Pain management appointment at 8:30 am yesterday. I am not awake at 8:30 am; I am not even human yet at 8:30 am. Got a bunch of trigger point injections and talked about pros and cons of imbedded stimulator to treat pain. Still mulling it over. After finally getting home after some run around, I fell asleep fast and hard, woke up for dinner and a few episodes of Bosh, and then went back to sleep. Never fit in a post.
Oh well . . .
So I opened my laptop this morning only to see a headline about another school shooting, this one in southern California: 2 dead, 3 injured. One of the injured students sought refuge in the music teacher’s classroom, and fortunately, the teacher had a trauma kit handy. Let’s just stop for a second to take that in: her classroom was stocked with a trauma kit.
Or how about this: One student interviewed said that his parents had been practicing with him what to do in the event of a school shooting, things like holding a text book in front of his chest to help slow down bullets.
This is who we’ve become. This is how our youth goes to school now, armed not only with tablets and books, but also armed with the knowledge on how they might be able to survive a school shooting. Does no one else find this appalling?
Leftovers seem to contradict the solemnity of our current national state of affairs. Then again, perhaps leftovers are one of the only ways of getting through the day amidst all of the assaults on our senses, our beliefs, our psyches.
Enjoy . . . hope you can . . .
An unfortunate truth:
Circular logic, republican style:
I never knew this—our goats and horses seem to get along well:
Way to make a statement, Berlin:
Just consider: It had to be the overweight, bloated Elvis who did this, and still he managed to get them to stop just with his presence:
And finally, food for thought:
Music by Deftones, “Be Quiet and Drive” (acoustic version)
“The antidote to a government controlled by a powerful few, a government that divides, is a government by the organized, energized and inclusive many. That’s what this moment’s about. That has to be the answer.” ~ President Barack Obama, speech at U. of Illinois (September 7, 2018)
Sunday afternoon, sunny and lovely, 69 degrees.
I know that I’m on a political bent as of late, but how can I not be? So much is happening so fast that it’s hard to keep all of it straight. It’s no secret that I’m an ardent liberal, but more than that, I’m a patriot. I believe in this country, and I believe in the Constitution. And the current state of affairs is breaking my heart and making my blood pressure go crazy, so I try to ameliorate the effects a bit by writing about them or by sharing some of the more significant items such as what I’m featuring today.
Former President Barack Obama addressed an audience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in September 2018, and although this speech was delivered over a year ago, I believe that his message is particularly important and relevant in these dark days of our republic. I’m not going to put the entire transcript here because it’s always better to hear Obama’s words as opposed to reading them—he remains a powerful orator, capable of grabbing and holding an audience with his words and cadence. It’s a striking contrast to the bluster and fumble of 45.
I have pulled out just a few of the more relevant snippets:
The point Washington made, the point that is essential to American democracy is that in a government of and by and for the people there should be no permanent ruling class. There are only citizens, who through their elected and temporary representatives determine our course and determine our character.
More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged, who want to keep us divided, and keep us angry and keep us cynical, because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.
It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.
It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories that we don’t like. I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people.
It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies — not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.
You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate. This is not a rock concert, this is not Coachella. We don’t need a messiah. All we need are decent, honest, hardworking people who are accountable and who have America’s best interest at heart.
If you are tired of politicians who are all for nothing but “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting. You’ve got to do what the Parkland kids are doing. Some of them have not eligible to vote yet. They’re out there working to change minds and registering people. They’re not giving up until we have a Congress that sees your lives more important as a campaign check from the NRA. You’ve got to vote!
“It was compelling, it was impactful, it was powerful and I just feel grateful for the opportunity to have received that information.” ~ Democratic Rep. Denny Heck commenting after Marie Yovanovitch’s 9 Hours of Testimony to Congress
Saturday afternoon, overcast with drizzle, 54 degrees.
I decided that before I try to clean this house, I would share the entire opening statement that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch made to Congress. It’s an incredible, informative read, and I hope that eventually her entire testimony will be released. I am so impressed by this woman’s courage and fortitude. She is precisely the kind of person this country needs right now to help navigate these very troubled waters. Her statement is both restrained and powerful, a piece of discourse akin to The Federalist Papers, in particular, No. 51.
Opening Statement of Marie L. Yovanovitch to the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Committee on Oversight and Reform
October 11, 2019
Thank you for the opportunity to start with this statement today.
For the last 33 years, it has been my great honor to serve the American people as a Foreign Service Officer, over six Administrations—four Republican, and two Democratic. I have served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts, and was appointed to serve as an ambassador three times—twice by a Republican President, and once by a Democrat. Throughout my career, I have stayed true to the oath that Foreign Service Officers take and observe every day: “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;” and “that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Like all foreign service officers with whom I have been privileged to serve, I have understood that oath as a commitment to serve on a strictly nonpartisan basis, to advance the foreign policy determined by the incumbent President, and to work at all times to strengthen our national security and promote our national interests.
I come by these beliefs honestly and through personal experience. My parents fled Communist and Nazi regimes. Having seen, first hand, the war, poverty and displacement common to totalitarian regimes, they valued the freedom and democracy the U.S. represents. And they raised me to cherish these values as well. Their sacrifices allowed me to attend Princeton University, where I focused my studies on the Soviet Union. Given my upbringing, it has been the honor of a lifetime to help to foster those principles as a career Foreign Service Officer.
From August 2016 until May 2019, I served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Our policy, fully embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, was to help Ukraine become a stable and independent democratic state, with a market economy integrated into Europe.
Recent Ukrainian History Ukraine is a sovereign country, whose borders are inviolate and whose people have the right to determine their own destiny. These are the bedrock principles of our policy. Because of Ukraine’s geostrategic position bordering Russia on its east, the warm waters of the oil-rich Black Sea to its south, and four NATO allies to its west, it is critical to the security of the United States that Ukraine remain free and democratic and that it continue to resist Russian expansionism.
Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea, its invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and its de facto control over the Sea of Azov, make clear Russia’s malign intentions towards Ukraine. If we allow Russia’s actions to stand, we will set a precedent that the United States will regret for decades to come.
Supporting Ukraine’s integration into Europe and combating Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine have anchored US policy since the Ukrainian people protested on the Maidan in 2014 and demanded to be a part of Europe and live according to the rule of law. That was US policy when I was appointed Ambassador in August 2016, and it was reaffirmed as the policy of the current administration in early 2017.
“. . . it is in our national security interest to help Ukraine transform into a country where the rule of law governs and corruption is held in check . . . a country where rule of law is the system, corruption is tamed, and people are treated equally and according to the law”
The Fight Against Corruption
The Revolution of Dignity, and the Ukrainian people’s demand to end corruption, forced the new Ukrainian government to take measures to fight the rampant corruption that long permeated that country’s political and economic systems. We have long understood that strong anti-corruption efforts must form an essential part of our policy in Ukraine; now there was a window of opportunity to do just that.
Why is this important? Put simply: anti-corruption efforts serve Ukraine’s interests. They serve ours as well. Corrupt leaders are inherently less trustworthy, while an honest and accountable Ukrainian leadership makes a U.S.-Ukraine partnership more reliable and more valuable to the U.S. A level playing field in this strategically located country—one with a European landmass exceeded only by Russia and with one of the largest populations in Europe—creates an environment in which U.S. business can more easily trade, invest and profit. Corruption is a security issue as well, because corrupt officials are vulnerable to Moscow. In short, it is in our national security interest to help Ukraine transform into a country where the rule of law governs and corruption is held in check.
But change takes time, and the aspiration to instill rule-of-law values has still not been fulfilled. Since 2014, Ukraine has been at war, not just with Russia, but within itself, as political and economic forces compete to determine what kind of country Ukraine will become: the same old, oligarch-dominated Ukraine where corruption is not just prevalent, but is the system? Or the country that Ukrainians demanded in the Revolution of Dignity—a country where rule of law is the system, corruption is tamed, and people are treated equally and according to the law?
During the 2019 presidential elections, the Ukrainian people answered that question once again. Angered by insufficient progress in the fight against corruption, Ukrainian voters overwhelmingly elected a man who said that ending corruption would be his number one priority. The transition, however, created fear among the political elite, setting the stage for some of the issues I expect we will be discussing today.
Understanding Ukraine’s recent history, including the significant tension between those who seek to transform the country and those who wish to continue profiting from the old ways, is of critical importance to understanding the events you asked me here today to describe. Many of those events—and the false narratives that emerged from them—resulted from an unfortunate alliance between Ukrainians who continue to operate within a corrupt system, and Americans who either did not understand that corrupt system, or who may have chosen, for their own purposes, to ignore it.
It seems obvious, but bears stating, that when dealing with officials from any country—or those claiming connections to officialdom—one must understand their background, their personal interests, and what they hope to get out of a particular interaction before deciding how to evaluate their description of events or acting on their information.
When everything around me begins to fall apart, I often find comfort in the words of others. Bukowski’s poem below seems especially relevant at the moment:
Aside: I’m really impressed by the YouTuber who makes these poem companion videos.
Happy Birthday to T. S. Eliot (September 26, 1888-January 4, 1965), poet, literary critic, essayist, and publisher (“The Waste Land”)
Belated Happy Birthday to WILLIAM FAULKNER (September 25, 1897-July 6, 1962), Nobel Prize Laureate and author whose work I always have to read at least twice to really understand (The sound and the fury).
“My head is bloody, but unbowed.” ~ William Ernest Henly, from “Invictus“
Friday afternoon, cloudy and cooler, more storms, 77 degrees.
Well the appointment yesterday went much better than the first. They’re checking into my request for Aimovig, and if for some reason it doesn’t get approved, I’m going to try Botox again. I had really hoped that I’d outgrow my migraines, you know, like you outgrow acne, but not so much. The heat and humidity always does me in, and the other day I just felt like crawling into a cave somewhere and never coming back out.
Anyway, this is day three of this particular episode, and I still have that lingering tightness around my skull. I’m hoping that’s how it stays and that the intense pain doesn’t decide to rear its ugly head again.
Here’s a weird collection for you—born on August 23:
Keith Moon, drummer for The Who (1946-1978)
Barbara Eden, American actress, I Dream of Jeannie (1931)
Park Chan Wook, South Korean film director, Oldboy (1963)
Henry Lee Lucas, serial killer (1936-2001), who was born in Blacksburg, VA (didn’t know this tidbit)
River Phoenix, American actor, Stand by Me (1970-1993)
William Ernest Henly, British Poet, “Invictus” (1849-1903)
Enjoy. More later. Peace.
You have to appreciate advertising with a sense of humor:
Is it weird that I’d buy this?
Speaking of bathing . . . What do you mean you want soap?
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold . . .” ~ Dana Loesch, NRA Spokeswoman from speech at 2018 CPAC
Monday afternoon, cloudy and very humid, 86 degrees.
So I decided that I should try to finish my companion post on the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, and NRATV (here is link to Saturday’s post). Honestly, I feel that writing about it is one of the best things that I can do in response to the most recent gun violence massacres. I don’t know how effective my forum actually is as regards getting some kind of message out there, but if I don’t try, then I shouldn’t complain. I mean, I’m pretty much removed from access to marches until I have a working vehicle, but I have to at least try to participate however I can.
I realize that Mitch McConnell, in not forcing Congress back into session, is probably hoping things will die down before Congress resumes, that the recent violence will not be so fresh in people’s minds, which means that calls for reform can be glossed over with more important things, like continuing to benefit from an influx of Russian cash into his home state of Kentucky. But I’m hoping that the American people will not be lulled back into complacency so easily this time, that the three mass killings in less than two weeks will continue to be a raw wound that gnaws at us so that the momentum for reform doesn’t stall.
And so I will continue to write and to post.
“If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO
I have to say that I, for one, am incredibly glad that there were no weapons in schools when I was teaching middle school. Having been personally involved in three (yes, three) altercations, I can only imagine what would have happened if one of those kids had been able to grab someone’s gun. It actually gives me chills to contemplate it.
Most of the outrageous things that Wayne LaPierre predicts never come to fruition, like when he declared that there was a “massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.” Or when LaPierre stated that in a 1995 fundraising letter that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would give “jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”
I’ll give him this: The man loves his rhetoric.
But we don’t need any more rhetoric. We may not even need an assault-weapons ban as it’s so easy for manufacturers to work around it as they did in the 90’s. But could we at least discuss seriously universal background checks and restrictions on large capacity magazines? Poll after poll show that the majority of Americans are behind these reforms. I mean, come on—when you hunt, do you need a magazine that holds 30 rounds? There won’t be much of that quail left if you unload your magazine into it.
I also think that places like Wal-Mart and others should have limits on how much ammunition can be purchased at one time. Now before all of you survivalists out there scream at me (not that I think there are actually any in my audience), I know that you stockpile ammo for the zombie apocalypse. I also know that you buy your supplies gradually over time. It’s the people intent on doing harm who go in and buy 1,000 rounds, like the Las Vegas shooter in 2017. He purchased 720 rounds from just one dealer. It needs to be harder to get so much ammunition because right now, there are no limits, and the NRA fights any time a state tries to impose such limits.
Admittedly, the irony is that the Las Vegas shooter passed his background check for his weapons, which included 23 guns, including a handgun in his hotel room and 19 firearms at his home in Mesquite, Nevada. But he didn’t have to pass any kind of check for the ammunition that he had, which allowed him to commit the largest mass shooting in the country’s history.
Anyway, enough of my stream of consciousness on all of this. I had wanted to feature info on the NRA’s now defunct TV station, which was yet another vehicle by which millions of dollars of the organization’s money were spent, but the last post was so darned long that I had to break things up—and they’re both still too long . . .
“They [mainstream media] are the rat-bastards of the earth. They are the boil on the backside of American politics.” ~ DANA LOESCH, political commentator/NRA’s national spokesperson, on NRATV
During the NRA’s 2019 annual meeting Oliver North was forced out as president amid reports of infighting and budget deficits and accusations of financial improprieties, including money the organization spent on NRATV, which aired a particularly embarrassing segment in September of the previous year (see image above). In addition to his role as NRA president, North was hired by Ackerman-McQueen in a seven-figure contract to produce content for NRATV.
In June, the group’s chief lobbyist and head of political operations, Chris Cox, was suspended and then later resigned following allegations that he and North attempted to extort LaPierre. In legal filings, the NRA contends that North conspired with Ackerman and McQueen, Cox, and board member Dan Boren “to unseat the NRA’s executive leadership and give Ackerman lucrative, de facto control over its largest client.” The NRA contends that North called LaPierre’s assistant in April and allegedly threatened that Ackerman McQueen would reveal information about the CEO and the organization’s finances that would “cause maximum reputational harm,” according to the NRA complaint.
The following timeline of the fight between NRA and its advertising agency comes from Media Matters:
September 7, 2018: Loesch showed Thomas & Friends characters with KKK hoods on during her NRATV show.
March 11, 2019: The New York Times reported that several board members “questioned the value” of NRATV following Loesch’s segment.
April 12, 2019: The NRA files a lawsuit against its ad agency and producer of NRATV, Ackerman McQueen.
April 17, 2019: A Trace article written in partnership with The New Yorker exposed more than a decade of financial problems at the NRA, including that the group “has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars” and currently spends less than 10% of its budget on firearms education, safety, or training.
April 24, 2019: NRA updates its civil lawsuit complaint against Ackerman McQueen, saying Oliver North “double-dipped by drawing a salary” from the group and the ad agency.
April 26, 2019: Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre accuses North of trying to extort him.
April 27, 2019: North is forced out on the third day of the annual meeting.
April 27, 2019: NRA suspends its top lawyer. Following North’s departure, Steve Hart, a longtime lawyer for the NRA board of directors, was reportedly suspended.
April 27, 2019: New York attorney general opens an investigation into NRA’s tax-exempt status.
April 29, 2019: NRA elected Carolyn Meadows to succeed North as its newest president; Meadows is on the board of an organization that maintains the largest Confederate monument in America.
May 2, 2019: Questions arise about LaPierre’s travel expenses.
May 6, 2019: Meadows claimed Rep. Lucy McBath won her House race because she is a “minority female.”
May 15, 2019: Leaked documents show “lavish” spending for LaPierre despite poor conditions for NRA staff.
May 22, 2019: NRA files a second lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen requesting $40 million in damages.
May 23, 2019: Ackerman McQueen files countersuit against NRA asking for up to $100 million in damages
May 29, 2019: Ackerman McQueen submits a notice to terminate its contract with the NRA, leaving NRATV’s future in question.
June 2, 2019: The NRA admits “the concept” of NRATV “remains under review.”
June 3, 2019: Ackerman McQueen claims the NRA is preventing them from cooperating with Senate Finance Committee subpoena.
June 6: The NRA subpoenaed North and two other board members.
June 7: NRATV host Grant Stinchfield said, “If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you.”
June 9: Post reports that the NRA “bought nearly $3.1 million in ammunition and other supplies” from Crow Shooting Supply, run by former board member and president Peter Brownell.
June 10: Daily Beast reports that NRA told North to pick a side.
June 19: Ackerman McQueen warns NRATV could be shut down within days because NRA owes the ad agency nearly $1.7 million for promotional work.
June 20: NRA suspends its second-in-command after an alleged failed coup attempt against its chief executive. In a lawsuit filed on June 19, the NRA alleged that text messages and emails show top lobbyist Chris Cox and another board member discussing their efforts to oust NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.