21 House Republicans willing to vote for clean CR.

October 4, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Diliff (Uploaded by Diliff).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Diliff (Uploaded by Diliff).

As the US Dollar continues to fall due to the continued shutdown of the US Government, Speaker Boehner has the power to put a stop to it all today if he chooses to abandon Tea Party demands, and sides with Republicans willing to accept defeat.

It now appears that the government would re-open if a vote was put to the House today to pass a clean funding bill without attaching legislative ransoms to the back of it. Along with House Democrats, a full 21 House Republicans are now willing to vote to re-open government, which is four more than necessary to end the shutdown. Speaker Boehner still refuses to let a vote come before the House.

Those 21 Republicans are:

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ.), Rep. Peter King (R-NY.), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ.), Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY.), Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa) released a statement on his website in which he attempts to deflect blame for the catastrophic mishandling of the situation by House Republicans, onto the Senate and the President for not caving to unjustifiable Republican demands:

“It is time for Congress to vote on a budget bill that gets the government back to work providing all of the services already paid for by the hard-working taxpayers in my District and across the country. If a bill comes to the floor to accomplish that goal, I will vote for it.

I have joined my colleagues in the House six times during the last two weeks to pass bills that keep the federal government open while defunding or delaying ObamaCare. Each attempt to eliminate funding for the law, repeal the $30 billion medical device tax driving jobs overseas or treat all Americans equally by giving them the same one-year reprieve from the law’s mandates that the President gave big businesses has been rejected by the President and Senate Democrat leaders. The President and Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid seem perfectly content keeping the “Closed” sign on the Liberty Bell, Valley Forge National Park and Gettysburg National Battlefield. I am not, and I look forward to voting to put government back to work serving the taxpayers very soon.”

– Through all the weak, self serving justifications for House GOP actions over the past seven days in attempting to defund an established Constitutional law that they lost the 2012 Presidential Election on, and a Supreme Court Case on, and the popular vote for both the House on, Gerlach signaled his intent to end the government shutdown as soon as a vote is called.

Another House Republican who has wasted significant legislative time and money voting 42 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act is Mario Diaz-Balart. He appears to have been lied to in order to secure his support for a Federal shut down, and now he’s come to his senses:

“When they brought the idea of defunding Obamacare, House Republicans were told we could get Democratic votes. So I voted for it. But it didn’t happen. Then we tried again. And it didn’t work. The third time, it was like: Look, this isn’t working. Let’s try something else.”

– The implication being that a clean bill would have passed and government kept open, had leading Republicans not lied about the level of support they had for attaching a legislative proposal onto a budget. A further implication being that Diaz-Balart blames House Republicans for a shutdown that in his own words, isn’t working.

On the subject of being lied to in order to support a Federal shut down, Ted Cruz met with Republican Senators at a private lunch to discuss strategy yesterday. One Republican Senator told Politico:

“It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy—it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice.”

– The rest of us knew this before the shutdown. Republicans are now coming to terms with just how badly this has turned out for them, and the dangers of letting a small group of extremists dictate Party tactics.

As early as the 28th September, Charlie Dent (R-Pa) said:

“I’m prepared to vote for a clean CR. I don’t want the government to shut down.”

– Again, the implication being that to vote for anything but a clean CR, would mean you are responsible for government shut down. Charlie Dent is subtly blaming the Republicans for a shut down. He joins House Republicans in 2010, who said:

“it is simply unacceptable to use a must-pass CR as a legislative vehicle ”

– So that’s 21 in 2013 prepared to pass a clean Continuing Resolution, as well as 2010 House Republicans.

Most surprisingly, Peter King (R.NY) told The National Review that two thirds of House Republicans would vote for a clear CR if the vote was allowed to take place:

“If it was on the floor, they would do it. Put it this way, two thirds want a clean CR.
Including some of the people who got elected as tea-party candidates from the South. You talk to them, they think this is crazy.”

– Another Republican Congressman implying that House Republicans are to blame for the shut down. They believe it is crazy to ransom the entire government, for the sake of a battle over an established law that they don’t like.

So with 21 House Republicans all willing to vote for a clean CR, with Democrats proposing a clear CR, and with the President happy to sign a clean CR, what’s stopping a vote in the House on a clean CR? It isn’t Harry Reid. It isn’t the President. It isn’t the 21 Republicans all wishing to reopen government. It’s a Tea Party led group ensuring that Speaker Boehner does not allow the Representatives of the people of the United States – within his own Party – to vote to keep Federal workers in their jobs. For every hour that inches closer to economic meltdown, Speaker Boehner becomes more and more culpable for this entire miserable episode.


September 11th.

September 11, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA (9/11 Memorial  Uploaded by russavia).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA (9/11 Memorial Uploaded by russavia).

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
– Robert Kennedy.

Last year I stood at the memorial fountains at the World Trade Center site in New York City. It is a truly humbling experience that I recommend everyone undertake. The feeling of horror, and anger, and great sadness are all intensely overwhelming as the spray from the fountains blows into your face and the solemn calmness conflicts with the enormity of the ideology-driven terror that struck in 2001.

Twelve years later, and reflection is still difficult. It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like to be a passenger on one of the planes, without pulling your mind away because it becomes just too much for any human being to deal with. We try to imagine what it must have felt like for those incredible firefighters running into the debris and the screams, and the nightmare, and we cannot bring ourselves to do so for long before it becomes beyond our capacity. We cannot imagine the pain so many families have been through, through no fault of their own and so many lives broken. Fathers who never saw their children grow up, mothers missing from family christmases. Equally we cannot imagine, and we find it difficult to place ourselves in a position to even try to imagine how peaceful and respectful Muslims felt in the days and weeks, and years following 9/11. It was a day that broke the hearts of every decent person on the planet. There cannot be a legitimate excuse.

There is no excuse. There is no justification. The attack that occurred on that blue skied morning in 2001, was carried out by a multinational crime family, with designs on empire and a deep seated hatred not just for Americans, but for any group that isn’t exactly like them. It is entirely unreasonable to argue “Well Americans killed Muslims, so we killed Americans” as is often the repeated argument, and still used to this day, with varieties employed by Western apologists in the Galloway mold. Indeed, if for example a Brit is murdered in Spain by a Spanish person, I have no right or moral justification whatsoever as a Brit to murder a random innocent Spaniard in retaliation. This isn’t reasonable. It is murder, and it is evil. An outdated, violent, power-hungry, callous political ideology based not on reason but on dogma, that considers the human being to be expendable in the pursuit of the goal of a resurrected Theocracy, cannot be rationalised in an age of enlightenment, human rights, and reason. Responsibility for violence based on that ideology, should not be shifted away from those committing the act, to anyone else. The ideology – with violence and force at its core – is autonomous; it doesn’t require aggressive Western foreign policy to exist, it exists with or without it. We must not excuse it as simply a reaction. For the adherents to such an ideology, human beings are merely another tool to be used as a means to an end, and it is this callousness, and indifference toward the sanctity of life, that we saw materialise on September 11th 2001.

Ideologies based on dogma are defeated by empowering people. They are defeated by gender equality, and human rights. They are defeated by religious moderates rejecting a religious stranglehold of the state. They are defeated when Nations with power stop aiding their fight. They are defeated by equal treatment under the law, and the distinct separation of religion from state with no single myth placed in control of the lives of anyone else. They are therefore defeated by the enduring human desire to be free.

Humanity has a long way to go before we treat each other as sacred, as anything but the narrow band that extremists of every stripe insist we must be identified as. However, violently enforced regression and weak attempts to rationalise or justify violently enforced regression as a product of anything but itself, is not a step along that path. It is a step backward. It deserves neither respect nor consideration.

The only people who deserve our consideration, are those who lost their lives, and their families and friends. Those people who simply went into work that day. Whether through pure chance they happen to be Americans, or non-Americans (12% of those who died, were not American), Christians, or Muslims, Gay, or Straight, Men, or Women, young or old; Human beings – people who were loved, and cherished, and had hurt not a soul – were savagely slaughtered that day in September. This one fact must never be forgotten, nor excused.


The State of the Republicans: 2013

April 20, 2013

The end of the Romney campaign ushered in a new era for the Republicans…. apparently. They insisted they must change. Their appeal must broaden. Their hate-filled, politics of over-the-top Glenn Beck style fear had to go. They had to be presentable. Change or die! The old days of a Party of old, white, male, Christian, heterosexual, angry-at-everyone-who-isn’t-EXACTLY-like-them, funded by big corporations had to go. And so we were informed that a new breed of Republicans would appear. Ready to present a reformed GOP to the electorate. They were radically different from their predecessors.

So how’s that going?

Well, in November 2012, the residents of Texas’ first district re-elected Louie Gohmert for a fifth term in the House of Reps. If the Republicans are intending to break from the past, surely we’d expect Gohmert to perhaps be a little more moderate than his more radical Tea-Party-esque contemporaries. That’s what we’d expect. However, when asked about his opposition to any gun control legislation, Gohmert gave this rather odd answer:

“In fact, I had this discussion with some wonderful, caring Democrats earlier this week on the issue of, well, they said “surely you could agree to limit the number of rounds in a magazine, couldn’t you? How would that be problematic?”

And I pointed out, well, once you make it ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit ; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?

There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.

– You read right. In a discussion about gun control, Gohmert managed to take a shot at same-sex marriage, by employing the insufferably weak slippery slope fallacy. I cannot work out which is more impressive; his ability to link gun control and same-sex marriage… two completely separate issues that in no way overlap, or his intense lack of sensibility in recognising that there is no reason to believe a slippery slope with either of the issues he’s commenting on. I could equally say “If we let women vote, what next, letting camels vote?” or “If we ban cocaine, why not ban cough medicine? Where does it end!!” It’s absurd and it is baseless. He isn’t the only Republican to use this fallacy recently. John Cornyn, the new Senate Minority Whip said:

“It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right…. Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.”

– Yes. the Republican Senate Minority Whip has just compared a loving couple wishing to express that love via marriage, and wishing only to be considered equal under law….. to a man marrying a turtle. That’s the standard of top Republicans in 2013.

Back to Gohmert. The man who tried to link gay marriage to gun control, also claimed that the liberals are going to make Churches:

….hire whatever Satan-worshiper, whatever cross-dresser you think might be immoral, that’s against your religious belief. You are going to be forced to abandon your religious beliefs, and we’ve been seeing that with some of the requirements under Obamacare.

– Yes! Someone had to say it! Obamacare is simply a mask to make Churches hire cross-dressing Satan-Worshippers! It’s SO obvious. Wake up America!
The fact that this man gets the privilege to vote on gun legislation; a vote on the safety of your children in school, would be laughable if it weren’t so utterly terrifying.

Bobby Jindal won a 2nd term as Louisiana Governor in 2011. Since then, he’s been rather excitable at promoting misleading figures to promote an agenda of fear. Whilst one fifth of all residents of Louisiana lack health insurance, Jindal refuses to expand Medicaid expansion, claiming it would cost Louisiana $1bn over the next ten years. Quite where he gets this figure from, I’m not sure. Especially given that a Department of Health Report noted that Louisiana would actually save around $400mn over the next ten years, by expanding Medicaid. He appears to have invented his own figure, to scare people. Despite this, and despite a petition signed by…

  • Advocates for Louisiana Public Healthcare.
  • Advocacy Center.
  • Capitol City Family Health Center.
  • Capital City Alliance.
  • Citizens United for In-Home Support.
  • Coalition of HIV/AIDS Nonprofits and Governmental Entities.
  • Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Harvard Law School.
  • Children’s Defense Fund-Louisiana.
  • Children’s Bureau of New Orleans.
  • DEAF Louisiana.
  • Doctors for America.
  • Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance, Northeast Louisiana.
  • Health Law Advocates of Louisiana.
  • HOPE For Homeless.
    Along with 30 other groups, and countless more individual signatures….. Jindal refuses to expand Medicaid.

    And then there is the apparent darling of the Republicans new bid for power in 2016; Marco Rubio.

    “We’re bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have.”

    – Here, Rubio is subtly promoting the myth that America was founded a Christian nation, and that religion must be considered part of the fabric. A subtle hint that non-belief, cannot be considered an American value. Thus, in a single, tiny quote, we see the saviour of the Republicans alienate anyone who isn’t slightly obsessed with ‘God’ being a key component to Patriotism. So that’s 15% of Americans who claim no religion. That’s a lot of people to alienate, for a man promoted as the key to solving the Republican Party’s problem of appealing to minorities. Rubio is following the conservative trend of telling people who should and shouldn’t qualify as ‘American’. This in itself, is divisive.

    Rubio also still appeals to tradition when dealing with same-sex marriage, insisting that marriage cannot be redefined. Seemingly ignoring all evidence that the current definition of marriage, is just one that has evolved over time, based on modern Christian understanding of the term, and differs from other cultures entirely. So, that’s gay people alienated, as well as non-believers.

    Brand new Senator for Senator for Arizona, assuming office in 2013, Jeff Flake also doesn’t like the idea of two people in love getting married. Whilst despising ‘big government’ and the intrusion of the State into people’s lives, Flake voted in favour of a Federal Marriage Amendment, Constitutionally banning same-sex marriage. For someone so obsessed for getting government out of people’s private lives, Flake seems more than happy to use government power to ban love.

    Back to Rubio. As well as not particularly liking gay people, Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Act, stating:

    “I have concerns regarding the conferring of criminal jurisdiction to some Indian tribal governments over all persons in Indian country, including non-Indians.”

    – Essentially, a non-Native American male being tried under the law for sexually assaulting a Native American woman, concerns Rubio, because he doesn’t trust Indian Tribal Governments. And yet, he puts his full faith in the States to fund programs properly:

    “These funding decisions should be left up to the state-based coalitions that understand local needs best.”

    – So trustworthy are local areas in dealing with domestic abuse cases, that due to budget cuts, the Topeka, Kansas City Council and Mayor actually repealed the Domestic Abuse law, in a bid to start a bit of a war with the County Prosecutor. This came about after Shawnee County D.A Chad Taylor, moved to stop investigating domestic violence entirely due to budget cuts. This meant that the City of Topeka would have to take up the cases, which they couldn’t afford to do either. So their Council voted to repeal the domestic abuse act. Which, forced it back into the hands of Shawnee County. Taylor said:

    “My office now retains sole authority to prosecute domestic battery misdemeanors and will take on this responsibility so as to better protect and serve our community. We will do so with less staff, less resources, and severe constraints on our ability to effectively seek justice.”

    Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence said:

    “I really do not understand this. It’s really outrageous that they’re playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they’re waiting to straighten this out.”

    – All of this comes down to budget cuts. Shawnee County DA Chad Taylor refused to prosecute domestic violence cases, after facing a 10% budget cut, despite half of all cases being domestic abuse cases, which increased substantially in the past three years, without any extra funding from the County. How very trustworthy! Interestingly, Rubio voted against the Budget Control Act in 2011, and the Fiscal Cliff 2012. Rubio evidently trusts the localities to make funding decisions, which is much easier, if those localities don’t have any funds in the first place.

    Rubio isn’t the only Republican with odd reasons for voting against the Violence Against Women Act. Steve Stockman, Representative of Texas’ 36th District announced his shameful reasons for voting against:

    “This is a truly bad bill. This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers—it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that—how is that a woman?”

    Stockman also voted to repeal Federal laws that ban guns in schools. Why so? Well, given that among his campaign contributors are the ‘National Association for Gun Rights’ and ‘Gun Owners of America’, it perhaps isn’t that surprising that Stockman feels the need to put their interests above the safety of children. Just to make sure we all understand where his allegiances lie, here is incredibly ridiculous, almost comical campaign bumper sticker, tweeted for the World to see, by the man himself.
    babies-guns
    – I’m not sure if Stockman is calling for semi-automatic rifles to be inserted into the vaginas of every pregnant woman. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    The scientifically illiterate are still abundant in the Republican Party. Marco Rubio once announced that he didn’t know if the Earth was made in 6 days or not, and that we’re never likely to know. But Georgia’s 10th District Rep. Paul Broun (planning to run for Senate in 2014) and, quite horrifyingly, serving on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology once took Rubio’s toying with Creationism one step further:

    Earth is about 9,000 years old, it was created in six days as we know them”

    – Broun also said of embryology, genetics, evolution, and the Big Bang theory:

    “they’re lies straight from the Pit of Hell … lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

    – Broun also said of climate change:

    “Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus.”[

    – Echoing his scientific illiteracy, Broun gives us enlightening views on politics, when brief mention of a National Security Force by President Obama, before the 2008 election:

    “It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force, I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may _ may not, I hope not _ but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism. That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist.”

    – Yes. A US Representative, thinks the Earth was made in 6 days, evolution is a lie from the pit of hell, climate change isn’t man made, and convinced President Obama was going to create his own Hitler Youth, to take over America and create a Marxist haven.

    Now to move on from bat-shit crazy, to slightly less crazy, Paul Ryan. The spritely Paul Ryan. You may think he’s irrelevant as a symbol of this great new era for Republicans, given that his ticket lost the Presidential election. But let’s not forget that Ryan is the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, in 2013. A pretty important position. He’s also Wisconsin’s 1st District House Representative. He looks young, he seemed fresh, he wasn’t the grey haired typical old Republican. Nor was he the gun tottin’ Sarah Palin slightly vacant Republican. He was paraded on the networks as a hero of fiscal conservativism, brave to speak out against Obama overspending! His brand new House Republican Budget released in March this year, which the brave, fiscally conservative hero claims will:

    “end cronyism, eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse and returns the federal government to its proper sphere of activity”

    – So it is worthwhile to note that the anti-big government, pro-deficit reduction Paul Ryan voted for the two Bush tax cuts (both considered a great failure, and added significantly to the deficit), the $700 bailout of the banks, and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, whilst voting against Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Most of Paul Ryan’s economic voting record, has added significantly to the National deficit.
    His House Republicans Budget, unveiled by Republicans on March 12, noted that $931 billion of the creatively accounted $4.6tn apparently savable over the next ten years, will come from counting the savings from ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars…. wars that Paul Ryan voted for in the first place. Economically, Paul Ryan doesn’t know where he stands.
    Socially, despite absolutely no evidence to back up its claims, in 2009 Paul Ryan cosponsored the ‘Sanctity of Life Act’. A very odd little Act that sought to protect fertilised eggs, stating that the eggs:

    “shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood”

    Ryan also believes that abortion, in all cases, including rape and incest, should be made illegal, and States given the right to criminally prosecute women who have abortions, including for rape and incest.

    Before being elected as Senator for South Carolina in 2013, Tim Scott was House Representative for South Carolina’s first district. During his time in the House, Scott cosponsored a truly horrifying Bill that would deny food stamps to poorest families, if a family member was taking part in strike action. The right to strike – a key component of a democratic society – used by the weak against the powerful, used to secure freedoms and security for generations, Tim Scott voted to essentially end. Threatening the poorest people in society; you either strike, or you eat. Scott is also convinced that the private health care system in the US is the greatest in the World, and that the Health Reforms of 2010 should be repealed. This is no surprise given that one of his main campaign contributors, has been Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the health insurance company. Among other campaign contributions, he has received donations from Goldman Sachs. Tim Scott is a politician, for the wealthy, by the wealthy. The Insurance Industry Candidate.
    Speaking of complete contempt for the less wealthy, Mark Meadows, a member of the January 2013 intake for The House, and Tea Party favourite, representing North Carolina’s 11th District voted against the Sandy Relief Fund.

    Dean Heller, the Senator for Nevada, who will hold that position until 2019, voted against the Health Care Reform, and against Fair Minimum Wage Act. Heller has also voted against subsidising renewable energy, whilst voting to support development of oil, gas and coal…. two of his top campaign contributors, are Alliance Resource, and Murray Energy…. two coal companies.

    So, gay marriage leading to marrying an animal, Church’s having to hire crossdressing Satan-worshippers, manipulating figures to suit an agenda, a refusal to expand Medicaid to help the most vulnerable, evolution a myth from the pits of hell, refusal to protect victims of domestic abuse, including transgendered people, a desire to see women who have been raped imprisoned for having an abortion, guns in schools funded by the gun lobby, Obama trying to raise an army to enforce a Marxist Utopia, anti-renewable energy, candidates wishing to disenfranchise poor people and their right to strike, and wishing to repeal health reform whilst taking campaign contributions from the wealthiest insurance companies in the country.

    This new Republican breed sound, and act, and speak, eerily familiar to the old breed.


  • The time I almost had a fight with a ghost in a tent in the woods in Michigan.

    June 27, 2012

    To fall in love with the tip of the pinky finger on the Michigan hand
    is to look out across the lake at sunset and view complete perfection as it glows red and sinks into a seemingly unbreakable horizon. How lucky we are to be able to perceive this.
    She is my favourite of all the Americans.
    There was New York and then there was Michigan. Michigan is stunning. I could sit for hours and just watch. The sound of running water is as mellifluous as any other to me.
    I wore a cowboy hat. Well you just have to. Don’t judge me. Howdy!
    The lady in the bar in New York told me she had just moved to Manhattan and had already been arrested for trespassing. We drank beer and talked about the Constitution. She was obsessed with the Constitution. I wanted to watch the football game on TV. I missed the goal, because I was being told about her rights. It is at that point that I decided my favourite Founding Father; Thomas Jefferson was no longer my favourite. He had pushed for the First Amendment – the right to free speech – and I would have given anything to be able to put gaffer tape over her face at that very moment. Go to hell Jefferson. You ruined the match for me.
    New York is oddly captivating.
    It is one long, unending car horn. It is the reason behind the one long, unending car horn. The fragrance of Central Park breaks the mold. I loved Central Park.
    What a wonderful view it is from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. And how much I felt like I had been transported back to the height of Art Deco when walking through that triumph of 1930s architecture with the elevator doors as criss-crossed steal that a bellman pulls across. This building has existed, and been seen by Roosevelt, by Kennedy, by Truman and Nixon and Carter. Standing at the top of history.
    Manhattan is a forest of concrete.
    What a dull sentence. But the reality is that it makes you marvel of what humankind is capable of producing. We have came such a long way in such a short space of time. We are impressive. In less than 200,000 years we have gone from communicating via gestures, to developing languages, concepts borne out of ideas, systems based on survival instincts. Humanity is intensely brilliant. We do not need Gods. But we are dangerous and destructive also. Our excellence breeds our ignorance. I stood at Ground Zero. The fountains. They epitomise humanity. Their design came from the beautiful mind of an artist. A mind. A piece of matter that has become self aware. A piece of matter, like a stone. How did it become self aware? Self aware, and capable of dreaming. Dreaming is art. This is what sets us apart. How can this development in human evolution not over awe you? And then the juxtaposition. The fountains reason for being is the horrifyingly destructive nature of humanity and what it is capable of doing to its own species. It is a harrowing place. I used to
    Can somebody please tell Mitt Romney to stop telling everyone how much he doesn’t want to become like Europe. The reason the US isn’t like Europe, is because it has rejected the idea of austerity. Stick with Obama, he’s doing it right.
    I was stopped at Heathrow by a security official with a drastically over inflated sense of his own importance. This is a man who had contempt on his face for anyone who isn’t him. A man who only smiles, cries with awe, and manages to achieve a sexually aroused state whilst looking in the mirror. At no other time is it possible for him. He stopped me and said “What’s in your bag?” So I told him. He knew anyway, having been watching the xray machine. He said “Anything else you want to tell me about?” Patronising question. I had two books, my glasses, my sunglasses, and my wallet in that bag. Nothing else. So I said “no”. He then said “What do you do for a living?” I told him that was none of his business, and then asked him what he had for dinner last night. He told me not to get cocky with him. He then got a lady to go through my bag in private, wearing rubber gloves. She treated me like a criminal. She then got to the end of the bag, and said “Okay, there’s nothing concerning in here, I apologise for the inconvenience”. I didn’t want her to apologise. I wanted the man who stopped me in the first place, who for some reasons needs to know my main source of income, to come and profoundly apologise. He didn’t. He walked away. I was held back for 35 minutes for that.
    The Statue of Liberty is the face of freedom. Though it also makes me reflect on America over time. Emma Lazarus wrote the ‘New Colossus’ poem that sits at the entrance to the Statue. It reads:

    “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    This beautiful sentiment epitomises how it must have felt for those immigrants coming on the boats into New York harbour, to have seen the Statue with the promise of a liberty that had been kept from them for so long. Whether it still applies now (considering the Arizona border dispute, it’s hard to say) is debatable. But the original sentiment is one that makes me smile.
    We do not go into BOBs in Grand Rapids. Only douches go into BOBs.
    I went into BOBs.
    Ssshhh.
    I hate flight.
    Whenever the plane experiences turbulence, I presume we’re going to crash.
    I don’t understand how such a big tin can is able to stay afloat. It seems unnatural. And yet it is wonderful.
    Over the skies of the United States on my way to Michigan, I looked out of the window. It struck me; I am only one of a very few number of people in the World over its history to have seen the planet from this perspective. Great people have come before me and never experienced this. How lucky it is to be me. Our ancestors looked into the heavens and wondered. I was now in the place that drove such profoundly wonderful men and women to meditate on what the sky had to offer. Da Vinci was desperate to invent a machine that could take humanity into the sky. Newton was fascinated by it. The Aztecs would pray every night to the Gods in the hope that it would ensure that the sun would rise the next day. Galileo was imprisoned for his fascination with that which existed above the surface of the Earth. Religions were invented to try to make sense of the unknown. Plato was a part of a society that believed the Gods dwelled in the clouds. And here I am. Sat above them, in a machine that man built; essentially the culmination of great thinking up until this moment. All of those names; Newton, Galileo, Plato, Da Vinci had some influence on the reason that I was sat in the air that day. I love humanity. But humanity is a product of natural selection. This is the reason that I have a love affair with nature. Its possibilities are endless and we should be constantly amazed by this.
    We went to a vin yard to try to some local wines.
    We then went to another vin yard to try some local wines.
    We then went to another vin yard to try some local wines.
    Sometimes people take your breath away.
    Their quality is ineffable.
    But they just glow, and you can’t explain why.
    New York is full of these people.
    I could live in Michigan. Happily.
    We see a plane, and our eyes are used to it. We know how it works, we are not surprised, it is a fact of our lives. Sometimes I wonder if wonderment is the essence of life. Do we lose a certain degree of beauty, when we understand? I choose not to understand how a plane works. I don’t want to understand. This makes it far more bewildering and ultimately astonishing for me. Yet, conversely, not understanding is part of the reason that I hate flying.
    Free front row ticket to Jersey Boys on Broadway. I had no idea Frankie Valli had sang so many great songs. ‘My Eyes Adored You’…. I forgot about that one. ‘Begging’… Had no idea he’d sung that. Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man. The entire show was fantastic. Oh what a night.
    The woods are wonderful. She said that these places go on without humanity, that regardless of our worries and our problems, this beauty still exists. She’s right. That is what makes them beautiful. We stood on the rocks after sunset and talked about people and about nature. Everything that had happened before us, and before our mums and dads, and before our grandparents, and before nations, religions, empires, before language and before art and before….everything, had led up to the point where we could be stood on rocks after sunset talking about people and about nature.
    Apparently Americans are quite the fan of Brits reading Harry Potter whilst holding a box of Hobnobs. There is no need to explain the context here. It is EXACTLY as you just read it. So I made them say the pledge of allegiance. Fair trade I feel. If you are English, take the opportunity to have your American friends speak in a British accent. It is much fun!
    kbye….
    We sat in rubber tubes, with cold beers and floated down the river into Lake Michigan in the sun. I couldn’t help but note that ten years ago I was in a shitty school, expecting to spend my life on a rough council estate with multiple children and a dead end job by the time I was 20, holidaying in Skegness. I am proud of me. A lot has happened in ten years and even the bad, I am in a strange way grateful. I am grateful for Mrs English the day she told me that I would never be smart enough to read a book cover to cover, or ever be eloquent enough to write anything of any significance. I hope the phrase “Fuck you, you incompetent bitch” is eloquent enough for her. I am grateful for everything. But not so much for Reese’s. I hope they go away.
    Take chances, and be happy. Lose sometimes. Smile. Do it all again. Life.
    There were footsteps outside the tent. Then they stopped. Right outside the door. I sat up, ready for a struggle.
    There were no more footsteps retreating or pressing forward.
    they just stopped outside of the tent.
    But, no one there.
    I was preparing for a fight still.
    Apparently with a ghost.
    This was the thoughts and the events and the people that led up to the time I almost had a fight with a ghost in a tent in the woods in Michigan.

    — Click on the picture to enlarge —