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Friday, June 12, 2009

Guns 'n' whiskey

The great state of Tennessee, which used to be known as the three states of Tennessee before a dentist from Mississippi became governor and thought the state should at least pretend to be more unified, is giving us a law that can only be described as, well, the dumbest law ever devised by a state legislature. Looking at it, I can only conclude that the state legislators of Tennessee are complete morons who hid behind the door the day the brains were given out.

But what can you actually expect from the state that probably leads the country in meth labs per capita? I was in Tennessee recently and had the misfortune of having to purchase some behind the counter allergy medicine, the kind that has a banned substance used in concocting methamphetine. In order to buy said medicine, one must show the behind the counter staff your ID and sign a form that says you will abide by some part of the U.S. code that presumably deals with what you intend to do with a banned substance.

"This is the part where I swear I won't use it to make meth, right?" I said to the nice lady behind the counter, who promptly looked at me like I'd just insulted her favorite nephew, which, given the propensity of meth labs in the state, I may well have.

This isn't the first time, of course, that Tennessee has given us something of a dubious nature. The state's given us three presidents, although none of them were actually born there. There was that son of a bitch Andy Jackson, a war "hero" who launched the native southeasterners on what became known as the Trail of Tears. He had a particularly strong hatred for the natives.

There was the uneducated tailor Andrew Johnson, picked by Abe Lincoln as his vice president in an unsuccessful bid to coddle the South. Johnson, I suppose, you could call the accidental president, coming to the office as he did via the assassination of his predecessor. Johnson's chief claim to fame is botching Reconstruction so badly that we still haven't recovered from it.

And then there's James K. Polk. I have no idea who he was or what he did, but given Tennessee's track record with presidents, it was likely nothing to write home about. It's probably a good thing that the Supreme Court stole the election from Al Gore.

It's not that I don't appreciate the state of Tennessee, mind you. There have been some good things to come from there. Gore, for example. He's done more as a private citizen to get things moving on the environmental disaster we're living in than he probably could have done as president having to fight the idiots who make up Congress, who, after all, are just a few steps above state legislators. Or, in the case of congresscritters like Michelle Bachman, a few steps below.

And there's Dolly Parton. She's funny, can actually sing and write songs, is fairly liberal and has done more for the incredibly poor people of her native Sevier County on her own than the state ever even thought of doing. She may look fake, but she is as real as they come.

And then there's ... um ... I'm sure there's something else. It's a very beautiful state. But I've gone on long enough and not even told you what the Incredibly Stupid Law does.

It allows people to go into bars with guns.

I know. I mean, I watched Deadwood. I have no desire whatsoever to live it.

Now, to be fair, the law does allow individual bars to "opt out" by posting a sign saying they don't allow guns, which I think the legislators added in because somebody told them it might be unconstitutional to force private businesses to allow people to bring guns.

But seriously, for what unimaginable reason did these guys think it was a good idea to mix alcohol and guns? Were they worried about a terrorist attack on the local Last Chance Saloon and thought, hey, if the citizens are armed, they can put down that problem right there. Or maybe Tennessee has a problem with shootings in bars the way other states have at schools.

Y'gotta admit. It is an awfully stupid law. But on the other hand, maybe it's not such a bad idea after all. Who's going to be going into a bar with a gun? Stupid people, that's who. And if they get a little intoxicated and then get into some ridiculous altercation with somebody, whose loss is it really -- besides their families -- if they shoot each other to death? Now, given that drunks probably can't shoot straight, some innocent bystanders will probably get hurt. But they're probably packin too and it was just happenstance that they weren't the ones in the fight that time.

So why not make it a national law? Why should Tennessee have all the fun? Congress could style it The Stupid People Eradication Act of 2009, and we'd all be a lot happier and safer because of it.

Just imagine if murdering extremists Scott Roeder, James von Brunn and Abdulhakim Muhammad Bledsoe had run into one another at a bar with that law in effect. Roeder and von Brunn woulda probably shot Bledsoe just on principle right away, then Roeder and von Brunn would get into a fight over whether providing abortions is worse than being black or Jewish, and eventually they would pull out their guns, fire, and they'd both be dead. In a matter of moments, three fewer terrorists on the loose.

And three more Americans who did nothing wrong would still be alive.

I'm not sure what the Tennessee legislature hopes to accomplish with this law, but I think, if applied correctly, it could seriously reduce the problems caused by insufficient or corrupted brain activity.

And who wouldn't want that?

AWOP Political Contributing Editor


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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Right to health care

Since my recent foray into market forecast at News Writer's Guide to the Market was such a spectacular failure -- I consistently predicted doom and gloom even as the markets rose and rose -- I thought perhaps it might be time to wade into another arena about which I know next to nothing, although even that's a far sight better than an awful lot of Americans these days.

And just for the record -- despite the pundits' deep sighs of relief and fresh new predictions that we're climbing out of the economic hole 30 years of conservative government dug us into -- I still think there's a lot more nastiness yet to come. This is a fake out. Reminds me of when I went to see Jessica Lange as country music crossover star Patsy Cline in that movie -- Sweet Dreams. I would go see Jessica Lange in anything, then and now.

Patsy Cline, as we all know (well, those of us old enough) died in a plane crash in Tennessee. In the movie, Patsy and her friends are on board that plane when the engines quit. Oh no, theatre-goers thought. This is it. Sweet dreams. But after a few heart-stopping minutes, the pilot gets the engines going again. Everyone on board the plane breathes again. Everyone in the audience breathes again. And then the plane slams into the side of a mountain.

Pretty stupid of us, really. We all knew the fucking plane was gonna hit the mountain, because we were all Patsy Cline fans and we knew what happened. But when those engines started again, we had some kind of amnesia. Like we forgot it was a movie, and we thought, hey, Patsy survives, even though we knew damn well she didn't. When the plane hit the mountain, the gasp in the audience was audible. Very audible.

Thus it is with the economy. We all know what's gonna happen, but we've been lulled by the start-up of the engines, not realizing we've lost too much altitude and we're gonna hit the fucking mountain.

But what do I know? I'm no economist, and I've been wrong for months on this.

So the other issue I'd like to tackle is health care. Yes. An insurmountable mountain on its own, I'm likely to need a bigger plane and maybe two pilots to maneuver this one.

Here's what I know about health care: In the United States, if you gots the bucks, you gots the care. If you don't, welcome to the emergency room.

So here's the deal. The president wants to put a public option for health care insurance on the table to cover those folks whose employers don't provide it, who don't have employers or who can't afford private insurance.

The big objection from the president's opponents, as best as I can see, is that it might work.

Yes, public health care could become so successful at lowering premiums and providing quality care that it would hurt the private insurers.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me the private insurers are most of the problem now. Let's hurt them.

The objectors also worry that under a public option, health care might be rationed and some unnamed, faceless bureaucrat who's never seen the patient will decide how to handle the case.

Excuse me, but for those of us with insurance, isn't that how it's handled now? I think they call it "managed care." Manage this, fuckers. And besides, that would never happen to them, because they're all fucking millionaires. They get what they want, when they want it.

And that's a lie anyway. The objectors like to malign the Canadian system, but has anybody noticed a stream of Canadians fleeing to the United States because they can't get the open heart surgery they need? I didn't think so.

But the insurance companies -- and the pharmaceutical companies -- have the politicans sewn up rather well, so what we end up getting in the way of health care reform won't be much of a reform. It may look different, but the results won't change -- the rich folks will still be able to buy what they want, nameless, faceless bureaucrats will still determine when the rest of us are sick enough to get that coverage and there'll still be a helluva lotta people waiting in the ER waiting room because of a sore throat.

Unless ... unless ... Congress somehow gets the idea that there might be consequences to leaving the status quo. Not sure where they might come across that idea ... maybe ... nah. Y'all don't want to bombard them with calls and letters. And if you lose, as you probably will, you'll have to make good on your threats, and you know what a pain in the ass that is.

But progressive folk are lining up Democratic opposition to the war suplemental bill. Last time I saw a count, they had 11 of the 28 Democrats they needed to stop it. It's gonna be close, but it could work. They already got the Lieberman-Graham amendment barring the release of any more torture photos dropped. Success may be closer than we think.

I have far too many friends who are one major medical bill away from bankruptcy, and that just shouldn't be. Conservatives are wrong when they say that it shouldn't be government's job to take care of the health care of its citizens. I say what could be more right?

And please, don't even get me started on the socialist bullshit. What the hell do they think Medicaid is? Ohhh riiiiight. They'd like to ditch that too. Compassionate conservative my ass.

The Declaration of Independence says that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our inalienable rights. Universal health care coverage will help keep us all healthy. And that means we keep those rights.

Unless, of course, the conservatives really do believe that only some of us deserve those rights.

AWOP Political Contributing Editor


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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday morning paganism

So a cheating ex-House Speaker and a fundamentalist preacher former governor walked into an evangelical church ...

No, seriously. They did. Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee went to church together. OK, it was a political forum held at a church. But they went together. Talk about your odd couples.

I dunno about you, but Newt Gingrich as a leading religious figure I never saw coming. Newt and morality don't belong in the same sentence, although I just did it right there.

By the way, that's Newt's lesbian half-sister Candace up there. I couldn't bear to see Newt or Mike in that spot. I once took Candace to a baseball game. She almost caught a foul ball.

And what is this obsession my colleagues have with this guy anyway? He's a bitter, nasty politician who won his first congressional race by pummeling Democrat Virginia Shapard, a married mother of two, with campaign ads like
Newt will take his family to Washington and keep them together; Virginia will go to Washington and leave her husband and children in the care of a nanny!

Right after winning the race, of course, he served his wife with divorce papers. While she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. I think he wanted to marry the staffer he'd been screwing or something. What a swell guy.

And some kind of expert? Other than being a former House Speaker and all around pig, Newt Gingrich is known for being a "historian" who writes books speculating that the Confederate army won major battles they actually lost during the Civil War.

Just for the record, if you'd really like some speculation about the Confederacy winning that war and what might have happened on this continent in that event, try Harry Turtledove's alternate history The Great War series, which begins with the idea that the Confederates won the Civil War and carries that scenario through the middle of the 20th Century, detailing the very bloody (alternate) history that might have occurred and the horrors that might have been unleashed. Quite unlike Newt's little fantasies where the South wins and all is well after that.

Again, Newt and Mike -- too much. That's Harry Turtledove.

But I digress, as I often do with too little coffee.

So Newt and Mike walk into a political forum at Rock Church in Hampton Roads, Virginia, where Huckabee says that the California Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 8 is "a miracle from God's hands" akin to the Americans' victory over the British in the Revolutionary War and Newt says
I am not a citizen of the world. I am a citizen of the United States because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator.


I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism.

Holy shit. I guess socialism just wasn't bad enough. But now we're all pagans. And damn, I didn't know that it took "our creator" to make us citizens of the United States. I thought IT WAS BEING BORN HERE OR NATURALIZED.

But hey, that's why the right has a little credibility problem. They go on and on about patriotism and the Constitution and what not, but they ignore it when it comes to dredging for votes.

And how nice they're still dredging at the bottom of a leaky barrel.

But let's get back to this pagan thing. Like, what's wrong with being a pagan, I mean, other than not being Christian? The word itself is one of those Latin roots words -- paganus, which I think meant rural bumpkin or something. Right wing, evangelical Christians, though -- the kind that Newt and Mike were patronizing on Friday -- take it much further these days and generally use it to mean "not us." They sometimes make allowances for Judaism -- because of that whole Armageddon thing -- and used to make allowances for Islam, before the recent unpleasantness. I'm not sure that Muslims aren't now lumped into the pagan category. Or maybe they're just labeled "terrorists."

I'm sorry he didn't say "heathen," though. I used to refer to myself as a pagan, before "neopaganism," whatever the hell that is, got all popular among the Not Christian crowd. Now I prefer heathen. It's the same word, really, heathen being an Old English translation of paganus. But there's something much more unseemly about heathen. And I'm nothing if not unseemly.

Much the same as I was peculiarly attracted to the word "queer" in my second grade spelling book. I guess the spelling book people were oblivious to uses of the word other than how they defined it, which was "odd" and, oddly enough, "peculiar."

I guess you could call me a queer heathen.

Actually, you can call me whatever you damn well please. One thing I've learned in all my years -- well, actually in the last few months -- is that the only definition of me that matters is the one I have. So you can call me queer, call me heathen, call me pagan, call me batshit insane if you want, but it really doesn't matter. Says more about you than it does about me, unless, of course, you actually call me what I am. And then it still says more about you, that you actually get it.

But please. Don't call me a Republican. That'll really piss me off. It'll prove you're stupid, and I have a real problem with stupid people.

Which, of course, brings us back to Newt and Mike and going to church on Friday. Ollie North spoke at that little event too, which was called "Rediscovering God in America." I guess lying and cheating and breaking the law is OK by God in America, although I'm also guessing that it would not be OK by God in America if someone from the Not Christian crowd did it. Or someone, like, say, the president, who is perceived as being Not Christian by the extremist Christian crowd.

Not that I'm implying anybody is a hypocrite or anything. I'm just sayin.

I lay it out the way I see it. You decide whether it's bullshit.

AWOP Political Contributing Editor


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