Archive for the ‘Exposing the Enthusiastically Stupid (and the Proudly Dumb)’ Category

The following is a letter and link sent to me by my old chum and wonderful Minneapolis composer, Mark Gottlieb — and my response.

http://insider.foxnews.com/2016/02/12/video-indiana-workers-learn-jobs-going-mexico
Hi Russ — Check out the video and the incredibly callus manner he explains to the pink slipped worker how “…this will have an impact….”.
Even in their vocal anger there is a quiet and more subtle heartbreak.

I sent my US Rep Keith Allison, a fairly decent fellow a note suggesting such a move makes good sense if all their product remains in Mexico or south. But then asked that once Carrier Corp moves to Monterey, Mexico what % of their product will end up here.

Russ, I’ve probably sent several hundred letters, calls, emails to my reps and others. I should have saved every response and made a book.
It would have been the funnest and most depressing book .. all at the same time.
I don’t know how you keep at it without needing gallons of antacids.

Love,
Mark (really a more musical guy than political)

Hey Mark –

Well, isn’t this heart warming? This little Scrooge has the gall to scold the “class” for being too noisy after telling them he has pawned their livelihoods. This is what the corporatocracy looks like. Began in earnest with “Close-the-Pits” Thatcher and “Fire-the-Air Controllers” Reagan, maintained and encouraged by Clinton, then went into overdrive with Bush/Cheney

I knew things had changed when my unions last went on strike. As a member of long standing, I had seen my fair share of strikes and near-strikes so I was used to the adamant cries of poverty by producers — how much productions cost theses days, you actors are breaking us, blah blah blah. But from both sides I could always feel a sense of resigned inevitability, that there would ultimately be compromise and a deal would be struck.

Fast forward to the commercials strike of 2000. After a few years of trickle-down economics, free trade pacts, right-to-work and other union-killing legislation and, most importantly, our government’s abrogation of its anti-trust responsibilities that allowed and encouraged ad agencies to gang up with multi-nationals, like Seagrams and Sony, who had gulped down every film and production company in the universe, we members of SAG/AFTRA now encountered a monolith of power that saw us as ants at THEIR picnic. Compromise was out of the question. Management’s attitude toward us had morphed into something like, “How dare they ask for more money and better conditions? Don’t they understand that we are the King, and we do and pay what we want?” This was not a negotiating tactic — they meant it. Needless to say, the strike went on forever and was ultimately a failure.

The responsibility for all this, of course, lies with the American people — the chumps of the universe. As one of my favorite political writers put it, “Where did America’s middle class go? It committed suicide in the voting booth.” Okay, I confess, that writer was me, but I always liked that line, depressing as it is.

Be well, my friend –

RB

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[Originally published in Examiner.com]

In a political landscape full of pundit-speak, spin and dancing politicians, it’s often difficult to cast a truly informed vote. So it’s good to know you can still get politics served up straight, bold and unapologetic in Texas.

I’m speaking, of course, about the brand new 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party. Epic in scope, breathtaking in its lunacy, this platform covers everything from evolution to space exploration and is a clear, unambiguous glimpse into the worldview of today’s Republican Party — a must-read for all who might be thinking of voting in that direction this November.

The Texas GOP platform reminds you that today’s Republican Party is not your father’s Republican Party. It’s not even his father’s Republican Party. As you read it, you’ll feel as if you’re being transported back in time to an age when scientists were considered evil sorcerers, women needed men and/or the government to decide how to manage their lives, and education was something you did to children, rather than for them.

Education

This is how the new GOP believes kids should be taught about theories of evolution and global warming:

“We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is [sic] produced.”

Sounds reasonable enough. But I wonder if it would be OK with Republicans if teachers teach their students that it was, indeed, only after many scientific challenges to both of these theories that scientists accepted them as the likely answers to the questions, “How did we develop as a species?” and “Why is the Earth getting so darned warm?”

Though today’s Republicans are big on challenging evolution and man-made global warming, it seems they don’t want children to challenge much of anything.

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

As Texas Christian University professor of economics, John T. Harvey, writes in his excellent piece at Forbes,

“… do they really and truly believe that teachers and school boards across the State of Texas are designing curricula specifically aimed at training children to challenge their parents?”

Actually, there are probably very few people who know exactly what the Texas GOP means about critical thinking “undermining parental authority” but they do manage to interject a little paranoia into the old “father knows best” adage.

Harvey continues:

“Were we to implement such a policy, we’d have to be certain that we had already identified the concepts and values that were ‘correct’ (whatever that really means). Even a cursory reading of their platform makes it very clear that this is precisely what Texas Republicans believe and what those concepts and values are. This begs the question, who is really aiming to force their beliefs on our children, Texas schools or Texas Republicans?”

If kids do have the temerity to think critically in class, though, Texas Republicans know what to do.

“We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”

Women

Or how about Republican plans for women — more specifically, women’s bodies?

It may be approved by the FDA, considered safe and effective by the American Medical Association and available at your local Walgreen’s, but Republicans know better.

“We oppose sale and use of the dangerous ‘Morning After Pill’.”

In their ongoing attempt to send abortion back to its back-alley roots, Republicans want to place themselves firmly between women and their doctors.

“We support legislation banning of abortion after 20 weeks gestation due to fetal pain.”

Once again, the GOP knows better than them smart aleck research scientists, who find no scientific evidence to support such legislation.

The platform does make one sensible pronouncement regarding women, however.

“We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children.”

It’s just that the platform declares no such support for women who choose to do anything else.

Homosexuality

Americans are gradually warming to the idea that gay and lesbian folk are as good, bad, decent and indecent as we heteros. We are also beginning to recognize the cruelty, impracticality and unfairness of marginalizing this large segment of the American population. But, Republicans see it a bit differently.

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.”

Homosexuals have been part of the human family ever since Peking Man found another Peking Man attractive. Not to mention, same-sex attraction occurs in every species, from gut worms to primates. Doesn’t that qualify homosexuality as one of God’s “unchanging truths?”

Anyone thinking about homosexuality with a clear, bias-free mind understands that it is neither a choice nor harmful to society. Who would choose to spend his or her life fighting for rights we straights take for granted? And, can anyone explain to me how on earth I am negatively affected by another person’s fondness for members of his or her own sex?

Voter Beware

There are many more equally nutty views espoused in the platform, including support for returning the dollar to the gold standard, abolishing income tax in favor of a national sales tax, abstinence-only sex-ed, gutting public education and, of course, deregulation, deregulation and more deregulation. But this is what Republicans stand for today. By purging moderates and independent minded conservatives from its ranks, the Republican Party has managed to reduce itself to a thick soup of right wing extremism that even Ronald Reagan would have a hard time recognizing as his beloved Grand Old Party.

It seems every presidential election is hyped as “the most important election in history.” This time, however, it may very well be. And that makes the Texas Republican Party Platform equally important.

Read it, get to know it and then… run screaming back to the Democratic Party. Your nation will thank you.

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Drawing Credit: Freakout Nation

[previously published at Examiner.com 3-14-12]

A conversation I had with an old friend yesterday should strike fear in the hearts of all Democrats.
“Hey, what’s with this Obama guy?” my friend asked.

“What do you mean?” I replied, trembling. I was reasonably sure if I heard one more usually apolitical friend spouting Republican talking points my brain would explode.

“You know, I used to like Obama,” my buddy explained, “but he wants to force everybody to buy health insurance.”

Obama the Tyrant

Fighting the urge to bury my teeth in his neck, I calmly explained to my friend that the mandate for everyone to purchase insurance was necessary to get insurance companies to agree to insure people with preexisting conditions. It was also the only way Obama and the then-Democratic majority in the legislature could get insurance companies to stop un-insuring people when they get sick and/or leaving them high and dry when their medical bills got too big. In other words, in order to persuade the insurance companies to operate their businesses in an ethical manner, the government had to promise them a whole bunch of new premium payers — that is, every adult in the country.

I looked my buddy in the eye and said, “Obama’s mandate was the only politically viable way to prevent 46,000 Americans per year from dying of lack of insurance and to reduce American bankruptcies by 60 percent — without denying insurance CEOs their polo ponies and summers in the Hamptons, of course.”

“Oh,” said my friend, clearly surprised by my pushback. “I guess I don’t really know that much about it.”

Repeat the Lie Long Enough…

In fact, until that moment, the only thing my buddy “knew” was that “this Obama guy” was tyrannically forcing Americans to buy insurance — whether they wanted it or not. Why? Who knows? It’s just the kind of thing tyrants do.

I suppose after months of Republican presidential contestants on TV repeatedly characterizing Obama and “Obamacare” as the Devil and the Devil’s work, respectively — repeatedly characterizing the Affordable Care Act as a government takeover, job killer and fast-track to Socialism — it shouldn’t be too surprising that some of the rhetoric managed to ooze through a few Americans’ “Wait, this makes no sense” barriers. The expected overturning of the law by five-ninths of the Supreme Court probably didn’t help much either.

But here’s the kicker: My intelligent, talented and usually reasonable friend also happens to be a quadriplegic. Due to a decade-old medical condition, he was one of those unfortunate, uninsurable souls with a preexisting condition when he fell and broke his neck three years ago. Needless to say, his finances were quickly reduced to zilch by subsequent operations, therapy and round-the-clock care. So today, Medicare and Social Security pay for his board and care at a convalescent/rehab facility in the Valley.

That my friend’s opinion of Obama and the Affordable Care Act — a law with such dramatic influence on his life — had been informed by the ravings of Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry is disturbing. That these soundbites might even have influenced his vote this November and prompted him to side with the party that has repeatedly vowed to straight razor the very safety nets that are keeping him alive — well, I’m hoping that our little talk will keep him from leaping off that particular bridge.

Citizens United

But if Romney, Santorum and friends were able to plant the Obama-as-tyrant idea in my friend’s head with just a few months of Republican primary news coverage, what will a sustained campaign of Citizens United-fueled, anti-Obama TV and radio commercials do?

This will be our first presidential election since the landmark Supreme Court decision made a present of our democracy to corporations and other special interests. It will be interesting to see how democracy holds up.

Already, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers are planning to spend $500 million to defeat Obama. Who knows how much money large corporations and other “one-percenters” are planning to contribute to the same end?

The Great Equalizer

Although Mitt Romney may very possibly be the least appealing, most gaffe-prone, no-there-there presidential candidate in modern American history, there’s no telling what kind of equalizer a half-billion dollars shouting, “Obama is an American hating, communist-fascist-despot-sissy-foreigner” over and over again for six months might turn out to be. Toss in a sluggishly recovering economy, a disappointed left and a weird, vestigial racism simmering in a disgraceful number of American hearts and it’s easy to see that this election will be no cakewalk for the president.

The big question in our new Citizens United world is how on earth do real, individual human beings fight back?

I don’t know.


Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPiere, has taken his organization’s paranoia to new heights with his latest anti-Obama tantrum.

In LaPiere’s speech to fellow gun enthusiasts in Florida last Friday, he accused Obama of plotting to take America’s guns by fiendishly NOT proposing any anti-gun legislation during his first term. Oh, that Obama–you gotta watch him every second.

“President Obama will remind us that he’s put off calls from his party to renew the old Clinton assault weapons gun ban, he hasn’t pushed for new gun control laws, and he’ll even say he looked the other way when Congress passed a couple of minor pro-gun bills by huge majorities. The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he’s actually been good for the Second Amendment.

But it’s a big fat stinking lie, just like all the other lies that have come out of this corrupt administration. It’s all part — it’s all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country.”

Put aside for the moment LaPiere’s cloddish, “big fat stinking” characterizations of a president’s administration and intentions, and think of the persecution complex rattling around in this guy’s brain. You can almost hear the little metal balls clinking in his hand.

This man has access to firearms, for crying out loud.

I wrote “Double-D Breast Implant Deflects Bullet: NRA Cries Foul” a while ago as a snarky exaggeration of NRA’s paranoia. But after hearing LaPiere’s speech, I’m not sure how exaggerated it is.

*

Double-D Breast Implant Deflects Bullet

NRA Cries Foul

(originally posted March 10, 2010)

A miraculous combination of manufactured voluptuousness, luck and tensile strength saved Lydia Carranza’s life last summer when a bullet fired point-blank at her heart was deflected by her double-D breast implant.

After seven months of healing, Carranza was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery last Friday.

Carranza’s Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Ashkan Ghavami, told KTLA News he believes “her implant stopped the bullet from hitting her heart.  The bullet fragments were millimeters from her heart and her vital organs.  If not for the implant, she might not be alive.”  He added that the implant absorbed much of the bullet’s impact, limiting most of the damage to the breast itself.

NRA Response

Upon hearing of Carranza’s close call, the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued the following statement to its membership:

Dear Member:

“Although we are glad that Ms. Carranza is alive and well, we at the NRA feel we must address the growing problem of bullet-deflection by breast enhancement implants.

We believe the 2nd Amendment gives all Americans the right not only to own and use firearms, but according to our legal experts’ interpretation, it also carries an implicit protection of the right to hit intended targets without fear of ballistic deflection caused by cosmetic medical devices–devices that left unchecked, could very well send us hurtling down a slippery slope to total gun confiscation in America.

In our ongoing struggle to protect your Constitutional rights, the NRA feels obligated to bring this issue to your attention.  As more American women opt for this type of procedure, the possibility of bullet trajectory impairment grows.  After all of our efforts on behalf of American gun owners, including the defense of your right to own 30-round handgun clips, military-style assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition and untraceable cartridges, we believe it would be irresponsible to drop the ball on the issue of bullet deflection by breast enhancement.

As always, you can be sure your NRA is on the job, defending your right to total gun freedom in America.

To the manufacturers of bullet-deflecting implants and doctors who specialize in these types of anti-gun procedures: Know that the National Rifle Association has you in its sights.”

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Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West wants people to know two very important things: He encourages his opponents to speak out at his town hall meetings… and he is armed.

____________________________________________________

let’s play…SPOT THE REPUBLICAN

_____________________________

Double-D Breast Implant Deflects Bullet

…NRA Cries Foul

A miraculous combination of manufactured voluptuousness, luck and tensile strength saved Lydia Carranza’s life last summer when a bullet fired point-blank at her heart was deflected by her double-D breast implant.

After seven months of healing, Carranza was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery last Friday.

Carranza’s Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Ashkan Ghavami, told KTLA News he believes “her implant stopped the bullet from hitting her heart.  The bullet fragments were millimeters from her heart and her vital organs.  If not for the implant, she might not be alive.”  He added that the implant absorbed much of the bullet’s impact, limiting most of the damage to the breast itself.

                                                   NRA Issues Response

Upon hearing of Carranza’s close call, the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued the following statement to its membership:

“Although we are glad that Ms. Carranza is alive and well, we at the NRA feel we must address the growing problem of bullet-deflection by breast enhancement implants.

We believe the 2nd Amendment gives all Americans the right not only to own and use firearms, but according to our legal experts’ interpretation, it also carries an implicit protection of the right to hit intended targets without fear of ballistic deflection caused by cosmetic medical devices–devices that, left unchecked, could very well send us hurtling down a slippery slope to total gun confiscation in America.

In our ongoing struggle to protect your Constitutional rights, the NRA feels obligated to bring this issue to your attention.  As more American women opt for this type of procedure, the possibility of bullet trajectory impairment grows.  After all our efforts on behalf of American gun owners, including the defense of your right to own 30-round handgun clips, 50-round assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition and untraceable cartridges, we believe it would be irresponsible to drop the ball on the issue of bullet deflection by breast implant.

As always, you can be sure your NRA is on the job, defending your right to total gun freedom in America.

To the manufacturers of bullet-deflecting implants and doctors who specialize in these types of anti-gun procedures: Know that the National Rifle Association has you in our sights.”

Click the “Sign me up” button on the left for email alerts of Buchanan’s latest screeds

Question: How did Fox News attempt to discredit the recent U of Maryland study that found Fox viewers to be a comparatively misinformed bunch?
a.  Attacked the wording of the study’s questionnaire
b.  Characterized the directors of the study as left wingers
c.  Claimed the study’s correct answers came from biased sources
d.  Belittled the study as mere fodder for the liberal mainstream media
Correct answer: All of the above
A News Organization Like no Other

I tried to find out how other news sources had handled similar studies or findings that implied continuing inaccuracy in their reporting, but strangely enough, I couldn’t find any. Sure, there were lots of complaints about different news organizations misreporting specific stories, and lots of individuals claiming left and right bias in the mainstream media, but there was no similar academic study finding the viewers of a specific news channel to be consistently more misinformed than non-viewers. In this journalistically embarrassing category, Fox News stands alone.

This is where Fox’ claim of liberal bias comes in handy, though. Ailes and crew refute the study by claiming the professors who designed the study are liberals who have it in for Fox, thus discrediting the study and reinforcing anti-intellectualism in an inspired Fox News twofer. In addition, they claim liberal or Democratic bias in the experts who determined the study’s correct answers. Finally, they trot out their timeworn claim of left-wing bias in the mainstream media. If it ain’t the professors, it’s the experts, claims Fox. If it ain’t the professors and experts, it’s the reporters reporting the story. Presto–study refuted. It’s almost poetically foolproof, in a wild-eyed paranoid kind of way.

Though we probably didn’t need an academic study to confirm our nagging suspicion that Fox just might not be on the up and up, it’s nice to have as a tangible reference. It also serves as a reminder that our democracy has never before seen such a strange, potentially calamitous phenomenon as Fox News, where facts are selectively partisan and the viewer comes away from the TV with an alternate universe firmly planted in his head.

The Fox Effect

Take the subject of global warming, for instance. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that global warming is likely due to man’s activity. They also believe that its effects, left unchecked, will lead to catastrophe for life on our planet. Further, they agree that our only hope lies in immediate action to counter its effects. Meanwhile, back at “Facts Schmacts Central,” 60% of regular Fox viewers do not believe that most scientists agree global warming is even occurring. That’s occurring, mind you. When it comes time to adopt anti-warming measures or elect candidates who take climate change seriously, how will 6 of 10 Fox News viewers vote? So much for immediate action.

Comments from “The Truth About Fox News Viewers” at conservative Free Republic.com demonstrate how Fox News’ dueling facts and “circle the wagons” mentality plays out in the world of the Fox faithful.

“Amazing. They are now claiming that showing skepticism of dubious claims indicates narrow-mindedness,” writes Fox viewer, Tribune. Through the magic that is Fox, consensus on climate change formed by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are reduced to “dubious claims” By Fox viewers.

“Yep, time to re-educate all the nonwatchers of MSM in Progresssssive [sic] Education Gulags!” says Leo Carpathian, raising the argument to neo-John Birch Society hysteria.

“We must support Conservative news outlets at every opportunity. The Marxists will continue to attack from every direction with every method possible,” writes Blam, proving that Joe McCarthy lives, and that Fox-brand paranoia is contagious.

Though the logic escapes me, a number of commenters point to Fox News’ comparatively large ratings as proof of its accuracy. I may be nitpicking here, but to me the only thing Fox News’ large ratings prove is that Fox misinforms a lot of people.

A news service pumping half-truths and nowhere-near-the-truths into the public consciousness 24/7 can’t be good for a democracy and its requisite informed electorate, can it?

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John Buchanan taking on the funeral industry

A friend wrote the other day to ask if my dad had been on the Blacklist.

My friend had been reading about America’s waltz with fascism during the 50s when demagogic politicians and rightwing zealots attempted to ruin the lives of show folk, teachers and other public figures — sometimes with great success– for being a little too free in the Land of the Free. Dad was a professor and locally high-profile lefty political organizer/activist, and my friend figured my father had at some point endured the wrath of the House Un-American Activities Committee and Sen. Joe McCarthy’s merry band of commie hunters. He hadn’t. Dad did have problems with cops and feds later on, but in the 50s he was still in his pre-activism stage, just settling into his new job teaching at Pacoima Junior High in the San Fernando Valley, going to grad school and helping mom raise my sister and me.  The activism that would become central to his life was still a few years off. My buddy’s email got me thinking about my father’s life choice, though. What changed? What inspired this mild-mannered, soft-spoken, Mr. Chips-type academic to become a full-throated crusader for peace and social justice?

The Bandleader and the Bastard

Though dad and I never talked much about his political awakening period, I’m pretty sure it began during the civil rights era. I was about six years old when I began hearing dad talk about the plight of Negroes. Even at my tender age I noticed that TV images of Dixie cops and clan types beating up dark-skinned people would send my father into a funk. He would get very quiet. Then he’d talk to my sister and me about how immoral it was to mistreat people because of their skin color. He told us that we should always stand up to bullies of all kinds, whether they were attacking us or others. To illustrate his point he would often tell us about the time during World War II when he and mom went to see the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in mom’s hometown, Great Falls, Montana. While the band was playing, someone in the audience yelled “nigger” at Dorsey’s only black musician. Dorsey stopped the orchestra mid-song and the crowd went silent. He called out into the microphone, “You! Hey you. Yeah, you in the yellow tie.” The heckler was trying to scamper away into the crowd but couldn’t get around the throng in front of the bandstand. He finally looked up at Dorsey, who was shaking with anger and pointing down at him like a vengeful god with a trombone. Unfortunately for the yellow-tied bigot, the black trumpeter happened to be a good friend of Dorsey’s and had just returned from duty in the Pacific, where he’d been wounded. According to dad, Dorsey went crazy, yelling into the microphone about his friend’s heroism, then verbally filleting the bigot, whom he called a stupid, un-American bastard. At the end of his rant, Dorsey ordered the guy out of the dance hall and refused to continue the show until he left. Whether for noble cause or the fact that the crowd was ready to jitterbug and had shelled out good money to see Dorsey’s whole show, many in the audience sided with Dorsey, booing and hissing the guy out of the dance hall. The show went on.

Though the full meaning of the tale was over my 6-year-old head, I never got tired of it. I loved hearing dad do the Tommy Dorsey parts. “Yeah, you with the yellow tie,” dad’s baritone rumbled, as he pointed at some imaginary racist in the living room. I also got a bang out of hearing dad say the word “bastard,” a word rarely heard in our house–a word I probably assumed meant bad man in a yellow tie. For my sister Pam and me, the story was a great example of someone using his position to stand up to a bully. For dad, who knows? Tommy Dorsey’s wrath might have been an important inspiration. After all, it was the kind of thing dad would soon be doing full time, only on a larger, relentless scale, against bullies ranging from Richard Nixon to the funeral industry. Inspiration or not, by the time the 60s started, dad was taking on the bullies of the world with a vengeance.

The Art of Activism

The first piece of dad’s activism I remember–helping a black family move into our whites-only neighborhood–was relatively small-scale and personal. For months after the Holmes moved in, it was dad’s job to protect the house from vandals when the family was away. There wasn’t much he could do about the rocks thrown through the Holmes’ front room window during the night, or the cross burned on their lawn one very early morning. But during dad’s watch, just the sight of him sitting on the Holmes’ front porch, grading his students’ papers, was all it took to keep the Bubba brigade off the property. I don’t know how long dad had been at it before I realized that threatening phone calls in the middle of the night and flat tires from tacks and nails scattered on our driveway weren’t part of everyone’s hearth and home, but I gradually came to understand that dad’s dedication to fairness was not shared by everyone. As for the 3 AM phone calls, we discovered that the cardboard stick from a Sugar Daddy sucker made a terrific telephone bell dampener when jammed through the proper hole in the phone’s access plate. My contribution to the struggle, of course, was to eat the Sugar Daddy. Ah, the sacrifices of activism.

Sometimes dad’s protests verged on street theater. During his quixotic run for the California Assembly in the mid-60s he delivered a campaign speech at a local shopping center while stomping a bathtub full of grapes. This might have been a fine way to draw attention to the farm workers’ strike and grape boycott raging at the time, but the sight of dad in the tub, wearing his trademark Petrocelli business suit with the pant legs rolled up for the fruit-stomp, did not sit well with my teenaged notion that parents should always strive to be invisible. For weeks after, I was known to my rotten buddies as “Grape.” To dad’s supporters, though, it was a beautiful sight to behold–and it worked. Lots of people gathered to see the lunatic in a bathtub, and wound up learning why they should support Cesar Chavez’ United Farm Workers and stop eating grapes. Dad lost the Assembly race in a rout, of course, but his son’s embarrassment over his father’s unusual forms of activism soon morphed into pride and admiration. His low-key protest of the Vietnam War at L.A. Valley College, where he spent the rest of his teaching career, was particularly memorable. Every day during his lunch hour, he would set up a card table full of anti-war literature next to the . For that hour he stood silently next to the flagpole wearing an armband featuring the number of GIs killed that week. He did this for two years.

Dad’s Final Years

Dad started in the 60s and never let up. He was still active in the Memorial Society — a consumer activist group — well into his 80s, fighting the good fight against the predatory practices of the funeral industry. A 1992 L.A. Times interview about the Memorial Society found dad in top form.

“You have to look at death as part of life,” Buchanan said. “‘If people looked at it that way, they wouldn’t need the limousines, the caskets and the tons of flowers, the embalming and all the other barbarities that go on at a so-called traditional funeral.’ ‘The hoopla is undignified,’ he said. ‘The other indignity is putting so much emphasis on the body, which is not a person.’ Buchanan has not made the trip to his mother’s gravesite in Spokane, Wash., in years, he said. ‘That grave site does not mean anything,’ he said. ‘What does mean something is that the dead still live in our minds,’ he added.”

“The hoopla is undignified” and “…all the other barbarities…” Dad had a way with words.

*

I’ll never know whether a big band leader’s outburst in the 40s inspired dad to help save the world. But damn, it was inspiring to hear him tell that story. Actually, there wasn’t a lot about John Buchanan that wasn’t inspiring. Though less active, dad still followed the news during his final years. I wish he had been spared America’s rightward drift during the 90s and new millennium and all the intentional unfairness it has thus far meted out. Mercifully, he wasn’t around to see the bully renaissance in full flower. If he were still alive, news of such bad-guy victories as the passage of voter suppression laws and the Citizens United ruling would have put him in a funk. He would have gotten very quiet…for a while.

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As I emerge from my post-election funk, the blood slowly returning to my face, I survey the damage done to the world by Fox News and half a nation gone nuts, and ask the only appropriate question… “WTF?”

We’ve elected to the Senate a guy who publicly condemns the Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act; we have put in Congress a passel of people who believe that Obama–the centrist’s centrist–is actually a covert Muslim/Communist bent on world domination, and we’ve emboldened an Alaskan female, secular version of Elmer Gantry into thinking she has a chance at becoming president.

So what on earth is there to be thankful for?

Culture Wars

If you believe, as I do, that the culture war is the 500-pound aardvark in the room–the reason that ostensibly sane voters would elect utterly unqualified people to lead the country, the reason for the Tea Party’s successes, and the reason for the strange disconnect between Americans’ self-interest and their votes, then raise a glass this Thanksgiving for Generation Y,  AKA the “Millennials.”

On almost all the culture war/wedge issues, the current crop of Americans under 30 are trending far more progressive than X-ers or Boomers did when they were pups. When it comes to reproductive choice, acceptance of homosexuality, role of government, the environment and race–this group is turning out to be Pat Buchanan’s worst nightmare.

Nowhere are this generations’ progressive leanings more evident than in its acceptance of homosexuality. According to the 2010 Pew survey, Religion Among the Millennials, 61% believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 51% of Americans aged 30-49; 48% of ages 50-64 and 35% of those over 65. Though every modern generation of young Americans has increasingly turned its back on bigotry, the Millennials seem to be running from it at light speed.

Staying Power

With this group, the old, “sure, they’re liberal now, but wait until they get older” bromide doesn’t wash. Hard data and the nature of today’s young adulthood suggest that this group’s rejection of socially conservative politics is different than that of earlier generations, and is more likely to last. Additionally, their desire for more government services suggests their progressive leanings may not be limited to social issues.

According to the L.A. Times’ “Walking Away From Church,” young people are leaving their churches at five times that of previous generations, and the number-one stated reason for leaving is the conservative political orientation of their church. It’s not that they are running out to dance with the Devil, mind you–Millennials tend to hold on to their Christian faith–they just can’t stand the us vs. them poison spewing from the pulpit and from older parishioners.

This phenomenon is not lost on the Christian press. Drew Dyck writes in Christianity Today, “…the life-phase argument may no longer pertain. Young adulthood is not what it used to be. For one, it’s much longer. Marriage, career, children—the primary sociological forces that drive adults back to religious commitment—are now delayed until the late 20s, even into the 30s. Returning to the fold after a two- or three-year hiatus is one thing. Coming back after more than a decade is considerably more unlikely.” Though Dyck is probably correct about losing young people for good, he misses the fact that Millennials’ commitment to religion is still very much alive. They’re just taking it away from what they see as non-Christian influences.

Young Americans to the Rescue

So this Thanksgiving, think of your turkey’s  wishbone as the letter “Y” and give thanks for the Millennials. Yes, four years with our new ultra-right House of Representatives will be difficult to stomach, but remember there’s a whole new crop of young folk out there who have refused to drink the conservative Koolaid and will soon be flexing their political muscle. Like a lethal gene diminishing within a family line, the old, intolerant, Calvinistic mentality seems to be heading for well-deserved extinction.

Who knows, after a few years of seeing this new Congress in action, the Millennials might even become politically active (be still my heart). But for now, I’ll be grateful for their votes.

Cartel kingpin “El Barbie”

As Election Day creeps closer, the rhetoric against Proposition 19–California’s marijuana legalization measure–is getting louder, weirder and more successful.

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll shows Prop 19 trailing 49% to 44% among likely voters, proving once again if you shout lies loudly and often enough, people will eventually begin to believe them.

WTF

It’s hard to tell which tidbit of misinformation has scared California voters the most. I suppose employers aren’t comfortable with the idea that Prop 19 would protect raging dope fiends from being fired, as the anti-19 forces would have them believe. The notion that taxing marijuana sales will miraculously fail to produce any revenue for California or its cities is also a bit of a disappointment, I would imagine. But, I’ll bet the fear has something to do with kids and marijuana’s logic-defying reputation as the “gateway drug.”  Because every junkie started with pot, the warning goes, legalizing cannabis will make it easier for your kids to buy and smoke the stuff, and in no time at all, those sweet little lads and lasses will become smack vampires who will drop out of school, steal from your purse and not show up at Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, by that logic, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and polio vaccine are also gateway drugs, but there is no monetary incentive in banning those drugs, so they remain legal.

The Great Slogan Search

In this blog’s daily stats and  “Search Terms Used to Get to Your Site,” I’d been noticing a dramatic increase in search terms, like “best anti-prop 19 slogans” and “what are the slogans for no on prop19?”

At first, I was surprised that the searches led readers here; Craving Sense is a pro-19 blog. It indicated folks were having trouble finding slogans for the campaign to defeat Proposition 19. But every campaign has slogans, I thought. Was the “No on Proposition 19” drive the only wrongheaded campaign in modern history to go the distance without even trying to come up with a nice, punchy line that would thoroughly confuse and mislead people into voting “no”?

Then it hit me. Of course the Anti-19 people are having slogan trouble; the reasons for opposing Prop 19 are so convoluted and complex it would be difficult to convert them into snappy, vote-getting one-liners suitable for banners, buttons and posters. Slogans like “You won’t be allowed to discipline a stoned employee if Prop 19 passes,” and “Proposition 19 is a badly written law with lots of loopholes and stuff” just don’t have the zing to compete with pro-19 slogans, like “Just Say NOW!” and the right-on-point, “Legalize, Regulate, Educate, Medicate.”

Even though the latest polls show the Anti-19ers are doing just fine without them, I knew there had to be some “No on Proposition 19” slogans somewhere. But finding them meant I would have to go where the Forces of Darkness congregate. I would have to use phrases like “marijuana cigarette” and “taking the pot” just to blend in.

Off I went though, looking for the catchiest and most heartfelt “No on Proposition 19” slogans out there. Truth be told, they were not easy to find. It seems most of the organizations and corporations financing the “No on Prop 19” drive prefer to stay in the shadows—no lawn signs in front of Coors corporate offices, for instance. But, dammit, I wasn’t about to let my readers down, so I kept hunting and finally found…

The 5 Very Best No on Prop 19 Slogans

From the California Prison Guards Union:

KEEP OUR PRISONS FULL…AND OUR TREASURY EMPTY.  NO ON 19! [found on baseball caps worn by patrons of Ronny’s Booze  and Broads, favorite watering hole for guards and other prison workers at nearby San Quentin State Prison]
 

From the National Association of Beer Breweries:

DON’T TRUST A DRUG THAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU WANT TO BEAT UP YOUR WIFE.   NO ON 19! [discovered on cocktail napkins at the organization’s Annual Convention Dinner]
 

From the Greater Mexico Association of Drug Cartels:

NO VOTAR POR LA PROPOSICION 19. ¡VIVA EL STATUS QUO! [carved into the chest of drug-related murder victim number 28,001–La Ciudad Juarez]
 

From the United Group of Southern Baptist Ministers:

EVERY UNITARIAN STARTED WITH MARIJUANA: NO ON PROPOSITION 19! [delivered during opening benediction by group’s president at monthly Bible Study and Gun Show]
 

From the Republican National Committee:

NO ON EVERYTHING (including 19)! [found on Republican Rep. Darryl Issa’s lawn sign–next to sign reading “Get Government out of Our Lives!”]

*

This opportunity to bring a touch of sanity to the miserable failure that is “The War on Drugs” will not come again soon. Hell, I don’t even smoke the stuff, but every day my life is adversely affected by this counterproductive, cruel charade. As I slalom around the growing number of potholes in our roads, I think of the sheer waste of public money spent on enforcing this prohibition.  I look at our crumbling schools that manage to graduate half of their students, while teachers–the ones who still have jobs–spend their own money on class supplies, and I think about the revenue that a regulated and taxed marijuana would produce.

Most importantly, I think about the tyrannical chutzpah of a state deciding for its residents which substances are OK to get high on, and which aren’t.

Then, of course, there’s that ever-present queasiness I feel about my tax dollars being used to lock people up for growing and smoking a substance that is proven to be less harmful than tobacco and alcohol.

Proposition 19 looks like it’s headed for Nice Try-ville. The only thing that can possibly save it is your vote.

Post-Mortem

Well, as everyone knows by now, Prop 19 did indeed wind up in Nice Try-ville. In the end, the prohibitionists prevailed 53% to 46%. To celebrate 19’s defeat, I’m sure they all went out and had a nice, legal alcoholic beverage or a few milligrams of highly-addictive, prescribed Valium, or any number of buzz-producing substances that make corporate manufacturers lots of money.

Take heart, though; weed will become legal in the not-too-distant future. According to a Pew study, American support for the all-out legalization of the stuff has grown from 12% in 1969 to 41% in 2010–a major shift of public opinion. I suppose that’s part of what makes this loss so damned frustrating. In the meantime, pot smokers and personal-use growers will continue to be fined, arrested and jailed, Mexico will continue its devolution into murderous anarchy, and the Prohibition Sluts who financed 19’s defeat, will continue to prosper from this nonsensical restriction on Californians’ personal freedom.

Maybe the main problem was Proposition 19’s official name, “The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act,”

If it had been called, “The Personal Freedom, Kick the Cartels’ Asses & Help End our Tragically Futile War on Drugs Act,” Proposition 19 might have fared a little better.

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Cartel kingpin “el Barbie” knows Prop 19 would be bad for business

The current political climate in California is enough to make you fire up an industrial strength bong, and smoke yourself into oblivion. But don’t…at least not on November 2nd.

There is only one hope for Proposition 19. On election day, every regular user and casual toker of the devil-weed must drop that doob, and get to the polling place. In addition, every single Californian who believes the War on Drugs has been–and continues to be–a colossal failure, must make their disgust known to the “tough-on-drugs” vote mongers in Sacramento and Washington by pushing that chad (all the way through) for a big fat “Yes” vote on 19. Without the “smoker” and “fed-up” voters charging to its rescue, Prop 19 is doomed.

If that doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of the personal liberty-minded, remember, this chance to bring a touch of common sense to our government’s lunatic drug policy will not come again anytime soon. While such prohibition profiteers as beer bottlers, prison guards unions and booze distilleries have anti-pot war chests bulging with dollars, pro-legalization groups like California NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance simply don’t have the resources to launch major political campaigns every election cycle. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Oakland Pot pioneer Richard Lee’s initial dollars and efforts, Prop 19 would probably be gathering dust in political Palookaville.

Enthusiasm

With energized Republicans smelling blood in the water, and dejected Democrats sitting in a corner, preemptively licking their wounds inflicted by the predicted Republican massacre, California polling places will be teeming with people who think the movie Reefer Madness is a powerful documentary.

But, if every Californian who believes this prohibition is wrong gets to his or her polling place, Prop 19 would sail to victory by such a wide margin, politicians from Modesto to Manhattan would be forced to take notice. Who knows, they might even start applying a little common sense to America’s drug problem.

*

Benefits of Legalization

As a casual observer (non-pot smoker) I look at the benefits of Proposition 19:

  • A potential windfall for state and local California governments that currently can barely afford to buy staples. An estimated $1.4 billion in state taxes [CA Board of Equalization estimate] that can be used on jobs, education and our deteriorating infrastructure
  • Less time and money spent by law enforcement on the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of people for using and growing a substance proven to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.
  • Ending the state’s totalitarian chutzpah of legislating its residents’ morality–a golden opportunity for people to let government know what they think of the destructive farce known as “the War on Drugs”
  • No more ruining people’s lives for growing and smoking a substance used and enjoyed by millions of Californians
  • New industry—new jobs. Tourism, Amsterdam-style coffeehouses, marijuana trade schools, designer roach clips and “limited edition” rolling papers–the possibilities are endless.
  • Fewer bureaucratic hoops to jump through for medicinal users
  • No appreciable increase in usage caused by legalization [found by many studies, including a recent study by the National Research Council, and reinforced by Portugal’s decriminalization of all drugs with no resultant spike in overall use]
  • [Last, but certainly not least] A major setback to the psychopathic, all-powerful narcotraficantes who are on the verge of destabilizing Mexico with money and guns from trafficking in marijuana–estimated to be 16% to 50% of their illicit drug revenue.

Downside of Legalization

Then I forage through the misinformation — that Prop 19 will… “lead to more pot addicts,” “prevent employers from disciplining stoned employees,” “not provide revenue for state and local governments” (because…well, just because) —  and I look for the honest-to-goodness negatives if the personal recreational use and cultivation of marijuana becomes legal in California… and I look, and I look, and I…

The new Reuters/Ipsos poll has Prop 19 going up in, uh, smoke. With 53% opposing the measure, and 43% in favor. Historically, when a proposition goes into October with those kinds of numbers, things generally turn out very badly for that proposition in November.

The Republican Factor

With all their time spent opposing mosque-building, the Employee Free Choice Act, and every decent proposal that comes up before Congress, I figured Republicans had finally used up their lifetime allotment of “No”.

How wrong I was.

According to the poll, two out of three California Republicans are saying “no” to Prop 19. Though Democrats favor the plan 54% to 45%, it is nearly impossible to rise above those Republican numbers.

Though there are more Democrats than Republicans in California, the GOP’s unity in lunacy always proves to be a formidable opponent to Democrats’ raging confusion–I mean, “diversity of opinion.”

It appears the “Party of Small Government,” wants a government small enough to deny extended unemployment benefits to onetime members of the once thriving middle class, but big enough to keep homosexuals from being married, women from controlling their reproduction, and everyone from smoking marijuana.  I guess Republicans actually belong to the Party of Situational Small Government.

Call to Action

When November 2nd rolls around, let’s ignore the depressing realities of California politics. Let’s pretend that Meg Whitman was unable to purchase her current neck-and-neck position with Jerry Brown, as the latest polls suggest. In fact, let’s pretend that Republicans are as clinically depressed as Democrats.

Let’s energize ourselves into believing that our votes–the pot-smoker votes, the had-it-up-to-here-with-the-Drug War votes, and the fiscally responsible votes–will come together and save the day.

California has millions of regular users of cannabis. Who knows how many social tokers there are out there? Toss in the Common Sensers, and you’ve got a potential voting bloc that would make Jerry Falwell jealous.

Proposition 19 can win, friends. All we have to do is vote.