Archive for May, 2013

‘There’s a Bunch of Idiots Out There’

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

Before the days of E-ZPass it was not uncommon to see toll booths marked “Exact Change Lane” or “Exact Change Only.” One such booth, at exit 11 of the NJ Turnpike, where the Turnpike intersects with the Garden State Parkway, featured an additional hand-made sign: “NO DIRECTIONS.” The idea was to create a lane at the busy toll plaza where traffic could move quickly for drivers who had the exact amount ready and knew how to get where they were going. The lane was much appreciated by people on their way to work or to the shore, and it usually worked well. But not always.

One morning on my way to work my car was third from the booth when traffic came to a halt. I could see the toll collector, a short, gray-haired man who had been at the job for years, gesturing angrily at the driver of the car at the booth, and pointing to the “Exact Change” sign. But now there was no other place for the driver to go, and the toll collector eventually gave up the argument and made the necessary change.

Then the driver of the next car asked for directions. Again the exasperated toll collector pointed, this time to his hand-made “NO DIRECTIONS” sign. And again he had no choice but to provide directions in order to get traffic moving again.

When it was my turn and I handed him the exact change, he looked around, then at me, and said sadly, “There’s a bunch of idiots out there.” I have been using the line ever since, particularly with regard to family members whenever they get on my nerves. My children have all come to regard “bunch of idiots,” or simply the singular, “idiot,” as terms of endearment. Fortunately, they were able to explain this to their cousins the first time I affectionately referred to them as a bunch of idiots. “That means he really likes you a lot,” I heard  Gahlia tell Olivia. Or maybe it was Sydney. I know it was one of those idiots.

But aside from family members, those words are reserved for people I truly think worthy of the name. I’ve noticed quite a few in recent weeks. Remember the rally in Albany to protest the new gun-control law in New York State? I’m not saying all of the reported 7,000 people who were there are idiots. (I can say that all the people I saw in the newspaper photo are white….but that is a topic for a column itself.) One guy had a sign, “I don’t need an AK-47, but I want one.” Another nitwit thought it would be amusing to use his sign to poke fun at some immigrants: “My guns aren’t illegal, they’re just undocumented.”

I don’t really think that Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton is an idiot. But he is acting like one by going to all the pro-gun rallies and pandering for votes in his bid to become the Republican candidate for Orange County executive. Sweeton has now been quoted in several newspaper articles, saying of the law, “It is unconstitutional.” Since when did he become Oliver Wendell Holmes?

Then there’s the guy who wrote a letter to the editor after the Boston Marathon bombings, echoing the oft-expressed sentiment of his fellow idiots that people in Boston and surrounding areas would have felt a lot safer if they all had guns during the time the suspects were at large. Notice that you never heard of many (if any) people from Boston make such a statement. That includes the police officers and other law enforcement workers, whose jobs would have been made immeasurably more difficult if a bunch of idiots (or even just plain frightened citizens) were running around with guns. Remember when John King told CNN viewers that a reliable source told him the bomber was a “dark-skinned male?” Or when the NY Post put a picture of a backpack-toting high-school kid on the front page? Do these people not remember what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?

I haven’t even gotten to Ted Cruz or some of the other wackola Republicans in Congress but I think the point has been made well enough: There’s a bunch of idiots out there. Feel free to comment and add your own.

Michael can be reached at



There’s Always Shell and Sunoco

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

Here’s where it stands.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Twelve countries now allow it, the latest being France. Action later this year in New Zealand and Uruguay could make it 14 countries that recognize the rights and humanity of gay people.

 Even the Boy Scouts have chosen to take a timorous half-step into the 21st Century and acknowledge after 103 years that gay scouts and straight scouts tie square knots precisely the same way. No longer will gay kids automatically be barred, or kicked out of their troops. But it will take more time and protest until the scouts finally allow gay men and lesbians to hold leadership roles.

All this has happened in the very recent past, and no one can honestly say he was unaware that the culture was changing. Yet, some institutions have simply folded their arms on the matter of equal rights for all their people and self-righteously declared: Not in my outfit, not in my organization. One such is Exxon Mobil, which finds it impossible to understand that to reject the demands for workplace equality by gay men and women is to cast doubt on the decency and courage of the company’s officers and shareholders.

Specifically, for the 14th year in a row, shareholders have rejected a proposal to formally prohibit discrimination against gay men and lesbians at Exxon Mobil.

As a result, I’ve decided not to contribute another dime to Exxon Mobil’s coffers, but will buy gasoline elsewhere. Finding a substitute should not be difficult. The Times reported last week that most of Exxon’s competitors have included gay people in their policies on workplace discrimination.

Clearly my protest won’t do much to change attitudes and practices at Exxon headquarters in Irving, Texas, but we do what we have to do.

In going over my 2012 check book register, I found that I spent $667.63 at Exxon gas stations. Interesting statistical aside: $667.63 is about what Rex W. Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, makes in an hour and a half on the job. Forbes puts his salary at $2.2 million. I don’t know if he works a 40-hour week.

So once again – explanation to follow – I am putting scissors to my Exxon Mobil gas card and sending the snipped pieces to Texas (Attn: Tillerson) along with a note announcing that I will not do business with a company that sees some people as less than worthy of fairness on the job site.

“Tillerson,” I will write. “You want to play games with human rights? Not with my $667.63 so deal me out.”

The first time I returned an Exxon card was after the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989, when the tanker ran aground and spilled 11 million gallons of Alaskan crude into Prince William Sound. The skipper was found guilty of a negligent discharge of oil and fined $50,000.

In 1989 as well as now, my gas purchases weren’t making the difference between profit and loss on Exxon’s financial statement. But when a spill befouls 1,300 miles of shoreline, kills thousands of birds and fish, and disrupts the lives of countless individuals and small business owners, you’re supposed to do something about it, say something about it.

I tore up my Exxon card but continued using my Mobil card. A decade later, Exxon and Mobil merged. I continued my boycott of Exxon but naively continued to buy Mobil gas, I am not happy to say.

I won’t make such a mistake again, though I would reconsider my Exxon boycott if and when the company wakes up and provides to gay people the protections it offers other employees.

One more thing. Such a policy change at Exxon would have to be accompanied by an apology for taking so long to do the right thing.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 05/23/13

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
Oklahoma Cowscape, 36x60

Oklahoma Cowscape, 36×60

By Carrie Jacobson
I had a few looong days driving back from Tubac (check out the Tubac and Back blog!). One of them started in New Mexico and ended in Shawnee, OK. I’d been driving for 14 hours, but I got off the road mostly because the sky was so scary-looking:
Above and below, the sky over Shawnee, OK

Shawnee was a one- and two-story town, with some interesting-looking shops and restaurants, some beautiful landscapes, and some of the friendliest people I met on the trip. Whenever I end up somewhere, I always think about what it would be like to live there, and I thought Shawnee would be a pretty good spot.

Except for the tornadoes.

I remember how horrible it felt when, while we were living in Cuddebackville on the bank of the Neversink River, a flood destroyed a lifetime’s worth of memories and a basement’s worth of possessions. It mangled our land and left a crater in our driveway, making it impassable.

I remember the terror, then the utter, bone-deep dismay, the terrible sense of loss, and, finally, the overwhelming joy that Peter and all the animals and I made it through alive.

My heart goes out to those families in Oklahoma. I have just the barest idea of what they are feeling, but even from my relatively tiny experience, I can tell you it’s awful.

Here are some ways you can help:


As Omens Go, the Eagle Soars

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

bald eagleBy Bob Gaydos

Do you believe in omens?

I believe in omens.

Not the dire, gloom-and-doom omens of Greek tragedy. It’s not that I dismiss the existence of negative omens out of hand, or that I think bad things don’t happen, but rather that I choose to focus my energies on what I perceive to be good omens.

For example, while lying in the grass a few days ago, staring skyward and having a relaxed conversation with a friend on a beautiful, warm, spring afternoon, I found my attention slowly shift to a winged object flying low in the sky right towards us. As it got closer I could make out the distinctive white head. “That’s an eagle!” I exclaimed.

Indeed it was. And it kept flying with a slow, deliberate stretching of its wings right over us and on past the tree line where it was no longer visible. A youngish bald eagle, and an eagle with a purpose.

A positive omen for sure. After all, it was an eagle, not a turkey vulture.

The trick with omens, of course, is making the connection between them and real life. What did this omen mean to me beyond the fact that I would definitely buy a ticket for the New York Lottery’s Megamillions drawing?

For one thing, it got me thinking about a similar encounter I had had a couple of years ago when a coyote casually trotted in front of my car as I was sitting reading on a quiet country road. No fanfare, no fuss. Right by me and off into a cornfield, out of sight, but not out of mind. I wrote about the coyote and the fact that it got me to thinking about some positive events that had recently occurred in my life that would normally escape notice. It change my outlook, my focus, my day.

So, too, with the eagle and I think the connection is, literally, the connection, between eagle and man, coyote and man, nature and man. We humans have a way of acting as if the planet is our personal plaything, to lord over and do as we will with all other living creatures. So we revere eagles and protect them because someone decided they were noble looking and worthy of being our national symbol, whereas coyotes are … not.

As a result of this human arrogance, we have polluted the atmosphere of the planet, added all manner of chemicals to our natural food supply, and destroyed the natural habitat of countless species of animals (and eliminated many species as a result), all in the name of progress. This arrogance has spread, perhaps unavoidably, into our relationships with each other. How far is it, after all, from treating animals with casual indifference or callous disregard to treating human beings the same way. We call it politics and it is the shame of our nation today.

The eagle tells me this is wrong. Majestic in its slow, deliberate flight, it says to me, “You may think you’re in charge, but don’t get too comfortable. We share this tiny planet and you almost drove me out of existence for no good reason.”

And we continue to do so, willy nilly melting the polar icecaps, committing genocide on species of animals, loading up our food supply with chemicals and altering the very genetic makeup of the food so that more can be grown faster in less space and less cost, to the considerable profit of chemical companies that now call themselves food companies. All of this is connected, the eagle reminds me, but most of us are too busy arguing over things that have nothing to do with the future welfare of the planet and its inhabitants.

For me, that means my recent writing about the revived interest in slaughtering horses, the mass murder of honey bees, the resistance to labeling food that has been genetically modified has not been a trivial pursuit. It means that expressing concern over the infusion of chemicals in our food, the resistance of those in power to honestly discussing these topics and their loyalty to powerful corporations that seek to control the planet by modifying it in any way possible to suit their own needs, is not a departure from writing about the “important” stuff, i.e. politics. Instead, the eagle tells me, it means I am finally writing about the stuff that really matters.

In case you’re wondering, here’s a small sampling: the elimination of all orangutans (our closest cousins) on the planet; the poaching of elephants for their tusks; the same threat to rhinos; the labeling of horsemeat and other animal byproducts as beef; and “no-kill” animal shelters that kill. There’s more: the belief by the Nestle CEO that humans have no intrinsic “right” to water; the power of such companies as Monsanto, Nestle, Bayer and others to buy politicians to write laws that protect the companies from having to reveal what they are doing to the food they sell. And let‘s not forget efforts by those in power to silence the voices that raise alarms on these issues.

It is all connected. We are all connected. What happens in Sumatra or the Amazon matters in Manhattan and Paris. We humans should be working together to preserve and protect our home instead of bickering over personal ideologies, which won’t matter much when the ice caps melt, the other species are gone and we have no one to look at but ourselves.

That’s what the eagle, flying low and with a purpose, tells me. Focus on the important stuff. Be positive in approaching life. It’s a beautiful world; enjoy it. And keep buying lottery tickets. (I had a Megamillions number worth $2. It’s a start.)


Praying in Public

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

There’s a new religious war being waged upstate. This one concerns prayer at town board meetings.

I used to think that the people who brought the inevitable court actions to outlaw public prayer or ban the display of Christmas trees on public property had too much time on their hands.

What was the big deal? I thought. Christmas is a happy holiday that’s close to the hearts of the majority of Americans. And if we want to get technical, we should remember that aside from its religious importance, Christmas also happens to be a national holiday. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is. Anyway, trees are one thing, but I admit I had second thoughts about the appearance of crèches on public lawns, but managed to get over them.

It made no sense to me that the argument was about a Scotch pine trimmed with colored balls and an angel. Would placing this tree on public property bring down the republic? Not when you remember that witnesses in court use a bible to swear they will be truthful, that the House and Senate open their sessions with prayers, that it’s a Bible our presidents touch as they’re sworn into office.

I’ve been at the receiving end of unrequested religion. In my grade school, we were forced to listen to Christmas carols. I survived. But somewhere in the last several decades I changed my mind and believe absolutely that religion belongs in houses of worship and in the human heart, not in places owned by the public and certainly not in schools filled with young minds but possessing no power to object.

In the Fifties, I attended P. S. 33 in Bellerose, a heavily Christian neighborhood in Eastern Queens. Every year during the 10 days leading up to Christmas, the glee club would parade slowly through the corridors singing carols, ranging from the innocuous, such as “Jingle Bells” to the significant, such as “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

As the singers came, we were herded into the halls to listen. We were allowed to sing along, which I did. I liked the music although I was confused about this business about “born is the king of Israel.”

No one at P.S. 33 ever tried to convert me, no one ever questioned my religion, and no one ever suggested I be barred from the class Christmas party. Similarly, of course, no teacher ever wished me a happy Hanukkah, and if any of the mothers of the Jewish kids ever offered to make potato pancakes and tell the story of Hanukkah, I didn’t know about it.

I still like Christmas carols and the old spirit of the holiday, but there’s no question that years ago in Bellerose, I attended a school that put the First Amendment on its ear by officially establishing a religion. It was a terrible thing to do to a class of kids, but I didn’t get it then.

In the newest case, the governing board of the Town of Greece, N.Y., near Rochester, started in 1999 to open its meetings with a prayer. The town has answered critics with the argument that you don’t have to be a Christian to lead the prayer. In fact, The Times reported, anyone, even an atheist, could say the opening prayer. Where you’re going to find an atheist to lead a prayer is beyond me.

But I think the very use of official time, to accommodate a prayer is, in fact, what the founders had in mind when they cautioned: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

I think the prayer and its defense are not quite as benign as the Town of Greece would have us believe. “Establishment” of an official religion doesn’t have to be done with a gun to your head. It can be an arm of local government informing you that what’s needed for the Town Board to do its business is a word or two from God. And it can be an invitation to wait outside in the lobby if you’re offended by an officially sanctioned prayer service.

No question that what they did in Greece was to establish and exclude in one fell swoop. Two townswomen challenged the Town Board prayers, and were upheld by a federal appellate court, which found that few prayers in Greece were led by anyone but Christians, and that, as reported by The Times, “roughly two-thirds contained references to ‘Jesus Christ,’ ‘Jesus,’ ‘your son,’ or ‘the holy spirit.’”

The case is now headed to the Supreme Court where, on the day of the arguments, the court’s marshal will intone: “God save the United States and this honorable court.”

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 05/17/13

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Eagle Nest, New Mexico

Eagle Nest, New Mexico

By Carrie Jacobson

On Thursday, I turn 57. It’s not a monumental year, not a 40 or a 50 or a 65. It’s one of those strange ages – 32, 37, 43. Indeterminate. Unheralded. Not loaded with meaning.

At this edge of this unimportant age, I realize that I do not miss my youth.

I miss my young knees and my young skin. I miss the red hair that for so many years was the bane of my existence.

But the rest of it, I am glad to leave behind. The struggles to define what my heart wanted, and to show what my brain knew. The fight to get ahead, to climb, to earn praise and promotion.

These days, I realize more and more that I know less and less. I read things I wrote back then and wonder at what I knew – and what I was happy to imply that I knew. I think I was smarter then – and certainly, I was interested in seeming smarter.

These days,  I realize, I desire less and less. I buy clothes only when I need them. I rarely wear jewelry. For my birthday dinner, I’m hoping my husband will cook burgers and oven fries, and I’ll splurge with an extra slice of cheese.

I have no regrets, not really. I wish I had the money that I spent on clothes and jewelry and other fancy things – but that spending brought me many happy moments, and I don’t regret a second.

These days, these insignificant days in the middle of an insignificant decade, these days I’m happy to be doing the work of a lifetime, making art and selling it to people who are made happy by it.

I am happy with the today’s gifts: a gentle sunrise, a loving dog, a husband I adore, family and friends who pull me through the hard times. I’m happy to live in a small house in a small town in a beautiful place. And live a quiet little life, rich with faith and hope and the joy of making beautiful things.

An Administration Obsessed with Leaks

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

AP_RGBBy Bob Gaydos

When Barack Obama was running for president, he promised an administration that would be the most transparent of all time, one that would make sure the public was aware of how its government was operating — who was doing what and why.

It appears the president meant that openness to apply to those branches of government not under his direct or indirect control. Before the news broke this week that the Justice Department had used a secret subpoena to seize the phone records of up to 100 reporters and editors for the Associated Press earlier this year, the Obama administration had already set a record for indictments of present or former government officials accused of being either whistle-blowers or information leakers, depending on one’s point of view. In fact, the six such indictments are twice as many as all previous administrations combined. That suggests more than a passing interest in keeping things less than transparent.

The new case, under investigation by the U.S. Attorneys Office in the District of Columbia, involves a news story disclosing the CIA’s foiling of an Al-Qaeda plot in Yemen to blow up an airliner with an improved version of the so-called “underwear bomb.” Apparently, the CIA had an agent or agents embedded in the Al-Qaeda group. The AP did not immediately report the story as events were unfolding, at the request of the administration, which cited national security concerns. But the news agency released the story after hearing the White House planned to discuss the case publicly. That would seem to override any arguments of national security.

In fact, the national security argument seems to be questionable in the six pending cases as well, all of which were widely reported in press accounts and/or in books. While officials’ obsession with secrecy has occasionally shaken public confidence in the government, the republic has not yet crumbled from the efforts of a free press.

And that is the overriding issue here — not the CIA’s, FBI’s, or any other secrecy-obsessed agency’s ability to do its job, but the constitutionally protected right of a free and unfettered press to do its job of informing the citizens. Make no mistake, when a powerful government agency, without notice or opportunity to challenge in court, seizes a wide swath of journalists’ files or, in this case, phone records, it can have a chilling effect on the press and the public.

The files seized came from AP phone lines in various bureaus, including Washington, D.C. and New York as well as in the Capitol. As the AP pointed out in response to the seizures, the records provided a list of everyone the reporters or editors had talked to over a two-month period. If there is any more effective way of convincing people not to talk to reporters than removing the assurance of confidentiality, I don’t know it. A free press cannot operate as intended if the subjects of its stories can gain access to the possible source of the information reported.

In this case, the Justice Department apparently did not even have to justify the records seizures, and they came only after the department, by its own admission, had interviewed several hundred people and reviewed thousands of other files. In other words, it had nothing to go on, so it decided to go on a fishing expedition at AP offices.

The president is claiming no knowledge of the Justice Department’s actions in this case, which could well be true. It is also irrelevant. What matters is that high-level officials in the nation’s top law-enforcement agency felt justified in going after reporters’ records with no attempt at due process — no need to prove that the convenient “national security” argument had merit. The more citizens of a country surrender their rights to protection from unreasonable searches, seizures, wire-tappings, detentions, or door-bustings, the less secure they make themselves.

There is no telling how people in power will use that power in the future. That’s why laws should protect the most vulnerable, not the most powerful. Those in power have tremendous resources at their disposal to do what is necessary to protect the citizenry without abusing their power at the expense of the citizenry.

In this case, Obama has asked U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, to reintroduce a media shield bill that went nowhere four years ago. It would further protect journalists who refuse to disclose confidential sources and would enable news agencies to ask a federal judge to deny requests for access to phone records.

That would at least give the press a fighting chance against heavy-handed “investigation” by government agencies. But a president who promised an open government and has instead authorized increased secret snooping on United States citizens has an obligation to do much more. Far too much behavior in the Obama administration has been justified as necessary for national security. A free and unfettered citizenry and press are the best evidence of a secure nation.



‘Barack Attack’ Times Three

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

By Emily Theroux

Let me get this straight.

  1. A recent document dump of emailed Obama administration talking points on Benghazi has provoked an enormous uproar on the right. But Obama press secretary Jay Carney says that these very emails had been given a pass by congressional Republicans months ago.
  2. After the classified details of a thwarted terrorist plot were leaked by an unknown government source, the Department of Justice seized the phone records of numerous Associated Press reporters and editors. President Obama claimed he knew nothing about this unconstitutional power play — an admission that led conservatives to dub him “the bystander president.” Meanwhile, news of the DOJ’s actions scared off carefully cultivated sources from talking to journalists.
  3. An Internal Revenue Service report revealed that the agency improperly targeted conservative organizations (particularly those with Tea Party affiliations) that applied for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status during the 2012 presidential campaign.

This triple whammy of bad news hit both the Obama administration PR machine and the right-wing Obama scandal-mongering industry with superstorm force. The president, the attorney general, and IRS officials were left with a toxic omelet on their faces and more than a little explaining to do. The right reaped a bonanza of new fronts to exploit in their ongoing assault on Obama’s integrity as well as his second-term agenda, and loose talk of “the ‘I’ word” — impeachment — was fast-tracked by the extremists around whom the notion first began to coalesce.

The Fourth Estate and indeed, anyone concerned with maintaining a free press, are hopping mad over the AP controversy — and understandably paranoid.  Attorney General Eric Holder claimed he had “recused himself” from any involvement in the matter, thus shirking all responsibility for calling for the AP subpoenas. (Harry Truman must be rolling over in his grave. What happened to “The buck stops here”?)

As for the GOP’s tiresome Benghazi obsession, the right has been trolling since the president’s election for an “Obama Watergate.” First, they seized on birtherism, then the president’s historic health care reform act. Near the end of the 2012 presidential campaign, the right pounced on the consulate attack in Benghazi, even though 12 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities occurred during the Bush era, with numerous fatalities, and Republicans issued nary a peep about any of them.

Darrell Issa will undoubtedly forge ahead with his House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi witch hunt. The right’s main event, however, seems to be pivoting to exploitation of the IRS “crisis,” along with a generous side helping of denial that the much-reviled “Obamacare” reforms have already begun contributing to the reduction of the deficit. (And sure enough, just before the 38th vote by Boehner’s GOP House majority to repeal the Affordable Care Act, batcrap-crazy Michelle Bachmann stepped up to the mic to conflate Benghazi hysteria with what she considers Obamacare’s “government overreach.”)

Shades of Casablanca! The GOP is “shocked — SHOCKED!” that the IRS would use seemingly underhanded tactics against an administration’s political enemies. Never mind that the IRS has employed similar tactics during Republican administrations — or that it is the agency’s job to investigate tax-exempt  groups that appear to be pursuing primarily political goals.

Not that conservative groups are the only culprits. Both Republican and Democratic super-PACs have exhibited  a penchant for flouting the rules that govern assignment of tax-exempt status (although it’s the proliferation of applications by conservative groups that has attracted so much recent IRS attention).

Both camps have been guilty of exploiting the laxity and chaos created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, taking advantage of the confusion to set up political organs that masquerade as “social welfare” groups —and, as 501 (c)(4)s,are able to raise stupendous sums of money without being required to disclose the identities of their donors.

Yet while John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Rush Limbaugh rant on, blowing the brouhaha out of all reasonable proportion, they conveniently ignore the fact that during Dubya’s tenure, the agency went after liberal organizations, including the NAACP, Greenpeace, and a progressive Pasadena church.

* * *

Is this triple threat a tempest in a teapot? Not necessarily, but journalists can bet their White House press passes that members of the GOP/wingnut media circus will flog it for all they’re worth, right up to Election Day 2014.

The Obama team has swung into damage control mode. At the IRS, one head has rolled, although likely not the right one. The president is no longer calling the Benghazi hearings “a sideshow,” and though he’s offered no apology for the DOJ’s AP snooping, he has cynically attempted to “make nice” by proposing a dead-in-the-water federal journalist shield law that the president of the Society of Professional Journalists has branded “a blatantly political move.”

Meanwhile, the Bobbleheads babble randomly and pose nonsensical paradoxes. “Is the president too passive and too reactive?” one pundit asked another. Is Obama “Nixonian”? Has “the narrative” undergone a sea change, or is this just “same-old, same-old”? Does the Obama White House have a “transparency issue”?  Is the right merely proposing “retreads”?

Is there really no “there” there?

At this early stage in the game, I’ve been able to make neither elephant’s trunks nor donkey’s asses of this mind-boggling travesty. So I decided to toss the “three-headed hydra” (salutations to MSNBC’s Alex Wagner) into an acronym salad in verse, served up with extra-tart vinaigrette dressing. (My humblest apologies to Calvin Trillin, who uses longer lines to much better effect — and nails both rhyme and meter every time.)


No ‘There’ There

Triple scandal!
How to handle?
Doesn’t daunt me.

“I just heard it
Same day you did.”
Who disclosed it?
“Don’t know who did.”

POTUS aloof.
Colbert spoofs.
McConnell drools;
He’s no fool.

Wingnut right
Spoils for fight.
All they see:

Congress bickers;
Cantor snickers.
Boehner rails,
“Who’s going to jail?”

Secrets leaked.
AP tweaked.
Press freaked.
Villain “seeked.”

Brewing tea?
Iced for me.
Effect’s chilling.
Colbert’s killing!

What a mess!
Nixon did this?
Couldn’t care less.

Issa snits.
Bachmann conflates.
Rand Paul’s irate.

House votes.
Sh-t floats.
“No there there.”

POTUS steps up,
Doesn’t fess up.
His D.O.J.
Is M.I.A.

Buck passed.
Freepers pissed.
Don’t know what
To make of this.

AG recuses;
Press refuses
To back down,
So POTUS loses.

Term Two derailed.
Epic FAIL!
White House snoozes:
Electorate loses.

Short Takes

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

–You don’t have to be a Republican, a Tea Partier, or a conspiracy nut to agree that Hillary Clinton owes the country another appearance before Congress to explain the increasingly unexplainable circumstances that led to the attack on the mission in Benghazi, the American response (or lack thereof), and the deaths of our ambassador and three other diplomats.

–If Howard Baker were active these days, the question would be: What did Clinton know and when did she know it? Also: What did she do and when did she do it?

–If Clinton can’t or won’t testify, there’s her ex-boss. Ultimately it’s President Obama’s State Department, and Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other three men killed were his diplomats. Surely he has answers, don’t you think? A headline in yesterday’s New York Times: “Obama to Call for More Security at U.S. Embassies.” It sure took long enough; the attack on the mission occurred eight months ago.

–The unintended satire in the Clinton matter is Dick Cheney’s calling for more testimony from her and demanding, “I think [she] should be subpoenaed if necessary.” Cheney calling for facts is like Pinocchio asking for a nose job, and I suggest that when the lawyers start filling out the subpoena papers, they save one for Cheney himself.

–Maybe after being sworn, Cheney will finally inform us about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction he insisted we go to war to find, the hunt that cost close to 5,000 American lives and wounded 32,000 others. Maybe he could also be asked to explain the intelligence that led him to declare the day before the war against Saddam Hussein began, “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

–Incidentally, Cheney, the personification of gravitas to the people who like him, appeared at a recent private meeting with Republican members of the House and informed all: “We’re in deep do-do with North Korea.” That was our former vice president; that was the man a heart-beat from the presidency.

–While the Obama administration plays games with the First Amendment in charting the telephone calling of 100 reporters and editors at Associated Press, Attorney General Eric Holder revealed something about himself and the way he works. He was discussing with an NPR reporter the Justice Department’s going after those phone records. In a quote that will dog Obama and Holder for the 1,344 days remaining in this administration, Holder said: “I’m not sure how many of those cases I have actually signed off on.” And then he said, “I take them very seriously.” And then he said, “I know I have refused to sign a few, pushed a few back for modifications.” The attorney general twiddles the First Amendment but isn’t sure how many subpoenas he signed?

–Attention Eric Holder: Do the nation a favor and memorize the following 45 words, especially the ones in italics: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

–Speaking of running roughshod over the First Amendment, it is on Obama’s watch that we learn of the Internal Revenue Service’s closer-than-usual examination of applications for tax-exempt status by some conservative groups. Last time anyone looked, conservatives possessed the same constitutional rights as liberals. So yesterday, Obama fired the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. I say “Obama’s watch,” by the way, knowing that other presidents have used the IRS in outrageous ways – the people on Nixon’s enemies list were IRS targets – but somehow I think Americans who happily elected Obama once, and once more maybe not so gleefully, no doubt had thought they were getting better than Nixon.

–And now, for the Quote of the Day as reported in the Huffington Post: “Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand. And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often.” This remarkable insight brought you by Rep. Kevin Cramer, (R-N.D.) in a graduation speech at the University of Mary in Bismarck.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 05/08/13

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Delphiniums, oil on canvas, 18x24

Delphiniums, oil on canvas, 18×24

By Carrie Jacobson

A prayer for all the mothers:

May love be the road you walk, with your children and with your own mother. It might not be an easy road, or a straight one. It might not be paved smooth and even. But it’s the best road, the surest road, the one that passes through the heart.

May you have the courage to hold fast to your convictions and your ethics, and to teach your children the hard lessons, the ones that will help them make their own best choices.

May you find the energy to seek your own inspiration, your own truths, your own beliefs and the strength to follow them.

May you have the joy of laughter shared, the pleasure of rich solitude, the comfort of family and friends when times are tough.

And may hope and faith be yours, today and every day.