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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chris Kyle: An Inhuman Interest Story
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan. on loan from Ari.)
     In all fairness, you have to give Clint Eastwood credit. For a man who lives a relatively quiet and private personal life, he always finds a way to get in the public eye. And it's a testament to his endurance and relevance, legitimate or otherwise, that he remains a political lightning rod for those on both sides of the Great Ideological Divide. After all, you show me one other 84 year-old director who's still directing movies let alone ones at the top of the box office that make people talk about them at the water cooler.
     And it's a crowning irony that Eastwood's newest effort, American Sniper, was directed by a man who'd once admitted in an interview decades ago that he hated guns. Yes, Dirty Harry and the Man With No Name who'd killed more fictional people than you can shake a .44 Magnum at, hated guns. Therefore, the old man who made a laughingstock of himself at the Republican National Convention almost two and a half years ago by yelling at an empty stool now finds himself in the spotlight yet again.
     Eastwood's box office-busting film should not be taken as a referendum on the legitimacy of the Iraq War (Eastwood, in fact, has publicly stated he hates war in all forms) but the manufactured controversy surrounding his film ought to be taken as a referendum on the enduring, virulent hatred and racism that has taken this country by storm ever since we elected a black man to run it in 2008.
     It's hard to understand why Eastwood chose Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper who'd bragged about killing 255 men, for his next opus. If he'd insisted on making a movie about a sniper, he could've chosen Marine gunnery sergeant Carl Hathcock, who'd had a horrendously high body count during Vietnam and was the template for Stephen Hunter's bestselling Bob Lee/Earl Swagger series of action novels. Vietnam, after all, while still controversial to some aging deadenders, recedes much further into American history and the Department of Defense and its predecessors had produced many other notable snipers going back to the Revolutionary War.
     Ergo, it's difficult to fathom why Eastwood chose Kyle, who was murdered at a Texas gun range in early 2013 by another military man suffering from PTSD. Nicknamed "The Devil of Ramadi", Kyle was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and was once credited with shooting a target from 2100 yards.
     But this isn't a book report and no man's life can be adequately summed up in one. Or a two hour-long movie, for that matter. Rather than a dry recitation of one person's achievements and capriciously awarded medals, what matters is how that person's life affected and continues to affect those who didn't even personally know him. And it's that willful ignorance that's produced the disturbing backlash aimed at Michael Moore over a clumsily-worded tweet and anyone who criticizes Kyle for his conduct in Iraq and elsewhere. Typically, many of the rape and death threats comes from right wing nut jobs and armchair snipers who have turned Eastwood's movie into a referendum on the justness of the Iraq War and the low value of brown-skinned human beings.
     And the fact is, Chris Kyle wasn't just the personification of "mission creep", he was what one could call ...
The Mission Creep
     Kyle wasn't shy about making his thoughts known about Iraqis. He once infamously wrote in his own memoir, "I hate the Goddamned savages. I couldn't give a flying fuck about the Iraqis." He also said he "loved" to kill and that it was "fun." Such a misanthropic and psychopathic attitude should alone have disqualified this man from being held up as an American hero and having his life glorified in a movie that seems bound for Oscar consideration. All things considered, it's a miracle this man even got a literary agent let alone a publisher to trowel out such filth.
     Such hateful statements alone should've invalidated the fetish that people of virtually all political persuasions harbor for those who wear military uniforms, regardless of where they'd served, not served or what they did or didn't do. Most disturbingly, even nearly 12 years after the most wrong-headed invasion and occupation in perhaps all American history, Iraq has never been tainted with nearly as much controversy as Vietnam. Therefore, the hatred and sociopathic bigotry of human monsters such as Chris Kyle, not to mention his murderous deeds, will similarly be shielded from any substantial and lasting criticism. And his needless and senseless murder on a Texas gun range only made him a martyr, thereby making him, at least for the moment, invulnerable to such comeuppance to the point where no one of any consequence even had the nerve to say, "Live by the sword..."
     And it isn't much of a stretch to say that Eastwood's and Kyle's fans happen to be the same ones that criticized African Americans this past summer, fall and winter for protesting having members of their own gunned down by so many mini Chris Kyles such as Darren Wilson and George Zimmerman. That would be the same libertarians who decry police abuse and overreach until they start killing dark-skinned people who "had it coming to them." Kyle himself bragged about, without substantiating it, killing looters (read: black people who "had it coming to them") in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, Kyle was an equal opportunity misanthrope. He also hated his own people.
     Killing in war is unfortunately an inevitable consequence. At most, it should not be glorified and ought to be looked at as a grim duty. Good men ought to be troubled by the taking of human life regardless of how justified it was (and only a simple-minded misanthrope such as Kyle would even posit in polite company that every single one of his 160 confirmed or 255 alleged kills were absolutely justified). If war is an incurable condition of Mankind placed there by God, then it's horrible for a reason, The death, decay, destruction, plague and poverty that comes in its wake serves as an ongoing, albeit unlearned, object lesson that these ought to be deterrents to doing this to our fellow human beings.
     But even more despicable than monsters such as Kyle who use a wrongheaded and corporately-driven military action such as Iraq as an excuse to release his own racist demons to kill the very people the Bush administration piously swore for six years to be protecting are the people who are jumping on the Kyle bandwagon. The people who are misinterpreting Michael Moore's original tweet as him calling snipers "cowardly" are themselves resorting to hateful insults and death threats from the safe anonymity of their Twitter and Disqus accounts.
     Despite the fruit salad he may have worn on his Navy uniform, Chris Kyle was the very definition of an idol with feet of clay. And those who are threatening his critics with rape and murder only further dishonor a man who already has a blood-spattered legacy as well as the innocent Iraqis that Kyle glorified in victimizing. As with Sarah Palin and so many other right wing idols with feet of clay, in Kyle they've found someone who mirrors and validates their own irrational, misguided and ignorant hatred and racism.
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Good Times at Pottersville, January 16, 2015
(A Brilliant at Breakfast exclusive.)

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Congressional Cassandras
     This shouldn't have come as any surprise to anyone who knows anything about the GOP.
     The nanosecond the "party of personal responsibility" found out they were going to dominate the entire legislative branch, the racism, insane demands and draconian legislation proposals began streaming out as raw sewage from a busted sewer line.
     The Republicans have shown they have about as much respect for democracy as the Nazis did the Weimar Republic that got them elected to power in 1933.
     No sooner than the votes were tallied in all their gerrymandered districts, we began hearing the President wouldn't be invited to the House chamber to deliver the State of the Union, a presidential tradition since 1790. We began hearing other rumors the GOP would then forbid President Obama from using Air Force One. And if they get their way, before poor Mr. Obama's public service career ends the Republicans will have him running the fucking country out of a broom closet in the Naval Observatory.
     But it can't be said the Democrats have been any great shakes, either. The looming budget bill, called a "chromnibus" by my senior Senator Elizabeth Warren, is not only a naked giveaway and massive Christmas present to Wall Street, it's being negotiated by so-called Democrats working in collusion with Republican lawmakers. It reads as if it was crafted by a multiply-cloned Max Baucus come back from the weeds with a vengeance.
     To give you just a few bullet points regarding this steaming pile of shit charitably referred to as a "spending bill", the bill in its present state would consist of this:
     Essentially a repeal of much of Dodd-Frank, a tepid, watered down replacement for Glass-Steagall at best, that would allow Wall Street banks to continue in risky and pre-doomed derivative speculation that Glass Steagall had forbade. It would also put the American taxpayer on the hook for the inevitable bailout. The 2008 and 2009 TARP bailout has already been estimated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (pdf) to have cost the American taxpayer between six and 14 trillion dollars, which could come out to $120,000 per household. To put it in its simplest terms, it would once again reward Wall Street for criminal behavior.
     It would ramp up Citizen's United to the point where it would allow oligarchs to spend $777,000 or more on political campaigns and PACs.
     Oh and it would raid the pension funds of up to 1.5 million retirees. It would also, according to the WaPo, slash the budget for the IRS, always a favorite target of Republicans, to the point where they wouldn't be able to go after their tax-dodging billionaire bosses (not that the IRS is much invested in doing so, to begin with). That's right. This so-called "spending bill" would do exactly the opposite where the IRS and other perennial right wing targets are concerned.
     In other words, bloated and flushed with their newfound majority, Republicans plan on presenting the bottom 99% with a giant stocking filled with coal and not even the mythical clean-burning coal, at that. And all with the help of Democrats who are more concerned with submissively showing their belly to the Republicans than actually doing what's right.
     This can be viewed as a microcosm of what's wrong with today's Democrats in general, a telling synecdoche of why more of us don't turn out for elections and especially midterms. They are weak and fractured at best even when they have the majority in one or both houses of Congress. They are constantly infested with Blue Dogs who all but caucus with Republicans. At worst, they are seditious and collusive, showing their complete lack of a spinal column when the GOP gets the upper hand in one chamber or the other.
     And I don't want to hear any shit from people who cherry pick tiny nuggets of so-called progressivism and say, "I don't want to hear any shit about there being no difference between the parties."
     Because they all work for the same Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies. Freelance journalist Michael Collins calls both sides of the aisle "The Money Party." This is why I don't always vote Democrat and refuse to even listen to those who rail about my doing so making me a Fifth Columnist that empowers the Republicans.
     They don't need my help because the current crop of DINO douchebags is already doing that.
     Elizabeth Warren (except regards her troubling support for Israel) usually finds herself on the right side of an argument. And when she comes out swinging in favor of Joe Lunchpail, one can tell it's not merely the empty, populist soaring rhetoric we hear from time to time from the asshole in the Oval Office. And until we begin electing real Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and fewer glassy-eyed lunatics such as Joni Ernst and corporate meat puppets like David Perdue, registered Democrats and progressive Independents will continue avoiding the polls in droves on Election Day. Until that day comes, Senators such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will continue to be Congressional Cassandras, doomed to be ignored in spite of the truth of their words.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville, 12/2/14
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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville #28

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville, 11/17/14

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Friday, November 14, 2014

We Were Had
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
     ObamaCare, to put it simply, is a snake venom that nonetheless somewhat succeeds in counteracting an even more pernicious malady. It's the red-hot piece of metal that cauterizes a bleeding wound.
     It was never, ever intended to be anything more than that.
     It is a position, often a lonely and adversarial one, that had been consistently taken by yours truly in this very byline since the mislabeled Affordable Care Act was first being debated by no less than five Congressional committees starting in the spring of 2009. Yet, conservatives and truly enlightened liberals such as me cannot and should not succumb to the siren lure of schadenfreude in light of the strangely delayed revelations regarding Jonathan Gruber.
     Beginning in March of 2010, a week before Congress finally ratified the ACA and put it on Mr. Obama's desk to sign into law, Gruber had openly, brazenly and, seemingly without impunity until now, was crowing about how "lack of transparency and the stupidity of the American voter, whatever" was responsible for the bill's success. Yesterday brought a fifth video (and, no doubt, counting) of a now-infamous testy and condescending exchange between Gruber and a Vermont voter concerned about the ACA's ramifications.
     Predictably, wingnuts on Twitchy, Hot Air, Breitbart and other right wing convection ovens have been crowing about ObamaCare's inherent dishonesty, of which most us were already aware. But now they have in Gruber their smoking gun. Five, in fact. And among their talking points is how liberal elitists lied to the American public about the health care bill. But liberals had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the bill's crafting, creation or ratification.
     ObamaCare was passed in first the House, then the Senate then put on the president's desk to be signed into law as with countless other bills. It was not put on a national referendum and not one American voted for it. None of us little people had any say as to what it would contain or not.
     And now, "leaders" such as Nancy Pelosi are playing the predictably scummy, craven political game of distancing herself from someone she'd quoted and mentioned countless times five years ago who has now been exposed as the Most Hated Man in America. Democrats are running from Gruber as if he has Ebola, Obama and everyone associated with the bill who's still on the Hill are in full spin mode and right wingers who were told to hate the ACA by the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey's Freedomwerx now have their health care Willie Horton.

The Triple Whammy

     They say celebrities die in threes and regarding the Affordable Care Act, this is the third whammy that may have finally sunk ObamaCare. First was the clusterfuck of a rollout. The government literally had several years to set up a workable website with adequate server space. State-run partners, through their own exchanges, had the same amount of time. But ObamaCare's website immediately crashed like a soggy house of cards because the Obama administration, hardly to the surprise of yours truly, decided to outsource its set-up and implementation to a private corporation.
     Secondly, there was Obama's palpable lie of, "If you like your present health care plan, you can keep it," which proved to be as honest and prescient as closing Guantanamo Bay.
     Thirdly, there's Gruber's arrogant, condescending and, frankly, out of touch comments about the American people and his pride in the lack of transparency of the government that had paid him so handsomely to mislead the American public
     And while conservatives jeered, liberals struggled to put on a happy face and bombed Twitter and Facebook with memes about how Bush killed hundreds of thousands (a place they seriously do not want to go) while Obama had a slow website. Now it's almost entertaining watching these liberals who think that everything Obama does is in some way miraculous on a Biblical level struggling even more mightily to keep on their O faces after ample evidence has been avalancheing down at warp speed 10 out of the past that its architect called them "stupid."
     It's impossible to estimate the embarrassment this has visited on the Obama administration, which paid this man over $400,000 to craft a bill that was mislabeled as almost all about health care (hence the inevitably sarcastic name of the bill). It ought to be embarrassing to the mainstream media (especially ABC, which is still ignoring it) for letting these explosive revelations languish for better than four and a half years. And it should be embarrassing to any Democrat still in Congress who'd voted for such a steaming pile of horse shit.
     Most of all, it should be embarrassing to so-called liberals such as Esquire's Charles Pierce (who seemed to love it simply because it helped his ailing wife) who thought the tepid reforms and it being just a giant gateway to the free market was the greatest thing since Medicare (which in 1965  LBJ signed into law without him or Congress having to mislead the American public). In short, anyone who hated the bill or opposed it with such virulence should be stripped of their voting rights and undergo a mandatory psychological evaluation since it seems no one save for Gruber, the President and several people on the five committees that had refined and crafted it knew exactly what it was all about.

The Three Blind Chinese Men and the Republican Mascot
   
       I'm sure we all know the story of the three blind Chinese men and the elephant. One blind man felt the tail and thought it was a rope. Another at the other end felt the trunk and thought it was a snake. The third in the middle thought the stomach was a wall. The parable only shows that, without the proper context, individual parties can be completely wrong about what they think they perceive.
     This perfectly describes the second-hand experience of the American voter who had no say in the bill's crafting and had foisted off on them like a pile of flaming dog shit on Cabbage Night. It was a testament, albeit a sad one, of the persistent cheerfulness and glass-half-full optimism of your typical Obama voter.
     But the fact remains that out of all the bills signed into law by the nearly six year-old Obama administration. the ACA is easily the most misunderstood one of all. And that's not completely their fault. The administration's and Democratic Congress's explanations of it were largely incoherent, almost as much as the Teabaggers' screaming oppositions to it during Town Halls in the summer of 2009. And Gruber did, after all, lie to not just us but the nonpartisan CBO over how the ACA should be packaged and sold (90% cost control and 10% mandatory health care instead of the opposite). Yet it wasn't as if there was a complete media blackout of the bill's contents.
     However, liberals chose to ignore the back room deal struck by Rahm Immanuel (whose very name ought to be, if it already isn't, synonymous with arrogant, Democratic elitism) and Big Pharma to cap drug reimbursements at $80,000,000,000. La de la de dah, dig hole in sand, insert head. Repeat as necessary.
     Liberals also stuck their fingers in their ears when Max Baucus, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, refused to hear testimony from universal single-payer advocates and even made a joke about arrested protesters to Republican Chuck Grassley about running out of cops. Liberals were also nonplussed that the ACA was never, ever intended (despite Obama's immediately-broken campaign promises) to be anything more or less than a gateway to the very same health insurance companies that have been bilking the American taxpayer, and government, for decades, turning our health care system into the rest of the world's punchline.
     And Gruber's abominable and infuriating comments about the "stupidity" of the American people that he nonetheless willfully mislead and even lied to show just how much of an out-of-touch elitist he truly is. His comments back on March 10, 2010, when the bill was still being hashed out, that Americans care much more about health care costs and far less about insuring the uninsured are so wrongheaded and ignorant it's beyond laughter.

One Shade of Grayson

 
     I guess he forgot all about Alan Grayson constantly hammering home the fact on the floor of the House that 48,000,000 Americans were uninsured and that 45,000 Americans die each year because of lack of health coverage. I suppose Gruber also forgot about liberals (the real ones) screaming about universal single payer and not allowing red states to opt out of Medicare expansion out of a misguided and futile attempt to respect "states' rights" (a sop thrown to the GOP that got exactly two Republican votes in the Senate and has not done a thing to keep Republicans from voting no less than 52 consecutive times to repeal ObamaCare).
     Limousine liberals and the Obama administration (as I'd said here several times) made the colossal mistake of investing so much political capital on one piece of domestic legislation so early in its history. With the Iraq War, Afghanistan, terrorism, Gitmo, immigration, environmental issues, gay rights and too many others to name, the Obama administration should've dispersed its political capital more evenly instead of putting all its eggs in one basket.
     And so-called liberals, happily following that disastrous meme, acted as if the success of the rest of the Obama administration rested with ratification of the ACA, a bloated and more unwieldy version of the equally disastrous RomneyCare here in Massachusetts.
     Liberals had it only half right as were spittle-flecked teabaggers who didn't, couldn't or wouldn't understand it any better than we: ObamaCare has undoubtedly saved lives and over 10,000 fewer Americans are dying every year through lack of coverage. It has driven down premiums, deductibles and co-pays as well as abolishing the prejudice against those with preexisting conditions. And your child can remain on your health care plan until they're 26.
     But it was, at best, a vastly flawed work in progress and in desperate need of improvement. Liberals made the mistake of seeing it, hairy warts and all, with the peculiar beer goggles with which lonely horny men see the last barfly at last call. If it was to be so popular, then why enforce "compliance" through two bylaws in the federal tax code? Conservatives hoarsely screamed as they were told to that it was a Commie takeover of 1/6 of our national economy while Sarah Palin sneeringly claimed to see death panels from her house.
     It was neither. It was a single, staggering step in the right direction, with muddy bootprints. But with Gruber's astoundingly stupid confessions these past four to five years, this may be the monkey wrench the newly-empowered Republicans have been looking for to finally repeal the ACA and put us right back to the Dark Ages we were in prior to the bill's passage. Liberals and conservatives ought to stop pointing the finger at each other and at elitist assholes such as Gruber and Obama. We were all had.


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Good Times at Pottersville, 11/14/14

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