Grumpy Old Man Gets Older and Grumpier

McCain in a bad light.

Remember when John McCain was the Reasonable Republican leader?   If you do, you’re showing your age.  That Johnny Mac is long gone.  This is who he is now.  A grumpy 79-year-old man who having got punked by Donald Trump.  In 2008,  McCain screwed his presidential chances by selecting Sarah Palin.   Now he sounds like Sarah Palin.

“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaida went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq. “So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”
~ Sen. John McCain, 06/17/16

What in the entire fuck is wrong with McCain?  Is this just a Republican senator taking on a Democratic politics in the usual “I don’t like this guy since he beat my ass eight years ago and took the job I deserved, so I’m gonna hate on him and blame him for the worst mass murder in recent history.”

Politics are involved, all right. The politics of “I’m in a tough reelection fight and I can’t afford to piss off Donald Trump voters so even though he totally disrespected me, I’m gonna out-Trump Trump.”

McCain is in a harder primary fight than he expected, and even if he wins it he faces a strong Democratic challenger in the fall. He’s trying to save his ass and to do so he’s joined the lunatic fringe. If Trump had said the same damn thing everyone would shrug it off as the latest word vomit spewed from his rancid piehole. We’ve come to expect The Donald’s special disdain of truth and facts.

But this is Johnny Mac. Big-time war hero. P.O.W. Soldier. American hero. For him to shit out this garbage doesn’t lessen Barack Obama, but it does diminish McCain. It makes him small and it makes him look weak and like an old pol who’s hung on too fucking long, and right about now, those are things he can’t afford to be.

“I misspoke” is bullshit. Weak-ass BULLSHIT. It was bullshit as an excuse as Trump saying he was “misconstrued” in his bigoted attacks on Judge Curiel and it’s bullshit when a U.S. Senator accuses the President for being personally culpable for the deaths of 49 people. It’s worse when McCain does it, because when his mouth disengages from his brain, people actually listen and many of us can’t believe what we’re hearing from him.

Let’s apply John McCain’s twisted logic to his favorite person: John McCain. As a fighter pilot during the Viet Nam war, McCain was a pilot and part of the Operation: Rolling Thunder bombing campaign of North Vietnam. Estimates of civilians killed in the bombing vary between 52,00 and 182,000 killed, and critics of the war say villages and hospitals were targeted. McCain was personally involved in 23 combat missions.

A small man continuing to grow smaller.

A small man continuing to grow smaller.

Applying the senator’s reasoning to himself, instead of running for reelection as a war hero shouldn’t he be prosecuted as a war criminal instead?

Ludicrous? Absurd? Ridiculous? Sure, but so is Johnny Mac as he bows down to Trumpism, the philosophy of the guy who said about McCain, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

I like people who don’t run scared and talk out their ass.

Muhammad Ali: Black Action Hero

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.

Impossible is nothing.

~Muhammad Ali

President Barack Obama’s remarks on the passing of Muhammad Ali:
Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d “handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.”

But what made The Champ the greatest — what truly separated him from everyone else — is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.

Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him — the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was — still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

“I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me — black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age — not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes — maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.

RIP to The Greatest.


Perhaps there’s a way to honor Muhammad Ali in his passing without mentioning how he wasn’t just The Greatest, but America’s most famous conscientious objector, America’s most famous Muslim, and a transitory figure of social justice and Black pride.    Don’t sleep on that last point.  Ali was an American success story, but he was a Black super hero first and long before one showed up in the comic books.

Obama not only knows that, he celebrated Ali’s undisputed Blackness.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but losing Ali is so much more than losing another great athlete, a great humanitarian and activist and the G.O.A.T. For any conscious Black person, losing Ali is losing a hero, a role model, a symbol of Black power, pride, potential and principle. Ali was all that and at one time he was literally the most famous man on the planet and was recognized wherever he went in the world.

The important thing now is to not let The Greatest be neutered into some sort of cartoon character who beat guys up and said outrageous things.    Ali was Black Power Personified.   Controlled anger with a dangerous edge.  Sex, swagger, and style.   Ali didn’t just talk it, he walked it.   Ali was our Black James Bond: men wanted to be like him and women wanted him.    I should know and I’m not a woman.

If someone wants to say, “Ali was the Greatest,” that’s fine. If someone wants to go deeper and say “Ali was a hero and here’s why” that is also fine.    Haters should step off.

That was always the difference between Muhammad Ali and the rest of us. He came, he saw, and if he didn’t entirely conquer – he came as close as anybody we are likely to see in the lifetime of this doomed generation.
~ Hunter S. Thompson

Don’t believe the hype: They love Ali now but they hated Ali then.

The Terminal Stage of Obama Derangement Syndrome

“Here’s your new office, Mr. President. Sen. McConnell picked it out just for you.”

There’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court.    It’s President Obama’s job to send up a nominee to the U.S. Senate to fill it.   Mitch McConnell and his gang of thugs  say, “Hell no, they can’t go!”

The Republicans have made it clear they do not want a moderate, a middle-of-the-roader, a safe choice, or an acceptable alternative. They want Rush Limbaugh or someone further to the Right of him and nothing less than this is acceptable and even that might not be enough. What if Clinton or Sanders wins the presidency? Is McConnell and crew going to say, “Okay, we’ve got a new president. Send over a nominee.

The Republicans have the House and the Senate and hope to sweep the trifecta with taking the White House back too. Their reasons for keeping Scalia’s seat vacant are twofold: they don’t want to foreclose the possibility of a Republican president picking the next nominee or deny themselves the pleasure of sticking it to Obama one more time.

Why would Obama not make a nomination? The President is a scholar of Constitutional law. He knows what his responsibilities are. McConnell knows what his responsibilities are too, but only one player in this game is trying to change the rules.

If Scalia has died in October or November, McConnell might have a point. There are eight months until Election Day and the Senate Republicans can’t claim they’re too overworked to fit in a confirmation hearing. They just don’t want to allow this president to select the next Supreme Court justice.

“Y’know, you’re even uglier in person, Mitch.” “Thanks, Barack and I just farted.”

That, Mr. and Mrs. America, is obstructionism. No finessing or tap-dancing around it and anyone who thinks GOP opposition to replacing Scalia will magically melt away on January 20, 2017 if President Hillary Clinton or President Bernie Sanders takes the Oath of Office is on crack.

Since Republicans don’t understand the Constitution, what else do they want Obama to punt until the next president arrives? If a shooting war breaks out imperiling American interests, does McConnell want Obama to stand down until a Republican replaces him? If the economy starts to crater, should Obama go golfing and leave the mess for the next guy or gal to clean up?

The president may be in the last year of his presidency, but despite the inability of Republicans to read the Constitution or a calendar, he’s still the only president they got.

McConnell is still trying to undo the results of the 2012 election and this is his last chance to do so. He’s misreading the situation. The GOP has more Senate seats to defend in blue states than do the Democrats. Lose control of the Senate as well as the White House going to Clinton or Sanders, and a nominee further to the Left than what Obama might offer up becomes a near-certainty. Say “good-bye” to overturning Roe v. Wade and say “hello” to the end of Citizens United–especially if Hillary Clinton gets the nod.

The stance taken by the Republicans is historical. We’ve never seen anything like it in American politics. Contentious arguments over Supreme Court nominees is nothing new. Refusing to even consider a nominee no matter how qualified they may be out of malice and spite is.   McConnell and his mob really do not seem to grasp we already have a President of the United States and they have NO valid excuse which passes legal, political, or Constitutional muster to deny giving Obama’s nominee a hearing. It’s simply a naked power grab, plain and simple.

I DEMAND you stop the Black guy from replacing me!”

Let’s be honest here: The Republicans don’t want to see their most-favorite Supreme Court justice’s replacement chosen by their least-favorite Chief Executive. This is all about jamming up Barack Obama and denying his legitimacy as the president one more time.

In our hyper-partisan age, it’s no mystery why the Republicans are doing what they are doing. I don’t even really care if they use their numerical superiority in the Senate to vote down Obama’s nominee. That would be fair and every Democrat and/or liberal would have to recognize when you lose an election it has consequences and this is one of them.

But when the Republicans lost the 2008 and 2012 elections that has its consequences too, and one of them it is Barack Obama–not his successor–who has both the duty and Constitutional right to choose a nominee to replace Antonin Scalia and all the rest of this is just noise obscuring the signal

The hatred and disrespect of this president by the Republicans has reached a new low in Obama Derangement Syndrome and it should cost them dearly.

Help Wanted at The Supreme Court

Gone, gone, gone. Done moved on.

It’s an election year and everything that comes out of Washington has political calculation written all over it. Hell, Antonin Scalia wasn’t dead a day before Mitch McConnell proclaimed no nominee of the president would be confirmed no matter how qualified. they may be.

McConnell said, “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

The distinguished senior senator from Kentucky is totally full of shit.

The American people expressed their voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice in 2012 when they reelected Barack Hussein Obama as President. We already have a President in place. We don’t have to wait until January 20, 2017 to fill the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia’s demise.

The Senate has no reason not to fill the vacancy expect for political ones.    You know, like the one where the Republicans hate Obama’s guts?

The President should place before the U.S. Senate a nominee on Monday–President’s Day–and DEMAND they give his nominee a hearing and a up-or-down vote by the Senate.

Oh, I know McConnell won’t give a Obama nominee that vote and Obama knows it too. The president can’t make the Senate do anything. But he can make them sweat bullets for stonewalling his nominee. Nothing will prove to the American people how obstructionist the Republicans are than denying President Obama the right to exercise the Constitutional authority that is his and his alone.

Obama should call bullshit on McConnell, roll up his sleeves and go hard for his replacement for Scalia.   In the last months of his presidency pretty much the only thing Obama can do besides the daily ceremonial stuff is unleash hell on a “do-nothing Senate” that is stonewalling a qualified nominee.   This would be an excellent time for Obama to nominate a  Black or Latino jurist with exemplary credentials and dare the GOP to deny them Scalia’s empty seat.

Thus, with Scalia’s death, the vital importance of who gets to choose who sits on the nation’s federal and the Supreme Court, is refocused with laser-beam intensity. Now more than ever “who chooses?” will be a critical consideration for the American voters in November.

"Tony, in about 30 years you'll be dead and a Black guy in this office will pick your replacement."

“Tony, in about 30 years you’ll be dead and a Black guy in this office will pick your replacement.”

If McConnell wants to give Obama and the Democrats the rope to which to hang Kelly Ayotte, Mark Kirk, Rob Portman, and other GOP incumbents facing tough reelections in the fall, they’ll happily accept that gift. It will make sure McConnell’s one term-and-done as the Majority Leader, and passing the gavel over to Chuck Schumer so he can stonewall a President Rubio or Trump’s nominee. We could be looking at a long wait until there are nine Justices on the Supreme Court.

I know he won’t but I wish Obama would nominate a committed, unapologetic, true progressive to replace Scalia.    The question is would Bernie Sanders take the job?

I know he won’t but I wish Obama would nominate a committed, unapologetic, true progressive to replace Scalia. The question is would Bernie Sanders take the job?

Fact is, since there’s nobody Obama can nominate the Senate Republicans won’t block, why half-step with a “confirmable centrist?” There has to be a liberal jurist with impeccable legal credentials, pedigree and accomplishments under their belt, so why not? Send them a nominee who deserves a hearing and when McConnell and company throw up their mealy-mouthed bullshit excuses about “letting the American people have their say” pointedly remind them they had their say in 2012 when Obama won the election despite McConnell’s declaration nothing was more important than making sure Obama was a one-term president.

scalia_racist_credo_lp
There’s nothing much dramatic President Obama can do in these last months of his presidency beyond his daily ceremonial duties. Filling a Supreme Court vacancy is one of the most important jobs any president has and since this one in now in official legacy mode, he should fight like hell and go ballistic on the Republican Senate. Obama can lose and probably will lose this fight, but it’s a fight well worth the waging. Nothing less than the balance of power of the High Court hinges on it.

Passivity and retreat are not an option. President Obama should send a Supreme Court nominee to the Senate and then scorch the earth to fight for their confirmation.

I’m sending this quote to the President from a great progressive, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, “If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.

I don’t want another squishy centrist or mushy moderate. I want President Obama to nominate someone like Leah Ward Sears, the former Chief Justice of Georgia and the first African-American Chief Justice in the United States. Let him nominate someone like Sears and dare the Republicans to deny her a confirmation vote.

As for the late Antonin Scalia himself, it has been said if you can’t say anything good then say nothing at all and I got nothing to say.

What? Too soon?

What? Too soon?

President Obama’s Last Bow

I watched, I enjoyed it and I think the president took pains not to take a victory lap. He didn’t try to introduce a wish list of items Congress will never give him. He was definitive that America is still the world’s Number One superpower and our military takes a back seat to nobody. Obama made it clear he isn’t going to cut ISIS and Al Qaeda any slack for the rest of his presidency and he used the word “terrorism” repeatedly.

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us.

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.


But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are – killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.
If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.
Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world – in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

The President saved a backhand for Cruz

The President saved a backhand for Cruz

Obama rejected Donald Trump and the scare tactics and saber-rattling of Trumpism without ever mentioning him as well as dishing up a backhand to the absent Sen.Ted Cruz mocking his talk of “carpet-bombing” civilians areas in search of ISIS while firmly repudiating the singling out of Americans based upon sharing a religion with our enemies.

That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.

Obama also accepted his own failure to stem the partisan rancor and division in Washington which has now become rigid, systemic and seemingly irreversible.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.


But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task – or any President’s – alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

President Obama gave his last State of the Nation speech. It may have been his finest.

Prayers Are Not Enough

There have been thousands more memorials for the dead since Sandy Hook.

As opposed to the slow-to-no response from the 2016 Republican presidential candidates to the Colorado Springs shootings less than a week ago, following this week’s  the shooting spree in San Bernadino that left 14 dead, most of them reacted  quickly to get out their expressions of shock and sympathy for public consumption.

Notice any differences between the Democratic and Republicans?

“Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the first responders in San Bernardino who willingly go into harm’s way to save others,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted.

It was remarkably similar to the response from Cruz following the shooting at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs last week.

“Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs,” Cruz tweeted at the time.

“Praying for all those victimized by the shootings in San Bernardino, California today,” tweeted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Jeb Bush’s message was nearly identical.

“Praying for the victims, their families & the San Bernardino first responders in the wake of this tragic shooting,” he tweeted.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the shooting victims and their families in San Bernardino,” wrote Ben Carson.

Donald Trump, not surprisingly, offered a response with a bit more attitude — but it still said nothing about guns.

“California shooting looks very bad. Good luck to law enforcement and God bless. This is when our police are so appreciated!” Trump tweeted.

The Democratic hopefuls struck a strikingly different tone.

“I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now,” Hillary Clinton tweeted.

“Mass shootings are becoming an almost everyday occurrence in this country,” Bernie Sanders tweeted. “This sickening and senseless gun violence must stop.”

Martin O’Malley called out the National Rifle Association by name.

“Horrifying news out of #SanBernardino. Enough is enough: it’s time to stand up to the @NRA and enact meaningful gun safety laws.”
Prayers are no substitute for taking action. The Democrats say something must be done but lack the will or votes to do anything. The Republicans say a prayer and do nothing.

My reply? God helps those who help themselves.

Not sure which “meaningful gun safety laws” could be enacted to address rampant gun violence in America, but one thing clear to me is prayers aren’t working.

Prayers are no substitute for action.

obama grief

There may be value in prayer and I’m not knocking it, but if God is busy at a football game or something, I don’t leave it all in His hands. More has to be done than sending up prayers to a God who may not be there or may not be interested in getting involved.

I prayed for change.
I prayed after Sandy Hook.
I prayed after Charleston.
I prayed after Paris.
I prayed after Colorado Springs.
I prayed time and time again after senseless acts of violence here in America, in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and around this troubled globe.

I pray and nothing changes.   If we have learned nothing from Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, Colorado,  and now San Bernardino it’s that grief is not enough, tears are not enough, prayers are not enough.

This says to me maybe I should pray less and do more.

Chelsea Manning Does the Time For Bradley Manning’s Crimes.

Bradley committed the crime but Chelsea is doing the time.

The news that Chelsea Manning will not face solitary confinement for relatively minor rules violations as she serves her 35 year term in Leavenworth prison is a positive outcome for her and her many supporters.  I have some compassion for her but don’t count me among her supporters.

Before she was Chelsea she was Bradley and Bradley Manning never should have been a soldier.

Deifying Manning has become a cause célèbre but she hasn’t done a thing to merit it. Dumping over 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks isn’t heroic. Manning did it to stick it to the military so it shouldn’t come as any shock that now they’re trying to stick it to her.

As anyone who’s ever been in the military knows, all sort of Mickey Mouse shit can and will be used against you if you run afoul of the brass. That is what’s happening here, but I still don’t feel much sympathy for Manning.

Manning should have been discharged long before she stepped foot in Iraq and the fact she wasn’t is an endless source of wonder to me. This is as much the Army’s fault as it was Manning.

Bradley Manning is not Edward Snowden and he is most definitely not a hero. Let’s get that straight, for starters.

Manning is not a whistleblower motivated by either ideology or principle. Nor, despite the claims of some, is he a poster child for transgender rights being persecuted for his gender or sexual orientation. Analyses that have focused on Manning’s personal conflicts over his sexuality and the limitations it placed on his ability to serve miss the point as much as those that have declared him a free-speech martyr. He did not deliberately and methodically set out to expose a discrete government program that he had come to believe was unconstitutional. He was not sentenced for his gender preferences or how he chose to dress. He was a troubled kid looking to make a mark who simply spilled every secret he knew, the equivalent of screaming as loud as he could in the hope that all that noise would bring some attention.

When I was in the army, soldiers used to talk about, “dirtbags,” “shitbirds,” and “shammers.” We applied these cruel labels to the kids who, for whatever reason, just couldn’t hack it. Some of the “shitbirds” had legitimate personality disorders, and others seemed damaged in different ways—they were just off—too idiosyncratic for soldiering, or maybe too sensitive. The “dirtbags” lied to you when they didn’t have to. You couldn’t trust them not to go into your wall locker and steal your stuff. They were the borderline or actual criminals. Then, finally, there were the “shammers,” the troops who actively tried to get out of duty by citing injuries or hardships, real or imagined.

Manning doesn’t deserve hero status but doesn’t deserve 35 years in prison either.

All of these people had their reasons for enlisting in the first place. They sought money, an escape, an adventure, a way to serve their country, or a way to prove something to someone by joining the army and going to war. For whatever reason they had enlisted, once they got to basic training, they stuck out miserably. To say they were bullied would be accurate but would miss something about the character of the army, an institution in which tough-guy power relations are the norm—even tacitly encouraged—and do not form a remarkable exception.

By some accounts, the trouble started early for Pfc. Manning. One of his fellow basic trainees described him this way: “He wasn’t a soldier—there wasn’t anything about him that was a soldier. He has this idea that he was going in and that he was going to be pushing papers and he was gonna be some super- smart computer guy and that he was gonna be important, that he was gonna matter to someone and he was gonna matter to something. And he got there and realized that he didn’t matter and that none of that was going to happen.”

At his sentencing, Manning said, “I look back at my decisions and wonder, ‘How on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?'”

Good question, but apparently Manning has cultivated enough true believers to conclude a troubled, confused and lonely soldier was the best qualified person to make that call.

My distaste for Manning is not based on being gay or transgender as I support both being part of the armed forces. My issue with Manning is she is not a prisoner of conscience or anything romantic like that.   Manning couldn’t get out of the Army so she tried to screw it over.   Now that she is at their mercy they are screwing back.

chelsea-manning

Patriot? Whistleblower? Narcissist? Traitor? Take your pick.

Soldiers are not supposed to be robots.  They have brains and they can make decisions, but  when you dump classified information you’re not supposed to there will be consequences.   Chelsea Manning is paying the price for Bradley’s bad decision-making.

Manning was not a hero then, not a hero now, and not a hero ever.   President Obama should show a kindness she may not truly deserve and pardon, then dishonorably discharge Manning from the Army she was unfit for in the beginning.

Obama’s Amazingly Graceful Eulogy

The fallen, but not the forgotten.

Familiarity doesn’t only breed contempt. It creates expectations. Barack Obama has been president for just short of seven years. I read somewhere during his time in office he has made statements at  memorials and  mass shootings in America  19 times. He has to extremely tired of this part of the job.

Yet Obama does it anyway because while it’s a dirty job, somebody’s gotta do it. Somebody has to remind the rest of us America isn’t a great big unlocked insane asylum where the inmates are armed and running buck wild in the streets though it probably looks that way to the rest of the world.

The President isn’t only the Commander-In-Chief of the nation’s armed forces. He’s also the Counselor-In-Chief when yet another senseless act of violence occurs such as the killing of Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lee Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney by a murderous White supremacist.

Obama led a bipartisan group from Washington for Pinckney’s memorial service, and he gave praise to the fallen pastor and those of the parishioners who fell with him.     The president used a country preacher’s cadence that while solemn was  full of hope, healing and grace and  grace particularly was on the president’s mind as he lauded Rev. Pinckney.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life–a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

It was no surprise the president spoke plainly and forcefully on the unaddressed issues laid bare by the Charleston church shootings including the bloody rebel flag the killer wrapped himself in.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise–as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.

Americans have a remarkable ability to focus on something with great intensity and then move on from it. Here today is Rachel Dolezal and tomorrow’s she’s a trivia question. But nobody paid attention when NYPD patrolman Peter Liang was indicted for shooting Akai Gurley That’s the sort of thing which matters while Dolezal’s subterfuge and family matters don’t. The President reminded us there’s still a lot of unfinished business.

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system –and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

Then Obama did something no president ever has done before and may never ever do again. He began to sing. The President of the United State sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Amazing grace —  how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. “

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.

It’s been a long time since I was in church but Reverend President took me there.

I teared up AND got chills. This was the Obama I voted for. Every now and then my president makes me proud and he reminds me why. I could never imagine President McCain or President Romeny responding the way Obama did. Would Rand or Jeb or even Hillary preach and sing from the pulpit? Maybe they would, probably they wouldn’t but whatever they would do they could never do something so perfectly human.

We may not know it yet, but we’re  going to miss Obama when he’s gone.   He’s done some very good things, some very bad things, been exceptional, been ordinary, been inspiring and been infuriating.   Coming off a week where he had won fast- track trade authority in Congress (mostly with Republican support) and two monumentally important decisions by the Supreme Court making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and preserving Obamacare,  the president had enjoyed some significant wins.   We’ve seen many of Obama’s predecessors enjoy good weeks.

What Obama hasn’t been is anything like we’ve ever seen in any American President.    That’s a good thing and a uniquely Obama thing.