The Supremes Swing to the Right

We’re The Supremes!

The Supreme Court handed down their last decisions dealing crippling blows to the reproductive rights of women and labor unions. Liberals are taking some small comfort in a blistering 35-page dissent by Justice Ginsburg’s but the reasoning of the losing minority of a Supreme Court decision matters only for a day or so and then it belongs to the legal scholars and history books.

The Hobby Lobby case got all the ink and headlines because it’s a horrible slap at women and their reproductive rights, but the conservative majority stuck it to labor unions too. If these two traditionally Democratic voting blocs still want to sit on their hands (and wallets) after the gut punches Roberts and company handed them, they deserve whatever dark plans the Republicans have in store in for both of them should they retake the Senate and hold the House.

While today’s pair of horrible decisions might seem like distinct issues, in fact they are both part of a larger war on women and workers.

The absurdity of the Hobby Lobby decision (only contraceptives are exempted for religious beliefs because of sluts) is obviously part of the Republican war on women, but it is also very much a war on the poor. An IUD costs about a month’s worth of wages at the minimum wage. If an executive can’t get birth control because her employer gets too hot and bothered thinking of her having sexy time, she can afford it on her own. A Hobby Lobby floor worker? Probably not. For women workers at closely held corporations, this decision will be devastating.

The Harris case is specifically about home care workers in Illinois. Who are home care workers? Women. Poor women. Lots of African-Americans, lots of Latinos, lots of undocumented workers. Home care workers are a major emphasis for SEIU right now; a close friend of mine has spent over a decade on a campaign to organize them in one city alone. Harris threatens all of this. But moreover, it shows how little Alito and the boys care about rights for women wherever they are. It’s hardly coincidental that this case comes down the same day as the contraception mandate. The Court evidently believes that the home is not a workplace, but of course it is a workplace, especially if someone is getting paid to do work. That it is women working in the home, as it has always been, just makes it easier for conservatives to devalue that work.

Of course, it’s about more than just working women and it opens the door for Alito and Roberts’ continued desire to mandate the New Gilded Age, so no doubt we will see new challenges to public sector unionism that will probably reach the Court in 2016 or maybe 2017 at the latest. I am not a legal expert, but my guess as to why Abood wasn’t overturned entirely is that there wasn’t 5 votes for it yet.

Regardless, both of today’s decisions are very much about keeping working women without power both on the job and at home.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court justice.

“What? Me Retire?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also, when we hear in 2016 that both parties are the same because of [insert pet issue here] and therefore vote for vanity third party candidate, let us remember this day and these decisions. If you think Strip Search Sammy Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the same, you might want to rethink your positions.

Indeed.

What matters most and in fact the only thing that matters to those disappointed, dismayed and disgusted with how the Court came down in these cases is Justice William Brennan‘s Rule of Five where Brennan would hold up five fingers to his clerks and say, ”Five votes can do anything around here.”

Brennan was a prophet and the Roberts Court is the proof of it.

From 1801 to 1940, less than 2 percent of the Supreme Court’s total rulings were resolved by 5-to-4 decisions. Since then, more than 16 percent of the Court’s rulings have been decided by “minimum-winning coalitions.” In the two most recent Courts, more than a fifth of all rulings were decided by 5-to-4 votes.

Scholars consider these narrow decisions the most political. Research indicates that 5-to-4 rulings are the most likely to be overturned by later Courts. They carry the same legal authority as more unanimous opinions — but not the same moral authority. In this vein, the one branch of government designed to be above partisanship echoes the rise in hyperpartisanship seen throughout Washington.

The Roberts Court has decided more cases by a 5-to-4 ruling (about 21.5 percent) than any Court before it, though only by a narrow margin. The previous Court, led by William Rehnquist, decided 20.5 percent of its cases by this minimum coalition. That rate, however, represents roughly twice the share of 5-to-4 rulings in the Stone Court, during World War II. And the Stone Court had more than three times the rate of 5-to-4 decisions of any Court prior.

Roberts noticed the trend early in his term. “I do think the rule of law is threatened by a steady term after term after term focus on 5-4 decisions,” Roberts told The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen in 2006. “I think the Court is ripe for a similar refocus on functioning as an institution, because if it doesn’t, it’s going to lose its credibility and legitimacy as an institution.”

Justice Ginsburg is 81. Stephen Breyer is 75. With the Court’s term over, the speculation will begin again will either one retire while President Obama and a Democratic majority are still in power? It’s doubtful for multiple reasons.

Neither Ginsburg or Breyer’s departure tips the Court’s ideological balance. But what if Antonin Scalia (78) or Clarence Thomas (66) were to get a sudden itch to go fishing’ or spend more time with their families? Or just leave the Supreme Court to try out for The View?

Okay. It’s not gonna happen. Scalia and Thomas will announce they’re secret lovers before ever they allow Obama to appoint their replacements.

But even if one of the Justices were to suffer an untimely demise, there’s no way a Republican-controlled Senate would allow Obama to tip the axis of power of the Court to the liberal minority.

This is the current membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you think there is anyone Obama could nominate Al Franken and Ted Cruz would both vote for?

As far as Brennan’s Rule of Five goes this is a battle the Left lost years ago and it may take many years before they begin to win any.

But the last people I want to hear from are the smug elitists and professional cynics who say “there’s no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.” Yeah, sure. Look at how the justices selected by Democratic and Republican presidents voted and tell me that one again.

Don’t tell me you’re appalled (or even surprised) by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority deciding corporations have more rights than women. Tell me what you’re going to DO about it. The first thing is to vote and keep the Senate in Democratic control. That is, unless you want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling President Obama whom he will allow to sit on the Supreme Court when a vacancy opens up.

"Me?  And justice?  Now THAT'S funny!'

“Me? And justice? Now THAT’S funny!’

Poet, Preacher, Soul Man. Bobby Womack: 1944-2014

Hard times have befallen another Soul Survivor.

Go down the list. Among the luminaries no longer with us Whitney’s gone. Luther’s gone. Isaac’s gone. Teddy’s gone. Michael is gone. You really need last names?

Bobby Womack is one of the greatest R n’ B vocalists most folks don’t know about. He never had a big crossover hit. Never showed up on American Idol. Never was celebrated by the critics and taste makers the way others are.

But Bobby could SANG. Not “sing.” The real OG’s know the difference.  Womack didn’t make a lot of great albums, but oh, did he make some truly great singles.

I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much

Harry Hippie

A Woman’s Gotta Have It

If You Think You’re Lonely Now

Across 110th Street

Bobby Womack 1944 – 2014

I liked Bobby Womack’s music but I like his attitude nearly as much.  When they get to be that old they don’t care what they say about anyone.  In a 2012 interview Womack gave to The Guardian as his last album was released, The Bravest Man In the Universe, he held back nothing.

Womack was a session music on “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis.  He wasn’t a fan: “People say: ‘What did you think of Elvis Presley?’ I say: ‘He wasn’t shit. Everything he got he stole.'”

Womack co-wrote “It’s All Over Now” with The Rolling Stones and made it a hit but Womack wasn’t all that impressed.  “To be honest with you, I said: ‘Let the Rolling Stones get their own fuckin’ record and record that.'”

Many years later, Womack would show up on the Stones Dirty Work album and found he liked Keith Richards and Ron Wood just fine, but about about Mick Jagger he said:  “Some people never grow up if you give ’em too much. They gonna be assholes, then they just become a bigger asshole.”

Warming Up The Hague Jazz 2011 - Bobby Womack

Warming Up The Hague Jazz 2011 – Bobby Womack (Photo credit: Haags Uitburo)

Janis Joplin was a friend and Womack was one of the last persons to see her before she died.  Same thing with Marvin Gaye.  “The last time I saw him, the day before he died, he said: ‘Bobby, what’s a nigger got to do to get on the cover of Rolling Stone?’ It was all white acts. I said: ‘Die.'” It’s bullshit, it’s really bullshit. One of the greatest singers in the world. Marvin never knew he was gonna be as big as he is. Now you hear him on commercials every day.”

If character is built through tragedy and hardship, Womack really was The Bravest Man in the World.  One son suffocated when he was four months old.  Another committed suicide.  A third is in prison for second degree murder.  Womack’s brother Harry, the title character of his hit, “Harry Hippie” was murdered by a girlfriend  Womack dealt with the violent death of his friend Sam Cooke, divorces, a 30-year cocaine habit, lousy records, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Womack didn’t have to sing about hard times.  He lived it.

“Bad as I been, I can sing my ass off, better than I could before. Maybe it’s been preserved or something. If I can take control of my life from drugs, divorces, anything, I stand tall.  I’m speaking for all those singers who gave up. Marvin, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett: I can keep naming them until you say OK, I got enough. They need more respect than can ever be given to them. And I’m gonna set the record straight.”

For those of you who don’t get what the big deal about Womack is, I cordially invite you to go listen to some ersatz Robin Thicke “soul” shit as he begs his estranged wife to take his dog ass back or some other plastic poseur.

Another of the real deal, great, original Soul Men has crossed over to that Great Gig in the Sky. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Mr. Womack.

Mississippi, Hot Damn!

Bad guy versus Worse Guy

There is a runoff election tonight in Mississippi in the race between incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, who is backed by the Tea Party and other right-wing activists.  Cochran has the support of the GOP establishment who prefer his bland predictability and being a good soldier to McDaniel’s radicalism which would make him a potential wild card and threat to Mitch McConnell’s plans if the Republicans take control of the Senate.

Nobody paid much attention to the race until McDaniel forced Cochran into a run-off in the primary.   Cochran is expected to go down in flames to the hard-charging McDaniel.   In an act of desperation, Cochran is pleading for Mississippi Democrats, especially Blacks to save his seat.  Republican are sending poll watchers to “observe” Democratic voters.

The only reason the Republicans are sending “poll watchers” is not to protect the integrity of the vote but to intimidate Black voters. On the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer where Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner lost their lives buried in the Mississippi mud, this is a repulsive act of Good Ol’ Fashioned Southern Racism.

Mississippi Goddam, anyone?

As regards Sen. Thad Cochran, if he isn’t isn’t cut from the same dirty cloth as James Eastland, John Stennis, Theodore Bilbo, Trent Lott and the other undistinguished gang of losers, idiots and bigots Mississippi keeps sending to the upper chamber in Washington, he’s only a more genteel and low profile version.

Thad Cochran, member of the United States Sena...

Thad Cochran, member of the United States Senate from Mississippi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

He’s been there a long time (36 years), is a committed supporter of pork barrel politics and has accumulated a horrid record on social issues.

Cochran is received an 11% rating from the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance, but that’s positively sparkling compared to his 0% rating by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record and 0% by the Human Rights Campaign, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.

Not that the challenger (and almost certainly the next U.S. Senator from Mississippi) is any sort of prize. In fact, McDaniel is even less appealing than Cochran.

McDaniel, who surprisingly led Cochran by 1,400 votes in the June 3 primary, has been able to mask how far right he really is. Investigative magazine Mother Jones in 2013 reported that McDaniel was featured speaker for a neo-confederate, pro-secessionist conference in Jones County where many attendees wore Confederate uniforms.

Last Saturday, The New York Times, which has sent two reporters to cover the runoff, interviewed Carl Ford, a 77-year-old lawyer in McDaniel’s hometown of Ellisville. A staunch McDaniel backer, Ford admitted being active in the county’s Sons of Confederate Veterans.

What The Times didn’t know is that Ford had been a Klan lawyer who in 1998 served as a defense attorney for the late Sam Bowers of Laurel. Bowers was Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era. The White Knights was a Mississippi-born group which the FBI charged with plotting several brutal murders.

Bowers was three times prosecuted as the mastermind for violent racial crimes. A state jury in 1967 deadlocked by one vote on convicting Bowers for the firebomb slaying of respected Hattiesburg grocer Vernon Dahmer, an NAACP voting rights leader. Retried in 1998, with Ford on the defense team, Bowers was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the Dahmer murder. Bowers died in prison in 2006.

I have no doubt a Tea Party prick like McDaniel will do his best to get that NAACP rating down to zero and make the dead and damned souls Stennis, Eastland and Bilbo smile on whatever rock in hell they’re squatting on.

If there were a way for both Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel to lose, the U.S. Senate would be better for it. It’s equal parts laughable and contemptible that Cochran is looking to Black Democrats to save his worthless old ass.

This is some real “the devil you know” shit.

If I were a voter in Mississippi tonight, I’d hold my nose, pull the lever for Cochran and tell any “poll watcher” to bacdafucup off me.

No matter who wins nothing good is coming the way for Black Mississippians from either of these two good old boys.

"Do I whistle 'Dixie?'  Why yes, I do.  Why? (photo: Angry Black Lady Chronicles)

“Do I whistle ‘Dixie?’ Why yes, I do. Why? (photo: Angry Black Lady Chronicles)

X-Men: Daze of Movies Past

 

“Hey bub. Gimme 17 tickets for Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Fair Warning:  Here There Be Lots of  SPOILERS.  

You gotta hand it to director Bryan Singer.  It’s not easy to take 14 years worth  of X-Men movies spread  and essentially hit the “Reset” button on all of them,  especially the widely despised X-Men: The Last Stand or “X3” (for short because these titles are getting too damn long).

I don’t hate X3. I hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I don’t like X3 for two specific reasons.

1. Brett Ratner is a huge hack.
2. “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”

Many fans of the X-Men revile X3 as one of the worst superhero flicks ever, but as long as Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Jonah Hex, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, Supergirl, Blade: Trinity, Catwoman, Elektra and Spider-Man 3 exist it won’t be and doesn’t even come close.

I finally got around to X-Men: Days of Future Past on Father Day’s as the guest of my daughter, though we got in with some passes I had.   I enjoyed the popcorn more than the popcorn movie.

Days of Future Past is what you get when you have movie studios trying to achieve Avengers-level success without bothering to lay the foundation for the success the Avengers achieved.   It starts right with the casting.  Why was Hugh Jackman even in this movie besides he was under contract to do another X-Men movie?   All he got was one fight scene at the beginning and then he spent the next two hours glaring and looking serious until Magneto totally punks him. I hope Jackman was well-paid to rock up, show his butt and do nothing.

Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence walked through the flick looked bored, especially Lawrence. She had a blank look glued on her face that practically screamed, “Dammit! Why did I sign that contract obligating me to keep making this crap? I’ve got another franchise that’s a license to print money and I’m the star of it.  I’ve got an Oscar now. I don’t need this shit.”

Halle Berry wasn’t even in this one long enough to be awful, so there’s a small blessing. Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde got to sweat, look intense and manifest a mutant ability she never had in the comics. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart had so much makeup on they looked like they were embalmed–badly.

“Step aside Kitty Pryde/Ellen Page. I’m a bigger star then you’ll ever be.”

Peter Dinklage was okay in an underwritten and confused part.  One minute his Bolivar Trask is a Nazi scientist and the next he’s a grand humanitarian?  Like, I said, confused.   Most of the future X-Men were there to only to be introduced, fight and die. James McAvoy has never impressed me as young Charles Xavier. He comes off as such a clueless, boring dope compared to the charismatic Magneto.  It’s obvious what Magneto’s cause is. I haven’t the foggiest what Prof. Xavier expects to accomplish.

When the Sentinels (who really looked like shit) went wild on the White House lawn and started shooting up the joint, the body count should have been in the triple digits. If they’re such lousy shots it’s no wonder Trask needed Mystique’s DNA to actually hurt the X-Men.

Yeah, the Quicksilver scene was a nice touch, but it only updates what The Matrix did first and as it’s the movie’s money shot and comes way too early. Plus, as effective as the guy is, why wouldn’t you use Quicksilver on a mission where he could be pretty useful?

All the other roles were either underdeveloped or barely even a cameo. Anna Paquin was literally blink-and-miss her yet she gets seventh billing in the titles? She must have a really good agent!   No Stan Lee cameo? No problem. But no Nightcrawler? If you can recast the Toad, you can recast Nightcrawler.

I found the movie an improvement over X3, but nowhere as interesting as X-Men: First Class. A smaller cast and tighter story would have made for a better movie.   There aren’t even that many  X-Men for most of the running time except Wolverine and the Beast.  This is a bloated and overstuffed entry that proves bigness is all it takes to make billions.   X-Men: Days of Future Past is a “good enough” movie that wants to be great and isn’t.

Singer’s job was to deliver a reset of a franchise that probably needed one.  It would have nice though if he had delivered a better movie as well.

“Dammit, Ellen, you’re in my spotlight. Move, woman!”

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over (It’s Over!)

Someone wants this more and someone's going to get it.

Someone wants this more and someone’s going to get it.

Officially, Game Five of the NBA Playoffs will be played Sunday in San Antonio.   Unofficially, this is merely a formality.  This series is over.   The Miami Heat are going to Texas as the champions of the league seeking their third consecutive title.  They are coming back to Florida as the latest sports franchise to fail to pull off the trick of “the three-peat.”

The legend of LeBron James will not suffer from his inferior team losing to a clearly superior one.    Even stuck on two rings, James is still the best player on the planet until someone comes along and makes him second-best and while Kawai Leonard has matched at times surpassed James during the series, his best day would just be an average on for James.

The best player doesn’t win championships.  The best team does and this year that team is the Spurs and it’s not even close.   James is doing what he can but without some help from Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and whatever they can scrape off of their sorry bench, even King James can’t avoid being dethroned by the clearly superior Spurs.

“I don’t really get caught up in what pressure is all about…” James said after the Heat was crushed in their Game 4 loss. “For me, I do whatever it takes to help our team win. If it’s me going one-on?-one to try to help us win, if it’s me getting guys involved and taking threes in rhythm, then I’ll do it. But I don’t really get caught up in the pressure.”

He doesn’t have to.  It’s those other eleven guys whom are feeling the squeeze and coming up small.

I knew the game was over in the second quarter on one play.  One on the Spurs misses a shot, the ball is bouncing back off the rim,  James and a few other Heat are looking up and in position for the rebound and zooming down from the free throw line comes Kawai Leonard to snatch the ball up and JAM IT BACK DOWN with a nasty-ass slam.

Kawai Leonard rocks the rim--and the Heat (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Kawai Leonard rocks the rim–and the Heat (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It was ugly.  It was brutal.  It was beautiful.   It was over.  The body language of the Heat said it all:  they didn’t want it as much as the Spurs did.

There was still another half to play but that was simply a perfunctory necessity.  The game was over and the Spurs won the championship on that play.   The story isn’t how the Heat lost their title, but how the Spurs took it from them.

There’s no flash or sparkle to the Spurs.  They’re a team built around aging, but effective studs (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker), rising stars (Leonard, Danny Green) and a Foreign Legion of role players (Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Mario Bellinelli, Patty “Not Pat” Mills) and a craggy-faced, curmudgeon Gregg Popovich who is only the best coach in the NBA.

Duncan is a lock for the Hall of Fame and Popovich will walk into it as well when he retires and turns overs the reigns.   Rarely have a player and coach been as great as long as this duo has and their fifth championship since 1999 would be an exclamation point on both their outstanding careers which probably will end in a year or two.

Win or lose, the chatter has already begun if these are the last games James ever wears a Heat uniform again.   He can declare himself a free agent and take his still impressive talents to any team that wants to back up a fleet of Brink’s trucks in his driveway.    When push comes to shove, I’m betting LeBron gives Heat GM manager Pat Riley a chance of clearing away some of the flotsam and jetsam on the roster and finds some more athletic, energetic playmates.

However, that’s all for the postmortem plans.   After all, when you’ve got the best player in the game, there’s always an excellent chance an elimination game won’t turn out as expected.  What leads me to believe things are going to turn out exactly as expected is while The Heat need and hope to win, the Spurs expect to win.   The math is elementary.  The Heat have to win every game.  The Spurs only have to win one.

Tonight they will and LeBron can start making his summer plans.

The elder statesmen of The Spurs waiting for the trophy celebration.

The elder statesmen of The Spurs waiting for the trophy celebration.

Escape From The Vampire Hours

What sleep looks like when you can’t sleep.

I am watching the last 3.5 hours of my last night at work creep around the clock.  After seven years I am finally–finally–getting off of the night shift.   The nature of working in I.T. (information technology) is you have to work weird hours and odd shifts.  When I started this job I was working four days on, three days off.  Two eight-hour nights followed by two 12 hour nights.   That lasted for two years.   That time is a blur to me.  What little I remember from it is how the first of the three days off were spent unconscious, more dead than alive.

I have worked in I.T. nearly 35 years and most of it was during hours when most of the world was sound asleep.   I’m not really complaining about it.   Writing satisfies my creative urges but   working the graveyard shift pays the bills.     I never understood why it was called that.  Now I know.   I feel that all these years working all these nights have put me closer to death.

Nobody made me try to sleep when the rest of the world is awake.   That was my choice and I tried to adapt to my weird schedule.   I used blackout blinds and heavy curtains to affect a reasonable imitation of darkness.   I tried working out before going to bed.   I’ve tried several brands of sleeping pills.   Whatever it takes to try to get some rest while the rest of the world is busy, I’ve tried.   The problem is when the neighbors want to cut their grass or the city wants to tear up the concrete for a new sewer line or the contractors are banging on the side of house at 7:30 a.m. and you just got off work at 7:00, it sometimes seems as if the entire damn world is conspiring against a guy getting a not-so-good morning’s rest.

In my rational mind I know there is no conspiracy.   The world does not give a shit how much sleep I get or don’t get.    Nobody did this to me.   I did it to myself.

I chose to disrupt the natural rhythms of my body.    I chose to lose track of days and forget birthdays, holidays, and special events.   I  chose to make myself unhealthily, crazier, and one hot mess of a human being.   It was 34 years ago I walked into the operations center a bank and voluntarily chose to spend over half of my life working while the world slept.

These are the Vampire Hours.    There’s no  bloodsuckers,  just plenty of bloodshot eyes.   You don’t lie in a coffin to escape the sunlight but you do lie in a bed staring up at the ceiling.   Insomnia is bad in the dark, but it’s no better in the light.

And damn if I’m not happy it’s over.   To sleep, perchance to dream?   Yeah, but first you have to get to sleep and sleep deprivation is the merciless foe of the shift worker.    We consciously make a devil’s bargain to give up a good night’s rest for money.    I don’t know if I’d do it again.

It’s been a while since I went to bed when it was dark and woke when it was light.  I only did so two nights out of seven.   My wife didn’t much care for it.  She got used to sleeping alone at night, but she never liked it.   It’s not good for a marriage, even a strong one like ours.

So I found another job.  It’s still an I.T. position, but during 1st shift hours.   That’s the good part.  The bad part is while the hourly pay is a little better, the overall result is a noticeable pay cut as I am losing both my shift differential and weekend pay.

Better hours.  Worse pay.   You do what you gotta do.  What I gotta do is get off nights before it kills me.

I cleaned out my locker three days ago and all I kept was some toothpaste and a couple of grape Crystal Light packets.   Everything else went into the trash can or recycle bin.  Even after all these years I never developed a taste for coffee.  I got my caffeine fix from slamming Diet Mountain Dew.  Liquid crack in a bottle is what I called it.    It didn’t always work, but it was better than nothing.

I deleted everything in my e-mail account.  Everything in inbox, outbox, saved mails, deleted mails was eradicated.  Everything.   I blew away any pictures, downloads, or music files I had saved.   Can’t take it with me.   Didn’t want to leave it behind.

My last official act was to scan the time clock, turn in my access badge and parking pass and on my way out the door toss my old lunch bag in the dumpster.   I wasn’t being defiant. I wasn’t mad at anyone.   I didn’t need it any more.   Could have taken it with me.   Didn’t want to.

I cleaned up the few outstanding issues on my desk, shook the hands of the people whose hands I wanted to shake, handed out a business card or two to a couple of guys I wanted to stay in touch with and that was that.   There was no going-away gift.    No last “thanks” for seven years of work.  Nobody seemed to care all that much.   Then again, I would have been a fool to expect a special good-bye.

This is 2014 and there’s no place in the modern workplace for sentimentality.    They paid me fairly well and in full.  The checks always cleared and an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work is all you can ask (or should expect) from an employer in 2014.    It’s all you’re going to get.
Nobody’s invaluable.   Everybody’s replaceable.   If I wanted loyalty, I’d buy a dog.

More than just seven years of work have come and gone.  It takes a certain sort of special mindset to hack working the graveyard shift.   I  don’t have it anymore.   Whatever it was, it’s gone and I don’t want it back.

I am going to have to relearn how to sleep at night.    I have screwed with my body clock and it is not going to be an easy adjustment getting back to normal.    Those sleeping pills that helped me make it through the days will now have to help me make it through the night.    We’ll have to see if they do.

Working nights is hell on the sleep cycle.  I don’t remember the last time I slept eight straight hours.   Usually sleeping is something I do between living life which means there have been many days when I barely or don’t sleep at all.

It’s time for a change.  Time for a new job.   Time to try to be a normal human being doing all the normal human being things when normal human beings do them.

I don’t know if I can.   I’m dreaming big, but I’m starting small with modest goals.   Sleeping straight through the night would be an excellent place to begin.
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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Is Free. That’s A Good Thing, Right?

Prisoner of war? Deserter? Both?

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009. Tonight he’s a free man.

Welcome back, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Members of the Taliban handed over the only U.S. service member known to be held hostage in Afghanistan on Saturday morning in exchange for five Afghan detainees. The deal, which the Obama administration has been pursuing for several years, was brokered by the government of Qatar. “Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” President Obama said in a statement, after he delivered the news to the soldier’s parents. “And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue.” According to a senior Defense Department official, when Bergdahl was safely aboard a helicopter, he wrote the letters “SF?” on a paper plate, meaning “special forces?” A team member responded, “Yes. We’ve been looking for you for a long time,” at which point Bergdahl broke down in tears.

Not everyone is happy about how this deal happened. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mi) went on CNN to blast the Obama Administration for dealing with the Taliban.

“I’m extremely troubled that the United States negotiated with terrorists and agreed to swap five senior Taliban leaders who are responsible for the deaths of many Americans. This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.”

House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. McKeon (R-CA) and ranking Senate Armed Services Republican James Inhofe (R-OK) released a joint statement:

“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”

“I’m a U.S. Senator, dammit! Respect my authority!”

And of course John McCain had something to say.

“These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands. I am eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners or engage in any activities that can threaten the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.”

Apparently the Obama Administration didn’t tell “senior Afghanistan officials” of the impending exchange and the New York Times reports the president may have done an end run around Congress which explains why Republicans are fuming so.

That, and of course they can’t abide the thought the Kenyan Socialist with no birth certificate has done it again.  If Obama walked on water, laid hands on the blind and lame and they could see and walk while feeding the masses with only some bread and fish, the Fox News headline would be “Obama Still Talkin’ that Income Inequality Crap, Can’t Swim.”

By now even Obama knows there is nothing he can do Republicans will give him any credit for and it is futile to go looking for any.

If Bergdahl’s release reminds the many there is a price only a few of us are paying for fighting this forgotten war and most of us don’t have to share in that cost that alone makes the deal worth it.  There’s been a lot of discussion about the current mess at the Veterans Administration that cost former General Eric Shinseki his job and not enough on how the system is being overwhelmed by the influx of new patients from the Iraq and decade-old Afghanistan wars.

The best way to avoid these sort of situations and the resultant schisms that come from them are not to play at war anymore and particularly not when you’re not going to go all-out to win. Haven’t we learned from Viet Nam what happens when the United States goes to war in places the American people don’t really want to be for reasons they don’t understand?

A lot of people die and not much of anything comes from it.

Prediction: Republicans will give Obama an earful for a week or so, but after their hissy-fit passes most Americans will give the president credit for not leaving Sgt. Bergdahl in the hands of the Taliban than worry about the five prisoners he was exchanged for.

Personally, I would have traded every prisoner at Gitmo to get one American soldier out. Set ’em free now and kill ’em all later if you must, but leave no man behind. Even one as problematic as Bergdahl.

the president and Bergdahl’s parents meet the press. Now the tough questions start.

 

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