A Merry Christmas

We had a nice holiday this year, a clear departure from last year’s disaster.  I got a replacement flash thumb drive for the one lost to a State Rep’s campaign which didn’t get it returned.  When I do a lot of video on the road I download the Flip camera to my laptop then move the video tot he desktop to edit when I get home.  A nice large thumb drive is essential.  I also got $100 worth of Kindle gift certificates for my plofligate ebook reading, an ebook light, an emergency charger for the iPhone, laptop etc.

How did I manage before all this electronic technology?  I also received a Penn State jacket, a copy of Stake Land, and assorted other items.  We then sat down to a dinner of beef tenderloin, clam chowder, salmon, corn, carrots, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts (not my favorite) and assorted desserts.  It was a very nice day, one I spent entirely off the computer.  I’d been saving up for a new camera and got a sweet deal on a Nikon P500 a little while back which I need for covering events.  The fee I got from selling a picture to Ms magazine helped that along.  

I hope everyone had as nice a Christmas as we did and everyone got what they wanted/needed and gave as good as they got.  Not being religious Christmas, to me, is about family and friends.  

News & Notes December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to all of our loyal readers, commenters, diarists and fans.  It’s hard to believe another year has gone by.  There isn’t much news today so this will be short and sweet.

You can always tell candidates with poor field operations.  We found three yesterday when Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum all failed to qualify for the primary ballot in Virginia.  Getting petition signatures requires volunteers, staff and organization.  Obviously none of these three have those essential qualities for a successful effort.

Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary was relieved of his duties for showing a picture of his penis to a court employee.  I’d like to know how anyone with $11,500 in traffic tickets can be a Traffic Court Judge?  Shouldn’t one have to prove some responsibility first?  

The Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s Voter ID law.  Labeling the law as racist the DOJ says it cannot be implemented because it is designed to keep Blacks from voting.

As Ron Paul gets viable questions surrounding his racist past are coming to the fore.  His old newsletters, from which he earned money, were filled with calls for white supremacy.  He posed for pictures with southern Klan leaders and allowed his name to be put on these screeds.  Yet he now attempts to disavow them.  I don’t believe in Santa Claus either.  People have been searching for these things and some have been found in archives.  Here’s one promotional letter which warned of the “coming race riots.”  How does he disavow writing this one?

Everything you need to know about Ron Paul

(If Mr. Paul didn’t write them how does he explain this old CSPAN interview where he takes credit for publishing the newsletters?

He did choose to put his name on them, distribute them, under his name, and collect the profits from the newsletters so how is it that his concept of “personal responsibility” stops when it comes to them? – promoted by John Morgan)

As a typical egotistical, arrogant, columnist/blogger, I usually think I can express my viewpoints better than anyone else. But when it comes to summing up the Ron Paul situation, the conservative blogger Erick Erikson says everything anyone needs to know.

This is from Erick’s column today in www.redstate.com:

“Let me get this straight.

Twenty years ago someone put some crazy, racist stuff in newsletters bearing Ron Paul’s name and written in the first person as if they were from Ron Paul.

Ron Paul never read them.

Ten years ago, when confronted with some of the crazy stuff (I’m trying really hard not to use “crazy s**t” here), Ron Paul says he wrote them, but they must be taken in their whole context to understand them.

Fast forward to the present and Ron Paul never wrote them, does not know who wrote them, cannot recall the names of anyone who worked for him who might have written them, is shocked to learn he made big money off them, and people think this guy has the qualifications to be President of the United States?

Letting someone write bat crap crazy stuff under your name, not knowing who they are or what they are doing, profiting from them, then taking responsibility before denying responsibility is credible?!

If we’re to take Ron Paul at his word, maybe we need to get him an Alzheimer’s test. he is old. Hell, if pigs did fly and he did get elected President, he’d be 81 at the end of his first term.”

Eric may normally be wrong about, well, everything, but he sure nails this perfectly

Corbett Signs Abortion Ban Bill

Gov. Tom Corbett signed SB 732 yesterday meaning abortions in Pennsylvania will cease being available in six months.  That is when the bill goes into effect mandating that every women’s clinic providing abortion services meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical facilities.  The new rules require 400 square foot operating rooms, elevators capable of carrying gurneys, wide hallways, parking for ambulances, registered nurses working full time instead of only on days when abortions are provided, and other expensive, impossible to meet guidelines.  Few clinics can even meet these regulations which are designed for facilities using general anesthesia.

The entire intent of this bill was to outlaw legal, safe abortions in the Commonwealth.  If it was about women’s health, as conservatives argued, it would never have passed because it wil result in illegal, back alley clinics similar to Gosnell.  Women will die at the hands of back alley butchers operating in unhealthy conditions, in unregulated, uninspected and unlicensed centers.  Planned Parenthood will have to cease performing safe, legal abortions, something which is a legal medical procedure.  Then Pennsylvania taxpayers will begin paying for litigation until the law is declared unconstitutional which it clearly is.  The people of Kansas have now paid over $400,000 when they passed a similar law.  In Texas abortion clinics closed or stopped providing reproductive choices for women.  Lawmakers in Harrisburg knew very well what they were doing.  Legislators such as Margo Davidson were either delusional or liars.  As tragic as her family’s tragedy was now she is condemning other, countless families to the same fate.

Planned Parenthood issued this statement:

Planned Parenthood Statement on Politically-motivated Abortion Law

Despite the call for a veto from many health care providers and medical professional organizations and media outlets, like the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Governor Corbett signed Senate Bill 732.  Numerous health care providers, including dozens of hospitals, doctors, and victim’s advocate groups, opposed the bill. The new law was supported only by organizations opposed to legal abortion. No physicians, nurses, or others in the medical field were consulted in the drafting of the law.

Today Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Executive Director Sari Stevens released the following statement in response to the new law:

“Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit health care provider with a longstanding record of providing exceptional patient care.  One in five American women has turned to Planned Parenthood at some time in their lives for professional, non-judgmental and confidential care.

“It is extremely disappointing that Governor Corbett signed this politically-motivated bill into law.  Make no mistake, this new law has everything to do with politics. The individuals and organizations that pushed Senate Bill 732 want to end all access to legal abortion care, without exception.  But whether for an unintended pregnancy or a devastating diagnosis during pregnancy, there is a need for physicians and licensed medical professionals to provide safe and compassionate abortion care in Pennsylvania.”

“In Pennsylvania alone, 120,000 patients each year count on Planned Parenthood to provide them with a wide range of preventive care, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, well woman exams and prevention and treatment of STDs, and abortion care.  We are in the process of evaluating the law and are determining next steps to continue our work to keep women healthy.

GP Rep Claims First Lady has a “Large Posterior”

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner R Wisconsin is getting the biggest press coverage of his life. He’s on the front page of the Drudge Report, Huffington Post and, basically, everywhere else. Did he finally author earth-shattering legislation after 33 years in Congress? Nope. He said the First Lady has a “Large Posterior.”

A Democratic operative recently overheard Sensenbrenner on the telephone in an airport lounge saying the following:

“She (the First Lady) lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”

That quickly made its way into the press and it is dominating news coverage as I write this. The Congressman’s office did not deny the statement and said he would be sending an apology to the First Lady.

First, full disclosure. Sensenbrenner is not my kind of politician. I am not a fan. In fact, I was friendly with close relatives of his 30 years ago in college who assured me than that Sensenbrenner was a bit of a boob and considered an embarrassment, the “black sheep of the family.”

So it gives me great joy to see him publicly humiliated.

Still…I am worried that any single comment a public official ever says on a private phone call is now considered fodder for embarrassing tabloid coverage. It just doesn’t seem, well, or fair. Do we really want to eliminate anyone from public office who has told a non-PC joke or has made less than flattering, candid remarks about someone?

This episode again reaffirms my belief in my wisdom for not pursuing a career in public office!

A public space in a public airport is not exactly a private talk in a private home. Still, how many of us haven’t had a cell phone conversation in a public place where we thought no one could hear us and we said some indelicate things?

I think the media needs to be very careful about adopting the new rule of “anything embarrassing ever said on a public phone call by a public official is now fair game” or it could lead us down the road of a British style intercepting of phone calls.

Now, in the Sensenbrenner Affair, all of these issues become moot for the simple reason that he apparently made the same statement about the First Lady to a constituent in a church a few weeks ago. The phone call in question was talking about the possibility that the media might be running with the story anyway.

So in this case, the media is completely in the clear and did the right thing. So we can all have a good laugh at Sensenbrenner’s expense. The story is additionally savory given that Sensenbrenner’s complaining about the size of the First lady’s “posterior” is roughly the equivalent of the sun complaining about how big and bright the moon is.

PS. I will take to dinner the first reader who sends me an unflattering, un-retouched photo of Jim Sensenbrenner in a bathing suit. Then we can have a true comparison on “posteriors.”  

Ron Paul’s misguided media anger

Ron Paul is doing a lousy job of handling the spotlight into the racist writings of his old newsletters. By walking off the set of CNN he made a molehill into a mountain. Paul needs to understand that you can’t run for President and then try to control the media by telling them what they can and can’t ask questions about.

The more Paul looks angry at the media for asking questions about the racist rantings in his old newsletters, the more it looks like he has something to hide regarding the sorts of racists he appeals to.

For a long time, Ron Paul got a free pass from the media. He was the cool, quirky guy who had the guts and independence to stand up against the war and a lot of other Republican sacred cows. But he got a free ride because no one thought he had a chance of winning the nomination. Now that he’s first or second in the polls, reporters are doing their jobs. And a part of that job is looking at a candidate’s record and that includes a record of mailing openly racist and anti-Semitic newsletters with your name on them and profiting from that sort of filth.

Paul plays the quirky curmudgeon on TV debates and his followers love that, but if he really wants to capitalize on his newfound success in the polls he’s going to have to learn how to answer questions from the media. Even questions he doesn’t like.

Paul could learn from John McCain. McCain had a problem with the Keating Five scandal in his past. He solved it by answering every single question from reporters and by talking about it and apologizing for hour after hour after hour until reporters were sick of hearing about it. That’s how you put a scandal to rest.

The War On Tolerance

The War on Christmas is really a war against tolerance.  As I read Walter’s poignant column below I’m reminded that America was never founded as a christian nation, something Fox News has drummed into the minds of countless brainless souls over the years.  Anyone who knows history understands this nation was here for thousands of years before the Pilgrims arrived.  Native Americans, each tribe, has their own belief system based on their origin stories.  The Pilgrims and other early European settlers braved dangerous conditions to escape religious intolerance.  

Our Founding Fathers intentionally created a secular republic in which everyone’s religion was tolerated and even protects those who wish to be free from religion.  We are a nation of atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccan, Taoists, Christians and many other belief systems.  Our Native American friends and neighbors continue holding their ancient beliefs.  The idea that this is a “christian nation” is intolerant, bigoted and wrong.  It is wrong to force your belief system on someone else.  It is intolerant to claim a “war on Christmas” simply because others have other beliefs.

The ancient pagan winter solstice holiday was actually absconded by the Roman Catholic Church as Christmas.  Easter, with its rabbits and eggs was stolen from the pagan spring solstice fertility festival.  These aren’t holy or sacred holidays though some have chosen to make them so.  Don’t, please, choose to force your interpretation down the throats of those who are Wiccan, Jewish, Muslim, or Pagan.  Tolerance is a Christian virtue, one which has been thrown away by some who purport to be of that faith.  That’s the real “war on Christmas.”

One Jew’s Christmas

by Walter Brasch

I am a Jew.

I don’t mind receiving Christmas cards or being wished a “Merry Christmas” from friends, clerks, or even in junk mail trying to sell me something no sane person should ever buy. My wife and I even send Christmas cards, with messages of peace and joy, to our friends who are Christians or who we don’t know their religion.

I like Christmas music and Christmas carolers, even if some have voices that crack now and then, perhaps from the cold.

At home, from as early as I could remember, my family bought and decorated a Christmas tree, and gave gifts to each other and our friends. Usually we put a Star of David on the tree, undoubtedly an act of heresy for many Jews and Christians. We learned about Christmas-and about Chanukah, the “feast of lights,” an eight day celebration of joy and remembrance of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem at a time when it seemed as if a miracle had saved the Jews from darkness during the Maccabean revolt in the second century BCE.

This year, my wife and I have a two-foot tall cypress tree, decorated with angels and small LED lights, a gift from a devout Christian. We weren’t offended by the gift; we accepted it and displayed it on a table in our dining room in the spirit of friendship. In Spring, we’ll plant the tree in our backyard and hope it grows strong and tall, giving us shade and oxygen, perhaps serving as a sanctuary for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.

What I do mind is the pomposity of some of the religious right who deliberately accost me, often with an arrogant sneer on their lips, to order me to accept their “well wishes” of  a “Merry Christmas.” Their implication is “Merry Christmas-or else!” It’s their way of saying their religion is the one correct religion, that all others are wrong.

The problem is that although I am secure in my beliefs and try to understand and tolerate other beliefs, the extreme right is neither secure nor does it tolerate difference or dissent.

Right wing commentators at Fox News are in their final week of what has become a holiday tradition of claiming there is a “War on Christmas.” The lies and distortions told by these Shepherds of Deceit, and parroted by their unchallenging flock of followers, proves that at least in this manufactured war, truth is the first victim.

The Far-Right-But-Usually-Wrong claim that godless liberals are out to destroy Christmas, and point to numerous examples, giving some facts but never the truth.  

They are furious that many stores wish their customers a “Happy Holiday” and not a “Merry Christmas,” unable to understand that sensitivity to all persons’ religions isn’t some kind of heresy. The ultra-right American Family Association even posts lists of stores that are open on Christmas, have their clerks wish customers a “Happy Holiday,” and don’t celebrate Christmas the way they believe it should be celebrated. (Of course, the AFA doesn’t attack its close ally, the NRA, which on its website wishes everyone “Happy Holidays.”)

Because of their own ignorance, they have no concept of why public schools may teach about Christmas or even have students sing carols but can’t put manger scenes on the front lawn. Nevertheless, the Extremists of Ignorance and Intolerance parade the Constitution as their own personal shield, without having read the document and its analyses, commentaries, and judicial opinions that define it, and can’t understand there is a strict separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers, especially Franklin and Jefferson, were clear about that. They were also clear that this is a nation where a majority of its people professes to be Christians, but it is not a “Christian nation.” There is a distinct difference.

The ultra-right-some of whom stanchly believe Barack Obama is not only a Muslim but wasn’t even born in the U.S-follow the guiding star of Fox to wrongly claim that the President Obama hates Christianity so much that he won’t even put up a Christmas tree but calls it a “holiday tree.” Perhaps they were too busy imbibing the bigotry in their mugs to know that the President and his family helped light the National Christmas Tree near the White House, wished Americans a “Merry Christmas,” and even told a bit about what Christians believe is a divine birth.

When confronted by facts, these fundamentalists point out that the Puritans, the ones who fled England for religious freedom, demanded adherence to a strict code of Protestant principles-and if it was good enough for the first American “citizens,” it’s good enough for the rest of us. What they never learned, obviously, is that the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations, declaring them to be pagan festivals.

If the Fox pundits, leading their sheep into the abyss of ignorance in a counter-attack in a war that doesn’t exist, would take a few moments to think before blathering inanities, they might realize that the man they worship was called “the Prince of Peace” not the “General of War.”

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist and multimedia producer. His latest book is the mystery novel, Before the First Snow.]


Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.

Latest Book: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution







Fitzpatrick Walks Out On America

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick just lost his re-election.  Acting as Speaker pro-tempore he gaveled the House of Representatives to adjournment for the year without voting on extending the payroll tax cut.  Steny Hoyer desperately attempted to shame him into returning before Republicans cut his mic and the camera feed for CSPAN.

The Corporate States of Amerika

The arrests of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning are canaries in the mine:  warnings of what may be to come after indefinite detention has been legalized in the U.S.  President Obama promised to end Gimo, torture and re-establish democratic principles.  He has done nothing but expand the authoritarian principles begun under George W. Bush.  Assange, Manning and WikiLeaks have been under constant assault by the government since they had the gall to expose evil doers.  Instead of those actually guilty of crimes going to prison they did.  Manning was tortured and held in solitary confinement for long periods.  He is finally getting his day in court and making the most of it.

What will happen to those arrested in the future is clear:  no day in court.  No chance to publicly decry those who are or have abused their power.  Instead the abuse of power will be magnified under the NDAA authorization for the military to detain indefinitely anyone deemed an enemy combatant.

The Occupy movement scared the powers that be shitless.  Masses of Americans taking to the streets and awakening the rest of the 99% is dangerous and tantamount to treason.  We ceased being the United States of America and are now The Corporate States of Amerika and if you had any doubt Barack Obama proved it when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act.  He gives lip service to democratic principles but, as with all politicians, look at what he does and not what he says.

Corporate Amerika has a stranglehold on power and they aren’t ready to give up an iota of it to the people.  Should you decide the 1% shouldn’t be slashing programs for the people, stealing our homes, jobs, retirements and savings you will be arrested, detained and…disappear.  Camp out at an Occupy location, speak out against the tyranny, march against them or anything they deem as against their interest and their Dear Leader will label you an enemy combatant.  

This new legislation completes a set of tyrannical moves over thirty years to transfer control of our nation, our military and our wealth to those at the top.  It has been masterful.  Due to a previous Defense Authorization bill martial law can be declared in the event of a “crisis.”  It is up to the President to determine if, for example, a massive march against Wall Street rises to that level.  Martial law may then be declared and all of those involved arrested as enemy combatants and sent to prison camps.  This would be the start of an American civil war:  all of us versus the corporate powers.

What will you do about it?  Now.