Friday, April 24, 2015

Memo to the One Percent: You’re cordially invited to commit “legal” murder, if you first pay a fee. (Fee schedule follows.)

Why is this man smiling? Possibly
because he contributed enough to
his local Sheriff's election campaign
to ge away with what some consider 
murder.
So among the police brutality cases that won’t go away is a case of civilian brutality aided and abetted by the police.

It happened in the vicinity of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we now have a case of sport-hunting a human being for money. A so-called “reserve deputy,” age 73, who had generously contributed to the sheriff’s office (and gave $2,500 to his election campaign) got to “ride along” with the deputies, armed with both a taser and a pistol. And when they came upon a man who turned and fled when these weapons-bristling “peace officers” saw him, guess what?

Right, Mr. Ridealong Casssidy, actually a 73-year-old insurance executive named Robert Charles Bates, in search of an adventurous payoff in return for all the financial support he gave his local sheriff, shot and killed the suspect.

“Whoops,” he in effect said, explaining that he thought the pistol was his taser and his taser was his pistol, “My bad.” Or something like that.

Of course the sheriff’s office went to the most impartial investigators they could find — themselves — and learned through meticulous self-investigation that they and their honored guest killer were totally absolved, and that it was all an innocent mistake.

As for what happened when the mortally wounded man complained, “I’m losing my breath,” and a (real) sheriff’s deputy on the scene replied, “Fuck your breath,” that’s a mere bagatelle. I mean hey, the wounded man would have died anyway.

One begins to wonder if the One Percent, bored with making their billions and buying elections, haven’t gone on to the next level and now have a sporting arrangement to kill civilians, paying a fee for the fun.

They wouldn’t publicize it, of course. But the word-of-mouth would almost certainly get around at the club. For those government entrepreneurs who want to make money serving up fun to billionaires, I recommend the following fee schedule:

The $2,5000 Local Yokel: Pay $2,500 to an approved local official or candidate for office and get to chase and shoot dead one person of color in a “bad” neighborhood. If chastised by some lefty member of the press, you may be initially charged with a crime, but guaranteed you will be excused. Your pal the sheriff will simply investigate the incident and say, “Aside from the fact that the dead man shoplifted a banana five years ago and therefore got what he had coming, it should be noted that my honored honorary deputy was merely participating in a hot pursuit. Besides, he thought he heard gunfire coming from the dead man's direction.”

The $500,000 fatal clubbing: Using a police baton or a hammer, you may may enjoy the thrill of clubbing to death, a handcuffed suspect — while he is in police custody. Severing the arrestee's spinal cord is optional. This is a socially useful activity that relieves police officers of the onerous and tiresome duty of killing already-captured and manacled suspects by themselves.

The $10,000,000 Sheldon Adelson Decapitation Special: Why should ISIS executioners have all the fun? Contribute a Sheldon Adelson-size ten million bucks to any senatorial, congressional, gubernatorial, or presidential campaign and you too can get to take a knife and saw off the head of a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit. Whether you wear a mask or not is optional. However, you may want to remain masked to keep the kids or grandkids attending progressive lefty schools from asking embarrassing questions. It takes a while before they get to understand that your wealth entitles you to this kind of fun. You might want to treat them to participate in a decapitation for their 21st birthdays.

The $889,000,000 Koch Brothers mass murder deluxe:  Make a near-billion-dollar political campaign contribution, matching what the Koch Brothers will spend to defeat Democrats in 2016, and the sky’s the limit. If you’d like, we’ll line up 100 people against a wall, hand you an AR-15, and let you mow them all down. There’s actually a choice of weapons. People with a taste for classic weapons may prefer a Browning .30 caliber, tripod-mounted machine gun. Or you can use a bazooka. (Limit: one shell per firing squad victim.) For a slight extra fee of, say, $30,000,000, we’ll even put you in an Air Force plane and let you nuke the entire population of a small Pacific atoll. Then go home or to the club and tell all your friends, “My boom was bigger.”

Now I can almost hear some of the non-one-percent tut-tutting me and telling me not to publish this post because it’ll give people ideas. Hey, I’ve got news for you. The idea has already been conceived and field-tested in Oklahoma. And if it occurred to me, even in jest, that this is the kind of atrocity that can be scaled up, I’m sure somebody else is thinking about that one, too. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, even before this was posted, somebody had submitted a business plan. Maybe even to the Koch Brothers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In another 20 years, will the kid who did this be a Democrat or a Republican?

Ah Spring! The time when flowers and politicians bloom.

Above: warning signs created by a kid, found on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. What party will this kid join a few more years down the road? Where do his or her sympathies lie? What can the picture tell us about where the kid will go politically?

Here are some possibilities to consider:

Democrat: Wants to preserve the beauty of nature.

Republican: Wants to control others, including animals and the people who own them. Probably wants to control your uterus, too, if you have one.

Tea Party: Can't spell worth a damn. And also wants to control everything and everybody in the name of liberty.

Koch Brothers: The advertising overwhelms and obscures what we're supposed to appreciate, the tree and the flowers that the advertising pretends to be protecting. But don't worry. They're going to throw a billion dollars at it and carve their names in the trunk.

Elizabeth Warren : If everybody sends just $2, we can build an aesthetic fence around the tree, protect the flowers, and take down the ugly messaging."

Anarchist: "Here, Rover. Make in this flower box."

Republican strategist: "Hillary Clinton was in the Senate and then Secretary of State for years and did nothing – nothing! – to protect those flowers. It was left to overwhelmed children to put up an inadequate defense that led to tulips shedding their petals. And also, Benghazi."




Saturday, April 18, 2015

The deliciously bloody live dissection of Dick Morris

It says on this blog, right over there in the right-hand column, that Stonekettle Station is “for my nickel, the best-written long form political blog on the planet.”

But now Jim Wright, the grand master who writes Stonekettle, has outdone himself. He has taken Dick Morris, the Republican strategist, and subjected him, point-by-point, organ-by-organ, to the cruelest, meanest, bloodiest, most sadistic and most enjoyably delightful  public dissection since 1601, when Guy Fawkes was drawn and quartered.

For good measure, Wright has chopped off the fingers of the usual Republican suspects – a gaggle of failed and present Republican candidates from Sarah Palin to Ted Cruz – and thrown their filthy severed digits into Morris’s open wounds.

It’s the kind of spectacle for which people used to fight to get front row seats at the gibbet. It’s the kind that, if they did it on Broadway, scalpers would be getting $2,000 for mere balcony tickets. The kind that, if you’re a certain kind of person, you want to bring your knitting to while you watch the deservedly guilty writhe in agony as they die. Or if not your knitting, at least a giant bag of popcorn and maybe some jujubes. 

So click your butt over to Stonekettle Station now and relish the spectacle. If it’s still Saturday while you’re reading this, I can promise you you’ll feel great for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hi, I’m not stupid, but I play it that way on TV to attract Republican voters

So now we have Rand Paul seeking the Republican nomination for President. His stated interest in disengaging the United States from armed conflict certainly has its appeal. As does his interest in ending NSA spying on Americans. If he means it.

Unfortunately he also comes with a truckload of ideas that just sound a little too dumb, or too naive, or too off-the-wall nutty to come from somebody who presumably had the smarts to get into and through medical school.

Some of the deep down insanity of the thinking he purports to believe in bubbled up from the snake pit recently. It happened in Rand Paul's put-down of an attempt by Senator Bernie Sanders to spend more to prevent  starving senior citizens from continuing to starve. 

Take a few mind-boggling minutes to watch Paul's presumbly clueless back-and-forths with Senators Sanders and Franken, then resume reading below.


Sanders had spoken of the Federal “budget consequences” of letting seniors starve during a meeting of the Senate’s subcommittee on primary health on aging, which he chairs. It’s not hard to see what those consequences are. And Sanders pointed them out. Those starving seniors, deteriorate faster than the would if they were reasonably well-fed. Consequently they end up in emergency rooms and nursing homes at public expense, instead of remaining in their own homes.

That’s not a terribly difficult concept to grasp, but Rand Paul either can’t grasp it, or more likely pretends he can’t grasp it.

“It’s curious,” said Paul, “That only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim you’re saving money.”

Right. He can't seem to understand that a $2 billion cork can prevent a $50 billion hole in the dike that will drown half the country.

Well, let’s move the decimal point over a few places and apply this theory to you, Senator Paul. You practice ophthalmology. Do you have a Yttrium aluminium garnet laser to correct posterior capsular opacification? Well, that set you (or somebody) back roughly $140,000.

 Do you have a Tonometer? That set you back about two grand. And those are among the hundreds of instruments and precise lenses and other doodads an ophthalmologist needs to practice. Think of all the money you could save, Dr. Paul, if you didn’t buy all that crap. You could just pry peoples’ eyelids open and remove their cataracts through mental telepathy. Or perform Lasik surgery by staring into their eyes. Or prescribe prescription lenses through intuition.

And that’s just as dumb (or insane) a concept as saving money by letting seniors starve.  Or in thinking, as you stated, that “the nobility of private charity” will somehow do the trick. 

Meanwhile, Paul is out begging his supporters for the money they themselves have saved. He wants their money to help get him into office. 

And oh what plans he has for when he's in the Oval Office. He's going to destroy the "Washington machine special interests," for example. He doesn't say which interests. 

However, you can be pretty sure he's not talking about the special interests that keep eliminating taxes on the rich, who can well afford to pay a few extra bucks, while whacking the rest of us. Maybe there will be a starvation tax, for the privileges of going hungry. 

And he's going to "stop the damage we've seen President Obama and his pals inflict on our country," his fund-raising letter tells me. What damage could that possibly be. Oh, I see –  the damage that's caused when you can't be denied medical insurance because you have a "prior condition." Or that makes sure you get medical insurance in the first place. 

Ran Paul's letter to me also tells me he wants a "money bomb." What he's not revealing is that the only thing his program will actually bomb is the American economy.

Of course, you gotta know that Senator Paul already knows he’s talking nonsense most of the time. And that he’s merely saying what he says because he thinks you’re a rube.

But you're a rube only if you let him get away with it.







Monday, April 13, 2015

Should lying prosecutors and cops who get innocent people executed themselves be subject to capital punishment?



What if he's innocent?  Currently, often nothing
happens to prosecutors who withhold or falsify
evidence that leadsto an unjust execution. Read
about a way to stop that.
Below, a modest proposal that I submit belongs on the books of every state as well as the Federal law books:
Any prosecutor or officer of the law who withholds, fabricates, conceals, or suborns through perjured testimony, or in any other way taints or conceals evidence that leads to the conviction of a defendant for a crime that the defendant is  later shown shown not to have committed, shall suffer precisely the same punishment that the defendant suffered. If the innocent defendant endured prison time, the law officer or prosecutor shall spend an equal amount of time in prison. If the defendant was executed, the law officer or prosecutor shall be executed in the same manner. Any attempt after trial by any such prosecutor or law officer to conceal or withhold exculpatory evidence shall likewise cause the prosecutor or law officer to suffer the fate of the defendant. 
Why do we need this? 

• Because over four percent of criminal defendants who are later shown to be innocent have been sentenced  to the death chamber, spending years or even decades in the nightmarish limbo of death row before they are vindicated.

• Because, although cases of people already executed are rarely investigated, there are cases on record where innocent men have been executed. Like this one.

• Because just as certainly, innocent people convicted of non-capital crimes spend years in prison and have their lives and the lives of their families ruined by over-ambitious prosecutors and law enforcement officers who have replaced their consciences with lies, coverups, tainted witnesses, and withheld evidence in an attempt to with at all costs – even at the cost of justice.

• Because someone enduring the horror of death row is exonerated an average of every three months, and we’ll never know how many more innocent people have endured long prison sentences or have been horribly executed.

• Because nothing would stop the crime of withholding or fabricating evidence by ambitious psychopath prosecutors and cops more quickly than the forced empathy of seeing their own lives in the balance.

Hang, gas, inject, shoot, or electrocute those lying prosecutors and cops. Try them, convict them, and and execute them, one and all.

Fringe benefit: A law like this might put an end to capital punishment a lot faster than simply taking laws allowing capital punishment off the books.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A message concerning climate change – especially for those who like to eat something once in a while

I picked up a bag of raw shelled almonds at my local supermarket today. They wanted $9 for eight tenths of a pound. I remember when people blanched at paying that much for sirloin steak. 

All of which brings me to the point of today’s blog entry.

Think he's shafted? What 'till you find
out what climate change will to do you.
And please note that I’m addressing you climate deniers who can’t get it through your thick skulls that the weather isn’t merely a matter of opinion, and that polar bears aren’t the only ones up the creek without an ice floe.

You may have noticed frequent news reports about an historic drought in California, with the state imposing water rationing  while various parties, including, alas, some of my progressive friends, are grumbling that farmers who use 80 percent of the water aren’t getting rationed at all. Or at least not enough.

But wait a second. Just wait a damn second. California is America’s fruit and vegetable basket. According to a California state government report, the state two years ago was producing $5.6 billion worth of grapes, $1.7 billion worth of lettuce, $1.2 billion worth of tomatoes,$2.2 billion of strawberries and $5.8 billion of almonds.

If all that productivity dries up – and it already is drying up – you may be paying nine bucks per nut, and shaving it like a truffle. You won’t be able to afford a salad. Or a tomato. Or an orange.  Or a grape. Or a bottle of California wine. 

What’s that you say? Let them drink milk? Shucks, Mr. Denier. California produces $7.6 billion worth of milk, or was producing that much. And when people from California have to buy milk from out of state instead of shipping lots of it out of state, guess what happens to the price of milk all over America?

“Hey Joe, set ‘em up. A shot glass of milk with a beef broth chaser.”

No, wait a second. Forget the beef broth. Cattle are a $3.05 billion industry in California, too. And when the grass dries up and burns up….well of course you can get your beef cattle from Wyoming. But here comes your favorite law: supply and demand. Guess what you’re going to be paying for steak? Or beef broth.

It has already come to the point where a standing rib roast costs more than the first car I ever bought. Yes, I admit it was a used car and it was a very long time ago. But even so.

Climate change isn’t just changing the climate. And it isn’t just going to starve the polar bears. It’s going to starve you too, starting from the inside of your wallet and your bank account and then straight to your fat head, you knuckle-brained, climate change-denying, psychopathic nincompoop.

Quarter the production and quadruple the prices, a billion bucks worth here, a billion bucks worth there – and pretty soon you’re talking food riots in the street and bloodshed over a bunch of shriveled grapes.

Well of course, you’ll also be armed. Gun rights and self defense and all that. Good thing, too. Because if the climate change you’re denying, and the food shortage that goes along with it, keeps on going along, your gun will be the only thing you’ll have left to eat.

Bang!


Oh, and P.S.:



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Indiana politics, Mike Pence, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and the fine Republican art of the Texas Side-step

Why is it they seem to grow their politicians tall, fair-haired, and a trifle dimwitted in Indiana? 

First there was Dan Quayle, who declared himself and his grumpy-looking wife “The New Kennedys” – a narcissistic conceit squelched handily by Lloyd Benson in the 1988 vice-presidential election debates.  

If you haven’t seen this in a while, it’s worth the three minutes and 38 seconds it takes to watch Quayle, stalling and vamping as he tries to think of an answer to Tom Brokaw's simple question, and then comparing himself to John F. Kennedy. He gets sliced, diced and barbecued with no tool sharper than Benson's tongue.


Now we have Governor Mike Pence who played to the Tea Party mob by encouraging a law that would have allowed restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, flower shops, and virtually any other business to refuse service to selected members of the public, ostensibly on religious beliefs.

Or so Pence said.

The initial target was gay couples, but you can always find some biblical passage that can extend the shunning to Afro-Americans, Jews, Catholics if you’re Protestant, or Protestant if you're Catholic, people with physical disabilities, people with developmental difficulties or some other perceived “mark of the beast” – heck the possibilities are limitless.

The problem for Pence is, the wave of backlash has turned into a tsunami that threatens to engulf the state of Indiana and drown its businesses in a boycott. So now Pence is trying to take it back while at the same time not taking it back.

He seems to keep saying, while at the same time denying that he’s saying – hold on real tight and bite your lip so that the words don’t tangle your neurons on fish hooks – that the law doesn’t permit discrimination just because it allows businesses to discriminate. Now he’s calling for a revision to the law that won’t say it allows discrimination, at the same time it does say it.

Yeah, I know. My brow wrinkled at that one, too.

Which brings me to a Broadway show and later a movie called “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” based on a true story and real political and demimonde characters, which featured Charles Durning as a politician glibly accustomed to speaking out of both sides of his mouth. There’s a song for that, and here’s how it goes:


The only difference is, Durning's character is a lot more clever than Mike Pence.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Need a good tactic to attract thinking people but still win over the yahoos? Introducing the “Designated Imbecile” vote-catcher

"6 munths ago I culdn't even spel 
'Imbecile' and today I are one!"
Oh thank you, Steve M of “No More Mister Nice Blog.” 

I just went through some of your last two days’ offerings and there it was – an occult inspiration that I am now officially stealing to make un-occult. I do this in the hope it will shower me with glory and praise from the center and left, and no doubt also scorn and opprobrium from those on the extreme right – the ones hanging over a rational cliff by their fingernails.

In a piece entitled “Foreign Policy Made E-Z, the way Heartland America Likes It,” Steve chronicled some truly idiotic statements recently made to radio broadcaster Hugh Hewitt by wannabe Republican candidate for President Scott Walker. These were seized upon with deserved glee by Joan Walsh of Salon.

Republican balloon gets 
pricked, stabbed and busted

Next, Steve swung around his own battery of howitzers and blasted some of the stupidest remarks made by Walker and others on the addled right.

You can follow the two links above and treat yourself to many minutes of delightful reading, chock-a-block full of chuckles. I won’t repeat it all here, but I do need to summarize some of the points in order to get around to my Designated Imbecile idea.

Scott Walker, the foreign policy genius (yes yes, I do indeed toss around that phrase lightly) complained about the middle eastern situation, vis a vis  Israel, Iran and the U.S.

It was like the old movie Trading Places, said Walker, and (sorry, I gotta quote), “In the eyes of this president, our ally is supposed to be Israel. Our adversary has been historically Iran. Our ally is supposed to be Israel. And yet this administration completely does it the other way around….”

Umm, Scott? Iran was our ally too, under the Shah (and for a while it was also Israel’s principal petroleum supplier) until the Ayatollahs and the so called Revolutionary Guard put the kibosh on the way things were.)  We once even gave the Shah a ticker tape parade down Broadway.

And as Steve’s blog points out, it’s hard to tell from Walker’s penetrating analysis which country is Dan Ackroyd and which is Eddie Murphy. Maybe we could switch Scott over to Abbott and Costello. I think Who's On First? is the analogy Walker's grasping for.

Send Wisconsin’s treasurer
off to the Syrian desert?

Also worth jeering at: Walker’s claim that he’d be ready to fight ISIS because he creamed Wisconsin’s state employee unions. Right Scott, it’s exactly the same thing. If ISIS goes on TV and shows some disgusting thug holding a knife to an innocent man’s throat, you can call them up  (if you can find the ISIS switchboard's phone number) and say, “That’s it, buster. Drop the knife or I’ll cut the pension benefits you already earned and shaft you on health insurance while I’m at it.”

There was also Ronald Reagan, already in office, who had a handy answer back in 1984 when a suicide bomber blew up an American embassy in Lebanon and it turned out that security improvements for the embassy hadn’t gotten off the drawing board under the Reagan administration.

“Anyone that’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”

And with that impressively stupid statement, Reagan won re-election five weeks later.

Stupid pays as stupid is.
Or something.

 Clearly, when you want to be president, it pays to talk stupid – at least when you’re a Republican. But isn’t there some way Democrats could win over the Stupid Vote without offending people who still pay attention to the news (real news, not Fox News), and still analyze events more or less rationally, and still vote?

Folks, I think I have the answer.

The Designated Imbecile.

The Republican Party has never needed to designate imbeciles. They abound in Republican ranks. Think Sarah Palin. Think Michele Bachmann. Think Governor Rick “Whoops!” Perry of Texas. Think of Senator Rafael Eduardo ("Ted") Cruz's stirring reading of Green Eggs and Ham on the floor of the U.S. Senate. For that matter, think Scott Walker. 

The problem is, these imbeciles are permitted to run for president, governor, Congress, the Senate, what-have-you, scaring the last living handful of intelligent Republicans away from the voting booths, or sometimes even into the waiting arms of Democrats.

So I’m suggesting  that we Democrats designate a permanent non-candidate as our official imbecile. This person would follow the legitimate Democratic candidates around from stump speech to stump speech. The candidate’s  words would provide rational ideas, logical programs and inspiration.  This would attract most of the bright Americans to vote for him. Or more probably, her. 

Talking stupid for
fun and votes

Meanwhile, after each speech, the Designated Imbecile would stand up and talk stupid on his party’s behalf. Like a small community’s village idiot, he’d be well-enough known so that brighter folks would be kindly to him, but everybody would nevertheless gather around to listen. 

The  Designated Imbecile would give the same fools who vote for candidates who would destroy Obamacare, and now Medicare, a reason they could understand to change their minds. For example, “Have you noticed that Muslim nations don’t have Obamacare? Do you want to be like them? Don't eliminate Obamacare or next thing you know, we’ll have Shariah law here.”

Well, it’s a thought, and a stupid one at that. But I insist it’s a defensible thought. If people won’t vote for you, give them a stupid reason to change their minds. Just make sure somebody else does the stupid talking – your own carefully curated Designated Imbecile – while you show up the Republicans by speaking intelligently.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Donald Trump throws his combover into the race for Republican Presidential nominee. Who’s next, I wonder?

   
Narcissistic puppet and former presidential Candidate Howdy Doody, 


Howdy Doody for President
He’s America’s choice
He will never be hesitant
To fight for the rights of girls and boys!

Above, a stanza from the campaign song of Howdy Doody.

He was a string puppet whose late afternoon television antics enthralled seven- eight- and nine-year-olds of my generation back in…well it was a very long time ago, a time  when television was so new that children and adults alike would stare for hours at anything that moved on a blurry 7-inch screen.

Suffice it to say that Howdy never made it to the White House. In fact, given that the coaxial cable had yet to be installed to make possible coast-to-coast television programming, and TV shows were yet to get videotaped, I don’t even know if Howdy’s show made it even as far as Pittsburgh. 

Howdy Doody had a human side kick ostensibly named Buffalo Bob Smith, and a coterie of other puppets and clowns with names like “Mr. X,” “Mister Bluster,” “Clarabel the Clown,” and “Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring.” Does that all sound vaguely like a collection of Republican presidential candidates to you? 

I’d be tempted to say you can’t make this stuff up, but obviously somebody did at NBC, back in the day.

I bring this up because of  the revelation that Donald Trump is “seriously” running for president. Or at least the Manchester, New Hampshire Union-Leader is taking it seriously. Their article states:
Combined with staff hires, Trump’s announcement that he will form an exploratory committee for the first time is a sign the billionaire is seriously considering running for the Republican nomination.
Somehow Trump’s name and the adjective “seriously” in the same sentence reek of more than a soup├žon of Eau d'Oxymoron. All the same, given the Republican predilection to seriously consider a huge assortment of clowns and corporate puppets as presidential candidates in recent years, I’ll take any Republican’s  announced candidacy  seriously. 

I mean, please remember that Sarah Palin was once the actual, gen-u-ine Republican Vice-Presidential nominee. How did that work out for ya, Republicans? And Mitt Romeny last time around was seriously the presidential candidate. And among the many people who climbed out of the Republican clown car wearing baggy polkadot pants, bulbous red noses and giant shoes  were Rick Perry and Herman Caine. 

So this year we already have Fat Chris Christie, whose lap band surgery doesn’t seem to have helped much. And Scott Walker, whose backstabbing of his own constituency of Wisconsin working folks has made him the Mister X of a new generation.  And Carly Fiorina, who has a rare talent for swamping  huge corporate enterprises. (Imagine what she could achieve with the U.S. Government.) And Jeb Bush, whose administration as Florida’s governor seems to have been ethically, umm, challenged, not to mention his quirky support of “faith based prisons.”

And also not to mention, as a writer for the Florida Sun-Sentinal put it, that…
… while his tenure coincided with a sizzling economy and an overflowing treasury, Bush's back-to-back terms were marred by frequent ethics scandals, official bungling and the inability of the government he downsized to meet growing demands for state services, including education and aid for the infirm and the elderly.
And now we have The Donald? 

Oh boy, maybe we Dems can win with Hillary and all her flaws after all.



A final thought. Can you imagine going abroad and saying to incredulous foreigners, "This is my president?"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dictatorships, murder, Greece, Florida, Governor Rick Scott, and the the secret words that may not be spoken

Florida under Governor Rick Scott is
slowly becoming the kind of dictatorship
 portrayed years ago in the movie "Z"
This story takes place in Florida but I’m going to begin it almost half a century ago in Greece. That was when a peace activist and physician named Gregoris Lambraskis was clubbed over the head, in public, for his political opinions, and died of the beating.

His death lead to demonstrations that captured the Greek headlines. Over half a million people joined a protest against the right wing government – actually more of a military junta than anything most Americans would recognize as a government.  When honest government investigators  began uncovering connections to ultra right wing extremists and the army, the investigators were fired from their jobs.

All this was retold in a 1969 film called "Z,"  a real-life thriller that fully deserves a revival. You can learn more about it and see the trailer here.
  
In the film, as in real life, the protest movement begins scrawling grafitti around town consisting of one letter, “Z,” which was shorthand for “He Lives!” referring to Lambrakis. So the government, in reaction to public exposure of corruption and illegalities, and still trying to maintain thought control, outlaws the letter Z.

And now to Florida.

The Miami Herald is reporting that Governor Rick Scott’s office has threatened to fire, and in fact  has fired people for using forbidden words and phrases. The forbidden words and phrases are, “climate change,” “global warming” and "sustainability.”

Here are some of the eerily creepy, excerpts from the Miami Herald article, outlining an atmosphere reminiscent of “Z” :
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
And this:
One former DEP employee who worked in Tallahassee during Scott’s first term in office, and asked not to be identified because of an ongoing business relationship with the department, said staffers were warned that using the terms in reports would bring unwanted attention to their projects. 
“We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can’t reference it,” the former employee said.
The prohibition against words pertaining to global warming occurred after one agent of Governor Scott, Herschel Vineyard Jr., was appointed director of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, effectively changing it into a department of environmental destruction. The Miami Herald also reports:
Under Vineyard, the DEP was repeatedly embroiled in controversies, from the suspension of its top wetlands expert after she refused to approve a permit to a failed effort to sell off surplus park land. Longtime employees, including Everglades scientists, were laid off or fired, while top jobs went to people who had been consultants for developers and polluters. Meanwhile the emphasis in regulation shifted from prosecuting violations to helping industry avoid fines.
As for Chris Byrd, well, he hasn’t been clubbed over the head in Tallahassee by thugs in a passing truck, the way Lambraskis was in Greece. Not yet, anyway. But Governor-Dictator Rick Scott and his coo-conspiring corruptocracy have already sought revenge. The Miami Herald reports:

DEP dismissed Byrd in 2013. His termination letter states: “We thank you for your service to the State of Florida; however, we believe the objectives of the office will be accomplished more effectively by removing you from your position.” Byrd, now in private practice as an environmental lawyer in Orlando, said he was fired because he repeatedly complained the DEP was not enforcing laws to protect the environment.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Never Kill a Killer – and other squawks from the Gumshoe Follies

Somebody named Tyler Maroney  seems

to imply we should discourage books 
like this, because a dumb reader might
be inspired to become a crooked private
dick. Instead of banning it, order and read it.
She was the kind of dame I just knew was trouble, from the moment she used one of her shapely gams to push open the door of my office. 

She sauntered in like she owned the place, great clouds of Chanel Number Five wafting off her pulse points and snuffing out the musty odor of the room I call my detective bureau

She sat down on the edge of my desk, crossing her legs and making herself at home. She lit the extra long cigarette that was wedged into her cigarette holder, using the lighter that’s always on top of my desk – a copy of a .45  semi-automatic that spouts a cigarette flame instead of a bullet when you pull the trigger. When she pulled the trigger it made a satisfying snap.

Her dress was red. Her foxtail fur stole was gray. Her eyes were the gunmetal blue color of the gat I always kept in the top drawer of my desk. I quietly opened the drawer and felt  for the reassuring heft of the weapon.

“You wouldn’t hurt a lady,” she purred through clouds of smoke.

“Of course not,” I told her, cocking back the hammer of my .38 snub nosed, removing it from the drawer and pointing it straight at the enticing depths of her decolatage. Why do you ask? Are there any ladies in this room?”

Above, a made up excerpt from a non-existent book, of a genre some of us have come to love – the noir pulp crime novel. None of this stuff ever happened and we all know it. At least any of us with any brains know it. Whether it’s Dashiell Hammet or Mickey Spillane or Lawrence Block, or name your author, we read their stuff for the sheer pleasure of escaping to a world that we can savor only as fiction.

Now, from another world, the world of authentically dumb-but-genuine real life private dicks, comes a dick peddling a book instead of his investigative services. His name is Tyler Maroney, and he’s out to stop what he seems to be telling us is one of the greatest evils known to Western civilization – the noir detective novel.

No no, I am not making this part  up. I quote from an op-ed piece of his that the New York Times published just last Saturday:
[Author John Carroll Daly] and many others who followed him helped romanticize the rule-flouting investigator, and created a world that inspired some people to believe that’s how real private eyes should behave. That’s why fans of the genre need a less felonious detective story, a yarn with more document review and less dark arts that puts the gumshoes in the law’s good graces. 
Lawbreaking private eyes, real and imagined, do a disservice to us all. Honest investigators help ensure that our legal system, our financial institutions and other corners of American life remain fair and transparent.
Right. Your average working gumshoe, following straying wives to motel rooms and occasionally digging up dirt on an out-of-work job applicant who once posted something stupid on Facebook are the bulwark of our democracy. Got it, Maroney.

If you can slog your way through the thick goop of his op-ed piece, Maroney seems to be the quintessential dumb PI, naive, dangerously impressionable, and smitten by the unimportance of what he does. Again I quote:
In my very early days as an investigator, I thought I was granted the authority to do things ordinary citizens could not: use false pretexts to obtain information, impersonate, infiltrate. I was wrong. My first assignment was a background check, which consisted of database research. My second assignment, to trace the source of counterfeit apparel goods, promised more intrigue, but my role was simply to buy shirts online.
In other words, until he finally gave in to the joy of tedium, he thought he could lie chat (and I’m guessing also steal or possibly even kill) because he read about stuff like that in some pulp novel. And somebody pays this genius to do investigative work?

He's not even good at the detective work he does. His own words:
At last, I was granted permission to channel Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Working with a former F.B.I. agent, who was armed, I tailed the chief executive of a media company to see if we could catch him meeting with a competitor to discuss a merger. My partner and I sat in a Zipcar outside the Carlyle hotel for seven hours listening to the radio. The executive never made an escape — at least not one we caught.
So now this guy wants to make the detective stories you read as boring as his life. Well, maybe. But a little sniffing around the edges of his prose reveals that he’s got a little something cooking on the side: an ulterior motive.

What it boils down to, observed at least one reader (not me) who put his thoughts in the adjacent comments column, is that Maroney is actually flogging a book called “Corporate Dick.” In it, you can get to read how ethical and dreary his life is.

Hey, I have a better idea. How about a book full of genuine fake detective stories that will whisk you away to the magical world of crime and punishment as we all wish it were. It includes stories by some of the masters of the crime writing trade. It’s called Dark City Lights. Most of the delightful stories in it are just the right length to give your life a charge while you sit on the john.

Crime master Lawrence Block’s hit man, Keller, is in there with a story about taking an assignment to murder a dog. Parnell Hall of the Puzzle Lady mysteries has a piece about the a process server who gets in a little too deep during the process of serving summonses. 

There are wonderful stories by S.J. Rozan, Jim Fusilli, and Jill D. Block, among the 23 authors of real made up crime stories, and even a story by the great science fiction writer Robert Silverberg, about Martian invaders setting up a bivouac in Central Park to the consternation of New Yorkers. Oh, and I suppose I should mention a tale by a guy named Peter Hochstein, about a private gumshoe who really does lead a dreary life until a Mafia wife comes to him with a commission to bump off her husband.

Dark City Lights will be published on April 27th, but you can put in your advance order today by going here.

I don’t know where you can buy Tyler Maroney’s book about the daily tedium and alleged indispensability to our democracy of real goody two-shoes private dicks. And frankly, Tyler, I don’t give an authentic private dick’s dumpster dive. I don’t buy books to find out how long I have to keep forcing myself to read before my eyes roll back in my head.