Monday, April 18, 2011

Do, Re, Mi......

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. I’ve started on several occasions but frankly, as I progressed it dawned on me that I was beginning to sound like a broken record (my son once came to me and asked “Dad? What are those ‘big CDs’ in the boxes out in the garage?). If you are too young to know, records would sometimes get scratched in a way that forced them to repeat a short section, over and over again…,thus the expression, and the reality that you are getting old if you need to explain that.

Anyway, I came upon something that inspired me. It made me ask myself why more people can’t be like the guy I’m going to tell you about and those he worked with. This is not an original idea (at least I don’t think he did it first) but it could be the first time it was done remotely. He talks about how it brought a tear to his eye and I can understand why. Not that I would ever cry over something like this. But I can certainly see how it could happen (wink, wink).

In stark contrast (well, yeah I need to do a little broken record set up for the story), we have Marilyn Davenport, an elected member of the Orange County (CA) Republican Central Committee, insisting she’s not racist after sending a photo shopped picture in an email depicting Barack Obama as a chimpanzee. She says, and I quote, "I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth." Oh yeah, one other thing… along with the photo is the tag line…” Now you know why… no birth certificate”. I’m not going to reprint the photo here. You can Google it if you want to. I will mention that I have blogged about these people associated with the Tea Party (I forgot to mention she’s a Tea Party activist). As I recall I put forward the proposition that these people were ignorant and racist. A lot of people took issue with that. Well, for all of you who did, I present to you Marilyn Davenport, the poster child for ignorance and racism. After you Google her you can read her ridiculously weak apology too.

Some other things I’ve wanted to touch on include the Republican lame ass presentation of ineffectual budget cuts at the expense of just about everyone reading this. I’ve been dying to discuss the fiasco in Wisconsin. I was tempted to touch on an article I read about our way overblown military budget and the fact that the Republicans don’t want to cut any fat there. One thing on that… did you know that a new aircraft carrier is almost completed and due to be launched in 2014? It’s named the Gerald R. Ford. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke doesn’t it? “You steer it to port and it moves to starboard”. It’s no joke. It cost around $15 billion. Then there’s another one that has just been started (not named yet) that is due to be launched in 2020. That one will also cost around $15 billion. That’s $30 billion for two aircraft carriers for a military that is moving towards drone technology. We already have eleven of them! Will we even be using manned jets for combat in 2020? Do we need more aircraft carriers? According to the article we currently spend about the same amount of money on our military as the rest of the world combined! Yeah, that’s right. The rest of the world combined.

OK… so I need to dwell on this just a bit. First, the “Gerald R. Ford”? Really? I think he was a nice guy. I really do. But he didn’t even serve a full term in office. In fact, he wasn’t even elected! He was appointed VP when Spiro Agnew resigned, and then after the demise of “Tricky Dick” Nixon, he became the “Pres”. What the fuck are the criteria for having an aircraft carrier named after you? Have they gone through every dead president and finally HAD to name one the Gerald R. Ford? They name carriers after famous battles, famous historical navel vessels, cities. Gerald Ford? That wasn’t even the guy’s real name! He was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. When his mother left his father she wound up marrying a Gerald R. Ford and they started calling young Leslie Gerald because Leslie senior was an abusive ass hole. So, he was not elected to office, did not serve a full term as VP OR President, and he never in his life had an original name! I’m sure his mother had redeeming qualities but independent creativity apparently wasn’t one of them. Gerald was the butt of many a joke but can you imagine how bad it could have been if his mom had stayed with her first husband? Didn’t anyone see the problem with a person who’s middle and last name were Lynch King?

Anyway, that military budget... We spend about the same amount of money as the rest of the world combined? And we’ve been in Iraq how long? Afghanistan how long? We got our ass kicked in Viet Nam because the Pentagon felt a need to fight with one hand tied behind our backs (at least that is how a Viet Nam veteran described it to me… it was an unpopular war… a political anathema…and I’m sure that had something to do with it). My point is do we really need to spend as much as the rest of the world for the results we’ve been getting? Who’s running this show anyway? We spend as much as the rest of the world and Iraqis are killing us with bombs held together with duct tape and super glue? Something is seriously fucked up with the management of our military.

One last thing on the economy and deficit. There’s an outfit out there called Unity for a Fair Economy. Basically, it’s rich people who aren’t assholes. They believe that richer Americans SHOULD bear a slightly higher tax burden than the average American. I have this argument with some conservative friends on a regular basis but they never get it (can't imagine why). One member of UFE says that he made over 200 grand last year and only paid around 2 grand in taxes. He poses the very valid question of whether or not it’s fair that after deductions he winds up paying around one percent of his income? Of course it isn’t. But your typical conservative will argue that it is. After all, it’s rich people that keep the wheels of our economy turning. Bull shit. It’s the rest of us spending money that do that.

Let me get back on track. That “thing” I was telling you about at the beginning of this post is a project that was put together by a guy named Eric Whitacre. I had never heard of him. He’s a contemporary classical musician and composer. The video I’m going to point you to is rather long by modern “You Tube” standards (about 15 minutes) but it’s well worth the time. What Mr. Whitacre has been doing is putting together “virtual choirs”. You audition by sending him a video of yourself. Another guy (who’s name I don’t remember) does the final editing. The final product is pretty amazing and I strongly encourage you to watch the entire clip. But, that in and of itself, is not my point…

My point is that this work exemplifies why we should NOT be defunding the arts. This project vividly demonstrates what COULD happen if people decided to work together and not in violent opposition to one another. What might the world look like if this type of effort were put into world peace? What might the American economy be like if Republicans and Democrats worked towards a common goal and not two entirely different ones? And finally, do you think Mr. Whitacre is a Republican or a Democrat? I don’t know the answer to that question but I know where I’d lay my money down on a bet.

Here's the link. Do yourself a favor and take the full 15 minutes to enjoy it.


Common Sense

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tragedy of Tragically Turning Tragedy Into Rhetoric

It’s been way too long since I’ve put any thoughts to paper and I guess that, plus the abundance of material, has given me the overwhelming urge to write again. So let’s start talking about the recent tragedy.

First and foremost, my heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those killed or injured in the Tucson shootings. It is a sad reality of life that in a free society, nut jobs are sometimes left to their own devices and those devices turn out to be violent (and senseless). Let’s hope for a speedy and full recovery for those that were injured and that the relatives and close friends of those we have lost find peace. These heinous acts of violence really are an affront to all of us. We need to stand together in solidarity and send a message that this type of violence is condemned.

But of course we won’t. Sit back and ponder how the news surrounding these events has unfolded. Within about a day of the breaking story I began to read intimations that there would be talk of the vitriolic right wing rhetoric being a possible cause of the incident. In most of what I read it was specified that we didn’t KNOW the motive and there was no PROOF that this whacko acted on anything other than his mentally unstable “voices”. The right immediately began to wail that the “left leaning” media was accusing them of instigating the tragedy.

Now wait a minute. Although I’m not crazy about the media even bringing up the possibility that this guy was motivated by anything emanating from the right without evidence, the reporting of the fact that it would be examined is border line news. But what happened next? The right immediately went into heavy defense and counter attack mode. Sarah Palin was one of the first to fire a salvo. She sent out her condolences while stating she abhors violence. She also had her now controversial website, “targeting” those that should be concentrated on during the mid terms with an actual gun sight, taken down pretty quickly. Now, here is where it gets interesting in my mind.

In the face of this horrific event the argument between left and right takes over the story and in some ways actually becomes the story. The grieving families and friends of these victims now not only have to deal with the emotional trauma, but they have to watch as the argument over political rhetoric takes on a life of its own. I think both parties should be ashamed of themselves…. But as usual, the right more than the left. Here’s why.

As stated previously, the initial reaction by the right was really directed more towards innuendo. The first articles I read simply stated that there would be probing into whether or not something coming out of the right gave this guy a push before he pulled the trigger. I didn’t read anything really accusatory until after the snowball started rolling down hill. What I heard immediately following the innuendo was indignation and counter punching from the right. How dare the left accuse them of causing this. Frankly, when I read that I was unaware the left had accused anyone of anything. But, as that snowball continued to roll the left started punching back and transcended the innuendo by pointing fingers. I really think it’s time for everyone to step back and take a deep breath. The right should just shut the fuck up because they don’t have a leg to stand on here. The left needs to back off because they fuel the flames of hate AND lower themselves to the level of the right! Hey, leave the bashing of the right to me and you can keep your noses clean!

Getting back to Sarah Palin. She abhors violence? Really? She hunts doesn’t she? I mean that’s pretty violent isn’t it? And no, I’m not anti hunting, nor am I judging her for being a hunter. Just don’t tell me you abhor violence when you are known to take part in violent activities! Hey, I like a good Clint Eastwood movie as much as the next guy. There are a handful of people out there (let’s assume big hands) that I would likely enjoy kicking the shit out of! But I’m not telling you I abhor violence. Frankly, under certain circumstances, I kind of like violence. So Palin is lying right out of the blocks.

Then there is that asshole Bill O’Reilly. Talk about someone I’d like to kick the shit out of (See? I told you I like violence). This guy’s nose grows every time he opens his mouth. Go to You Tube or Google and do a search of Bill O’Reilly lying. He’s a lying sack of shit. So anyway, he does this over the top, melodramatic castigation of Paul Krugman and a piece Krugman did on the divisive climate we have fostered and the conservative roll in it. O’Reilly has the unmitigated gall to call Krugman a liar! You have got to be kidding me! I think Krugman makes the right really nervous because he’s intelligent, well credentialed, and if the morons in this country ever learn enough English to know what he’s saying the right will be in very deep shit.

Getting back to the point (I had to go off on O’Reilly…. I fucking hate that guy), what the right seems to be missing (and maybe the left too) is that this isn’t really about whether or not right wing rhetoric is what set this guy off. It’s about a fucking lunatic with a gun. But, if you feel a need to bring rhetoric into the argument, it’s about whether or not lying, misleading, vitriolic verbal vomit MIGHT have set this guy off. And if not this guy, the next guy. We already had one act of violence by a fruitcake who said he got his direction from Glenn Beck (another guy I would thoroughly enjoy kicking the shit out of). Is it really that important what sets off this guy or that guy. Not really. What’s important is CAN it set off this guy or that guy. If the answer is yes, THEN STOP DOING IT. It’s the responsible thing to do.

But the GOP stopped being responsible a long time ago. If they were responsible, they wouldn’t fight so hard to keep the Bush Tax Cuts for the very rich. If they were responsible they would have worked with the left to formulate meaningful healthcare reform. If they were responsible they would speak out against the lies that come out of FOX News. If they were responsible they would unilaterally condemn the infantile rants that get hurled at the moronic element of our society by the Limbaughs (yet ANTOTHER guy that would be fun to kick the shit out of) et al. Should I go on? They would target something meaningful as they regain control of Congress and not the health care bill which there is NO chance of them repealing. They would acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the Democrats have accomplished SOMETHING in the last two years. You have to be brain dead to not see things as having improved from when THE MORON left office. They would, at least every once in awhile, sit back and say “mea culpa” (the left might do this a little more often too… the just don’t have as many opportunities).

I could continue but what’s the point. In the wake of multiple deaths and injuries in Tucson, the right is arguing their innocence when frankly, we don’t know if they are innocent or not. Hey, the guy with the gun is the only one we can really point fingers at. But to sit back and say things like gun sights on a map, quotes like I want my constituents “armed and dangerous” (that Michelle Bachman is a hoot isn’t she?), and other like minded analogies are OK, or not potentially dangerous is both ignorant and irresponsible. If just ONE mentally deranged individual goes on a shooting bender because Michelle “I’m so stupid that you can’t believe just how stupid I am until you hear me open my mouth” Bachman says she wants you “armed and dangerous” isn’t that one too many? If there’s ANY chance this Tucson dimwit acted based on rhetoric… any chance at all….shouldn’t that rhetoric be stopped? No? You don’t think so? Well, could you explain that to the families of the victims of this heinous act? I’d be curious to hear your views and I’m sure they would be too.

A final note on gun control. I have owned guns. I do not want the government telling me I no longer have the right to own them if I choose to. But I DO want the government to get off their collective asses and do something about the PROCESS of buying guns. They need to tell the NRA to shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down! I’m not 100% sure what the process is now but from what I understand it hasn’t changed much, if at all, from when I last purchased a gun (and that was probably around 35 years ago). There are federal requirements that are consistent throughout the country and then (and this is where it gets dicey) there are state requirements that vary from state to state. Fuck the states. I don’t want Utah’s maniac driving over to Washington on a political hunting trip. Hell, I don’t want Utah’s (or anyone else’s) maniacs driving over to Washington with a gun period! Not that Washington has any heavy duty gun control going on that I’m aware of. But that’s not the point. Currently the federal requirements are a joke. You fill out a questionnaire that asks you things like “Ever been convicted…? Ever been a psycho….? Ever had the urge to take some target practice in a shopping mall…?” You know, stuff like that. Like I said, it’s a joke.

State control of guns is worthless too unless we are going to start restricting travel across state lines. That’s not going to happen. We are a free country. Besides, we can’t even police our national borders. Forget about states. So the Feds need to step it up and create federally mandated gun control laws that outweigh and outrank anything the states can come up with. If the states want to fight that fine. Let the states have their own standards of gun control but with the caveat that they are going to be required to set up, at their own expense, inspection stations at EVERY point where one of their roads, or a federal road, crosses their border into another state. AND, they will be required, at their own expense, to man a state police “border patrol division” tasked with monitoring the space between those roads. They will be responsible for KEEPING THEIR GUNS IN THEIR OWN STATE. If they don’t want to do that, they will adhere to the federal requirements.

Those federal requirements need to have some teeth. This may take awhile to put into play but it will be well worth it. First and foremost, state and federal criminal data bases will need to be kept up to date and made accessible to any retail outlet that sells firearms. If a name pops up on that database, game over, you can’t buy a gun. Next, to be an accredited mental health facility you will need to enter all patients into a federal data base. Same deal. If your name pops up no sale. But what about privacy issues you cry? How can we allow a mental health patients confidentiality to be compromised? If you don’t want your privacy invaded, DON’T TRY TO BUY A GUN. I also think if we are going to trust you to own a gun, you need to be registered to vote. It’s another point of reference for tracking you AND it at least tells us that you are engaged in the way the country YOU LIVE IN is run.

After you “pass” the screening in the store, your information would be forwarded on to a federal division that investigates your background. Basically the same thing that happens at the store level but more thorough. The store is a “pre-screening” if you will. The federal investigation is the real deal. They would be required to run your name, address, social security number, and whatever other identifying information we can come up with, including aliases, and do everything possible to insure that you are a responsible, law abiding, level headed, reasonably sane adult. Then, and only then, would you be approved for gun ownership. Any retail outlet that tried to screw with this system would immediately lose their license to sell firearms. Selling of firearms at “gun shows” or privately without going through a licensed gun dealer (you go in with your gun, the person who wants to purchase the gun, and they run the check on BOTH OF YOU AND the gun) would immediately become illegal. If a serial number from a gun that YOU were the registered owner for turned up in the hands of someone else and there was no record of theft, YOU would be guilty of a crime.

Yeah, the plan needs work but you know I’m right. If you have nothing to hide, and you aren’t a fucking crack pot, you can’t object to this can you? Hey, I’m Common Sense and so is this! We can stop the argument over the Second Amendment immediately and just implement a process that does everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of those that would use them in ways we don’t want them to. Will it eliminate all of our gun problems. No. Will it radically reduce them? Yes, of course it will.

Now, if we can just do something to radically reduce the maniacal drivel that comes out of the mouths of the moronic conservative segment of our society we may REALLY be onto something.


Common Sense