Tuesday, May 31, 2011

O Jerusalem!

If President Obama thinks dealing with the Republicans is a nightmare, imagine what he thinks about dealing with Israel and the Palestinians...

The problem with even talking about Israel and the Palestinians is that you really can't do it honestly. If you do and you're Jewish you're labeled a 'self-hating' Jew and if you do and you're not Jewish you're labeled an anti-Semite.

Because to be honest about Israel is to point out the many faults and failures of its government and that is strictly forbidden. Israel is infallible. To doubt that, to question that, means that you want to destroy the Jewish people's homeland. And The Holocaust is the moral trump card.

"Never forget."

But do forget about the bombing of the King David hotel in 1946, because only Arabs are terrorists. Forget about the bulldozing of Palestinian settlements, because 'God gave us this land', an argument which should be treated as a fairy tale, but isn't. Forget that Jerusalem is considered a holy city by Muslims and Christians, too. And always, always, forget that the Palestinians had inhabited the land continuously for over 1200 years.

Forget also that the plan from Day 1 has been to try and force all of the Arabs out of Israel and to expand the boundaries until all of ancient Judea is under Jewish control. This is not something I made up--it is taken directly from the words of the Zionists who first began to repopulate Palestine in the late 1800's, on through Ben Gurion and the formation of modern Israel in 1948, and up to today's Likud party. They never had any intention of sharing 'their' land with the Palestinians.

The facts on the ground are what they are and the past is unchangeable. Atrocities have been committed by both sides. Israel isn't going away--and neither are the Palestinians. But the truth is still a good place to start in any negotiation.

Because, as Gandhi reminded us, 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.'

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Welcome Wagon

Le tout Phoenix is all abuzz with the rumor that Sarah Palin is buying a house in Scottsdale in preparation for a run at the the Senate seat Jon "Not Intended As A Factual Statement" Kyl is vacating. Be still my beating heart!!!

First things first: Sarah Palin doesn't know anything about Arizona or its problems. She might be able to find the state on a map. And then again she might not. But you can always hire someone to do that, right? The important thing is that she's Sarah Palin!! Good ideas don't matter, qualifications don't matter, intelligence certainly doesn't matter--remember this is Arizona.

Besides, these are trivial concerns, because even a well formed turd has a good shot at getting elected to the Senate from the Grand Canyon state IF they're a Republican. Why? Because the GOP has done so much for the people of Arizona! I mean, really, what an impressive list of accomplishments: always near the bottom in education; massive cuts to AHCCCS; laughable mass transit; institutionalized low wages; sold off the government buildings; closed the state parks; turned a corrupt tin badge blowhard, Joe Arpaio, into a demi-god; demonized the Mexicans; ostracized the poor; constantly vilified teachers while glorifying bankers; and on and on and on.

Of course, it's a time honored tradition in some circles to look for a seat that's open in a 'safe' district somewhere--anywhere--and then quickly establish residency in time to run for office. The sainted John "Maverick Is His Name" McCain did it many years ago. And I'm sure in a dark, musty dungeon somewhere there's a team of trusty GOP trolls just waiting to claim Robert Kennedy did exactly the same thing when he moved to New York to run for the Senate after leaving the Attorney General's office. (Kennedy comparisons are the Republican's automatic fallback position for everything, especially moral issues. References to Teddy and Chappaquiddick still bring shivers of joy to any true blue GOPer. However heinous the transgression of a Republican, the mere mention of "Chappaquiddick" washes away all sins. It's magic.)

Rest assured, however, if a Democratic carpetbagger showed up (and why any real Democrat without existing ties to Arizona would move to the state is beyond me), the locals would scream bloody murder and demand an investigation. I think the word I'm looking for is "hypocrite". But without the various kinds of hypocrisy there would be no modern Republican Party and then where would we be?

So welcome aboard the "You betcha-wink-wink" express...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crawling from the Wreckage

The NBA playoffs are a perfect example of why I never, ever, ever bet on sports.

It's not because I haven't devoted enough time studying them; in fact, I probably spent too much time. I should have spent more time learning something useful, like Mandarin for instance, and less time reading various Sports pages and blogs...

No, it's because, as William Goldman once famously remarked about the motion picture industry, "nobody knows anything."

Nobody* knew the Lakers would fall apart like a cardboard suitcase and end up taking cheap shots at everybody they could throw an elbow at. Classy.

Nobody* knew the Mavs would actually be better with Caron Butler out for the year.

Nobody* knew Dirk Nowitzki would suddenly morph into some kind of Teutonic Larry Bird. Sure he had great offensive skills, but all of a sudden he has the cold blooded heart of an assassin to go with them.

Nobody* knew the Thunder would panic at the end of every game. For their sake, let's hope it was just the nerves of youth and not some deep seated pathology. Westbrook is just a kid, after all. It'll be a few more years before we know for sure whether or not he carries the deadly Stephon Marbury, "me first" gene.

As far as the Heat go, and I'm assuming they'll finish off the Bulls eventually if only because I'm rooting for the Bulls, everybody knew they could be great, but nobody but their immediate families and the people of Miami wants them to be great.

I haven't enjoyed watching a Pat Riley team play, (and whoever their coach is, Miami is Pat Riley's team), since the Showtime Lakers. His Knicks were like a roving gang of muggers who played the ugliest basketball I've ever seen. The Heat are infinitely more skilled, but that whole 'taking my talents to South Beach' circus left a bad taste in my mouth. LeBron James is a great player, but I find it very hard to like him.

The Mavs seem to have an edge on the inside, the Heat on the wings. Miami is faster and more athletic, Dallas better in the half court. Miami has more superstars, but Dallas has a deeper bench. And so on and so forth...I guess we'll see how tough Dirk really is, because the Heat will beat him up for 48 minutes every game. (That's the way the Eastern Conference team always plays.) Meanwhile, LeBron will crash through the middle like Lawrence Taylor chasing Joe Theismann, with nary a whistle to be heard. And so, once again, the championship of the NBA may be decided by how many fouls are or are not called...

* With the possible exception of Charles Barkley, whose commentary has been the most consistently entertaining thing about the playoffs...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's All Show Biz

In the theatre, where I happily misspent much of my youth, there's a thing called the "willing suspension of disbelief." What this means is, that while you're watching a play, you accept its particular conceits. So, even though you're not actually in an English country home, for instance, for the duration of that particular play, you 'accept' that you are. That really isn't Burnham woods, Cordelia didn't just die, etc etc etc. But for those two hours or so, what you are watching must be 'real' to you. Those are not actors acting, they are in fact the characters they're pretending to be.

I mention this because we just witnessed a 'willing suspension of disbelief' of a different nature.

A good number of our fellow citizens were convinced that the world was going to end May 21st. They based this on the word of a radio evangelist. Not an astrophysicist, not an epidemiologist, not even Kreskin. No, a guy on the radio who asks them to send him money so that he can do the Lord's work...Some of them quit their jobs, packed up the kids and drove cross country to be closer to their oracle when the big day came. And what happened? Nothing, of course.

"He must have misread the Bible" is the explanation one of his followers gave. Uh huh.

Well, no harm no foul, right?

Not exactly. You see, the difference is that after a theatrical performance, no matter how engrossing it might be, we return instantly to reality. But after a religious performance, no matter how ridiculous it might be, some people continue to believe, and indeed live their lives based on these beliefs.

Now you might think that that sort of lunacy is their business and I'd be willing to agree with you except that many of these religious zealots seem determined to make the rest of us live by their rules--rules found in, to use Gore Vidal's memorable description, "the holy book of a Bronze Age nomadic tribe as re-interpreted by a group of world weary Greeks" 1900 years ago.

So, until the Rapture hits, and takes them to that Great Big Afterparty in the Sky, they want to make sure that we're all living by whatever nonsensical guidelines they can find in 'their' book. And since you can find justification for almost anything in 'their' book, that puts the rest of us, the reasonably sane if you will, at a disadvantage.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Poor Relations

Coming from a Republican politician, other than calling someone a 'liberal', there is no epithet more damning than 'elitist'. Elitists go to Ivy League universities and are usually progressive in their thinking. Elitists are often 'intellectuals' (another bad word!). Elitists don't understand the 'real people', and certainly don't share their 'values'. In fact, elitists treat 'real people' with condescension. Elitists are what is wrong with America. They are the root of all the evils that have befallen us.

With this in mind, I wonder how today's Republicans can reconcile their professed feelings about elitists with what we know about the Founding Fathers?

Thomas Jefferson? Elitist. John Adams? Elitist. George Washington? Elitist. Madison, Mason, Hancock, and even the illegitimate Hamilton? Elitists all. Old Ben Franklin, who was the epitome of a self-made man and contemptuous of aristocrats, still feared the chaos of a mob and believed in a natural aristocracy based on merit. Elitist.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but our nation was founded by a relatively small group of elite men. None of them were saints. Many were tainted by a deep seated devotion and belief in the institution of slavery. But flaws and all, do you really think any of them would have anything but contempt for Palin, Bachmann, Paul, Ryan, Romney, and the rest of those grifters, liars, cranks, and clowns? How far would Sister Sarah's 'you betcha's' get her in a political discussion with Madison? What would happen if either of the Paul's tried to run their Ayn Rand crap by Ben Franklin? And Hamilton would dispose of the 'free marketeers' with a contemptuous laugh. In general, when dummies start talking to extremely smart people, even though it can be very entertaining for awhile, it never ends well for the dummy.

(To be fair, Jefferson might give Newt Gingrich a job as an overseer, depending on how well he could handle a bullwhip. But that doesn't mean that Newty would be welcome at the master's dinner table.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Afterlife

You still here? Me too.


It's not that I was hoping for the Rapture. No, what I was hoping for is that all those goofs who believe in the Rapture would somehow or other be spirited away. Now that would be a miracle. But once again, religion has let us all down...

Admit it, the world would be a much nicer place without them and their superstitious mumbo jumbo. Oh well, maybe next time...

On to more pressing matters. Do you think the Reverend Whatchamacallit would be willing to pay for all the charges I rang up in the expectation that, what with the world ending, I'd never get the bill? I understand he's got about $75 million he's sitting on, and I've got a pretty strong suspicion that it's not all earmarked for feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, so why not send a little my way? After all, it would be the Christian thing to do...

Friday, May 20, 2011

End Times 'R Us

Apparently the world is going to end tomorrow night. Why am I always the last person to hear about these things? What, you didn't think it was important enough to tell me earlier? You didn't want to bother me?

Here I thought we had until 2012 before the big Mayan gong sounded and we're all vaporized. But no, it's tomorrow. On a Saturday, too, just to ruin your weekend...

Word of our impending doom comes from, you guessed it, a crazy old white male Christian. Big surprise there, huh? I'm not going to waste any of my precious time googling his name, but suffice it to say he's made millions of dollars frightening the other hillbillies. "The earth will be rent apart, the righteous dead will rise up to heaven, the unsaved will be thrown into the sulfurous pit and blah blah blah."

The Reverend Whatchamacallit has made this prediction once before, and when it didn't come true then, he blamed some faulty calculations he'd made. This reinforces my belief that we need to do something about Senior Adult education in this country. To give him the benefit of the doubt, reading the entrails of a goat has never been an exact science. However, this time he's gone through the Book of Revelations with a fine tooth comb and an Aramaic to English dictionary, and he's sure of his dates, so I suppose that means I'll be seeing most of you in Hell very soon. You know who you are.

However, before any of the unpleasantness starts, I'm off in search of the best Bordeaux I can find and a well marbled, medium rare ribeye, and yes I do want both sour cream and lots of butter with my baked potato and two scoops of ice cream with my pie, and what the hell, a large, strong Irish coffee to relax with afterwards. Our time is short and precious, but I do have one last word for you--just in case the world does end tomorrow: Don't waste a minute of your remaining few hours seeing the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It is quite simply one of the worst movies I've ever seen and believe me I've seen some bad ones. And you sure don't want to start either the Rapture or Eternal Damnation with that piece of crap being one of your last memories of earth. Millions of dollars, loads of talented people and no one remembered to write a coherent, entertaining story. When Keith Richards has the best line in a movie you know something has gone terribly wrong. And Johnny Depp has wrung every last drop of charm out of Captain Jack Sparrow and it's well past time to put him to rest. But really what difference does any of that make? The world is ending time for rewrites.

Anyway, it's been fun and I hope you get whatever you prayed for...adios.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Modest Proposal

The net worth of the 400 richest Americans is approximately $1.4 TRILLION.

That's a lot of dough.

Since money is the root of all evil, as pious God fearing creatures they should be happy to give up some of it.

(If money really is the root of all evil they should gladly give up all of it, but that might be asking too much.)

More importantly, as patriotic Americans they should welcome the chance to help their beloved homeland in its time of need.

Now I don't want to be called a commie or a Maoist or a socialist...or, God forbid, a liberal!

So, I propose that each of the 400 gets to keep one billion dollars. If they just stuff it in a mattress, that will still allow them to spend $1,000,000 a year for the next 1000 years. Or, if they invest it wisely, a minimum of $40,000,000 a year after taxes. Forever. That should be enough for anyone to live on, don't you think?

If my grade school math is accurate, when you subtract 400 billion from 1.4 trillion you have a trillion left over. That goes to rebuilding our infrastructure, jump starting renewable energy projects, healthcare, retraining unemployed workers, school lunch programs, anything that might benefit the other 300 million of us.

Or we could just give 10 million deserving families $100,000 each to do with what they will. (As you can see, a trillion is a lot of money.)

Remember, the 400 still get to be billionaires, so they should have nothing to complain about.

If this seems like too rash a proposal, I do have one other possible option:

It involves a tumbrel and a guillotine.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Other Things George W. Bush Should Get Credit For

There's been an uproar on the Right ever since Obama whacked Osama. Seems like they think W. should get the lion's share of the credit--not Barack. My favorite argument is the "don't you see, by ignoring him, W. tricked Bin Laden into a false sense of security." Wow, the master strategerist strikes again!

Seriously, why quibble over the death of Osama Bin Laden when there are so many other things Simple W. should get credit for:

Taking a huge budgetary surplus and turning it into an even huger deficit. Because Republicans are so much more fiscally responsible than Democrats.

September 11, 2001. Because he was busy doing other, more important things, and because he thought his people were so much smarter than the Clinton people, he felt free to ignore all of the warning signs. Oops. Then after the horrors of that day, he let a bunch of Bin Laden's relatives fly home from the US because, well, they couldn't possibly know anything about what Osama was up to, right? Besides, they're Saudi's and the Bush family has very close business ties to the Saudi's.

The debacle in Iraq. He ignored the fact that Bin Laden was trapped in Afghanistan and began planning the invasion of Iraq. He repeatedly lied about the justifications for this. And then he wore that bitchin' flight suit and strutted around under that big Mission Accomplished banner. Sweet.

Pissing trillions of dollars away on a war we did not need to fight, while refusing to raise taxes to pay for it.

Legalizing torture.

Allowing John Kerry, a decorated veteran, to be smeared by his supporters, while he, who apparently spent a great deal of time AWOL from a cushy National Guard posting, sat by silently smirking that frat boy smirk of his.

His half-assed response to Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans. Because that's what compassionate conservatism is all about: the appearance of caring, not actually caring.

And last but not least, the financial meltdown of the whole world. The Decider understood that those pesky safeguards and regulations only hobbled the entrepreneurial spirit. He knew in his heart that you just have to have a little faith in Wall Street and the free market and everything will be okay. Besides, big numbers is confusing!

All in all it was a very busy 8 years for Simple W., and we must never forget who should get the credit for everything he wrought.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Eye of Newt

Newt Gingrich, who is considered an "intellectual" in Republican circles, is back! The Great White Hope has thrown his hat into the ring for 2012! This is welcome news for comedians and political satirists everywhere.

Newty, who has made quite a name for himself as a ladies man, hit the ground running, calling Obama, the "most successful food stamp President in American history" and the election of 2012 the "most consequential since 1860," once again proving the old adage that "you can never be too crazy for the GOP base."

Naturally he said these things in the heart of Dixie, where they're still fighting the Civil War and don't cotton to "uppity coloreds". If nothing else, Gingrich knows what bells to ring for his constituency. Of course, the "ya'll crowd" wasn't too happy with the results of the 1860 election, and the fear that Lincoln might begin to curtail the expansion of slavery led directly to a little thing called the Civil War. And as far as food stamps go, I'll take a wild guess and say there are a lot of white Southerners shuffling into their local Piggly Wiggly with a pocket full of that hated "government assistance". But that's OK because limited and/or incorrect knowledge of history and moral hypocrisy are core values for most Republicans, God bless their empty little heads.

Now, I don't want to be accused of not giving a fair hearing to the other side. So what exactly is Newty's plan? Why, cut taxes on the corporations and the wealthy, naturally. Because it worked so well for Simple W. After all, during the Bush the Lesser years, the Clinton budget surplus completely disappeared and the national debt exploded. We need more of that! So let's make W.'s tax cuts permanent and lower the corporate tax rate (which very few corporations ever pay, by the way). While we're at it let's cut the capital gains rate, too. Because rich people shouldn't really have to pay any taxes, should they? Hell no!

The Party of Lincoln has morphed into the Party of Leona Helmsley, who once famously remarked that "only little people pay taxes." Ah those pesky "little people". They need mass transit, and libraries, and good public schools, and affordable health care, and believe it or not, sometimes they even need food stamps. So to hell with the little people! Right? After all, they're just a drag on the America Newt Gingrich dreams of so feverishly....Of course, the trick is getting those "little people" to vote for you before you cut their throats. Fortunately the Republican Party mastered that long ago.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Follow the Money

Most things in life really aren't that complicated. We're born, we live for awhile, and then we die. The seasons follow one another in an orderly fashion. And the rich find ways to stay rich. If that means keeping other folks poor, so be it. Simple.

The reason there are so many "illegals" in Arizona is that a long, long, time ago somebody discovered that they will work for less than we will. They won't demand any benefits either. Demand? Hell, we'll send you back across the border! There are plenty more where you came from. Simple.

So all of these jobs that they are "stealing" from us haven't really been "stolen" by the "illegals" as much as they've been given to the lowest bidder. Simple.

Left to his own devices, without any governmental oversight or regulations, and lacking a moral compass, an employer will always seek out the cheapest labor, whether or not it's "illegal". Simple.

The same theory applies to all of the trans-national corporations that have outsourced millions of American manufacturing jobs over the last 30 years. It has nothing to do with "productivity". American workers are among the most productive in the world. No, the corporations simply discovered that they could pay a whole lot less for labor in India, or China, or wherever. Then they blame those "spoiled" American workers and their "corrupt" unions for "forcing" them overseas. Then they give themselves multi-million dollar bonuses and a pat on the back for being such smart businessmen. Simple.

By the way, the rest of us are lying if we say that we haven't benefited in some way from the cheap labor. But at what cost? Slowly but surely, the middle class disappears. And who do we blame? Not the corporations that sold us out by putting their bottom line ahead of their country's economic health, nor the politicians who enabled them. Not the employers that have profited for years by paying the lowest wages they can get away with, nor the policies that allow them to. No, we blame the "illegals", or the unions, or the liberals. Simple.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday night video

I've been thinking a lot this week about the war on terror and how we've outsourced so much of it to companies that can only be called mercenary, such as Halliburton and especially Blackwater. Thinking about this brought this song to mind over and over, so here it is. Warren Zevon on his last appearance on the David Letterman show doing "Roland the Thompson Gunner."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Condi Says The Darndest Things

Last night I wasted a few irreplaceable minutes watching the despicable Condi Rice dissemble all over poor Lawrence O'Donnell. You almost have to admire the Republicans' ability to stick with their story even when it has been proven again and again to be nothing but lies. And they do it with such primal ferocity that if you hadn't been paying much attention for the last 30 years or so you might believe they were telling the truth.

In case you were lucky enough to miss Ms Rice, here are the highlights: Saddam was a threat to the US and it made perfect sense to attack Iraq. There was nothing for the Bush administration to apologize for. History will vindicate blah, blah, blah.

I'm reminded of something Saul Bellow once said to a famous literary critic, "still peddling the same old horseshit?" I suppose I'm a hopeless dreamer, but once before I die I'd like to hear one of the Bush gang say the following: "Boy, we really fucked that whole thing up, didn't we? Man, what were we thinking? A few thousand Americans killed, many tens of thousands more mutilated either physically or mentally, not to mention a million dead Iraqi's. Cost the US several trillion dollars, too. In fact, no one came out ahead but Halliburton and Blackwater. If only someone--anyone--had taken the time to read those memos about Bin Laden and act on them we could have saved everyone a lot of heartache. Can you ever forgive us?"

Of course the answer to that is a resounding "NO."

For the record, Condoleezza Rice was an abysmal failure as both a national security adviser and as a Secretary of State. That this woman "teaches" at Stanford puts that whole "Harvard of the West" thing in a new light, don't it? Actually I'm kinda surprised that she's not running for President. A resume like that, studded with catastrophic mistakes, should be pure gold with Republican voters.

Nice shoes though.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Better off dead?

For a few days now I've been trying to process how I feel about the death of Osama bin Laden. On the one hand, I feel some satisfaction over the death of the terrorist responsible for changing our country on 9/11. On the other hand, I've been thinking that I would have preferred to see him captured and tried for crimes against humanity, combined with the fact that I refuse to celebrate the death of any human, no matter how vile. Add into that the apparent fact that he was unarmed, thus possibly summarily executed, and it makes me wonder if OBL did not succeed in making us lose an irreplaceable bit of our humanity.

With that said, I want to direct your attention to a blog that sums up what I'm feeling in a rather brilliant manner. It's called The Corner Tavern, written by a Chicago blogger named Dave von Ebers and it saves me about 1500 words. I also want to bring you a video from Bruce off the Live in Barcelona DVD that I find appropriate. Usually I ask you to enjoy the videos, but right now that seems like the wrong thing to say. Instead, I'd like to ask you to just watch and think about it.

A Nation of (F)Laws

Stand back in wonder and amazement as you gaze upon some of the new Arizona state laws that were recently signed by our illustrious governor:

HB 2645: permits a mentally ill person who has been rehabilitated to petition the court to have their right to own a firearm restored. Let's leave aside the question as to what kind of idiot proposes (or signs) such a bill for a second and concentrate on the idea of the "rehabilitated" mentally ill. What do you suppose that means? "Mr. Pearce, we've finally found just the right combination of meds to keep Russ Jr. more or less calm. Now would be a great time to get him a shiny new gun. Just make sure he keeps taking those little pills, OK?"

SB1406: allows the governor to build a fence along the Arizona-Mexico border on private, state or federal property if permitted. I'm guessing somebody has a brother-in-law in the concrete and block business, and times are rough, and gee, wouldn't it be great if we took a few billion dollars of state money and "built the dang fence" ourselves?

SB 1398: eliminates the state photo-enforcement system as July 1, 2012. Because Arizonans are all about obeying laws--except when the law is designed to keep them from driving like crazed tweakers on their way to score. That's where we draw the line. Because stopping people from using the freeways as their own personal racetracks is heavy handed government intrusion on our most cherished freedom: the freedom to be boorish, dangerous, egocentric pigs.

SB 1402: creates 10 special license plates, including the tea party "Don't Tread On Me" plate. They chose to call it that because "Asshole Racist Morons" doesn't fit as well in the allotted space.

SB 1495: authorizes the governor to establish the Arizona State Guard for any reason. Any reason? Now why would Jan Brewer need something like that? I thought Republicans were the small government is best, just leave us alone, folks. The Arizona State Guard? I can't wait to see their uniforms. I'm thinking plumes on the hats, epaulettes, and lots and lots of braided gold piping.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Chicago Way

Over the wall in the middle of the night, one shot to the head, and dump the body in deep water...RIP

Now, that's the Chicago Way.