Nightmare before Christmas

This post has nothing to do with a flooded apartment or a roaring toothache (circa Christmas 2009), just four brief news items to set your spine a'tingling.

Nightmare before Christmas

The headline caught my eye this morning: “Another GOPer wants to defeat Obama.” I clicked on the link and felt a chill. Remember neoconservative war hawk John Bolton, who, when undersecretary of state, was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by Dubya? Bolton, who very undiplomatically announced he was going to the UN to kick ass and straighten that whole bunch out, now thinks he’s what this country needs. The American Enterprise Institute fellow and Fox News contributor basically says Obama is a wimp on foreign policy and national security, so he is considering a run for the White House in 2012. God forbid! Read Bolton’s remarks about the president HERE. (BTW, DemWit readers know I cannot see photos, and I hope I have the right one with this item. If it’s really, really scary, that’s the one.)

The winter of our discontent?

From USAToday/Gallup, 24 November 2010 (LINK): “Americans are as likely to want Tea Party-backed Republican members of Congress to have the most influence over federal policies as they are to prefer President Barack Obama, although no more than 28% choose either. They name Republican leaders in Congress next, at 23%, and Democratic leaders last, at 16%.”

Murdoch’s iNsatiable hunger

I confess I didn’t know what an iPad is until my friend Jenny said her granddaughter is giving her one for Christmas. Now comes word (HERE) that Rupert Murdoch is going to furnish the world another outlet for his propaganda: a daily digital newspaper, cleverly named “The Daily,” which iPad owners can read for a subscription price of 99 cents a week. Jenny’s not buying: she’s too iNtelligent.

Sarah’s syntax

After all that “gloom and doom” how about a good laugh? Go HERE to read advice from Sarah Palin and Fox News’ Sean Hannity on what constitutes good, ethical  journalism. Sarah, really ticked off at Katie Couric for asking her relevant questions during her veep campaign, tells Hannity: “I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting," Which, of course, equips her to construct such sentences as: "I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism.”


Bringing hope to Uganda's orphans

Children at Nyaka AIDS Orphans School in Nyaka, Uganda, in Africa, pray as they begin their school day. Father Tim Farrell's parish joined forces with Jackson Kaguri to found the school. All children, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim, are welcomed here if they are orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.


On September 18, I received the following note from my longtime friend Father Tim Farrell, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Farmington, New Mexico:

“I head for Uganda and Rwanda, Africa, next Sunday. Pray for all of us. It is me along with five parishioners, five women. A thorn among the roses! We have a 22-hour flight (including an overnight stop in Dubai), and after a night in Kampala, we will drive nine hours by safari van to Nyaka, Uganda, where the AIDS Orphans' School is. It is a tiny village near the Inpenetrable Forest with gorillas and tree-climbing lions. There is no electricity there and luckily, due to the great generosity of my parishioners, the town now has running water. So, it will be unique. I will let you know how all of it goes in my update in late October when I return.”

To commemorate the Thanksgiving holiday, here is Father Tim’s report, dateline Uganda:

NYAKA, Uganda -- Many children who attend Nyaka AIDS Orphans' School rise and leave before dawn and get home from school after the sun has set. They live miles away and make the great effort to attend the school because it gives them hope for life itself, Stephen Kagaba, headmaster, explained.

These children, he says, are orphans due to the scourge of AIDS, which has killed thousands and thousands of Ugandans. In a real sense, Nyaka School is the 250 children’s only light.

My parish of Sacred Heart has supported Nyaka School for almost a decade, and I was privileged recently to see what the school is doing to change the lives of these children. Though we raise several thousand dollars a year in a special collection for the school, I did not understand how this could help so many children. Mr. Kagaba, though, said that "with the money you send, we are able to educate and feed all these children." My question, as pastor, was, what would happen to these children if our parish did not support the school?

Mr. Kagaba shook his head sadly: "You have seen the children along the sides of the roads? That would be our children who are going to Nyaka School. They would be worse than slaves. Many of them would die at an early age. These children who are orphans become street children. They work for the rich people herding their goats and cows, and their lives are full of stress and hopelessness. They are mistreated. They die very young, overwhelmed by life. But because you support Nyaka School, all these children get breakfast and lunch each day and they get a good education. In our district with 250 schools, Nyaka is a miracle. We are in the top three schools. The children who come here come free of charge, due to the kindness of Sacred Heart and other people who care. They have real futures. The other schools in the district do not supply meals. The children come to school hungry and go home hungry. Not the children of Nyaka School."

I was privileged to attend classes with the children and was so encouraged by the strong education they are receiving. These children in Grades P1 through P7 are learning so much. These children who would be forgotten on the sides of the roads of Uganda without the school have futures not only in Secondary School but in colleges.

While I was visiting along with five parishioners (Rosie Gomez, Margaret Zamora, Becky Schritter, Jayme Childers and Katie Pettigrew) , we all were able to interact with the children and see the educational and emotional foundations being laid in these children who have known so much tragedy in their young lives. Early each morning the children gather in the school courtyard for prayer, singing and reports from the school and from around the country. They are fed porridge for breakfast and then the day begins, a day filled with classes, physical education, a full lunch, camraderie with each other and lots of playtime.

As one teacher said, "It is hard to make them go home when school lets out at 5 p.m. This is their family here, and when they go home many do not get to eat. They are too poor. Many go home to dark houses with grannies who are sick and old. They go home far away from the school."

And they go home to places often with no lights, not even candlelight.

Nyaka School has become the pride of the community as well. The school, through Sacred Heart Parish contributions, has been able to build a water system which is now used for the entire village area. Because of the success of Nyaka, the parish and others have helped to open another school at Katumba, about an hour or so away by car. As well, the Nyaka Foundation is building little homes for the "grannies" who are taking care of the orphan children or who live out so far and in such poverty that they are literally dying from neglect.

Jackson Kaguri, whose vision brought about the two schools and the "granny program" says that the grannies are presently living in small huts with leaking roofs and housing not only themselves but the goat and the chickens. “These women are dying from neglect, and so the Foundation is presently planning to build new homes for these elders of the surrounding areas," he explained.

He said that amazingly the homes can be built for around $700 each. "That amount of money saves an elderly person and gives them dignity in their twilight years," he said.

Our visit to Nyaka reinforced our belief that with a little money and a lot of heart, we can help bring hope into a place devastated by the AIDS crisis. The children and the grannies are that hope. At both ends of the age spectrum, I saw hope shining forth.

I was able to visit the children in their homes along with the grannies who are about to enter their homes. They are so proud of who they are and what they have in their futures.

One evening as I and the group from Sacred Heart were driving back from a far distant granny's new home, the sun was setting around 7 p.m. and I saw a small girl in her purple Nyaka uniform still walking home in the dying light. She smiled and waved at us, and I thought, "What a heart this child has! She walks all this way in the darkness of morning and in the fading light of dusk. Why? Because Nyaka School is not only her hope, it is her life. She'll get up tomorrow morning and walk back to school."

As one of my group said, "They walk to school in the darkness, they walk home in the dark. Nyaka school is their only light."

(To find out more about the Nyaka Foundation, visit its site on Facebook.)


Fed up with stupid!

Paul Krugman knows a little more about the economy than DemWit. With each new op-ed column, Krugman’s warnings about our economy grow stronger. His crystal ball conjures things most of us cannot foresee.

So, when I saw the headline on his column yesterday, my back stiffened as I sat up and took notice.

Now, the right would have you believe Paul Krugman is not to be believed. After all, he appears in (gasp!) The New York Times. He holds a Ph.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. That would make him, according to right-wing TV pundits, one of “the liberal elite.” And, he was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics for setting up a unique new model to measure such things. Oh, but the right would have you believe the Nobel committee is anti-American. Or, so they’ve been told.

Come on, people, aren’t you fed up with stupid?

What’s it going to take for Americans to listen to an informed and  reasonable argument about where our economy is headed? A good place to start is reading Krugman’s current column:

There Will Be Blood


New York Times Op-Ed, 22 November 2010

Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be — after all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction.

So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ’em a piece of meat, real meat,’ ” meaning spending cuts. “And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary,” he continued.

Think of Mr. Simpson’s blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize.

Some explanation: There’s a legal limit to federal debt, which must be raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably try to blackmail the president into policy concessions by, in effect, holding the government hostage; they’ve done it before.

Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and undermine America’s role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But no, Mr. Simpson “can’t wait.” And he’s what passes, these days, for a reasonable Republican.

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.

Elite opinion has been slow to recognize this reality. Thus on the same day that Mr. Simpson rejoiced in the prospect of chaos, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass unemployment. He asked for “a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits.

My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the G.O.P. isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.

And opposition for the sake of opposition isn’t limited to economic policy. Politics, they used to tell us, stops at the water’s edge — but that was then.

These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.

How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just not interested in helping a Democrat govern.

My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country.

It’s hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of some kind. Mr. Simpson may or may not get the blood bath he craves this April, but there will be blood sooner or later. And we can only hope that the nation that emerges from that blood bath is still one we recognize.


The above column is reprinted for the sole purpose of sharing information, which, of course, doeesn’t mean a damn if the people who need to read it don’t.

But, “one day a lemming will fly!”


A reminder

I was a 21-year-old secretary eating lunch at “Nick” Nicapopadopalous’ Greek restaurant. Two blocks away in the newsroom of the Clarion-Ledger and Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, bells were going off on the teletype machine to mark a “bulletin” – the newswire service’s designation for its most significant breaking news.

Twenty years later I would be working as an editor in that newsroom.

One day as I left work I spotted in a trash bin a rolled up length of old yellow teletype paper . Fishing it out, I tucked it under my arm. Relaxing after work with a cup of coffee, I reached across my dining table for the 20-foot scroll of paper, unrolled it and began to read:

Bulletin … Bulletin … Bulletin

President shot

Bulletin … Bulletin … Bulletin

President Kennedy shot in Dallas

Bulletin … Bulletin … Bulletin

President Kenndy shot in Dallas motorcade

Words poured forth down the yellow paper in staccato phrases.

I’ve kept the bulletin as a reminder to never forget.


On considering atheists

Anne Perry’s fictional detective Thomas Pitt, when asked to define “blasphemy,” says, “I think it is jeering at other people’s beliefs, making them doubt the possibility of good and making reverence appear ridiculous. Whose God it is doesn’t matter. It isn’t a question of doctrine, it’s a matter of trying to destroy the innate idea of diety, of something better and holier than we are.” (Half Moon Street, 2000)


I neither question the beliefs of atheists nor label their beliefs as disbelief.

What I question is their need to attack the beliefs of others.

Millions of people around this world find solace and strength and peace in their religious beliefs and great comfort in the power of prayer. Why would any reasonable human being deny them this?

Granted, throughout history religion has been both a catalyst for war and persecution and a suppressor of advanced knowledge. Anyone versed in history could never deny this. On the other hand, religion also has at its foundation moral precepts, and like many atheists, many who adhere to faith are both moral and pursuers of wisdom.

The search for knowledge has not been limited to those who deny the existence of a supreme being. And to deny that no knowledge has been advanced by adherents to religion is prejudice.

To quote Miss Perry in “Brunswick Gardens:” “Calmness and reason should always prevail over emotion, self-indulgence or any kind of indiscipline.”

Why then the need of atheists to be militantly opposed to organized religion? Why then must religious persons be militantly opposed to atheism?

I recently quoted famous lawyer Clarence Darrow who said he was not an atheist, because he could no more prove there is not a God, than he could prove there is. Darrow, who, according to his biographer Irving Stone, believe in God, was one of this country’s greatest crusaders for human rights and equality, and, reading the transcript of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, no one could ever accuse him of stifling knowledge.

I am a Christian, an adherent to the true teachings of Jesus Christ. I am both aware of and heartbroken that His teachings have been so misconstrued and distorted. I find fanaticism and fundamentalism in any religion deeply disturbing, for therein lie both the suppression of wisdom and disdain for others' beliefs.

Through the Internet I have had the good fortune to meet many atheists who are both moral and diligent workers for the betterment of society. I also have the insight gained from in-depth discussions with a beloved relative about his atheism. The only demand we have made on each other is that we expect respect.

Speaking for myself – and not for any religion which has greatly distorted and maligned its own teachings - I am offended by terms like “Christianistas” and “Jesusistanis” and by such statements as “Prayer doesn't work in elections any better than elsewhere.” I don’t care to read any Web site which says of Christians: “The core of their faith being based on an un-dead Jewish Zombie.” Such attacks are not just myopic, they are downright meanspirited.

How can one person determine what inspires another person? How can one person define another person's spirituality?

Like Darrow, I cannot prove there is a God. I cannot prove there is no God. It is equally difficult to convey the meaning of “faith.”

Perhaps this quote, again from “Brunswick Gardens,” comes close: “The essence of faith is courage and trust without knowledge.”

I have always been a strong supporter of separation of church and state, and I believe it is best not to bring religion or athesim into the political arena.

I am willing to respect any person’s convictions. I just demand respect in return. And the common decency of refraining from mockery.

As Ms. Perry opines: “It is all very well to preach what you believe to be the truth, but when it shatters the foundations of someone else’s world, it isn’t very clever. It doesn’t help. It only destroys.”


Woman up! She's a-comin'

I have just read the most delightful commentary on the future of American politics if females have anything to do with it.

The writer, Donna Trussell, is a poet, fiction writer and former film critic. She’s a fifth-generation Texan who knows the “Steel Magnolias” wiles of women as well as their increasing impact as stand-alone warriors against gender suppression.

Donna throws out facts right and left. Here’s one: last year, for the first time in U.S. history, more women than men earned doctorates.

There are delicious quotes, such as this one from the late Ann Richards, who governed Texas and delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention:

"Twelve years ago Barbara Jordan, another Texas woman, made the keynote address to this convention, and two women in 160 years is about par for the course. But if you give us a chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."

Donna debunks Sarah Palin’s “Mama Grizzly” anti-feminist feminism claim, saying, “You can't play the sweet, deferential Christian grandmother while you sharpen your claws on programs benefiting women, children and the elderly.”

This article sounds a tocsin for the “parade of rural white men” responsible for the fact that “You have to go back to 1966 to find the same number of state legislature switches. You have to go back to 1928 to find this many state legislature seats filled with Republicans.”

Females are about to make a positive impact on the politics of this land, Donna asserts. She makes a powerful argument in “GOP’s Rural White Guys: The Night They Drove New Dixie Down.” Read it HERE and enjoy!


Beck outdoes anti-Sorosism freaks

Satan, thy name is Soros, so say some of the craziest, most self-serving right-wing propagandists and politicians of our day.

DemWit, leaning heavily on the “fair use notice,” presents the following commentary in its entirety, because

1) It’s just so darn clever, and
2) Blog readers recoil at the idea of actually clicking on a link.


Beck's bizarre, dangerous hit at Soros

By Michael Wolraich, Special to CNN
November 14, 2010

CNN editor's note: Michael Wolraich is a founder of the political blog dagblog.com and the author of "Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual.

New York -- Creepy medieval puppets hung from the ceiling on the set of the "Glenn Beck Program" -- a conquistador, a squire, a witch, and a bearded guy who looked like a cross between Santa Claus and the Fiddler on the Roof.

"Make no mistake, we are watching a show," Beck gravely told his audience. That much was obvious enough, but Beck did not mean his own television program. "You have to see who's behind the puppets," he continued, "Who is choosing the puppets and the players? Who's the puppetmaster? George Soros."

George Soros is an 80-year-old Jewish billionaire. Born in Hungary in 1930, he survived the Holocaust and eventually immigrated to the United States, where he made a fortune as a currency speculator and became an international philanthropist. After the Iron Curtain collapsed, Soros donated generously to Hungary and other Eastern Bloc countries, funding scholarships, university endowments, and science grants.

In return for his generosity, anti-Semites in the new Hungarian parliament accused him of participating in an international Jewish conspiracy to bankrupt Hungary in order to restore communist rule -- despite the fact that Soros had been an ardent opponent of Hungary's communist regime.

Anti-Sorosism first arrived in the United States in the late 1990s, courtesy of renowned crackpot Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche has published a number of articles in his comically misnamed journal, the Executive Intelligence Review, accusing Soros of devious manipulations ranging from an attempt to start World War III to running drugs for Queen Elizabeth II's drug cartel.

But LaRouche's audience is small, and most Americans paid little attention to George Soros. In 2003, everything changed. Infuriated by the policies of George W. Bush, Soros sent his philanthropy homeward, donating $23 million to political action groups during the 2004 election. Suddenly, George Soros became the most powerful, evil mastermind in the world.

First, the influential conservative magazine NewsMax ran a story that cribbed LaRouche's conspiracy theories and accused Soros of secretly plotting a "regime change" in the United States. Then Fox News host Bill O'Reilly discovered that Soros' foundation had donated to the ACLU and therefore reasoned that the billionaire and the civil liberties organization were conspiring to destroy Christmas.

When former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay ran into trouble for ethics violations, he blamed Soros for masterminding critical coverage by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, Time magazine, and Newsweek. And former speaker of the House Dennis Hastert insinuated to an incredulous Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that Soros got his money from drug operations. (Hastert did not mention Queen Elizabeth II, however.)

Glenn Beck, as usual, trumped them all. He told his audience that Soros has a five-step plan:

1. Create a "shadow government" under the guise of humanitarian aid.
2. Take control of the media.
3. Destabilize the state by building anti-government sentiment. (Yes, Beck attacked his opponent for building anti-government sentiment.)
4. Subvert the American electoral system.
5. Take over the world, of course.

Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories are no less bizarre and inflammatory than those of LaRouche, but his nightly audience numbers in the millions. Earlier this year, Americans voted Beck their second favorite television personality after Oprah Winfrey.

In consequence, he is far more dangerous. It must be a great sorrow to George Soros, who having survived the Holocaust now finds himself the subject of the same kind of conspiracy theories that the Nazis used to demonize the Jews.

The big bad "Jewish masterminds" of Hitler's day were the Rothschilds, a family of bankers who have featured prominently in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories since the 1800s. Like Soros, they have been accused of controlling the media, instigating war, overthrowing governments, and of course, taking over the world.

But in 21st Century America, a popular television host cannot outright espouse anti-Semitic ideas. Thus, Glenn Beck took pains to present himself as a friend of the Jews. According to Beck, it was George Soros who was the anti-Semite.

Soros had survived the Holocaust by, at 14, pretending to be the godson of a non-Jewish Hungarian official. Since the official's responsibilities included confiscating Jewish properties, Beck implied that Soros had cooperated with the Nazis. This accusation too echoes Lyndon LaRouche, who has published articles calling Soros "a small cog in Adolf Eichmann's killing machine" and "a Nazi beast-man seizing Jewish properties."

Welcome to the "Glenn Beck Program," where Jews are Nazis and those who exploit ancient anti-Semitic conspiracy narratives are friends of the Jews.

Beck himself said it best,

"There are a few working parts to a puppet show. There is the puppet master. Here. There is a stage. There's the audience. There are the strings to each puppet. And then there's the story. There is also why? Why is the story? Why is the show happening? What is the puppet master? What is his motivation? Is it for the money? Is it for entertainment? Is it personal gain? What is it?"

What is it, Mr. Beck?

CNN editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Wolraich.



Issa damn shame!

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, scream, throw up or bang my head against a brick wall.

False accusations and hypocrisy affect me that way.

I call your attention to the two items atop “fyi” in DemWit’s sidebar.

The second item is just rhetoric from a self-aggrandizing blowhard.

The top item merits the attention of every DemWit reader, regardless of political persuasion, Its contents take false accusations and hypocrisy to new heights and, in my opinion, constitute a very real threat to America’s future.

And, America asked for it.

I think I’ll throw up.

BJ UPDATE: I have moved the two articles from the sidebar to this post:

The first is an item from CNN’s “Political Ticker” about Newt Gingrich’s 10-Year Plan for America, in which he says, “We must REPLACE the left.” LINK

The main article DemWit calls to your attention is one from the right-wing site, NewsMax:
"White House Braces for Hundreds of GOP Probes of Fraud, Waste," 9 November 2010: LINK


A little girl's pride in military


Front: Elowease (cousin), 16; Betty Jean (‘B.J.’), 3; Martha (sister), 15; middle row: Sarah (aunt), 18; Ruth (friend), Mary (sister), 17; back row: Leroy (‘Roy’ - brother), 19, in his Navy uniform; and Gilbert (cousin’s husband). Younger brother Isaac was born shortly after this family portrait. Photo: 1945.

This column was published in the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail, 29 August 1987:

A little girl grew up with pride in the military

By B. J. Trotter

Recently I made what our boys in white would call “one helluva mistake.”

I identified a group of sailors in a photograph pertaining to the USS Stark incident as marines.

I received a friendly note from a chief petty officer, retired, U.S. Navy, advising me, “Marines would never dress like sailors, nor would sailors permit them.”

The feedback from my boss, an ex-Navy man, was somewhat sterner.

I regret the error. I know a sailor when I see one.

My appreciation of our men in service goes back as long as I can remember. An early photograph, a favorite, was made the day my brother Roy came home from the Navy. In it I am a happy, cotton-topped, 3-year-old, posing with Roy and family and wearing one of his white sailor hats.

Roy had been stateside and was being shipped out for combat duty when WWII ended. He experienced the horrors of war in Corpus Christi, Texas, when two PVMs – sea planes – collided, and Roy was a rescue team member who helped retrieve 25 bodies and rescue four survivors.

My mother gave Roy a lucky silver dollar when he left to join the Navy. He brought it home to his “Sis,” and I have it still as a reminder of his service to his country.

I have other reminders. Two brothers-in-law have shared their memories of that war and long ago cemented my appreciation for things military.

Paul sailed aboard aircraft carriers, the USS Hornet (commissioned after the first Hornet was sunk) and the USS Tarawa, and on what he calls a “tin can,” the destroyer USS O’Hare.

A Kamikaze pilot changed Paul’s looks. His suicidal strike came in too close for comfort under the ship, and my brother-in-law claims his hair turned gray overnight.

Along with gray hairs, Paul brought back another souvenir, a kaleidoscope made from a spent shell’s casing. Despite its lovely changing colors, it left an unpleasant metallic smell on my fingers. But, the little girl could see no contrast of patriotism’s beauty and war’s ugliness in the toy.

Brother-in-law Harold was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne, Rainbow Division. Harold met America’s enemy coming over a hilltop in western Germany. He was among the first Americans to enter Germany just prior to Hitler’s suicide and the fall of the Third Reich. The 101st parachuted into Germany, marched 50 miles and took the first town.

Shot in the eye with a wooden bullet – with supply routes cut off, the Germans were out of ammunition - Harold’s souvenir of the war was a Purple Heart. The German soldier who shot Harold was killed by his buddy, who retrieve a watch and a wife's or sweetheart's photo from his body and handed them to Harold, sad souvenirs.

I learned early that “War is hell” from sneaking looks at his Rainbow Division albums with photo after photo of boxcars filled with emaciated and naked dead men – victims of the Holocaust.

I also learned early that this country must be pretty special for men to endure so much to protect it.

Their tales of war served me well in later years. When I entered college at age 34, I opted to take ROTC. This choice was not some patriotic gesture on my part: I wanted to get out of Tennis and Badminton 101. I could never see the ball or birdie!

Despite my pointed questions – “Why doesn’t this military textbook include the air raid on Dresden, Germany?” – I won the Military History Award.

One thing has impressed me most in the four decades since those guys went off to war: their memories of their military days have remained with them – living not in protest, but in pride.

I grew up with their pride, and it didn’t take a chief petty officer, retired, or a boss to remind me of that.


2010 UPDATE:

Brother-in-law Paul died in 2008 at age 86. He was a retired postal worker and National Guardsman, recepient of the three highest honors bestowed by the Mississippi National Guard. Paul was the very definition of a good man and always did for others. He was a skilled baker of beautiful cakes and made wedding cakes as gifts for the young brides in his church. He spent his last couple of years having the time of his life with friends in an assisted living facility.

Brother-in-law Harold was a dynamic salesman – a Buick Salesmaster – who died of complications from Alzheimer’s. I could always count on Harold for help.

My brother Roy, now 84, was a car salesman, civic leader, ski club president and Grenada (Miss.) Reservoir water rescue team founder. A deadringer for Frank Sinatra, Roy is ever jolly and fun-loving. We have wonderful phone chats, trips down memory lane, and he still calls me “Sis.”

Good fathers all.

The little girl, now a retired newspaper editor, is 68 and today fully understands the expression, “Hate the war; love the warrior.”


One woman

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is still alive as of this posting.

In 2006, in her hometown of Tabriz, Iran, the now 43-year-old mother of two received 99 lashes after being sentenced as an “adulteress.”

Sakineh received international attention early this year when she was sentenced to death by stoning.

According to AVAAZ, Iran “accused her of adultery and sentenced her to stoning despite the fact that the alleged adultery took place after her husband’s death. They sentenced her to death for the murder of her husband even though she had already been acquitted, and another man convicted and sentenced for the murder. They even arrested her son and lawyer and forced the rest of the legal team into exile.”

Sakineh’s stoning sentence was a “subjective judicial ruling allowed where no conclusive evidence is present.”

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and AVAAZ collected more than a million signatures, which forced Iran to change the stoning sentence to death by hanging.

Sakineh still sits in jail awaiting hanging. Human rights groups are claiming that Iran now wants a way out of this case, a way to save face, and are raising funds to assemble “an elite legal team” toward this end.

Should the fate of one woman matter? When that woman has become the symbol of injustices around the world, yes, it does.


Beyond the brouhaha

If there’s anyone out there who still cares about ethics in journalism and who doesn’t break out in a rash when reading anything longer than a tweet, this one’s for you.

In 11 years of fighting online for truth, justice and the American way, the subject I’ve written most about is journalism ethics.

Late Sunday night, masked by a headline about Keith Olbermann’s return to the air Tuesday, David Bauder of the Associated Press delivered the clearest analysis on the subject I’ve read in some time.

Along the way I’ve probably offended some by stating, “MSNBC is the left’s Fox News.” One could argue that MSNBC, unlike Fox, delivers truth. But, that’s not my point.

As Mr. Bauder points out, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish objective reporting, aka news, from opinion – in this age of so-called “advocacy journalism."

Advocacy journalism is an oxymoron. The blurring of the line between news and opinion should be unacceptable to professional journalists, and it should be unacceptable to consumers of news.

Let me point out here that I believe one of the problems to be the advent of specialized reporting where, quite naturally, persons are hired with degrees in certain fields, Thus, you have "journalists" who have never had a course in journalism ethics, journalism history, journalism law or, for that matter, journalism 101.

My argument is and has always been: if the news organization you choose supports your points of view, you are not interested in news; you are looking for validation.

For this reason I gave up TV a year ago and am very grateful that most major newspapers have online sites where news and opinion are still clearly delineated.

DemWit recommends that you read Mr. Bauder’s analysis HERE. If anything good came out of the whole “What’s up with Olbermann?” brouhaha, it might just be this one article.

Otherwise, go tweet!


The death of democracy?

DemWit sadly notes that two honest champions of both Wall Street reform and campaign finance reform - Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) – targets of attack ads, lost their bids for re-election Tuesday.


Here’s a word the far-right – and conservatives who went along with them on November 2 - might want to learn: plutocracy.

plu•toc•ra•cy (n.)
1. Government by the wealthy.
2. A wealthy class that controls a government.
3. A government or state in which the wealthy rule.

The big joke of the week is that some Americans think a grassroots movement has swept candidates into office. You know, those salt-of-the-earth patriots who contributed their nickels and dimes to fight big government.

What these candidates really represent is a group of malleable buffoons bought by big bucks from big business. Millions of bucks funneled through their campaigns – as Patton said, “like grease through a goose” – to other big businesses – the corporate media.

So, with vicious attack ads across America, Americans got the worst representatives money could buy.

All this was made possible, of course, by the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). This decision is, in a nutshell, “a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. The 5–4 decision, in favor of Citizens United, resulted from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation Citizens United could air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, and whether the group could advertise the film in broadcast ads featuring Clinton's image, in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act.”

This “free speech” ruling opened the floodgates for corporations – foreign and domestic – to pour millions of campaign dollars into innocuously named front groups.

In the first general election since SCOTUS’ ruling, American voters were sold a bill of goods – and our democracy is on its way to becoming a plutocracy.

If you don’t know what leader manipulated wealthy businessmen on his rise to power, you had damned well better brush up on your history.


“Tea Party Vows to Block Campaign Finance Reform,” a news analysis by Zach Carter of The Media Consortium, an independent media group, 4 November 2010: LINK

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), wikipedia: LINK

Plutocracy, wikipedia: LINK


Mo, baby, you're brilliant!

You know, Mo, I once read somewhere that when the Communist Party uses a word it should be interpreted as “meaning the opposite.”

I thought of this as I read your New York Times column, “Republican Party Time” (11/2/10) and the words of the Speaker-to-be.

Disbelief turned to anger, and anger turned to tears as I read his words about the “liberal media elite” and the immorality in the Democratic Party and how “the elites in the White House were snuffing out the America of his boyhood.”

Then I got to the end of you column where you revealed your “dirty little secret,” and I gave out a hearty Chris Matthews “Ha!”


You made me realize that America has been through bad times before and no doubt will go through them again. But, there are good times, too. This country does go through periods of sanity, and the great programs and policies which have actually benefited Americans, by and large, have come in times when there was a Democrat in the White House.

I needed the reminder, Mo. “God help the Republic,” indeed!

Read Maureen Dowd’s little bit of genius HERE, then read it again. You’ll love it!


Post-Halloween traumatic stress syndrome

We tried, and that's a good feeling, I thought. Then, another thought jarred me.

After Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. John Boehner will become next in line of succession for the presidency.


DemWit has three brief posts today. Keep reading, it gets better …

Wishing her name were Jones

Out in “The Last Frontier” Senate race results will be slow coming, and a race to test Tea Party strength also tested the smarts of Alaskans.

The three-way race between Democratic Mayor Scott McAdams and Republicans, incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, yielded an interesting little challenge.

Murkowski has been in the U.S. Senate for eight years and her father was both Alaska’s governor and senator before her.

Because Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate, there was much concern as to whether Alaskans could spell her name correctly!

Wonder how much the big money guys behind the Tea Party candidates paid for bumper stickers and yard signs reading "Vote for Mercowsky"?

Remember, this is a state that elected Sarah Palin.


In the next post, DemWit makes a House call …

Is there a possum in the House?


Tagore's prayer

The following poem has become an Election Eve tradition on my blogs: Vocal Yokels (no longer exists), I See My Dreams (archived HERE) and now DemWit.

The poet is Rabindranath Tagore of India, Nobel Laureate in Literature, 1913. Here is the English translation of his beautiful prayer:

Where the Mind Is without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free,
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls,
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection,
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit,
Where the mind is led forward by Thee
Into ever-widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,
Let my country  awake!


FROM DEMWIT, Election Eve 2008

USA TODAY/GALUPP, 2 November 2008:

As the 2008 presidential campaign draws to an end, the final USA Today/Gallup pre-election poll shows Barack Obama with a 55% to 44% advantage over John McCain in the allocated estimate of the 2008 presidential vote.

USAToday/Gallup: 2 November 2008:

Gallup’s final pre-election allocated estimate of the national 2008 vote for Congress gives the Democrats a 12 percentage-point lead over the Republicans among traditional likely voters, 53% to 41%.



USAToday/Gallup, 31 October 2010:

The final USA Today/Gallup measure of Americans' voting intentions for Congress shows Republicans continuing to hold a substantial lead over Democrats among likely voters, large enough to suggest that regardless of turnout, the Republicans will win more than the 40 seats needed to give them the majority in the U.S. House.

USAToday/Gallup, 31 October 2010:

Likely voters are more apt to be using their vote to send a message that they oppose the president than support him. Also, voters backing GOP candidates are more likely than those backing Democrats to be casting their vote against the opposing candidate. These and other patterns conform with prior midterms in which power changed hands.


“Let my country awake.”