Friday, April 30, 2010

Current Comedy 4/29/10: Hoarders Needing Boarders


So, like most everybody else on the liberal planet this week, I was hoping to write about this week’s national news sensation, AZ’s very own SB 1070 and its role as the flashpoint for the national showdown over immigration. Yep, AZ made it into the big-time this time. In one single pen stroke our governor has indeed stemmed the massive tide of the thousands who come to our state merely to exploit its resources. Oh wait, that was the tourists. Yeah, we won’t have to worry about those pests anymore. In fact, the only way Brewer could’ve made AZ any less popular was if she’d banned air conditioning.

All kidding aside (for at least the next 35 characters), immigration issues are a priority with me. I would hate to have history repeat itself. Too bad we’ve been so slow getting around to fixing this problem that started way back when, when that one illegal alien, the Italian guy, slipped the border in a boat he borrowed from Spain back in 1492. Dude’s been getting away with murder every since. If only we had checked his papers. And so on.

Yeah, I thought about writing something like that.

But first, I wanted to talk to you about something important, not just the disruptive noises made by some pesky minority that has only inhabited the land we call Ali Shonak, Arissona, Arizona, “Air-ee-zone-y!” for the last 2000 years. What makes them think they have the right to be here in our country? How dare they not walk about with Obama-proof birth certificates stapled to their foreheads, or perhaps a simple yellow star on the jacket might do.

Yeah, I was going to write a bunch of stuff like that, like every other columnist on the liberal planet. But first, we need to talk about something that may be a bit uncomfortable. Call it this week’s little public service announcement. There is no delicate way to get into this, so I’ll just ask:

Are you addicted to the latest? Come on, admit it, if you can, are you “hoarding”? They say the phenomena affects about 1 out of every 10 adults. So it could be you. No, not you “you,” that other “you,” the you with the armload of 10 year old newspapers you still aren’t ready to recycle. You.

Hoarding. It is the most American of addictions. Spreading faster than crack and just as expensive. What starts off as merely “innocently acquisitive” ends up with you burying yourself in useless stuff to the fill the hole in your soul until it swallows you whole. Never grows old. Grab all you can, keep all you grab. More, more, more, mine, mine, mine. Even if you have to ruin it to keep it. Even if it is life crippling, finance draining, generally quite smelly, and it makes every moment spent in your house a living nightmare. About as American as it gets, huh?

Small wonder hoarding is becoming our national current obsession, the American Dream come true. The one with the most toys wins, in a sleazy kind of, messy kind of, pathetic little way. I can trash it all I want; but make no mistake, hoarding is super popular. There are even two cable TV network shows about the subject, so in case you thought you could limit yourself to an “over-crowded” or “cluttered” decorating style, but find you can’t turn back and wind up messing your life up super duper super messy way, you too can be a TV star simply through hoarding.

That’s every hoarders dream come true. Imagine the revenge that moment would bring: “See? I told you this stuff was important!” Where will you keep all the clippings? You could watch yourself on TV while you were watching yourself on TV in a room filled with your hoardings.

Here’s all you have to do: watch a lot of TV and get the feeling that your life is meaningless except for the pleasure you can derive from the things you buy.


You start believing it’s the things you own that are important, not the people you know.

(Say you got that one down too?)

You start buying into the ideas/behavior programming that you are continuingly inundated with thanks to our loving and benevolent media and their sponsors. Hoarders need their lives in crisis and chaos, that’s why they need their things. You start to believe that you, as you are, are not good enough and can only achieve perfection through possessions. Having things would ease the pain. So, you get started collecting crap. Good crap, bad crap, doesn’t matter, which way you went, pile enough of it up and soon your life will get crappy.

It can be bad crap like half the jokes in the “You Might Be a Redneck If …“ series. Imagine all the broken stuff you can’t throw away or let someone else have because some day you might get around to it. Just keep piling it up and piling it up till you can’t find the tools to fix any thing because you’ve buried your tools among your broken things. Or maybe, say, starting out thinking you’re saving $20 a month on garbage collection and wind up filling room with trash bags stuffed with paper and plastic effluvia soaked in bacon grease and rotting coffee grounds.

Or it can even be good crap, like whole rooms of purchases never unwrapped, tags still a dangle. “Doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to buy you that new ‘whatchamacallit,’ sweetie, mammy spent a little too much at the store again.” You know, that kind of thing? Typically, though, left unchecked, future layers of hoarded materials and the difficulties the isolated hoarder’s life pile up and destroy or devalue the older stuff and eventually the whole house collapses. All is lost equally--the treasures and the trash.

You can see how this ties to immigration, right?

That’s right, hoarders need borders. “You can’t have my stuff. My stuff starts here and you’ve got to stay away. You stay on your side of the line. All the stuff over here is mine, mine, mine!” Not a terribly original sing and dance, more like the xenophobic chant Tea Party-types would like you to believe is our new national anthem.

Hoarders have simply bought into the propaganda American marketers consciously train us with to be weak emotionally, intellectually empty, violence prone perpetual children, under-educated and under enthused. Which is why we would have no sensitivity for refugees. Our entertainment trains us to be mindless, gutless, passive; but not endowed with actual concern for human suffering. In fact, the only thing you’re left to do to be yourself is to purchase someone else’s one size fits all. Now between commercials they half way hear some talking head say “Immigrants = Bad” and they buy that message as well.--Hate the immigrants, stealing our jobs, teach ‘em a lesson. They’ve pounded out that tune since the 1830s. The ignorant and the easily angered among us like to kick the dog, but anything alien will do. Further more, hoarders don’t mind the immigrants in the factories, so long as they can build a wall around themselves with their own refuse.

Hoarders always seem to prefer finding someone else to blame for their problems. They have a funny way of looking at life. Secret sub-minimum wages & filthy farm worker barracks aren’t earned to hard workers who are easily exploited by greedy American bosses looking to save a buck at someone else’s suffering. No, it’s that those Mexicans are “stealing our jobs!” Immigrants aren’t paying excise taxes on everything they purchase, like the rest of us, and aren’t contributing out of each paycheck to withholding and social security taxes into the names of their phony Ids, tax investments that they will never be able to collect on. No, it’s that those lazy freeloaders are coming over just to get on our welfare. Undocumented immigrants aren’t economic refugees, they’re simply criminals. Or so some say.

But think about it: the ten million or so indigenous people who are here are merely migrating back over their own ancestral lands in the face of terrible hardship. Why do I use the words “hardship”? Would you make that kind of move for any other lesser reason? Civil wars, globalization economies wiping out thousand year old subsistence farming communities, Latin American domestic drug wars (fueled almost exclusively by America’s appetite for self-destruction) with their US backed warlords staking out their turf on the backs of their neighbors--hardships powerful enough to cause mothers with babes in arms to risk the scorching deserts and the vile coyotes in the hope of a better life. This is the story told ten million times across the American homeland. That is the desperation of the huddled masses who have come here.

The tired, the poor and free-breathing hungry stream to our shores from all around the world, but in particular, from our friends to the south. Any bill built to target undocumented immigrants in Arizona could not help but target Hispanics, which make up most, but not all, of the undocumented immigrants in boarding up with friends and family from border to border.

And that is why the liberals and various minorities are up in arms then US estimates in 2010 say, as Wikipedia explains for us, the US undocumented immigrant population is, “about 11 million people, down from 12.5 million people in 2007. According to a Pew Hispanic Center report, in 2005, 57% of illegal immigrants were from Mexico; 24% were from other Latin American countries, primarily from Central America; 9% were from Asia; 6% were from Europe; and 4% were from the rest of the world.”

So, since everyone in Arizona is subject to this law and everyone in Arizona looks like they could be from someplace else--this is after all Arizona, an immigrant state, a leader in the exodus from the rust belt to the sun belt where everybody’s from some place else, where the white folks are migrants as well. How odd.

And so, then either the law is racist in its targeting of Hispanics and all brown skinned people in general, or life just got whole lot harder for everyone else too. You could be from Paradise Valley or Paraguay, from Fredonia or France, you could be from Iraq or Eloy and look the same: White, or Brown or Black. You could also be from just down the street and have a cop like askance and suddenly you’re guilty until proven innocent.

And that’s the way the hoarders want it. Luckily the redneck red state hoarse-throated hoarders aren’t the only voices in America these days. The liberals and minorities across the country have risen up in arms in a fury that might quickly grow to match the Tea Partiers. Brewer's actions might be the outrage that can galvanize a movement. Tea Party is ripe for discreditation. This law will not hold up in court and not just because of its unfairness. It won't get off to a good start because it is unenforceable. It will be quickly challenged because it's unjust. It will be defeated because it is unsound. And that could turn a tide because we might remember to believe.

Right now however, it looks like it’s going to be a terrible mess between the right against the left; and we may actually get ourselves into the state of crisis that the militia men have all trained their trigger fingers for. And if violence starts, they are more than ready to blame the immigrant. And you know which one I mean, “Obama, the secret Kenyan.” Of course, ask a birther and this mess is totally Obama’s fault. But, of course, that’s not true at all.

Bush openly defied calls for immigration reform, letting the problem get steadily worse. When folks complained about his inaction, he would pose for a pic or two with his Hispanic grandkids and America would forget.

Somehow not fixing a huge social problem was just another deal to be made so businesses could profit from the cheap labor. Scandal after scandal rang out over the last decade of big businesses using big numbers of undocumented immigrants: Swift, Tyson, McDonalds, to talk about the tip of the iceberg. The immigrants in question get deported, the businesses wait out our collective 15 minutes of operant memory and go right back to looking for staff that will work cheap and not ask questions.

Some say why pick on Bush, he didn’t start the problem and I say you are right. You can pick your president and say he’s the one that crossed the line on border issues and you would be right. Like all the other disgraces our politicians squander our time and money over, our government doesn’t really want this problem fixed. They won’t fix it because the problem gives them power. Our industry won’t fix it because illegals keep down wages. As Massey Energy’s Don Blankenship showed, no matter how much big business claims to love the red-white-and-blue, they are mostly interested in the green. And our media won’t fix it because the perpetuating the hatred part sells more tickets than building the happy ending.

But rest assured this bill will go down in flames. I’m just hoping it doesn’t take the rest of us down with it in the meantime. The sad part is the people who will get burned in the interim, the gap between passage and repeal. Those who have to wait for justice deferred generally have a longer wait when that injustice is profitable. Like the difference between 1619 when race slavery began in America and some time some tomorrow when, or do I mean, if its injustice ever actually ends.

No, this bill, like other cherished Tea Party concepts, will eventually crater under the weight of its outdated pomposity. The world's refugee future will, by sheer force of numbers, propel it. America's coming Hispanic dominance will, if necessary, at some point demand it. Eventually they will simply purchase their equality, so they can hoard like the rest of us. Instead of being forced to be the uneasy boarders in a country that suddenly sees every brown skin as the enemy.

The ugly part, for now, is that many Americans--particularly White Americans, particularly Tea Party types--love this bill. Supposedly as many as 75% of Arizonans are in that number; though I wonder if the pollster who came up with that number had asked his survey on the fairways of the country clubs or in their kitchens. Around the country even as opponents are lining up their boycotts (target #1: AZ Diamondbacks) and others are planning their lawsuits (two had already been filed in less than the first week), seven states are now psyched to introduce similar legislation in their states (including Utah, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, to name just a few). Stories tell of people wanting to draft Brewer for President. But before our fair governor gets too drunk with power and the Tea Partiers start trading in their mugs for Kristallnacht, here are a couple of facts we have to start with:

1) Barring an unforeseen seismic-scale change, Hispanics will become the dominant ethnic demographic around 2050. They are currently about 47 million people or about 15.4% of the population. The eleven million undocumented immigrants live with their documented families and friends in varying states of assimilation, sometimes creating rich communities of culture. All of that will have to be stomped out for it isn’t just being an undocumented immigrant that is a crime anymore, now merely knowing or loving one will do to get you a free set of pink underwear and a cot in the tent city at Sheriff Joe’s.

The law also clearly states that it is a crime to “conceal, harbor or shield an alien from detection in any place in Arizona, including any building or means of transportation.” So, if you know an undocumented immigrant, say perhaps your neighbor, your cousin, your grandfather or your spouse, your only hope is to turn them in. Can you say Fugitive Slave Law of 1850?

2) Short of a Hitlerian type final solution to the problem there is no practical way to deal with the Tea Partiers’ cherished goal of removing the millions of folks who are already here. That is the scale of the misery and possible genocide a country would have to create to force a Diaspora of that magnitude. You almost have to see this in Hitler-ian imagery because only that dark a force would contemplate displacing twelve million current residents and untold future millions. Is that the America you’d love? Sure is a great way for the AZ GOP to show their value of families. The concept, rightly considered, is so ghastly it would make Andy Jackson wail a trail of tears.

When Sheriff Joe Arpaio was battling his way through the talk show circuit to defend his shiny new “tool” as he calls SB1070, he acknowledged there were some people who had been detained erroneously and left the suggestion that it could be as much a 4000 mistaken detentions out of 38,000 detentions or arrests. And that was before probable cause meant the color of your skin.

This law makes all of AZ a no trespassing zone, “in addition to any violation of federal law, a person is guilty of trespassing if the person is present on any public or private land in the state and is not carrying his or her alien registration card.” We non-immigrants should think about this quite a bit. Because, you know who doesn’t have an alien registration card? Us. That’s right, the folks who were born citizen in the first place and never got immigration paperwork and so, every citizen under any type of encounter is subject to arrest and detention until proven to not be an undocumented immigrant. Can you say Nuremburg Laws of 1935?

Of course, the consolation for the mischief SB1070 is going to make is that as a law the law is a such a financial non-starter it won’t be even partially implemented before it has to be dismantled as unworkable. Just look at the first paragraph from the official summary: “Requires officials and agencies of the state and political subdivisions to fully comply with and assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws and gives county attorneys subpoena power in certain investigations of employers. Establishes crimes involving trespassing by illegal aliens, stopping to hire or soliciting work under specified circumstances, and transporting, harboring or concealing unlawful aliens, and their respective penalties.”

“Requires officials and agencies of the state and political subdivisions to fully comply with and assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” Translation: every law enforcement jurisdiction throughout the state can be sued by private vigilante citizens if the citizen should contend that the law enforcement agency in question isn’t performing up to crack ICE standards. That nightmare scenario is only part of the reason that the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police oppose the bill. Considering the level of animosity along the border will potentially destroy many smaller law enforcement agencies, tying up their time and resources with complaints of “immigrants” from White folks just trying to be good Americans. While this scenario may seem outlandish to most of us, it is the very effort the AZ Minutemen militias have pressed for for years.

If that’s the way the hoarders are thinking, it looks like tough times for the rest of us on either side of the borders. Nuremburg Laws of 1935? Fugitive Slave Act of 1850? I don’t like the way either of those things ended.

 --mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Current Comedy, 4/19/10: “Is Glen Beck Gay Enough for Phoenix?”

Verizon is gay. So is Frito-Lay. I mean to say I had had my suspicions about that Chester Cheetah all along (after all, I’ve seen him openly flaming); but now I know for sure. Further more, I have recently learned that Pepsi products are also gay, which explains the brand-name of one of their leading beverages, Gatorade, right?

For that matter, Walgreen’s is also gay, along with Home Depot, and the entire Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist Church. In fact, according to the wide ranging assortment of corporate sponsorships backing the crowds and displays at this year’s30th Annual Pride Day parade in Phoenix on April 17th, being gay is as American as well … the Bank of America.

Unofficial police figures estimate that the crowd for the long-running multi-day event Phoenix Pride event at Indian School Park would be over 30,000 and did not dispute that spectators along the parade route and/or participating in the parade that morning exceeded 5,000. When you are talking economies of that scale, many a business is willing to try bi-.

Like Starbucks, there’s a gay on every corner these day and he is not checking out your butt, merely questioning your sorry fashion sense. But the Starbucks at this year’s Pride Day had a guy in a Star Wars storm trooper suit, gave away free coffee, and raised funds to build a water well in Uganda. You know, Uganda? the country where the American right-wing has sent lobbyists to attempt to convince the Ugandan government to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. If that’s the kind of courage that comes from being queer, I hope we all get gay.

And the morning of the Pride Day parade it seems like it--like all of Phoenix could be happy and gay all at once. For a small town reporter in a pink shirt carrying a moderately clever but clearly heart-felt sign, my first trip to a Pride Day parade had me walking with a mince and I was definitely gay to have finished the parade route with only moderate chaffing.

Dozens, I’m serious, dozens of people queer as folk jumped out of the crowds that lined the parade route to get their picture taken with my sign that read, “With Liberty and Justice for All” in rainbow color painted by children.

And I wore the pink shirt to identify with Phoenix Code Pink, which also must be gay. If not, they'd call it "Phoenix Code Some Super-Butch Color to Appear Exaggeratedly Macho." If Code Pink’s stated agenda, “Troops coming home from all wars” is gay, then I'm gay for that.

These days over on the Tea Party end of the American Main-street there is a lot of talk about a gay agenda. But that morning the closest thing I saw to gay agenda was when these two schedules stuck together front to back.

The queer nation mentality however was widely displayed on parade. No wonder the right-wingers were worried. They want to do ridiculous things like love their children unconditionally, dress outlandishly, and love unlimitedly. They wanted to throw darts, hug a lot, and listen to dance music. They wanted to end wars. They wanted to wear fashion disasters that did not involve blue, white, and red--with stars.

And I will tell ya, after some of the train wreck fashion statements I gasped at picketing the Glen Beck rally at the Jobing Arena the week before, I am clear that being around all that gayness left me feeling a lot happier. Glen Beck and his crowd are decidedly not very gay. In fact, they’re not happy at all. And they have reason to be worried and not that the soap gets slippery in the shower sometimes. Turns out that despite all his strident pandering, and all their saber rattling, the newest New York Times poll only gives the Tea Party 18% of the electorate.

Over at Beck’s rally the people yelled at me that “we need to the kill the commies,” when they read my protest sign for the Beck event that read “Insure Domestic Tranquility/Provide for the Common Defense/ These are the Real American Values.” The continuing effrontery and foolish arrogance displayed in a typical encounter with a tea partier has me wondering if the reason the 18th century minded White American males are fighting tooth and nail against change is because they have every right to be afraid of revenge? That they know they have acted like jerks?

On the other hand at the Pride Day Parade, people I didn’t know kept running up to me, hugging me and yelling, “Happy Pride!” On Pride Day, this supposed sexually deviant LGBT sin-fest, the worst that happened was I got lei-ed by a family of three, complete with bicycle built for two, who carried signs that read, “We love our children unconditionally,” with hand-rain bowed Os. Their 6 year old’s sign said, “I love my Gay sister and brother.”

You choose.

No. Glen Beck’s behind the times. It’s no wonder America has gone gay, just like America is already Black and is next to swiftly turn Hispanic. In the land where Manifest Destiny once meant a Christian god meant Indian murder and everyone took it in the shorts, at the 30th annual Pride Day parade both the cowboys driving the Wells-Fargo stage and the Navajo Indians (as represented by Ms Indian Transgender, 2010-2011, Kristel Lee) were merely having fun together (some of the best “being gay” to be had and all). And I bet you already thought of a biker clubs and classic car clubs were gay? Well, at the Pride Day, the crowd of those types of guys were truly jolly; though you may not want to say, “Hey gay guy we love you!” to every biker or car nut you see.

Still all joking aside, like the shirt on the chest of my favorite drag king, Fox Malone, read, “Queer rights are civil rights.” Or the sign carried by a member of PFLAG: “I hope one day my children will live in a world or acceptance without feeling afraid or rejected.” I feel the same way about my kids and they’re straight. That’s as American as loving a hotdog or a slice of pie. The sticker the Stonewall Democrats distributed that day best crystallized the meaning of the morning in three words: “Equal Means Equal.”

Of course when it comes to buying a part in a long-time big time annual downtown pageant that dares to dream all Americans have equal rights and are not only tolerated, but embraced, lots of folks are ready to buy in to selling some dreaming. Gay America is bought and sold America just like everything else these days, except with cuter models.

Macy’s has long backed parades with big balloons, but generally not with this many fishnet hose on so many of the men who held the strings. But if you don’t believe me, check my Facebook photos. (That’s right, I’m inviting you to friend me and check my pics of pecs and pickled people in every color of the Rainbow and generally several at once on a sunny Saturday morning in Phoenix.)

On Pride Day, however corporate and academic America simply see Americans and their dollars in action. Bank of America’s gays’ green spends just as gaily as at US Airways’ or at ASU. ASU Gay? A fact the folks from U of A have been rumoring about this for years. And, just saying, there has got to be some joke available about juxtaposition of the words “gay” and “Cox” (as in Cox Cable, yet another corporate sponsor); but I am sure you have already thought of some.

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ

Friday, April 16, 2010

Current Comedy, 4/14/10: With Washington in Their Gun-Sights

Not long ago, I wrote a column that reminded readers of the Taliban’s infamous 2001 destruction of the world’s tallest standing statues of Buddha, which were then1700 years old and carved into a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley in the Hindu Kush Mountains of central Afghanistan. Conspiracy theorists may, in fact, recall that the world, outside of Kabul anyway, recoiled in horror in early March of 2001 as footage of the serial dynamiting flashed on screens from Al Jazeera to MTV. Later that year, when the Bush administration pointed to Afghanistan as harborers of those bastards who flew their planes into our towers, we Americans were quick to call for blood.

And blood we got, though we have spent mountains worth of blood-money to get it. So far, since 2001 (as of April 14, 2010, 10:42 and 43 seconds PM AZ time), the war against Afghanistan has cost taxpayers two hundred and sixty-five billion, five hundred and eight million, three hundred and twenty nine thousand and a steadily mounting mound of change. The lives destroyed and innocence lost has been incalculable.

But it seems when people have a strong religious faith and political power to wreak their will, they are capable of terrible things. The Taliban claimed the statues, not just the ideas they represented, but the very stone itself, which was the cultural icon for hundreds of millions, if not billions, around the world, that the images themselves on that sacred mountain were no longer tolerable to their particular vision of god and had to be eradicated before they could further infect the public.

Despite an outcry from voices around the globe, there was no dissent allowed. The country had become a theocracy, designed to honor what its practitioners believed to be the only true religion. It was as god intended it--the one true church worked hand in hand with the state to destroy all opposing ideas. As one cleric explained, the symbols once revered in that part of the world now “contradict our Islamic beliefs, we would not like to have them any more."

As elaborate of a setup as that was to introduce this week‘s column, I have not come to pillory the Taliban, nor to raze them about some long ago treachery of the past; but to warn of a possible parallel future. Once again strictly religious zealots, socially conservative to an extreme, madly wielding near blasphemous political power are threatening the very symbols of a society, nay, its very way of life. Once again, the stone images of that vision of a better world for mankind, the bedrock of a society, have been carved into a mountainside. Once again the world watches in impotent horror as fanatics attempt to destroy a country’s massive monuments to its sacred ideals.

By now I am sure you’ve realized I am talking about the Tea Party’s relentless efforts to demolish the images on Mount Rushmore--Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington, the top dogs, the final four, the veritable crème-de-la-crème super-duper stars of American presidents. Since they started keeping tabs on this kind of stuff back in 1948, none of these guys have been ranked below 7th place in any major public opinion poll. But so far, three of the four have had their faces blasted off by the Tea Party as being not true enough to the America the Tea Party claims the founding fathers intended. Of course, two of these guys were the founding fathers, but who has time to quibble over details when one has a vision to protect … and another one to destroy.

At this point in history, the Tea Party believe they are poised to rightfully reclaim America for all their supposedly grateful worshippers so long oppressed by the twin evils of government social services and freedom of, and/or from, religion. They may not believe it, but it doesn’t look like they’re right about the rest of us waiting with bouquets. In fact a New York Times/CBS poll released 4/14/10 reveals that though 84 percent of Tea Partiers believe that “the views of the people involved in the Tea Party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans,” as you may have guessed however the reality is actually that “only 25 percent of the general public, however, believe that the Tea Party reflects their views.”

Some polls are claiming that perhaps as many as 28% of Americans are currently claiming Tea Party affiliation, hardly a majority, and definitely not a large enough percentage of the public to insist that their will be law. I know. I was once a member of a group that included 35% American public and even though we protested round the clock and, at times, in groups of millions, the government and the media ignored us. It was March of 2003 and we were protesting that Bush’s claim of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” was a lie; and America should not attack Iraq, lest we find ourselves mired in a quagmire of Vietnamese proportions and you can see how well that went.

(BTW, as of 4/15/10, 9:23 and 44 seconds AM, AZ time, that war has cost the American public $717,523,330,929 and counting. And, by the time you finish this article, the combined total of moneys spent will have topped a trillion dollars, with trillions yet untold yet to come.)

Meanwhile the Tea Party is preparing an assault of their own, and on April 19, a date non-coincidentally chosen to commemorate the first time Americans took up weapons against their government (the “Shot Heard Around the World!” fired at Lexington and Concord in 1775), to honor or possibly replicate the day. While may claim such talk is empty hyperbole, their vendors were selling pins calling for armed revolution at the Phoenix Glen Beck rally April 10 (more on that next week). So, on the 15th anniversary of Timothy McVeigh’s attack on the national government in Oklahoma City (also times to commemorate Lexington and Concord, also styled as a legitimate revolt of right wing anger) after 15 months of grumbling, the Tea Partiers will take the ultimate plunge and launch an armed march on DC … well, the outskirts, to show America they have the right own guns, an assertion none but their own media arm actually question. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for the rest of us, the weapons carrying contingent of the Tea Party has hold their rally outside the city limits of DC, since the city has a ban on handguns.

We will observe a five second pause for those who must choke on this irony.

And now back to our regularly scheduled satire:

Meanwhile inside the Beltway, supposedly over one million right-wingers will rant and rave on the National Mall about how their federal government has no idea of their idea of the Constitution regarding gun rights. Just to be sure, the supposedly embattled Second Amendment reads, “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.” To some the “not be infringed part” means any American four-year old (physically or mentally) should be allowed to possess a gosh-darned bazooka if they flippin’ want one and just see what happens if you try to stop ‘em! To others “the well-regulated” part means that gun owners can and should strictly policed. The vast majority of Americans fall somewhere in the middle, so for most it is not an issue.

Lord knows guns are everywhere. Though gun fans forever fear that the American government is forever trying to strip them of their weaponry and their fears aren’t reflected by a terribly sparsity of firearms available in America, currently estimated to be about 350,000,000 weapons overall. As a result about 35% of the Americans are ever-ready to kill their neighbors and next of kin at a moment’s notice. And, in fact, those are the very people they most often murder. Of course, since gun owners are the good Americans with a healthy sense of patriotism (as reflected in the respect they give their duly elected president and the taxes which support the country they claim to love) and a strong sense of high moral values, the rest of us have nothing to fear of a gathering of thousands of angry armed people advancing on our nation’s capital.

But before we let these supposedly religious people (who routinely omit the “thou shall not kill,” “steal,” “lie,” “covet thy neighbor’s wife,” or “take the lord’s name in vain” from their personal interpretation of the strict orthodoxy they insist that others follow) treat our nation’s capital the same way they have been treating our national heroes, we should review their cases against our most popular ex-presidents and the majority of Americans for that matter, in order to figure why they hate the faces on Mt. Rushmore so much.

Of course if you talk directly to rank and file Tea Party members they will promise you, they are the true believers. They love their country more than any of the rest of us could even imagine possible and they are not simply about destruction, hatred, violence, cruelty or unfairness. Which is why their various members so frequently call for all liberals, all foreigners, all minorities and all Democrats to be rounded up and exterminated “like vermin” [hyperbole theirs]. That is, in deed, one way to make peace, to kill all your opposition. As biologist and philosopher Jean Rostand (1894-1977) once noted, “Kill a man, and you are an assassin. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill everyone, and you are a god.” And if you are god, you get to set the rules and no dissent is possible: the people can’t argue with god. They can only be sacrificed for his will, or, if heretics, sacrificed to his wrath.

And, boy howdy, has the Tea Party been doing their damndest to kill off the legacy this quartet of presidents, men most Americans had loved with a near religious fervor. If only the rest of us understood the treason and treachery of villains we once thought heroes. So, let’s recap:

First, curiously, was Teddy Roosevelt, one of the most successful Republican presidents ever, in terms of contemporary and lasting popularity and success in accomplishing his political agenda. Among Roosevelt’s many sins were: his creating the National Park system, building the Panama Canal, and winning a Nobel Peace Prize. We all know what Tea Partiers think of peace and especially of Americans who are Nobel Peace Prize winners: take for example King, Carter, Wilson, and now Obama.

What else? Well, Roosevelt was also guilty of the shameful heresies of caring about the struggles of the working man, restraining corporate abuses, insisting that companies stop lying to their customers in their advertising and create products that were not hazardous to their health. He established safety standards for workers and players. (He created the NCAA and, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Association, “Roosevelt convinced them that the rules needed to be changed to eliminate the foul play and brutality.”)

Clearly the work of a villain, obviously a liberal, and for a party that claims to be all about liberty, the worst thing one can be is a liberal. Worth noting, from Wikipedia: “Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis, "of freedom") is the belief in the importance of liberty and equality.” Though of course, if you can dictate the only acceptable visions of governments and gods, then I guess you can rewrite the definitions of words as well.

Even worse Roosevelt eventually left the Republican party (like Tea Partiers appear to be doing) and took a good deal of the GOP with him to create the Progressive Party. Of course there are a couple of differences between the Tea Party and the Progressive Party of Roosevelt. For one, the Tea Party hates progress almost as much as taxes. They long for a purer vision of America before all those liberals and their damnable progress started mucking things up.

You know back in the day when black were for slaving or raping, women were for abusing and misusing, and brown people were for target practice. Back when most of society had no idea of the daily news, and religions were burning people at the stake for questioning the exact count of angels astride a pin. When the wealth and direction of the nation were controlled by the privileged few, when less than 8% of the population was allowed to vote, and your life expectancy was that you would die young, poor, and in debt. Sound like the Tea Party vision of America to a tee.

Another difference, according to historian Ted Van Dyk on, was that Roosevelt’s radical Republicans, left the party “rebelling against what they saw as their party's too-close association with big financial and industrial interests.” But Tea Partier leaders are all about the Benjamins. For example, though appalling mildly liberal by today’s standards, Roosevelt’s intervention the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 did improve miner’s lives. In comparison, Tea Party boasts Massey Energy’s own Don Blankenship who has ended at least 29 miners’ lives and laughed at over 3000 safety violations and $50,000,000 in fines because worrying about miner safety is “as silly as global warming.”

But Blankenship is just one example: Their movement's organizers and many of the materials are paid for through a lobbying group called Freedom Works, run by health industry lobbyist, former TX rep. Dick Armey, who receives the majority of his funding from big health care and oil interests. The fabulous Koch brothers, bilious billionaire right-wingers, have pumped over fifty million alone into conservative causes and the list just starts there. With donations from big Pharma and big oil to grease their wheels Tea Partiers can now roll roughshod over any non-believer who questions their crude message of absolute liberty to screw everyone over in business and absolute restriction of personal behaviors. Using these kinds of standards, everyone’s an enemy. Even Teddy Roosevelt, a man generally ranked by most liberals and most conservatives as the 5th best president of all time, or as Glen Beck referred to him in his CPAC speech, “a cancer.”

Then there’s Thomas Jefferson whom, as many historians know, could be seen as a comparatively easy target compared Roosevelt. Chronically in debt, famously a slob, an opium poppy grower and probably admirer, a slave owner who kept his dead wife’s black half-sister as his lifelong concubine, and an apparent serial philanderer--there is much to question about the man from Monticello; but most of us tolerate such mischief due to his impressive presidency, his founding of the University of Virginia, and an incidental essay or two.

Their purported near monomaniacal devotion to Declaration of Independence be damned, Jefferson is still a blasphemer as far as the Tea Party is concerned, the Texas Tea Party that is, and needed to be banished not just from their hallowed halls, but from the very pages of American History. Thanks their position as the nation’s leading textbook buyer and thus market taste setter, the Texas school book mullahs may have marginalized Jefferson nation-wide for the next ten years. That’s right, as the New York Times’ Russell Shorto reported from the Texas state textbook approval process:

“Thomas Jefferson [is] no longer included among writers influencing the nation’s intellectual origins …. Among the intellectual forerunners to be highlighted in Jefferson’s place: medieval Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, Puritan theologian John Calvin and conservative British law scholar William Blackstone.”

And it’s not as if they are revolted with the list of typically outrageous behavior described above. But if raping your dead wife’s sister whom you’d imprisoned as a sex toy for a couple of dozen years was not offensive enough for them, then just what was Jefferson’s crime? Well, as Shorto quipped, “Jefferson, a deist who helped pioneer the legal theory of the separation of church and state, is not a model founder in the board’s judgment.” And instead, “Heavy emphasis is also to be placed on the founding fathers having been guided by strict Christian beliefs.” The Texas Tea Partiers have thrown Thomas Jefferson, the author of our national founding document completely out of our national history for committing their ultimate sin: not being Christian enough.

Like many of the famous founding fathers (Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and George Washington--to be downright alphabetical about it), Thomas Jefferson was not in fact a Christian and worked hard to end the reign of terror the religions of his time imposed upon the citizenry. At the time of the revolution as oppressive as King George was, he had nothing on the various state sanctioned religions in the various colonies. The King’s men could only torture and kill you. The sanctimonious church leaders could do all that AND THEN condemn you to burn in Hell for all eternity.

Jefferson was so proud of his efforts at thwarting the power the church had claimed over the state that on his tombstone, of the three accomplishments he had listed, besides the Declaration and the university already mentioned, he included his authorship of “The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom,” omitting the Louisiana Purchase and, in fact, his presidency entirely.

Of course, Jefferson was not the only devil desiring to separate church from state. While it is widely discussed that the Writers of the Constitution gave the issue top billing when they drafted the Bill of Rights; earlier and more profoundly, in Article VI, Madison makes clear that the government of men in America shall not be a tied to anyone’s vision of any one’s god when he concludes by saying, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Obviously however, if you are going to brew your new theocracy on intolerance and steep it in a strict Christian allegiance as the Tea Partiers seem intent on, a voice like Jefferson’s has to be silenced. Wiley old scoundrel that he was, it is almost like Jefferson saw it coming when he wrote in 1809, "Our Constitution... has not left the religion of its citizens under the power of its public functionaries, were it possible that any of these should consider a conquest over the consciences of men either attainable or applicable to any desirable purpose." Yes, since no men are angels, neither amongst the citizenry nor inside the government, the price of freedom remains eternal vigilance, but it hard to have eyes in the back of one’s head and, with these Tea Party types, it’s to guess who or what they‘ll be attacking next. At least Jefferson wasn’t shot in the back like Lincoln was recently, figuratively speaking, by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

As the Post noted, Governor McDonnell “quietly declared April 2010 Confederate History Month, bringing back a designation in Virginia that his two Democratic predecessors -- Mark Warner and Tim Kaine -- refused to do.” To make things even more interesting, McDonnell’s proclamation spoke eloquently of the sacrifices Confederate soldiers made defending the South, while making no mention of slavery. When a furor kicked up over the missing mention, McDonnell’s office claimed it wasn’t “significant,” and fellow southern governor, former leader of the GOP, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour called it a “nit.”

Considering that Lincoln himself was among the over 600,000 who died over the issue, it is small wonder that until the Tea Party came along to free us from our foolish ways, most Americans thought slavery was significant and considered anyone who thought otherwise a nit, a nitwit that is.

And so, with Lincoln bushwhacked, Jefferson excommunicated, and Roosevelt roundly pulverized, that leaves only one face on our sacred mountain of Rushmore; and, as noted, armed Tea Party rebels have announced their intention to kick off a second “revolution“ [quotation marks theirs, I hope] by advancing on Washington in a pincer movement. Understand, as of yet, no actual presidential virtual visages, stone or otherwise, have been reduced to gravel … as of yet. Of course, if they find out General George was not only a heretic, but also a hemp smoker, South Dakota might soon be missing a monument.

But like the devastated Afghan Buddhas or demolished statue of the lost leader in the famous Shelley poem “Ozymandias,” the sad part isn’t the loss of the downed stone idol, or even the man or the ideals he represented, but erasure of the very country which once thrived in his image. Sure, the Tea Party tells us they, not we, see the real America, and feel the only true and worthy patriotic love of country. But after blasting off the faces of 75% of our national patron saints, I worry how patriotic they will actually be come this April 19 with Washington in their gun-sights, when they fire their shot heard around the world.

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

PS: As of 4/16/10, 2:06 and 45 seconds AM, AZ time, those wars have cost the American public $983,381,287,923 and counting.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Current Comedy, 4/9/10: “Greeting Us With Flowers”

To cop yet another opening riff from Jon Stewart, in what has got to be this year’s most embarrassing example of the old classic ‘takes-one-to-know-one” cliché, the president of the world’s leading narco-state, Hamid Karzai, that paragon of virtue, is in a snit and has also finally come clean about the allegations of corruption in his recent “re-election.” Karzai admits the election fraud was rampant, but blames the ballot tampering on some disreputable drug buddies of his: the US government.

That’s right, our hand-picked dictator for the last decade, who is the brother of the world’s leading heroin producer, and is in bed with the world’s biggest junkie, us, a man who treats corruption and bribery as if they were fashion statements, our business partner in crime, who is rumored to sniff a poppy or two himself, a man that is such a kleptocrat even his own citizens have tried to off him four times, that Hamid Karzai, he thinks we Americans play too dirty in when it comes to politics and he wants nothing more to do with us. To hear him tell it one of the Western World’s innovations that America proudly brought to the presumably medieval Afghani electoral process is that we have shown them better ways to cheat.

There can be little doubt Karzai already knew a trick or two when it comes to dealing dirty; but if Bush-Gore and 2004 are how we export democracy, no wonder so many other nations complain that the “democracy” we bring them is damaged on arrival.

Now to hear Karzai tell it, the Afghanis want back the flowers they never threw at us and want to be left alone to grow more opium for them to sell to us. Even though our military has admitted that curbing Afghan opium production is counter to their mission, Karzai is saying the Taliban are beginning to look like a better date to the prom than us. Nine years in and our image has shriveled from initially unbidden unwelcome “liberators” all the way down to the imperial quagmire keepers and designated dopefiends.

How is it that truth, justice, and the American Way are losing out to the same drug dealing religious zealots who once blasted the crap out of a pair of internationally revered giant 2000 year old Buddha statues carved into a mountain side, because Buddhism didn’t live up to their purity standards? America couldn’t be that far off the mark, could we? How could we have possibly made ourselves look even worse to the Afghan people than those guys who would rather a woman die in agony from a curable malady than be touched by a male physician, who would rather throw acid in a woman‘s face than have her go to school? There’s no way we could be worse than those guys.

Truth, justice, equality, opportunity, fair play. That’s what America believes in, right? How could it be the Afghanis aren’t in love with Americans and our American ideals?

Perhaps, it has to do with the fact that those ideals are mere marketing slogans we repeat as mantras to keep the reality of the American disasters we’ve created tolerably anesthetized. We may call those words our ideals but we are not living up to them, yet expect every other country to bow and scrape as if we were the jewel of the earth.

I know that over at Fox they’ve hardly had a moment to cover it, what with all the air time required to adequately create Tea Party fabrications that are clever enough to temporarily delude someone with a fifth grade education; but this week the international and liberal news media have been a-boil over yet another case of US military atrocities in Afghanistan.

This week they have uncovered yet another military cover-up where US soldiers “accidentally” shot five more innocent Afghan people including two pregnant mothers. Then in a gruesomely inept attempt to conceal their error, the soldiers violated the bodies of the dead Muslim women by cutting the bullets out and hiding them, then they swabbed the wounds out with alcohol to destroy evidence, and even concocted a canard about the women being stabbed to death before the US forces got there.

In the PR campaign the completely concocted incident was framed as another case of Afghani barbarity, yet another selling point on why we need to be there. You can almost hear the rationale as they made that one up: ‘Oh, if only our boys had been there in time they could have protected the poor women from such acts of senseless violence.’ And so on. As CNN reported it, a U.S. official claimed, “the women had been shot ‘execution-style’ and that the killings had ‘the earmarks of a traditional honor killing.’"

Boggles the mind, huh? Add to it that this revelation comes the same week American mainstream media is doing their best to marginalize the latest US Iraq War Atrocity, a media bombshell that exploded when the whistleblower website, Wiki-Leaks presented info at the National Press Club and posted an instanta-viral video of US helicopters … let‘s call it “engaging” with reporters from Reuters, to the tune of eleven dead, including a passerby who stopped to render assistance and got himself and his children shot up for his kindness.

This was also an honor killing in a way. The audio portion of the actual video including the voices of the helicopter gun crew. And you can tell they are honored to be murdering in the service of their country and listen how well their behavior honors us:

"Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards," says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street. A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: "Come on, let us shoot!" Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses. And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: "Well, it's their fault bringing their kids to a battle." And so on.

The Wiki-Leaks video, titled “Collateral Murder,” runs almost 18 minutes and is said to be but the first of a series of leaked videos of deadly displays of US excessive force. With as previous hits such as Abu Ghriab and Fallujah already in the can, this long running big-budget production, “American War Abuses in Arab Lands” appears to have more episodes than “The Simpsons” and, like its predecessors, should be a hit at madrassas world wide.

Dan Froomkin’s Huffington Post reporting covered both the incident itself and the furor that has erupted from Wiki’s leaked video of the actual 2007 incident. As usual, as the controversy has unfolded, the military knew exactly which enemy to most target to counter the damage they had done: they blamed the whistleblower and declared that the Wiki-Leaks website, “represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army." That’s a government working hard for the common good, their own good.

At the time, the military issued a standard press release which the New York Times parroted--US personnel ‘were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in for reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing firefight, the statement said, “the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed.”

Of course, that whitewash was generated by Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, commander of the Army's 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment. He’s the guy who “told ESPN that the reluctance of Tillman's parents to accept the military's story that he was killed by enemy action, rather than friendly fire, was the unfortunate result of their lack of Christian faith.”

As you may recall Pat Tillman, AZ Cardinal football hero, patriotically set down football to join the military to honor his country early in the war. He quickly soured on the war in Afghanistan, prepared to speak out against it, even started contacting reporters and Noam Chomsky, of all people, and promptly caught a bullet between the eyes. Friendly fire. What a lovely term for murder. The story the military and their lapdogs the press told migrated farther than a runaway teen with a hundred dollar bus ticket. Wikipedia summarizes the shifts the story took as our government reluctantly admitted the truth:

“The Army initially claimed that Tillman and his unit were attacked in an apparent ambush …. An Afghan militia soldier was killed, and two other Rangers were injured as well …. A more thorough investigation concluded that no hostile forces were involved in the firefight and that two allied groups fired on each other in confusion after a nearby explosive device was detonated …. On July 26, 2007, the AP received official documents stating that the investigating doctors performing the autopsy suspected that Tillman was murdered.” And Tillman is only one of a string of “mysterious battle field deaths.” According to a 2006 USA Today story as many as 40% of the deaths reported to surviving families were filled with distortions.

For us here in the US, American war corruption (pick a flavor--Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater, Triple Canopy, or last month’s latest poster boy, Col. Kevin Davis) is but an annoying distraction between commercials. Like most of our dealings with all the narco-states America favors with our dollars (both in the form of military aid to “stamp out the evil scourge” over there and being their number one customer over here), places like Vietnam in the 60s, Nicaragua in the 80s, perennial favorites Mexico and Colombia and now the poppy capital of the world, thanks to none other than the policies of George W Bush; tolerating the local corruption is just part of doing business. But in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the way America does business is a daily slap in the face.

The American public is routinely told we need to have faith. Though it may take decades and trillions America will rebuild Afghanistan in our own image. A drug fueled economy, corruption in high places, phony elections, and religious fanatics trying to control everything while the supposed watch dogs look the other way? We may already be there. And after spending 10 years in bed with the drug dealing Karzai brothers, it appears the flowers they’ve been greeting us with have been poppies all along and we’re the ones who are hooked.

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Current Comedy: Less & Moore, More or Less

Well, truth is this week I personally have no regular full-length column for you; somebody else already wrote it for me. On March 31st, AlterNet along with dozens of other liberal sites posted the brilliant and comprehensive "Exposing the Deep Swamp of Republican Hypocrisy -- How a Party Alienated the Nation" by Russell King's (originally posted on Russ' Filtered News) and the man has hogged all of this week's good lines. His article does a superior job of documenting the hypocrisy and hyperbole that so turns the mainstream away from the (not-so-)grand(-seeming-when-they’re-being-led-by-) old (racists) party. In fact King does such a good job I would rather plug his article than write my own.

Line by line King enunciates the problems the rest of America has with the GOP and links to dozens of sources documenting outlandish Republican audacity. Unlike the demon image of Obama they work so hard to create, a person does not have to make crap up about their behavior to hate them. So, to just blatantly appropriate a random stretch of King's massive compendium of recent GOP insults and injuries:

You can’t cry that the health care bill is too long, then cry that it’s too short.

You can’t support the individual mandate for health insurance, then call it unconstitutional when Dems propose it and campaign against your own ideas.

You can’t demand television coverage, then whine about it when you get it.  Repeatedly.

You can’t praise criminal trials in US courts for terror suspects under a Rep president, then call it “treasonous” under a Dem president.

You can’t propose ideas to create jobs, and then work against them when the Dems put your ideas in a bill.

You can’t be both pro-choice and anti-choice.

You can’t damn someone for failing to pay $900 in taxes when you’ve paid nearly $20,000 in IRS fines.

You can’t condemn criticizing the president when US troops are in harm’s way, then attack the president when US troops are in harm’s way , the only difference being the president’s party affiliation (and, by the way, armed conflict does NOT remove our right and our duty as Americans to speak up).

And so on.

If there are conservatives who don't understand why liberals are so antagonistic to your leaders, here's your sign.

Also, there’s this:

Man Most Responsible for Health Care Reform? Michael Moore?

No, i'm not just kidding. On the March 23 episode of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, two days after the historic vote, celebrity provocateur Michael Moore explained that it was his Northern Michigan coalition of citizens that should take credit for being the straw that broke Bart Stupak's camel's back, swinging the final set of votes over to the yea side in the health care bill battle royale Sunday March 21st. You may recall earlier in the process Stupak (Mich-D) had grabbed his 15 minutes of fame by making a show of hand wringing over potentially hypothetical aborted babies purposefully bought on the public dime and so on, so Stupak stalled the bill.

Then in the final week's push, the ever-sanctimonious Stupak led a group of 8 House Blue Dog Dems in opposing the Health Care Bill, threatening to derail the entire bill and self-inflict a possibly mortal wound in the backpedaling Democratic Party right up till midday Sunday, when Stupak led his crowd to the mic to announce a deal had been struck. The bill passed 220-207, despite purported hypothetical aborted babies potentially on the horizon. Some Stup’ calls Stupak “baby killer,” Bart gets to look all buff and righteous in a round of liberal talk shows, meanwhile the remark along with the other wave of petty violence gets swept under the rug on the right-wing talk shows. The GOP and their lapdog pundits finger Obama as the force that turned the tide. Meanwhile Moore says, no, it was the fat guy from Flint and few thousand of his closest friends.

On Moore's own website the day after the vote, he described the key swing bloc swinging towards the yea column this way in a widely reprinted letter to his supporters: "Our full court press on my congressman, Bart Stupak worked! Hundreds of my neighbors here in his Michigan district spent the weekend organizing thousands of voters to get busy and save the health care bill. We called Stupak's congressional office non-stop and we got thousands of people up here to flood his email box."

True enough, the day before the final vote Moore posted extensive info online explaining to interested citizens how to contact Stupak and his staff throughout his seven district offices and apply pressure.

There is an odd irony that in the end, Michael Moore of all people should emerge as a key player in the final push to pass this health care bill since it is one that he loudly and frequently publicly detested. Unlike GOP leaders whose hatred of the health care bill was, they claimed based its price tag. Odd then that they insisting on rejecting the more cost effective single payer system. Moore, like many liberals, was greatly disappointed the nearly universal concept of universal health care had again been rejected by our ruling class, who insist on profits over people. “We are not to help unless there is money to be made from it,” Moore lamented.

And so do I.

-mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Kingman Peace Vigils Gaining Drive-by Support

I wanted to call this section of the column "Fledgling Peace Movement Faces First Challenge," but every time I tried the phrase, Kingman peace vigil creator Christine Meisenheimer laughed and pooh-poohed me, "The Kingman peace movement has so much internal momentum it doesn't center on me. With my MS I occasionally face significant health challenges and have had to drop out of things; but the world goes on."

Meisenheimer (who I first interviewed in the recent column, "Dear Vets, Part 6") and her husband Will are leaving for their summer home in La Crosse, Wisconsin. However both are sure the twice monthly Sunday peace vigils at the corner of Stockton Hill Rd and Airway will continue with her.

So far the peace activists have assembled 4 times, to stay in the shadow of the Smith's gas station, at the most highly trafficked corner in town and wave both hand-made and manufactured protest signs. Susan Holland, Democrat activist, purchased several copies of the popular peace sign, "War Is Not the Answer," from the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker peace group. Locally the regular participants range from a 13 year old girl with her mom, a combat vet from Vietnam, winter tourists, and school teachers. For the last two months many as a dozen people have shown up at the vigils for a half hour every 2nd and 4th Sunday at noon. "Much longer than that," Christine explains, "is too hard. It is very draining."

A long-time activist in La Crosse, Meisenheimer joined the anti-war movement in 2001 when America began bombing Afghanistan. I medically retired in 97 and started paying attention to politics. When I started understanding what our country was actually doing in our good name I had to get involved. I probably should have started during Kosovo. At first my family was totally opposed to me getting involved because of my health, the chair and everything. But with everything that was happening during the run-up to the Iraq invasion I couldn't in good conscience not get involved.

"Like the story of Thoreau when he goes to jail for refusing to pay the war taxes to support the Mexican-American War, Emerson goes to his cell and asks him, 'why are you in there?'And Thoreau answers back, 'why aren't you in here? Once I started paying attention to the news, there was no choice but to act." A psychotherapist until debilitated by her disease Meisenheimer was a co-founder of the La Crosse peace activist group, Women in Black. Christine was excited to bring her ideas and experiences to Kingman when she and her husband come out west for their winter vacations.

Instantly active local members in a variety of liberal and cultural concerns, Christine tooling about in her wheelchair and Will's droll wit had quickly become common sights this winter and spring. After spending most of the last ten years as a liberal activist, she still felt a little fearful of Kingman at first. "When I first started getting the vigils set up, I talked to the police dept. and parks and rec. and explained my concerns. The police said, "I wouldn't have to worry about my safety these days. Thirty years ago it was much worse. I have reason to worry. Back in my peaceful little liberal La Crosse I once had a man come up and set himself over my chair and point his finger right in my face. He said, 'What you need lady is a target painted right on your forehead.' You could just feel his fury."

"In Kingman, these days anyway it is different. you can feel the acceptance by community. We have only had four vigils and you can already feel the change. People are becoming accustomed to seeing us standing there. They are not driving by shouting obscenities or anything, though sometimes they rev their engines. It's definitely a message. But what you see mostly from the people who disagree with you is avoidance. They will look away very, very seriously, look anywhere but our corner. I am very pleased with the amount of honking, people waving, flashing the peace sign. Even little kids go by and flash us two fingers. I always shout out. What I was seeing the first time was a good 60% showing an avoidance behavior, like they were running a gauntlet. Now that has reversed, the passersby are much more animated."

I asked her, "Why do you think we Americans, we Kingmanites, have bought this war so thoroughly?"

She pauses a second. "We as a nation fell victim to typical propaganda, principles developed back when Americans were first sold their wars, the Spanish-American War, WWI. You know, Edward Bernays, the guy who developed the propaganda that sold America the First World War, and it was a very unpopular war, that guy, Bernays, later went on to found the public relations industry. The Bush administration followed the same basic outline the Nazis did. Goering even had a quote about it: 'Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.'

"That's how it worked here. I know there are far too many similarities in the way they approach war, but I see a difference. Bush slavered at the opportunity to go to war, Obama seems more reticent, more thoughtful. But the bigger issue I see, having spent the last 10 years immersed in the news, is that we need to follow the money and we'll see why our country stays at war. Hitler did a wonderful job getting his nation out of depression. It is a simple matter of understanding the expense. It is hooked to money, the great industrial military complex."

I asked, "Are you happy with Obama?"

Meisenheimer swallowed, "I could have blinders on because I did vote for him. I have thought he was the greatest, since 04 when he spoke at the Democrats National Convention. I probably do have some blind spots. I have been disappointed at some things, but it seems he has also done some wonderful things that I have embraced. He has done any number of things and it is overwhelming to try to keep track of the Bush era things Obama has corrected or tried to correct. I was overwhelmed by Bush, all the disasters he created, willfully, blindly. There have been so many wonderful things Obama's done I can't track them. In comparison, it seemed Bush was created by the media as an excuse, like that ventriloquist's dummy, Charley McCarthy sitting on Cheney's knee or whoever the puppeteer was that day. Bush didn't have a lot of person strength. I feel the strength of Obama.

I asked, "How can liberals reach mainstream Americans, or at least the Kingman version of that elusive myth?"

"It is a challenge, whole concept of peace is threatening to the far right because their perspective is so different. It's like they like to look at the world with glazed eyes, like their brain is Teflon--whatever piece of info you want to give them simply slides off," she laughs. "I'd simply ask people to realize I am not against them. I am not out here protesting against the war, I am being an activist for peace. I don't want to be an activist 'against' something, I want to be for something. These are basic principles of non-violent resistance that King and GandhI used. I think it is working and will work for the Kingman peace movement. I have been very pleased to see how much the community has adopted to our presence. I think we help with the necessary overcoming of the community belief system.

Christine and Will intend to return next winter and rejoin the Kingman peace movement they expect to still be active. "It is such an important topic. People can't help but care. Even with all the fighting we are seeing, especially since the health care bill, I must say I am refreshingly delighted at very positive reception we get when we ask people to think about peace. It was a big surprise and I love surprises. The world is a much better place because of the surprises. It feel so good to see children go by and wave the peace sign."

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.