Thursday, April 30, 2009

If You Want the Job Done Right...

You have to do it yourself. Isn't that how the saying goes? So why aren't we, as a nation, doing this job ourselves: "In a ruling in Madrid today, Judge Baltasar Garzón has announced that an inquiry into the Bush administration’s torture policymakers now will proceed to a formal criminal investigation."

Further down in the article I found this interesting bit:
Garzón’s ruling today marks a decision to begin a formal criminal inquiry into the allegations of torture and inhumane treatment he has been collecting for several years now.

Spanish lawyers close to the case tell me that under applicable Spanish law, the Obama administration has the power to bring the proceedings in Spain against former Bush administration officials to a standstill. “All it has to do is launch its own criminal investigation through the Justice Department,” said one lawyer working on the case, “that would immediately stop the case in Spain.”
So President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are in quite a bind. For years the US has refused to join the International Criminal Court claiming we could "pursue credible justice at home." Well, now's the time to prove it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Six Degrees of Wikipedia

Everybody is still talking about the Swine Flu. Authorities in Mexico say they have identified a latter-day "Typhoid Mary." Of course, I'm aware of the term "Typhoid Mary" to describe a carrier of a contagious disease, but I wanted to know the full scoop. I wanted to know the real story of Mary. Wikipedia to the rescue:

Typhoid Mary was Mary Mallon. She was the first person in the United States to be identified as a healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever. The concept that a person could spread disease and remain healthy was not well known at the time. She was eventually taken into custody and held in isolation for three years at a hospital located on North Brother Island. Eventually a new health inspector freed Mallon under the condition she agreed to no longer work as a cook. However, she did return to her previous occupation, and in 1915 infected 25 more people. She was quarantined on the island again where she lived out the rest of her life. She died in 1938.

I've never heard of this North Brother Island. I guess I've seen too many horror and sci-fi movies, and the idea of an island hospital to quarantine sick people sounds creepy. I clicked the Wikipedia link and was not disappointed. North Brother Island is in New York City's East River. Years after the hospital closed, the island housed a center to treat adolescent drug users, but widespread staff corruption and patient recidivism forced the facility to close. However, the island is more famous for the wreck of the SS General Slocum which burned on June 15, 1904.

Ah, my itchy clicky finger twitches! The SS General Slocum was a steamship launched in 1891. The passenger ship suffered a series of unfortunate mishaps including the time it was carrying 900 intoxicated Paterson Anarchists who decided to riot! Imagine that? But the final disaster likely started with a discarded cigarette or match. Fire! The passengers' rescue was complicated by the fact that the dryrotted hoses fell apart, the lifeboats were tied up and inaccessible (How could they know? Titanic wouldn't be released for another 93 years!), and the life preservers had iron bars inside them! More than 1,000 people died in the accident.

Who would want this clusterfuck of a ship named after them? And is Slocum really pronounced the way I think it's pronounced? Clicky clicky. Henry Warner Slocum was a Union general during the American Civil War and later served in the United States House of Representatives from New York. He earned the derogatory nickname "Slow Come" because he was indecisive on the battlefield.

And that is a Six Degrees of Wikipedia dead end. Nothing about Henry Warner Slocum inspires me to click ahead. But didn't we learn something today? And more importantly, isn't Swine Flu fun?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Suspicious Pianos

A week ago I was feeling conflicted over defriending an old classmate because he insanely supports torture. Well, hell, this guy just outdid me like a diva:
Poland's Krystian Zimerman, widely regarded as one of the finest pianists in the world, created a furor Sunday night in his debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall when he announced this would be his last performance in America because of the nation's military policies overseas.

Before playing the final work on his recital, Karol Szymanowski’s "Variations on a Polish Folk Theme," Zimerman sat silently at the piano for a moment, almost began to play, but then turned to the audience. In a quiet but angry voice that did not project well, he indicated that he could no longer play in a country whose military wants to control the whole world.
Zimerman has had problems in the United States in recent years. He travels with his own Steinway piano, which he has altered himself. But shortly after 9/11, the instrument was confiscated at JFK Airport when he landed in New York to give a recital at Carnegie Hall. Thinking the glue smelled funny, the TSA decided to take no chances and destroyed the instrument.
I think he's referring to the US missile defense agreement with Poland and of course, the US detention camps at Guantanamo Bay. I'm as angry about Guantanamo Bay as he is, but I think he just defriended our whole country which is a little unfair.

But regarding his rant, I've never been to a Zimerman recital, but I've been to a U2 concert so I know all about the brutal lectures from the god(s) on stage. I expect it. I wouldn't want anything less from a passionate and intense artist. And if this becomes a trend, and other performers follow suit, we'll soon find out just how alone we are in the world on these moral issues as we continue to debate the merits of torture rather than prosecute for it.

And hey, what are TSA agents doing sniffing for glue? And how do you tell if glue "smells funny"? I know the DEA finds drugs in many strange places, but in a Steinway owned by a famous musician? And was destroying the piano really the answer?

Are we still keeping that terrorist watch list? Oh, we are. I hope Zimerman didn't talk his way onto it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

No Cause for Alarm

I wish I could completely remember this witticism or even who's famous for it, but it went something like this: when I was a baby I'd lie in my crib looking up at the mobile dangling above and think "that thing's gonna fall."

I admit I can be fearful like that even without the help of the Internet. Isn't the Internet supposed to help us with facts and... um... make us smarter? I'm talking about this swine flu scare.

Here are some facts. The CDC tells me that typically 36,000 people die of flu symptoms in the US every year. The World Health Organization has raised its alert level from three to four. That governor who a week ago wanted Texas to secede is now begging the feds for flu help. Here's a handy Google map showing all confirmed cases of the swine flu. Here's a 1976 swine flu awareness commercial. Here's a brief history of the 1918 flu pandemic which killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide. Here's a sampling of swine flu messages popping up on that wellspring of misinformation known as Twitter:

Webcomic via xkcd.

Yeah, that would be pretty funny if it wasn't exactly like the real swine flu tweets on Twitter!

So when is the right time to panic? Well, I'd say not yet, and that must mean something coming from somebody who thinks a baby mobile is the sword of Damocles. But, still, be sure to wash your hands.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ranks of the Insane

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." — Marcus Aurelius
I thought I had said enough about that tea party thingy two weeks ago, but apparently it's the gift that keeps on giving:
An Oklahoma City man who announced on Twitter that he would turn an April 15 tax protest into a bloodbath was hit with a federal charge of making interstate threats last week, in what appears to be first criminal prosecution to stem from posts on the microblogging site.

Daniel Knight Hayden, 52, was arrested by FBI agents who identified him as the Twitter user CitizenQuasar. In a series of tweets beginning April 11, CitizenQuasar vowed to start a "war" against the government on the steps of the Oklahoma City Capitol building, the site of that city's version of the national "Tea Party" protests promoted by the conservative-leaning Fox News.

"START THE KILLING NOW! I am willing to be the FIRST DEATH!," read a tweet at 8:01 PM that day. "After I am killed on the Capitol Steps, like a REAL man, the rest of you will REMEMBER ME!!!," he added five minutes later. Then: "Send the cops around. I will cut their heads off the heads and throw the[m] on the State Capitol steps."

Hayden's MySpace page is a breathtaking gallery of right wing memes about the "New World Order," gun control as Nazi fascism, and Barack Obama's covert use of television hypnosis, among many others.

I'm wondering if the Republicans will come to regret embracing those tea parties? I dared to view Dan Hayden's MySpace page -- the deluge of videos is enough to crash your web browser -- and I saw an awful lot of crazy there. His blog posts are long winded, paranoid, political rants. He claims Obama has some kind of hypno power and Bush was drunk at G20. Looks like he supported Ron Paul, but I get the impression he really hates all government.

But I give him credit for making that recent DHS report on right-wing extremism seem even more urgent.

I'm honestly trying to understand this new conservatism. AlterNet has a compelling article about the different moral priorities of Republicans and Democrats, and one of the observations is that Republicans have much more respect for authority and order. Well then, why all these threats of violence against the police? "Send the cops around. I will cut their heads off the heads..." Huh? They must have changed their moral priorities when they lost the election.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hot Dog Surprise

This bit of culinary genius comes from a blog I can't pronounce. Apparently they poke the dry spaghetti through the hot dogs and then boil the concoction. They call it art, but I'll call it poor man's calamari.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Time to Prosecute for Torture

Last week the Justice Department released detailed memos describing the brutal interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency. The documents are the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the Bush administration's top-secret program.

The precise bureaucratic standards include instructions for forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls (walling), prolonged sleep deprivation (up to 11 straight days), the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees, being locked in a cramped box with an insect, and waterboarding.

Since the release of these documents, the torture debate has reached a crescendo that is impossible to ignore yet difficult to listen to.

There is, of course, former Vice President Dick Cheney who months ago calmly and shamelessly admitted to authorizing torture because he really thinks it works. He'd like us to believe that waterboarding 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) 183 times was a worthwhile endeavor, but counter-terrorism experts are contradicting his claims saying most of the information KSM coughed up during the waterboarding sessions involved things he thought his interrogators already knew, or were just his ideas for mayhem. Also, there is the inconvenient fact that the Bush timeline shows the LA plot was thwarted long before KSM was caught and waterboarded.

Then there are the cries of Former Attorney Michael Mukasey and former CIA director Michael Hayden. One imaginative claim from the duo is that the no-torture policy is inviting "the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on September 11, 2001." However, history isn't a Gumby toy they can bend into any pose they like. The cumulative failures leading up to the attack on September 11, 2001 are well documented and have nothing to do with timidity and everything to do with incompetence.

Mukasey and Hayden also want us to believe that we shouldn't admit to torture because then the terrorists will know we torture! First of all, terrorists would also know this if they listened to the news or picked up any newspaper in the last 6 years. Secondly, I don't think knowledge of a US government document will ease any man's panic while being drowned. Thirdly, because the US is committed to lawful interrogation techniques now, it won't matter if detainees know about banned procedures.

Listening to this ongoing debate is like sitting through a remedial math class where everybody has to relearn that two plus two is four. Indeed, the Bush administration might have also been wise to sit through a remedial history class. In a shocking article, the New York Times asserts that nobody in the Bush administration investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate:
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.
So there you have it. Our ineffectual and barbaric program of torture was created out of ignorance and enthusiasm. It's also illegal. Why are we still debating this shit? There's nothing left to debate. It's time to prosecute.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hooked on a Bad Feeling

I shouldn't pretend that I understand this because I only read about it today, but I think the Tibetan concept of shenpa might describe this inner battle I feel too frequently lately:
The Tibetan word for this is shenpa. It is usually translated "attachment," but a more descriptive translation might be "hooked." When shenpa hooks us, we're likely to get stuck. We could call shenpa "that sticky feeling." It's an everyday experience. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there. At the subtlest level, we feel a tightening, a tensing, a sense of closing down. Then we feel a sense of withdrawing, not wanting to be where we are. That's the hooked quality. That tight feeling has the power to hook us into self-denigration, blame, anger, jealousy and other emotions which lead to words and actions that end up poisoning us.
So here is what causes me to close down, and it all starts with that damn Facebook (though I admit it could start anywhere with any kind of relationship).

A guy from elementary school -- I have not seen him or thought about him in nearly 30 years -- wants to add me as a friend. I accept. My recollections of him are vague, but I remember he was cheerful, popular, and a bit goofy looking with an extreme overbite. I was almost happy to hear from him. We exchange a couple of nice messages, but soon I start noticing his status updates as he signs up for various Facebook groups: Glenn Beck Fan Club, Stop Barack Obama, and Support the War in Iraq and Gitmo! Whoa. He supports torture. Oh, and he's also Catholic. I wonder how he reconciles that? Maybe he'd like to impeach the pope?

I felt angry and sad for the kid I used to know. My urge is to defriend him. That hardly sounds drastic. It's almost laughable! But that's my habit -- to get away from such people.

I think a grand thing I admire about President Obama is his willingness and ability to talk to people he disagrees with and listen to them. Listening is easy and it doesn't equate with appeasement.

So here I am "listening" to my aged classmate on Facebook. His latest status update says Barack Obama is the anti-christ because, seriously, Obama doesn't want to torture and Obama is trying to do too many things at once. As I recognize this shenpa thing in myself, I'm also recognizing it in others.

But right now I wish I had the talent for diplomacy that I so admire in the president. But I don't, so countdown to a Facebook defriending... 3... 2... 1...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Columbine Lessons

I'm sure you've heard that today marks the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. The predictable sensationalism proved to be too much for Oprah Winfrey who pulled an already-taped episode about the tragedy saying it "focused too much on the killers."

I suppose that move is respectable considering the number of mass shootings this country has seen lately. However, there are lessons to be learned and relearned from Columbine. Dave Cullen, author of Columbine, dispels a prevailing myth about school shooters:
The first lesson is really one that we have unlearned, which is that there actually isn't a distinct psychological profile of the school killer. Pre-Columbine, teachers, parents, journalists, and the general public were pretty clear on where we thought the danger lay: loners and outcasts, troubled misfits who could not figure out how to fit in. Harris and Klebold were mistakenly tagged with all those characteristics in the first hours after their attack. Every characterization of them was wrong, both in their case and for shooters generally. The FBI conducted a ground-breaking study to help teachers assess threats in their classrooms. Oddballs were not the problem, the FBI concluded. Oddballs did not fit the profile, because there was no profile. In a surprisingly empathetic report, the bureau urged school administrators to quit focusing on the misfits. These were not our killers, and weren't they having enough trouble already?
That's how we slide into a classic moral panic -- believing that public morality or safety is threatened by the activities of a stereotyped group.

The only people I feel comfortable stereotyping are psychopaths. Eric Harris was most likely one. His own journal entries document his contempt for everybody. But the most revealing passages describe his goals: "I have a goal to destroy as much as possible, so I must not be sidetracked by my feelings of sympathy, mercy, or any of that."

In order to kill his classmates, he first had to consciously kill his own humanity.

Friday, April 17, 2009


This is pure evil:

All challengers to Schaefer’s authority—real or imagined—were rooted out and destroyed. No one inspired greater love and admiration among the children of the Colonia than Santa Claus. It is said that in the days shortly before Christmas one year in the mid-1970s, Schaefer gathered the Colonia’s children, loaded them onto a bus, and drove them out to a nearby river, where, he told them, Santa was coming to visit. The boys and girls stood excitedly along the riverbank, while an older colono in a fake beard and a red and white suit floated towards them on a raft. Schaefer pulled a pistol from his belt and fired, seeming to wound Santa, who tumbled into the water, where he thrashed about before disappearing below the surface. It was a charade, but Schaefer turned to the children assembled before him and said that Santa was dead. From that day forward, Schaefer’s birthday was the only holiday celebrated inside Colonia Dignidad.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reading The Signs

After flipping through TPM's Photo Gallery of Tax Day Tea Parties, I have to agree with John Amato who called the national event The White Man's Protest: "I've been trying to figure out when FOX News actually covered a bona-fide live protest that they didn't condemn or ridicule. Can you think of one? How many anti-war protests were held since the Iraq war began in which FOX proclaimed that they would give it wall to wall coverage because they just cover news events?"

Of course, Fox covered the event because they promoted it -- not because it was relevant or even made sense.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A News Network To Call My Own

I am one step closer to having my own news network. Today I discovered XtraNormal. If you can type, you can make movies. Here is my anchorman -- he still needs a name -- reading my blog post from April 2:

Watch out Fox News!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It's Teabagg'n eve, and has there ever been anything so LOL funny about the wingnuts? Let me list the ways this brouhaha is tickling my bone-china funny bone.

Fox News denies that they are promoting the event despite headlines like "Time To Party Like It's 1773."

We all know the 1773 Boston Tea Party was about "taxation without representation" and an unpopular Tea Act which gave the English East India Company a monopoly. In a vaguely similar way, the 2009 revolt is about taxation (with representation) and TARP, but some teabaggers are hilariously off message.

They're also out of sync. Americans have the most favorable views of income taxes since 1956. And why not? 95% of American families get a tax cut under Obama's plan, and higher taxes for those at the top are no barrier to sustained economic growth.

Only a sucker would believe these tea parties spring from a grassroots coalition of "regular Americans." In reality, the movement was launched with a bang and a web site proclaiming, "the tea party protests, in their current form, began in early 2009 when Rick Santelli, the On Air Editor for CNBC, set out on a rant to expose the bankrupt liberal agenda of the White House Administration and Congress. Specifically, the flawed 'Stimulus Bill' and pork filled budget."

You know what you call the opposite of a grassroots movement? Astroturf! Like fake grass, the instant public support was manufactured. And the manufacturers are slick, conservative, well-funded, lobbyist-run think tanks called Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works.

With all those wealthy Republicans putting their money where their mouth is (ahem), you'd think they could come up with a better name than "teabagging!" That name is possibly the biggest LOL factor of the whole crazy brew (watch video below or on DailyKosTV):

Monday, April 13, 2009

War on Pirates

"The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate." - Bern Williams
Three remarkable sniper shots ended the Somali pirate standoff in the Indian Ocean yesterday. The Navy Seals rescued the sole prisoner, Capt. Richard Phillips, who, four days earlier, heroically offered himself as a hostage in order to spare his crew.

Prior to the rescue, Fox News was describing the situation as a "foreign policy emergency with no easy solution." So it seems the wingnut's gloating and bloviating was a bit premature. Did they really see political opportunity in the midst of a crisis? I believe the American public firmly rejected this type of divisive politics in the 2008 election.

Of course, dissent is healthy, and I'm sure we'll see plenty of it as we now figure out where the 16-year-old surviving pirate will face trial. It's a unique situation, and until last week, no US ship, sailor, or citizen had been targeted by Somali pirates who seem to be in it mostly for the ransom money.

Or are they in it for something else? When I wrote about Somali pirates last September, I was curious and a little skeptical about the pirated Iranian ship carrying suspicious cargo that was described as "chemicals, dangerous chemicals." But then I came across this article by Johann Hari. He describes the side of piracy that we're not being told about:
In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.


No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas." William Scott would understand.

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won't act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.

I agree that we need to use force against pirates, but the real bravery will come when we realize that protecting the environment and enforcing international treaties will, in the long term, be more effective than all the high-tech guided bullets we can imagine.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Levi and Bristol

"Suckin' on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze
Diane's sittin' on Jackie's lap
He's got his hand between her knees
Jackie say, hey, Diane
Let's run off behind a shady trees
Dribble off those Bobby Brooks
Let me do what I please." - John Mellencamp
Who can resist a story about two teens in love? Well, usually I can resist such dreck, but when I heard Tyra Banks would be interviewing Sarah Palin's former future son-in-law, I had to tune in (and I swear I've never watched the Tyra Banks show before in my life!)

But I don't intend to write about the drama and accusations coming from the kids and the adults who act like kids. I'll leave that commentary up to other blogs. I just wanted to say I was impressed that Tyra could get a straight answer out of the cute little dim bulb named Levi Johnston:

Ahhh... so Bristol's pregnancy was not a miracle nor a wardrobe malfunction!

Kudos to Tyra. I think I would have stopped repeating the question after the second try. But I assume Tyra has much more experience talking to the young ones about baby making.

Another question posed to Levi was if he'd vote for Sarah Palin if she was running for president. He said yes. You'd think she'd be thankful for the endorsement.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ambush Politics

In the past I've written about ambush reporting -- an aggressive and underhanded tactic of confronting a person who does not wish to speak to the media. But now here's a closely related tactic. I guess you can call it "ambush politics." Who said Republicans don't have ideas?
[Rep. Virginia] Foxx is part of a team of Republican members that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has put together to create embarrassing, YouTube-worthy moments for vulnerable Democratic freshmen.

Cantor’s floor staff has created a photo album to help identify the 42 most vulnerable Democrats. The aides send daily e-mails to the members of the attack team and alert lawmakers when these targeted members are speaking on the floor. They even draft quick scripts to help focus the questioning.
Last night, Keith Olbermann discussed this bullying technique and the not-so-YouTube-worthy clips (if video doesn't show, click here):

The funniest aspect in all of these theatrics is that the Republicans need a script written for them -- and the script is bloody awful. Is that writers' strike still going on? Do these representatives need to be reminded what happens when the ambusher knows nothing beyond his script?

But let's figure out why Republicans are engaging in these tactics. Obstructionism is one obvious goal. The other goal I see is to amass an arsenal of Democratic gaffes to be played back in the next election cycle. But it will only work if Democrats say something outrageous like former Senator George Allen's "macaca moment." Or, I suppose, it might have some impact if they take something totally out of context like last year's lipstick on a pig sideshow.

Either way, these party politics are sure to backfire because Eric Cantor and his Republican pals are absolutely clueless about this nation's sense of urgency.

Monday, April 06, 2009

When Unstable People Have Guns

"America ... just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable." - Hunter S. Thompson
I didn't want to blog about senseless gun violence again. Last month I said my words about Dannie Roy Baker, Rush Limbaugh and angry white males. I said that the vitriol needed to stop (as if somebody would listen to me, take note, and change course). But then there was another mass shooting, and another, and another:

February 26, Miramar Beach, FL: Dannie Roy Baker shot and killed 2 foreign nationals and injured 3 others. He has been indicted on murder charges.

March 10, Samson, AL: Michael McLendon killed 10 people, including 5 relatives, across two rural Alabama counties. He then killed himself.

March 21, Oakland, CA: Lovelle Mixon shot and killed 4 Oakland police officers after a traffic stop. Mixon was killed in a shootout with SWAT officers.

March 29, Santa Clara, CA: Devan Kalathat shot and killed 5 relatives and critically injured his wife before committing suicide.

March 29, Carthage, NC: Robert Stewart shot and killed 8 people at his estranged wife's place of business, Pinelake Health and Rehab, before being shot by a police officer. Stewart is being held in Central Prison in Raleigh on eight counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony assault on a law enforcement officer. He says he does not remember anything.

April 3, 2009, Binghamton, NY: Jiverly Voong (aka Linh Phat Voong) wore body armor when he launched his attack at the American Civic Association. He killed 13 people before killing himself.

April 4, Pittsburgh, PA: Richard Poplawski opened fire on Pittsburg police officers killing 3 of them. Poplawski is in custody in connection with the shootings.

April 4, Graham, WA: James Harrison fatally shot his 5 children in their mobile home and then took his own life in his car miles away.

That's 50 victims in less than two months. So why is this happening? These massacres were mostly well-planned murder-suicides, and there is evidence that suicides start to go up this time of year...

But I think it's more than a seasonal trend. The pressure of the troubled economy, the intense desire for revenge following rejection and failure, and the escalating rhetoric of right-wingers like Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck plays a large part. Some of these pundits should make it a point to always clarify exactly what kind of revolution they mean -- the type where citizens vote or the type where citizens are armed and dangerous...

Clearly not all of these killers were influenced by the wingnut propaganda claiming that the Obama administration wants to take people's guns away, but it seems Poplawski was driven by that exact fear.

Surprisingly, I don't have a firm position on gun laws. I guess I'm allowed to be undecided because I'm not a politician. However, I'll never understand why people want an arsenal of weapons in their own home. Some people are simply gun enthusiasts, and others seem to take part in a crazy gun cult. But keep these stats in mind: according to the Bureau of Justice, most homicides with known victim/offender relationships involved people who knew each other.

So if you know somebody who's a little unstable and has some guns, you better get them some help.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Operation Streisand is a Go

"Liberals must launch our plan for socialist domination immediately. Listen closely comrades. I've received word from General Soros and our partners in the U.N., 'Operation Streisand' is a go. Markos Moulitsas, you and your DailyKos controlled army of gay Mexican day-laborers will join forces with Michael Moore's Prius tank division north of Branson where you will seize the guns of everyone who doesn't blame America first, forcing them into the FEMA concentration camps; that's where ACORN and I will reeducate them as atheists and declare victory in the War on Christmas!" (If video doesn't show, click here.)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Art Attack

Here is a priceless lede: "One of Russia's most famous statues of Vladimir Lenin has been bombed, leaving the Bolshevik revolutionary with a gaping hole in his rear."

Well, he always was an asshole... and a Communist.

Remember when, just a few weeks ago, America was marching toward Communism, according to Glenn Beck? Well, the lachrymose pundit changed his mind. "I looked up the definition of fascism yesterday," declared Beck during what might be considered his greatest performance yet.

So now Barack Obama is a fascist? : "So when we look at the reality of fascism, both historically and in the present, the only serious likelihood of any coming strain of fascism is proceeding, as we might expect, from the populist corners of the right, especially as it indulges and encourages eliminationist rhetoric directed at various "liberal" and minority targets (Latino immigrants in particular)."

Neiwert definitely knows his stuff, but personally, I'm becoming exhausted chasing down precise definitions of all these "isms" that the wingnuts dish out. What is fascism? I'll tell you -- it's a political epithet. Or, better yet, I'll let George Orwell tell you:
It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.
So what's next, Mr. Beck? Maybe next week we'll be headed towards Pastafarianism? I know I'm not alone when I say, "take your moral lessons and war room wankery and blow it out your rear."