Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Led the Pigeons to the Flag

 A word about the title: I once saw in Reader's Digest what six year olds actually think the words to the Pledge of Allegiance is.  I have never forgotten the opening line.

I think I've written about this before, but darned if I can find it.

Let's get this as straight as we can.

There are 50 states.  In 2003, all but seven of them had some kind of The Pledge of Allegiance law.  Of the 43 remaining states only six make it optional for the schools to say the Pledge. In Colorado, for example, a student may not be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but schools are required, as it is in most states, to give the students the opportunity or a time to say the Pledge every day.  Six states require students to say the pledge.  One of the states, Nebraska, that has no pledge law, was considering it .  There are some variations on the laws. Mississippi requires the pledge only once a month.  North Dakota's only requires through grade six.  For specifics you can go to this link.


So, if you are going to announce we should do something, at least find out if it's still done.  You may actually find out that they already do.  If your school is not doing as law prescribes, I suggest you bring it to school's attention.   

Thanks for becoming informed and not just spreading random and wrong information that plays to a particular group or is something that caught your fancy on Facebook. If your source is only Facebook, you probably are already spreading random and wrong information.  Please, stop.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Shoot therefore I am safe (and you're not)

This week in memes brings us gun rights memes.  My intent here is not to discuss the gun rights issue, but the unstated themes that  memes can make.  These are a group of memes posted meant to show a couple of things.  One is that guns in the home protect people. Another is the importance of the second amendment. Both of these are common enough arguments, but as with many of this style of meme, there are also some interesting statements being made.

There is the implication that 911 is used solely for the purpose of reaching the police.  I've called 911 three or four times in my life and not once to get the police.  I've used it for the fire department for an electrical fire we had years ago and to call for medical  help.  While I could find no reliable statistics on what the reasons most common for 911 calls, I suspect that it is more often for medical, accidents, and fires than it is for "someone broke into my house."

The other statement that these memes make is that 'I will shoot you if I think you are a danger and I will not warn you that I am armed' or 'I care more about my stuff than your life.  I will not call 911 if you survive. ' Most burglars, I would think, would prefer an empty house.  I know there are other types of break-ins, but by far the most common is burglary.

Ahh well, nothing says we need no gun control than a series of memes announcing "I own a gun and will willingly shoot you" or :"I have something that shoots more than a politician's speech."  Humor aside, are these posts really arguing that the 2nd amendment gives a right to shoot someone?  It is also a bit ironic that while argiomg about the 2nd amendment, someone is attacked for his or her use of the 1st amendment. Attacking the person is not an arguement for or against something.  In fact, it usally means the argument is being lost.

He didn't give us either, Yosemite, btw. (I admit this one is funny.)

There is this from a tavern in Philly.  Not a meme, but it does show the impact of these things.  There is nothing like announcing if someone has a heart attack or some medical issue or if a fight breaks out, he is on his own in this establishment.  
And in case you don't believe me that these are making the way into the public here is another. So glad his shed is safe. I wonder if his family lives inside. After all, isn't the argument that guns are needed to protect self and family?
And this.  The barbwire effect and the minature shotgun are nice touchs. It gives it that homey feel.   
All I know is I would not want to be a door-to-door salesman at some of these houses.  Whatever happened to big dogs or simply stating "I am armed"?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Please Make It Stop...

Who remembers when A&E was this 

                                                                  and this,
before it became this
                                                                  and this?

Okay, I know that I've ranted on this before, but it's getting worse. It is a national crisis. It is epidemic.  It is themed television channels that show programs that have no business being on their station.  The Cartoon Network has live action comedy series which is little better than those bad YouTube videos of people who think they are funny being stupid.  I am still unsure how Walking Dead belongs on AMC which stands for American Movies Classics? The Weather Channel is about to premier another reality series, because there are so few of those already, on prospecting.  I am completely unsure how a Cartoon Network runs out of cartoons and finds it needs something that isn't animated in any way or how digging for rocks relates to the weather.

So now along with alien visitors and pawn brokers on history channels and no music on MTV we are watching the birth of an entire new idea...theme channels completely ignoring their theme?  Well A&E, I would like to remind you that A&E stands for Arts and Entertainment.  Please explain to me how The First 48 is art or entertainment or how Hoarders or Duck Dynasty fits your theme.  I'm sorry, but I just don't get how people can become enamoured with the not overly bright or people suffering from real, horrid mental diseases. Are their own lives really so miserable?  Lest I forget E!, sometimes known as the How Much More Plastic Surgery Can Joan Rivers Have Channel?, which seems to be more about gossip than entertainment news.What's next, grief counseling on the Comedy Network?  Please can we just get this over with and move everything from Honey BooBoo to Intervention and The Kardashians to their own channel: The Jerry Springer Channel.  That way all those of you who follow trash television have a place the rest of us, who still have active gray cells, can ignore.

And while I am at it, I want to mention bugs.  Bugs are those lovely little pop up ads that TV channels scroll onto your television screen during a show.  Originally bugs carried the station logo and were only placed on shows for thirty or so seconds to identify what station you were on.  Now they are action packed advertisements for other shows and take up about a third of the screen.  Hey, USA I am watching White Collar.  I don't need an action ad for Psych during my program.  Get over yourself and advertise your lame shows where they belong on The Jerry Springer Channel.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Meme Is Born

It is seldom that we get to see the birth of myth and memes, but in the past weeks, I've been watching one as it has happened.  It all started with a radio interview on a Conservative talk show in Colorado Springs. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa announced that Colorado Congressional Democrats were blackmailing Colorado sheriffs into supporting the gun law legislation by withholding a pay raise increase bill.  It hit the news, and the meme above with an article was born on the internet.

The problem is that much of what the sheriff said was over-statement.  Even he walked back the statement a bit after it hit the press. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette on the Sunday following the Saturday radio show, the sheriff posted on his Facebook page, "“I want to make something very clear; I have not been directly threatened or coerced in any way nor would I tolerate any threat.”

In an email exchange between Maketa and Chris Olson who is the executive Director of County Sheriffs of Colorado, there was speculation about the hold on the pay raise bill, but at no time is there a specific person named or actual recorded statement from any member of the Democrats in the Colorado Congress.  It would seem that some one took the speculation and decided it was a fact.  Maketa is well-known for his anti-gun law stance.  The Sheriff Maketa then posted later on the El Paso County Sheriff's web site his own statement again naming no one to whom he had talked but clearly placing the blame on Democrat Senate President, John Morse.

One of the local TV stations, KRDO, reported that  Chris Olson stated that no such threat had been made, "There were no threats that were ever intended in that email." What Olson did say in his email is  "I have been advised by a reliable source at the Capitol that the Dems are seriously not pleased with the CSOC positions on the gun bills, and given the potential for a real salary bill to be of SB197 would put us in a more favorable light for salary bill support from the Dems. I do not believe we would be sacrificing our principles or positions on the other gun bills by supporting SB197." In other words, he as the lobbyist was telling sheriffs that it would be politically adviseable to support a bill that bans domestic abusers from owning guns.

When asked about it, the lead Democrat, Senate President John Morse (Colorado Springs Democrat) said that he had held up the bill that would raise sheriffs salaries until it received Republican co-sponsors, asking for seven co-sponsors to sign on and not enough signed on to the bill. Why such a large number of co-sponsors, Morse answered with, "Can you imagine running a bill to increase the pay of county officials in these economic times?"

Despite all the follow-ups, we have the birth of a conspiracy before our very eyes.  Where you stand on gun control is your right, but where you stand on the facts of the story is another matter.

On a side note, a Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County, as well as many sherrifs across the nation have announced he will not enforce the new gun laws.  I know I sleep better knowing that elected law enforcement gets to choose what laws they enforce.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Bit O' Irony

Please note who is taking sole credit for this meme.

“We do not have an immediate debt crisis,” said by John Boehner, Republican and Speaker of the House. Statement made on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, March 17, 2013.

"So we do not have a debt crisis right now," said by Paul Ryan, Republican and Chair of the House Budget Committee. Statement made on Face the Nation on Sunday, March 17, 2013.

Meme is in reference to:
“We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,” said by Barrack Obama, Democrat and President of the United States. Statement made on Good Morning America, on Wednesday March 13, 2013.

The above meme was posted by the Republicans sometime shortly after Obama's statement on the 13th but before Sunday the 17th. Admittedly, all three said that there were problems and the problems needed to be dealt with. Both Boehner and Ryan said that while not immediate there was a "looming," to use Ryan's words, problem down the road and the Republicans were less rosy on the problem with the President saying that the debt problem  was not as immediate as jobs.

The point here is the meme.  The point is that it attacks the President for saying what the Republican leaders said on their talking points less than a week later.  The point is the meme does not actually use what the President said.  The picture used is also implying a number of things such as the statement is being made off hand, in private or perhaps since he is riding in a car, out of touch.  One must wonder exactly to whom this meme is pandering.

So is the meme hypocritical or just ironic?

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's not political...It's Much Ado

Okay...this in from the (ehem) Right field...and then rolled (ehem) Left.

The History Channel has a 10 part mini-series called The Bible.  It is a major success, especially for a cable network like History where it is a veritable juggernaut in the ratings.  I've seen bits and pieces, and it looks okay.  I figured I would Netflix it later. One piece I did see was Satan and Jesus in the desert and liked the scene.

Satan is played by actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni. He looks like this when he's not playing the Prince of Darkness.
You can see that other than some serious accentuation of his wrinkles and getting his hair into a hood, there was not a lot of special effects or additions to him. And then this occurred -- 


Glen Beck, on the right, immediately tweeted out "Does Satan look EXACTLY like That Guy?" Beck won't call Obama by name but uses "that guy" instead. Beck, of course, has a long record of demonizing the POTUS, but then the Left picked up on the tweet and immediately politicized the tweet making sure that Beck's feeble attempt at humor got more press than it deserved. 

Ouazanni, a Moroccan  actor, has played santanic characters in biblical TV movies before.  I have to admit that there is some resemblance.  Is there a hidden political statement here?  The show is produced by Mark Burnett who produces Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice and The Voice.  His co-producer is Roma Downey who is best known as Monica on Touched by an Angel and married to Burnett.  

Both went out promoting the show, not just on  TV but at some large churches.  Like all Biblical material, it has drawn some controversey, but the Obama one is about as laughable conspiracy as it gets. In an interview I saw about the series, both Burnett and Downey have said it was a series they wanted to do and a labor of love that they would've made even if no one bought it for TV.  Sound political to you? It's not like Burnett needs the money.

Think I will just quote the producers of the mini-series, Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey both of whom have appeared on Beck's program: "Utter nonsense." 

It is not political, Mr. Beck or any of you on the Left keeping this story alive...It's Much Ado... 

Friday, March 15, 2013

History by Orwell: The Tax Poem

I first thought of posting this as a meme blog, but it isn’t really a meme. I don’t know how many of you have seen this poem, but it is a cute little satiric poem that has made the rounds – well, not this poem but a politicized version of it.


Tax his land, tax his wage,
Tax his bed in which he lays.
Tax his tractor, tax his mule,
Teach him taxes is the rule.
Tax his cow, tax his goat,
Tax his pants, tax his coat.
Tax his ties, tax his shirts,
Tax his work, tax his dirt.
Tax his chew, tax his smoke,
Teach him taxes are no joke.
Tax his car, tax his ass
Tax the roads he must pass.
Tax his tobacco, tax his drink,
Tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his booze, tax his beers,
If he cries, tax his tears.
Tax his bills, tax his gas,
Tax his notes, tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, tax him more,
Tax him until he's good and sore.
Tax his coffin, tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.
Put these words upon his tomb,
"Taxes drove me to my doom!"
And when he's gone, we won't relax,
We'll still be after the inheritance TAX!
                                        -Author Unknown

The poem has been around for a while and is intended as humorous. It was until the extreme folks got a hold of it. The earliest posting of it that I could find was 2006, but it became popular for political reasons when it began to make the rounds in late 2008 with this added

Added to the poem :   Accounts Receivable Tax, Airline surcharge tax, Airline Fuel Tax, Airport Maintenance Tax, Building, Permit Tax, Cigarette Tax, Corporate Income Tax. Death Tax, Dog License Tax, Driving Permit Tax, Excise Taxes, Federal Income Tax, Federal Unemployment (UI). Fishing License Tax, Food License Tax, Gasoline Tax ( too much per litre or gallon), Gross Receipts Tax, Health Tax, Hunting License Tax, Hydro Tax, Inheritance Tax, Interest Tax, Liquor Tax, Luxury Taxes, Marriage License Tax, Medicare Tax, Mortgage Tax, Personal Income Tax, Property Tax, Poverty Tax, Prescription Drug Tax, Provincial Income Tax, Real Estate Tax, Recreational Vehicle Tax, Retail Sales Tax, Service Charge Tax, School Tax, Telephone Federal Tax, Telephone Federal, Provincial and Local Surcharge Taxes, Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax, Vehicle License Registration Tax, Vehicle Sales Tax, Water Tax, Watercraft Registration Tax, Well Permit Tax, Workers Compensation Tax

This list is frequently added as if it were a part of the original poem. It isn’t.

And then at the end this is added:

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was one of the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had a large middle class, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. What in the hell happened? Can you spell 'politicians?' And I still have to 'press 1' for English!?!?!?!? I hope this goes around (pick your place, I’ve seen it with Canada, the United States, Facebook and the internet) at least (Pick your number it varies) times!!!!! YOU can help it get there!!!! GO AHEAD - - - be a (Pick your country origin and type it in all caps) !!!!!!!!!! SEND IT AROUND EVERYWHERE.

(Gotta love all the caps and extra punctuation because we all know that increases the outrage of it exponentially.)
So here we go. Yes we have a lot of taxes but the add-on has some major problems. First a number of items on the list are not taxes but fees. There is a difference. A tax is a general service provided by the government that must be paid for. A fee is related to a specific service that has a calculable cost. For example, a license is a fee not a tax. You pay a fee for a particular item and the cost of the use of that item or the cost of creating and policing that item. It doesn’t just contain the cost of the item, but all the things that go with it. Parks charge a use fee. Admittedly the line can become a bit fuzzy in some instances.

Then there are luxury taxes which are actually placed on elective items that we don’t really need. There are also the penalty taxes such as those placed on tobacco which were actually designed to cover the heath cost of using such things.

But what gets me is the add-on paragraph which harkens back to a time when there were no taxes, and we were the “most prosperous nation in the world” 100 years ago. If there were no taxes, then why did Ben Franklin write "'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” which is actually a variation of a quote from Daniel Defoe from 1726? Taxes have been around for a very, very long time. If you want, even Jesus discussed taxes in the bible. In Matthew 17:24-27, Peter says Jesus does pay taxes and then in Mark 12:13-17, in one of the traps of the Pharisees, Jesus tells them in regards to paying tribute (tax) to Caesar, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” So taxing is not a new idea.

In fact, some of the taxes in the list were around more than 100 years ago. The telephone tax is from the late 1800s and the liquor tax was the cause of the Whiskey Rebellion which George Washington had to put down. You may also recall an English tax ended in a tea party?  I am still pondering what a "food license tax" is.  To impy that taxes and fees are some sort of a new idea is plainly not one of the brighter statements in the poem’s new additions.

Then there is the entire issue of the US or Canada being the most prosperous nation with a large middle class 100 years ago. We weren’t. The USA was not a world power until after World War II. We did not have a large middle class. We had the wealthy and the working class. Many a mom didn’t stay at home unless she was a part of the upper class. She did things like tend the farm, take in laundry and sewing or even cleaning the homes of the well-to-do. We had, in fact, had to enact about a hundred years ago, child labor laws because of the extremity of how kids were used by the Robber Barons and factories.

Large middle class? Really? Sorry didn’t exist.

And “no national debt?” In 1789, when the Constitution went into effect, the US Treasury issued bonds because Congress owed 75 million dollars. Yep. A national debt. In today’s dollars that would be roughly 900 billion of national debt. We have had a national debt since that time.

This is the kind of Orwellian historical rewrite, that would make Big Brother proud. We need to live in the land we have not some fictitious land that some person has conjured up. Sorry, but to politicize a poem about the certainty of taxes in favor of something that never existed is a fairy tale and if we are going to solve problems, we need to solve what is not what never was.

And would someone please explain what pressing “1” has to do with taxes?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Memes

So you've all seen them memes.  As I pondered what I could write on and would keep my blog going, it hit me this morning.  I now have two regular features.  The first will continue to be the Much Ado series and my new series will be on memes.  I'm not talking about memes or pics that make us laugh but the ones that spread the magical, mythical world of misleading political works.  Some are dog whistles with silent and often racist overtones.  Some are those wondrous fear mongering statements.  Others are over-simplified statements of complex problems.  Some are pure propaganda.  They float across my Facebook page on a regular basis.  We don't have to go looking for them.  They come to us.

And so I present the first in of The Memes.

This was the first version of this particular meme that has appeared now at least twice on my Facebook page:

Why is it that those on Welfare are either takers or "worthless liberals"? I suppose it is better than some of the earlier memes which implied or flat out stated that all welfare recipients were people of color and drug addicts.  Well they aren't.  Yes, there are those who abuse the safety net, but they are far outweighed by those who don't.  As far as the Federal dollar takers of the top twenty states who take Federal money for things like welfare and Medicaid, sixteen of them are Republican controlled..  The effects of sequestration will be felt by many.  I know.  I know.  It didn't seem like much when it occurred, but it does impact many.  As to the cry that it's Obama's fault, or it's Republicans' fault, it's not one or the others. It's Washington's fault.  They all own it, and it is all their fault.  Republicans, Democrats, and independents voted for sequestration and Obama suggested it.  Get over the finger pointing unless you are pointing at Washington D.C.

And then this one showed up:

This one also came with an article which cites such stellar (and I use that term with tongue planted firmly in cheek) The Blaze and other major Tea Party outlets.  Federal law prevents the distribution of Federal money for in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.  The majority of illegal aliens did not sneak in from south of the border, by the way.  Most arrived by legal visa or work permit and just didn't leave when they were suppose to.  That said, the reference here has nothing to do with Federal money but state money.  The primary source I could find was the California Dream Act which will give money to illegal aliens providing they meet certain qualifications. Such funding is also done in New York and in Texas.  That's right Texas.  Federal financial aid to illegal immigrants is a whole different thing.  And  if you are using The Blaze as a news source, you already have a factual problem.

The problem with these memes is that they are a common form of propaganda.  They blame groups for something they had nothing to with.  It's a magic trick. It's misdirection.  Immigrants or folks on Welfare have nothing to do with the cuts of sequestration.  Why should they be blamed for it?

I am appalled by the cuts for assistance to veterans due to sequestration.  I am appalled that we are not blaming in either of these memes the folks responsible...they live in the far off land with a name that begins with W and ends in D.C.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oz: The Visual and Magical

Legend has it that when L. Frank Baum created the stories of Oz, he was sitting in his office trying to come up with a name for his magical land connected to Kansas when he noted on a filing cabinet the lettering noting the cabinet marked "O to Z" and the rest is, as they say, history.  From that one moment Baum went on to create fifteen Oz books but the book series continued to grow as other authors took on the task.  On, there are at least 40 titles listed. Adaptation for Oz is not new.  There are cartoons, and musicals which includes the Judy Garland classic The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, and the 70's Black musical The Wiz. There is even the comedy account of the making of The Wizard of Oz called Under the Rainbow.

The most recent addition to the compendium is Oz: The Great and Powerful from Disney Studios.  Most industry people know that most of the movies that appear at the beginning of the year are not going to be the strongest studios have to offer. This is is particularly true of January and February movies.  The awards season and nominees are out, many folks aren't spending because they over-spent in December, and so studios release movies they don't expect to do well.  The early March movies can fall into this category too but not always.  Spring break is on the way, and there is money to be had.  Fortunately for us Oz is of the latter. Oz's opening weekend is the third largest March opening in history, bringing in just over 80 million in its opening weekend and this despite bad weather in the east and west. It is a bonafide blockbuster.

The movie is visually stunning.  Disney is getting pretty good with the 3-D imaging too.  While I personally thought the movie struggled for a bit after Oz's arrival from Kansas, the people I was with didn't feel that way.  So we will chalk that problem up to just me.   The movie, which is more or less from what I know of the Baum stories which isn't much, does include the races of the Baum's creation not just Munchkins but the China girl and several of the races of Oz.  The other part is that after the creation of the Wicked Witch of the West the movie truly starts to roll.  The flying baboons are scary and the Winkies appropriately tall.  The only true issue I have was with the Wicked Witch of the West's makeup.  It was just a bit too rubbery and, as my wife put it, a little too Shrek-like.  The other issue is that Mila Kunis, who becomes the Wicked Witch, is just too pretty no matter what they do to her.  Her big eyes just don't betray evil and I have to admit the whole transformation scene was just a tad bit over the top.

James Franco, the Wizard, is lovable as the conman who becomes Oz the great and powerful, besides, when Franco smiles his entire face reflects the fun.  The performances are solid, and I did become involved in the action and the emotions.  The movie has done well at the box office, and Disney feels secure enough to order up a sequel.  I think you will like it.  I know for the most part I did and yes, I will probably buy the DVD when it comes out.

Parents be warned though, the baboons and a few of the scenes may be a bit intense for much younger kids.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Scary Fear

Refuse to live in fear. Spreading fears is the foundation of propaganda.


I have a favor to ask.  Those of you who post the "fear" type of memes, statements and other propaganda put out by several organizations, please stop.  Consider what you are doing.  The fear mongering really needs to stop because there are people who really do live a life of fear that there are black helicopters and drones waiting to crush any opposition.  They believe in the armies of bad guys waiting for them to let their guard down no matter how much reason there may be in less extreme voices.

And it's getting worse...

A truly scary statistic is the rise of the number of hate and extreme groups that are now in existence. We are not talking extreme external terrorists but the homegrown kind.  They are not just groups like neo-Nazis, the Klan, and skin heads but also paramilitary, neo-Confederates, black separatists,  border vigilantes and a host of anti-government groups.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has since the early 70's kept track of these groups.  They currently believe that there are now 1,018 such groups across the country.  That number is growing.

According to the Center these numbers have increased by 69 percent since 2001. The surge they attribute to a number of factors, all driven by fear.  They are afraid of the ailing economy.  They are afraid of foreign terrorists. They are afraid of the first African-American President. They are afraid of the growing number of non-white citizens and immigrants.  They are afraid because  public figures and media figures are using their fears to legitimize their own platforms.

Why do we need to worry? Because to continue spreading these memes and fear statements like calling the President names or personally attacking one group or person because the point of view is different is adding fuel to this fear.  The last time there was a rise in the numbers of these groups was in the 90's.  What caused these number to drop suddenly? A single act.

Two of these folks living in fear of the changes during that time were named Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and they would kill 168 and injure 680 others in 1995 by bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It was, before September 11, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.   They were driven by fear of the government. They along with a friend who would later testify against them, Michael Fortier, fed on each others fears.  They opposed all gun control and shared an interest in survivalism.  Two events seem to be the spark: The Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge.  Shortly before the event, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter warning of the rise these extremist groups and the possible danger.

The Center has again sent such a warning out.  It is scary that since the waning of these groups following the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma that they have increased in such numbers.  The dissemination of fear has got to stop because of one simple idea...there is more than likely another Tim McVeigh waiting in the wings.  Don't believe me?  The rise of such groups went from 149 in 2008 to an all time high of 1274 in 2011. An increase of 755 percent in just three years.  Consider these years for a moment.  The first African American President.  The rise of the neo-conservatives as a power and the extremist media.  The fire of fear was fed.  Change is always hard and often feared by many.

In 2009, a leaked FBI report details the events leading to the death of  James Cummings who was shot by his wife in Belfast, Maine. Cummings, a white supremacist, was upset about the election of Barrack Obama.  Driven by his fear, he had begun to build a dirty bomb which he planned to set off near the White House.  He had even experimented with taking banned substances through check points and would take his wife and daughter with him as cover. Scarier still is the dirty bomb was very nearly complete and would have probably been functional.

In 2004,  there is the case of William Krar and Judith Bruey in Noonday, Texas who had assembled enough chemicals to create a cyanide gas bomb that would kill everyone in a small civic center. Authorities also discovered nearly half a million rounds of ammunition, sixty pipe bombs, machine guns, remote controlled bombs disguised as briefcases, and pamphlets on how to make cyanide bombs as well as anti-Semitic, anti-Black, and anti-government books.  While the target  is unknown, it is clear Krar had plans having also been caught sending fake identifications to a New Jersey militia group. Krar's problems were not new. He had been arrested in 1985 for impersonating a law enforcement officer.

The point is there are these folks roaming around, and while most are not likely to act, with the rise in groups there becomes more and more a feeling of support for the extreme view point.  All I am asking is that we try to moderate what we post.  A match to fear will only spawn more fear.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

So you like that page? So what?

On Facebook, I hit the like button quite often.  I like a diverse number of things, and by liking some places such as stores and other products I get special offers from them or contests I can enter or coupons to use.  I enjoy Facebook for humor and jokes and the occasional serious (no fringe please) discussions on events, laws and a host of other things. It is also fun just to find someone who I have not seen in years or find a student from 30 years ago.  I am constantly amazed by the pictures that show up from those days.

I also know some folks would like to see this button:
Personally, I would like to see this button:

It is not the buttons though I want to write about. Until these buttons appear, we should look at the LIKE button.

I also have a diverse group of friends.  Some are extreme to the right, and some are extreme to the left.  Some are mildly conservative, and some are mildly liberal.  I enjoy the diversity even if sometimes it is a bit crazy.  It makes me ponder and gives me something to think and blog about. I like reasonable comments.  Point of view is unfortunately something that has too often been  politicized or taken to extremes.  Too many organizations rely on the fear argument rather than common sense.  Arguing over what pages I put in with my "Like button"? Really?

Attacking me for what I like is just plain ridiculous.  Nine time out of ten time, what you know or think you know about why I might like something, you don't know. Liking something is a matter of taste, and not right, wrong or indifferent.  I actually seldom look at what people have listed on their "Likes" file. At last count, I had 241 of them.  I am always glad to discuss something that a friend and I have in common. Recently for example, a friend and I discussed the TV series Fringe, and its concluding episodes because he noted we had a common interest.  The purpose of liking pages, for me, is a common interest not to give someone something random to dislike about me.  I am a Trekkie, but I also am very fond of Star Wars and was in fact in line for the opening of the re-releases of the original  years back.  I am constantly amused by people who dislike someone because he likes Trek over Wars.  I would never attack someone because  he or she likes a product or page that I would never like.

Liking something is often without reason.  It is like choosing between Coke or Pepsi.  It is taste and little else.  I seldom drink soda, but prefer ginger ale.

I will always be happy to discuss the merits of a movie or book with you, but there are things that I like because I like them.  I go where I go. I think what I think. I like what I like.  I have a pile of great literature that I read and a pile of books that will most likely go out of print a month after publication.  I love great film and bad B-movies.

If I have a comment about something you  share, it will be due to that comment or share appearing on my wall and because it is something we can have a reasonable discussion about. I will not call you a name because of your beliefs even if you should be wearing a tin foil hat.  If what you post is factually wrong, I generally won't let that ride. I am not going to tell you that you are silly for liking a particular page.  For all I know, you did so because you like the humor on that page, or it lets you enter a contest they were having.  I will not ask you to defend liking a page.

If you resort to calling someone a name, you've already lost the argument.  If you or one of your family, verbally  attack me personally because of a comment, then odds are I will quit commenting on anything you post.  It isn't worth the aggravation. It is clear that a serious discussion, or as was in one case a humorous one, is now out of the question. If what you post is truly off in la la land, then I will simply limit what you can post to my wall.  As I've stated before, never argue with a crazy person.

To judge me about what I have in my Likes on Facebook really tells you nothing about me, but it tells me a boat load about you.  If you don't like what I like, you don't have to.  You also do not need to comment on it. You can like all the propaganda, political, right wing, left wing, and wing nut pages you want.

I promise I will not comment on your liked pages no matter how silly, fringe, or just plain wrong they are.

Oops, I now have 242 likes...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Much Ado...Jedi, Vulcans and Politics, Oh My!


Last week before the sequestration came to pass, President Obama made a comment to the press corps. Here is the exchange
Reporter:  Couldn't you have done more to stop the sequester?
Obama: Give me an example of what I might do. I’ve offered a plan - offered negotiations around a balanced approach. What more do you think I can do? (Gesturing to the room full of media) If people have a solution, I’m happy to consider it. This is a room full of smart people.”
Reporter: Couldn’t you just have them at the White House and lock the door until you reach a solution?
Obama: I am not a dictator, I am the president of the United States . Most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal. Some people think I should just do a Jedi mind-meld to convince them. All these people were elected and have duties. Ultimately, it’s a choice they make. So, ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say that we need to go to catch a plane, I can't have Secret Service block the door way, right?  What I can do is make the best possible argument.
And what did some members of the press run with? Did they discuss the continuing series of finger pointing by Republicans and Democrats?  Did they look at the fact that there has been a consistent failure of communication? Did they focus on Obama's last ditch meeting as a meeting he should have had weeks ago?  Did they focus on the fact that Boehner announced following the fiscal cliff that he would not meet with the President to negotiate one on one?  Did they focus on the fact that a bill which would have solved sequestration was presented by the Democrats in the Senate and would have passed but was filibustered by the Senate Republicans?  Did they concentrate on the fact that the bill presented by Senate Republicans couldn't even garner votes of Republicans?  Did they focus that the House has not actually taken any action during this session to stop sequestration?  
No.  They looked at the joining of two science fiction greats: the joining of the Vulcan mind-meld of Star Trek and Jedi mind trick of Star Wars  into one phrase - Jedi mind-meld.  There have even been discussions as to whether there really is a Jedi mind-meld by using the books that have have been spawned by Star Wars. 
Honestly? This is the news that the President is not Nerdy enough to know he'd mixed his franchises? 
At least the White House has a sense of humor about the gaff.  The above picture is from the White House Facebook page.
The entertainment news strikes again. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Part of the Story

All great journalists live by simple rules.  One such rule is never become a part of the story and never become the story.  It is for this reason that my opinion of Bob Woodward has dropped a bit. Woodward has become a part of the story.

Woodward, who works at the Washington Post, was one of the two famous reporters that broke the story of Watergate.  The other reporter was Carl Bernstein.  Their book, following the fall of the Nixon administration, called All the President's Men became one of the landmarks of solid investigative journalism. Woodward has built a reputation as pretty much a straight shooter.  Of late, though he seems to be seeking more press about Woodward than about the stories he reports.

His most recent book The Price of Politics was a discussion of the struggle between the Obama administration and the Congress in 2011.  It was called by the NY Times as depressing and tedious and overly detailed.  I have not read the book.  Woodward has written a number of books dealing with insider politics and often basis this information on unnamed sources.  No, I don't think he makes up these sources.  They are a necessary evil in dealing with information often kept from the public by every political group. Woodward also made the rounds on a few shows to discuss the book.  Hawking a book on TV is not new.  Authors do it all the time.

Recently though, Woodward wrote an op ed piece which also promoted his book, announcing that President Obama had approved the idea of the "sequester" which was floated by Jack Lew and that the now insistence that closing tax loopholes, Woodward asserts, is moving the goal posts.  Woodward's piece is not hard journalism but an opinion editorial.  This means it is interpretation of what Woodward sees during the whole finger pointing of who did what.  But the story doesn't stop there.

Woodward is no stranger to controversy, and there is little doubt that he has received more than a few letters, emails, and other missives pushing back against his reporting over the years.  It comes with the territory.  Woodward, by his op ed, has inserted himself into the argument by announcing that Obama has moved the goal posts and then later suggesting that Obama could ignore the methodology of cutting for military expenses in the sequestration law.   In other words according to Woodward, Obama should break the law.  In an email Woodward received,  says he would "regret" this.  At least, that is how Woodward framed it in an interview.  It sounds as if he is being threatened by Gene Sperling, the author of the email.  Woodward, who had already injected himself into the issue, went on the air announcing the ominous threat.  He became the story.

The problem is that the email was not a threat.  Sperling wrote in the email exchange with Woodward, "You may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim." Hardly being "roughed up" as Woodward seems to think.  The problem is not the op ed.  The problem is not that Woodward uses "unnamed sources." The problem is not that an email was sent to Woodward.

The problem is that Woodward actively sought out the spotlight.  He has discussed this "roughing up" and threatening email on Politico, Fox, MSNBC and other cable outlets.  Yes the administration pushed back.  All administrations do.  Sperling admitted that he had a heated exchange with Woodward in a phone call and apologized for it, later stating on CNN that Woodward "is a legend."  As a reporter, Woodward should have simply let his opinion piece stand.

But instead, he chose the spotlight.  He became the story.

Friday, March 1, 2013

It's Your Fault...No it isn't. It's yours...


So as we face another manufactured crisis in Washington, it's not the Sequester I want to write about, but the finger pointing.  Let's get something straight.  If the polls are right, most of you are not following the events of the Sequester.  Some of you, who have government jobs or have someone involved in some of the government programs, are probably paying attention because Sequester has real life implications for those outside of Washington.

First off, who named this cut?  Sequester means to set apart.  The actual noun, I think, Washington probably should have used is Sequestration which means to seize especially by writ.  It is the noun, if you check the web, most news sources are using.  Sequestration is what Congress has done.  They are seizing through law a certain amount of money to cut the budget.  The problem is that Sequestration was not and is not well thought out.  It was an across-the-board cut of funds in both military and social programs.  It was not what budget cut should be which is to eliminate the fat such as the  ear marks, the new name for pork barrel projects,  placed in many a spending bill.

So now you know what SEQUESTRATION is, it's time to talk about the big deal.  The cuts will be in the form of about of about 850 billion or there about.  The reason the market doesn't seem to be reacting to this fiscal mess is probably because that in with government spending being around four and a half trillion dollars. the arbitrary nature of cuts really isn't that much as far as Wall Street is concerned.  So here we come at another crisis manufactured by Washington.  What folks should be upset about isn't the cutting that needs to be done, but that if folks in D. of C. weren't so busy pointing fingers at each other the whole problem could have been avoided.

It's Obama's idea.  It's the Republican's fault.  It's the Democrats fault.  We voted on this package.  The Senate need to pass a package. Yada Yada Yada. Let's talk history instead of standing around and blaming everyone like fifth graders on the playground.  Sorry fifth graders.  Back on the original budget deal, Obama suggested Sequestration as a part of that 1.2 trillion cut deal with the Congress.  The fact is in that deal the Republicans got 98 percent of what they requested.  Now the House has voted on "two bills" in the last congress that would, according to Boehner would have stopped this.  First off that vote was in the last congress, not this one.  Secondly, those bills were both ones that Boehner knows could not and would not pass the Senate, be signed by the President or make most Americans very happy.  In other words, they were political theatrics.  But before we say it's all Republicans, the Democrats have done very little as well.  The Senate tried to pass two different bills yesterday.  The Republican bill garnered only 38 votes and the Democrat bill that could have passed was filibustered.  In fact, the guy who suggested the Sequestration is one person who cannot vote for it.  Congress is responsible for budgetary matters.  The President is not but he did sign the bill that put Sequestration into place.  So here it is.

Sequestration was passed in August of 2011. In the House, 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted for it, while 66 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted against it. In the Senate, the vote was 74–26. Six Democrats and 19 Republicans voted against it. Obama signed the legislation into law. It was defended by many but most notably by Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. I should note that when Obama signed the act, he stated, "Is this the deal I would have preferred? No. But this compromise does make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction we need and gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan done before the end of the year." You see, at the time, it was believed that Sequestration was so bad that not even extremists would let it go through.  They were wrong.

So while the 12-year-olds (sorry 12-year-olds) are blaming each other and not doing their job because they need to go on vacation due to their strenuous 126 day schedule this year, they actually all own it.  They made it happen.  They created it. They caused it.  It is their fault.  They are the ones playing political games with real people's lives. I am pointing my finger at you Washington.  It doesn't really matter who did what.  You did it together.