Monday, February 18, 2013

The NRA Call

Friday night had a date with the wife. The roads were clogged going downtown Philly. As we sat in traffic my cell phone started singing.

It was the NRA! Upbeat Lori had broken through the defense of my number being on the Do Not Call list with an urgent message from Wayne LaPierre! Would I listen?

My wife gave me the Hang-up-you-idiot look. I mouthed, "We're stuck in traffic." and said, "OK Lori" .  

"Great", Perky Lori responded, "and we'll have a few questions for you after President LaPierre's message."

 "OK - Great", channeling my inner Tom Hanks. Little did Lori know she called the wrong guy...

 LaPierre's message was the same old they-are-coming-for-all-our-guns speech that Wayne has perfected over the last few months via repeated TV cameos. It was a little more over-the-top, probably tailored for the captive audience crowd.  

Perky Lori got back on the phone, "Thanks for listening. You agree with Wayne LaPierre's message?"

 "Actually Lori, I am a little worried about Mr LaPierre's message. He seems to be marginalizing the NRA."  

"We have 4 million members."

"But, that means the other 306 million Americans are starting to look at the NRA as a bunch of paranoid loons with guns. Frankly, you are scaring the rest us. "

"Just look at the Op-Ed piece Mr. LaPierre wrote this week. It seemed like we were living in an evil and fearful place."

"Wayne LaPierre and the NRA may be doing more damage to the 2nd Amendment than all of your perceived enemies."

"The NRA, by isolating itself, is giving the rest of us reason to pause and think you guys are paranoid people with guns. My neighbors have guns. I trust them as responsible gun owners. I have a firing range down the street from me where they are also great neighbors. But the NRA is making them look bad."

 Curious Lori then said, "You know, I didn't hear Wayne LaPierre's message. Hang on a minute."

My wife starts laughing.  

When Firm Lori returned the tack had changed. She started talking about how evil Obama and the Democrats were overstepping the boundaries with the State of the Union speech and other legislation like background checks and clip sizes.

"Lori, we are driving right now, you would not want blind people driving, right? All our bodies deteriorate over time, so should there be the some physical restrictions on guns? If you cannot see - you cannot be licensed to drive. What good is a gun in the hands of a blind person? "

"And what about someone with Parkinsons, if someone cannot hold a pencil steady -do we want them with a gun in their hands?"

"With respect to magazine sizes - to protect yourself in your house from an intruder with more than 8 rounds means you weren't properly trained to have a gun in the first place.

"Plus, if you are responsible gun owner - you would have them in a gun-safe. Do you think your friendly neighborhood intruder is going to wait for you to unlock the safe so you can blow him away?"

Flustered Lori spoke, "Someone else needs to hear this. Can I put you on hold for a supervisor?"

"Sure". At this point my wife is wondering what is going to happen next. She is impressed that no one is screaming or hanging up. Traffic really isn't moving - so it is at least entertaining.

 About 2 minutes later Determined Lori returns to the phone. "You can go check out our web site at"

"Lori, I already have. I saw the one page where the NRA created an enemies list of the NRA. Right at the top of the list was the AARP. Seriously, the AARP! You guys don't like old people? "

"Then I looked further down the list and saw all sorts of clerics, from Catholics to Protestants to Jewish to I think I saw some Muslim groups on there too. So the NRA doesn't like people associated with God? " "More groups like police groups and even other Gun Advocacy groups are on there. "

"If you hate everyone, and are suspicious of everyone, isn't that paranoia?" "If we are going to look at Mental Health as criteria for gun ownership, the NRA is making the case that we have to remove the NRA's weapons first."  

Frazzled Lori came back with, "My supervisor says I have spent too much time with you on the phone."

"But you called me."  

"Can I offer you a subscription to... ", she starts naming a bunch of things to send.

"Are they free?"  

"Yes, can I have your email?"

"Sure", I proceeded to tell her my email which she could not figure out how to enter into the system.  

"Do you want to Join the NRA?"

"I have been telling you for this entire call they are lunatics. You asked me to listen to Wayne LaPierre. Out of politeness I did. He did nothing but reinforce his crafted image of being crazy. Tell me why I would want to join you?"

We parted ways after about 17 minutes of air time.

I gotta check my Do Not Call List Status.

The wife and I had great fodder for dinner conversation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stupid Questions – 28,000 Series: Romney’s Chinese Taxes

28000.   Since Mitt Romney and his Bainettes do business in China; how much do they make?
28001.   Are they paying Chinese Taxes on these profits?

28002.   Has Mitt and the Singing Bainettes (a Do-Wop group?) figured out how to game the Chinese Tax System the same way they have pushed the envelope on the American System?

28003.   Is it wise to try to rip off the Chinese Government for THEIR taxes?

28004.   In the Unites States there is the Freedom of Information Act.  Is there a similar method in China to get information about public companies?

28005.   How does one go about making a request of the Chinese Government for this information?

28006.   Do we need to make a request of the State Department for a citizen of this country to petition the Chinese Government for this information?

28007.   If Mitt Romney will not voluntarily release his Chinese Tax Returns, will the next debate on Foreign Policy explore this topic?

28008.   If he releases his Chinese Tax Returns and they do not match up – how does he explain it?

28009.   If there is a mismatch between the two sets of returns – would the IRS investigate?

28010.   If Mitt Romney and the Dancing Bainettes (I got this image of line dancing CPA’s doing a Rockettes imitation in horned-rimmed glasses and suits) got audited by Chinese Authorities could we have a situation where a sitting President is under indictment in a Chinese Court System for tax fraud?

28011.   Would we honor an extradition treaty with China to bring him to justice?

28012.   Can we avoid these problems if we just re-elect President Obama?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Political Novel 2012 - Chapter 1

We all have a novel in us. This story will be the intrigue at a major party convention when a coup is formed. It turns out the party's nominee, Ritt Momney, attempted to do anything it took to win the White House. He got caught.

Four years earlier Ritt had come in second. Ritt was vetted as the Vice Presidential Candidate for Caine McJohn, the party's nominee. When Caine saw Ritt's tax returns Caine rejected Ritt out of hand and chose a woman, Hannah Lapin.

Ritt saw his chances for the White House evaporate. His father, Jorge, would have been the first Guatemalan-born President of the United States. These are people who read the Kennedy manual on how to create a political dynasty. Jorge was the ground-breaker; it was up to Ritt to get to the White House.

If Caine won the election at hand, Ritt would be pushed to the side in 8 years in favor of others who were queuing up for the job. His only real chance was to create a situation where Caine loses and Ritt could come back in 4 years as a savior of the party.

The plan was bold, simple and risky. Crash the entire economy and allow the Minority Party, led by Deman Isblaque, to win. Instead of having to wait eight years, he would only have to wait 4 years.

Ritt's connections were as a big bank guy. He made his bones destroying companies for fun and profit. He simply got his buddies in the financial field to stop lending money to people shortly after the convention. It worked, the economy tanked.

Yes, Deman Isblaque would be President Isblaque, but only a one termer. In the ensuing 4 years a steady hammering of Deman Isblaque would take place. In a ravaged economy, he could do little, making him a prime take-over candidate.

Monies saved from 10 years of business tax cuts and other programs instituted ostensibly for the growing of the economy would be used as fuel for the eventual campaign. Supreme Court rulings allowed this cash to be transferred in secret. Once Ritt settles into the White House, all this money would be release with the power of a massive coiled spring onto the economy.

The plan had Ritt setting the fire that destroyed the economy and bringing the water to put the fire out. He would be the hero.

Things start to unravel as filings from the Securities and Exchange Commission showed he and his companies were responsible for disposing of aborted fetuses for profit. He tried to hide his activity with all sorts of pretzel logic. But his signatures were all over the documents. All the king's horses and all the king's men rode onto the cable channels, but they could not put Ritt's fractured shell back again.

The Pro-Life wing of the party begins to defect. Catholic Cardinal Putchaps of Denver led the way attacking Ritt for being two-faced on the issue of abortion. "It is one thing to be Pro-Choice, but to make a profit from the disposal of the bodies of unborn children is more than The Church can bear". The Cardinal leads a moral blackmail campaign against his own congregants, refusing to administer The Holy Eucharist to any of Ritt's delegates.

The once committed delegates begin to hatch a plan to defect en-masse at the convention. Delegates begin to put their votes up on ebay to the next highest bidder.

The next chapter begins as delegates start to pick the Ritt Momney replacement. Ritt is fighting for his political life.

You know - you can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Movement is Animal Farm Herding Cats.

Occupy Whatever has become what they are fighting.

I went to Occupy Philly and found that an individual cannot petition the government system they have installed. This is the story of how this movement is already off the rails.

In my last Huffington Post piece (Link) I proposed the Occupy Movement invite everyone running for office in the next election to speak before them.

Rather than just run my mouth online about this, I went down to Occupy Philly during a down time to find out how to do this. Spent the better part of Tuesday night (from about 9:30 pm to 2 am) speaking to people about this proposal. I found a lot of people liked this idea.

None of the people on the ground I spoke to were associated with the "Working Groups". I am convinced the Occupy Movement has been co-opted by the Legal Industrial Complex.
The "Working Groups" is where I found resistance.

The first wall of resistance was from a "Democracy Outreach Group". What Occupy Philly has done is created a complete bureaucracy for their operations. I had to get through at least 3 people before I got someone to tell me they would not do this because it would jeopardize their IRS 503c Status. "We cannot endorse people, or we would be seen as political and we would be jailed for tax evasion".

My first thoughts - If putting tents up in the City Hall Courtyard cannot be construed as political, then what is political? Do I still speak English?

My second thought was about how folks here are complaining about how the money has co-opted the process. If the leaders of this group (yes there are leaders - it takes time to find them, but they are there) are already more concerned about keeping a tax status rather than doing things to advance Democracy then the Legal Industrial Complex is winning.

The amateur lawyer passed me to the next person who said that we would have to invite everybody? My response was - "Yeah - that is the point. We would need to invite everyone who is stepping up for their communities to see what they have to say."

There is an undercurrent that all politicians are evil. That is a damaging prejudicial statement. Yes - it is a form of bigotry - just like sneering when you say Tea Bagger , Liberal Pinko Commie, Tree hugger, Fascist, Pig or whatever it is that sits across from you on the political spectrum.

Good people step up to run for office. They put their lives on hold. They put the jobs at bay. They sacrifice time with their kids (a sacrifice that I could not make).

To do what - Serve their communities.

To get what - A ration of garbage from people who do not understand the system they are railing against. To get their reputations impugned for even stepping up.

It has to stop. Because the more you denigrate those who serve you the more you will get exactly the people you may not want to step up.

The Occupy Movement would not have to formally endorse anyone, but allowing these folks to present themselves before the Occupy Movement will create the interaction that may allow minds to be changed on both sides of the process. If an individual occupier is sparked by what a particular candidate says, there is nothing wrong with the candidate giving a phone list or other campaign contact material to an Occupier so they can help out. It is a form of political speed dating.

Besides, in this environment, just showing up to an Occupier forum says something about the bravery of the candidate. (I would give bonus points to any GOP candidate that has the stones to present themselves.) The Occupiers can see who may be with them. There is going to be an election on November 8th whether they are Occupying or not. Wouldn't be better to know who may be sympathetic to you.

Being passed from group to group I learned there are not written rules of engagement here. My brain spinning, I went home.

I returned on Thursday during the day with the hopes of getting to speak before the General Assembly. This idea of inviting candidates is now constrained by time. Contact needed to be made with the Boards of elections to get contact information together to reach out to those running. To do this properly, a schedule would need to be set so that a couple of hundred candidates could be evaluated in a reasonable manner while respecting their schedules of the jobs and the campaigns they are running locally. If a candidate wanted to bring some of their people with them to check out the Occupy movement first hand; networking and connections could be made.

It is Thursday night, an OK from the General Assembly would allow me or others to contact the boards of elections in the 5 county Philly area to get the names to start contacting candidates over the weekend. Time is tight, but doable in a sane manner. Losing Friday and the weekend (we are dealing with the county governments here) contacting candidates would not be able to start until at least the middle of next week. You lose the sanity factor and it becomes a half-baked process. Everyone looks bad.

The only way to bring something up for a discussion at a General Assembly - where the work of this "Organization" get done - is to form a working group, get it approved, then present your working group to a at least 2 other committees BEFORE you may speak formally.

Again - Victory to the Legal Industrial Complex - It is Briefs over Boxers.

As I was trying to shepherd this process I was getting resistance and bad information from a number of people within the Occupy Working Groups as to how and when these things may be done.
I was finally told of the "Facilitators Work Group". These are the people really running the show. They are the gatekeepers of the General Assembly. I found where and when they were meeting after being given yet another run around by the Democracy In Action Group (I hope I spelled that right, it may be called the Democracy Inaction Group).

I went to where Facilitators were meeting and prior to the start of their business I attempted to explain the situation. I was told that since I am an individual with an idea - I had no standing to even speak to these people.

It blew me away that this movement about Freedom, had created a rule system so restrictive that an individual could not speak or seek redress.

One of the people who gave me the bum steers approached the group area and irritated, I said that he gave me bad information.
His response was - "I will get Security".
My response was - "Maybe you should get them".
"Are you threatening me?"
"No, but if you feel safer having security, maybe you should go get them."

He took his place among the Facilitators Work Group and stepping away I began to think about how the government at large uses their security forces. Again, an example of how Occupy Philly is replicating the system they are railing against.

Briefs over Boxers once again.

The General Assembly started around 7pm. Evidently, I would be allowed to speak to the General Assembly as part of The Stack. But I was told no one would act on my idea. There were reports from about 20 of the working groups.

Then were the proposals that the Facilitators had approved for presentation. The first proposal was to limit the General Assemblies from twice a day to once a day. After it was approved, I started to think about how the government limits access to their meetings too. Another great comparison to how this "Democracy" is mimicking what they are railing against.

The next 3 hours was a discussion about a letter the City of Philadelphia sent to Occupy Philly. They wanted to meet with leaders of the group to find a place for the protest to go later in November when construction will start around City Hall. The Occupiers had their list of demands too - basically they want some police behaviors to be modified.
The problem is the facilitators do not know how to run a meeting. None of them every bothered to look at Roberts Rules. Roberts Rules is the How-To book on running a meeting - you know facilitation. The General Assembly stacked up with amendment after amendment that could not be managed.
It was very easy for those who do not want to talk to the city to completely gum up the works so that nothing was done. I thought I was looking at Congress - but don't tell the Occupiers because they would get insulted.

Ironically one of the legal team (about to be co-opted by the ACLU and some National Lawyers Guild or something) actually offered up the method to short circuit the entire Occupy Process. So paranoid was this member of the legal team she said that the City could overwhelm a General Assembly with 200 paid city employees and take over.

The Government does not need police with batons and riot gear to make this go away. If City wants to make the Occupy Movement go away the cops, in uniform (I think most of them ARE in the 99%), could form a working group, issue a proposal to decertify and shut down the whole thing. It would not be hard to use the Occupiers own rigid system against them.

BTW, when I got to the stage to speak my peace - I got about a minute to speak before I was pushed out of the way. I get more respect from my all GOP Board of Township Supervisors. (I may have created an opening on the board by giving one of them a heart attack after reading that.)

The last thing I said dropping off the stage was...

"Is this what Democracy really looks like?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Charles Bronson Movie

This may be the edgiest piece I have ever written.

As we celebrate – yes celebrate - the execution of Troy Davis I started to think of a neat little movie to write.

What – you don’t think we are celebrating his death in this society.  I am sorry, but was that cheers I heard when it was noted how many people were “put down” in Texas over the last few years?  Or do I have a hearing impediment when I heard “Let him die” at the big GOP debate?

This is the people we have become.  We love violence – we put crosshairs on our leaders and wonder we are so coarse.

Out institutions are so screwed up that punishment of those with ties never quite matches the crimes.   Look at the Lackawanna judges who put kid after kid away for their own profit.  Look at the prosecutor of the Duke Lacrosse case.  Since we are running a for-profit prison system in this country; I wonder how many innocents they placed in jail as they have created their own reasonable doubt?  (BTW, isn’t that for-profit prison business being paid for by taxpayers anyway?)

But I was thinking about writing a movie that picks up today – about Troy Davis.  My movie would open with a fictional Troy Davis being put down.  The facts and the doubts would be roughly the same.  In my fictional version the executed would have a son.  The news people would be all over kid are part of today’s news.  The Nancy Grace-like smarmyness would infect the kid.

The real killer of the cop would be found and would confess of his own volition – to the kid and the authorities who do nothing. The kid grows up with revenge on his mind.  He learns the trade of death by reading mysteries and takes criminal justice courses in college. 

He has his targets lined up: the prosecutor who withheld the evidence, the judge who stopped the testimony that would have exonerated the father, the parole board, the governor, the media maven who tried and convicted for fun and profit on TV (she wrote a book after the execution detailing what she knew and did not reveal at the time).  Even AFTER it was obvious that each of these folks lied for their own reasons – they still each had an untaken chance to undo the execution of the innocent man – each let the man die.

The kid hunts each of his targets.  Some show remorse and are grateful for the chance to make it up to the kid.  The revenge here is to assist the kid in the next target.  

Some are already dead with a letter of an apology.

For some – the sight of the kid induces suicide. 

Some show remorse but are useless to his cause.  They are put down the same way the father was, by another target.

He lets the senile go.

Some are so callous and unfeeling they tell the kid they would do it again even WITH the conflicting information.  The kid knows killing this person will do nothing so he kills her family in front of her.

When the kid has meted out his justice he turns himself in.   He is brought before a jury.  He admits his guilt.  He also stands defiant as he lays out the fact no one sought justice for HIS father. 

He gets off.