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For reasons upon which I won’t elaborate, I’m unable to appear on camera, but that won’t stop me from explaining the foundations of the United States of America in my blog.

(Yes, I will post on non-government, non-criminal justice stuff. It just won’t be today, so read and learn…or at least–I hope–be entertained.)

United States Constitution


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

If you’re my age or older, you most likely had to quote this from memory as part of your government class…the one we were all required to take.

If you graduated within the past ten years, you most likely did not take a government class, so let me break it down for you. The explanation may be redundant at times, but it’s hard to match the brevity of the preamble.

We the People of the United States…

That’s not just the framers of the Constitution, but the citizens of the United States.

in Order to form a more perfect Union…

This is a statement of intent, declaring the Union established by the Constitution more perfect than the “perpetual union” established by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

…establish Justice…

Although the judicial branch is mapped out and established in Article III, it is at this point that it—and the standardized system of justice embodied therein—is called into being.

…insure domestic Tranquility…

This is two-fold. It is similar to the “peace” cited in the subsequent Canadian constitution’s promise of “peace, order and good government.” It is also another reference to the union and its system of justice. Disputes within a nation are generally settled peacefully, whereas disputes between neighboring nations often erupt into war. 

…provide for the common defence…

This renews the U.S. government’s commitment to maintaining a U.S. military, a much stronger military than that administered and funded by the Articles of Confederation

…promote the general Welfare…

This is a promise from the government to the people that it will be there for us, maintaining a cohesive and successful economy, system of laws, strong military and national identity. It’s just another way of repeating the abovementioned promises and statements.

…and secure the Blessings of Liberty…

This is a different kind of promise…not to be there, wherever you may be, anytime. The blessings of liberty are freedom, privacy, the right to disagree with the government and so on…what we now regard as human rights. In fact, this preamble was intended to serve the functions later fulfilled by the Bill of Rights.

…to ourselves and our Posterity…

Basically, another way to say “forever and ever, Amen.”

…do ordain and establish this Constitution…

This is part of securing the blessings of liberty for all generations of Americans. The Framers chose to present a written Constitution to the states for ratification, rather than notes on an unwritten constitution, like that of Great Britain.

If something is unwritten, it can be changed. If something is written, with a copy presented to each state, it’s essentially set in stone.

…for the United States of America.

We all know what that is…right?


Duane Edward Buck should be dead by now. He was sentenced to death for the July 1995 shooting murders of his ex-girlfriend and her male friend, but has managed–at least for the moment–to beat the executioner through a technicality.

Mr. Buck’s guilt has never been in doubt. He shot his own sister moments after committing the double-murder for which he was condemned, but she managed to survive and has worked to save his life.

Believe it or not, Buck’s ethnicity is at the heart of his appeal regarding the death sentence he earned.

Before I go any farther, please allow me to explain how the modern death penalty arose inTexasand how it works.  (Also, please don’t stop reading for another reason; I have a proposal at the end of this blog entry.)

Okay, back to the show…

In 1967, there were many, many questions regarding the execution of criminals:

Was race a factor?

Was the decision to pursue a death sentence tantamount to a lethal game of ‘cow-patty bingo’?

Had we evolved to a point where killing people as punishment for crimes, no matter how heinous, was no longer acceptable?

If we did kill them, how should that happen?

Firing squads? Hanging? Decapitation? Cyanide gas? Electrocution?

A considerable number of cases related to death sentences were headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, so a gentleman’s agreement was reached with the states’ attorneys general and their federal counterpart that no executions would take place after mid-1967…at least until the high court had time to consider every angle, every question relating to the taking of a human life.

Most of the cases were consolidated into one, which was known by the name of the lead parties, Furman v. Georgia, that era’s legal equivalent of Armageddon, was argued on 17 January, 1971.

Rulings in most cases argued on that date would have been issued in June, October at the latest.

This was legal Armageddon, so the ruling was not issued until seventeen months later, on 29 June, 1972.

The ruling didn’t merely divide the nine-member court, but shattered it. Two Justices ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional under any circumstances. The other Justices agreed that the death sentences still passed constitutional muster, but differed on exactly under what circumstances they could be executed upon criminals.

The main ruling–that which at least five Justices could agree upon–found that the death penalty as then applied was as capricious as a lightning strike, disproportionately fell upon minorities (those of non-white ethnicity) and were sometimes the result of limited choices presented to trial jurors.

Al states, the U.S. Federal criminal justice system and the U.S. military were instructed to amend their capital statutes so that jurors had more choices, the range of crimes carrying a possible death sentence was reduced and sentencing jurors had the chance to hear both evidence regarding a defendant’s future danger and mitigating circumstances regarding the crime or the defendant’s background.

Methods of execution were left for future rulings.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court does not hear moot cases, reinstating the death penalty in theUnited Statesrequired amending the laws, sentencing people to death and having those amended laws reviewed upon appeal.

That appeal was Gregg v.Georgia, the ruling for which was issued on 2 July, 1976, and this is an explanation of theTexasstatute which was upheld in that ruling:

Capital murder in Texas is defined as involving one of the five situations:

murder of a peace officer or fireman;

murder committed in the course of committing kidnapping, burglary, robbery, forcible rape, or arson;

murder committed for remuneration (contract killing);

murder committed while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution; and

murder committed by a prison inmate when the victim is a prison employee.

Upon conviction of the offence of capital murder and after presentations in the sentencing phase of the trial, jurors must consider the following:

1–Does there exist a probability the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence which would constitute a “continuing threat to society”? (“Society” in this instance includes both inside and outside of prison; thus, a defendant who would constitute a threat to people inside of prison, such as correctional officers or other inmates, is eligible for the death penalty.)

2– Taking into consideration the circumstances of the offense, the defendant’s character and background, and the personal moral culpability of the defendant, are there sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant a sentence of life imprisonment rather than a death sentence?

3–(for conspiracy or ‘law of parties’ cases) Did the defendant actually cause the death of the deceased, intend to kill the deceased, or ‘anticipated’ that a human life would be taken?

If question one (and three, if applicable) is answered ‘yes’ and two is answered ‘no’, then a death sentence is automatically recommended to the judge, otherwise a life sentence is imposed.

Now, getting back to Mr. Buck, his appeal stems from the testimony of psychologist Walter Quijano, who stated under cross-examination that Buck’s ethnicity posed a risk factor for future violence.

Quijano offered similar testimony in six sentencing hearings. The defendants in the other five received new sentencing hearings and all were resentenced to death.

Buck’s fusillade against three people, coupled with the deaths of two, were more than sufficient to warrant his death sentence.

Simply put; Mr. Buck wasn’t sentenced to death for his skin, but his crimes…two murders and a near-lethal assault on his sister.

Still, I have a proposal to improve the criminal-justice system by completely eliminating any chance of racial prejudice.

Fair Capital Sentencing Act of 2012

Effective 1 January, 2012:

Upon conviction of a capital crime, the defendant shall be remanded into custody pending the selection of a new jury for a separate sentencing trial.

The defendant shall have the right to observe the jury selection and sentencing trial from a separate room, via one-way closed-circuit television and communicate with his or her counsel via a private audio communications system such as Interrupted Feedback (sometimes called interruptible foldback) or a Talkback.

The defendant may give testimony from a separate room, via an audio channel which has been digitally-altered to remove any ethnic identifiers, with a raw-feed provided to counsel for both prosecution and defense, and the judge.

The defendant’s family, friends and any other character witnesses may also testify in a similar manner.

Under no circumstances shall the defendant personally appear in court during the sentencing trial. Violation of this provision shall result in a mandatory mistrial.

The defendant’s family may only attend the sentencing trial while seated behind opaque dividers sufficient to prevent jury members from glimpsing them. If such accommodations are not available, the defendant’s family may monitor the trial with him or her. Violation of this provision shall result in a mandatory mistrial.

Upon being informed of a verdict, the judge shall have the defendant brought into the courtroom and provide him or her a chance to address the bench before announcing the sentence.

Any death sentence shall be immediately submitted to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review.

Any death sentence imposed on or after 1 January, 2012 shall carried out by the administration of nitrogen gas through a mask for a duration of not less than ten minutes.


At about 10:30 pm (2230 CDT for my European friends), I arrived for a fourteen-hour shift at KTRK (Channel 13, for those in Houston), talked with the six-am producer about the stories which he had inserted in the show’s rundown and set to work.


The fourth–or possibly fifth–story was about a book-signing by Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, who had been in town to promote his novel, Fury.


I remember very clearly that as I watched the BetaCam tape from the event, searching for a suitable sound-bite from Mr. Rushdie, I was glad thatHouston’s Muslim community had treated him well.


You see; back then, Muslims were considered our friends. My father had spent the two years after my high-school graduation in the Kingdomof Saudi Arabia–he actually walked out of my childhood home without me, three months before graduation day, but that’s another story–and I’d had the opportunity to see that Muslims were ordinary people.
They have the same hopes, dreams and fears as we do, but their religion plays a much greater role in their lives, which is where the trouble starts. By trouble, I mean thousands of ignorant and impressionable people suctioned into radical organisations by chicken-hawks hiding behind clerical titles.


Anyhow, I did that story and about twenty-five more without any inkling of what would later happen, stacked the tapes and worked them.
(before non-linear editing directly to digital servers and such, you had a tape, possibly two for each story. These tapes had to be gathered from the editors and passed to the tape-playback person. Invariably, some of the tapes  weren’t ready until seconds before they played and, therefore they had to be run from an editing booth to the playback person. I had a runner’s legs, just like the others who did this sort of thing.)


So, after everything settled down at about 6:45 (0645), I sat down at the desk, pulled up the AP ticker and began “stacking” the 8:25 newsbreak which I was due to produce–everyone starts somewhere.
The stories were the usual minutiae, which meant I wouldn’t be grabbing any breaking news–I foolishly thought–so I chose the three most interesting stories of the morning for the newsbreak.

Shortly after I moved back from the tape-desk to my own, I noticed a blip about the Boston ARTCC (AirRouteTrafficControlCenter) losing contact with a plane, which would later be identified as AA Flight 11, the plane which impacted the NorthTower. I pointed this out to my friend and six-am producer, Corin and the five-am producer, Courtney.

Courtney thought it was mildly interesting, but her newsbreak went on-air at 7:25 and Corin’s break at 7:56 was too short, so if anything came of it, it would be my story. I also passed it on to Holly, the midday producer.


Now, those who haven’t been in a newsroom might not know that every desk has a television. We not only watched our own show, but some of us were assigned to watch the competition and carefully analyse their newscasts. In fact, while doing this, I once saw a slip at the twentieth floor-level while climbing a building and fall to the pavement. (That station was the only one to not pull away.)


I mention the TVs, because at about 7:47, just as Corin was putting the finishing touches on his cut-in, the other associate producer, Andrea screamed “Oh, my God! That plane just hit that building!”

We looked at our TVs as the plane’s impact into theNorthTowerreplayed again. (She had seen a replay, as–to my knowledge– the impact wasn’t carried live.)


ABC was in special report, so that meant no newsbreak. That was very good, because we were all much too busy calling the news-director, executive-producers, general manager and everyone but the janitor.

I called my mother, simply said “turn on CNN” and hung up.


Shortly after eight-am, while talking to one of the EPs, an Evangelical lady named Robin, the monitor above her head showed a live-feed of another plane hitting the South Tower and before I even thought, I yelled “Goddamn! Motherfucker! Was that a MiG?”

Robin snapped her head around to look at the monitor and promptly forgot the blasphemy. I just kept looking at the replay, trying to make sense of what I had seen. I kept trying to place the aircraft. A Boeing 767, the type used for the Air force One fleet, never once entered my mind.

As stupid as it sounds in 2011, almost no one in 2001–myself included–ever thought about using a jetliner as a missile.


Someone recently wrote a newspaper article claiming that September 11th was more important than thePearl Harborattack. That’s a steaming pile of bullshit, but the September 11th attacks did change the way we think and approach things.


During the 1990s, I flew 30,000 km to 40,000 km and enjoyed every one of them. I haven’t flown since 1999 and you couldn’t pay me enough to board a plane.


Too much crap.


Too much idiocy.


Too little freedom.


I’ve hated the Department of Homeland Security since the beginning. It sounds too much like the “Fatherland.”


I’ve supported the Afghan war from the beginning and condemned theIraqwar from day one.


On September 12th, we had the world’s sympathy and backing, but the Bush Administration managed to squander that, calling to mind my Grandfather’s saying about a person being able to fuck up a wet dream.


In the past ten years, DHS has  gained the power to:

Demand information on which books you’re purchased.

Demand libraries disclose which books you’ve checked-out.

Enter your house without your knowledge, investigate you without anyone’s knowledge and prevent you and your attorney–under penalty of Federal imprisonment–from disclosing said investigation to each other, should one of you accidentally stumble upon it.


Torture has also been legitimised and habeas corpus has been suspended. That last one is rather important.

Although prosecutors still honor habeas for more than ninety-nine percent of suspects, it is now possible for the U.S. government to declare anyone, citizen or not, an enemy combatant who can be arrested, detained indefinitely and denied the benefit of counsel.


You can be thrown into a deep hole and forgotten. It’s like the old saying about “killing so-and-so and telling God that he/she died.”


The terrorists instilled enough terror that we forsook many of our freedoms, therefore they won.


Where was I on 11 September, 2001?


In the early hours, I was enjoying the last night of a dying world.  A world where elderly women aren’t forced to remove their wet diapers, children aren’t fondled in the name of security and la crise du jour doesn’t necessitate removing yet another article of clothing.


I’m just waiting for the “tampon-bomber”, “breast bomber” or “suppository bomber.”  That’s one security line, which I’ll pay just about anything to skip.

Friends, acquaintances and readers, I waited until after April Fools’ Day before writing this blog, so you would know for damn certain that this entry was no joke.

I’ll begin by warning everyone that this will be a long blog entry. If you’re pressed for time, suffer from ADHD or for other reasons cannot read this blog entry in its entirety, then please leave and return at the earliest time when you may do so.

The United States of America is standing at the abyss of economic collapse and utter insolvency.

I don’t mean the USA is facing the sort of inflation it experienced when I was a child, but rather the sort of insolvency seen in Weimar Germany, where the currency better served the citizens as fuel for stoves and something with which to wipe themselves after defecating.

The story of our overreach began in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks:

In late October of that year, we dumped tonnes of ordinance on the nation and then flooded it with as many troops and soldiers as we could muster. This was justified, as Osama Bin Laden had used Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as his headquarters and training-area, but we didn’t keep our eye on the ball.

Bin Laden escaped in the battle of Tora-Bora and is very likely dead from kidney failure, but that really didn’t matter to the U.S. government, because it had other things on its mind…another war.

In March 2003, after telling many a lie and twisting many an allied arm, the United States invaded Iraq to “stop Armageddon and secure weapons of mass-destruction”.

There never any such weapons and Saddam Hussein was a much better talker than fighter, more akin to Bucky Katt from the Get Fuzzy comic-strip. The Bush administration had always known both, but had plowed ahead, determined to terraform that slice of hell in its own image…a corrupt democracy, chiefly concerned with money and not people.

Over the years, a nation without conscription was forced call-up its National Guard, recall discharged veterans and repeatedly redeploy everyone—five to seven tours, each a year or so, is not unusual—until they either committed suicide, sustained career-ending injuries or were just killed in action.

Yes, some Afghan and Iraq conflict veterans have been discharged, but they’re damn few and far between.

The most common methods of final return are a coffin unloaded from a plane in Dover, Delaware before the stunned eyes of grieving family-members and long-term recovery at places like Bethesda or Walter Reed.

Wars are expensive. Materiel…personnel…medical-care…disability pensions…why, it’s enough to bankrupt a nation!

It did. It bankrupted us.

Educational spending has been gutted, not merely at the university level, but down to kindergarten and primary school.

Our once-enviable highway system is crumbling to the point that fatal bride collapses have occurred in recent years and I have to be careful when driving, lest I snap an axle or destroy a wheel-rim in the emerging pits working through the concrete or slash a tire on the steel plates used to cover them.

Later this month or in the early part of the next, the United States will reach its legal borrowing limit of $14.29 trillion, requiring an increase of the federal debt ceiling.

For members of the Republican party, its extremist “Tea-Party” wing and so-called “blue-dog” conservative Democrats, the answer is to slash funding for everything, rather than repeal a tax-cut for the richest two percent of the U.S. population.

That’s right; while we were initiating and prosecuting two wars, we also gave the wealthiest two percent of our nation a tax-break and repealed the estate tax for the year 2010 only to reinstate it at a lower level going forward.

Wait…it gets better!

A recent proposal to coax U.S. corporations into bringing their manufacturing facilities—and the accompanying jobs—back to the USA would allow them to pay only…wait for it…five percent income tax.  Five damn percent! Admittedly, that’s five percent more than Genera Electric paid, because they received a tax-rebate!

Anyway, you get it. We’ve borrowed so damn much money that our great-great-great grandchildren will be paying down the debt—a simple statement of fact—and we need to borrow more, but we can’t unless the debt ceiling is raised.

The Republicans, Tebaggers and Blue-Dogs don’t want to approve that, because they think we’ve borrowed quite enough already.

We have, but that’s beside the point, which I’ll explain in one sentence.

When we borrow money, the United States Treasury makes a promise to repay the money…the same sort of promise which backs our money, so if we break one promise then our word’s no good on the other and our money is worthless.

The People’s Republic of China, like a handful of other nations, owns trillions in U.S. Bonds and Treasury Bills (commonly known as T-Bills) which can be cashed in at a loss, upon demand.

If we start looking dodgy, the Chinese and our other creditors can call in our loans. If that happens, those holding U.S. currency will have some interesting stuff with which to wipe their asses.

With our nation soon to appear before a fiscal firing-squad, you would think maturity would prevail, that august men with receding hairlines and even voices would huddle in the back-rooms of various Washington D.C. buildings until they produced something comparable with FDR’s New Deal.

I regret to report that the pedigreed jackanapeses are in control.

Aside from gutting public education in the United States, the best they have come up with is “screw veterans out of their pensions and medical care”, “screw the average American out of the Social Security pension and Medicare to which he or she has contributed since their first day working for a paycheck” and “screw the poor out of anything, particularly medical care”…and light bulbs.

That’s right.

I said light bulbs.

In 2007, under the watchful eye of then-President George W. Bush, federal legislation was enacted which would require a reduction in household energy-consumption, including more efficient light bulbs by 1 January, 2012.

The most popular bulb in the United States is the compact fluorescent bulb, the kid which looks like a glass spring perched atop a light-bulb base.

I first encountered these in 1997, while a student at the University of Houston and immediately purchased enough for every room in my parents’ house. It was tremendously expensive, but their electric-bill went from $500 in the month when I installed the bulbs to zero.

You see, they were on a balanced-billing plan, in which the year’s anticipated electrical usage is divided twelve ways, the cycle reset the following month and the savings was so great that they received free electricity for two months.

Even fourteen years later, the electric-bill rarely exceeds $250 per month.

In those intervening years, LED bulbs have entered the market, offering 20-40 years worth of light from roughly ten percent of energy required for an incandescent bulb. Imagine those savings.

The Tea-Party, which at this moment exerts an inordinate amount of influence over the Republican party, hates any form of government control or standards, even if those benefit the entire nation by reducing the demand for foreign oil, coal and nuclear power-plants.

Tea-Party poster-girl and Representative from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann has introduced—God as my witness—the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, which would repeal the requirement for energy-efficient bulbs, claiming that Americans should be free to be as wasteful as they wish, by lighting their houses with whatever they wish.

Not to be outdone, one of Texas’ Representatives, Joe Barton has introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act (also known at the BULB Act), which has fifty Congressional co-sponsors. The goals of this piece of legislative scatology are vastly similar to those of Bachmann’s.

It makes me wonder what the members of Congress would do if faced with an impending appearance before an actual firing-squad.

Would they even bother to appeal the sentence, or merely file motions relating to the calibre of carbines to be fired at their hearts?

Everything has a lifespan; plants, pets, people and nations.

Every lifespan has distinct parts; conception, birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle-age, advanced age and death.

That said, the path from birth to death can be shortened through stupidity, negligence or misadventure.

We are perilously close to doing that. The United States is perilously close to ending up like a urine-soaked, destitute drug-addict found frozen to death in an alley.

Our drugs are oil, money, power and tabloid-level bullshit.

Whether we’ll make it to rehab, much less through it, remains to be seen, but the first step is admitting the addiction.

Say it with me: “My name is Columbia and I’m an addict”.

I had planned to write a different blog today, and perhapse I still shall, but I first have some business with which to deal.

Last March, Tea-Party maven and would-be 2012 Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin urged,  “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!’ ”

At that time, the former Alaska governor’s Facebook page featured a list of Senators and Congressmembers “targeted” for their vote in favour of President Barack Obama’s Healthcare Reform legislation and a map on which “targeted” districts were marked with crosshairs.

At that time,  Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona–the man who had chosen her as his running-mate in the 2008 Presidential election–defended Ms. Palin’s choice of words and imagery, dismissing such talk of reloading and targeted districts as garden-variety political rhetoric.

Many of us in the United States condemned such talk, remembering much darker, more violent times in our nation’s history.

Three months later, during a fierce political fight between Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid and Sharron Angle, the Tea-Party candidate attempting to replace him in Washington, a recording surfaced of a radio interview Ms. Angle had granted in January.

On the recording, Ms. Angle–who was already under fire for some rather extreme opinions–opined that the public would restrain an “out-of-control” Congress through “Second Amendment options”.

This is the USC Amendment to which Ms. Angled referred:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Yeah…she was saying–implying, if you want to use a better word–that people would simply shoot congressmembers. The hell with democracy! The hell with civilisation and crap like that!

Right-wing water-carriers and pundits immediately defended the rhetoric as just that…rhetoric.

How disingenuous. How cowardly. Your girls issued threats and you should have reprimanded them, but then that would hav ebeen too honourable.

This morning, the lies and disingenuity were finally brushed aside, leaving the United States and the rest of the world to see exactly where such rhetoric leads.

This morning, Democratic Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords was holding what is known as a “meet-and-greet” with her local staff and constituents at a supermarket, when a would-be assassin shot her in the head at point-blank range–one to two metres–along with seventeen other people. Six of them died.

Representative Giffords, the wife of a current astronaut, had fought a long, hard battle against a Tea-Party candidate, but managed to win last November’s election.

Among those who died in today’s shooting were a U.S. District Judge and a nine-year old girl who was attending because she had just been elected to her school’s student council and had an interest in government. (This sentence updated to reflect changing information.)

Representative Giffords is undergoing surgery to repair the “through-and-through” wound to her brain which a former Surgeon General described as “devastating”. (also updated)

The suspect in the shootings is a 22-year old white male. Tea-Party members tend to be white, with the majority being male.

It would appear that he listened to his elders and heeded their advice, putting his political enemies in the crosshairs, executing a second-amendment solution and–possibly–reloading to finish the job.

The suspected shooter is young enough to be my son, and that explains so much. It really does.

Recruiters for militias, insurgent groups and even the U.S. military love people between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. They’re young, energetic, idealistic and so, so plentiful. They also tend to be ignorant of others’ past mistakes, enabling them to be repeated.

Those of us who were around in the 1960s or whose parents talked freely about that era are not so ignorant.

The only era in U.S. history more violent than the 1960s was the 1860s, when we were engaged in a civil war which left almost a million Americans dead.

The 1960s were an era when power flowed from bomb-blasts and gun-muzzles as often as it did from ballots.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while driving through Dallas, Texas, in what many believe was a well-organised coup d’etat. Earlier that year, three civil-rights workers were murdered and buried in an earthen dam in Mississippi, not because they had killed someone, but for registering black people to vote.

At roughly the same time, a church which served as an icon of Birmingham, Alabama’s black community was bombed, resulting in the deaths of four little girls and in the months which followed, “Bull” Connor employed water-cannon, police-dogs and club-wielding officers to supress a march by blacks protesting racial inequality and suppressed voting rights. In summer of 1964, Rochester, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania erupted in race-riots.

In February 1965, Malcom-X was assassinated in Brooklyn, New York as he spoke to supporters, renouncing the racially-charged message of the Nation of Islam. In August of that year, The Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California. It was the first of many cities, including Detroit,  Newark, Chicago, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Washington D.C. and Baltimore to erupt in gunfire, flames and widespread destruction during the next three years.

1968 was a particularly bad year, in that it saw the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King, which triggered widespread rioting in Chicago and many other cities, swiftly followed by the June 5 assassination of Democratic Presidential candidate, Robert Francis Kennedy and the August Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which was marred by widespread protests and the authoritarian tactics of that city’s officials.

That is the matchbook version of 1960’s violence. It’s like describing water as “a wet liquid”. The 1960s were a horrible decade which seemed to last fiftene years, tore apart families and cities and was just shy of a civil war. In fact, it changed the nation in many ways normally associated with civil wars and revolutions. The United States in 1970 was nothing like the United States in 1960, much of which had to do with violence and a precipitous decline in civility.

In short, it was a cluster-f**k…one which we needn’t and mustn’t repeat.

My point in all of this is that the assassination–or near-assassination–of a member of the U.S. Congress is an unacceptable retreat into a violent past, and whether or not the young man who did this ever listened to Sarah Palin and Sharon Angle, their message is now inextricably bound to the Tea-Party, much as lynchings are bound to the Ku Klux Klan.

Voices of reason must rise to drown out the shrill voices of fear and hate. We must reclaim the civility and order which once made this nation an example for the world to follow.

As the first African-American President of the United States, it’s sadly ironic that Barack Obama, in his capacity as Commander-In-Chief of the nation’s armed-forces, presided over a lynching today.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened.

I don’t mean that a group of drunken, ignorant and possibly inbred people threw a rope over a lamp-standard and pulled someone up by his or her neck, but the net effect for the person at the other end of the electronic rope is the same.

It is ironic that as Americans, many of us love to spend time on such sites a YouTube, M90, NothingToxic and a plethora of other electronic ‘p-traps’—look up the term, if you don’t know it…it’s the plumbing-related definition—but when confronted with something by the media with something at which we would normally laugh, we scowl and goose-step into political-correctness.

As a hip-hop artist one said, here’s the situation:

In the middle of the previous decade, Captain Owen Honors, the then “XO” or executive-officer of the USS Enterprise produced a series of instructive, editorial and just plain-damn-funny videos for an on-board broadcast series called “XO Theatre”.

(For those who are unfamiliar with Enterprise or other nuclear-powered aircraft-carriers, the roughly 300-metre long vessels each have their own TV stations to entertain and inform the roughly 5,000 to 6,000 people aboard. Enterprise has always had one, even when my father was aboard in the late sixties.)

These videos addressed a number of subjects, including flight-deck safety, same-sex showering, drinking, masturbation, use of the word f*ck and the necessity to keep the heads—toilets—clean.

At the beginning of each video, Captain Honors plainly stated that they weren’t for everyone and invited those who were easily offended to skip them. He further stated that the Captain and Admiral—Enterprise is a flag-vessel—were not aware of each video’s content.

(I’ll pause at this time to state that this was—and is—absolute bullshit. When my father was on Enterprise, the Captain knew everything that occurred aboard, especially when it was broadcast on televisions throughout the ship, including the bridge, wardroom and Captain’s stateroom. Further, the Admiral knew what happened on Enterprise, because at that time, it was the flag-ship of the U.S. Navy. Seriously!)

Anyway, here’s where—at the risk of being blunt—we move from bullshit to chickenshit.

The video series ended without incident in 2006 or so, when Captain Honors was posted to another assignment and nothing was even said when Captain Honors returned to Enterprise in early 2010 as the latest person in charge of her bridge.

For roughly five years, the videos were a non-issue. Those who weren’t aboard Enterprise during the series’ run weren’t even aware of their existence.

Then, a few months back, the local newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia and a TV station in adjacent Hampton Roads, Virginia came into possession of several of the videos.

They asked the U.S. Navy and DOD about the videos, and were basically told it was a non-issue, due to the amount of time which had elapsed, the lack of complains from Enterprise crewmembers and the longstanding practice of Navy personnel to let off steam while in combat-zones.

Naturally, as media outlets in the age of political correctness and forever in search of ratings or readership—I spent almost six years in this world—both felt it their sworn duty to trumpet the matter to the world, to verily shout it from the rooftops and whip it into a story.

Naturally, as politicians and government-appointees in the age of political correctness and ever frightened of offending a soul who isn’t male and Caucasian, a lynch-mob of talking-heads, secretaries and undersecretaries, members of congress, military analysts and anyone able to find his or her way in front of a camera screamed for Captain Honors’ head and possibly testicles.

That’s when a funny thing happened. The crewmembers about Enterprise during the period in question, including women, overwhelmingly rallied to his defence. If you doubt this, “friend” Enterprise’s Facebook page and read the wall-posts.

Of course, this being the era of political correctness, it made no difference. Chester Nimitz and “Bull” Halsey could have vouched for Captain Honors, and he would have still been the bottom guy in the scrum. He was relieved of his command, earlier today.

Before you accuse me of being insensitive, please allow me to explain something.

This isn’t an aberration. You all just got a glimpse of the real U.S. Navy and, let me assure you it’s no different from the other military branches.

This is what people do when they’re in a combat-zone, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This is what people do when they’re on a cruise that’s nine months long, with a damn good chance of getting extended another three to six months. My father was once away for eighteen consecutive months.

Not only is this nothing new for the Navy, but it’s nothing new for Enterprise.

The photos in this blog illustrate a “crossing ceremony” aboard Enterprise in late Summer 1969.

Such ceremonies were held whenever a ship crossed the equator, in order to initiate those had not previously done so.

The sailors each received a summons to the court of King Neptune—the guy with the trident and a wig fashioned from a cotton-rag mop head—where they would each have to approach the “baby” on their knees and use only their mouths to pluck a cherry from the baby’s bellybutton.

My father and his friends decided to skip shaving the previous day, so they could move their faces back and forth, giving the baby’s belly whisker-burn.

Also aboard Enterprise, were “dopey-books” made from blank log-books. My father has one somewhere, but damned if I can find it and I wish I could. I grew up reading the contents of that book, from which I learned my best profanities as well as how to string them into a triple-curse, and admiring its beautifully-drawn, often x-rated cartoons. I assure you, Captain Honors would never have read a “dopey-book” on TV…not, unless he wanted to tempt the Navy to reinstate keel-hauling.

Nonetheless, these things…the ceremonies…the “dopey-books”…even the “XO Theatre” video series are morale boosters.

They’re the things which relieve the tension when you’re ready to kill someone, decide to miss ship’s movement (also known as being UA, which stands for Unauthorised Absence), drink some of the contraband alcohol hidden in the ventilation ducts or do something equally stupid.

These are the things which build and main the esprit de corps, but about which you do not ever write home to mother, because mother won’t understand unless she was in the military as a young adult.

As politically incorrect as these things are, if you attack them you inevitably attack the morale of the crew. That…a loss of morale, more threatens the military effectiveness of a ship than the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell, a visit by Gloria Allred and a six-hour karaoke of Elton John songs, because those three only involve homophobia, while everything else mentioned involves the ability to of military personnel to laugh at themselves, enjoy satirical comments about the chain of command and just relax a little.

Captain Honors was well-regarded and quite possibly loved by the men and women who served under him, and that, not his comedic tastes should be the determining factor when deciding who commands a floating city powered by nuclear reactors and armed with everything including nuclear weapons.

Leave politics to the politicians and the military to those who know it, live it and, if need be, die for it.

Those of you who’ve known me for very long are aware that there are five, possibly ten subjects in life about which I am hopelessly conflicted, seeing both sides of those issues and concluding that some are necessary evils, yet condemning others.

The retention of the death sentence in our state, federal and military criminal justice systems is one of those issues.

I have, in fact, debated both sides of this issue with my friends on many occasions.

Despite the possibility of procedural errors, compromised evidence and the career ambitions of prosecutorial and law-enforcement personnel, aren’t there still crimes which can only be punished by forcing the criminal to forfeit his or her life?

Answering that question is more difficult than it initially seems. If you’ve already answered it by the time you finish reading this sentence, please hold your opinion in abeyance until the end of this blog, take ten minutes to really think about it and, if you have a lover, fiancée or spouse, discuss it with them…after he or she reads the blog.

I will now state the facts of a current case, followed by some brief comments by both sides.

Afterward, I want you to decide whether the person accused, if found guilty, be executed.

I will tell you my conclusion, but only after receiving at least ten replies on this blog, twitter, facebook or myspace. I will count all replies toward this total.

The facts:

On the afternoon of 24 December, 2010, 12 year-old Jonathan Foster disappeared from his home, where he had been staying while his mother was out.

By sheer chance, his mother, Angela Davis, had called the house to check on him, only to have a gruff-voiced person answer her phone, turn to a person in the room—presumably Jonathan—and ask if his mother’s name was Angela.

The person hung up the phone, and when a very concerned Ms. Davis arrived at her home, it was empty.

Authorities were promptly alerted, appeals for Jonathan’s safety and return were made via the local media and a search ensued.

Unknown to everyone, save two people, Jonathan was apparently immobilised with a stun-gun and his hands bound with twine before he was taken to another location, where he was killed in a manner which Houston police have declined to reveal, for reasons they also will not reveal.

Immediately after his death, his body was mostly incinerated with an oxyacetylene cutting-torch and then dumped in a ditch on east Hardy.

Unbeknownst to the person who dumped Jonathan’s body at approximately six p.m. on Christmas Eve, the building across the street had a state-of-the-art digital surveillance system.

The following Tuesday, a passerby discovered the charred remnants of Jonathan’s body and the owner of the business turned over the entire hard-drive containing the video, which was clear enough that the person and vehicle were easily recognisable.

Within hours, police arrived at the home of 44 year-old Mona Nelson, a female welder with a criminal history dating back to 1984, which included immigrant smuggling, armed robbery and making a terroristic threat.

While talking with Ms. Nelson, officers obtained permission to enter her apartment and search it and promptly lost their breath when they did.

In the words of one homicide detective, they stumbled upon a wealth of evidence, including a stun-gun, a spool of twine matching that used to bind Jonathan’s hands, an oxyacetylene cutting-torch and a charred patch in the carpeting which almost everyone agrees is where his body was largely incinerated.

Jonathan’s body was conclusively identified the next day, through the use of dental records.

Her side:

Ms. Nelson admits dumping the body, but denies killing Jonathan.

She told one television reporter that she was drunk on vodka, when one of Jonathan’s relatives stopped her outside his Oak Street home and offered her twenty dollars to dump a plastic container. She claims that she did just that, randomly choosing the ditch along Hardy because she was “driving drunk and listening to music” and had no idea what was in the container.

Ms. Nelson, a mother and grandmother, claims that she loves children and would never harm a child.

Harris County’s side:

Jonathan’s body was never in a container. The charred remnant was left in a grassy ditch, where it shed some its carbon onto the foliage.

The digital video clearly shows the driver of the pick-up—identified by several people as Mona Nelson—removing the body from the back of a pick-up, sans container, and placing it upon the ground.

Arson dogs detected no traces of accelerant, meaning that it was incinerated with a gas-flame, rather than a flammable liquid or solid fuel.

Detectives believe Ms. Nelson waited until the right time to take Jonathan, and one has even called her a cold, soulless murderer.

Although that last bit is not concrete fact, I do believe it provides an important insight into the case and the mental devastation it has dealt the investigators tasked with handling it.

You may read much more and watch several videos on different aspects of the case at

I realise that I’ve not written anything on any of my blogs since…it must be four months, and I’ll stipulate to profuse apologies, so that I may begin today’s blog-entry with the following (important) primer on the United States Constitution and the United States Code:

USC Amendment XIII

(Ratified December 6, 1865)

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

USC Amendment XIV

(Ratified July 9, 1868)

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 5

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

USC Amendment XV

(Ratified February 3, 1870)

Section 1

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. § 1973–1973aa-6)

(Effective 6 August, 1965)

I’ve listed the specific section of the United States Code where this Federal legislation, an Act of Congress may be found, both to emphasise that it is, in fact, not a Constitutionally guaranteed right as an Amendment, and to provide a set of coordinates where its text may be examined on many law websites.

(F.Y.I.: USC stands for United States Constitution, whereas U.S.C. is the abbreviation for United States Code.)

Civil Rights Act of 1964

(Effective 2 July, 1964)

I’m certain that we’ve all (99+%) seen the black-and-white films of unarmed protesters facing attack-dogs, water-cannon and baton-wielding police in “Bull” Connor’s Birmingham, Alabama. Those “American-Apartheid” tactics, along with the terrorist deaths of four black girls in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church and the murders of three workers engaged in registering Mississippi blacks to vote are why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed both houses of Congress.

The Act’s power principally derives from three sources:

1—The power to regulate interstate commerce, pursuant to USC, Article One, Section 8.

The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the

common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the

United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

2—USC Amendment XIV, Sections 1 and 5 (Listed at the beginning of this blog.)

3—USC Amendment XV, Section 2 (Listed at the beginning of this blog.)

Going back to slightly before the Constitution, I would also like to enlighten you on the United States of America’s turbulent childhood.

It was actually born on 19 April, 1775, not 4 July, 1776, and it was a Confederation. (You didn’t think the Southerners pulled that term out of their butts, did you?)

In fact, the original blueprint of the U.S.A., the Articles of Confederation, was completed in June, 1776 and sent to the states for ratification.

Under the Articles, the Congress of the Confederation—not the United States Congress—had the power to negotiate diplomatic treaties and raise an army, but not the power to levy taxes or encroach upon the sovereignty of the individual states, including the regulation of commerce, foreign and domestic.

The result was that as 1787 arrived, the United States was actually disunited to the extent that its currency was worthless, its military starved of funds, a rebellion had almost succeeded in toppling the Massachusetts government, there was no uniform system of weights and measures—including time, so that it might be fifteen minutes later in the next town and a pound three ounces lighter.

The U.S.A. was rapidly dying, so at the suggestion of James Madison and others, a convention was held in Annapolis, Maryland, where delegates from each state were given the authority to meet in Philadelphia and rewrite the Articles of Confederation.

A funny thing happened. When the delegates arrived, they decided to go rogue and create a completely new document. They were determined that this document would invest upon Congress the powers of taxation, regulation of commerce and the ability to enact Federal laws, irrespective of a particular state’s objection.

Recognising the propensity of politicians to stall and argue, upon the delegates’ entry, the doors were chained shut and boards nailed over the windows—a fact which may be noted when touring Independence Hall—so that everyone sweltered in the May heat.

Despite heated and intricate arguments, the constitutional delegates cranked that damn thing out in record time!

In doing so, the world’s first true Federal Republic had been created. Prior to this, nations either had strong central governments—empires, kingdoms and national assemblies—or were collections of sovereign states, known as confederations.

The U.S. Constitution entered into force after being ratified by eleven of the then-thirteen states, the others soon following, the U.S. Congress took over from the Congress of the Confederation and an entirely new head of state, the President took office upon election, presiding over a union.

Okay, boys and girls…Now, I’ll explain the abbreviated U.S. Government class:

There are presently—and regrettably—on the political landscape a group of halfwits, quarterwits and proudly ignorant people, whose colloquial name is the Tea Party.

The “Tea-Baggers” as they are also known—although I prefer term synonymous with an article of hygiene equipment—became pissed, irate, livid and altogether apoplectic when last-years health-care legislation was enacted, using the same Article One raison pour l’autorité as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

If there’s anything card-carrying Republicans and Tea-Baggers hate more than what they see as overarching Federal legislation, it’s spending. The “tea” in the Tea Party stands for “Taxed Enough Already.”

Here’s where the march of the ignorant and intellectually-impaired kicks-off:

An idiot had the bright idea of introducing a proposed amendment allowing any or all of the states to repeal—actually, to disregard—any Federal legislation which doesn’t come close to leaving its politicians in writhing orgasm.

More idiots championed the proposed amendment, even as six of the states passed “sovereignty acts,” of which all were thinly-disguised proposals to secede from the U.S.A. Of the four gubernatorial candidates in the 2010 Republican primary, only Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison didn’t mention secession. Rick Perry, only two days away from a term which will make him Texas’ longest-serving governor, mentioned it twice during the campaign.


Here’s where we are:

The number of idiots has snowballed, giving the “repeal amendment” a damn good chance of exiting Congress, rather than dying on the floor.

When it was pointed out that this would effectively repeal Amendment XIV and gut Amendment XV, the response was profound indifference.

When it was pointed out that the proposed piece of constitutional scatology would effectively send us back to the Articles of Confederation, the response was—to quote the late Douglas Adams—“the look of a man trying to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius while watching his house burn.”

Few, if any, had a damn clue what was being said, so the matter was handed over to such capable people as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

For the love of God! Will someone with an I.Q. higher than my cat’s please step in front of a camera, speak clearly into a microphone and explain, using small words and short sentences, why we cannot do this! Please explain why the proffered “fruit-punch” of sovereignty is actually cyanide-laced Kool-Aid!

Will some responsible adults please storm the room, take control and threaten to cane the children if they don’t go outside to play and leave the task of governing to the grown-ups?

Tonight’s blog has to with media demagogue Glenn Beck, his followers—whom many call “Beckerheads”, blatant sexism and a blossoming Fascist movement.

During the past week, Mr. Beck, who is currently promoting his new book Arguing With Idiots, when he isn’t slandering United States Senators in a blatantly sexist manner—more on that later—announced he is moving into the political arena.
According to Beck, he plans to exploit the civil war within the Republican party by becoming a “community organizer” and “changing the course of America.

It is obvious that by “changing the course of America” as a “community organizer”, Beck means that he will bootstrap, gerrymander and bullshit his “tea-party” movement into a political party, eviscerating the GOP, much as that party did when it formed from the better members of the Whig party.

Beck, apparently taking this change stuff—and himself—too seriously, announced that he had a “100-year plan” for the United States.

When you see the cover of Beck’s book, the words “100-year plan” sound entirely too much like “1000-year Reich”.

During a weekend rally in Orlando, Florida, Beck also told a mass of admirers, “America, we cannot wait for a leader anymore. The people must leader, and the leader will follow”.

On Monday’s radio-show, Beck ratcheted the rhetoric up a notch, adding, “I’m going to teach you how to be a community organizer next year, oh, because two can play at that game. It’s time to find our teeth and sharpen our teeth, and we’re going to do it”.

Let’s remember that Hitler’s first attempt to take over Germany arose from a gathering at a beer-hall, and that upon his release from prison, he amassed an impressive number of SA, commonly known as “Brown-Shirts”.

Mussolini also arose from similar beginnings. He and the original Fascists rose to power by pandering to rural and ignorant Italians, rather than Romans, Milanese And Venetians, promising to return Italy to “its past glory” and “crack down on crime”. Impatient, he and his brethren in the National Fascist Party didn’t wait for this strategy to finish bringing them to power, and simply marched on Rome in a coup d’état.
Whenever someone was dumb enough to question Il Duce, one common reply was that “he made the trains run on time”.

Returning to Beck’s remarks about sharpened teeth, one might wonder whether he found inspiration in a 1928 speech by Mussolini, the most famous line of which is, “Let us have a dagger between our teeth, a bomb in our hands, and an infinite scorn in our hearts”.

You know? With the exception of the bomb, I can hear Beck, O’Reilly or Limbaugh saying that. Creepy.

In a similar display of mass stupidity, the “Beckerheads” gather round Beck’s tour-bus, wherever he may appear, fawning over him. In fact, while being interviewed by a TV network, one even called him a saviour.

Saviour of what? (I’m thinking the name of The Saviour, as I type this.)
This is the sort of slavish, mindless devotion from which Fascist movements are crafted. Like bread and biscuits, we need only wait for the germinating movement to rise. Actually, I think it’s already starting to rise. I’ll bet the dough-bowl is already a little warm.

As for Glenn Beck’s hypocritical sexism, it takes the form of what Keith Olbermann called “a bout of verbal diarrhea”.

On Saturday night, Mary Landrieu, the senior U.S. Senator from Louisiana—a state with many uninsured and underinsured residents—had the temerity to vote in favor of bringing the health-care reform bill to the Senate floor for debate.

Beck wasted no time, throwing two consecutive “below the belt” verbal punches against the conscientious Senator.
Yesterday, he called her a prostitute on his show.
Today, he reiterated his appalling appellation, remarking, “we know you’re hooking, but I guess you’re not cheap”.

(****sound of crickets chirping****)
That’s what we’re hearing from the GOP and other right-wingers, despite the blatant sexism of the remarks.

Do you know what would have happened, had Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann called Sarah Palin a hooker, remarked upon her “Pretty Woman” attire, her simpering—and limited—vocal style.

This is not over..

We cannot hold one side to a different standard than the other.

Likewise, we cannot blindly allow a broadcast personality—who may or may not be mentally-ill, depending upon your opinion—to lead us down a garden-path which may end in a poppy-field, tar-pit or briar-patch.

Imagine an old car which has been sitting in a meadow for long that a tree has grown, tall and thick, in the space occupied decades ago by its missing engine and hood.

Everyone agrees that it would be nice to restore the car.
Everyone has intended to do so, for as long as some of them have been alive, but no one has ever done it.

Finally, you decide to do it. You’re going to restore the car. After all, it’s sitting on your late grandfather’s land, and it is still a great car, despite the rust, opaque windows and hub-high sediment which has accumulated around it.

After talking about your plans at the neighborhood bar, you drive up beside the car, an aluminum ladder, fifteen metres of rope, a double-bit axe, twenty-litre can of gasoline and chainsaw in the bed of your pick-up.

As you get out of the pick-up, you notice a group of your neighbors—the ones who talked for decades about how the car should be restored, but turned not a tap—standing around three other pick-ups, drinking beer.

They immediately begin hectoring you: You haven’t brought enough gasoline. The chainsaw isn’t long enough. The ladder isn’t sturdy enough. That rope isn’t going to work. Your axe is dull.

Worse still, the group of loudmouths steals or hides each tool as you unload it., but after a protracted fight involving a few friends you call with your cell-phone, you manage to regain your tools.

Your neighbors continue to mercilessly hurl insults as you remove the tree, piece by piece, until the engine compartment is finally clear.
They wait until you slide under the car to attach tow-chains to the frame, and then begin kicking you in the balls as others in the group bounce on the rear-bumper, trying to break your ribs.

Luckily, they are all too drunk, you remembered to wear a cup and because it’s an old car, the ground-clearance is high enough that you only emerge with bruises.

After a protracted bout of fighting—you once again phone your friends—you manage to hook the chains to your pick-up’s trailer-hitch, inflate the ragged tires with a bottle of nitrogen and pull the car free.

You take the fine, but battered old car to a friend’s shop, where you will carry out the task of a frame-off restoration. You will bring this car back to its former glory.

The entire time you are working on the car, you have to contend with these “expert” neighbors, few of whom have ever done more than fill their cars’ gas-tanks and drive.

They throw rocks through the shop’s windows. They leave flaming paper-bags full of dog-crap on the driveway. On a few occasions, they even cut the lock on the breaker-box and turn the electricity off.

Despite their best—or worst—efforts, you eventually complete the restoration.
It hasn’t been easy, though. You had to rig a spray-booth inside the shop. Your friends had to bring you the parts as you purchased them, including the upholstery.

It’s been worth it, though. For the past few days, the group outside has grown progressively quieter and the car that formerly provided a home for a tree now looks as if it just rolled off of an assembly-line.

Misjudging your neighbors’ quietude for acquiescence to the reality that you’ve finally restored the car which everyone wanted to someday drive, but no one wanted to expend any effort upon, you roll open the shop’s main door and ease the car forward onto the driveway.

As you step out of the car to admire it in the sunlight, you suddenly realise that the group has simply been hiding along both sides of the shop.

One of them—a brash, ignorant man who had been particularly vituperative when you were cutting away the tree–shoots you in the chest with a large-caliber pistol, and everyone piles into the gleaming car.

Your vision begins to dim and you feel the heat draining from your body as the lazy thieves pull away with the product of your hard work.

The last thing you see is Kenworth truck destroying the car and killing everyone inside it.

For the thieves were so eager to escape with what was not theirs—that in which they had invested no real effort—that they blundered ahead, indifferent to the consequences.

They cared only about their short-term gain.

The car in this allegory is the United States, the protagonist is Barack Obama and the friends are the Democrats.

The heckling, drunken mob that ultimately resorts to thievery and kills the hardworking agent of restoration is the ultra-right.

I don’t just mean the GOP, but the “tea-baggers”, “birthers”, “death-panelists” and all those who would throw common decency and compassion under the bus for political gain.

When did it become patriotic to oppose the President because he is black, liberal, Democratic or whatever else he may be?
When did it become Christian to other Christians to pray for Obama’s death, for “his wife to be a widow and his children fatherless”?

When did it become Christian, patriotic or even acceptable to condemn society’s most vulnerable—children, the poor and the elderly—to lives of pain and misery, and deaths from preventable illnesses, in the name of “fiscal conservatism”?

The latest numbers show that the proposed health plan will lower our deficit during the next decade. It will increase productivity.

More importantly, what does it say about us as a nation, if we’re willing to do this?

On 26 September, I watched as more than two-thousand ill and fearful people crowded Houston’s Reliant Center, not for an exhibition of new technology or a chance to win a car, but the chance to see a doctor.

I saw natural-born U.S. citizens—most of whom were born in this very city—being treated in exam areas fashioned from curtains and cloth panels.

It was like being in a third-world nation, yet it was less than thirty kilometers from my parents’ house.

People received dental work, cardiac evaluations, treatment for diabetes and its related wounds. Some even received the news that it was too late; their cancers and cardiac disease could have been detected and treated with routine medical exams, but not now.

This scene has played out in other major cities, and has been funded by donations from a variety of organizations, including MSNBC.

During the past several months, I’ve noticed two things about the blistering, withering and increasingly deceptive criticism of the proposed health-care reform plan:

1—Those who yell the loudest tend to be well-insured. They tend to have stable employment, enjoy access to doctors, upon request and have nothing to lose from the health-care plan. I repeat…they have nothing to lose from the health-care plan.
We are trying to establish a two-tier system, not “socialized” medicine. These same scatologically fallacious arguments were used to oppose Medicare until it finally passed in the 1960’s

2—The Representatives, Senators and media pundits who criticize the plan the loudest haven’t anything constructive to say.
It’s easy enough to stand on the sidelines, beer in hand, and scream at players about their mother’s sexual prowness or their incestuous proclivities. Drunken football and baseball fans do this with depressing regularity.
It’s quite a different thing to say “no, that isn’t right…let’s do it this way”.
The right has offered no plan, no ideas to modify the proposed plan, other than attaching an amendment effectively banning abortions.

I welcome any criticism which my friends on the right may feel to be relevant, but it must be constructive criticism.

I do not want to hear:
1—The gospel according to Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh.
2—Anything Orly Taitz, Andrea Mackris, Representative Virginia Foxx, Sarah Palin or Representative Michele Bachmann have to say.
3—Anything from an Astroturf organization. (FreedomWorks and the 60 Plus Association are notable examples of this U.S. political subspecies.)

In short, I want a factual refutation of the plan, and by that, I mean you must have an alternative for every detail to which you object.

Think of this as a term-paper.

In fact, I don’t care if your response is lengthy enough that it requires a blog-entry.

Just send me the link to the blog, keep it open so that I may reply, and expect me to repost my reply on my blog.

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