Monday, October 29, 2012

AMERICA HATES CHEATS AMERICA LOVES CHEATS



October 29 2012

Lance Armstrong never existed. Purged from humanity the way Lenin unfriended his Communist cohorts Trotsky and Kamenev by having their images erased from all official photographs.
They were victims of Kremlin politics. Armstrong was strong-armed out of the record books, still insisting his seven Tour de France cycling wins were legit. But the evidence against him was overwhelming - his victories were the result of performance-enhancing drugs.
He’s a cheat and America doesn’t like that kind. We’re a fair folk and we prefer a level playing field. Or do we?
One such field is the baseball diamond – the jewel of American sportsmanship but un-level thanks to drug use by top-level players. “Our own” John Rocker of the Braves admits he was using steroids and human growth hormone, adding: “Who wasn’t?”
And which student doesn’t employ cheat sheets and “study drugs”, in particular the ubiquitous Adderall? What about the teachers? The GBI investigated principals and educators in 44 Atlanta schools that obtained more than $500,000 in bonuses by falsifying test scores.
Adulterers were once pariahs, now half of married men and one in three wives cheat. So do we disdain dishonesty? Only sometimes. Therefore it’s hardly surprising that in this country’s most important contest we find underhanded practice perfectly OK. It’s the American Double Standard. We cheer the cheats if they’re on “our” side.
Yes, this is politics.
Are dead people voting for Obama? Republicans claim in-person fraud is rampant. Governors of all 50 states listed 2,068 cases covering 12 years for a News21 investigative project. Only ten proved to be genuine – less than one criminal per year.
Voter ID laws are really ways to disenfranchise thousands of the least among us. They’re always disguised as being for the general good. California’s Proposition 32 would prevent employers and labor unions from deducting political contributions at source. Seems fair until you realize workers never pay dues to employers, only unions.
The courts often kill unconstitutional regulations that amount to voter suppression. Several states must have new ID laws pre-approved by the Federal government.
So no widescale voter fraud but there is serious election fraud by officials involving manipulation, bribes, tampering with absentee ballots...
Other scuzzy poli-tricks include moving polling stations far from impoverished areas and installing too few voting machines that create long lines inducing voters to give up. Remember Diebold, the easily hacked machines whose company CEO was a major Bush contributor? A similar situation today with machines made by Hart InterCivic, a firm with Romney ties.
There are robocalls that disseminate purposely deceptive election information, always targeted at blacks, Latinos, the poor and the old.
Joe Arpaio, showboating sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, reaps applause for his bizarrely tough measures against largely Hispanic wrongdoers. Coincidentally, Maricopa is the county where officials twice issued election documents in Spanish that list voting day as November 8 – two days too late. The English language equivalents give the correct date. “A mistake”? You decide. And don’t count on the sheriff they call Chicken Joe to investigate.
Miss Mabel, 89, is a World War Two heroine. Does she deserve to vote? Now an invalid, she finally gets a ride to the voting booth that isn’t where it’s listed and when she finds the right place she discovers it closed the day before.
Hooray for the cheats. They muted the voice of yet another American – one who served this country with honesty and valor. Unlike these guys.
For 40 years, an outfit called Acorn helped the infirm, the poor and the aged get to the polls. Then along comes slimy little James O’Keefe, posing as a pimp, his girlfriend playing a prostitute. His “sting” results in government and private funding being withdrawn (oh how quick we are to judge). Several subsequent criminal investigations show O’Keefe has doctored his video “evidence” to show the opposite of what really happened. He’s on probation now, but Acorn is dead: another win for the slimeballs.
More new tricks from those old dogs the Koch Brothers. These oligarchs just issued a veiled threat to their 47,000 Georgia-Pacific employees that voting Democratic could result in job losses. Of course they, and other CEOs warning their workers similarly, take pains to couch their coercion in verbiage barely inside the law. But it’s filthy sophism all the same.
If you resort to lies and flimflam then you’re sure that if you played it fair you’d lose. Majority rule is no longer what it’s about. Dirty tricks abound and yet many of us cheer this kind of thing. Meanwhile we hold ourselves up to the world as a shining example of democracy. Pah!
None of the above will make any difference in Walton County. Truth isn’t what folks want any more. We regard the election as some kind of team game as in “Go Dawgs, hammer them ‘Jackets!” There’s the ‘R’ on that ballot and that’s all we need to know. Just like the big ‘G’.
I am incredibly fearful of a Mitt Romney presidency. He and Paul Ryan have sidestepped all attempts to pin them down on what exactly they’d do if elected.
That’s the biggest trick of all and judging by the polls they’ve pulled it off.

ENDIT

© 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 22 years ago.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

UNCROSSED LEGS AND DOUBLECROSSED NEWS




October 24 2012

Yeah you’re an old fella. Old and white and proud. Proud of your country and what it’s done for you and what you’ve done for it. You worked hard all your life, raised a family, paid your taxes. You didn’t get to go to college but you were in the service maybe, and you didn’t make that sacrifice in order to see this once-great nation rot away.
So now you’re drawing government benefits, but you earned them, buddy. You had to dip into your $30,000 nest egg to ante up the deposit to lease your new car. You just paid off the mortgage on your 2,400 sq ft house, only to see its $150,000 value plummet once again.  
You hate the unemployed who’re ruining the country, and you just know they’re all too lazy to put down that crack pipe and find a job. Nobody cares about anything anymore. You do because you’re part of what made America great but now the moochers and the barnacles have taken over and the liberals let them. Doesn’t anyone share your rage?
Yes. The Anger Channel. Fox News.
Right on! Those guys know the score. They remember America before the hippies and all the other wimpy goodfornothings drove the country down. You’re fed up with all this bad, isn’t there any good news out there?
There is, but you won’t hear it from Fox. Not while President Obama’s in office. 
The August/September reports from all sectors, economy, jobs, housing, even Wall Street, have just been published. Home construction up 15%, permits up 12% and house values nationally up 11.3%. At 15 million, auto sales have hit a 30-year high with a quarter million jobs added. The unemployment rate, the lowest since 2008, is below 8% - way better than Europe’s roughly 11%. Home Depot here in Walton County is hanging out signs wanting staff...
This is an all-round improvement. But viewers get the usual dance around the facts - a Foxtrot. Blowhard ultra-capitalist Jack Welch claims “these Chicago guys” cooked the books because “they don’t smell right”. Well, not through his snotty Pinocchio nose. A week later, Welch furtively admits his bloviating was the stuff that cattle leave behind - it was all “just a hunch”.
But for Fox viewers the original moo-doo is good enough. The guy made it up – so what! He’s gotta be basically correct. And anyway, you’re retired and you’re tired. Your head’s already too full. The headline’s all you need.
Even if it isn’t true?
Any broadcaster that fails to meet Canada’s basic law prohibiting “false or misleading news” will not be licensed. Cable subscribers can get American Fox, but a 2003 bid by Canadian Cable Telecommunications to usher in a Fox channel carrying Canadian news was denied.
Well, who cares about those Canuks, eh? This is America!
Uh-huh, and in America Fox won a court battle for the right to broadcast lies. Before the Florida Court Of Appeals in February 2003 they argued they could not legally be stopped from peddling news that was distorted or falsified, even quasi admitting they were doing exactly that. If you’re telling it straight why would you want to fight for fakery?
Pushing out corporate propaganda, Fox likes to make Mr Everyman think he’s a political expert. It’s pseudo-politics for the uninformed the way financial outfits like Ameritrade and Charles Schwab (whom my na├»ve Foxwatching neighbor calls “a German bank”) make the nickel-and-dime investor feel he’s Wall Street big time. But when people know your news is skewed how do you reach the angry retiree? With jiggly queens of course.
He’s titillated by the heaving bosoms, the big hair, bleached blonde in most cases, the faces interred under inches of makeup – rouged cheeks, red lips, blue eyeshadow. Fox’s foxy floozies flutter their plastic eyelashes. The low-cut tops and short skirts are part of what they themselves call “the uniform”. They cross and uncross their legs with entertaining regularity... 
For the men of 70 who feel their virility ebbing away, the tight-fitting, cleavage-revealing outfits are a treat, and also the news has legs: might-could be the chance of a Sharon Stone Moment. Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and cohort Roger Ailes know all about an old man’s basic instinct.
Here’s the wife. She’s quacking about meeting Gran’ma Bloggins at the supermarket and you’ll never guess what she told me her neighbor said about that new couple down the street and...
Yeah yeah, later, Honey. I already had to tune you out during the ballgame. Put the remote down. That Fox cutie is saying something important.
So what intellect escapes those pouty, lip-glossed mouths?
Ann Coulter: “Our blacks are better than their blacks.”
Megyn Kelly condoning pepper spray: “It’s a food product.”
Gretchen Carlson (from under her peroxide hair-helmet): “Have you ever felt that way that you just want to deck somebody.” Meaning Joe Biden.
Michelle Malkin: “Vote with your lady smarts, not your lady parts.”
Coulter the homophobe again: “All pretty girls are right wingers” and “Obama’s base is stupid single women.” You mean like Ann Coulter herself? She’s never been married. Could she be a ... you know.
Scant intelligence from the babbling bimbos and doctored news from the station itself. What we should, of course, demand, is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
But then that’s not in a Fox’s nature.

ENDIT

© 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

Note: The Walton Tribune ran this article October 24, 2011.
Among the paragraphs that the newspaper omitted were those referencing Fox's jiggly queens with the gaudy makeup crossing and uncrossing their legs.
Without which, of course, the headline made no sense at all.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

THE WHOLE WORLD IS LAUGHING AT WALTON COUNTY



October 17, 2012

Faith is one thing, government another. Tell that to the Muslim religious extremists taking over Middle East and Asian countries. The babbling rabble dressed in sheets and sometimes comical headgear who aim to spread their most brutal rituals throughout the rest of the world.
Chopping off limbs, stoning to death, executing the adulterous woman while excusing her seducer, castrating young girls to deny them the enjoyment of sex...
The human rights violations are plentiful. This month in Pakistan, Taliban cowards gunned down 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai whose “crime” was a call for girls to receive an education.
We don’t go for the barbaric stuff, but blinkered faith is not confined to Muslim fanatics. Some of us think in a similar way.
When you let the dogmatic doctrinists run the show you invite bloodshed. And for what? My way to Heaven is better than yours therefore you’re the enemy. In Northern Ireland two branches of Christianity blew each other up for three decades leaving 3,600 dead (granted, there was also a social element involved). Two Islamist faiths, the Shia and the Sunni do the same today.
In Washington right now we have one of these religious extremists, our very own Paul Broun who claims the earth was created only nine thousand years ago and literally in six days. And who describes the Big Bang theory, embryology and evolution as “lies from the pit of hell.”
Local lawyer Larry Pruden beat me and most everyone else to the pen with his succinct condemnation is last week’s (Oct 10) Tribune. He is absolutely on the money: how can we keep electing such a man to Congress!
Today, Broun’s fundamentalist pronouncements to an audience at the Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell are all over the Internet and in the worldwide media. Yet the subject of global ridicule isn’t just Broun, it’s also: “what sort of people would choose a person like that to represent them!”.
That’s us and we have only ourselves to blame. Back in July we had the chance to replace this embarrassment – even without a Democratic or Independent challenger. Fellow Republican Stephen Simpson, a retired army lieutenant-colonel, a measured, decent family man looking to calm down the rhetoric... Instead, by two votes to one we gave it to Broun: what does that say about us?
Broun’s a medical doctor whose practice revolves solely around house calls; given his medieval religious beliefs does he still bleed his patients with leeches? Displaying his BSc in chemistry, he projects himself as a scientist - but his whole being is anti-science.
He called man-made climate change “one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community.” Shortly thereafter, we and the rest of the world endured unprecedented floods and drought. Global warming right there.
There have been countless other signs our congressman isn’t quite, er, with the program. This is clear from his many off-the-wall outbursts, a number of them listed in my Walton Tribune article of a year ago (October 5, 2011). 
Compassion? Forget it. The Great White Hunter brags about shooting lions and a bear he got in the chest with a .375 magnum that took 15 minutes to die. He's not the macho hero he'd have us believe, just another despicable, heartless trophy hunter. And in July, he was one of only three who opposed a bill passed by the other 416 in Congress to restrict the sale of sick videos showing little animals being crushed to death. Broun's no animal lover.
But he loves God.
Since he takes the Bible literally he must also believe Methuselah really did live to be 969, that Lot’s wife was turned into an actual pillar of salt and that seven lean cows ate seven fat ones, for real. If he doesn’t, then he’s picking and choosing and that would make him a fraud. Which is what I'm sure he is.
Here’s what Broun said: “I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington DC." Coming from anyone with a commonsense take on religion this might be a harmless statement.
The scariest aspect of this man’s presence in Congress, however, is his membership of the House Science Committee, making government decisions on space and technology. Here he sits, with equally nonsensical congressman Todd Akin (R: Missouri) – the guy who unveiled the magic vagina that shuts itself down when raped. These two kooks help decide the direction of America’s techno-future. Real scientists are appalled.
Bill Nye The Science Guy is only one of them. He said: "Since the economic future of the United States depends on our tradition of technological innovation, Representative Broun's views are not in the national interest." And he added that Broun is “by any measure, unqualified to make decisions about science, space, and technology."
Thomas Jefferson was correct, we have to separate faith from government. If we don't, we’re the western equivalent of Iran’s ayatollahs.
As an aside, note the enormous damage former Georgia State Secretary Karen Handel did by forcing her religious dogma onto the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization. It still hasn’t recovered.
Broun already holds the dubious honor of being labeled the Dumbest Guy In Congress. Now the entire world is also laughing at us, the people who placed this unscientific scientist into our government.
But it’s no laughing matter

ENDIT
 
However, I must add that this article flushed out several of the people who go along with Paul Broun's extreme theology. These locals were outraged enough that they posted comments condemning the Walton Tribune for publishing this article. One was smugly certain I hadn't interviewed every person in the world about Broun. True enough - I missed some. One falsely claimed I said the world is "laughing at Christians".  Another twisted the truth also, alleging Broun was being "persecuted because he is a Christian".
If these individuals can distort the clear meaning of an article, imagine what they are able to do the the Bible.
To re-state the point: Broun, who insists his Washington activities are guided by his faith,  is bringing his anti-scientific ideas onto the House Science Committee on which he sits. He is thereby hindering this country's advances in science and should be removed from that position.
The comments may be read at: http://www.waltontribune.com/opinion/columns/fred_wehner/article_900c8d52-17d3-11e2-86d9-0019bb2963f4.html


© 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, October 10, 2012

KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND HOLD YOUR TONGUE


October 10, 2012

They’d come up to me and whisper: “We’re not all like that.”  Not merely the anti-Communists but also ordinary non-political folks who just wanted to be able to speak their mind freely. This was 1967 in East Germany, part of Big Soviet Brother’s iron empire.
Out in public you zipped your mouth: everyone did. In their own homes, citizens could be human again – to a degree; always guarded, because children were constantly encouraged to rat their parents out to the Party. You could never be sure of appearances: Politburo functionaries and their acolytes would pose as dissidents to trap you. When appropriate, you praised the glorious system that kept a few greedy folks up and everyone else down. So you rah-rah’d for Russian subjugation and hoped they believed you.
What a way to live!
Fast forward - whrrrrp! - to 2012 and the East Germans talk freely, discuss politics, espouse various points of view without fear of repercussion. They inhale a euphoric mixture of air and freedom and 22 years after the collapse of communism it’s still the same. I’ve just returned from revisiting Berlin.
But let’s look at Walton County.
A vibrant young lady I know gave me a nod the other day and mouthed the word certain individuals in this area call treason: “Democrat.” At two different stores right here the owners told me they were Democrats but quickly begged me not to tell anyone. These are frightened people.
Is this our America? No, but it is definitely Walton County – a place where folks dare not voice an opinion for fear of reprisal from those who claim to speak for all. The scared storekeepers said their businesses would take a hit if their personal political views became known.
What a way to live!
We see it regularly in the pages of this newspaper – the bullyboy demands to silence any voice that doesn’t echo the Party line. In this case the Tea Party.
There I go again? With unimaginative repetition, columnists like Roy Roberts and, most recently, Don Ashworth, parrot Ronald Reagan’s one-liner as though it had some profound meaning, which it doesn’t. In his September 23 column, he re-runs his January 2, 2011 demand that this newspaper gag me, so, Mr Ashworth, there YOU go again!
“Wehner’s not saying what I’m saying, so shut him up!”
But what is Mr Ashworth saying? Well, he continues to insist President Obama closed the GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin in 2009 and advises “a little research”. But not via trusted sources such as the Washington Post and ABC News, oh no. The kind of skimpy research he does leaves an ‘n’ off Michele Bachmann’s name and calls her a California Democrat instead of the Minnesota Republican that she is.
Not paying attention means you don’t get your facts straight. He preaches a little research? I prefer a lot. Anyone who cares to look at Obama’s February 8, 2008 speech will find he didn’t “promise” to keep Janesville open. Nor was he in office June 3 when, at a shareholders’ meeting, CEO Rick Wagoner announced the closure, triggering an immediate protest letter from local Republican Paul Ryan. Nor on December 23 when the last GM vehicle was rolled out (50 Isuzu workers then completed a light truck order). All this is a matter of record with supporting photographs.
Certain Waltonians may prefer to believe the false story put out by Mr Ashworth, a man trying his hardest to make Obama the scapegoat.
And Reagan the saint. With those four famous words “tear down this wall” he did call out Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin. But the Gorbmeister refused. It fell to Lech Walesa  two years later to start a freedom movement in Poland that then snowballed into a total rejection of Communism throughout the Kremlin’s oppressive empire. So while Reagan made the call on June 12, 1987 nothing happened for 2½ years until the people themselves brought down the wall.
In the extreme world of Donald Ashworth any fact-checking organization is “left wing”; any opinion that makes him uncomfortable is “garbage” and a full direct quote is “an interpretation.” His column, just like those of Mr Roberts, is full of distortions, suppositions and insults. Without knowing a thing about me, Mr Ashworth claims I “couldn’t make it” in England and keeps calling me an Englishman when I’m not. Since he’s the After-The-Fact Nostradamus perhaps he’d like to make up his own story about why I went  behind the Iron Curtain in 1967 as well.
That’s how accurate his “little checked” facts are. And that’s the trouble with zealots. They base their opinions on very meager information or none at all – and then they shout down any dissent. No other voice is tolerated for fear it might cause the open discussion they’re afraid of. Our destination is national prosperity but they refuse to consider alternative routes.
How insecure must you be to want to muzzle those whose ideas don’t mimic your own!
There are indeed closet Democrats throughout Walton County. Like garlic against vampires, some of them display Romney-Ryan lawn signs to fend off the bullies. At the voting machine next month they’ll let their fingers do the whispering.

ENDIT

© 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, October 3, 2012

WHEN JUSTICE IS JUST ABSOLUTELY UNJUST



October 3, 2012

The law, to grab a line from the mouth of Charles Dickens’ fat and flinty Mr Bumble character, is an ass. 
A swaggering, snickering, braying ass, pompously bedecked in official robes or pontificating from bench and bar, feeding exclusively on a steady diet of dollar bills. Some from taxes, some from businesses and individuals, but all from us the people.
That’s the legal system in this country. This ass is a business, a self-serving industry that generates well-paid employment for its members at the expense of the general public. Jobs for the boys. It’s the American way.
The more lawsuits and the longer they can be stretched out the more work for  lawyers and judges. It’s a machine that feeds itself and it’s all legal because it’s been set up and maintained by the very individuals who benefit from it. Doesn’t matter who wins or loses, plaintiff or defendant: the legal folks always do.
As justice goes, this is truly unjust.
Some judges should never be on the bench. We’ll deal with civil law here. There are justices who can’t understand the testimony, who roll their eyes like those TV actor-judges, yawn conspicuously, become impatient with what they’re hearing but not really hearing, and then rule anyway. Others who always split the difference instead of making a decision.          
I’ve encountered one of those here in Walton County and I’m still bemused by the experience. The judge refused to listen to authorities from the University of Georgia. He then embraced the “expert testimony” of a small-time landscaper over that of Georgia’s second-to-top arborist, an eminently qualified forestry consultant with letters to his name... And whose expert evidence seemingly went over the judge’s head.
And then His Horror just picked a figure somewhere between the two and ruled accordingly. The phrase he used was that one party needed to “step out of his Cadillac and the other get out of his Ford.” Whoa! Wasn’t that Chuck Berry’s song about Maybelline? And anyway we drove Chevvies.
Here’s what I say to that gentleman: You’re a judge. Your job is to judge so do your job, Your Honor... judge! Any fool can find middle ground. Any ass.
That case cost far more in legal fees alone than the compensatory pittance he awarded, and that’s another crazy element in our justice system. You lose when you win.
You prove your case and you’re made whole? Not at all – instead you end up owing. What kind of process can call this a “victory”, as my attorney did.
There’s more that’s seriously wrong with our courts. Civil cases are often won by the party with the bigger war chest . How democratic is that? How just?      
Also, you pay for your own witnesses’ time to, from and in court. If you won’t or can’t, then tough. You lose.
Our legal system is based on English Common Law. But it’s been severely – shall we say – “fine-tuned” from the original. In a civil case adhering to its true protocol the loser must cover his costs plus the court fees and is ordered to pay the legal costs of the winning party as well.
The reasoning behind this is that a prevailing party proven to be in the right should never have been forced into the expense of reaffirming that fact. Simple. Shrewd. Sagacious.
Another beauty of such a system is that a giant corporation with an unworthy case cannot win merely by outspending some poor guy. Just running someone out of money won’t do the trick because the longer the case goes on the more expensive it becomes for the loser. And a plaintiff who drops his suit any time before a final ruling is still liable for everyone’s costs to that point.
It also prevents frivolous lawsuits. Two such were filed by a herd of Texas cattlemen against Oprah Winfrey for saying she wouldn’t eat another hamburger. Freedom of speech won out, of course, and the beefies lost out both times; yet it still cost Oprah big time to defend. The lawyers made the millions. 
English Common Law prevents Hail Mary attempts at milking a wealthier opponent, as practiced by law firms who take cases on contingency, anticipating a fat share in the spoils if they succeed. And by those specializing in class action suits who reap the bulk of the award if they win.
While it didn’t help Oprah, George W. Bush, still a governor in 1995, enacted state measures that curtailed shopping around for a favorable judge and jury, and gave justices greater power to punish unreasonable litigants. A good start. But why only in Texas? And why finesse an English legal system that already worked so well in the first place?
What, did they mix in boneheaded bits of Bonaparte’s Napoleonic Law from Louisiana, maybe some – God forbid! – Sharia from the Muslim world?  An eye for an arm, a tooth for a fairy? No. They simply saw dollars.
One contorted argument in support of the US system is that everyone has access to legal muscle. Sure – everyone with money, but you walk in the lawyer’s office and ca-ching! immediately the cash register begins clanking. No jingle? No justice. The legal industry is bent on keeping it that way, so no wonder the USA is a litigious society.
The original Common Law makes so much sense. Except to an ass.

ENDIT

© 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.