“A heinous act of mass murder — either by terrorists or by some psychotic who should have been locked up long ago — will be the pretext to unleash a tsunami of gun control.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO, from a 2013 op-ed

The 10,000 square foot mansion the LaPierres wanted the NRA to purchase for them in 2018

“They’re sending out requests for money, saying they might go bankrupt in their legal fight with New York. They’re going through all of this drama of saying they need money, while they are spending money on all these things that can’t even be justified.” ~ ROB PINCUS, Gun Rights Advocate

Saturday evening, sunny, and warm, 83 degrees.

I’ve been working on this post since this morning, and it’s now after 8 p.m., so I’m dog tired and hurt all over. Just thought I’d share that tidbit.

NRA Insignias/Getty Images

So you are a proud member of the NRA. Fine, truly. It’s your right as an American citizen to belong to anything you choose. I may not agree with you, but that’s my right as an American citizen. We get to disagree about things. Again, a free and open society allows for that. Here’s hoping we continue to be a free and open society for many years to come, a society that endorses freedom of the press and your right to be a safe gun owner.

But allow me to elucidate for you a few NRA facts about which you may be unfamiliar, a few facts about exactly how the NRA spends your membership dues. You may be surprised . . . or maybe not. But first, a few background facts about the organization.

“It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house . . .” ~ Lt. Col. Allen West, Ret., NRA Board Member, in a blog post (May 14, 2019)

NRA Background Information:

  • The NRA was co-founded in 1871 by William Conant Church and Captain George Wood Wingate. Prior to 1970, the organization was primarily non-partisan, but during the 1970s it became increasingly aligned with the Republican party.
  • This nonprofit group (501c4) has an annual revenue of around $400 million and enjoys tax-exempt status as a “social welfare” organization. As such, it is not required to disclose its donors. It is, however, required to file a tax return declaring its revenue sources, which includes membership dues.
  • Wayne LaPierre was appointed executive vice president in 1991 and still serves as CEO. But did you know that LaPierre’s early career included working for Democratic lawmakers in Virginia? Irony, huh?
  • Nine US presidents have been NRA members. In addition to Grant, they are: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush (who resigned in 1995), and Donald Trump. Three US vice presidents, two chief justices of the US Supreme Court, and several US congressmen, as well as legislators and officials of state governments are members.
  • NRA membership dues after 2018 hike: Regular membership fees when not running promotions: annual $45, two-year $75, three-year $100, five-year $150 and lifetime memberships $1500, 60 monthly payments of $25 (Interestingly, these rates differ depending upon which site you are exploring, but I got my information directly from the NRA site.)
  • Since 2013, the NRA has cited is membership as being around 5 million.
  • According to Newsweek and multiple sources, the NRA’s membership typically gets a boost after tragedies like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • The NRA received twice as much money from nearly five times as many donors in the seven days after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting than it did in the seven days before the shooting.
  • Even though a Quinnipiac poll conducted in the days after February’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting showed 97 percent of surveyed gun owners support universal background checks for gun purchases, the NRA still opposes such legislation.
  • According to Rick Newman on Yahoo Finance: The NRA’s political spending takes two forms: money spent on lobbying, and money spent on elections, whether direct donations to candidates or spending on their behalf through a political-action committee. Required disclosure forms show spending of $5.1 million on lobbying and $54 million on elections, or $59.1 million total.
  • According to an article by Mike Spies in The New Yorker, the NRA has “reduced spending on its avowed core mission—gun education, safety, and training—to less than ten per cent of its total budget, but it has substantially increased its spending on messaging.”
  • The NRA receives most of its income—$164 million in 2016—from dues paid by its  members, and contributions, including money donated to its political-action committees, brought in another $104 million in 2016.
“I can think of no other non-profit organization that compensates their Executive Vice President the kind of salary and benefits that Mr. Lapierre gets relative to how much employees receive. I also cannot understand how a person like Mr. Lapierre treats the people that work for him like his own personal indentured servants . . . ” ~ Andy Lander, former NRA employee of 13 years in an open letter

Facts of which you may be unaware regarding questionable NRA membership totals and expenditures by the upper echelon of the organization:

On NRA membership, real and not-so-real:

  • Banners of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, and Dana Loesch outside at the organization’s annual convention in Dallas in 2018 (Justin Sullivan/Getty) Does anyone else find these banners slightly frightening? No. Just me?

    A Newsweek review of the tax exempt records, known as 990 filings (full text of 990 from 2015 here, and 2017 here), shows wild fluctuation in membership numbers from year to year, but also an overall decline in membership revenue between 2007 and 2016.

  • According to an article in The Trace, there was a  “22 percent drop in membership revenue—from $163 million in 2016 to $128 million in 2017. Dues from members accounted for just 40 percent of the NRA’s total revenue in 2017 — the lowest percentage in a decade.”
  • Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist, said the group uses a few other tricks to pad its numbers: counting lifetime members who have died, counting annual members whose memberships have lapsed in the 13 month: “one method he and his colleagues used was to continue counting annual members on its rolls even after their membership lapsed, at least for another month, in hopes they would renew.”

On the big, big costs associated with keeping the EVP/CEO:

  • NRA EVP/CEO Wayne LaPierre: I want it all . . . now . . .

    CEO Wayne LaPierre, gets paid very well. In 2015, the last year for which the group’s tax return is available, LaPierre earned $5.1 million in total compensation. That’s more than the CEOs of Alaska Air, CME Group, Church & Dwight, Dish Network or Garmin earned that year.

  • A comprehensive article in Business Insider states that “in 2017, the most recent year available, NRA paid LaPierre a salary of $1,366,688, plus an additional $67,289 in ‘other compensation from the organization and related organizations,'” according to the company’s 2017 990 tax form. That brings his total compensation that year to $1,433,977.
  • In 2015, the NRA paid a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment to LaPierre, which will become even more startling later in the post.
  • La Pierre will continue to earn a salary even after leaving the NRA. State records show that LaPierre’s contract “provides for consulting services and personal appearances upon the end of his employment, at an annual rate that starts at his currently contracted final base salary and is later reduced.”
  • An article on the NPR site by Tim Mark states that “of the more than 600 organizations that Charity Watch tracks, LaPierre is the eighth-highest compensated nonprofit leader in the country.
“The litany of red flags is just extraordinary.” ~ Marc Owens, former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt enterprises

A Pro Publica article contends that in July 2018, a half-dozen of the organization’s accountants produced a document detailing the most egregious issues that needed to be addressed by the audit committee tasked with conducting NRA fiscal oversight. The audit committee document was part of an effort by NRA accountants last year to address a broad array of questionable transactions and business arrangements that they believed could threaten the organization’s tax-exempt status.

The “List of Top Concerns for the Audit Committee” details a range of questionable transactions and business arrangements involving several top NRA vendors and executives. Violations of the organizations procedures and policies included hiring staff without HR knowledge, reimbursement of living expenses beyond HR policies.

The transactions involved top NRA executives, favored vendors, and consultants, including Josh Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff. The organization’s 2017 tax filings revealed that Powell had racked up more than a hundred thousand dollars in personal expenses—including a housing allowance—paid by the NRA.

That being said, it appears that the biggest infractions came from the very top.

On LaPierre’s Questionable Expenses:

  • A leaked document shows that LaPierre likes his clothes—for purchases dating back to 2004 From the Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills the total for designer suits was $274,695.
  • Fox News reports that the CEO billed the group’s outside ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.

    went on vacation just after the Sandy Hook, CN, massacre of school children
  • Among the travel expenses billed to the NRA’s former ad agency are more than $200,000 in “Air Transportation” costs during a one-month period in late 2012 and early 2013, in part related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas.
  • The Fox News article also states that “The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it. (The NRA is now in litigation with its former ad agency)
  • LaPierre charged the NRA’s ad agency $39,947 for a private jet to Eleuthera just three days after the Sandyhook Massacre and then $29,100 for a plane from Nassau, Bahamas, to Dallas, Texas.
  • But it wasn’t all vacations and travel expenses for LaPierre and his spouse: The NRA also spent tens of thousands of dollars in travel and lodging expenses for hair and makeup artists for Susan LaPierre.
“This is like the worst kind of corporate waste because buying the house does nothing to advance the interests of the NRA. How can you explain that? It’s not like he’s been underpaid.” ~ Daniel Kurtz, New York attorney specializing in non-profit law

About that nine-bathroom house on the golf course:

  • The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2019 that in 2018 LaPierre was in talks with the NRA’s former ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, to facilitate the purchase of a 10,000 suqare foot house in Dallas that was priced at $6.2 million at the time: “The discussions about the house purchase occurred early last year, shortly after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Mr. LaPierre was concerned about his security and was interested in another residence besides his publicly known address in northern Virginia.” (Oh irony, thy name is LaPierre…….)
  • LaPierre’s wife, Susan, did quibble with one design detail, according to an email The Post reviewed. She thought the men’s closet may not be large enough.
  • According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The origins of the idea to buy the mansion, its proposed purpose and the reason the deal never went through are now being fiercely disputed by the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, which are locked in a bitter legal fight.”
  • An aside: Before the big falling out and all of the drama, Ackerman and McQueen had a 38-year relationship with the NRA, and in 2017 (the most recent available records), the NRA paid the ad agency and its affiliates over $40 million. This relationship could be a post all by itself, and that’s not even getting into the whole Ollie North aspect.
  • Ackerman says they were setting up an LLC, WBB Investments, for LaPierre so that his home buying would not become public.
  • Even though the NRA claims that not a dime of its money was spent on the proposed purchase, a good faith check for $70,000 was in fact wired to WBB Investments towards the home’s purchase.
Check from NRA to WSB Investments, LLC for $70K

And finally, did you want that coffee with or without the retirement option:

Remember that insignificant sum of $3,767,345 the NRA paid into LaPierre’s retirement fund in 2015?

NRA Annual Meeting
  • According to the NPR article, a copy of 2019 National Rifle Association pension documents obtained from a source showed that the NRA’s pension obligations were approximately $134 million at the beginning of this year, but they had only set aside $93 million to meet those obligations.
  • FYI: There are 786 people in the NRA’s pension plan, of which 223 are currently employed by the organization. The company has underfunded pensions affecting hundreds of former and current employees—even as LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, according to the group’s most recent financial disclosures.
  • An article on The Trace states that even though hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to a number of NRA executives, board members, and vendors through sweetheart deals and opaque financial vehicles, to cut costs, the organization froze contributions to employees’ pension plans and even eliminated free coffee at its headquarters.
  • Perhaps the coffee cutback is only a reflection of the bigger cash problem facing the NRA. In May, they sued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, claiming that the state’s zealous regulatory efforts against its Carry Guard insurance program had cost the NRA “tens of millions of dollars” in lost revenue, legal fees, and other damages.

So that’s just a capsule of how the NRA gets and spends some of its money, and granted, this post ended up being much longer than I had anticipated. What I take away from this is perhaps three things: Bloating at the top of organizations seems to be universal, and those in charge tend to forget all of the people they stepped on to get there. Second, the original mission of the NRA has been lost (advancing rifle marksmanship). Gun education and safety falls somewhere in the bottom of priorities.

And finally, and this is good news for those of us who really are against the organization’s upper echelon and the out-of-touch messaging, their belt tightening has affected their political spending:  The group shelled out just under $10 million on House and Senate candidates in 2018—less than half of what it spent on congressional races in 2014 and 2016 (emphasis mine).

(The above information can be found anywhere on the internet, but I’ve tried to use as many sources as possible so as to be thorough and as unbiased as I can be when discussing the NRA. I’ve also sought the original documents that were leaked on the web. All links are included unless a statement is considered common knowledge.
Tomorrow’s companion post will focus on the downfall of NRA TV.

 

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“Stupidity is better kept a secret than displayed.” Heraclitus of Ephesus

Fire and Smoke Chugach Foothills Anchorage by JJ

Smoke Blankets the Anchorage Bowl (Chugach Foothills) by Janson Jones

One can realise a thing in a single moment, but one loses it in the long hours that follow with leaden feet.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” ~ Confucius

Today was a pain doctor day: Only 10 shots in my neck, shoulders, back and other places. Not too bad, especially since I wasn’t feeling that bad. Kind of a weird statement, I know: Only 10 shots! Came home and crashed for several hours. What is up with my tolerance and my body? I am not liking the way that I have felt for the past two weeks or so. Absolutely no energy. Feels like someone comes into my bedroom at night and walks across my body. Okay, so maybe that’s just the dogs, but I have been just useless as far as accomplishing anything, and I really hate that.

j0395964Not that I’m the Tazmanian Devil on my best days, but feeling and reacting like Elmer Fudd is kind of a downer. Seems like I don’t really get good sleep until about 8 in the morning after the dogs have decided that I’m not going to get out of bed anymore for a while. Bizarre, totally bizarre.

My doctor says that someone in his group received funding for trials on a new pain med, wanted to know if I was interested. Sign me up. I’ll try pretty much anything at this point. Short of wearing patches all over my body to lessen pain and improve cognitive abilities, I seem to be at a standstill.

I had planned to write about something else today, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was. Perhaps it will come to me sometime tonight, or maybe never. It’s not exactly ennui that overshadows me, something less debilitating but still keeps me from being able to puncture this thought bubble that leads nowhere. Oh well.

Heard but Not Seen:

So in the meantime, I thought that I would just throw out a few quotes from people who have been in the news lately. There has just been too much going on to pass this up, what with the governator resigning and politicos cheating and a Supreme Court nominee, who can choose? I know that I’m not quite current in my selections, yet, these little gems were just too good to let go without at least a little nod from Lola.  

“Americans will respect your beliefs if you just keep them private. Keep it private.” ~ Bill O’Reilly, Fox News

Brian Kilmeade on “Fox and Friends” had this to say recently when discussing a study dones in Finland and Sweden that shows that people who stay married are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s: “We are — we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other . . . See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes . . . Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society.”

Okay. Well, other species huh? Woman marries jackass? I don’t think that that’s exactly what Kilmeade had in mind, but who can decipher exactly what this braniac had in mind when he plummed the depths of interspecies marriage. Maybe he’s been watching a little too much Star Trek, or maybe no one ever bothered to explain the term eugenics to Kilmeade.  Maybe Brian should have listened to sage Bill O’Reilly. Things that make you say hmm . . .

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford on his relationship with Maria Belén Charpur: “This [relationship with Chapur] was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story. A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.”

Gee governor, I’m sure that your spouse is delighted to hear that your illicit affair with the Argentinian woman was a “love story.” That makes what you did so much easier to accept. You and John Ensign should get together to discuss how to humiliate your spouses, families, and party, especially since both of you have been so openly critical of others who misstepped on the moral line, like Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, to name but a few. Just glad that neither of your wives joined you for your mea culpa speeches at the microphones.

“It’s too bad that stupidity isn’t painful.” ~ Anton LaVey

Dorothea Lange photo
Photograph by Dorothea Lange, Great Depression

Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis stepped into the national spotlight with her finely crafted logic regarding the state’s summer food program: This one was so good that I thought that I would include most of the State Representative’s motivational message:

Who’s buying dinner? Who is getting paid to serve the meal? Churches and other non-profits can do this at no cost to the taxpayer if it is warranted . . . Bigger governmental programs take away our connectedness to the human family, our brotherhood and our need for one another. Anyone under 18 can be eligible? Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals? Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break.

You go woman. With logic like this, I see a position in Congress in your future. Abolish those frivolous programs that give food to the hungry. Who needs them? Only one in five children in your state, but what the hell? I see your point. I really do. Let those poor people huddle around the table at dinnertime and dine on their togetherness. The arid taste of nothing on the tongue is akin to sweet, sweet honeydew if a little bit of imagination is applied.

I simply cannot wait to hear your reasons for abolishing state-supported programs for providing heat for the poor during the winter: Hypothermia can be a great motivator for physical fitness. Two hundred jumping jacks can produce enough body heat to sustain an individual for an hour. Disabled? Crippled? Pshaw. Use those walkers as weights.

By the way, Ms. Davis, when did you last go without a meal?

“I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is.” ~ Sarah Palin

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska: Where to begin? At the beginning? Nay, too much fodder for this little forum. Let’s just pick up where she left off on her Facebook page: “How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it’s about country . . . Though it’s honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make.”

Far be it from little me to question the decision of Palin to leave her term in office with 17 months to go, but I’m having a little bit of a problem in understanding exactly how her resignation is “about country,” that is, unless Sarah the Obtuse has finally realized that going far, far away would be good for her state and the country. But this “higher calling” business really has me perplexed.

Is her higher calling to join a seminary? Will she, too, learn how to cast out demons as her pastor has done? Is her higher calling to join “Fox and Friends” as a pundit? That might work because I believe that there is a wardrobe allowance for Fox’s motley cast of characters, and we all know how Palin loves her clothes. Or maybe she’s taking time to regroup and write her memoirs.

I can see it now: I Was Robbed in 2008 Because the Liberal Media Didn’t Understand Me. Of course, since Palin is so well-read and a Constitutional scholar to boot, there won’t be any ghost writing for her. No sirree. She’ll just use that can-do spirit of hers to churn out those pages. Perhaps she could take a tip from Cynthia Davis and forego eating while writing. That way, Palin will be super motivated to dissect her interview with Katie Couric.

(Do you think the publishers will be able to include pop-up pages showing Palin winking at key points? Just a thought.)

“People before the public live an imagined life in the thought of others, and flourish or feel faint as their self outside themselves grows bright or dwindles in that mirror.” ~ Logan Pearsall Smith  

I’m not going into the hinterlands of the whole Michael Jackson may or may not have been murdered/abducted by aliens/followed in the footsteps of Elvis. Too much there, and too many people are way tooo serious about it. King of Pop. Boy who would be man. Pedophile. Jacko. Doubtless, we will be pulled into the morass that may or may not have been Jackson’s true story for months, nay years to come.

Books from those who purport to have known the real Michael Jackson. Tell-alls in the National Enquirer by his housekeeper, his nurse, his pool man, his Neverland gameskeeper. It’s all so tawdry, and really, really beyond the pale. He was an entertainer not a god, a singer who reached his artistic apex with Bad and Thriller. He was a man who was obviously plagued by such incredible insecurity that he completely changed his physical appearance over the years. What he did or did not do to himself, to others, we will probably never really know.

Andy Warhol Artificial by Billy Name
Andy Warhol by Billy Name

Anyway, the real tragedy here, folks, is how we continually put people onto pedestals, raising them to greater heights than perhaps they ever wanted or maybe they ever deserved. Lest we forget:

“Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.” ~ Daniel J. Boorstin

Well, I’m sure that there are others who I have missed in my latest Heard but Not Seen compilation. I hope that they won’t be too terribly put out that they didn’t garner a mention this time. Never fear, though. There will always be another.

More later. Peace.

 

 

“The 700 Club and The Weather Channel”

 gay-marriage-sticker1

Stephen Colbert Takes on the National Organization for Marriage

National Organization of Fear-Mongering

gathering-storm-slide-cropped
Image from "Gathering Storm": Woman on Left represents physician; woman on right is "afraid"

On April 8, 2009, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) released a $1.5 million ad (using this term very loosely) called “The Gathering Storm” to be played in certain market sectors of the U.S. The ad was set to run on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. The ad is set to air eight times per day in New York (which is considering lifting the ban on gay marriage), Connecticutt, Rhode Island, and California (which banned gay marriages with Proposition #8).

In this ad, a seemingly diverse group of people talk about a “coming storm.” That storm is . . . wait for it . . . Gay Marriage. Quick, hide the children and the dogs (ToTo, too) before they get ideas in their heads.

These seemingly everyday people are standing around hither and yon, with body posture akin to the people in The Invasion,with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, you know the ones, the ones who have been vomited into, hence causing a psuedo-catatonic state of well-being.

One woman purports to be “afraid” by saying, and I quote: “I’m afraid.” Another woman says that she is a doctor who must choose between her religion and her job;another woman is a parent who must stand idly by while her children are brainwashed in public schools about alternate lifestyles. Ultimately, the message is that straight people will lose their rights if this rampant gay storm thingy isn’t stopped.

Teeth gnashing and hair pulling from the viewing audience. “What are we to do? Oh no. They are among us.”

They being the LGBT community.

Now, I’m not trying to make light of an offensive commercial that tries to scare people into opposing same-sex unions. Okay, well maybe I am, but only because the video is so terribly preposterous. The video doesn’t even really tackle the issue of same-sex marriages, instead focusing on issues of how homosexuality affects people of faith.

wicked-witch-of-the-west
Wicked Witch of the West . . . and flying monkey!

A “storm” coming? (Insert Wicked Witch of the West music here.) What happened to the North Koreans and Iran and nuclear weapons? Aren’t those bigger storms that would affect everyone? How about the man-made economic disaster facing the globe? I don’t remember seeing any trance-inducing videos taking on that really large problem.

Or Mt. Hood? Now that was a real storm coming: an ash storm. My god. Think of the innocent plants that suffered in that layer of sooty sludge.

Or flying monkeys, perhaps?

Okay. I’ll stop being silly.

“Pursuing a mission on behalf of a conjugal conception of marriage” . . . Excuse me, as opposed to a non-conjugal conception of marriage?

NOM was co-founded in 2007 by Princeton professor Robert George and Maggie Gallagher, both formerly of  The Institute for American Values. According to Gallagher, who says that she is “personally very proud” of the ad, NOM “pursues its mission mainly by public education and advocacy on behalf of the conjugal conception of marriage as the permanent and exclusive union of husband and wife” (from an interview with the Prince in September 2008). 

The video includes the following statements made by the 14 individuals (actors) who are supposed to represent everyday, albeit straight, citizens:

“There’s a storm gathering. The clouds are dark. And the winds are strong. And I am afraid. Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue far beyond same-sex couples. They want to bring the issue into my life. My freedom will be taken away.”

“But some who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish,” the ad continues. “Those who advocate want to change the way I live. I will have no choice. The storm is coming.”

equal-rights-for-all-american-buttonThis video has caused such a stir that spoofs of it went viral on YouTube almost immediately. Personally, I like the one by Stephen Colbert, which I have provided for your viewing enjoyment. This spoof is not a supposed anti-gay attack as I read on one site. Rather, it’s a very clear case of satire.

You know, satire? That rhetorical device that employs irony and sarcasm to hold up for inspection some kind of human folly, or lampooning, my favorite form of satire, which is specifically political in nature and takes no prisoners in revealing, usually through broad humor, weaknesses in opponents—something at which Stephen Colbert is particularly adept.

After airing the original NOM video, Colbert declared “I love that ad. It is like watching The 700 Club and The Weather Channel at the same time.” He then presented his own take:

 

 

“I’m a homophobe and I’m okay.” Now everybody sing . . .

But let’s look at some facts, shall we? The video uses actors to send this message of bigotry and terror. What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Instead of paying people to look wooden in a badly-written segment, if you truly believe in something, why not use real people who share your views. We saw from the recent presidential campaign just how well that tactic worked. Who can forget Joe the Plumber sticking his nose in front of the camera at every opportunity in support of the GOP’s ticket?

Or what about delusional lady who McCain had to take the microphone from because she was on a toot about Obama being an Arab? Now these were people you could believe in. They were real. They hadn’t been paid to say the things that they were saying (well, maybe Joe was, but who really cares because he was such a good source for liberals to heap outrage upon).

All of that being said (in my roundabout way), I still contend that given the ad’s purpose and message, real people should have been used, you know, real homophobes. For example, if the female actor was representing a real doctor who was upset about choosing her profession or her religion—and we know that she was because I’ll give you the case in just a sec—why not let the real doctor speak out on the subject? Is NOM protecting her (the doctor’s) right to privacy by insisting that gay marriage is not private?

After all, this physician chose not to give treatment to a patient because of that patient’s sexual orientation. If this doctor is such a staunch believer in her faith, give her the forum to allow her speak for herself. I say, stand up for your homophobic rights. Put up or shut up, as the old saying goes.

(According to the Human Rights Campaign, the video character of the female physician refers to the Benitez decision in California, determining that a doctor cannot violate California anti-discrimination law by refusing to treat a lesbian based on religious belief. http://www.hrc.org/12470.htm. And then there’s little thing called the Hippocratic Oath, but that’s probably just a technicality now.)

LIFE GAYSBut my real point is—and I do have one—the message in “Gathering Storm” isn’t just about gay marriage; it’s also about the imposition of  gay rights’ issues against people of faith. It’s a tried and true political tactic: scare people with misinformation, and for good measure, threaten their faith.

My freedom will be taken away.” Which freedom, specifically? And how will that freedom be taken away, specifically?  These generalizations do nothing but cause anxiety among people who fall prey to fear-mongering, accepting as facts statements that are opinions, and not in an humorous, ‘we’re being silly’ kind of way.

As Gallagher states: “[Gay marriage] is not a private act . . .You change the legal definition of marriage, you change the meaning for everyone, not just the gay couple down the block.” Gallagher’s statement directly mirrors the information on NOM’s website, which contends that “gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, [but] they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

I’m not really sure what Gallagher and NOM mean by that. Not in my neighborhood?  Not down my block? Or probably something more insidious, like, ‘they have a right to live as they choose, but we don’t really want to let them choose.

But there I go again, making assumptions. More later. Peace.

“The Ultimate Exit Interview”

gw_bush_disappoint_0112
George W. Bush at His Final Press Conference

W.’s Final Steps in Rewriting His Legacy

He walked in affable and waving. After all, it was going to be his moment. He greeted the Washington Press Corps as if they were old friends about to have a final chat. The amiability was short and sweet. The first question hit like a boxing glove, and George W. Bush’s plans for a friendly get together took it right on the chin.

“I hope the tone is different for him than it was for me . I’m disappointed by the tone in Washington, D.C. . . . It’s just that the rhetoric got out of control, declared George W. Bush during his final press conference of his administration. And I think that it’s a very telling quote. George W. Bush is still in denial. The press made everything so negative for him, and his response was “disappointment.”

But let us pause her a moment to reflect with the 43rd president. His disappointment was over things such as the abuse of prisoners (torture) at Abu Ghraib, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Well, okay. I believe the American people are disappointed over Abu Ghraib, the response to Hurrican Katrina, and the fact that we were led into a war because of the loud declarations of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The difference? Bush’s disappointment seems to be that things did not go as he expected or as he wanted. The use of torture was made public, and can be chalked up to a few rogue people. The response to Katrina was very slow in coming, and if only there were WMD in Iraq, he could say, “I told you so.”

Our disappointment with the same things but for different reasons: The ire of Abu Ghraib wasn’t over the few people involved, it was over the use of torture and that use being condoned by those in positions to make those decisions. The response to Katrina was very slow in coming: Looking down from an airplane on the mass destruction below is not a president being on the scene, and by the way, how are the levees coming? And WMD, we didn’t believe in them in the first place.

For example, while discussing one of the worst storms to hit the country in history, Bush said that he debated as to whether or not he should land when flying over Katrina but decided that he did not want to “burden” local officials with his presence. Why does he still not understand that at a time of crisis as encompassing as Katrina, the President of the United States needed to be seen and heard, but more than that, he needed to be reacting in a timely way.

 The record shows how poorly the administration reacted even though they were warned in advance that the landfall was going to be devastating. But don’t say that to President Bush: “Don’t tell me the federal response was slow when there was [sic] 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.”

(And by the way, people who fly helicopters are called pilots, not drivers, but as the president pointed out: “Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake.”)

What’s amazing is that W. still doesn’t understand that coming clean doesn’t necessarily mean that you understand what you did wrong. Confession may be good for the soul, but confession without self-realization is wasted rhetoric. For example, take his comment on Abu Ghraib: “I don’t know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but they were — things didn’t go according to plan, let’s put it that way.” And the plan was to make sure that the public did not find out about the torture? Or was there another plan?

Also very telling was W.’s preface to many answers with phrases such “the challenge was,” “the problem was,” and “the question is.” No, Mr. President. The point of the press conference is to talk about your administration’s answers and solutions. 

Bush’s biggest problem has always been the perception of his intentions. Believe it or not, I don’t think of W. as an evil man, certainly nowhere in the leagues of Dick Cheney. I just think that the current president has always been just one step out of sync with just about everything that he has done, right down to choosing the people who advised him—Cheney and Rumsfeld anyone?

Again, in the department of admissions of things that went wrong, Bush mentioned the huge “Mission Accomplished” banner: “Clearly, putting `Mission Accomplished’ on an aircraft carrier was a mistake,” he said. You think? It was that whole cowboy mentality that so many people found shocking just two months after the war in Iraq had begun, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. was still suffering casualties even as the president was declaring victory. How does a nation’s citizenry reconcile two such disparate images?

Bush’s demeanor during the press conference ranged the gamut from playful (“It’s a pretty cool job”), to regretful (on the “Mission Accomplished” banner: “It sent the wrong message), to self-deprecating (answering question about critics: “Sure. You know any?”), to downright defiant: “I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged,” when responding to a question about America’s standing in the world. “But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is a country that provides such great hope,” he continued.

In the end though, George Bush still came across as a man who really does not know or cannot accept how the world sees him, declaring at one point, “You know, presidents can try to avoid hard decisions, and therefore avoid controversy. That’s just not my nature. I’m the kind of person that, you know, is willing to take — to take on hard—hard tasks.”

And then a few minutes later saying, “One thing about the presidency is that you can make—only make decisions, you know, on the information at hand . . . You don’t—you don’t get to have information after you’ve made the decision. That’s not the way it works. And you’re—you stand by your decisions and you do your best to explain why you made the decisions you made.

Crystal clear.

Self-justification, hostility, defiance, imagined self-pity to take the glare of the real self-pity . . . It wasn’t great oratory, but it lasted over 46 minutes, and Bush gave us more of his real legacy in this 46 minutes than he realizes. All attempts at legacy refurbishing at this point are meaningless. After all, W. himself said, “You know, where does a president’s—did a president’s decisions have the impact that he thought they would—or he thought they would, over time?”

And in conclusion: “My view is is that most people around the world, they respect America. And some of them doesn’t like me—I understand that—some of the writers and the, you know, opiners and all that. That’s fine. That’s part of the deal.”

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President Bush Leaves His Final Press Conference

I would have to say, though, that there was one point about this press conference that I truly enjoyed: Its conclusion. It’s the last press conference with a president that we’ll hear in quite a while in which the English language is turned on its ear.

For anyone wishing to check my use of Bush’s quotes, I direct you to the source: the actual transcript of the press conference, which can be found at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/01/12/raw-data-transcript-bushs-white-house-press-conference/. (I deliberately used Fox News for the transcript lest I be accused of relying too much on MSNBC.

And that gentle folks, leaves us with 7 more days in which George W. Bush can attempt to persuade us that all is well and has been for eight long years, in spite of 9/11, two wars, natural disasters, rising unemployment, and a fiscal crisis bordering on the Great Depression.

Of course, there will be more later. Peace.

We’re Down to Hours, and the Silliness Begins

Mommies, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Rebels

Pepé Le Pew Couldn’t Have Done It Better

When I was a child, I loved that French skunk Pepé Le Pew: “Ah, chérie. Where are you? It is I. Pepé. I am looking for you.” And poor Pepé. He could never quite understand why the female cat would run away from him, why people would faint when he came around. And so, when the governator received a call from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, of course she was all aflutter when that accent came through le telefone pour le governor Sarah P.

What she didn’t know was that she was being punked, on air, by the Quebec comedy duo, “The Masked Avengers.” Now I do have to give them props, they gave her several clues along the way that she was not speaking with the real president, aside from the Pepé Le Pew accent. For example, the shooting the animals from the helicopter comment? Or how about his special American advisor Johnny Halladay (French singer)? Too remote? Okay, I’ll let her pass for not knowing the translation for lipstick on a pig (de rouge a levre sur un cochon).

But really, she didn’t get an inkling something was up when he said, “the prime minister of Canada Stef Carse” ? I mean, she’s the one who is always bragging about being next door neighbors with Canada, but she didn’t know Stephen Harper’s name . . . and then the Prime Minister of Quebec versus the Premiere of Quebec (okay, maybe splitting hairs, but she still didn’t recognize that the name was wrong). And come on, did she really think that a head of state was going to tell her that his wife was “hot in bed”? But worse than that, she said to “give her a big hug for me.” Omigawd. You do not tell a head of state to give his wife a big hug from you. Jeez-o-pete. Were you raised in a barn?

Moving on. Marcel the guy with bread under his armpit? Okay, I snorted out loud with that one. To which she replied: “Right, that’s what it’s all about, the middle class and government needing to work for them.” I think that it was at this point that the guys on the other end decided that they probably couldn’t go on much longer or they might pee in their pants.

To which I have to ask, who are her handlers? What numbskull handed her the phone? Don’t they know anything about protocol? Are they for real? Is this aide now looking for other meaningful employment at a nearby McDonald’s as she should be for allowing the Republican VP candidate to be embarrassed for seven minutes on international radio and television, even more than usual? Good golly miss molly.

Who We Are is What We Put on Our Walls

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but my new masthead is actually an inset of a picture of one of my collages. I kept trying to find the right picture for my masthead, something that would reflect the real me, and then it dawned on me: nothing would reflect me better than a piece of me. So I took a picture of my last bulletin board at work, and I cropped a piece of it. I really wish that I could have put more of the whole picture up there, but there is only so much space allowed for the image, so I took what I could get, and I really wanted to get my ERA NOW pin in the shot.

My offices have always been very, very cluttered, by choice. I have always reasoned that if I am going to spend over one third of my life in some place, then I need to feel comfortable in that place, and so I nest there. I bring in books, mostly reference books, but a few philosophy books, lots and lots of pictures of my family, but also pictures that I have taken of various landscapes, and then my little collection of minutiae that I have built up over the years—an ashtray from Paris, a running gnome with chipped feet, a Waterford business card holder, a clay fish that my son made in Bible school, a German knife letter holder that I traded an old Volkswagen for (long stupid story), and then my collage collection, which has taken many years to amass, and I have to tailor to fit my office size.

I mention all of this because I just read an article by Bill Bishop in “Slate Magazine” that talks about a very interesting theory: Republicans tend to be neater than Democrats. Really? Apparently, Sam Gosling, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, and three other colleagues, have posited In an unpublished paper that liberals and conservatives differ in “two major personality dimensions.” Their paper, which is titled “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives,” looked for the underlying personality traits that defined left and right.

It seems that we liberals are more open to experiences, and more motivated by the curiosity and diversity of the experiences. Whereas conservatives are conscientious, follow the rules, have self-control, and like order. The professors used college students as their test subjects, and took polls, asked questions, and looked at the students’ rooms for information. Conservative subjects had more cleaning products!

Now there is just one thing wrong with the professors’ study. They didn’t break it down by gender. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be stereotypical here, but I think that gender, in a study about neatness, would make a difference, regardless of political leanings. For example, when I was in college, my OCD was rampant. I not only cleaned my apartment, I cleaned friends’ apartments. No kidding. One of my best male friends happened to be very, very Republican. He was a complete slob. His apartment was filthy. I cleaned it—when he let me. However, the reverse can also be true. My oldest son and daughter for example, are both liberals, and when my daughter was 16, my father asked if someone had robbed her room (I don’t think that he was kidding). My son, who has since moved on from his neat phase, used to keep his room impeccably clean. You just never know who will be neat and who won’t.

Now as to the other part of their study on carrying over to work life and offices, the professors claim that conservatives’ offices “tended to be more conventional, less stylish, and less comfortable compared with liberal offices. Liberals’ offices were more colorful and contained more CDs and a greater variety of books.” I would have to agree with them on this point. Not just because of my own track record with offices, but because of my observations of other people’s offices. At ODU, for example, in the English Department, most professors’ offices were filled with wonderful, eclectic things. Whereas at the government contractor where I worked in Northern Virginia, it was predominantly rigid, and boring. The most exciting thing in one of my boss’s offices was a Porsche magazine.

And then there was the time in which I was stuck in a cubicle. Omigawd. Just send me into the circles of hell, why don’t you. But, hundreds of push pins and a lot of tape, and voila. It was just like a cubicle covered with as much crap as I could fit into a 10’x10′ space without the walls falling down. And boy did my boss hate it . . .

A Little Ironic Night Music

Found this little tidbit on the web, and while it happened months ago, I just had to share:

Rupert Murdoch must have been gnashing his big teeth. Apparently, the owner of Fox News and The New York Post, has no control over daughter Elisabeth’s guest lists. It seems that since Elisabeth Murdoch left her father’s employ to run her own television production company, Shine, Ltd., she has definitely formed her own alliances, and one of them is Barack Obama.

Perhaps daughter Elisabeth’s fondness for Obama comes from her first marriage to Elkin Kwesi Pianim, who is Ghanian, and with whom she has two children. Murdoch is currently married to public relations guru Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Murdoch, a citizen of both the U.S. and Great Britain, is herself known as a shrewd businesswoman. She grew up primarily in New York. In April, she hosted a Notting Hill fundraiser for Barack Obama with co-sponsors that included Gwyneth Paltrow.

Can’t you just imagine daddy Rupert’s delight? Gnash, gnash, snarl, snarl.

Whoo, boy. Two days to go. Be prepared to stand in line. You’ll be part of history, whether you are a neat Republican, or an expressive Democrat.

More later. Peace.

Wait a Minute, Haven’t We Seen Him Before?

Best Seen, Heard, and Read

Hampton Roads Talks About Race Before Virginia Beach Rally

I thought that this was an interesting extra piece that The Virginian-Pilot did in the long wait before Senator Obama took the stage at his appearance in Virginia Beach yesterday. For me, his race has always just been an afterthought, truthfully. I have always been drawn to his intelligence, his insight, and his abilities as a speaker. Even though he is not as experienced as some of the other Democrats he faced, I believe that his other qualities will serve him well. The fact that he happens to be half black is about as meaningful to me as the fact that I am half Filipino. Oh well.

However, I do not kid myself. I realize that I am not like most people, or some people or a lot of people. But it was nice to see this piece, so I thought that I would share it with you. 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Just a Funny Aside

Last night, a phone number showed up on the caller ID that looked vaguely familiar, so I answered it. Turns out it was someone from the Barack Obama Headquarters wanting to speak with Corey to see if he wanted to volunteer his time. I politely told the woman that he already volunteered his time and that, in fact, we both did and that we would be in the following evening to work the phones. Corey said, “what do you want to bet she calls back and wants to speak to you?” About a minute later the phone rings, and sure enough, same thing. I said, “Hi. Just talked to you. We’ll both be in tomorrow night.”

I know that it’s not nice to screw around with phone bank people, but really, it was during the beginning of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” so you understand.

Joe the Plumber, Again?

I really didn’t think this guy would have a shelf-life of more than a couple of days, but it seems that Sarah Palin isn’t the only one with pit bull tendencies. I almost felt sorry for John McCain yesterday when he called out for Joe the Plumber, and the bald-headed nonplumber didn’t respond from the crowd. I said almost.

Seems someone forgot to let Joe know that he was supposed to be there. He was probably at home shaving his head. Personally, I think that he’s losing some brain cells every time he cleans that dome because he certainly isn’t getting any smarter with each appearance, but that’s just my opinion.

Seems Joe has gotten himself a publicist, is looking for a book deal,* a country record deal, and has absolutely no qualms about answering off-the-cuff political policy questions on camera. I’m sorry, but perhaps everyone else knows something about this man that I don’t. When he first arrived mise en scène, McCain heralded him as an everyman (21 times an everyman) who would be devastated by Obama’s tax plan and be unable to buy the business he so wanted to buy. Well a reveal of the facts showed that Samuel J. Wurzelbacher never had the money to buy any business and, in fact, would benefit from Obama’s tax plan.

Never let a fact stop McCain. He has trotted Joe the Plumber around the nation, and JTP has eagerly joined the campaign trail, and now, like Palin, answers his own questions sans handlers. Take this exchange in Ohio just a few days ago: A Jewish McCain supporter asked him during an election rally in Ohio if he believed that ‘a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel.’ JTP replied: “I’ll go ahead and agree with you on that.” In response to Joe’s insightful commentary, the McCain campaign issued a statement saying “while he’s clearly his own man, so far Joe has offered some penetrating and clear analysis that cuts to the core of many of the concerns that people have with Barack Obama’s statements and policies” (Haaretz.com).

They’re kidding, right? They’re not kidding? Holy smokes, Batman. Someone needs to send out the Bat signal because Gotham has gone bonkers. Relying on the “penetrating and clear analysis” of Joe the Plumber”? I think that Bill Kristol may have had something when he suggested (strongly) that McCain fire his campaign. Well, at least someone at Fox (yes Fox) skewered Joe the Plumber for his nincompoop comments. Shepard Smith, in what turned out to be one of the best “you’ve gotta be kidding me” moments of the campaign hammered the pseudo plumber, and then finally gave up and closed the interview with a disclaimer. I won’t even try to summarize because it’s something best viewed in person:

 

 

On that note, more later. Peace.

*By the way, what to you want to bet JTP does get a book deal, and the rest of us working writers keep struggling for years just to get noticed? Ah, the ironies of life . . .

Remnants . . .

Where was I?

More Palin Please

I knew that when Hillary Clinton threw her hat into the ring, she would have absolutely no problems holding her own with the big boys, so to speak. After all, this woman once worked for one of the biggest law firms in the country, out earning her governor husband by several zeros. She was already a proven speaker, and her knowledge of issues both domestic and abroad was as good if not better than many of the men she was running against. I also knew that the press would probably push her harder, expect more of her, and be less forgiving, forced largely in part by the public’s desire to test this woman who desired the highest office in the land. Hillary stood strong, and although I was an Obama supporter from the start, I was damned proud of Ms. Rodham Clinton and never doubted her ability to lead.

Which leads me to Sarah Palin, who has had two, count them two interviews, one with Fox news, so that one doesn’t even count. This is the woman who has the country “fired up” and “energized.” Explain to me exactly why. What has she said, on her own, in public, that has supported the idea that she could lead this country should something happen to John McCain if this duo were to win the White House. Even her own party won’t roll her out except for photo ops. There is something terribly wrong when the Republican party openly says that the press should treat Palin “deferentially” and there isn’t more of a hue and cry about it. Why should she be treated deferentially? Because she doesn’t wear pant suits? Because she is prettier and more stylish than Hillary? Because she wears lipstick? Excuse me but this is fucking bullshit. I want to know what this woman knows that makes her able to run this country, and I’m tired of waiting.

Putting Lipstick on a (pick your favorite animal)

Speaking of lipstick, I forgot to mention in my blog on obsessions that I am addicted to lipstick. I have to be wearing something on my lips, even at home. Okay, at home I don’t go around wearing Passion Red, but I do wear lip conditioner or chapstick.

I used to have very dry lips that were chapped all of the time because I didn’t intake enough fluids, and I had a very bad habit of biting the skin on my lips until they bled. I found that if I wore lipstick, that helped to keep me from biting my lips because most lipstick doesn’t really taste wonderful. I broke myself of the habit, and I also drink more fluids and more water. Now, I wear mostly glosses, but I don’t go out in public without something on my lips.

So when the whole issue of hockey moms and pigs and lipstick was raised in the campaign, I found it to be terribly insensitive to those of us with a lipstick addiction. I’m planning to write a letter of protest just as soon as I form the CLWASA (Compulsive Lipstick Wearers Anonymous Society of America). I’m hoping to get a grant, although, that may be a bit hard given the meltdown of last week.

By the way, one of my Jack Russells, Shakes, has a dark line around his mouth that gives him the appearance of wearing lipstick. I find it terribly endearing. The other one, Alfie, has one eye that looks like it has been outlined in black eyeliner. Makeup on my dogs and I didn’t even put it there.

The Todders

Perhaps someone should hire a stylist for Todd Palin. I remember Bush I’s big gaffe of wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie on the campaign trail. He was told never to do it again because he wouldn’t be taken seriously. Roll up your sleeves and look like a working man, but never wear a short-sleeved shirt with a tie because then you’ll just look like a sartorial idiot.

Todd Palin keeps showing up on camera behind the beauty queen in all manner of dress. If the Todders is hoping to keep his position as de facto chief of staff, he needs to put on dress shirts and learn how to wear a tie, kind of like Biden et al wore coordinating tie colors during the DNC. Very snazzy.

And Finally, a Word from Our Sponsor

It wouldn’t be fair of me to end my chat without mentioning John McCain, and so I have saved the best for last. Conservative columnist George Will of the Washington Post does not think that McCain has the right disposition to be president. In a recent column, Will compared McCain to the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland who went around saying “off with their heads” before knowing all of the facts. I never thought that I would be agreeing with a column by George Will, but it’s been a strange year, after all.