Texas

Daily Prompt: RELEASE ME? FEAR THEN NOTHING MUCH

PA Unite Against the War on Women Rally

Right before I released a long, heartfelt piece in support of the right of women to choose abortion — early in the ongoing War Against Women being waged by the GOP in Texas — I got a bit nervous. I’m not afraid of controversy, but abortion is such a visceral, hot-button issue. No one seems to be able to deal with it rationally. Including me.

So I did something I never do: I asked Garry to read it and tell me if he thought I or it was over the top.

Was I going to be getting hate mail and death threats? He thought it was well-written and not at all crazy.

Stop GOP War

As for hate mail and death threats? “The crazies are always out there,” he said. You can’t let them tell you what you can or can’t write.”

So I published it.

Controversy? I don’t think anyone read or commented on it. It was humbling and funny. Here was probably the most “dangerous” topic about which I’d ever written … and no one noticed. It lingered around then disappeared without a trace beneath a pile of other blogs.

So much for fear! I’ve never worried about releasing anything since. It reminded me I’m just not that influential or important. I can try, but that doesn’t mean anyone is paying attention or cares about my opinion one way or the other. Sometimes, it’s healthy to be put in one’s place. Puts everything into perspective.

 

Jewish Jokes

My father was not a really nice guy, but he was a salesman and spent a lot of time on the road. Consequently, he had an enormous repertoire of jokes. Some I can’t repeat, not because they are dirty, but because they were mostly in Yiddish and they don’t translate, but others are universal.

That’s the thing about ethnic humor. It really isn’t “Jewish” or “Italian” or any other group. It is human. From group to group, there is often more truth in the jokes we tell about ourselves than in any other form of communication.

Mea Shearim in 2006 — Photograph by Ahron de Leeuw

The Nature of the Jewish Husband-Wife Relationship

So one day, a surveyor comes to the home of an Orthodox couple and asks if it would be alright if he asked a few questions about male and female roles in the household.

“Sure, why not?” says the Lady of the House.

“My first question is,” says the surveyor, “Which of you is in charge of making the important decisions about your family or do you split them up?”

“Oh,” says the wife. “We are very traditional. I do the unimportant decisions and he takes care of the really important ones.”

“What unimportant decisions do you make?”

“I decide how we will pay the bills, where to send the children to school, whether or not we need to move to a different neighborhood, how we will handle our healthcare, what we will eat, making sure the children learn about God and attend to their religious duties. That sort of thing,” she explains.

The surveyor is puzzled. “So what,” he asks, “are the important things your husband handles?”

The wife smiles. “He decides what relationship God has with mankind, how we achieve peace on earth, and the nature of righteousness.”

Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee — Israel Ministry of Tourism

Judaism and Jews

Twelve Jews are stranded on a desert island. They are there many years. When finally a ship comes by and they are rescued, the rescuers are surprised to discover that there are 13 synagogues on the island.

The ship’s captain is puzzled. “I can understand,” he says, “why you might have 12 synagogues, but what’s with thirteenth?”

Replies everyone in concert “That’s the one nobody goes to.”

(Note: Whether or not you find this funny depends on your ethnicity.)

Dead Sea – Israel Ministry of Tourism

An Israeli Joke

An Israeli man who studied in Texas gets an email from his old school mate saying that he’s going to visit Israel and can they get together?

Avi is delighted and prepares to show his country to his Texan friend. But while he’s giving his friend  “the tour,” every time he shows something to his friend, the friend says that his father owns, or has built something bigger and better in Texas.

He shows him the Old City in Jerusalem and his friend says “why we’ve got ghost towns on our ranch bigger than that.” When looking at the Sea of Galilee, the Texan comments that “there are puddles bigger than that on our ranch.”

Finally, in near desperation, Avi takes his pal to the Dead Sea.

“You see that?” he says, pointing at the body of water.

“Yup,” says the Texan.

“My father killed it,” says Avi.

The American Hall of Shame: A Not-So-Little List

For commentary, you can read You’re ALL out of order.

These are the details, the who’s who plus the what and when of America’s federal convicted political criminals. Note I say convicted because I’m sure there are lots more that weren’t caught … or haven’t been caught yet. This not only isn’t everyone at the Federal level, it doesn’t deal at all with the state and locally elected criminals, from governors, to mayors, judges and the thousands of local pols. Truly too many to name. That’s not a post. That’s a multi-volume book.

Boston State House

So, to reiterate, this list contains only federal officials, appointed and elected, indicted and convicted while in office. More than a few of them were re-elected after conviction and some while still serving time. You get the government you deserve.

CapitolBuilding

Many people who were convicted during the term of one president did the crime and the time (and were elected or appointed) during an earlier presidency. Typically, regardless of political affiliation, new presidents pardon the miscreants convicted from earlier administrations. It’s a courtesy, one President to another. Nice.

On the other hand, it’s heartwarming to know if you get nailed, the next guy in office will pardon you too.

Obama (D) Presidency

Judicial Branch
  • Samuel B. Kent (R) The Federal District Judge of Galveston, Texas. Sentenced May 11, 2009 to 33 months for lying about sexually harassing 2 female employees. Appointed by George H. W. Bush (1990).
  • Thomas Porteous (D), Federal Judge of the US District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana), impeached, convicted and removed from office December 8, 2010. Charges of bribery and lying to Congress. Appointed by Bill Clinton (1994).
Legislative Branch

Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) pled guilty February 20, 2013 to fraud, conspiracy, making false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture after using approximately $750,000 in campaign money for personal expenses. Not yet sentenced.

2001–2009 George W. Bush (R) Presidency

Executive Branch
  • Lewis Libby (R) Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney (R). ‘Scooter’ convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame Affair, March 6, 2007. Sentenced to 30 months and fined $250,000. Sentence commuted by George W. Bush (R), July 1, 2007.
  • Lester Crawford (R) Commissioner of the FDA, resigned. Pled guilty to conflict of interest. Sentenced to 3 years suspended and fined $90,000 (2006).
  • Claude Allen (R) Advisor to President Bush on Domestic Policy. Arrested for multiple felony thefts in retail stores. (2006) Convicted and resigned.
  • Darleen Druyun (D) Principal Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. Pled guilty to corruption charges, sentenced to 9 months and fined $5,000, with 3 years supervised release and 150 hours community service.
Legislative Branch

Jack Abramoff CNMI congressional influence peddling scandal involving immigration and minimum wage laws. Congressmen convicted in the Abramoff scandal included:

  • Tom DeLay (R-TX) House Majority Leader. Reprimanded twice by the House Ethics Committee. DeLay resigned June 9, 2006. Illegally channeled funds from Americans for a Republican Majority to Republican state legislator campaigns. Convicted  in 2010 by a Texas court of money laundering and conspiracy. Sentenced to 3 years.
  • Michael Scanlon (R) former staff to Tom DeLay: working for Abramoff, pled guilty to bribery.
  • Tony Rudy (R) former staff to Tom DeLay, pled guilty to conspiracy
  • James W. Ellis (R) executive director of Tom DeLay’s political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), indicted for money laundering.
  • John Colyandro (R) executive director of Tom DeLay’s political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), indicted for money laundering.
  • Bob Ney (R-OH) pled guilty to conspiracy and lying in exchange for legislative favors. 30 months.
  • Duke Cunningham (R-CA) pled guilty on November 28, 2005 to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion (Cunningham scandal). Sentenced to 8+ years in prison.
  • William J. Jefferson (D-LA). August 2005, the FBI seized $90,000 in cash from Jefferson’s home freezer. Was re-elected anyway, but lost in 2008. Convicted of 11 counts of bribery and sentenced to 13 years, November 13, 2009.
  • Jefferson’s Chief of Staff Brett Pfeffer, sentenced to 84 months for bribery (2006).
  • Bill Janklow (R-SD) convicted of second-degree manslaughter for running a stop sign and killing a motorcyclist. Resigned from the House. 100 days in county jail plus 3 years probation (2003).
  • Jim Traficant (D-OH). Convicted on 10 felony counts of financial corruption. Sentenced to 8 years in prison. Expelled from the US House of Representatives. (2002)
  • Larry Craig Senator (R-ID). Married Senator and vocal critic of Clinton’s affair, pled guilty to disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis airport men’s room, after having been arrested on a charge of homosexual lewd conduct (2007).
  • Frank Ballance (D-NC) admitted to federal charges of money laundering and mail fraud in October 2005. Sentenced to 4 years.

1993–2001 Clinton (D) Presidency

Legislative Branch
  • Mel Reynolds (D-IL). Convicted of 12 counts of bank fraud (1999).
  • Walter R. Tucker III (D-CA). Sentenced to 27 months 1996, extortion and tax evasion (1995).
  • Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). Convicted on 11 counts of illegally using campaign funds for personal use (1997).
  • Austin Murphy (D-PA) convicted of 1 count of voter fraud for filling out absentee ballots for members of a nursing home (1999).

House Banking Scandal — 450 members of the House of Representatives overdrew their checking accounts and were never penalized. Six were convicted of related charges, and 22 others were sanctioned by the House Ethics Committee (1992):

  • Buz Lukens (R-Ohio) was convicted of bribery and conspiracy.
  • Carl C. Perkins (D-Kentucky) pled guilty to a check kiting multiple financial institutions including the House Bank.
  • Carroll Hubbard (D-Kentucky) convicted of illegally funneling money to his wife’s 1992 congressional campaign.

Congressional Post Office scandal (1991–1995) was a conspiracy to embezzle House Post Office money through stamps and postal vouchers to congressmen:

  • Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) — sentenced to 18 months, 1995.
  • Joe Kolter (D-Pennsylvania) convicted of 1 count of conspiracy. Sentenced to 6 months.
  • Jay Kim (R-CA) accepted $250,000 in illegal 1992 campaign contributions. Sentenced to 2 months house arrest (1992).

1989–1993 George H. W. Bush (R) Presidency

Judicial Branch
  • Robert Frederick Collins (D) Judge of the US District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana). Convicted of bribery. Sentenced to 6 years 10 months.
  • Walter Nixon (D) US Judge (Mississippi) (appointed by Lyndon Johnson,1968). Impeached by House and convicted by the Senate for perjury (1989).
Executive Branch

Catalina Vasquez Villalpando, (R) Treasurer of the United States. Pled guilty to obstruction of justice and tax evasion (1992).

Legislative Branch
  • Nicholas Mavroules (D-Massachusetts). Convicted of extortion, accepting illegal gifts and failing to report income. Pled guilty to 15 counts in April 1993. Sentenced to 15 months. (1993)
  • Albert Bustamante (D-Texas) — Convicted of accepting bribes (1993).
  • David Durenberger Senator (R-Minnesota) — Denounced by Senate for unethical financial transactions and disbarred (1990). Pled guilty to misuse of public funds. One year probation (1995).

1981–1989 Reagan (R) Presidency

Executive Branch

Housing and Urban Development Scandal concerned bribery by selected contractors to get low-income housing project government contracts:

  • James G. Watt (R) United States Secretary of the Interior, 1981–1983, charged with 25 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. Sentenced to five years probation, fined $5,000 and 500 hours of community service.
  • Deborah Gore Dean, (R) Executive Assistant to (Samuel Pierce, Secretary of HUD 1981–1987, and not charged). Dean was convicted of 12 counts of perjury, conspiracy, bribery. Sentenced to 21 months in prison (1987).
  • Phillip D. Winn (R) Assistant Secretary of HUD, 1981–1982, pleaded guilty to bribery in 1994.
  • Thomas Demery, (R) Assistant Secretary of HUD, pleaded guilty to bribery and obstruction.
  • Joseph A. Strauss, (R) Special Assistant to the Secretary of HUD, convicted for accepting payments to favor Puerto Rican land developers in receiving HUD funding.

Wedtech scandal: Wedtech Corporation convicted of bribery for Defense Department contracts:

  • Mario Biaggi (D-New York) sentenced to 2½ years. (1987)
  • Robert Garcia (D-New York) sentenced to 2½ years.

Iran-Contra Affair (1985–1986) involved secret arms sales to Iran in an attempt to secure the release of hostages and let US intelligence agencies fund Nicaraguan Contras (violation of Boland Amendment):

  • Caspar Weinberger (R) United States Secretary of Defense, indicted on 2 counts of perjury and 1 count of obstruction of justice on June 16, 1992. Weinberger received a pardon before his trial from George H. W. Bush on December 24, 1992.
  • Robert C. McFarlane (R) National Security Adviser, convicted of withholding evidence. Given 2 years probation. Pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
  • John Poindexter (R) National Security Advisor, was convicted on April 7, 1990 for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair. Convictions were reversed in 1991 on appeal .
  • Oliver North (R) Member of the National Security Council, was fired by President Reagan on the same day Poindexter resigned. North was found guilty of perjury and conspiracy, but charges were overturned on appeal.
  • Elliott Abrams (R) Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, convicted of withholding evidence. 2 years probation, pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
  • Michael Deaver (R) White House Deputy Chief of Staff to Ronald Reagan 1981–85, pled guilty to perjury related to lobbying activities and was sentenced to 3 years probation and fined $100,000.

Sewergate: A scandal in which funds from the EPA were selectively used for projects which would aid politicians friendly to the Reagan administration:

  • Rita Lavelle (R), assistant EPA Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency misused ‘superfund’ monies and was convicted of perjury. Served 6 months and fined $10,000 with 5 years probation (1984) (Note: And let’s not worry about cleaning up those hazardous waste sites.)
Legislative Branch
  • David Durenberger Senator (R-Minnesota), denounced by the Senate for unethical financial transactions (1990) and disbarred (1995). Pled guilty to 5 counts of misuse of public funds. 1 year probation.
  • Donald E. “Buz” Lukens (R-Ohio). Convicted of two counts of bribery and conspiracy (1996).

ABSCAM FBI sting involving fake ‘Arabs’ trying to bribe 31 congressmen. (1980). The following Congressmen were convicted:

  • Harrison A. Williams Senator (D-New Jersey) was convicted on 9 counts of bribery and conspiracy. Sentenced to 3 years.
  • John Jenrette Representative (D-South Carolina) sentenced to two years in prison for bribery and conspiracy.
  • Richard Kelly (R-Florida) accepted $25K. Claimed he was conducting his own investigation into corruption. Served 13 months.
  • Raymond Lederer (D-Pennsylvania) “I can give you me” he said after accepting $50K. Sentenced to 3 years.
  • Michael Myers (D-Pennsylvania) Accepted $50,000 saying: “…money talks and bullshit walks.” Sentenced to 3 years and was expelled from the House.
  • Frank Thompson (D-New Jersey) sentenced to 3 years.
  • John M. Murphy (D-New York) Served 20 months of a 3-year sentence.
  • Mario Biaggi (D-New York), Convicted of obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison, fined $500,000 for his role in Wedtech. Resigned just before expulsion from the House. The next year he was convicted of another 15 counts of obstruction and bribery (1988).
  • Pat Swindall (R-Georgia) convicted of 6 counts of perjury. (1989)
  • George V. Hansen (R-Idaho) censured for failing to file out disclosure forms. Spent 15 months in prison.
  • Frederick W. Richmond (D-New York),Convicted of tax evasion and possession of marijuana. Served 9 months (1982)
  • Dan Flood (D-Pennsylvania) censured for bribery. Deadlocked jury. Pled guilty, got 1 year probation.
  • Joshua Eilberg (D-Pennsylvania) pled guilty to conflict-of-interest. Convinced president Carter to fire the US Attorney investigating his case.
Judicial branch scandals
  • Alcee Hastings (D-Florida), Federal District court judge impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate of soliciting a bribe (1989). Subsequently elected to the US House of Representatives (1992)
  • Harry Claiborne (D-Nebraska), Federal District court Judge impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate on two counts of tax evasion. He served 1 year.

1977–1981 Carter (D) Presidency

Legislative Branch
  • Fred Richmond (D-New York) – Convicted of tax fraud and possession of marijuana. Served 9 months in prison. Charges of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy were dropped after he agreed to counseling (1978).
  • Charles Diggs (D-Michigan). Convicted on 29 charges of mail fraud and filing false payroll forms in kickback scheme. Sentenced to 3 years (1978).
  • Michael Myers (D-Pennsylvania) Received suspended six-month jail term after pleading no contest to disorderly conduct charged stemming from an incident at a Virginia bar in which he allegedly attacked a hotel security guard and a cashier.
  • Frank M. Clark (D-Pennsylvania) pled guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion, June 12, 1979. Sentenced to 2 years.

Koreagate scandal involving alleged bribery of more than 30 members of Congress by the South Korean government represented by Tongsun Park:

  • Richard T. Hanna (D-California). Convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison.
  • Richard Tonry (D-Louisiana) pled guilty to receiving illegal campaign contributions.

1974–1977 Ford (R) Presidency

Legislative Branch
  • James F. Hastings (R-New York), convicted of kickbacks and mail fraud, he also took money from his employees for personal use. Served 14 months at Allenwood penitentiary (1976).
  • John V. Dowdy (D-Texas), Allegedly tried to stop a federal investigation of a construction firm. He served 6 months in prison for perjury (1973).
  • Bertram Podell (D-New York), pleaded guilty to conspiracy and conflict of interest. He was fined $5,000 and served four months in prison (1974).
  • Frank Brasco (D-New York) sentenced to 3 months in jail and fined $10,000 for conspiracy to accept bribes from a reputed Mafia figure for truck leasing contracts from the post office and loans to buy trucks.
  • Richard T. Hanna (D-CA), convicted in an influence-buying scandal (1974).

1969–1974 Nixon (R) Presidency

Watergate: A Really, Really Big Scandal

Watergate (1972–1973) was about Republican “operatives” bugging Democratic Party National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel entailing a burglary. Which was discovered and exposed in the biggest and baddest government scandal of modern times and the only one that led to the resignation of a sitting president. The only resignation of any sitting president.

If you are too young to have watched the spectacle on television, you can catch up by watching “All The President’s Men.” It’s not as good as the real thing, but it’s as close as you’re going to get. You might watch “Frost-Nixon” too.

The attempted cover up of the affair by President Richard Nixon (R) and his staff resulted in 69 government officials being charged and 48 pleading guilty, including 7 for actual burglary. Eventually, Nixon resigned his presidency. It wasn’t what he did that got him. It was his stupid attempt to cover it up. If he had admitted it and apologized, it probably would have blown over.

Eventually all the malefactors found Jesus, wrote books, and made a fortune on the lecture circuit. Presumably, justice was served. There’s a moral in there. I have no idea what it is.

The following were indicted and convicted:

  • John N. Mitchell (R) former Attorney General, convicted of perjury.
  • Frederick C. LaRue (R) Advisor to John Mitchell, convicted of obstruction of justice.
  • Richard Kleindienst (R) Attorney General, found guilty of “refusing to answer questions” given one month in jail.
  • H. R. Haldeman (R) Chief of Staff for Nixon, convicted of perjury.
  • John Ehrlichman (R) Counsel to Nixon, convicted of perjury.
  • Egil Krogh (R) Aide to John Ehrlichman, sentenced to 6 months.
  • John W. Dean III (R) Counsel to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice.
  • Dwight L. Chapin (R) Deputy Assistant to Nixon, convicted of perjury.
  • Charles W. Colson (R) Special Consul to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice.
Legislative Branch
  • Cornelius Gallagher (D-New Jersey) pled guilty to tax evasion. Served 2 years.
  • J. Irving Whalley (R-Pennsylvania) In 1973, received suspended 3-year sentence and fined $11,000 for using mail to deposit staff salary kickbacks and threatening an employee to stop her from informing the FBI.
  • Martin B. McKneally (R-New York) 1 year probation and fined $5,000 in 1971 for failing to file income tax return. He had not paid taxes for many years prior. (Note: They’d have tossed me in jail and thrown away the key.)
  • New York US Representative James Fred Hastings (R-NY) was a delegate to the 1968 Republican National Convention and the 1972 Republican National Convention. Elected to Congress in 1968. Served from January 3, 1969 until he resigned January 20, 1976 after being convicted of taking kickbacks and mail fraud. Served 14 months at Allenwood penitentiary (1976).

1963–1969 Lyndon B. Johnson (D) Presidency

Legislative Branch

Ted Kennedy — Senator (D-Massachusetts) drove his car into the channel between Chappaquiddick Island and Martha’s Vineyard, killing passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended sentence of two months (1969). He also went on to be one of the nation’s finest legislators. Again, there’s a moral in there. Having taken that drive, it’s hard to believe it happened the way he said it did. I liked Teddy. I just didn’t believe him.

1961–1963 Kennedy (D) Presidency

Frank Boykin (D-Alabama) was placed on probation and fined $40,000 following conviction for conflict of interest and conspiracy to defraud the government. Pardoned by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

1953–1961 Eisenhower (R) Presidency

  • Thomas J. Lane (D-Massachusetts) convicted for income tax evasion. Served 4 months, but was re-elected three more times before his 1962 defeat due to re-districting (1956).
  • Ernest K. Bramblett (R-California) Received a suspended sentence and a $5,000 fine in 1955 for payroll padding and getting kickbacks.

1945–1953 Truman (D) Presidency

  • Walter E. Brehm (R-Ohio) convicted of accepting illegal contributions from employees. Received 15 month suspended sentence and a $5,000 fine.
  • J. Parnell Thomas (R-New Jersey), member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), was convicted of salary fraud and given 18 months and a fine. Resigned from Congress in 1950. He was imprisoned in Danbury Prison with two of the Hollywood Ten he had helped put there. (Note: Karma’s a bitch.) After serving, 18 months, was pardoned by Truman (D) in 1952.
  • Andrew J. May (D-Kentucky) was convicted of accepting bribes in 1947 from a war munitions manufacturer. Sentenced to 9 months, then pardoned by Truman (D) in 1952.

1933–1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) Presidency

John H. Hoeppel (D-California) convicted in 1936 of selling an appointment to the West Point Military Academy. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 4–12 months.

1921–1923 Harding (R) Presidency

Teapot Dome Scandals: The Harding administration was rocked by scandals caused by Harding’s old Ohio friends who he had appointed to positions in his administration, known as the Ohio Gang. My mother to her dying day was convinced Harding was poisoned by his own “people.”

They did say it was food poisoning. Perhaps what they left out was what kind of poison was in the food?The list of the convicted included:

  • Albert Fall (R) Secretary of the Interior, bribed by Harry F. Sinclair for control of the Teapot Dome federal oil reserves in Wyoming, the first (but by no means the last) U.S. cabinet member to be convicted. Served two years (1922).
  • Charles R. Forbes (R) appointed by Harding as the first director of the new Bureau of Veterans Affairs. After constructing and modernizing VA hospitals, convicted of bribery and corruption. Sentenced to two years.
  • Thomas W. Miller (R), Head of the Office of Alien Property: convicted of fraud by selling German patents seized after World War I and bribery. Served 18 months.

1901-1909 Theodore Roosevelt (R) Presidency

  • Henry B. Cassel (R-Pennsylvania) was convicted of fraud related to the construction of the Pennsylvania State Capitol (1909).
  • John Mitchell Senator (R-Oregon) was involved with the Oregon land fraud scandal, for which he was indicted and convicted while a sitting US Senator (1905).
  • Joseph R. Burton Senator (R-Kansas), convicted of accepting a $2,500 bribe (1904).

1869–1877 Grant (R) Presidency

Whiskey Ring: Massive corruption of Ulysses S. Grant’s (R) administration involving whiskey taxes, bribery and kickbacks ending with 110 convictions (1875).

1777–1868

  • Matthew Lyon (Democratic Republican-Kentucky). First Congressman to be recommended for censure after spitting on Roger Griswold (Federalist-Connecticut). The censure failed to pass. Also found guilty of violating John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts and sentenced to four months in jail, during which period he was re-elected (1798). Setting a precedent, I guess.
  • John Pickering, Federal Judge (appointed by George Washington) was impeached and convicted in absentia by the US Senate for drunkenness and use of profanity on the bench though neither act was a high crime or misdemeanor (1804).

Right to life versus the right to a decent life

A good friend in Texas who used to live here in New England is fighting a lonely battle in her town for the right of women to retain control over their bodies. Texas is the frontline of the war against women, a war I thought we’d won years ago with Roe V. Wade and the end of (formal, official) discrimination against women in the workplace.

pro-choice-advert

She and I remember the bad old days. We were there together. The days of backroom abortions performed with chlorine bleach, coat hangers and turkey basters. When sepsis or perforation of your uterus was not an unusual price to pay to end a pregnancy. Where young women, unable to obtain an abortion threw themselves off bridges rather than have an unwanted baby, or tried to abort themselves, often with lethal results.

Despite conservative backlash and brainwashing on this issue, having an abortion was not and is not a sign one is irresponsible or anti-life.

suffragettes

Women have abortions for all kinds of reasons, rarely because they hate babies. Reasons include fear for their own health, the welfare of existing children and a desire to survive. Birth control still isn’t 100% reliable. Meanwhile, the same men who are trying to stop women’s access to abortion are determined to prevent women from getting effective birth control. If there is any logic to that, I can’t figure out what it is.

What’s their real point? I don’t think it has anything to do with life. It’s about power and about putting women back in their place so men can take back the control they’ve lost. Back to the kitchen for us, barefoot and pregnant.

If men had babies, this would not be happening.

I had an abortion.

There. I’ve said it. My husband was in the hospital with cancer. It was so early in the pregnancy — no more than 4 weeks — the available tests were unable to read it accurately. The test said I wasn’t pregnant, so technically it wasn’t an abortion. Regardless, I knew.

It was the worst possible time to discover myself pregnant. I didn’t know if my husband would survive. (In fact, he didn’t live long.) We were financially stressed to the max. I had just gotten into a master’s program, a highly competitive program, more than 2000 applications for a couple of dozen spots. But I looked at my life and thought: “I don’t need more education. I need a job.” And no matter how I tried to fit the pieces together, a baby was not in the picture.

I had a “menstrual extraction” which was what you got when the test read negative but you knew it was lying. Plausible deniability. It was done in a doctor’s office without anesthesia. That’s a lot of pain, during which you dare not move lest a blade slip and do some serious, permanent damage.

war-on-women

So many women my age went through similar or much worse experiences. Were we happy about it? No, but we weighed our options, talked it over with friends, family, counselors, ministers … and then did what we felt was best, not just for us but for everyone affected. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What happens to mom happens to the whole family. We were adult women. We had the right and the obligation to decide what happens to our bodies and our lives.

I maintain my long-standing position on this matter: if you are not in personal possession of a vagina and/or a uterus, your opinion is unwelcome. I do not care what you believe. Until you walk in my shoes and live in my body, you know nothing.

Why am I weighing in on this? The it-wasn’t-really-an-abortion occurred more 40 years ago and no one but my closest friends knew it happened — until now. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m sorry it happened, but I believed I was doing the right thing then and I still believe it now.

How ironic that women are again facing the spectre of those horrible, terrifying, desperate days. The nightmare of the back room and the coat hanger is looming, a dark shadow I cannot ignore.

The most significant gains in personal freedom women have won are at risk. If we don’t speak up, speak out, and stand together, we will lose it. All of it.

I am long past child-bearing age. But this isn’t about me, my friends or my life. It’s about all women. About whether or not we have the right to decide for ourselves what will happen to us. If ever there was a right to life involved, how about the right of women to have a good life, bear the number of children they want, to not be managed by men whose stake in the issue is tangential at best? How about that?

No one wants an abortion. But sometimes, you need one.

How Come They Don’t Simply Open the Windows? A Film Maven’s Dialogue

Earlier today, my husband the movie maven wrote me and a few of his old TV pals. He had a question, perhaps one that has long needed answering. Given the cost and scarcity of panes of glass in Ye Olde West, how come instead of breaking all the glass before shooting, why didn’t they open the windows? Following is the actual dialogue of leading movie experts.

Here’s the dialogue:

Garry (Chief Movie Maven and Former TV Journalist): Surprise!! I’m watching an old “High Chaparral” episode: ( A) Why do they always break the windows before the shootouts? Couldn’t they open the window first? Glass was expensive! ( B) How come the guys stationed on rooftops always get shot first in those shoot outs? – Big John Cannon

Marilyn (Blogger Supreme and Former Writer of Books Nobody Ever Read): I never thought about the windows. Not only are they expensive, but they’d be pretty hard to get. I mean, did they make that stuff on the ranch? Or did they have to haul it from back east?

Texas Tom

Texas Tom (Retired Famous TV Anchor): This reporter is nowhere near the movie expert that you are. However, my sense is they always break the windows for (first of all) the visceral sound effect of the breaking and shattering glass, which  also is a much stronger macho gesture than simply opening a window. Besides, opening the  window just might require one or two more seconds than smashing the glass, which can be interpreted as an act of absolute crazed panic and desperation, and also shows the blood curdling anger and hostility of the glass breaker’s killer instinct. As for always shooting the guys on the roof first, my sense again runs to the most bang for the moment answer. Having a stunt man tumble a story or two from a roof, balcony, overhang or whatever has a much more visceral (there’s that word again) impact on the  viewer’s brain and gut than simply shooting a guy standing  in front of you, or  on the same level with you.  It’s a much more dramatic way of saying “this is the real deal here”.  – T. Texas Tom: Champion Cap Gun Fighter of the Entire West

Garry: Damn, you are so much more cerebral than me. You sound more like a Pilgrim than a Texican. Mebbe it’s because we’re on a fixed income that I wince when they just break the windows rather than opening them to spray lead. That’s another thing. You would think they would be more economical with their bullets. Let the bad guys use up their ammo and shoot when you have a clear target. I guess the Duke would be pissed if he heard this austerity rant.

Jordan (Well-Known Radio Talk-Show Host): Do you think they only manufactured breakaway glass and furniture back in the old west?  Thought stuff back then was made to last?

Marilyn: You’d think the chairs would collapse if you sat in them. Balsa must be sturdier than I thought.

Garry: Yeah, I used to laugh my ass off at the six shooters that never ran out of bullets. Also, Roy, Gene and our other heroes being chased by hordes of bad guys could shoot over their shoulder with precision and nail three bad guys with one bullet.

Texas Tom: Remember (of course you do) in the old Westerns with Hoot, Gene and Roy and Tex and those old guys would chase the bad guys and shoot for a whole reel without ever reloading?   We used to laugh about that never-ending stream of bullets … they never ever fired their last one.

Marilyn: No one ever went into town to buy bullets, either. They must have had an armoury somewhere. Even the Lone Ranger never told Tonto to go into town and buy some ammo. They only ran out of bullets if the script writer decided it was the time to heighten the tension.

Pride IS a Sin

 

Proud to be an American? Are you really? If so, how come?

Everybody these days is proud of being something. Proud to be from Texas. Proud to live in the greatest city on earth (fill in the name of city). Proud to be white. Proud to be a man, but proud to be a woman. Proud to be Irish, Black, Hispanic, Polish, Greek, Jewish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Christian, Hindu, Muslim  … any religion, ethnicity, or nationality will do as well as any other.

Life is a game of chance. Play well.

We are all so damned proud.

But I ask again: what makes you proud to be something that was an accident of birth? Are you proud to be alive? Human? Proud you aren’t dead of disease, starvation, natural disaster, or war?

I am not proud to be an American. I am glad to be an American, grateful to be free to live in this beautiful valley. I love the United States. I think it’s fundamentally a great nation which, if we stopped screwing around, could be even greater. But proud? What does pride have to do with it?

I’m proud of some of the things I’ve written, some of the pictures I’ve taken. I’m ashamed of things I’ve done, too. I haven’t always lived up to my own beliefs. Has anyone really? I’m proud of what I’ve earned, but I’m not proud of the gifts I was given at birth. I am deeply grateful that I was lucky enough to receive them. To be proud of them would be pure hubris. I didn’t earn them. They came free. What I do with them may or may not give me an excuse for pride.

Photo credit: Garry Armstrong

Assuming, of course, that you believe pride is a good thing and not, as every good Christian should, believe that pride is the ultimate and deadliest of sins.

I am proud of my country’s achievements, but ashamed and embarrassed by other things we’ve done. I believe our Constitution is one of the finest legal documents ever written. That we so often fail to live up to it saddens me, but at least we had founders who weren’t airheads or mass murderers, a burden other nations bear.

Pride implies you actively participated or contributed to whatever makes you proud. I don’t think being born qualifies. Birth gets you get a ticket to stand at the starting line plus a chance to run the race. To live. After that, it’s the life you live that matters.

So I’m glad to be an American. I’m happy I was born here and not in Sarajevo or Beijing. But I didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t a choice I made. Nothing was required of me. My mother’s pregnancy occurred here and not somewhere else. If she had been Mexican or Turkish? Then, by current jingoistic ethnocentric guidelines, I’d surely be proud to be Turkish or  Mexican.

Borders are lines on a map. There are no substantive differences except those imposed by tradition and politicians who live on one side or the other of an invisible, artificial, politically driven boundary. If you live on the border of another country, you are no doubt aware the only reason you are who you are is luck. For that matter, your social status, your class, religion, ethnicity, level of wealth of poverty … all dumb luck.

Liberty Hall, Philadelphia

You aren’t special because you were born to a family that is rich, white, Christian, Republican or anything else. You are not defined by your parents nor by their traditions, religion, politics, or social status.

The life you live will define you. The choices you make, the work you do, the way you treat the rest of God’s creatures as you walk your path determine your character.

Being righteous isn’t special. It’s what you are supposed to do. That’s why you have a conscience and free will. Whatever you got or didn’t get when you were born determines where you stand as the race begins, but you define who you are at the finish.

What you do in this world may perhaps be something to take pride in.  Where and what you were at your birth are not.

Does that make me unpatriotic? Patriotism and love of country should be tempered by intelligence and the understanding that nations, like people, don’t always do the right thing. You are entitled to judge your country, state, and elected officials by the same standards as anything or anyone else. Judge your homeland on its merits, not because an accident of birth dropped you there.

This isn’t the currently popular viewpoint, but if you get it, spread it. No nation gets a free pass for bad behavior. You don’t get a free pass for bad behavior, do you?

Most of us are glad if we break even at the end of the month. We don’t have batteries of lawyers to finagle our way out of trouble. We have to deal with the consequences of our actions. Being “a product of your times or environment” is no excuse for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, or cruelty. It is never acceptable to mistreat people because they are different or your segment of society despises them.

You aren’t special. You just think you are.

Ask God. Ask yourself. Look in a mirror. What have you done to deserve the air you breathe? If you don’t have an answer, you probably should reconsider your priorities and maybe, your life.

 

Proud to be …

Proud to be an American.

Proud to be from Texas. Proud to live in the greatest city on earth (fill in the name of city). Proud to be white. Proud to be a man, but proud to be a woman. Proud to be Irish, Black, Hispanic, Polish, Greek, Jewish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Christian, Hindu, Muslim  … any religious affiliation, ethnicity, or nationality will serve. Why? What makes you proud to be something that was an accident of birth? Are you proud to be alive? Human? Proud you aren’t dead of disease, starvation, natural disaster, or war?

I am not proud to be an American. I certainly am glad to be an American, happy that I am free to live in a beautiful place and have a home in this valley. I love the United States. I think it’s fundamentally a great nation which, if we stopped screwing around, would be an even greater one. But proud?

I’m proud of things I’ve written, some things I’ve done, and ashamed of others. I’m proud of what I’ve earned. I’m not proud of the gifts I was given at birth, but I am deeply grateful that I was lucky enough to receive them.

I am proud of my country’s achievements, but ashamed and embarrassed by other things we’ve done. I believe our Constitution is one of the finest legal documents ever written anywhere at any time. That we so often fail to live up to it saddens me, but at least we had founders who weren’t airheads or mass murderers, a burden other nations bear.

Pride implies you actively participated or contributed to whatever makes you proud. I don’t think being born qualifies. If you exist, you were born (not counting Jesus and other less popular deities). Birth gets you get a ticket to stand at the starting line and a chance to run. To breathe air. After that, it’s up to you. What you do by the time your life concludes may or may not confer any right to be proud.

So I’m glad to be an American. I’m happy I was born here and not in Sarajevo or Beijing. But I didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t a choice I made. Nothing was required of me. My mother’s pregnancy occurred here and not somewhere else. If she had been Mexican or Turkish? Then, by current jingoistic ethnocentric guidelines, I’d surely be proud to be Turkish or  Mexican.

Borders are lines on a map. There are no substantive differences except those imposed by tradition and politicians who live on one side or the other of an invisible, artificial, politically driven boundary. If you live on the border of another country, you are no doubt aware the only reason you are who you are is luck. For that matter, your social status, your class, religion, ethnicity, level of wealth of poverty … all dumb luck. You aren’t special because you were born to a family that is rich, white, Christian, Republican or anything else. You are not defined by who your parents were, nor by their traditions, religion, politics, or social status. The life you live will define you. The choices you make, the work you do, the way you treat the rest of God’s creatures along your path … these determine your character.

The only thing that you could legitimately take pride in is the good you do and if you are either Jewish or Christian, even that is wrong and lessens the value of the righteous acts you perform. Charity performed anonymously is of far greater value than anything for which you get recognition or rewards.

Being righteous isn’t special. It’s what you are supposed to do. That’s why you have a conscience and free will. Whatever you got or didn’t get when you were born determines where you stand as the race begins, but you define who you are at the finish.

What you do in this world may perhaps be something to take pride in.  Where and what you were at your birth are not.

Does that make me unpatriotic? I don’t think so, but others will disagree. I think patriotism and love of country needs to be tempered by intelligence and the realization that nations, like people, don’t always do the right thing. When nations are better than they need to be … or worse than they should be … you are free to judge them as you would a person who does well or badly. Judge your homeland on its merits, not because an accident of birth dropped you there.

I know this isn’t a popular point of view or one that everyone will understand, but if you get it, spread it around. Nations don’t deserve a free pass for bad behavior. You don’t get a free pass for bad behavior, do you? Unless you are super rich, in which case you get to do whatever you want and count on your lawyers to take care of the fallout.

Most of us are not super rich or even sort of rich. A lot of us are glad if we break even at the end of the month. We have to deal with the consequences of our behavior. Being “a product of your times or environment” is not an excuse for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, or cruelty. It has never been okay to mistreat fellow creatures because they aren’t like you or because you grew up in a world that despises them. You aren’t special by reason of birth.  You just think you are.

Ask God. Ask yourself. Look in a mirror. What have you done to deserve the air you breathe?

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