see a beautiful sunset, a dark night sky glittering with countless starts, the first blooms of spring, endless warm summer nights, swimming in the ocean, or watching the scarlet, gold and orange leaves of autumn fall and cascade and spin down from the trees and pile up on the sidewalks.  All that was taken away, by one deranged, cowardly individual, and the gun culture which puts the "right" to own an assault rifle above any sort of common sense or interest of public safety.

There were also adults massacred in this horrendous tragedy, and one must take care to ensure their loss is noted.  They were doing what they loved to do and many died while trying to protect as many children as possible from the rampaging evil.  Their loss would have been terrible enough, but there's something awful, horribly, incredibly wrong when a child is murdered.  People who know me know that I am not particularly fond of children, but this incident had me choking back tears.  No one in their right mind would inflict such a soul-killing, life-destroying horror on anyone, but that's the whole point, isn't it?  No one in their right mind would do that.  But we're not talking about someone in their right mind.

I've read a lot of second-amendment gun fanatics, isolated from this tragedy by distance and just plain luck, sitting a home with their families around them saying that the problem is not with too many guns, but not enough mental illness treatment facilities.  The bottom line is this:  if the gunman's deceased mother had not had an excessive number of high-power weapons, readily available to her son whom she knew full well had mental-health issues, these 26 people would still be alive.  I don't care what anyone says, citizens do not need high-powered automatic weapons or high-capacity ammo magazines, whose only purpose is to kill as much as possible.  By attempting to deflect the blame for this outrage to the mentally ill, the gun lobby in this country is showing that they care absolutely nothing about the death of innocents, but only about their "rights" under the second amendment.

Everyone is calling for stronger measures to keep this from happening again.  I have no hope that anything will be done.  Over the next week or so, other news stories will push this awful, still-unfolding story off the front pages, and everyone will get swept up in the holiday hub-bub.  Members of Congress are far too cowardly and beholden to the gun lobby to ever pass any kind of legislation which would make something like this even marginally less likely to occur.  We will never be rid of the scourge of mental illness, and we will always have guns, because that is an immutable part of the American culture, but the very least we can do is try to make it much more difficult for the wrong kind of weapons to fall into the hands of the sick, the damaged and the psychopathic.  But I really don't think anything like that will happen.  That would be too sensible, and the gun nuts believe any measure to control their gun ownership is about as acceptable as widespread, government-sanctioned child molestation.

Much air-time and print will be used up trying to explain the inexplicable, comprehend the incomprehensible, and fathom the unfathomable.  We've already started to see sad, painful stories of parents remembering their dead children.  We will be seeing photos of impossibly gorgeous little girls, and handsome, bright little boys.  So much promise, so much potential - utterly squandered.

Where an answer will be found, if at all, is impossible to know.  Is the answer down one of the endless, dark corridors of the lethal labyrinth of mental disease?  Or is it a peculiar twist of American culture that innocents are sacrificed so someone can exercise a "right?"  Would our freedoms be so diminished by re-instating a ban on assault weapons?  The world didn't end the first time, and it won't happen again.

It will be only a matter of time before some other slaughter of innocents will push the Sandy Hook incident further down the list of horrible, awful crimes, involving guns and mental illness.  The critical question is, have we learned anything at all, and have we gained the courage to do something about it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Words Of Our Lives

Apparently words have expiration dates on their usefulness or popularity.  An august journalistic body known as the Associated Press came out with some changes to their style guide, which a lot of other journalists and even normal people use as a reference for spelling, grammar, etc.

It seems they have decided to drop the words "Islamophobia" and "homophobia" from their roster of Mighty Fine Words.  The reason that they gave was that the "-phobia" suffix was too close of a reference to a psychological disorder and they don't want people to think the words have anything to do with mental illness.

I've always felt homophobia is a mental illness anyway, so I don't understand what the issue is.  It really irritates the life out of me that people discriminate against gay people only because of their choice of who they love.

Gay marriage is not a threat to any form of traditional "heterosexual" marriage.  I'll tell you what are threats to traditional marriage:

Stupid people who have no business getting married and spend the rest of their time fighting each other are a threat to traditional marriage.

Idiots who get married and divorced multiple times like they are changing socks or something are a threat to traditional marriage.

Serial baby-makers with minimal or non-existent parenting skills who bring way too many innocent children into their crazy dysfunctional world to abuse, neglect and abandon, thus ensuring the next couple of generations will be equally as screwed-up, are a threat to traditional marriage.

Disgusting pigs who cheat on their spouses at the drop of a hat are a threat to traditional marriage. The 50% divorce rate bears this out.  Compared to them, the lesbian couple down the street who have lived together for 30 years is not a threat.

Some people are against gay marriage because of their religious beliefs.  To them, I say keep your religious beliefs to yourself.  Anyone is entitled to believe in whatever god-delusion seems to complement their personal agenda, but what one is NOT entitled to do is inflict their beliefs on their fellow citizens.  Believing in something doesn't make it true, and it doesn't give you the right to dictate to other people what they have to believe.

Fundamentalist Christians would scream like stuck pigs if someone tried to pass a law making them believe in Buddha or the Easter Bunny.  Idiotic brain-dead Tea Baggers howl that Sharia law is being imposed in various parts of the United States.  They would pronounce it an abomination if someone tried to force the teachings of the Qur'an on them, but think it's perfectly okay to force the teachings of the bible on their neighbors.  So much for their "love thy neighbor" crap.

Fundies also like to assert that their bible is the literal word of their god and it contains specific prohibitions against homosexuality.  The book of Leviticus is most frequently cited in this case.  Leviticus also contains a lot of other preposterous nonsense about shellfish and wearing certain fabrics, but the fundies pay no attention to that.  This cherry-picking of what you are (or are not) going to believe from the bible shows the worst kind of selfish intellectual cowardice there is.  Either you believe in the bible completely, 100 percent, or you don't believe it at all.  There is no middle ground with religious faith, especially when you're trying to ram it down other people's throats.

Since I'm just as qualified as anyone else, I'd like to throw out a couple of popular words and phrases which have outlived their usefulness and relevance, assuming they had any to begin with.  So, these are things which shan't be said any longer, thank you very much:

"YOLO" - or "You Only Live Once," a cryptic tag line which is used to justify any manner of unacceptable or obnoxious behavior, under the premise that life is short and we should be allowed to try anything once.  Basically a free pass for stupid behavior that doesn't involve death or widespread destruction, YOLO takes its place next to the execrable "It is what it is," a vile little Mobius-strip of circular anti-logic which is the linguistic equivalent of throwing your hands up in the air and passively surrendering to the idiot gods which rule this life.

"Double down" - or actually, lying again.  This came into prominence during the last presidential election when a Republican made a completely absurd, blatantly untrue statement, and when called on it, merely repeated the same bullshit more emphatically.  It is a consequence of Republican supporters who freely and willingly release themselves from the confines of logical argument - which has been used successfully for thousands of years since the ancient Greeks - and instead embrace the stupidest lies and fabrications imaginable because they sound good to them or at least, on the surface, appear to agree with their agenda.  Repeated endlessly on faux-journalistic crapfests like Fox News or by repulsive mountains of sweaty flab like Rush Limbaugh, Republicans and Tea Baggers discard facts as if they were articles of clothing soiled in a septic tank explosion, and will gleefully endorse any kind of ridiculous claptrap as long as it seems to reinforce their personal prejudices.  As someone once said, "You are entitled to your own opinions, but not entitled to your own facts."

"Fiscal cliff" - Hopefully this is something we won't have to hear about after December 31st of this year.  Completely fabricated, man-made and unencumbered by any form of reality, it is not really a "cliff" but rather a slope or slide.  Come January 1st, 2013, the entire country is not going to plunged into a dark, fearsome recession.  The banking system won't collapse and the internet won't go belly-up.  With no action from our wonderful leaders, taxes will go up and everyone will start screaming poverty, especially the so-called "job creators" (who, by the way, have been really incompetent in creating jobs over the last two years), but the cliff is really a stepping-stone to the next Armageddon-du-jour in modern American life, the debt-ceiling negotiations upcoming in February.   That will be another round of batshit-crazy political posturing and self-flagellation which serves no useful purpose other than to deceive the low-information majority of American citizens into believing that Congress is actually doing something valuable to justify their existence.  Which is the biggest scam of all.

And no, I'm not getting rid of the term, "batshit-crazy."  I still love using it and it's so very appropriate for almost any occasion.

Monday, November 19, 2012

God Rest Ye Merry Hucksters

As the fair month of November slips quietly away, I look with a bit of dread on the rapidly-approaching holiday season.  I know there will be lots of parties and dinners and gatherings to attend, and it will be very nice to spend time with all the wonderful people in my life, but a little bit of me is already starting to cringe at the orgy of greed and consumerism which is already rushing towards us.

Yesterday there was a story on the local news about some pathetic idiot who is camped out in front of a Best Buy store or something here, in anticipation of being the first one in the store when Black Friday hits.  That would be four days later.  Apparently this sad schmuck has nothing better to do than waste four days of his life on the opportunity to drop a bunch of money on some electronic gifts for his niece and nephew, which will probably be forgotten in a month or two.  I'm not sure which is worse, this fool squatting on the doorstep of corporate America or the local news idiots publicizing him like he's some kind of retail warrior or something.

This year it seems more apparent than ever that Thanksgiving is becoming an afterthought, a secondary holiday whose main purpose is to mark the beginning of the REAL holiday - the start of the Xmas shopping season.  This month I've heard more about Black Friday than about Thanksgiving itself, and that is really sad.  Thanksgiving is the biggest secular holiday and the one with the most meaning.  What could be more fitting and proper than to be thankful for all the good things in your life and to draw your friends and loved ones near to you and celebrate being together?  Sharing a good meal, a glass or two of wine, and good conversation is to me a gift that no store-purchased bauble could match.  And yet, people seem to be very willing to eschew the good things in life for the pursuit of the biggest bargain, or the lowest prices.

A lot of people will wage their assault on the local shopping mall with all the grim precision and painstaking detail of a major military operation.  It is so unseemly and undignified to be such money-grubbing, shopping-crazed automatons - robots pre-programmed by a lifetime of carefully-honed and targeted commercials to go out and shop on command.  The more money you spend, the more you love someone; that seems to be the take-away from all this.  In the single-minded pursuit of this end, so much of what makes life worthwhile seems to drop away and get left behind in the glitter and the dust.

So this year, I'm going to do what I have been doing for the past 5 or 6 years - reject all the buy-or-die hysteria, push back on the annoying, intrusive and hyperactive sales pitches, and instead concentrate on the real reason we celebrate the season - the friendship of people we love and with whom we share more than just a parking space in a shopping center lot, the coming winter solstice, and soon afterward a new year and a new springtime, and another year full of promise and opportunity, sadness and joy, and more wonderful people and rabbits gracing my life and touching my heart.

View From A Cliff

It's been nearly two weeks since the 2012 elections and they are still reverberating through the nation.  Conservative nut-jobs are getting back into their normal mode of slowly-simmering hateful insanity after an extended period of unbridled paranoid schizophrenia when Obama won a second term (I have to admit I did not help the situation much when I went into full troll mode on a number of news sites, rubbing their noses in their ignominious defeat, and I don't mind telling you I had a really good time doing it).

One thing that has become quite apparent recently is that defeated, disgraced Mitt Romney is definitely on some sort of kick-ass anti-depressant/anti-psychotic drugs.  On a recent conference call to his duped and defrauded donors, Romney placed the blame for his decisive, unequivocal loss everywhere except where it really needed to be placed, on himself.  It was weirdly pathetic but not really surprising, given his innate cowardice and total lack of integrity, to hear him blame minorities and women for voting overwhelmingly Democratic, and only because they received "gifts" from the Obama campaign.  Hispanics received the Dream Act, which Romney called an "amnesty program," college-aged women received free contraception and blacks got more food stamps and welfare.  I voted for Obama and I didn't get a single damned present, other than the joy of seeing him re-elected.  Where is my gift, god damn it?

It's hard to believe that someone would be so oblivious to the offensive racism and sexism of such remarks, but apparently Romney is that someone.  The fact that he thinks the vote of college-aged women can be bought with some free contraception is breathtaking in its arrogant stupidity.  Because we know, the only thing young college women care about is contraception.  Same thing with the Hispanics only caring about the Dream Act, and as for food stamps I guess it doesn't make a difference to him that the majority of people who get food stamps are white, and a great many of them vote Republican.

The Republicans are STILL doubling-down on their ridiculous trickle-down theory (and it's a testament to the blinding stupidity of their supporters that anyone is even talking about that anymore) and have transmuted that disgraced, discredited ideology into the "makers and takers" line, in which they divide the country into those who supposedly make wealth and those who take it.  This is just another toxic permutation of the "us and them" dichotomy that the Republicans have been flogging for decades, to demonize a significant segment of their fellow American citizens by turning them into "the enemy," someone to blame for everything that has ever gone wrong.

Romney also made some other completely incredulous remarks about Bill Clinton calling him up after the election and commiserating with him, and doing everything but come out and say that Romney should have won.  It was the weirdest thing ever, and beyond any rational belief.  Clinton worked extremely hard for Obama and campaigned tirelessly for him.  To think that he would call Romney and tell him that he was the better candidate, is completely insane and batshit-crazy.  I've always considered Romney to be incredibly awkward, weird and creepy but his post-election blatherings show with little doubt that he has some serious mental health issues and delusional fantasies which desperately need to be addressed by qualified mental health professionals.  What a horrible, infinitely dangerous President he would have been.

So now we're moving away from elections and into the fun-house world of the "fiscal cliff."  That is the Congress-made line in the sand that was a product of the debt ceiling fiasco in 2010.  Congress and the president couldn't come together to act on the national debt so they created this "poison pill" situation which presumably would force the government into some sort of corrective action on the debt or face horrible, dire consequences as the Bush-era tax cuts go away on December 31, 2012, and everyone wakes up on New Years day with a hangover and a huge extra tax burden.

For some reason the fiscal cliff is being cast as a sort of natural, organic and unavoidable catastrophe, like a 10.0 earthquake or an asteroid collision, and not something completely man-made and artificial.  Congress created the fiscal cliff, and is now cowering in fear in front of it as if it was a Frankenstein monster gone wild.  Oh what a surprise - imagine creating a financial Armageddon scenario and then actually having to deal with it at some point!  Who in Congress ever thought that they would be held responsible for things that they do?

So, both sides are hunkering down in their usual positions: the Obama administration pushing for increased revenue (i.e. taxes) on the ultra-wealthy, and the Republicans screaming that taxing rich people is worse than child molestation and will kill the millions of jobs that those wealthy "job-creators" somehow forgot to create over the last two years.  The Republican mantra is that rich people create jobs - something that is definitively and repeatedly refuted by financial experts of every kind, like here, here and here.  The middle class creates those jobs, by creating "demand" for products and services and having the money to pay for them.  More demand means more jobs - plain and simple.  Seriously, how hard is that to understand?

The Obama people have an election triumph and the accompanying political capital on their side, and have shrewdly boxed the Republicans in by saying that they will keep the tax breaks in place for 98% of wage-earners in this country, but allow them to rise back to Clinton-era levels for the upper 2%.  If the Republicans push back on that, they will be seen as sacrificing tax breaks for middle class to finance more tax relief for the very wealthy, who already have so much.  It will be very interesting to see who blinks first, and my bet is that it will be the Republicans.  Obama learned his lesson about caving in to Republicans two years ago, and I will bet any amount of money that now, at the start of his second term, he has nothing to lose by staring the Republicans down and holding their butts to the fire.

So, it promises to be an eventful end to the year, which has been one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory.  Between the primaries and the election, and now the fiscal cliff and the upcoming end of the Mayan calendar in December, we can be sure the bullet trains to Crazy Town will be running 24/7 through the end of 2012.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012 Wrap-Up

Election 2012 is now history, and what a historic night it was.  Barack Obama was given four more years to continue his leadership and his efforts to repair the economy after the 2008-2009 collapse.  We can look forward with great satisfaction for continued health care reform and one, maybe two, Supreme Court appointments, which is a huge, huge deal.  The news media were all predicting that the presidential election would be a nail-biter clear into the next morning, but in fact the election was called for Obama shortly after 9pm.  When Ohio was seen going to the president, it was all over.  To no one's surprise, Florida is still undecided because it seems as if it's impossible for them to have an election without a lot of fuss and hoo-hah and delay.  Florida is the Drama Queen of the nation.

A number of other regional races took on national significance, and a lot of them did go the right way.  Elizabeth Warren, a very capable, intelligent and resourceful woman, took the Massachusetts Senate seat away from empty mannequin Scott Brown.  Drooling, knuckle-dragging religious bigots Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who gained national infamy with their astonishingly ignorant opinions on rape and abortion, went down in flames, and deservedly so.

In non-office related elections, three states - Maryland, Maine and Washington - approved marriage equality, and another state, Minnesota, turned down an initiative to ban it.  All wonderful news, and milestones in what I believe is the inevitable march toward full marriage equality, something that absolutely should be a basic American right.  Also the first openly gay Senator was named, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.  In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth ousted loathsome dirtbag Joe Walsh.

As always there were disappointments, and not surprisingly a lot were in Arizona.  This benighted, ignorant state chose greasy, buck-toothed scam artist Jeff Flake for the Senate seat occupied by the flabby, flatulent Jon Kyl.  Ancient, bloated media whore Joe Arpaio was reelected Maricopa country sheriff for the hundredth time, thanks to all the senile old fools in Surprise and Sun City, all the anti-immigrant bigots and literally millions of dollars which poured into Arpaio's campaign coffer from out-of-state right-wing PACs, who seem to see Arpaio as a conservative (read: racist) icon.  Still undecided is the contest for new Congressional District 9, where I live, and I'm hoping Kyrsten Sinema will pull off a win over perennial Uncle Tom, Vernon Parker.  I'm also hoping for Anne Kirkpatrick to win over payday-loan-pimp Jonathan Paton in District 1.  And late today, Anne Kirkpatrick was declared victorious in her contest.

Also very much on the plus side is that AZ Proposition 204, which would have permanently extended the 1% sales tax, went down in flames with 65% of voters saying no.  This tax was passed a couple of years ago on the promise that it was only to be a temporary increase, and greedy special interests in this state thought it would be easy to make permanent.  They thought that people would go for anything that nominally was portrayed as helping school children, but voters in this state weren't snookered by this charade and rightfully told them to go pound salt.  Also, Proposition 120 the "sovereignty" amendment, a ridiculously blatant and stupid attempt by the state legislature to take control of public lands, also went down very decisively.  So, there was a little bit to be thankful for in this wretched excuse for a state.

There were some really funny things that happened last night.  Apparently Fox News - Stupid News For Stupid People - was one of the first outlets to declare Obama the winner.  One of their commentators, the execrable Karl Rove, went completely batshit crazy ON AIR, frenetically blathering about and trying to grasp any kind of straw, real or imagined, to deny the outcome in Ohio.  He looked like a gigantic, bug-eyed catfish who was yanked out of the water and was gasping and thrashing around.  Then, one of Fox's newsskanks trotted off stage and stumbled back into their "Decision Room" to confront the number-crunchers with the news that Karl Rove did not approve of their pronouncement.  The number geeks practically told her to GTFO, because numbers, unlike everyone on Fox News, do not lie.  Ohio was definitely Obama country.

But to me the most amazing and inspiring thing was that despite everything the Republicans tied to do to steal this election - lies, misinformation, voter suppression and intimidation, pathetic, un-American attempts to restrict poll hours or early voting times - everything they tried to do was to absolutely no avail.  Most amazing were the American voters who stood in line for an extraordinarily, unbelievably long time (as long as seven hours in some cases) but would not be deterred by Republican skullduggery and dirty tricks.  They were going to cast their ballots and would not be denied, and as a result, democracy itself would not be denied.

Political pundits are already furiously dissecting all of last night's happenings and assigning blame and credit as they see appropriate.  In my opinion, the Republicans lost the presidential election for two reasons:  1) a pair of profoundly unattractive candidates at the top - Romney and Ryan; and 2) a party which has been co-opted and corrupted by right-wing extremists who made the party very unappealing to the more moderate American electorate.  The Republicans thought this election was going to be a cakewalk - they just had to repeat the word "economy" over and over like a mantra and the voters would flock to them - but much to their dismay that did not happen.

Complicating matters for them was that Romney was such a repellent, off-putting candidate who was his own worst enemy.  His infamous "47%" remarks kind of scuttled his candidacy at a crucial point, and his own chronic, incurable awkwardness and creepiness turned many voters off, even on a subconscious level.  Scrawny, big-eared geek Paul Ryan did not really help much.  It seems the Republicans have a really amazing talent in picking very unattractive, unappealing candidates for their elections.  They did so in 2008 and thoughtfully repeated the same mistake in 2012, and for that I thank them very much.

Everyone, including me, was fretting about the unprecedented flood of anonymous, untraceable money that was poured into the process by the horrendous Citizens' United Supreme Court ruling, but much to my surprise, American voters - not known for being particularly discerning or resistant to idiotic campaign rhetoric - were not swayed by sham super-PACs with lofty, misleading names like "Americans For Prosperity" (because who in their right mind would be against prosperous Americans?) and "Club For Growth Action" (whatever the hell that means).  Quite a few super-wealthy billionaires - casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, for one - dropped a huge chunk of change on Romney's campaign, and essentially threw their money down a rat hole.  I wonder how much good that money could have done, donated to food banks or domestic violence shelters, instead of being utterly wasted on a political campaign.

By Anne Romney's own statement, she and her husband are through with politics.  We can only hope we've seen that last of that corrosive, elitist, hatchet-faced old trollop.  Initially her role in her husband's campaign was to "humanize" him to the voters and make him seem like a regular person.  In the end, Anne Romney was the one who needed "humanized," because her presence and role in the campaign proved to be a major misfire.  She needs to just throw on one of her pioneer smocks and go be a good little Mormon wifey.  It's hard to humanize someone who lacks so very much in terms of basic humanity, and maybe her next dancing horse can do a little jig to make her feel better.

America dodged a huge bullet (more like a thermonuclear warhead) when Romney lost.  I can barely imagine how unspeakably awful and horrible a Romney administration would be.  Our nation would have become a weird, Frankenstein-like hybrid of theocracy and oligarchy, with government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich becoming the norm.

If I can be indulged for a little bit of tooting my own horn, I wrote in an entry on this blog called "This Just In: Time Marches On," dated almost a year ago November 15, 2011:

"My prediction is that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee and will go against Obama in the 2012 election....Obama will coast to his second term."

If you don't mind my saying...  Nailed. It.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Night Blog

6:44 pm:
It's election night 2012 and I'm here with my blog, Facebook, CNN and a couple of other things on my laptop, in front of my flat-screen TV.  I feel so digitally connected and "with-it," I can't even tell you.  I'll be making periodic updates to this blog post in real time as stuff happens.  Hopefully most everything will be resolved in reasonable time but I am going to be here for the long haul.  I will be taking a "Sons of Anarchy" break around 8:30.  Ain't gonna miss my SOA.

6:57 pm:
Early results from Massachusetts shows Elizabeth Warren in a slight lead over Dirtbag Deluxe Scott Brown.  Kick his sorry ass, Liz!

7:06 pm:
More early results:  Obama takes New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Michigan, Romney takes Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota and a couple of other states that no one gives a shit about.

7:08 pm:
Florida is tied 50-50 with 74% of the vote in.  PLEASE Florida, don't be a bunch of assholes.

7:15 pm:
Pennsylvania my home state goes for Obama!  WOOHOO!  Thank you, PA, I am loving you big time.

7:17 pm:
Arizona senate race between Richard Carmona and slimy scum-sucker Jeff Flake still too close to call.  It would be SUCH a sweet triumph if Carmona won.

7:29 pm:
Wisconsin goes to Obama and their 10 electoral votes puts him ahead of Romney for the first time tonight, 158-153.  I like this trend.

7:42 pm:
NBC News projecting Elizabeth Warren the winner for the Senate seat in Massachusetts, over Scott Brown.  YESSSSS!  Wonderful, wonderful news!!!

7:46 pm:
Indiana Senate race has Democrat John Donnelly projected to win over fundamentalist asswipe Richard Mourdock ("rape is god's will").  Karma is a bitch and so are you, Mourdock, so grab your ankles and take it up the butt like a good Republican loser.

7:50 pm:
NBC News projects New Hampshire going for Obama!  YAAY!  This was a hotly contested state and they swung the right way.  Democrats making some great gains in Senate races.  Keep it up!!!

8:04 pm:
Electoral vote count tied at 162-162.  Not worried.

8:06 pm:
Claire McCaskill wins over gigantic bowel movement Todd Akin in Missouri.  YES YES YES!!!!

8:17 pm:
Formerly Democratic Senate seat in Kansas goes Republican.  Do not like.

8:34 pm:
Arizona, the Land That Time Forget, goes for Romney.  This state is full of ignorant, uneducated dirtbags.

8:43 pm:
Minnesota goes to Obama.  Whoopee!!

9:00 pm:
Obama wins a BIG, BIG prize - California - 55 electoral votes!  Also Washington, Oregon & Hawaii. Damn!!!  Obama is in striking distance of victory with 243!!!!!

9:05 pm:
North Carolina goes to Romney.  Bastards.

9:12 pm

9:55 pm:
Fox News is going nuts, they are the funniest show on television.  Karl Rove is grasping at thin air, trying to say that Romney has a chance in Ohio.  Even Fox News' own number crunchers say NFW, Ohio goes to Obama.  SO damned funny!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Different Kind of Storm

Everyone is taking a break from the usual pre-election programming to concentrate on Hurricane Sandy, which just blew through Manhattan and is probably soaking my home state of Pennsylvania right now.  The news media went into full-blown apocalypse mode for this, with the kind of breathless whirlpool of coverage usually reserved for assassinations or major earthquakes.  Even days before, they were sounding the warning claxons about "Frankenstorm" making its way up the east coast and putting a real damper on everyone's Halloween.  And is "claxon" an awesome word or what?

Some people are already saying that the unusual trajectory this storm has taken is related to global warming and the huge, unprecedented reduction in the Arctic ice sheet, which alters ocean currents and air temperatures in such a way that big, weird storms which move in new, unexpected pathways will start becoming more frequent.  While it's still probably premature to link the two events, I think there is a great deal of truth in the idea that human-caused climate change will alter the planetary weather engine in ways we can't even yet imagine, and more unpleasant things like these loose-cannon superstorms are in our future.

The other big storm of late has taken a temporary back seat to the march of Hurricane Sandy, and that is the presidential election, now just one week away.  It seems like this election has been going on for years, and this last week will no doubt be the most intense week ever, with everybody pulling out all the stops when it comes to trying to sway the last two or three undecided voters out there.  It's beyond me how anyone could be undecided about who to vote for.

I've heard people on the radio say that there's "not much difference" between Obama and Romney, and that statement completely blows my mind.  In my opinion the two candidates could not be more different, both in style and substance.  Obama seems so intellectual, so measured, controlled and sincere; Romney so aloof, privileged, entitled and hypocritical.  There is little question that given their backgrounds, Obama truly understands what the middle class people, who are in many ways the backbone of this country, have greatly suffered due to the economic collapse of 2008-2009.  He really "gets" what they're going through and empathizes with them.  Romney, on the other hand, has had every single thing in his life handed to him, coming from a family of privilege and power, and is completely and utterly clueless about what average people have to go through to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Likewise, the vice presidential candidates are quite different.  Biden is loud, gregarious, sometimes prone to embarrassing gaffes and misstatements, but given his background you have no doubt he understands what it is like to go through very rough periods in your life and still manage to triumph over adversity using little more than sheer strength of character.  Paul "Lyin" Ryan is an uber-nerd, someone who's obviously much more comfortable around masses of fiscal data and reports than around people, and comes up with a witches-brew of spending cuts to government programs which aid the poor, the elderly and students (to name a few) in order to fund massive, unnecessary defense spending and more tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy one-percenters, who already have so very much but still want to take more and more.

The differences even extend to the candidates' wives.  Michelle Obama is beautiful, sleek, intelligent, articulate and very easy for anyone to relate to.  She has such great poise and presence, and in my opinion has been one of the most notable and successful First Ladies in recent history.  Ann Romney, on the other hand, is brittle, imperious, condescending, sharp-tongued, elitist and thoroughly unsympathetic to anyone outside of her own socio-economic class.  With her fake, painted-on country-club smirk and mannerisms, you just know she sits around drinking appletinis with her wealthy cronies, cackling about how pathetic poor people are and complaining about how hard it is to find qualified domestic help these days who won't expect to be paid more than $5 an hour and won't steal you blind behind your back.

There is so very much riding on what happens next Tuesday, but to me one of the most important is the future of the Supreme Court.  Latest prediction is that the President-elect will get to choose at least one and possibly two new Justices, and that will directly affect each and every one of us for decades to come.   Right now the Court is split 5-4 in favor of upholding Roe v. Wade, but it would only take one Court appointment to reverse that to 5-4 in favor of overturning it.  Then you can absolutely certain that anti-abortion zealots would push a test case through the lower courts and into the Supreme Court, and Roe v. Wade would be scrapped, sending the abortion question back into the states, where many if not all of the red states would outlaw it completely.  That would be an astonishing tragedy and catastrophe for anyone who holds dear the concepts of freedom and government not making decisions in such an incredibly personal thing such as family planning.

Another very important thing, related to the Supreme Court, is their horrific and spectacularly awful Citizens' United ruling, which unleashed a torrent of untraceable, unaccountable money into a political system already mortally choked and corrupted with cash.  One of the most wrong-headed and destructive rulings ever, a top priority should be to overturn it, with a constitutional amendment if necessary.  The choice of President could not be more important to this vital legislative task.  One candidate will fully support reversing the ruling, and other candidate will do everything he can to keep it in place, because as he famously stated, "Corporations are people, too."  I will leave it up to my discerning readers to figure out which candidate is which.

Funny thing about these neoconservatives, they will scream unmercifully about how the evil, incompetent and corrupt government is blatantly interfering in everyone's lives and making choices for them, but they are perfectly fine as long as this interference is with the right to abortion, or marriage equality, or any number of personal-freedom issues they personally oppose.  They seem to think that government is evil and satanic if it messes with something they believe in, but perfectly fine and proper if it goes after things they don't.  According to them, it's okay if government restricts the freedoms of people they don't like, but it is a horrendous abomination if it seeks to restrict their own freedoms and choices.

Thus is the ultimate contraction in the conservative point of view - as long as government is doing what I like (or conversely, attacking things I don't like), it can have free rein and untrammeled authority to do whatever it pleases.  But just let the government try to do something to curtail something in which they fervently believe, for instance, gun control - outlawing the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons comes to mind - then people scream that government is a vile, cancerous conspiracy hell-bent on destroying the very fabric of this nation.  Government-provided farm subsidies could not be more "American", but affordable health care is "socialist."  It is this cultural and political schizophrenia, this infinitely subjective cherry-picking of what is right and what is wrong, that ultimately dooms neoconservative thinking to the intellectual trash-heap.

One week to election day, and is Hurricane Sandy a metaphor for the shitstorm that may be released on this country as a result - one that will last not a couple of days, but for four long years.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Four Weeks

It's now four weeks until the 2012 elections, and things are going just about as expected; that is, chaotic, mind-blowing and depressing all at the same time.

The presidential race is tighter than ever, and while it's pretty normal for the race to get really tight in the last couple of weeks, there is an uncomfortable trend going on.  Every time an obscure poll shows a one-point shift in the highly fluid preferences of some media-created segment of voters, it creates a seismic jolt through the news media which is analyzed and re-analyzed to death.  The polls are watched with the same intensity and anxiety as the Cuban missile crisis created in the early 60s.  For those of you too young to remember that (unfortunately that does not include me) I can tell you those were pretty scary times.  There was a palpable fear and terror in the air, obvious even to my ten-year-old self, and a real foreboding of what the future might bring.  While a Romney presidency wouldn't quite be the same as a nuclear missile crisis, in many ways it would be every bit as destructive.  More on that later.

There was the first of three presidential debates last Wednesday, and President Obama sent some clone of himself in his place who really wasn't up to the task.  Romney was there in full creepy-mannequin mode, looking and acting like Satan's ventriloquist dummy and spewing lies and bullshit like some kind of demented lawn sprinkler set on high.  All of a sudden, Romney professed to have found his love and support for 100% of the American electorate, even though back in May of this year he wrote off 47% of those very same people as lazy, useless leeches.  Let me just say once and for all that Romney will never EVER know the financial pressures middle-class people have to face in their lives.  He was born into a life of wealth and privilege, and anyone who even thinks about installing a CAR ELEVATOR in their home or taking a tax write-off of $77,000 (about 50% more than the $51,914 the average American household earns, according to the Census Bureau) for his wife's DANCING HORSE - categorizing it as a "business expense" (????) - has no idea what it's like to stretch a food budget to the point of breaking or dressing their children in hand-me-downs.

It is painfully obvious that Romney and his imperious, elitist, over-Botoxed trollop of a wife care only for the ultra-wealthy people in their own socio-economic class and will never do anything for the lower classes other than disdainfully look down their noses at them.  And there is always the unresolved problem of Romney's refusal to make a full disclosure of his federal income taxes even though the American people have demanded he do so.  For someone who proclaims so loudly to be "pro-business" and "pro-American" his propensity for employing offshore tax shelters for his enormous wealth tells a different story.  His arrogance is truly monumental, and his contempt for the American people and the values upon which this country was founded is staggering and appalling.

The media have already labeled last weeks' debate as a "game changer," and it's a little hard to believe that after a month or more of Romney being a world-class fuck-up and saying and doing completely preposterous, absurd things, all that could be changed in a 90-minute debate.  This just illustrates the short attention span of the American voter, as aggravated and dictated by the 30-minute news cycle.

As if to emphasize the perversity of politics (as if it needed emphasized), none other than Big Bird, a long-running character on the PBS children's series "Sesame Street," was dragged kicking and screaming into the debate when Romney gleefully announced he would "fire" Big Bird as part of his defunding of public television. I won't even mention what a miniscule part of the national budget public television comprises, but it only further illustrates the ignorant, small-minded hatred Republican supporters have for education and the arts. The National Endowment for the Arts is another favorite target, because god forbid we should spend a little bit of money enriching the cultural and intellectual life of this country instead of wasting it on another civilian-killing drone in Afghanistan.

On the state level, elections are no less contested but a lot more tawdry.  One of Arizona's senate seats is up for grabs, and slimy scumbag Republican Jeff Flake is up against former Surgeon General Richard Carmona.  Flake thought he would have an easy coast right into the Senate, but he's finding it a lot more difficult than he thought, even in a very conservative state like this one.  What is really alarming are all the media ads paid for by super-PACs, those heinous abominations the dipshits on the Supreme Court created.  But I found out recently that super-PACs are only one facet of this hot mess.

Rich people seeking to sway the outcome of an election can dump a bunch of their money into a super-PAC but they will be identified.  But if they choose, they can create a 501(c)(4) "social welfare" entity to dump money into with complete anonymity.  These organizations can basically do whatever the hell they please with all this money and lobby for any candidate or legislative agenda.  The law says that in May of next year these entities will have to report their funding and donors to the IRS, but the entities can be disbanded at any time (such as right after the election), and will not have to reveal one damned thing about their finances or activities.  This is a truly frightening perversion of the American democracy that will go a very long way in completely poisoning and corrupting our system of government.  It's like a get-out-of-jail-free card for anyone with a lot of money seeking to buy an election.  Once again in this country, money speaks louder than anything or anybody.

Locally, it's even worse and sleazier, with Republican candidates invoking the name and image of President Obama every chance they get as some kind of damning mantra against their opponent.  Again funded mostly by super-PACs, these ads seek to link a candidate with Obama in hopes of generating a knee-jerk reaction in the dimwitted, low-information voters that pollute this state.  And ancient, pathetic asshole Joe Arpaio is running for Maricopa county sheriff for the 100th time, and despite the fact that he's an 80-year-old jerk and a buffoon, he will most likely get re-elected by the stupid voters in this county.

A Romney presidency would be such an unmitigated disaster for this country on every conceivable level.  I honestly don't know which would be worse - the two or possibly three Supreme Court vacancies a President Romney would most likely have an opportunity to fill (leading to an unbreakable conservative majority on the Court for several decades which would overturn Roe v. Wade and prohibit gay marriage, among many other horrible things) or the fact that the US would be a big step closer to a theocracy, in which the Christian religion would have a much bigger say in the lives and liberty of ALL Americans, Christian or not.  For a country that was ostensibly founded on religious freedom, government and religion have developed an extremely toxic relationship and a deadly embrace, and the more religion tightens its grip on government, the less freedom and liberty we have.

Americans are so ridiculously obsessed with religion and a lot of them see it as a simple-minded one-size-fits-all cure for the myriad of problems we face.  But that is putting your faith in a fairy tale, like relying on Santa Claus to save the world from destruction, and the easiest solutions are rarely the best.  Any "solution" to a set of problems which require free-thinking people to conform to a set of rigid, dogmatic and unscientific delusions and corrupted prehistoric claptrap will spell the end of this country faster than any terrorist attack or environmental disaster.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Meme Madness

I love internet memes - you know, those mostly one-panel images you see on websites that are basically a photograph but with a caption superimposed, most often in the "Impact" font, the font-of-choice for memes.  Quirky and off-the-wall, they can take an innocuous photo of something innocent and send it flying down some dark hallway of the human psyche.  You can take a 30-year-old photograph and with the right caption, make it as fresh and relevant as if it were shot yesterday.  The same meme photo can be used and re-used countless times, making it infinitely recyclable, and each one can be as funny and new as the original.

Making internet memes is a snap, it's coming up with the photo and accompanying concept that's hard.  Sometimes you'll see a photo and the right caption will just jump out at you.  Other times you'll think of a caption but then spend a huge amount of time finding a photo that will work with it.  But that's the challenge and the fun.  When you get the perfect picture together with a great caption, well, it rarely gets better than that.

The internet's life-blood is snark, and memes are no different.  Just to level-set: "snark" is a combination of sarcasm and wryness.  A very dry sense of humor is a necessity, along with total irreverence and a complete disrespect for authority figures.  It also helps to have a basically foul temper and cynical outlook, and a big dollop of innate bitchiness will come in quite handy.  Obviously, snark and I were made for each other.  Add the visual delights of photography, and you have a bottomless pit of fun.

But hey, memes can also be useful, and helpful when it comes to spreading an important message.  Below is one of the first memes I created for Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue, for the annual message we put out around Easter. It was seen by over 1,700 people and shared over 500 times.  Click for larger image:

Rabbits and memes are a match made in heaven, and much fun can be had when those two get together.

They can also be sweet and aww-inducing, like this one of Kenai blissfully relaxing in the arms of his foster (now adoptive) mom:

But the most fun can be had through smart-assery, of course, with politics and politicians being prime, irresistible targets.  Here's one I did for the repulsive mountain of flab known as NJ Governor Chris Christie:

Religion is also a huge target just begging to be disrespected, and I am more than glad to step up to the plate and fire away.  Here's one I did for the Agnostic page on Facebook:

And another one:

Memes are loads of fun to think up and create, I feel like I'm just barely getting started with them.  I plan on doing many, many more memes in the future and launch them into cyberspace, spreading cheerful (or mean-spirited, as the case may be) snark far and wide.  This is a medium tailor-made for me, combining bad attitude with good visuals, and I could not be happier or more thrilled.

There are plenty of memes which I love and which inspire me; this is one of my current favorites:

This takes a bit of explaining, because a lot of people have absolutely no idea what is going on.  A huge amount of meme info and history can be found on this great website,, the internet meme database.  The caption by the seal in the corner is a mangled version of "Oh my God - Penguins!" and its origin is with this meme which first appeared in March 2012:

This is a photo of a rather scary-looking young girl holding up some copies of her favorite children's literature, a mystery series on the order of the old "Hardy Boys" books called "Goosebumps."  To translate what she's saying: "Goosebumps - my favorite books." explains it as "the phonetically written captions are meant to sound like a speech impediment caused by the use of an orthodontic retainer."  Soon the initial keyword "Ermahgerd" ("Oh My God") was created, and in six short months this meme exploded on the internet and spawned many, many tasteless variations, leading to the "Perngwens" one above.  Yeah, it 's a little harsh to make fun of speech impediments (I should know) but this is just too good to pass up.

So, that's today's crash course in internet memes.  As I said I absolutely love these things, and feel I have found one of my true callings.  My most cherished dream is to come up with a meme which will go global and be enshrined on  Other than winning several hundred million dollars in a lottery, that is something that I really, really want.  Oh, I also want world peace, but I really like memes, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Forty-Seven Percent

Yesterday marked 49 days until the elections.  Seven weeks, and yesterday was a day not quite like any other.

A surreptitious recording of Republican Mitt Romney at a fundraising event last May in Boca Raton, Florida, was leaked to the media, and it was incendiary.  Mitt was in his natural element, talking to a bunch of super-rich supporters who paid $50K per plate to get past the front door, and I have no doubt he really meant everything he said.  After all, the event was nominally closed to the new media, and he was among his people.  He had no reason to put on any airs for them.

At one point Romney make the astonishing statement that he considers 47% of the American electorate to be freeloaders and victims, and are dependent on the government for all their sustenance.  50 million Americans are, according to Romney, shiftless, lazy, and looking for nothing other than a handout.  They feel they are "entitled" to have the government provide food, housing and medical care for them, and do absolutely nothing to fend for themselves or pay their own way.  They take everything and give nothing in return.  Frankly, I would like to get in on that gig.

The news media went absolutely berserk, as they should, and despite everything else going on in the world this was the big news story.  The liberal media had a feeding frenzy, and there was an overabundance of red meat to go around.  Even a number of more conservative media outlets and newspapers leveled some withering, merciless criticism on Romney, pointing out in no uncertain terms how totally off-base he was.

The Romney campaign went into major crisis mode, but no amount of whiplash-inducing spin could pull this mess out of the toilet.  You could just see his campaign managers running around their office in a panic, bumping into each other, not knowing which forest fire to put out first.  But the best was yet to come.

The Romney quote really making the rounds is something that you would never believe a candidate for national office would say.  Romney said his "job" is "not to worry about those people" because they will vote for Obama no matter what.  So, he is writing off nearly half of the electorate because they do not pay federal income tax, and Romney's tax-cut message would be lost on them.

It is certainly true that a lot of people pay no federal income tax.  The tax code is structured in such a way that people of very low income, or senior citizens, or members of the armed forces do not have to pay federal income taxes.  That doesn't mean they pay no tax at all.  They pay all the other taxes everyone else pays - state tax, local tax, sales taxes, payroll taxes.  As a matter of fact, middle and lower classes workers pay payroll taxes, and after you earn $106,800 you pay none at all.

Through all of this, Romney looks the same he always has:  ridiculous, stupid, awkward, creepy and floundering around like a fish out of water.  His performance in his quest for the White House as been a breathtaking series of gaffes and misstatements, from when he managed to insult the United Kingdom over London's Summer Olympics to writing off any chances of peace in the middle East.  He has resolutely refused to turn over anything more than the minimum amount of information regarding his federal income taxes, something which has gained new urgency lately given his assertion that a lot of Americans are bums and leeches.  I am convinced that he refuses to make public his tax returns because they will show that HE has not paid anywhere near his fair share of federal income taxes, and perhaps none at all for a number of years.  I have four words for him, and I wish every news media outlet in the world would keep repeating them over and over to him:  What are you hiding?

Even his phony, brittle wife Ann has reinforced all the negative impressions about her and her husband when, in an interview, the subject of his tax returns came up and she snarled in as imperious a tone as she could muster (and she's had a ton of practice) that "you people" (meaning the press and the American electorate) have gotten all the tax information that you're going to get, so be satisfied with that and STFU.

Still, no one is counting Romney and his campaign out because it doesn't matter to most of his Republican supporters what stupid, ill-advised and idiotic things he says or does, they will support him no matter what.  Facts be damned, those people will vote for Romney even if he was proven to be a child molester who set a nursing home on fire while selling China white heroin to grade-schoolers.  Republicans are never, ever encumbered by facts or reality.  Their racist hatred of Barack Obama is stronger than any love of country or sympathy for their fellow citizens.

Presidential candidates have recovered from serious setbacks in their campaign before, but it's hard to see how Romney can run a credible, viable campaign from here on.  It would be very interesting indeed to watch Romney's chances flame out and crumble, but it's impossible to overestimate the capacity of the American voter to see what they want to see, and ignore everything else.  And above all, this election season is one where substance takes a distant back seat to style, and if your candidate says or does something really stupid, the best thing to do is double-down, dig your heels in, and deny, obfuscate, and deceive.  After all, Republicans could not care less about facts.  They have put all their faith in voter suppression drives, and none in the voters themselves.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Gathering Storm

It's Labor Day 2012 weekend, and tomorrow marks the traditional start of the presidential election campaign.  There are 65 days till the election, and it's safe to say that all forms of media, especially television, will be flooded with diatribes from both sides, vilifying and demonizing the other, in their insane quest to pick up as many votes as possible, by any means.

This year, it's going to be different.  We have something called the Citizens' United ruling in place.  In a moment of stunning, breathtaking insanity, the Supreme Court decided that it's perfectly all right to inject a monstrously huge amount of money into an election system already choked and corrupted beyond recognition by dirty money.  In a move that seems incredibly un-American, extremely wealthy individuals can pour money into what are called "super PACs", completely anonymously and shielded from discovery and in effect, buy the American democracy.  Democracy, like justice, has always been available for purchase by the highest bidder, but this ruling makes it much, much easier for the election to be swayed by whichever side can line up more billionaire donors.  If this doesn't go against everything on which this nation was founded, taking elections away from the common people and giving them over to the super-rich, nothing does.

Another stunning development is the diabolical, blatantly biased laws passed by state governments restricting and complicating the act of voting.  Everything from selectively shortening early voting periods to ridiculous, unreasonable photo-ID requirements, and more, has been utilized by Republican-controlled state legislatures to make it more difficult for the poor and minority voters (whose choices skew very much toward Democratic candidates).  Advocates of these Jim Crow 2.0 laws claim they are necessary to prevent "voter fraud," but it is a scorched-earth, Draconian solution to a very small problem.  Studies have repeatedly shown over and over that voter fraud is an extremely rare occurrence, several orders of magnitude smaller than what would be needed to swing any important national or regional election.  It's like using a neutron bomb to get rid of a fly.  It's so obvious to everyone that these laws are not geared to prevent voter fraud, but instead to make it as hard as possible for people to vote, some of whom have been voting for decades.  And in a democracy, isn't the whole point to make it easy for as many people as possible to vote?  Voters are what make democracy what it is.

The Democrats are having their national convention in Charlotte, NC, this coming week.  It will no doubt be nowhere near as freakish and insanely toxic as the recent Republican psycho-fest in Tampa.  That convention was a hellish parade of the truly ugly and repulsive in American politics.  From a snide diatribe by the repulsively obese Chris Christie, to Anne Romney's scripted-to-the-last-comma snooze-inducing attempt to "humanize" her extremely wooden, awkward and creepy husband, to the much-ballyhooed screed by veep candidate Paul "Lyin'" Ryan in which he STILL hasn't said anything interesting and valuable, the convention was one of the most repellent, distasteful things shown on television so far this year.  Republicans seem to be making a Herculean effort to be the source of the most repulsive media of all time, between the convention and the primary debates.

Still, no one was prepared for the supernova of batshit-craziness when film icon and new poster boy for dementia Clint Eastwood did a stunningly bizarre piece of performance art by talking to a chair where an invisible Obama was seated.  Almost universally panned by pundits and critics, it will go down as one of the weirdest, creepiest and saddest things ever.  It did have one delightful effect - Mitt Romney also gave what was billed as the most important political speech of his whole life after Clint got finished embarrassing himself, but very few people were talking about that the next day.  Everyone was reeling at how pathetic and sad Eastwood appeared on stage, in front of all those puckered, withered and desiccated faces of all those boring old white people at the convention.

This election will also be different in that it will most likely not be a war for the hearts and minds of independent voters, but more of a battle to see which side can get their bases the most riled up.  The country has gotten so very polarized over the past few elections that the number of undecided voters has shrunk to a small sliver.  I can't imagine there are many people who look at Obama and Romney and consider flipping a coin to make the choice easier.  The vast majority of voters, myself included, have had their minds made up for many many months.  The election can be held this coming Tuesday for all I care, I'm 100% ready to get it over with.  There is absolutely nothing in this enormous universe which would make me switch my vote, so why do I have to put up with all the bullshit?  The country is split down the middle, with very few swing votes, and the emphasis now is to get your core constituencies all cranked up and excited to cast their votes.

As is typical for paranoid-hysterics, Republican leaders drone ominously about how the very soul and existence of the United States of America is on the knife-edge, teetering at the abyss of destruction, and everything will surely be lost if Obama gets re-elected.  Notably, a judge in Lubbock, TX opined that there will be "civil war" and a lot of civil disobedience if the election doesn't go their way.  While those remarks can be easily dismissed as mentally-disturbed rantings of some inbred, cousin-marrying Texas hillbilly, it does illustrate the demented fear-mongering to which the Republicans are stooping this year.  Always known as the party of fear, the Republicans are pulling out all the stops in their hell-bound campaign to frighten and terrify all their racist supporters, promising them that the Apocalypse Pizza Company will be delivering an extra-large to their front door if the black guy gets back into the White House.  Desperate, fearful people do desperate things, and crazy, paranoid rednecks do really horrible, ugly, desperate things.

So, no matter who wins this election, pretty much 50% of the people in this country are going to be very, very angry and upset.  Depending on how the Congressional elections go, we may be in line for a gridlocked, hyper-partisan government that will accomplish absolutely nothing.  As the world enters a critical period on so many fronts - the environment, global economics, terrorism - having a paralyzed, divided superpower such as the USA will only make the world a much more dangerous place than it ever has been, or that it needs to be.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Surf's Up

The month of September is at my doorstep, but the summer is still trying to suck every last drop of life blood out of us, like a crazed vampire who doesn't know when to stop draining its victim.  Almost imperceptibly, the great wheel of the seasons is turning with tantalizing slowness, and the sun continues its languid, snail-like journey towards the south part of the sky.  I leave my weekly aerobics class at approximately the same time, 6:50pm, and I can tell it's getting a tiny little bit darker each time.  Used to be I would walk out of the gym into the bright sunlight of an early evening, but now the sun is hovering just above the western horizon, sinking a little more each day.  The equinox is about three weeks away, and before long I will exit the gym to a sky devoid of sunlight..

I so love autumn because it has always been a time of reflection and contemplation, a time to consider what has been done so far this year, and plan for the long cold winter nights.  Everything seems richer and more colorful; the air will soon carry a touch of chilliness in the morning, and there will be a fragrance that speaks of the harvest and coming-of-age, of promises fulfilled and lessons learned.  The nighttime sky, always an indication of things to come, shows the Scorpion slinking low across the south toward the faintly glowing western horizon, and gallant, regal Pegasus, the celestial flying horse, making a powerful leap into the eastern sky, taking its rightful place of honor in the starry firmament.

In the coming months, the Scorpion will disappear in the west just as Orion the Hunter throws his leg up over the eastern mountains and hoists himself sideways into the sky, his faithful dog beside him and Lepus the celestial rabbit underneath him.  The Scorpion and Orion are locked in a death pursuit, each chasing the other but never catching up.  Scorpion wants to sting Orion with its glittering tail, and Orion wants to kill Scorpion with his club.  They've been doing this for billions of years and will probably continue for billions more. Such is their fate, both of them hopelessly joined in titanic struggle that will never be resolved.  Orion will rise higher in the southern sky until around the winter solstice, when Orion will take his rightful place as Lord of the Sky, glistening in the cold, deep winter night, Master of Heaven and Earth, surveying his kingdom.  The Rabbit will still be underneath him, right above Columba the Dove.  And very late at night, right around the winter solstice, you will spot the star Canopus, the harbinger of spring, skimming barely above the southern deserts and wildly twinkling like an over-caffeinated, multicolored strobe light.

I have been listening to a lot of music from the 1960s recently.  XM satellite radio in my vehicle, along with the music channels on DirecTV, serves up an endless stream of great tunes from that amazing decade.  Some of the music still sounds incredibly fresh and new, as if recorded just last week.  The music and the vocal harmonies of a lot of the groups were startlingly complex and intricate.  Looking back over four decades, I have a new appreciation for the achievements of bands like The Mamas and The Papas, Spanky and Our Gang and the glorious "Jersey Boy" pop of the Four Seasons.  Even shallow contrivances like The Cowsills, a musical family whose members ranged from youngsters barely out of the toddler stage to the surprising youthful and hip (for the 60s) mother, recorded an amazing song called "The Rain The Park and Other Things."  The Cowsills were a manufactured pop group, a precursor to the ubiquitous "boy bands" of the 80s and 90s, and their short-lived success degenerated into a series of acrimonious lawsuits which ended up tearing the family apart.  Besides the reign of brash, revolutionary groups like The Beatles and the Jefferson Airplane, the 60s also saw the dawning of the singer-songwriter era with geniuses like Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell, whose brilliance would continue into the new millennium. 

Sure, there was a lot of crap music from that era, something that is inescapable no matter which decade you examine.  The "bubblegum" music craze was particularly obnoxious, and unabashedly phony studio groups like "The Archies" and "The 1910 Fruitgum Company" sold millions of annoying records.  Reflecting the cultural war at the time, a lot of people snapped up faux-patriotic potboilers like "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by SSgt. Barry Sadler (1966) - and on the other end - whiny, overwrought polemics like "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire (1965).  But all that was counterbalanced by Motown, the early Beatles, and the whole San Francisco psychedelic era, and those are the musical genres with real creativity, and real staying power.

Also central to the 60s sound were the Beach Boys, whose music and sophisticated vocal arrangements are still universally regarded as the best of the best.  Brian Wilson's perfectly crafted masterpieces such as "Good Vibrations," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," and the shimmering, transcendent "Surf's Up" are unforgettable.  The Boys, along with lesser lights such as Jan and Dean, created the entire California youth scene, an eternal playground full of fast cars, surfing and beautiful girls in bikinis frolicking on a golden beach in an endless summer (recently given a garish, playfully hallucinogenic update by Katy Perry in her "California Gurls" video).  As someone just entering their teenage years, I was completely captivated by this perfect vision of a happy, carefree world drenched in lemon-yellow sunlight where you didn't have to work, and the biggest problem you had to worry about was catching the perfect wave.  Growing up as I did in a gritty steel-mill town near Pittsburgh, life could get oppressively dull and dreary.  The nearest body of water was the dirty Allegheny river which absent-mindedly meandered nearby, definitely not conducive to surfing.  The "beach" (derisively called the "Polish Riviera") consisted of a tiny strip of land on the other side of the river made up of smooth, round river rock, which was incredibly uncomfortable to walk or lay on.  Wintertime could be long, harsh and very depressing, often not seeing the sun for two weeks at a time, the trees devoid of green leaves, and the world locked in a frigid grip of icy, frozen ground and heavy, leaden skies.  But gods help me, that was my home, and I loved it.  Truth be told, sometimes I miss those incredibly dismal, cheerless winter days.

When conditions outside become difficult or unpleasant, either emotionally or because of the weather, the natural urge is to turn inward for solace.  Whether it's 10 or 110 degrees outside, it's the same thing, two sides of the same coin.  Memories are important stepping-stones back to a world with which you are intimately familiar, and that can be a very comforting thing.  It's endlessly fascinating to me how a song or a piece of music can evoke such rich, detailed memories of who you were and what you were doing when you first heard it.  I can remember all the words to songs I have not heard in 40 years, yet I can't remember what I did last week.  Funny how such seemingly trivial things make such an enormous impression on you.  Memories are funny, precious and remarkable milestones on the journey of your life.