"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?" -- Steve Gilliard, 1964 - 2007
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Whither B@B?
Posted by Jill | 10:45 PM
Kind Readers,

July 31, 2014 marks the decaversary of B@B. When I first started this blog, I'd been writing movie reviews for six years already, and by 2005 I'd given up on movies and this blog became my primary writing outlet. My novel-in-progress became moribund, and for the next three years I waited for the other shoe to drop, which it did in 2008 when I was laid off from my job.

B@B kept me sane during the second half of the Bush years and the early part of the Obama years. For a long time, the rants just flowed like water. After my layoff in August 2008 (barely a month before the shit hit the fan in the US economy), I was lucky enough to land a new job for which I was only marginally qualified barely a month later. It was like those scenes in an adventure movie where the guy slithers under the door just before it closes, thereby escaping certain death -- or worse. Not only didn't I take a pay cut, but with the accumulated vacation time I'd been hoarding since 2005 when I survived the first layoff, I actually made money on the deal. But for the first time since really 1993, I had a job where I actually had work to do -- a lot of it. In fact, I've been working 50-80 hours a week for nearly six years now. This would have made it difficult to keep up a blog even without my mother's illness in September 2012 and death in December of that year, followed barely three months later by Mr. Brilliant's cancer diagnosis and all that followed thereafter.

The truth is, I've been pretty much either working or exhausted since September of 2008. Let's not even TALK about the brain fog, the desperate need for sleep, and the grief attacks that hit without warning just when I'm convinced I'm doing OK, feel like someone hit me in the back of the head with a 2 x 4, and make me feel so wrung out afterward that I need a nap.

It's not that I'm curled up in a fetal position in the corner. On the contrary, I go out with friends, I've made a few new ones through a widows' social group I joined, and I've even ventured out solo to my local neighborhood watering hole for one of the county's best burgers. There's a hole in my life that's always going to be there, but as one of my new "widder" friends has said, "It's OK. It's a sucky kind of OK, but it's OK."

In 2005, I wrote my last movie review. It was for a Jet Li movie called Unleashed. And I realized after writing the review that it just really wasn't fun anymore. For seven years I'd gone to the movies every weekend, sometimes (rarely) with Mr. B., sometimes with my longtime movie critic buddy Gabriel, often alone, where I'd sit like a wannabe Roger Ebert, with my little notepad and pen, taking notes as if I were writing for the New York Times instead of for a little web site that, well, actually, got more pageviews than this blog ever did. In those days, Film Criticism(TM) was still somewhat of an art form, or at least we fancied it was so. And for a while I was a member of the Online Film Critics Society, which got me goodies like screeners, and later on Gabriel and I, along with a few others who'd become tired of all Teh Crazy that was going on at OFCS at the time, started Cinemarati, which was notable primarily for its very lively messageboard and our annual film awards, which even got a bit of press coverage. It was heady stuff, and we had delusions of being Real Film Critics for a while.

It was Gabriel who encouraged me to start a blog. We used to do a series called "Critics Over Coffee", where we'd record our conversation after a movie and transcribe the discussion. It was a lot easier than actual writing, and we did more of these as our sojourn as film critics waned. It was clear that no one was ever going to pay us to write movie reviews (although I did a short stint at a short-lived NJ-based magazine called "That's Life", published by a slick-talking power-wash businessman and aspiring filmmaker in northern New Jersey), and our discussions started being more oriented towards other things like politics and pop culture -- but mostly politics. It was 2004, and George W. Bush was running for re-election, the horrors of his administration already clear. Blogging was The New Thing then, for all that some people had already been at it for a while -- people like Kos and Atrios and a few others, who because they were early adopters, managed to make careers out of their blogs and then promptly pulled up the ladder behind them. Oh, there were exceptions, like the late "Jon Swift" (Al Weisel), who founded Blogroll Amnesty Day, which we honor here as often as we can. But by and large, the Big Name Bloggers sucked up all the oxygen in the room, and we little folks just never really caught on.

Oh, for a while I thought I too might make a career out of blogging, especially during my layoff, when I interviewed for a writer/editor job at a still-extant lefty online publication -- a job that was later filled in-house. But of course then Facebook became more than just a haven for college kids, and Twitter started, and long-form blogging, especially of the political sort, became the province of these Big Name Bloggers who had gotten there first.

But we persevered. I brought in a few people whose work I admired -- Tata, and the late Bob Rixon, and Melina, and the intrepid jurassicpork, who's been pretty much keeping the fires burning here for the last year almost single-handedly. I brought in these associates because I knew that content was king, and if you don't get paid, it becomes all about the eyeballs and the feedback. But of course then life intervened, and I got this job that I had to learn from the ground up, and I really have not stopped in six years.

So here I am, on July 31, 2014 -- exactly ten years after I started B@B. My life is very different now. Ten years ago I had a lot more energy at 49 than I do now at 59. Ten years ago Mr. B. was still very much alive and pretty healthy for a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker. He'd taken up Shaolin kung-fu the year before, and was feeling pretty good for a middle-aged guy, as he called himself. Ten years ago my mother was still driving me crazy, our cats Jenny and Maggie were 5 and 3 years old respectively, and I was working twenty minutes from home on bucolic back roads. Now, Mr. B. is gone, my mother is gone, Jenny and Maggie are both gone. The only things left from ten years ago are me, my house, and my friends. And all those losses took place in the space of 13 months. It amazes me sometimes that I'm still standing.

I did lose something else during the last six years. I lost me. I lost the person who liked to putter around the house. The person who did counted cross stitch. The person who met six other women back in 1998 and wrote sequels to "Titanic" that adult women would want to read -- and then spun off characters into a novel she has still never completed. The person who could dash off a blog entry every day. I used to be a creative person. But I've lost that, and I need to get that back now. Writing sustained me during bad times before, and right now it's just not there. The reality is this: I really don't want to write about politics anymore -- at least not for a while. It's become just tiresome. I thought back in 2004 that it could not get any worse than the Bush years and the Swift Boat Liars and Iraq and Dick Cheney and Halliburton and snowflake babies. Venting on this blog kept me sane. But what is there to say about Louie Gohmert and Todd Akin and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and the Tea Party and the rest of the GOP Klown Kar that makes the Bush years seem like "Pleasantville" by comparison? What is there to say about this kind of destructive, toxic craziness that won't leave me also feeling like I've been hit in the back of the head with a 2 x 4? What is there to say that isn't belaboring the obvious? We live in a nation of willfully ignorant people who are inattentive at best, and malevolent at worst. What's the point of yelling into this echo chamber that has changed no one's mind?

Right now my focus is on two things -- getting my house in shape and getting ready to retire. I've been so frenetically busy for the last six years that I have no idea if I'll even LIKE being retired. Re-tired -- getting tired all over again. Maybe that's what it'll be. But there is one thing I do know, and that is that part of this new life I have to build is to find ME again. I've lost me -- lost me mostly in work that I needed to have to pay the mortgage and later on, the health insurance without which I'd be working until they take me out of the office in a box. But mostly I'm tired -- exhausted, actually. And I can't pretend that I can really do this anymore.

So...what comes next? I really have no idea. B@B isn't going to go away. I may even write here at times. But if I couldn't get it together to journal the last year as I wanted to, I sure as hell don't think I'm in any hurry to rant about impeachment. I think sometimes it's time to start fresh -- to start "Still Brilliant at Breakfast" or "Either These Drapes Go Or I Do" or some other quote attributed to Oscar Wilde, and blog about home improvements and recipes and photoblogging, as Tata has suggested and which she does so brilliantly over at her place. I wouldn't be the first one to go this route. Even Big Name Bloggers like Pam Spaulding and Christy Hardin Smith, both of whom have had major health issues, hung it up recently. Pam still dips her toes into the political waters, but closed up the House Blend and now prefers to blog about Journey and pit bulls. Christy, late of Firedoglake, has battled breast cancer and now blogs about everyday life -- something that feels different if you've faced death yourself or watched the life leave the person with whom you've spent thirty years of your own. That these bloggers are both women may be significant, or it may not. I don't know.

Kind readers, I know that there are not a lot of you left. And whatever I decide to do, I'm leaving this blog up. In fact, one thing on my bucket list is to compile a "Best of B@B" anthology and self-publish it. But right now I know only one thing: It's been one crazy, fucked-up decade. And I need a nap.
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Saturday, June 28, 2014

"For Me, Not For Thee"
"Hey, kid, c'mere. Aren't you glad your mother didn't have you yanked with a coathanger?"
      In the midst of this past week, with the fundraising drive to mitigate our financial circumstances, getting my three ebooks ready for the relaunch, the interview, editing Tatterdemalion, and attending to thousands of details that make up modern life, I neglected to write about the one big story that directly affected my adopted state of Massachusetts. Actually, there were two, the other being Gov Deval Patrick signing into law a bill raising the minimum wage to $11 ph by 2017, which would be the highest in the nation.
     But this is about the Supreme Court's recent 9-0 decision to essentially evaporate the 35 foot buffer zone around family planning centers in Massachusetts that were created seven years ago, giving evangelical bozos unrestricted access to women seeking family planning services. What makes this ruling even more depressing is that the so-called liberals on the court, including the three women that make up a third of the High Court, sided with the reliably right wing nut jobs in this issue.
     This is the same judicial body, don't forget, that 20 years ago had supported buffer zones around abortion clinics. In fact,
Buffer zones exist in numerous states — the newest, in New Hampshire, takes effect next month and specifies a 25-foot zone — and have often been controversial. Others also have made their way to the Supreme Court. In 1994, the justices upheld a buffer zone for abortion clinics in Florida. Three years later, they upheld a 15-foot buffer zone around the entrances of abortion facilities in New York state but struck a 15-foot floating zone.
     This is the same court that was led by William Rehnquist, don't forget, and had on its bench Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy. But having all nine justices agree that the Massachusetts buffer zone that had somewhat protected women from right wing harassment violated the First Amendment (even if they were split as to how) is a huge disappointment.
     It ought to be noted the SCOTUS benefits from a rigidly enforced 300 foot buffer zone protecting them from the distant din of protesters of both political stripes, which is perfectly in keeping of right wingers and One Percenters who have no problem not living under the same rules as the rest of us.
A yellow line is painted on the sidewalk and pavement surrounding Planned Parenthood Clinics at 1055 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Jan. 15, 2014.
     It appears as if all nine justices, especially the five right wingers, need a refresher course as to what free speech really means. Thirteen years before the buffer zones were erected, an anti abortion lunatic named John Salvi (who later committed suicide in prison) shot to death 22 year-old Shannon Lowney, who was merely the receptionist who'd opened the doors at a Brookline Planned Parenthood and didn't directly participate in any of the procedures. Salvi and his fellow lunatics had unanimously declared Lowney "Public Enemy #1" and the girl lost her life just for opening a door.
     I guess free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment isn't good enough. You have to be able to lay your hands on these women, scream in their faces what murderers they are and to strip them of their last vestige of dignity, safety and privacy (which is what Roe vs Wade was all about) and to even threaten their lives in their insane quest for the sanctity of life. Of course, they pushed before the court a sweet-looking grandmotherly type who bemoaned the fact that she couldn't spread like milk and honey her message of love.
     Because these Protestant Pennywhistles knew better than to be repped by another maniac like John Salvi, who was so mentally deranged by the time of his suicide he was convinced liberals were poisoning his food.
     The Rude One had a pretty good idea a couple of days ago: Since the SCOTUS had essentially abolished buffer zones for women seeking family planning counseling and services, let's troll them at church, starting with their headquarters at their church in nearby Grafton. Let's block their entry into their church, mock them for their Sky Wizard, shove atheist literature in their faces. Because, fuck, tit for fucking tat, as the Rude One would say.
     After all, you never see pro-choice folks blowing up churches and killing their docents and priests. Isn't free speech free for everyone and not just one narrow faction so twisted up in intolerance and hatred that they inevitably turn to murder and violence?
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cavuto Completely Loses it on Michele Bachmann


     There's something morbidly delightful about seeing right wingers eating their own. It brings to mind snake cults like Set, with the snake consuming itself with its tail in its mouth. or Paul Krendler being fed his own brains by Hannibal Lecter. And, to paraphrase the inimitable Egberto Willies, when you've lost Fox "News", you done lost middle 'Murrica.
     Mind you, now, this is Neil Cavuto we're talking about here, not some deer-in-the-headlights "liberal" wondering what the fuck he's doing on a Fox sound stage. This isn't Shep Smith or Alan Colmes or The Five's Bob Beckel. This is the creator, says Jon Stewart, of "the Cavuto Mark", the punctuation mark that isn't quite a question mark but nonetheless finds itself shat out the end of an irresponsible inquiry like an interrupted dog turd.
     In other words, kiddies, we're not talking about some fire-breathing liberal like Rachel Maddow here.
     So, it was with particular glee to be treated to the sight yesterday of Cavuto verbally body slam Michele Bachmann (R-Land of 1000 Lakes and the 1000 Yard Stare) back onto the lame couch from which she'd valiantly tried to struggle. It was all about Jon Boehner's hare-brained scheme to take the President to court over, get this, exercising his presidential prerogative to issue Executive Orders.
     You know, those little memos the President sometimes issues, like the 381 President Reagan issued between 1981-1989 and the 291 by Bush II. In fact, the current Chief Executive has handed down fewer Executive Orders than any president in our lifetimes, or 168 in his first five and a half years in office. To put that in more concrete terms, President Reagan created an Executive Order about once a week, whereas President Obama averages an Executive Order about once every 11 days.
     Not exactly the kind of unilateral decision-making process one would come to expect from a Banana Republic strong man the Republicans have been trying to paint him as since 2009 (Like the one FDR was when he'd issued 3522 during his 12 years in office).
     Undeterred, the House Speaker will sally forth with his lawsuit and he'll, uh, let us know exactly which laws the President has broken. Yeah, there's that pesky little matter first. The Republican House leadership is absolutely convinced Mr. Obama has violated the Constitution somehow. We know it in our guts. We just don't know precisely how he'd done it. But a lawsuit feels right.
     Into the fray sails Michele Bachmann, fully expecting to be lobbed one helpful underhanded softball after another by Neil Cavuto and instead found herself the target of a batting practice pitching machine set to 200 mph.
     Cavuto started out by asking Bachmann what the GOP is thinking in taking the president to court for exercising his presidential prerogatives when there were so many bigger things in this country to fix (Obviously, repealing ObamaCare was on the tip of his tongue but he chose not to go there). Bachmann began her usual blathering, conflating this with that, looking like a frustrated circus chimp trying to pound a square peg into a round hole in a laboratory.
     By the end of this four minute segment, Cavuto was so exasperated with Bachmann, he was practically screaming like a banshee with its tit caught in a wringer and said twice, "ROME IS BURNING."
     Which, of course, it is.
     Cavuto didn't go as far as claiming this was a partisan exercise, some substitute for leadership by way of Republican Kabuki Theater just before an unusually important midterm in which the President's entire agenda both foreign and domestic is on the line and non-Nate Silvers have been unctuously and confidently prognosticating for months the GOP will take both chambers despite a 7% Congressional approval rating.
     Poor Michele the Merciless didn't know what hit her and Cavuto laid into her with one body and head shot after another, not letting Bachmann finish her typically vapid talking points. Even better, it was delivered with a viciousness you'll never see from the ladylike Ms. Maddow or the more measured and methodical Lawrence O'Donnell.
     This was Fox "News", since 1996 the cheerleader for the GOP. And now poor pompom-waving bastards like Neil Cavuto has to deal with the teabagger Frankensteins they largely help create now that they're staggering into the Arctic wasteland and dragging America with them. By the end of the segment, this was essentially what we were seeing:

     Reap the whirlwind, motherfuckers.
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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Top 10 Suggestions That Should be Made by the North Carolina Black Advisory Board
     Yesterday, the Republican National Committee announced it was forming a Black Advisory Board in North Carolina. Chairman Reince Priebus said, “We are fortunate to have this accomplished group of leaders to help guide our engagement efforts in North Carolina. Their knowledge and roots in black communities across the state will be invaluable as we share our message of empowerment and expanding access to the American Dream.” However, just last February, that same state passed one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation in light of the Supreme Court essentially gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that seems to target African American voters. Once the Black Advisory Board is formed, what are some of the suggestions they can put to the RNC?

  • 10) Getting Don Yelton on The Daily Show at least once a week.
  • 9) Having more than one voting machine for every 100,000 black voters would be really nice.
  • 8) Plantation-themed Election Days in black districts may not be such a good idea.
  • 7) Muzzled attack dogs? Just an idea.
  • 6) DNA test on black voters to determine any evidence of Caucasian ancestry may not be cost-effective.
  • 5) Suspension of loyalty oath to uphold ideals of the Confederacy and the abolition of the 13th Amendment.
  • 4) Fliers sent to African American voters to please stop laughing when we ask them for vote for Republican candidates.
  • 3) Black Advisory Board shouldn't need to take Underground Railroad to convene meetings.
  • 2) Seriously. Make them stop laughing at us.
  • 1) Return of a civics test may be counterproductive when it's shown Tea Party voters will get the lowest scores.
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    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    Tea Party Like It's 1899
    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on, loan from Ari Goldstein.)
         Right about now on Capitol Hill, if politicians are true to form, they're silently removing Eric Cantor's number from their Rolodexes and contact lists. Paul Ryan's curling bar bells in a gym somewhere trying to think of a way to plausibly deny he ever met Cantor and John Boehner has already gotten an early start on his day's drinking.
         That's what politicians on both sides of the aisle do when one of their own is suddenly in the white hot sodium lights of a juicy scandal or abruptly lose an election or, in Eric Cantor's case, his party's primary. Congress critters are suddenly unavailable, you have to leave messages or get sent straight to voice mail and, politically, you're a leper.
         House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary last night in Virginia's 7th district to a Teabagger named Dave Brat, a political virgin with a war chest of just $200,000 whom Cantor had outspent 12-1 and outraised 26-1 (Cantor spent more at steak houses than Brat did in his entire campaign). According to an internal poll, Cantor was supposed to beat Brat by 34 points but wound up losing by 11 (55.5-44.5%), meaning Cantor's peoples' projection was nearly 50% off (One wonders, considering the skewed math, if the pollsters were Karl Rove, Dick Morris and William Kristol). In losing the Republican primary, Cantor because the first House Majority Leader since 1899 to lose a primary (It ought to be remembered the position wasn't created until 1899, meaning Cantor's the first to fall in a primary).
         Technically, it isn't over, yet. Cantor could run as an independent like Joe Lieberman when he lost the Democratic Senate primary to Ned Lamont in 2006 or legally change his name to Cesar Chavez or pose as a black man like one Republican had the chutzpah to do in a black voting district (and won). Of course, running under any other banner in Virginia's notoriously insane 7th district would fly about as well as him running on a New Black Panther ticket under the name Willie Horton.
         So, for all intents and purposes, Eric Cantor has the unfortunate distinction of being the man who coined the term "lame duck House Majority Leader." And, as proof of what a political nonentity Dave Brat is, the news isn't so much that he won but that Eric Cantor, against all political reason, against all the math and against all historical precedent, lost. Corporate cash once again (As Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Linda McMahon, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman had learned) lost big. And we're all left asking ourselves, "Who the hell is Dave Brat?"

    Putting the "Riot" in "Patriot."
         The former future House Speaker, who until last night was licking his chops and rubbing his hands at the thought of Speaker John Boehner retiring this year or being forced into rehab, suffered possibly the most stinging loss in American political history and without even a Macaca moment on Youtube. Eric Ivan Cantor thought he was doing all the right things good Republicans were supposed to do: He voted against embassy security funds, questioned Hillary Clinton when she said doing so would hurt US security, he voted to shut down the government, refused to deal in good faith with the President in 2011 and personally scuttled a debt ceiling compromise that would've avoided a downgrade to our credit rating.
         In short, Cantor was like a hit man you see in independent B movies, someone who'd faithfully done his damnedest to destroy lives only to find his employers had put a hit on him because he'd just become a liability. Cantor's mistake, in retrospect, was to give some tepid support to the Grand Bargain Obama had struck with the House leadership regarding immigration only to turn his back on it and vote against anything with even the slightest whiff of amnesty. In other words, the man who had done more damage to America, including indirectly getting four Americans killed in Benghazi, than his predecessor Tom DeLay, was essentially voted out of office last night for being too liberal.
         By the final leg of the primary cycle, both Cantor and Brat, an economics professor, were accusing each other of being liberal stooges and all that was needed was for both men to propose chaining an anchor to every one of our nation's 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants and to drop them down the Mariana Trench. But that long-established history of Republican buttfuckery wasn't good enough to the good patriots of Virginia's 7th district. Cantor's pretense of briefly supporting immigration amnesty made him so reviled among the teabaggers that, if Dave Brat hadn't run, they still would've elected a potato with a picture of Ronald Reagan thumb-tacked to it.
         But Dave Brat had stepped into the breach, a David with a tricorner hat taking on Goliath in some Quixotic quest, tilting at wind farms and spouting free market principles that cannot possibly be beneficial in any way, shape and form in even the slightest degree to the largely working class people who make up any Tea Party chapter. Essentially, it was a case of, Anyone's better than you, the same mindset that let a professional chair-warmer like Robert Gates effortlessly slip into the Pentagon in the wake of Rumsfeld's resignation.
         And Dave Brat, the very definition of a political nonentity, will be just another freshman teabagger in the House. Someone else will be elected House Majority Leader, perhaps even someone not as conspiratorial and harmful to the national interests as Cantor had been. The Tea Party had made mistakes before: Witness Allen West and Joe Walsh, who both got thrown out of office last year after snarling at anyone and everyone for two short years.
         Dave Brat will likely suffer the same fate at the hands of infamously unforgiving and nonconciliatory Teabaggers whose memories, fears, paranoia and hatred for anything fair and democratic (such as their handing the primary to one of their own in a fair and democratic process) is longer than their actual knowledge of the issues and who really stands to lose when Teabaggers get elected to Congress.
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    Monday, June 09, 2014

    Natural Born Cop Killers
         According to NBC Los Angeles correspondent Gadi Schwartz's Twitter account, this is the couple that had killed two Las Vegas police officers and an armed Wal-Mart shopper and their names are Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda.
         Perhaps we shouldn't be looking too deeply into their cosplaying since they were erstwhile street performers who often went out dressed as the Joker and Harley Quinn.
         What we should be looking more deeply into is their association with neonazism and white supremacy groups. According to the Washington Post, after ambushing two officers having lunch at a pizzeria, the Millers draped Gadsden flags over their bodies before marching to the local Wal-Mart and killing a customer with a gun before Amanda shot her husband before turning the gun on herself. Just before they opened fire on the officers, they shouted, "This is the beginning of the revolution!"
         What's most notable to me is that just before their rampage, they'd bragged to neighbors that they'd spent time on the Bundy Ranch. You know, the same place in which snipers sighted down on federal officers with complete impunity. Apparently, according to their neighbors, when they came back from Bundy's ranch, they were more radicalized than ever.
         There are several things to take away from this revelation.
         One, we have to wonder when law enforcement will finally wake up and realize these right wing zealots are the real problem and not liberal Occupy protesters and college students.
         Two, we have to realize this racist, antigovernment behavior and mindset is rapidly becoming the mainstream and that when these lunatics gather in large groups (as at the Bundy ranch), they have a tendency to radicalize each other. Insanity and hysteria, as history informs us time and again, is contagious. We are no further away from being susceptible to the herd mentality as our prehistoric ancestors.
        Three, right wing media (and, yes, Roger Ailes, I'm looking in your direction) certainly need to start owning up to this baseless hysteria they keep whipping up by stoking fears that Obama will take away your guns and turning into folk heroes racists who are simply too selfish to pay their taxes and refuse to recognize the existence of the government.
         When children grow up in a family, they instinctively seek cracks and weaknesses in what should be the united front of parents. When they see one parent's authority being undermined (especially when it's the father's), children will exploit that chink in the armor and begin by testing boundaries, questioning the values of one parent or another and, finally, engage in open rebellion.
         Teabaggers, racists, gun nuts, tax cheats and other miscreants are, mentally, like children. As I told a fellow liberal a couple of days ago at our town's annual festival, you can fix ignorance. We do it every day through our public school system (a favorite perennial target of right wingers for budget cuts, privatization, charter schools and programs that merely teach to the test). What you can't fix is willful ignorance and when these peoples' fears are stoked and validated through a gigantic megaphone such as Fox "News" and CNN, then it gives these intellectually stunted people the illusion of consensus.
         And when abortion doctor killers are glorified by Bill O'Reilly and homegrown terrorists sighting down on federal cops are glorified by Sean Hannity, it gives these maniacs the idea that if they don't like the rules put in place for the common good, then it's OK. Add to the propaganda campaign the Republican Party and the NRA that strenuously blocks any attempt at meaningful gun control legislation.
         And law enforcement has got to realize that they are the enemy, the ones that are killing their own. Not peaceful Occupy protesters or students at a sit down protest or innocent black people or hippies growing medical marijuana or people calling for medical assistance and seeing their special needs loved ones shot to death or law-abiding citizens who committed the unpardonable sin of occupying the wrong house during a no-knock drug raid.
         The Tea Party, the NRA, irresponsible right wing media and the clearly insane 5th Columnists they help elect to our infamously dysfunctional Congress are the enemies. And until law enforcement and the criminal justice system across this country come to that realization, they will be derelict in their responsibilities to the common good. There will be more people like the Millers to contend with and more officers and judges will be shot dead while they miscast their baleful glare at harmless, law-abiding folk.
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    Thursday, June 05, 2014

    Five Guys, Bergdahl and Freedom Fries
    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein.)      
         "Your son's out now. If you really don't, no longer want to look like a member of the Taliban, you don't have to look like a member of the Taliban. Are you out of razors?" - Brian Kilmeade, Fox "News"
         To those of us who don't relentlessly look at everything from a political prism, the POW trade of five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a geopolitical masterstroke. Regardless of his countless war crimes for which he is and will surely be found guilty, Barack Obama can always look at this and say this was an unqualified humanitarian success. As combat operations appear to be winding down in Afghanistan the five detainees were, according to international law, set to be released, anyway. And Sgt. Bergdahl, our government has known for years, was ailing. The only question remaining is, Why had the Obama administration been dragging its collective ass to secure Sgt. Bergdahl's release?
         But the stars were aligned just right, with Jupiter in the 2nd House and all that and the Obama administration, partly to make the Democrats look good in the midterms, finally got around to doing the right thing. If the Bergdahl family was merely an incidental beneficiary of this midterm maneuvering, who cares, right? One would have to be the worst kind of idiot not to see the political opportunism and fortuitous timing behind this. In Washington DC, even the weather is never prone to coincidence.
         Yet it seems the worst kind of idiots are the ankle biters on Fox, Pajamas Media, Breitbart and other right wing methane convection ovens who have turned on the Bergdahl family in a way that recalls the far right extremists in the Bergdahls' native Idaho. Hair product storage facility Brian Kilmeade not so subtly suggested that Robert Bergdahl's beard qualified him as a terrorist sympathizer. This is all so much manufactured, canned outrage. Sources of the late Michael Hastings warned that the GOP would turn this into a Willie Horton political football should Bergdahl be released during an election year and it and their flying monkey squadron are making good on their threat.
         It's hard for anyone in the reality-based community to follow this frayed skein of logic coming from the seedy side of the tracks. The official GOP line is, "We don't deal with terrorists", which is exactly what the GOP has been doing since the days when Bush was still accidentally walking into the broom closet of the Texas Governor's Mansion (anyone remember UNOCAL and Enron's part in a certain gas pipeline?).
         The conservative pundits' official line is... Well, it's hard to wade through all the conspiracy theories but apparently our first black President made it well nigh impossible for the right wing to give Bush the credit for releasing Bergdahl or, for those ultra hard liners, St. Ronnie of the Jelly Bean.  Ergo, if they can't grab the credit for facilitating the release of the last American POW in Afghanistan, might as well shit on the accomplishment itself. Sour grapes, in other words.

    Damned if he did, damned if he didn't.
         Since January 20, 2009, the Republican Party had immediately gone from "loyal but principled opposition" to immature contrariness, damning the president for stealing their thunder and always prepared to damn him if he didn't. One can perfectly imagine the GOP turning this into political hay if Obama hadn't secured Bergdahl's release and we would've been treated to an endless news cycle loop of chyrons from Fox demanding, "Why did Obama leave Bergdahl to die in Afghanistan?" and "Obama abandons last American POW in Afghanistan," while the right wing and its punditry would've rallied to the Bergdahl's family's side in artificial condolence.
         And the racist Republican Party was determined to make hay out of this one way or the other just as surely as they cynically used Pat Tillman for their own ends even though Tillman himself had demanded they not. And that's because the Mitch McConnell/Jeff Sessions/KKK wing still running (for now) the establishment GOP cannot tolerate the thought of a black man doing a better job of governance, as well as the occasional humanitarian action, than them.
         The facts don't matter to these foam machines any more than they would to a lunatic asylum patient painting pictures of Reagan with their fecal matter. The facts are as follows:
         Not all the Muslim detainees belonged to the Taliban.
         According to international law, as our combat role in Afghanistan winds down, our interest in their freedom fighters officially should also wind down.
         All five men will be confined in Qatar for at least a year and their actions strictly monitored.
         Less than 90 Taliban militants have been released during Obama's presidency, as opposed to over 350 during Bush's two terms.
         Once more, with feeling: Sgt. Bergdahl's life was in imminent danger.
         And the only thing we can safely take away from the right wing's reaction to the POW exchange is not what they mean to say but what they are in actuality saying:
         "We don't give a flying fuck about the troops and will gladly abandon them if the Black Guy so much as even mentions helping them out. If we can't take credit for it, we'll be damned if we'll let the Uppity One get it. And we will vilify anyone and everyone who benefits from it."
         In light of this latest faux scandal, the blocking of VA and embassy security funding bills, the Walter Reed mess and the other VA scandal that actually started with Republican intransigence, any pretense the GOP makes to loving and supporting the troops should earn no more than bitter laughter and spittle in their direction.
         Because the Republican Party has proven time and again they don't give a damn about the military or their families, will send them off to reckless, needless wars without adequate armor, will short change them on their medical care when they return, cynically use them to partisan advantage even to the point of lying to their families and will use them as political footballs when they decide the time is right. And, in case you doubt me, Henry Kissinger pretty much said it all for the Republican Party 41 years ago.
         Despite these palpable and inconvenient truths, the military has been since time immemorial a conservative voting faction. Let's hope that changes by Election Day this year and let them remember at the polls the position the Republican Party had decided to take with Bowe Bergdahl and his family.
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