Monday, November 11, 2013


My oldest daughter and her husband have been introducing their children and foster children to old movies. The kids have seen Bringing Up Baby, Captain Blood, Errol Flynn's Robin Hood and a variety of other movies including Rear Window. The twelve and the nine-year old have been known to discuss whether Humphrey Bogart's best role was in The Maltese Falcon or The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. They are getting a solid dose of cultural literacy. That makes me especially proud since I've always been a movie lover. That fascination with movies rubbed off on my girls though on some more than others. I remember one night when my youngest daughter was staying at my apartment. She was lying on the floor channel surfing at light speed with the remote suddenly she passes a film I recognized. I said, "Wait! Wait! Go back!" She was already several channels on. We finally got back to the station and there was Groucho Marx boarding the ocean liner for America in A Night at the Opera. "Let's watch this."

"But, Dad, it's on Old Guy movie! It's not even in color!"

"O.k. Let's just watch this scene and then you can change the channel."
What came next, of course, was the stateroom scene. By its end my daughter was literally rolling around on the floor she was laughing so hard.

"O.k. You can change the channel now."

She paused a little to catch her breath and then said, "It's o.k. We can watch this for a little longer."

We finished the movie.

Not too long afterward Vicky announced that she wanted to see Young Frankenstein. I told her that we definitely could but first she had to watch Frankenstein (1931), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). She again objected that they were "Old Guy movies" and not in color but I told her that unless she watched those movies she wouldn't get all the in-jokes in Young Frankenstein. Vicky reluctantly agreed. We watched all three of the original Frankenstein movies and then Young Frankenstein. A couple of months later Vicky came home one night and announced that she'd been at a sleep-over at a friend's house over the last weekend. They rented Young Frankenstein.

"And, Dad," she said proudly, "I got to explain all the in-jokes."

The 1950s and 1960s were something of a golden age for old movies. The movie studios dumped their libraries on the nascent television industry wholesale. I lived on the outskirts of the broadcast area for the New York stations so I got not only the three main Connecticut stations, WTIC from Hartford, WHNB the UHF channel in New Britain and WNHC in New Haven. Additionally we could pull in WCBS, WNBC, WABC, WNEW, WOR, and WPIX from New York. On Friday and Saturday nights when I didn't need to be up for school I got to stay up late to watch The Late Show introduced by Leroy Anderson's The Syncopated Clock. And on Saturday nights there were old horror movies like those Frankenstein films hilariously hosted by Zacherley.
Besides those late movies there was other fare. In those early years of the 1950s WTIC particularly ran old movies during the mornings from about 9:00 to 11:00. Usually the movies for the week had a theme which might be comedies or westerns or something similar. One day during a week in which the station ran comedies I was ill. My mother let me lie on the sofa in the living room and watch television. I fell in love right then and there. I didn't know it until many years later but the movie was At the Circus with Groucho, Chico and Harpo saving a circus by utterly insane means. The image that has stayed with me to this day is of Harpo hacking away the moorings of the floating band shell and of the the symphony orchestra playing furiously while floating out to sea from Margaret Dumont's estate. Thereafter I often checked the TV Guide to see what movies were going to be on in the morning. If they were showing a Marx or Ritz Brothers film I might be sick that morning but able to go to school in the afternoon.

In Waterbury, Connecticut where I grew up we had two great movie palaces in the heart of the downtown shopping area, The Lowe's Palace on the south side of East Main Street and the State a block down East Main on the North side of the street. They usually ran double features of first run movies. We also had some lesser movie houses. There was The Hamilton several miles down East Main near the park of the same name and there was The Tower which took it's name from the tower on the railroad station about a mile away. The railroad station was designed by Charles McKim of the noted architectural firm of McKim, Meade and (Sanford) White as a red brick, utilitarian structure in the tradition of Henry Hobson Richardson and similar late 19th Century American architects. Unfortunately the president of of the New York, New Have and Hartford Railroad a century ago had sent his wife off on a grand tour of Europe and she was home and just too too enamored of the iconic campanile of Florence. She insisted that the railroad
 station in Waterbury must have a full scale replica. Charles McKIm disowned the project and the station got its tower.

Anyway, now that that digression is over The Tower Theatre sat on Watertown Avenue, a north-south road connecting Waterbury with the equally industrial Oakville and the more bucolic Watertown to the northwest. It ran beside the Naugatuck River which was mostly the open sewer for the brass and copper mills astride it and the rubber factories down stream in the cities closer to Long Island Sound. Starting about the time I was 5-years old I got dropped off at the entrance to The Tower on Saturdays with a dollar. The Tower ran second run films which meant that they'd made their money in the first run theatres and were now available on the cheap which is why that dollar covered my admission and some candy and/or popcorn for the movie. I don't remember all the movies I saw there but I do remember seeing the original Godzilla there. The only time that my mother refused to take me there was when there was a double bill of The Real Life of Jesse James and The Incredible Shrinking Man. For some reason I haven't fathomed really she objected to The Incredible Shrinking Man. Mom was brought up in a revivalist Methodist Church by her Republican mother and I suspect that she'd read some right-wing diatribe against the movie which ends on the lovely note of this man, adversely affected my radiation (in 1950s America there could be nothing wrong with nuclear bombs or energy) shrinking into a unity with the universe. Anyway, I know I saw other movies there and have a vague recollection of cartoons which preceded all movies in those days and at least one movie with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. But the Tower's location was its downfall. In August, 1956 when the Naugatuck Valley flooded wiping out the Waterman pen factory in Shelton, Connecticut, the waters also wiped out The Tower Theatre.

Thereafter, I spent my Saturdays and often Sunday afternoons at either the State or the Lowe's Palace. I saw Roger Corman and Hammer Films horror movies mostly at the State but I remember seeing Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder and Vertigo there too. I can't say that at 9-years old I got all of Vertigo but I vividly remembered the scene on the San Francisco street when James Stewart has just seen Kim Novak whom he'd thought dead and chases her down. And I remembered the final scene in the bell tower of the mission. In fact, it was so vivid to me that in 1960 when we did a cross-country road trip and found ourselves on an early summer evening at the very mission where the film was shot, I had to climb that bell tower though I wouldn't get close to the edge. I'm not even sure that I connected Vertigo with the Alfred Hitchcock I knew from his television show. But the next year when North by Northwest came out I certainly did connect. I sat through that movie at least twice one Saturday and went back again and watched it 2 or 3 times. In those days I could sit through multiple showings for the same admission price.
One of the oddities of the State Theatre was that the woman who sat in the ticket booth, a kiosk recessed about half way between the sidewalk and the theatre's multiple entrance doors, never believed that I was under 12 and, therefore, entitled to the child's admission price. Odder still because this woman was a member of the church we attended and knew that I was in Sunday School classes. Still, I was taller than most children my age. I took to carrying my birth certificate and sliding it along with my $1.25 through the arched slot in the window of her ticket booth every week. After months of this I decided one Saturday that she must know who I was and my age by now so I just slid in the money. She immediately berated me for trying to scam her by claiming that I was only 12-years old. I got out the birth certificate and slid it to her, got a nasty look and my child-price ticket and always took out my birth certificate thereafter. Until my 13th birthday at which point I slid in the adult admission of $2.50, said, "One adult, please," and left. I've never been sure whether she felt vindicated that her two or three years of harassment had finally made an honest customer out of me or that she accepted that I'd been entitled to that child's admission price all along.

The Hamilton survived quite a while. I remember seeing a couple episodes of a Lone Ranger and a Commando Cody serial there. In the mid-1960s it became an art movie house. I saw Marcello Mastroianni in both Divorce, Italian Style and Marriage, Italian Style there and later, Fellini's Juliette of the Spirits. The last I knew it had descended to running porn.

The State Theatre is gone now except for the plaque commemorating the fact that Waterbury native, Rosalind Russell, had the world premiere of her movie, Wonderful Town, there and just as much a ghost as The Tower Theatre whose location is now part of a highway on-ramp. The Lowe's remains and has been refurbished as a venue for concerts but downtown Waterbury is itself a ghost now. James Thurber's Walter Mitty fantasizing on the drive to Waterbury from his country home in the north part of Fairfield County would have no reason to go there, not even to the unsuccessful shopping mall that now occupies the site of the Scoville Brass Company complex that covered dozens of city blocks running for more than a mile along East Main Street about half a mile from the now-gone State.

What conjures up these memories is more than the movies my grandchildren are watching. It's continuity. Most people I converse with regardless of their ages have a limited view of the world. They exist in an ever-changing  present. If they have a sense of the past at all it's a past that starts sometime about the year they entered junior high school. There's a vague sense that the world existed before that but most people seem to feel that it has little relevance to them. In those cases where they acknowledge some connection to the past it's more often to a fictionalized, sanitized and simplified past that justifies and reinforces their views of the present. Their pasts are as flat and terse and uncomplicated as a bumper sticker.

My mother drew me into the world of her movies in which Clark Gable and Gary Cooper were gods and Bette Davis was an ideal. That led me into a world that deepened and widened for me as I saw that the directors, Hitchcock, John Houston, Billy Wilder, George Stevens, John Ford and later Fredweico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick and Richard Lester were the true gods. Now my grandchildren are being drawn into a culture that extends back beyond my lifetime with a context that will give them a sense of the past from which those movies emerged.
So that's why I rather like it that my grandchildren are getting something of the same experience though I wish they had a movie palace to attend and even a grumpy, angry ticket woman to deal with.

At some point in the future I'll write about drive-in movies something that has essentially ceased to exist.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Republicans all have some common birth defects: they were born without conscience, any sense of shame or irony. Take for example two of the most craven self-promoters in the stable of the lunatic ultra-right-wing, Sen. Ted Cruz and former Governor Sarah Palin. Both are embarrassments even to some supporters of Republican neo-fascism. Palin left her post as Alaska governor in order to cash in on her undeserved and inexplicable fame following her stint as John McCain's running mate and chief reason he was unfit for the presidency. Palin  is such an embarrassment that she even got P. J. O'Rourke, the apologist that the right-wing trotted out to justify the pardon for Scooter Libby, to opine that she's actually working for the Democrats. Cruz is the fanatic who's helped to engineer the government shut down following his faux filibuster in order to press his claims to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Before I proceed let me offer some background that you might have missed if you haven't read my older posts here. My father was a radio operator in 8th Air Force B-17s flying missions over Nazi Germany in 1943 and 1944. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his actions that saved his entire crew when they were shot down over the North Sea and a second Purple Heart when he was wounded leaping out of his burning plane when it was shot down near Toulouse in August, 1944. I don't have any information about any medals his brother, my Uncle Eddy, might have earned. Eddy was a tank mechanic and driver with the 3rd Army. He survived the North African and Sicilian Campaigns, the relief of Bastogne and was at the liberation of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Both my father and uncle put their lives on the line to save the world from fascism.

There was a time in American history when the Republican Party had a cohort of people who could reasonably be called American Conservatives. They represented "the party of Lincoln" that believed in justice for all, that every person was an asset to this nation if he or she adhered to the principles of the nation and that we all lived in a community that must care for one another. Abraham Lincoln is, of course, the great paradigm for such Republicans but so are, for all their faults, Theodore Roosevelt and Elihu Root, as well as Margaret Chase Smith, Millicent Fenwick, Pete McCloskey, Elliot Richardson, William Ruckleshaus and Lincoln Chaffee. However, over the course of the last fifty years those Republicans have been systematically purged to make room for the Klansmen, Neo-Nazis, John Birchers, CHRISTIAN fundamentalists and other fanatics who represent the American neo-fascism for which Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin represent a kind of appalling apotheosis. The Republican Party today, high and low, far-right and ultra-right (there is no more "moderate" or "left" on the party) represents exactly that fascism in Italy and Germany that my Dad and uncle along with millions of "the greatest generation" fought against.

Thus we have the Orwellian irony of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin fronting a demonstration at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. They recruited a group of Veterans few of whom served in World War II, a few performers costumed as Continental Minutemen to move barricades that block access to the Memorial. Screaming, "Tear down this wall," as if they were Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall they moved portable fencing. Utterly lost on Palin, Cruz and their recruited extras was the fact that were it not for Cruz and the lunatic fringe that he and Palin represent there would be no barriers at any national park or memorial.

I've noted before that Cruz and his fellow neo-fascists are an appallingly perfect example of the boy who murders his parents and the pleads for mercy because he's an orphan. Ted Cruz has already, proudly claimed to be a chief architect of the government shut down that closed that Memorial. Palin is simply a venal, cash and carry hooker who will do anything to keep the money flowing for her shopping sprees yet both did more to erect the barriers they trotted out to "tear down" today (Sunday, October 13, 2013) than anyone outside the Republican Party. Cruz and Palin represent a move from cognitive dissonance to psychopathology and a sociopathy that, had they not the notoriety of elective office, would see them where they rightly belong: behind locked doors in an institution for the criminally insane.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Amid the shut down of the Federal government some of the sleaziest, neo-fascist proponents of decimating our government showed up to be cheered by those who uphold "traditional American values". The parade of invited speakers included convicted criminal Edwin Meese III, former members of Congress Allen West, Jim DeMint and Rick Santorum, and current members of Congress Senators Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, and Marco Rubio, and Representatives Michelle Bachmann, Paul Ryan and Louis Gomert, certifiable lunatics, Glenn Beck and Gary Bauer and a host of con men.

Of course the pretense that these people uphold anything of value beggars Orwell's NewSpeak but it is worth asking what "values" these ultra-right-wing bastards uphold.

If anything can be called a "first principle" for these "Values Voters" it certainly is that they are "Pro-Life" but opposed to maintaining that life. As Rep. Barney Frank crystallized it 25 years ago, "Republicans believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth." To these "Values Voters" every abortion except their own deformed ideology must be prohibited. Yet when it comes to feeding and supporting the children of America these "Values Voters" are as certain that any government support creates an unhealthy "dependency". Children, even those born of rape and incest or whose birth kills their mothers, must come into the world because it its the will of their (thank you, George Carlin) "big, imaginary friend in the sky". Once born it would be cruel and wrong to provide those children subject to such great solicitude while in the womb with a drop of government supported milk, food or medical treatment. Providing those children with the benefits of safe housing, or such horrors as staple from the WIC or SNAP (Food Stamp) Programs is as horrible and anathema as the abortions they opposed.

 They know for a fact despite having every single bit of actual evidence to the contrary that women cannot conceive a child if she the victim of a "legitimate rape". According to the "Values Voters" those women who become pregnant as the result of a rape are simply liars. "They wanted it" and now, in some species of buyers remorse are crying rape simply to avoid the consequences and victimize some poor, defrauded male.

And, of course, in the Bizarro alternative universe of these "Values Voters" no father would ever even think of raping his daughter. No mother would turn her head and think that something like a nice house in a classy suburb is fair compensation for the continuing rape of her 3-year old child.

These "Values Voters" are certain that the Constitution must be upheld especially the Second Amendment which give all the Adam Lanzas everywhere in this vast and great land the right to murder as many children as there are rounds in his assault rifles. The lives of 20 children - after all they were already born - and 6 teachers who were simply sucking off the government teat is a small price to pay to preserve the Constitutional right to "keep and bear" weapons that have no useful purpose except the killing of other human beings and which can fire without reloading more bullets than are necessary anywhere but on the field of battle.

To these "Values Voters" the children that it would be murder to abort are "dropped" here in the United States by "illegal" immigrants as "anchor babies". Just as the Second Amendment to the Constitution is sacrosanct, a god-given right, the utterly misguided Fourteenth Amendment must be repealed to stem the "wetback" tide that seeks to destroy America by making us choose between instructions in English or Spanish when using an ATM.

And, of course, these "Values Voters" insist that insuring that everyone in this nation has access to health care is a socialist, fifth column attack meant to destroy the nation. Once again, those babies who must be born because they find the will of their god a convenient excuse for saying it must be so should not have health care when they are ill nor should their mothers have access to medical treatment if they are ill. Certainly their "god" already forbids that those mothers should have access to birth control that might subvert that Moloch they worship from having more babies to devour with birth defects, disease or, as I've already noted, the bullets from those weapons that they have the right to "keep and bear".

The "Values Voters" at this summit are adamantly opposed to the immanent destruction of the American way of life by "entitlements". They prefer not to mention that the "entitlements" they oppose are mainly Social Security and Medicare that have brought the horrors of income and medical care to the elderly, disabled, widows and orphans. We must never be so confused as to think that subsidies to immensely profitable oil companies, tax deductions for second, third or twelfth homes, or tax deductions for closing factories in the United States and taking those jobs to other countries are those destructive "entitlements". No! Those things are the ways in which a noble, free market society rewards "job creators". Only when the government seeks to reduce the need and suffering of the poor, the sick and the elderly are "entitlements" destructive to the nation.

The attendees and honored guests at this "Values Voters" Summit are desperate to have their marriages restored after all heterosexual marriages were destroyed in some imperceptible way by the marriages of even one same-sex couple. They are the last bastion against the "Gay Agenda" of recognizing that all Americans have equal rights, even the craven con men and women and lunatics at this summit.

Overwhelmingly these "Values Voters" are CHRISTIAN. True, they will tell you that they are "Judeo-Christian" and there are definitely Jewish attendees and even speakers who miss the irony of joining with these crypto-John Birchers. However, the majority of these "Values Voters" yearn for the day when their Jesus will return in glory. On that day either their Jewish friends become CHRISTIANS like themselves or be condemned to eternal suffering in hell fire. Then the "Judeo" part will conveniently disappear as one fig leaf no longer necessary. Of course, their Jesus is an strange, warped creature who is friend and defender of the moneychangers in the Temple, who believes that those loaves and fishes only foster dependency and who would pass by that man set upon by thieves and left for dead by the side of the road and jeer at the bleeding heart Samaritan who subverted their god's will by providing that poor man with health care. When the "Values Voters" read that their Jesus says, "Suffer the children to come unto me," they insist that he means that children should suffer.

And finally, I must say that a main reason why I am an atheist is that I believe that were there a good and just god we would not have to suffer or suffer from these "Values Voters". The other main reason I am an atheist is that the existence of these "Values Voters" is sufficient proof that no good and just god exists.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Terrorists hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 and tried to fly in back to Washington, D. C. Its target could have been the White House or the Capitol. We'll never know which because some selfless people crashed the airliner into a field on Shanksville, Pennsylvania before the fanatical hijackers could complete there horrible mission. Regardless of which target we know that the terrorist hijackers target was the government of the United States in an attempt to bring it to a halt.

Now, just over twelve years later, another group of fanatical terrorists has accomplished what Al Qaeda could not. The fact that the fanatical terrorists this time are the Republicans in the U. S. House of Representatives is both shameful and ironic. A group of lunatic ideologues and the craven partisans who hope to exploit their fanaticism have shut down the Federal government more completely and effectively than Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Kahlid Sheikh Mohammad could have hoped. Even worse they plot to set off a nuclear device to destroy not only the U. S. but the world economy by refusing to raise the Federal debt limit. Of course this time the terrorist fanatics such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul instead of a bevy of virgins in paradise expect that their reward for destroying the nation will be the presidency.

Perhaps some will say that likening the Republicans and their Frankenstein monster, the Tea Party, to the 9/11 terrorists is hyperbole. I don't think so. The object of the Al Qaeda fanatics and the Republican fanatics was the same: the destruction of America. The motives may differ and the means may be different but the object is the same.

I have an on-line friend who has drunk the right-wing Kool-Ade and with no sense of what he was actually promoting defended his neo-fascist fellow true-believers by suggesting that the U. S. government had to be torn down to build it up again. He suggested that the model was military training that destroys the individual to build him up stronger. He conveniently ignores the long history and the prevalence of PTSD and suicide amongst those subjected to that perverse kind of destruction.

Were that prescription to come from someone with a name that hinted of Arab, Persian, Russian or Chinese origin I think my friend would be hunkering down, reaching for his assault rifle and crying that America is under attack. He's willfully blind to the fact that the life of the nation is equally under attack when the terrorist uttering such madness is Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan or Mike Lee.

Perhaps these representatives and senators should be more likened to Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the terrorists who blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. After all those terrorists murdered Federal employees and pre-school children just as the Republican fanatics seek to do by cutting funding for the Food Stamp Program, Head Start and other supports that are essential to the health and welfare of millions of young children.

Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to liken these Republican fanatics to the Imperial Japanese army physicians who deliberately infected POWs with diseases and studied them as they died since they would withhold medical care from millions of Americans.

Hyperbole? No. The details differ. The effect is the same. It doesn't matter whether the individual Republicans' motives are ideology, a lunatic perversion of economic theory, psychotic delusion,  actual insanity, sociopathy or simply blind personal ambition. Ultimately we don't much care why McVeigh and Nichols or the Al Qaeda fanatics set about their horrible, deadly course. Their acts are what condemn them and it's the acts of the Republicans make them worth less than something that I'd scrape off the sole of my shoe.

Monday, October 7, 2013


If they weren't actually a criminal conspiracy attempting to destroy the nation the Republicans, the Grand Old Party, might be a great comedy team. Let's look at one example.

On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, the Republicans in the U. S. House of Representatives, bent on denying health care to millions of Americans refused to pass any continuing budget resolution that did not de-fund or delay implementation of the Health Care Reform Act shut down the better part of the Federal government. I say "the better part" because the military is still doing it somewhat dubious work of defending the nation by creating "collateral damage" that makes more enemies for America than it eliminates. For now, however, that necessary evil is not the topic of discussion. To return to the point, large swaths of the Federal government were closed on October 1st. The Not-So-Grand Old Party cut off funding for day care programs that allow parents to attend school and work. They cut off funding for Head Start programs that help children develop a healthy hunger for education. The Tea Party insured that Meals on Wheels wouldn't be throwing any tea parties for elderly people too old, poor and infirm to provide meals for themselves. The Republicans cut off funding for Unemployment Insurance programs for those put out of work by the Great Recession that those same Republicans worked diligently to create. Also among the programs closed by the House Republicans and their Tea Party lunatic fringe as they try to deny health care to their fellow Americans are the experimental cancer treatments for children financed by the National Institute of Health.

One might think that denying treatment to children with cancer would be a blot on the GOP's reputation as if one could see a new blot amid the tsunami of blots already washing over the Republicans. Certainly some neo-fascist publicity flack thought so because he trotted out a group of Republican House members costumed for the occassion in white lab coats to plead for reopening the NIH program that they'd just shut two days before. Out in front of the hypocrites was former nurse, North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers, weeping on cue for the poor children with cancer. Rep. Ellmers was not honest enough to say that she was wrong in shutting down the government in her fit of pique at being unable keep the majority of Americans from having health care. Honesty is something from which Republicans hide given that fates of Mitt Romney and Todd Aikin last year. Certainly children with cancer are a sympathetic group. Certainly most decent people would consider denying them treatment that might prolong or save their lives is the wrong choice. Yet what Rep. Ellmers and her colleagues demand that we forget is that she and they are responsible for that denial. Had Rep. Ellmers and her neo-fascist buddies not shut down the Federal government those children would be getting the treatment they needed.

The inescapable fact is that Rep. Ellmer and her GOP and Tea Party co-conspirators as most assuredly not "decent people". The crocodile tears Rep. Ellmer shed were for children disadvantaged by her own acts. The ultra-right-wing ideology to which Rep. Ellmers and her cabal adhere insists that everyone except the million- and billion-aires who farm government programs for profits are mooching off the system. When they are not trying to use the people they've hurt as a prop for some scam Rep. Ellmers would have you believe that those children and their parents should accept "personal responsibility" for their conditions. In the lunatic, neo-fascist ideology of the political right some foolish choice by those children or their parents caused their cancers just as poverty is a choice that millions make, that 47% that Mitt Romney condemned, simply to "suck from the government teat".  Cancer can't be caused by toxins spewed into the air and water by those paragons that Republicans call "job creators". That's why shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency is a good thing to Rep. Ellmers. Those "job creators" would never do such a thing! And what if one or more of those children with cancer needing experimental treatment is some "anchor baby" "dropped" by some "wet back" solely to fleece the American public of the hefty cost of treatment? Surely Rep. Ellmers and her gang of thugs aren't weeping for those children.

No, Rep. Ellmers and her GOP colleagues have no claim to decency and no claim whatever to serious consideration when they exploit children their actions endangered for some sleazy, partisan gain. They would, in fact, be hilariously funny if they weren't actually able to hold the Federal government hostage to their perverse view of the world.

What I find most bizarre is that Rep. Ellmers was a nurse. She was trained in a profession in which empathy for the suffering of others is the hallmark. Given her performance since entering politics we can be grateful that there's one less nurse who might murder patients rather than save them. Unfortunately she's now trying to give a lethal injection to our government and our economy. The fact is that Rep. Ellmers and her Republican and Tea Party co-conspirators are the cancer from which our nation must be cured.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


When the lunatic fringe meets unbridled presidential ambition we have the makings of danger, demagoguery and some fairly low comedy. Not long ago Senator Rand Paul (R-Snake Oil) stood on the Senate floor to filibuster against the drone strikes in the United States that he knew were not legal, not taking place and not even contemplated. He did, however, increase his standing with his supporters in the militia and survivalist movements who are already hunkering down against the day when “Black Helicopters” rise over the horizon and they need to remover their tinfoil hats and rise up against (take your pick) Sharia Law, the United Nations, “illegal” immigrants, the Zombie Apocalypse, etc.

Now we have Senator Ted Cruz (R-Self-Aggrandizement) speaking for over 21 hours against the Health Care Reform Act. He was engaging in what looked like a filibuster, sounded like a filibuster, was meant to remind the idiots and ideologues of the filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington but was most definitely not a filibuster. And in the great tradition of Republicans who have no idea what they are taking about Sen. Cruz read Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham without the slightest understanding that the book is about unreasoning dislike turning into appreciation once one tries those green eggs and ham.

But actually that is really the point. The frantic attempt to keep national healthcare from the American people is really driven by the certainty that the people will like their access to healthcare once they get past the fear-mongering of the neo-fascist  Republicans. Once the general population experiences healthcare reform they are going to see through the lies about nonsense like “death panels”, coercion and all the other boogey men that Republicans have claimed are lurking behind the curtains of every examining room.

Worse yet once people begin thinking well of the health reform they will recall all the nonsense that the Republicans have been peddling for the last four years and, I suspect, wonder what else they are lying about.

Of course we now have a perfect example of that old analogy of the boy who murders his parents and then pleads for mercy because he’s an orphan. Let me explain.

In 1993-94 when Bill and Hillary Clinton allied with Sen. Ted Kennedy were trying to bring healthcare reform to America, the Republican Think Tank, The Heritage Foundation, came up with an alternative to the universal health coverage that Kennedy and the Clintons were proposing. That alternative involved having private insurers provide insurance to individuals who would then be required to purchase health insurance. That Republican/Heritage Foundation proposal was used to help kill healthcare reform in the 1990s but it got picked up by the Republican governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, and instituted on the state level. The program worked reasonably well so Democrats, notably Barak Obama, decided that this Republican/Heritage Foundation plan might be the way forward to national healthcare.

We also have to point out now that the Republicans, for all their lip service about “big tents”, are really a top down, highly regimented organization. They demand absolute fealty to the party line and party principles. They keep even those rare Republican office holders with actual independent thoughts in a tightly regimented line with the threat that, should they stray, the party will field more compliant and less thoughtful candidates against them in primaries, fund those challengers to the hilt and bring the full weight of the Volkische Beobacter (aka Fox News) in to support those challengers, and bring out their fanatics from the various asylums and fundamentalist churches. This regimentation drove Olympia Snow out of the Senate and has resulted in the party change by Lincoln Chaffee among others.

Keeping that in mind back in 2009 the Republicans wheedled and mewled in negotiations over the healthcare reform bill. They constantly tantalized the Democrats and the Obama Administration with the possibility of a “bi-partisan” bill. Democrats, who are nowhere near so well organized and haven’t had any “top-down” organization since Lyndon Johnson left the White House, kept falling for the bait. The result was a compromise that delayed the law’s effect until after the 2012 presidential election. The Republicans bet that they would achieve their stated goal of making Barak Obama a one-term president. They figured that by unleashing the Frankenstein monster of the “Tea Party” they would take the White House, the Senate and kill healthcare reform for their buddies in the insurance industry. They got their wish. The law finally goes into full effect on January 1, 2014.

Their fear-mongering got them a slim majority in the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections. It also won them the real prize which was a large number of state legislatures and governorships so that they could gerrymander safe Republican districts through the 2020 elections.

Unfortunately, the Republicans, having rejected everything else that their first president, Abraham Lincoln, stood for forgot that most sublime of Lincoln’s observations: “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Some 53% of the population couldn’t be fooled in 2012 and their plan for killing healthcare reform died with Mitt Romney’s presidential ambitions.
Remember that aforementioned boy who wanted mercy as a orphan? Here we are, 4 years later. The Republican Plan A for taking control of the government they pretend to detest has gone down the drain. The Republican Plan B of getting the healthcare reform act declared un-Constitutional by their toadies in the Supreme Court also went south because even Chief Justice John Roberts couldn’t swallow that one. So now they come forth flailing about in a desperate attempt to defund or delay or otherwise kill healthcare reform by the same sort of terrorist tactics that might have sprung from the mind of similar fanatics like Osama bin Laden or Muhammad Atta. They cry, “The Democrats won’t compromise with us! Waaaaa!” The fact is that they got their compromise in 2009 and now are demanding a complete and unconditional surrender gussied up as “compromise”.

Into this lunacy steps Ted Cruz who doesn’t understand that Theodore Suess Geisel was a confirmed anti-fascist, a staunch Liberal who never wrote a word that supports Cruz’s courting of the ultra-right lunatic fringe. But then again discerning that would require of Sen. Cruz and his fellow "Tea Party" fanatics two qualities he and they both lacks and rejects: thought and understanding.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


So Vice-President Joseph Biden suggests that we go out and buy shotguns for self-defense. Even to me, an advocate for limitations on firearms ownership, that suggestion rings a little hollow and seems somewhat silly. Yet Mr. Biden is correct and is only repeating what gun advocates have often said in the past.

Last night I happened into a conversation between two on-line friends who are thoughtlessly right-wing and 2nd Amendment absolutists. They were deriding the Vice-President's comment not because it didn't ring true but because they thought the idea of using a shotgun as opposed to an assault rifle absurd.

Let's put this in perspective. Assault rifles like the M-16 or AK-47 clones fire high velocity bullets of .223 caliber and 7.62mm respectively. These cartridges are designed for combat at ranges from about 50 to 200 yards. They are not designed for close fighting in an interior space the size of a room in an average house. Firing such a weapon in a room of a home built in the last 50 to 60 years risks sending a stray bullet flying through drywall and insulation that offer little resistance into other rooms. The same is true for pistols although somewhat less so because their typical cartridges are of somewhat lower velocity and because they are designed for close combat. For those who would insist that an assault rifle is the better choice for home defense let me point out that, if memory serves, there has been more than one instance of a parent defending his home who killed his child in another room using such a rifle or a pistol. There have been many cases of children and adult bystanders shot inside their homes by gunfire from assault rifles and pistols fired outside the building. The penetration of the bullets proceeds exactly as designed for combat and takes lives at distance because shooters miss their intended targets.

The drawback to the pistol as to the rifle in a defensive situation is precisely that they fire relatively high velocity rounds one at a time and they must be aimed accurately, something that not everyone is equipped to do in the dark or low light, when roused suddenly from sleep and under stress.

On the other hand a shotgun, a 12, 16 or 20 gauge, loaded with #2 or #4 shot fires multiple projectiles in an expanding pattern. Each individual pellet can damage or even kill but they move at lower velocity and lose momentum very quickly when encountering even light resistance. Will a bleary eyed homeowner confronted with an intruder - already a very rare occurrence - inside his or her home in the dark be more likely to hit and disable that intruder with a single, high velocity bullet carefully aimed or with a pattern of projectiles covering a cone 1 or 2 feet in diameter? Further is that homeowner less likely to kill a family member in an adjacent room with a miss from the assault rifle or pistol than with a stray pellet from the shotgun blast?

I'm sure that someone is going to object that I'm advocating "bird shot" rather than buckshot and on that point the argument is murkier even in my mind. Buckshot is larger, heavier, more lethal and has more energy. There are also fewer buckshot pellets per shell. Buckshot, as the name implies is designed for killing deer that are the size of any male attacker. Let's say that you have the double barrel shotgun that Mr. Biden mentioned. There's no reason why the first barrel can't have a load of #4 shot and the second a load of buckshot. The very reason for a double barreled gun is that you have 2 shots immediately available. Double shotguns are typically used for flying game. The barrels usually are "choked" to give a wider dispersion of shot with the first barrel and a narrower with the second. The principle comes from practical experience of a bird flying up relatively close to the shooter and moving farther away at speed. You get a first wide shot and a second which is about as wide at a longer distance from the shooter. There's good reason to apply a similar principle to home defense. Firing a lot of smaller, lower energy shot at an invader certainly shows that you mean business. Unless your attacker is impervious to pain and determined he's likely to decide that you are not worth the trouble. Having a second barrel loaded with buckshot is deadly and available instantly with a second pull of the trigger. That certainly has the ability to deal with a determined attacker.

So why would the Vice-President recommend a double barrel shotgun? The word "reliability" springs to mind. There is not much that can go wrong with a double. Mechanically they are very simple and have few moving parts that can jam. They are easy to reload. The next most reliable and simple design is the pump action. The cartridge double gun is about 150 years old. Pump shotguns came along about 20 years later and are nearly as reliable while offering a magazine that holds from 4 to 8 shells. Should one opt for a pump gun why not load one or two #4 shot shells behind some containing buckshot for the same effect I suggested with the double? Ultimately Vice-President Biden is suggesting that one can defend oneself and family without an assault weapon using a very reliable, low-maintenance weapon that is adequately lethal to those it's aimed at and unlikely to be lethal to bystanders. If we still had sane people advocating for gun ownership that might seem a very reasonable idea.

Back in the 1970s before the paranoid and seriously disturbed took over the NRA and most of the firearms literature, once or twice a year one saw articles advocating shotguns as the ideal home defense weapon. More recently the literature has shifted toward assault weapons largely because they are a weapon in search of a justification for civilian ownership. The assault weapons advocates can't justify them for hunting. The serious target shooter is going to opt for a single shot or bolt action weapon. So what's your average lunatic militia member to do to preserve his favored weapon for that day when the Black Helicopters of the United Nations rise over his horizon to take away his tinfoil hat, his freedom and get him the correct dosage of anti-psychotics he really needs? Of course he's going to advocate that every home have an assault weapon for defense even if it is more likely to kill Granny or the baby sleeping in the next room. Just as Jim Cramer and Suze Orman get rich by giving the gullible questionable financial advice that makes money for the banks and brokers who back them so too the gun writers give bad advice to the gullible who live in unreasoning fear of improbable attacks because that makes money for the gun manufacturers who finance their paranoid fantasy world.

The net effect is that the Vice-President, improbable spokes person as he may be, is correct while my two on-line friends and the gun sellers are just far right.