The Audacity of No

November 21, 2014

The last five years, 10 months and one day, in a nutshell. From my friend, low-life attorney, high priced bookie (or maybe the other way around) Jeff Friedman.  It totally encapsulates the visceral disrespect and hatred of President Obama. Because, well, they can’t really put a finger on it, but it has something to do with the melanin in his skin tone.

“You could see violence,” [Sen. Tom] Coburn continued. “This is a big step, to not work with Congress, now that he’s got a new Congress, to go completely around it.”
Really? Is it a bigger step for a president to not work with Congress than it has been for 53 Senators and roughly 235 Representatives to refuse to work with the President of the United States for the last six years?
Forget about everything else: Just the unmitigated gall of Republican Congressmen, in and of itself, should disqualify them from being taken seriously by anyone with an IQ that’s visible to the naked eye.
Is the party of voter suppression, the unprecedented misuse of the filibuster, and nonstop lying to the public actually accusing someone else of “lawlessness”?
I haven’t been able to watch MSNBC or follow politics at all since November 4th. I don’t know what has sickened me more: the dishonesty of the GOP or the gutlessness and wishy washiness of Democrats.
But I can’t stay silent any longer. Those pea-brained Morlocks are now suggesting that the President of the United States should be subject to a jail sentence for the heinous offense of refusing to break up families by deporting innocent people who have made incalculable contributions to our society??
Speaking of jail, what’s going on with the investigations of Chris Christy, “Yosemite Rick” Perry, Nikki Haley, and the worst of the worst: Scott Walker?
Each and every one of them is a REAL criminal and should be subject to extended periods of incarceration for having committed numerous crimes against the people of their respective states.
But no one ever talks about those felons in waiting. However, the “pro-family values” party is now arguing that the President of the United States should be prosecuted for trying his best to keep millions of innocent families together???
So how do brave, courageous Democrats respond? They decline to bring the President’s Attorney General nominee to the floor for a confirmation vote before the Goons take Congress and instead spend their time and energy on trying to pass the Keystone Pipeline because of a misguided fantasy that passage might help Mary Landrieu retain her senate seat, which it won’t.
Keystone Pipeline? They should call it the Keystone Pipe Dream.
Besides, the latest projections have Sen. Landrieu losing to her Republican opponent by 21 points, and, hell, even Captain Kirk knew that Landrieu was a “projection.”

THE most important thing that ANY president does is his or her appointments of judges and justices. Certainly, the last 14 years have eliminated any possible remaining doubt that judges do whatever the hell they want; the law is whatever they say it is. You can predict the outcome of 90% of appellate lawsuits by merely knowing who the judges are.
The best example was provided by Vince Bugliosi in “The Betrayal of America”:
How many of you believe that the five right wing Supreme Court justices would have stepped in and halted the Florida recount and used the Equal Protection Clause as their theoretical basis to permanently end the recount if Al Gore had been slightly ahead of W. at the time?
I bring this up because, when January rolls around, the new Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be Chuck Grassley, one of the most virulent opponents of the appointments of moderate, much less liberal, judges and justices of any of the crop of senators who are set to take control of the upper chamber in less than two months.
Grassley is SO extreme that he was actively urging other senators to ELIMINATE three open seats from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just so Obama wouldn’t be able to fulfill his constitutional duty of replacing the previous occupiers of those seats.
{To show how malicious, as well as stupid, Grassley is, if he would have gotten his way and eliminated the three vacant seats, the number of judges on that court would have been reduced from 11 to eight, and, last I looked, an even number of judges is somewhat more likely to wind up evenly divided and, therefore, unable to reach a decision by majority vote than an odd number of judges is.]
But Republicans don’t care about trifling details like that just like they have consistently refused to: (1) extend ANY unemployment insurance benefits; (2) raise ANY taxes on the Top 1%; (3) enact ANY increase in the minimum wage; (4) agree to ANY half way reasonable immigration reform bill; (5) pass ANY reasonable gun safety legislation, etc., they have made it clear that they will oppose ANY person that Obama nominates to a judgeship (unless the nominee’s philosophy is somewhere between Clarence the Silent and the late Robert Bork.
Bottom Line: You better get busy, Harry Reid, because, come January, this president will be unable to appoint a single judge or justice to the federal courts.
You see, everyone who has adopted the theory that the entire mess we’re living through is the result of right wing hatred of Barack Obama is grossly mistaken.

 

What is it all about then?
It’s about dishonest, Machiavellian Republicans deciding some time ago that they are going to force this country to be transformed into a far right wish list comprised exclusively of right wing laws administered by right wing appointees.
So when a Democrat is president, Republicans will block everything he or she tries to do that even smacks of moderation, much less liberalism.
Conversely, when a Republican next occupies the White House (and for anyone who doubts that this scenario is a possibility, I have two words for you: Joni Ernst), the game plan will NOT be to enact conservative legislation and appoint conservative judges to the federal bench. It will be to enact extreme right wing legislation and appoint extreme right wing judges and justices.
In other words, exactly what George W. Bush did.
The Founding Father devised a brilliant scheme by which, no matter how extreme one party was when it controlled our government, their fanaticism would be neutralized when the other party took over.
But that concept doesn’t work when Party A obstructs everything that Party B tries to do when it is in power so that, when Party A regains power, they can pick up where they left off the last time they were in control so they can continue to move this country farther and farther to their side of the spectrum until “middle of the road” becomes regarded as “extremism” on the part of Party B.
With all due respect to the Founders, it is easy to understand why they never envisioned that the system their genius created would be as warped and distorted as it has steadily become since 1980.
They might have suspected that one party might some day become as power mad, as dishonest, and as capable of fooling an ignorant, disinterested, cerebraly challenged electorate as the GOP has become.
But they could never have imagined in their wildest nightmares that the opposing party would deteriorate into the spineless group of frightened rabbits that the Democrats have become?”

The prion disease that has infected the far-right since 1980 (really, since 1964) has run full boar since Barack Obama became President.  When you have an entire industry set out to destroy this man simply because they don’t like his name or his skin color or the fact that he won an election and then re-election in convincing fashion both times, and yet everything he has tried to do or accomplish on behalf of the American People has been blocked or filibustered or shot down just to ruin this country or make him look weak, bad or stupid (which he’s not, on any of those accounts), is simply outrageous.

The crazy has become so outrageous that the old bat herself, Phyllis Schlafly, came out of her shoe and said the President’s actions last night were akin to the start of the Civil War:

“Schlafly at first considered comparing the Obama amnesty to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor but decided that Obama’s plan is much more subtle.  “With Pearl Harbor, the American people knew what was happening,” she said.

But Fort Sumter, where the opening shots of the Civil War were fired, represented the beginning of a ruinous conflict, and Schlafly, like fellow conservative luminary Richard Viguerie, speculates that an executive amnesty might touch off a sort of modern-day conflagration.”

This, is of course, beyond the pale, even for a 175-year-old Witch.  But when you have AM radio playing nothing but Rush, Beck, Hannity and the lessers like Michael Weiner and Dennis Miller, you have room for very little else in the tiny faction of grey matter that this well-organized opposition to this man that they hate, then all reason, logic and facts are unpossible.  Like the fact that this (executive action on immigration) was done by their personal lord and savior, Ronald Reagan, in 1986.  Or that the Affordable Care Act was written by Republicans, ran on by Bob Dole in 1996 and Willard Romney first used its template in Massachusetts in 2006, it’s still Obamacare and “socialism.” Which is bull and shit to the nth degree (and they know it).

To wrap this up, do I expect the new Congress to work with this President?  No. They are there for two things and two things only: To impeach and impede Hilary Clinton from winning in 2016.  From the looks of it, they are well on their way to achieving at least one of those goals.

Love Stinks (Part 1)

November 18, 2014

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The above picture is a photo of Peter Wolf, he of the famous J. Geils Band and a personal friend of mine and local legend, Martin “Tino” Gross, front-man, funky daddy (and grandpa now, boy Carol Ilku and I had him pegged 25 years ago) and musical genius who fronts the even more local legendary band the Howling Diablos.

But this isn’t about my love for him, or Geils or Mr. Wolf.  This is about love and loss, something both bands cover very well.  And I know a lot about.  Loving and losing, that is.

A little history here first, back in the 70’s, long before MTV (and Adam Ant, Billy Idol, Duran Duran, the Go-Go’s and Madonna), J. Geils was working the road 320 days a year.  Not unlike James Brown, or Bob Seger, they played everywhere, including the long-gone Cinderella Ballroom here in Detroit that produced “Full House Live,” which is one of the top five “live” records you should have in your collection.  They were loved here in Detroit before “Centerfold” made them famous.

One of their pre-MTV songs was a little song called “Love Stinks.” It was written by Wolf about his breakup with the actress Faye Dunaway.  Well, as we (most) know, love does stink sometimes.

It was about 20 years ago when I first heard the term “Best friend and soul mate.” It was said to me by a woman who a) had no business telling me that, and b) wouldn’t know a friend or a “soul mate,” if they walked up to her and explained it to her.  Her name is unimportant, but it set a pattern for me over then next 10 years would come to define me and ultimately break my spirit when it came to matters of the heart.

She was young and could talk a good game. I recall the one time she said “I love you,” it sent a chill down my spine that made me realize that I was being used.  It turns out she was lying about everything, how she was getting a divorce, how she was going to school, where she was living.  It was all a big lie to achieve what, I have no idea, but she was a wily one.  One night, she came over and threw a bunch of clothes in the laundry, I went to get them out and lo, and behold, was her husband’s clothes.  I threw them back in the dryer and went back to my apartment and asked her about it. She said it must have got mixed up when she brought over her stuff.  I told her to leave when the stuff was out of the dryer.  She did.

So much for that, right? Wrong. She somehow gave out my phone card to a few of her husband’s friends who then proceeded to run up my bill to an amount that even the Koch Brothers wouldn’t pay. Then she told me that she wasn’t getting divorced, had dropped out of school and was going to have a baby with her husband.  That is always the end game, getting what she wanted the way she wanted it.

Little did I know that pattern would repeat itself twice in the decade that followed, each time inflicting more and more pain, hurt and resentment on me that only allows itself to continue to this day.

Whenever I hear that term, “Best friend and soul mate,” I cringe.

As J. Geils so aptly put it…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0LAs7X5ybE

56 Sideways

October 15, 2014

Today is my birthday. I’m 34. For the 22nd time. Not exactly Jack Benny, but I never was a comedian.

Life is ok. Could be better, could be worse. For someone who barely survived my first 56 days, it should be a bit more joyous. But it’s tempered by real life.

At 56, I am in good health overall.

At 56, I am “settled.” Whatever that means.

At 56, I am loved. But not the way I want to be.

At 56, my disability is static. Has been for a long time.

At 56, my story is far from over, but there are chapters that I will never revisit.

At 56, I am still running against the wind, but it’s harder than ever to do that.

At 56, my heart is still broken.

At 56, I am still a cynic.

At 56, I still believe in myself.

At 56, I still have hope. (only to be mocked by Sarah Palin)

At 56, I still feel lucky.

At 56, I don’t care what others think about me.

At 56, friends I had at 20, most are long out of my life.

At 56, I still have my wits and wit.

At 56, I am grateful.

At 56, I am angry.

At 56, I’m still here.

The genesis for the title is taken from the “Up” series of British documentary films started in 1964. It is based on the Jesuits tenant “Show me the child at seven and I’ll show you the man.” They started at age 7 and keep going. Their last installment was last year. I have seen most of them. The people have grown up, gotten married, divorced, re-married, moved, traveled, sworn off drugs, booze and sex. They have even sworn off participating in the series. But every seven years, they come back. Like moths to the flame.

Which brings this Detroiter to the man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF4kKdn5bpc

Robin, Richard and the Fates

August 18, 2014

This was originally going to be written 10 days ago, to commemorate history’s yard waste, but that never happened. (oh, I’ll get to Milhouse, have no fear) Enough has been written about him to make David McCollough jealous. His mere presence, from his ascendancy to fall, has put the Republican Party a Khan-like single-mindedness hell-bent on destroying whoever or whatever they feel like, including themselves, to get revenge. But more on that later.

I was going to write about all that, even last week, but then Robin died. Which in a strange way, ties in with Nixon. Back in 1970, Robert Altman made the most subversive anti-war movie about a war that showed the comedy and pathos and futility of war and life. The movie, M*A*S*H, was set a generation before it, in Korea, except (most) all references to Korea were taken out. Making it the perfect anti-war movie for the war in Vietnam. It made stars out of Donald Southerland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skeritt, Robert Duval, Sally Kellerman and featured the most hilarious football game in cinematic history. But the subplot was the horrors of war and the destruction it brings, both on an emotional and physical scale.

The Unit’s dentist, unable to consummate with a nurse, decides that suicide is the only way out. Played brilliantly by John Schuck, he is both wise and foolish at the same time. In the movie’s most macabre and poignant scene, Schuck’s character, fearful that he might be a homosexual because of his malfunction with a visiting nurse, asks advice on a reliable method. Hawkeye, Trapper and Duke suggest that he use the “black capsule”, a fictitious fast-acting poison. At a farewell banquet that satirizes The Last Supper, Walt takes the capsule (actually a sleeping pill) and falls asleep in a coffin. Hawkeye persuades Lt. Maria Schneider to spend the night with Walt and cure him of his “problem.”

The song used at the beginning of the movie alludes to this subplot. It was written and preformed by Johnny Mandell.

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…
[REFRAIN]:
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it’s too late, and…
[REFRAIN]
The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.
[REFRAIN]
The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
And to another give my seat
For that’s the only painless feat.
[REFRAIN]
The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger…watch it grin, but…
[REFRAIN]
A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied ‘oh why ask me?’
[REFRAIN]
‘Cause suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
…and you can do the same thing if you please.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to both Robin and History’s yard waste. Robin Williams suicide and the reason’s behind it will remain a mystery even to those closest to him. He was an introvert who made us laugh and much like his hero, Jonathon Winters, struggled with depression most of his adult life. I personally think most adults are depressed at some level if you dig deep enough.

There was a movie of his that I had never seen before until yesterday called “World’s Greatest Dad”. It is a story of a father of a lonely teenager who dies while masturbating. Williams makes it look like a suicide and writes a fake suicide note and subsequent book about his son, supposedly taken from his journal. The book becomes a best-seller and Williams is a celebrity, gets the girl of his dreams (sort of) and appears on an Oprah-esque TV show to talk about the book and has offers to make a movie from the book.

His moment of clarity comes at the end of the movie, when he confesses as the school’s library was to be named in his son’s honor. After his faux-girlfriend dumps him and his students abandon him, he runs out of the room and down the hall, stripping himself naked as he runs to the school’s natatorium and jumps off the seven-meter board into the pool. His voice over is heard to say this:

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”

In that way, Nixon was alone too. He never trusted anyone, not even his staff. It was his greatest failing as a President and a man. I was 15 when he resigned from office, a mere teenager finding my way in a world that i’m still trying to figure out 40 years later.

There was one good thing that came out of that summer. ABC had a summer replacement show called “Happy Days,” which starred Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Tom Bosley. It was the summer’s biggest hit, so much so that it was brought back as a permanent show in January, 1975. Three years later, the show introduced us to a far-out character named “Mork” an alien who landed in Milwaukee and took on the Fonz. He appeared on two episodes and were the two highest rated shows of the season. The actor who played this alien? Robin Williams. Garry Marshall, the producer, saw gold in that character and the rest is history. Good history. So, Nixon, a relic of the past, inadvertently gave us a show set in the past but gave us someone so unique and transcendent not even his sudden death will diminish his accomplishments.

In the meantime, Nixon, along with Hoover, keep digging deep in the ninth level. Nixon, I’m sure, keeps asking “If we keep digging, will we get to China?” No, Dick, you’re just making room for Cheney, Bush and the rest of them.

Oh, the eternal question: Whatever happened to Chuck Cunningham?

The Sum of Our Decsions

August 1, 2014

Yesterday, for the first time in history, Congress sued the President of the United States.

Take in those words carefully. Congress sued the President. Of the United States. Of America.

This is what happens when you have half the country freaked out about a man, dutifully elected twice by very comfortable margins both times (which can’t be said about the guy before him) in both the popular and electoral vote.

This is what happens when you have a President who takes an idea generated by conservatives and passes it into law and then said conservatives start calling it Obamacare. And screaming about “Death Panel’s” and “socialized medicine.”

This is what happens when one side blocks everything this President tries to accomplish. When the world is turned upside down and they start questioning where he was born and the anti-colonial views of his father and grandfather. (Just for the record, Kenya in 1961, was still a British colony)

This is what happens when those who are opposed to the 44th President of the United States compare him to Hitler and Stalin and start calling him a “dictator” or a “tyrant.”

This is what happens when 22% of voters in 2010 vote in the worst Congress in the history of the Republic and then state their number one priority is to make this President a one-term President.

This is what happens when you have a TV “network” devoted entirely to promoting one side of the narrative and cheers when a Democratic member of Congress is shot in 2011.

This is what happens when you allow hate and disrespect in the guise of “free speech.”

This is what happens when you have a son of privilege and wealth, who implemented the same health care system while Governor of Massachusetts, run away from that singular accomplishment while running against this President in 2012.

This is what happens when you have a rigged electoral system whereas Democratic candidates for Congress received almost five million more votes in 2012, but due to gerrymandering following the harry knipshit fit the 22% threw in 2010, the House stayed in Republican control.

This is what happens when the Affordable Care Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, but states are given a choice to opt-out. This is what happens when Congress has a temper tantrum and shuts down the Government over said law being upheld and voting to overturn it 50-plus times.

This is what happens when, over the course of 40 years, our liberties have been slowly eroded, when a college drop-out and failed public relations gofer for the Kansas City Royals becomes a voice for conservative America and a dullard of a man is elected President and begins the attack on unions and poor people by demonizing them as “welfare queens,” or Medicaid abusers.”

This is what happens when we impeached a President over a sexual act (which has nothing to do with “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”) and had a Supreme Court stop a recount of an election, appointing a man ill-prepared for the office.

This what what happens when, in 2008, in a desperate attempt to change the game, the nominee of the Republican Party picks a woman who was never vetted properly or could keep her story straight. Yet today, she is calling for the impeachment of the President. Along with several others.

This is what happens when members of Congress call the President a “tar baby,” scream out “you lie” while giving a speech before a joint session of Congress and who question his legitimacy. Where he is called a coward and a disciple of Saul Alinsky, (who either fixed the 1919 World Series or co-wrote “Do the Loco-Motion”) and Bill Ayres, a 60’s radical who’s now retired from the University of Chicago.

This is what happens when the Speaker of The House proclaims to judge us not by the laws we pass, but how many we stop. In the meantime, our infrastructure is crumbling and nothing gets done.

This is the sum of our decisions. When will we ever make the correct ones?

Celebrating Something

July 6, 2014

A collection of quotes about America at 238:

We start out with the original:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” – Thomas Jefferson, et. al. July 4, 1776.

And perhaps the greatest rebuke of that, some 180 years later:

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” Martin Luther King, August 29, 1963.

And this, from a fictional News Anchor:

” And yeah, you… sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is: There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite?
Will McAvoy: [pause] We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
Will McAvoy: [to moderator] Enough?  – Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom,” HBO.

Another quote, from another fictional character:

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”. I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she’s to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, ’cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.

[pauses]

I’ve loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer, and I lost the other ’cause I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now. Tomorrow morning, the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It’s White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming. The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I’m throwing it out. I’m throwing it out writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns. We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I *am* the President.” Michael Douglas, “The American President, 1995.

Now, for some real people, including me…

“238 years later, that document and the one written 12 years later, both are fraying at the edges. I have an ancestor who has his name on that Declaration and he, along with Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Hancock, would be appalled at the bastardization of their words. Our favorite craft company took out full-page ads in most major newspapers today, extolling the words of the Founders. Actually it was more like distorting.

I’m sure the Sovereign Citizens, (aren’t we all “sovereign” to this nation?) Tea Party and the “real” people behind the scenes are crowing about this, but I think their time is just about up. For those who scream about wanting “their” country back are increasingly becoming more aware that narrative won’t work as long as those in the course of human events see these people as nothing more than armchair patriots who purport to love a country that sees right through their righteous indignation for nothing more than a knee-jerk, childish reaction to the continual evolution and changes they don’t like. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the arc of history is long and bends invariably towards justice.” But, as we have seen, justice takes some disconcerting twists and turns, none more since December of 2000 and culminating with the decisions made by the five men cabal masquerading as Supreme Court Justices.

The pursuit still continues. No one said it would be easy and we are still trying to get a “more perfect Union.” We have come to this crossroads and neither way looks smooth, but if we don’t try, surely we will become a new version of Yugoslavia.” July 4th, 2014, The Esquire Blog, with Charles P. Pierce.

“True patriotism isn’t simply about securing our borders from outsiders. It’s about coming together for the common good. True patriotism requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going, not finding tax loopholes and squirreling money abroad. It’s about preserving and protecting our democracy, not inundating it with big money or paralyzing it with partisanship. True patriots don’t hate the government of the United States. They’re proud of it. Generations of Americans have risked their lives to preserve it. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve the government, not destroy it. And they don’t pander to divisiveness; they don’t fuel racist or religious or ethnic divides; they aren’t homophobic or sexist. To the contrary: True patriots seek to confirm and strengthen the “we” in “we the people of the United States.” – Robert Reich, former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, July 4, 2014. (Thanks Linda Andress for posting this)

” We live in a time in America where an entire political party – a whole political movement – believes that “freedom” is for those who can afford it but have the freedom to not pay a fair tax on their income or wealth. But that same movement does not think the same kind of freedom is for those who are poor or hungry or sick or old or infirm or without a job.

They believe freedom is for those who walk down the street with a loaded gun but not for those who walk down the street armed only with a bag of candy.

They believe that freedom is for those who demand all war all the time but not for those who shout “Enough!” because we have no right to march around the world imposing our will on the unwilling.

They believe that freedom is for those who have a “traditional” family and attend the correct church but not for those who want to spend their life with someone who has all of the same sexy parts, or who not only do not attend the correct church but don’t attend any house of worship because they can’t accept the notion of relying on an imaginary friend in the sky.

They have distorted and perverted the meaning of freedom, using it because they want to exclude many rather than include all. Until that changes, none of us will be free and nothing will really be self-evident.” Charley James, The Politics Blog, Esquire, July 4, 2014.

And last, but not least, the sage of the Plains, Barry Friedman, with the last words on this:

“There is a narrative problem in this country, especially on holidays such as this. Those on the Right see a country unrecognizable to the rest of us; it celebrates a memory, a hyperbole really. To them, the United States is full of tough, gruff men in boots and well-behaved women with retarded libidos–the men screaming about freedom, the women nodding reassuringly. The Right doesn’t acknowledge a government that built roads and schools and lifted a generation of seniors out of poverty and prevented little children from dying from mad cow disease at Steak and Shake because some bureaucrat found bad meat. The Right defines itself (and its schema for America) by Allen West, not Alan Grayson; Sarah Palin, not Sarah Silverman. All religions are welcome, they will tell you (well, maybe not all), but all except Christians are guests and should stay off the good furniture and not make a fuss if there’s a manger at City Hall. They talk of American greatness and freedom and vision and offer up Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A and guns and fat ranchers and Gadsden flags. Ben Carson, a black man, is invited to speak at their conventions, so why are we still bitching about equality?

All is good. Move on.

To win the future–hell, to have one–we not only have to beat back the worst instincts of those yelping incessantly in bumper-sticker sophistication that we are increasingly told to be proud of–entitled racism, sexism, elitism, jingoism, religious certainty–we also have to take back the story and the country we remember.” – July 4, 2014.

 

 

Sterling’s True Character

April 29, 2014

From all accounts, Donald T. Sterling is a vile man.  He is a man of avarice and greed, of prejudice and rigging the system in his favor.  He has prevented blacks, the elderly, disabled, Mexicans and others from moving into his vast holdings of apartments in Southern California.  He also owns a basketball team, famous for its ineptitude and penny-pinching ways, even though Sterling is a billionaire several times over.

This isn’t about Sterling or the reaction of what he said or didn’t say to his ex-“girlfriend.”  It is still more about where we are as a society and if we are ever to move past racism. It is the Original Sin of America, a boil that has never been lanced, a wound never allowed to heal.

I could give a shit less about Sterling or his views.  Or whether Magic Johnson is HIV-positive.  Or the NBA for that matter.  This isn’t about them and the majority of players who are African-American who play in the “Association.” It is about race.  Sterling brought the Clippers in 1983 and moved them to Los Angeles in 1984 without permission using the Al Davis excuse.   Which goes something along the lines of “It’s my team and I’ll move them anywhere I want.”

See this is the lesson that we never learn. Rich and powerful people think the rules of society don’t apply to them.  That they, because of their status or pocketbook, can say and do whatever they want and get away with it because “hey, I’m Chevy Chase. And you’re not.”

Now, 40 years ago, that was a funny line.  Today, it applies to anyone who is “famous” or a “celebrity.” People who are on TV or in a movie or own a sports team get treated like they come out of the book of Jewish Fairy Tales, well, because they have the looks or the wealth to do things that others, if they tried it, would fail and miserably in the attempt.

Sterling is just the latest in a long line of owners who were racist. Walter O. Briggs once said “No (black) player will ever play for the Detroit Tigers as long as I’m owner.” In the 1950’s. It wasn’t until after Briggs died the Tigers brought in their first black player, the second-to-last team to do so.  Charles Broffman was once asked why he brought the Montreal Expos. His response, “I was tired of being an anonymous millionaire.”

It doesn’t matter anymore that this tape of Sterling making the remarks he did was obtained by Harvey Levin, the liberal’s answer to Bernie Goldberg.  Or that our national blowhard Rush, has weighed in.  Or Roger Murdoch, who’s a pilot. Or that Sterling once employed him under an assumed name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Actually Kareem made some good points in his article for Time magazine (http://time.com/79590/donald-sterling-kareem-abdul-jabbar-racism/) and on Rachel Maddow’s program last night.  Ex Clippers GM Elgin Baylor has had a lawsuit going against this man for five years and through wranglings and delays, somehow the message that this guy isn’t a very nice man who treats his employees fairly got lost because well, his team, until recently, has stunk.

But just to prove the old adage that even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time, the Clippers are actually good. Better than their more famous counterparts in the City of Angels, the Lakers (who somehow managed a worse record than the woebegone Pistons this season) and are currently playing the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.  Now, winning and advancing seems rather unimportant  in lieu of recent events.  In reality, Sterling never cared about winning or having an environment conducive to winning.

If this had been said a few years ago, when the team was a perpetual lottery pick, then it might have gone unnoticed.  But in this age where everyone is a “journalist,” with a smartphone and nothing is private anymore, anything and everything will be used against you in the court of public opinion.  But if you dig a bit deeper, you find that this man has always been this way, a member of the “Big Club,” as Carlin once said, “and you and I ain’t in it.”

Like Fishing in a Dry Lake

April 19, 2014

In my four years on this blog (partially inspired by a then-unemployed friend doing the same at 3 AM), I have written about things that I have experienced, my political views, a few sports related posts, my family and what is like to be a middle-aged man facing the future, changes, and the undiscovered country. I have even picked up a few fans along the way and drawn inspiration from other bloggers, like the rude pundit, drift glass, Charles Pierce, Daily Kos, Rachel Colyer and the wonderfully funny, sometimes annoying (especially with his Friday Lists’ on Facebook), but always enlightening Friedman of the Plains, Barry Friedman.

In my 35 plus years of writing, sometimes even for money, I have seen our country go from being the best educated to behind countries that didn’t exist when I graduated high school.  I have seen people come and go – in and out of my life – and loved a lot of them.  I have been accepted, rejected, mocked, threatened, accused, duped, dumped, blackballed, evicted, homeless, hurt, traveled the world, been lied to, about and betrayed.

And you know what I’ve finally figured out?  That life, for me, is like fishing in a dry lake.  I could have fought it, but with age, I have learned to accept that there are things I can change and things I can’t. Some people call it serenity.  Well, I’m not serene, that’s for sure.  I am still fighting, still struggling to figure out my place in this world and why I am still here while other, more deserving people aren’t.

Fishing in a dry lake.  Sounds like a lyric from “Honky Cat”, by Elton John.  “Like trying to find gold in a silver mine/like trying to drink whiskey from a bottle of wine.” Or maybe the lost first line from “Maragritaville”. “Fishing in a dry lake/watching the sun bake.” Either way it works.  But what does it mean to me?

A lot of things.

It means we are headed towards a barren future if we don’t put aside our differences and work together.  It means that  we are heading the same direction as the former Yugoslavia.  Torn apart not from the outside, but from within.  It means that I have as much a chance of growing old gracefully as does most of my generation.

My adult life, I have never “earned” more than $12,000.  I once worked three jobs and got paid for just two of them.  I worked at a high-end restaurant that was owned by a friend and he “shafted” me, too.  I have gone through so many state programs and the only “job” I got out of that was a “store greeter” position and once the manager got transferred, I was suddenly “not on the schedule” and supposedly was to transfer to another store, closer to where I was living at the time.  Three months later, I finally found out I was fired, only after calling the corporate office.  I once worked at a movie theater and a substitute teacher.

I gave up a long time ago on the “American Dream”.  Or any kind of dream for that matter.  I hold no illusions or delusions anymore.  No one, except those who’ve known me a long time, have any idea what my life is like.  Heck, I just got “threatened” the other day – a joke really, which is why I won’t repeat it, but to think I wasted 12 years of my life on this person, well, another case of fishing in a dry lake.  I somehow survived the worst winter in my life and I’m still here.

Years ago, someone gave me a piece of paper. It was called “My autobiography in five short chapters.” The first three dealing with falling in holes.  Well, I’ve fallen in those holes and survived.  The fourth hole deals with walking around it and the 5th simply states “Chapter 5. I walk down a different street.” I think we all reach that point in our lives. Here’s the complete version:  http://www.dwlz.com/Motivation/tips26.html

In the past six months,  I’ve lost two friends near and dear to me and I just found out another one died today.  There comes a point in one’s life when you realize that all you have is your wits and will.  I still have my wits, but my will comes and goes.  Some days are better than others. Making changes in middle life isn’t easy, but sometimes, they have to be made.  I think it’s time to try a different lake.

What I’ve Learned.

March 18, 2014

(Disclaimer: “What I learned” is a regular feature in Esquire magazine. Since it is highly unlikely I will ever be asked to do one for them, I’ve decided to do one for myself).

Kent Anderson, 55, Sterling Heights, Michigan. Writer, part-time athlete.

I’ve been all around the world, but Detroit is my home.

I don’t like liars or people who lie about me, lie to me or lie to others about me.

I don’t like cowards either.

I don’t remember much about my childhood, but what I do remember is crying a lot. And being laughed at. I hated wearing braces and I hated being teased.  Today, it would be called bullying.

I don’t remember doing much with my family.  The last thing I remember doing with my parents before they got divorced was them driving me out to Jamestown, North Dakota to go to boarding school. I don’t remember crying so much until I was 40.

I have been called every name in the book. They might have started a whole new chapter based on me.

People are mean. They are nice to your face, but then they back-stab you the first chance they get. Cue the O’Jays.

Once they point the finger at you, that’s it.  In their minds, that’s what you are.

Forgive and forget are not in my DNA. I don’t forget and will never forgive. Maybe on my deathbed.

Starting something is easier than finishing it.

I don’t remember much of my childhood before Jamestown.  But I do remember my grandmother.  My mother will be pleased.

My dad didn’t teach me much, but he taught me honesty and loyalty.

I was at a bar once and as I paid for my drink, a woman said to me “what a poor man.” I started to confront her about it and her husband jumped in and said “she didn’t say it.” But she did.

Whoever said “50 is the new 30,” lied.

Whoever coined the term “Best friend and soul mate” is full of it.

The friends you make between the ages of 15-30 are the most loyal.  Everything else is a crap shoot.

The people who have had the most influence on me, both living and dead, good and bad, are long out of my life.

If I had a do-over, I would never have gone to Wisconsin in 1998, let alone moved there.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a case of being used for one’s income, but that’s me.

If it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t have made it through the aftermath of that decision.

My grandfather lived to be 94.  I hope I don’t live that long. I never want to be a burden. To anyone. Whether they love me or not.

If you call me a moocher or taker, then we have a problem.  Try “living” on what I get a month. You couldn’t. Trust me.

If I could have on more day with anyone, I would pick my grandmother, who died shortly before I was 10, my dog Brutus, and a girl I knew from North Dakota who died before she was 30.

My cousin Tom died of an overdose in 2002.  I still have a problem with that.

My distaste for religion doesn’t mean I don’t have morals or a code that I follow.  Watch “The Big Kahuna.” It’s on Netflix.

Sometimes the most profound things come from the least expected places.

Johnny Carson.

George Carlin.

Richard Pryor.

Rodney.

The end.

 

This Relentless Winter

February 26, 2014

“This is the winter of our discontent.”  John Steinbeck, 1961.

When I was a child, winter’s sucked.  I remember wanting to go out in the snow and once I got out there, wanting to go back inside.  I have never liked the cold.  But I have always lived in the cold.  In the 60’s and 70’s the Michigan Licence Plates always had “Water Winter Wonderland” on them.  I always found that rather different, bMichiganut then my childhood was different.

But this isn’t about that.  It’s about THIS winter. A brutal, brutish, unrelenting stream of polar vortex’s and snow unlike any in my memory. The New Years’ Day Blizzard in 1966, the December blizzard in 1974, the Ice Storm in 1978, those are events that you remember, but this winter is the most singular because it has affected everything and every one of us in North America.

From the drought in California to the Great Lakes nearly frozen over for the first time in 35 years, this winter has been one for the record books.  The expected high today (Wednesday, Feb. 26) is 16, tomorrow, 14.  (-12 C) Tomorrow night’s low is supposed to be -8 (-22 C). The normal high this time of year is supposed to be 40 (5 C).

People can’t get rock salt.  It doesn’t work in these temperatures anyhow.  They have started advising people to buy kitty litter and sand.  It is like “Doomsday Preppers”, except with the weather.  Weird stuff.  Except now, we’re all in it.

Back in December, I went to California for nearly two weeks.  When I came home, it was your typical December weather. Right after Christmas it warmed up to about 50 degrees.  I went out for lunch with a friend on the 28th. Little did I know it would be almost 40 days until I left the house again.  The last day I was out? Feb. 8, when I went to see my Doctor.  I’m supposed to go out tomorrow.  We’ll see.

I went nearly half-a-month (12 days) without mail.  The snow began to fall. Five inches, then 7, then 11. Snow up to my door. Wind-chill factor’s -20, 30 below zero. We are close to 79 inches of snow.  The record is 93.3, set in 1880-81, the year that Benjamin Harrison was elected and sworn in as President and my great-grandmother hadn’t even been born yet.

Of course, the Right-wing nut jobs have come out in full force on this. Jobba the Rush said “There’s (chomp) no such (chomp, chomp) thing as a polar vortex.” And Al Rocker pulled out his college textbook to tell Flush to “Stuff it!!!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5k4Xz65zjU

My brother got caught in it and he lives in Alabama.  He had to go pick up his daughter (my youngest niece) from school.  Because they don’t plan for these kind of storms, the state was ill-equipped to deal with the storm that blew through the Birmingham area last month.  He ended up driving four-and-a-half hours with what is normally a 15-minute drive.  Ended up spending the night at the school.  The school didn’t let anyone out until 10 Am the next day.  Even then, it was a two-and-a-half hour ride home.

Climate change is not the same as weather.  Climate change affects the weather. This polar vortex will eventually recede and spring will come. When? Well, that’s the $64,000 question.

The winter has affected my mood.  I have lost weight.  I have slept a lot. I am tired. Not just physically tired either. Emotionally, psychology tired. I have tried to keep a sense of humor about it, but it is hard.  The days all seem the same.  Even the Olympics got boring after a while. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I have a friend who says I should have stayed in California. I told him, send me $3000 and I’ll be on the next plane out.

Right now, the sun is out at 10 am.  It is, according to the weather app on my phone, six degrees outside.  (Wind chill -4) There was a time, not that long ago, that weather wouldn’t stop me. I had places to go, classes to attend, interviews, deadlines, dates, games to attend and cover.  Not even snow could stop me.

“The Winter of Our Discontent” was Steinbeck’s last novel.  It’s protagonist, Ethan, is a man obsessed with getting his good name back after his father lost the family store.  He becomes borderline paranoid and seeks revenge against those whom he sees wronged his family. The bank, the community, the man who brought the store at auction from the bank at pennies on the dollar.  Ethan is out looking to restore his family’s good name and his father’s honor. He suspects the store’s owner is an illegal immigrant and reports it.  After reclaiming the store and acquiring land needed to build an airport through less-than-honest means, the pressure gets to be to much for him after his friend’s “accidental” death, drive him to the brink, only to be saved by his daughter.

Ethan gets saved by his daughter.  His “winter” is more psychological than a real winter.  This is a real winter for many  of us. People have died because of this winter.  Winter usually comes in like the tides.  The ebb and the flow. The sustained nastiness of this winter is the wrath of Mother Nature and the first warning shot for human beings to clean up our act.

 

 


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