Sunday, April 27, 2014

This Month's Right Wing Hero: Cliven Bundy

I suppose that it's possible that you've been stuck in a cave for the last two weeks or so - maybe you're an amateur spelunker (I suppose those still exist). Or perhaps you actively avoid even looking at anything about Nevada (and who could blame you?)

If so, let's recap. We have a cattle rancher in Nevada named Cliven Bundy (apparently, "Cliven" is a reasonable choice for a name if you're from those parts). For the last twenty years, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. That's not a crime: the BLM allows ranchers to do that all the time. The thing is, they charge a fee. And Bundy has never paid his grazing fees in over two decades.

He's claimed that he inherited grazing rights from his grandmother, because some of her ancestors kept cattle in the Virgin Valley since 1877. If this was true (and there's no evidence that it is), that just means that Bundy comes from a long line of criminals: the US Government has owned that land since it was given to us by Mexico (you know, after we took it from them) in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Let's just look at it this way: if you had flowers growing wild in your backyard, and your neighbor kept kicking down your fence and picking those flowers, you might get a little cranky, right?

Now the grazing fees aren't exactly exorbitant - they haven't changed in decades, and tend to be about $1.35 per animal per month. That's a lot less than feed costs, but Bundy didn't want to pay it. He's used a lot of different arguments over the years, but his latest one is kind of fascinating: he doesn't recognize the existence of the US government.

(The fact that he made that statement immediately raised red flags for me. That philosophy, and his use of the phrase "sovereign," is a mark of what's called the Sovereign Citizen Movement, a group of right-wing terrorists who don't believe that they need to follow pesky things like "laws.")

Once he made some noise about being anti-government, our intrepid insurrectionists over at Fox "News" decided to make a working-class hero out of him, without doing even the most basic research into whether he was a dangerous lunatic.

And sure enough, once Fox "News" started trying to make a hero out of a man stealing from the government, some of his Sovereign Citizen friends (and a bunch of other random nutjobs) came along to help him fight off the government trying to collect the money he owed them.

On Salon, Eric Stern put together almost two dozen of the various lies Fox "News" was trying to spread before Cliven started speaking his mind in public, and there's some real winners there. One of my favorites was actually made by a member of the Nevada legislature:
"Nobody has seen any bill for $1.1 million. It doesn't exist." (Michelle Fiore, R-Nevada Assembly, on MSNBC) Bundy says he has "never been sent a bill" but also says he never opens mail from the U.S. government because he does not recognize the U.S. government’s existence.
That just about says it all, doesn't it? But that's where it starts to get really interesting. Because then, somebody in the conservative media made the mistake of letting him talk on camera.

What happened was, Bundy liked being the center of attention, and he started holding daily press conferences. And even when the press dwindled down to (on this particular day) one reporter and one photographer, Bundy kept talking. Unfortunately for him, the reporter in question was from the New York Times.
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
It was probably right about that point that the right-wing media screamed and ran away. But Bundy wasn't done - not by a long shot. He had an all-access pass to the media, and decades of evil built up in his soul. He wasn't going to shut up just because his new "friends" stopped taking his calls.

He started appearing on any talk show that would have him, basically repeating the mantra that "I'm not a racist," and interspersing it with statements like this.
If I say 'negro' or 'black boy' or 'slave' … if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive (sic) then Martin Luther King didn't do his job.
Or he'd double down on his remarks.
Are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were slaves, and they was able to have their family structure together, and the chickens and garden, and the people had something to do? And so, in my mind I’m wondering, are they better off being slaves, in that sense, or better off being slaves to the United States government, in the sense of the subsidies. I’m wondering. That’s what. And the statement was right.
Proving, if nothing else, that he had no idea what slavery really was. On the other hand, in an interview on CNN, he proved that he understood how Fox "News" worked.
The CNN host suggested that Bundy had been abandoned at Fox News, something he said was apparent by the fact that the rancher was appearing on his network and not Fox.

"I don't think I've been abandoned. I think maybe they misunderstood me a little bit," Bundy said. "But I think Fox and I, I think, Hannity and I are just right on. I have no doubt that he would support me if he understood really what's in my heart. And I think he does understand me."
There was a time in America when the right wing had some reasonable members. But as they've gradually drifted down the rabbit hole, they've begun embracing more and more radical ideas. And now they've reached the point where everyone they embrace as a hero, from Ted Nugent to George Zimmerman, and now Cliven Bundy, has proven to be not just deeply flawed, but pathologically insane.

Perhaps they should take the hint, and realize that the problem lies, not in their heroes, but somewhere deeper in their philosophies.

Meanwhile, off in the distance, Cliven Bundy continues to spout authentic frontier gibberish.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Praise it and blaze it.

Easter is a strange holiday. I'm not even going to look at its pagan roots: the concept isn't really in dispute any more. But Easter is, if viewed from one angle, an opportunity for conservative Christians to explain that their support for the death penalty is proven by their approval of nailing some guy to a stick and letting him hang there until he dies. Or something like that.

Has anybody noticed that Easter this year comes on 4/20? It's a popular meme among the marijuana crowd online. However, to put it in another light, it can be used as evidence that Jesus supports medical marijuana.

Probably because the Bible can be used to support pretty much any viewpoint out there, there are plenty of verses that can be cited to support this position.

Isaiah 18:4 - "The Lord said unto me, 'I will take my rest and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs.' "

Ezekiel 34:29 - And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.

Genesis 1:12 - And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:29-31 - God said, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth.…To you it will be for meat." …And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

Revelations 22:2 - In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Psalm 104:14-15 - He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

You can google the term "easter grass" and come up with a lot of sites that sell it, but I think you'll be disappointed with what you get.

And you can even drag politics into it. Remember, the US government is conducting a war on drugs, whereas Matthew 5:9 tells us "Blessed are the peacemakers." I'll bet you can do that math on your own.

There are those who will try to tell you that the Bible condemns drug use: one explanation is that the original Greek word for "sorcery," pharmacea, is the same root word for "pharmacy." Look hard enough, you'll see explanations for the use of herbs (to include marijuana) as medicine only, because all drug companies deal in poison. That's not only a little extreme, but shows an open ignorance of history: much like chemistry and alchemy have the same roots (as do astrology and astronomy), early wise women and hedge wizards started concocting drugs to help people. But many of their naturalist practices came from pagan roots (and berries, but let's not get into that...): the priestesses would often double as healers. And if they could help people more than the Christian priests and their prayers, the witches must obviously be condemned as evil (otherwise, people might go see the pagans for help).

This is also where you'll find the argument that the actual phrase should not be "suffer not a witch to live," but "suffer not a poisoner to live." Sorry, guys. The specific translation there should, in fact, be "witch." It's just that pagan priestesses of the time knew enough about natural medicine that they could also concoct poisons.

In a similar vein, there's an old French word, grimoire, that refers to a book containing magic spells, such as what would be owned by a witch or sorcerer. The root for that word was grammaire, which was a book of grammar (usually Latin, in the early days; the same source gave us the Olde Englishe word grammarye). But much like with the Tea Party today, somebody with a little knowledge frightened the average illiterate peasant back then; so somebody with a big thick book was probably up to no good.

And much like with pharmacea, that's the difference between the root of a word and the actual definition.

But, really, what can be more pot-induced than a holiday based around hard-boiled eggs and ample supplies of chocolate?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Playin' with the dogs

So on Wednesday night, Rocky broke a nail.

Now, I should probably explain that Rocky is our smaller, auxiliary dog, and when I say "broke a nail," I mean "snapped it in half at the quick, so it was hanging off and the rough edge cut the next toe over and wouldn't stop bleeding." I suppose it sounds a little more impressive when I mention the details, doesn't it?

We tried to deal with it ourselves, but this cheerful little, personable, loving dog snapped at us when we even came near it. So that was a problem.

So I spent the next morning calling around for a vet who could see him and not charge us $500, and got lucky with the Ponderosa Animal Clinic, who said they could fit him in at 12:30. And I figured I could give up my lunch hour and deal with this problem (at 1:15, when I was still in the waiting room, I'll admit that I was a little less enamored of the plan, but that comes later).

The clinic was closer to work than home, but I have a forgiving boss (who happens to have two dogs herself) and got permission to keep Rocky with me after his appointment, and we went for it. At noon, I rushed home, grabbed the dog, some chew toys and a small bowl for water, and jetted back.

The first problem came up as we entered the clinic. Rocky apparently had flashbacks to the pound, because he was fine as he limped up to the entrance. But when I opened the door, he went exactly halfway through it and stopped dead. His head slowly tracked side to side, and I tried to urge him forward.

"Come on, Rocky. Let's go, boy." Nope. Not a chance.

I stepped over him through the door. "Come on, Rocky." Not only wasn't he going to move, but he dropped to the floor and just lay there. He had no intention of going even one step farther. Fortunately, figuring that he was going to end up in the Cone of Shame, I'd taken off his collar and replaced it with his harness, so I could just pull him forward and he automatically lifted up on his feet again. (Even more fortunately, it was 40 pound Rocky, and not 120 pound Boris, our larger, primary dog.)

After entirely too long in the waiting room (did I mention that?), we got in to see the vet, a tiny little old lady who never looked at me, even when she was telling me what to do with him once we got him home. Rocky got a combination of shots that made him a little groggy, but it still took two of us holding him down while she cleaned him up and bandaged him. Once she was done, she didn't think he was going to need a cone: as she explained to the back of Rocky's head, "since his foot should feel a lot better, he probably won't keep worrying at it."

So, $160 later, I got him loaded into the car and drove him to the office. I'd also brought along a kid's gate that we use to keep the dog out of various rooms, and I set it up to keep him blocked in behind my desk. And he flumped down on the floor, quietly ignoring everybody who tried to tell him what a handsome boy he was. (He either had developed an inflated idea of his own attractiveness, or he was still feeling the effects of the drug. One or the other.)

A couple of hours later, I had to load everything back in the car and pick up the Trophy Wife for her doctor's appointment (the main difference being that I didn't need a leash to get her there... yeah, she's going to kill me when she reads this), and I stayed in the car with Rocky while she went in on her own.

At which time, I discovered that mild downers made Rocky prone to getting car-sick. Fortunately, there was a roll of paper towels under my seat (I have no idea where they came from, but they had a Christmas pattern on them, so I like to think it was Santa).

Once Annette came out, we got Rocky home, my son went out with the upholstery cleaner and Rocky immediately perked up and jumped on Boris.

We taped an old sock over the bandage so Rocky could go outside, and he's been doing fine. He charges around the house at full speed (just occasionally on three legs), and it hasn't rained, so we haven't had any problems with the bandage getting ruined. (Yes, that's him to the right. His foot isn't swollen - there's just a lot of loose space in the sock. Weirdly enough, our feet seem to be larger than his.)

Even more amazingly, he hasn't been gnawing at the bandage, so no Cone needed.

Of course, it also meant that he got out of his bath this weekend, and he's probably going to get a little ripe by the time we can wash him again. I wonder if I can just spray him with Febreze. Or maybe sprinkle him with baking soda.

We'll see.