Monday, November 24, 2014

Let me have a word with you, Mr. Speaker


Dear John:

Permit me to interrupt your howling at President Obama for his action on immigration reform. Your darkest views on releasing millions  of illegal immigrants from the bondage of practiced anonymity have reached into my own ancestry.  And as the President reminded us, they didn't all cross borders but came by planes and ships, too.

Mine came on ships from the Mediterranean (that's the enormous freshwater sea, John, that provided some of the routes for the tidal waves of  immigrants seeking a better life on our shores - although many were deceived by the cynical transporters and debarked instead in the West Indies and South America!).

My parents were born in a relatively short span  after their parents arrived from a small town near Beirut.  To be perfectly up front about it, I was too young to learn whether they ever became American citizens, nor did I care much about it  as I grew older  and they had passed on.   In fact, I only got to know my by dear siti, my father's mother.  My paternal grandfather, Abe - surprised that he and my father had the name that Dad passed on to me? - was a burly bald man who  died when I was quite young.   He opened a small fruit market in the tiny coal-mining town of Mt. Pleasant, Pa.

Dad said he didn't know why they chose to finally settle there, and it really didn't seem important enough to the family to find out.  On my mother's side, her parents took root in Conemaugh, a gritty attachment to Johnstown (where I was born).  They died before I met them.

So that left siti, a gracious woman who never learned to read nor write English, but managed to speak enough  to get by while she read her Arabic newspapers and burned tiny pyramids of incense.  We lived a block away and on Saturday nights  I would escort   her to a nearby restaurant  for her favorite treats: a hotdog and a Coke for a quarter. She would smile with each bite and say, "Good".

I also shopped for her groceries, careful that the canned goods had pictures of peas or beans on the wrappers so she would know what the can contained.

So here's the best part of the story, John.  She  had five sons and a daughter. Dad and his brother George  opened a small garage where they sold a few cars each month but spent most of their time as grease monkeys .  Together  they built our  house 25 feet from the garage, separated only by a small side yard and a slick path where they dumped drained crankcase oil. (An outhouse across the street from our house absorbed the awful smell of the oil.)

As life  and wallets improved, the brothers became pool sharks and opened a dingy smoky pool room in a dungeon-like setting under a food market  and took on all drifters bearing  cuesticks. It was not the type of ordered existence that would impress most  of your donors, John. But it did work out  reasonably well for Dad and Uncle George.

Two other sons, one with  assistance from  Uncle Sam, went on to become quite successful surgeons. Aunt Della and Uncle Dan each ran small restaurants and did quite well. Aunt Della's husband George (there were at least six Georges in the family)  began in Altoona with a hotdog grille facing his sidewalk window where passersby  couldn't  resist stopping in for a 10-minute  lunch and maybe an hour's worth of fussing.

That was a long, long time ago, John,  and what I've told you is as best as I can remember it. Attention to the details of family history was not something any member  of this tribe cared about.

But these folks were all success stories, Mr. Speaker.  And I unapologetically remind you again that whether the grandparents became citizens, which I doubt, they produced the American dream without being familiar with that overused term.

Successful in America, John!  Wouldn't it have been a bloody injustice  if my grandparents had been deported?   So I ask:  How cold-blooded can you be in the interest of your own political schemes?

Abe Zaidan, grandson

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Benghazi: Bipartisan House committee said what?

Not a good day  for all of those  conservative Facebookers who stuck "Benghazi" on their names to scandalize the Obama Administration, particularly Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, on the hollow charges that she was at fault (cover-up conspiracy!)  in the bloody 2012 attack on the U. S. diplomatic mission.   Republicans had already filled several silos with fodder to diminish Hilary on the trail to 2016.

But I see in the Plain Dealer  (Benghazi theories debunked) an  Associated Press report  that, well, here is the opening paragraph to tell you where this is going:

A two-year investigation to the Republican controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly{in its response} and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Game, set, match?  Not quite.  Superhawk Sen. Lindsey Graham  still has doubts and is pushing the idea that the Senate ought to investigate, too.  And Fox News  suggests it isn't satisfied that all of the facts were turned up in the long bi-partisan House study.

For these fringies, they will have to delay  their  schemes to blame Obama for  the six-foot snowfall in Buffalo.

P.S. Why wasn't the  Benghazi story in the BJ, too,  for the benefit of those folks who read nothing else?   Hurrrummmppph!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Roll in the U-Haul for these GOP crocks

You needed a U-Haul to deliver all of the crocks that  Republicans have exported to the public to slander President Obama for one reason or another, especially after his immigration rollout.  Both Lords of the Fleas - McConnell and Boehner - were at the top of the batting order in swinging wildly at Obama's decision to rescue millions of illegal  immigrants from non-personhood.   As if they hadn't already  done enough to cripple the government that pays their salaries anyway.

The anti-Obama Republicans in Congress have already filed costly suits savaging Obamacare.  Rep. Steve King of Iowa wants to impeach Obama. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama proposes to jail the president for five years, vaguely referring to authority in a federal statute that he can't cite.  Joe Arpaio , the nototorius Arizona sheriff , sued the president before Friday sunrise.

Etc.etc.  Folks, these guys are so much smaller than their shadows. It's awful  to realize that the dumbed-down version of the Laurel and Hardy hijinks, McConnell and Boehner, will plague us for two more years.
Although I seldom find much reason to agree with John McCain, I do think of his snarky assessment of Republicans that was reported in Game Change, the virtual diary of the 2006 presidential  campaign by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

In one of his darker moments on the trail, McCain blurted:

"Why would I want to be the leader of a party of such assholes?"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fussy McCain trusts next congress to do something

 John MCain, the dyspeptic senator from Arizona, had another bad day on Wednesday in his response to President Obama's immigration plan.  Why, he fussed , couldn't Obama have waited until the new session of congress next year to see what it planned to do?


What Congress would do?  History tells us that group would have as much positive force as simulated sex.

McCain has  never gotten over the fact that he was vanquished by Obama in 2008.  And I have never gotten over the fact that he placed this country at awful risk when he chose  Sarah Palin, a woman he hardly knew,  as his running mate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kasich may be heading for his own megachurch

The frequent photos of Gov. Kasich with outstretched arms suggest that he might consider one of those megachurch arenas for his base before he wanders into the wilderness of a presidential campaign.  Voters would be expected to respond not only to the  preachy profile but also to  his recurring references to how he and the Lord  get along so well.  As he told us on election night, God had put his hand on him. 

In the old days, ii was called mysticism, a one-on-one conversation with God.    Today it woudn't be a stretrch to say that more politicians than ever are finding it quite convenient to bring their God into the reverential sphere with voters.

Several presidential candidates  in the last election tried to convince us that they were running with the best wishes of the Lord as well as the Tea Party.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry of Texas even went so far as to claim that God told him to run.  So did Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain. Earlier,  George W. Bush was certain that God had wanted him to be the commander-in-chief.

And so there he was, of all things,  on the aircraft carrier decked out as a military pilot, declaring MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Today's practitioners of the religious art are so much less imaginative than the days of dog rentals as props for the candidates.  Edwin O'Connor  gave us a lively account in The Last Hurrah of the role of a rented Irish setter as a homey prop by Kevin McCluskey against Mayor Frank Skeffington to complement the billboard and   painting  of the Pope for the eyes of the Catholic electorate.

There.  Religious outreach as well as that big irish setter. Oh, and the infancy of TV ads that captured the warm relationship between the candidate and the hired  Irish setter.   He won!

Have yet to see Kasich with a rented dog.  But it's early.

(Re-posted from Plunderbund )

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ohio's two Republican apostates on same-sex marriage

If you've heard of situation ethics, allow me to add a slight twist:  Situation morality.  That occurs when a member of one's family is the decisive element in shaping the moral code of, say, a prominent politician against the restrictive social universe of conservatism. As in same-sex marriage.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, for example, a Republican, has nothing good to say about the state's ban on same-sex nuptials. Oh?  Well, he has a lesbian daughter   who, with her partner,  have two children.  In an interview with the Associated Press, Pfeifer clearly explained the dilemma imposed on his daughter and all others by his party, asserting:

"Gay and lesbian couples who sit down,  plan to take on the awesome responsibility of having or adopting children,  go see a lawyer and draft up all of the documents you can think of,  they still don't  establish parenthood and they can't because of the constitutional prohibition."

He's the second Ohio Republican, where most social guidelines are  defined for political convenience.  You have to take a deep breath in the false hope that the party still is tolerant enough to forgive an apostate or two.

Sen. Rob Portman, who describes his ideology as "constructive conservatism," has broken faith with his party on same-sex-marriage, explaining that he has a gay son. Good for Dad!

Interesting don't you think,  when so-called moral choices come down to the personal level of familial concerns?   Situation morality?        

Friday, November 14, 2014

The electorate didn't rise to morning in America

When America's electorate finally awakens from its slumber, it may be surprised  to discover what it left to the historically low turnout to decide for all of us.

No later than the fading hours of Election Day did the wingnuts in control of the Senate and House  gather as though it was Walpurgis Night to whoop it up.  With both chambers and the committee chairmen in their hands, there will be no limits to their misguided arrogance of power.  What seemed painful before the polls opened is now confirmed to be an irreparable paralysis all the way to 2016.

The Affordable Care Act, environmental concerns, immigration - you name the issues for which the Koch brothers spent nearly $40 million to protect their interests in both houses.   Can you imagine guys like Mitch McConnell or John Boehner, the two soulless old Republican warhorses,  changing their gait  in 2015?

The first signs of their servility to Big Money  arrived  virtually within the hour of President Obama's  announcement of a climate change agreement with China.

Boehner quickly denounced it as "job crushing"    - his standby cliche without ever rolling out his own jobs plan during Obama's tenure. He charged that it was another  example of the "president's crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle class families."

As for McConnell, he growled that it was  Obama's latest move in his "war on coal".

And how about Sen. Jim Inhofe. who will turn 80 on Monday, being seated as the new chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.  He's on record as describing climate change as a "hoax" and said it's a deception of  " environmental-liberal conspiracy."  That's a perfect fit for his oil-rich state of Oklahoma.  Like McConnell and other climate change deniers, Inhofe  warned  he won't sit still until his side kills the EPA.  McConnell couldn't agree more.

When the GOP now speaks of creating jobs, the mixture of their wheezing hot air with other pollutants  will be the  growth industry  for those masks  that the Chinese are already  wearing.

Reposted from Plunderbund

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The newer universe of billion-dollar transactions

Did you ever think that the day would arrive when "billion" became a common household word?

...When an Oklahoma oilman would pay a nearly  $1  billion settlement to his ex-wife in a divorce case?

... When five global banks would be fined $4.25  billion for deceptive practices?

...When Warren Buffett would buy  Duracell  batteries from Proctor & Gamble for $4.7 billion?

These lofty Midas-like  events are regularly showing up as just  another day at the office.

But when Harold Hamm, the  CEO of  a big oil company, Continental Resources Inc.,  lays out his golden fleece to settle  a  divorce, even  People magazine decided to put it in context, noting that  Donald Trump only paid Ivana $25 million to send her on her way.  Tiger Woods' divorce cost him $100 million. In today's business world, beer money.

In an email to People magazine, Hamm, who is said to be worth $14 billion (as of this afternoon, commented, seemed quite pleased with how it all turned out.   "This is a fair and equitable  outcome to the case, " he wrote.  "Out of respect for my family we have no further comment on the matter."

So drill, baby,  drill!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

GOP: Remembrances of things that never happened

The latest Smithsonian magazine tells us of the ongoing research into the implanting in your brain  memories of things that never happened.  At MIT,  a pair of neuroscientists prompted a fearful reaction by a terrorized mouse to a false memory of electrical shock. The key to this was the manipulation of the brain to cause the poor rodent to wrongly remember the pain of a similar event that never happened.


With all due respect to  MIT and another laboratories working on these experiments,  the past election proved that it's possible to manipulate the voters in the same way. The Republicans made you believe that President Obama was the villain who prevented unemployment from dropping to zero.  Keen practitioners of Plato's noble lie, they made up a lot of traumatic things that  led the voters to blame the president for inspiring President Bush to cause a serious recession.

Candidate Mitt Romney said it very well when he contended that the economy was improving but Obama made it worse. Even if it weren't true, never happened, it sank into the  voter's memory lanes so that a worker  at a plant gate could fume that he would have had a job today  if Obama hadn't single-handedly bailed out the auto industry.

And when Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, an out-of-the-starting-gate critic of the Affordable Care Act predicted that it would soon bloat health care costs by 41 pct.,   it had a worse than chilling  effect on many voters.

There is even existing today  a False Memory Syndrome Foundation in Philadelphia that tries to be helpful in these matters, telling its online readers that "the professional organizations agree: the only ways to distinguish between true and false memories is by external corroboration."

We think a remedy lies well beyond that.  As  John Hay,  Teddy Roosevelt's secretary of state. once glumly advised his boss:  "Dealing with people to whom mendacity is a science is no easy thing."