This ‘N That, With Only A Hint Of Snarky

I’m not really being too terribly snarky tonight … just a little bit, ‘k?  After all, if I didn’t snark a little, you’d worry that I was sick!


Finally!  A real Department of Justice with a real Attorney General at the helm!

It sure is good to have a Department of Justice that is no longer the lapdog of a corrupt president, a Justice Department led by a man of integrity.  The Justice Department has opened a number of investigations into police departments to determine if there is a “a pattern of discrimination or excessive force within its ranks”, announced Attorney General Merrick Garland.  One such city, of course, is Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes.  Another is Portland, Oregon, where police were failing to comply with a previous reform agreement after its officers used excessive force against demonstrators – including firing impact munitions against people suspected of having “furtive” conversations – following the death of George Floyd.

And, at long last, the Department of Justice will also be assessing the police department in Louisville, Kentucky, where police fatally shot Breonna Taylor as she slept in her own bed in her apartment.  It’s about time … these are steps that the former Attorney General should have taken long ago, but he was on a short leash and refused to stand for justice, but rather stood in fear of the former president.  Said AG Garland …

“The investigation will assess whether LMPD [Louisville Metro Police Department] engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force, including with respect to people involved in peaceful, expressive activities.  It will determine whether LMPD engages in unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures, as well as whether the department unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes.”

Two thumbs up to Attorney General Merrick Garland for restoring the ‘Justice’ to the Department of Justice.  Stay tuned …


A nasty voice from the past …

Do you remember Rick Santorum, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania from 1995-2007?  He launched an unsuccessful bid to become the Republican nominee for president in 2012, but was beaten by Mitt Romney, who was then beaten in the general election by the incumbent, Barack Obama.  Santorum has always been a nasty piece of work, but that didn’t stop when he left the Senate.  Since 2017, Santorum has been a political commentator for CNN, go figure.

Last week, speaking to a group of conservative youth, the Young America’s Foundation, Santorum attempted to show off his ‘knowledge’ of history.  Only trouble is, he’s just as ignorant as he acts …

“If you think about this country, I don’t know of any other country in the world that was settled predominantly by people who were coming to practice their faith. They came here because they were not allowed to practice their particular faith in their own country and so they came here mostly from Europe and they set up a country that was based on Judeo-Christian principles — I say Judeo-Christian — the Mosaic laws, Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ, the morals and teachings of Jesus Christ. That’s what our founding documents are based upon. It’s in our DNA.

We came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture. It was born of the people who came here pursuing religious liberty to practice their faith. To live as they ought to live.”

In our DNA???  Needless to say, that line of bullshit stirred some ire and many are now calling for CNN to oust him.  First of all, this nation was not founded on any particular religion, but rather on a call for freedom of religion.  Half of the country do not identify as ‘Christians’ … and we are people, too!  But his comments on Native Americans were beyond the pale, any way you cut it.

A number of groups and individuals, including politicians, have chimed in regarding Santorum’s racist remarks, but I think my favourite is Mark Pocan, Democratic congressman for Wisconsin, who wrote …

“Native & Indigenous nations lived, governed, and thrived here before their land was stolen and they were murdered in a mass genocide, you ignorant white supremacist.”

Sums it up nicely … need I say more?


Security measures are good, but I’ll still be holding my breath

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress.  Typically, newly-elected presidents address the joint session in late February of their first term, but a couple of factors delayed Biden’s address.  One, of course, was the coronavirus pandemic, but the other has the potential to be equally deadly:  the threat of violence.

After the fateful January 6th domestic terrorist attacks on the U.S. Capitol and on Congress itself, certain of the groups such as Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and more, immediately began planning their next attack:  President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress.  Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman warned in February …

“We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6th have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible with a direct nexus to the State of the Union1, which we know that date has not been identified.  So based on that information, we think that it’s prudent that Capitol Police maintain its enhanced and robust security posture until we address those vulnerabilities going forward.”

That said, security will be tight for this event.  National Guard troops and fencing around the Capitol will remain in place.  There will be limits on the number of politicians who will be allowed on the floor of the House, and some will even be seated in the visitors’ gallery. Senators and Representatives won’t be allowed to invite any guests and masks will be mandatory.

I believe that every possible security measure will be in place on that day.  However, nobody can anticipate everything, and it was proven after the January 6th attack that some members of law enforcement and the military participated in the attack.  Let us hope that the day goes off without a hitch, and that if any insurrectionists attempt anything, they are thrown into a cell and treated like the criminals they are.  Still … I will breathe much easier when the event has passed.

1 Note that the address to the joint session of Congress is not actually a State of the Union address, for it is understood that a president who has been in office only a month or two will not be able to present a full state of the union, but rather will address Congress on the issues at hand.  Many people fail to understand this distinction.

The World I Dream Of

On August 28th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington.  An excerpt … perhaps the most memorable lines …

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

That was in 1963, nearly 58 years ago, and today we are no closer to realizing Dr. King’s dream than we were then.  I once thought we were headed in the right direction, but I no longer believe that.  I have my own dream …

I dream of a world without guns, where people are well enough educated to be able to use words instead of weapons to resolve their differences.  I dream of a world where nuclear weapons have been destroyed forever, where armies and navies have been disbanded due to lack of need, and where instead of building warships and bombs, we are building housing for people in need, hospitals and schools in poor areas.

I dream of a world where national boundaries don’t exist.  This is not to say people cannot take pride in the history of their geographical region, but rather where people respect and cherish everyone, not just those who have a shared background or ethnicity.  I dream of a world where we are building bridges instead of walls.

I dream of a world where everyone pulls together to ensure that nobody anywhere on the globe goes to bed hungry, where medical care is available to all without charge.  I dream of a world where the environment is more important to everyone than technical gadgetry, air travel, expensive cars, fancy clothes, etc.

I dream of a world where people think more about planting trees than about a vacation to the beach.

But most of all, I dream of a world where people are humans, not hateful warriors, not bigots, not violent, just human.  In my dream world, people fall in love and it doesn’t matter to anybody else who they choose to love.  Same sex, different skin colour … no matter.  It’s nobody’s business.

I’ve lived in this world for nearly 70 years now, and frankly I’m tired of it all.  I’m tired of seeing people accumulate wealth for no reason other than to be on the Forbes list of richest people in the world.  I’m tired of seeing the arrogance of people with paler skin who believe they are somehow ‘better’ or ‘entitled’.  I’m tired of seeing religious leaders lie to their followers, telling them to shun others because they think or act differently, giving them a false sense of superiority.  I’m tired of police gunning down unarmed Black men because … just because they know they can get away with it.

I’m sick and tired of people who hunt wild animals for sport, for bragging rights.  I’m equally sick and tired of people who kill other people just because they had a bad day, or didn’t like the other person’s skin colour, hair style, or … whatever excuse they make.

I’m tired of men who abuse women, who still somehow believe they are entitled to dominance over women.  And I’m equally tired of women who allow men to do this, for we have the power to put a stop to it.

There are many good people in this world … I write about them every Wednesday.  But there is more wrong with the world than there is right at the moment, and I’m tired of living in a world where each day brings new abominations around the globe created by human greed.  It doesn’t have to be this way!  Humans in all their arrogance and greed are on the brink of bringing about the extinction of their own species if they don’t get serious about protecting the environment.  Some days I think maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

A Warning for America From two Former Prime Ministers

The First Amendment Freedom of Speech … how far does it go? Too far? These days, in the age of conspiracy theories and faux news as promoted by the likes of Fox ‘News’, it seems that perhaps it’s time to place a few constraints on that freedom. As I’ve long said, every ‘right’ is accompanied by a responsibility, and for the past decade or more, far too many have shrugged off the responsibility. Our friend Jeff has written his thoughts, and the thoughts of other well-qualified people, on this topic. Thanks Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

When two former Prime Ministers from one of the leading democracies in the world sound the alarm about Fox News, and specifically, the sprawling media empire of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, it’s time our elected politicians in America stop sitting on their asses and do something.

While Fox has been spewing its brand of hate, division, and lies over here for decades now, in some ways, it’s comforting to know that it’s not just happening over here. Australia, too is suffering from the same infection. It appears that their parliament has begun to take it serious enough to conduct an inquiry into the media giant, spurred on by a petition signed by 500,000 Australian citizens and initiated by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Both Rudd and one of his successors, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, testified on April 12 to parliament about the dangers of News Corp and…

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Accountability vs justice

I think most of us breathed a big sigh of relief yesterday afternoon when the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case was announced and Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts. Some said the verdict was ‘justice for George Floyd’. But, as our friend Brosephus reminds us, there is a difference between accountability and justice. Yesterday’s verdict was accountability, holding a former police officer accountable for his actions. We’re still a long way from justice for all in this country.

The Mind of Brosephus

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

“Establish justice”

That was the first order of business for we the people of the United States when the country was founded. In the almost 245 years since the United States was founded, justice has more often been an illusion than reality for the Black community. The illusion is rooted in the constant fight between the Black community and America itself over the most basic sense of equal justice under the law. While we’ve grown from being valued worth three-fifths a single person only for the purpose of appropriating seats for Congress, we still have to fight for…

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Absolut Biden

Today’s Claytoonz is just too spot-on not to share! Isn’t it interesting that a political cartoonist understands the scope and sequence of the U.S. Constitution better than those who have taken an oath to defend the document?

claytoonz

Cjones04162021

I love that people who identify themselves as Constitutionalists don’t know shit fuck about the Constitution.

Usually, when a “Constitutionalist” screams about the Constitution and the rights it guarantees, it is really only talking about one Amendment, and that’s the Second. In case you don’t know what that Amendment guarantees, ask a “Constitutionalist.” The other thing I love about “Constitutionalists” is that they’ll tell you only part of what’s in the Second Amendment. Not only will they NOT tell you what the entire Amendment says, but when they tell you the part, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” they won’t even tell you the entire sentence.

What does the rest of that sentence say? It says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” and then it gives you, ” the right of the people to keep…

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Same Tune They’ve Been Playin’ Forever

Fox ‘News’ has some of the slimiest people in the industry working for them … ol’ Rupert Murdoch sure does know how to pick ‘em.  The only credible journalist at Fox is Chris Wallace, son of the long-esteemed Mike Wallace, and I often wonder why he doesn’t get a job at a more reputable network.  Among the worst of the lot is Tucker Carlson, a man who would argue with a tin can if it were marked “Democrat” or contained lima beans.

Charles M. Blow has written an editorial for the New York Times that I think bears reading if you want to try to understand the current white supremacist movement by the Republican Party to disenfranchise Black, Hispanic, Asian and immigrant voters.  The current push is nothing new, merely an upgrade of what white supremacists have always tried to do.


Tucker Carlson and White Replacement

This racist theory is rooted in white supremacist panic.

Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

On Thursday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson caused an uproar by promoting the racist, anti-Semitic, patriarchal and conspiratorial “white replacement theory.” Also known as the “great replacement theory,” it stands on the premise that nonwhite immigrants are being imported (sometimes the Jewish community is accused of orchestrating this) to replace white people and white voters. The theory is also an inherent chastisement of white women for having a lower birthrate than nonwhite women.

As Carlson put it:

“I know that the left and all the gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters, from the third world. But, they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Carlson continued, “Every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.”

The whole statement is problematic. First, what is the third world? This label originated as a way to categorize countries that didn’t align with Western countries or the former Soviet bloc. It’s now often used to describe poor countries, or developing countries, and by extension, mostly nonwhite majority countries.

When Carlson worries about immigrants from the third world, he is talking about Hispanic, Asian and Black people who he worries will outnumber “current” voters. Current voters, in this formulation, are the white people who make up the majority of the American electorate.

Second, and revealingly, he is admitting that Republicans do not and will not appeal to new citizens who are immigrants.

But although white replacement theory is a conspiracy theory, the fact that the percentage of voters who are white in America is shrinking as a percentage of all voters is not. Neither is the fact that white supremacists are panicked about this.

White supremacists in this country have long worried about being replaced by people, specifically voters, who are not white. In the post-Civil War era, before the current immigrant wave from predominantly nonwhite countries, most of that anxiety in America centered on Black people.

Judge Solomon Calhoon of Mississippi wrote in 1890 of the two decades of Black suffrage following the Civil War, “Negro suffrage is an evil.”

Calhoon worried that white voters had been replaced, or outnumbered, by Black ones, writing: “Shall the ballot remain as now adjusted, the whole country in the meantime taking the chances of the rapid increase of the blacks, and leaving, in the meantime, the whites as they now are in those localities where they are outnumbered?”

Calhoon would go on to become the president of the state’s constitutional convention that year, a convention called with the explicit intention of codifying white supremacy and suppressing the Black vote. States across the South would follow the Mississippi example, calling constitutional conventions of their own, until Jim Crow was the law of the South.

The combination of Jim Crow voter suppression laws and the migration of millions of Black people out of the South during the Great Migration diluted the Black vote, distributing it across more states, and virtually guaranteed that white voters would not be outnumbered by Black ones in any state. The fear of “Black domination” dissipated.

Indeed, as extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was being debated in 1969, The New York Times made note of the fact that Attorney General John Mitchell, a proponent of a competing bill, was well aware that even if all the unregistered Black people in the South were registered, their voting power still couldn’t overcome the “present white conservative tide” in the South. As The Times added, “In fact, Mr. Mitchell is known to believe that Negro registration benefits the Republicans because it drives the Southern whites out of the Democratic Party.”

A reporter at the time asked an aide of a Republican representative, “What has happened to the party of Lincoln?” The aide responded, “It has put on a Confederate uniform.”

But now, in addition to Black voters voting overwhelmingly Democratic, there is a wave of nonwhite immigrants who also lean Democratic. And tremendous energy is being exerted not only by white supremacists in the general population, but also Republican office holders, to attack immigrants, curtail immigration, disenfranchise Black and brown voters and assail abortion rights.

One of the surest ways of preventing a Black person from voting is to prevent them from living. As The Times reported in 1970, Leander Perez, a man who had been a judge and prosecutor and “led the last stand against integration” in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, once famously linked Black birth control to racial dominance, stating: “The best way to hate a [expletive] is to hate him before he’s born.”

I would even argue that the bizarre obsession with trans people is also rooted in part in white anxiety over reproduction.

The architects of whiteness in America drew the definition so narrowly that it rendered it fragile, unsustainable, and in constant need of defense. Replacement of the white majority in this country by a more multiracial, multicultural majority is inevitable. So is white supremacist panic over it.

PLEASE Just CARE!!!

Another day, another time, I would have been all over the story of what has been happening in Myanmar (aka Burma) over the past several months (decades).  It is important.  It is a matter of human lives.  Instead, I have focused on the political corruption, the racism, the horrific gun problem, and other issues that hit more closely to home.  I learned some time ago that many people in this country are not particularly interested in what happens in North Korea, Yemen, the Ukraine, or Myanmar, for we have our own burdens to bear, our own fights to fight.  But, what has happened in Myanmar, Yemen and other places over the past years is … must be … important to us all, for whether you like it or not, we all share the same planet and its limited resources, and we are all part of the same race — the human race.  What happens to one of us, happens also to the rest.

The story you are about to read is not pretty, it will not lift your spirits, but … you cannot read this and tell me, at the end, that you do not care.  Please, my friends, even if you are powerless to change it … care … at least, just CARE, I beg you … please care.  😭


This is Aye Myat Thu at age 10.

Aye Myat is dead now, killed by an assassin’s bullet …



She Just Fell Down. And She Died.

By Hannah Beech

April 4, 2021

ဤဆောင်းပါးကို မြန်မာဘာသာဖြင့် ဖတ်ပါ။

In the swelter of the hot season, U Soe Oo cracked open the coconut with practiced blows of his machete. Small hands reached out for the first slice, cool and slippery.

His daughter — 10 years old, with dreams of being a makeup artist or a nurse or maybe even a princess with long golden hair like the one in “Maleficent,” which she had watched a zillion times, no joke — ran down a path with her sweet prize.

Just as she reached the trees that marked the perimeter of their property, the girl seemed to stumble, landing flat on her stomach, her father recalled. The piece of coconut slipped from her grasp, falling onto the reddish earth of Mawlamyine, a port town perched on a slender archipelago in southeastern Myanmar.

Mr. Soe Oo put his machete down and ran to tell her it was OK, that she could have another chunk of coconut. He scooped her up, limp in his arms, but it still didn’t register where all the blood was coming from, why she wasn’t saying anything at all.

The bullet had hit the left temple of his daughter, Aye Myat Thu, at about 5:30 in the soft glow of the afternoon of March 27. By the time darkness fell less than an hour later, she was dead.

Since staging a Feb. 1 coup and jailing the nation’s civilian leaders, the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, has murdered, assaulted and arrested with impunity. More than 550 people have been killed on the streets and in their homes by soldiers or police officers, according to a monitoring group.

At least 40 of the dead were children under 18, according to a tally compiled by The New York Times that relies on medical testimony, funeral details and family accounts. A few of the minors were killed for participating in the protests. Many others were bystanders who were seemingly executed, with a single gunshot to the head.

Often the children were killed as they went about their lives, playing or huddling with their families, in cities and towns that have descended into terror. Some had done nothing more threatening in their final moments than seek the comfort of a father’s lap, serve tea, fetch water or run down a lane with a piece of coconut.

“I have no power of revenge against the soldiers who killed my daughter,” said Daw Toe Toe Lwin, Aye Myat Thu’s mother. “All I can do is hope their turn comes soon.”

The slaughter of children has eclipsed the violence of previous military crackdowns, horrifying a nation accustomed to the Tatmadaw’s impulse to use maximum force against peaceful civilians. And it has hardened the resolve of a mass protest and civil disobedience movement that shows little sign of folding in the face of army snipers and grenade launchers.

This past week, a United Nations special envoy for Myanmar warned the Security Council that “a blood bath is imminent” and that “the whole country is on the verge of spiraling into a failed state.”

In Mawlamyine — known for its Buddhist pagodas and fleeting mentions, by its old name of Moulmein, in a Rudyard Kipling poem and a George Orwell essay — the protests began a week after the coup. They have coalesced almost daily since, with protesters occasionally showing up on boats in the harbor or on fleets of motorcycles.

Members of Aye Myat Thu’s family had not been politically active. Four years ago, when others in Mawlamyine protested the naming of a bridge after a general from another state, they kept quiet. A decade before that, when monks led protests against the military junta, they also stayed home. The same was true in 1988, when Myanmar erupted in pro-democracy dissent, only for the military to gun down thousands of people nationwide.

This time was different. Mr. Soe Oo is a furniture polisher. His two oldest daughters — Aye Myat Thu was the fourth of five — are a teacher and a beauty salon owner. There was a sense of upward mobility in a country once trapped by an economically disastrous mix of socialism and numerology, which gave preferential treatment to a former junta chief’s favorite digit. (At one point, when currency notes in multiples of nine replaced conventional ones, some of Myanmar’s savings evaporated.)

Today, the family is neither rich nor poor. But they are clear beneficiaries of the political and economic reforms that began a decade ago, which allowed ordinary citizens to buy cellphones, join Facebook and set up private savings accounts safe from government hands.

The family acquired some of the trappings of middle-class success, including a sound system and a television. Aye Myat Thu used her allowance to buy a bicycle with a blue basket. She discovered TikTok, along with the pleasures of a princess filter with tiaras and pink hearts. She and her sisters would dance with a frenetic jumble of limbs, before erupting in laughs so consuming that they had to stop the video.

For the first time, perhaps, the family had something to lose. Aye Myat Thu’s aunt marched in the anti-coup protests for “the revolution.”

Her niece was full of questions.

“She asked me once what people are doing out on the street, because she saw on Facebook that people are protesting and dying,” said her aunt, Daw Kyu Kyu Lwin. “I explained to her about the coup and why we were protesting. She said nothing but listened as I explained. She was thinking.”

On March 20, with the death toll mounting, some residents of Mawlamyine staged a set of creative rallies, meant to keep them safe. Instead of protesting in person, they lined up rows of stuffed animals, posting photos of them on social media. There were Winnie the Poohs and Piglets, the Japanese robot cat Doraemon and a tiny turtle holding a sign that read, “We want democracy.”

A week later, the mercury rose in Mawlamyine. Tarmac roads shimmered. A hot wind wafted from the Andaman Sea. It was Armed Forces Day in Myanmar, and Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief and coup instigator, presided over a display of Tatmadaw weaponry in the capital, Naypyidaw.

Across the country that day, the security forces shot dead at least 114 people, among them seven children. In Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, a baby girl was half-blinded when a rubber bullet struck her eye.

In Mawlamyine this time, the protesters did not rely on stuffed toys as stand-ins. About 300 people gathered in the unrelenting sun, behind sandbag barricades. Some wore plastic helmets as they faced off with about 100 members of the security forces. The bullets started out as rubber and by afternoon had hardened to live fire. Protesters scattered, but two were killed.

No one quite knew why the soldiers wandered into Aye Myat Thu’s neighborhood of neat wooden houses, each painted a cheerful hue, sprays of bougainvillea adding more splashes of color.

Mr. Soe Oo took a coconut from the family palm tree and hacked at it carefully, lest the sweet water spill out. Sounds like the pop of firecrackers echoed in the hazy heat.

Aye Myat Thu grabbed her slice of coconut. The popping noises drew her down the path from her house. Past the trees, a camouflaged presence stalked, according to other neighborhood residents. No one in the family saw him.

The hole from the bullet was so small that Mr. Soe Oo said he couldn’t understand how it had extinguished the life of his daughter, another random victim of a trigger-happy military.

“She just fell down,” he said. “And she died.”

The funeral was the next day. Buddhist monks chanted, and mourners gathered around the coffin, raising their hands in the three-fingered salute from “The Hunger Games” that has become the protesters’ symbol of defiance. Garlands of jasmine framed the girl’s face, the bullet still lodged somewhere in her skull.

“I want to tear off the soldier’s skin as revenge,” said U Thein Nyunt, her uncle. “She was just an innocent child with a kind heart. She was our angel.”

Around her body, the family placed some of Aye Myat Thu’s favorite belongings: a set of crayons, a few dolls and a purple rabbit, some Fair and Lovely cream, a Monopoly board and a drawing of Hello Kitty she had sketched two days before she was killed. On the paper, next to the cartoon cat, Aye Myat Thu had written out her name in careful English letters.

“I feel empty,” said Ms. Toe Toe Lwin, her mother.

Right after the funeral, Aye Myat Thu was cremated, the flames burning her treasures with her. In other parts of the country, soldiers have stolen corpses of those they killed, perhaps to conceal the evidence of their brutality. In one case, they exhumed a child’s grave.

The family didn’t want the same for their little girl.

Two Worlds

Of late … well, for the past decade or so … I have wondered how the human species could possibly survive to the end of this century, for we are destroying our home, our world, and each other at an alarming rate. Professor Taboo, aka PT, has written a post that I think should be required reading for every human alive … thoughtful and though-provoking. Thank you, Prof, for your words of wisdom and the eye-opening photos.

The Professor's Convatorium


OF WONDER AND SPLENDOR

Just like as in a nest of boxes round,
Degrees of sizes in each box are found:
So, in this world, may many others be
Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
Although they are not subject to our sense,
A world may be no bigger than two-pence.
Nature is curious, and such works may shape,
Which our dull senses easily escape.Margaret CavendishOf Many Worlds in This World

There are a number of Earth’s animals, great and small, that care for each other. They seem to have feelings for the welfare of another. They demonstrate an innate behavior to protect their own as a whole rather than and possibly at the demise of themselves. In human terms this is called compassion, empathy, courage, altruism, love, and other inspiring virtues. In scientific terms it is known as eusociality and forms of superorganism behavior

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Bring Back The Pony Express!

It was 161 years ago today that the first Pony Express riders set out to deliver the mail.  From History.com …

On April 3, 1860, the first Pony Express mail, traveling by horse and rider relay teams, simultaneously leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Ten days later, on April 13, the westbound rider and mail packet completed the approximately 1,800-mile journey and arrived in Sacramento, beating the eastbound packet’s arrival in St. Joseph by two days and setting a new standard for speedy mail delivery. Although ultimately short-lived and unprofitable, the Pony Express captivated America’s imagination and helped win federal aid for a more economical overland postal system. It also contributed to the economy of the towns on its route and served the mail-service needs of the American West in the days before the telegraph or an efficient transcontinental railroad.

The Pony Express debuted at a time before radios and telephones, when California, which achieved statehood in 1850, was still largely cut off from the eastern part of the country. Letters sent from New York to the West Coast traveled by ship, which typically took at least a month, or by stagecoach on the recently established Butterfield Express overland route, which could take from three weeks to many months to arrive. Compared to the snail’s pace of the existing delivery methods, the Pony Express’ average delivery time of 10 days seemed like lightning speed.

The Pony Express Company, the brainchild of William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors, owners of a freight business, was set up over 150 relay stations along a pioneer trail across the present-day states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. Riders, who were paid approximately $25 per week and carried loads estimated at up to 20 pounds of mail, were changed every 75 to 100 miles, with horses switched out every 10 to 15 miles. Among the riders was the legendary frontiersman and showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917), who reportedly signed on with the Pony Express at age 14. The company’s riders set their fastest time with Lincoln’s inaugural address, which was delivered in just less than eight days.

The initial cost of Pony Express delivery was $5 for every half-ounce of mail. The company began as a private enterprise and its owners hoped to gain a profitable delivery contract from the U.S. government, but that never happened. With the advent of the first transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861, the Pony Express ceased operations. However, the legend of the lone Pony Express rider galloping across the Old West frontier to deliver the mail lives on today.

You might be wondering why I’m making a big deal over this, but bear with me.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) was actually already in existence when the Pony Express came onto the mail delivery scene, having been established in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin as its first Postmaster General.  So, why the need for the Pony Express nearly a full century later?  Because the USPS wasn’t doing such a great job, apparently.

Now, the reason I bring up the Pony Express is that once again, the USPS is doing a pretty lousy job under the leadership of the highly unqualified Louis DeJoy.  DeJoy just announced a new “10-year plan,” which is one way to describe the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation. His plan includes longer first-class mail delivery times, reduced post office hours, and higher prices.  It seems to me that his ’plan’ is already in action, as the last card I sent took 15 days to arrive at its destination.

Last year DeJoy crippled the Postal Service. He banned employee overtime, decommissioned mail-sorting machines, and removed drop boxes. He did this during a deadly pandemic that had millions of Americans relying on the mail for their medications, businesses, and safely voting by mail in November’s election.

Speaking of medications … my insulin sat in the Post Office from last Saturday until this past Wednesday … unrefrigerated and undelivered.  Why?  Good question, and one I fully intend to ask Mr. DeJoy!  Although … he hasn’t answered either of my last two letters … perhaps the USPS hasn’t managed to deliver them yet?  Funny that they sit on my insulin, but manage to deliver all the junk mail that goes straight into the trash bin.

President Biden has nominated three members to the USPS Board of Governors with the intention of removing Mr. DeJoy and hiring someone qualified to do the job without costing us an arm and a leg and ensuring that our mail is delivered in a timely fashion.  But of course, the Senate must have much more important business to attend to, for they haven’t yet gotten ‘round to confirming these three.

So, I’m wondering if it might be a good idea to re-instate the Pony Express?  We would, no doubt, get our mail quicker and for about the same price.  Given the volume of mail in this country, there’s no doubt they could upgrade to faster horses and think how many jobs would be created!  We could leave the USPS in place for the time being, a service for those who seem to like being ripped off by our own government.

A Sensible Republican — Last Of A Dying Breed

The day of the sensible, reasonable, intelligent Republican seems to be long gone.  Way back when, I’ve even voted for Republicans, but I cannot picture ever doing so again, for the party has devolved into something ugly … a bunch who would rather burn down this nation than compromise, than meet Democrats on some middle ground.  John Boehner was one of the last Republicans for whom I had a great deal of respect, though I often disagreed with him.  He has written a book, due out on Tuesday, April 13th, that I have pre-ordered and plan to read.  What follows is an excerpt from that book, and I think you’ll be surprised when you read some of his words.

In the 2010 midterm election, voters from all over the place gave President Obama what he himself called “a shellacking.” And oh boy, was it ever. You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name—and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category.

Retaking control of the House of Representatives put me in line to be the next Speaker of the House over the largest freshman Republican class in history: 87 newly elected members of the GOP. Since I was presiding over a large group of people who’d never sat in Congress, I felt I owed them a little tutorial on governing. I had to explain how to actually get things done. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most of them, especially the ones who didn’t have brains that got in the way. Incrementalism? Compromise? That wasn’t their thing. A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected.

Some of them, well, you could tell they weren’t paying attention because they were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night. Ronald Reagan used to say something to the effect that if I get 80 or 90 percent of what I want, that’s a win. These guys wanted 100 percent every time. In fact, I don’t think that would satisfy them, because they didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades.

To them, my talk of trying to get anything done made me a sellout, a dupe of the Democrats, and a traitor. Some of them had me in their sights from day one. They saw me as much of an “enemy” as the guy in the White House. Me, a guy who had come to the top of the leadership by exposing corruption and pushing conservative ideas. Now I was a “liberal collaborator.” So that took some getting used to. What I also had not anticipated was the extent to which this new crowd hated—and I mean hated—Barack Obama.

By 2011, the right-wing propaganda nuts had managed to turn Obama into a toxic brand for conservatives. When I was first elected to Congress, we didn’t have any propaganda organization for conservatives, except maybe a magazine or two like National Review. The only people who used the internet were some geeks in Palo Alto. There was no Drudge Report. No Breitbart. No kooks on YouTube spreading dangerous nonsense like they did every day about Obama.

“He’s a secret Muslim!”

“He hates America!”

“He’s a communist!”

And of course the truly nutty business about his birth certificate. People really had been brainwashed into believing Barack Obama was some Manchurian candidate planning to betray America.

Mark Levin was the first to go on the radio and spout off this crazy nonsense. It got him ratings, so eventually he dragged Hannity and Rush to Looneyville along with him. My longtime friend Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, was not immune to this. He got swept into the conspiracies and the paranoia and became an almost unrecognizable figure.

I’d known Ailes for a long time, since his work with George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s. He’d gone to college in Ohio, and since we had that connection, he sought me out at some event and introduced himself. Years later, in August of 1996, when I was in San Diego for the Republican National Convention, I ended up having dinner with Ailes and a veteran broadcasting executive named Rupert Murdoch. At that dinner they told me all about this new TV network they were starting. I had no idea I was listening to the outline of something that would make my life a living hell down the line. Sure enough, that October, Fox News hit the airwaves.

I kept in touch with Roger and starting in the early 2000s, I’d stop in and see him whenever I was in New York for fundraisers. We’d shoot the breeze and talk politics. We got to know each other pretty well.

Murdoch, on the other hand, was harder to know. Sometimes he’d invite me to watch the Super Bowl in the Fox box, or he’d stop by the office. Wherever he was, you could tell he was the man in charge. He was a businessman, pure and simple. He cared about ratings and the bottom line. He also wanted to make sure he was ahead of any political or policy developments coming down the line. He was always asking who was up, who was down, what bills could pass and what couldn’t. If he entertained any of the kooky conspiracy theories that started to take over his network, he kept it a secret from me. But he clearly didn’t have a problem with them if they helped ratings.

At some point after the 2008 election, something changed with my friend Roger Ailes. I once met him in New York during the Obama years to plead with him to put a leash on some of the crazies he was putting on the air. It was making my job trying to accomplish anything conservative that much harder. I didn’t expect this meeting to change anything, but I still thought it was bullshit, and I wanted Roger to know it.

When I put it to him like that, he didn’t have much to say. But he did go on and on about the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, which he thought was part of a grand conspiracy that led back to Hillary Clinton. Then he outlined elaborate plots by which George Soros and the Clintons and Obama (and whoever else came to mind) were trying to destroy him.

“They’re monitoring me,” he assured me about the Obama White House. He told me he had a “safe room” built so he couldn’t be spied on. His mansion was being protected by combat-ready security personnel, he said. There was a lot of conspiratorial talk. It was like he’d been reading whacked-out spy novels all weekend.

And it was clear that he believed all of this crazy stuff. I walked out of that meeting in a daze. I just didn’t believe the entire federal government was so terrified of Roger Ailes that they’d break about a dozen laws to bring him down. I thought I could get him to control the crazies, and instead I found myself talking to the president of the club. One of us was crazy. Maybe it was me.

I have no idea what the relationship between Ailes and Murdoch was like, or if Ailes ever would go off on these paranoid tangents during meetings with his boss. But Murdoch must have thought Ailes was good for business, because he kept him in his job for years.

Places like Fox News were creating the wrong incentives. Sean Hannity was one of the worst. I’d known him for years, and we used to have a good relationship. But then he decided he felt like busting my ass every night on his show. So one day, in January of 2015, I finally called him and asked: “What the hell?” I wanted to know why he kept bashing House Republicans when we were actually trying to stand up to Obama.

“Well, you guys don’t have a plan,” he whined.

“Look,” I told him, “our plan is pretty simple: we’re just going to stand up for what we believe in as Republicans.”

I guess that wasn’t good enough for him. The conversation didn’t progress very far. At some point I called him a nut. Anyway, it’s safe to say our relationship never got any better.

Besides the homegrown “talent” at Fox, with their choice of guests they were making people who used to be fringe characters into powerful media stars. One of the first prototypes out of their laboratory was a woman named Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann, who had represented Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District since 2007 and made a name for herself as a lunatic ever since, came to meet with me in the busy period in late 2010 after the election. She wanted a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee in the House. There were many members in line ahead of her for a post like this. People who had waited patiently for their turn and who also, by the way, weren’t wild-eyed crazies.

There was no way she was going to get on Ways and Means, the most prestigious committee in Congress, and jump ahead of everyone else in line. Not while I was Speaker. In earlier days, a member of Congress in her position wouldn’t even have dared ask for something like this. Sam Rayburn would have laughed her out of the city.

So I told her no—diplomatically, of course. But as she kept on talking, it dawned on me. This wasn’t a request of the Speaker of the House. This was a demand.

Her response to me was calm and matter-of-fact. “Well, then I’ll just have to go talk to Sean Hannity and everybody at Fox,” she said, “and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and everybody else on the radio, and tell them that this is how John Boehner is treating the people who made it possible for the Republicans to take back the House.”

I wasn’t the one with the power, she was saying. I just thought I was. She had the power now.

She was right, of course.

She was a conservative media darling and, by then, the conservative media was already eyeing me skeptically. She had me where it hurt. Even if I wanted to help her, and I sure as hell didn’t, it wasn’t a decision I had the power to make on my own. That power belongs to a little-known but very important group called the Steering Committee.

I knew there was no way the Steering Committee would approve putting Bachmann on Ways and Means. The votes just weren’t there. If I even pushed the issue, they wouldn’t have let me leave the meeting without fastening me into a straitjacket. But then, Bachmann wouldn’t go on TV and the radio to explain the nuances of House Steering Committee procedure. She’d just rip my head off every night, over and over again. That was a headache I frankly didn’t want or need.

I suggested the House Intelligence committee to Bachmann as an alternative, and mercifully, she liked it. It would be a good perch for anyone wanting to build up their foreign policy chops for a run for president, which she was already considering— Lord help us all. None too pleased was the man preparing to take up the gavel as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers from Michigan, an army veteran who had also served in the FBI. So I took my lumps from Rogers, and Bachmann took her seat on the committee.

The funny thing is, Michele Bachmann turned out to be a very focused, hardworking member—even though she spent a few months later in 2011 on a short-lived campaign for president. She showed up to the committee, did her homework, and ended up winning over her fellow members with her dedication. Mike Rogers was impressed—and I have to admit, so was I. The whole situation ended up working out well for everyone. As one of those old Boehnerisms goes, “Get the right people on the bus, and help them find the right seat.”

In January 2011, as the new Republican House majority was settling in and I was getting adjusted to the Speakership, I was asked about the birth certificate business by Brian Williams of NBC News. My answer was simple: “The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.” It was a simple statement of fact. But you would have thought I’d called Ronald Reagan a communist. I got all kinds of shit for it—emails, letters, phone calls. It went on for a couple weeks. I knew we would hear from some of the crazies, but I was surprised at just how many there really were.

All of this crap swirling around was going to make it tough for me to cut any deals with Obama as the new House Speaker. Of course, it has to be said that Obama didn’t help himself much either. He could come off as lecturing and haughty. He still wasn’t making Republican outreach a priority. But on the other hand—how do you find common cause with people who think you are a secret Kenyan Muslim traitor to America?

Under the new rules of Crazytown, I may have been Speaker, but I didn’t hold all the power. By 2013 the chaos caucus in the House had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash. And now they had a new head lunatic leading the way, who wasn’t even a House member. There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless asshole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz. He enlisted the crazy caucus of the GOP in what was a truly dumbass idea. Not that anybody asked me.