Friday, January 28, 2011

Ronald Reagan - Lest We Forget . . .

Today, many of us marvel at all the stupid and contradictory things said by the right-wing crazies who seem to be all around us. People like Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin come quickly to mind. But, there is one god-like person all of them idolize and bring up every chance they get as their heroic “Great Communicator”:


Reagan was the “B” grade Hollywood actor who was convinced he had all the answers for everything for everyone. He first became governor of California and later went on to serve two terms as the President of the United States of America. Some people think he was elected because he ‘looked and talked presidential’. He certainly talked in simplistic terms which appealed to people on an emotional level, and - he was an actor after all, albeit a decidedly mediocre one.

And that heroic ideal of the people who are often called ‘bat-shit crazies’ today, was no slouch in the utterance of stupid, absurd and contradictory things himself. In fact, in re-reading some of them, one gets the feeling that Ronald Reagan may have been the advance guard for making obtusely ludicrous pronouncements. Reagan sometimes makes his followers seem bright in comparison, except for maybe Dan Quayle who is a study in himself. Here are just a few of the things Ronald Wilson Reagan said over the years:

"It's true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?"

"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."

"I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency -- even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting."

"Well, I learned a lot....I went down to (Latin America) to find out from them and (learn) their views. You'd be surprised. They're all individual countries"

"Facts are stupid things."

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles."

"All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk."

"The state of California has no business subsidizing intellectual curiosity."

"I don't believe a tree is a tree and if you've seen one you've seen them all."

"Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources."

"We are trying to get unemployment to go up, and I think we're going to succeed."

"What we have found in this country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."

"I have a feeling that we are doing better in the war than the people have been told." (about Vietnam)

"...the moral equal of our Founding Fathers." (about Nicaraguan contras)

"...a faceless mass, waiting for handouts." (about Medicaid recipients)

"Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders."

" . . . until now has there ever been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together. There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never anything like this."

I believe that the future is far nearer than most of us would dare hope.””

“Even though there may be some misguided critics of what we're trying to do, I think we're on
the wrong path.” (about welfare reform)

"We're not building missiles to fight a war. We're building missiles to preserve the peace."

“Where would this country be without this great land of ours?”

Ronald Reagan was a big champion of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, who was often compared with him. Maybe that’s why I find it so amusing to consider what she really actually thought of him:

"Poor dear, there's nothing between his ears."
           ~British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Not to be outdone, some of Reagan’s international contemporaries had a similar opinion:

"What planet is he living on?"
           ~President Mitterand of France

Larry Speakes, Reagan’s own press secretary said preparing him for a press conference was,

" reinventing the wheel."

So, you see, when you take the time to really analyze things, you realize these new crazies have a great deal to live down to.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Second Amendment and Me

I’m lately hearing lots of declarations - and screaming and shouting - about ‘Second Amendment rights’ - the right to ‘keep and bear arms’.  The second Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows:  
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Now, I own a gun myself, several in fact. I have a shotgun, a rifle and a pistol. Except for the pistol they are used for hunting, for which they are well suited, but which I have not done now for some years. The pistol I have for ‘home defense’ at my wife’s insistence. It is kept on a shelf in a closet, unloaded, but with its bullets hidden close by. The reason is we have small grand children and we fear they might get their hands on a loaded gun and hurt themselves or someone else.
How effective it will be for home defense I do not know. I suppose I could ask any home invaders for a time out while I go to the closet to retrieve and load my pistol in order to come back and deal with them. Somehow that doesn’t seem it would go over very well. In fact, either my rifle or shotgun, also kept unloaded in a closet seem to me to be just as well suited for that scenario. Fortunately, we have not yet been faced with that. It also soothes me somewhat to learn that statistically, in approximately 70% of the time, the home owner's weapons are used by home invaders against the home owners themselves.
And, just to set the record straight about myself, many years ago I routinely carried a large caliber pistol on or about my person - a .357 caliber ‘Colt Python’ which I bought used from a pawn shop after my discharge from the US Marines. At the time anyone, even a teenager, could simply walk into a store, and if they had the money, walk out with a weapon like that. And, that is what a pistol is - a weapon meant for people. Make no mistake about that. Yes, some few people use pistols for hunting, but that is more or a cultish thing, I suppose it’s to make more of a sport out of the hunting and give the animals more of a sporting chance. Pistols simply do not make very effective hunting arms, being as they are, perhaps one tenth as accurate as a rifle on the average.  Most pistols have an ‘effective range’ of 25 yards or less.
But, I digress. As a young man, living on a farm and raised around firearms of all sorts, I was given my very own .22 rifle at the tender age of seven years of age - something which is probably illegal now. I don’t know what my folks were thinking. Yes, they preached caution, safety and responsible use, but at the age of seven the message was not absorbed as well or as effectively as it might have been at the age of say, sixteen, by which time I was already a grizzled, old, veteran firearm owner of several guns. In fact, I later realized I did not always use my rifle responsibly as a child. I sometimes shot at something quickly without considering what was behind it - once putting a hole through the bathroom window (I was outside shooting at a can on a fence post), and another time shooting a hole in my grandfather’s boat. I caught the dickens both times, but was allowed to keep my rifle. I almost accidentally shot my brother once - and he almost shot me as well as a cousin too later. Somehow we all survived.
At the age of twenty I enlisted in the US Marines, for which carrying weapons is a way of life. In my case, first an M-1 rifle, then a M-1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and later an M-14 rifle. While carrying the BAR I was also issued a .45 calibre automatic pistol (M-1911) for ‘personal defense’. The BAR was considered an ‘offensive weapon’ and at 19 pounds (32 pounds total package with full ammunition bandoliers) not well suited for close in personal defense. During my service career I learned the mortally destructive power of modern weapons.
Nonetheless after my discharge, and perhaps because of my Marine experiences I felt a need to be armed at all times. It’s a puzzle to me now why, but back then that’s the way I felt. But, after only about two years I abruptly stopped carrying my pistol. Why?
Pretty simple really. Having the pistol on and about my person, and partly due to the aggressive training and my experiences in the US Marines made me prone to call on my weapon - first. In other words, I feared nothing or no one since I was always armed, leading me several times into situations where I felt the need to resort to my weapon. In the space of that short two years I used my pistol to threaten someone defensively six times, and in one instance to actually shoot someone. Fortunately for me, the person I shot (non-fatally) was proven to be the aggressor and I was absolved of blame in court. But, it could just have easily gone the other way, and there is no telling how my life might have changed due to  that event.
And that’s when I put my pistol away in my closet where it has remained. That was in 1970 and I have not carried a weapon since, except to hunt.
And, oddly enough, in all the intervening 40 years I have not had one single instance where I have truly felt the need of a gun - unless you count the time I surprised a brown bear in Alaska. Fortunately in that case, the bear was just as startled as me and we each decided to go our separate ways peaceably. 
In other words, I believe my carrying a gun was the real reason I found it necessary to use it often. It’s that old ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ psychosis and you see it every day these days in people motivated by the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association. There’s kind of a national mania about it, and our sacred ‘Second Amendment Rights’. And sometimes the mania results in unspeakable acts and tragedy, such as occurred last week in Arizona in the case of Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords.
So, do I believe in Second Amendment rights?  Darn right I do. But here’s a suggestion. Let’s make them REAL and  just like the ‘founders’ intended. The gun lobby is always going on about the ‘Founders’ Intentions’, so let’s do just exactly that.
The  US Constitution as created by the founders was ratified on June 21, 1788, and the second Amendment itself on December 15, 1791. At that time in our history, that is the ‘founders’ time, the common militia weapon was a muzzle-loading musket, most modeled on or similar to the ‘Brown Bess (Land Pattern version)’ used by the British Army. So yes, let’s make the ownership and use of those totally our sacred right - that’s what the founders intended, correct?
Here’s a description of the the Brown Bess:  39” long, fired a .75 caliber ball (.75 caliber = 3/4” diameter!!!), barrel and lockwork made of iron, butt plate, trigger guard and ramrod pipe of brass, weighing roughly 10 pounds, and fitted with a 17” bayonet. The effective range was approximately 100 yards. Now, that thing was a REAL man’s weapon, just as the founders intended.
The following steps were required to fire the musket:
1.  Bite the cartridge.
2.  Push the frizzen forward to open the pan and pour a small amount of powder into the flash pan.
3.  Snap the frizzen back to position covering the flash pan.
4.  Hold the musket vertically so that the muzzle is up.
5.  Pour the remaining powder down the barrel.
6.  Insert the bullet in the barrel.
7.  Push the cartridge paper into the barrel
8.  Remove ramrod from pipe under the barrel and use to push wadding and bullet down the barrel.
8.  Replace the ramrod (Not totally necessary, you could throw it to the ground, but then not be able to have a second shot).
9. Raise musket to firing position with the butt against the shoulder.
10. Pull back the hammer.
11. Aim and fire.
You could do some real damage with one of those. That is if you got a chance to fire it before someone picked up an ax handle and knocked you on your keister or something. You sure as hell would not be able to get off thirty shots in thirty seconds as the guy in Arizona did.

So, YES! I say let’s go back to exactly what the founders intended!

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Un-Congress

* House speaker John Boehner took control as Speaker of the US House of Representatives on January 5, 2011. Speaker Boehner immediately set to work to put the Republican Party’s spin on things.

“So, just so we all understand, we’re here to undo things.” he proclaimed. “Obamacare is disaster for our many friends in the health care and pharmaceutical industries and we can’t let that happen. We’re gonna undo Obamacare as our first order of business.”

“This is the people’s house and we gather here today at a time of great challenges. Nearly one in ten of our neighbors are looking for work. Health care costs are still rising for families and small businesses. But, the way it works in America is when big companies are faced with a choice of making excessive profits, or crapping on the little guy, what do they do? Why what everyone would do of course! They crap!”

“If some people and small businesses get crapped on, why that’s just the way God wants it, or we wouldn’t be elected in the first place! Everyone has to look out for themselves and not look to the government for help. Governments aren’t to help people, but to see to it they are made to help themselves. We weren’t elected to look after people anyway, but instead, to look after that great engine of economic progress - the big American - or big foreign - corporation! After all, I, and most Republicans owe our electoral success to the massive contributions from pharmaceuticals, cigarette manufacturers, health insurance companies, oil companies, military contractors, and oh yes, Native American Indian tribes.”

“And that’s exactly why we plan to do away with Obamacare, because Obamacare is gonna get right smack in the way of excessive profits for pharmaceutical companies and other big health care oligarchies! Where would we look to for our political contributions then?”

“Another part of our plan to help our friends in big business is to get rid of all those darn EPA and Clean Water Act rules and regulations for the protection of the environment and human health. How can any business operate when they’re always looking over their shoulders or trying to hide something from some darn federal regulator? Where’s the freedom in that? That’s the one main reason we plan to flat out outlaw climate change. We’ll just make it illegal to even talk about it! It’s all nonsense anyway. There’s all that ballyhoo about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for instance. But, every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide! Every cow in the world, you know when they do what they do you've got more carbon dioxide.” (Boehner meant cows "belch", ‘fart’ and 'defecate’ but apparently could not bring himself to say the words).

“Now, we Republicans know going into this thing there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell to repeal Obamacare, but we don’t care. We’re making a political statement to the American people, who elected us to this house for just that reason - to make political statements to benefit our party! We are criticized for wasting time and the taxpayers’ money, when so many other crucial things need to be done. But we don’t care about that either. After all what’s a few hundred million compared to our 13 trillion dollar deficit? And remember, I only voted for 9.8 trillion dollars in deficit spending for President Bush.”

“And, as for things getting done. We aren’t known as the ‘Party of No’ for nothing. No sir. Hell No! Why else do you think the people elected us if they didn’t want gridlock? We will always be open to the free exchange of ideas of course, and the airing of our differences through honest debate and compromise. Just as long as the ideas are ours and we get to set the rules for debate and compromise. What could be fairer than that?”

“So, you see,we’re here to undo things. In fact, this congress under my leadership is going to go down in history as an Un-Congress! This will be the crowning achievement to my political career. Who would ever have thought that a poor little Catholic boy in a family of twelve children would ever be third in line for the American presidency?”

(Here Boehner was forced to pause for several agonizing minutes as he sobbed openly and copiously trying to regain control. His blubbering face twisted so grotesquely several onlookers grew concerned his tan might fall off, however after a few minutes he did manage to blurt out a few more words):

“You’ll have to excuse me now. I’ve got a must-do golf deal I’ve just got to make.”

* This is a made-up article which includes many actual quotes from John Boehner’s remarks.