Wednesday, October 23, 2013

After the Shutdown

   As the partial government shutdown grinds on into its twelfth day, Americans remain deeply divided over what kind of wild animal they would most like to see Congress mauled by, according to a new poll released today.
   While a majority of Americans say they would enjoy seeing Congress torn limb from limb by a ferocious bear, there is disagreement over which species of bear would be best suited for that assignment.
   When asked, "What kind of bear would do the best job of savaging Congress with its fearsome paws?," Americans gave grizzly bears the highest job-approval rating, followed by polar bears, and by black bears in a distant third.
   But the poll showed that there was also strong support for the idea of Congress being set upon by a pack of rapacious animals, with rabid hyenas the first choice of many respondents, followed by feral dogs and cats.
   While insatiable, bloodthirsty mammals were most often cited as the animals Americans would like to see eviscerate Congress, there was significant support for another scenario, involving Congress being consumed by a swarm of predatory insects.
   Fifteen per cent of those surveyed "strongly agreed" with the statement, "Being torn limb from limb by a grizzly bear or devoured by a pack of rabid hyenas is too good for these people. They should be eaten, very slowly, by a colony of hungry fire ants. Yes, that's it-fire ants. That would be amazing." -Andy  Borowitz, The New Yorker

   Last Saturday I had the pleasure of discovering a television show I had not seen before, nor knew existed, “Freaks and Geeks,” created by Paul Feig (who directed “Bridesmaids”). Paul and Judd Apatow (who produced “Drillbit Taylor") acted as executive producers for the show, which was broadcast on NBC during the 1999-2000 television season. 18 episodes were completed, but the powers that be canceled the show after only 12 had aired (I believe I’d heard of the show before, but mistakenly believed it had something to do with genetic experimentation). 
   “Freaks and Geeks” starred the lovely Linda Cardellini (“Scooby-Doo” ”ER” “Brokeback Mountain”) and Busy Philipps (“The Smokers” “Home Room”), the non-lovely James Franco (“Milk” “Pineapple Express”), Seth Rogen (“Pineapple Express” “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”) and Jason Segel (“How I Met Your Mother” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”). 
   The show was okay, I enjoyed it, and it has gained a cult following since it’s cancellation (due to public pressure NBC aired 3 more episodes later in 2000, and the then Fox Family Channel aired the remaining 3 after it picked up the show for syndication. It received 3 Emmy nominations, and was placed on loads of Best TV Shows lists. Just loads. I guess I should have watched more than the pilot episode. 
   Be that as it may, that pilot episode marked the very first professional appearances of Phillips, Franco, Rogen, and Segel, who with the exception of Franco, Rogen, and Segel, have gone on to have successful, productive, and distinguished careers.  
   That particular episode introduced all of these characters, who played high school teens during the 1980-1981 school year in Chippewa, Michigan, which as most know is near Detroit, and dealt with teen peer pressure, self image, wanting to belong, and... bullying. 
   In the show 3 kids turned the tables on a school bully who had been tormenting one of their friends, and sort of kicked his ass, and the bully vowed revenge while riding away on a bicycle never to be seen again, at least in that episode. 
   If getting rid of bullies on real life were only that simple.
   I personally was never bullied in school per-say, and was in very few fights. The ones I did participate in were short and ferocious. Some I won and some I lost, and I don’t recall these few incidents as making a very great impression upon me. Looking back now, I can surmise not having a very great understanding of my own identity or self worth. Possibly drugs and alcohol blunted my natural growth... more than likely, but I don’t recall having very strong convictions of what was right and wrong, and what issues I should feel strongly about, so strongly that I could disregard peer pressure and what others thought of me.
   Earlier Saturday morning while watching the Melissa Harris-Perry program on MSNBC I learned of the sad tale of 12 year old Rachel Ann Sedwick (3rd picture from the top), who jumped to her death from a third-story cement plant structure in central Florida on September 10th after being verbally, physically and cyber bullied throughout 2012 and 2013.      
   Only 12 years old. 12 years old.
   Two girls, ages 12 and 14, were arrested a week ago last Monday (Columbus Day) and charged with aggravated stalking for what a Florida sheriff described on the 15th as "maliciously harassing" Rachel. A Facebook post by the 14-year-old read, “yes I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, but I don’t give a (expletive),” prompted the arrests.
   While bullying is not a crime, Judd said, the girls have been charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony, because the victim was younger than 16 years old.
   "We've lost sleep over that child dying needlessly. And we want to see things change," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. 
   Rachel’s mother, Tricia Norman,  removed her daughter from the school, but the bullying continued online, where the 14-year-old wrote harassing insults, including that Rachel should “kill herself” and “drink bleach and die,” Judd said.
   Norman said that the bullying at Crystal Lake Middle School, became so bad earlier this year that her daughter was hospitalized with self-inflicted cuts on her arms and legs. 'When she was being bullied at Crystal Lake, she used to come home every day and tell me how she wasn’t worth anything, that she was ugly, how she was stupid,' Norman said. 'And I said, ‘Baby what on earth would make you think that? You’re the most beautiful person I know and the smartest person I know.’
   But kids don’t believe their parents when other kids tell them otherwise  I guess .
   There is some evidence that the 14 year old responsible for most of the bullying had been abused by her own mother, and so a cycle is born or continues. Perhaps now this young girl will have the opportunity to stop and reflect upon what she has done. Perhaps.
   And then I hear news of another suicide of a 12 year old boy, a 7th grader  in Nevada, who used a Ruger 9mm handgun he got from his parents to fatally wound an 8th grade math teacher, and injure two classmates before taking his own life. Another student from Sparks Middle School where the shooting took place suggests an anti-bullying video allegedly shown to the boy was the inspiration behind his attack. She says the boy was often mistreated by fellow students and that the video showing a bullied girl retaliating with a gun in the days before may have "gotten into his head."
   Another student says the shooter ran through the halls shouting, "Why are you people making fun of me? Why are you laughing at me?"
   And I wonder at what kind of world we have created for ourselves.
    It has occurred to me that we all have been the victim of bullying since 2010, when the Republicans won the House of Representatives, and most recently when they held the country hostage by shutting it down and threatening to default on our international monetary obligations while trying to extort the rest of Congress and the Presidency into giving them what they wanted. 
   And it occurred to me that while doing so they were acting just like children, just like a 14 year old girl who didn’t give an (expletive).   
   What was at stake? 
   A lot it seems.
   Some of you may know that from October 1st until Oct 17th at approximately 12:30AM, the federal government was closed for business... except for essential personnel. Why did this happen?  
   Good question! Glad you asked.
    It seems Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for the fiscal year 2014, or a continuing resolution (a type of appropriations legislation which may be used by the United States Congress to continue funding of government agencies if a formal appropriations bill has not been passed by the end of the government fiscal year) for the interim authorization of appropriations for fiscal year 2014. This made it illegal for normal government operations to continue. 
   And when I say Congress I mean the House of Representatives, the Republican controlled House of Representatives. 
   Both the House and the Senate have to agree on an appropriations bill, or a CR, to keep the money flowing which keeps the government operating.
   But the Republicans in the House, seemingly controlled by a minority of Tea Partiers (47 members of the Tea Party Caucus (all Republicans, and apparently led by Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota) out of a total of 435 Representatives (231 Republicans, 200 Democrats, 4 vacancies. There are 6 Tea Party members in the Senate: Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Tim Scott (South Carolina), Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Florida)) which was originally founded by conservative groups such as Heritage Action, which in turn are funded by conservative rich people, like the billionaires Charles and David Koch, would only pass resolutions which delayed implementation (with the goal of delaying so much it would never be implemented) or defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as "Obamacare"). The Democratic-led Senate would have none of that, rejecting the House’s bills, and passed several amended continuing resolutions with no additional conditions, sending them back to the House, which rejected them, sending CRs back to the Senate defunding Obamacare, which rejected those... on and on, until time ran out on the first of October. 
   Now one must remember, the Affordable Care Act is an established law, which was passed by both house of Congress (when the Democrats still controlled the House) and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA's individual mandate (beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act includes a mandate for most individuals to have health insurance or potentially pay a penalty for noncompliance. Individuals will be required to maintain minimum essential coverage for themselves and their dependents. Some individuals will be exempt from the mandate or the penalty, while others may be given financial assistance to help them pay for the cost of health insurance). 
   It is true that the House of Representative controls the nations monetary appropriations, and anything spent by the nation must be approved by that body, and the Republicans have used that power and authority to attempt to negate the power of agencies and policies they don’t like, for instance the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which they would like to defund out of existence. Why? And what beef do they have with Obamacare?
   The Republicans pretend to be the party of Christianity and traditional family values. They are not. Their only God is money. And the power that the accumulation of money brings with it. The only families they care about are those of billionaires like Charles and David Koch, and huge multi-national corporations... and maybe their own, although that’s uncertain. Money is a stupid God to have. Money does not care about people. It does not love people.
   It is the God of sociopaths. 

And we’ll talk about it more in the very next post.

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