Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Darkest 24 Hours in American History

Ted Cruz has declared June 24-25, 2015 as "some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation's history." In my opinion, it doesn't rank in America's top 70,000 darkest days, but let's make some comparisons.

Battle of Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862
In one day, this Civil War battle saw more American combat deaths, 23,000 causalities and 3,700 dead, than any other day in history. More than D-Day, more than any day in any US war.

Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929
While not the largest decline in stock market history, that was October 19, 1987, it marked the beginning of the global economic collapse known as the Great Depression. This day's 12% market drop followed a 13% drop the previous Monday. On this Tuesday the nation's wealthiest including J. D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan tried to prop up the markets. They failed. Poverty, misery, fascism, genocide, and war followed.

The Night Washington Burned, Aug. 24, 1814
The War of 1812 was the first in a long line of stupid wars for the United States. President James Madison thought that, with the mighty British army and navy tied up fighting Napoleon, America could invade and capture Canada. The Canada adventure was an abject failure, then Napoleon abdicated and Britain could focus her forces on the pipsqueak nation tweaking her nose. They captured Washington D. C. without opposition, burned the U. S. Capitol to the ground and set fire to the White House.

Sept. 11, 2001
Really, Ted. Wasn't this a darker day?

Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941
This "day that will live in infamy" damaged or sunk the bulk of the American Pacific Fleet and killed over 1500 Americans.

Black Blizzard, Apr. 14, 1935
So, how about an actual dark day. On this day winds lifted millions of tons of fertile topsoil from Texas and Oklahoma, turning the day darker than the darkest night. This dust storm was so massive it obscured the sun along the Atlantic coast.
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down, We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom. ~ Woody Guthrie
There are also all those assassinations - Lincoln, JFK, RFK, MLK. Continuing health care availability and allowing equal rights for a small minority hardly rank with these truly dark days. But, you know Ted, whatever sinks your boat.

Friday, June 26, 2015

It Was a Very Good Week

Not a great week. A great week would not have seen three black churches attacked by racist arsonists, acts that certainly warmed the fetid cockles of Dylann Roof's heart. Still, it was a good week.

It was a week that saw the nation finally start turning its back on a flag that symbolized a heritage of slavery, rebellion, segregation, and the Ku Klux Klan.

It saw three Supreme Court decisions - one acknowledged that health care is not just a privilege of wealth but a public right, another accepted the principle that gay couples have the same right of marriage as straights, and the most substantive decision stated that discriminatory effects of housing policies are as illegal as overt discriminatory policies. The last decision is important because its logic also applies to voting restrictions that have the clear effect of preventing minorities from voting.

And, because humor is an important component of any good week, we have the delightful sight of Donald Trump rising to the top tier of Republican candidates. The Kenneth Parcell of politics, Bobby Jindal, has officially announced he is a candidate for president while the Fatty Arbuckle of politics, Chris Christie, has announced that he will squeeze into the clown car this coming Monday.
Arbuckle or Christie?
All in all, it was a very good week. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ACA Decision: Laughter Is the Best Medicine

After Charleston I've needed a good public laugh. The right-wing reaction to the 6-3 SCOTUS decision upholding ObamaCare subsidies is a hoot and a half.

Collectively, wingnuts believe the continuation of marginally less expensive health insurance is Götterdämmerung, the end of civilization. Adding in removing the Rebel flag from public spaces and gay marriage brings them to bemoan that all is lost. Some rank and file comments from various rightwing websites.
  • We can't win any more. The IRS is after us. They destroy evidence. No one is punished. They laugh at us and ridicule us.
  • There is no stopping this mad rush into our utopian socialist America.
    The republic is dead.
  • It feels like living in Germany in the mid 1930s.
  • I’m moving to Mexico. (I love this one. They won't let him bring his guns with him and Mexico's public healthcare system serves 55 million people. Not to mention the country is full of brown-skinned Mexicans who speak Spanish.) 
But not all are doom and gloom. Some are again calling for armed rebellion.
  • Civil War II is the answer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Confederate Flag and Me

A couple months ago an asshole neighbor of mine erected a large Confederate flag in his back yard. My first reaction was, "Oh shit!" My second reaction was acknowledging that he was exactly the kind of insensitive jerk who would do something that disgusting. Then I started thinking about another family living farther down the street - an African-American couple with two teenaged children and I became sick at the message that asshole neighbor was sending. He took it down a few days later because he got tired of everybody telling him how repugnant it was.

Defenders of the flag say it is about heritage, not racism, and if you are offended you just don't know history. Well, I do know history. That flag began its retched existence in 1861 as the battle ensign of the Army of Northern Virginia. The design was so popular it was incorporated as the canton on the official flag of the Confederacy in 1863, the so called "White Man's Flag." The designer of the flag, William Thompson, explained the white field,
"As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause....As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism. Another merit in the new flag is, that it bears no resemblance to the now infamous banner of the Yankee vandals."

After the South surrendered and Reconstruction began, a movement began among white Southerners to free the South from the rule of carpetbaggers (Yankees), freedmen (former slaves), and scalawags (liberal Southerners who supported racial integration). These "Redeemers" worked to return the South to the days of white rule and black servitude. The Confederate flag became the standard for Rebel reunions and a symbol of the Redeemers. In 1894, after Jim Crow segregation was firmly established, the state of Mississippi incorporated the Confederate ensign into the state flag.

The flag went to sleep at this point only to be reborn when Yankees started "imposing" the hated concept of Civil Rights on the nation. In 1956, Georgia added the Confederate flag to its state flag. Also around this time the Ku Klux Klan replaced the American flag in their marches with the Rebel flag.

And so it is that, except for about eighteen months at the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederate flag has always been a loud and proud symbol of racial hatred in America. The heritage it recalls is one of hatred and racial divide.
Selma, 1965

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On the Church Shooting

I've spent the past few days on a desert island (Catalina), willfully unaware of the evils of the world. I come back to discover that pure evil in the form of a young white man with an unnatural love of guns and an unholy hatred of black people had decided to express his politics by murdering innocent people in a South Carolina church.
I got back in time to read all the reactions of Conservatives pretending that deadly attacks on black churches are not a time honored tradition in the Old South.
As always after a mass shooting, many people worry that laws allowing any wackadoodle with a grievance to buy a gun might be changed. Others are concerned that the shooting is bringing condemnation down on the Confederate battle flag
"Stars and Bars"
that for a century and a half has been a symbol of rebellion, segregation, and hate.

All this is making me want to go back to some island, maybe this time even one without WiFi.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thoughts of Rachel Dolezal

I'm not Jewish. Never been in a synagogue, never spoken to a rabbi on religious matters. In fact, I am not at all religious. But, if I were forced to choose a religion by some thug wearing a brown shirt with an armband showing a broken cross, I'd like to think I tell him, "As far as you are concerned, I am a Jew."

I prefer to see Rachel through that lens. She chose to identify with a people who are belabored by generations of racial animus, to see life through their eyes, and to help as best she can. I won't say it was a wise choice (I doubt telling a black-blooded Sturmabteilung I'm Jewish would be a wise choice either) but it is a choice I can respect.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


A soldier driven insane in the trenches of World War I.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein
America is sending troops back into Iraq to train a new generation of Iraqi soldiers. Of course, a decade spent training Iraq soldiers failed miserably, but, who knows, this time it may be different. I understand the madness. They don't know what to do so they try again what has always failed (see Vietnamization).
Insanity is knowing that what you're doing is completely idiotic, but still, somehow, you just can't stop it. ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel
ISIS is supported by American allies in the region. Turkey wants ISIS to kill Kurds and weaken Syria's Assad. Saudi Arabia wants ISIS to kill Shi'ites. Even Israel is, for the moment, backing ISIS as a counterbalance to Iran-backed Hezbollah. All the while American war profiteers are making a bloody fortune selling arms to everyone in the region. This means that alternatives that might be effective (blockades) are off the table.
Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. ~ Ernest Hemingway
So, go ahead. Train Iraqis to uses the new weapons we'll send to replace the old weapons captured by ISIS knowing all the while that corrupt Iraqi generals will again sell the bullets for those weapons to ISIS. For all the good it will do.
For 40 years we have known the ISIS is invincible.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Is America the 'Greatest Nation in History?'

I read conservative websites on the "know thy enemy" theory. Usually, when I read something disgusting (often) I just glance at it and move on. But this article infuriated me not just for its arrogance but blind ignorance.

1. "America Saved the World"
World War I - India, Canada, and Australia all had more causalities in combat than the U.S. Hell tiny Serbia had as many troops in the front lines and almost as many deaths in combat. Sure, America made a big to-do about joining the war and helped the Allies somewhat as the French were running out of men. U.S. soldiers didn't see combat until the Summer of 1918 and only had a decisive effect in one small battle.

World War II - The U.S. did most of the heavy lifting in defeating Japan, so I'll give them that one. But it was the Soviet Union that defeated Nazi Germany. Russia had more combat casualties in one battle (Battle of Kursk) that the U.S. had in the entire European Theater during the entire war. By the time of America's first major battle against Germany (Kasserine Pass, Feb. 1943) the Russians had already turned the tide of the war with its victory at Stalingrad. America's Lend Lease program did provide vital logistics to Great Britain and Russia but we expected to be paid back (we mostly weren't).

2. "America Spreads Freedom"
Augusto Pinochet
Yes and no, but mostly no. First, the good side of the ledger. After WWII, the U.S. helped create democracies in Germany and Japan while the Marshall Plan helped democracies to return to France and Italy.

The U.S. also overthrew democratically elected governments in Chile (1973), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), and Brazil (1964) and imposed brutal dictatorships. The U.S. also supported dictators in other countries such as South Korea, Spain, and Philippines that only became democracies against the wishes of the United States. Even today, the U.S. supports the slave labor policies of Malaysia.

3. "The U.S. Prevents War."
Really? The U.S. is the leading exporter of war. The list of military actions the United States has engaged in over its short history is staggering. The U.S. has military bases in over 135 countries and is actively attacking people, usually with drone airstrikes, in a dozen countries from Afghanistan to Yemen.

4. "We Aren't Invading Everyone."
U.S. forces preparing to invade Iraq.
Okay, I guess. We haven't invaded Canada in 200 years. But, the Pentagon has drafted battle plans for the conquest of Canada just in case we want to.

5. "We Are Technologically and Economic Superior."
I'll give him that one too. However, the major reason we have not needed to militarily invaded countries is the United States' economic dominance.
 ♠   ♣   ♦   ♥
There is also a lot that Hawkins misses.

6. The American Genocide
The genocide of Native Americans begun by President Andrew Jackson with the Trail of Tears in 1838 killed hundreds of thousands. By death toll, the Native American genocide equals the Turkish Armenian genocide.

7. Slavery
In 1860, 12 percent of the population of the United States was enslaved.  Over half the population of Mississippi and South Carolina were slaves. Mississippi didn't adopt the 13th amendment abolishing slavery until 2013. As the TPP treaty shows, while slavery is outlawed in this country we are more than willing to do business with slavers today.

8. Military Failures
A great nation is marked by its great military successes. 
America invaded Grenada in 1983.
Since World War II, this is the record of United States military operations.
1950-1953 - Korean War - Draw
1959-1975 - Vietnam War - Loss
1961 - Bay of Pigs, Cuba - Loss
1965 - Dominican Republic - Victory - imposed a pro-American dictator
1983 - Lebanon - Loss - ignoble retreat following Beirut barracks bombing
1983 - Grenada - Victory - Very easy as Grenada had no army.
1989-1990 - Panama - Victory - minimal opposition
1991 - First Iraq War - Tactical victory, strategic draw
1992-1995 - Somalia - Loss
1993-1996 - Bosnia - Victory
1999 - Serbia - Victory
2001-2015 - Afghanistan - Draw
2002-2011 - Second Iraq War - Draw (at best)

That's a record barely over .500 and I'm including the war against Grenada which could have been conquered by a Boy Scout troop armed with slingshots. Excluding Korea where we fought against China, these were wars against tinhorn dictators and ragtag rebels. This list proves two things, the United States is not a peaceful country and our mighty and expensive military is horrible at actually fighting wars.

9. Lack of Longevity
Death of Julius Caesar
The Roman Republic lasted for nearly 500 years until finally devolving into an empire. The empire survived for another 400 years in the west and for a thousand years at Constantinople. The House of Commons in England was first seated in 1341 and is the longest lived elected parliament in human history. The Mongol Empire controlled a quarter of the population and land area of the world in the 13th century. The Chinese civilization has a history going back 3,500 years.

The United States ranks in the top ten of great nations, but it isn't number one.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Presidential Horse Race Tout Sheet

I know I said I wouldn't be paying attention until Fall, but in honor of the Belmont Stakes here is an early look at the presidential horse racing odds. British bookies are all over this already.
Hillary Clinton (even money)
I can't give her better than a 50-50 chance. Her negatives are huge, she's a piss poor campaigner, and I can foresee several ways she can lose a long race.

Marco Rubio (5 to 1)
Bookmakers rank him lower but he is the only candidate not drowning in unfavorables. His owner, Norman Braman, is not the richest sugardaddy, he only ranks 1006th on Forbes list of global billionaires, but he's rich enough to buy some smaller primary races.

Jeb Bush (6 to 1)
Bookies put him higher but I don't see it. He is well known, but that just means more people hate him. His jockeys are all famous fuckups.

Scott Walker (10 to 1)
Has a richer owner, the Koch Brothers, than Rubio. His tendency to stick his hoof in his mouth while on the track may give him troubles.

Rand Paul (20 to 1)
Seabiscuit was a small horse too but Rand is no Seabiscuit. Rand's habit of biting everyone who comes near him is making it hard for him to find backers.

Ted Cruz (25 to 1)
Talk about a biter. The bookies are all over the board on Cruz because he tends to look better in the paddock than on the track. He is owned by hedge fund crook Robert Mercer, but Mercer tends to buy losers.

Rick Perry (40 to 1)
Imbecilic Texas governors have a depressing ability to run well on the presidential track. That said, his last time out was truly pathetic.

Lindsay Graham (50 to 1)
His biggest competition is with Jeb Bush over who is the most hated. Gambler Sandy Alderson will probably end up buying him which is the only reason he rates this high.

Ben Carson (60 to 1)
The dark horse in the field. Sorry, that's a horrible joke. His first outing should be a maiden claiming race, not at this level. One of several horses in the race just trying to con folks out of their money.

Rick Santorum (80 to 1)
Last time he ran he finished tenth in an eight horse race. The last race he won was 14 years ago.

Carly Fiorina (100 to 1)
The other filly in the field but Carly runs like a girl and not in a good way.

The others (100 to 1)
Huckabee, Pataki, Jindal, Christie, Trump are all more fitting for a zany comedy than a legitimate campaign. Pictured below are Jindal (the ethnic), Christie (the horse's ass), Huckabee (I wish he were as mute as Harpo), Trump (the con man), and Pataki (the front half of a horse's ass).
I'm not going to rank the other Democrats in the race. I love Bernie Sanders, I don't trust Martin O'Malley, and I don't know Lincoln Chafee. Never bet in a race where your emotions rule.

By the way, those British bookmakers have American Pharaoh at odds of 10 to 11 to win the Triple Crown. That's slightly better than Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency.

Monday, June 01, 2015

May Police Death Toll

May was a good month for US citizens, only 83 were killed by police during the month.
On May 5, police shot an unarmed homeless man in the Venice community of Los Angeles.
Good is a relative term compared to the 101 killed by police in April, 2015. The deadliest states were California (8) and Florida (6). The deadliest day was Thursday, May 21 when police across the country killed nine people.

The youngest killed was 17 year-old David Gaines who was shot by Grand Junction, CO Police on May 19 after crashing the car he had carjacked. The oldest was was 62 year-old Millard Tallant who was shot by a Snohomish County sheriff for unknown reasons on May 26 on a road near Mr. Tallant's home.