the last word (tm)
15/No. 2 - 425th issue - April 24, 2006
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A POT LAW THAT NEEDS TO BE FLUSHED DOWN THE POT
Apr. 14 - Some individuals think what they want to think, even when a world of evidence stares them in the face that proves it isn't so.
Some people apparently think the media is liberal, despite overpowering evidence to the contrary. Some folks think the "new economy" is actually good, even when their own wallets have gotten lighter almost every week for 10 years. Some actually think Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, even though this question has been pretty much laid to rest. And nothing can possibly change their minds.
And believe it or not, there are actually people out there who think the penalties in Ohio for possession of marijuana are not strict enough. This after we've invested many years proving that nothing can be further from the truth.
Even more shocking, some who think this are actually on Cincinnati City Council!
City Clowncil recently passed an ordinance to stiffify penalties for possessing small amounts of pot within the city - as if the state penalties aren't ruinous enough. Possessing less than 200 grams would carry up to 30 days in the paholkey and a $250 fine. But subsequent offenses would bump the punishment up to 6 months and a $1,000 fine!
Ooh, that'll show everyone! That'll show everyone they can get 6 months for a victimless "crime" while real criminals who do things that are far worse often don't get any jail at all - like that right-wing asshole who tried to run over antiwar demonstrators with his truck and got off with just a nominal fine.
The pretext by council member Cecil Thomas for sponsoring the new city ordinance is that by making marijuana a more serious charge, cops will be able to search suspects for weapons or other contraband.
Can they even do that? Will it do any good anyway? Thomas apparently just assumes that anyone who has pot is also carrying around guns or nukes in their pockets. It's as if he's starting with a conclusion that someone has an illegal gun and is working backwards from this conclusion to try to find the alleged contraband firearm - which in most cases doesn't exist anyway. If the goal is to nab illegal weapons, you can just as easily crack down on any ordinary item, not just pot, as an excuse for searching someone. But that would be silly.
Cincinnati's mayor Mark Mallory had to let the proposal become law without his signature, because City Council had enough votes to override him if he vetoed it. Council members who opposed the new ordinance said they heard from many residents who opposed it, but nobody who supported it. At the council meeting where the measure was approved, several residents spoke out against it, but (you guessed it) nobody spoke in favor of it.
Nonetheless, Thomas unequivocally insists neighborhood groups favored the measure and were willing to appear at the council session to voice their support for it. But they didn't show up. Must not have been too important after all.
Aren't there worse things going on in Cincinnati than people smoking pot?
WHAT HAPPENS TO DISSENTERS IN BUSHAMERICA
Apr. 15 - We've learned the hard way what can happen when you don't toe the conservative party line in the America of the past 20 years. Being detained for months without a trial and subjected to torture is one possibility, as we found out in our youth. (Mention this to a conservative though, and they'll go to amazing lengths to deny it - being the historical revisionists they are.) Getting inexplicably dismissed from college, blacklisted from finding better employment, and arrested on ridiculously trumped-up charges are other possible outcomes of having the "wrong" views.
(Right now, a pair of conservative operatives in Georgia is suing their college, claiming its antidiscrimination policy violates conservatives' so-called "right" to discriminate. Actually, one of the plaintiffs had gotten off with a mild reprimand by the college for sending crude hate mail, which would have gotten most students expelled. We know from experience that the political Left is persecuted on America's college campuses, yet we've never witnessed the same being suffered by the Right - despite the lies told by lying liars like David Horowitz. Anything that appeared at first glance to be bias against a conservative cause has turned out to have more to the story that the media never widely reported. A current controversy at NKU is no different. We'll get to that in the next issue..)
In BushAmerica, it seems your employer can sneak a peek at your private e-mail and punish you if you say anything bad about the Great Leader. And this has happened to people - especially at major corporations, which is particularly gnawing because of the seemingly limitless power Big Business wields.
Free speech stifled in Colorado
Recently a downright atrocity unfolded in Colorado that shows what happens to people who dare to criticize the Bush regime.
As part of a class discussion, a popular high school geography teacher in the Cherry Creek School District harshly criticized Bush and said capitalism is "at odds with human rights" (which it is). But he made it very clear that he wasn't trying to force pupils to agree with him and that he really wasn't even taking a position except to encourage students to think.
If it seems foolish for an instructor to express a political view in the classroom, keep in mind that one teacher espousing liberal views hardly stacks up against several schools we attended where administrators not only championed conservative views but demanded that the student body stand behind them. While there's no indication that the teacher in Colorado lowered conservative students' grades or tried to indoctrinate pupils with liberal opinions, the conservative beliefs held by administrators or school board members at schools I attended often became part of the curriculum. Furthermore, textbooks were often conservative. I remember having a textbook that listed right-wing dictatorships friendly to the U.S. as "free" countries, simply because these nations weren't communist. (This was at a public school, no less!)
In the Colorado incident, a student secretly recorded the teacher's anti-Bush statements using an MP3 player. He then had his father share the recording with the media, which always salivates over "evidence" of liberal bias in academia.
In addition to the double standard of blowing an instructor's left-leaning statements out of proportion while continuing to sweep under the rug the far more flagrant conservative acts that have long plagued America's schools, we have yet to see anyone mention another hypocritical aspect of this episode. You know how schools are always making a big issue of "unauthorized" audio or recording devices, right? Our experience has always been that bringing any type of recorder to school is a huge - and we mean huge - no-no. There's always been a big, gray, puffy Allowed Cloud against it. At the very least, you'd probably have the device confiscated, and when a school confiscates something, there's a good chance it's gone forever. I had a nice pocket-sized transistor radio seized by my school once, and they refused to give it back weeks later, because the "rule" was that "when we take it, it becomes ours." I never saw my radio again. That's called theft when anyone else does something like this.
Conservatives love rules - especially stupid rules. But notice how if you break a rule in order to advance the rightist cause, presto, you're an instant hero to conservatives near and far! We'd never advocate a school stealing an MP3 recorder, but why aren't the rules short of that being applied in the Colorado case?
A brief political critique isn't always out of place in a geography class, especially in high school, where most students are too mature to be easily swayed by such a small amount of commentary. Geography isn't just about ink on a map but also the political landscape - the study of which makes this field far more useful in everyday life. The recording produced by the student shows only a fraction of what went on in the class, and the teacher later explained that statements he makes in class don't necessarily reflect his own views but were designed to get students to think. Maybe that's why conservatives are so mad - because they don't want people to think. Conservatives want everyone to just slurp up right-wing bullshit unquestioningly.
And if it's wrong for a teacher to criticize Bush once, why is it perfectly fine and dandy for military recruiters to constantly bombard students with propaganda about how much fun they'll have if they sign up for Bush's war?
Naturally, right-wing thugs made at least 12 telephoned death threats to the family of the teacher who lambasted Bush. In other words, the instructor criticized conservative causes as tyrannical and closed-minded, and then conservatives proved him right by making threatening calls to his family. Not exactly a good way for conservatives to win people over.
So now everyone knows you can't speak ill of the Great Leader and not have people trying to ruin your career or violent bigots terrorizing your family over it. Bush's goons are highly protective of their precious little Georgie-poo and can't take anyone not liking him.
Instead of taping the teacher's lecture and running to the local talk-shit radio blowhard about it like a big crybaby, why didn't the student calmly voice his disagreement right there in class? Because this is part of a nationwide right-wing cause celebre lately. Fascist commentator Sean Hannity tells students to tape their teachers' lectures so they can be scrutinized for liberal bias. At the college level, conservative students have actually been paid by extremist groups to do this. Today, any American educator who refuses to turn their classroom into a Republican rally runs the risk of someone secretly taping them and having the conservative wingnutosphere get on their case. And they risk losing their job: The teacher in Colorado underwent a thorough investigation by the school board for his remarks and was placed on administrative leave.
You can't say this, you can't say that. You can say only what agrees with the ruling party. In BushAmerica, if you speak the wrong thing, they'll get you.
Conservative bias runs deep
I wish that when I was in school I had jotted down all the right-wing - often bigoted - malarkey that was uttered by faculty members. (This in addition to the student bullying problem they maliciously refused to control.) It didn't take the form of just one 20-minute lecture from one teacher but rather weeks-long campaigns that were often promulgated by the principal or became key curricular elements. Even when I attended a public school during the 1991 Gulf War, my class was taken to a pro-war rally on Fountain Square.
Those of us who disagreed didn't have the luxury of having our own personal talk radio droids to cry to. And you better believe we had to keep our mouths shut about it at school.
This isn't limited to my own schooling. A few years ago, one local public school system set up a student panel, supposedly as a civics exercise to come up with ideas for government policies. The school made sure to fill the panel with a bunch of goody-goods who did nothing but parrot the right-wing ideas the school gave them. Then school officials trotted out the results of this panel and said that because the panel supported these policies, these proposals represented the views of the entire student community, and implied that anyone who dared to dissent was just some loose cannon kook who didn't deserve to be taken seriously. Sometime after that, this school system took students to a Gary Bauer rally and gave them Bauer campaign signs to display.
A rare happy ending
The Colorado flap ended with the type of happy ending that these days is all too elusive.
After being on investigative leave briefly, the teacher in the Cherry Creek Schools was reinstated. Accusations that he violated school policy were found to be groundless.
But not everyone who challenges the ruling ideology is so lucky, and we're certain to find similar stories that ended not so favorably - as we have countless times before. Having one's career jeopardized or ended isn't even the harshest punishment for dissenting in modern America that we've written about in these pages.
Will it continue to get worse? The more the problem is publicized, the more people will decide they've had all they can stands and can't stands no more. And then it might not be so easy for the ruling regime to rig the election next time.
NURSE ACCUSED OF "SEDITION" FOR CRITICIZING BUSH
Apr. 15 - Didn't take long to find another story about someone having their career threatened for having the "wrong" views, did it?
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Veterans Affairs nurse has been investigated for "sedition" because she dared to write a letter to a newspaper that spoke ill of the Bush regime's mishandling of the Iraq conflict and last year's hurricane.
After the letter suggesting that folks vote out the current ruling party and its "vicious deceit" was published, the nurse's office computer was seized and the government announced a "sedition" investigation.
Some fool at the VA helped start the investigation into the nurse's letter, claiming the VA is "bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition." Well, Bush's sycophants are bound by law to go fuck themselves. So there. Nyeh.
Last we heard, the VA still has not issued a public apology to the nurse, although Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman has requested a probe of the VA for trying to muzzle an employee's free speech.
PAINTING RUINED BY GUM
This is gonna sound like something from a Bro$$art field trip, but actually it happened in Michigan.
At the Detroit Institute of Arts, a 12-year-old student who was visiting the museum with a group from his suburban charter school stuck a big ol' wad of Singapore contraband on an abstract painting from 1963 valued at $1,500,000. We're talkin' chewin' gum here, folks. Don't you just love gum? Gum is cool. We'd wager that when you think of rocks, you think of gum. When you think of trees, you think of gum. When you think of the sky, you think of a big, zesty ingot of Bazooka raining from the clouds.
And you know why? It's because deep down you're obsessed with gum.
The valuable art was heavily damaged by the chewed piece of gum. It was ruined, you might say. (The magic word!) Yes, it was ru! Maybe not completely ru, because the gum didn't adhere to the fiber of the canvas, but ru nonetheless. How ru? The gum produced a stain the size of a U.S. quarter-dollar coin - much like the 25-cent piece you might deposit in a gumball machine.
Folks at the art museum must now research the kind of chemicals contained in the gum so they can figure out how to repair the ru painting, which was one of the most valuable works in the museum's entire collection. We get this image of two very dignified 40-year-old art experts buying every brand of bubble gum in the checkout aisle at IGA and trying to figure out how much of the ingredients from the labels are contained in the vexing morsel of gum found on the painting.
One of the curators at the museum used a music analogy when lecturing the offending youngster about his mischief. "Can you imagine if somebody had messed up the beat in rock 'n' roll so you didn't have any rhythm in rap?" the museum lady reportedly did utter to the student.
So something got ruined - by gum, no less! It's highly unfortunate that a piece of art was damaged. Art should last forever. The purpose of art isn't for people to spoil it, no matter how gently. But we can take comfort in doubling our pleasure by having two amusing themes in the same story: gum and ruining stuff.
COUNTY WANTS TO CHARGE FOR FREE SPEECH
Apr. 19 - According to the Naples (Florida) Daily News, commissioners in Lee County, Florida, are considering whether to charge people for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech - at least when such free speech disagrees with conservatives.
Recently some folks got together in Fort Myers to voice their opposition to draconian Republican efforts to "reform" (ruin) immigration and citizenship laws. Some of the more extreme proposals by conservatives would revoke the U.S. citizenship of children born in the U.S. of parents who are undocumented immigrants, or require new immigrants to be excluded when reapportioning congressional seats and electoral votes. Abolishing birthright citizenship would require an amendment to repeal part of the Fourteenth Amendment that hasn't been tampered with since it was ratified in 1868 - but Republicans such as right-wing Rep. Dan Lungren of California have actually suggested trying to take away birthright citizenship without even amending the Constitution, even though such an act would be blatantly unconstitutional. (If we remember correctly we once did a piece titled "Dan Lungren: Foe Of Freedom" back when he was California Attorney General.)
It's interesting how conservatives want to take away the citizenship of children who didn't do anything to deserve having their citizenship revoked, yet they oppose all efforts to teach citizens what citizenship is all about. According to conservatives, being a good citizen means pawing through the mail of fellow citizens and noncitizens alike to see whether or not they get Social Security or any other government benefits, then complaining to one of the local talk-shit radio loudmouths if they do. Citizenship in BushAmerica has nothing to do with liberty and justice for all.
Anyhow, Lee County commissioners have been considering making the organizers of the Fort Myers march (many of whom are American citizens) pay all the costs that the county incurred while accommodating it. This includes the sheriff wasting a staggering $315,700 on riot gear that wasn't even needed for the peaceful protest. This ridiculous expense accounted for about 80% of the county's total expenses for the march.
It turns out, however, that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that governments can't make demonstrators pay just to exercise their First Amendment freedoms. Police and other government services that were used for the event are already publicly funded, as these services were designed for the public good. Making participants of the rally pay is like restricting a constitutional right only to those who can afford it.
It might be a different matter if protesters incurred extraordinary costs for the county by committing serious violations of the law. But things must have gone pretty smoothly, as there were no arrests at all.
How much do you want to bet that the county wouldn't be trying to make demonstrators pay for the rally if the demonstrators were supporting a conservative cause? When a mob of Bushbots rioted during the 2000 vote recount scandal, nobody tried to make them pay for government expenses associated with the uprising, even though Bush's legion did more than just speak - they actually resorted to violence.
It's unclear if county commissioners have yet acted on the proposal.
This story isn't about conservatives scapegoating newcomers as much as it's about the fact that conservatives try punishing people who challenge conservatives' heavy-handed ideas.
IMPEACHMENT: SOUNDS GOOD TO ME
Apr. 23 - You know what would sound really good right now? In fact, you know what would have sounded really good for the past 5 years?
A big, tall, frothy, cold glass of impeachment - served with all haste to the Leaker-in-Chief himself.
The Bush regime is not and has never been a legitimate presidency. Even if it was, there have been numerous reasons to impeach Bush since he seized power. He lied about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction to draw America into war. He illegally used the NSA to spy on American citizens, with no warrant or just cause. He leaked classified information. He planned on bombing Al-Jazeera because he disagreed with its war coverage. And these are just the more notable high crimes committed by the Great Leader.
Now can we impeach him?
At long last, the Illinois legislature may have found a way to save the day for America.
Lawmakers in Illinois have discovered an obscure U.S. House rule that has never been used before. Section 603 of the House rules says federal impeachment proceedings can be initiated by a state legislature passing a joint resolution to do so. This has sprouted Illinois House Joint Resolution 125, which goes into hairy detail about 5 specific charges that justify impeachment of ol' Disgeorge. The resolution charges Bush with a felony over the NSA wiretap scandal. The basic facts of the NSA case aren't even in dispute, because Bush keeps bragging that he's gonna keep on doing what he's doing, so you'd think he'd be nailed on that count.
If Illinois passes the resolution, federal legislators will have to finally take up the issue of impeachment as what's called a privileged bill.
Yes, there may actually be hope to bring impeachment to the frontburner. Even an ABC/Washington Post poll from earlier this month shows 33% of Americans favor impeaching Bush - the same number that supported impeaching Nixon when the Watergate scandal got under way. Even without a conviction, an impeachment would be a splendid - and hilarious - payoff for the years we've invested in this cause. Now we're not looking so radical for having an "IMPEACH BUSH" sticker in 2001, are we?
So, here's the 5 impeachment charges outlined by Illinois lawmakers:
1) Bush has admitted ordering the NSA to break the law.
2) He has authorized torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which are legally binding.
3) He's held U.S. citizens as well as foreigners as prisoners of war without any charge or trial, although they weren't captured in war.
4) Bush basically lied to start a war.
5) The regime leaked classified secrets to advance a political agenda.
We can be proud that Illinois is the state where we got the idea for The Last Word. It will be hard for Bush's cronies in Congress and the media to shrug off the Illinois resolution when the charges are spelled out as well as they are, especially because the resolution is perfectly valid under Section 603.
THE SMITHSONIAN, OF ALL PLACES!
(A Flatulent Flashback)
Farting is funny.
Anything Smithsonian-related has long been sort of an inside joke here at the Last Word empire. But our inside jokes often become outside jokes, because they're so clever and original that we can't just hold them inside forever (pardon the pun).
The long-running gag started when I was a youngster in the early '80s. We had a copy of Smithsonian magazine - I believe it had an oil painting of a person standing in front of a gray, cloudy backdrop on the front cover - stowed safely atop the magazine rack in the living room. The contents of this publication weren't anything I understood or appreciated at that young age, but I'd probably find them very informative and captivating now, much like the information panels at the zoo. At the time, I was maybe 8 or 9, so I was often required to go to bed when it was still light outside, especially on "school nights."
I hated this rule with a passion. The moment the final commercial break of That's Incredible! started rolling, the day was over. So one evening I launched a protest in which I refused to go to bed until I could bid a good night to every inanimate object I could find. After I was in bed, I yelled out, "Good night, Time magazines!" But I wasn't done yet! I then declared, "Good night, Smithsonian magazine!" For emphasis, the word Smithsonian was spoken with a funny inflection that strongly stressed the second syllable. I burst out laughing, and - wait, you want to hear the flatulence part of the story, don't you?
Fast forward a few years to when I was almost 13. This was the summer of the famed Farting Vacation - a family trip to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in which someone had a bad case of the toots. Spread out over several days, the ratio of trouser sneezes per day really wasn't all that high. It only seemed high because we were often all cramped together in the car for hours at a time. Also, this was in the '80s when cars were getting smaller, so - although this was in a station wagon - the density of fart gas per cubic foot was much higher than what you'd experience in the oversized SUV's of today. Add to this the fact that air conditioning was something new and exciting, so we used it more instead of having the car windows open, which just recirculated the stinky air.
In other words, a lot of noses were irritated as the family partymobile zipped along the highways and byways of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia.
This hilarious bout with flatulence was probably caused by having to rapidly down sodas at fast food restaurants along the way. This sudden change in dietary habits must have been very rough on someone's digestive tract.
Over in D.C. they've got the Smithsonian museums - a set of buildings that takes several visits to enjoy. Many of the buildings possessed a very ornate architectural style, like a church or a castle. Like the magazine, the museum complex is run by the Smithsonian Institution. Each museum covers several types of exhibits. They had exhibits about astronomy, recorded media, aviation, popular culture, and many other topics. They even had Archie Bunker's cigar and beer can on display!
Speaking of bunkers, a bunker blast was detected one day when we went to the Smithsonian. That's right, peeps. Someone in our caravan of counterculture McGoverniks cut the cheese. They let the frippins out. They sunk a bunk. They biffed. It was a wafteroo. A funky bunky. A loominsky.
And suffice it to say, it wasn't silent but violent. It was loud and proud!
I don't remember exactly where in the Smithsonian complex this occurred, but I know it was indoors, and there were lots of people around. They stared at our group when the roar of the lethal blast cut through the chatter that filled the room.
A family member said, "Was that what it sounded like?" Anytime someone asks this after hearing a noise resembling a fart, the correct answer is usually in the affirmative. And this was no exception! Said family member continued, "In the Smithsonian, of all places!"
Those words became a legend. Now every mention of the Smithsonian Museum is followed with the qualifier "of all places." If I was a national TV news reporter who had to do a human interest story on some new Smithsonian exhibit - for instance, a sculpture of Ben Matlock's office chair made of snack foods that were chewed up to form a paste and then spit out - I'd say, "Reporting live from the chewed-up Cheetos exhibit at the Smithsonian, of all places." And my bosses at the network would be none the wiser, not knowing that it's a reference to flatulence, because it's an inside joke (except that it isn't anymore). Also, when the Smithsonian is mentioned, a special emphasis is often placed on the second syllable, which ingeniously incorporates an element from my earlier bedtime protest.
In addition to that loud bunkeroo at the Smithsonian, there was also what appeared to be a good old-fashioned quiet storm. One of the museums in the Smithsonian complex had an elevated walkway overlooking the large lobby, as some museums do. One day, after we entered the museum and gathered at the bottom of the steps to the loft, a familiar funk began to brew. Before I could say anything, my mom proclaimed, "It smells like somebody has a load in their pants!"
It's quite possible of course that somebody did indeed soil their trousers. The suffocating miasma was likely a mere bunker blast, but it took on a more oppressive quality that made it stink a bit like dog shit baking in the hot summer sun. However, the family dogs weren't with us, and I doubt that any human would smear canine feces in their pants before visiting the Smithsonian. Nonetheless, I almost expected to see a fresh, squishy grogan roll out the leg of someone's dungarees.
A family vacation without flatulence is like a day without sunshine!
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