Cornerstones of the radical right

There are, in my opinion, four cornerstones of the radical right: lies, hypocrisy, fearmongering and greed.

After years of following the antics of the far right, I didn’t think anything it could do would shock me, but shocked I am over its latest gambit.

With “Brave New World” tactics, the right-wing is attempting – with dystopian delusion - to strike fear in the hearts of elderly Americans – by suggesting that the healthcare reform package …

Well, let’s read the opening paragraphs of a report on politico.com, written by Carrie Budoff Brown and headlined “Will proposal promote euthanasia?”

“Sean Hannity believes it. So does House Minority Leader John Boehner. Talk show host Fred Thompson calls it 'the dirty little secret' of the healthcare reform debate.

“The focus of their ire is a provision tucked deep inside the House bill that would provide Medicare coverage for an end-of-life consultation once every five years. If a person falls ill with a life-threatening disease, more frequent sessions would be allowed.

“Republicans are now using this language as a wedge between senior citizens and Democrats.

“Boehner and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) issued a statement last week saying it ‘may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia’ — even though the concept behind the provision has been embodied in federal law since 1990 and has been promoted by Republicans and Democrats for years.”

It’s called a living will.

These dirty, rotten scoundrels are taking a provision intended to prevent another national tragedy – and political football - like Terri Schiavo’s death and trying to convince old folks they’re going to be systematically euthanized.

That’s right. The Democratic Party – surreptitiously, of course - is pushing the United States of America into setting mandatory death dates for old folks.

I have found myself with a condition those who know me will never believe – I am speechless.

What next, boys? Are you going to dig up something about “Soylent Green”?


I recommend you read the politico.com article HERE. Then, hold the hands of persons old and dear and tell them of their worth.


'Proven ad nauseam'


At Monday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – like yours truly – just threw up his hands over the so-called “birthers.”

When talk show host Bill Press asked Gibbs if there’s anything he can do to shut these conspiracy theorists up, the press secretary replied, “The God’s honest truth is no!”

Why does the issue, which Gibbs said “has been proven ad nauseam,” keep coming up? Gibbs: "Because for $15 you can get an Internet address and say whatever you want."

DemWit, solely for the edification of readers, reprints here a portion of The Progress Report, Center for American Progress, 27 July 2009:


Last Thursday, CNN President Jon Klein sent an email to a handful of the network's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" staffers informing them that he considered one of the stories pursued by the infamously anti-immigrant host to be "dead." On his radio show the week before, Dobbs declared that President Obama needed to "produce a birth certificate," picking up on a thoroughly debunked conspiracy theory that claims Obama was not born in the United States, and the birth certificate released by his campaign last year was fake. Dobbs repeatedly pushed the "birther" cause despite the fact that his colleagues at CNN have repeatedly called the story "total bull."

In fact, while guest-hosting Dobbs' own show on July 17, Kitty Pilgrim refuted the fringe theory, saying, "CNN has fully investigated the issue, found no basis for the questions about the president's birthplace, but the controversy lives on, especially on the Internet." But Dobbs has persisted, attacking his critics as "limp-minded, lily-livered lefties" who hate him because he has "the temerity to inquire as to where the birth certificate was."

As Dobbs continued to air the conspiracy theory, Klein backed off his admonition of the host, telling the Los Angeles Times that Dobbs had handled the issue in a "legitimate" manner and "if there are future news pegs, then we have to take that story as it comes."

On Sunday, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz used his CNN show (“Reliable Sources”) to chastise media outlets that "give the birthers any airtime" to repeat their "ludicrous claims." Kurtz specifically criticized Dobbs for not acting "responsible."


Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. This date is on the Certification of Live Birth released by the Hawaii Department of Health last year at the request of Obama. Birthers like Dobbs point to the fact that the campaign released the "short form" certification rather than the "long form" - which is drawn up by the hospital and contains more information - as the crux of their argument that the President is hiding something.

But as FactCheck.org noted when they investigated and debunked claims about Obama's birth certificate, "the Hawaii Department of Health's birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate," and "their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department." Birthers, like conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, claim that the certificate posted by the Obama campaign was "a false, fake birth certificate," but its authenticity has been independently confirmed by FactCheck.org, which examined it in person and declared that "it is real and three-dimensional."

Additionally, on Oct. 31, 2008, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, issued a statement saying that he had "personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama's original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures." Definitive proof of Obama's Hawaii birth has also been found in the archives of two Hawaii newspapers, the Honululu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which both printed birth announcements days after Obama was born in 1961. Birth announcements in those papers are placed by the state Department of Health, not the family.


Dobbs isn't the only media personality giving voice to the birthers. As PolitiFact's Robert Farley wrote last month, "the conservative WorldNetDaily.com Web site is the conductor of the Birther train." The far-right outlet, which sells "Where's The Birth Certificate?" bumper stickers, convinced someone to ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the conspiracy in May.

The birther theory has also been pushed by bigger names in the right-wing media. Before the 2008 election, radio host Rush Limbaugh speculated that Obama may have gone to Hawaii to visit his dying grandmother to take care of "this birth certificate business." Since then, Limbaugh has joked, "[W]hat do Obama and God have in common? Neither has a birth certificate." Earlier this month, Limbaugh stepped it up a notch, declaring that "Barack Obama has yet to prove he's a citizen."

Fox News has also elevated the birther conspiracy, running headlines like "Should Obama Release Birth Certificate?" on its Fox Nation Web site and running reports on birther-based lawsuits on its news shows. Fox's Sean Hannity has aired claims that "the president is not, in fact, a legitimate citizen by birth" and asked a caller on his radio show if he had "ever seen" Obama's birth certificate.


In March, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) introduced legislation requiring "presidential candidates to produce copies of their birth certificates and other documentation to prove natural-born citizenship." Posey's bill has gathered nine co-sponsors in the House. Trying to explain why he introduced the bill, Posey issued a statement saying, "This bill, by simply requiring such documentation for future candidates for president, will remove this issue as a reason for questioning the legitimacy of a candidate elected as president." But Posey has undermined this seemingly innocuous rationale for his legislation by outright accusing Obama of hiding something on a right-wing Internet radio show. "The only people that I know who are afraid to take drug tests are the people who use drugs," said Posey. Claiming that he hadn't looked at the evidence, Posey previously told the Orlando Sentinel, "I can't swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or isn't" a citizen.

On MSNBC's “Hardball” last week, host Chris Matthews challenged one of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), telling him that "what you're doing is appeasing the nutcases...you're verifying the paranoia out there." Asked if he believed Obama was a citizen, Campbell responded, "as far as I know, yes." Matthews retorted, "As far as you know? (and waving it in Campbell's face) I'm showing you his birth certificate!" Matthews is correct that many conservative lawmakers are comfortable "feeding the wacko wing." Just today (7/27/09), Politico reported that Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said birthers "have a point." "I don't discourage it," said Inhofe. –End of The Progress Report-


For a copy of The Progress Report with documentation: LINK

“Conspiracy plots and paranoia,” I See My Dreams - my post on how and why conspiracy theories evolve: LINK


The patron saint

No one can spin a yarn, combining fiction and historical fact with characters real and imagined, like writer James Micherner.

From his historical novel “Centennial:”

“At about this time, Centennial became the butt of a prank by a group of high school students who had been complaining about poor food served in the cafeteria. They erected over its portals a sign which infuriated some, evoked hilarity in others. Unfortunately, all the perpetrators were offspring of Republican families, and a regrettable political overtone was cast over the affair where none was intended.

“The sign read: ‘Alferd Packer Memorial Cafeteria,’ and when the teachers saw it all hell broke loose, the local Democratic leader claiming that to erect such a sign on a building paid for by taxpayers was an insult to Franklin D. Roosevelt, not a favorite figure in the area. The leader of the Republicans had the wit to snap back, ‘Nonsense! That sign has no national significance whatever. It merely recognizes, and belatedly at that, a thoughtful citizen of Colorado who performed a public service for which we should all be grateful.’ And so, the confrontation raged until some children from Democratic families tore the sign down.

“Alferd Packer had been a mountain guide as mixed up as the spelling of his first name, and late in 1873, for a grub stake, he volunteered to lead a hunting party of 20 into the western mountains. When a blizzard struck he got lost with five of the members. The party was snowbound for three months. They ran out of food, so Packer, as the man responsible for the leadership and survival of the group, began eating his fellow sportsmen.

“When the spring thaws came, Alferd Packer returned, picking his teeth and showing no signs of ordeal. But later, the skeletons of his companions were found, each skull showing signs of having been smacked with the sharp edge of an ax. The macabre episode might have passed unnoticed into history as one more macabre affair along the Continental Divide, except for the memorable charge made by the judge when he sentenced Packer. Whether the judge actually said these words cannot now be proved, but they have passed into the folklore of the state, providing Colorado with its one indisputable folk hero.

“Said the judge, ‘Alferd Packer, you voracious, maneating son of a bitch, they wuz only seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate five of them.’

“This affair made Packer the patron saint of the Republican Party.”


While most references refer to Packer as “Alfred,” he spelled his name “Alferd.” His body bore a tattoo with that spelling, and it is not known if the tattoo artist got it wrong and Packer adopted the spelling as a joke.

That school cafeteria sign? Fact: In 1968, students at the University of Colorado-Boulder named its student cafeteria “The Alfred Packer Memorial Grill” – its slogan, "Have a friend for lunch!" According to Web reports, students can enjoy the meat-filled "El Canibal" underneath a giant wall map outlining Packer’s travels through Colorado. In 1982, the university dedicated a statue of the former mountain guide.

The facts of Packer’s cannibalistic sojourn into the Colorado mountains are as fascinating as Michener’s yarn, and I found an excellent account on trutv.com – a report of 10 chapters and a bibliography. (About 20 pages on 12-point bold font.) In addition to the facts of the “crime” (for many still believe Packer was innocent), this report is peppered with illustrations and photos from the Colorado State Archives.

So, if you’ve got nothing better to do on a rainy afternoon, curl up with this historical account, “Alfred Packer: The Maneater of Colorado,” well documented by TruTV writer Katherine Ramsland: LINK

Bon appetit!

PHOTO: Alfred “Alferd” Packer, 1886.


Can you answer the question in the following post?


Who is America’s most trusted “newscaster” today, according to a Time magazine poll?



A bit blogged down

(To the tune of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore,” sung by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond.)


You don’t bring us Bushies;
You don’t sing on lefties …


You hardly read my blog anymore
When I write all my thoughts at the end of the day.


I remember when you couldn't wait to tell us,
Used to hate to leave us
Uninformed on latest news at night …


When it's good for your view,
And you're feeling all right …


When you just get offline and turn out the light,
And you don't bring us big news anymore …


It used to be so natural …


It used to be ...


To talk about politics …


Mmm ...


But used-to-bes don't count anymore
Not since Dems took the floor
When we swept them away.


And, BJ, we remember all the things you taught us …


We learned how to laugh, and we learned how to cry …


Well, we learned who was right, and we learned who would lie …


So, you’d think I could learn how to tell you goodbye.


So you think we could learn from some other guy?
You don't bring us big news anymore?


Well, you’d think I could learn to convince the other guy.
‘Cause you don’t really need me …


We still like to read you …


Obama’s been in six months,
And all folks do is gripe.
Can’t get any real news,
All I get is hype.

I know how to research, and I know how to write,
But I just get off and turn out the light.
No one’s ever satisfied
With the truth and the right …

And I don’t feel like bloggin’ anymore.


I have been deeply affected by yesterday’s post and its comment zone. DemWit’s intention is not to hurt readers, but to inform them. Throughout all my years of blogging, all those years of trying to enlighten about the dark side of Bush and Cheney, one old saying holds true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

No matter how well researched, how well documented, how factual.

DemWit was started as my stepchild blog while I was writing “I See My Dreams.” I took a break from blogging, then decided to archive that blog and continue this one. And, now my traffic counter registers 10,000 visits. To sit in my living room and write my thoughts, then have a visitor from some place like Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, read them; well, that just boggles my mind.

DemWit’s mission these days is not to cover The Big Story. There are about a million sites where readers can find those. I’m just writing about things which are on my mind and letting the chips fall where they may.

I’ve lost a couple of very faithful readers along the way, and I guess I’ll always wonder about the “why,” but I’m very appreciative of the remaining faithful.

DemWit is not shooting for big numbers. As I’ve written before, it’s been the strangest and seemingly most insignificant posts which have attracted the most visitors. This blog is an outlet for me – a chance to write and to share my thoughts, nothing more.

So, thanks for reading and for sharing yours!



DemWit dedicatees this post to:

* Malcontents who believe (and spread) every conspiracy theory that comes along.
* People who pass along, via email, propaganda with no author and no documentation.
* Right-wing bastions of the Web, such as worldnetdaily and freerepublic.
* Followers of CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who, if they have not yet figured out he’s an idiot, never will.

All of the above are questioning President Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, and proof be damned.

DemWit salutes Brian Williams of “NBC Nightly News” for jumping into the fray Wednesday night and pointing out the insanity of these claims.

Williams introduced the segment thusly:

“Spreading lies about President Obama's birthplace and about his U.S. citizenship. Who's doing it and why?”

“A lot of us live with this issue,” Williams said. “We get emails. We get asked about it.”

The conservative site News Busters (LINK) has this slant:

“Exaggerating the extent of the attention the issue gets on the right, reporter Pete Williams declared: ‘It hasn't gone away, becoming a staple of blogs and conservative talk radio.’ He soon asserted that ‘legal scholars - liberal and conservative alike - are in widespread agreement that Barack Obama is fully qualified.’”

Williams reported:

* “Obama's campaign long ago released his birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii after it joined the union,”
* Hawaii has the original birth certificate.
* “The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper faxed us its birth announcements from August 13, 1961, noting that a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama.”

Williams didn’t bother to mask his frustration and anger over these continuing rumors:

“It's the question that won't seem to go away for President Barack Obama even though it's been answered.”

It’s an enigma to this writer how these conspiracy theorists – and that’s exactly what they are – nobly wrap themselves in the mantle of truthseekers, yet totally deny FACTS which fail to substantiate what they choose to believe.

Rather than championing truth, these self-appointed saviors are only impeding the progress of this nation. They are desperados of denial pouring their energy into worthless campaigns.

So, thanks, Mr. Williams, for pointing this out to your viewers. Only two words – directed at these kooks - could have improved your broadcast:



Minding your Ps and Ps

My dear B. J.:

It’s one of the shortest words in the English language. It suffers from both overuse and misuse, and its usage should be limited whenever possible.

The word? It.

Now, read that first sentence again, and let me expound on the word’s various uses.

Exactly how many people across the Internet missed school the day the various uses of this word were taught is incalculable, but as I read various blogs, I am alarmed by the constant misuse of the pronoun!

And, another thing. Did folks generally also miss lessons on the plural and possessive forms of words? EGAD!

Perhaps the best way to improve education in this country is to set a higher standard for teachers.

So, let’s refresh ourselves:

it – a pronoun
it’s – a contraction meaning “it is”
its – the possessive form of the pronoun, as in “The dog lost its collar.”
its’ – incorrect usage

As for other plural and possessive forms, I see this a lot:

The boy’s ran down the street.

No, no, no, my dear. Here are the correct forms:

Plural: The boys ran down the street.
Possessive: The boy’s dog ran down the street.
Plural Possessive: The boys’ dog ran down the street. (The dog belongs to more than one boy.)
Incorrect usage: The boy’s ran down the street. The boys’ ran down the street.

I swear just about every blog I read confuses the usage of these forms, and this “old maid school teacher” is ready to come out of retirement! Maybe knock a few heads around.

Really gets my crinolines crawling!

I’ll leave you with this joke I heard an old gal tell on “America’s Got Talent:”

“I went to pick up my youngest daughter at the airport. She hopped into the car, all excited about her college break, and said, ‘Mom, I’ve got news. I ain’t a virgin any more.’ I looked at her, my mouth falling open, and said, ‘All this money I’m spending to send your ass to college, and you still say ain’t?'"

Amen, sister!

We grammarians have to stick together!



OMST: Old friend! Thanks for writing. I haven’t heard from you since I was blogging on “I See My Dreams.” My readers love it when you get your dander up and can read three of your previous letters HERE.



Republican Jim DeMint ran for the U.S. Senate here in South Carolina on a two-prong platform.

This is the buckle of the Bible Belt, and he assured South Carolinians he is anti-gay.

In a debate between the former U.S. representative and his opponent Inez Tenenbaum, then state school superintendent (South Carolina ETV, 3 October 2004), DeMint stated:

“If a person is a practicing homosexual, they should not be teaching in our schools.”

He later apologized for the remark.

Send him to the Senate, he promised, and he would do away with the IRS and the federal income tax by establishing a 23 percent national sales tax on all goods and services.

And, the poor be damned.

That’s it. That was DeMint’s two-prong vision for a better America. And, it got him elected.

Now, DeMint has a new vision for America, telling a group of conservatives last week that if Republicans can stall until lawmakers go on vacation in August, they can stop health care reform and stop Obama.

"If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,” DeMint said of our president.

On Monday, speaking at a Washington, D.C., children’s hospital, President Obama replied:

"This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy.”

In taking the measure of the man. how does Jim DeMint stack up against President Obama, whose policies he seeks to derail?

I recall the 17 October 2004 appearance of candidates DeMint and Tenenbaum on “Meet the Press” with the late Tim Russert.

Everything you need to know about DeMint’s character can be found in the transcript of that interview. Read it. It’s a classic.


One month in 1969

This nation needs the passion and social commitment that marked the 1960s – maybe the most volatile, certainly the most inspiring decade of my lifetime.

With a level of selflessness and dedication not seen since, Americans supported those who fought and died in Vietnam, fought against that same war, fought and died for civil rights.

Our collective heart stood still for four days as we mourned a slain president who had promised to put an American on the moon by decade’s end.

In a few years, more assassinations caught our collective conscience.

By the ‘80s we had evolved into the “Me Generation,” a self-absorbed lot with runaway consumerism and a cultural and educational dumbing-down – a “don’t give a damn” attitude toward environmental issues, workers’ rights, education and integrity in government.

There was a flicker of hope in the early 70s when hard-hitting investigative reporters uncovered the Republican “ratf*cking” of Watergate – the flicker rose to a fiery crescendo and just as rapidly faded out.

A new century, a new millennium and an undoing of the struggle, an unraveling of the nation’s soul.

Looking back on this date in 1969, possibly the last great decade of my lifetime was winding down. A month of headlines mark, in a remarkable way, that it did not go quietly:

July 20: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the moon.

July 25: Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts pleads guilty to leaving the scene of the Chappaquiddick car accident which took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne

August 9 – 10: The Tate-LaBianca murders occur in California, the culmination of Charles Manson’s “Helter Skelter.”

August 16 – 18: In a muddy field near the village of Bethel, New York, 400,000 young people celebrate drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll at “Woodstock.”

August 17 – 18: Hurricane Camille, the second category 5 hurricane to hit the U.S., wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The same old timers who didn’t believe man had walked on the moon blamed this storm on the moon landing! (After riding out 160 mph winds at Monticello, Miss., the first news I got the next morning was “The Coast is gone.”)

August 20: Camille moves into the Atlantic and regains strength after crossing Mississippi, western Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. Torrential rains and flooding claimed more lives. Total damage: $1.5 billion, total dead: 248.

One month in 1969. One American decade that never let up.


This post originally appeared on my blog, “I See My Dreams” on 20 August 2007.


Walter Cronkite

On July 18, 1965, my beautiful boy Michael came into the world. Just four years later, I gathered Michael and his two-year-old brother Ladd in front of our TV, then took them outside and pointed to the moon. “There is a man standing on the moon,” I told my boys. My words caught the impact of the moment.

Michael died in 1982 at age 17. I’ve thought about him a lot today, and that Walter Cronkite moment has been a part of my thoughts as NASA prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

That moment belonged to Neil Armstrong, Walter Cronkite and me and my boys. I remember hearing Cronkite in an interview saying that was the most important story he ever reported, and “all I could say was ‘Oh, boy!’ “

I fell asleep tonight at 6, listening to another chronicler of history, James Michener. When I woke at 9:30 p.m., I came online for my daily dose of “Frodo, Keeper of the Ring.” The hobbit had chosen to write about Cronkite, I assumed in connection with the NASA anniversary. Then, as I read down throught the hobbit’s pennings, he began to write of the former CBS anchor in the past tense.

“He’s dead!” I said out loud, and backed away from the keyboard as tears began to fall.

Like Frodo, I hope I don’t have to talk with anyone for a while who is too young to remember that there once was a journalist known as “the most trusted man in America.”


Good show, old boy!

In a bit of serendipity last night, with no book on hand to listen to, I switched on “Late Show with David Letterman” and caught Paul McCartney’s appearance.

Totally entertaining! And, why wouldn’t it be? The king of ad lib met his quick-witted match.

Letterman welcomed McCartney back to the Ed Sullivan Theater where the Fab Four rocked America in 1964.

Sir Paul’s dry wit played perfectly off Letterman, who said he had been trying to get him on the show since its beginning “maybe once a week, so what do we need to know going forward?” In his best deadpan cockney, McCartney said, “I don’t like the show.”

The two reminisced about what it was like for a 22-year-old kid that night 45 years ago on Sullivan’s show. McCartney said he found out backstage that he would be doing a solo of “Yesterday,” something he had never done before. As he stood in the wings waiting for Sullivan to finish his introduction, he said the floor manager asked, “Are you nervous?” When he replied in the negative, the guy said, “Well, you should be; 73 million people are watching.”

Letterman said the Beatles always reminded him of “four guys on a very, very long spring break.”

"Well, it certainly seemed like that, you know, yeah," McCartney said. “You say spring break; we went down to Miami. The British car firm loaned us an MG each, and, you know, there was a beach and sand and girls, and come on!”

You could sense the nostalgia. And, if you're a certain age, you felt it.

In a really grand finale - recalling that last Beatles concert on the Apple label's roof - McCartney performed two songe atop the Theater’s marquee and again had New York City at his feet as thousands lined Broadway for the impromptu concert:

Appropriately, “Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged …” followed by a song from his new album, “The Fireman.” (This is how Lettermna introduced the song although reports this morning say it was "Sing the Changes," off his latest CD, “Electric Arguments.”)

The crowd on the street was treated to a number of other songs after the show, and you can listen to the full concert HERE.

The Baltimore Sun’s entertainment blogger has a pretty thorough recap of the interview HERE.

Let’s see, a 22-year-old kid 45 years ago. That would make Sir Paul my age! I had no idea he was so young!

PHOTO: Paul McCartney, bass guitarist and singer, The Beatles, 1964.


Mermaids and centaurs

With “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” opening today in theaters nationwide, it would be nice to think that busy U.S. senators like Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) took the time to read the seven books of the fantasy series.

Mermaids in the depths of the Hogwarts campus lake and centaurs patrolling The Forbidden Forest play pivotal roles in the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermoine, but it’s possible the senators took Ms. Rowling’s amazing imagination a little too seriously.

Or, for that matter, even Greek mythology.

Last week the two senators introduced the “Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009” for legislative consideration.

“This legislation works to ensure that our society recognizes the dignity and sacredness of human life,” Brownback said. “Creating human-animal hybrids, which permanently alter the genetic makeup of an organism, will challenge the very definition of what it means to be human and is a violation of human dignity and a grave injustice.”

You can read more of Sen. Brownback’s reasoning HERE.

In the meantime, I can name a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill who “challenge the very definition of what it means to be human.”


A reader sent this along from an online medical dictionary, said it would "blow Brownback's mind:"


A child's genes are inherited from his or her parents, so when a 52-year-old woman from Boston had a completely different set of genes than two of her three children, the medical community was at a loss for an explanation. It took two years for doctors to conclude that she was a "human chimera," someone with two or more distinct sets of genes. For example, DNA extracted from the skin of a human chimera may be different from DNA in the blood. Chimerism -- named after a Greek monster called the chimera with the head of a lion, body of a goat and tail of a snake -- occurs during pregnancy when two embryos that would have resulted in fraternal twins fuse early on in the pregnancy, resulting in one baby with two separate sets of DNA. While some chimeras have two different eye colors, most lead normal lives and never realize their condition.

Monument to Americana

“My kind of town, Chicago is ..”

And the best view of the town – day or night – is from the top of the Sears Tower, a black monolith visible for miles rising high above the city’s skyline.

If one can move beyond the jet elevator to the top and the swaying sensation experienced in the observation deck’s restrooms, this is one of Chicago’s biggest thrills.

The Sears Tower remains – at 110 stories – the nation’s tallest skyscraper, and today this momument to Americana becomes the Willis Tower.


Honoring their love

When the killing of a loving couple, who opened their hearts and home to children with special needs, is eclipsed on broadcast news by speculation over the death of a pop star, we turn to print journalism for the story beyond the soundbites.

Melissa Nelson of The Associated Press, in an in-depth report, gives readers the kind of details we seek and allows us to feel the love these parents imparted.

Of special note are remarks by the Escambia County, Fla., sheriff comparing this senseless slaughter to that of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. What led the two killers to the Clutters’ rural home was prison talk that Herb Clutter had a fortune stashed away there. This, then, might be a key to motive. Truman Capote’s book about those murders, “In Cold Blood,” has one of the most chilling lines ever to appear in nonfiction: “And the black Chevrolet crept slowly up the drive.”

We cannot overlook the love in the Billings' story, exemplified by this quote from the Florida couple’s adult daughter, “My mother always told me some people grow up wanting to be doctors or lawyers or teachers. She wanted to be a mommy,”

Thanks to my friend in the Florida Panhandle for sending me the following article. She said she is “trying to make sense of the whole horrible event.”

We can’t make sense of the deaths of this couple, but acquainting ourselves with the depth of their love will allow us to honor their lives.

“Chilling Footage Shows Florida Killers,” Melissa Nelson, Associated Press, 13 July 2009, LINK.

PHOTO: Byrd and Melanie Billings in their home, 2005. AP/Photo, Pensacola News Journal, Karena Cawthon.


Krauthammer and sickle

Why can’t the neocons let go of the old Soviet Union? The end of the Cold War led this group of former liberals to move to the hawkish right, asserting themselves as “neoconservatives” and viewing America’s resulting military might as opportunity.

“Creepy” is an adjective DemWit has often used for the rank-and-file neocon – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton prove my assessment worthy.

But, the one neocon I’d least like to meet in a dark alley is Washington Post columnist and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer.

As he rolls his eyes from panelists to moderator on Fox News’ “All-Stars,” he’s a dead-ringer for Anthony Hopkins’ ventriloquist dummy in “Magic.” And, even creepier are his attempts to dazzle viewers with his brilliance and baffle them with his bullsh*t.

In some warped way - in his continuing assault on President Obama’s efforts to communicate with Russia - does Krauthammer welcome a return to old Soviet tactics, just to prove himself “right” and inject new life into the neocons’ dying agenda? (After all, he and his ilk shamelessly used 9/11 to shove it down our throats.)

Over at Joshua Micah Marshall’s “Talking Points Memo,” in a post with the eye-popping title, “Obama Hatred,” writer Jacob Heilbrunn examines recent Krauthammer rants – rife with anti-Obama propaganda and short on veracity.

Heilbrunn writes: “Every once in a while - heck, make that at least once a week - Charles Krauthammer writes something about President Obama that sets a new record for outlandish commentary. The former speechwriter for Walter Mondale turned neocon has become convulsed, more than almost any other columnist, by Obama hatred.”

(Which, of course, makes Krauthammer fit right in on Fox.)

Read Heilbrunn’s take on Krauthammer's fact-twisting HERE.


Pattern of paranoia

As a young woman, I began my china dinnerware collection because I loved my sister Martha’s pattern. (Later, my future husband declared, “I know this pattern, I’ve eaten off it all my life. It’s the same as my mother’s.”)

A woman selects her china pattern as carefully as she selects her personal fragrance. Mine is “Apple” by Franciscan. I love its cream-colored background with handpainted deep red apples, brown stems and light green leaves. And, I’ve always used it every day.

One of the banes of blindness is that I’ve found myself of late breaking a lot of my china pieces. I'll think they’re secure on a surface only to find they’ve hovered on an edge and fall, shattering. I’ve lost cups and bowls, because I’ve set them in front of my microwave, then, not thinking, I pop its door open, knocking them to the floor.

In the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” the characters played by Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman are selecting their pattern for a store’s bridal register. When the salesperson asks, “How many place settings?” they reply, in unison, “Ten. Eight is too few, 12 is too many.” In my opinion, a woman can’t be too rich or too thin and can’t have too many place settings.

This reflects the Southern tradition of large family get-togethers. There was a time when I would feed the entire newsroom and half the backshop – buffet style - in my small apartment. As long as guests have big, heavy dinner plates, they can eat sitting in the stairwell or on upstairs beds. The more, the merrier.

Last night, I ventured onto froogle.com to find a good price on replacing my broken china pieces. A link led me to the fascinating history of Franciscan pottery and china in the United States. That piece of Americana led me to a forum where various pattern owners were speculating about the danger of lead content in Franciscan dinnerware.

Well, that’s knowledge I could have done without. I’ve always believed if china is properly glazed, lead is no problem. These gals were suggesting the lead is “leached” from the glaze itself.

Better to avoid serving acidic foods in the Franciscan dishes, they said. (Oh, Lord!) And, never use them in the microwave! Well, since I’ve been doing both for many years, I suppose it’s too late to be paranoid about it.


Franciscan’s “Apple” and “Desert Rose” are the two most popular china patterns in the world, and it would be nice to know they’re safe.

And so, dear readers, I’m depending on you. Anyone have an idea which government agency would be responsible for my safety with regard to the lead in my china?

Equally rattling is the fact that Franciscan dinnerware is now manufactured in China and other places in the Orient, where U.S. safety regulations no longer apply. Surely, someone is responsible for the safety of such imports to America.

Old habits die hard, and I got up this morning and heated cold coffee – in my china cup – in the microwave, just as I’ve done for as long as there have been microwaves. I want my morning coffee first thing and would inject into my veins if I could.

Any ideas about that government agency?

Analyzing GOP's decline

Gallup has released a special report which examines public opinion on a number of issues “to evaluate whether Americans’ ideology has changed in ways that help explain the Republican Party’s recent electoral and image problems.”

Read Gallup’s Special Report HERE.


Image and irony


by David Airth, Airth’s Democracy

I am looking at what I consider a very striking and revealing photograph. Not only is it conceptually and aesthetically pleasing, but it reminds me of events that caused untold financial damage. It’s a picture I took in New York City in 1997 of two buildings that, it subsequently dawned on me, house two financial companies that are now notorious for losing billions of dollars for their clients. One of those firms is no longer in business because of the extent of its wrongdoing.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This one certainly is because of what it also inadvertently represents. I took the picture while waiting for a bus. It's a photo of two imposing buildings juxtaposing one other, the Citigroup Center on Lexington Avenue and the so-called Lipstick Building on Third Avenue. (It was nicknamed the Lipstick because of its color and resemblance to a lipstick container.) The Citgroup building, in the foreground, stands about 10 stories above the ground on four columns and a central core, creating an open space beneath its towering 50 stories above. (In the photo, I just captured two columns and the lighted underside of its 50 stories.) The open space created by the columns acted like a window through which I could see the Lipstick Building behind.

The photograph is really a striking composition of two contrasting architectural structures. I obviously was enamored with the view, hence my taking the picture, and for the fact that I like tall buildings. There is also a kind of irony about the picture in that it shows two very solid structures that housed two firms whose foundations later turned to sand.

As I said, what also makes the photograph noteworthy is that it captures two buildings that housed firms that were instrumental in bringing unprecedented financial turmoil, inflicting much pain on individuals and institutions that invested with them.

The most notorious of the two companies is Madoff Securities, which operated from the Lipstick Building. Bernie Madoff, its president, is now infamous, and in jail, for perpetrating the largest Ponzi pyramid scheme in history.

Citigroup is famous for being one of the largest participants in the subprime financial market, which contributed to an unprecedented real estate bubble that eventually exploded.

What also sunk both firms is the ethos of the day, and that they got ensnared in exotic financial instruments and the extreme leveraging of capital that had been sweeping the financial markets.

In a sense I find it extraordinary and poignant that I have this picture of two of New York’s most famous and noted buildings, historically and architecturally. They are not only famous for their design and presence but for the two firms they housed - two firms that embodied much of the excesses of capitalism that eventually overwhelmed America, New York City and the world.

PHOTO by David Airth, 1997.


Thanks, David, for capturing and sharing this poignant image.


A brief post follows.

Wizards and what?

CBS’ morning anchor: “Wizards and warthogs, Harry Potter’s back.”

Warthogs? For God’s sake, folks, read the books!


Michael Jackson: two questions

As the public gathers today at LA’s Staples Center for Michael Jackson’s memorial service, his family will lay him to rest among the celebrities interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Two questions will remain:


Yes. But, modern media have returned to “Yellow Journalism,” which spurred newspaper sales when editors like Joseph Pulitizer and William Randolph Hearst opted to give the readers what they want.

Mass hysteria is defined as “a condition in which a large group of people exhibit similar physical or emotional symptoms, such as anxiety or extreme excitement." The same principle of group-think is at play in what I call “mass adulation.”

Readers of a certain age remember those days of JFK’s death when evening news lasted only 30 minutes, but all networks devoted full-time coverage. Kennedy was the sitting president of the United States, and the days of coverage included his murder, the shooting death of his alleged killer and his funeral, and they only lasted four days. .

Thinking back, we didn’t experience this with the death of former first lady Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, the most famous woman of her time.

Compare the coverage of the deaths of the couple of Camelot with that of Anna Nicole Smith. Or, the O. J. Simpson trial.

Certainly the 24/7 format of cable news is a factor – President Obama says the outpouring for Jackson is fed by a media appetite that’s “insatiable.” But, when did this mass adulation phenomenon begin?

Perhaps it began on 30 August 1997 when the world was rocked by the death of Princess Diana. There might have been the same outpouring at the deaths of Rudolph Valentino or Elvis Presley, but there was no cable news to sell it.

It certainly continued on 5 June 2004 with the week of former President Ronald Reagan’s funeral and what I call the “deification of the dead,” a boon to his party in an election year.

Michael Jackson’s worldwide celebrity probably merits such coverage if today’s media really seek to give the public what it wants. So, a cycle of growing coverage and growing adulation is set off.

The opinion of Republican Congressman Peter King of New York (LINK) addresses this phenomenon and proves a perfect segue to the second question::

"This lowlife, Michael Jackson, his name, his face, his picture is all over the newspapers, televisions, radio.

"Let's knock out the psychobabble. This guy was a pervert, a child molester, a pedophile. And to be giving this much coverage to him day in and day out, what does it say about us as a country?

"There's nothing good about this guy. He may have been a good singer, done some dancing, but the bottom line is: would you allow your child or grandchild to be in the same room with Michael Jackson? That would be horrifying."

Thus, our second question:


Rep. King failed to factor in Jackson’s acquittal by a jury of his peers. In stating, “There’s nothing good about this guy,” King ignores Jackson’s great humanitarian efforts, his contributions of millions upon millions to charities aiding children.

Then, we had the very moving and emotional interview with the mother of AIDS victim Ryan White, who extolled Jackson for his kindness and close friendship with her son - for whom he wrote “Gone Too Soon.” I hope King caught the sincerity in her tears. And, I hope he’s “looking at the man in the mirror.”

As the ladies of “The View” pointed out: “Yes, Michael Jackson did strange things. Woody Allen and Roman Polanski did strange things. But, they are all great artists.”

Whoopi Goldberg on that show said she first met Jackson in the early 80s, when he was invited by Steven Spielberg to sit in at her audition for “The Color Purple,” that he had remained her close friend, and that any mother could have trusted him with her children.

As the bard wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” It’s just a matter of perception, isn’t it? But, it's also a matter of listening to those who actually knew him.

One thing’s for certain, the music and the magic that was Michael Jackson cannot be buried by criticism or a final resting place.


A South Carolina update follows.

Killer slain, Sanford slapped

“Slain SC serial killing suspect had long rap sheet,” Associated Press, 7 July 2009: LINK

“SC GOP censures Gov. Sanford over absence, affair,” Associated Press, 7 July 2009: LINK


A little MSNBC in-fighting

Since I went to basic cable, I no longer have the benefit of or am subjected to that which passes for cable “news.” In keeping with the mission of DemWit (it’s at your left), Frodo, Keeper of the Ring, sent me the following missive from the Shire on Thursday, 2 July:

Subject line: Ya shooda been dere

This AM, on "Morning Joe," they were reporting on yesterday's battle between Helen Thomas, Chip Reid and Robert Gibbs on "controlling" the news. Scarborough made the on-screen comment that he wished Reid were the White House reporter for NBC, since he was the “best.” He did not realize that Chuck Todd, NBC’s White House correspondent, was on a split-screen with him at that moment.

It wasn't just awkward, because Chuck Todd was visibly pissed. Joe, and everyone else, tried to back pedal, and make like it was a joke. Chuck wasn't buying.
In the end, Joe said, "Chuck, you're the best." Chuck said, "Joe, you're not the best."

Thanks, Frodo! No, Chuck, Joe’s not the best. Doesn’t even come close to Don Imus who filled the time slot before him. IMHO, Don Imus is the best interviewer in the business, and I miss that so much.

That's why DemWit always refers to Scarborough's a.m. show as "Morning Joke."


Watch veteran reporter Helen Thomas and CBS' Chip Reid double-team White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on whether the White House is "controlling the press," LINK


Cherokee County murders

(Note: This post is being updated below.)

Someone is killing people in Cherokee County, South Carolina.

Four persons shot to death in six days, and this morning, according to WSPA-TV, law enforcement officials are saying the crimes are linked to the same gunman.

Cherokee County is located off I-85 as it crosses Upstate South Carolina between Anderson and Charlotte, North Carolina. The county’s residents, in TV interviews and Facebook and blog comments, are taking a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude.

Around 7:30 last night, two persons were shot at Tyler’s Home Center in Gaffney. Owner Stephen Tyler, 48, was killed, and his 15-year-old daughter is being treated at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center for a gunshot wound to the head. Tyler's wife and two older daughters found the victims.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gena Parker, 50, of Anderson, and her mother, retired teacher Hazel Linder, 83, were found shot to death in Linder’s Cherokee County home. Parker, the mother of two teenaged sons, was a third-grade teacher at Calhoun Academy of Arts, a public school in Anderson’s School District 5. (The school is located just a few blocks from my home.) Parker’s husband Scott discovered the victims. He is a coach and school administrator and formerly coached at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson.

My friends Teresa Smith and Charlie Boseman accompanied Parker’s class on a field trip when Charlie’s granddaughter was in her third-grade class, and Teresa says the community is shocked over the murder of this “very sweet person and great teacher.”

On Saturday, prominent Gaffney peach farmer Kline Cash, 63, was found gunned down outside his home. A man wanting to buy hay had come to Cash’s home earlier in the day.

Police consider this man a suspect and have released his description and a sketch as well as descriptions of vehicles seen near the murder scenes.

This information as well as other details of the killings, safety tips and local reaction can be found at WSPA-TV anchor Amy Wood’s blog: LINK

Interesting fact: The Cherokee County sheriff held a press conference at noon today to get out the information gathered on the suspect. A reporter asked if the county had ever gone through anything like this before. "Yes," the sheriff said, "Leroy Martin, The Gaffney Strangler, in the 1960s." Interesting article on Martin: LINK

Update: "Serial killer sought in South Carolina," CNN, 4 July 2009: LINK

Update: "Serial killer claims fifth victim in South Carolina," CNN, 4 July 2009: LINK


A heartbeat away

Remember Spiro T. Agnew? He’s the U.S. vice president who called a diligent press unraveling the Watergate scandal “nattering nabobs of negativism” and ''pusillanimous pussyfooters.”

Agnew might have been president of the United States when Richard Nixon resigned except for the fact that he himself had already resigned after being charged in a kickback scheme and pleading “no contest” to income tax evasion.

I submit that we, as U.S. citizens, pay too much attention to the “head of the ticket” and not enough to the “running mate.” Campaign tickets of recent years bear this out.

In Election 2000, I supported Al Gore. Had he been “selected” president by SCOTUS, Joe Lieberman would have been a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Lieberman turned out to be “a horse of a different color” when he fortuitously did a switch from Democrat to Independent in order to lure Republicans to his rescue when fighting to retain his senate seat. He had lost the Connecticut Democratic Primary to Ned Lamont, but was ultimately elected by Republicans. IMHO, that puts him on a character level with Caligula.

The man selected Vice President that year was Dick Cheney, Bush’s 24-karat guarantee against impeachment. Like Agnew with Nixon, Cheney was - and is - the axe man out front defending George W. Bush’s policies. I lost count several years ago of how many lies this man has told. The idea of Dick Cheney in the presidency sends a chill down my spine.

In 2004 I wholeheartedly supported John Kerry for the presidency. Early on, I began to blog of my uneasiness about Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards. Trusting my gut instinct, I found him too smarmy and smooth. This assessment gained credence when Edwards came before the cameras associating his 2008 run for the presidency with his wife Elizabeth’s recurrence of cancer.

At DemWit’s inception I wrote that I wouldn’t spit on Edwards if he were on fire. Harsh, I know, but I was sick of his campaign ad blitz in South Carolina claiming “I’m poor folks like you.” My God, the man was worth $54 million!

My feelings about Edwards turned out to be correct. The man who turned to Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate and smirked, “I don’t like that jacket” turned out to be a slimeball.

Now comes reports that former Edwards aide Andrew Young is seeking a publisher for his new tell-all book. In the book, Young claims Edwards asked him to lie and claim paternity of the girlfriend’s baby. Edwards, Young claims, in asking him to lie, told him he would be “fixed for life.”

A heartbeat away.