Friday, November 30, 2012

Bigfoot and Talking to God

Pat Robertson

Michelle Bachmann

George W Bush

God Got It Wrong

God usually refers to the single deity in monotheism or the monist deity in pantheism. God is often conceived of as the supernatural creator and overseer of humans and the universe. Theologians have ascribed a variety of attributes to the many different conceptions of God. The most common among these include omniscience (infinite knowledge), omnipotence (unlimited power), omnipresence (present everywhere), omnibenevolence (perfect goodness), divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. -Wikipedia

   I was just watching The Young Turks on Current TV. They were doing what they called a "light' story concerning Bigfoot,  also known as Sasquatch, which are supposed hairy ape-like creatures that some think inhabits forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America (Bigfoot of course has a cousin, the Yeti's of the Himalayan region of Nepal, and Tibet. They get together for family reunions once a year in Paramus, New Jersey).
   They ran a clip in which a Dr. Melba Ketchum has conducted a study in which she claims Bigfoot is not only real and exists, but that they are closely related to humans.
   This claim is made after studying the DNA of Bigfoot, and Dr. Ketchum would be an appropriate specialist to make this claim being the only staff member listed at the company she directs,  DNA Diagnostics, Inc. d/b/a Shelterwood Laboratories, which states: "DNA Diagnostics is a multi-species molecular genetics laboratory specializing in human and animal DNA testing for individuals, law enforcement, attorneys, breed associations, private investigators and state regulatory agencies."
   The five-year-long DNA study claims to confirm Bigfoot is a human relative that arose about 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species, which would be a form of some hot interspecies ag pumpáil (Irish for having sex).
   Here's one link to the story:
   Dr Ketchum, of Nacogdoches, TX., is a veterinarian by training, and is listed as having 27 years experience in research in genetics and forensics, and having been published as a participant in mapping the equine (horse) genome.
   She and her team began testing the Sasquatch hair samples some five years ago.
   "Our study has sequenced 20 whole mitochondrial genomes and utilized next generation sequencing to obtain 3 whole nuclear genomes from purported Sasquatch samples. The genome sequencing shows that Sasquatch mtDNA is identical to modern Homo sapiens, but Sasquatch nuDNA is a novel, unknown hominin related to Homo sapiens and other primate species. Our data indicate that the North American Sasquatch is a hybrid species, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens.
   Sasquatch nuclear DNA is incredibly novel and not at all what we had expected. While it has human nuclear DNA within its genome, there are also distinctly non-human, non-archaic hominin, and non-ape sequences. We describe it as a mosaic of human and novel non-human sequence. Further study is needed and is ongoing to better characterize and understand Sasquatch nuclear DNA."
   Dr. Ketchum has called on public officials and law enforcement to immediately recognize the Sasquatch as indigenous people: "Genetically, the Sasquatch are a human hybrid with unambiguously modern human maternal ancestry. Government at all levels must recognize them as an indigenous people and immediately protect their human and Constitutional rights against those who would see in their physical and cultural differences a 'license' to hunt, trap, or kill them."
   Okay, I know what you're thinking (because I'm telepathic, another scientifically proven ability), "There is no such thing as Bigfoot." "Where did Ketchum aquire these Sasquatch hair samples (why from the Sasquatch Barbour Shop of course)?" "This so-called study has not been reviewed by qualified peers, so it does not meet the standards of the basic scientific method, as of  yet, so the claims made by Dr Ketchum are at best premature." "There is no evidence supporting the survival of such a large, prehistoric ape-like creature." "The evidence that does exist points more towards a hoax or delusion than to sightings of a genuine creature." "Bigfoot is alleged to live in regions unusual for a large, nonhuman primate, such as temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere, wherein all species of primates and apes are found in the tropics of Africa and Asia." "As with other proposed megafauna cryptids, climate and food supply issues would make  Bigfoot's survival in the reported habitats unlikely." "No Bigfoot remains have ever been found." "The current scientific consensus is that the breeding population of such an animal would be so large that many more purported sightings would have been reported than currently occur, making  it's existence almost certainly impossible."
   Well, first off I have to compliment you all on your critical thinking and skeptical capabilities. Wow, you're pretty good. I had no idea.
   So what are the odds that we have hairy and extremely shy relatives who live in the forests of the  the Pacific Northwest region of North America?
   Fortunately we don't have to speculate. Here is incontrovertible proof that they do indeed exist:
   And I wouldn't worry too much about people getting a "'license' to hunt, trap, or kill them," as they seem to be perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, and if indeed they are part human their propensity for violence will only escalate. 
   Seriously now... they do exist. I spent 11 months in Portland, OR., in 1981 when my ship was in dry dock and some of my best friends were Sasquatchs.
   But I was drinking heavily in those days. Everybody looked like a Sasquatch to me.
   But really seriously now, unless more evidence is presented which substantiates Dr. Ketchum's hypothesis, and which is subjected to the rigors of the scientific method for testing theories, then it seems unlikely Bigfeet are related to us, or even exist.
   And the burden of providing further proof is all on her. It's not us making the claim, and it's not our job to prove that she is wrong.
   My sister and I watched all ten episodes of HBO's and Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" when I visited her recently (in the interest of full disclosure my sister slept through episode 8. 
   She did stay awake the next night for episode 9, "The Blackout Part II: Mock Debate." In this episode we saw the lovely actress, Alison Pill, who plays associate producer Maggie Jordan, who made this argument:
   I agree. Why wouldn't that be the first question? According to Maggie, Michele Bachmann claimed that God instructed her to run for President of the United States.  That's quite an endorsement! Considering the last time Gallop polled Americans on this issue (June of last year) more than 9 out of 10 people believe in God in this country. That alone, without God having to intervene in some way, should have insured that Michele Bachmann got 90% of the popular vote in the general election.
   And another thing, I for one want to know what God sounds like. Why don't some of these people who profess to talk with God have tape recorders?
   Anyway, so what's up with the American people?  90% of them believe in God, Bachmann had God's backing... so why was she the first to quit the the race during the Republican primaries?
   No, I really want to know! Please tell me.
   I mean, if God wanted Michele Bachmann to run for President I assume he/she/it wanted her to win. Being a omnipotent being that really shouldn't have been very difficult, don't you think? I mean if you can make the universe and the Earth, and all of the creatures that live on Earth including a man and a woman in 6 days, then fixing an election shouldn't be all that hard. Hell, the Republicans did it in 2000 and 2004, for his/her/it's son's sake!
   It's difficult to explain if you take Ms Bachmann's story and view at face value.
   Marion Robertson, better known as Pat, Chancellor of Regent University and Chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and a former candidate for President himself, says he talks to God too. In that first clip above he clearly states that God told him who was going to win the presidency, but he couldn't talk about it.
   "I spent the better part of the week praying and saying, ‘God show me something,’” Robertson shared on CBN’s "The 700 Club," January 3rd of this year.. “I think He showed me the next president, but I’m not supposed to talk about that so I’ll leave you in the dark.”
   Pat knows he was hearing from God because he took notes.
   "I'm going to read just as I wrote down, as if I’m hearing from the Lord these words,” he said.
   "Your country will be torn apart by internal stress. A house divided cannot stand. Your president holds a radical view of the direction of your country which is at odds with the majority. Expect chaos and paralysis. Your president holds a view which is at the odds with the majority -- it's a radical view of the future of this country, and so that's why we're having this division. This is a spiritual battle which can only be won by overwhelming prayer. The future of the world is at stake because if America falls, there's no longer a strong champion of freedom and a champion of the oppressed of the world. There must be an urgent call to prayer."
   Okay, God didn't exactly say who would win the election... why not? Why be coy about it? God is after all omniscient, which means he/she/it knows freaking everything! Everything! There is nothing that God does not know. So why didn't he/she/it tell Pat who the next President was going to be since he was feeling so chatty?
   I don't know why.
   Let's talk about what God did talk about.
   "Your country will be torn apart by internal stress.." As far as I know the United States is still in one piece. And internal stress? Well we do have the tea party, yet we still get by.
   "A house divided cannot stand." Golly, God is either misquoting or paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln. How Godish of him/her/it.
   "Your president holds a radical view of the direction of your country which is at odds with the majority." Obama's average approval rating is 49% for the last year according to Gallop, which is in the margin of error for being above 50% which is at odds with his views being discordant with the majority of Americans. God declined to clarify which of Obama's views were radical, and in what way. Health care for all? Is that a view that God would declare radical? Fair pay for women? Ending a war?
   And so what if his views were not those of the majority. Being the president is not a popularity contest. If asked most Americans would probably vote not to go to war with anyone, yet we're almost constantly at war!
   "Expect chaos and paralysis." He/she/it got Republican obstructionism right.
   "Your president holds a view which is at the odds with the majority--" God is repeating himself/herself/itself.
   "it's a radical view of the future of this country, and so that's why we're having this division." We've discussed radical views, and this country is divided because it is racist, ignorant, and half of it listens to Rush Limbaugh and Fox so-called News.
   "This is a spiritual battle which can only be won by overwhelming prayer." I'm glad God brought up the subject of prayer. This is what the late Dr. Carl Sagan had to say about prayer, in his book "The Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark:"
    Does prayer work at all? Which ones?
   There's a category of prayer in which God is begged to intervene in human history or just to right some real or imagined injustice or natural calamity -- for example, when a bishop from the American West prays for God to intervene and end a devastating dry spell. Why is the pray needed? Didn't God know of the drought? Was he [she, it] unaware that it threatened the bishop's parishioners? What is implied here about the limitations of a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient deity? The bishop asked his followers to pray as well. Is God more likely to intervene when many pray for mercy or justice than when only a few do? Or consider the following request, printed in 1994 in "The Prayer and Action Weekly News: Iowa's Weekly Christian Information Source:"
    Can you join me in praying that God will burn down the Planned Parenthood in Des  Moines in a manner no one can mistake for any human torching, which impartial investigators will have to attribute to miraculous (unexplainable) causes, and which Christians will have to attribute to the hand of God?
     We've discussed faith healing. What about longevity through prayer? The Victorian statistician Francis Galton argued that -- other things being equal -- British monarchs ought to be very long-lived, because millions of people all over the world daily intoned the heartfelt mantra "God Save the Queen"  (or King). Yet, he showed, if anything, they don't live as long as other members of the wealthy and pampered aristocratic class. Ten of millions of people in concert publicly wished (although they did not exactly pray) that Mao Zedong would live "for ten thousand years." Nearly everyone in ancient Egypt exhorted the gods to let the Pharaoh live "forever.
   By making pronouncements that are, even if only in principle, testable, religions, however unwillingly, enter the arena of science. Religions can no longer make unchallenged assertions about reality -- so long as they do not seize secular power, provided they cannot coerce belief. This, in turn, has infuriated some followers of some religions.
   ""The future of the world is at stake because if America falls, there's no longer a strong champion of freedom and a champion of the oppressed of the world." Champion of the oppressed? I guess God means people like American Indians, the poor, the elderly, minorities, babies once they are out of the womb, and people in other countries that the government doesn't like. I guess God is speaking about those people.
   "There must be an urgent call to prayer."" Prayer again.
   I don't know about you, dear readers, but the statement sounds more like something that would emanate from the consciousness of a political hack, much like Pat Robertson himself, then the words of an entity that is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent.
   You know what I think? I think this is all a big scam to get people to vote for Republicans (I haven't heard a single Democrat say God told them to run for office) to vote for them. That's what I think.
   I think they are using God to manipulate religiously orientated gullable people.
   I could go on and on. If you're talking to God, then it's your job to first prove that God exists in the first place. That God's messages to right wing politicians seem to always benefit those same politicians. That hearing voices telling you to do things is a recognized symptom of schizophrenia (a mental disorder that makes it hard to tell the difference between what is real and not real... oh wait a minute... that's Fox News).
   On and on.
   I don't think much about people who order God around either, which both Democrats and Republicans do all of the time.
   "God bless America." Why should God favor America over other countries? God created all of us. We are all his/her/it's children, so I don't really believe God would be an adherent of American Exceptionalism.
    Alright, I've ranted enough for now. I must prepare for the upcoming Mayan day of apocalypse.
   And so should you.

6th Grade Atheist debate!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

John McCain is an Angry Guy

The Angry John McCain Song

Susan Rice 'This Week' Interview: U.S. Ambassador to UN Discusses Muslim Protest (09/2012)

McCain: 'Will Do Everything in My Power' to Block Susan Rice

Ambassador Rice Defends Benghazi Remarks

“There would seem to be little connection between Nate Silver and Susan Rice, but hear me out. The New York Times electoral savant was said to be "controversial." No one adduced a lick of factual evidence for why he should have been thought to be so, but people on the right just didn't like his electoral predictions, so they tried to make him controversial. With respect to Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, much the same is true. In reality land, she's done nothing that ought to be considered all that controversial. But again, conservatives don't like the outcome-Democrats having the upper hand on foreign policy and national security-so they're trying to make her controversial.” -Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, Nov 22, 2012

   Okay, I think I've recovered sufficiently from the jet lag I incurred from my trip back from Arizona on Amtrak, so let's get to work... again.
   I'm surprised this is still a major story in the media (despite the constant hyping from Fox so-called News: (  ). It must be a slow news fortnight.    
   Most likely as a result of the “Arab Spring,” revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, Libya experienced a full-scale revolt beginning on February 17th. Muammar Gaddafi, the strongman leader of Libya since 1969, instead of capitulating and fleeing the country like his Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts, fought back, using his extensive military and security forces, foreign mercenaries, all of which allegedly killed rebelling civilians (In June 2011, an investigation carried out by Amnesty International found that many of the allegations against Gaddafi and the Libyan state turned out to either be false or lack any credible evidence, noting that rebels appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence). In March the UN declared a no fly zone to protect the civilian population of Libya. On March 19th, a multi-state coalition began a military intervention in Libya, and military operations began, with US and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the French Air Force, British Royal Air Force, and Canadian Royal Canadian Air Force undertaking missions across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces. On March 24th, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone, while command of targeting ground units remained with coalition forces. NATO flew 26,500 sorties since it took charge of the Libya mission on the 31st of March.
    Eventually Gaddafi was forced into hiding, and on September 16th, the National Transitional Council was recognized by the United Nations as the legal representative of Libya, replacing the Gaddafi government.
   On October 20th, Muammar Gaddafi was found in a culvert west of the city of Sirte and captured by National Transitional Council forces, and subsequently beaten to death by those forces.
   Former Minister of Justice under Gaddafi, Mustafa Abdul Jalil led the National Transitional Council, and served as the NTC's de facto head of government from March 5th, 2011 through the end of the civil war.
   Fighting in Libya ended in late October following the death of Muammar Gaddafi. On October 27th, my birthday, NATO’s Security Council voted to end NATO's mandate for military action on October 31st.
   So, one can easily make the claim that the United States was instrumental in Libya’s liberation, and accordingly, the Libyan people should look kindly on our country.
   Last September 11th, a Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, demonstrations raged throughout the Muslim world. A 14-minute trailer for a supposed full-length anti-Islam feature called “The Innocence of Muslims,” was broadcast on Al-Nas TV, an Egyptian Islamist television station two days previously, and in what appears to be the customary reaction to criticisms of their religion (remember the fatwā (the limited use of this term being that a death sentence has been dealt to someone or some group of people) on Salman Rushdie issued by Ayatollah  Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989, after the "The Satanic Verses," was published?) mass demonstrations erupted in Egypt, Yemen, Greece, Sudan, Tunisia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, in Africa, the western hemisphere, Asia, Europe, and everywhere else.
    In Cairo, Egypt the U.S. diplomatic mission  was overrun by protestors. A group scaled the embassy wall and tore down the American flag to replace it with a black Islamic flag.
   On September 11th, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was in the city of Bengazi (the main American consulate in Libya is located in Tripoli), where there were no demonstrations. After nightfall, 120 to 150 heavily armed attackers killed the Ambassador and three other Americans, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and U.S. embassy security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. Two other Americans and seven Libyans were injured.
   Some U.S. officials, speaking under anonymity, said that they believed the Benghazi attack was coordinated and planned in advance, and not prompted by the film. Considering the weapons  used during the attack included rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 and FN F2000 NATO assault rifles, diesel canisters, mortars, and heavy machine guns and artillery mounted on gun trucks, items not usually brought to spontaneous demonstrations, that conclusion would be a pretty safe bet.
  The terrorist group (to the American point of view at least) Al-Qaeda indicated responsibility for the attack and said it was in revenge for a U.S. drone strike which killed Libyan Abu Yahya al-Libi, one of their leaders.
   The attack was strongly condemned by the governments of Libya, the United States, and other countries around the world.
   The next day, September 12th, President Obama stood with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the White House Rose Garden, and said, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
   Despite this statement from the President, five days later, on September 16th, a Sunday, UN Ambassador Susan Rice made visits to all of the Sunday morning talk shows and said what she was told to say given the talking points the CIA had provided to her (considering the UN Ambassador has no jurisdiction over foreign embassy personnel or security, why didn't Sec State Clinton make the talk show rounds? Apparently because she didn't want to) which did not brand the attack in Benghazi as caused by terrorists, but rather like the demonstrations that day in Egypt, a reaction to the “The Innocence of Muslims,” video.
   "As a senior U.S. diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities, American diplomatic facilities around the world, and Iran's nuclear program."
   "The attack on our facilities in Benghazi was obviously a significant piece of this," Rice said.
   As it happens Susan Rice is being considered to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State once she quits her job at the end of Obama's first term in office.
   Also, the attack in Benghazi and the administration's reaction to it as voiced by Ambassador Rice was before the general election on November 6th.
   This gave the Republicans, and Fox so-called News, plenty to bitch about.
   Fox immediately claimed the Obama administration was involved in a cover up of some kind (in retrospect, I don't know what kind of cover up they were claiming, or the purpose thereof. No one was disputing that the attack caused the deaths of four Americans, including our  Ambassador in Libya, so what exactly was being covered up? Still, Fox proclaimed the "controversy" surrounding the attack as "being worse than Watergate.").
   House Republicans just couldn't understand how the State Department and Obama let this happen by not providing for sufficient security in a country that had not stabilized after its revolution. Why were Marines not stationed there they asked. They got really indignant!
   And they also forgot to mention that for the past two years, House Republicans had deprioritized the security forces protecting State Department personnel throughout the world. In 2011, the Republican House shaved $128 million off of the administration's request for embassy security funding. They cut off even more money in 2012 -- cutting back on the department's request by $331 million.
   Alright, the attack in Bengazi was tragic, and it seems to have been a coordinated. Al-Qaeda may have been involved, although that is not for certain. No witnesses saw any attackers wearing "Al-Qaeda" T shirts. Investigations are continuing and ongoing, by Congress, and the CIA and FBI. We may eventually find out exactly who was responsible for the attack, and they may eventually be brought to justice. Let's hope so.
   Now, as to the title of this post, Arizona Senator John Sidney McCain III is an angry guy. There's even a song about that which proves so (above).    
   John McCain lost the Republican primary to George W. Bush in 2000. This pissed him off. He lost a presidential bid to Barack Obama in 2008. That really pissed him off.
   He has said absolutely nothing nice at all about President Obama and his policies since the President has been in office.
   He's complained about the end of the Iraq War. He's complained about winding down the war in Afghanistan .
   He's complained about Obama's foreign policy in general, saying it has been the worst in recorded history (I guess starting two unfunded and unnecessary wars as George Bush did is good foreign policy).
   Now he's been at the forefront of bashing poor Ambassador Rice, saying she is "not qualified for the job," and calling her "not very bright."
   What job? Why Secretary of State, if President Obama were to nominate her. Remember, he may not nominate her, so all of this brouhaha regarding Ambassador Rice may be for nothing. 
   Why does McCain (and his butt buddy Lindsey Graham, and others (all Republicans of course)) believe Rice is not qualified, and not very bright (Susan Rice attended Stanford University, where she received a Truman Scholarship, and graduated with a B.A. in history in 1986. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. She attended New College, Oxford, where she earned a M.Phil. in 1988 and D.Phil. in 1990. The Chatham House-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation titled "Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979-1980: Implication for International Peacekeeping" as the UK's most distinguished in international relations. John McCain... well he ranked 894th out of a class of 899 at the  United States Naval Academy)?
   Because she said this: "Well, first of all, Chris (she was talking to Chris), we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack… Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don’t want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it’s important for the American people to know our best current assessment."
   Because she repeated the talking points given to her by the CIA on those Sunday talk shows. That's it! Never mind that she also repeated that she was giving the most up to date information available, and that this could be subject to change as the matter was further investigated. Never mind that the UN Ambassador has absolutely nothing to do with U.S embassies, or their security. No they say. She purposely mislead the country for some reason and must be punished.
   President Obama has stood up for Ambassador Rice on numerous occasions, stating McCain and all of the others should come after him rather than Rice, and indeed that would be more appropriate, considering he's Hillary Clinton's boss, but no, the Republicans still go after Rice. What are they doing to her exactly? They say they will do everything in their power to block her from becoming the next Secretary of State (remember, she hasn't been nominated).
   McCain was asked by CBS host Bob Schieffer if he was willing to reconsider Rice if she were nominated.
   “I think we give all nominees the benefit of a hearing process,” McCain replied. “Maybe she could start out by publicly coming back on this show and saying, ‘I was wrong. I gave the wrong information on your show some weeks ago.’ That might be a beginning.”
   “But until then, you remain opposed to her nomination?” Schieffer pressed.
   “Under the present circumstances until we find out all the information as to what happened, I don’t think you could want to support any nominee right now,” McCain replied. “It really goes to heart of this — quote — light-footprint policy that this administration has been perusing and all of the failures throughout the Middle East.”
   “The chickens are now coming home to roost.”
   The chickens are now coming home to roost?! WTF does that mean? Please tell me. I really want to know.
   And this coming from a man who introduced Sarah Palin to the world and who would have placed her within a heartbeat from the Presidency. This from a man who voted for two unnecessary wars which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, not just four. This coming from a man who neglected to investigate what the Bush Administration knew about a possible attack by Al_Qaeda before September 11th, 2001. This coming from a man who said this: "We can disagree on policy and we disagree on a lot of things, but I think it is very clear that Condoleezza Rice is a person of integrity. And yes, I see this, some lingering bitterness over a very tough campaign." Condi Rice, a war criminal. A lady who lied about weapons of mass destruction, who lied  about Iraq accumulating high-strength aluminum tubes, and  the tubes "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs," who lied about mushroom clouds, and who lied is into war.
   According to the progressive media no one can make sense of the Republican's argument concerning Ambassador Rice. That makes sense as the Republican argument against Ambassador Rice doesn't make any sense. Not in the world of reality at least. It does in the bubble of Republican Land apparently.
   I have to agree with Michael Tomasky's November 12th assertion in the The Daily Beast, that:
   "John McCain, I'd bet, knows all the above and isn't even really mad at her. He's mad at two other things. Well, three other things. First, he's mad he's not the president, and the president's the president. Second, he, and many Republicans, are pissed off that Obama paid no electoral price for the Benghazi attack. This is all but inconceivable to them because in the ecosystem in which they thrive, Benghazi is bigger than Watergate, Waterloo, and waterboarding combined. They can't understand or accept that many middle Americans don't share their outrage.
   But most middle Americans recognize Benghazi for what it was-a terribly sad tragedy, but the kind of thing that, in a dangerous world, happens. And yes, many middle Americans would consider it a smudge on the administration's security record, but most middle Americans also know that record is otherwise rather impressive. It seems to me someone just ran for president trying to argue otherwise, and he lost pretty handily.
   And finally and maybe most of all, McCain and others are furious that the Republicans have lost their "natural" advantage on national-security issues. They are desperate to change that, and the quickest way to start doing so is to get Rice's scalp."
   I also believe the Republicans are trying to define the debate, as they always try to do, and I think the media is allowing them to continue doing this by their constant coverage of this nonsensical... I don't even know what to call it, this fake outrage, this ploy, this BS.
   Ambassador Rice consented to meet with McCain, and Lindsey Graham. She said she respects Sen. McCain, who has been critical of her, but says "some of the statements he's made about me have been unfounded, but I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him."
   And by golly, afterwards Republicans said stuff like this:
   "I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration's position," Sen Susan Collins of Maine said after her meeting with Rice. "I would need to have additional information before I could support her nomination."
   Graham: “I’m more disturbed now than I was before that the sixteen September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya by Ambassador Rice, I think, does not do justice to the reality at the time and in hindsight clearly was completely wrong,” Graham explained. “But here’s the key, in real time, it was a statement disconnected from reality. If anybody had been looking at the threats coming out of Benghazi, Libya it was jump-out-at-you that this was an Al-Qaeda storm in the making.”
   Really? It was that obvious huh?
   McCain said he had about 50 more questions that needed to be answered.
   And again I say WTF!? They were with her for the very purpose of having questions answered. Why didn't they ask all of these so-called important questions? Please tell me. I really want to know.
   As Rachel Maddow said tonight, "this is getting, excuse the language, stupider and stupider, to the point that it's turning into a special kind of stupid."
   The lovely Rachel Maddow and I think there may be another explanation for all of this Republican madness. It seems Senator John Kerry is also a leading contender for the job of Sec State (as well as Sec Defense, if Leon Panetta decides to step down). If he were nominated for either of those jobs, and confirmed by the senate, then he wouldn't be a senator in Massachusetts any more, leaving a seat open, which may go to a Republican... like Scott Brown, who narrowly  (comparatively) lost his reelection bid a few weeks ago to Elizabeth Warren.
   Could this be?
   "I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues," Senator Collins said.
   Huuum, we shall see.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wild Turkeys

Turkey Attack
    All of us here at Joyce’s Take hope each and every one of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and were able to kick back and watch a little football, eat some nice home cooked food, and visit with family members no matter how much you may or may not hate them... especially Uncle Wilford, the miserable son of a bitch.
   As for myself, I am currently visiting my lovely sister Cheryl, niece Keri, and grandnephew Jaxen, in good old Bullhead City, Arizona. I’m ashamed to say we had turkey (my sister insisted), dressing, mashed potatoes (I mashed. It was the least I could do), yams, green beans with bacon, cranberry sauce, gravy, apple salad (secret family recipe), pumpkin pie, and monkey brain pudding with whipped cream. It was wonderful.
   The weather here is mild, the temperature 78.8 degrees, which is down right cold for this town. It is clear, but a tad windy. I walk around the city a couple of miles a day to burn some of the calories I’ve accumulated by eating so much. My invisible cat Herkimer and my sister’s cat Circle are getting along fine, and I’ll be headed back to L.A. Monday morning, arriving at 8:15AM. Today I am making turkey enchiladas.
   I’m glad you brought up the issue of turkeys considering the current crisis around the country. It’s a sad, sad thing, and like Custer’s Last Stand, most Americans will think of this uprising as a unprecedented massacre, yet others a desperate action of self defense.
   Trying to make sense of all of this I’ve looked back at the history of our country for some background.
   In September of 1620 the 100 foot Mayflower, a cargo ship, left Plymouth, England headed for the new world, fleeing from religious persecution by King James of Great Britain. Aboard were 102 English and Dutch Separatists and other adventurers referred to by the Separatists as "the Strangers." There were 30 crew members.
   The ship experienced severe weather during the second month of the voyage causing structural damage. There were two deaths during the voyage,
   On November 9th land was sighted, Cape Cod. They had intended to sail on to an English colony in Virginia, and after reaching Cape Cod they tried to go there, but foul weather turned the ship back and they anchored in Provincetown Harbor.
   These people, the Puritans (the term Pilgrim would not be applied to the settlers until 1630, by the colony’s governor William Bradford, denoting a person who has made a pilgrimage) founded Plymouth Colony in December, and immediately began fighting with the Indians who lived nearby.
   The Puritans had a hard first winter. The Mayflower was still in the harbor and was used as a shelter until houses could be completed ashore. Nevertheless, exposure, malnutrition and illness led to the death of half the group, both passengers and crewmen.
   After the weather improved people began to recover from their winter illnesses, crops of wheat, barley, Indian corn and peas were planted in early April, and the Mayflower took off back to England.
   In March of 1621, Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag Indians, visited Plymouth. He signed an alliance which gave the English permission to take about 12,000 acres of land for the colonists.
   The event celebrated as the first Thanksgiving has been debated in this country since the late twentieth century. Many Native Americans argue against the romanticized story of the Wampanoag celebrating together with the colonists, but there are two known accounts of the 1621 event. Others say that the first "thanksgiving" occurred two decades later and shortly after the Pequot War in 1637.
   However, for more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
   Let’s suppose that the first Thanksgiving feast did occur in 1621 between the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians. How is it that turkey has become the traditional main course on this national holiday (forms of thanksgiving are also celebrated in Canada, Germany, Grenada, Korea (both North and South), Japan, Liberia, The Netherlands, and Norfolk Island (a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia).
   Since lobster, goose, duck, seal, eel, and cod were plentiful during that time, those foods were most likely the main courses of the first feast. Deer meat and wild fowl (although historians cannot say for sure which types of fowl were served up that day, a letter written by colonist Edward Winslow mentions a turkey hunting trip before the meal) are the only two items that historians know for sure were served during the celebration.
   Another theory attributes the Thanksgiving turkey to Queen Elizabeth (you know, the same one Cate Blanchett portrayed in those two Queen Elizabeth movies) of England.
   According to legend, the Queen received the news of the sinking of, or grounding on the Irish coast, of about half of the Spanish Armada that had been sent to do battle with England, and the subsequent departure of the remaining ships back to Spain, while eating goose for dinner.
   She was so thrilled that she ordered another goose to be served. Some historians say the early settlers were inspired by the queen’s actions and roasted a turkey instead of a goose.
   Then there was what is considered the classic menu of turkey with stuffing, gravy, and monkey brain pudding that was popularized by Charles Dickens in “A Christmas Carol,” published in 1843 and very popular in the United States. Some food historians believe Scrooge's gift of a Christmas turkey to the Cratchit family helped cement the turkey's place at the center of the holiday meal for both middle and upper class households.
   Wikipedia tells us: “A turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris. One species, Meleagris gallopavo, commonly known as the Wild Turkey, is native to the forests of North America. The domestic turkey is a descendant of this species.
   Turkeys are classed in the taxonomic order of Galliformes. Within this order they are relatives of the grouse family or subfamily. Males of both species have a distinctive fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the top of the beak—called a snood in the Wild Turkey and its domestic descendants. They are among the largest birds in their ranges. As in many galliform species, the male (tom or gobbler) is larger and much more colorful than the female (hen).
   And 300 million of them are killed each year in the United States, 45 million during Thanksgiving alone.
   Well turkeys are fed up. There are 10,000 species of birds on this planet, and turkeys are getting tired of being picked out, and on, and slaughtered in the bargain.
   Roberta Schnoor, a resident of Brookline, Mass., says she first started seeing the turkeys in her neighborhood outside of Boston a few years ago. Initially, she just noticed one large male turkey — a tom, staring at her. But then she started seeing more. A flock started roaming backyards or walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic. And, Schnoor says, "They became progressively more aggressive."
   After being hunted almost out of existence more than 100 years ago, wild turkey populations are on the rise. Wild turkeys had been reintroduced with great success over the years, along with other native birds, such as eagles and hawks. In 1950, there were about 350,000 wild turkeys nationwide. Today there are around 3 million, and some are unexpectedly turning up in suburbs and city parks waiting, regrouping... biding their time.
   Wildlife experts say that birds who get accustomed to suburban life apparently start to see people as other turkeys, often displaying aggressive social behavior in attempts to establish their "turkey dominance."
   Turkey Dominance, oh yes. That’s what they strive for. That’s all they care about. They will not stop until they achieve their turkey goals.
   Turkeys are still pissed that they are not the national bird... the wild turkey is a native of North America. As a result, Benjamin Franklin claimed this made the turkey a more suitable national bird for the United States than the bald eagle (wait a minute. The bald eagle is also a native of North America. I think Franklin needed to stop hitting the sauce).
   Not everyone agreed with Franklin, however, and the bald eagle became the national emblem for the United States in 1782. The bald eagle may be America’s bird 364 days a year, but the turkey has one day all to itself — Thanksgiving, an honor the turkeys could do without. As the national bird you rarely see bald eagles being served up on a plate, filled with succulent stuffing by the millions every November, now do you?
   Schnoor's neighbor Louise Dionne was attacked by a large male tom. It jumped on her back, beating its wings and scratching at her with a talon that turkeys have on their leg. She made it to a neighbor's house after kicking the turkey in the chest.
   "You don't trust those turkeys you see now," Dionne says. "It doesn't take much for them to go berserk."
   Turkeys gone berserk (a corollary to “Girls Gone Wild”). Paints quite a picture doesn’t it?
   “Then, the turkeys came and started attacking my front door,” she said. A second run-in came a few weeks ago as she walked nearby. “I looked back and three of them charged me,” she explained. She moved to the center of the street to avoid the animals, but it wasn’t enough, the birds jumped up and grabbed her by the back and arms, her neighbors say, and flew off with her. She hasn’t been heard from since.
   Yes, despite what you may have seen on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” turkeys can fly... wild turkeys at least.
   And they can run at up to 20 miles per hour. Considering the average human can run at about 11 miles per hour, the turkeys will outrun you... they will catch you... they will have their way with you.
   According to Illinois wildlife officials, wild turkeys are in every city in the state. Even big ones, like Chicago. They seem to be... infiltrating, gathering intelligence, patiently waiting for the best possible time to spring a massive turkey uprising.
   Reports of wild turkey attacks at Butterball domestic factory turkey farms at Lenoir, Duplin, Onslow and Sampson Counties, and Shannon, Hoke County, in North Carolina have resulted in massive break outs of their white breasted domestic cousins, thus swelling the ranks of murderous, antagonistic turkeys with the destruction of the human race as their only goal.
   Turkey battalions have been seen mustering in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles, and in the New Jersey Meadowlands just 11 miles from Manhattan. In the Middle East, the New York Times has reported that the Turkeys have retaliated after Syrian shelling killed 5 within their border. Bodega Bay, California was completely inundated by the birds, and all communication with that area has ceased. Washington D.C. has been surrounded by enraged gobblers, and so far the military, the largest in the world, has been helpless in stopping them (indeed, what good is a nuclear submarine or aircraft carrier against millions of marauding gallinaceous fowl within our own borders?).
   Oh Lord (that does not exist)... what will become of us?
   How did things get this way?
   It wasn’t always like this. Here’s 13 examples of how it all began:
La Matadora

Class Warfare
Under Siege
Gang Turkeys
This man has never been seen again...
Turkey infects Harvard reporter and with Turkey Virus, who turns into a zombie turkey.
Turkey jail riots
“Come a little closer sir...”
“I know you’re in there!”
Car drove into a turkey pit, and then... the turkeys descended.
Ugly Turkey Hysteria
It’s Not Only Congress That’s After the Postal Service
The Blair Turkey Project
    Did you think this would never come to pass, dear readers? We’ve known about the problem for decades, but we did nothing. The Republican Party said it was the greatest hoax perpetrated upon the American public throughout the nation’s history. Lobbyists from Butterball are seen entering and leaving congressional offices as if they were their own homes. Turkey deniers dominate Fox so-called News. The issue is still considered untouchable by politicians, and wasn’t even mentioned by either candidate during the last election.
   Yet the turkeys are out there. They exist, and they’re not going away. We caused the problem, and we can solve it (or mitigate the destruction). But we have to start now, for our sake, and the sake of our children and grandchildren.
   The time to act is upon us, before the turkey disaster capitalists get their way.
   Americans have united in the past when facing a common enemy.
   We must do so again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Skid Row Diary 7


Second week

July 2003 Sunday Day 8

One week without cigarettes, sexual activity, and drugs and alcohol of course. I haven't had any booze for about two months now. One week of trying to change, one day at a time. One week of attempting a reversal of fortune... all for what purpose?
To see what's it's like I imagine. And to prepare for my death.
I had an urge to smoke yesterday that I forgot to write about. It occurred on the bus coming back from Pasadena. I was thinking about how nice it was going to be to get back, relax, and watch "Predator," later that night. Then I thought about smoking while watching the movie, and how nice that would be. And I knew I could not have a cigarette, and that saddened me. I suffer from low impulse control, and controlling an impulse saddens me. The urge was strong but fleeting. I expect I'll have them for the rest of my life from time to time if I continue not to smoke. I expect the urge will come every time I think about smoking, and go away when I don't.
Urges to drink alcohol, or smoke marijuana, which are my favorite drugs to use to escape, do not manifest themselves. Not as much as nicotine for sure. I'd really want to throw caution to the wind to use alcohol.
Nicotine is much more addictive than alcohol... and much more insidious. But we'll talk about that in a little while.
By the way, one of the medications I take on a daily basis is called Wellbutrin. It is prescribed to me for depression, but I don't take it for that. I'm prescribed Prozac as well, which I don't take. I use Wellbutrin to help relieve the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine. You can use it as well if you wish to stop smoking, it may help. I'm not sure it helps me, but I have it so I take it, and now I have one week.
I just hope I don't begin to experience any of the side effects like changes in appetite; constipation; dizziness; drowsiness; dry mouth; headache; increased sweating; nausea; nervousness; restlessness; taste changes; trouble sleeping; vomiting; weight changes. That would be disconcerting.
I expecially hope I don't experience any severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, unusual hoarseness or); blurred vision or other vision changes; changes in sexual desire or ability; chest pain; confusion; dark urine; delusions; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; fever, chills, or sore throat; hallucinations; hearing problems; menstrual changes; new or worsening mental or mood changes (eg, concentration problems, depression, panic attacks, aggressiveness, agitation, anxiety, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, inability to sit still); pale stools; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin; seizures; severe headache or dizziness; severe or persistent joint or muscle pain; severe or persistent nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain; severe or persistent nervousness, restlessness, or trouble sleeping; shortness of breath; suicidal thoughts or attempts; tremor; unusual swelling; yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Boy I sure wish I don't experience any of those... especially menstrual changes. That would be a real shocker.
I had over a year nicotine free in 2002 without using anything. It can be done.
I'm not even going to talk about sex yet. Christ! You women are everywhere.
I began this peaceful Sunday at 3:00AM, up to watch a movie, "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," on channel 13.
Okay, I know what your thinking. It's a chick flick! Why would a ruggedly handsome, virile male want to get up at 3:00 for Christ's sake, to watch a chick flick? Well, because "Voyager," is not broadcast on Sunday and Monday mornings (as if they needed the weekend off) for one thing. And second, the movie has Janeane Garofalo and Uma Thurman in it.
They are both wonderful and amazing actresses. Janeane is a comedian and actress, and is a national treasure (so is Uma). Her performance in "Sweethearts," was mesmerizing. And I liked "Mystery Men," very much... screw Howard Stern.
Uma is an underrated actress as well. And she's kind of cute... for a girl... as is Janeane. Uma's performance in "Hysterical Blindness," should have won her an Academy Award, even though it was produced and broadcast by HBO.
"I'm too aloof."
And I liked "The Avengers," and will defend it until the end of my days.
I'm too aloof as well. I can relate to Uma. We have so much in common.
At 5:00, after yoga, I meditated while listening to Shubert's string quintet #10. I then wrote until 11:30 or so, then read the paper and Alan Watts "The Way of Zen."
Boiled eggs and potatoes for breakfast. The kitchen tends to always leave the skin of the potatoes on while cooking, which I don't care for. However the price is right (free). I walked to Jack's Market on Fifth Street to buy a paper afterwards. Jack wasn't there.
Speaking of the restroom, there is the same window arrangement in the crapper as there is in the shower room. So all us veterans have excellent views of City Hall as we do our business.
Hat's off to you mayor!
The song "Bette Davis Eyes," sung by the throaty Kim Karnes, keeps going through my mind. I don't know why.
As I closed in on Jack's I heard a female homeless person across the street singing Cyndi Lauper's, "Time After Time." Small world.
I used the computer in the day room again. I figured out how to make the word processor do what I needed it to do. I copied a few files, and sent John Manzano an Email asking him what the hell was up!
The television in the day room was once again tuned into the British Open golf tournament. I don't know how many golfers we have around here. The average age of the residents on the 5th floor must be about 54, or so, which is about right since golf is a game for geezers, and those about ready for the bone yard.
I don't play golf of course. I'm much too young.
Mark and Brian play golf. So does Frankie.
I play miniature golf, which is a real man's game. Why, anybody can get the little ball in the hole without the windmills and waterfalls in the way. Even women.
34 years ago Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren took their first walk on the moon. I have no interest in going there.
At 8:37AM precisely I left the building and walked east on 6th toward Central. There was a big line of homeless people, or those who just wanted a free meal, in my way. Something compelled me to stop and look. Someone was nice enough to come down to Skid Row and give away some hot Mexican food, and a wide variety of individuals were lined up to get some. Old and young, men and women. Children scattered about. It was a bit overcast, but warm and muggy. Most were dressed in shorts and T-shirts. Most were clean, but some were filthy, as if they hadn't bathed for weeks. I wondered about them. Where would they go after they ate? What would they do for the rest of the day? What plans do they have? What dreams?
I believe the homeless situation in most American cities is a national travesty, and could be greatly alleviated by an encouraged, pro-active, Department of Mental Health. Most of these people are very sick, one way or another, and need the nation's love and resources to help them. Of course, some won't want to change. If it's their decision made free from illness, more power to them.
I stepped over the bald lady who used to scream under my window every night while I lived at Harbor Light. She was stretched out on the sidewalk with one dirty sock on, below her tattered skirt. She could be someone's mom and should be helped.
I entered Gladys Park for the 9:00AM Drifters meeting and took a seat on one of the folding chairs. The park, if you want to call it that, is mostly cemented over, and is one third basketball court. It occupies approximately 30 by 20 yards of the southwest corner of Gladys and 6th St. The 18 and 53 buses pass by on a somewhat regular basis on 6th, and pick up riders, and sometimes, let them off, making a big racket in doing so. There is only one small patch of grass, but there are many trees that do provide a fair amount of shade, which will come in handy especially during this meeting, and as the day gets hotter. This is the closest 12 Step meeting to the Weingart, and usually is held at night. 7:30, to be exact. That would be at dusk this time of year. And this is the only meeting to be held outside that I know about in the area. When it gets dark one can look up to the stars and see the face of God.
A nice middle class white lady from the valley introduced someone she had brought with her to speak. Kirk was his name. I had brought my writing folder with me, and so wrote while listening to his story. I enjoyed a cup of coffee as well.
Kirk spoke of a friend of his who got so tired after using meth, that he couldn't get up off his couch, even to save his own life when his house caught fire. Kirk himself, once drank himself into a coma, with a blood alcohol level of .05, over three times the level considered by the police to denote intoxication. He said the first thing he did upon leaving the hospital was to look for spare change to buy a drink. Now he has 8 years sober.
I left just before the meeting ended, returning to my room. I continued writing and looking through the want ads. I found a couple of good prospects, and a few so, so.
After lunch (corn dogs), I read the rest of the paper while peeking at "Andromeda," starring Laura Bertram, a show supposedly created by Gene Roddenberry. The producers neglected to put Laura into today's show, so I soon lost interest. I did see "Candyman," though, or the guy who played the hated ghost in those movies.
At 1:00 a four hour presentation of Peter Benchley's "Creature," starring Kim Cantrell, whom I'd so recently been involved with. It was good to see her again.
The movie sucked though. A shark/dolphin hybrid turned into a manfish. Now I can understand a man turning into a fly, or a praying mantis, but a shark/dolphin hybrid? Come on! That tests the limits of credulity.
At 2:00, I turned "Creature" off to watch the "series of stolen ten years," episode of the new "Outer Limits." Always worth watching.
At 3:00, when the "Outer Limits," was over, I turned back to the creature movie to see how things were progressing... then turned it off again and practiced some yoga.
After dinner, (about half of a ham sandwich), I finished up reading the paper, while watching the History Detectives try to authenticate a picture of George Washington. It was fake.
I'd like to be a history detective. Wouldn't you?
I went to sleep early, at 7:30, after the robot sex change operation episode of "Futurerama," starring Katie Sagal. I read from "The Way of Zen," which knocked me right out.
I dreamt I was in a hula hoop contest with Janeane and Uma. Both of them were wearing ankle length dresses and white socks. I was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, with the words," Beware of the Andromeda Strain," printed on the front. My hula hoop was red. Uma's blue, and Janeane's emerald green. We were twirling our hips and keeping rhythm to Cyndi Lauper's "Iko Iko." None of us would give up. Just as I couldn't take it anymore, almost falling to floor in exhaustion, I woke up, because my alarm sounded.
It was 11:00, and I got up to see the Sunday night edition of the "X Files." The "golem in the gated community," episode, particularly noteworthy due to Scully and Mulder' going undercover as a married couple, Rob and Laura Petrie.
"Next time, Mulder," Scully exclaimed, "I get to pick the names."
"Okay honey buns... sweetie kins..."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Liz Warren & the Filibuster

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
   Check this out: from The Boston Globe yesterday, “Warren’s victory sends message that defense industry needs new business model.”
    “So, the Massachusetts Defense Technology Initiative believes that Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren “has an obligation” to the defense industry? The outcome of the election suggests otherwise.
   Warren’s victory over Senator Scott Brown, despite the contribution of 30 times more money to the Brown campaign from defense firms, should send a strong message. The people have spoken. We need to cut defense outlays regardless of short-term economic ramifications.
    Those concerned with uncontrolled government spending should look to wasteful weapons systems and Cold War vestiges rather than to the Medicaid and Social Security programs that millions have paid into and rely upon for future sustenance.
    Even if it hurts the bottom line at Raytheon, General Dynamics, and other defense giants, the outdated and counterproductive notion that the United States should be the world’s weapons supplier and police force has been repudiated by the results in this election. Defense contractors should take note and recalibrate their business models accordingly. That is their obligation.”
   When was the last time you heard of a politician seriously associated with making sensible, appropriate cuts in defense? I don’t think I ever have. Are you hearing any right now in Washington concerning this so called Fiscal Cliff? I’ll answer that. No! So called entitlements is all they’re talking about (there is no fiscal cliff, that’s a term designed to scare the American people, because when the American people are scared politicians usually get their way (i.e., the Iraq War), and these are not entitlements, but programs bought and paid for by the working class). Just think of what we could do here in the good old United States if we were able to spend some of that money which is always earmarked for defense.
    We could do quite a bit, get rid of the deficit everyone seems so worried about, education, infrastructure, a green economy. Hell, we could even go to Mars.
    In any case there seems to be one thing for certain, Senator elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts doesn’t appear to be shy.
    She wants to make a few changes right off the bat, on the very first day of the 113th Congress. And unlike Mitt Romney’s promises to end Obamacare, and a host of other projects he had in mind on the first day he was in office, she may really be able to do them... with a little help.
     She, and a few other Senators, want to change some rules.
     Typically, a Senate rule change requires a super majority of 67 yes votes, something that would be difficult for Democrats, with their narrow 53 seat majority, to achieve. However, on the first legislative day of a new Congress, a simple majority of Senators, just 51 votes, can approve new rules. That “legislative day,” will be January 24th.
     So what are we talking about here? What we’re talking about is the filibuster.
     What’s a filibuster? Funny you should ask.
     Wikipedia tells us: “A filibuster is a type of parliamentary procedure where an individual extends debate, allowing a lone member to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal. It is sometimes referred to as talking out a bill, and characterized as a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body.
    The term in its legislative sense was first used by Democratic congressman Albert G. Brown of Mississippi in 1853, referring to Abraham Watkins Venable’s speech against "filibustering" intervention in Cuba.”
    Well, isn’t that interesting.
    As in the clip above with Jimmy Stewart, the filibuster was supposed to be a tool used by the minority in the Senate to delay a vote, and used sparingly. However, when Barack Obama became President, when the Democrats controled both Houses of Congress, the Republicans set out obstructing anything Obama or the Democrats tried to put through, and began using the filibuster as a bludgeon, and in record numbers. They would filibuster everything. They would block their own legislation if Obama signed off on it!
    During the first two years of Obama’s presidency they would pretend they were not doing that. They were lying:”>

    As Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks pointed out, all the Republicans had to do to stop a vote from proceeding was to threaten a filibuster, which would then take a super majority of 60 votes to override, or as they say, a vote for clouture. The Democrats have 51 seats in the current session of Congress, with 2 Independent seats who caucus with them, for a total of 53 seats (in the 113th Congress the Democrats will have 53 seats, with 2 Independent caucusing with them, for a total of 55). 53 is no where near 60, so in order to end a filibuster the Democrats would need the help of at least 7 Republicans. Do you think the Republicans would be at all helpful in moving along the business of the country and help out a little? By golly no! They haven’t been very helpful at all.
    Okay, let’s return to our definition of a filibuster. “an individual extends debate, allowing a lone member to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal. It is sometimes referred to as talking out a bill...”
    This refers to a time when Senators actually had to stand up, as Jimmy did in the clip above, and talk. And for as long as they kept on talking no further business could be acted upon. That’s the rules.
    “One of the most notable filibusters of the 1960s occurred when southern Democratic senators attempted, unsuccessfully, to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making a filibuster that lasted for 75 hours, which included a 14 hour and 13 minute address by Senator Robert Byrd.” -Wikipedia
    In the current Congress, all the Republicans have had to do is threaten a filibuster, then what usually happens is that the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, would move on to other business because to stay on the bill that was being threatened was considered a waste of precious time.
    Reid had been asked to make rule changes regarding the filibuster at the beginning of the 112th Congress, but he’s old and slow to change, and instead made a gentleman’s agreement with the Minority Leader, Mitch “Turtle Boy” McConnell, that the filibuster would be used very little so as to not clog the business of the Senate. McConnell is no gentleman, and that agreement fell apart almost as fast as it was made.
    Well you know how volatile Harry Reid is. McConnell must have pissed him off, because now he seems to open to a change in the Senate rules that would force those who filibuster to once again have to take to the floor and talk, to actually explain to the American people why they are against a certain bill so adamantly, and keep on talking, and talk and talk and talk.
    I guess Harry’s not to worried about “time spent” anymore.
    This rule change should have the effect of limiting filibusters... hopefully, (some say this step is not enough and more sweeping changes should be made, but I guess, we shall see) and has been urged upon Reid by Senators such as Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Senator-elect... Elizabeth Warren.
    Liz sent me an Email the other day. It went like this:
“Richard, [she calls me Richard],
I'm honored that I will have the opportunity to serve the people of Massachusetts in the United States enate, and I'm deeply grateful for everything you've done to help send me to Washington.

You know what I want to do. When I'm sworn in just a couple of months from now, I want to fight for jobs, for students crushed by debt, for seniors who paid into Social Security and Medicare, for equal pay, for clean energy, for marriage equality. I want millionaires and billionaires and Big Oil companies to pay their fair share. And I want to hold Wall Street accountable. You know what I care about.
But here's the honest truth: it will be incredibly difficult to do any of that if we can't get up-or-down votes in the Senate.
Remember Jimmy Stewart's classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? (Yes, I do) I love that movie. That's what most of us think of when we hear the word "filibuster" -- a single passionate senator speaking for hours about legislation they fiercely oppose until they literally collapse with exhaustion.
But that's not what the filibuster really looks like. Now any senator can make a phone call to register an objection to a bill, then head out for the night. In the meantime, business comes to a screeching halt.
On the first day of the new session in January, the Senate will have a unique opportunity to change the filibuster rule with a simple majority vote, rather than the normal two-thirds vote. The change can be modest: If someone objects to a bill or a nomination in the United States Senate, they should have to stand on the floor of the chamber and defend their opposition. No more ducking responsibility for bringing the work of this country to a dead stop.
Senate Republicans have used the filibuster 380 times since the Democrats took over the majority in 2006. We've seen filibusters to block judicial nominations, jobs bills, campaign finance transparency, ending Big Oil subsidies -- you name it, there's been a filibuster.
We've seen filibusters of bills and nominations that ultimately passed with 90 or more votes. Why filibuster something that has that kind of support? Just to slow down the process and keep the Senate from working.
I saw the impact of these filibusters at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Forty-five senators pledged to filibuster any nominee to head that new consumer agency, regardless of that person's qualifications. After I left the agency, they tried to hold Richard Cordray's nomination vote hostage unless the Senate would agree to weaken the agency and limit its ability to hold Wall Street banks and credit card companies accountable.
That's not open debate -- that's paralyzing progress.
I learned something important in my race against Senator Brown: voters want political leaders who are willing to break the partisan gridlock. They want fewer closed-door roadblocks and more public votes on legislation that could improve their lives.
Our campaign didn't end on Election Day -- and I'm counting on you to keep on working each and every day to bring real change for working families.”
   I bet she would like your help as well. Here’s a link to a petition you can sign to help out. I signed it:

    A yesterday I was presented with an on line petition to have Liz placed on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Senate Committee. That would be the big bank’s worst nightmare.
    There are two openings available.
    I signed that petition too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shameless Disaster Capitalism

Hurricane Sandy
We’ve met the lovely Naomi Klein, the Canadian author and social activist, and author of one of the most important books of this century, “The Shock Doctrine,” before. Most recently during the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City a year ago. And I rarely post someone verbatim, as I did her address to OWS. It would seem I have a journalist crush on her... which I do.
Be that as it may, what Naomi discusses is usually of such importance that it needs to be repeated, by her... so I’m happy to do it once again.
In her article “Shameless Disaster Capitalism,” which first appeared in The Nation magazine, she takes note of the recent Hurricane Sandy, and how disaster capitalists are already trying to profit from the destruction and havoc caused by it, put shock policies into place, and how the shock doctrine can be applied to climate change... what may happen, and what we can do about it.
By Naomi Klein

Less than three days after Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the United States, Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute blamed New Yorkers' resistance to big-box stores for the misery they were about to endure. Writing on, he explained that the city's refusal to embrace Walmart will likely make the recovery much harder: "Mom-and-pop stores simply can't do what big stores can in these circumstances," he wrote.
And the preemptive scapegoating didn't stop there. He also warned that if the pace of reconstruction turned out to be sluggish (as it so often is) then "pro-union rules such as the Davis-Bacon Act" would be to blame, a reference to the statute that requires workers on public-works projects to be paid not the minimum wage, but the prevailing wage in the region.
The same day, Frank Rapoport, a lawyer representing several billion-dollar construction and real estate contractors, jumped in to suggest that many of those public works projects shouldn't be public at all. Instead, cash-strapped governments should turn to "public private partnerships," known as "P3s." That means roads, bridges and tunnels being rebuilt by private companies, which, for instance, could install tolls and keep the profits.
Up until now, the only thing stopping them has been the law-specifically the absence of laws in New York State and New Jersey that enable these sorts of deals. But Rapoport is convinced that the combination of broke governments and needy people will provide just the catalyst needed to break the deadlock. "There were some bridges that were washed out in New Jersey that need structural replacement, and it's going to be very expensive," he told The Nation. "And so the government may well not have the money to build it the right way. And that's when you turn to a P3."
Ray Lehmann, co-founder of the R Street Institute, a mouthpiece for the insurance lobby (formerly a division of the climate-denying Heartland Institute), had another public prize in his sights. In a Wall Street Journal article about Sandy, he was quoted arguing for the eventual "full privatization" of the National Flood Insurance Program, the federal initiative that provides affordable protection from some natural disasters-and which private insurers see as unfair competition.
But the prize for shameless disaster capitalism surely goes to right-wing economist Russell S. Sobel, writing in a New York Times online forum. Sobel suggested that, in hard-hit areas, FEMA should create "free trade zones-in which all normal regulations, licensing and taxes [are] suspended." This corporate free-for-all would, apparently, "better provide the goods and services victims need."
Yes that's right: this catastrophe very likely created by climate change-a crisis born of the colossal regulatory failure to prevent corporations from treating the atmosphere as their open sewer-is just one more opportunity for more deregulation. And the fact that this storm has demonstrated that poor and working-class people are far more vulnerable to the climate crisis shows that this is clearly the right moment to strip those people of what few labor protections they have left, as well as to privatize the meager public services available to them. Most of all, when faced with an extraordinarily costly crisis born of corporate greed, hand out tax holidays to corporations.
Is there anyone who can still feign surprise at this stuff? The flurry of attempts to use Sandy's destructive power as a cash grab is just the latest chapter in the very long story I have called The Shock Doctrine. And it is but the tiniest glimpse into the ways large corporations are seeking to reap enormous profits from climate chaos.
One example: between 2008 and 2010, at least 261 patents were filed or issued related to "climate-ready" crops-seeds supposedly able to withstand extreme conditions like droughts and floods; of these patents close to 80 percent were controlled by just six agribusiness giants, including Monsanto and Syngenta. With history as our teacher, we know that small farmers will go into debt trying to buy these new miracle seeds, and that many will lose their land.
When these displaced farmers move to cities seeking work, they will find other peasants, indigenous people and artisanal fishing people who lost their lands for similar reasons. Some will have been displaced by foreign agribusiness companies looking to grow export crops for wealthy nations worried about their own food security in a climate stressed future. Some will have moved because a new breed of carbon entrepreneur was determined to plant a tree farm on what used to be a community-managed forest, in order to collect lucrative credits.
In November 2010, The Economist ran a climate change cover story that serves as a useful (if harrowing) blueprint for how climate change could serve as the pretext for the last great land grab, a final colonial clearing of the forests, farms and coastlines by a handful of multinationals. The editors explain that droughts and heat stress are such a threat to farmers that only big players can survive the turmoil, and that "abandoning the farm may be the way many farmers choose to adapt." They had the same message for fisher folk inconveniently occupying valuable ocean-front lands: wouldn't it be so much safer, given rising seas and all, if they joined their fellow farmers in the urban slums? "Protecting a single port city from floods is easier than protecting a similar population spread out along a coastline of fishing villages."
But, you might wonder, isn't there a joblessness crisis in most of these cities? Nothing a little "reform of labor markets" and free trade can't fix. Besides, cities, they explain, have "social strategies, formal or informal." I'm pretty sure that means that people whose "social strategies" used to involve growing and catching their own food can now cling to life by selling broken pens at intersections, or perhaps by dealing drugs. What the informal social strategy should be when super storm winds howl through those precarious slums remains unspoken.
For a long time, climate change was treated by environmentalists as a great equalizer, the one issue that affected everyone, rich or poor. They failed to account for the myriad ways by which the superrich would protect themselves from the less savory effects of the economic model that made them so wealthy. In the past six years, we have seen the emergence of private firefighters in the United States, hired by insurance companies to offer a "concierge" service to their wealthier clients, as well as the short-lived "HelpJet"-a charter airline in Florida that offered five-star evacuation services from hurricane zones. "No standing in lines, no hassle with crowds, just a first class experience that turns a problem into a vacation." And, post-Sandy, upscale real estate agents are predicting that back-up power generators will be the new status symbol with the penthouse and mansion set.
It seems that for some, climate change is imagined less as a clear and present danger than as a kind of spa vacation; nothing that the right combination of bespoke services and well-curated accessories can't overcome. That, at least, was the impression left by the Barneys New York pre-Sandy sale-which offered deals on Sencha green tea, backgammon sets and $500 throw blankets so its high-end customers could "settle in with style". Let the rest of the world eat "social strategies, formal or informal."
So we know how the shock doctors are readying to exploit the climate crisis, and we know from the past how that would turn out. But here is the real question: Could this crisis present a different kind of opportunity, one that disperses power into the hands of the many rather than consolidating it the hands of the few; one that radically expands the commons, rather than auctions it off in pieces? In short, could Sandy be the beginning of a People's Shock?
I think it can. As I outlined last year in these pages, there are changes we can make that actually have a chance of getting our emissions down to the level science demands. These include relocalizing our economies (so we are going to need those farmers where they are); vastly expanding and reimagining the public sphere to not just hold back the next storm but to prevent even worse disruptions in the future; regulating the hell out of corporations and reducing their poisonous political power; and reinventing economics so it no longer defines success as the endless expansion of consumption.
These are approaches to the crisis would help rebuild the real economy at a time when most of us have had it with speculative bubbles. They would create lasting jobs at a time when they are urgently needed. And they would strengthen our ties to one another and to our communities- goals that, while abstract, can nonetheless save lives in a crisis.
Just as the Great Depression and the Second World War launched populist movements that claimed as their proud legacies social safety nets across the industrialized world, so climate change can be a historic moment to usher in the next great wave of progressive change. Moreover, none of the anti-democratic trickery I described in The Shock Doctrine is necessary to advance this agenda. Far from seizing on the climate crisis to push through unpopular policies, our task is to seize upon it to demand a truly populist agenda.
The reconstruction from Sandy is a great place to start road testing these ideas. Unlike the disaster capitalists who use crisis to end-run democracy, a People's Recovery (as many from the Occupy movement are already demanding) would call for new democratic processes, including neighborhood assemblies, to decide how hard-hit communities should be rebuilt. The overriding principle must be addressing the twin crises of inequality and climate change at the same time. For starters, that means reconstruction that doesn't just create jobs but jobs that pay a living wage. It means not just more public transit, but energy efficient affordable housing along those transit lines. It also means not just more renewable power but democratic community control over those projects.
But at the same time as we ramp up alternatives, we need to step up the fight against the forces actively making the climate crisis worse. Regardless of who wins the election, that means standing firm against the continued expansion of the fossil fuel sector into new and high-risk territories, whether through tar sands, fracking, coal exports to China or Arctic drilling. It also means recognizing the limits of political pressure and going after the fossil fuel companies directly, as we are doing at with our "Do The Math" tour. These companies have shown that they are willing to burn five times as much carbon as the most conservative estimates say is compatible with a livable planet. We've done the math, and we simply can't let them.
We find ourselves in a race against time: either this crisis will become an opportunity for an evolutionary leap, a holistic readjustment of our relationship with the natural world. Or it will become an opportunity for the biggest disaster capitalism free-for-all in human history, leaving the world even more brutally cleaved between winners and losers.
When I wrote The Shock Doctrine, I was documenting crimes of the past. The good news is that this is a crime in progress; it is still within our power to stop it. Let's make sure that this time, the good guys win.