Pox Americana

"Politics is a disease for dirty little animals." – HST

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

Has Bernie’s Surge Crested?

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The rumors of Hillary’s demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Hell, even I jumped on the bandwagon, blogging just three weeks back how she was in trouble. Bernie was surging, widening his lead in New Hampshire and breaking out in Iowa. There were whispers of indictments, and her Everestian piles of baggage appeared to be even heavier than usual. We could all smell the toxic smoke and her staffers were getting the jitters, but like the warhorse she is, Hillary Clinton slogged through the muck and is now on the verge of winning Iowa.

With that state’s caucuses just two days away, she’s beating Bernie in all of the polls. The latest has it a close race that only puts her up three points, while another just two days ago has her leading by eight. What happened? Early in the month she seemed on the precipice of implosion. Just ten days ago Sanders was taking her to the woodshed in Iowa with his own eight point margin, but those gains evaporated just as fast as they materialized. Was that Bernie’s high water mark? As the big day approaches, the Hillary juggernaut has made up for lost ground and then some.

Why is this? It’s not Bernie’s fault. He hasn’t slipped up. He’s remained vibrant, with the clamor of his supporters just growing in intensity and volume. I know. I see it on Facebook every day. Most of my friends posting about politics are Sanderistas; their fervor has reached fever pitch of late, though I have noticed a growing number of Hillaryites asserting themselves, which gives me pause. A month or two back there were none. The back and forth between the two camps has been vigorous and instructive, and whatever I may think, Sanders is still very much in play in Iowa and just may walk away with a victory. However, as much as I love and support the guy, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

What I believe we’re seeing is the natural trend of the undecided, mainstream voters moving toward the safer choice. Hillary represents stability. She’s a known quantity with heaps of experience, smarts, and know-how, and as most of these states get down to the wire, the pendulum will swing her way. She will steer the USS Obama on its present course with a steady hand, and a lot of people would be very happy with that. Bernie has energized so much of the base and will fight down to the last scrap, but elections are often decided by the middle, and from what I’ve seen on Facebook and in the polls, it’s moving toward Clinton.

Bernie has made her sweat along the way, but let us not forget that she’s picked up nearly all the big endorsements, including The New York Times, who gave her the nod just yesterday, to the surprise of no one. She also has the loyalty of over half of the so-called superdelegates. Besides a passionate army of supporters, Bernie has almost none of this. He has amassed a great war chest from individual contributors, but can he ever compete with Clinton’s Vegas buffet of backing from the American corporate ogre? Yes, she has taken some lumps for it in the debates, but in the end it will be a bigger weapon than any.

My prediction is this: Hillary will win Iowa with room to breathe, if not handily. Sanders will take New Hampshire. Hillary will then squeak by in Nevada and then hammer Bernie in South Carolina. Come Super Tuesday (March 1st), she’ll clean up. Sanders will take Vermont and perhaps Massachusetts, but will otherwise get buried. I don’t think he can compete with her in the south. Hillary’s firewall will stand.

Of course I may be dead fucking wrong on this, which wouldn’t make me sad. In 2008 she was leading in all of the polls going into Iowa, and went on to lose to both Obama AND John Edwards in a pathetic 3rd place showing. If I’m going to eat crow I’d prefer it in tacos, which is my preferred delivery system for most anything edible.

As for the GOP? Trump’s going to win the nomination without breaking a sweat. The numbers don’t lie. The more jingoistic hate porn he pukes forth, the more popular he becomes among among the drooling, troglodyte base of the Republican Party. The elites may be horrified, but they’ve cultivated this cesspool over the last two decades, and now they’re going to have to swim in their own shit. As awful as it is, my schadenfreude factor is jumping off the charts on this one.

More on that later. In meantime, break out the vino and popcorn. It’s going to an interesting few weeks.

The Snowman Talks Politics

Jeff-Monson

Jeff “The Snowman” Monson is a world famous mixed martial arts fighter from my hometown of Olympia, Washington. He is a two-time winner of the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, and a No Gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu World Champion. He has competed in the UFC, PRIDE, Dream, Strikeforce, M-1 Challenge, Sengoku and Impact FC.

Jeff is not just known for his fighting skills: he’s also an outspoken political activist who on more than one occasion has put his money where his mouth is. He is not one to shy away from controversy and generated plenty lately when he became a full fledged Russian citizen, joining boxer Roy Jones Jr. as the other American fighter to embrace the passport of the Great Bear.

I have known Jeff since high school and have spent the last two and half years co-writing a book with him about his life as a fighter, which will be sent out for publication soon. In celebration of this, as well as the launching of this here blog, I shot a few questions about politics his way.

CT: How would you describe yourself, politically? For years you’ve called yourself an anarchist, though lately I’ve heard you describe yourself as a communist. Do you consider these the same thing? Or are you a ‘fuck labels’ kind of guy?

JM: That is the idea of anarchism- you don’t have to fit into a box like other political theories. Instead anarchism shifts and changes to accommodate the people instead. Communism, the idea that the people own the means of production and people are the priority not profits is a key component of anarchism. If you had to use a term to describe my political stance would be “libertarian communism,” which is anarchism.

CT: When did you first start taking in interest in politics and human rights? Did it happen quickly or was it an evolution?

JM: My interest and eventual political activism was definitely a long process. Like most Americans, I was completely unaware of the happenings in the world and US involvement in other countries, as well as the role capitalism played in the enslavement of the masses. A college professor got me interested in politics and society. Traveling exposed me to horrors of absolute poverty and made me start questioning the world economic system.

CT: Do a lot of other fighters embrace politics? Or are you a kind of aberration?

JM: I have obviously met many fighters and I can say from experience there are many very educated and caring fighters. However, because of the nature of the profession–including the long hours, injuries, and infrequent and unsteady pay–most fighters do not involve themselves with political questions.

CT: I know you’ve talked about it a lot lately, but I gotta ask: Why have you become a Russian citizen? 

JM: I became a Russian citizen because I identify with the struggle of the Russian people. The first world social revolution happened in Russia and that is where the fire of socialism still burns, until the citizens of the world become educated and disenfranchised enough with the current system to take part. The people of Russian have shown me unparalleled kindness and generosity and have made me feel like it is my home.

CT: What are your thoughts on the American presidential race, particularly the emergence of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? Do you think Bernie–who is a democratic socialist–could win? Does his popularity spell good news for the anti-capitalist movement at large?

JM: It’s disturbing that an intolerant racist such as Donald Trump could even be in the running for president. People are conditioned to believe they need some ‘leader,’ otherwise everything would fall into some sort of chaos. We need to realize not only do we the people hold the power, but we know what is best for ourselves and are motivated to make choices that benefit each other, not only a select few. Bernie Sanders has good policies and his priorities are with the people. I think it is a compliment when his rivals call him a ‘socialist.’ However, he doesn’t have the support of his own Democratic Party who depend on contributions from banks and big business, so he will never win the nomination. Saying this, I don’t believe in voting in ‘leaders’ to make decisions that we should make for ourselves.

CT: Do you think you would have gotten involved politically if you didn’t become a fighter? After all, the struggle against oppression is a fight in and of itself. Do the two things fuel each other?

JM: I definitely wouldn’t have gotten this involved politically if i wasn’t a fighter. Most importantly, fighting allowed me the opportunity to travel and see the rest of the world, which was the catalyst in becoming involved with social issues. Also, becoming a fighter and being recognized gave me a platform to talk to others about the discrepancy between the have and have nots and the hypocrisy of the US and other governments.

CT: Do you regret anything you’ve done politically?

JM: I only regret I did not get more involved earlier.

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The Snowman: A Fighting Life will be available via fine booksellers in late 2016.

Band of Blubbers

Anti-Government Protestors Occupy National Wildlife Refuge In Oregon

When Ammon Bundy and his “citizens’ militia” recently took over a couple of buildings at Oregon’s Malheur National Refuge, the revolution they had hoped for failed to catch fire. The masses of armed sympathizers they expected to come trundling down the dirt road to swell their ranks never materialized. Instead, they were roundly savaged. The mockery got so bad that at one point I almost felt sorry for them. Almost. And then, just when the derision was reaching fever pitch, the red hot story faded and spun in circles over the ice of the winter doldrums. With the exception of a few entertaining episodes–a member legging it to the nearest town to booze away donation proceeds, two yahoos arrested for hijacking federal vehicles for a Safeway run, and boxes of dildos threatening to overwhelm their high desert Alamo–not a lot was happening. The whole affair was settling into the inevitable reality of bird sanctuaries the world over: utter boredom.

It appears, however, that the proverbial pooch has now been screwed. Ammon, along with a handful of other supporters, was arrested by the FBI after being pulled over en route to a community meeting in the nearby(ish) town of John Day. What exactly went down is still hazy, but according to reports, “shots were fired.” When the smoke cleared, Ammon’s brother Ryan was wounded in the arm, while another–Robert “LaVoy” Finicum–lay dead.

Finicum’s death is awful, of course, but hardly surprising, given his statements leading up his final blaze of glory, where he basically said that he’d rather be killed than arrested. He was one of the chief spokesmen for the group, first coming to prominence during his now-legendary night interview under a blue tarp. He went on to further notoriety when he complained that the feds had taken away his foster sons at this Arizona ranch, who he nauseatingly described as his “main source of income (so much for rugged western independence).” Soon after he starred in what can only be described as an exploitation porn video where he rifles through stores of Native American artifacts, while paying lip service to the “concerns of the Paiute people,” the dispossessed tribe who have repeatedly condemned the occupation and called for this shower of bozos to leave. You can almost see his turgid member pulsating under his Wranglers as he fondles the sacred items.

As lamentable as Finicum’s mortal perforation is, we must see the silver lining in his ultimate sacrifice. After all, he walked away from a loving wife, along with a huge Arizona ranch filled with fat cows and a steady supply of state sponsored, indentured teenage servants. He looked deeply into his soul and saw that he no choice but to give his life fighting for the miners, loggers, and ranchers of the world. No longer could he stomach to see those poor white corporate interests crushed under the patchouli-scented boot of tree-hugging state oppression. He joined a band of Mormon warriors carrying forth the vision of Joseph Smith, along with the rifles and muscle of Brigham Young. And unlike most, he had the privilege to die doing something he loved: playing at soldier. This, my friends, is something to be celebrated.

The Bundys got what they’ve wanted all along: a martyr. Finicum will be beautified among the tinfoil fringe, but will he become the next Randy Weaver? I doubt it. Weaver may have hated the government (along with Jews and anyone on the brown side of, say, Romanians), but at least he kept to himself. The only thing he was ever guilty of occupying was his own private Ruby Ridge, Idaho: twenty acres and a cabin in the thick of the sticks. Bundy and company crawled out of their dusty sewers and tried to fuck it all up for the rest of us with swagger, half-cooked “sovereign citizen” horseshit, and guns. Lots of guns.

These guys were on their way to John Day to supposedly form a “shadow government.” Their overall objective was to replace all of the elected officials in the area with their own, unelected people, since they reject any authority except their own. That’s right. Somehow, what they say goes, because they’re “from the land.” The rest of us–city slickers and libtards galore– not so much.

The fact that they were so easily caught beggars belief. Sure, there were “shots fired” and a guy did die. But the rest of them gave up. Even hardliner Jon Ritzheimer, who, on his way to Oregon filmed this teary goodbye to his wife and kid, surrendered to authorities in Phoenix. But the question remains: Why did they even leave the area? Did it not occur to them that, once along on a rural highway, the feds just may pounce? Were they lured out? Even so, isn’t the whole point of an armed occupation to fucking occupy? They sure acted dumb all along, but could they really be such colossal mouthbreathers?

There are still plenty of armed men hunkering down in the Malheur Refuge, but the main heads of the hydra have now been severed. These bitter enders may try to ride out the winter, but if I were a betting man, I’d wager my life supply of beef jerky that they’re gonna skedaddle, and that it’s going to happen STAT.

MLK: A Democratic Socialist

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It’s my birthday today, and I’ve decided to celebrate by pounding out yet another missive on my much-abused keyboard. The fact that I’ve chalked up enough years to reach the doughy plateau of middle age is impressive in itself, since despite the caustic array of substances I’ve bombarded my body with during my 45-year tenure on this planet, I’m still here and I feel fine.

I share my birthday with three historically notable human beings: satirical French playwright Molière, who has been a hero of mine since I read The Misanthrope back in high school; former Egyptian strongman and pan-Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser; and, of course, Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is so auspicious that it is observed as a national holiday back home.

In the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. is considered something of a saint; he is spoken of in wistful, lofty tones. I imagine it’s similar to how South Africans view Mandela: all but the most venomous and recalcitrant of racists revere the man. In school we are taught to venerate MLK and most of us gladly oblige. This extends to politicians on all edges of the spectrum. They tear up and bow when they hear his name and then, of course, attempt to claim his legacy. Like Washington or Lincoln, MLK is one of those American figures who long ago ceased to be treated as an actual human being. He has been sculpted into a kind of immaculate statue–a historical demigod –and in the process his actual words, deeds, and objectives have become whitewashed.

MLK first came to national prominence in 1955 when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the seminal event of the Civil Rights Movement, but he is best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March On Washington in 1963, which has been replayed and quoted ad nauseam. After all who couldn’t agree with the sentiments he makes in that speech? I too believe people people should be judged “not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.” I too would love to see a day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls.” Wouldn’t we all? Who could be against that?

The “I Have a Dream” MLK is the version white Americans love to celebrate– the great, peaceful, bringer-together of the races that somehow makes us feel better about ourselves. We love the nonviolent, Christian MLK, with his references to Jesus and frequent admonishments to turn the other cheek. Why? Because this version is so safe. He never really threatens our privilege. We watch footage of those Southern cracker cops blasting marchers with water cannons and siccing German Shepherds on unarmed protesters and we pat ourselves on the back. Even though we’re white, we identify with the oppressed. Enough time has passed for history to clearly judge who was right and who was wrong, and we know which side of the line we’d like to be on. We would never root for those awful hick sheriffs. Those were other people, bad people, not us. If we were there we’d be marching right along side MLK, wouldn’t we?

As much as we love the cumbaya “We Shall Overcome” MLK, the later stage, more militant version of the man is too often ignored. This, of course, is no accident, since this MLK is much harder for many Americans to embrace, given that he loudly called out and challenged the crimes of our government in Vietnam while also condemning the engine behind such crimes: capitalism itself.

“Capitalism has often left a gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, has created conditions permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few, and has encouraged small-hearted men to become cold and conscienceless..”

“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”

Not only did he evolve into a firm anti-capitalist; he also argued for something more:

“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

If the words out of the man’s mouth don’t convince you of his socialist heart, consider his actions. During his final days King was in the midst of organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement to demand economic and human rights to poor Americans of all racial backgrounds. In fact,at the time of his assassination, he was in Memphis to lend his support to the Sanitation Workers’ Strike. The rights of workers and economic equality for all had become central to his identity by that point. His Christian beliefs, plus the lessons learned from his struggles throughout the whole of the Civil Rights Movement had led him to continue fighting as a democratic socialist. His stance on these issues could not be clearer: he threw himself into battle and was killed in the line of duty.

Conservatives in America reviled Martin Luther King Jr. while he lived. Some of these guys were Republicans and others were Democrats–mostly of the southern variety–but they hated the man and were very happy to see him murdered. Of course this all is forgotten in our modern day mad rush to canonize MLK. Everyone wants a piece of him and are twisting history to achieve their ends. Most nauseating is the execrable claim by many on the right that King was actually a Republican. This is complete garbage, of course, but that hasn’t stopped legions of bloviating talk radio troglodytes from repeating this lie to their gullible listeners, who then parrot it on comments threads throughout the sewers of the internet. In the walnut brain of the modern right-wing American, up is down and black is white: “Martin Luther King Jr. was actually a conservative!” They live in a Bizarro world of hate, paranoia, and misinformation. The tripe they consume and puke back up as fact is nothing short of insane.

MLK, however, was not insane. He saw the obscene injustice and inequality of America through the lens of both race and class, and his very reasonable reaction was to constantly fight against it, which he did to great effect. So let us remember him in full scope, as a two-fisted soldier fighting on behalf the weak and powerless. I am proud to share my birthday with such a man, though sadly here in Korea we don’t get the Monday off.

The Most Punchable Face in America

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Ted Cruz. Ugh. He’s just the worst. He’s so bad that he makes Donald Trump appear to have traces of human DNA. Just look at that smarmy, rubber scrotum of a face. He always looks like he just took a big bite of a chimichanga filled with Rottweiler shit, yet he chokes it all down and feigns a smile, like he’s just about to sell you an old Ford Pinto that hasn’t been driven since its gas tank exploded and killed a family of four.

Ted Cruz. His ambition is fathomless. Nothing will stand in his way on his frenzied sprint to more power and notoriety. He will torch every bridge behind him; he will stab every exposed back with rusty fondue forks and throw quadriplegics under careening buses to get ahead. He would kick his own mother in the teeth and do the butterfly stroke through a swimming pool filled with horse come if he thought it would gain him five extra points in next week’s Zogby poll. Fucks are not given; shame is not had.

Unlike others in the GOP clown car, Ted Cruz cannot be accused of being a dullard. His intelligence is beyond question. He just chooses to use it for evil. Sure, he panders to every gullible, Jesus-loving thicko in the spangly leather strip of the Bible Belt, but I don’t believe for a minute that he dines on the same dumbed-down pablum that he tosses out for them. Ted Cruz is only interested in one thing, and that’s Ted Cruz. His objectives are neither complicated nor lofty. His screaming, fevered ego must be nurtured at all costs. It’s insatiable, and keeping it fed is a full time job.

Don’t just take my word for it. The man is reviled by most everyone who has had the misfortune to work with him, including his fellow Republicans in the Senate. He has left a mangled, scorched trail in his wake, with those left behind spitting venom at his name. He was so insufferable in law school that he refused to study with anyone who hadn’t graduated from Yale, Harvard, or Princeton. He attended two of those three and is a sitting United States senator. On top of that, his wife is an investment banker for Goldman Sachs, yet he constantly positions himself as ‘an outsider.’ Anyone who buys such a laughable conceit has to be high on spray paint.

Ted Cruz is nothing if not persistent, so much so that he’s used his talons to claw his way into second place in the GOP polls. His pandering to the evangelical “the Earth is 6,000 years old” crowd has worked, but there appears to be chinks in his suit of pig fat and pomade armor. Just two days back a law scholar penned an editorial in the Washington Post detailing why he is ineligible for the presidency (not a ‘natural born’ citizen). And today we see more damning revelations: Apparently Teddy boy failed to disclose up to 1 million dollars in loans he took out from Goldman Sachs (surprise, surprise) to finance his 2012 Senate campaign. This could land the King of Smirk into some hot water, though I’m sure he’ll use his malevolent powers of law to wriggle his way out like the diseased eel that he is.

Ted Cruz in cuffs would be a splendid vision to behold, but even if he walks, I’d still pay a hundred bucks to see someone cold cock that face.

Surging Bernie

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I’ve been watching Bernie Sanders’ run at the Democratic nomination from across the Pacific for some months now and am gobsmacked at just how big he’s become. Perhaps I’ve been out of the country for too long, but I confess to viewing his candidacy through a bloodshot, jaundiced eye. Of course I support him and most everything he stands for, but I found it beyond the frontiers of credulity that a gesticulating, wild-haired, raving Jewish socialist could break out of say, the two percentage range, polling wise. I figured he’d electrify the patchouli and drum circle set, but in the end be relegated to the sad confines of Ralph Nader Land.

So far I’ve been wrong, and let’s just say I’m fucking stoked.

This week saw Bern Nation presented with some very good news: The grumpy senator from Vermont has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa, according to a major poll. He already leads in New Hampshire–which is no surprise, since it’s basically his back yard–but Sanders busting out in Iowa is huge. These are the first two states to pick the lead horse and if Sanders takes them both it would cripple Hillary’s already bleeding campaign. I wrote last week how she’s becoming toxic and it’s just getting worse. We all know that she carries stacks of baggage, only now they’re emitting Chernobyl-like levels of radiation. The public senses this, and each day more presumed Hillary supporters are tearing away and joining Bernie’s posse. I never thought I’d say it, but he’s beginning to look like a winner. Most of my political discussions with folks back home happen on Facebook, and I can only count ONE person out of over 1,500 friends who openly and enthusiastically backs Hillary Clinton. That’s it. As General Zod (played by the brilliant Terence Stamp) bellows out in Superman 2: “IS THERE NO ONE???”

Not only is Bernie surfing atop these polls, but he also picked up the endorsement of MoveOn, one of the the biggest lefty organisations in America. According to the statement, 78.6 percent of its membership in an online vote of more than 340,000 members cast their lot for Mr. Sanders. Hillary netted a paltry 14.6. While this endorsement is no surprise, it shows just how solid and deep his support is among American progressives.

What is surprising however, is the praise that Bernie is picking up from other quarters. Just yesterday Vice President Joe Biden threw some serious accolades Bernie’s way, commending him for his persistent fight against inequality, while criticizing Hillary as a Johnny-come-lately to the issue. Not only is Joe Biden a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, he’s a major Democratic power broker, and despite his reputation for a freewheeling tongue, he knows that every word he says will be recorded and analyzed; his bestowing of favor upon Sanders marks a distinct shifting of the winds in the Democratic Party.

That said, Hillary still has caverns filled with cash, battalions of muckraking minions, along with the corporate ogres on her side, who are the real gatekeepers to power. She still leads massively in South Carolina (along with the rest of Dixie), though early defeats could shake up those numbers in a jiffy. Her campaign has also kept its distance from Sanders up until now, treating him as an amusing, half-senile uncle that is not to be taken seriously. But now she’s beginning to co-opt his issues that play well (no doubt triple focus group engineered) while at the same time digging up dirt and flinging shit.

Will Bernie steal Iowa and New Hampshire right out of the gate? We have a little over two weeks until things kick off, but the mood online, at least, gives him the edge. This may be the year where actual democracy triumphs in the race for the Democratic nomination, where substance, issues, and integrity win out over dynasty, money, and raw power.

The general election is a whole other movie, however. If Bernie Sanders does manage to snag the nod from the Democratic Party, he will face a sulfurous Hellmouth of fear-mongering, smears, and red-baiting from a moneyed class so determined to keep him out of the White House that their zeal will resemble blood lust. It will be ugly, and worst of all, it could work.

Hillary in the Pillory

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She’s got the name and the money. She’s got the experience and machinery. She’s got the gravitas and–most importantly–she’s got that unmistakable whiff of inevitablitiy… or does she?

Hillary Clinton is in trouble, and it’s much more than her utter lack of likeability. A couple of thorny snags have cropped up this week that could wrap around her cankles and trip her up before she crosses the finish line of the Democratic nomination.

The first is a ghost from campaigns past. Does then name Juanita Broaddrick ring a bell? Well it should: she has long accused Bill Clinton of raping her back in 1978 when he was governor of Arkansas. Now, enlisted by shadowy anti-Clinton forces, she’s repeating her claim with the aid of a very loud right-wing megaphone.

Now we all know that Bill Clinton is an unrepentant horndog; he’s an ass grabber and a chubby chaser of the highest order. His unbridled lust is printed in the fabric of his DNA–not to mention the fabric of a certain blue dress– yet we mostly forgive him for it because of his off-the-charts charm and intellectual gifts. But is he a rapist?

Rumors of his sexual crimes have swirled in the right wing media for years, with some liberals even picking up the pitchfork and torch. I recall the late Christopher Hitchens doing just that on Pacifica Radio in LA in the early 2000’s, vehemently blasting Bubba as a ‘serial rapist.’ Such charges have never been proven, but at the very least we know he is a lifelong adulterer and probably worse, yet so many of us look the other way. He’s just that strong of a force.

Where does Hillary fit in all of this? She certainly cannot be held responsible for the sins of her husband, but she can share culpability in covering them up: Broadderick says that Hillary tried to silence her. To add more shit to the pile, Hillary has painted herself into a corner with regard to her position on how we should deal with alleged victims of sexual assault. The former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State recently tweeted,”Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.” When asked just two weeks later how this squares up with the accusations against Bill made by Broaddrick and others, Hillary said,”Well, I would say that everyone should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence.”

Uh-oh.

While Broadderick’s claim has never been proven with evidence, it never has been unproven either. According to Clinton’s standard, we should then take her claims at face value. That makes Bubba a rapist until proven otherwise, which cannot be good news for her campaign.

As sticky as this situation is, I have a feeling that Hillary will slither her way out. No amount of slithering will save her from federal indictment, though. Conservative outlets have been rumbling with rumors and outright claims that the federal prosecutor is ready to hand down multiple indictments as a result of her ongoing email scandal. Other sources maintain that it’s all a ruse on behalf of the FBI, but any truth to these whisperings could prove fatal to her presidential ambition.

This is all good news for Bernie, who is leading in New Hampshire and pulling closer in Iowa, though his joy could be short lived: a Clinton-less race could open up the possibility of a late entrance by Vice President Joe Biden, who, when asked about his decision not to run just two days ago, replied with, “I regret it every day.”

Let’s just hope that Clinton goes soon. Despite her experience and fortitude, she’s become a liability. Even if she survives these pitfalls in one relative piece, the fact remains that people just don’t like her, and that alone could hand the Presidency to the GOP come next November, and that’s something none of us can afford.

Who Will Think of the Poor, Oppressed Ranchers?

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We’re nearly a week into the comedy of errors over at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and it seems that the self-styled militia’s little revolution has failed to pick up steam. Instead, Ammon Bundy’s rabble of potbellied mongos has been plastered with scorn and derision, mostly from that marvel of inventions known as the internet, which at times can assemble itself into a veritable Leviathan of snark.

Twitter, as awful as it can be, proved best at generating insults. It gurgled forth the first bits in a cascade of open mockery: Y’all Qaeda. VanillaISIS. Yee-hawdists. The Cowliphate. Yokel Haram.  The Bundy Bunch was then roundly laughed at for sounding a clarion call for ‘snacks.’ The skewering continued all week, culminating in yesterday’s pièce de résistance in which proto-hipster Colin Meloy (vocalist for Portland’s insufferable Decembrists) penned a series of Oregon militia erotic fan fiction tweets:

The tsunami of lampoons almost proved too good to be true, for what better way to gut the legitimacy of an odious man or movement than through vicious satire? There were those who took exception to this approach, however, including Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic, who chastised liberals for not taking this opportunity to make common ground with the right over the issue of mandatory minimum sentencing. After all, isn’t that what this is about? Dwight and Steven Hammond were sent back to the clink to serve out five years for a couple of burns that got out of hand. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. The judge initially tried to sidestep the federal sentencing guidelines (which seem to be some kind of anti-terrorism measures), only to be later overruled by an over-zealous D.A. with a hard-on for these guys. Shouldn’t we all be standing up to such inflexible, Orwellian government policy?

Yes, of course we should, but like I mention in my first piece , Bundy, et al, are just using this issue as an excuse to press forth a very different list of grievances. Much to the chagrin of both the Hammonds and others in the local community, they hijacked this situation in a pathetic attempt at a land grab. That’s all it is. Look no further than their chief demand, that the federal government relinquish all control of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge so “the people can control their resources.” This refuge was established in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt and is enjoyed by birders and hikers from around the world. Who these resource-controlling “people” are, and what Bundy wants to do with the land is anyone’s guess, though based his previous rhetoric, we can only assume that he intends to open the refuge up to private development (read: ranching) and shut the rest of us out.

And herein lies the problem with these guys: They’re not patriots. They’re not fighting for the “common man.” They’re thieves. They’re greedy assholes. They represent big, vested commercial interests that want to chew up the land for their own personal profit. That’s it. They cast the BLM and other federal agencies in the role of some nefarious alien, when in fact all of those great federal holdings belong to us rather than some remote collection of federal offices. It’s OUR land. It’s mine. It’s yours. It’s held in public trust for all of us to use and enjoy, as long as we follow the rules. I camp and fish on BLM land every time I am home and treasure it massively. These guys, out of an overblown, obscene sense of entitlement, want to take that away from all of us. They want to steal from the commons, fence it off, put up NO TRESPASSING signs, rape it at will, and shut the rest of us out.

Since when did ranchers become such a marginalized, oppressed group? How good do they have to have it before they stop crying, moaning, and threatening the rest of us with their guns? As written about extensively, American ranchers enjoy nearly-unfettered grazing access to BLM lands at well-below market rates. Taxpayers subsidize their businesses, and a lot of them profit handsomely from it. The Hammonds own over 12,000 acres. Cliven Bundy–Ammon’s father who started this whole brouhaha–is a millionaire. Many ranching families are. Wrap your head around that. The man has millions in the bank from profiting hand over fist from the federally-subsidized cattle business, yet not only does he refuse to pay grazing fees, he doesn’t even recognize the authority of the feds to hold ANY land. In fact, old man Bundy went so far as to claim the BLM land he grazes on is HIS. Why? Because he says so, that’s why.

Ranchers and the federal government have long been at odds, but things heated up in the 80’s and 90’s during the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion. What we have now is a continuation of that, an upping of the stakes. The fact that these privileged families whine and complain as if they’re somehow scraping by under the boot of the big bad government just rattles my brain. They mistake regulations and bureaucracy for “tyranny,” when most of them have never even remotely tasted the meaning of the word. They live in a world of unlimited entitlement, and all of this talk about “returning the land to the people” ignores the savage fact that they live on land stolen from indigenous people through relocation, warfare, and outright genocide. It’s funny how not one of them ever suggests giving back any acreage to anyone brown. Just ask the Paiute–who were occupying the land when whites began “settling” the area–what they think about this sad insurrection. Oh wait. Someone already did.

Some have described the Bundys and their ilk as “government welfare queens,” which really isn’t off the mark. Even Ammon Bundy is not immune to the allure of easy federal money, having procured a $530,000 government load to fund his truck maintenance company (Take that, goverment!). I however, prefer to refer to them as drama queens. Any sort check on their assumptive freedom to profit from the land as they see fit is met with cries of “Tyranny!” and “Revolution!” These are the shrill screams of exaggerators, the essence of hyperbole. They wouldn’t know real oppression if it tied them down and peed in their faces. They wail about a falling sky when they’ve never had it so good.

This is white privilege in a nutshell, and they deserve every ounce of ridicule hurled their way.

Happiness is a Warm Gun

President Obama just announced his new executive orders on gun control, and though I haven’t looked at the fine print, they seem like logical, level-head steps, as tepid as they may be. I give the man the nod for at least trying to address the problem. It seems no one else in American government will.

I was going to pen a new rant on the subject, but have instead elected to reprint a piece I published on my old blog a couple of years back; I think any new piece would just repeat many of the same old points, so without any further ado, here it is:

gun

It’s been a bad year for gun massacres in America.  A lot of crazies have been melting down, raiding the nearest arsenal, and randomly killing innocent folks. Three in particular have grabbed my attention: The Cafe Racer shooting in Seattle a few months back (which touched some people close to me); the Aurora, Colorado “Batman” blast up; and last Saturday’s awful bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which tops all others in its mind-numbing savagery.

Each of these terrible events has sickened me and fanned my fire of rage. Like most of us, I shake my head, sigh, shout, and wonder how such things can happen. I question aloud what drives these broken people commit such acts and how we can spot them before they explode. For a short time I try to understand their madness, but soon realize such a thing is futile. Sometimes crazy is just crazy. And then I think about guns.

Though I’ve felt tempted to rant on America’s gun culture after each of these travesties, I’ve bit my tongue and held my fingers away from the keyboard. Sure, I threw up a few anti-gun memes on Facebook and practiced some sloganeering via my status updates, but I have refrained from ranting here. Why? Because the gun debate in America is much like the controversy over abortion: It consists of two entrenched sides who just scream and chant worn-out mantras at each other that lost their meaning a long time ago. This is especially true for the pro-gun side, but this is a debate where people stopped have just stopped listening to each other. It’s really hard to add anything new to the dung heap. But I’ve thought hard on this and here it goes, as messy and repetitive it as it may be.

I grew up in the American sticks around a lot of guns.  Near my house were the hinterlands of a sprawling military base where the sound of artillery and machine-gun fire served as the soundtrack to my childhood. Many of my friends had fathers who hunted or kept guns for target shooting and self-defense. My father wasn’t a gun guy, but my grandfather kept a few firearms, as did my older brother.  I learned to shoot at a young age and even did a bit of pheasant and grouse hunting (with the aforementioned grandpa), along with recreational blasting with a couple of buddies. Even today, when I visit home, I sometimes go shooting with some friends. I enjoy the hell out of it and have no personal aversion to guns.  I think I understand their place in American culture as well as anybody, because I’ve lived it.

However, we Americans are insular people, and often have absolutely no clue as to how the rest of the world views us.  As an American, in America, I never really questioned our gun culture, because I grew up in it and it was really all I knew.  Sure, sometimes people cracked a nut and took out some bystanders, but that was just normal, I thought.  Like many Americans, I cherished the right to bear arms and considered rampant gun violence an unfortunate but necessary side effect.

I’ve lived abroad for over eight years now, and one thing I can tell you is that it’s given me some perspective on my home country.  Over this time I’ve traveled to over twelve different countries and talked to people of all nationalities, and guess what? Most all of them are absolutely perplexed by American gun culture.  They ask me all the time:

“Is it true so many of your countrymen are armed?” “Why do people need so many guns?” and most importantly, “Why do Americans put up with so much gun killing?”

At first I’d try to engaged these people, explaining our history as a frontier nation with man-eating bears, hostile Indians and big game; I’d tell them about the revolution and how American citizens consider an armed populace some kind of check against an abusive government; I’d attempt to enlighten them about the role guns have played in the making of the country–how they’ve become an institution–a religion almost. But these lame sputterings only served to further confuse. After a while, I realize that had I had no good answer.  I couldn’t adequately explain any of it, because after living in a gun-free country for many years and looking back at my own culture from the outside, I realized that there was no good answer. Yes, there are historical reasons for American gun culture, but what it had metastasized into could only be described as a kind of collective insanity.

So now, when confronted with the same questions, I just throw up my hands and tell these perplexed foreigners, “Look, I don’t know.” Just as I can’t explain what goes on in the head of the guys who commit these massacres, I can’t explain why so many millions of Americans are obsessed with guns, and why they refuse to do anything to limit their proliferation. Sure, there’s the gun lobby and the NRA, which basically pay off the politicians, but why do so many people, in the face of massacre after massacre, dig in their heals and refuse to take any action? Sure, some measures may not work, but are they content to do nothing in the face of continual slaughter? Didn’t Einstein say that doing the same thing again and again yet expecting different results is the very definition of insanity?

What is frustrating is that the gun lobby has boiled their interests down to a collection of weak-ass talking points that every yahoo and bozo spouts at you when you deign to argue for greater regulation of guns.

“Guns don’t kill people! People kill people!”

This is gas-huffingly retarded. Pro-gun folks have been babbling this one for years and at this point it’s like a piece of bubble gum that has been chewed on for forty years. Anyone who doesn’t see that guns make it exponentially easier for anyone to kill is either blind, deaf, or  so stupid that they shouldn’t breed, yet alone own firearms. Sometimes these guys say, “You could kill people with spoons if ya wanted!” or but out  the old “How about knife control!” argument.

Well, if you compare a spoon to a gun during a debate, I’ll unfriend you on Facebook and avoid you at bars, restaurants, and shopping malls for the rest of your sad days. And there actually is a thing called “knife control”. There are laws governing which kinds of knives are legal and illegal to own. Look ’em up.

A few real boneheads linked the knife attack in a Chinese school that happened on the same day as the Sandy Point killing spree.“See?” They said, with dopey grins and vacant stares. “Take away guns and people will just use knives.” That may be, but let’s look at the scorecard from both events. Sandy Point had 26 dead with ZERO survivors. The Chinese attack had 22 stabbed with 22 survivors. If I’m a six year old faced off against a murderous schizo, I’ll take the one armed with a knife, m’kay? And thanks for totally undermining your non-argument.

“Cars kill people. Why don’t we just ban cars?”

Now that’s a good idea!  I don’t own a car and I think they pretty much ruin everything and make people fat selfish assholes, so I may agree with you on this one… but cars are NOT guns, and to say so is tired, old hat shit. People use guns to kill other people. That is the only reason they exist.  People use cars for transportation and are sadly sometimes killed in accidental collisions. So what do we do?  We have car control.

Yes, cars are held to rigorous safety standards.  There are also traffic laws.  Most importantly, you must be licensed to legally drive a car. Last time I checked, no license was needed to purchase most guns in the USA.  Still the same?  And don’t bring up swimming pools either, you NRA hoopleheads.  Swimming pools, like cars, are also subject to intense and detailed regulation.

“But we NEED guns! They are our only line of defense against a repressive government!  A government will think twice about taking liberties against an armed populace?”

Oh, will they? It hasn’t really stopped them up to now…

Okay,  I will confess to the allure of this argument.  After all, who doesn’t want to bravely take up arms against tyranny? It all sounds so romantic!  To the barricades, comrades!

Unfortunately, armed uprisings in the United States have a worse track record than the Washington Generals. Every single one has been brutally and violently put down by a much, much better-armed federal government: Shays, Bacons, Harper’s Ferry, the secession of the Confederacy, Pine Ridge, Ruby Ridge, The Branch Davidians…. and these are just the appetizers.  I’m sorry, but as stirring as it sounds, armed civilians will never be a match against federal military power. Horde all the guns you want, but in the face of machine guns, fighter jets, and Blackhawk helicopters, you don’t stand a chance and never will.

People love to trumpet the 2nd Amendment as some kind of firewall against tyranny, but in giving birth to this awful, violent gun culture, hasn’t the 2nd Amendment created a “tyranny” of its own? It makes people live in fear.  And some of us rightly ask:

“What about my right to walk down the street without getting caught in a gang crossfire?”

“What about MY right to drink a coffee or watch a movie without having my brains spattered on the ceiling by some crackpot with a grudge against society!”

The 2nd Amendment was written well over 200 years ago, and guess what? Things have changed. It was penned during the age of muskets, and I know that this argument is repeated time and time again, but it’s correct: The Founders had no idea of where technology would take us. Knowledge of modern handguns and semi-automatic, military-grade rifles would have made them seriously reconsider the vague wording. And let’s face it: The 2nd Amendment is just badly written. It seems to mainly endorse the idea of the right to form a “well-regulated militia” while also hinting at unrestricted private ownership of “arms”.

But “arms” are never defined, are they?

Again. Currently it’s acceptable to own shotguns, handguns, and rifles–both single-shot and semi-automatic. But automatics are verboten. (Oh noes! Gun control!) So are grenades and grenade launchers. But aren’t these “arms” as well? What about mortars and cannons? Tanks? Missiles? Nerve gas?  Atomic bombs? If the 2nd Amendment really allows us a right to bear arms that “shall not be infringed,” shouldn’t we be allowed to own these? Yes, this argument is stock among the gun control crowd, but I have yet to hear one person on the pro-gun side give a reasonable response.

It’s clear that we have made some kind of “arms control” totally acceptable. So why is the line of general legal ownership so firmly drawn between semi-automatic and automatic weapons?

“Well go ahead and restrict guns, but if you ban certain types, then only criminals will own them!”

Okay, Bubba… but isn’t that the definition of a criminal? Anyone who breaks that law?  After all, C-4 plastic explosives are illegal to own, but some people choose to circumvent that law? And guess what, it they get caught, they are arrested and imprisoned. Why? Because they’re criminals. Is the reality that some people will break a law reason enough not to enact it? That’s why we have enforcement.

But… don’t get me wrong. Despite this lengthy screed, I am not calling for an end to gun ownership in America. This just ain’t gonna happen.  We must be realistic. There are over 270 million guns in our country and they’re not just going to disappear by federal or state decree.  A lot of people would straight up refuse to surrender their firearms even if hell froze over and a law banning them was enacted. From my cold, dead fingers!

But is it unreasonable to suggest that guns can be, as the 2nd Amendment itself clearly states, “well-regulated?” Shouldn’t we at least require licensing and training like we do with people who wish to fly planes, drive cars, or professionally cut hair? And what about banning certain military style rifles? Or even handguns? At least ban further sales… the old ones will eventually break down, over time.  Surely there must be SOME steps we can take to reign ’em in.

And yes, gun laws are not a one country/one fit deal. A few countries have heavily armed populations yet low gun crime (Switzerland, Israel). These are the exceptions to the rule, though. Generally speaking, more guns = more gun crime, and the countries with few guns have drastically fewer deaths by bullets. This is a fact and can be backed up with hard data. I’m sure anyone who has read this has seen the U.S. compared to other industrialized nations as far as gun crime goes. The numbers speak for themselves.

But at the end of the day, it’s the American people who will have to make the decision. If we choose to just endure a massacre every few weeks and do nothing to address the availability of guns in our nation, then we get the country we deserve. That’s just the premium we pay for tyranny insurance. Many on the pro-gun side say that the answer is MORE GUNS, that more armed people would create a more peaceful nation, where there exists a kind of mutually-assured destruction. In such a society, an armed barista would have taken out the maniac at Cafe Racer; several audience members would have blown out the back of James Holmes cackling, flame-haired head; and the teacher at Sandy Hook who saved those little kids with her body would have done so with a Glock instead.  But these are just visions of fantasy. Yes, carrying citizens do, from time to time, stop murderers before they can cut down innocents, but this will never be the norm. To believe so is simply folly and self-delusion. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the rest of the world. But when have we, as Americans, ever tried listening to them?

Here We Go Again

do not tread

We’re only three days into the new year and I already got a serious case of déjà vu. That’s right ye patriots, it’s time for another uprising against that big bad federal government courtesy of everyone’s favorite racist Mormon dingleberries, the Bundy clan. Remember them? Just two years back doddering patriarch Cliven Bundy ignited a brouhaha with the Bureau of Land Management when he continually refused to pay the use fees on the public land where he grazed his cattle. The wheezy old cowboy became a cause celebre. Wingnuts and wannabe soldiers flocked to his ranch to lay down their lives in the Great Second American Civil War. Bundy was lionized by the conservative media as a “true American” and a “patriot,” with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity tossing the geezer’s proverbial salad on air each day.

A Mexican standoff with federal agents ensued, with the camo-clad militia mongos pointing their stand-in dicks at the said feds, who, in the interest of avoiding a bloodbath over cattle fees, wisely stood down. On the right Bundy was hailed as a hero, then quietly abandoned by all but a few when he launched into a series of eyebrow-raising monologues that could have doubled for the jello-spattered mumblings of your racist Alzheimer’s grandpa. Even President Obama chimed in, noting that, “As a general rule, things don’t end well if the sentence starts with, ‘Let me tell you something about the Negro.'”

Well, if the lack of a body count last time left you wanting, don’t despair, because they’re back, only now Cliven’s son Ammon Bundy has taken the reins; currently he heads up a group of militia-types who have taken over a small government building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. They’re armed to the teeth, and though they claim to be peaceful, they seem to be itching for for a fight, claiming that they “won’t rule out” violence if it comes to that.

What is their beef this time, other than general and open hostility to the existence of the federal government?

Dwight and Steve Hammond are father/son ranchers in the area, and are responsible for at least three uncontrolled burns that spilled over into the neighboring wildlife refuge and scorched well over 100 acres of public land. Both were eventually convicted of arson and spent three months and a year in jail, respectively, only now they’ve been re-sentenced to five more years, since the original sentence didn’t meet the federal minimum for the crime. That’s right, the original prosecutor and judge “goofed” and now the old man (73) and his son (46) have to go back to the hoosegow. This family owns 12,000 acres of land in the area and is a kind of pillar of the community. The locals are outraged at this “re-sentencing,” which, while technically legal, reeks of double jeopardy. It seems to me that these guys are getting railroaded and I don’t blame people for being pissed off.

My sympathy, however, does not extend to Bundy and his cadre of weapon fetishists. These guys have descended into this community uninvited in an attempt to hijack this situation in order to serve their own extreme right-wing agenda. Many local residents resent their intrusion. They remind me of the hardcore Marxists or anarchists that often try to wrest the helm at various protests on the left. I believe that many of these guys want the government to come in guns blazing, because in their deluded minds, they’re on the vanguard of a second revolution. They think that they’re going to be the spark that ignites the great revolt against government “tyranny,” which will bring about some sort of great libertarian utopia. In this fantasy world the white man will be able to exploit the land as he sees fit, with no federal fetters to hinder him in his quest for personal profit.  In a video posted to Facebook, one of the militia members states:

“We’re planning on staying here for several years. And while we’re here, what we’re going to be doing is we’re going to be freeing these lands up, getting the ranchers back to ranching, getting the miners back to mining, getting the loggers back to logging, where they can do it all under the protection of the people.”

What is clear here is their objectives are more in line with the interests of capital than those of the people. Surprise surprise. No wonder the Republican party and the American mainstream right-wing establishment either openly encourage these nutbars or just quietly approve. They’ve been cultivating this cesspool of crazy for sometime now. Stoking fear and paranoia keeps getting their guys elected; in turn, corporate interests are served.

It’s interesting how the media has chosen to portray these folks. “Armed protesters,” is the term I saw floated around on more than one site. The semantic choices of the headline writers never fail to betray their racial bias. We whites are always tagged with the least-threatening labels, even when we’re walking arsenals of bullets, bigotry, and delusion.

So how will this go down? Last time federal agents retreated in the face of so many white men with guns. Will they do the same again? One can only imagine the immediate wrath and hell fire that would reign down if this were a group of armed blacks, American Indians, or Muslims. I wouldn’t be writing about a standoff: I’d be reflecting upon a body count. If you want to see how the U.S. government deals with unruly blacks with guns, look no further than the bombing of the black liberation group M.O.V.E. in Philly some 30 years ago, which killed 11 people, left 250 kids homeless, and burned down 61 houses.

I suspect Obama will play a cool hand with this one. He doesn’t want his presidency stained with something like a Waco. He knows better than to make martyrs of these loons. The best move is to let them shiver away the winter in that glorified shack in the high desert of eastern Oregon. Perhaps he–and the rest of us–should just ignore them, since that is exactly what I’m sure they fear the most.

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