Saturday, June 30, 2012

You tell me...

...a time to worry?

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Boy earns his Yellow Belt

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who IS This Person??

It's morning in America again, Mommy!

Thanks, and a tip of the hat to the Gipper,
who really hated the idea of public health care, bless his heart.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Has any good thing ever come out of Tucson?

With apologies to John 1:46

Tucson is in the news again, and as someone who spent his teenage years there and still visits family a couple times a year, I can tell you that is rarely a good thing. Other than Bob Dylan allegedly composing Forever Young while in town briefly, good things rarely proceed from news stories that begin with, “In Tucson today…” The rest of the sentence almost always contains words like “tragedy,” “horror” and/or “…died in drug-related violence.”

The local news broadcast sounds like a nightly recap of the Tet Offensive.

Even still, a new story on CNN about Tucson tonight made my jaw drop. In a report about how the Supreme Court’s split decision on the merits of Arizona’s ‘papers’ law is going to exponentially increase theworkload of an already cash-strapped police department, it casually mentions in the second graf that Tucson’s police force is already spread paper-thin, “down 160 officers due to [a] weakened economy.”

Of course I had heard stories about local municipalities forced to cut their payrolls to the bone, often by laying off police, firemen and teachers, but I always assumed that was happening in quaint, off-the-beaten-track Mayberries with little crime and even less need of literacy.

But Tucson? How in God’s name could you even consider balancing your budget at the expense of the health and safety of your citizens when you live an hour’s drive from the Mexican border, and your isolated, desert metropolis is a popular pit stop along the superhighway for  the Mexican cartels’ murderous drug trade?

This seems the very textbook definition of insanity, or at least criminally incompetent governance. I don’t know if the town is in GOP or Demo hands and I’m not going to look it up. This budget decision so supercedes issues of partisan affiliation that I wouldn’t care if it was something FDR and George Washington cooked up in the Watergate Wing of the Nixon Presidential Library.

It’s a horrible fucking idea!

And in practice, it is a bloodbath, as evidenced by the local nightly news.

Then I thought about the teachers. We entrust them with the raising of our kids all day Monday through Friday for twelve of the most impressionable years of their lives, but we don’t give a shit about them?

More to the point, if you eliminate educators, you are necessarily dumbing-down the next generation of voters, unlearned citizens who will more easily be convinced to vote against their own self-interest by nonsensical rhetoric and flag-pin wearing. People like a certain, unnamed family member who is a total welfare queen, 100% on the government teat, who hates Obama’s socialist programs (while she lives off their benefits) and can’t wait to vote him out of office to elect candidates who have promised to balance the federal budget by cutting programs including the ones that subsidize her existence.

She is a snapshot of a society shorn of its professional teaching class.

We will make acquiescent, unquestioning serfs for our future overlords.

All of which begs the question, who in their right mind would cut safety and education in a town as smart-people-challenged and crime-ridden as Tucson? Quit watering the damn golf courses! Close down the Desert Museum! Shutter Old Tucson! Let “A” Mountain get overgrown with grass, then light it up on the fourth of July and save money on lawncare as well as fireworks.

Except you don’t have a fire department you could can rely on to put the flames out, do you? Or enough police to patrol the crowds.

Which really raises the question of who in their right minds…?

Then I remembered: These kind of decisions are made by politicians! And most politicians I know, even local ones, do not live in the shit parts of town, even (especially) when their town in 90% shit. Their kids do not go the same shit public schools that most Tucson kids go to.

And that was my answer.

When one lives in a gated, guarded community (which are sprinkled around the perimeter of the town and in the pricey foothills), your house has 24-hour private security, a state-of-the-art fire-suppression system and your kids all go to private schools, you could look at a budget and see the most expendable items as police, firemen and teachers.

As long as the victims of your cost-cutting are just names on the news and numbers on a ledger—and not your own family and friends, people in the circles in which you travel—it is mighty easy to change the channel, or look at the numbers and tell yourself, hey, they could be worse.

The good news for all those anonymous, eminently ignorable names and numbers the decision-makers don’t give a fuck about is that they stand a much better chance than the hoi polloi of their next of kin experiencing the thrill of hearing their name mentioned on the 11 o’clock news.

True, in a sentence that contains the words “tragedy,” “horror” and/or “…died in drug-related violence,” but dammit, they’ll be on TV!

And hey, even though they never got to live a full, long life, at least they found a way out of Tucson.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A = A

[Hate to let a month go by without bitching about Citizens United. It pisses me off I had to quit volunteering for the ACLU because I couldn’t make a sincere argument for its support of Citizens when I tabled at events.]

The first day in Philosophy 101 at the U of A (which I actually attended for a semester; thanks Senator Pell!) they covered A=A.

Many philosophical tenets seem to exist simply to be debated, but some are so fundamental that they form the basis from which all subsequent arguments are formulated. A=A is one of those cornerstones.

A rock is a rock, it is not a tree or a church steeple. Duh! Seems straightforward, eh? Guess that’s why they covered it on day one.

In the case of Citizens United, however, applying that most basic of philosophical constructs would suggest that corporations are (huh-whazzuh?) actually corporations, not people; and money is actually money, not speech.

Then there is the counter-argument put forward by Citizens United and summed up quite brilliantly by accidental comedian and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, buttressed by the hilariously vacuous follow-up, “Everything that corporations earn ultimately go to people,” below:

If Mitt Romney’s retort that day had been, “The Courts have decided to treat money as speech, my friend,” that would have been a true statement. Infuriating, but demonstrably true.

“Corporations are people, my friend,” however, is demonstrably untrue. That Romney could quip it like it was a brilliant rejoinder, without a trace of irony, I think says something about the man.

Last week, the Roberts Court—in a strictly party line 5-4 vote, as usual—upheld Citizens in a Montana case where they overruled a state 1912 political corruption law.

Those are the kind of pre-existing laws that are falling to Citizens, not free speech statutes. So the argument I have heard mouthpieces for The Right—and the damned ACLU—make that Citizens is a free speech issue, not a political corruption issue, is an argument that SCOTUS itself continues to reveal to be fraudulent.

Citizens is as bunk as a philosophical construct as its results are corrosive in practice. FangCorp shouldn’t have a right to have to the disproportionately loud voice in the political debate that its campaign dollars buys access to. Fang Bastardson ought to have a megaphone as loud as FangCorp, and Citizens codifies the opposite.

To which The Right responds: Hey, big-money Dem donors and unions have an equal right to throw as many dollars as they want to at their candidates. Except that SCOTUS has also been busy limiting the power of unions to spend members’ dues on elections, at the same time as Citizens is freeing up the big money donors on the right—the captains of industry and genetic lottery winners like Romney, generally speaking—to let their cash and influence flow freely.

And the big-money individual Dem donors are mostly the occasional bleeding heart-type like aging billionaire Warren Buffet (suffering an attack of conscience?) and show-biz liberals, none of whom have business issues currently being weighed by the very government whose representatives upon whom they are bestowing their largesse.

Unlike the titans of industry currently funding the GOP campaign machine.

Goddamn it, the whole idea of our democracy in the first place was that wealth and family position shouldn’t buy power!  That’s why George Washington allegedly declined the Kingship he was offered after the Revolutionary War and instead settled in favor of a relatively modest presidency instead.

Citizens United will fall. It may help cost Obama his job—or Romney his dream—but it is the Dred Scott of our day and I’m betting this election shines an inescapable spotlight on its deleterious effect on our democracy. When rich people can buy the Presidency, it’s not a democracy anymore, it’s an oligarchy.

You can put it in a pretty dress on the nicest street corner in town, but a whore is still a whore is still a whore.

A = A.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Obstructionist GOP Congress shocked—shocked!—at President’s lack of legislative accomplishment!

Ooh, it’s my favorite time of every four years again. Time to fire up the old forum and pull the righteous indignation out of mothballs. We’ve got us a Presidential horse race!

Disclaimer: I could be doing this whole piece on the corrupting influence of Citizens United, but to even go there at all would eat up the whole rest of the piece, so I’m saving it for later. Like, if I ever have any thoughts on it that haven’t been echoed by what I’ve already read or heard elsewhere.

That aside… because I am a glutton for punishment, I watch the Sunday morning political chat shows even when my candidate—in this case, one Barry “Who’s Sane?” Obama—has had a bad week.

A bad week by definition being one if-taken-out-of-context gaffe (“…the middle class is fine…”); a right-wing rube heckling him an invitation-only Rose Garden Presidential ceremony; the continuing fallout from the revelation that the President has a terrorist To-Do List; the ongoing drama of which administration insider leaked what and why in the ‘Obama is a bad-ass motherfucker’ leak case; and worst of all, being called out for blatant election-year pandering with his adoption last week of elements of the DREAM Act, over the intransigent opposition of the clown car they call Congress.

Well. I should have such a bad week. Only shoot my mouth off carelessly once, and the rest of the week people aren’t discussing whether I’m tough-as-nails enough to be President, but am perhaps too hard-ass. For a Democrat candidate, that is a lovely set of problems to have. Shit, I might treat the girls to an ice cream cone.

One talking-point—besides the economy, which is already getting boring, numbers just aren’t intrinsically interesting—all the right-wing pundits drove home again and again was Obama’s lack of legislative accomplishments. It’s like the bully who is holding the new kid’s head underwater is mocking him for drowning, as if there were no relation between his holding the child’s head underwater and the kid’s inability to breathe.

The problem is, in this scenario, the bully is the GOP and the drowning kid isn’t Obama, it’s America. It’s America that is reeling on an unemployment precipice; ex-Presidents have a tendency to land on their feet despite shit economies. Even young Richard Nixon was able to make his way in the world after being exiled from the Presidency and die with more money than he came into politics with.

To their ‘credit,’ the GOP’s three-year plan to keep Obama from getting anything accomplished has actually come largely to fruition. They even played political war games with the debt ceiling debate last year which led directly to the country’s credit rating taking its first-ever hit, and according to news reports, Tea Party and GOP factions in Congress are poised to do it again when debt negotiations fire back up this summer.

That’s the problem with electing an arsonist town fireman, well-meaning Tea Party voters. Please use your head for something other than a beer-cup holder, I beg you.

The only stuff Obama’s been able to do, he’s had to do by fiat, bypassing Congress, like last week’s partial implementation of the DREAM Act. Then when he does, the opposition and their media mouthpieces get to scream about Obama overstepping his authority and in a lot of cases, that’s not always a bad argument.

But somebody painted baby into that corner.

It’s actually a pretty crafty, if simple plan. And here I was worried the GOP had lost all its game.

Let’s look at the playbook.

First, and this really is first, cockblock every piece of legislation proceeding from or advocated by the President. If he tries to get uppity by proposing last year’s Republican programs, run to the cameras in mock outrage and disclaim the newly-socialist programs you spoke in support of from the well of the Senate only the session before. Even though there are more film sources of your lies and contradictions all the time, experience shows that your constituencies are comfortably locked into your respective narratives and are unlikely to be swayed by any inconvenient truths that pesky ‘facts’ reveal.

An additional tack I’ve seen taken is to accuse the President of not being able to even get anything through the ‘Democrat Congress’ he had for his first few months in office, before Teddy Kennedy got sick. These days, the realpolitik is, it’s not a ‘Democrat Congress’ when all you have is 51 Senators. With the new filibuster protocols in effect, you now need 60 or more Senators in your pocket to truly control the Congress, not the paltry 50 + 1 that the Constitution mandates.

Obama never had a ‘Democrat Congress,’ and somebody on the left needs to do a better job of pointing that out.

Attack the incumbent President on a moribund economy. Fair enough. You have to pass this class to even get to Politics 101, and there’s no question the economy is shit. Probably the worst in my lifetime. But here’s what I noticed, that everyone else seems to just brush off if they acknowledge it at all: The entire world has gone into the crapper financially. It’s not like everyone else in our intricately interconnected global economic family is hale and hearty and we’re pissing away dad’s inheritance on hookers and blow. From my read of the news, we’re not doing as well as some but a lot better than others.

And again, Obama’s economic plan, like everything else that would have required Congress’ participation, remains strictly a matter of speculation. Would he have done a better or worse job of fixing the economy than anyone else? We’ll never know, thanks to Congress’ successfully executed stated number one imperative: Keep any Obama legislation from passing.

If the Capitol was on fire and Obama sent the fire department and the press, most of these idiots would race back into the flames.

Obfuscate the Romney biography. Because optically, it’s a disaster. Another insensitive, C-average child of privilege from a political dynasty with Daddy Issues he hopes to resolve by occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The last thing the national (big money) GOP wants is for the electorate to draw a straight line between Romney and George W Bush, and his biography makes it almost impossible not to.

On the off-chance Obama does an end-run around Congress and actually accomplishes anything, accuse him of doing it for selfish purposes. If everything Obama does between now and the election is a political pander to the progressives (his recent surprise support of gay marriage and the DREAM Act, for instance), his legacy will be a stellar one even if Mitt Romney’s unfettered financial supporters successfully purchase the Oval Office for him in November.

Pretend your weaknesses are strengths. This is actually my favorite tactic because it’s so flat-out ridiculous. Like when Romney accuses Obama of being out of touch, which he’s taken to doing repeatedly. I know Romney supporters who laughed out loud the first time they heard him spout the line.

That is some big, hairy ones you got there, my friend.

Or the argument that “immigration is not the only issue Hispanic voters care about,” which you’d better hope is the case when you spent months criss-crossing the country during the primaries calling for a higher and higher electrified fence to keep their kind on the dirty side of the border.

Methinks the Republican talking-points generators have never met a Latino who wasn’t clearing their table or blowing their leaves. The same way they’re pretty sure they’ve never met any gay people, either, because that sort doesn’t travel in their circles.

What’s sauce for that goose isn’t sauce for this gander! Or something. I never did understand patrician noodlespeak.

When all else fails, go scandal mining. For instance, I love the new leaks scandal because it’s a high-res snapshot of the Republicans’ sorry foreign policy pickle. The GOP—who were so very casual about the outing of an active-duty undercover CIA operative in wartime back during W’s reign—are taking great pains to be seen hopping mad over the unauthorized release of documents that tend to make Obama look like a bad-ass motherfucker on the War On Terror front, which used to be their baileywick until W screwed that pooch too by failing to catch bin Laden. Oh, and invading the wrong country. Oh, and Abu Ghraib. And the deliberate campaigns of media distortion perpetrated by the highest sources in the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman scandals. Oh, do stop me now…

Another friend, a big left-winger, is infuriated by the revelation that Obama has a “kill list.” A President during a time of asymmetrical war with a list of the enemies’ command and control structure to be captured or killed… where is the headline here? If FDR had a chance to whack Hitler in 1944, he wouldn’t have done it? Or Goebbels, or Hirohito?

Get over yourselves, hippies. That’s exactly the kind of thing a strong Commander-in-Chief does.

Thank God Congress does not have to approve his every action as Commander-In-Chief or by Christ we’d still be in Iraq, Osama bin Laden would be still be spanking the monkey in his luxury self-imposed exile in Pakistan, our participation in the Afghanistan War would be ramping up instead of winding down…

If you want an idea of what’s wrong with Washington, look at the only things that are getting accomplished. If Obama can’t do them on his own, they just don’t happen.

So you tell me, how the hell is that Obama’s fault? That bastard has alienated his base so much he might lose re-election by kowtowing and capitulating to a Lucy Van Pelt Congress, which is constantly yanking the ball away at the last second, no matter how much of the game he gives away in a foredoomed attempt to reach bipartisan consensus.

What’s scariest is that the partisan divide is no longer limited to the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Now even the Supreme Court is caught in a hopeless party-line gridlock with the result being that one man, Justice Anthony Kennedy, decides all the most important cases in the land. One man, not nine.

Surely, this cannot be what the Founders intended.

It used to be, when a huge case was decided, like Brown v Board of Education or Loving v Virginia, or the NIRA decision of 1935 striking down part of FDR’s hallowed New Deal as unconstitutional, it came down unanimous. The Justices put their political persuasions aside and came together for the good of the country. The same way the founding fathers did, when they crafted the Declaration of Independence. They could have pushed it through with a majority-rules vote, but due to the weight of the matters in their hands, they decided it was well and proper that a unanimous vote be required. And again, legislators of conscience put aside their partisan roles, compromised, and America roared to life.

But now we have a Supreme Court whose every decision is decided along strict, reliably predictable party lines, even monumental ones like Bush v Gore. It’s disgraceful and despicable and either says something terminal about our democracy, or—God willing—are a set of opinions just waiting for a more temperate court to reverse.

Like the ObamaCare opinion due this month. If it’s not 5/4 one way or the other, with Kennedy being the deciding vote, I’ll eat my hat. Every single major opinion, a strict party-line affair coming down to one man’s vote, now that Sandra Day O’Connor has retired, anyhow. Wasn’t she the swing Justice who in the end decided Bush v Gore?

One Supreme Court Justice, one vote. Not exactly our democracy’s greatest accomplishment.

And the next President will have the usual opportunity to pack the Court to his liking, which is the long game to political hopheads like me.

So, mostly Christian, self-proclaimed God-fearin’ Americans, I ask you: whose hand do you want at the helm during these scary social and economic times so many of you knuckleheads believe is The End Days? A guy who has already put his career on the line fighting to give health care to everyone, promote social equity and reduce persecution of the downtrodden; or a guy whose major platform promise consists of cutting aid to the poor and helpless while he lines the pockets of his corporate contributors with unprecedented tax rates so low financial experts are doing spit-takes?

Tell me again how any Christian of faith can possibly vote for the temple money-changer instead of the guy outside with all the unemployed friends, ministering to the needy?

Obama is a St Francis of Assisi, bad-ass ninja motherfucker who can not only carry a tune, but look good doing it. That is a marketable product you don’t need a legislative portfolio to sell.

That is a fucking movie of the week and sweaty internet fan fiction, not a record to run from, or one his opponents ought to be able to exploit.

So don’t count Barry out yet. I predict he’ll be right back after this commercial with his most shocking exploits yet!

The annual Fathers Day masterpiece:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The annual “My Old Man”

Thanks to Steve Goodman for the song.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Dark Knight... Pinkens

With anatomically-correct belly button, obviously a nod to the Schumacher oeuvre.

To never forget

D-Day, 6th of June, 1944

Monday, June 04, 2012

Graduation Week—a photo essay

Oh my God. I could never have imagined ‘graduating’ a Kindergartener could be this much work. Thankfully, I have literally turned the page on the calendar that contains most of the commitments from last week, and I’m in no hurry to revisit them.

Ooh, except in pictures. I’ll stroll down any memory lane that I’ve documented personally.

When The Boy started Kindergarten at the local kick-ass charter school a scant nine months ago, he couldn’t read—at all—and had washed out of his initial attempt at martial arts. He was not yet fully house-trained. He spun fanciful tales of the abilities his ‘super-powers’ granted him, which more worldly peers challenged him to prove, to his predictable embarrassment. Three-plus years of experience in daycare and preschool had somehow left him with almost zero social chops, at least with his peers.

Even before last weekend’s Kindergarten Campout, I couldn’t believe the change in our little future cultural warrior. As of today, he reads and solves math problems above his grade level, potties himself at night as necessary, his understanding of logic and systems impresses his teachers, is about a month away from earning his yellow belt, roughhouses comfortably and without complaint with his peers and reserves his most expansive flights of fancy solely for his art.

Could that really only have been one grade ago? And a grade I had formerly dismissed as “preschool with delusions of grandeur?”

If words contained calories, I’d be big as a house again.

Kindergarten proper got out at noon all year, but we also had The Boy signed up for the 3-hour daily afterschool arts program. It’s that group of kids who were there when I came around at the end of every day to drive him home, and it’s those kids I’ll think of when I recall The Boy’s Kindergarten year.

I am really going to miss those afterschool arts-program kids.

I made a point of picking The Boy up early the last week or so, and bringing my camera. The teacher noticed and asked me to get some less formal class photos of the whole class, which I was happy to do. Here is one of them:

I also got a few nice snaps of the afterschool arts program kids and teacher:

Most of the events of the week were less photo-worthy, involving lots of driving around and [MEMORY REDACTED]. Uh, and more driving in uncompromising Boise traffic then [ADDITIONAL PURGED MEMORIES].

I see flashes of trips to school and Taekwondo. Parent/teacher conferences. Ceremonies. Pre-ceremony ceremonies. Celebrations of the pre-ceremony ceremonies. Other peoples’ graduations including a few thousand at the local university, whose commencement activities my professor Missus was required to attend. Much scheduling hand-wringing and down-to-the-wire angst.

The Boy’s actual graduation ceremony was at this totally decent house on a hill with an amazing yard and a view that would have been breathtaking except for all the warehouse rooftops in the foreground.

The day was sunny and bright and the yard had a trampoline, a tire swing, a seesaw, all spread out over a capacious, green lawn… it was a kid’s fantasy playground, and a parent’s reminder of the abject financial failure our best career efforts represent.

But of course, being Americans, we think “some day we will live here” and are not the least bit envious.

Anyhow, every kid was recognized for some special personal achievement, no matter how hard they had to look to find one, including ours!

Ours was the only one however, who slapped his teacher five—hard—instead of shaking her hand upon receiving his ‘diploma.’ It was a total Taekwondo move and I was thrilled. He then recovered quickly and sheepishly offered her the handshake she had been been looking for.

Then it was more driving and suppressed memories until the dreaded Kindergarten Campout was upon us. We spent about as much as the average wedding dress costs for our overnight adventure (with the requisite oaths that our camping gear, unlike wedding dresses, would by God be used more than once) and headed for the hills.

Well, it turned out I really liked it [pause while reader recomposes him or herself], and more importantly, The Boy loved it.

The weather was perfect, the Coleman tent practically put itself up…

…and the tent on one side of us had a nurse in residence, and anything he couldn’t handle, the ninja in the tent on the other side was sure to be able to take care of.

The trees were just the right height

Not only for me, but for The Missus too

A bunch of us took a walk down to the river, where I got maybe my favorite photo of the weekend, of The Boy with his two favorite girls; his best friend from school and his Mommy:

The only fly in the ointment was this giant cliffside—the kids called it the dirt slide. But it was really just a cliff, about 5° off of being a straight vertical drop, that ran down into this ravine. And if you were walking the path, it just kind of comes along out of the blue. The first time I saw The Boy at the top of it took me by complete surprise. This is a kid who just last month balked at climbing a rock wall at the local Y, fully supervised and tethered to the nines.

But there he was, at the top of the cliff of death—across the chasm from me, completely out of my ability to intervene:

Clinging to some pitiful, scrubby plantlife in an attempt to climb up over the cliff of death instead of tumbling down it. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, he successfully accomplished that escape (all my autonomic functions began to whir to life again), and he decided that now he wanted to go down it!

So I spent the entire rest of the day shadowing him from just far enough away to race in and pick up the pieces if he should take a bad fall and I needed to sherpa him back to the nurse in the tent next door.

One of his peers, a kid with absolutely no fear at all and the agility and toughness that only little boys his age possess, insisted on running down the cliff-face. If I had been the only adult there, it wouldn’t have been responsible for me to capture it on video. Happily...

Yes, that’s my son assuring the crowd that it’s okay, his friend likes to get hurt.

Well, as long as he’s just misreporting the news and not making it himself, I won’t worry until he asks me to shoot his Fox News audition tape.

We got up in the morning, not very rested at all after an uncomfortable night’s sleep, had breakfast, went on a little family hike together...

...packed up our stuff in no time and drove the 40 miles back home. Shower. Nap. “Game of Thrones” season finale.

A surprisingly excellent weekend, one I find I actually would consider revisiting elements of, specifically the camping.

And who’d have guessed that it would have all hinged on an event that I originally dismissed as [MEMORY REDACTED].