Posts Tagged ‘Obama

Has Duck Dynasty Invaded Ukraine?

- April 28th, 2014

two-beardsPhil-Robertson-Duck-Dynasty

Let’s get this straight: I know in my gut there are highly trained operatives of the Russian government at work within the borders of Ukraine right now, doing their damnedest to tear that country apart and bring key regions of Ukraine back under Soviet — oops, Russian — control.

Read more…

Ask Barack Obama For Whatever You Want

- November 12th, 2012

WeThePeople

 

Look, Barack Obama is not Santa Claus — but you can still ask him for whatever you want.

 

Remember, Santa doesn’t give you everything you want, either — but there’s no harm in asking, right?

 

What I’m talking about here is a little bit of social media engineering the Obama Administration does on its www.whitehouse.gov website.

 

Hidden away on the White House website is a section called “We the People …” which gives anyone (well, American voters are the target audience but more about that later) the chance to start a petition asking for presidential action on any issue — and gives everyone else the chance to sign that petition (within a specific time frame).

 

Not a bad idea. It gives people (primarily the American people) a direct pipeline to the president and it creates a forum for both protest and groundswell populist initiatives.

 

Nothing, as far as I am aware, has ever actually happened as a result of one of these online petitions — but it can always be a starting point in a long, complex process of political action.

 

Right now, most of the petitions up on “We the People…” are demands for secession — peaceful secession, of course — from states that voted solidly Republican in last week’s presidential election. There are currently, I believe, petitions from 23 … oops, 24 … states on the website seeking secession — and most of them have the same template language.

 

“We petition the Obama Administration to:

 

“Peacefully grant the State of  ———– to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government (etc.,etc.) …”

 

Most of these petitions have only a few thousand signatures, compared to tens of thousands for a wide variety of other issues. But Texas has more than 46,000 signatures on its petition — the highest number of signatures for any of the petitions currently on the website. Well, Texas used to be its own republic, so I guess it makes sense.

 

The next highest number of signatures is on a petition asking the Obama Administration to “support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs).” 37,941 last time I looked.

 

After that comes the petition to “outlaw offending prophets of major religions.” 36,546.

 

Then a couple which I don’t quite understand (my ignorance, not the complexity of the issues) to “remove the monument and not to support any international harassment related to this issue against the people of Japan” and “persuade South Korea (the ROK) to accept Japan’s proposal on territorial dispute over islets.”

 

Sandwiched in between is the petition to “require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.” (A concept I’m firmly in support of, by the way.)

 

Then there’s the petition to “not allow the FDA to regulate premium cigars.” Huh? You want to smoke killer toxins? Oh, right, that’s what cigars are. Or is it the fact that Cuban cigars — outlawed in the U.S. — are still considered the only truly “premium” cigars? Politics and what people put in their bodies seem to come together quite a bit in these petitions.

 

And there are some strange ones, like the petition to “help free D. Randall Blythe from Prage (sic), Czech Republic, where he is falsely accused of commiting manslaughter.”

 

Turns out Blythe is the singer for an American heavy metal band called Lamb of God. In 2010, during a club performance in Prague, Blythe pushed an aggressive audience member from the stage. The teenage fan, Daniel Nosek, hit his head and died of brain trauma a few weeks later.

 

Unaware of Nosek’s death after the stage confrontation, the band returned to Prague in June 2012 — and Blythe was arrested and charged with manslaughter. Bail was set at (roughly) $200,000, then upped to (roughly) $400,000 and Blythe was finally released in August, immediately leaving the Czech Republic (promising to return for his trial).

 

Between his arrest and release, 28,412 people signed the White House petition asking for help in freeing Blythe from Czech custody. The $400,000 bail was a bigger number than the 28,412 signatures. I don’t think Randy Blythe will be going back to the Czech Republic any time soon.

 

So let’s get back to how you sign up for a petition on the White House website.

 

It’s really only supposed to be for American citizens. You provide your e-mail address, your name and your zip code. Then the White House sends you an e-mail and — if you respond — you’re signed up and able to add your name to a petition, or even start a new one.

 

Since I have dual citizenship — U.S. and Canada — I used a zip code for the American city of my birth (Greensboro, N.C.), but I guess anyone outside the U.S. could just make up a zip code to take part in the great American democratic experiment. Not that I’m advising that. But you could. If you really wanted.

 

I just don’t know what difference it makes. Does President Barack Obama read any of these online petitions? I don’t know. I image if a petition got hundreds of thousands of signatures, his advisers would say, “Hey, take a look at this!”

 

I haven’t done anything about it yet, but i’m seriously thinking about starting a White House petition that goes something like this:

 

“We petition the Obama Administration to …

 

“Peacefully grant the State of Canada to withdraw from the United States of America (Empire) and create its own NEW government…”

 

That’s where I was going to end, but I see a new petition has just popped up on the website. It only has 226 signatures so far but I think it deserves serious consideration.

 

The new petition asks President Barack Obama to “grant a full pardon to Chris Williams, a man facing 80 years in prison for legally growing Medical Marijuana.”

 

I think there will be a lot more than 226 signatures on that petition by the time it closes. Is Barack Obama listening?

10 Things About The U.S. Presidential Election

- November 6th, 2012

 

 

1. I called Barack Obama the winner hours before the U.S. television networks did. I know, I know — that’s like beating up a triple amputee. Not something a decent person would ever do and certainly wouldn’t brag about. (So I’m not bragging, just stating facts.) The U.S. networks were hamstrung by their screwups during 2008 election night coverage when they jumped the gun and made some very wrong early calls one way or another. This time they held back so long that most TV viewers fell asleep before the major nets made their most important calls. But all the TV anchors were like kids sworn to keep a secret they couldn’t keep: From 8:35 p.m. EST on, the TV anchors were squirming in their seats, desperate to tell America — and the world — that Obama was re-elected.

 

2. The Democrats claimed victory — not verbally but effectively — shortly after 10 p.m. EST when Obama’s mustachioed terrier David Axelrod was set loose to talk to the TV networks.

 

3. I’ve been watching U.S. elections on TV — one way or another — since John F. Kennedy kicked Richard Nixon’s ass in 1960. This was the first one I ever watched on computer. I missed nothing. I got more.

 

4. But a lot of what I was watching on my laptop was TV network coverage. What happens when advertising abandons network television like it is/has abandoning/ed print media? Who pays the piper then? I don’t actually think advertising will abandon TV — yet — but there is a major metamorphosis going on here. Soon everything goes through one pipeline to a variety of receptors. God help us then — we’ll be paying through the nose forever. I’m going to start an analogue 400-watt radio station — just so something is still on the airwaves after the apocalypse. Is anybody listening? I didn’t think so.

 

5. Just like the U.S. electorate, the U.S. media is deeply split. Fox is a joke but most of the mainstream network journalists were so firmly in the Democratic camp that they were a joke too. Sad, but at least it’s all well and truly out there now. The  pretence of impartiality is absurd but at least a lot of the TV pros tried to give real information too.

 

6. Best overall coverage was NBC News.

 

7. Worst (computer) sound quality was Fox News.

 

8. Obama has his second presidency and four years of job experience now: So get on with it. The world survived eight years of George W. Bush. Surely it can survive eight years of Barack Obama. So get on with it. Don’t wus around. Be the man.

 

9. Based solely on what I was hearing on network TV news coverage, I would dearly love to be a Latino in the U.S. over the next four years. It sounds like it’s going to be one big love shower. Hey, where’s my gift bag?

 

10. This was not an election of stark choices. The world has not ended and the heavens have not opened. In fact, both candidates managed to avoid talking about  most of the really important issues the president of the United States will face over the next four years. I wish us all good luck with an adequate president stumbling through the debris of his last four years.

 

(Bonus track: Big Bird thanks you, America.)

REWIND: Weird U.S. Presidents

- November 6th, 2012

UPDATE: I wrote this piece during the runup to the last presidential election in 2008. With all the heavy-duty pontificating going on, I figured it was time to lighten up a little with some presidential weirdness.

In honour of the current U.S. presidential campaign, here are some strange but true facts about former presidents. I know I’ve been harping on U.S. politics a bit too much lately, but I’ll bring it closer to home tomorrow with a blog on Five Things You Don’t Know About Toronto and the following day a blog on Toronto’s Shame. So stay tuned, but in the meantime enjoy this bit of frivolity:


Big Foot

1. George Washington had a dog named Drunkard.

2. And he (Washington, not the dog) had Size 13 feet.

3. At 5-foot-4, James Madison was the shortest president ever.

4. He was also the lightest, at 100 pounds.

5. The heaviest, at about 300 pounds, was Grover Cleveland, former mayor of
Buffalo. His nickname was Uncle Jumbo.


Uncle Jumbo, stuffed


P.T. Barnum’s Jumbo, really stuffed

6. Cleveland was the only president to be married in the White House. In
1886 Cleveland, age 49, married Frances Folsom, age 22. She was the youngest
First Lady. Cleveland was the executor of her father’s will and oversaw her
upbringing. Hmmmm.


Frances Folsom, 22


A White (House) Wedding

7. Five years before his marriage, Cleveland fathered an illegitimate child.

8. When he was drafted during the Civil War, Cleveland paid a Polish
immigrant $150 to take his place
 in the Union Army.


Millard Fillmore, thief, Buffaloogian, president

9. Millard Fillmore, another son of Buffalo, was an indentured servant,
close to a slave, as a child. My favourite line about him is this: “Millard
Fillmore taught himself to read by stealing books.” Now that’s presidential
material.

10. James Buchanan was the only president to remain a bachelor
throughout his life. As a young man, he was engaged to an heiress named Ann
Coleman
, but she suspected him of being a gold digger, broke off the
engagement and committed suicide by overdosing on laudanum.


James Buchanan, confirmed bachelor


William Rufus Devane King — now there’s a mouthful

11. Buchanan did, however, share a house in Washington, D.C., for 16 years
with his “special friend” (his words) William Rufus DeVane King, who served
as Franklin Pierce‘s vice-president during part of that cohabitation. Andrew
Jackson
 referred to King as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.” Buchanan’s own
postmaster general, Aaron Brown, called the two “Buchanan and his wife.”


John C. Breckinridge, sore loser

12. Buchanan’s vice-president was John C. Breckinridge. Breckinridge was one
of four candidates for president in 1860: He came third in the popular vote
and second (behind Abraham Lincoln) in electoral college votes. He then
joined the Confederate Army. One of his descendants is the author Gore
Vidal
, who wrote the gender-bending best seller Myra Breckinridge.

Raquel Welch as Myra Breckinridge/Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge: The Website

13. The memoir of Ulysses S. Grant was the first national best-selling book
in the U.S. Mark Twain formed a printing company to publish it.

14. William Howard Taft had a cane made of 250,000-year-old wood.

15. Harry S. Truman sent his laundry to Missouri to be washed.

Now, I personally have doubts about the last one, so I’m throwing in a bonus
fact:

All of Dwight Eisenhower’s pajamas had the five stars of a general of the
army embroidered on their collars (Of course his pajamas had collars — you
don’t think Ike would sleep in T-shirts and boxers, do you?)

LINCOLN AND KENNEDY – WEIRD CONNECTIONS

The above facts are the product of my own noseying around. Now here are
some strange linkages between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. I picked
this info up somewhere else and, if I could remember where, I would
certainly credit the author. I have double-checked the facts and they’re (almost — see the assassins’ birth dates) all true:

Abe Lincoln


JFK/White House photo

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth


Lee Harvey Oswald/AP photo

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839. (Actually this is wrong, he was born in 1838.)
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both names are composed of 15 letters.

Lincoln was shot at the theatre named Ford.
Kennedy was shot in a car called a Lincoln made by Ford.

Booth ran from a theatre and was caught in a warehouse.
Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theatre.

A week before Lincoln was shot, he visited Monroe, Maryland.
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was visited by Marilyn Monroe.


Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to JFK in 1962/file photo

HERE’S A WEIRD NON-PRESIDENT:


Samuel J. Tilden, ultimate loser

Background:
Samuel J. Tilden was the Al Gore of the 1870s. Tilden had been a corporate
lawyer, but as first a state senator and later governor of New York state in
the early 1870s, he took on the powerful Boss Tweed machine in NYC and
cleaned up the political corruption of Tammany Hall. Tilden was the
Democratic candidate in the 1876 presidential election. His Republican
opponent was Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden won a clear majority of the popular
vote, but the electoral college slates in three states were in dispute. The
final decision was turned over to an electoral commision of 15 members
appointed by the U.S. Senate (5), House of Reps (5) and Supreme Court (5).
The final count was 7 Republicans, 7 Democrats and one independent judge.
That independent judge, however, was elected to the U.S. Senate from
Illinois, and a Republican judge was appointed to the commission to replace
him. Surprise! The commission voted 8-7 along party lines to give the
presidency to Republican Hayes. Tilden retired into obscurity and died 10
years later.

Important fact:
On his death, Tilden — a lifelong bachelor — left most of
his $6 million estate to establish and maintain a free public library in New
York City. His relatives successfully challenged the will and got about half
the money. The remaining $3 million was still enough to fund the creation of
the New York Public Library
.

Semi-interesting fact:
The monument at Tilden’s gravesite in New Lebanon, N.Y., bears the
inscription “I still trust the people.”

Really interesting fact:
On his deathbed, Tilden confided to a friend that he had never slept with a woman in his life.

Politicians In Cowboy Hats

- July 10th, 2012

Mulcair-calgary-stampede-sun

UPDATE: Look who’s wearing a cowboy hat — Tommy Mulcair. And he doesn’t look half bad in it.

 

Everybody loves the Calgary Stampede (except, of course, for  PETA and friends).

 

But few people understand the true catnip of that love affair. It’s got nothing to do with horses or cows or corrals or clowns (well, not in the rodeo sense). Nope. It’s all about the hats. Cowboy hats.

 

Taking part in the Calgary Stampede allows everyone from royalty to the Dalai Lama to Joe Schmoe from corporate accounting in Mississauga to strut around town wearing a cowboy hat without feeling like a freaking idiot — a freaking, make-believe, wanna-be idiot at that.

fergie-andrew-1987

DaliLama-CalgaryMayor-DaveBronconnier-2009

Basically, the only way you stand out in Calgary during Stampede is by NOT wearing a cowboy hat. (NOTE: It really, truly has to be a Stetson™ to feel right on your head; I’d substitute “Stetson” for “cowboy hat” in this piece but some jokers out there haven’t got the message and are wandering around in knockoffs — and they can’t figure out why they’re feeling like jerks.)

 

Anyone can get away with wearing a cowboy hat during Stampede. Just look at this silly fellow.

harper-hat

The hat fetish is very much a case of living out childhood fantasies for most of us. In general, the cowboy hat’s pull has far more to do with Saturday afternoon movies and backyard gunfights than it does with any sort of modern reality.

 

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

 

A healthy fantasy life supposedly keeps us sane and balanced as we slug through the daily drudge of life. Just don’t confuse fantasy and reality.

 

In that regard, I have more than a little trouble with politicians (of all stripes) who flock to the Calgary Stampede just so they can wear cowboy hats. Or, more precisely, so they can be photographed and videotaped wearing cowboy hats.

 

Because everybody loves a hero, too. And nothing says hero like a white cowboy hat.

Trudeau-Cal-Sun-Stampede-2012

Of course, there are those rebellious punks who wear black hats just to cock a snoot a society and say “I’m an outlaw in my heart — just like Willie and Waylon.”

Harper-Cowboy-Hat

Or maybe the black hat just says Snidely Whiplash, the nasty mortgage-flaunting banker who wants to get his hands on Sweet Nell’s, um, homestead.

Anyway, politicians flock to the Calgary Stampede every year like mice to cheese so they can gladhand and backslap and smile for the camera. But most importantly, I think, so they can wear cowboy hats without looking like complete fools. Most of them fail in that regard. But here’s a selection of our boys and girls trying their best to look like Western heroes and heroines.

chretien

 

Trudeau-lariat

martin-stampede

ignatieff_cowboy

hat-redford

hat-clark

may

naheed-nenshi-calgary-stampede

Jean_Charest

JackLayton

Well, Jack Layton looks the best of the bunch (Redford and Trudeau — dad — are pretty good, too). I wonder if we’ll ever see Tommy Mulcair wearing a Stetson in Calgary? Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a photo of Mulcair wearing a hat — of any kind.

But then, some people just shouldn’t wear hats — of any kind.

Willem-Dafoe-hat

Canadian politicians aren’t the only ones who glory in the macho image a cowboy hat imparts. Wearing a cowboy hat is just part of being an American president.

obama_cowboy_hat

Cowboy_George_W_Bush

Cowboy_Bill_Clinton

RonaldReaganCowboyHat

 

LBJ-stetson

nixon-lone-ranger

Eisenhower-Wearing-Cowboy-Hat

fdr-stetson

calvin-coolidge-stetson

Roosevelt

Even American presidential wannabes use the cowboy hat.

herman-cain-in-cowboy-hat

 

And presidents of other countries — like South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Salva-Kiir-with-Ban-Ki-Moon

Ato Girma Wolde Giorgis-Ethiopia-prez_cowboy

And prime ministers of countries other than Canada.

winston-churchill-wearing-hat

And, of course, royalty.

kate-and-william-in-cowboy-hats

But nobody does it better than the Duke.

John-Wayne-in-True-Grit-1969