Let The Auctioning of America Begin

The Senate is expected to sign the debt ceiling increase into effect today. Thanks to the TEA bagger representatives in the House, the agreement is more budget cuts, no tax increases. Thank goodness that someone was looking out for rich people and corporations (and jaded assholes like me think that no one cares about minorities in this country!).

Part of the deal is more than a trillion more in cuts by the end of the year. If Congress can’t come up with enough social welfare programs to decimate by then, they’ll start focusing on Medicare and defense spending. Yeah, right. Republicans are going to cut defense spending. This pretty much means that the Pentagon won’t be able to keep buying that fancy extra soft Charmin, while Aunt Gertie will have to go back to working that stripper pole to earn enough money for her scrips.

And, really, no one wins in this scenario. No one.

What’s done is done, I suppose. So rather than crying over the massive unemployment rates that are looming ever closer or rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking U.S. economy (but we don’t need no stinking government intervention!), why not come up with a solution?

So I did.

We all know there are several within the entertainment industry who love a good “cause.” Well, it’s your lucky day, Celebrity Samaritans! Your back yard is now teeming with causes! Come on, Brangelina! Wouldn’t you like to pony up some money to put back into place some of these “useless” social welfare programs that the TEA baggers targeted for termination? I and several thousand others would be most appreciative. So appreciative, in fact, that I’m sure we could work out a term agreement in which all projects undertaken by any funding you’ve provided must include “Brangelina” in the name. Brangelina Day Care. Brangelina Community Center. Brangelina Housing Rehabilitation. Brangelina Boulevard. Your portmanteau could become synonymous with community improvement and advancement programs from Maine to California!

Or what about NASA? How about it, Trek actors? Each of you chip in a million or two and the space race will once more be on like Donkey Kong! Thinkaboutit…Bill. Wouldn’tyoulike…a starshipnamed…Shatner? Doesn’t the ISS Sirtis have a sibilant sauciness to it?

[Okay, maybe not so much on that one. Troi did crash the Enterprise. Twice. Maybe we’ll name a rover after her…]

Madonna! Madge! Lady Ciccone. I know, you like to pretend that you’re English now. Truth is, though, you’re a Michigan girl. Home of Detroit, the Motor City. Wouldn’t you like to pitch in some dough to help the American automobile industry get back on its feet? Invest enough and you could even make an impact on all these ongoing debates about fuel economy. You could demand that the automakers move away from these lumbering gas guzzlers to more sensible, efficient designs. You could pave the way for the industry to start seriously embracing alternative fuel research. Think about it, Madge: You could get workers back into the factories AND get America on a more responsible energy diet, thus reducing our detrimental impact on the environment and freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil. The car companies would be so grateful, they’d name a whole fleet of cars after you. Then everyone would get the chance to ride inside…um. Never mind.

And Hilary! You’re a double Oscar winner! And you played Amelia Earhart! Wouldn’t you like to help out the FAA? Maybe throw in a buck or two to help the airline industry in general? We coach jockeys would appreciate a little alleviation on ticket prices…and the best part? Part of your deal with the airline industry could be that they can only play your movies on flights! A whole nation of flyers, all tuning in to Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, P.S. I Love You, The Core, The Reaping

Ooh, maybe we should rethink this one…

Hey, Leo! You played Howard Hughes! Wanna invest in airplanes? (Sorry, Hilary…)

AWTFY

To Whom It May Concern (You Will Soon Know Who You Are):

Thank you.

Thank you to all the politicians who have, for years been dedicated to the cause of digging us deeper and deeper into a national deficit of vulgar proportions through your uniform and bipartisan complacency in your roles as the supposed Watchmen of the “American WayTM.” Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Apparently, no one.

Thank you for the years you have spent bending the American people over a barrel in deference to the demands of corporations that own you like the cheap dockside hookers you are. Oh, and a special thank you to the Supreme Court tools who last year ruled that corporations could be considered “people.” Who knew free speech was reserved for those with the most money to buy it?

Thank you to the slew of Republican presidents from Nixon to Bush II, all preaching the fairytale gospel of “fiscal conservatism,” who helped to increase the national debt by a combined total of nearly 62 percent, including golden boy Dubya. In his final term in office, he helped increase it by 20.7 percent with all his decidering and warmaking. Way to go, Georgie! Not only did you beat your dad’s one-term record of 13 percent, you beat in one term alone the two-term combined record of 20.6 percent racked up by that great GOP scion himself, Ronald Reagan. That was really awesome of you.

Thank you to the Democrats of the Bush II era who stood around with their heads shoved so far up their asses that they could lick their own ileums. It was AWESOME, the discordant, infighting mess you all were at the time. It made it that much easier for the GOP Machine to grind you up and spit you into little impotent messes as they and King Dub not only goose-stepped their way through the $236.2 billion budget surplus that Bill Clinton had left us, but then gifted us with a $412.7 billion deficit by the end of the Dubya reign. Guess now we know why red is the GOP color of choice.

Thank you to the TEA Baggers who helped elect/re-elect to Congress several GOP members who are even now stalling the progress of more willing, more rational (for them, at least) politicians to come to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling and tackling our deficit, with demands for indiscriminate budget cuts to those programs deemed “unnecessary” by you.

You know, I get it, TEA baggers. It’s not like you’re racist or the modern-day equivalent of the Klan or anything. You just don’t want to have to cover the costs of programs designed to help out all those lazy poor people. You work hard for your money while they just lay about, right? It’s not like anything has occurred in this country that has led to the decimation of job prospects in hundreds of areas all across the United States. You know, something catastrophic to the working class like, I don’t know, shipping off all the manufacturing jobs to places like China, where indentured servitude is still so very en vogue.

So, yeah, who needs social welfare programs anyway? It’s not like they have any kind of positive impact on society. They’re just more ways this country is wasting money it doesn’t have. So, thank you for your vigilance. And, from the thousands of government employees, contract workers, grant officers, project coordinators, organizers, and various other workers all across this country who will be losing their jobs because of your fiscal “vigilance,” again I say thank you. Thank you for cutting “worthless” programs that had been providing, among other things, job stability to thousands who will soon be getting in line to help raise the United States’ unemployment levels even higher.

Thank you for fighting so hard for the politicians who will fight for more reckless budget hacking rather than something horrible like tax increases. After all, you’re Taxed Enough Already! Am I right? Am I right?! It’s not like the United States has one of the lowest tax rates of any industrialized country or anything. That’s why Dubya gave us all those awesome tax cuts while he played Stratego: The Middle East Edition. And look what that got us! (See paragraph 4.) And, really, we need more people who are willing to fight for the protection of corporate loopholes and the assets of the filthy rich.

[Let me pause here briefly to extend a special and sincere thank you to the originators of the TEA Party Movement who first started calling themselves “TEA Baggers” before they realized that they were in no way as fun as an actual tea bagger. No, really, thank you. It’s the only thing from your existence that I find even remotely amusing.]

Oh, and thank you, TEA Baggers, for fighting to return this country to the moral, Christian ways of life that existed at the time of our Founding Fathers. I don’t know about the rest of you American women, but I sure can’t wait to have all my rights rescinded and my status reset to “Voiceless Breeding Stock.” Who needs things like voting rights or an education anyway. Hell, Michele Bachmann can’t even figure out where the Revolutionary War began and she’s a GOP presidential candidate*!

*This will, of course, be rescinded as well since we all know that the Founding Fathers would never approve of a filthy uterine bearer being in any position other than a horizontal one.

And finally, thank you to the American people themselves. Thank you for being so easily distracted by red herring topics like gay marriage or abortion rights that you helped vote into office the politicians who have gotten us into this hot mess in the first place. Turns out it wasn’t the queers or the baby killers who were going to fuck you after all, was it? I’d like to say you’ve brought this all onto yourselves, but the unfortunate truth is that you’ve brought this on to all of us. Cheers.

And to end this heart-felt thank you note, I leave you with the explanation of this post’s title: It’s an acronym for the traditional salute of one of my favorite ImagiFriendsTM: And With That, Fuck You.

Sincerely,
Loba B

Randomocity

I was actually going to name this post “Random Task” and include a photo of said character from the first Austin Powers movie. Then I read this article and…well, yeah.

Pardon my French for a moment, but what the fuck is wrong with people? And this article is more than 2 years old, which makes me even angrier that I have quoted his character during that time, while completely oblivious to the fact that he was part of such a heinous crime.

Can’t blame the character or the movie…but still.

I’m rambling now. I feel rambly and random (thus why I thought invoking Random Task would be funny). Last week was a blur of travel and work that has left me feeling quite off-kilter and extremely tired. It didn’t help much that we lost an hour of sleep this weekend, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. The good thing? Evening walks are now coming back into play. I’ve missed walking. I’ve missed the rhythmic movement, the welcome ache, the inevitable numbness.

I miss a lot of things. I miss being able to come here on a regular basis. Work has been a hot mess lately, though…not in a bad way. Just in a busy way. Busy is good. But I miss the lair.

I miss being able to come up with poignant posts. I feel as though I’ve lost something, some intrinsic ability to write more than surface-level mediocrity. I don’t feel invested enough in anything to reach a more meaningful depth of analysis or intricacy.

Okay, that’s not completely true. I did write this a while ago, about the young man arrested for shooting Gabrielle Giffords:

Alleged Tucson gunman Jared Loughner has mental problems.

Problem.

He was a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation. He was an intricate, unsettled question. He apparently required a solution.

The only problem I see is with the use of a poorly chosen, and consequently damaging, turn of phrase.

See, contrary to the belief of some who have spoken about the recent tragic events in Tucson, I believe very strongly in the power of words. After all, if we don’t invest in the strength and meaning of words, how else do we communicate our beliefs, desires, needs, aspirations? What happens when words lose all meaning?

Words have unlimited power. The power to heal. The power to wound. The power to label erroneously. Jared Loughner did not have mental problems. Jared Loughner was fracturing right before the eyes of friends and family from the unrelenting pressure of mental illness.

Illness. An unhealthy condition of body or mind. Synonyms include disorder, disease, malady, sickness. Trouble.

Jared Loughner was falling deeper into trouble of a plainly identifiable kind. If only more people were paying attention. If only those who were paying attention had done more to help him.

But his was a problem instead of an illness. He required a solution rather than treatment. The solution was to ignore him. Ostracize him to the fantasy world that was spiraling out before him in a discordant diaspora of disconnectedness, isolation, and obsession.

It’s so much easier when the signs of illness are physical, tangible, visible. High fever. Flushed skin. The diabetic sweetness of breath or the sickly stench of gangrenous flesh. Milky opaqueness of cataracts, paralysis. These things we believe because our senses never lie.

There is no tangible evidence of actual mental illness, nothing we can hold up to the light and nod in confirmation and say decisively, “Yes, look right here, his mind is broken. We’ve found the problem.”

The brain is a complexity that we will never understand. Whether you believe it is a gift from a higher power or an evolutionary marvel, there is no denying that we are not our hair or eyes or mouths or limbs. We are our brains. We reside in the tangle of synapses that fire away, generating our opinions, our personalities, our beliefs, our fears.

Damage all else, but I am still me. Damage my brain and who was I? And who will I become?

Something misfired in Loughner’s brain and he began to transform. Had his metamorphosis been more Kafka-esque, more might have been done to help him.

This is not the first time a mental illness has been allowed to spiral into a tragic and irreversible melee. And, sadly, I do not believe it will be the last. Why? Because we shun what we do not understand. And we do not like to take on problems that we cannot solve.

Instead, we vilify. We emblazon Loughner’s disturbing mug shot across front pages and television screens and comment about how “Hannibal Lecter takes a better mugshot.” We ascribe hatred and vitriol to our opinions of him.

And in our responses, we fail him. We fail those he killed. We fail those he injured.

We fail.

In his speech at yesterday’s memorial gathering, President Obama said that these shootings had opened up a national conversation on “everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.”

Has it really? Perhaps. Or is it instead a conversation that flares and fades in the spark of a gunshot, swallowed by the ephemera once the eulogies for the latest round of victims have ended and the judgments have been cast?

Six people died and 13 people were injured. A congresswoman continues to struggle to come back from the precipice of a bullet through her brain. We cannot let this be yet another incident in a long trail of violence attributed to minds allowed to shatter without intercession.

We must do better for those who are mentally ill. Not problems. Ill. Jared Loughner gave all the indications that those around him needed, to know that something was going horribly wrong within his mind. Instead of trying to reach out to him, people instead withdrew from him. Feared him.

Playwright David Henry Hwang wrote in M. Butterfly, “Now I see — we are always most revolted by the things hidden within us.” We look into the eyes of madness and we see what could happen to us…and we loathe it. We loathe that our brains, these magnificent, complex machines, could betray us so easily, so inexplicably…so unstoppably. We cannot explain it. We cannot stop it. We cannot reverse it.

These are things we don’t wish to see. And so we look away. We ignore the obvious…and then we find ourselves right back where we have stood far too many times before.

I really hope that President Obama was serious about restarting the national conversation about mental health issues in this country. I hope that this is the lesson that will finally penetrate through the layers of hatred and divisiveness that have permeated American politics in recent years. That this will be the moment of clarity that we need to finally move forward in reaching out to each other with open hands rather than with fists clenched around pistols.

Why didn’t I post this when I wrote it? I’m not even sure anymore. Maybe because it felt too raw, too personal. Too empty. Too much. Too little. Never enough.

I’m not making much sense now, though. But I do miss coming here. I do have things to write, things to post. Not a lot of depth probably…but that’s okay, right? At least for right now.

I”ll be back like Arnie. I promise…

Dis-Honor(s)

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the news pertaining to Captain Owen Honors and his special “morale-boosting” videos that he made for his crew back in 2006-07. The videos are quick little vignettes designed for maximum puerility and, I guess, maximum laughs. Scattered throughout are epithets, sexual overkill, profanity, and general lewd behavior.

I get that the military is not where you go if you have the delicate sensibilities of a nun or a monk. There’s a reason why we have sayings like “She curses like a drunken sailor.” Hell, I curse like a drunken sailor sometimes. I am the granddaughter of two Navy veterans after all. And I am immensely proud of this fact.

Would I be as proud if there was video of my grandfather eating something supposedly pulled from a toilet and fashioned to look like a piece of shit? Or if my grandmother was in a segment called “Chicks in Showers”? I’m going to have to say no, not so much. Of course, my grandparents served this country during World War II, which was long before the YouTube Generation took control. It was also long before it was acceptable to behave in the ways that Captain Honors and his crew behaved in these videos. I suspect there would have been little tolerance for this kind of behavior from soldiers back then.

I also know that crews need to blow off steam, especially in times of war. This is a reality of war. You cannot ask people to be under that kind of immense stress and fear and not expect them to need some sort of irreverent release. And, for the most part, that’s what is in these videos: a ridiculously puerile level of humor designed to cull the basest of laughter.

What, then, is the problem? I don’t know, fag SWO boy, what do you think?

See, that’s the problem. Owen Honors, who was the XO of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the time these videos were made, was the second highest ranking officer on board. As such, it was his duty to set standards and tone for the 6,000 crew on board the Enterprise. And the tone he set was one of anal probes, “chicks in showers,” men lathering each other up, and unrepentant use of epithets like “fag.”

True, lack of good taste (or, for that matter, higher brain function) is not a punishable offense. At the time these videos were made, being gay in the military was. I can’t help but question what Captain Honors’ actions would have been had he found any of his crew actually in any of the “humorous” sexual situations that he posed in his videos. If he’d walked in on two men or two women sharing a shower or a bunk, would he have walked away? Turned a blind eye? Maybe gone and “saluted his little XO” as he so humorously did in the videos? Or would he have brought them before a committee, had them discharged under the order of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”? I’d love it if Captain Honors would answer that question.

More importantly, were there any homosexuals serving among that crew of 6,000? What must have gone through their minds at watching those videos, performed by their commanding officer? Hearing him sling about the epithets he used, watching him make a mockery of what they were desperately guarding, for fear that its revelation could ruin their military careers? Did any of them wish to take issue with what Honors was doing, but perhaps feared that, in doing so, the questions would have been turned back onto them? Silence does not equal consent. Subsequently, being told to “hug yourself for 20 minutes” is also not a suitable response to complaints that may have actually been levied against Honors and his performances.

The bottom line is that this was not the type of tone that a commanding officer should have been setting aboard a military vessel. Yes, letting off steam is a reasonable “unspoken law” for these men and women. Levying crude and hurtful humor at a minority you know can’t speak up? That’s just cowardly. And not funny at all.

Restoring Sanity

There’s definitely something rotten in Denmark, denizens. But don’t say that to these TEA baggers. They’ll start lecturing you about how Denmark is one of those evil Socialist countries. And Socialism starts with an S…just like Satan. Who is obviously Obama, because he is trying to turn America into a Socialist country by wanting things like universal health care so that American families don’t go through the horrors like my family has gone through at the hands of Capitalist doctors who, when they no longer saw the profit in treating my mother, sent her home with the instructions to my father that he should “let nature take its course.”

Obviously, this is a touchy subject for me. But I think it should be a touchy subject for anyone possessing even a shred of reason. Think about what happened here in D.C., denizens. On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we witnessed what could quite possibly be considered a nail in the coffin of that dream. And I’m speaking about both rallies, which were each divisive in their own ways. Beck and his predominantly White followers versus Al Sharpton and his slightly more diverse but still predominantly Black opposing rally (and neither side seeming to get the sad irony of the situation at all). How could anyone look at these events and for an instant believe that King’s dream could be anything but close to DOA at the feet of Abraham Lincoln’s monument? His vision was for a blending of colors, a coming together of beliefs, opinions, ideas. Judge me on the content of my character, not the color of my skin.

Somewhere along the way, we became incredibly derailed.

Beyond the issues of race, however, is the offensiveness of the wording of Beck’s clarion call to his brainwashed masses. Restore America. Restore Honor. Turn America back toward God.

What does all of this mean? Making certain that you’re allowed to continue to make second-class citizens of fellow Americans for the “crime” of not conforming to the questionably translated beliefs of your unproven god? Or that you be allowed to deny something as basic and deserved as good health to those who cannot afford it…not because they’re not trying but because they can’t find the work they need to give them access to health care. And why is that? Because politicians have unilaterally, and in many instances bipartisanly, sold out the American blue-collar worker by allowing corporations to outsource jobs to the lowest bidder. Whatever it takes to make sure they win the most at playing this Capitalist game, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. Damn the blue-collar workers as well.

So stand around like little sheep, spewing your Beck-prepared and Palin-approved jingo dingo lingo while wearing your Communist Chinese-made American flag shirts and hats and fanny packs, waving your Communist Chinese-made American flags, sitting in your Communist Chinese-made American flag folding chairs (but keep damning Cuba for its evil, evil Communist ways!). Wrap yourself in Old Glory and hide your true purpose behind the stacks of dead soldiers you conjure in your liturgy, never once mentioning the erroneous and debatably felonious war (started by your last president to hold office…you know, the same president that drop-kicked us into the middle of this ever-widening sea of debt with his “fiscal conservative” spending sprees and his unending wars) for which they were killed. Stand up and spout the Pledge of Allegiance when the lemming call comes for you to do so.

Never mind that the pledge was written by a self-acclaimed Christian Socialist. See? There’s that evil “S” word again. The pledge’s author, Francis Bellamy, believed that the tenets of Christianity and Socialism were interrelated philosophies. I wonder how long Bellamy could have stood on stage at yesterday’s rally before Dreck’s…sorry, I mean Beck’s bleating hordes booed him off.

I bet they would be more forgiving of Bellamy, however, if they were allowed to do his original salute for the pledge. The original salute wasn’t placing your hand over your heart. It was instead quite similar to what would soon enough become famous as the Nazi salute. Ironic, isn’t it? Okay, probably not. It’s all good, though, just as long as you slap in “under God” thanks to all that jingoistic McCarthy panic of the 1950s. And click your heels together while you say it. Then you’ll be back home in your Communist Chinese-made Republican utopia.

I wish I could give this more thought. Wait. No, I don’t. I still don’t quite understand what has happened to us as a country. But I must admit that I am losing a great deal of respect and hope for us all. And it has nothing to do with restoring honor, whatever on earth that is code for this time. It’s about my continued wish for restoring intelligence, reason, and integrity, traits that have become almost completely extinct on both sides of the fence, both among the politicians and the people.

It’s been a very long time since I felt anything more than apathetic disdain toward the downward spiral of stupidity being propagated in this country. I have to say, though, that this rally has sparked within me a great deal of anger and disgust. And fear. Fear that we are locked into goose-stepping toward utter brainless chaos, led to the slaughter by our emotions since it’s obvious that we sacrificed our intelligence a long, long time ago. Does anyone else feel the same as I do? Could there possibly be as many people as me, as equally upset and afraid at how easily we as a country can be manipulated by those who have motives far more sinister and ulterior than the patriotic pabulum that they spoon-feed their followers? What if we all got together and rallied in Washington? Could we make a difference?

The Face of Modern Sedition

SEDITION: Incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.

During a recent visit to see my father, we had an interesting conversation concerning politics (as we are wont to do; I don’t think I’ve ever had a prolonged conversation with him in which politics didn’t become part of the discussion). He pointed out something concerning recent attitudes within the Republican party, especially these darned TEA baggers, that he believes is cause for concern. It’s one of those “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” scenarios that he believes isn’t being taken as seriously as it should be taken, especially by the politicians in power right now.

He reminded me about my own country’s history (which I admittedly don’t pay as much attention to as I should) by pointing out that one of the leading instigators behind the American Civil War was Abraham Lincoln’s election as president. Before Lincoln was even sworn in, 11 Southern states declared they were seceding from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. Outgoing president James Buchanan and Lincoln both declared this secession to be a rebellion.

Sedition.

That moment in our history led to the pitting of American against American, and ended with more than 600,000 dead and more than 400,000 wounded. Hard to believe that fewer than 200 years ago, we were “refreshing the tree of liberty” with the blood of our own.

Ah, there’s a frightening quote being bantered about by Republicans. Back in 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

[Loba Tangent: I wonder how these “Moral Majority” Christian conservatives within the Republican party feel about Jefferson’s stance on religion. He is, after all, the same person who wrote things like, “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear,” and “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” Ooh, or how about this one: “If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had happened in a fair or market.”]

So we have people like William Kostric, the gentleman pictured to the right. In 2009, he attended a protest outside a town hall meeting on health care reform in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He carried a sign that read “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” In the center of this sign is visible the snake graphic from the Gadsden flag, which stated beneath the snake, “Don’t Tread On Me.” Kostric had a loaded 9mm gun visibly strapped to his leg. President Obama was in attendance at this meeting.

When interviewed by Chris Matthews, Kostric didn’t think it was “a relevant question” to be asked why he brought a loaded gun to a presidential meeting. I’m not going to post a link to this interview, because I honestly found Matthews’ combative interviewing style to be appalling, but I do find Kostric’s response disturbing. As a former student of literary analysis, I was taught to look for meaning in many forms, including symbolism. And I have to say, there is pretty clear meaning in the image of someone strapped with weaponry holding a sign about watering the tree of liberty (especially knowing how that quote ends in bloodshed), standing outside a location where the President of the United States is in attendance.

Regardless of what I think of Obama as President, I find this kind of behavior frightening. I find the feigned innocence, like Kostric’s comment that Matthews was asking irrelevant questions about his gun-toting antics, to be even more frightening.

Especially when similar sentiments surface in the speeches of people running for political positions. People like Sharron Angle. I’ve been keeping tabs on her for a while. She is a TEA Bagger currently trying to unseat Harry Reid as one of Nevada’s U.S. Senators. She’s said some pretty…interesting things throughout her run for Reid’s seat.

Things like she’d like to see the complete elimination of the U.S. Department of Education. Or that the separation of church and state is unconstitutional. Or that unemployment benefits have spoiled Americans from wanting to go and find real work (although she’s also on record as stating that it would not be her responsibility as a U.S. Senator to bring jobs to Nevada, which currently is the state with the highest unemployment rate, at more than 14 percent).

However, it’s her stance on the Second Amendment of the Constitution that worries me the most. During an interview with Lars Larson, Angle is quoted as saying the following:

Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.

Second Amendment remedies? It’s time to water the tree of liberty?

I don’t care how much Angle backpedals regarding her Second Amendment remedies. I don’t care how irrelevant Kostric thinks Matthews’ questions about him toting a loaded weapon outside a presidential town hall meeting might be. Both of these people have put forward imagery and ideas that translate to one thing: armed uprising against the government. Bloodshed.

Sedition.

Am I reading too much into these instances? I don’t think so. I think these things were said or performed in the hopes that people would analyze them and find meaning in the inferences. Do I think there are enough people in this country willing to answer the call for an uprising? I honestly don’t know anymore. I recently read a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on a group that calls itself the “Sovereign Citizens.” Begun back in the 1970s, now more than 300,000 people claim to be members. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Sovereign Citizens movement is:

…a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who have adopted a right-wing anarchist ideology originating in the theories of a group called the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s. Its adherents believe that virtually all existing government in the United States is illegitimate and they seek to “restore” an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed. To this end, sovereign citizens wage war against the government and other forms of authority using “paper terrorism” harassment and intimidation tactics, and occasionally resorting to violence.

“Occasionally resorting to violence.” Such as when father and son Sovereign Citizens killed two police officers during a traffic stop in May of this year.

Perhaps this is the ultimate way to destroy America. Terrorists need do nothing more than sit back and watch us destroy ourselves. Seems like we’re already on the way there. I can only hope that reason is still strong enough to prevail. Admittedly, though, I’m really beginning to wonder…

Fall of the Fourth Estate

What has become of journalistic integrity in this country?

There was a time when I couldn’t start my day without absorbing as much news as I possibly could. This was predominantly during my Angry BloggerTM days, although I continued to be a voracious news hound during that lull in between those blogging days and now.

I still read and listen to a great deal of news, but not with the same insatiable need. Truth is, I think that my distrust of media outlets has outpaced my desire to be in the know regarding transpiring newsworthy events. I hate that this is the case. I hate feeling uninformed. But I hate the feeling of being manipulated even more.

The distrust began a while ago, although I definitely think it came to a clanging, crashing crescendo during the 2008 presidential campaign. I continue to believe that the coverage of this campaign was offensively manipulative on many fronts, abandoning real news for editorialized irrelevance and pandering to the most inconsequential coverage because it was more entertaining.

Call me curmudgeonly (and I’m sure many of you will), but I don’t want to be entertained by my news. I want to be informed. But when you find that you have to go to personal blogs or Jon Stewart to locate the facts that are missing from mainstream media outlets, it becomes glaringly obvious that there’s something failing within the machine that might become irreparable if it’s not addressed soon.

But when did the machine first begin to fail?

I think the diagnosis is many-layered, but I believe that the problems first began to arise with the arrival of 24-hour news coverage channels like CNN and later MSNBC and Fox News. Here was an idea that had the potential to provide viewers with unencumbered access to the most up-to-date and thorough coverage of news as it happened. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfettered access to the truth!

What we got, instead, was a gradual blurring of the lines between honest news coverage and editorializing that has reached insulting levels. Don’t believe me? Turn on any of these round-the-clock news channels and see what’s playing. More than likely what you’re going to find is opinion rather than news. Even when actual journalists are present on some of these shows’ panels, they’re providing their opinions on matters on which they report for other outlets.

It’s reached a point at which we’re not even allowed to come to our own opinions. Prime recent example: News coverage of a local crime that occurred last week started with the news anchor sitting next to a graphic that stated, “Disgusting Act.”

True, the incident in question was quite disgusting. But I don’t need you to tell me that. I need you to provide me with the facts of the crime and let me make up my own mind. Period. That is, after all, your job. To report the news.

However, opinion has somehow cloaked itself convincingly enough that it now mingles with the sheep, whispering its distracting song into the minds of anyone willing to listen. Why? Because it’s being sung by a “news” outlet? Printed in a reputable newspaper?

Do such things even exist anymore? Perhaps, but I believe they are slowly being eradicated by the instant gratification demands of the online generation, combined with features like “Post a Comment,” which more often than not are nothing more than thinly veiled cesspools of racism, ignorance, and intolerance. With the “anonymous” function, most comment sections on news sites inevitably tend to devolve into the modern day equivalent of wearing a hood at a cross burning. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s a White face beneath the hood anymore. Anyone can be hateful! It’s as easy as the click of a mouse button!

It’s exhausting and frustrating and overwhelming all at once. And it’s not going to get any better. True, I know several journalists who strive to remain true to that mythological creature known as “journalistic integrity.” But they, too, seem slated for the inevitable march to extinction, replaced by sensationalism and emotionalism disguised as news.

I’m not naive enough to believe that journalists must be complete blank slates. I know that journalists have their own opinions, their own beliefs, follow their own convictions, and make up their own minds. But they shouldn’t be trying to make up my mind or anyone else’s. Report the news. Nothing more. Nothing less. And if you find that too difficult a beat to walk, perhaps you should consider switching to another line of work. I hear Sarah Palin is putting together her own discussion panel on Fox News…

The Cure for What Ails Us

As I was driving to work this morning, I heard a news announcement that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is considering retirement. The soon-to-be-90-year-old Justice Stevens is the oldest member of the Supreme Court, where he has presided as an Associate Justice since 1975.

The thing that struck me about this is the longevity factor. Seems that other than our entertainment elite (minus those who decide to speed up their mortality through various nefarious means), our government seems to be better than the Fountain of Youth for its upper echelon. Fellow retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will soon turn 80. Former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond was almost 100 when he finally passed. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd? He’s now the Senate’s oldest member at 93 years of age. How about presidents? Ronald Reagan was 93 when he died. So was Gerald Ford. Richard Nixon made it to 81. Bush I is on the downward slope toward 90, this year turning 86. Bush II and Bill Clinton, both a spry 64, can expect quite a bit more time on their hands, if the longevity of their predecessors is any indication of what they can expect. Hell, even the Dark Overload himself, Darth, er Dick Cheney is still rolling merrily along at 69 (which is, ironically, both his age and the number of heart attacks he’s had in the past decade).

Add to this the relative stability of the health of our political representatives along with all the obvious teeth whitening, Botoxing, and face tweaking that’s going on there, and what does all this prove? To me, it proves that those in political service to this country are getting something that the rest of us are sorely lacking: excellent (and in the vanity instances, excessive) levels of service and attention from the health care industry. Our politicians are guaranteed some of the best health care that this country has to offer, no questions, no waiting, no refusals. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself: Here’s the homepage for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. Go ahead and take a look. I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, let’s continue. Now, in all fairness, this is the same program that is offered to all federal employees. The difference? Well, I’m assuming that the Speaker of the House or the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate isn’t going to go to just any doctor. They’re going to go to the best. Best doctors. Best service. According to FactCheck.org:

In addition, members of Congress also qualify for some medical benefits that ordinary federal workers do not. They (but not their families) are eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol, after payment of an annual fee ($491 in 2007).

Not a bad setup, if you ask me. And the coverage? This federal health insurance program covers from 72 to 75 percent of the premiums.

By the way, if you haven’t already figured this one out, since these are all government workers, We The People are the ones fronting the money to pay for all of this. But you knew that already, right?

So, here’s what I really don’t understand. Why aren’t the members of Congress, who are receiving these enviable medical benefits thanks to the people who A) voted them into office, and B) pay their salaries and their premiums with our tax dollars, bending over backward to make sure that we get the same benefits they do?

I don’t care if I sound totally naive on this one. I’m serious. Why aren’t they right now working toward making sure that everyone gets the same medical coverage that they enjoy? Did they at some point decide that we commoners don’t deserve it simply because we’re not morally deficient enough to want to be politicians? Does being politicians make them think that they are somehow more deserving? Or maybe I’m just assuming too much and, really, it’s the initial selling of their souls at the outset of their careers that grants politicians such enviable longevity over us mere mortals.

I know that I’ve been relatively quiet about this entire topic thus far. And I’m being a bit sarcastic/funny in my take on it now. Really, though, this is something that I take quite seriously. The last decade has been unusually unmerciful to both sides of my family. I’ve lost a significant number of relatives in this time frame (of course, any loss is significant to the ones who are losing), many due to serious health-related issues, and I currently have a critically/terminally ill family member who is not faring well at all at this present time.

And what are the health care professionals doing to aid in this present case? Barely stabilizing said patient before discharging them with little more than a wave goodbye and a “Don’t let the gurney hit you in the ass on your way out the door.” This patient is no longer able to get out of bed of their own volition. No longer able to walk, to tend to themselves without assistance. Doctors haven’t even given a concrete prognosis. But you can bet they make sure to submit their paperwork to the insurance company for their payments.

Meanwhile, doctors did everything short of bathe Strom Thurmond in the blood of sacrificed virgins to keep him going. And I’m willing to bet there isn’t one member of Congress who would ever be discharged from a hospital anywhere at any time with the same lack of regard from their medical staff that we’ve witnessed in our case.

And why? Why aren’t the American people getting the same level of care? Why are we getting consistently shafted when it comes to our medical coverage and the treatment we receive when we’re ill? And why isn’t our government taking the current health care reform debate seriously? Why, instead of pandering to talking heads and bloviating about socialism and death panels, aren’t they taking a serious and honest look at the current system (which is blatantly FUBAR) and trying to make it something that will actually work for the American people?

Oh. Wait. Could it have something to do with the billions of dollars that health care-related organizations are shelling out to these politicians? Head on over to OpenSecrets.org and you can take a look for yourself how much money these organizations are funneling into politicians’ pockets. Money they’ve bilked, incidentally, from people like you and me. Like the nearly $30 million that pharmaceutical companies donated to both parties back in 2008 (including more than $1 million they donated to Senator Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign). Or the nearly $10 million they’ve already donated this year. Or the more than $250 million the pharmaceutical manufacturers spent last year on lobbying.

OpenSecrets points out this obvious truth:

The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry stands to lose if President Barack Obama’s plan to institute a public health insurance option succeeds. A government-run plan, because of its size, would have considerable negotiating power to draw down drug prices.

Guess that’s why they’re working so hard to grease the palms of as many Congressional “leaders” as they possibly can, on both sides of the aisle. For example, Republican Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina has received almost $100,000 in contributions from pharmaceuticals this year. Burr also happens to be quite a vocal opponent of health care reform. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut is slightly ahead of Burr on the pharmaceutical donations, so this is indeed bipartisan. Dodd also happens to be the senior member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which, according to Dodd’s Web site, “has jurisdiction over our country’s health care, education system, employment, and retirement programs.”

Hmm.

How about insurance companies? OpenSecrets writes this:

Insurance companies staunchly oppose the idea of a government-provided health insurance option, which President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats support. These businesses fear that implementing a “public option” will eventually lead to “single-payer” health care, which they say would mean the collapse of their industry.

Guess that explains why the insurance industry has already made more than $14 million in contributions this year. Rob Portman, Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, Earl Pomeroy, and Barney Frank are the top politicians receiving this money. Interestingly, all but Portman are Democrats.

How about health professionals? $27 million in donations so far this year. Harry Reid, Tom Price, Blanch Lincoln, Chris Dodd, Arlen Specter, and Ron Wyden are the top five recipients here. Hey, look, it’s Dodd again! And it’s all Democrats at the top of this list, minus Price!

What does all this mean? I don’t know. Call me jaded, but I can’t imagine that these industries are shelling out such large sums of money to support reform that they fear will cause an end to their steady plundering of the Golden Goose. So they keep doling out the cash and all we’re getting is petty bickering and obfuscating jingo dingo lingo to draw our collective attention away from the simple, glaring truth that not one member of Congress has to go through the bullshit or suffering that we peons must go through regarding health care.

Maybe that’s what should change. Maybe if we changed it so that politicians had to contend with the same treatment we get, had to deal with the same coverage issues we all face…maybe then we’d be getting a little less obfuscation and a little more serious action.

Yeah, right.

I have so few hopes regarding our political system, but I honestly had hopes about Obama’s focus on health care reform. Never mind that I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s too late for reform and time for a tabula rasa approach (yeah, who in Congress would be willing to do that?). But I had hope in this instance. Instead, we yet again have deferred to name calling puerility and a whole lot of commotion to go…nowhere. Will something come from all this? Maybe. I’m not holding my breath though. I’d hate to pass out, hit my head, and require medical attention.

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby…

Silly photographer! Holy Sci-Fi Trinities are for boys!

Know why I think this is one of the most bittersweet Trek photographs in existence? Because whoever composed this shot must have been under the same wonderful, fantastical, extremely naive delusion that I was under when I first discovered TNG. You know, that the famous holy trinity of “KirkSpockMcCoy” would somehow transfer to this new show and would morph into “PicardRikerCrusher.”

Never really worked like that for the Dancing Doctor, though, did it? No, Beverly was never given the respect (or screen time) afforded to the great Bones McCoy. So what happened? Why was Dr. Crusher never considered one of the big hitters from the cast? Was it because Gates McFadden wasn’t up to taking the role to that level? I would strongly disagree with that statement. Yeah, yeah, I’m biased. It’s my blog and she’s my favorite character. Piss off.

Or was it something more?

Let’s look at the other female characters from TNG’s first season. The lovely Deanna Troi. Counselor, empath, sexotic alien, galactic cheerleader. She didn’t really do a whole lot that first season beyond change outfits and hairstyles a couple times. And get a shitload of headaches. Actually, that’s pretty much a great summary of Deanna Troi for the first 6 seasons of TNG.

Then there was the feisty Tasha Yar. Security chief, dangerous, damaged, loyal, dead.

Poor Tasha, so much potential there, shackled by the proclivities of her IRL representative, Denise Crosby. Whether it was personal frustration over the lack of character development or TPTB not really digging all of Crosby’s craziness, the axe came down on Tasha before the first season was even over. Or rather the Ink and Metamucil Monster came down on her. Yes, that is what Armus was made of…printer’s ink and Metamucil. I’d be a killer anger blob, too, if I was made of such stuff.

Still, Tasha was able to return thanks to all that tasty alternate timeline goodness that has granted us the shit bog known as the new J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek universe. Tasha’s return is considered one of the best TNG episodes of the series. Tasha’s gift to the new timeline, however, is about as popular with fans as J.J.’s movie is with me.

I’m looking at you, Commander Sela. Genetically unfeasible (blond hair, blue eyes, and pink skin? Are you sure you’re half green-blooded Romulan?), insipid, uninspired, and ridiculous, Sela was one of the worst characters ever introduced to the Trek mythology. Even worse than Sybok. Better hair though.

[Trek Tangent: I still say the Sela storyline not only could have been salvaged, but done in such a way that they could have even made sense out of that whole blond hair/blue eye bullshiggidy. In fact, I once had a notion to write fanfic that would explain that Sela was actually Tasha Yar, captured from the alternate timeline, reprogrammed to believe she was this Romulan/Human hybrid, and kept in cryo-stasis until the Romulans could unleash her on her former crewmates. Hmm, maybe that can be my big writing project in 2010! No. No more living in other people’s worlds, remember? Besides, Ro might become irritated if you start invading her territory. And you know what happens when Ro gets testy…]

And Beverly. Beverly didn’t survive beyond the first season either. At least they didn’t kill her as well. The mystery behind why Gates McFadden wasn’t asked to return for the second season continues, as McFadden has never said anything more than “The producers wanted to go a different direction with the doctor character.” I’d love to know the truth, but I respect that it’s her truth to reveal or keep.

Dr. Crusher may not have remained on the NCC-1701-D when it fired up its warp drive for Season Two, but her son did. Yes, Wesley Crusher, eternal nerd king supreme, got to stay on board while his mom “went back to head Starfleet Medical.” Really? Way to undermine Dr. Crusher not only as a character but as a parent. (I can’t help but ask at this point: If “Wesley” had remained “Leslie” as the character was first intended to be, would she have been kept on board? Hmmm…)

But it kind of makes you wonder, what was Dr. Crusher’s greatest contribution to Trek lore? Her dedication as a doctor? Her Southern charm? Her wizened platitudes and her pithy catch phrase?

Nope. It was Wesley. She gave birth to her greatest contribution, just as Tasha, for better or for worse, gave birth to hers. Heck, even Deanna got in on the baby-making, giving birth to the horrible recycled Star Trek: Phase II plot originally meant for Decker and Baldy. Er Ilia.

And it wasn’t just the main female characters. Guest stars got in on the placental frenzy, too! Look at K’Ehleyr. Portrayed by the ever lovely, ever vivacious, ever delightful Suzie Plakson, K’Ehleyr was the Klingon/Human hybrid betrothed to Mr. Woof. She was strong. She was opinionated. She was feisty. She broke bones and drew blood when mating. And she color-coordinated like a fashion fiend.

And then they brought her back. With child. Oh, what a horrible child. Which was worse: Alexander or Sela? I’m going to choose Alexander, simply because they kept insisting on bringing him back to the party. They at least had the decency to let Sela slink into the shadows of non-canonical book plots.

But hold on! K’Ehleyr’s story isn’t over yet!

Oh, wait. Yeah it is. This delightfully entertaining character was Klingoned to death as a way to move along a dull Klingon plot and leave dull Worf stuck with a dull child and a dull “unintentional parent” plot that should have been killed instead of K’Ehleyr.

Omnipotent? Or omnipregnant?

But, fear not, Suzie fans! Suzie Plakson did get to return to the Trek universe. Her return didn’t come until Voyager, but she got to come back, prosthetic-free AND as a member of the most powerful alien race to exist in the Trek universe! Yes! She comes back as a Q! She gets to be snide. She gets to pout. She gets to deliver some Class-A omnipotent zingers to the Voyager crew.

Plakson rocked this guest spot like no one’s business, easily stepping into the imposing shoes of this omnipotent species and keeping up with the High Q-ness himself, John de Lancie. And what was the end result? She got to give birth. Again. This time to John de Lancie’s actual son, Keegan. All this happens off-screen, of course. We never see Suzie Q again. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest crimes of Voyager.

So, what’s the point of all this? I don’t really know. I guess I just think it’s a bit crazy and totally pathetic that this franchise that continues to be heralded as forward-thinking and trail-blazing was so chained to the weight of the female-as-babymaker stereotype. That doesn’t mean that I think women shouldn’t be portrayed as mothers in the future. But, really, if you think about it…they weren’t portrayed as mothers on Trek. They were portrayed only as having given birth. Suzie Q gave birth to Keegan Q, but they never interacted. K’Ehleyr may have been Alexander’s mother for the first three years of his life, but we never saw any of that. Tasha? Same thing with Sela.

And Beverly? Wil Wheaton recently made this comment about his memories of the TNG third season episode, “Evolution”:

Some memories (of the Future, durr) were crystal clear: how great it was to have Gates back, how excited I was to have an episode where Wesley wasn’t a weenie, and how cool it was to finally have scenes together where we interacted as mother and son in a believable way. [bold emphasis mine]

When even the Wunderkind recognizes that he didn’t really have much of a relationship with his mom, you know you’ve got a problem.

There were actually lots of problems with almost every single female character ever written for the Trek universe. This is just one of the many that’s been irking me as of late. And it all started when I saw that wonderful, sad photo at the very top of this post.

I really do love that photo. I love it because of how amazing they all look in their skinny spandex spacesuits. I love it for Gates’s big 80s “future” hair and Jonathan’s baby face and adorable chin dimple. And I love it for the promise that was broken before it was ever made. The promise that this Trek was going to be even more groundbreaking than its predecessor…was going to give us women on board who did more than answer the phone and bring the captain his coffee. These women grew up to be doctors and security chiefs and…Deanna. They were supposed to change the world, or at least the world view of women and their roles, both in the future and in the now.

I guess I’m still trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

NOH8 From…Republicans?

Yes, that is Cindy McCain. Yes, that Cindy McCain. The one so many (myself included) referred to as John McCain’s Stepford Wife.

I officially take that back.

A major representative from the Republican party, coming out (haha) against California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage? This is HUGE. Even bigger than when Laura Bush stated in a 2006 interview with Faux News that she didn’t think gay marriage should be used as a political tool. She went on to say, “It requires a lot of sensitivity to just talk about the issue – a lot of sensitivity.”

[Okay, is it just me, or did she pretty much sound like she was implying in that statement that her husband obviously wasn’t the Mr. Sensitivity in question? I always loved that quote…]

Cindy McCain is not the first in her family to support NOH8. Daughter Meghan posed last summer:

Meghan goes into detail in this article for The Daily Beast about why she posed. Papa John continues to toe the GOP line of marriage equals one man and one woman. I’m guessing family gatherings at the McCains can get pretty testy sometimes.

It’s too bad the Republican party doesn’t really take women seriously. This double strike by the McCain women might have actually done something good. Although, they are both attractive, and Sarah Palin has proven that GOPers will pay attention to a pretty face. Of course, she also proves that no one really pays attention to what that pretty face is saying…

[Yep, still poking that bear…what are you going to do?]

Either way, I have to confess I was absolutely stunned when I saw this photo of Cindy McCain. It takes a lot of courage to stand for your convictions when all those around you are in opposition. She proves there is most definitely truth in the phrase “Those who ignore an angry shout may strain to hear a whisper.”

Cindy, I think your wordless stance is screaming volumes right now. I hope your party is listening.