The Watering Hole: Dateline November 19, 1863

Abraham Lincoln Leaving after Delivering his Address at Gettysburg - The tall guy

The committee for the Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg politely invited President Lincoln to speak thusly:

It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.

They expected nothing more than a few stumbling words to be offered by the buffoon from Illinois. Instead, Lincoln delivered an address that is woven into our nation’s fabric. He opened with:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

And ended with this phrase:

… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

These two excerpts from his 272 word address were bookends that paraphrased the foundation, the purpose and the future hopes of a nation that at that time was in the throes of a struggle for its very existence. They also bracket the lexicon that is America. Scarcely any American child who has studied our nation’s history is allowed to forget the meaning of the entire speech, but those two phrases are burned into every child’s memory.

From the core of that address comes this:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, …

Those are the only words that are remembered by present day Republicans.

This is our Open Thread. What would Lincoln think if he were brought into this time? Would he think that the men who died at Gettysburg, died in vain?

Music Night, November 18, 2011

This past Wednesday NPR presented a delightful interview with Michael Stipe and Mike Mills, who recently ended 31 years as R.E.M. The musical clips that were played reminded me of how much I love their music and have, apparently, for three decades. They seem like a natural choice to kick off Music Night — and this particular life performance has a killer bonus. Great live show.

Thanks to the time machine, this will post just as I’m sitting down to dinner at Bourbon Steak in Washington, DC, fortified with a cocktail or two and ready to dig into a serious dinner and wine. Urp.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 17th: Bad Moms! Bad!

Last week, my friend Maria, with whom I work, forwarded me an email that she received from a “friend.”  Maria explained that she had mentioned to this “friend” that her son, Matt, had recently gone down to the Occupy Wall Street protest and had protested along with them, including joining in with a drum circle.  Maria’s “friend” was appalled by this information, and, the following day, sent her an email which is apparently making its rounds on the internets, with the subject line being “I think she nailed it.”  It consisted of a column by someone named Marybeth Hicks, who evidently has her own website,, and who has also written a book entitled “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left’s Assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom”  Yeah, right.   I will not quote the entire column, but the overall gist of it was that the mothers of the OWS protesters had not taught their children properly, so Ms. Hicks would do so in the mothers’ stead.  Here’s some examples of what OWS protesters’ moms, in Ms. Hicks’ opinion, should have taught their kids:

“Call it an occupational hazard, but I can’t look at the Occupy Wall
Street protesters without thinking, “Who parented these people?”
As a culture columnist, I’ve commented on the social and political
ramifications of the “movement” – now known as “OWS” – whose fairyland agenda can be summarized by one of their placards: “Everything for everybody.”

“Thanks to their pipe-dream platform, it’s clear there are people with serious designs on “transformational” change in America who are using the protesters like bedsprings in a brothel.”

Nice how Ms. Hicks takes the example of one particular “placard” (sorry, but when I hear someone use the word “placard”, I just assume that that person is ancient as hell – as a Mets fan, I automatically think of Casey Stengel talking about the annual Banner Day at Shea.)  And, since the main complaint of most right-wingers regarding OWS is that they do NOT have a clear platform, pipe-dream or not, I have no idea how Ms. Hick finds it “clear” that there’s a sleazy conspiracy afoot.

“* Life isn’t fair. The concept of justice – that everyone should be treated fairly – is a worthy and worthwhile moral imperative on which our nation was founded. But justice and economic equality are not the same. Or, as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Apparently Ms. Hicks is unaware of the next line in the song, “But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need“, so she probably would not comprehend that the OWS protesters are out there trying to get what they need, i.e., opportunities for decent jobs, reasonably affordable healthcare, etc.

“When you demonstrate to eliminate student loan debt, you are advocating precisely the lack of integrity you decry in others. Loans are made based on solemn promises to repay them. No one forces you to borrow money; you are free to choose educational pursuits that don’t require loans, or to seek technical or vocational training that allows you to support yourself and your ongoing educational goals. Also, for the record, being a college student is not a state of victimization. It’s a privilege that billions of young people around the globe would die for – literally.”

In other words, keep to your station in life, kids.  And, for the record, Ms. Hicks, at least millions of young people around the world live in countries which, through their taxation system, DO provide free university educations – and the students don’t have to die for the “privilege”!

“…while making a mad dash from my cab to the door of my hotel to avoid you [the OWS protesters], I saw what isn’t evident in the newsreel footage of your demonstrations: Most of you are doing this only for attention and fun. Serious people in a sober pursuit of social and political change don’t dance jigs down Sixth Avenue like attendees of a Renaissance festival. You look foolish, you smell gross, you are clearly high and you don’t seem to realize that all around you are people who deem you irrelevant.”

“Newsreel footage”?  Again, just how old is this Hicks woman?  And just what evidence does this woman have that the demonstrators were “clearly high”?  What Ms. Hicks also does not understand is that all of those protesters, if they were aware of Ms. Hicks at all, would immediately deem HER irrelevant.  And, finally:

“* There are reasons you haven’t found jobs. The truth? Your tattooed necks, gauged ears, facial piercings and dirty dreadlocks are off-putting. Nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity isn’t a virtue. Occupy reality: Only 4 percent of college graduates are out of work. If you are among that 4 percent, find a mirror and face the problem. It’s not them. It’s you.”

Yes, of course, Ms. Hicks, all of the OWS protesters and their counterparts across the country and around the world have tattoos, body piercing and dirty dreadlocks.  And, for the record, at least 9.1 percent of college graduates cannot find jobs, and the problem is NOT them, IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID.  Ms. Hicks is the one who needs to “occupy reality.”

My friend Maria responded politely to her “friend” that her son, a post-graduate student in mathematics now studying for his doctorate, has neither tattoos nor piercings, nor does he sport dirty dreadlocks.  I wonder if she’ll hear from her “friend” again.  Heh.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, November 16, 2011: Death & Taxes

‘Tis said there are only two things that are unescapable: Death and Taxes.

The Ruling Class, should it have its way, would escape at least the latter. Abolish the “Death Tax!” They cry from their paid mouthpieces. “Death should not be a taxable event!”

But…why not? Why should someone who’s dead care? He’s been relieved of this veil of tears. During his lifetime, he either inherited, or amassed a great fortune. That’s great!

But he hoarded it, dying with millions, even billions, stashed away. He chose not to distribute his hoard while he was alive. Why should he, now that he’s dead, get to pass it all, tax-free, to folks he kept it from while he was alive?

The only way to prevent family dynasties from rising up and controlling everything, is to reinstate the Estate Tax. If our political leaders lack the will to do that, and do it now, then it is already too late.

When too much wealth is concentrated in too few hands, redistribution of wealth is inevitable.


Guest Blogging: Bridges to Nowhere and Beyond

By Pachydiplax

On November 17, 2005, Congress defeated two earmark bills fromAlaska’s sole Congressman, Don Young and the late Senator Ted Stevens, for bridges in Alaska. The first bill earmarked $231 million for what became known as the “Bridge to Nowhere”, a bridge to provide a connection between the port city of Ketchikan and Gravina Island, the location of Ketchikan’s airport. The second bill earmarked $223 million for a bridge connecting Anchorage with Point MacKenzie across the Knik Arm. Both bridges were touted as being important for economic development in Alaska. The 2005 legislation prevented Alaska from spending any federal funds for planning, design or construction of either of these two bridges. The legislation did not eliminate the bridge projects nor did it eliminate the $454 million fromAlaska’s federal transportation funding that year.

The bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina would eliminate the need for the ferryboat that currently serves the 13 families that live on the island and the 200,000 passengers that use the airport each year. The bridge would have to be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge to allow passage for large cargo and passenger ships. The ferry makes its crossing at a narrow location while the bridge would have to be longer than the Golden Gate Bridge, crossing at a wide point, 6 miles south of the ferry crossing, so not to interfere with airport operations. Even thought the bridge hasn’t been built, Alaska did spend our tax dollars to build a road on Gravina Island. It runs for 6 miles south from the airport… to nowhere.

The envisioned 2.6 mile, 4-lane crossing over the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet would consist of causeways built out from each shore connected by a 1.5-mile long bridge. The cost of the bridge and several miles of roadway and interchanges could reach $1.5 billion. The 81-mile drive from Anchorage to the new Goose Creek Correctional facility at Point MacKenzie would only be 12 miles via the bridge. The deepwater port at Point MacKenzie would also benefit from a water crossing to Anchorage. Construction has begun on a 30-mile spur line from the Alaska Railroad at Houston to Port MacKenzie and work is underway reducing road grades and widening roads for expected increases in truck traffic to and from the port. Proponents of the bridge are currently seeking private investors and environmental studies have begun on the bridge project. Meanwhile, there is a need for a way to cross the Knik Arm

That need was closer to being filled in 2010 with the completion of a new ferryboat, the M/V Susitna. Thanks to Senator Stevens and the U.S. Navy, the Mat-Su Borough now owns a $78 million twin-hulled-ice breaking-catamaran ferryboat. It can operate at 17 knots in high seas drawing 12’ of water or reconfigure itself to operate at 4.5’ draft. Unlike any of the 17 ferryboats the State currently operates in the Alaskan Marine Highway system, the M/V Susitna requires more crewmembers than comparably sized ferryboats and crew members require special training. The vessel carries 120 passengers and 20 vehicles. A building housing a passenger terminal and offices for the ferry operators has opened at Port MacKenzie. Now all that is needed are specialized docking facilities at both Port MacKenzie and Anchorage and the ferry will have somewhere to go.

Ev’ry picture tells a story…


Ever take part in one of those exercises in a college class where you’re shown a series of photos without any information or explanation – no text, caption, or context – and you have to figure out what was going at the exact moment the pictures were taken?

Well… I have some pictures here for us to look at… and mebbe together we can all parse out just what the heck was happening when they were taken.

At first glance it appears these pictures were taken at some sort of Congressional hearing, or perhaps a news conference…

Here’s the first one…

Senior Senator from Kentucky and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Wattles)…

What an odd gesture… what could Mitch be talking about? Is he making some sort of confession at this moment, divulging highly sensitive information?

Next up, we have…

California Congressman Darryl Issa (R-Corrupt) making an almost identical gesture to Mitch’s… take note the look of… discomfort… on Darryl’s face as he says his piece…

And then…

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wanker) steps up to the microphone… and like Mitch and Darryl, Paul appears to be revealing some sort of personal secret…

Poor Paul’s is the smallest of the bunch, and by quite a margin… no wonder he ends up at home reading Ayn Rand night after night…

Finally… an unbiased, outside opinion is solicited…

That’s right… it’s Harvard Professor, consumer affairs champion, and current Senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren… simply confirming what all three men have already admitted… “Yes… they really ARE that small…” she seems to be saying…

And even though she’s just agreeing with them, all three men immediately haz a sad…

Poor Elizabeth… damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t…

Apparently this moment is quickly followed by some sort of disturbance… someone else showing up, demanding to be heard…

Who else but noted pundit and oft-rumored tranny…

Ann Coulter… not only is Ann claiming she too has one, but that it’s… HUGE… and its two… uh… ‘accoutrements’…

… are equally oversized…

Now… I don’t doubt for a minute that Ann might actually have one, and that it’s bigger than the men’s… but THAT big? I do hafta call foul at this point…

Anyways… once word gets out that a live mic is up for grabs, others come running…

First Mitt Romney shoves and elbows his way to the stage… and not to be outdone, Mittens stakes his claim in the Size Does Matter Derby

And then, of course, last but not least…

Herman Cain arrives… naturally the Hermanator declares himself to be absolutely the biggest and the baddest and therefore hands down the most qualified of all to lead the country…

And so endeth our story…

Ev’ry picture tells a story… dunnit?

Ev’ry picture tells a story… dunnit?

Ev’ry picture tells a story… dunnit?

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, November 15 – The Battle of Morgarten

In 1315 the Morgarten Battle took place close to the Aegeri Lake in Switzerland. Every year on the day of the Battle November 15th, a shooting competition takes place in the fields there. This is where I spent today’s morning. I scored 34 out of 50 shooting a rifle at 300 yds, 51 out of 60, shooting a Pistol at 50 yards. Currently I eat  Zuger Kirschtorte which is soaked full of Cherry schnapps. I’m fine. Or was. Now I read about the Occupy Wall Street raid and my mood sinks in a hurry.

This is our Open Thread. Ups and/or Downs? How is your day?

lunch on the fly

One of two resident bald eagles here in the salt marshes, I had no more than sat down in a clump of sedge when this one lit on a half submerged snag with its take out. Interrupted by a rude flock of crows, it took off, passing the sushi from beak to claw to claw in mid flight.

Sunday Roast: Tolerating Intolerance aka Cowardice


John Henry breaks down this faulty argument in favor of tolerating intolerance, and the attempt to lay blame on those who call out bigotry and racism:

Those people have a right to not like (x), and forcing them to (interact with x) is a violation of their rights.  Who are you to judge them for what they believe in?  YOU are the one who’s a bigot!

Yeah, nice try.  I think we’ve all heard this “nuh uh, you are!” argument before.  In this video, John Henry blows it right out of the water:

This is our daily open thread — share your wisdom with us!