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Truth To Power

the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must

A new day

June 26th, 2013 by James Mann

On a day that sees DOMA being struck down, and Prop 8 dropped, I find it ironic that if American society had been more enlightened 50 years ago, I probably wouldn’t be here.

I’ve written about my father and his life before. He was a gay man from south Georgia…not a pleasant existence, I’m sure. He tried to fit into society, marrying my mother and having a child. As much as he loved me, and he loved me quite a bit, I’m sure of it, I suspect that some portion of his soul was dead from the time he became aware of his sexuality. I don’t know, because my father and I never spoke about it, but to live your life feeling out of step and hated by those around you because of their ignorance and fear, well, that has to make living hell in so many aspects. Dad, I wish you were here today. But he’s not, having died of AIDS in the early ’90s. Dad, it’s a new day.

Now, just as Loving v. Virginia didn’t wipe away the hatred toward blacks, the courts rulings today only give people human rights via the law. It’s not going to change those diseased, hateful bigots who hide behind their “god” in order to cloak their fear and envy in loftier terms. To them I have one thought.

Your god is dead.

Now, I don’t happen to believe in a deity, but even if some “supreme being” created us (for the sake of argument, it’s utter rubbish), then they wouldn’t create someone just to turn around and hate them. No, your god is dead. So, to the Bryan Fishers, Tony Perkins, Betty Bowers, and the rest of the hatemongering faction, I have a simple statement for you:

Keep your hate to yourself. It’s not legal, moral or in defense of anything. So shut up while society evolves. And like evolution, being gay isn’t a “choice” or a “theory”. It is simply the truth. I know it, my dad knew it, and deep down, you know it too.

So today is a new day. Now, you can keep on hating, but its a losing cause. If you want to spend your time on this precious earth hating, well, your choice. Nobody will respect your opinions anymore, of course, because we don’t HAVE TO.

Because it’s a new day….a fabulous day at that.


November 7th, 2012 by James Mann

“We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
Lindsey Graham

This election marks the last time that the GOP will get this close to the White House. Locally they will continue to muddle along, and perhaps they’ll steal or suppress enough votes at some point to make it interesting, but as evidenced by the ROI of the millions of dollars that Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson received- i.e…not much, the GOP has met it’s match.

And it’s name is science.

The GOP’s appeal rests on three things: I’m white, straight, and Christian. The day of those things being remotely relevant is rapidly drawing to a close.

The United States will be majority-minority nation by 2042. By 2050, the country will be 54 percent minority as Latinos double from 15 percent to 30 percent of the population, Asian Americans increase from 5 percent to 9 percent, and African Americans move from 14 to 15 percent.

Unaffiliated or secular voters—not white evangelical Protestants—are the fastest-growing “religious” group in the United States. The percentage of adults reporting no religious affiliation almost tripled from 1944 to 2004, rising from 5 percent to 14 percent. Projections indicate that by 2024, 20 percent to 25 percent of U.S. adults will be unaffiliated.

This trend—combined with growth among non-Christian faiths and race-ethnic trends—will ensure that by the 2016 election (or 2020 at the outside) the United States will have ceased to be a white Christian nation.

The future of this country will be decided by Hispanics, women, and the secular- not by Karl Rove and Fox. The GOP holds no attraction to them, and they are deluding themselves (quite a popular sport among their ilk) to think otherwise. The echo chamber between and Fox can’t understand that Nate Silver isn’t an “Obama stooge” because they refuse to understand the science behind his method. They continue to believe that American is a center-right nation, because they have their own pet propagandist media filling their heads with utter and complete lies. Fox News and their useful idiots are the equivalent of the Creation Museum in Kentucky- beloved by the “faithful” and pitied by the rest of us.

I’ve watched conservative friends on Facebook attempting to stiffen the backs of fellow travelers with “I’m voting for Liberty!” and posting Youtube videos of Obama speeches, cut out of context, trying to convince themselves that the President is a Muslim. Or spreading dire warnings of gun control laws that will take their precious handgun and give it to the UN. It is truly sad to watch, but the days of the rest of the nation paying them any attention is waning.


The rest of the nation believes in gay marriage. The believe in the DREAM Act. They want marijuana decriminalized, and Citizens United overturned. They believe in evolution, Obamacare, and climate change. The only reason these things are still a topic of conversation is that monied interests want them to be. But as last night’s election proves, money falls short when it faces demographics. On the one hand it is fun to watch all the PAC money circling the drain, failing to achieve much of anything but boosting ad sales in Ohio, but in end just imagine if it was spent on public schools, or sustainable energy or the like.

I have been doing this blog for over five years, and this will most likely be my last political post. I feel confident in the future of this county, because unlike my conservative friends, I trust America. The increasing diversity of our population assures a more liberal, progressive society, no matter what Fox News says. But more than that, I trust science. Science always wins.


Within a few years the viewers of Fox and will be as vital as those Japanese islanders that refused to believe the war was over. But it is. Now you can dig your heels in and fight your imagined “socialist/Kenya/47% “moochers” but you’ll lose. You lost last night, and that was as close as you get for a long, long time.

Because science always wins. Always.

The perfect candidate

July 19th, 2012 by James Mann

If you had to concoct the absolute perfect candidate for the GOP, one that embodies all the aspects of that fading brand, you would end up with Mitt Romney. Think about it. The GOP today exists for two reasons- to plunder the wealth of America, and to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Any other chatter from them is only chin music- on a national level they use our resources as a giant ATM, leaving us to deal with what’s left, which isn’t much.

After what seemed like years, the powers that be in the GOP cast away all the total idiots, the theocrat and all the other pompous, hypocritical loons and selected the guy whom everyone picked before it all started. They picked a man with no actual stance on anything, or rather, one for every TV interview. They picked a man who had two qualifications for the job- as a businessman running Bain Capital and as the governor of Massachusetts.

And he’s running scared from discussing either of them.

Now anyone reading this blog knows my feelings about Obama. He’s a war criminal who’s way too chummy with Wall Street, allergic to any investigation of past administrations wrongs, and wages war on sick people. But compared to Mitt Romney, there’s no comparison. Despite the slack-jawed dirt eaters among us, Obama doesn’t want to take our guns or sic a death panel on your grandma. He has reversed the job loss trend under Bush, ended DADT, and passed the ACA. Not a bad run considering that he’s battling the regressives in Congress- even when he promotes their own idea.

I cannot fathom another four months of this. The idea that Romney and his dark money backers will spew their complete nonsense about their cardboard corporate raider uninterrupted 24/7 sickens me. I can certainly turn the TV off, but what is really frightening is that people I know are actually gonna vote for him. Mitt Romney has shown himself to be an enemy of America, from his tax dodges and Swiss accounts, his off shoring of labor- hell, even Saran Palin calls him on that. He starves his country while at the same time wanting to rule it. You can’t have it both ways. And all the people pondering voting for him because of social issues- gays, abortion, et al- believe me, you’ve put more thought into those topics than he. He doesn’t give a shit. Or at least not as much as the almighty dollar, which is the one, true deity Mitt Romney worships. He can dribble on about “Obama’s World Wide Apology Tour” (which is of course completely untrue, and anyway, we have multitudes of sins to apologize for), but his actions speak louder than his carefully crafted but empty platitudes. Mitt Romney doesn’t value America for it’s virtues anymore than a junk yard owner values his acres of scrap. If he can sell it, fine. Gimmie the money, but otherwise, STFU. His one redeeming action as Governor he runs from, and his voters will look the other way and punch the ticket for him anyway.

Everyday that Mitt Romney refuses to release his tax returns tells us all we need to know about the man. Because in those papers lay the real “soul” of Mitt- a completely out of touch, job destroying, anything for the green predator. He’ll run, but his campaign is over. Now he’ll garner a respectable amount of votes- Citizens United allows for that- but he is an ugly and vapid excuse for a candidate who only garners the votes of the “Take Back America” nitwit racists. They would vote for a face-eating bath salt junkie just so long as his name wasn’t Barack Obama. I guess we can be glad that the GOP couldn’t get one of those, it’s problematic having a press conference from your jail cell. So run, Mitt, run. Run from your “accomplishments”, run from your taxes, run from the press. Just keep running.

Just keep running till you’re out of sight.

Oh grow up…it ain’t 1978

April 19th, 2012 by James Mann

I was a high schooler in the ’70s, graduating in 1980. Those were the years where hard rock was king, and until punk came along (thankfully!), I was right there, listening to the testosterone overdose of loud guitars and misogyny, all though of course I didn’t hear as such then. Two of my favorites in that era of 8-tracks were Aerosmith and the “Motor City Madman”, Ted Nugent. I can recall endless discussions of Nugent’s guitar skills or Steven Tyler’s “bad boy” persona. Oh, to be young, when you think that a guy in loin cloth (Nugent) or one wrapped in scarves and eyeliner (Tyler) are relevant to your life. Yup, high school in the ’70s was a necessary evil, I suppose, but one that I’m glad I was able to move past.

Too bad they haven’t.

So here we are in 2012, and somebody is actually playing attention to these two nitwits again? Steven Tyler, who, to be fair, hasn’t produced music worth hearing since he and Joe Perry quit shooting up together, is now running his “same old song and dance” as a judge on American Idol. I’ve never seen the show- I love music too deeply to watch it in the hands of Auto-Tuned robots with nothing to say- but to see Tyler, his carefully arranged to look like he just got out of bed hair now half gray, atop clothes that looked stupid 30 years ago, to see him yukking it up on prime time TV is oh so sad. Sad because some amount of my high school energies were spent on him and his ilk, and to realize that what was rebellion then is just another product now. But I’ve evolved past his infantile macho gesturing and retreaded Yardbirds riffs to something new, but apparently prime-time American hasn’t. Oh well. Still, in some little way it makes me embarrassed by my youthful self, and I doubt I’ll ever willingly listen to Aerosmith again.

But say what you want about Tyler- whore, used to be, whatever, he ain’t got nothing on Ted Nugent. When I was 16, 17, the Nuge was the MAN. I saw him live a few times “in the day”, and he was wild. His music was over the top, full of adolescent odes to dominating women and slaying deer. In an age where drug and alcohol use was mandatory, Nugent went against the grain, claiming to be drug and booze free. He was “straight edge” before Ian MacKaye was probably born. He dodged the draft with the now infamous poop pants trick, and I thought that was pretty cool too. Remember, I was 17. Now, a few years after high school I was a roadie for a band that opened for Nugent at the Dothan, Alabama Civic Center. This was after the fame had pretty much deserted him, along with his 1970’s band, and he struggled to fill half the seats. After the show we all went back to the Holiday Inn and found the bar. Nugent and his crew were there, and I watched the supposedly booze free Ted pour White Russians down his gullet like there was no tomorrow. Which, in the atmosphere of a touring rock band, there really is no tomorrow- that’s part of the appeal. It was sorta sad, watching him lie, but it was no skin off my nose, and anyway, drinking with Ted? Hell yes! When the disc jockey played another disco hit Ted sent a roadie to the booth to see if he had anything by the Stones, and when the guy played “Play That Funky Music White Boy” Ted got in his face and screamed “I SAID PLAY THE STONES, MOTHERFUCKER!” He did.

Now, Ted Nugent is in the news with his statements about Obama, and supposedly the Secret Service is investigating? Uh, why? Ted Nugent is a retarded adolescent who lies every time he opens his mouth, in vague hopes of rekindling his music career, which has bottomed out in the last 20 or so years. His music, far as I can tell, hasn’t advanced one iota since I was in high school, and the people that still listen to it, well, they haven’t evolved much either. So for Ted to run his mouth at a NRA convention, well, he’s just pimpin’. Like the Nuge, the NRA attempts to terrify gun owners with fears of mass gun seizures, starting just as soon as Obama is re-elected. Ha. It’s just pimpin’ for the cameras. Obama isn’t going to enter into a secret treaty with the UN to enact a one world government and confiscate your shotgun. The only people who believe that are either getting paid to mouth it…or they’re still in high school, figuratively. But there is no reason in the world why the rest of us should waste 5 minutes of time listening to it. I’m a gun owner, but the NRA scares me, because they grow fat on the fears of morons, ramping them up with imagined horrors to come. It’s both scary- and sickening.

In an age where our government exists as a giant ATM for the 1%, our President gets a Nobel Peace Prize while sending drones to Afghan wedding parties, and you can’t eat shrimp from the Gulf, get a job, or pay your mortgage because some rich fucker sold you down the river for a blip on an earnings report, we are all up in arms because some idiot with a Gibson said something stupid about the President? Give me a break.

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

So grow up. Ted Nugent, repellent as he is, ain’t the problem. He’s just a whore, trying to keep himself relevant, just like Tyler. Your attention and activism are better used somewhere else. Its up to you- not me, not Ted, not Fox or CNN- to tell you what that is. Just remember, we’re not in high school anymore.

Act like it.


March 7th, 2012 by James Mann

It’s funny what you remember from your youth. When I was very young I spent every Friday with my grandfather, and he always listened to Paul Harvey on the radio. I don’t really recall what Harvey said, but he had a bit entitled “The Rest of the Story” that was kinda interesting, at least to a seven year old. At the height of his fame he was about the biggest star radio had, with over 24 million people a week tuning in. According to Wikipedia, his work has been reprinted in the Congressional Record more than any other commentator.

Ask anyone under about 30 who he is, and you’ll get a blank stare. No knowledge of him at all.

Then in the late 1980’s we had Morton Downey, Jr. Fired from his radio show in Sacramento for telling an offensive joke about a member of the city council, he eventually found himself on TV, blowing smoke in guest’s faces, screaming “ZIP IT!” to the unruly, and generally bad-mouthing liberals. He was on Saturday Night Live in 1988, WrestleMania and movies; for a while he was the biggest name in shock entertainment there was.

If you ask anyone under 30 about him, at most you’ll get “Was he Robert Downey’s father?” (No.) Otherwise, nothing. No recollection of him at all.

When Downey was fired from the radio show, a new face took his place, and has had the slot ever since. His name is Rush Limbaugh.

As of this mornings count, 26 advertisers had dropped Rush because of his offensive remarks about Sandra Fluke, and it ain’t over yet. Now, people have wanted Rush off the air for years- with good reason. He’s a blight on our culture, completely dishonest, degrading to anything that doesn’t suck up to power. So why is he on the ropes this time? A article in Forbes gives us the reason:

The New Networked Feminism: Limbaugh’s Spectacular Social Media Defeat

“I think the feminists were always out there, but often isolated from one another or overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done and lack of time in a day,” says feminist writer Kate Harding. “Social media allows us to work together quickly and publicly for something like a boycott or twitter campaign–(mostly) without the distractions of in-group politics or disagreement on any number of other issues–and that creates an energy that makes it feel so much more like a unified movement, even when people are still quite loosely connected.”

Simply put, Rush, like those who came before him, is a dinosaur. One of the main differences between the two political parties is focus. Liberals tend to be diverse and random in their interests- look at any liberal parade or march, and you’ll see as many different slogans and causes as there are people marching. On the other hand conservatives are single-minded for the most part, generally toeing the party line and speaking in a single voice. That’s why they’ve been so effective getting their message out, and having it almost sound normal while it endlessly repeats on cable news. Instead of banners wanting “No Keystone!” or “Free the Whales” or any number of causes- it’s like herding cats- the GOP just espouses the viewpoint of one segment of our population- old white men. The entire GOP structure is built around giving a reach-around to big business and big, old white people like Limbaugh.

Rush, meet your future. It might not happen right now, but I guarantee you in ten years you’ll be at a loss to find anyone under 30 that will remember him. As Forbes shows us, social media has given voice to those previously too weak to battle the giants who own media companies, run for office (ask Santorum), or cuddle up to theocrats (ask the Susan G. Komen Foundation how that worked out). Just as Facebook and Twitter helped spur the Arab Spring, its given voice to the voiceless here at home. So, it might take some time, but Rush, you’re extinct. The power of protest by boycott works- remember Glenn Beck? Seen him anywhere recently? Nope. He’s a dinosaur too. And we don’t see- or more importantly, hear- T Rex anymore.

Good riddance.

Where’s the CNN funeral for Michael Davis?

February 20th, 2012 by James Mann

Michael Davis, MC5 bassist, dies at 68

Michael Davis, the bassist of influential late 1960s rock band MC5, has died of liver failure, his wife said Saturday. He was 68.

Kick out the jams, motherfucker!

Whitney Houston never said such a meaningful phrase in her life. She never challenged authority. She never once used her gift for anything beyond a paycheck.

Which is why her grotesque funeral was broadcast live on CNN, and most of you are wondering who in the hell MC5 were. The “Motor City 5” were a groudbreaking punk band, before we had such a phrase. Their debut album, recorded live at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in 1969, is a legendary, influential blast to your frontal lobes that set the stage for the punk rock of the late ’70s.

Whitney Houston made songs that your mother enjoys. She happened to do so in the early days of MTV, which accounts for why her death seems so natural running non-stop on cable news and the internet. I was in the Atlanta airport, forced to listen to CNN’s coverage of her memorial service, and half-way watched as Jesse Jackson and others got their mugs in front of the camera, all crocodile tears over “our loss”.

Funny, I don’t lose anything when an over-rated pop singer gets to The Dead Pool. Michael Davis was one of the last of the MC5 remaining. Rob Tyner, vocalist, died in 1991, Fred “Sonic” Smith, guitarist and husband of Patti Smith, passed away in 1994. Don’t remember any big gala on those sad days, although the legacy of what the MC5 gave us grows stronger every year, while Houston’s claim to fame is a pretty, saccharin voice bleating out covers of Dolly Parton songs. I’m pretty sure Kevin Costner didn’t speak at Michael Davis’s funeral, in fact, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t know the MC5 from the Stooges.

The MC5 made their statement in a time when you could be arrested and sent to jail for a joint, as their manager John Sinclair learned. The band played protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, drawing the watchful eye of the FBI. Their refusal to edit “kick out the jams, motherfucker” got them dropped from their record label. The MC5 stood for something; they actually walked the walk and paid for it. Whitney Houston squandered her talents singing future karaoke favorites- no one marches in protest singing “I Will Always Love You”. In fact, along with other celebrity deaths such as Amy Winehouse, nobody is going to remember Whitney Houston in ten years. Because she’s a product- nothing more, nothing less. Sure, she had a pretty voice, but I suspect there are 1000 equally pretty voices working at Waffle Houses across this country, and maybe we’ll hear them, or not. But in the end, who cares?

Because of people like Michael Davis and the MC5, our country evolved. Their no holds barred take on rock and roll, their protests on the Vietnam war and the entrenched power structure of the Nixon era, that meant something. There isn’t a single Occupy camper that isn’t in their debt, even though they might not know it, because what is the “99%” movement but “Kick Out The Jams, Motherfucker” writ large.

So Michael Davis dies, and outside of a few diehard fans, nobody cares. Whitney Houston dies, and Sony and Apple jacks the price of her albums to cash in. Because in the end, thats all she was, a product. And nobody marches to a product.

Dear god, let it be Santorum

February 13th, 2012 by James Mann

Like most people with a functioning cerebellum, my tolerance for the 2012 election has been used up. As the GOP flounders around trying to find someone, anyone willing to be utterly defeated by Obama, its gotten more than tiresome. Now the pollsters are seeing Rick Santorum in the lead.

Praise be.

Now I’m no fan of Obama- not at all. He’s a war criminal who is in bed with Wall Street, and he’s too timid by half. His refusal to indict the Bush Administration on anything is reminiscent of our inability to deal with Nixon, and will have the same effect. The stimulus was too small, and the banks too big. His use of drones is appalling, and allows us to wage war without comment- not that he would listen to comment anyway. No, Obama is flawed.

But compared to Rick Santorum, there’s no contest. One is a rational human being who deals in facts and reality, the other a homophobic theocrat who makes Pat Robertson look almost sane in comparison. Drummed out of the Senate, Santorum – even without Dan Savage’s help- is a laughing stock. He can’t make a public statement without resorting to complete fabrication, debunked urban legends or Biblical “evidence”. His is the perfect embodiment of the sad state of the GOP. Unable to run on their record, they instead lie about Obama’s. They hold the myth of Reagan as their absolute, despite the fact that he ballooned the size of federal government, raised taxes and was a draft dodging failed actor. To be a contender for the GOP nomination means you’re beholden to the Tea Party and the likes of Jim Demint, who seems to be permanently stuck, like the rest of the party, somewhere in a mythical 1950s America, where women did the dishes and kept their mouths shut, gays were shunned and minorities were largely unseen. The GOP has invented the laughable “Sharia law” threat, while at the same time insisting that their own “divine law” become the law of the land. They’ve had 30 years, more or less, to watch as their winner take all, trickle down economic “theory” has reduced our nation to beggars, eating away at the middle class while the 1% gets fatter. Gay marriage, the “war on terror”, the whole notion of “illegal” people, all GOP talking points, all fodder for the pundits, but already passed by for the majority of Americans, who are evolving past the regressives. This will be the last election that you’ll see applause lines generated by “socialism” or “secular humanism”. No, the GOP is a dying breed, unable to do much of anything except say no- and people, except for that stubborn 25% that thinks the Civil War is still being fought, aren’t interested.

So instead of Mitt Romney as the nominee, I pray that it’s Santorum. The only thing Mitt can run on is his race- everything else about him is Obama-lite. And for some, that will be enough. Just give them a white male, and they’ll be happy. But Rick Santorum, now that would be an actual race. Not a race for the presidency- Santorum would lose by double digits- but rather a battle between two diametrically opposite ways of looking at the world.

Santorum believes that the government can and should tell you who you can marry– but not regulate business.

He feels that children are better served with a father in prison than with a lesbian couple.

He doesn’t believe in evolution, and feels tax money should go to “teaching” intelligent design but not funding the EPA.

And of course, the whole repellent “man on dog” crap.

Now, the money men aren’t going to allow little Ricky to be the nominee- and that’s a shame. Because his running against Obama- and losing, badly- would be a line in the sand moment, where America would be able to pick between two totally different visions of our nation, one progressive (of a sort) and one completely regressive. As noted before, I ain’t no fan of Obama. If Romney is a GOP candidate, I’ll probably skip voting. But if Rick Santorum gets the nod, I’ll be first in line to vote against him, and everything he stands for. We as a nation have been far too nice to those who would drag us back to the 1850s with their ignorant homophobia, racism and dim-witted pandering on science. Rick Santorum is an embarrassment, and his defeat would send a definitive statement on just how far out of the mainstream he and his loathsome ilk are. So come on, GOP, make him your candidate.

I dare ya.

It’s not religious freedom

February 8th, 2012 by James Mann

Weekly Standard: Obamacare Vs. The Catholics

It is now a requirement of Obamacare that every Catholic institution larger than a single church? — and even including some single churches — must pay for contraceptives, sterilization, and morning-after abortifacients for its employees. Each of these is directly contrary to the Catholic faith. But the Obama administration does not care. They have said, in effect, Do what we tell you — or else.

Exactly. In regulating an insurance business decision- and that is all that this is- the critics of Obama see the end of civilization. The fact that no one actually told the Catholic church what to believe apparently doesn’t sink in to the professional victims crowd. In essence, the ruling states that if you sell insurance, then you must be bound by certain laws. If you find those rules too harsh, or not in keeping with your beliefs, then you certainly don’t have to obey them. Just quit selling insurance. For those of us more inclined to reality than Catholics, its not really a that big of a deal.

What if instead of discriminating against women with their ban on offering contraception, what if it were gays? But the same argument made by Catholics to discriminate against women could easily be made against gays. After all, discriminating against homosexuality is the very air that Bill Donahue, Rick Santorium and Michelle Bachmann breathe- and don’t believe that they haven’t thought about “banning the gay”. And if this nation really was a “Christian Nation” in reality instead of their fevered minds, they’d probably do it.

But they can’t. Discrimination does not hide behind the skirts of “religious freedom”, no matter how passionately Fox News bellows. The Catholic church is, just like all of us, free to believe any silly notion it wants. And like us their ability to “swing their fists” ends before they touch my face. But if they want to engage in a business, then you have made the decision to accept the rules of society. What you “believe” means absolutely nothing. You are selling a product, and that product is regulated by the government. You might find the Bible gives you license to tell a woman what she can do with her body- but not everyone does (in fact, not even Catholics believe it). Religion has nothing to do with it.

And if you don’t like it, move. I hear Uganda is nice this time of year.

Rick Santorum, meet Alex Chilton.

December 7th, 2011 by James Mann

A freshman student pressed Santorum on healthcare. “With all due respect Sen. Santorum, I don’t think God appreciates the fact that we have 50-100 thousand uninsured Americans dying due to a lack of healthcare every year,” said Ryan Walters, according to CNN.

After questioning the student on his numbers, Santorum rejected them. “I reject that number completely, that people die in America because of lack of health insurance. People die in America because people die in America. And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare,” he said. “And they don’t go to the emergency room or they don’t go to the doctor when they need to. And it’s not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit.”

Rick Santorum, meet Alex Chilton.

Oh yeah. You can’t. He died in 2010.

At least twice in the week before his fatal heart attack, Chilton experienced shortness of breath and chills while cutting grass. But he did not seek medical attention, his wife Kersting said, in part because he had no health insurance.

On the morning of March 17, she went to work. Chilton called her after suffering another episode; she arrived home before the ambulance, and drove him to the hospital. He lost consciousness a block from the emergency room, after urging Kersting to run the red light.

Alex Chilton was the leader of Big Star, one of the most influential American bands ever. Before that he was the singer for the Box Tops, you’ll remember them from “The Letter” and “Cry Like A Baby”. Chilton lived a hard life, and smoked, and unlike your American Idol wannabes, he never made much money doing what he did so well.

Rick Santorum, on the other hand, between being a lawyer and a Senator, probably had earned outrageous amounts of money. Add in his moronic Presidential campaign, where he’s gotten donations of over 800k- not a lot by Obama and Bush standards, but it ain’t chump change. For what? Rick Santorum is a hate mongering, homophobic theocrat who’s idea of a better America looks a lot like Iran or China. He stands no hope at all of being elected- to anything, at any time, thanks to Dan Savage- but still he gets invited to the debates, so that he can spew his warped sense of right and wrong to the people who cheer capital punishment and jeer gay soldiers. We won’t go into his views on gay rights, other than to say his views are at best misguided and un-Christian. But his recent statements on health care in this country goes a long way to summing up what sort of man Santorum is. To dispute the claim that upwards of 100,000 people die in this country due to lack of health insurance means he’s either stupid- and he’s given ample evidence to that in the past. Or he’s lying, and as I’ve always said, if you have to lie to make your point, you don’t have a point to make. Rick Santorum has undoubtedly had health insurance his entire life, first from his law firm, and then you and I picked up the tab when he was a Senator.

On the other hand, I doubt if Alex Chilton was covered at any point in his life. No musician I know, at least those who make their living solely by performing and recording, has insurance. Barely a month goes by without a plea for donations or a benefit for someone down on their luck with cancer or in a car wreck. It’s tragic, and in a nation so blessed with wealth, its wrong. But as Calvin Coolidge correctly noted, “The business of America is business”, and to that, our health care system is a profit center, putting stock prices first and patient care last. Lying fools such as Santorum and the jackals of Fox trumpet that our health care is second to none, but its not. In fact, by any ranking, we’re about the lowest among Western countries. Our life expectancy is 42nd, and we can barely manage to keep children alive to their teenage years. The people who claim otherwise are making money off it, nothing else. Rick Santorum included. And Rick Santorum will continue to spew his perverted brand of hatemongering as long as the donor dollars continue to roll in, and when Obama is elected again, he’ll go back to being a lawyer or a dinner speaker, and have more kids (he has 7 now).

Alex Chilton, on the other hand, died because he didn’t have health insurance. He’s not going to have any more kids. Or write another song as beautiful as Big Star’s “Thirteen”. He’ll never belt out a New Orleans classic in a smokey bar at 2am. He’ll never do any of that. Because he’s dead. I’m going to Memphis this weekend, home to Big Star, and I’m gonna raise a glass to the memory of Alex Chilton. And when I get rid of the beer, that will be my tribute to Rick Santorum.

I finally get Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2011 by James Mann

For the previous 48 Thanksgivings, I never really got it. My son was born on November 25, and I’m certainly thankful for that- his arrival turned my life around at a pivotal juncture and made me in part the man I am today. He provides me an endless source of pride and inspiration, and I wish him a happy birthday, a day early. But this Thanksgiving means something different to me, something deeper.

I had a stroke in the early morning of August 2nd. It caused me no physical pain, and none of the classic signs of stroke, other than my speech became jumbled. I spent a week in the hospital, and now after three months I have returned to work, so outwardly all is getting back to normal. And I guess it is, at least in the day to day mechanics of life. I awake at the same time, go to work and come home. Other than not really enjoying loud music, it’s almost as if the stroke never happened.

But inwardly, everything has changed. As the old saying goes, you don’t miss your water till the well runs dry. I have never been “cute”, and I tend to gain weight, so I never thought of myself as attractive and popular, but I knew that I was smart. Unschooled perhaps, but well-read and with a burning quest for knowledge. The stroke has changed that- I no longer trust my brain. I fumble when speaking, particularly at end of the day when I’m fatigued. Words do not come as easily as before, and my writing is not up to the level I was accustomed to. My doctor says within 6 months to a year I can regain 95% of my abilities. I say no. The brain reroutes itself in injury, steering blood away from the damaged parts, and learns new pathways for the things it needs to do. So I have set as my goal not 95%- but 100%. Or 150%. Why not take this event as a motivation to get smarter? I read more now, to overcome my problems with numbers I have become addicted to Sudoku. I do logic problems, crosswords, and other puzzles everyday, to keep my brain growing.

Until my stroke, I didn’t “get” Thanksgiving. Until I faced the prospect of not having life- or dealing with far more setbacks that I have so far- I never really looked at each day as the blessing it is. I’m alive, able to exist in the world pretty much as before, but now I see that in a more spiritual way. I am not religious, I don’t believe in deities, but I truly believe that something, somewhere, wanted me to live. It has enthused my life with a greater purpose. I look at my friends, small in number but large in heart, and I am thankful for them. I listen to music with even more appreciation than before, just at a lesser volume. I read stories of stroke victims, including the great My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, and find comfort at the shared experiences of others.

But the stroke, although it has robbed me of some aspects of life, it has given me a far greater gift than anything I am temporarily beset by. It has given me an appreciation of love. When I was in the hospital, a dear friend came to visit. I have known Wade Lowe my entire life, ever since he moved down the street when I was five. His son was one of my best friends in school, and Wade’s guitar shop, Diapason, sparked in me a life-long love of guitars. He arrived in my hospital room, a place he was familiar with considering his two heart attacks, and said that once I got back we would walk everyday. And so we have. I jokingly call him my personal trainer, but he’s far more than that. He is one of the happiest, most loving persons I have ever met. He seems to exist to, as his daughter remarked, “to do good things for people”. He has taken me under his wing many times in my life, far more than I would care to admit. I hope to replay the favor- and the love he has shown me- someday.

My wife Nancy and I are not “people persons”. She would rather draft ten emails than leave a voicemail, and other than friends and family, dislikes the phone. But she forgot all that when I was in need. She worked the phones tirelessly setting doctor visits, getting me setup for speech therapy, and a hundred other things. She finished my sentences when I couldn’t, and listened to my frustration when things got rough without complaint. She took my dietary restrictions as a challenge to her chefing abilities, never once letting it get the better of her. She has comforted me when I am stressed or fearful, listened to my woes, and truly made me know, finally, what a “partner” is. I truly feel I wouldn’t be here without her. This Thanksgiving, unlike years past, is only the two of us. And that’s alright with me. Because until this year, Thanksgiving was pretty much just an occasion to overindulge and eat Nancy’s stellar cooking. Not this year. Having been faced with the alternative, I look at life- and particularly life with her- as a blessing.

I finally get Thanksgiving. I hope you do too.