Grand Feats and Wise Decisions

I am just now beginning to learn about politics in New York state. From what I understand, we don’t yet know if a Democrat will be available to run for state senate in the 55th district. Presumed candidate Mary Wilmot has said she will not run, and state Democrats hold their convention May 10.

It doesn’t matter. If the right Republican is on the ballot, I’ll be voting for him.

That’s what I said. It is likely that I will vote for a Republican in November. I’m lookin’ at you, James Alesi.

Why? Because a perfectly justifiable defense for voting for a public official is that said official has performed grand feats and has made wise decisions while in office. Regardless of party affiliation. Regardless of the other 90 percent of said official’s political portfolio. And, friends, James Alesi has performed great feats and has made wise decisions. To wit, via the Wiki (citations waived):

In 2009, Alesi voted no on same-sex marriage legislation despite being considered the Republican most likely to support the legislation. He is seen on video from the New York Senate floor casting his no vote with his head in his hands, and later admitted that he struggled with his decision to vote against the legislation.

In 2011, Alesi became the first Republican to announce his support for a new same-sex marriage bill. On June 24, 2011, Alesi was one of four Republicans to vote in favor of the Marriage Equality Act, stating: “I swore with my hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution … I didn’t swear with my hand on the Constitution to uphold the Bible”.

America! Fuck yeah!

Here’s the thing, though. Alesi didn’t hold his nose to vote on marriage equality. He made this vote with—forgive the term here—pride. He has become an outspoken advocate on the issue, even chiding the Obama administration on the issue. This is not easy for a Republican to do, and Alesi may have lost formerly stalwart political support for his key role.

However, due to his grand feat and his wise decision, he is more than likely to pick up supporters like I. I will reward Mr. Alesi for doing outrageously right. Even though I still think he’s in the wrong damned political party.

This was an easier concept to exercise when I lived in Northern Virginia. I told my Congressman every time I saw him that I would vote for him until he quit. Why? Because Jimmy Moran voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. Sure, it didn’t hurt that Moran is a damned good Democrat. But with Moran, that was a pleasant side effect. I gave him my vote, every two years, because he gave me that single vote in 2002. Congressman Moran found his way to the center circle of grand feats and wise decisions, and, due to that, he would have my vote for his whole entire career. That is how much a “no” on the Resolution meant to me.

Which brings me around to the scenario in which would have required me to have voted for George W. Bush in 2004.

That’s right, kids. George W. Bush had an opportunity to push his way toward this glorious realm as well. He could have forced my vote—but, alas, he was an incompetent shit-head.

He failed to bring home Osama bin Laden’s head on a pike.

Had George W. Bush managed to have snatched or annihilated Osama bin Laden, I would have voted for him. I’d have had to. Even though Bush himself brought about the necessity of getting bin Laden by thumping his chest so stridently about him, even though Bush’s Presidency would eventually end up overseeing at least three events of an apocalyptic nature (but that’s another blog entry), even though Bush’s almost wistful appreciation for disaster capitalism was downright maniacal, yes; if he had nailed Osama bin Laden, I would have voted for George W. Bush in 2004.

Grand feats and wise decisions, in my estimation, are powerful arguments for your vote. Even ones that are patently false and absurd on their asses. Remember “He Kept Us Safe?” How many times did we have to hear that tired bullshit about the President who got caught with his dick in the cookie jar on September Eleventh? Yet, people believed it and adopted it as a spirited defense for one of the most failed Presidents in modern history.

The least we can do is adopt a similar stance regarding President Obama based on actual facts.

Obama’s Presidency has been chock full of grand feats and wise decisions, most notably the occasion we’ve recently marked of the departure from this realm of one Osama bin Laden.

The New York Times did an excellent piece April 28 about President Obama, “Warrior in Chief.” Some liberals may not like having a Democratic President who is so tough on these issues; I think it is just plain awesome.

The piece discusses the decision to go after bin Laden, and how there were no asshole yes-men in the room assuring the President that it was a “slam-dunk.”

SOME of Mr. Obama’s top advisers worried that the intelligence suggesting that Bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound was circumstantial and much too flimsy to justify the risks involved. The deputy C.I.A. director, Michael J. Morell, had told the president that in terms of available data points, “the circumstantial evidence of Iraq having W.M.D. was actually stronger than evidence that Bin Laden was living in the Abbottabad compound.”

At the final National Security Council meeting to consider options connected to Bin Laden’s possible presence in the Abbottabad compound, Mr. Obama gave each of his advisers an opportunity to speak. When the president asked, “Where are you on this? What do you think?” so many officials prefaced their views by saying, “Mr. President, this is a very hard call,” that laughter erupted, providing a few moments of levity in the otherwise tense, two-hour meeting.

That, in my opinion, is a stark study in contrasts. When President Bush asked his advisers about military action in Iraq, they told him what they knew he wanted to hear, and then he took their shitty advice, and he failed monumentally. Obama’s advisers gave him the brutally frank hard news, which he considered and then acted nonetheless, against miserable odds, and, as a result, one more shitty little mess left by the Bush Administration was tidied.

I don’t care if you like Obama, or agree with him, or think he’s a communist somehow. He made the tough call on bin Laden, and now bin Laden is dead. If nothing else falls under the category of “grand feats and wise decisions,” this one certainly does. This President is more than worthy of a second term even if you only consider this single decision of his—although, as we shall probably explore moreso, there are multitudes of others that make the man quite worthy.

Arianna Huffington is Wrong, Dahling

Arianna Huffington recently criticized President Obama for an ad he has apparently run (I have not seen the ad) that questions whether, as President, Mitt Romney would have gone after Osama bin Ladan.

Appearing on ‘CBS This Morning’, she said, “Using the Osama bin Laden assassination, killing, the great news that we had a year ago, in order to say basically that Obama did it and Romney might not have done it … to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.”

She compared the ad to one that the Hillary Clinton campaign aired during the 2008 election.

“It’s the same thing that HIllary Clinton did with the 3 A.M call, you know, ‘you are not ready to ready to be commander-in-chief’,” she said.

Wrong! Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!

A claim that Romney may not have gone after bin Laden actually has basis in fact. Hillary’s ads regarding Obama’s 3 a.m. readiness were completely hypothetical.

Fact, you say? Yes, fact, as in, something Mitt Romney has actually said. And, I quote:

It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.

Hillary’s ad was nonsense, based on no provable facts whatsoever, and it has proven to be incredibly incorrect. Of all the vital aspects of the President’s job, I would count “managing well that 3 a.m. call” to have been one of President Obama’s greatest strengths.

Romney did actually say what he said. With his own mouth. I don’t see the problem.

Get Ready For The Riots

So they released a picture today of George Zimmerman’s bloody head. Here it is:

Wow. Treyvon fucked that honky UP!

OH. Sorry. That’s not actually the one they released. That’s like over here or something.

The hell if I’m re-posting that bullshit.

Because it doesn’t even make sense.

You’re telling me that George Zimmerman accosted this young black man inside of a gated community, after flouting the dispatchers’ command to stand down and let the real police take care of it, and then George Zimmerman respectfully turned around after he’d said his peace and started walking toward his SUV to leave in a peaceful manner, and then this 17 year old kid followed him and grew Wolverine claws and fucked the back of George Zimmerman’s head up all like that, and THEN that, after Treyvon fucked up the back of Zimmerman’s head all like that and fucked his shit up that terribly, that then, George Zimmerman had the wherewithal to unsheathe his firearm, to draw a bead upon the youngster, and to kill him smack dab in his chest?

You buying this shit? I’m not.

Karo and food coloring can sure cover up a lot of malfeasance.

I am just saying: A person does not get beat in the head without some swelling. And if there’s no swelling, then said person was not beat in the head badly enough to justify popping a cap in someone.

This shit. Does not. Make sense. And yet, this asshole will not do any time because America is still a bunch of racist crackers.

Have a nice day.

Happy Easter

Church and State

I might have mentioned that Walt Whitman was an enormous fan and a friend of Robert Ingersoll. Ingersoll in fact eulogized Whitman in 1892. I recommend reading the eulogy. These are lovely words.

Understand, Ingersoll was a great reader and a lover of words. Hear what he says about discovering Shakespeare, with the same passion, the same amazement that I might elicit talking about the first time I heard Van Halen perform “Little Guitars” or Led Zeppelin do “Battle of Evermore.”

I was filled with wonder. I had never heard anything like it. I was ashamed to ask him what he was reading; I supposed that an intelligent boy ought to know. So I waited, and when the little bell rang for supper I hung back…I picked up the book; it was Sam Johnston’s edition of Shakespeare. The next day I bought a copy for four dollars. My God! More than the national debt…

That book has been a perpetual joy to me from that day to this; and whenever I read Shakespeare—if it ever happens that I fail to find some new beauty, some new presentation of some wonderful truth, or another word that bursts into blossom, I shall
make up my mind that my mental facilities are failing, that it is not the fault of the book.

Walt Whitman, not his only fan. Mark Twain worshipped Robert Ingersoll. Considered him a vital influence, in fact. More on that here, if you’re interested.

This is a man who left a tremendous, indelible crater on the American cultural landscape. He profoundly influenced the author of Connecticut Yankee and Tom Sawyer for gravity’s sake. So. Why is he not more celebrated?

Because. Even at a time that is considered a boon for enlightened and/or securlarist thinking, the going in America was pretty rocky for a nonbeliever.

Ingersoll was active in politics, but he only held office once, appointed state attorney general of Illinois in 1867. In 1876, he placed into nomination James G. Blaine for the Presidency, though another chap named Rutherford B. Hayes was nominated. Ingersoll had the qualities of a leader, but even in his own life, he knew that his position as a nonbeliever meant that his public life would be limited.

This is why, for example, he was hush-hush about his role in the Haymaker riot affair.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell: Chicago. There’s a demonstration as a protest cops shooting and killing workers in a work strike the previous day. Someone threw a bomb and killed seven policemen. Eight known as “anarchists” were rounded up and tried, though there was little proof they were even there. The attorney wanted Ingersoll on the case. After Ingersoll died, the attorney, William Black, explained in a letter to Ingersoll’s wife Eva:

“…the tocsin has already been sounded by the press and the pulpit that Anarchims is the logical fruit of Ingersollism, and that the doctrine of no God, no accounatbility to a Supreme Power, must ineitably lead to no government, no authority on earth.” Ingersoll was involved in the case, but quietly, and after sentencing, he wrote and urged Gov. Richard Oglesby for clemency, but begged the governor to keep the letter quiet.

Robert Ingersoll lived in his time knowing that his outspoken stance regarding religion was a detriment to what would have likely been a stellar career in public service. The Constitution specifically rules out a religious test for public office. But then, as now, when the current President has to constantly fend off charges that he worships Allah rather than God, we haz them. We do not, I’m afraid, separate church and state very well.

Ingersoll had it straight though, when it came to the “against theocracy” stuff. I leave you on this Easter Sunday with his words about the Founders.

They knew that to put God in the Constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping, or in the keeping of her God, the sacred rights of man. They intended that all should have the right to worship, or not to worship; that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed. They intended to found and frame a government for man, and for man alone. They wished to preserve the individuality of all; to prevent the few from governing the many, and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.


Dresden, NY, Redux

April 7, 2012
How to travel if you’re me: Find the thruway and begin to get on the thruway. Realize you don’t have any munny. Make an illegal U-turn and go to Wal-Mart and buy that underwear you’ve been needing so you can also get some cash munny. Put on AC/DC’s High Voltage as loud as your radio will go. Drive an hour or so to your destination. Then realize that it’s still closed and does not actually open until Memorial Day.

I was prepared fully to have an awesome blog post for Blog Against Theocracy, about how I made it to the Ingersoll house and learned so much. I mean, I did learn a few things. Such as:

  • There is a kid who lives next-door to the Ingersoll House who may actually be Napoleon Dyanamite, just give him a few years
  • Golfers appreciate a nice car horn blast as you’re driving by
  • Cows appreciate it just as much when you lean out the window and yell “MOO!”
  • There are churches in Geneva, NY, that are so beautiful that they might almost make a guy like me believe in the Lord Jesus Christ

Oh, wait, here’s a picture:

Church in Geneva NY

Did this trip learn me anything about Robert Green Ingersoll? Not really. But the lake is certainly beautiful, so the drive is worth it anyway. But I reckon for today and tomorrow, I will have to stick to sharing with you what’s in Susan Jacoby’s excellent book, have I mentioned this book to you yet? Did you run out and purchase your own copy? Hmmmmmm?


There is an amazing thing about Mr. Ingersoll: He was a true progressive.

I mean, back in the day, you could be a forward-thinking, progressive, even a “liberal” kind of thinker and still think that Jim Crow laws were just dandy and that women shouldn’t oughtta be anywhere near a polling place.

Not Robert Ingersoll. I know, I know: “But he was a Republican!” Remember, though, the Republican Party of today is not even the Republican Party of the Reagan era. It sure as hell isn’t the Republican Party of Lincoln, which was the political party to which Ingersoll belonged. In fact, Ingersoll was a Republican mainly for two reasons: He was an abolitionist, and he believed in the gold standard. These were both once upon a time planks of the Republican Party, bleev it or not.

Jacoby: “In 1883, when a conservative Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875…Ingersoll issued a withering blast at the justices. Describing the decision as ‘a disgrace to the age in which we live,’ he declared that the high court’s opinion ‘puts the best people of the colored race at the mercy of the meanest portion of the white race. It allows a contemptible white man to trample upon a good colored man.'” Jacoby notes that it took 80 years hence for Congress to right the wrong Ingersoll spoke of.

To put Ingersoll incredible foresight into a hell of a proper perspective, let’s turn to the fact that this man, who died in 1899, had a position on the highly topical issue of CONTRACEPTION.

“Ingersoll, speaking before there were any reliable methods of contraception, nevertheless envisioned the day when science would ‘make woman the owner, the mistress of herself’ by enabling her ‘to decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother.’ Effective means of contraception, Ingersoll said, would ut an end to the poverty of families with more children then parents could support. ‘This frees woman,’ he declared. ‘The babes that are then born will be welcome. They will be clasped with glad hands to happy breasts. They will fill homes with light and joy.’

(This from Ingersoll’s last public address, delivered before the American Free Religious association, Boston, June 2, 1899.)

Another thing Ingersoll was: He was funny. Here’s how he recalled his Sundays growing up (his father was a Presbyterian preacher):

After the sermon we had an intermission. Then came the catechism with the chief end of man…We sat in a row with our feet coming within about six inches of the floor…After that we started for home, sad and solemn—overpowered with the wisdom displayed in the scheme of atonement. When we got home, if we had been good boys, and the weather was warm, sometimes they would take us out to the graveyard to cheer us up a little.

King of Late Night. I’m telling ya.

For tomorrow, I’m going to discuss why, perhaps, you have not ever heard of Robert Ingersoll. It was a factor he was aware of in his lifetime and it is indeed why the man never ran for office.

I’ll also include one of the most quotable statements the man made regarding the issue at hand, The separation of church and state.

Dresden, NY

March 19, 2012
I drive alone to Dresden, NY, eager for a road trip, having not had an excuse for one in quite some time. It’s a beautiful day, untimely for upstate New York, with the crisp air just shaking the snow off its boots.

I drive mostly on thruway to the Seneca Lake area and came upon Geneva, New York, a lively little downtown, and I am pleased. I like lively little main streets like this; this is what Candidate Obama was talking about, Main Street versus Wall Street. Little shops and taverns and oh, a little music store I’ll visit on my way back.

I leave Geneva toward Dresden and am pleased to find myself deep in New York winery country. I pass winery after winery and spent grape bushes galore. I let the windows open to let the chilly wind rush around a little, and I’m blasting De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising.

I find Dresden eventually. It’s a crossroads. It’s so little there that you find yourself looking for the rest of it, and then I’m driving down a road ravine with signs warning that there’s actually no way to turn around. I figure I’d better find a way to do so before I’m sucked in to whatever black hole awaits. And then to my right is my destination, the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum.

Within five minutes of peering into the windows, I realize that it is closed to tourists except for on Saturdays and Sundays, information I did not somehow manage to glean from the World Wide Web. I take a few snapshots, stand for a moment to take the whole place in, including the smallest Post Office I have ever seen just across the street, and I get in my car and drive back.

Some might mark this road trip as a failure. No such thing. I will return to Dresden someday. Perhaps even when this place is open.


My interest in Robert Ingersoll stems from the writing of Susan Jacoby in Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, an excellent book that any blogger endeavoring on the BAT should have a well-thumbed copy of. Ingersoll is one of her book’s showpieces, and as well he should be. He was known as a Civil War hero, a colonel indeed captured and then paroled by the South; as one of the great orators of his time; and as the “Great Agnostic.” He is the reason you know the name “Thomas Paine.” He was a spirited member of the Republican party and indeed spoke at one of that party’s convention to nominate a candidate to the floor (who was then not nominated).

He was one of the great Americans, a man I am coming to think of as that generation’s King of Late Night. And, as I may allude to here so many times it might become cloying: You’ve probably never heard of him.

One of the biggest things Robert Ingersoll accomplished: He resurrected Thomas Paine, who died broke and screwed. His country had twice turned its back on him, once to let him rot in a French prison. Theodore Roosevelt called Paine a “filthy little atheist…that apparently esteems a bladder of dirty water as the proper weapon with which to assail Christianity.”

Jacoby continues: “Were it not for the unremitting efforts of Ingersoll, who, despite his nineteenth-century fame and notoriety, is ignored in standard American history texts, Paine’s vital contributions to the revolutionary cause might have suffered the same fate. Unfortunately , no champion arose in the twentieth century to do for Ingersoll what Ingersoll did for Paine.

Well. I’m not sure I’d say I’m a “champion,” Susan, but we can sure get started, and what better occasion for this than the world-famous Blog Against Theocracy?

A few things to know about Ingersoll: Walt Whitman considered him to be the greatest orator of his time.

“It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass,” said Whitman of his friend. “He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob [Ingersoll] the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.”

Novelist Sherwood Anderson had Ingersoll as a character in his novel Poor White, so persuasive a speaker that he “…came to [a small Midwest town] to speak . . . , and after he had gone the question of the divinity of Christ for months occupied the minds of the citizens.”

Ingersoll is mentioned in Sinclair Lewis’ novel Elmer Gantry, where Gantry’s friend Jim Lefferts suggests using an Ingersol sermon, “love is the only bow on life’s dark cloud,” but Gantry opts not to credit Ingersoll. “Rats!” exclaims Gantry. “Chances are nobody there tonight has ever read Ingersoll. Agin him. Besides I’ll kind of change it around.”

Colonel Bob Mountain in Washington state was named for Robert Ingersoll.

I kind of throw these facts up there to emphasize the stature of the man in his day. He was, as I’ve come to think of him, the Johnny Carson of his day.

What was mass media then, after all? Books and newspapers. The theater, and, perhaps, the symphony. Or, you went to see a guy give a speech. And the guy who is considered one of the best at the speech-making is Robert Ingersoll. He’s lauded for his monologues, and his ratings are through the roof.

He’s the King of Late Night of the time.


Programming Note

As you are all probably aware, the high holidays for many faiths are upon us. Jews, Christians, and even Pagans, probably among others, will be celebrating their spring holidays, and mazel tov to them and theirs.

I will once again be observing the annual blogswarm known as Blog Against Theocracy. This is because I believe that the separation of church and state is a rather important issue, and that it is increasingly and more urgently under siege with each and every passing year. I believe it is important not just to those of us who consider ourselves of purely secular minds, but also to the faithful. If you want to pray, you should be with us, not with those who would install crosses and commandments into public institutions. Because the only thing that guarantees your right to choose your own imaginary friend in the sky is a nice, neat, secular public square.

Now. I am certain that many of my colleagues might spend some time discussing some certain people within the ranks of the Republican Party. And what many of them will have to say may not be altogether nice. And I might get in a swipe or two here or there as I go as well.

But. By way of preview. In this space, I intend to spend my efforts for the BAT honoring and feting one of this nation’s great Republican minds. And no, I’m not being ironic, not even Alanis-ironic.

Stay tuned. The BAT starts Friday.

Good Night, and Good Luck

I got the news about Keith Olbmerann’s firing today in a rogue Tweet on my iPhone as I was at my day job, which is actually more of a night job. I messaged the news to Papa Bonk. So incensed was I that I constructed the previous entry on my iPhone and blogged it on the spot.

All during break time. Of course.

But. I have been steaming about it ever since and could not wait to get back to my home office here and hit the release valve. Not that the news is surprising, as Olbmermann seems to have a penchant for getting fired, and as there have been recent news stories about his scuffles with his newly adopted network.

What a stupid mess. What a stupid, incompetent mess. Which is sad because when Al brought on Keith, it seemed a master stroke, a move meant and initiated to quantify and solidify a cable station with heretofore a rather nebulous broadcast identity.

I’d never heard of Current until they got Keith. Had you?

And the move would have been to build the station around Keith and Countdown, to give the man everything he wanted that you could possibly achieve, to take the stupid brown M&Ms out of the bowl. Keith had the gravitas and the method by which to anchor that whole entire cable network. And his show was good, better, some argue, than in his waning days at MSNBC. I always enjoyed it when I got to sit down to watch. The show wasn’t lacking in quality, and Keith was showing up for work.

So, what. Keith is prickly? Is that the problem?

DUH. How many news stories have been written about Keith Olbermann being a huge pain in the ass to work with? Ya didn’t know this when you dialed his number in the first place, Mister Vice Preznit?

I am annoyed because this little network was just showing signs of being a decent liberal media bastion, sort of like the old Air America effort. And, just like that failure, this one is making the unbelievable step of axing its most valuable asset, the property that should be its anchor programming.

Eliot Spitzer, by the way, is an insulting choice as a replacement. He’s not a broadcaster. He’s not even a radio broadcaster. The least ya’ll could do is put someone in the slot who’s actually been a broadcaster for a while. Cenk has a show with Current; Stephanie Miller has a show with Current; neither of them is a scintilla of the broadcaster Keith is (sorry, Mama), but at least they don’t look into the camera like it’s their first prom date.

Ooooh, I’m annoyed at this one. Just for his initial Special Comment about Rumsfeld’s fascistic statements about Iraq, Olbermann should be holding court as head altakaka at Al Gore’s stupid network.