Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wimoweh (The Lion Doesn't Sleep Tonight)

Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, is now wanted in Africa for poaching. Do we have an extradition treaty with Zimbabwe? Because I'll be happy to set up a GoFundMe to ship him back there to face trial.

I don't oppose hunting. Culling the herd, eating the meat: at that point, if you also want to take a trophy? Well, it's a little creepy, but that's another part of the animal that won't go to waste, I guess.

But every time another detail come out about this story, it just gets worse and worse.

Palmer claims he was on a legal hunt, with all the proper permits. That's bullshit - pure, unadulterated bovine fecal matter. Palmer is so full of crap his eyes are brown.

At what point did anything about this hunt seem legitimate? They dragged a dead animal behind their jeep to lure an endangered animal out of the preserve. That didn't seem a little questionable to him? They let him shoot a 200 pound lion with an under-powered crossbow. When, as anybody who knew anything about hunting could have foreseen, the lion didn't immediately die, it took them almost two full days to track it down, as it slowly bled out, suffering and in pain. They tried to destroy the radio tracker around the lion's neck, but couldn't even do that right.

Nobody eats lion meat by choice. It's a predator, which means the meat is tough and stringy; it's a carnivore, which means the meat is rank. The only reason to hunt them is because you think you deserve to kill any damned animal on the planet.

Palmer isn't a hunter, he's a sadist. He's been charged for illegal hunting before, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that his basement was set up as a torture chamber for the squirrels he could trap around his home. He was probably the type of evil kid who giggled after jamming firecrackers up a cat's butt or stapling a duck's beak shut.

I've got to admit that I don't have any problem with the fact that, in the uproar, he's had to close his dental practice, and protesters are setting up a memorial to Cecil the Lion outside it. Palmer is an evil, overprivileged bastard, and he needs to learn what the inside of a Zimbabwean jail looks like.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Whatever happened to Trump University?

The Republican party has been trying to reach out to the Hispanic community to garner votes, and it's been a struggle for them. A struggle that Donald Trump made worse two weeks ago, saying that all illegal immigrants were drug dealers, rapists and criminals. ("And some, I assume, are good people," he grudgingly added.)

The Hispanic community was understandably outraged. And Trump, as he does, refused to back down from those statements.

Obvious anagram Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, had to call Trump to tell him to tone down the rhetoric, because it was hurting the Republican brand. That's not likely to work - whether it was negative or positive attention, he got attention for his remarks, and that's what Trump lives for.

(On a side note, who was the first person to call him "Obvious anagram Reince Priebus"? Because I'd like to shake that guy's hand.)

Donald Trump has been called "the id of the Republican party," which is accurate enough. He is the embodiment of the basic, instinctual drives of a person, the reptilian forebrain slipped into human skin. But more than that, he is also the Ego of the Republican party. By any definition. He is a self-serving, self-centered evangelical preacher of the Word of Trump. He, himself, is the center of his entire universe, and nothing is more important to him than building himself up, so that others can marvel at how important he is.

Trump feels the need to keep reminding people that he's "really, really rich." Well, of course he is: his father was a multi-millionaire real estate developer. The children of rich people tend to be rich, too.

The man who's filed for bankruptcy four times wants us to trust him with America's economy. That seems like an obviously stupid idea to anybody who thinks about it, but Trump is trusting most of America to be as stubbornly ignorant on as many subjects as he is. (And sadly, that may be a good bet.)

The man has had to close or sell off almost as many casinos as he's opened. And it's really hard to lose money with a casino. But it's easy to set up a scam, isn't it?

People, it's only been two years. Has everybody forgotten that Donald Trump got sued by the State of New York for a scam called Trump University?
The lawsuit, which seeks restitution of at least $40 million, accused Mr. Trump, the Trump Organization and others involved with the school of running it as an unlicensed educational institution from 2005 to 2011 and making false claims about its classes in what was described as “an elaborate bait-and-switch.”

In a statement, Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general, said Mr. Trump appeared in advertisements for the school making “false promises” to persuade more than 5,000 people around the country — including 600 New Yorkers — “to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got.”

The advertisements claimed, for instance, that Mr. Trump had handpicked instructors to teach students “a systematic method for investing in real estate.” But according to the lawsuit, Mr. Trump had not chosen even a single instructor at the school and had not created the curriculums for any of its courses.


The inquiry into Trump University came to light in May 2011 after dozens of people had complained to the authorities in New York, Texas, Florida and Illinois about the institution, which attracted prospective students with the promise of a free 90-minute seminar about real estate investing that, according to the lawsuit, “served as a sales pitch for a three-day seminar costing $1,495.” This three-day seminar was itself “an upsell,” the lawsuit said, for increasingly costly “Trump Elite” packages that included so-called personal mentorship programs at $35,000 a course.
The details of this story kept getting more and more bizarre as press conferences were held and details were leaked.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says many of the 5,000 students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least meet Trump but instead all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of "The Apprentice" TV star.


The lawsuit says many of the wannabe moguls were unable to land even one real estate deal and were left far worse off than before the lessons, facing thousands of dollars in debt for the seminar program once billed as a top quality university with Trump's "hand-picked" instructors.
(More details can be found here and here.)

There is very little in Donald Trump's business dealings that aren't self-serving, shady, or both. This might make him the perfect Republican, but it would make him a very, very bad president.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Failure at the Bully Pulpit

On Wednesday, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink confronted Lindsey Graham at a press conference, and really didn't do a particularly good job.
Benjamin was supposed to be asking the Republican presidential candidate a question, but instead held onto the microphone for more than two minutes before security escorted her out of the room. While she still had the floor, Benjamin implored Graham to speak out against beheadings in Saudi Arabia and the Israel’s “repression” of the Palestinians, among other issues.
Graham had a chance to respond appropriately, and instead he chose to flounder.
“Is there a question?” an uncomfortable-looking Tapper asked as Graham chuckled to himself and rubbed his eyes.

“I’m going to put her down as undecided,” Graham joked after Benjamin’s mic had been taken away. While he said he respected her right to express her opinion, the senator said, “I couldn’t disagree with you more.”

“I think people like you make the world incredibly dangerous,” he continued. “I think people like you are radical Islam’s best hope.” He argued that the Iraq War did not create ISIS just as American intervention did not set the stage of 9/11. “You’re not going to fool me that somehow we brought this upon ourselves,” he said.
So, apparently, despite being a US Senator, Graham is either willfully ignorant or a liar. (I'm willing to say "both," but perhaps I'm too forgiving.)

OK, let's go through this quick: in the 80s, the CIA funneled money to train fighters in Afghanistan. One of those fighters was the son of a rich architect, a guy named Osama bin Laden who would go on later to create a little social club called Al Qaeda. So, already we see where American intervention over there didn't do us much good.

Then we went into Iraq and started blowing shit up. People lost their homes, their families and their hope. And like many hopeless people through history, they turned to religion.

On top of that, we left former Iraqi soldiers and former Al Qaeda operatives with no jobs, and since all of their training was in the area of "urban destruction," and they suddenly had plenty of time on their hands, they needed a hobby as well. So, Lindsey, that was how we helped create ISIS. Simple, right?

But both Lindsey and Benjamin held the national stage for a moment and neither one used it appropriately. Benjamin came to the Atlantic Council knowing that Graham would be there, and had plenty of time to prepare. She could have asked him a question that he could have been forced to respond to in some way.

For instance, "Senator Graham, you supported the invasion of Iraq. You consistently support our relations with Saudi Arabia, a repressive regime where most of the 9/11 terrorists came from. You have been consistently wrong in every way in dealings with the Middle East. Why do you think we should listen to you now, and especially why do you think we should put you in the White House?"

Instead she chose to do what CODE PINK does most of the time and just disrupt the proceedings with some incoherent rambling and unfocused anger.

Lindsey could have found a way to respond graciously, or could have begun discussing Middle Eastern policy. Instead, he make a lame joke and tried to dismiss with non sequiturs and lies.
“I think people like you are radical Islam’s best hope.”
How is that, Senator? Because she chose to exercise her right to free speech (even if she didn't do it well)?

Lindsey Graham showed that, at his best he would probably be an ineffective president; at his worst, he would most likely be that most dreaded of all natural disasters, a third Bush term. Medea Benjamin and Lindsey Graham met Wednesday night. But they were both prisoners of their own ideology.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Thank You For Your Service

It's that wonderful time of year in New Mexico, when we pack dried-out tents full of explosives, which are sold by sweating meth-heads smoking cigarettes.

Every year, this state loses thousands of acres of land to wildfires. And we celebrate independence by firing pyrotechnics into dried grass. Because that makes sense. But let's not worry about little, unimportant questions like "physics." Instead, let's consider the realities of living in the 21st Century.

For example, a few years ago, we had the C-Student President, whose advisers felt we needed a permanent base in the Middle East. So he took us to war. Around 68 hundred American soldiers died for this idiotic attempt to flex our military muscle. But, more importantly for (but oddly related to) the following issue, 970,000 soldiers were damaged (mentally or physically) in the course of fighting in those two related wars.

I figured out, some years back, my own minor insanity. I have the mildest case of PTSD ever reported - I just get cranky and irritable when shit starts blowing up. Which, if you think about it, just qualifies more as "survival instincts" than truly being PTSD.

But here's the problem: explosions have somewhat lost their thrill for a certain percentage of the American populace.

Remember, more now than for any generation of American people in decades, when shit blows up, it doesn't make you want to stand proud. It reminds you of a time when you didn't have control. When your friends and comrades were getting killed around you, and there was nothing you could do.

There was a time when the Republican party celebrated the sacrifices of the American fighting forces. Now, they'd like to forget they exist.

But maybe, just maybe, you can remember them, just for this year. Every time you blow something up, you're reminding them of a time that they'd rather forget. Every firework you set off hurts someone in ways you can't begin to imagine. Be respectful of our troops.

Some of them sacrificed more than you think.