Tag Archives: Osama Bin Laden

The Obama years 7/8 the way through: He’s been our caretaker in chief

Note: I’ll probably be tinkering with this post over the next several days (mostly, adding new thoughts and new points and details). After all, it’s difficult to include everything significant that transpired (or didn’t transpire) in seven years of a presidency.

Obama's executive actions could open a door for successors

Associated Press photo

President Barack Obama is shown above in Washington, D.C., on December 10. Salon.com writer Walker Bragman has deemed Obama “the first liberal (not progressive) Democrat to be president in years,” and that’s probably an apt short summary of the Obama years, if by that Bragman means that Obama has espoused liberal ideals but has done little to nothing to move the nation forward to ensure greater socioeconomic equity and greater opportunity for all (which is progressivism).

In November 2008, when I went to my polling place, it was going to be Barack Obama or independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader* whose oval I would blacken with my ballpoint pen on my paper ballot to be scanned.

In the end, I voted for Barack Obama. He would win my state of California and all of its electoral votes anyway, and I was happy to be one of the millions of American voters who had the opportunity, for the first time in the nation’s history, to vote for a presidential candidate who is not a (full) white man. That was long past due.

I strongly had supported Obama over Billary Clinton in the primary. I’d donated hundreds of dollars to his campaign to help him knock Billary out of the primary, which he did.

But I didn’t support Obama over Billary because he’s half-white and half-black. I supported him over her because I’d believed his ubiquitous presidential campaign promises of “hope” and “change.” I viewed him as the most progressive yet still viable presidential candidate (as I view Bernie Sanders now). That is why I supported him in the 2008 Democratic primary and why I voted for him in November 2008.

I believe in actually holding an elected official to his or her campaign promises, and so when Obama spectacularly squandered his huge amount of political capital in 2009 and 2010 by trying to sing “Kumbaya” with the Repugnican Tea Party traitors in Congress who never were going to cooperate with him in the first place because he’s a Democrat and because he’s half-black, I was incredibly disappointed.

In 2009 and 2010, when both houses of Congress were in the Democrats’ control, Obama could have accomplished a lot more than he actually did. He pushed “bipartisanship,” which always had been a non-starter, instead of pushing a progressive agenda.

And in 2009 and 2010 getting “Obamacare” pushed through Congress took all of the oxygen in the room, and, in the end, “Obamacare,” supposedly Obama’s “signature” “achievement,” apparently contained nothing that the lobbyists for the wealth-care industry didn’t want it to contain. (Indeed, “Obamacare’s” individual mandate requires everyone to have health insurance; what mostly-for-profit industry wouldn’t love such a requirement?**)

Then, in November 2010, the Dems lost control of the House of Representatives, and then, in November 2014, they lost control of the Senate (and lost even more seats in the House).

There are at least a few reasons for those losses, including the incredibly shitty “leadership” of Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but I still believe that had Obama pushed the progressive agenda that he at least indirectly had promised with his “hope” and “change” slogans, the Democrats would have kept the House and the Senate.

Indeed, it primarily was Obama’s dithering in 2009 and 2010 that lost the Dems the House in 2010, I believe, thus crippling any progressive agenda for the remainder of Obama’s two terms, since the Repugnican Tea Party traitors in Congress have held on to the House since January 2011.

Since January 2011, with the House controlled by the Repugnican Tea Party traitors and the White House controlled by Obama, we’ve had nothing but even more gridlock, and since both houses of Congress fell to Repugnican Tea Party control after the election of November 2014, Obama was guaranteed a final two years of more whimper than bang.

I give Obama faint praise for being the first U.S. president to jump on board with same-sex marriage in 2012, although that was overdue and was coming sooner or later anyway. And as with Billary Clinton, it did take Obama a long time to “evolve” on the issue, even though the U.S. Supreme Court this past June finally ruled that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Something is a constitutional right or it is not; the recognition of a constitutional right might be denied and delayed for even generations, but nonetheless it remains a constitutional right, and further, constitutional rights are not up for a vote or even for a public-opinion poll. Again, same-sex marriage inherently was a constitutional right long before the foot-dragging U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that it is, so yes, Obama fairly led from behind on that issue; history led Obama more than Obama led history.

(That said, I can’t imagine that Obama’s having been the first president to voice his support for same-sex marriage wasn’t a significant factor in the U.S. Supreme Court finally following suit three years later. Wikipedia notes that Obama’s second inaugural address in January 2013 marked “the first time that a president mentioned gay rights or the word ‘gay’ in an inaugural address.”)

I applaud Obama for his work in opening up Cuba after decades. It’s beyond ridiculous that a Latin American nation 90 miles away from the United States should remain locked in a perpetual cold war with the U.S., which is what the right-wing traitors have wanted.

However, as I wrote a year ago, Cubans have much more to lose in closer ties with the United States than vice-versa. (As I wrote, “would it benefit most Cubans for American corporations to muscle back into the nation and turn most Cubans into wage slaves, like most Americans are? … Are Cubans really just itching for such wonderful imported American ‘freedoms’ as crushing student-loan debt, wage slavery and bankruptcy from insane health-care costs?”)

Obama’s other notable accomplishments include seating our first Latina or Latino U.S. Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, in 2009, and, with the seating of Elena Kagan in 2010, Obama gave us the first Supreme Court with three female justices (we need at least one or two more of them).

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 also was an accomplishment, even if it again seems that history led and that our politicians finally caught up. Ditto for the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. (And it’s hard to say that the abolishment of something hateful and unconstitutional that never should have been instituted in the first place is an “accomplishment,” but we’ll call it one, I suppose.)

Obama hasn’t been able to accomplish enough on climate change, in no small part because his dithering in 2009 and 2010 lost the Democrats control of Congress. And with “Democrats” like the former Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Big Oil, with its Big Money to politicians who sell us out to them, combatting climate change remains a political mountain to overcome.

But/and on that note, Obama was stunningly ineffectual in confronting British Petroleum when its underwater oil well belched an estimated 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over almost three months in 2010. It was his first huge test of his campaign promises of environmental protection, and he failed miserably.

Perhaps at least in part because of his failure to deal with the BP oil disaster effectively, Obama did veto the Keystone XL oil pipeline earlier this year, in what Wikipedia calls “his first major veto.” That would be in the “plus” column of Obama’s environmental record, but overall, has Obama done enough in combatting climate change and otherwise protecting the environment? Of course not.

Profound income inequality persists under Obama. It’s yet another critical national problem that became fairly insoluble after the Dems lost control of Congress in the election of 2010, and it’s ironic that the nation’s first (half-)black president has done so little to improve the lot of black Americans (who, for the most part, support him steadfastly nonetheless, apparently more out of identity politics than for his actual accomplishments for them).

Obama hasn’t done a lot more for black Americans for many reasons, that I can tell. One, he’s never wanted to come off as an “angry” black man, knowing that he couldn’t have won the presidency had he done so. (I can’t say that that has been his fault, but that that has been the cards that he has been dealt in this still-racist nation.) Two, Obama was raised by his white mother and her side of the family, so his experience growing up was different than has been the experience of most black Americans. (That’s not some sort of a slam; it’s just the truth as far as I can discern it.) And three, again, after the Dems lost the House in the election of 2010, Obama’s ability to do much for black Americans and other Americans in need was seriously weakened anyway.

On foreign policy, which could be its own blog post — and I think that a heavy focus on foreign policy too often is just a distraction from our disastrous domestic policies — I need only point out, I think (aside from my earlier remarks on Cuba), that while 9/11 happened on the unelected “President” George W. Bush’s watch, the United States has not sustained a large terrorist attack from abroad under Obama’s watch.

So desperate have been the uber-hypocritical Repugnican Tea Party traitors to try to claim that Obama hasn’t kept us safe from the Big Bad Terrorists that they have focused on the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012, while they wholly ignore the fact that almost 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 and that more than 4,000 of our troops died pointlessly in the unelected, treasonous Bush regime’s illegal, immoral, unjust, unprovoked and wholly bogus Vietraq War.

Those 7,000 or so deaths on George W. Bush’s watch are nothing, you see, but those four deaths in Benghazi on Obama’s watch are everything. (Indeed, racism is behind this; a white, right-wing president is responsible for thousands of preventable deaths of Americans — almost 2,000 Americans, disproportionately black Americans, died in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so we can add them also to the body count under George W. Bush — and he is excused, yet four deaths under a black president is an inexcusable travesty!)

Obama also received less public praise than George W. Bush would have received had 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden been exterminated by Bush when he still occupied the White House instead of by Obama in 2011. Don’t get me wrong; the whole bin Laden extermination affair remains fishy (pun intended), as bin Laden would have been more valuable alive than dead, and the supposed disposal of his body in the ocean was unnecessary and, dare I say, weird and therefore suspect.

The Middle East remains a mess, of course, and while I always have opposed Obama’s use of killer drones, and the use of killer drones in general (and the United States’ over-militarization in general), the bloodshed in the Middle East on Obama’s watch has been much, much less than it was on George W. Bush’s.

(If you say that Well, 9/11!, then I say that On August 6, 2001, while he was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush had been given a presidential daily briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” Um, yeah. [Similarly, there had been plenty of warning that Hurricane Katrina might hit land and kill scores of people. Bush in effect had been issued a presidential daily briefing titled “Katrina Determined to Strike in US,” but he ignored that warning, too. After all, on the day that Katrina made landfall, he was too busy celebrating John McCainosaurus’ 69th birthday in Arizona.)

I acknowledge, of course, that the president of the United States of America can do only so much, that much is beyond his (or her) control, such as congressional gridlock and the separation of powers (which would include a center-right U.S. Supreme Court that has done such things as pick George W. Bush as president even though Al Gore had won the presidential election of 2000 and proclaim that corporations have the First Amendment right to make unlimited monetary contributions to political campaigns [corporations are not people and therefore don’t have First Amendment rights that even actual people don’t even have].)

But given Obama’s limitations of the presidency, I still don’t see that he much tried to deliver very substantially upon his promises of “hope” and “change,” and that would be his fault. He has had some restrictions, we must acknowledge, but has he maximized what he has been able to do around those restrictions? Methinks not.

And yes, of course Obama has been head and shoulders (and torso and legs) above the unelected George W. Bush, but I refuse to allow Bush II to have set the bar for the presidency that low; besides, he never legitimately was elected anyway, so, although death and destruction (including the collapse of the nation’s economy) were the result of his having stolen the 2000 presidential election, I don’t really even count Bush. He never should have happened in the first fucking place.

An aggregate of historians’ (and political scientists’ and political pundits’) rankings of the U.S. presidents puts President Obama at No. 17 out of 43. (Obama is called No. 44, but Grover Cleveland had two non-consecutive terms as president, and thus is called our 22nd and our 24th president, so we’ve actually had only 43 presidents.) Obama ranks in the top half, but for “hope” and “change” I expected much better. (George W. Bush, if you were wondering, ranks at No. 34, in the bottom 10, where he belongs, although I’d put him lower. Ronald Reagan ranks two notches above Obama, with which I disagree, and Bill Clinton ranks three notches below Obama.)

Obama’s race has never mattered to me. While history probably will most remark that he was our first non-all-white president, to me his presidency mostly has represented squandered opportunity; to me he mostly has been, at best, a caretaker in chief. I came to that conclusion no later than the close of 2010, when the Democrats lost the House.

And that is why I could not bring myself to vote for Obama again in November 2012. (I voted instead for the Green Party presidential candidate, which is something that I’d done before and something that I would do again; I owe the Democratic Party nothing.) I’d felt quite punk’d by those ubiquitous promises of “hope” and “change,” and to continue to vote for politicians who don’t follow through on their campaign promises is only to contribute to even more such broken campaign promises. If there is no penalty, how will it stop?

That and I knew that in November 2012 Obama was going to win California and all of its electoral votes anyway. (Yes, many Americans, ignorant of how their own nation and government function, don’t understand the Electoral College, under which if you live in a solidly blue or red state, as I do, your vote for president pretty much doesn’t count; we need a popular vote for the presidency, just as we have for the governorships, for the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate and for every other elected office in the nation.)

I still believe that Obama, although overall he has been a rather disappointing, rather lackluster president, more of a caretaking president than a groundbreaking president, has made a better president than Repugnican Lite Billary Clinton would have, and because my principles haven’t changed — among which, I don’t support Democrats in name only, as that doesn’t solve the persistent problem of Democrats in name only — I cannot and will not support DINO Billary Clinton in any way.

(Again, if she wins the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination, she’ll win all of California’s electoral votes in November 2016 anyway, regardless of whether I vote for her or not, so save your misinformed, dead-wrong assertion that if I don’t vote for DINO Billary I have helped whomever the Repugnican Tea Party presidential candidate will be.)

So Barack Obama goes out in his final year not with a bang, but with a whimper. Already we’re looking ahead of him, with incessant media coverage of Donald Trump and to a lesser degree Billary Clinton.

I began with words from Salon.com’s Walker Bragman and I’ll end with more of his wise words:

… If Hillary gets the nomination, and is elected, she will inadequately address the problems this country faces, [problems] that are angering people, by negotiating from the center/right and then moving right as a compromise, to give us mere half-measures or quarter measures. I fear, given her New Democrat background, that she will likely use social programs and financial reform as bargaining chips.

I strongly believe that Hillary will kill the momentum that has been generated over the last eight years by Barack Obama, the first liberal (not progressive) Democrat to be president in years – and that will do more damage to the Democratic brand than four years of a Republican president would do to the country.

I am not saying that four years of a Republican would not be worse for the country than four years of Hillary in the immediate; I am saying that four years of Hillary will do more long-term damage by prolonging the Democratic realignment. [Absolutely agreed.]

Americans want real change – and they’re looking to the Democrats to provide it. But if we only put a Band-Aid on issues like the wealth gap and financial reform, which is essentially Hillary’s plan, Americans will not be satisfied. As much as politically minded people remind us that change is slow, what Hillary offers is too slow. Her kind of change is weakness.

If the New Deal taught us anything, it’s that unprecedented sweeping government action can happen quickly. FDR achieved significant reforms within the first hundred days of his presidency. Hillary’s supporters have not learned from Obama’s biggest blunder: negotiating from the middle with opponents on the far right. These people insist that we have to just keep making slow progress because all we can hope for are small gains.

They point to the weakness of the Democratic Party since the 1970s as evidence of their position. However, this is a common misunderstanding of history and the lesson of the Democrats’ decline from the 1970s to the 2000s. …

Yup.

FDR is listed as the second-best president on that aggregate of presidential rankings that I mentioned (he’s just behind Abraham Lincoln). Again, Bill Clinton is ranked at No. 20. We don’t need another President Clinton.

We need another FDR, and the closest that we have to that is Bernie Sanders.

*I had voted for Nader when he ran as the Green Party presidential candidate in November 2000, something that I’ve never regretted, and it’s not my fault that Americans just allowed BushCheneyCorp to steal the 2000 presidential election. They should have been rioting in the streets over that treasonously, blatantly stolen election, but they did not. And, of course, Team Gore should have fought much, much harder than it did instead of wanting to appear to be above the fray.

**My general stance on health care is that it is a human right and that no one should have to pay for it (or, minimally, that it should be free of cost to those whose annual income falls below a certain amount) and that health care never should be allowed to be delivered on a for-profit basis. “Obamacare” did nothing, to my knowledge, to solve the overarching problem of health care having fallen victim to profiteering, to greed — and thus having become wealth care.

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Star Trek Into Spoilers

Film review

Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) interrogate the Osama-bin-Laden-like antagonist (Benedict Cumberbatch) of “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

I wanted to like “Star Trek Into Darkness” much more than I actually did. I even saw it in 3D at my local IMAX (I got a good discount, but still…).

This contains ample spoilers, so, if you are intent on seeing “Into Darkness” without any surprises/“surprises” being ruined for you, don’t read this now. Come back after you’ve seen it if you remember to do so. Otherwise, read on:

I won’t rehash the plot of “Into Darkness.” You can get the plot points anywhere else. I’ll just delve right into what works and doesn’t work.

I’m fine with the band of new actors who now play the characters from the original “Trek” series. I’m not a “Trekkie,” so this isn’t something like blasphemy to me.

That said, while Zachary Quinto’s Mr. Spock is good — although one might argue that it doesn’t take a great actor to play a character who, for the most part, is not allowed to display human emotions — Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk is a bit flat and reduces the character to maybe one notch above a frat boy. I don’t remember the original Captain Kirk (William Shatner’s, I mean, of course) being this testosterone driven.

Indeed, the macho persona that is built around Chris Pine’s Kirk is driven into the ground. We get it already: He’s reckless. He’s a maverick. He loves a bar fight and he loves him some pussy — and it doesn’t even have to be human pussy. Please, give me Captain Picard over this shit.

The banter and bickering back and forth about Spock’s logic and reason and discipline and restraint and adherence to the rules and Kirk’s impulsiveness and maverickiness and his compulsive rule-breaking gets very tiresome, as we’ve seen this schtick countless times before in the original television series and in the films. “Into Darkness” doesn’t improve upon it — it only regurgitates it.

Yes, rebooting a franchise runs the risk of just repeating all of it because the film industry these days is all out of fucking ideas.

That’s the idea that you get when you discover that the super-human bad guy in “Into Darkness” (played by Benedict Cumberbatch as well as the character can be played) actually is Khan, the same genetically-engineered bad-guy character from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Only you — or at least I — didn’t get this right off the bat, because the British-born Cumberbatch looks nothing like the Mexican-born Ricardo Montalban.

I’m fine with some of “Into Darkness'” use of references to earlier “Trek” episodes, such as the appearance of the tribble, which, sadly, I found to be more effective than the cameo of the ancient Leonard Nimoy, who, I’m thinking, might still appear in “Star Trek” films even after his death (Spock never dies, right?) — but I found important plot points of “Into Darkness” to be blatant rip-offs of earlier “Trek” films.

Kirk saving the ship even though to do this he must expose himself to a lethal level of radiation was ripped right out of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” only this time it is savior Kirk instead of savior Spock who is exposed to the lethal radiation, and therefore the touching scene in  “Star Trek II” where it’s a dying-of-radiation-exposure Spock inside of the Plexiglass enclosure and Kirk on the outside of it is just reversed in “Into Darkness.”

And Spock’s primal yelling of “Khaaaaaaan!” in “Into Darkness” is, of course, just a reversal of the moment in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” where it’s Kirk who’s doing the yelling.

I guess that this paean to “Star Trek II” was supposed to thrill “Trek” fans, but it made me just feel ripped off. It looked like incredibly lazy and uncreative screenwriting to me. I could have stayed home and watched “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” if I’d wanted to. I don’t see why the second installment of the “Star Trek” movie reboot had to take so much from the original movie franchise’s second installment.

Maybe there is hope for the third installment of the reboot, though. Recall that the third original “Star Trek” movie, subtitled “The Search for Spock,” was all about reviving the Mr. Spock who had died at the end of “Star Trek II.”

At the end of “Into Darkness,” Kirk is brought back to life after his death from radiation exposure in a quick-and-dirty, very apparently scientifically unsound manner (ditto for the revived tribble), and all is well, even though we, the audience, if we have two brain cells to rub together, feel ripped off by this all-too-easy, convenient wrapping of everything up in the film’s final moments — even if we can breathe a sigh of relief that the next “Star Trek” movie apparently won’t be subtitled “The Search for Kirk.”

Anyway, you have to earn a sappy ending, and “Into Darkness” just thrusts one onto us, like the creature in “Prometheus” homoerotically (but very sadomasochistically) thrusts its huge penis-like appendage down that humanoid’s throat at the end of that film.

Speaking of which, I’d had high hopes for last summer movie season’s “Prometheus,” too, which is why I saw it also in 3D at my local IMAX theater (only I got no discount that time…).

But what “Prometheus” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” have in common is that they both take source sci-fi material that once was very popular and successful and remix it, but not in a way that improves upon the source material; as I indicated above, they do it in a way that suggests that Hollywoodland is just all out of fucking ideas.

And both films put flashiness above originality and better-thought-out plot points, apparently believing that if the special effects are good enough, the audience won’t notice anything else, or at least will forgive anything else.

That said, as pure summer-movie entertainment (which, I believe, is meant to be fairly mindless by definition), “Into Darkness” is watchable, more so than “Prometheus,” because “Prometheus” (as I noted in my review of it last year) has so many inconsistencies in it that it had you leaving the theater pondering all of the shit that didn’t make sense.

“Star Trek” always has asked us to suspend our disbelief, so we are willing to be more forgiving for lapses of logic and reason in “Star Trek” fare than Mr. Spock might ever be, but there’s no fucking excuse for “Star Trek Into Darkness” to have ripped off “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (and even “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”) so fucking much.

My grade: B-

P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the political points and comparisons to recent history that “Into Darkness” very apparently is trying to make.

Apparently “Into Darkness'” Khan is supposed to be something like an Osama bin Laden — you know, Bad-Guy Terrorist No. 1 — and Khan’s destruction of a Starfleet military installation that is disguised as a peaceful archive apparently is supposed to be like the destruction of the World Trade Center.

So we have Kirk — your typical testosterone-fueled white guy — wanting to go after Khan and snuffing him, and you have Mr. Spock arguing that no, the law — and fairness and justice — require that Khan be captured alive and put on trial.

Khan is captured alive — although only because he allows himself to be — but after Kirk’s short-lived death that Khan at least indirectly is responsible for, a now-enraged-over-Kirk’s-death Spock goes after Khan with even more intensity and rage than Kirk initially had intended to go after Khan.

So what’s the message here? Are we to gather from Spock’s actions that it’s OK — indeed, that it’s probably preferable — to kill the “bad guy” out of a sense of outrage and revenge rather than to capture him and put him on trial? (I use quotation marks because at least in “Into Darkness” we learn that Khan has his own reasons for his “terrorist” actions, regardless of what we think of his actions and/or his reasoning behind them — much as with the case of Osama bin Laden.)

Are we to take from “Into Darkness” that Spock’s initial call for restraint is always, or at least usually, bullshit? That immediate militant retaliation is always, or at least usually, the best solution?

If so, what kind of message is this to pump out into the popular culture of a nation that, in no small part because of its popular culture, eschews intellectualism and restraint and prefers reckless violent retaliation (even if it’s “retaliation” against the wrong fucking party or nation) as it already fucking is?

And if you think that my comparison of “Star Trek Into Darkness” to current-day events and politics is a stretch, then why does director J.J. Abrams, at the end of the film, dedicate it to post-9/11 veterans?

Do Abrams and his three screenwriters view those who fought in Vietraq as heroes or as dupes? Or as duped heroes? I mean, since Iraq had had absofuckinglutely nothing to do with 9/11 or with Osama bin Laden, what can we say of those veterans? What can we say of veterans who were so incredibly misused, who essentially were used as stormtroopers for Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and for other subsidiaries of BushCheneyCorp (including, of course, Big Oil), whose intent was to gain no-bid federal government contracts for their war profiteering and, of course, to steal Iraq’s oil for the oil mega-corporations’ profits? Who are the good guys again?

I left “Star Trek Into Darkness” with the unpleasant feeling that perhaps J.J. Abrams meant it to be a statement of the moral superiority of the United States of America over other nations — a virtual recruiting ad for the U.S. military, even.

I mean, fuck, “Into Darkness” opens with officers of the Enterprise saving a planet of “savages” that don’t look different enough from the “savages” that the white man once “saved” here on Earth (these “Star Trek” “savages” even chuck spears at our so-called heroes, for fuck’s sake).

True, the character of the corrupt Admiral Marcus (played by former RoboCop Peter Weller) in “Into Darkness” demonstrates that not all of those in Starfleet are morally superior and advanced — indeed, the character of Admiral Marcus seems to be a stand-in for someone like Dick Cheney — but still, it seems to me, the take-home message from “Into Darkness” is that whatever the always-well-meaning U.S. military fucks up pales in comparison to all that it gets right, and “Star Trek Into Darkness” keeps alive the myth of the studly white man as the perma-hero to the extent that I have an idea for the title of the next “Star Trek” film: “Star Trek: The White Man’s Burden.”

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Why ‘Benghazigate’ never will catch fire

Updated below

Apparently we’re actually supposed to believe that the members of the Repugnican Tea Party are very, very concerned about preventing the preventable deaths of Americans in the Middle East. The preventable death of even one American in the Middle East is absolutely unfuckingacceptable, right?

After all, “Benghazigate,” in which four Americans (including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens) were killed in Libya in September when the American consulate in Benghazi was stormed by militants — even though Mittens Romney failed comically miserably to make political hay out of it during the presidential debates — like Freddy or Jason, just won’t go the fuck away.

Today the do-nothing, sleazy and slimy, Repugnican-Tea-Party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives held yet another so-called “hearing” in D.C. on “Benghazigate” because the party just doesn’t want you to forget about “Benghazigate.”

But the same Repugnican Tea Party traitors who have expressed no real problem whatsofuckingever over the wholly unnecessary and wholly preventable deaths of more than 4,ooo U.S. military personnel in the unelected Bush regime’s wholly bogus Vietraq War have zero fucking credibility when they cry, incessantly, that we have to get to the bottom! of “Benghazigate.”

They don’t care about American deaths in the Middle East, of course. If they did, they wouldn’t have supported the Vietraq War. But the Vietraq War was launched by a white Repugnican president, you see, and that fact alone makes it all A-OK.

“Benghazigate” is all politics — and if it had happened under a Repugnican president, the Repugnican Tea Party traitors of course would lecture us about how you shouldn’t shamelessly politicize a tragedy like this — and “Benghazigate” is meant to give the Repugnican Tea Party traitors a twofer: an attack upon Democratic President Barack Obama and an attack upon former Secretary of State Billary Clinton, who probably will run for the presidency in 2016.

I don’t allege that the September attack on Benghazi was unpreventable. I don’t allege that there wasn’t any negligence where security was concerned. There might have been. I wasn’t there, wasn’t in the situation.

But preventing another incident like the one in Benghazi in September isn’t the Repugnican Tea Party traitors’ main goal. That should be what comes out of the incident, but what the Repugnican Tea Party traitors want, more than anything else, is control of the White House, and if they can shamelessly politicize the deaths of four Americans in Libya (while they have ignored the deaths of more than a thousand times that number of Americans in Iraq) to help them achieve that, they will do so.

But “Benghazigate” never will be the “scandal” that the Repugnican Tea Party traitors have wanted it to be. The reason that Mittens couldn’t turn “Benghazigate” into an Obama-damaging scandal last fall in order to help his presidential bid is that enough American voters know that the Repugnican Tea Party traitors are fucking chickenhawks who don’t actually give a flying fuck about the deaths of Americans abroad. Enough Americans know that Mittens and his ilk are sociopaths who are lying through their fangs when they claim to care so fucking much about the lives of even just a handful of Americans in the Middle East.

Enough Americans recall how cavalierly the unelected Bush regime sent thousands of our troops to their pointless deaths in Vietraq for Dick Cheney’s Halliburton’s war profiteering to be able to buy for a nanosecond that the Repugnican Tea Party traitors now are being sincere when they claim to care so much about the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi. And enough Americans identify how sick and fucking twisted it is for these sociopathic hypocrites to be using the violent deaths of others for their own political gain.

That’s why “Benghazigate” hasn’t caught fire outside of the right-wing echo chamber and why it never will. It fizzled out in the fall, when Mittens’ sad and pathetic attempt to use it for his own political gain fell flat, but the Repugnican Tea Party traitors still are huffing and puffing on those long-spent ashes that they delusionally believe still actually are embers.

All of this isn’t to say that Barack Obama has been a great president. He has not. His continued slaughter of civilians with his killer drones in Pakistan and in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East only ensures more anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, which makes us Americans less safe, not safer.

Apparently afraid of being branded “soft” or “weak” on “terror,” Obama repeatedly has trounced all over the law, both international and domestic, in order to demonstrate what a bad-ass he is (even though no matter what he does, the wingnuts still are going to call him “soft” or “weak” on “terror”).

Yes, even the Obama administration’s assassination — its extrajudicial execution — of Osama bin Laden on another sovereign nation’s (Pakistan’s) soil without that sovereign nation’s knowledge or approval was a violation of international law, and we know that at least three U.S. citizens (one of them a 16-year-old) thus far have been killed by one of Obama’s drones and that at least four U.S. citizens have been killed altogether by drone strikes in the so-called “war on terror.”

(And before you cry, “Yeah, the war on terror!” I will pronounce right now that the “war on terror” is as bullshit now as it was when the unelected Bush regime declared the “war on terror.” A war is only a conflict between two nations, and the United States of America is not at war with another nation.)

As much as President Hopey-Changey has not delivered upon his promises of (positive) change and has not given us much, if any, reason to hope for a better future — which is why I could not vote for him again in November — one thing that we cannot say about him is that overall he has not kept Americans safe.

We’re five years into the Obama presidency and we have yet to see anything like the almost 3,000 who were killed on September 11, 2001, or the almost 2,000 who were killed in late August 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Even if we give George W. Bush a pass on 9/11 — despite the August 6, 2001 presidential daily briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” — there is no excuse for the fact that with at least two or three days’ warning that the approaching Hurricane Katrina could be catastrophic to New Orleans and the surrounding areas, the unelected Bush regime basically allowed hundreds of (predominantly black) Americans to drown.

So for the Repugnican Tea Party traitors to act now like their party actually is the party with the actual track record of keeping Americans safe is way beyond ludicrous.

As incredibly fucking stupid as Americans can be, not nearly enough of them are stupid enough to believe, after the catastrophic George W. Bush years and the comparatively very peaceful Obama years, that the best thing that we could do for our own safety is to put another Repugnican in the White House.

So keep it up, Repugnican Tea Party traitors. Your repeatedly bringing up the issue of national security can only remind everyone of the facts of recent U.S. history, and those facts, to put it mildly, do not favor you.

Update: In a pretty good piece on Salon.com about how fucktarded it is to compare everything to Watergate, I followed a link to a piece on the wingnutty website townhall.com. In the piece, written by apparently fairly well-known wingnut Neal Boortz, Boortz proclaims that this is the reason why Benghazi isn’t a Watergate (this is a copy and paste; my comments are in brackets):

… Let me tell you what the American people are concerned with right now – and we’re talking about those who aren’t gunched up with 24/7 discussions about college football recruiting and gay NBA players. In a nutshell (and thank goodness for the few exceptions we DO have) the majority of the American people are more worried right now about acquiring and keeping their monthly checks from the government than they are about 0bama’s [sic — apparently the uber-patriotic Boortz and/or townhall.com refuse to capitalize the name of the duly elected president of the United States of America] lies or foreign policy failures. [“The majority of the American people” are preoccupied with their handouts from the government. So we’re beyond a mere “47 percent” now, apparently.] They think a Benghazi is a small yappy dog.

These people are more concerned about next Winter’s [sic — you don’t capitalize the seasons] home heating assistance checks than they are about dead ambassadors. They’re worrying about getting more federal dollars for child care to help them take care of the next tricycle motor they’re fixin’ to download without the benefit of a husband. [A “tricyle motor,” apparently, is a baby, and while the members of the right wing say that women can’t have abortions or even contraception, at the same time they’re going to slam the wrong women for giving birth. (And “wrong,” of course, means non-white, non-conservative, non-“Christian” and/or poor and/or the like.)] They’re wondering who is going to pay their medical bills, and how they can get their hands on one of those great Section 8 housing vouchers. Some are looking to upgrade their 0bamaPhones.

How many people do we have on Social Security disability right now? The figure is nearing 12 million Americans. These 12 million are principally worried about how to keep those checks coming, while another 12 million (at least) are wondering how to get on this bandwagon as well. After all, their backs hurt and you surely can’t expect them to get out there and work for a living, can you? (Apologies to those of you with actual disabilities, but we could probably cram every one of you into a Jai Alai Fronton somewhere in Miami if we had to.)

Then there’s millions more who’s [sic — why can’t wingnuts get basic fucking English correct? It’s “whose,” not “who’s”] main concern is making sure their unemployment benefits don’t run out (Me? Get a job?) and others who are waiting for 0bama to make their boss pay them more than they’re actually worth on their jobs. …

There you have it. The “small yappy dog” joke is funny, admittedly, but what we have here is a restatement of Mittens Romney’s “47 percent” rhetoric: More Americans don’t care about Benghazi than the number of Americans who actually do because these lazy Americans care only about getting their next handout from the guvmint.

Wow. Seriously. The “47 percent” bullshit hasn’t been working out for the wingnuts very well, but they only are going to continue it? Your stock response to those who disagree with your politics is to claim that they’re living off of the guvmint even when most of them quite demonstrably are not?

True, many if not most Americans are more concerned about their personal economic situations than they are about what happens abroad. Benghazi might indeed, to them, be a “small yappy dog.” But did we not have a pretty good economy under Bill Clinton, only to see George W. Bush destroy it with his Vietraq War, which has cost us trillions of dollars (it’s a huge chunk of our federal budget deficit), and with his tax cuts for the super-filthy-rich (which also is a huge reason for our federal budget deficit)? Does the Repugnican Party have no responsibility for the fact that Americans might be more concerned about their personal economic situations right now than they do about foreign affairs?

And might Americans be quite understandably numb to the bloodshed that they — we — witnessed (and some of us were touched by personally) during the eight very long Bush years?

I mean, fuck: Almost 3,000 dead from 9/11. More than 4,000 dead in the bogus Vietraq War. Almost 2,000 dead from Hurricane Katrina.

After you serially are assaulted with shit like this, are you really supposed to be all fucking bent out of shape over the deaths of four Americans? Really?

It’s interesting, though, I think, to compare my answer to the question of why Benghazi never will be Benghazigate with Boortz’s “answer” to the question.

It wasn’t long ago enough that the wingnuts falsely accused those of us on the left of “hating Americans.”

Being that the wingnuts, probably first and foremost, are fucking hypocrites, I guess that it doesn’t come as a huge shock to see that now it’s fairly apparent that it’s the wingnuts who actually hate Americans — “the majority” of whom, you know, care only about their guvmint handouts. (Ironically, as I have noted, it’s the red states, not the Obama-loving blue states [whose denizens love Obama so much that they actually capitalize his name], that are the welfare states. Of course.)

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2013: The stupid white man’s last stand?

Hopefully the Bad-and-Scary Santa Pope (pictured above) will be replaced with a Cute-and-Cuddly Santa Pope who is not European. In the meantime, I take Pope Palpatine’s rare resignation — the first resignation of a pope in about 600 years — as a great fucking birthday gift.

The examples of the continuing downfall of the stupid white man are so numerous that this piece should write itself.

Let’s see. Where to begin?

We still have stupid white men John McCainosaurus and Lindsey Graham, both U.S. senators with the Repugnican Tea Party, still yelling about “Benghazigate” when no one is listening.

Stupid white man Mittens Romney had tried to make “Benghazigate” a Big Fucking Issue during the second presidential debate, but moderator Candy Crawley slapped him down like the bitch that he is, and Barack Obama went on to win re-election nonetheless, 51 percent to Mittens’ incredibly ironic 47 percent.

Perhaps especially after the Repugnican traitors got off scot-fucking-free from the thousands of preventable American deaths on September 11, 2001, and the thousands of preventable American deaths in the illegal, immoral, unprovoked, unjust and wholly bogus Vietraq War that used 9/11 (and not, say, war profiteering and Big-Oil profiteering) as its main pretext, Americans just weren’t in the mood to spank the Obama administration too hard over the deaths of four Americans, which is a much, much, much, much, much lower body count than we saw during the eight-year reign of the unelected Bush regime (in which I would include the almost 2,000 Americans who unnecessarily were killed by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005).

The last that I heard, the miserable closet case (or, as they say, “confirmed bachelor”) Lindsey Graham was promising to hold up the nomination of Repugnican former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the new secretary of defense. Graham seems undaunted by the fact that he virtually is alone in this little crusade, with the possible exception of McCainosaurus.

I’m not big on Hagel — as I have noted, it sickens me that so many so-called Democratic presidents fairly routinely have picked Repugnicans as their defense secretaries, when not once in the history of the nation has a Repugnican president ever picked a Democrat as his defense secretary (“bipartisanship,” you see, means that the Dems cave in all the fucking time but that the Repugs never give a fucking millimeter) — but who the fuck is Lindsey Graham to try to play president?

In his last election, in 2008, Graham, who hails from the 24th most populous state, South Carolina (which has a population of not even 5 million), received just over 1 million votes. In that same November 2008 election, Obama garnered more than 69 million votes (and he was re-elected with just under 66 million votes).

I get it that South Carolina was the first backasswards red state to secede from the Union, and so that it politically helps the white supremacist Graham with his white-supremacist constituency for him to be taking on the nation’s first black president, but the clear majority of Americans elected Barack Obama, not the bitter pansy Lindsey Fucking Graham, to be commander in chief.

Treasonous chickenhawk pipsqueak Lindsey Graham needs to sit down and shut the fuck up, unless it’s to come out of the closet already and to apologize to the nation for his having afflicted us with his sorry pansy ass.

Then there is President Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight — which stupid white man Ted Nugent is to attend as the guest of a stupid-white-male (of course) Repugnican Tea Party U.S. representative from Texas (of course), as a middle finger extended to Barack Obama and to anyone else who opposes massacres perpetrated by lunatics (usually stupid white men who are card-carrying members of the NRA) with assault rifles in public spaces, because there is no doubt that the “freedom” to kill as many innocent people as possible at one time surely is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they drafted the Second Amendment.

The vile, washed-up piece of shit, white-trash traitor and gun nut Nugent has made many thinly veiled references to President Obama and other political opponents of his treasonous Repugnican Tea Party being shot — it’s the “tea party’s” “Second-Amendment remedies” for when things don’t go their way at the ballot box, you see — yet some stupid-white-male U.S. representative from Texas thought that it was a classy thing to invite Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address.

Way to reinvent the party that long has been alienating the majority of us Americans, yes — to bring to the State of the Union the guy who has made thinly veiled threats about President Obama and other Democratic elected officials being assassinated?

Then there is the uber-cheesy “So God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl ad for the Dodge Ram that the wingnuts relished because it pretended that we still live in the 19fucking50s — or before.

It must be said that dead right-wing radio show host Paul Harvey — who was the Thomas Kinkade of the radio, painting tacky, sappy, gauzy portraits of a time in the United States of America that probably never existed at all but that certainly no longer exists now — gave his “So God Made a Farmer” speech at a Future Farmers of America convention in 1978. So that’s already more than 30 years ago. But wait, there’s more — he based his 1978 speech on a piece that he’d written for a newspaper in 1975, and it gets even better: Apparently the piece that Harvey wrote in 1975 was ripped off from a letter to the editor of a newspaper from 19fucking40 — more than 70 fucking years ago.

Don’t get me wrong — to the extent that we even have any independent farmers left, I’m sure that many if not even most of them are hard-working, decent individuals, as Dodge’s nauseatingly misleading and manipulative ad alleges. However, surely not every farmer’s son wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, as the ad also alleges, and surely there have been many who have found farm life to be fucking miserable.

And are we really to single out only certain professions as being valuable — the right-wing, macho professions, usually, such as farmers, firefighters, cops and members of the military — and others (the traditionally female-dominated professions, such as nursing and teaching, perhaps especially) as not?

And how can we simply overlook the fact that Big Agriculture, which has enjoyed the full support of the big-corporation-loving Repugnican Party, has killed the independent/family farmer? How can we pretend that we’re still a nation of farmers? What the fuck?

Funnyordie.com’s parody of the God-awful “So God Made a Farmer” ad is probably the best response to the ad that’s out there. It’s called “So God Made a Factory Farmer,” and it gives a much more truthful overview of what farming is about today and ends with the fitting tagline, “Here’s to shameless heartland pandering.”

Speaking of the idea that members of certain professions are to be worshipped, how about “the Shooter”?

“The Shooter” is the apparent stupid white man who (reportedly, anyway) assassinated Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when he was a member of the Navy SEALS. (Reportedly his name isn’t being released because if it were, his life would be in jeopardy from Osama-loving revenge killers.)

“The Shooter,” who, I am guessing, is just another stupid white man who wants all of us to drop to our knees and suck his cock just because he was in the military — even though the military’s bloated-beyond-belief budget is bleeding our nation to death and is destroying us all, a la the militarily overextended ancient Roman empire — apparently has whined to Esquire magazine that although he left the Navy after only 16 years of service when he knew that 20 years was the requirement for him to receive a pension, he is being screwed because he won’t get his pension anyway.

I’m pretty sure that there was no clause in there that said that if you assassinate Osama bin Laden, you can decide on your own to leave the military four years early with impunity, yet this guy is calling himself a victim.

Why special treatment for this man? How would it be fair to his comrades to bend the rules for him?

My understanding is that the first Navy SEAL to encounter bin Laden in the compound in Pakistan was to take bin Laden out. It could have been another member of the SEALS team that did the deed had he encountered bin Laden first, I understand. It’s not like “the Shooter” was the Divinely Anointed One to Avenge Us for 9/11, was it?

That aside, I can’t imagine that the extralegal assassination of Osama bin Laden on another nation’s sovereign soil was allowed by international law anyway. “The Shooter,” in my book, acted illegally.

True, he was just a pawn, but so were the Nazi soldiers who were “just following orders.” We can’t allow that “excuse” for illegal actions. All of us are responsible as individuals when we break the law, whether we carry out the illegal action with our own hands or whether we order it from afar (yes, this makes Barack Obama criminally liable for the extralegal assassination of bin Laden, too, of course). We can’t try to hide behind some larger structure and disavow any personal responsibility for our own actions. Shit like that allows atrocities like the Holocaust and My Lai and Abu Ghraib to happen.

That aside, it’s the entitlement mentality of “the Shooter” that really rankles me. You hear so many current and former members of the military acting like all of us civilians owe them something, usually becuase they have protected our “freedoms.”

No, we don’t owe them anything — they get their paychecks and their benefits (unless they, oh, say, leave service four years too early); that is their pay, and we, the taxpayers, pay them — and looooong ago they stopped fighting for our “freedoms.” Now, they are just taxpayer-funded thugs who enable the plutocrats and their corporations to strong-arm other nations into handing over their natural resources over to the plutocratic and corporate profiteers.

Iraq, for instance, certainly never threatened any American’s freedoms, as it had had no fucking way to do so, but the Vietraq War sure was great for Dick Cheney’s war-profiteering Halliburton’s no-bid federal contracts and for the other war-profiteering subsidiaries of BushCheneyCorp, including, of course, Big Oil, which when Saddam Hussein was in power was not in Iraq but which is in Iraq now, which tells you what the Vietraq War was all about — the “liberation” not of the Iraqis, of course, but of the oil under their feet.

Our soldiers don’t protect our interests — they protect the plutocrats’ interests, which the plutocrats propagandistically call “our” interests so that we don’t go after them with torches and pitchforks like we should.

Our soldiers actually are doing us more harm than good by allowing the military-industrial machine to keep on chugging and to keep on destroying the American empire, telling us that while we can afford an ever-growing military, we can’t afford to provide for basic human needs, such as adequate health care and decent schools. The military, which we pay for, just can’t afford us, you see.

And lo and behold, if the U.S. military slaughters and savages enough innocent civilians abroad, especially in the Middle East these days, it will create enough enemies, real and fabricated, to try to justify its continued existence. Nice gig, if you can get it — to first create the threat or “threat” and then to claim that you are so vitally needed to deal with it.

Most U.S. military adventurism makes us Americans much less safe, not safer, by creating more animosity against the U.S. abroad.

Yet, again, these soldiers, most of them stupid white men, expect us to stop in the streets and give them head. They are special, they are exempt, they deserve our worship.

“The Shooter” not only left service four years too early, but, AFP notes, his talking to Esquire like he did was prohibited:

Soldiers and spies, whether retired or not, are required to submit manuscripts to the Pentagon for review to ensure no sensitive information is published. But the Esquire piece was not submitted to the department for vetting beforehand, a U.S. defense official said.

The Defense Department is now looking at the article to check if any classified material was divulged, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The Shooter” isn’t some poor, selfless soldier who, according to the sensationalistic cover of Esquire, is being “screwed.” He’s a selfish, self-promoting, rules-ignoring egomaniac who didn’t belong in the military in the first fucking place, along with hordes of other stupid white men who don’t belong in the military for the same reasons.

But there are glimmers of hope on the horizon.

Stunts like the Ted Nugent invitation usually backfire (think of Clint Eastwood talking to that empty chair at the last Repugnican Tea Party National Convention); “the Shooter” is more likely to be seen as the self-serving prick with an outsized sense of entitlement that he is rather than as the “screwed”-over hero that he’d like to portray himself as being; corporations probably will think twice before putting out more nauseating, right-wing, propagandistic, back-to-Mayberry-like ads like Dodge did; Chuck Hagel probably will get confirmed as secretary of defense, despite the attempts of white-supremacist red-state senators to hit at Obama via Hagel; and maybe one day soon Lindsey Graham will be busted like former Idaho U.S. Sen. Larry “Toe-Tappin'” Craig was for soliciting same-sex sex in a public restroom.

We have an actual date for the exit of one stupid white man from the world stage: February 28 is to be Pope Palpatine’s last day, which I consider to be a great fucking birthday gift. (My birthday is February 29, which I celebrate on February 28 and on March 1 three out of four years. [I don’t lose three birthdays every four years — I gain three birthdays every four years…])

Pope Palpatine is an example of the fact that the phenomenon of the stupid white man is not exclusive to the United States. Although I’m not Catholick (in fact, I enjoy watching the Catholick church die here in the United States and in Europe), I was aghast when the Catholicks chose the former Hitler Youth member Joseph Ratzinger as pope in 2005. (The Associated Press notes that “When he was elected the 265th leader of the church on April 19, 2005, [Ratzinger], aged 78, was the oldest pope elected in 275 years and the first German one in nearly 1,000 years.”)

I don’t know — it seems to me that the pope should be cute and cuddly, like the last pope was, not this mean, very old, right-wing German guy who looks waaaay too much like the evil emperor of the “Star Wars” films.

Speaking of “Star Wars,” I recall that cheesy line of Princess Leia’s to her captors on the Death Star in the 1977 installment: “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

Ratzinger came in as pope believing that the church had gone way too liberal. The modest reforms of the Vatican II, which took place even before I was born more than 40 years ago, were too liberal for Ratzinger; it was back to the Dark Ages for him.  His attempts to bolster the church’s membership by swinging it to the far right, however, only lost the church even more membership in Europe and the United States, like more star systems slipping through his fingers.

Educated and enlightened people increasingly reject the oppressive and backasswards stances of the Catholick church, which apparently is growing only in third-world nations, as though the poor peoples of those nations didn’t already have enough problems.

That said, I hope that the next pope is from Latin America. Or hell, I understand that there’s even this Canadian guy who is in the running. If it can’t be a Latin American, I’ll take the Canadian. (No, I don’t want there to be an American pope. Hell no. The patriarchal, misogynist, homophobic Catholicks have too much power here as it is.) This string of European popes needs to stop, and the selection of the first non-European pope ever would be the world equivalent of Barack Obama’s having been the first non-white U.S. president, in my book.

It will be interesting to see if any Big Scandalous News is revealed after Pope Palpatine’s departure. He is, after all, the first pope to resign since the year 1415.

Maybe it’s just his old age that’s the problem — popes who lived before the days of television probably could be incapacitated for years and get away with it, since they weren’t expected to appear regularly on the non-existent television — but one remains dubious.

In any event, for now, anyway, it seems that after February 28, the world might just get a little bit kinder and gentler after Pope Palpatine is put out to pasture, and one hopes that the year will only continue to get better as the rule of the stupid white man continues to wane all over the globe.

P.S. (Wednesday, February 13, 2013): A simple Google search brings up ample articles on how the membership of the Catholick church indeed has been falling not only in Europe, but in the U.S. as well.

This article from The Week from April 2010, for instance, reports:

How severe is the crisis?
It’s “the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history,” says the National Catholic Reporter. Worldwide, the Roman Catholic Church now has 1.1 billion members, compared with 1.5 billion Muslims and 593 million Protestants. In the U.S., all the major denominations have seen their numbers decline in recent years, but the Catholic Church has taken the biggest hit. Since the 1960s, four American-born Catholics have left the church for every one who has converted, according to a 2009 Pew study. [Emphasis mine.] In 2008 alone, Catholic membership declined by 400,000. More than 1,000 parishes have closed since 1995, and the number of priests has fallen from about 49,000 to 40,000 during that same period. Some 3,400 Catholic parishes in the U.S. now lack a resident priest. “Catholicism is in decline across America,” says sociologist David Carlin.

What about in Europe?
The situation there is even more dire, especially in the most historically devout countries. In 1991, 84 percent of the Irish population attended Mass at least once a week. Today the weekly attendance figure is less than 50 percent. In Spain, 81 percent of the population identifies itself as Catholic, but two-thirds say they seldom or never attend services. And the priest shortage is acute — in England and Wales, the church ordained only 16 clergy members in all of 2009.

The full article is here:  http://theweek.com/article/index/202388/catholics-in-crisis

And again, a simple Google search will turn up many similar articles and statistics online.

The apologists for the Taliban-like Catholick church are entitled to their fucked-up opinions, but not to their own fucking facts.

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U.S. now produces only corpses

The body of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi lies on a mattress in a commercial freezer at a shopping center in Misrata, Libya, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. The burial of slain leader Moammar Gadhafi has been delayed until the circumstances of his death can be further examined and a decision is made about where to bury the body, Libyan officials said Friday, as the U.N. human rights office called for an investigation into his death. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

Associated Press photo

This is all that the crumbling American empire produces and exports these days: death and destruction. Gooooo USA! 

A column that Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald posted yesterday is pretty spot-on about what the United States of America has become. Greenwald notes that “there is something very significant about a nation that so continuously finds purpose and joy in the corpses its government produces, while finding it in so little else.” (The occasion of Greenwald’s column is the latest U.S.-government-produced corpse, that of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi [pictured above], whom, like other dictators, the U.S. government opposed, then cooperated with, then opposed again.)

Greenwald begins his column by reminding us of the uber-creepy language that President Hopey-Changey used in early May after the U.S. government summarily had assassinated Osama bin Laden in violation of justice and of international law:

When President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden on the evening of May 1, he said something which I found so striking at the time and still do: “tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.”

That sentiment of national pride had in the past been triggered by putting a man on the moon, or discovering cures for diseases, or creating
technology that improved the lives of millions, or transforming the Great Depression into a thriving middle class, or correcting America’s own entrenched injustices.

Yet here was President Obama proclaiming that what should now cause us to be “reminded” of our national greatness was our ability to hunt someone down, pump bullets into his skull, and then dump his corpse into the ocean.*

And indeed, outside the White House and elsewhere, hordes of Americans were soon raucously celebrating the killing with “USA! USA!” chants as though their sports team had just won a major championship. …

Speaking of sports teams, that is all that the Democratic Party has become: a sports team that many Americans identify with. This is evidenced by the fact that even when Barack Obama violates the U.S. Constitution (e.g., denying assassinees and detainees due process, unilaterally declaring war, etc.) and international law (e.g., assassinating individuals on foreign soil without the consent of that sovereign nation’s government) and sits on his hands in the face of catastrophe (Obama handled British Petroleum’s destruction of the Gulf of Mexico as effectively as George W. Bush would have) — even when President Hopey-Changey acts or fails to act in the same illegal and/or immoral and/or ineffectual manner of which the Dems would have been critical had it been a Repugnican president in power — the Obamabots, if they can’t exactly find it within themselves to celebrate Barack Obama’s George-W.-Bush-like ways, at least keep their mealy mouths shut, and thus empower and enable the lawless, immoral, pro-plutocratic and militaristic Obama regime through their complicity.

This amorality and immorality is why, as Chris Hedges writes, the liberal class (as he calls the Democrats in name only, those who claim to be liberal or progressive but who don’t actually lift a fucking finger for progressive causes, and who, if they don’t actually engage in evil themselves, at least enable the evils encouraged and perpetrated by the right wing) is in its death throes.

The reason that Obama’s re-election prospects are dim, you see, is that the wingnuts prefer actual wingnuts to “liberal” sellouts like Obama — no matter how many baddies/“baddies” he assassinates with our tax dollars as though he were some Big Fucking Badass — and the so-called “independents”/“swing voters,” the majority of whom actually are center-right or even pretty far to the right, also prefer the actual Repugnican candidate to the Repugnican Lite candidate (like Barack Obama).

Actual progressives like me and the millions of other Americans (and those abroad) who are participating in or who at least sympathize with the Occupy Wall Street movement also have no use for Obama — stick a fork in him, because we are done with him and his false promises and his true allegiances — which leaves President Hopey-Changey only with his mealy-mouthed Obamabots, who are so fucking worthless that they might as well donate their organs now so that others can make better use of them.

We actual progressives can thank Obama, however, for thoroughly exposing how much the Democratic Party, since Bill Clinton, has sold us Americans out to our corporate/plutocratic overlords. Chris Hedges asks us:

What kind of nation is it that spends far more to kill enemy combatants and Afghan and Iraqi civilians than it does to help its own citizens who live below the poverty line? What kind of nation is it that permits corporations to hold sick children hostage while their parents frantically bankrupt themselves to save their sons and daughters? What kind of nation is it that tosses its mentally ill onto urban heating grates? What kind of nation is it that abandons its unemployed while it loots its treasury on behalf of speculators? What kind of nation is it that ignores due process to torture and assassinate its own citizens? What kind of nation is it that refuses to halt the destruction of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, dooming our children and our children’s children?

An Obamanation, I might answer.

And Hedges answers, I think, the question of why the Occupy Wall Street movement has been so successful:

The liberal class functions in a traditional, capitalist democracy as a safety valve. It lets off enough steam to keep the system intact. It makes
piecemeal and incremental reform possible. This is what happened during the Great Depression and the New Deal. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s greatest achievement was that he saved capitalism. Liberals in a functioning capitalist democracy are at the same time tasked with discrediting radicals, whether it is [Martin Luther] King [Jr.], especially after he denounced the war in Vietnam, or later Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader.

The stupidity of the corporate state is that it thought it could dispense with the liberal class. It thought it could shut off that safety valve in order
to loot and pillage with no impediments. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And the reduction of the liberal class to silly courtiers, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, meant that the growing discontent found other mechanisms and outlets.

[All emphasis in this block quote is mine. Indeed, the success of the Internet as a political organizing tool is due to the fact that the duopoly of the corporate-ass-licking Coke Party and Pepsi Party stopped addressing the common American’s needs and interests long ago, and thus the common American has found alternative routes, has flowed around the obstruction that is the partisan duopoly that masquerades as “democracy” in the United States of America. And now we see Occupy Wall Street as yet another adaptive response to the utter ineffectiveness refusal of the two parties to represent us, the people.]

Liberals were reduced to stick figures, part of an elaborate pantomime, as they acted in preordained roles to give legitimacy to meaningless and useless political theater. But that game is over.

Human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are brutally discarded. The liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state, has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as the engines of corporate power pollute and poison the ecosystem and propel us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded by both the corporate state and radical dissidents. The best it can do is attach itself meekly to the new political configuration rising up to replace it.

An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope of a correction or a reversal through the formal mechanisms of power. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression now in these protests that lie outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. …

[T]he liberal class, by having refused to question the utopian promises of unfettered capitalism and globalization and by condemning those who did, severed itself from the roots of creative and bold thought, the only forces that could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. The liberal class, which at once was betrayed and betrayed itself, has no role left to play in the battle between us and corporate dominance. All hope lies now with those in the street. …

Yup. Because although the United States of America quickly is on its way to becoming something like the way that it is portrayed in the very dark movie “The Road,” we Americans aren’t ready to become cannibals quite yet, and we would prefer that the trillions of our dollars that are being used to kill people abroad (mostly so that the oil corporations can steal and profit obscenely from other nations’ oil) instead would be used for necessities here at home, such as health care, shelter and food.

Because even if we were to feast upon the corpse of Moammar Gaddafi, which reportedly cost us more than $1 billion to obtain, it wouldn’t feed very many of us Americans for very long.

*On May 2, I similiarly wrote:

… More chilling than the words and actions of my jingoistic cohorts, of whom I expect precious little, however, are those of President Barack Obama, of whom, despite his string of broken campaign promises, I still expect more.

“Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can’t do,” Obama proclaimed today about the snuffing out of bin Laden. (“We do big things” is one of the campaign slogans that Obama rolled out during his last State of the Union address, since “hope” and “change” don’t work anymore.)

Jesus fuck.

When we make such feel-good statements as “as a nation there is nothing we can’t do,” are we really supposed to say that about the killing of one individual? Even someone like Osama bin Laden?

Is this what “American greatness” has come to: our ability to kill one man after 10 years, hundreds of billions of dollars and the killing of tens of thousands before him? (That’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway: Yes.) …

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Wake me up on September 12

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AFP/Getty Images photo

The owner of an investment and public relations firm stumbles away from the stricken World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. While we are seeing plenty of images like this one these days, we certainly aren’t seeing images like this one, an Iraqi girl whose parents were blown away by American stormtroopers in 2005 (you know, because of 9/11) —

Chris Hondros/Getty Images photo

— or, of course, one of the many wonderful images that came out of Abu Ghraib (which I think is Arabic for “a few bad apples”) prison in Vietraq, like this unforgettable gem, circa 2004:

File:Abu-ghraib-leash.jpg

Seriously, though, no nation does rank hypocrisy and self-righteousness like the “Christian” United States of America does rank hypocrisy and self-righteousness. We! Are! Number! One!

So the 9/11 decennial already has begun, with cheesy (redundant…) 9/11-related retrospective pieces already having been appearing in the mainstream media, but the worst of it should come next week, as the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, approaches.

As Ted Rall points out, we Americans have learned virtually nothing from 9/11, and this is evident from the woe-is-us fest that we’re seeing now.

And as Glenn Greenwald (also) points out, of course part of the self-serving, mawkish 9/11 commemoration that we won’t see is any official mention of the fact that the U.S. government first supported (and armed) the likes of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden before it declared them enemies or any official mention of the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis whom the United States slaughtered in the illegal, immoral, unjust and unprovoked Vietraq War, which the unelected Bush regime launched in March 2003 using 9/11 as a pretext, even though not a single one of the 19 9/11 hijackers was an Iraqi (15 of them, in fact, were from Saudi Arabia, as was Osama bin Laden, but the U.S. power elites and the Saudi power elites remain great oily buddies).

Greenwald concludes his piece by noting that

… the fact that victims of American violence over the last two decades have easily outweighed, and continue to outweigh, those of the Dictators and Terrorists whom we so vocally despise is nonetheless an extremely important fact that should shape our understanding of 9/11. But as usual, that’s another fact that will be “left unsaid” [in the 9/11 decennial commemorations].

What 9/11 signifies most for me is nothing like American victimhood, since the United States hardly can claim to be a victimized nation (9/11 was only blowback for longstanding U.S. oppression in the Middle East), or “patriotism” (which is just jingoism or fascistic nationalism), but it marks the lost decade of 2000 through 2009.

That decade started out swimmingly, with the blatantly stolen presidential election of 2000. What possibly could have gone wrong by just allowing a bunch of right-wing, pro-plutocratic, pro-corporate chickenhawks to steal the White House?

Then there was 9/11, then there was the Vietraq War, then there was Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 — which the unelected Bush regime was prepared for as well as it had been prepared for 9/11 (recall the August 2001 presidential daily briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”, and forecasters had predicted Katrina’s landfall at least two days in advance) — and then there was Barack Obama promising “hope” and “change” to a weary, Bush-whacked nation in 2008.

In 2009, with the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate all in Democratic/“Democratic” hands — his best opportunity to push through a progressive agenda — what did President Hopey-Changey accomplish? Jack fucking squat. And in 2010? Ditto.

And now we are in 2011 and where are we? We are pretty much right back where we were back in 2000: the Repugnican (Tea) Party presidential frontrunner is the Big-Oil-ass-lickin’, “Christo”fascist-lovin’, dipshit governor of Texas, and the Democratic presidential candidate will be a reportedly intellectual (“elitist” in “tea party”-speak) but rather uncharismatic guy who has been in Washington for a little while now.

And yes, I can see another Texas governor going to the White House in January 2013, whether he steals it and Americans just fucking let him, a la 2000, or whether he actually wins the 2012 presidential election fairly and squarely.  Americans are that fucking stupid.

But can they — we — survive two lost decades in a row?

Fuck. Maybe I should have titled this “Wake me up in 2021.”

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My last word on the assassination of Osama bin Laden (I hope)

I had thought that the Osama bin Laden assassination would have run its course by now here in the United States of Amnesia, but, with nothing else to replace it – except, perhaps, for the “news” that Bristol Palin’s facial appearance indeed has been altered, she says, because she had jaw surgery (this is the most-viewed “news” story on Yahoo! News as I type this sentence) — it lingers still.

It’s a sign of the collapsing of the American empire that so many Americans have found comfort, I suppose the word is, in the assassination of a rather pathetic man in hiding whose last big show was almost a full decade ago.

I mean, how convenient it is to blame more than a decade of American stupidity and laxity* on one man, and how tempting it is to believe that with his death goes American stupidity and laxity. If bin Laden was the cause of all of our problems, then surely his death is the magical solution to all of our problems! Right? Right?

As I wrote right after I found out about it, bin Laden’s assassination has changed nothing except for the national “news” obsession du jour (or, in this case, de la semaine). Bin Laden had been fairly powerless for years before his assassination, and his largest achievement was in destroying the American economy.

And hell, he didn’t even have to do the work. It was the treasonous wingnuts of the unelected Bush regime, using their wet dream of 9/11 like the Reichstag Fire to fulfill their wingnutty wish list, who did the work for bin Laden, using 9/11 for years as their cover to push through a radical right-wing, treasonous agenda they otherwise never would have been able to push through.

And it was an hysterical, cowed populace that allowed them to, just as it had allowed them to steal the White House in the first place.

While President Barack Obama seems to have driven the final stake into the heart of “birtherism,” whose death was long overdue, and for at least the short term can stave off any charges that militarily he’s a pussy, sooner or later the economy is going to reassert its political gravitational pull on Planet Obama.

An NBC News poll taken late last week shows that while almost 60 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of foreign policy (the bin Laden bounce, no doubt), almost 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy.

The bin Laden bounce has put Obama slightly above a 50-percent overall approval rating in the Gallup Poll after he had languished in the 40s for more than the past year, only occassionally hitting 50 percent or 51 percent in that time period.**

Given the weak field of Repugnican Tea Party candidates, however, Obama’s re-election is likely even in an economic environment that might otherwise seriously jeopardize a second presidential term.

But what Obama’s probable re-election means is the continued rightward drift of the nation, in which the new “center” is still right of center and continues going rightward. What’s good for Barack Obama’s personal political fortune, unfortunately, is bad for the nation and for the rest of the planet.

And how you do something matters. I don’t mourn the death of mass murderer Osama bin Laden any more than I would mourn the death of mass murderer George W. Bush or mass murderer Dick Cheney (or mass murderer Condoleezza Rice*** or mass murderer Donald Rumsfeld or…), but how it was achieved was shitty, regardless of how history, which up until now, at least, always has been written by the victors, might tell the story.

George W. Bush is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent human beings, is a much bigger mass murderer than was bin Laden, yet should a military team from a justice-pursuing Iraq (which was home to most of Bush’s victims) take out Bush on American soil like a military team from the U.S. took out bin Laden on Pakistani soil, Americans would be, literally, up in arms.

Even mass murderers like George W. Bush deserve a fair trial. Summary, extrajudicial execution, no matter who its victim is, is always wrong. The perpetrators of such tactics are no better than are their victims. And that’s what the Obama administration’s assassination of Osama bin Laden proved to the world: That the majority of the inhabitants of the United States of America is no better than was bin Laden.

Finally, I hope to make this my last post on Osama bin Laden’s assassination. But before I go I want to leave you with Ted Rall’s current column on the topic. Here it is, in full:

President Obama murdered Osama bin Laden. I am surprised that the left has been so supportive — not of the end result, but of the way it was carried out.

Imagine if the killing had gone down the same exact way, but under Bush. Armed commandos invade a foreign country, storm into a suburban neighborhood, blow a hole in a house and blow away an unarmed man in front of his 12-year-old daughter. The guy is a murder suspect. Mass murder. But there’s no attempt to arrest him or bring him to justice. They spirit his bloody corpse out of the country and dump it into the ocean.

Osama bin Laden was suspected ordering of one of the most horrific crimes of the decade. He might have been taken alive. Yet Obama’s commandos killed him. A big part of the puzzle — the key to the truth, who might have led us to other people responsible for 9/11 — is gone.

Barack Obama is our Jack Ruby.

Liberals would be appalled if this had happened four years ago. They would have protested Bush’s violations of international law and basic human rights. They would have complained about killing the Al Qaeda leader before questioning him about possible terrorist plots. They would have demanded investigations.

But this happened under Obama. Which means that even liberal lawyers who ought to (and probably do) know better are going along. At a panel discussion at the Justice Institute at Pace Law School, University of Houston law professor Jordan Paust asserted: “You can [legally] use military force without consent in foreign countries.”

“At some point a sovereign state [such as Pakistan] that’s harboring an international fugitive loses the right to assert sovereignty,” added Robert Van Lierop.

Paust and Van Lierop are, respectively, a leading opponent of torture at Guantánamo and a former UN ambassador known for his activism on climate change. Both are “liberal.”

In the U.S., conservatives and “liberals” agree: Might makes right. America’s military-intelligence apparatus is so fearsome that it can deploy its soldiers and agents without fear of retribution.

Might makes right. [Emphasis mine.]

In 2007, for example, U.S. Special Forces invaded Iran from U.S.-occupied Iraq in order to kidnap Iranian border guards. It was an outrage. In practical terms, however, there was nothing the Iranians could do about it.

The United States’ 900-pound gorilla act might go over better if we weren’t a nation that constantly prattles on and on about how civilized we are, how important it is that everyone follow the rules. For example:

“We’re a nation of laws!” Obama recently exclaimed. “We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate.”

He wasn’t talking about himself. This was about PFC Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of supplying the big Defense Department data dump to WikiLeaks. Manning has been subjected to torture including sleep deprivation and forced nudity — treatment ordered by Obama.

Truth is, the Constitution, our treaty obligations and our stacks of legal codes are worthless paper. We’re not a nation of laws. We’re a nation of gun-toting, missile-lobbing, drone-flying goons.

U.S. officials do whatever they feel like and then dress up their brazenly illegal acts with perverse Orwellian propaganda. [Emphasis mine.]

“I authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice,” Obama claimed, as if blowing away an unarmed man in a foreign country was the moral equivalent of filing an extradition request with the Pakistani government and putting him on trial before 12 unbiased jurors in a court of law.

Justice is a legal process. It is not a military assault. [Emphasis mine.]

When considering the legality or morality of an act it helps to consider different scenarios. What, for example, if Pakistan had military power equal to ours? Last week’s lead news might have begun something like this:

“Pakistan has intercepted four U.S. helicopters over its airspace, forced them to land, and taken 79 heavily-armed commandos as prisoners. According to Pakistani military officials, the incident took place about 100 miles from the border of U.S.-occupied Afghanistan.

“‘They didn’t stray across the border accidentally. This was a deliberate act,’ said a Pakistani general. President Asif Ali Zardari has asked Pakistan’s nuclear weapons infrastructure has been placed on high alert as the parliament, the Majlis-e-Shoora, considers whether to issue a declaration of war…”

Or let’s assume a different reimagining. What if the United States really [were] a nation of laws?

Then the news might look like the following:

“Bipartisan demands for congressional investigations into the assassination of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden quickly escalated into demands for presidential impeachment after reports that U.S. forces operating under orders from President Obama invaded a sovereign nation without permission to carry out what House Speaker John Boehner called ‘a mob-style hit.’

“Standing at Boehner’s side, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi decried Obama’s ‘cowboy antics’ and said she had received numerous phone calls from the relatives of 9/11 victims furious that true justice had been denied. Meanwhile, in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon moved for sanctions against the United States…”

In fact, no one knows whether Osama bin Laden was involved in 9/11.

They suspect. They feel. They don’t know.

For what it’s worth, he denied it: “Following the latest explosions in the United States, some Americans are pointing the finger at me, but I deny that because I have not done it,” bin Laden said in a statement released on 9/16/01. “The United States has always accused me of these incidents which have been caused by its enemies. Reiterating once again, I say that I have not done it, and the perpetrators have carried this out because of their own interest.”

Why should we believe him? Why not? He admitted his responsibility for the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998.

Interestingly, the FBI never mentioned 9/11 on his “wanted” poster.

There was the famous “confession video” — but it was translated into English by the CIA, hardly an objective source. Arabic language experts say the CIA manipulated bin Laden’s discussion of what he had watched on TV into an admission of guilt. For example, they changed bin Laden’s passive-voice discussion to active: “[the 19 hijackers] were required to go” became, in the CIA version, “we asked each of them to go to America.”

“The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribed them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but that cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it,” said Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg.

Other [bin Laden] communiqués appear to take credit for 9/11 — but there’s a possibility that he was trying to keep himself relevant for his Islamist audience. Anyway, a confession does not prove guilt. Police receive numerous “confessions” for high-profile crimes. They can’t just shoot everyone who confesses.

I’m not angry that Bin Laden is dead. Nor am I happy. I didn’t know the guy or care for his ideology.

I’m angry that, without a trial or a real investigation, we will never know whether he was guilty of 9/11 — or, if he was, who else was involved.

Our Jack Ruby, Barack Obama, made sure of that.

Yup. And I’ve wondered if perhaps bin Laden was assassinated by the Obama administration because he knew too much, and a trial at an international court of law would have brought what he knew to light. 

*Our problems preceded Sept. 11, 2001. Our democracy pretty much was diagnosed with terminal illness when Americans just allowed Team Bush to steal the White House in late 2000. After that, anything else that followed, such as the devasation that was just allowed to occur on 9/11 and with Hurricane Katrina four years later, couldn’t have been a surprise.

**Obama enjoyed approval ratings in the 60s during his first six months in office. He then gradually slid into the 50s and then into the 40s.

***Rice’s recent interview on MSNBC was, um, interesting. She hasn’t changed a bit. You still know when she’s lying — it’s whenever her lips are moving. (Seriously, though, she always has the quavering voice of a liar, and when she’s really lying, she moves her head rapidly from side to side.)

While I doubt Rice’s sanity, as I doubt the sanity of any mass murderer/war criminal, I don’t believe that she actually believes the lies that she spews forth. I believe that she is terrified that one day she might actually be hauled before an international criminal court, and therefore she’s sticking to the same old lies about her part in the execution of the illegal, immoral, unprovoked and unjust Vietraq War that she’s been telling for years now.

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