Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Different Cow. Same Bull.

To Keith Olbermann

Dear Mr. Olbermann:

While this is not exactly a fan letter per se, please consider this more of a sympathy letter. To coin a phrase: I feel your pain.

On the October 27 2008 edition of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed Ms. Campbell Brown, the host of a new CNN program "No Bias, No Bull." Apparently, Ms. Brown's new program is scheduled at the same time as Mr. Bill O'Reilly's program on Fox News, and your program on MSNBC. Both Mr. Stewart and Ms. Brown got in lots of yuks about how hard it would be to find space in-between your views and Mr. O'Reilly's, given that (in Ms. Brown's words) you represent the "far left" and Mr. O'Reilly represents the "far right."
You can see the video here:

Ms. Brown's comments happen at the start of the interview.

For me, it was deja vu all over again, as they say where I come from. I know I should not be surprised anymore, but I always am. You, Mr. Olbermann, YOU are the voice of the "far left" in America? No wonder my head hurts all the time.

Let me explain. The 1988 Bush I -- Dukakis presidential election was a turning point in my life. If you remember, then Vice President George Bush, way behind in the polls, sold his soul to the Powers of Darkness and hired Mr. Lee Atwater to destroy America's political process. Among matters of vital national importance (like where Mr. Willie Horton spent his weekends), Vice President Bush confronted Governor Dukakis about being a "card carrying member of the ACLU" (America Civil Liberties Union) and being a "liberal." For reasons known only to Governor Dukakis and his god, the Governor initially refused to say he was a liberal. At that time, I was a second year law student, with issues of jurisprudence, constitutional law, and contracts pouring out of every orifice. Still--I had the wherewithal to be outraged at Governor Dukakis's timidity. But even more outrageous, though, was the consensus of my circle of friends that the Massachusetts Governor was doing the right thing. "After all," a friend asked me, "Would YOU admit you were a liberal?" I said "No, but . . . ""Well, there you go," my now ex-friend interrupted, "neither would I."

But why wouldn't I admit to being a liberal? Because I wasn't then, and am not now, a liberal. Hide the womenfolk, but here it is: I'm a democratic socialist. I am "left" as opposed to "liberal."

Mr. Keith Olbermann. His friends call him Che.

"Liberal" and "left" are, in part, economic terms, describing a level of state intervention in a nation's economy. An economy based on liberal principles has a minimum of political interference, and allows the forces of the market to dictate prices and types of goods available. As I'm using the term, "left" (meaning moving away from liberalism) would entail some level of public (or political) control of industry. That can be as extreme as a command economy, where the Office of Central Planning calls the factory manager in Suckstobeyoustan, places an order for 5,000 tractors, all of which will be shipped to Whymestan, by next October. Or it can be as simple as having a Food and Drug Administration, an administrative agency that not only confirms that the labels on bottles accurately reflect the contents, but also that the contents of those bottle won't kill you. The question is, just where do you want to draw the line.

I'm not a liberal. Why? Because I want to see more state intervention in the economy than what we have now. Is that also why Michael Dukakis denied being a liberal? Sure it was.

As a political philosophy, liberalism refers to tolerance of competing points of view. For example, the Federalist Papers are filled with the terror of the "Tyranny of the Majority," and how State action is necessary to preserve the opinions of the minority (like property owners who think debt forgiveness is bad) in the face of the majority (like debtors who think debt forgiveness is not that bad an idea). Similarly, the ALCU letterhead proudly reads "Someday, you too will need the ACLU," meaning if anyone risks having their civil liberties attacked, we should defend everybody's civil rights. Or, in the immortal words that Voltaire in fact never did write: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." I just happen to not share that philosophy. In law school, me & the civil libertarians constantly would go to the mattresses, with the latter insisting there was no principled way to restrict speech based on content, while I insisted that our democracy could survive without Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party rallies in public parks. I still feel that way. Why? Because I'm not a liberal.

That all was before the Bush--Dukakis debacle. Now, I don't say that anymore. I've given up. I tell everyone I'm a liberal, and that I'm a card carrying member of the ACLU (even though it's a lie). Why? Because since 1988, political discourse has only gotten worse. How much worse?

Papa Bear Bill O'Reilly. He wasn't born stupid--what you see is the product of hard work and perseverance.

I cite Mr. Michael Scheuer's Imperial Hubris for much of my views on Afghanistan and the "War on Terror." Michael Scheuer, a career Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, for gods' sake. During the controversy over the so called "Surge" strategy in Iraq and Iran's nuclear program, I'm saying stuff like "But the CIA says . . ." meaning I'm AGREEING with the CIA position. That's like His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI saying "You know, I find Beelzebub's arguments on predestination particularly compelling . . ."

The terms "right," "liberal," "conservative," and "left" had all long lost their original meaning. And as part of the tiny minority standing against the Reagan Revolution, I didn't have the luxury of being choicey about labels, or who I was a fellow traveler for. But in my heart, I know the truth: I was still a Com-Symp, as they used to say in the 1950s.

So in late 2008 America, if "right" and "left" are no longer economic terms, what do they refer to? Look again at Ms. Brown's characterization of you as "far left" and Mr. O'Reilly as "far right." While I do not know a great deal about you Mr. Olbermann (and have no desire whatsoever to hurt your feelings), but whatever good qualities you have (and I am certain, sure you have many), you are no Eugene Debbs or Michael Harrington. Heck, you're not even Ralph Nader. Not even vaguely. Likewise, I would never consider Mr. O'Reilly on the "far right," because he is inconsistent, incoherent, self-contradictory, and a rank opportunist. In a word, Mr. O'Reilly is an idiot (to use a value neutral, non-judgmental expression). Idiots are not right, conservative, liberal, or left. They are just an embarrassment to all who know them. Just look at Mr. Rush Limbaugh.

So, what on earth could Ms. Brown have meant by "far right" and "far left"? What quality makes you and Mr. O'Reilly mirror opposites? Here's my suggestion: Tolerance for people in power who make stuff up, knowing the crap they hand out is not true, but still get offended if anyone questions the statement's validity.

Ms. Campbell Brown. She has a lovely smile--and one butt-ugly painting hanging in her attic.

ON THE FAR LEFT: Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's Countdown, responds to lies from the rich and powerful by presenting The Worst Person in the World.

ON THE FAR RIGHT: Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor, responds to lies from the rich and powerful by yelling at folks who dare suggest the emperor's buck naked (maybe) in The No Spin Zone.

Show me where I am wrong.

So what does all this mean? As Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty told Alice: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." To Alice's protests that an individual couldn't make words mean different things, Humpty Dumpty told her "The question is, which is to be master -- that's all." What I mean, are two points. First, Ms. Brown has no qualms playing her role as Humpty Dumpty, using words in ways she knows full well will mean something different to her viewers than they do to her.

Ms. Loretta Young. She has nothing to do with this note whatsoever. But she also had no ugly paintings in her attic either.

Second, It also means that Ms. Campbell Brown owes you an apology, and I don't mean maybe. Her calling you "far left" had nothing to do with your opinions on central planning, December Nativity displays in public parks, or even your low level of gullibility regarding White House press releases, and has everything to do with calling you a word she knows her viewers will interpret to mean "dishonest" ie you are willing to distort facts, because of a personal political and economic bias.

Which is just more of the same old bull.

I remain:
Outraged, but still a liberal card carrying member of the ALCU.
Bill Abendroth

No Wait! You Don't Understand--I Really AM the Dumbest Person in the World!

On October 27 2008, a federal jury in Washington found Alaska Senator Ted Stevens guilty on all seven charged felony counts of lying to congress. All along, from the moment the investigation started, through his indictment, demand for a speedy trial, and even the after his conviction, Senator Stevens has protested his innocence, complaining bitterly at how unfairly he has been treated. For example, Senator Stevens's campaign has issued the following statement: "I am innocent, This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial."

October 27, 2008: The day it sucked to be Senator Ted Stevens. On the plus side, though, he did get the BEST deal on the mountain cabin re-build.

Now, if you are someone who lives on Planet Earth and whose life is governed by some semblance of logic and reason, you might have a few questions about this case. I am most happy to oblige. Disclosure: I did not attend the trial, nor read any transcripts. I am basing this information on the reporting by National Public Radio (Ms. Nina Totenberg, in particular), wire reports from the AP and Reuters, and my own past experience as a criminal defense attorney.

Hope this helps.

1. What the heck are they (unspecified) TALKING about?

Honestly--You probably don't want to know. As the famed former Chancellor and meat afficionado Otto "Ironman" von Bismark noted: "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." I have never seen sausage made, but back in the day I ate a fair amount of chorizo. The only way I was able to do so, was if I first cleared my mind of any thought of what I was eating. But I have seen laws made and interpreted, in both courts & legislatures. And my stomach will never be the same.

Ask yourself if maybe this isn't a good spot to turn back, and go watch another hilarious Simpsons rerun.

2. Was Senator Stevens charged with stealing money or accepting bribes?

No. And here's the tricky part: Senator Stevens was charged with "lying," or knowingly filing false reports listing contributions and gifts he received.

3. So, in the immortal words of Gene Autry: Show Me the Money.

For reasons personal to them, the Senator and Mrs. Ted Stevens wanted to remodel their old Girdwood Alaska mountain cabin. Again, for reasons unknown to the public at large, Senator Stevens decided to go with his old buddy, Mr. Bill Allen as the general contractor in charge of construction.

Governor Palin dropping a dime CANADA STYLE in St. Louis. Of course, some people booed--and now Senator Stevens wishes he was there to boo as well.

Mr. Allen, not a building contractor by trade, is in fact the former chief executive of VECO, a now defunct oil services company that did lots of government business, with help from Senator Stevens. Ultimately, the work doubled the square footage of the Stevens' cabin, transforming it into a modern two story home with wrap around porches, a wine cellar, a sauna, and lots of fancy pantsy appliances.

4. So what?

Here's what: Mr. Allen was responsible for making sure all the work was done, and then bill Senator (and Mrs.) Stevens appropriately. The Mrs. Senator was in charge of the "business end" of the renovation, and (according to the testimony of the Senator and the Mrs.) she paid Mr. Allen $160,000. So far so good. But here's the "oh oh" part. Near as the Department of Justice could figure, Mr. Allen did roughly $410,000. worth of work on the Stevens' mountain cabin--or at least $250,000. more than the Senator paid for. I hate when that happens.

5. Did Senator Stevens promise to do something improper for Mr. Allen and/or VECO, in exchange for $250,000. worth of free cabin improvements?

Not that anyone is aware of. That's not what Senator Stevens was charged with, nor what he was convicted of.

6. Huh?

See above re sausage. Proving outright bribery is very difficult, as in "You give me X dollars now, and I'll vote for Y bill." People who are old (like me) may remember back in the day when FBI agents pretended to be agents of an unspecified "Arab" named Kambir Abdul Rahman (I am not making that up), who offered a fairly modest pile of cash in exchange for introducing a "private bill" to facilitate the Arab's anticipated immigration problems. The fake company was called "Abdul Enterprises, Ltd."--oh, those were kinder, gentler, and definitely dumber times. "ABSCAM," as the caper was known, targeted 31 officials, with one Senator and five Representatives actually taking their cases to trial. FYI, the video tape of Congressman Richard Kelly (R-Fl), actually showed the congressman jamming $25,000. in cash in his pockets, then turning to the undercover FBI agents and asking "Does it show?" I really hate when that happens.

So, in an effort to catch only the most grotesque and blatant corruption, our federal solons are required to regularly report any and all "gifts" and contributions they receive. These reports are sworn statements, meaning not telling the truth is a felony Bozo no-no.

7. So--Senator Stevens got $250,000 of free work on his house, and forgot to mention it on his disclosure forms? Is that all?

I wish. In American courts, criminal law has two separate aspects: an actus reus and a mens rea. Before a body can be convicted of a crime, that person must commit an actus reus, or some guilty act. For example, I can daydream about robbing the Federal Reserve in San Francisco all day every day, but until I take some concrete step towards committing that action (buying guns, casing the building, trying to recruit some fellow day dreamers to join me, etc), there is no crime.

Ms. Lauren Bacall. You don't HAVE to try to be trying to write like Raymond Chandler to include her photo. Heck, Ms. Bacall doesn't even have to appear in the note.

Likewise, no crime can be committed without mens rea, or a criminal intent. A classic example is when someone sends me ten kilos of weapons grade uranium in the US mail (book rate, because ten kilos is pretty heavy and my contacts are all cheap-os), my postal carrier has not committed a crime. True, my letter carrier has physically delivered contraband to me (an actus reus), but there is no way the carrier knew, or should have known, that I was getting uranium--no mens rea.

So, outside of a few marginal exceptions, for a criminal conviction, the State must prove both mens rea (you knew what you were doing) and actus reus (you at least started doing something).

Getting back to Senator Stevens's case, we have seven examples of actus reus: he submitted seven forms (I'm assuming seven different forms) that failed to list all donations and gifts he received. Those forms were incorrect, in that they failed to include $250,000 of home improvements. That's actus reus times seven, but not necessarily proof of mens rea.

8. So what you are saying that is that Senator Stevens just didn't NOTICE an additional $250,000 of improvements to his cabin, he didn't do anything wrong?

Or maybe Senator Stevens just "forgot" to mention it. Either way, it would be a complete defense (if proved) to Senator Stevens's charges. The less than complementary characterization of defenses based on the subjective mind set of the accused is "the dumbest person in the world" defense. What was Senator Stevens specifically accused of? KNOWINGLY filing false forms, that did not disclose all contributions he had received. But Senator Stevens insists he did not do that. Why? Because Senator Stevens's disclosures were accurate? Not at all; all those disclosures were wrong. But Senator Stevens didn't KNOW he was failing to report an additional $250,000 in gifts and cabin renovations.....because Senator Stevens is the DUMBEST SENATOR IN THE WORLD!

9. Are you making this up?

I wish. Read the press reports and statements from Senator Stevens. The Senator insisted that he paid EVERY bill that had been sent to him. If Mr. Allen didn't send Senator Stevens the right number of bills, how is that Uncle Ted's fault? And poor Senator Stevens--he's SO busy with the nation's work (like shouting about how he'd have to be carried off the Senate floor if he didn't get the money for the "Bridge to No Where." He got the money; a walk-off homer Hank Aaron would be proud of). It was MRS. STEVENS and Bill Allen who were in charge of all the cabin remodeling stuff. Senator Stevens was shocked SHOCKED to discover that the square footage of his cabin had been more than doubled in this remolding project. In fact, Senator Stevens was FURIOUS as soon as he heard about all those fancy appliances put in his cabin. Uncle Ted--a simple man!--he ordered that stuff be taken out. How COULD Senator Stevens know he was still getting it all that stuff? He only wanted $160,000, of improvements . . who told Bill Allen to go to $410,000? NOT Ted Stevens! etc. etc. etc.

10. So how did the Justice Department secure seven convictions against Senator Stevens?

The old fashioned way: evidence and a jury. The first thing a good prosecuting attorney needs is a soon to be former best friend to roll over. Enter Bill Allen, now a former CEO of a defunct oil services company--never a good place to be. In walks a couple of Assistant US Attorneys and a few FBI agents. The FBI agents start showing Mr. Allen documents proving beyond all doubt a $250,000 discrepancy--at least--between what Senator Stevens reported, and what was actually given to Senator Stevens. Maybe Mr. Allen can show some additional bills, receipts, proofs of payments from Senator Stevens? Not being a particularly adept forger, Mr. Allen cannot. One of the Assistant US Attorneys starts talking about possible criminal charges Mr. Allen is facing, counting prison time by decades. The other Assistant US Attorney sounds like the Tasmanian Devil from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. People in Mr. Allen's position react in a variety of ways, but the consensus is pretty much the immediate and severe wetting of pants. As they say where I come from: potential informants would sell their grandmothers into white slavery--if only their fathers hadn't beat them to it.

So Mr. Allen, he jumps at the offer to play Let's Make a Deal fast enough to sprain both ankles. What is the substance of Mr. Allen's testimony? Roughly: "I gave the Senator money," "The Senator knew I gave him money," and "Senator Stevens may be 'tupid--but he's not THAT 'tupid."

Still--Senator Stevens, he's nobody's fool--no wait, that's another speech--anyway, Uncle Ted pounds his chest, demands a speedy trial ie before the November election, because he is INNOCENT! He has done NOTHING WRONG! Then the longest serving GOP Senator walks into court, looks twelve good citizens, honest and true, in the eyeball--and says: I am not a crook.. Why? Because as God is my witness, I AM the DUMBEST man in the world! Here I Stand--I Can Do No Other.

And the jury, after hearing three days of testimony from Senator Stevens and the Mrs. Senator, say "What? Are you for real here? While there is force your argument that you are in fact an idiot, Senator, no one this side of catatonic can be THAT stupid."

And that, pals & gals, is how your friendly neighborhood US Attorney racks up guilty times seven.

11. But what if, on his financial disclosure forms, Senator Stevens had included the line: "Additional Gifts: $250,000 in cabin improvements, from VECO oil services company"? In other words, if the Senator had not lied on his disclosure forms?

Senator Stevens might have been run afoul of another statute, such as paying personal expenses with political contributions, or maybe Senator Stevens would just have been looking at a fat tax bill in April 2009--I don't know. But I do know that he would not be on the wrong end of seven felony convictions.
George Baily puts the moves on Mary Hatch . . . Probably because she is naked. Another reason why George AND NOT TED truly had a wonderful life.
12. Then why, for goodness sakes, didn't Senator Stevens just make an honest disclosure?

I have no idea. I want to believe that Senator Stevens really is a crook, and that he's trying to cover up for his guilty conscience. After all, why SHOULD the CEO of an oil services corporation rebuild a Senator's mountain cabin, playing Santa to the tune of $250,000? Because Bill Allen is just that kind of guy? I don't think so.

Still-----In 1962, writer and philosopher Ms. Hannah Arendt went to Jerusalem, and watched the trial of the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann. I'm not sure if Mr. Eichmann ever personally killed someone, but it was Mr. Eichmann's job to schedule the trains that carried all the Jews, Gypsies, and miscellaneous undesirables of the Third Reich to death camps. Legally and morally, Mr. Eichmann was personally responsible for the murders of between two and three million people during the Shoah. For Ms. Arendt and a generation raised on "The Portrait of Dorian Gray," they still believed--at least, emotionally--that awful people who did awful things must look, well--awful. The most shocking--and ultimately most horrible--aspect of Mr. Eichmann was his ordinariness. The 'banality of evil' was Ms. Arendt's phrase. "Eichmann Interrogated," edited by Jochen von Lang is a summary of transcripts from Mr. Eichmann's interrogation by the Israeli police. Adolf Eichmann--he's just this guy: some little gray middle manager who was reasonably competent. Only instead being of an import-export guy,shipping tchotchkes from the east to sell in tourist traps in the west, Eichmann was an SS officer who shipped people from the west to death camps in Poland. Life would be so much easier if Eichmann looked and talked like Quasimodo. He didn't.

I've seen speculation that Senator Stevens wanted to hide his largesse, all in an effort to keep from attracting the attention of nosey people to his close--and maybe even legal, if not exactly moral or ethical--relationship with VECO. Ultimately, I think what brought Senator Stevens down was the classic Nixon gambit: some idiocy happens, then you cover it up. That blows up, and you cover up the fact you covered it up. Then you cover up the cover up of the cover up. Pretty soon, you're covering up the cover up of the cover up of the cover up....and then either your head flies off (Nixon's John Dean) or you TRULY become the dumbest person in the world (Bush's Alberto Gonzales) or you're just a lying jerk and a thug (Reagan's Oliver North).

So, in the end, what is Senator Stevens guilty of? Veco gave the Senator $250,000 in the form of a fabulous mountain cabin remodel, and Senator lied multiple times, by knowingly failing to report the gift. In an effort to hide something that he may not have even needed to hide, Senator Stevens scoops up seven felonies. Did the US Attorney prove Senator Stevens was "evil"? Doubtful. But because true corruption, the illegal quid pro quo of selling Senate votes or influence peddling is so hard to prove, the only time someone at Senator Stevens level is actually caught is not so much when they do something venal, as when they do something banal. I am not satisfied that that Senator Stevens is an evil man--but there is no doubt in my mind he is a despicable opportunist.

13. But don't Alaskans love him?

Of course they do. Why shouldn't they? Alaskans receive well over twice the average amount of per capita federal moneys, than citizens of the 'lower 48" receive. As they say where I come from: the government who robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul. And if there's anything Senator Stevens has done in his 40 years in the US Senate, it's robbing the hell out of the rest of country, and paying it to Alaskans.
A nice picture of Senators Murkowski and Kay Baily Hutchison, from Senator Stevens's Re-Election web site. Both Senators are voicing support for Uncle Ted. Not surprisingly, the PREVIOUS picture was a nice photo of Governor Palin with Senator Stevens--a coincidence, I am sure.

14. What--no snarky comments about Governor Sarah Palin?

Well.....Seeing that you're ASKING......After months maintaining a firm and unwavering silence on Senator Stevens's legal problems, the Palin Campaign was sorry to report that the Governor today badly sprained both her ankles (not unlike Mr. Bill Allen) in the rush to throw her beloved Uncle Ted under the bus: "The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. It was part of the culture of corruption I was elected to fight. And that fight must always move forward regardless of party or seniority or even past service. I'm confident Senator Stevens will do what's right for the people of Alaska: Go swim with the fishes."

Okay, I made up that part about swimming with the fishes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sorry Rocks--Or: Governor Palin & the Reverends Wright and Hagee

Earlier, in a moment when I let myself get carried away, I referred to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as "dumber than a box of rocks." Since then, there have been a world of happenings and events, all forcing me to re-think my position: I owe an apology to rocks and boxes the world over.

A shockingly large number of boxes . . .

What does it mean, that Governor Palin is substantially dumber than even an inanimate object? Just this: a box of rocks just sits there. It might not do any good, but at least it doesn't do any harm. For the GOP, would that Governor Palin had that level of competence, or even common sense. No such luck.

I have mentioned at length my outrage over Governor Palin's lies and hypocrisy--for example, over 'earmarks,' over her claim that Alaskans will 'build their own bridges" to no where, her "knowledge" of Russia based on geography instead of book learnin'--and if anyone (anyone? Please...I don't mind...Really!) wants to know more, I'm ready. But as we enter the final week of the Presidential campaign, Governor Palin has surprised even me at how she is rouged and ready to rogue, even to the extent she's willing to damage Senator McCain's Presidential ambitions.

. . . and rocks all insisted on presenting responsible, opposing points of view.

Clothes-gate (the fact that Governor Palin, Hockey Mom married to Joe Six-pack has her wardrobe bought for her from Neiman Marcus and Saks--but that's okay, because AFTER the campaign, those clothes will be given to 'charity'--oh please) and Trooper-gate (Governor Palin claiming the report on her actions trying to get an ex-brother-in-law fired completely vindicated her--when the report did just the opposite) would be bad enough in and of themselves--but there's more.

I stand second to none (that I am aware of) in the anger and contempt I hold for George HW Bush (not that you care, but his actions in the Iran-Contra scandal, the invasion of Panama, his despicable campaign against Governor Dukakis, and his denial of Gulf War Syndrome illness of vets from that war feature prominently). However, I recall during one of the early debates between Governor Dukakis and then VP Bush, members of the opposing political party were allowed to ask the best, most snarky questions they could think of.

Former President George HW Bush. Even though I do say something almost nice about him, I still hate the guy.

The Democrats' lead off hitter was Robert Strauss (I think it was Strauss--I could be wrong), and this was his question: "Vice President Bush, can you name a policy where you disagreed with President Reagan?" Vice President Bush put on his game face (and he had a mean game face--I never thought he was a 'wimp') and said "I COULD give you an example of a policy where I disagree with President Reagan--but I won't." VP Bush went on to rant/explain that loyalty was an important value in his family, and he didn't go around disagreeing willy nilly for kicks (I may be paraphrasing that last part).

No doubt that many old people (ie my age) will point out that President Reagan was very popular at that time--despite having an administration racked with scandal and corruption--and VP Bush needed to staple himself firmly on Reagan's coattails, if Bush was going to have any hope of becoming president. However, during his eight years as Vice President, Bush kept both himself and his staff on the Reagan straight and narrow--despite MANY opportunities to jump the rails when a Reagan policy jumped the shark. One last example--a shameful practice of the Reagan White House was to order all the Presidential helicopters to be constantly revved up as high as possible, without actually lifting off. That way, President Reagan could pretend that he couldn't hear any shouted questions from reporters. After VP Bush became President Bush, at one of President-elect Bush's first press conferences, Bush announced that the White House helicopters would no longer do that, with the President running away from shouted questions--that behavior was 'unseemingly' for the President of the United States. If those childish tricks were embarrassing to President Bush, surely they were embarrassing to Vice President Bush as well. But so far as I know, even after he was safely President, George HW Bush stayed a good soldier to President Reagan.

Contrast that behavior with Governor Sub-Box of Rocks. It's one thing to be kidding--but not really kidding--at the GOP Convention about how Governor Palin is going to 'convince' Senator McCain to drill in ANWR (Ha ha); but something else altogether when Senator McCain is trying to win over the moderate middle--and Governor Palin jumps off message to talk about an amendment to the federal constitution to block same-sex marriage.

Governor Sarah Palin. When she looks dumb, that's not a disguise.

Now, NONE of the four candidates are advocating for same-sex marriage. And those people who are homophobic to the point they need the 28th Amendment to our Constitution to provide "Thou Shalt Not be Gay and Married," those folks are already voting for Senator McCain, because that don't vote for "that one." But there are lots of people up for grabs who are concerned that a McCain administration might be more interested in cultural wars, than say the fact that the US stock market has lost 40% of its value, or $8.33 trillion USD, in the past 12 months. Economic conservatives and non-stupid people can see 21st century America has bigger fish to fry than theological debates of Adam and Eve and Steve.

But that's not even the worst that Sarah Palin has done. For reasons known only to Governor Palin and her god, Governor Palin is upset that Senator McCain has decided that criticism of Senator Obama's former minister, the Reverend Jeremiah 'God Damn America!' Wright is out of bounds. Shouldn't America hear a battery of attack ads, about how Senator Obama was loosely affiliated with a religious nut? Why WOULDN'T Senator John "Did I tell you about Bill Ayers?" McCain want to do that? Because such an attack would be unseemingly? Uh huh.

Here's my personal opinion (armed with which you can get a small coffee at Starbucks, plus three dollars). Unlike Governor Palin (and pretty much all boxes of rocks), Senator McCain knows that people who live in stained glass houses shouldn't throw religious screwball accusations. Here's what I mean: when in the state capitol, Governor Palin attends the Juneau Christian Center. Last year, the Reverend John Hagee spoke at the Center, bringing his own version of extra-biblical crazy to the True Believers of Juneau. How whacked is the Reverend Hagee?

The Reverand John Hagee. Does he kiss his mother with that dirty mouth? Wikipedia does not say.

A crazed homophobe even among homophobes, in 2006 the Reverend claimed Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans because "that Monday," a "homosexual parade" had been planned (No doubt the parade route included circling the Mississippi home of then GOP Senate President Trent Lott, also destroyed in the storm). As for Islam, in an interview on National Public Radio, the Reverend Hagee said "those who live by the Qur'an have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews...it teaches that very clearly."

There was also a storm of controversy over the Reverend Hagee insisting the Roman Catholic Church was the "Great Whore" mentioned in the Christian Bible's Revelation of St. John. Still, in May 2008, Mr. William A. Donohue, the President of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, took Senator McCain's Presidential campaign to task for accepting an endorsement by someone so openly anti-Catholic. While Senator McCain broke all ties with the Reverend Hagee, the Reverend Hagee responded by apologizing to Mr. Donohue, and repudiated several of his previous opinions.

Ms. Deborah Kerr. One of my favorites, and not just because she's hot enough to blister paint. Ms. Marni Nixon had to sign a contract, promising never to reveal that she sang for Ms. Kerr in "The King & I." Ms. Kerr then promptly told anyone and everyone who would listen, to the detriment of Ms. Kerr's own career. When asked why, Ms. Kerr said "I didn't sign no [expletive] contract."

John Hagee also reads a reference to 'fishers' and 'hunters' and the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, meaning that to facilitate Christ's second coming, 'Jews' are urged to return to "Palestine" with positive motivation (the fishers), like Mr. Theodor Herzl and Zionism and with negative motivation, the 'hunters' ie anti-Semitic attacks and the Shoah. That said, John Hagee Ministries has donated $8.5 million USD, to help resettle Soviet Jews in Israel, and the San Antonio B'nai B'rith Council awarded Pastor Hagee with its "Humanitarian of the Year" award.

Nevertheless, you'd think a vice president, of all people, would at least know enough to play follow the damn leader, if not stay away from Compare the Religious Crazies. But I think that's the problem: for Governor Palin--like the Reverend Hagee--it will always be news to her that her views of god and the world are not embraced by America.

But what does she care; She's on a mission from god.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why I Don't Care About Gay Marriage -- And You Shouldn't Either

I wasn't going to write about gay and lesbian marriage--and not just because no one cares what I think about same-sex marriage (no one really cares what I think about anything, so you knew THAT wasn't it). No, I have personal reasons for not wanting to write about this issue: Bad memories. Lots of bad memories.

Protect Marriage! After all, it worked for the dodo, passenger pigeons--and spilt milk.

Still, according to the powers that be at Yahoo, the California Culture War over their Ballot Measure 8 (BM 8 -- pun intended) has heated beyond the boiling point (if any physics or chemistry hard ons have their noses out of joint, just pretend the 'boiling' is under considerable pressure, so according to Boyle's Law, the temperature is in fact higher than the usual boiling point). In November, Californians can vote to overturn a decision of their state supreme court that held preventing same-sex marriage violates the California Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under California law. The argument in favor of Measure 8 is that traditional marriage will be destroyed, if anyone other than one 'man' and one 'woman' can marry.

Well--it's time for me to come out of the intellectual closet (so to speak). I've got news for you all: that ship has already done sailed. In the immortal almost words of the sitting Governor of the great state of California: "Hasta la vista, baby homophobe." Why? Because first, marriage as an institution was officially 'destroyed' over sixty years ago. And second, no matter what happens with the voting on Ballot Measure 8, California is going to have same-sex marriages. End of story. Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even if Ballot Measure 8 passes, same-sex marriages will be bok.

If you care, the trigger man who killed the marriage fantasy is the U.S. federal Constitution, specifically article IV, section 1. That section reads "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State." For the proponents of Ballot Measure 8, that means "D'OH!"

Article IV, section 1 is the full faith & credit clause, and has been hot source of litigation lo these many years. In recent times (meaning the latter half-ish of the 20th century), that clause was the problem and solution for one of the bitterest culture wars that our nation has seen: what exactly does a married couple have to prove in court, before they are allowed to divorce? That culture battle (in my personal opinion) was second only to the struggles over racial and gender discrimination.

This culture war over divorce started, as most wars do, over a simple economic issue. In the Great State of Nevada, a group of men had dropped large amounts of money building hotels, hoping to lure people with more money than sense to visit the Silver State, and leave behind their surplus capital. Success eluded Nevada's promoters, and bills started coming due. Unfortunately for the hoteliers, their 'bankers' were the kind of people who took defaults 'poy-son-al,' as they said back in the day. So, something had to happen. Soon. Nevada needed to offer something really fabulous to get America to come there and spend money----or people were going to get hurt. But what? More exploitation of fake Native American Culture? Not even close.

At that time, America was still shaking off both the trauma from the first World War and a few bad economic shake ups. Nevertheless, a new generation of grifters, grafters, and miscellaneous slimeball fixers would have everyone believe that America was ready to stand tall and proud--especially as we were the only industrial nation whose economy had not been bombed back to the stone age. There was serious money to be made, but first some changes needed to happen to the American psyche. In the 19th century, Yankee (and Dixie as well) values centered on thrift and self-reliance: a good American only bought something if they couldn't make it themselves. And if you didn't have the money to pay cash on the barrel, chances were you didn't really need it in the first place. In a world of cheap bastards, every American strove mightily to be the cheapest and bastardest. All well & good--but a lousy base from whence to build a consumer society.

Enter the evil genius of Advertising. In short order, American 'values' were turned on their head: thrift and self reliance was out, credit and consumer goods were in. If you want to see a good cultural example of this change, watch some episodes of the old Jackie Gleason, Art Carney television program 'The Honeymooners.' Most of that show takes place in Ralph Cramden's (Jackie Gleason) apartment, a real crappy place.

The Honeymooners. Ralph Cramdem may have been mocked for representing out-dated values -- but he did get with Audrey Meadows.

A frequent theme of the show was wife Alice Cramden's (Audrey Meadows) complaints about their quality of life. Ralph defended his frugality (okay--cheap bastardness) by bragging how they had 'financial security' ie ninety dollars in the bank. Ed Norton (Art Carney), on the other hand, lived in an apartment downstairs from Ralph, but the times when the story line moved to the Norton apartment, the difference was striking. Art Carney's character had a cornucopia of consumer goods: a record player that could also record, high quality kitchen appliances, nice furnishings--even the wall decorations and lighting were in sharp contrast to the bleak and dingy Cramden abode. Nevertheless, the show implied that Art Carney's job as a sewer worker and Jackie Gleason's as a bus driver had them both making roughly the same amount of money. The difference was that Ed Norton bought his consumer goods 'on credit,' which (according to Ralph Cramden) caused 'headaches' for Norton--because every week, money was taken out of Norton's paycheck to pay for that stuff. Ralph, not having bought anything on credit, had no such headaches. Of course, the Cramdens were completely miserable pretty much all the time, as opposed to the Nortons, who having abandoned 'traditional' American values ie they bought stuff on credit, were having a gay (no pun intended) ol' time.

The message America sent to itself was "stop being miserable. Buy stuff. You deserve to be happy." Be happy--it was a revolutionary concept, alien to tight-fisted population of recent immigrants and frontierspeople (sic). Heady stuff.

So far so good. But, what was making Americans unhappy, besides not buying piles of crap? Well, ever since God got all pissy with Adam and Eve about eating apples, and Adam tried to weasel out by pinning the blame on Eve, marriages were bad news for lots of people. 'Traditional' marriages were strong (meaning long lasting), not so much because the couples were thrilled to be together, but because having a unit consisting of a 'homemaker' and a 'breadwinner' was an economic necessity. Being happy together was pretty much beside the point. However, in an industrial economy, the economic ties on marriage begin to disappear, leaving only the social bounds. In a word: what God (as opposed to Mammon) had joined together, let no man put asunder. That's why back in the day, divorce not only carried a social stigma (the children of broken homes was a social, as opposed to an architectual, phenomena), but carried serious legal baggage as well. Specifically, legal divorce was possible only with a judicial finding of 'fault' by one party--and that was what we call in the legal game "a big fat, hairy deal." If the wife was found "at fault" for the break up of the marriage, most states prohibited a court from awarding spousal support--a serious economic penalty at a time when women's roles in the workplace were marginal at best. Consequently, divorce trials were morality plays of joint burning humiliation. A Finding of Fault needed more than evidence that one party was unfaithful (that means "gettin' busy" with someone else, kids). The "innocent" party had to suffer some physical distress (beyond emotional distress) because of the affair. Finally, proof of fault usually required testimony of witnesses--like from private dectectives who peeped in windows or examining hotel sheets for telltale stains. Ugly stuff. An attorney once told me he read an old Oregon case, where a judge was so disgusted with the behavior of BOTH the husband and wife, the judge refused to find anyone at fault, and denied their petition for divorce.

Clearly, a need was there--if only some civic minded jurisdiction would be willing to make a pile of money fulfilling that need. Enter: Nevada!

What does an American court need to enter a decree of divorce? In a word: jurisdiction over the parties. I can't walk over to my local Portland, Oregon state court, and file a lawsuit against my high school EX-FRIENDS over the mean things they said about me at our recent class reunion in California. Those folks are not Oregon residents, so Oregon courts cannot issue a binding judgment against them. In general, state courts only have jurisdiction over residents, or people with a certain level of business and contact with that state.

Mr. Benjamin Siegel. He did more damage to the instution of marriage in America than a gross of same-sex marriage partisans. But he did dress really nice.

As for what constitutes a 'resident,' in most states, to establish residency for the purpose of having the ability to use the state court system (ie jurisidiction) you need to live in that state between six months and a year. But not in Nevada! The good people in the Nevada legislature decided that if half of a couple lived in the Silver State for SIX WEEKS, Nevada would have legal jurisdiction over not only husband and wife, but also the marriage as well (provided the other half of the couple agreed to Nevada's jurisdiction).

So what? you may ask. Here's what: if Nevada had jurisdiction over Mr. Adam, Ms. Eve, and their marriage, then Adam and Eve could get divorced under the laws of Nevada. And what did it take to get divorced in Nevada? Nevada became the first 'no-fault' divorce state. That means the divorce trial would go something like this:

Judge: "Mr. Adam, are you telling this court there are irreconcible differences between you and Mrs. Eve that have led to irreparable damage to your marriage?"
Adam: Yes.
Judge: Mrs. Eve, do you solemnly swear there are irreconciable differences between you and Mr. Adam that have let to irreparable damage to your marriage?
Eve: I do.
Judge: By the power invested in me by the Great State of Nevada, I pronounce you DIVORCED. You may now kiss whoever you damn well please.

Did this nefarious scheme to get unhappy people to plop down good money for a month and a half hotel stay, enjoy the varied attractions of life in Reno or Vegas, and then leave as a happily divorced ex-couple, actually work? Like gangbusters, to coin a phrase. But before you start thinking badly about Nevada sneakiness, Nevada is hardly unique in the hallowed halls of opportunism. For example, you might want to ask why Wyoming is the 'Equality State.' In 1869, Wyoming territory became the first American state/territory to allow women to vote, just because they felt so strongly about women's rights. Uh huh. Actually, Wyoming needed lots more folks to move there, before they could become a state. So just like Mars in those terrible 1950s sci fi movies: Wyoming needs women! The promise of universal sufferage proved a pretty good draw.

So, here we are: Adam and Eve live in say Virginia. They decide the marriage thing isn't working out. Adam, he spends six weeks in Nevada (and drops a pile of money there as well), then hops a train back home with a piece of paper that says DIVORCED. For the people of the Great Commonwealth of Virginia, that was bad. But it got worse: Adam, freshly rid of Eve, decided to marry Lilith. Would Virginia not only recognize a 'quickee Nevada divorce' (I'm not making that term up) breaking the bonds of a VIRGINIA marriage for no reason, but also then be forced to recognize a NEW marriage? Not bloody likely. I mean, Sic Semper Tyrannis (Virginia's state motto) and all, but that was just too much. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the concensus of American state courts was: 'SCREW YOU, NEVADA!'

Lilith, painted by John Collier in 1892. You know that this is 'art' and not 'porno,' because it's over 100 years old.

Now, for Nevada, that was bad. I mean, six weeks in Reno was loads of fun & great for the sinuses and all--but that wasn't going to get Adam married to Lilith back home in Virginia. And if Adam couldn't get Lilith, Adam wouldn't be coming to Nevada. Time to call in the big dogs, Nevada.

After finding a Nevada resident who could read good, Nevada marched in the federal court system and pointed out that full faith & credit given to JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS of every other state MEANS full faith & credit for ALL judicial proceedings--including Nevada judicial proceedings that granted divorces. The gauntlet was thrown! America then responded in two ways. First and foremost, there was the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth over the sanctity of marriage, the need to preserve marriage as an institution, marriage as a bedrock for our civilization, God hates people who get 'no-fault' divorces...all the same crap that's now used to attack same-sex marriage today. The better argument, though, was that the Nevada divorces were not really 'judicial proceedings.' Returning to the earlier example, Adam and Eve's marriage in Virginia meant that Virginia retained jurisdiction of the marriage. The good people of the Commonwealth of Virginia used their state political process to both define what makes a valid marriage, and what it takes to dissolve that marriage. So if Virginia wanted her citizens to stay both married and bloody miserable, that was Virgina's perogative. A six week vacation in Reno should not be enough to erase Virginia's decision to take an interest in defing and preserving marriage.

A pretty good argument--but no cigar. In 1942, the US Supreme Court in Williams v. North Carolina, 317 US 287 (1942) ordered the state of North Carolina to honor a Nevada no-fault divorce, based on the full faith & credit clause, allowing Mr. Williams to marry the Lilith of his dreams.

Ms. Elizabeth Taylor. I have no idea what her views are on same-sex marriage, but she sure knows her onions about divorce.

So, if Americans could get a divorce judgment for any reason (or even no reason) in Nevada, and that judgment was good everywhere, what does that mean for states who wanted to make divorce hard to get? It means those stringent divorce laws become meaningless--except for the people who couldn't afford to go to Nevada. But 'sucks to be poor' has always been a deep seated, fundamental American value. Nevertheless, the handwriting was on the wall, and the handwritng said "Mene Mene Tekel u-Sorry Charlie!" By 1983, every state but South Dakota and New York had adopted Nevada's no-fault rule for divorce. In 1985, South Dakota finally enacted no-fault divorce, leaving only New York with a watered down version of fault-based requirement for divorce.

But even with everyone having the same basic requirements (or lack thereof) for divorce, family law litigation around full faith and credit is still cooking up a storm. For example, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), a 1980 federal statute, tried to keep non-custodial parents from snatching their own kids, running to the courts of another state, and grabbing a conflicting judgment for child custody. Following passage of the PKPA, a proposed state statute called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), set clear guidelines as to which of several competing states should have jurisdiction in deciding matters of child custody. To date, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the UCCJEA, meaning in virtually the entire nation, there is a clear answer as to what state court has jurisidiction to resolve any disputes over child custody, visitation, and support.

What does all this have to do with same-sex marriage? Given the chain of court cases following Williams v. North Carolina, if one state (or even a jurisdiction) allows for same-sex marriage, that marriage must be recognized everywhere else in America. A couple cannot be married only in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California, but not married anywhere else. And if the parties to same-sex marriages are themselves divorced and have kids, there is a body of law that dictates who has what rights where--regardless of one man and one woman, or any combination thereof. So if those fiesty states that allow same-sex marriage want to provoke a constitutional crisis, they can. But do they? Big Time, as Dick Cheney would say.

Look at Massachusetts. In 2003, their Supreme Judicial Court held that preventing same-sex marriages violated the state constitution, opening the door for gay marriage. But that door stopped opening in 2006, when the Supreme Judicial Court upheld a 1913 statute that prohibited non-residents from getting married in Massachusetts, if that marriage would be void in their home state. So, same-sex couples could get married--but only if they were Massachusetts residents. Bad news, same-sex marrying types--NOT! After five years of failed voter initiatives and legislative hijinks, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill on July 31 2008, repealing that 1913 statute--meaning that anyone who wants to can go to Massachusetts and get a same-sex marriage, recognized as a public act (or judicial proceeding--you pick) not only in Massachusetts, but now everywhere else.

But let's say (just for poops & giggles), Californians this November do pass their Ballot Measure 8, and California no longer recognizes same-sex marriage. Even assuming every same-sex marriage in California is then voided, what would happen if all those couples hopped a plane to the Commonwealth of the Bay State, got married, and caught the red eye back home? WHOOPS! NOW they're married.

Ms. Annette Benning and an unidentified man, plotting to destroy marriage -- and then pin it on the gay and lesbian rights movement!

The only thing opponents of same sex marriage can do is have the nation adopt an amendment to the federal constitution, banning same sex marriage. How easy is that? Without going into specifics, the last amendment to the federal constitution was ratified in 1992--some silly amendment about timing of legislators' pay raises. Before that, the 26th Amendment (giving 18 year olds the vote) was ratified in 1971. And before that, the 25th Amendment (clarifying Presidental succession) was ratified in 1967. Amending the federal constitution is not something that happens real regular (just ask your grandmother about the ERA).

So here's where we are. Since 1942, marriages can be dissolved for no reason, and states who don't like it can't stop it. Today, roughly half of all US marriages end in divorce. Dennis Rodman marries Carmen Electra--for ten days. Britney Spears marries Jason Allen Alexander for 55 hours. By any objective measure, 'marriage' as an institution has already been destroyed by no-fault divorce. Any and all damage our nation and culture can suffer from 'ruining' marriage as an institution--either from same-sex marriage or whatever else--that's already happened.

But even if all that whole sordid history of no-fault divorce had not happened, and different-sex marriage retained all its value and power from the good ol' days when people who hated each other stayed together and just drank themselves to death, how exactly how would allowing couples of the same sex marry damage heterosexual marriage? Does anyone oppose gay marriage, because they think they personally might accidently marry someone of the same gender? No, they are afraid that the other people--the STUPID PEOPLE--will suddenly start marrying the same sex with abandon. And that would be 'bad.' (See previous post: "Dumb People Ruin Everything").

So------that's why I am not getting all worked up about California's Ballot Measure 8: No matter how hard you try or how much you care, you're going to have same-sex peoples getting married and living in California.

* * * * *

I began my long march through the history of divorce, by alluding to the fact that I still carry some painful baggage on this issue. Now, a normal person who's a two time loser at matrimony (cough cough) might be expected to be skittish on all things marital. But that's not my problem. No, my pain runs deeper.

The year is 1988, and I'm a second year law student, living la vida jurisprudence and lovin' it. I'm taking the long Constitutional Law class, and enjoy it to the point that there are audible groans all over the class every time I raise my hand. But then came Bad Day at Full Faith and Credit Rock. The professor gave a brief background on Williams v. North Carolina, and some wisenheimer had to ask what the heck difference it made to a state if a couple got a no-fault Nevada divorce, and then married someone else. On behalf of the forces of truth, justice, and historical accuracy, I then tried to explain WHY a state would have an interest in making people who hated each other stay married--a principle I did not believe in, because it's (in a word) wacked. While not technically a violation of the Mark Twain Rule ("Never argue with an idiot: people watching might get confused which one of you is the idiot"), there was no doubt just who was the class idiot that day.

On the plus side, after that awful day, I pretty much stopped talking in that class--which I guess was good news for everyone else.

But let me tell you: fifty years from now, there will be Constitutional Law classes talking about same-sex marriage and the full faith and credit clause, and some joker sitting in the back will say 'What the heck is the state interest in keeping gays and lesbians from marrying? Does anyone really think they're going to accidentally marry someone of the wrong sex? I mean, after the wedding and all the rice is thrown and the little brothers all get drunk and puke at the reception, the couple gets to the hotel--will one guy say 'What the hell--You're a DUDE?' and the other guy says 'What? You mean YOU'RE a dude? OH NO! And now it's TOO LATE! Not even an annulment can save us, because our dream of a nice church wedding is shattered forever!"

Dramatization of law school nerd -- only more fashionably dressed.

And everybody will laugh. I pray to the cowboy buddha that the class nerd-o just laughs with everyone else, and doesn't try to explain the social and political importance of an institution where over half end in divorce in less than five years. Sometimes we learn from other peoples' mistakes--and sometimes, we're the other people.

But we digress.

Plagiarized Fiction: Why I Eat Don’t Regular at the Same Place

I had picked a bad night to go to Jimmy’s, the up and coming nightspot down the street from my office. The food was terrible, but so was the food everywhere else. “It’s because of the war,” everyone said. And why not? Show me something in 1944 that wasn’t the way it was “because of the war.” Now, a cynic might point out that prior to the war, restaurant food in Los Angeles wasn’t anything to write home about either. Bowls of prewar chicken soup, where the chicken was just an idle and unfounded rumour, certainly didn’t get any less chickeny just because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Screw Bill O'Reilly (metaphorically speaking, of course). The real Papa Bear is Mr. Raymond Chandler.

As a matter of plain fact, that self-same cynic wouldn’t be far wrong by pointing out the only real change to restaurant fare since the war, was that enterprising proprietors charged an extra two bits for everything—and got all morally indignant if anyone noticed. But I’m not a cynic; mainly because in the circles I travel, it’s an awfully fine line between “cynic” and “subversive.”

Jimmy’s place was crowded, loud, and getting louder. I don’t like loud places, and neither does Bob, the guy I was having dinner with. Bob hates noisy places more than I do, but he hates paying for his own meals worst of all. I was paying.

I’m Johnny Dalmas, a private investigator. What do I investigate? Whoever and whatever comes through the door of my office with money attached to it. You know that radio program, “Have Gun, Will Travel”? Me—I travel, gun or no. Which is why I was paying for Bob’s dinner. Bob is a good person for people in my line of work to know, because Bob knows lots of people—and more importantly, lots of people know him. He gets things done: a fixer who either puts fixes in or takes them out. Only not in the corridors of power, where most the real fixers, grafters, and hard money boys make both their mark and their scratch. Bob is some kind of a labor guy; he is deliberately vague on the details. He’s so vague, I can’t even be sure his name really is “Bob,” not that it matters. My rolodex lists him as “Bob the Labor Guy,” he comes when I call, and can get me information and stuff that no one else can. That’s the kind of guy I’m happy to buy meals for.

We have dinner once a week or so, and I like to think it’s because we enjoy each other’s company—even though I always pay. Still, I’ve seen Bob brush off lots bigger fish than I’ll ever be, so there has to be some other reason he sees me, above and beyond the buck and a half I drop for his dinner and beer. Life is funny that way.

That night, I didn’t have anything particularly pressing. My plate was full with domestic cases: two wives angry at their husbands, and three husbands suspicious of their wives. Not exactly cases of the century, but following all of them for the next week or so would keep me in eating money. So my dinner with Bob was going to be a social occasion. Or it would have, except Jimmy’s was plenty noisy and more crowded than I’d ever seen it.

There was a big banner stretched across the wall, reading Welcome Class of . . . something or other. Lots of loud talking, loud laughter, back slapping—I really hate that stuff. Someone had started shouted above the din about “Professor Know It All, who knew all.” Bob and I were sitting at the bar, wondering if a table was going to open up, or if we should just give up, and go somewhere else. We hadn’t decided fully, when a chunky, red faced man plopped down beside us. He was upset about something, and wanted us to notice. I tried my best not to notice, but Red Face would not be denied. “That pompous bastard,” he cursed. I didn’t say anything, probably because from where I sat, pretty much the entire crowd more or less fit that description. No reason for me to spend time dicing degrees of bastardness and pomposity.

Ms. Ava Gardner. She does not appear in this story.

Not Bob, though. For some reason, Bob leaned across me and said to the red faced man “Which one?”
“Professor Know It All. He does this every time. I hate the guy.”
“Who is he, and what does he do?” Bob asked, sounding genuinely interested.
“George,” Red Face said, gesturing with his chin. “That guy in the white shirt. He always sets himself up as “Professor,” and challenges the rest of us to ask him questions. He claims he can’t be stumped.”
“Do you want to stump him?”
The chunky man’s face got redder. “Do you want to know what I really want? Someone to show him just what’s what. Someone who can shut him up good, so we never have to listen to him again.”

Bob started to smile that very little smile of his—he never was a big smiler. “Would it be worth ten bucks for you shut him up? I mean really shut him up?” Behind us, we could hear Professor George Know it All start to pontificate: “The largest of all animals on the planet we call earth is the Blue Whale. A mammal, and not a fish, this denizen of the deep lives on virtually microscopic plankton and algaes.” Our new friend, just at the sound of the Professor’s voice, his face screwed up as though his last drink was losing ground on an impacted wisdom tooth. Pieces of paper and pencils were handed out through the club, for people to write questions for the Professor. A self-appointed emcee of sorts had started reading questions aloud to the Professor.

“The single greatest Shakespearean play, in terms of structure and drama is not Macbeth, as most people assume, but Richard III. . .” The red faced man cringed again.
“Did you really say ten bucks?” he asked Bob.
“I need five for expenses,” Bob told him, sipping on his beer—actually his third. Bob is a fast drinker, especially when he wasn’t paying.
“While most people consider George Washington, truly the Father of our Country, as our greatest president, or Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator—what few people realize are the many and valued contributions of our twelfth President, Mr. James K. Polk!”

Ms. Cyd Charisse. She does not appear either, which is a shame, because the story would be much better if she had.

Bob flinched. "Some 'professor'," he mumbled.
“You really think you can shut him up for ten bucks? Forever?” Red Face sounded hopeful.
“With five of that as expenses. I’m pretty sure, but I can’t promise it. You know that.”
The Professor had started a new question. “Of the five great races identified by Sir Charles Darwin, by far the most numerous and prolific are the Chinese . . .”
“If I give you the money, and it does shut George up, will I be able to take credit for whatever it is you do?”
“I don’t see why not—if you want to.” Bob was nothing if not accommodating.
“Barkeep!” shouted our new-found friend, loud enough to get Jimmy’s attention. “Get me two fives for this ten!”

With a fin in his pocket, and the other sitting on the bar, Bob took a piece of paper, briefly licked the end of a pencil, and told Mr. Red Face to start telling me his life story. I shrugged, bought another round of beers. Seeing that Red Face’s money would be paying for our dinner—maybe--I thought picking up the beer was the least I could do.
The redness in Red Face’s face was starting to fade, leaving him more an unhealthy pasty color. He didn’t look any better, but he started to look happier, especially as he drank more of the beer I paid for. “My name’s Charles Smith, and I’m not drunk enough for you to call me ‘Charlie.’ For the last eighteen years, I’ve run an office importing some stuff and exporting other stuff. The work is maddeningly dull, and the corruption endemic, but I make a reasonable living. I guess that’s what really counts.” Meanwhile, Bob had made a few notes on a piece of paper, and was staring off into space. Charles continued. “Of course, with the war and all, rubber, tin, copper—all that’s supposed to be impossible to get.”
“Hey Johnny—does the phrase ‘three way’ have a hyphen in it?” Bob interupted.
“How should I know? Does it matter?” I said, and turning back to my new friend Charles, and to needle Bob a little, asked him if he had any union troubles.
“Oh, I got troubles all the time with everyone. But those union goons, they’re not any better or worse than anyone else.”
Meanwhile, Professor Know it All was just hitting his stride: “Bolivia, who has the capitol of La Paz, is one of the chief exporters of tin in the world today. Paraguay, her neighbor to the east, is an important source of beef in the world economy . . .”

Writing fake Raymond Chandler stories without even
a token appearance by Ms. Lauren Bacall is a class
B felony in twelve states.

Bob cringed. “East—Uh huh.” He was still scribbling notes. “Johnny, how do you spell ‘orangutan’?”
“Spell what? What are you writing?”
“Don’t worry about it—just spell ‘orangutan’ for me.” I gave it my best guess, and turned back to Charles.
“I’ve heard those dock workers can get kind of tough,” I said, but Bob wasn’t paying attention.
“You’re not kidding,” Charles coughed after taking to big a swallow of beer. “But if you treat them right, you’ll get what you pay for. But only if you first let them know who’s boss.” Bob snorted.
"Hey Johnny,” he asked, “which do you think makes a more compelling victim: an African elephant, or an Indian elephant?”
I set down my beer. “What are you asking me now?”
“Which makes a more compelling victim, an African or an Indian elephant?”
“A victim of what?” Charles asked, which was what I was thinking, but didn’t want to ask.
“Don’t worry about it—just tell me what you think.”
I took a sip of beer, and pondered. “Well, elephant victims are not the kind of stock in trade that come across my desk, but if I had to pick---I’d guess a baby Indian elephant, because they have those little floppy ears.”
Bob looked relieved. “Of course. I should have known that. Oh, do you know if it’s called ‘round the world’ or ‘around the world’?”
Charles looked puzzled. “What’s called what?”
“I don’t think I matters,” I said, quickly putting my oar in troubled waters, “but ‘round the world’ has a better ring.”
“That’s what I thought too. Thanks.”
Charles was starting to look worried. “What is he doing?” he said, gesturing at Bob.
“Honestly? I have no idea,” I said, “but then again, I seldom do. So Charles, got any big plans after the war?”
Charles looked down at his feet. “Well, I do have this one idea, but everyone I tell it to looks at me like I was crazy.”
“Excuse me Johnny,” Bob interrupted again. “What’s that called when you bite on a guy’s ass while giving him a reach around? A dirty sanches?”
Charles started to stand up. “Wait---what are you doing?”
I took a swallow of beer. “No, that’s a rusty trombone. A dirty sanchez is when . .”
“What are you guys doing to me?” Charles interrupted.
I shrugged. “I’m not doing anything; I'm just the swamper on this route.”
Bob smiled his little smile. “I’m just trying to shut Professor Know It All up, like you asked me to. Maybe for good. We’ll see.”
Charles wasn’t convinced. “But…but…you’re not going to embarrass me, are you?”
“What? No, never Charles,” Bob tried to assure him, “I said you could take the credit, if you wanted to. But you don’t have to. You can always remain anonymous. Johnny, what animal species is more disgusting: marsupials or amphibians?”
FYI -- This is not a rusty trombone.

I thought for a moment. “I actually think amphibians are, but marsupials sound far worse.”
Bob looked thoughtful, then nodded slowly. “Wow, I had no idea you were so good at this kind of thing,” he said, and went back to writing.
“Um…” Charles said, “I think I’d prefer to be anonymous on this, if you don’t mind.”
“It’s your show,” Bob said, starting to re-copy his note in the plainest block lettering he could muster, “but it’s not too late to change your mind.”
“I won’t,” said Charles, and taking another large swallow of beer, and this time not coughing.
“I think that’s probably wise,” I offered, even though no one asked.
Bob took his now finished note, and carefully folded it into thirds with the five dollar bill inside. He caught the eye of one of the busboys, and directed the kid to hand the note to the volunteer emcee, who was still reading questions for Professor Know It All.
“Let’s go someplace else,” Bob said to me, after the busboy left.
“You don’t want to stay to hear your question asked?”
“Not particularly.”
I turned back to Charles. “You want to come with us, or do you want to stay?”
“I don’t want to go with you guys. I think . . . I think I’ll kind of stay here.”

Baby Indian Elephant. Offered as a public service, allowing you to judge for yourself.

“Suit yourself,” Bob shrugged.
By now, I saw the emcee had the note Bob had written, and with a deft move, the five disappeared into the emcee’s pocket, unbeknownst to Professor Know it All.

Bob and I were just heading out the door, when I heard the Emcee start to say “Professor, I have a new question for you. Which of the following, if any, should disqualify a man from holding high elected office. First, engaging in multiple three ways with . . .” I didn’t get the rest of the question, because there was suddenly a lot of yelling, the sounds of glass breaking, and I think I heard a woman scream. But I couldn’t be sure.

Inspired by and for Hilltop High School Class of 1978 -- and written for someone who knows who they are.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why Sarah Palin is Dumber than a Box of Rocks . . .

. . . Or: Why You Don't need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

Look out kid
Don't matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don't try No Doz
Better stay away from those
That carry round a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don't need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows . . .
--Lyric no one in Generation Y would ever admit to recognizing

Oh, what a day it's has been, pals and gals. Now, just to see if you all were paying attention, what has been the most important happening, effecting the upcoming Presidential election? Was it the Dow Jones Industrial Average measure of the US stock market loses another 679 points on September 9, 2008, to close below 8,600 points for the first time in five years? Or that over the past 12 months, the US stock market has lost 40% of its value, or roughly $8.33 trillion USD? Was it the US federal government giving Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson $700 billion USD to do with what he wishes? Maybe it was the $85 billion USD promised in the federal seizure of AIG? Or the conservatorship to shore up Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with the Treasury Department's ability to pour money limited ONLY by the federal debt ceiling? Lots to choose from: there's Lehrman Brothers, the largest bankruptcy in US history. Or the government having to step in and massage the takeovers of Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns, and Washington Mutual.

How about the fact that most all those things happened in about a two month period?

Sorry—trick question: the biggest, most important event to come down the pike was Mr. Bill Ayers.

All over the country, Americans are turning to each other with one question on their lips: Who the hell is Bill Ayers? But for me and (at best) a few dozen other Fellow Travelers as were, we said something along the lines of "Oh Holy Sweet Baby Jesus! Please let them be talking about another Bill Ayers . . ."

I started writing this note with a brief history of Weatherman, how they became Weather Underground, and whether you do in fact need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Trust me—it was heady stuff. Then, I got to the really juicy parts: how I joined a clandestine revolutionary party thirty years ago (I'm younger than Mr. Ayers. His involvement happened forty years ago). How I had this giant bee in my bonnet over the fact that while America had stopped engaging in pointless and idiotic wars all over Southeast Asia, America was fighting pointless and idiotic wars all over Latin America.

Mr. Bill Ayers. As was . . .

Still to this day, I'm fascinated by that crap, writing blistering reviews on Amazon.com (it's free!) with a handful of other jerks, all of whom have too much time on their hands and could probably spend their time more effectively trying to get a girlfriend. But we digress.

After all, (in the immortal words of Gene Autry): So what? So what if Senator Obama was (or even GASP! still is) associated with Bill Ayers?

The Grand Old Party would have you believe that Senator Obama's hobnobbing with someone who is currently a college professor, but four decades ago worked with a group that were 'bombers' only in the broadest sense of the word, shows 'bad character.' Or 'bad judgment.' I would have you believe Senator Obama's association with Bill Ayers shows both 'good character' AND 'good judgment.' Heck, even Senator Obama claims to associate with Henry Kissinger—talk about your REAL bombers. I kid you not, my arguments were cogent to the bone. Unanswerable. Unassailable. Just like when I school those jerks on Amazon.

. . . and is now--the kind of guy you'd probably buy a used car from.

Then, I just poo-poo canned (How long are we going to be living with internet filters?) the whole thing, just like in the old Bill Murray routine on SNL, when he made his annual Oscar predictions. He'd stare at his posted list of best supporting actor/actress, and say 'You know--I have given this a lotta thought. A whole lotta of thought. And I've decided. . . that no one cares." And he'd tear off all the names for both categories, throwing them on the floor. Similarly, just how 'bad' of a bad character would a politician have to have, before my concerns about their private life outweighed my concern about the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 40% of its value in a year's time?

For those of you who do not know me, in the circles I travel (with all due modesty), I am renowned for my talents in the inappropriate, grotesque, and downright unseemingly turn of phrase. The Internet's so called 'filters' are my meat (no pun intended).

Who is less equipped to deal with the current financial crisis? A box of rocks . . .

So I am going to ask you to trust me when I tell you that to interest me in a 'character' issue, multiple lines would have to be crossed. I'm not talking gender and frequency here: I'm talking groups, species, uneven parallel bars, bizarre costumes, teeter totters, even foreign substances—all at the same time--before I would say something other than "Yeah yeah yeah. But what about this fiscal crisis we're in? What's your plan for that?"

. . . or Governor Sarah Palin?

Governor Palin has shown virtually every time she opens her mouth that she is both shameless and in way over her head. In other words: dumber than a box of rocks. Senator McCain, on the other hand, has shown many times through his long career of public service that he is not dumber than a box of rocks. Which is worse, because the only thing worse than a candidate for political office being a low grade moron, is a candidate for political office banking on the fact that I am a low grade moron.

Senator McCain has gamboled his little all on the fact that just enough American voters will remain dazzled by Governor Palin's idiocy and outraged by the forty years past actions of an acquaintance of Senator Obama. He should be ashamed of himself, because he clearly does know better.

And you don't need a weatherman to know from whence that ill wind blows.

The Other America of Sarah Palin

While watching the October 2 2008 Vice Presidential Debate, I found myself thinking about Michael Harrington and his landmark book "The Other America." For Mr. Harrington, 1960's America was in danger of dividing in two: a nation of rich, and a nation of poor. Nearly fifty years later, America is dividing again, but along different lines: one nation is concerned about the future, while the other is proud to be a flock of morons. Welcome to Sarah Palin's America.

Michael Harrington. In some ways, it's just as well he is dead, because if he had lived to see what's happening now, it'd have killed him.

The one moment that told you everything you needed to know about this "debate" was when Senator Joe Biden briefly took Governor Palin to task for wholly ignoring moderator and interlocutor Gwen Ifill's question. Governor Palin then responded to Ms. Ifill's next question by saying that she was not going to answer questions in a way that Senator Biden or even the moderator may want, 'because she didn't have to.' And Sarah was right. For anyone troubled in anyway by the banal, nonsensical, and pretty much wholly unresponsive nature of her answers—frankly, the Governor couldn't care less. She wasn't talking to you.

For Governor Palin's America, 'it doesn't matter if human activity causes climate change—we just need to fight it.' That's also the America where Governor Palin can spend an entire debate talking about 1) drilling for oil to make America 'energy independent,' 2) increasing government regulation to punish 'predatory lenders' who created the current crisis on Wall Street, and 3) getting government 'out of the way' so private industry can grow—regardless of what question she is asked, or noticing any contradiction between points two and three, or how nonsensical point one is.

'Say it ain't so, Joe. There you go again, looking backwards,' Governor Palin said, apropos of nothing. But that's Sarah Palin: She looks FORWARD, not BACK. Why? Because looking forward means never having to say you're sorry. Sadly, it also means you won't be responsible for anything either.

'Shoeless' Joe Jackson. Not even Mr. Jackson could say THAT wasn't so.

When the New York Times points out the inconsistencies and (frankly) the lies from the McCain-Palin Campaign, the Forward Looking McCain apparachniki can simply dismiss any criticism by claiming that the Times is 'in the tank' for Senator Obama. Anyone who actually READS the Times may be outraged—but who cares? The people in Governor Palin's America (having never read the paper) know the Times is part of the Unrepresentative Liberal Eastern Elitist Media Establishment ie in the tank for Obama.

What really matters is Governor Palin's sharp ability to read a teleprompter (making her Charlie McCarthy to the teleprompter's Edgar Bergan), coupled with a willingness to promise her people they not only can have it all, they DESERVE to have it all. If Sarah Palin talks in meaningless and vacuous platitudes that lack the depth and substance of an average soda pop commercial—so much the better.

Sarah Palin (left) with teleprompter.

So what if I explode with rage to the point of a brain aneurysm. Who cares? I see Governor Palin as the least qualified vice presidential candidate in the history, who prides herself in leaping at the chance to be Number Two without giving the matter any consideration ie 'blinking.' I'm not going to like her, regardless of what she says. But the Other America, they see someone who is just like them: charming, unaffected, not contaminated by the corruption of Washington. Someone who is 'real.' So what if she can't tell Ms. Courric the name of any newspaper or magazine she reads, or explain why Alaska's geographic location gives her 'foreign policy experience'? Lots of people have trouble answering questions off the cuff, as Ms. Palin's defenders will defend. And the fact that Governor Palin refuses to face any real press interviews, that doesn't make her unqualified to be President. Look at the horrible attacks from the press on her poor pregnant daughter! What matters is that Governor Palin is going to bring some of that good ol' fashioned Wasilla Main Street common sense to Washington—whatever that means.

Humpty Dumpty, in Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking Glass,' insisted that he could make any word mean what he wanted the word to mean, because it was 'a question of who was master—that's all.' Humpty may have been the master of all things linguistic, but it took the Grand Old Party to master history. For example, Senator McCain says that the next President is not going to have to worry about how we got into Iraq; the President is going to have to worry about how we're going to get out, while preserving peace with honour (to coin a phrase). John McCain doesn't bother dismissing the past as yesterday's news. Why should he, when making up his own reality—just by Looking Forward--is so much easier?

Which America do you belong to? Here's a hint: if you think the debacle that is the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can come to any kind of resolution wholly independent of how they started, then you're one of the flock of morons. Sorry.

Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, trying to decide who's master--that's all.

Never looking backward also allows Sarah Palin, a conservative Republican, denounce Washington 'partisan bickering' with a clear conscience. The fact her political party used Ms. Paula Jones in a wholly frivolous civil lawsuit as a political attack on the sitting President, and later impeached the President for the first time in the history of our nation (over nothing) is irrelevant. (Quick: what were the charges for President Clinton's impeachment? If you guessed it was because of his relationship with Ms. Monica Lewinsky, you're wrong). For Governor Palin, though, it's like it never happened.

What else never happened? Within days of President Bush officially taking office, the air waves were filled on how the outgoing Clinton team had sabotaged the White House, extensively damaging the wiring and physical structure of the building. The stories of misconduct were so severe, an outraged Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga) demanded an investigation, with criminal indictments of the miscreants—until an embarrassed Congressman Barr discovered none of the stories were true.

Congressman Bob Barr, one of the first to introduce the expression "D'OH!" to political parlance.

Or there's the fiasco of Bill Frist's Senate, with the unprecedented exclusion of Democrats. For example, the GOP majority scheduled hearings, refusing to tell Democrats the times and location. That was the same GOP Congress notorious for its unwillingness to deal with any issues of substance, and yet brought the government to a halt over the Terri Schavio fiasco.

Then there's the party of Senator Orin Hatch (Hypocrite--UT), who spent the entire Clinton administration trying to prevent the appointment of any federal judges. During the Bush II administration, Senator Hatch became furious if a Senator raised an objection to some of the unqualified partisan hacks President Bush nominated to the federal bench. And guess which political party destroyed the Department of Justice, to the point that Ms. Monica Goodling (armed with a grant of immunity) testified how it was her job to break the law ensuring 'non-political' hirees were political enough. The entire upper echelon of the Department of Justice, from Alberto Gonzales on down, has resigned in disgrace, all for illegal partisan political activity. So much for McCain-Palin being the "party of change."

Senator Orin Hatch. "Remember kids-- Don't do as I say OR do!"

Come on now: how can you be the 'Party of change,' when you've held the Presidency twenty of the last twenty-eight years, and at least one (if not both) branches of Congress eighteen out of the last twenty years? Here's a hint: saying "Say it ain't so Joe and there you go again looking backwards," that's not going to cut it.

You say toe-may-to, I say ta-mat-o as the song goes: isn't one person's 'inexperience' really just another person's 'breath of fresh air.' In the end, isn't this just all a difference of opinion? Can't we all just get along? In a word: no.

Of course, I am Chicken Little, kvetching about how the sky is falling. But don't tell me that the Democrats in general and Bill Clinton is particular have 'done the same thing.' No one, at least not since President Andrew Jackson, has bled the nation the way George W. Bush's party has in the name of partisanship. What we're seeing now is qualitatively different, and not just in the halls of government.

Mr. Harrington's concern about the division of American society has come true with a vengeance. Mr. Bill Bishop has carefully documented in his book, 'The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded Americans is Tearing Us Apart" (Houghton Mifflin 2008), how our mobile society has replicated our political divisions as geographic divisions. Neighborhoods, formerly divided by race and class, are now further subdivided by background, education, political inclination, and social outlook: self described liberals live with liberals; conservatives with conservatives. And never the twain need meet.

The division of America has led to America's electoral college system embracing the philosophy of Mr. Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders American football club: Just win, baby.

Mr. Al Davis. "Just win Florida, Virgina, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri . . . Oh, you know what I mean, baby!"

By way of illustration: on the Monday following the Friday where the US Congress pledged a $700 billion USD line of credit to prop up a failing Wall Street, the American stock market at one point plunges 800 points, then rallies, but still the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes under the 10,000 point mark—for the first time in over four years. Senator McCain and Sarah Palin respond by insisting Senator Obama has too many 'character issues' to be President. Why? Because Moron America can understand 'character' easier than the collapse of the economy. After all, 'good character' doesn't cost anything, as opposed to the $700 billion USD bailout that may not even be enough.

The stakes, both nationally and internationally, are simply too high to dick around pandering to the shallow and stupid (to coin another phrase).

Here's what I mean. President Ronald Reagan entered the Presidency a federal debt that was already so large that just thinking about it made conservative economists bleed freely from every orifice. Eight years later, President Reagan left a debt greater than that of all his predecessors combined. But Reagan's record didn't last long. President George H.W. Bush in four years left a federal debt greater than all of HIS predecessors combined. Under President Clinton, the debt briefly leveled off, with the occasional balancing of the budget. Now, President George W. Bush has shattered all previous debt records, coupled with an 'off budget' $560 billion USD (and counting) Iraq war, a worsening war in Afghanistan, and now a $700 billion USD bail out to Wall Street.

Any political candidate who says the words 'tax cut' (unless it's preceded by 'forget about any'), that candidate is dangerously irresponsible. The bigger the promise of less taxes, the greater the level of dishonesty.

And that's still not the worst. Because of man-made climate change, the planet is facing the sixth global extinction, with 50% percent of the life forms on earth extinct by the end of the 21sr century. Chanting 'Drill, Baby Drill!'—that's not helping Governor Palin's America does have within its grasp the ability to turn our planet as barren and uninhabitable as Mars.

Last Presidential candidate of DoDo Party. "Drill Baby Drill!" was their campaign slogan.

Senator Biden, Gwen Ifill, and the America's willfully ignorant will not hold Governor Palin accountable. They won't even make her answer the questions. It's high time the Other Other America, the America that is not Sarah Palin's, starts not only demanding answers, but the right answers. As President Bush so eloquently warned us: "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me again, won't get fooled again."

Ida Lupino. She has nothing to do with this article, but I was feeling depressed.