Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Will “Why a Saint?” Beat Out “Game Change”?

I tried to buy the new political tell-all “Game Change” at Borders yesterday and they were sold out. Maybe I’ll lower my sights (or raise them, depending on your view) and buy “Why a Saint?” I give you saint-watcher, intimate of popes and writer Monsignor Slawomir Oder. Today, Reuters tells us a thing or two about Pope John Paul II (the current Pope’s predecessor), according to Oder. “'Pope John Paul II flagellated himself regularly to imitate Christ’s suffering', according to a book published Tuesday by the Vatican official in charge of the process that could lead to the pope’s sainthood. The book says that John Paul, who died in 2005, engaged in a practice known as mortification, the self-infliction of pain in order to feel closer to God, whipping himself with a belt that he kept in his closet.” Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the chief honcho of the cause for John Paul’s canonization, says that whipping yourself is “an instrument of God’s perfection”. So, all you guys who thought my posts about “Opus Dei” were nonsense, listen up. “Opus Dei” (God’s work), is the cult founded in 1928 by Jose Maria Escriva, a monsignor in Spain who, among other esoteric beliefs promoted the practices of beating oneself and wearing a hairshirt (cilice) to show how much one loved God. “Opus Dei” has roughly 85,000 lay members worldwide and about 3,000 in the United States. Pope John Paul II thought the “Opus Dei”cult was so marvelous and so filled with pious people who exemplified the Christian ideal that he canonized Jose Maria Escriva in 2002--an act which, by me, was as insane as Escriva. We are told by Oder that, “Pope John Paul II whipped himself with a belt, even on vacation, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection”. Well, here’s my point: If these religious guys want to feel Christ’s pain on the cross (which, of course, they can’t because they are not Christ), but if that’s what this crapola is all about, then I would not question their religious zeal in going out and being crucified. But whipping and hairshirts? Please! It’s too close to autoeroticism for me to equate it with Christian perfection. And as to that, has any research been done on whether all this whipping leads to the perfection of an awesome orgasm? But back to the current Pope Benedict XVI who was called Pope John Paul’s “Enforcer”. Pope Benedict wants to canonize the guy who canonized the nutjob Escriva. I know it’s mean to find humor in the crazy acts of crazy people, but this latest pronouncement from the Vatican has me ROTFLMFAO!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Biden and the Blackwater Appeal

On Saturday, January 23rd, Vice President Joe Biden assured Iraqi leaders that the dismissal of manslaughter charges against Blackwater mercenaries for their violent and unjustified attack against Iraqi civilians in 2007 would be appealed. On January 2nd, Federal District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina had dismissed all charges against the Blackwater thugs in an unusually detailed and critical ruling, which teachers of criminal law say makes an appeal highly unlikely. Judge Urbina’s ruling came about, he said, because there had been a “reckless violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights”. Ugh! Can of worms! The judge may well have felt he had no choice but to rule as he did in the matter. And Biden may well have been advised to pledge that the judge’s ruling would be appealed in order to pave the way to withdraw combat troops in August after the March 7th parliamentary elections in Iraq. But I am fairly sure there will be no appeal. Well, no appeal as such. A lot of rhetoric will be spewed...I mean, we’re talking Joe Biden here...of course rhetoric will be spewed. And Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is a formidable bullshitter who, out of one side of his mouth decries any interference by the Americans in Iraq, while out of the other side of his mouth, cries and begs for help, aid and justice from the Americans when situations become difficult to control. But I will bet (and I would like to be wrong) that no legal appeal will be brought and that the ruling will not be reversed. But what with the current Republican Tea Party assholes feeling they now have a clear and unimpeded path to controlling American politics because the Dems lost an important election in Massachusetts recently, I would like to remind the TP folks about a few things in the Republican recent past. The entire financial crisis the US is currently experiencing was brought about by the Republicans. The stupid and unnecessary war in Iraq, which has bankrupted the US and sullied its reputation throughout the world, was brought about by the Republicans. And it was the Republicans who decided that George W. Bush--a ne’er-do-well, alcoholic loser with a messianic belief that he was sent by God-- should be president of the United States. And it was this same narcissistic silly twat, known as “Dubya”, who welcomed and received spiritual counseling from James Dobson, the founder of “Focus on the Family”. And it was this spiritual advisor of GWB who was a close pal of Erik Prince, the wealthy far-right Christian fanatic and former Navy SEAL who built a training camp for mercenaries in Camden County, North Carolina, called Blackwater. Dobson and Prince had a vision for the course Christians would need to take. Dobson said, “I stand in a long tradition of Christians who believe that rulers may forfeit their divine mandate when they systematically contravene the divine moral law. We may be rapidly approaching the sort of Rubicon that our spiritual forebears faced Choose Caesar or God. I take no pleasure in this prospect, I pray against it. But it is worth noting that such times have historically been rejuvenating for the faith.” Dobson wrote and Prince agreed that the United States was heading for “a showdown between church and state” and a “morally justified revolution”. So when the Bush administration couldn’t interest enough people to go to Iraq to fight its BushWar, they suited up the Blackwater mercenaries to make up for our lack of troops and they sent Blackwater hoodlums to fight beside our soldiers and be representatives of the United States. In that circumstance, the Blackwater enforcers marauded, murdered and created mayhem. The above is by way of saying: LEST WE FORGET. And now that the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party is bloviating and bragging and in general sounding like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Erik Prince and James Dobson at their deluded worst and lying best, one wonders, where are Condi and Dubya and what are they up to? And how is Blackwater doing under its new name, Xe? Have you war-mongering morons got any new wars to sell? Or as William Kristol said in his 1997 Project for the New American Century manifesto--which gave credence to starting wars in little countries where the US wanted to usurp resources--are there any “regimes hostile to our interests and values” you guys would like to invade and overrun for the good of the Republican Tea Party?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dems “Caught Napping”? Not The Problem

The New York Times reports this morning that Obama’s senior advisor David Axelrod said the Dems “got caught napping” regarding Republican Scott Brown’s win in the Massachusetts election to replace Senator Edward Kennedy. That’s not the problem. The problem was the Democrat candidate Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. Why the Dems would run an idiot like Coakley in an important election like this one is a total mystery. She barely campaigned and because she is an idiot no one wanted to back her and she had no money in her war chest. Therefore, she ran no polls to see how she was faring against her opponent. Not that she would have done anything remotely intelligent had she known she was losing so badly. Because whenever she was given the chance she made stupid remarks about Scott Brown and ridiculed his campaign. The problem is that the Dems never have considered the effect of the racist backlash, because they think if they don’t admit there is one, there won’t be one. Note to the Democratic Party: The United States is still a very racist country and millions of people cannot wait to vote against our black president in whatever way they can. The problem is that health care reform is NOT the main issue in most people’s minds today. The main issues are jobs and housing and keeping food on the table. How Obama and the Democratic Party could be so wrong about the main focus of the Democratic Party is beyond me. The young don’t worry about health care because they don’t get sick. The impoverished old and impoverished minorities figure they will get what they need by either going to the hospital and not paying their bill or going to an emergency room. That leaves the chronically ill and the rich who don’t want their coverage pared down. And those two demographics do not form a majority in the United States. Why is it that the top people in both the Republican and Democratic Parties have not got a clue about what the majority of people in the United States want? And why is it that when the top people in both the Republican and Democratic Parties hear rumbles from their constituents about what the voters want, they decide the people don’t know what’s good for them? Now that the people in Massachusetts have clearly said they would rather have a smart Republican Senator than a moronic Democrat, now that they have said they do not want another Kennedy Dynasty, now that they have said they want to give a black president a hint: they are not color blind, and now that they have said health care reform is not a top issue, IS ANYONE LISTENING?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ah! How Prudent Was I!

A few months ago, when it seemed a foregone conclusion that Sarah Palin would be a constant presence on TV, a friend of mine offered me a purple and green Power Popper multi-shot no-nonsense foam ball action gun so that I could safely shoot my TV set whenever the Palin visage appeared. I eagerly accepted the gift. And yesterday, Reuters confirmed that my preemptive act was very sensible indeed. A Reuters aviso announced that “Republican Sarah Palin is coming to your television -- as long as it's tuned to the Fox News Channel.” Palin has signed a multi-year deal to serve as a Fox News contributor. Reuters reported: “The move will help give Palin a large audience for her views as she mulls whether to run for president in 2012.” University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato said, "She can always resign the position to run for office." Palin confirmed that she has not ruled out a 2012 assault on the presidency. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is also on Fox News and also has not ruled out running for Prez in 2012. Although it would be an interesting coupling, I am assuming Palin would not again accept a VP slot in any candidacy ever again. I don't watch Fox News very often. But still, now that Palin has signed a TV contract, chances are that bits and snippets of her will be seen often on many channels and I will need my Power Popper to defend my liberal self.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tiny Blackwater Payback But It’s Something

Last Thursday, the Associated Press reported that two former Blackwater contractors had been arrested on murder charges. This was not about the Nisour Square incident in which unarmed civilians were fired on and killed by Blackwater mercenaries in 2007 and which charges were dropped by Federal District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina on January 1, 2010. This was about a shooting of two Afghans in a traffic accident in Kabul last year. The FBI arrested Justin Cannon and Chris Drotleff, charging them with attempted murder of two people and injuring at least one other person in this recent episode of unwarranted violence by Blackwater employees. The AP also reported that federal prosecutors intend to charge another Blackwater contractor in the murder of an Iraqi guard in 2006. The North Carolina right-wing religious zealot training camp for mercenaries has changed its name from Blackwater to “Xe Services”.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Spare Me!

This morning, The New York Times has this headline: “Seeing Old Age as a Never-Ending Adventure”, accompanied by this teaser: “The limitations of age are being tossed aside by active men and women as the global travel and leisure industry races to keep up.” Then we read about a 90-year-old who sprained her ankle hiking in Africa and an 89-year-old who wing-walks. We are told, “Intensely active older men and women who have the means and see the twilight years as just another stage of exploration are pushing further and harder, tossing aside presumed limitations. And the global travel and leisure industry, long focused on youth, is racing to keep up.” Ah! There you go...”older men and women who have the means...” and “the global travel and leisure industry”--a marriage made in Shangri-la-la-la. The rest of us who don’t have the means...okay...MOST of the rest of us, see being in our 70’s and 80’s as a great trial and challenge. And not the least of the annoyances of being old is listening to the chatter that comes from old people. We fall into two main categories: The complainers about aches, pains, unloving children and grandchildren, and the determined Pollyannas who thank Jesus every five minutes for allowing them to live and chastise the complainers the other 55 minutes of every hour. A complainer-subset is the knot of elders that competes with each other to tell the most horrible story about hospital or caregiver abuses. And a thank-you-Jesus subset is the clot that competes with the aches-and-pains competers but end their horror stories with a smile and a testament that “God is good!” Although the upbeat and sunny article in the NYT doesn’t say so, you can trust me that the elders of means who are taking these daring and brave jaunts into the unknown also fall into the two major categories of old folks. They either complain like bloody hell or they smile bravely and cast sunny rays of shame on those who don’t smile bravely at infirmity and aging. And you can also trust me that these elders of means who are providing a nice profit to the global travel and leisure industry are also causing their travel keepers to load up themselves on antacids, mood elevators and blood pressure medicine because of the worry caused by the old folks. No matter how dimly I view this cheerleader view of the super-aged and their adventuring spirit, there is a golden lining. For the few weeks great-granny is tramping across the frozen Arctic, she’s out of her children’s and grandchildren’s hair and they are ecstatic. And for those same few weeks that some travel outfit has to pack medications in coolers, tend to throwing away adult diapers and search for lost dentures in snow drifts, the travel minders are making a very good living.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Good Question.

“What’s the Point of Leaving Things The Way They Are?” Murray Burns asks. I watched “A Thousand Clowns” for the umpteenth time last night. It’s the 1965 movie version of Herb Gardiner’s 1962 play about Murray Burns (Jason Robards), an affable and funny oddball who is raising his twelve-year-old genius nephew in New York City. But Murray has quit his job writing for the “Chuckles the Chipmunk” show and the Child Welfare Bureau has come to investigate his lifestyle. The movie is also about who is the bigger fool in this life—the shlemiel (jerk who always spills the soup) or the shlimazl (putz who always gets soup spilled on himself). And it’s about the balancing act between conforming but not losing our identity. Murray’s commentaries on life and interactions with people on the street are reminiscent of Jean Shepherd’s old 1950’s WOR radio show. Gardiner acknowledged he based Murray on Shepherd. It’s said Shepherd was not pleased. In any case, “A Thousand Clowns” has some very funny stuff even 50 years later. And the answer to Murray's question, “What’s the Point of Leaving Things The Way They Are?”? There is no point. We can’t leave things the way they are because they are always changing. But at least we can have the fun of shaking people up a little.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Blackwater Travesty Lives On

A New York Times headline this morning: “Judge Drops Charges From Blackwater Deaths in Iraq”. And I’m not saying that Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the Federal District Court in DC didn’t have good and proper reasons to drop the charges. Nor am I saying he was morally right. He may have had no choice. He wrote in a 90-page opinion that “the government’s mishandling of the case requires dismissal of the indictment against all the defendants.” What I’m saying is: these fuckups (aka mishandling) started when the Bush administration used a bunch of thugs from a camp of mercenaries trained at an outpost of religious fanatics in North Carolina because the Bush administration couldn’t get enough bonafide recruits to fight their bogus war in Iraq. And these fuckups have been so monumental that if there were a medal given for amoral behavior and bad decisions, medals would have to be presented to Blackwater’s Erik Prince/Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld/President George W. Bush. That’s all I’m saying. To recap this particular case and to quote from this morning’s article in the NYT, this ruling is about an incident in Iraq. “A shooting at Nisour Square (in Baghdad) frayed relations between the Iraqi government and the Bush administration and put a spotlight on the United States’ growing reliance on private security contractors in war zones. “Investigators concluded that the guards had indiscriminately fired on unarmed civilians in an unprovoked and unjustified assault near the crowded traffic circle on Sept. 16, 2007. The guards contended that they had been ambushed by insurgents and fired in self-defense. “A trial on manslaughter and firearm offenses was planned for February, and the preliminary proceedings had been closely watched in the United States and Iraq.” And now, because of what Judge Urbina has ruled as the government’s mishandling, he has dropped all charges. Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Columbia University, said it’s rare for a judge to issue such a long opinion at this early stage and since this opinion was based on factual findings not on interpretation, it would be hard to challenge on appeal. The religious zealot assholes at the North Carolina camp are overjoyed, of course. And please note, they have changed the name of their camp from Blackwater to “Xe Services”. The families of the people in Iraq who were murdered are furious. (Oh yeah...murdered! You bet! They were murdered!) Ali Khalaf, a traffic police officer who was on duty in Nisour Square when the Blackwater guards opened fire said, “There has been a cover-up since the very start. What can we say? They killed people. They probably gave a bribe to get released. This is their own American court system. “Some of the victims had been burned so badly, he said, that he and others had to use shovels to scoop their remains out of their vehicles. ‘I ask you, if this had happened to Americans, what would be the result? But these were Iraqis.’” Now that the whole world knows and recognizes the extent of the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration, we would like to see Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld and the various Attorneys General rounded up and put in jail for the senseless war in Iraq, for the financial meltdown, for the arrogant corrupting of our justice system, for the trampling on the Constitution. But failing that, we would like to see the prosecution of someone or some group that symbolizes these wrongs. Such a symbol is Blackwater. Using Blackwater thugs as mercenaries fighting next to our brave soldiers and subverting our military system by their presence in Iraq and by their mindless violence, symbolizes all that was wrong about the war in Iraq, and all that was wrong in the Bush administration. And now, we won’t even get to see Blackwater, AKA XE Services brought to justice. Fah!