Monday, July 30, 2012


July 29, 2012
Call me picky but for president I think I prefer a human over a robot. Some do have feelings; remember R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars and Red Dwarf’s adorable Kryten? But Mitt the Wimpy Rombot is not among them. Distant, emotionless, mechanical, he just isn’t one of us flesh-and-blood types: some even question whether he’s of this earth.
There’s no mistaking those jerky automated movements, the silly walk. And the cog-driven insensitivity, as just demonstrated in London with a series of crass and offensive remarks that unleashed a tsunami of angry ridicule on both sides of the Atlantic. He then scheduled a $50,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in Israel on Tisha B'Av, a national day of fasting!
This ‘droid’s auto-insult mechanism is stuck on ‘On’ plus there’s that amazing ability to vocalize contradictory ideas on the same day without flinching. Pre-programmed to regurgitate whatever satisfies an audience at any given time.
However, his controllers can’t fix the faulty memory chip: away from them he’s lost. Here’s an example from May 18: “I’m not familiar with precisely what I said but I stand  by what I said, whatever it was. I’ll go back and look at what was said there.” Whirrrrup! Beep! Rewind, edit-find and replay through his Mitsubishi voice simulator.
He stands by whatever it was he said? Okay, let’s hear what the mechanoid intoned on June 16: “Beep! Just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite...” Wha..? Shut... shut hi...hit that button. Stop him! Which of you imbeciles programmed our Frankenwimp with that third grade answer? You fool! You weren’t supposed to have him actually phonate those words.
But he did. The robot’s gone rogue again.
Manufactured 1947 with an invoice instead of a birth certificate, Rombot has zero concept about the lives we - the citizens his hoity wife calls “you people” - live. He’s never waited in line, never put anything on layaway, never hidden from the rent man, never gone hungry. Never for a moment worried about money. Jay Leno nailed it when he pinpointed Mitt’s summer home as the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
Rombot owns several multi-million-dollar homes. Main docking station is his $12 million California beachside hacienda with 3,600 square foot of below-ground living space. It has a special elevator for his vehicles – he admits to four including his wife’s two Cadillacs. Press a couple buttons and - presto! - his chariot of choice arrives at the doorstep.
Shuffling awkwardly away from reporters like a robot with hemorrhoids, they try to portray him as your regular working stiff. They got the “stiff” part right. But the elegant new jeans and dazzling white shirt with not a button missing, not a sweat stain in sight reveal that here’s a drone that’s never held a screwdriver, never even changed a light bulb.
He’s Rmoney, worth infinitely more than the $250 million he’s unable to deny, refusing to reveal even one year’s complete tax return or his secret offshore bank stashes. He pockets over $20 million a year, yet he tells a gathering of desperate, jobless folks in Florida: “I am unemployed also.”
His account of a “poor” existence in France – as a draft dodger - is discredited by his fellow Mormon missionaries, all now in their 70s. Forced to use a bucket for a toilet, a hose for a shower? What a whopper, they wince. Totally untrue. They lived in a $12 million “palace” with ornate stained glass windows, chandeliers and a fabulous art collection. Mendacious Mitt didn’t rough it at all; a Spanish chef called Pardo cooked his meals and the houseboy shined his shoes.
Back to obnoxious malfunctioning: on TV he offers Texas governor Rick Perry a $10,000 bet like it’s just ten bucks. He’s a sports fan, he says, because his friends own the football and NASCAR teams. And in the midst of a tanked economy that’s struggling to revive he jokes about firing people. Then he babbles: “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
That’s true. This furtive vampire mandroid was digitized long ago to invade businesses and drain them of their lifeblood; roaming America to suck factories dry and spit out the pips in Mexico and China.
Working folks, he’s not your man. Small businesses, he’ll make a profit on your demise. Wall Street? Well, that’s where the Rombot docks at very regular intervals to have his palm greased with moneyfuel purloined from middle class Americans.
Republicans spurned Romney in the primary. Georgia preferred dishonest former House Speaker, Newt “Sneaky Speaky” Gingrich, a man with as much integrity as a plate of rancid chitlins.
George W. Bush might have seemed a buddy you could have a beer with – if you could talk baseball and if he’d get off that wagon he’s been on for the last 25 years. Romney doesn’t touch alcohol either, but that’s no surprise. Robots require oil.
Even Fox News’ Charles Krauthammer, the cadaverous ultra-right-winger known as Count Chocula, joined the mockery that arose from Romney’s British fiasco. Likening him to an athlete who need only finish the race, not win, he sighed: “Instead he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified.”
Me? I believe Americans aren’t the people this misfiring automaton should govern. To use his own tortured phraseology, he’d be better off “self-deporting” himself “retroactively” to North Korea, a nation of kindred humanoids who act in unison to command signals. He could be their new Dear Leader... Rom Jung-il.


© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


July 22, 2012

When the guillotine blade dropped, Parisians crowding into St Jacques’ Square would raise an enormous cheer, and it wasn’t: “Vive le mécréant!” because they’d just seen him separated from his head.
At Tyburn in London there’d be boisterous rejoicing as they watched their own miscreant dance that grotesque jig of death; same as in Tombstone when they stretched some lowdown polecat’s neck.
These were the entertainments of the time. And at this present time I catch myself wondering whether public execution might not be the answer today. Civility aside for a moment, make him suffer. Fry the bastard on primetime TV. Sautée him slowly or boil him in the tears of his victims. Let those affected by this crime take solace from his screams. And that means all of us.
Society’s sweet revenge, and of course this is my rage talking.
They’re still delving into the reason James “The Joker” Holmes massacred those Batman theatergoers and I’m not interested. He had no friends? Was failing in his studies? Career was on the rocks? Couldn’t find a job? So bloody what! All over America folks have had their hopes dashed but they make the best of it. They don’t go on a killing spree just because they feel bad.
So a pox on the guy. I don’t care he was down in the dumps. I only know he slew a dozen innocent folks, wounded several dozen more and then “calmly” surrendered to police. Calmly.
Knowing what he’d just done did the police then “calmly” take Mr. Mass Murderer into custody? They didn’t first give him a solid rodneykinging - wrestle him to the ground, then kick his butt till his nose bled? If they’d beaten him bloody for once I’d say job well done, officers.
I know it’s wrong to feel this way. Am I alone in  this? It’s un-Christian, right? Vengeance is the Lord’s. But then there’s the eye-for-an-eye business and I’m also thinking it’s not enough to end just his one miserable life in payment for the many he snuffed out.
It wouldn’t even suffice to execute him if he’d wounded nobody and killed only one person because there are many more who deserve justice: friends, relatives...
And other victims like you, me, society as a whole, decent human beings with their freedoms restricted, compelled to live fearfully in a world of barriers and safeguards. People now venting a mixture of anger and hatred. And how dare he trigger in us these wickedly vengeful feelings that are so alien to our warm American character. I could kill him just for that.
Was a time when villains far less vile than this guy would be hanged drawn and quartered as a warning to others, their heads displayed on a pike. Or they’d be gibbeted, left to rot in a cage hung from a yardarm, as befell the pirate Captain Kidd. The Romans preferred crucifixion. Barbaric? Uh-huh, but effective. 
Execution is all so clinical now. In 1957 Colorado gassed its other mass murderer, Jack Gilbert Graham, who’d killed his mother and all 43 others aboard United Airlines Flight 629 by placing a bomb in her suitcase,
Today, as in Georgia, that state zaps Death Rowers with a quiet little injection. How humane. What a nice, gentle exit for this pink-haired ratbag – that’s if the lawyers don’t get him off on a “temporary insanity” plea. And madness, as we all already know, is going to be his big excuse.
Innocent until proven guilty? Without even seeing him there clad in black body armor, Holmes’ mother vouched: “You’ve got the right man.”
Oh the bleeding hearts will be out there all right, whining that it wasn’t his fault. He’d lost his mind, he wasn’t himself. Well if he wasn’t himself then he won’t know who it is we’re executing. Maybe he won’t even care.
Like other psychopaths he’s a cancer. It matters not if he’s crazy – he’s diseased. The cure for a diseased body is to cut the cancer out. In Nature the rest of the pack will dispense with the “odd” one. And anyway, what do you do with a rabid animal?
The Colorado shooting may incite copycats - and there are other assorted crackpots like congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) who immediately blamed the slaughter on “attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs”. Huh?
I’ll eschew the fierce debate about gun control, but I will say this: Homeland Security turned my wife into a steeplechaser simply to renew her driver’s license yet this maniac bought an AR-15 assault rifle with the 100-shot drum magazine effortlessly. Didn’t even need to register.
So the evildoers score another victory. We can expect metal detectors in our movie theaters now, as we already have in government buildings and at airports. Most recently Delta Airlines were serving up needle sandwiches thanks to some terrorist in Amsterdam who laced the bread with pins. They’ll catch that culprit, as they will the gypsy pickpockets from Eastern Europe infesting London’s Olympics.
But none of this rivals the carnage wrought by this fiend. If I lost it several paragraphs up and wanted him torn to pieces by ravenous lions I should be sorry. Maybe in time the sentiment will subside.
When they hanged the gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet in Charleston in 1718 they gave him a nosegay: he drew his last gasping breath from a bunch of flowers. No such tussie-mussie for Mr. Holmes, or if so, then just a plump bouquet of poison ivy.


© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Monday, July 16, 2012


July 16, 2012
You’re only one of a hundred mightily peeved folks crowded into the waiting room at the DMV’s new facility in Between. And just about everyone’s complaining this is at least the second time they’re sitting here, their hopes of getting a fresh driver’s license in serious doubt by now.
Or you’re calling about a worrisome question concerning your credit card. The conversation has been so tortured when, in a flash, you suddenly realize the person on the other end has actually been speaking English. And she’s not even one of those tongue-curled-into-the-palate English “speakers” in some faraway Asian call center. She’s an American in Alabama with enunciation so slurred and slovenly you can hardly understand a word.
Proof again and again that... (Put down that trumpet, Herald, and play a daffy out-of-tune fanfare on this kazoo!) we’re doomed! They’ve let the cretins into the control room.
It’s too late now, the imbeciles are inside and they’ve bolted  the door. Nothing works any more, nobody knows anything, nobody gives a hoot. If you care, if you display the slightest hint of common sense, you’re branded a snooty “Elite”.
Wifey’s at the DMV. She’s aware of the hurdles they’ve erected so to prove identity and residence she’s armed with every conceivable document except the tag off our mattress.
First visit: “No, ma’am, this passport is not an acceptable form of identification. We will also need your Social Security card.”
This entails a trek and another sit-down wait at Winder, because the original card is lost, issued so-o-o long ago (sorry, old girl, you’re still young in my eyes) that it’s in Latin. ‘Securitatem Socialis’.
Second visit: “Ma’am, this old driver’s license has a different address on it.”
“Sir, it’s the same house I’ve lived in for 20 years. Walton County kept changing the street number on us. They did it three times.”
 “I can’t accept this
“But you guys issued it. It’s your document. I can prove...”
“I’m sorry ma’am. And this birth certificate needs to be a certified original.”
 “The copy isn’t good enough? It’s OK for the government but not for you? How come it was perfectly adequate when they issued me my passport...”
“You got a passport?”
“Well, yes.”
“That’s acceptable.”
“What? That lady over there in the green told me it wasn’t, so I left it at home.”
“A passport’s OK.”
Of course the Lady In Green denies culpability. Ignorance is so ubiquitous that it’s become the norm and the perpetrators then abrogate their responsibility. “Me? No. Must’ve been some-other-body. Wasn’t me.”
On the third attempt the license is issued. Meantime, Wifey’s made more friends among the huddled masses – mainly senior Waltonians – who all complain of similar contradictory guidance. Oldsters have even greater difficulty jumping through hoops when the morons keep moving them. This time the geniuses at Homeland Security are behind all the confusion.
The rules for renewing your driver’s license have changed dramatically. Time was you could mail in your application together with the appropriate wampum and a few weeks later – bingo! - the new one’s in your mailbox.
Now? Well, let me first swallow a chill pill. Let’s see: Prozac, Valium or Ritalin? Eeny meeny... Nah, maybe a beer.
Not too long ago the Einsteins at Georgia’s Department of Driver Services had your Social Security number right there on the license. Despite that, not a single identity thief sent them a thank-you note. Ungrateful bunch.
Next they included your fingerprint.
Wifey back then at the Conyers DMV:
“Ma’am, yours doesn’t match the one we have on file.”
“Really? But I’m the same person.”
“The print isn’t the same, Ma’am.”
“That’s my picture, officer, and those are my details. It’s not my mistake. I still have these same hands.” (And behind my back they’re clenching and unclenching in total frustration).
Incidentally, Georgia’s DDS claim the millions of fingerprints they collected in this fashion were destroyed, but the federal government won’t give that same assurance. Did they really vaporize them? Keeping them would be highly advantageous as Big Brother’s the head of Homeland Security now.
Ineptitude is everywhere. The doofuses  don’t know but they’ll tell you anyway. Genuinely and blissfully ignorant of the job they’re being paid to do. Some, I’m convinced, don’t - or perhaps even can’t - read those Idiot Cards (as they’re called) that give the pre-determined answers to most people’s questions.
Instead they tell you what they think. Or think they read. Or heard. Or what might’ve come to them once in a dream.
It’s April 14 and I’m calling the IRS office in Atlanta.
“Oh no, sir,” insists the clerk. “Your payment and your tax return must be with the IRS by tomorrow. Mailing it at the post office on the 15th is going to miss the deadline and you will be penalized.”
“But ma’am...”
Have they changed the rules? A call to Vicki Gangi at post office elicits the correct information.
My friend Polo had to go pay $65 to correct a goof some official made on his birth certificate.
“This is the wrong name, sir.”
“I know. You guys mis-spelled it when you issued it. Now the inconvenience and the expense fall to me. “
The worst is when the knuckleheads try to make out their error is your fault, hinting your age could be the reason. Alzheimers schmalzheimers, my friend. I can out-think you guys with one arm tied behind my back. I still have all my faculties and I advise you to go get some for yourself!

© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Monday, July 9, 2012


July 9, 2012

If there’s one clear reason to avoid voting Republican this time around it’s because it’s unhealthy. We’re desperate for jobs, plainly, and we do need to see the economy stabilize, but if you haven’t got your health you haven’t got anything. Count Rugen said that and it’s true.
Before last week’s lackluster job numbers cheered them up again, the veins on apoplectic Republicans’ necks were standing out like knotted rope. Stunned and livid¸ they’d expected Chief Justice John Roberts to toe the party line and smother 2010’s health care reform bill like they told him to because... umm...
For an insider’s explanation let’s turn to last week’s Walton Tribune column by local politician Rob Woodall who has the answer...  Apparently not. He writes only acres of what the Brits and Aussies would call “Shite Lite” – meaningless political jingoism replete with the usual jazzed-up phrases to keep the followers’ heads nodding agreement.
In Rob’s message we see the time-worn buzzwords about freedom and liberty and leadership but nothing of any substance. Lots about comradely shoulder-to-shoulder-ness and commitment “in spades” (too much to ask for a heart). There’s even the fatuous claim of “the president’s takeover of health care”. Evidently he wants rid of that infernal “Obamacare”, but can’t say why. Let’s help him out.
Maybe it’s because a large chunk of Woodall’s campaign money comes from the health industry that stands to benefit whenever oversight and constraints are shaken off. Tea Party treasure Paul Broun receives the same. Plus their own health care is free. These gentlemen are less interested in our wellbeing than in theirs and that of their moneyed sponsors.
Yet despite their wiles it’s still law and more than 650,000 of Georgia’s two million uninsured will now be covered? Well, not necessarily: Governor Nathan Deal has indicated he could refuse the additional $14.5 million in Medicaid even though it’ll cost Georgia nothing for three years, upticking incrementally to a maximum ten percent after 2020. So withholding it from the poor and the elderly, our friends and neighbors, will be a wanton, foot-stamping political tantrum.
These guys are firmly in the pocket of Big Health consequently between now and election time we’ll be hearing much more of their hokum. If they prevail it will cost us dearly. With no other option the Great Uninsured swamp the ERs and by law they cannot be turned away. From this “charity” service alone Georgia’s hospitals lose an estimated $1.5 billion a year; some could face ruination.
The needy milk the system. The system milks those it can. With Federal aid blocked, the entire financial burden falls on us Georgians. Thank you, Governor Deal. Do you really serve the people of this state or the health, pharmaceutical and insurance industries listed as your greatest benefactors?
Republicans vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act that the Supreme Court upheld last month. What are they offering in its place? A relapse.
Back to the dark days of pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits and all the other slimy stratagems of an insurance club that’s already caused so much extra suffering. Back to the days of babies born with an affliction that automatically denies them coverage from their first breath to their last – a death that comes all too soon precisely because medical care is denied them. Kootchy-koo and R.I.P. This way of doing business is not part of a civilized society
The bill that survived the conservative-dominated Supreme Court is incorrectly named. Rather than reforming health care, it harnesses the greedy firms that profit from our misery. Its real name should be the Health Insurance Reform Act because it limits the tricky jive those outfits love to spin.
Still their lackeys keep up the chant about getting Washington out of our health care decisions. Washington isn’t the problem, it’s the fat cat not-to-be-trusted insurance companies.
As an example, in his final year as CEO of Cigna, Edward Hanway turned down a bunch more cancer treatments – a death sentence for many - hiked customers’ rates and bolted with $100 million in his pocket. David Cordani took over last year with a paycheck in excess of $10 million. These are the middlemen who’ve elbowed their way between you and your doctor, not the president, not the government
Once the nuts and bolts of the health law are explained, Americans approve it overwhelmingly. Two thirds of Massachusetts residents cherish the state version that’s was put into effect in 2006 by then governor Mitt Romney. “Romneycare” is the beta-tested version of “Obamacare.”
The economist who designed both is MIT’s Professor Jonathan Gruber. “There’s nothing ‘socialist’ about this,” he says. “It’s an injection of government funds into a private market.” Uninsured folks pay a penalty because the cost of any treatment they incur should not become the burden of everyone else. “Free riders” as Romneycare labels them, make up less than one percent in  Massachusetts and are penalized.
About that Supreme Court decision. It was a bad day for the insurance vultures and a bad day for “pernicious” politicians like those in our area whose allegiance is to the health business instead of to us. For the rest of America it was a great relief.
And I see someone has already called Mr Woodall out on the preposterous claim that doctors make better politicians. Didn’t he also once say ballerinas make the best NASCAR drivers?

© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Monday, July 2, 2012


July 2, 2012

Granted, Athens has been pumping out sweet and stellar melodies for the last half century, but decades earlier the music from Walton County was made by guys who killed and got killed.
This was long before our local band, the Versatilians that featured virtuoso New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll drummer Mark Brill who went on to join the long list of other performers over in the college town.
Ours is a musical area. Attaining a modicum of fame, the Normaltown Flyers called Allen’s hamburger bar home, where a single puff of breath after one of their extremely oniony creations could lay waste to an entire Al Qaeda training camp. Guitarist and leader Brian Burke has interred so many golf balls at the Country Club on the Monroe-Jersey Road that he’s practically a Waltonian himself.
Other Athens groups earning accolades included the B-52s and R.E.M and Widespread Panic as well as the late raver Terry ‘Mad Dog’ Melton. And  there was Jody Hay’s cacophonous combo Caca Fuego.
The Dashboard Saviors scored with the wistfully painful track about a jilted guy’s descent from mediocrity to worse:  ‘A Trailer’s A Trailer (Even If It’s Doublewide)’. Greg Reece’s ensemble Redneck GReece De-lux made ‘Snot-Nosed Kids In A Trailer Park’ a cult hit. What’s with all this miserable mobile home life in Athens?
To escape the pathetic cuckolds and runny noses let’s take 78 back to Walton County, 138 to a house in Walnut Grove and then backpedal a hundred years. That’s where we trace our own world famous superstar whom nobody’s heard of.
He was Robert Hicks, alias Barbecue Bob, born 1902 and you’d have to be at least 85 to remember him. In 1927 he was Columbia Records’ top-selling artist with his very first release ‘Barbecue Blues’. It sold all of 15,000 copies.
With that, Bob’s career took off. He was 25. He cut 68 sides for the label and became immensely popular before his death four years later. Bob was remembered locally for his performances at fish fries and house parties near the family home and in adjacent Newton County. His distinctive white apron and chef’s hat were one of the earliest uses of gimmickry, long before the onstage explosions and light displays, infantile dance routines and near-nudity of today.
In his famous publicity shot, one of only two known photographs, he’s in cook’s garb, grinning, with his foot atop a pile of meat. Far more colorful than the costume with which Columbia’s talent scout Dan Hornsby had outfitted him was Bob’s music.
His voice was strong and lilting, his guitar work coarse. Initially, he strummed in the age-old slashing ‘clawhammer’ style like you would a banjo, of which living bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley is probably the most famous exponent. But soon he was switching between the customary six-string and a 12-string guitar and regularly using a bottleneck to add “zing” to his own trademark country blues sound.
Playing in similar style was his brother, born two years earlier in Lithonia but also from Walnut Grove. This was a blues gentleman name of Laughing Charley who spent the final eight years of his with the smile wiped off his face. He was in prison for murder. Their sister Willie Mae explained he’d gotten life in Cairo for killing a stranger in a Christmas Day argument. He died behind bars in 1963.
The Hicks brothers learned their guitar licks from their mother’s friend, a lady called Savannah ‘Dip’ Shepard Weaver. She lived on a small farm over in Porterdale and mastered piano and guitar.
In their late teens they teamed up with a much younger harmonica wizard from Social Circle named Eddie Mapp who had made a name for himself in Walton and Newton counties playing in the streets for tips.
These three and Dip’s son Curley toured the area as a traveling string band. Curley Weaver, born in Covington, became an international success. From Warren County came 14-year-old Buddy Moss, harmonica and occasionally guitar, to join the ensemble as an additional instrumentalist and vocalist. They called themselves the Georgia Cotton Pickers.
The music suffered in 1931. In late October Bob caught the ‘flu and succumbed to pneumonia exacerbated by his tuberculosis. Three weeks later Eddie Mapp was found stabbed to death on an Atlanta street corner. No witnesses, no evidence, no motive: seems nothing much has changed in the Georgia capital.
Charley continued to perform as Charley Lincoln up until his incarceration. In 1936 Buddy Moss was incarcerated in Greene County for (a) murdering his wife or (b) killing a love rival: your choice, because this has never been fully explained. Six years later Columbia Records got him sprung for good behavior. He went on to become an accomplished blues star through the war years and into the 1960s and died in 1984.
These were the boys from Walton County and their musical friends from the immediate area, famous once, now dead and mostly forgotten. The acoustic blues from these towns east of Atlanta gave way to the electric styles of first T-Bone Walker and then Muddy Waters. But the music of our very own guitar-pickin’ Cotton Pickers lives on.
Curley Weaver’s daughter Cora Mae Bryant was a blues lady in her own right with several superb recordings to her credit. She lived just up the road in Oxford where she’d turned her house into a special music museum featuring, of course, her dad and his buddies. Walton County’s own. She died three years ago aged 82.

© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.