Wednesday, September 26, 2012

THE DOGHOUSE IS TOO GOOD FOR THESE BEASTS

 
September 26, 2012

The planned light-hearted column about the joy of dogs has been postponed. Instead I’m having to address some of the unfeeling individuals who treat them like toys or tools. Or worse.
Some folks insist on owning designer dogs, perhaps to parade them at shows like The Westminster or Crufts. Imagine if we humans were being bred to a standard of perfection. Oh wait, Hitler tried it. And inbreeding comes with its own problems anyway.
There are degrees of cruelty; begin with the least offensive:
1. A dog shouldn’t have to do tricks for food or even for treats. It’s degrading. Do you make your children roll over and play dead to get dinner? Maybe go fetch their own breakfast sometimes, but nothing more demeaning.
2. Having “inside” and “outside” dogs is unfair and unfeeling. What, like house or garden furniture? You shower love and tidbits on one while treating the other like livestock? Think he doesn’t notice?
3. Tying your dog up, whether or not on a “run” shows the same insensitivity. Some homes keep two outside dogs, a front pooch and a back pooch. In New York tethering your dog outside for more than three hours in any 12 is a criminal offense.
4. Pickup pups make a statement about the driver. Hauling your hound around like a piece of freight makes you the real tough guy, huh. “Muh dawg is muh accessory, stay clear of that tool box he’s guardin’. He’s a mean one. He might bite you.”
4a. I’ve even seen a dog on a flatbed in heavy traffic, forced to scramble for his life at every curve to avoid sliding off.
5. Junkyard mutts lap up the sweet-tasting antifreeze leaking from engines. When that poison kills them their owners just shrug and get another one.
6. Puppy mills are hell with bitches bred to death in abject squalor. We should never buy from them nor from the pet stores they supply. Instead welcome a shelter animal into your home.
7. There are sick and vicious individuals who’ll shoot a dog just for stepping onto their property. I have a neighbor like that; another is country singer Travis Tritt.
8. Those who torture animals should be waterboarded. Period.
9. Owners who “gift” their dog to a shelter once the poor creature gets old or infirm. At the very time Lucky needs you the most his luck runs out. He’s dumped.
9a. Some of these – I can hardly bring myself to call them “people” – then go right out and get a younger dog. They trade-in old for new just like you would a car.
10. Dogfighting fans should be thrown to the wolves. In Georgia it’s a felony, first offence reaping a mandatory $5,000 fine and a year’s incarceration. Some evil Michael Vick types stole two of my neighbor Peggy’s timid pups to be torn apart as “bait” in training pit bulls.
Cannot end this without mentioning the Mitt Romney dog-on-the-roof story that’s drawing criticism and disgust, and created the movement Dogsagainstromney.com. Admittedly, this happened in 1983, but his son Tagg discussed it more recently and this election year Romney himself has been desperate to stifle it.
Answering ABC-TV Diane Sawyer’s question would he do it again: “Certainly not - not with the attention it’s received.” His wife Ann adding: “The dog loved it.” Loved being turned into luggage, made sick and then forced to endure a repeat dose of this cruelty. Yeah, he “loved it”.
That’s who these people are, the Romneys. For those who missed it, here again is what happened:
Seamus the Irish setter was the family pet accompanying them the 12 hours to their annual summer retreat by Lake Huron. But not inside their Chevvy station wagon - no sir. Seamus was placed in a crate and strapped to the roof. He was scared poopless. When diarrhea began dripping down the windows and doors Romney found the next gas station, hosed down dog and car and continued on. Seamus, wet and shivering, was placed back on the roof for a further six hours of terror.
Judging from their responses the Romneys still today don’t realize the sheer icy callousness of what they did. His sole concern was that the story had gotten out. She simply... lied. No other word for it. They didn’t even offer a phony apology.
Mitt says he gave Seamus to his sister to live out an idyllic life in the country (the usual pastoral fable, spun to the flute of the William Tell Overture, 3rd movement). But at the time two of his sons gave reporters a wholly different version: they said as soon as they got to their destination the traumatized dog ran away.
We should all run away from the cold-hearted Romneys of this world.
Animal cruelty must be reported. Let the police know you’ll continue checking on the situation to ensure the perps are indeed prosecuted. Write a short report for the county commissioners and keep a copy. Swear out a warrant and ask your vet to provide expert opinion: this can make an enormous difference..
The degree of disdain I hold for the above bastards is commensurate with the amount of heartlessness or cruelty each of them exercises.
So that’s my list of nasty individuals for whom I hope there’ll be a special messy corner in Hell where they step in dog doo-doo for all eternity. With both feet. And no shoes on.

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© 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.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULDN’T BE AN ORRY



September 19, 2012

O. That’s all you need say or write because for almost 25 years just about everyone has known who you mean and it’s not Obama. The president’s being called all manner of things but never just O. It’s Oprah, isn’t it – that’s  who O is. One solitary letter defines a person. Wow! If this were a board game the single O would surely trump three-letter flushes like presidents JFK, LBJ and FDR.
Noteworthy how we bestow this kind of MLK-type shorthand upon some of our American icons while others like Lincoln, Nixon and Reagan don’t merit it.  Nor even Washington and his companion founding fathers. No other country abbreviates this way. They use surnames: Hitler, Thatcher, Mussolini, DeGaulle and Blair, the British delighting in anagramming their unpopular former premier into Tony B. Liar.
For obvious reasons, nobody ever addressed Jimmy Carter as JC, or Barack Obama as BO. And dubbing Winston Churchill WC would have been, shall we say, quite potty,
Having yourself reduced to letters is ace, but being known by your surname alone is still pretty cool: (Rudolph) Valentino and (Grigori) Rasputin spring to mind. Probably should include Streisand and definitely De Niro.
And whyfor did Mr and Mrs Rock call their son The? They didn’t. The Johnsons’ son Dwayne used his nickname, The Rock, as his real name the way Paul Hewson became Bono, Gordon Sumner was Sting and Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta evolved into Lady Gaga.
Then there’s the woman known as Fergie, the greedy and extremely nosewrinkleworthy Sarah Ferguson, ex-wife of Britain’s equally obnoxious Prince Andrew. Fifteen years later up pops American singer Stacy Ann Ferguson to become a second Fergie to the distasteful Duchess.
Today, there are also entertainers who go by only their first name. Seal, Rihanna, Mo’nique. No mystery as to why Icelandic singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir does.
But Madonna? I always thought that name was reserved for the Mother of Jesus, and then along comes this Ciccone floozie and dons the virgin garb, although she scarcely ever was one. Sacriligeously burns crosses and seduces a black Jesus. And then dedicates her ‘Like A Virgin’ to the Pope. All so disgustingly tacky.
In this country first names are used in all situations, even uncomfortable ones. “You’re under arrest for bruising Bruce and butchering Butch so you’re busted, Buster!” Somehow, calling me by my first name as I’m dragged, whimpering and incontinent, to the electric chair seems frightfully inappropriate.
Did this first-name business all start with Cher?  Not at all. Nor with Napoleon. Like everything, it goes way, way back, in this case to Adam and Eve. What exactly was their family name? Anyone know? When they set up home in their starter cave and put out the shingle by the mailbox what did it say? Maybe just the address: 1, Garden of Eden, Earth. No zip code in those days, of course.
Clearly, the use of given names has been a necessity in this multi-cultural United States because trying to pronounce some of the last names is oftentimes too gymnastic for the American tongue.
In too many instances the Irish-American officials at Ellis Island spelled names incorrectly, especially round St. – hic! - Patrick’s Day. Karol Józef Wojtyła was Pope John Paul II (“He love you,” remember that rhyme of his?) but a relative was Detroit auto worker John Wojytla whose Polish immigrant grandparents saw their surname switched around. Some who’ve been saddled with names that feel uncomfortable manage to insist on being called something else. Willard Romney says he’s ‘Mitt’. Our governor George Perdue dubs himself ‘Sonny’. Me? I’m stuck with mine: it’s the middle name that used to cause me such great embarrassment in my youth.
OK, so we’ve come full circle. O names include the late folk singer Odetta, flash-in-the-pan R&B artist Olivia and the highly objectionable loudmouth Omarosa. There was Jackie O and the Story of O, the erotic classic by Pauline Reage, real name Anne Desclos. And now we have another, a far less licentious tale. My own story of O.
Until I was old enough to fight back and discard it, I was called by my middle name: Orry. I’ve always resented being an Orry. Not when I was still in primary school and nobody seemed to take any notice. it was only later when the name’s perfect oddness hit me. And others. I was, so to speak, plainly... orryfied.
It does sound a bit Frenchy, the way they pronounce Henri and I would have preferred even that, perhaps Harry. But Orry?
Back in the day, there was a Viking chieftain of that name who ruled the Isle of Man, that cute 220 square-mile pimple in the Irish Sea midway between England and Ireland where I was born. It’s the national Manx name and I hated it. At times I’d dream about being my parents’ dad and excavating similarly bizarre first names for them.
Orry. Almost as shudderingly embarrassing as being a Boy Named Sue. But now I notice guys called Ormus and Ortwin and it’s a great relief.
Better still, watching television I find a brother. Orry’s the name of the Confederate hero in John Jakes’ epic ‘North And South’: Orry Main. How did ol’ Jakesy come up with that curious combination? You’d expect it to be the signoff at the end of a letter: Or a column.
Orry Main,
Yours Cynthia Lee,
Freddy

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© 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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

THAT’S RIGHT - YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT ALONE




September 12, 2012

You didn’t build that. So what was he talking about? The flim-flam artists extracted those four words from President Obama’s speech and turned them into a reusable cannonball to fire at him at will.
Mitt Romney and his pals shortened what was really said so as to give it the exact opposite meaning. Then they made that brazen distortion the central theme of their convention.
Here’s the actual sentence: “"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business... you didn’t build that.”
It’s abundantly clear to all but the dumbest cluck that he meant the unbelievable American system. Full marks to you, of course for creating your business but you had help you didn’t even know about. In other words, the unseen work of your countrymen is helping it run.
For anyone to actually believe the president thinks someone who built up a business didn’t really do it beggars belief. It takes a lo-o-ong stretch of the imagination. And yet that’s what the liars actually want us to think. It’s the way of politics today but surely no-one’s birdbrained enough to swallow that ridiculous notion.
In his column of August 8, local Republican chairman Roy Roberts misquotes the president as saying: “They didn’t make it.” Say what? Still gettin’ it wrong, Roy. Do try and keep up; you’re not even close so you owe us all a cigar. Clearly, accuracy is not this old gentleman’s strong point. Maybe it’s time The Chairman moved over to his rockin’ chair.
Did the president “insult” small business owners by reminding them they had some assistance? I might could know a little bit about small business. In 1977 I arrived in New York from London with a wife, 7-year-old child and just $1,200. I was soon given so many assignments by various foreign news outlets that I had to hire help. My agency grew, providing work for a couple dozen journalists, all money coming from outside the USA but spent right here on home and office necessities including telephones, taxis, airlines... and taxes.
My employees deserve full credit, but nothing would have been possible without the infrastructure put there and maintained by other folks. I built it... with the backing of them all.
So is the truth important? To me, very. To some I know it’s anathema. When challenged about falsehoods just before the Republican convention last month Romney’s close aide Neil Newhouse harrumphed: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
Then Romney running mate Paul Ryan went straight onstage and told the world a big fat howler. He said Obama had broken a promise to keep open a General Motors assembly plant in his Wisconsin hometown of Janesville. What Ryan didn’t say was that the plant was closed before Obama even took office.
Still, you tell the lie often enough without flinching, which he did, then folks believe you. California Democrat John Burton got in a flap last week for invoking the name Josef Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist. Let’s take a look at the history here.  
In ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler wrote about regular folks: “In the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victim to the big lie than the small lie.”
You tell it big, you tell it often and ordinary working people will believe it because they cannot imagine anyone being so brazen. Goebbels added his two pfennigs when he accused Churchill and Britain of exactly that. He then went on to use the Big Lie to justify the government-sanctioned murder of six million Jews.
Taking words out of context is an easy way of duping the population – unless you get caught. When Romney said he “liked to fire people” it was clear he meant insurance companies, not workers. Democrat Jack Markell was caught.
A look at PolitiFact.com reveals who’s telling the most atrocious untruths these days. Fortunately for Romney, he has oodles of money for pants because he has already burned up 15 pairs; Michele Bachmann is a close second with 13 panties on fire. Obama’s whoppers were five – below Newt Gingrich’s seven and John McCain’s nine. Overall, Republican Big Lies totaled 180 to Democrats’ 33. Tell you something? Yeah yeah, whenever faced with uncomfortable facts the indoctrinated attack the messenger.
Republicans were squealing with glee, though, as they twisted Obama’s four words into a battle cry, pretending he was anti-small business, anti success, anti-America. Innovators from the Wright Brothers through Henry Ford to one of Obama’s great heroes, Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs, were shown as “not” having built “that”.
Gaudily emblazoned at their convention, the slogan: “We built it”. Built what? They didn’t say. It wasn’t the Tampa Bay Times Forum they occupied because two thirds of its construction was financed by government. And who’s the “we”? A key speaker, small business owner Sher Valenzuela from Delaware, turned out to have received $17 million in federal loans and contracts.
Oops!
So what Obama said  was true. No-one exists in a vacuum. At the Democratic convention last week financial whiz Elizabeth Warren avoided the flytrap and put it like this: “We build it together.” And that’s America – a nation united, not a rabble of greedsters constantly elbowing each other in the face.

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© 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 22 years ago. Previous articles can be found on fredwehner.com

Monday, September 3, 2012

WHO PUT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT UP FOR SALE?



September 3, 2012

A scary thing is happening to this country. It’s as plain as a foreign flag over Florida and people still aren’t paying attention. Giant corporations and squillionaires are pouring money into this election, expecting to purchase the presidency.
Of course they will all want payback.
They’re in the shadows. Occasionally you’ll catch a glimpse, as when Bank of America heavyweight James Mahoney was caught on camera shiftily whispering an offer to “help out” Rick Perry in his presidential bid.
We’ll see more of these string-pullers in Charlotte this week like we just saw them in Tampa, breakfasting cheek-by-jowl with Karl Rove, ponying up a million bucks or more apiece... And partying on a luxury yacht called the Cracker Bay that proudly flies the flag of Mitt Romney’s home state - the Cayman Islands.
That’s the Union Jack, not the Stars and Stripes.
Grand Cayman is where “patriot” Romney keeps his fortune. Also in Switzerland and Luxembourg so’s to give Uncle Sam the slip, taxwise, the way he dodged the Vietnam draft while cheerleading that war from the safety of a mansion hideout in France. 
It doesn’t matter which bunch of richie-richs want to install their man in the White House. Whoever these people are – and we do know some of them – they have no right to overrule the free will of this country’s citizens...
Well actually they do. Two years ago Justice John Roberts’ partisan Supreme Court flouted all democratic principles and opened the door for moneyed interests to buy the election. Corporations, the court decided, are people too, and on the campaign trail Romney has repeated that phrase.
Now we’re seeing the greatest amount of cash in history thrown into this election. Vegas gambling czar Sheldon Adelson, for instance, heaved a sack containing $71 million into the GOP’s lap for attack commercials. Romney’s Cayman cronies expect to raise a billion. President Obama’s cohorts are playing catch-up.
TV stations embrace this business bonanza. Political ads dominate the airwaves and they don’t even have to be true. In politics there’s no penalty for lying and there should be. If I can sue someone who spreads malicious, damaging untruths about me then why can’t a political figure do the same? Comedienne Carol Burnett sued the National Enquirer successfully for libel; Obama, Romney and all other politicos should be afforded the same legal protection.
But they’re not. And so, under the Supreme Court’s shameful Citizens United ruling, anyone with the dinero to do it can broadcast anything about any candidate. It’s a license to lie. By law now, nothing need be true, and consequently none of it is.
Worse, they can remain anonymous. We the people are not even allowed to know who’s deceiving us. It’s un-American. If I happen to have a couple hundred bucks to spare (not so likely these days) and send to bolster Paul Broun (even less likely) I’m identified. How come these liars can hide their identities?
Alarmingly, it’s even more hopeless than that. Where on earth is the big money coming from? That’s right: literally - where in the world?  Of the hundreds of millions of dollars in this election a large chunk is from overseas, and not just friendly Israel and Europe. Where else - Saudi Arabia? China? Maybe Kenya?
Well, some of it comes from the guys with the long white beards, those ZZ Top lookalikes with the turbans, the Ayatollah Khamenei’s  gang over in dangerously fundamentalist Iran. The Koch brothers, Chuck and Dave, who keep the Tea Party going with funds from their $100 billion a year industry just set $100 million of their fortune aside to defeat Obama. A few months earlier they’d been exposed being secretly, and illegally, in business with our enemies in Teheran.
Treason right there! No? But I thought if you aided the enemy... Seems it’s OK if you’re the super-rich.
So here comes the cash and who cares if it’s from sources that want to see us blown to hell, their hell Jahannam, which means we don’t even get the 72 virgins. All money’s good and money trumps people, as Newt Gingrich said. That’s America today. Hey, we’re only the folks who live here so why do we need to be involved! Just shut up, don’t ask questions and vote for the politicians they’ve bought – even if it’s with foreign moolah.
The Taliban can’t afford Rep. Broun with their offer of a dozen goats – they promised pretty ones - but which of America’s other evil-wishers will be paying for the privilege of influencing our next government?
Six months after Citizens United, Democrats introduced the Disclose Act (S.3628) that would at least have unmasked the puppeteers and kept non-Americans out of our elections. Just one single Republican vote was needed to make 60 ayes out of 100 and overcome that party’s filibuster blocking tactic. Honesty and freedom of information would have triumphed. Not one Republican wanted that.
So much for the level of patriotism with these rah-rah right wingers. Isn’t it high time we told the moneybags to shove their dollars? Get the money out of politics. Give the American people back their voice
To sum up, here’s the law as it stands today. We’re being avalanched with lies, we’re not allowed to know who’s telling them even if they’re our sworn foreign enemies.
The only thing left is to shut our eyes and ears to it all. Believe nothing. What a way to live in the Land of the Free!

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© 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.