Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sean Smith: Inside The Surge

It's easy to ignore a war that is happening in a far away place called Iraq. It's easy to not personalize the death and destruction of the lives of other human beings when we don't see it with our own eyes, when our ears aren't constantly ringing with the sounds of explosions, overhead helicopters, screaming men, children and old women. It's easy to be disinterested, or maybe only mildly interested, in a slow-down-and-gawk-at-an-accident sort of way, about people who speak a strange language and wear clothes that weren't purchased in a mall. People who wear sandals and walk upon dusty roads and who press their foreheads to the ground when they pray. In a world of split-second sound bytes, it's easy to lump millions of people into one or two words or phrases: terrorists, Islamist extremists, Muslims, insurgents, suicide bombers.

It's even easier when the American press doesn't adequately report the devastation of a people and a country.

The people of Iraq are your next-door neighbors. They are doctors, lawyers, shop keepers, teenagers, musicians, grandmothers, welders, bakers, reporters, film makers, teachers. Underneath burkas, women wear jeans and tank tops. They own pets. They fall in love. They get married. They have children. Some are Muslims. Some are Christians. Some dream of being dentists, of singing opera on a stage, of writing a novel. Most put off their dreams, as they wait for their country to be returned to them.

There are former doctors, nurses, librarians, school teachers who have lost everything. Their homes are either a pile of rubble, or they sit empty, or strangers have moved in. They have no belongings. They sit in a tent, these people who are just like you - as refugees - in places like Syria or Lebanon, and wait until they can return to their country. Some wonder if they ever will be able to, or if they even want to.

I know that there is at least one lone man, or one lone woman, or one lone child, who has no family members left. None.

In the documentary below, filmed by Guardian UK's Sean Smith, you will see a grandmother on a walker, with two frightened German shepherds pacing around and behind her, her home invaded two days in a row by American soldiers. She has a kitchen, and a kitchen table just like you do. She has a front porch, now stained with the blood of an innocent taxi driver who was shot by American soldiers because he wouldn't stop his car. As you watch her jabbering and crying in fear, think about your own grandmother, or some old lady that you know. Think about this happening in America. Think about the fact that she had no right to stop them from entering her home. She valiantly and impotently yelled at them, and then sat down and cried.

The taxi driver, it turns out, had been hired by the old lady's neighbors. I don't know about you, but if you were driving along in your taxi and a bunch of soldiers with machine guns ran out shouting a language you didn't understand, would you immediately stop, or try and drive away as fast as you can? I would like for you to try and make that decision, in your mind.

You will also listen to an American soldier say something along these lines: I would like to have the President or those people in Congress who have the minds of two year olds, come and do one tour of duty with me. I'll do 15 more months, with no extra pay, if they will come and do my tour of duty with me.

We, the American people, through our duly elected representatives, along with our allies - some of them strong-armed, some of them paid off, some of them willing - have done this to the Iraqi people. And, we continue to do this, every single day that we occupy that country.

We are responsible. No matter who we voted for in the past, as long as we remain idle and silent in the present, as long as we remain ignorant, as long as we hide from the reality of war instead of standing up and shouting at our government, we remain responsible.

As you sit in your comfortable bed, or on your soft couch, with your dog or cat sleeping soundly next to you, with your child safe in his or her bed, with your mother or grandmother in a retirement home, with food in your cupboard and refrigerator, please take a moment out of your day to watch the reality of war. Then, please get angry. Please shed tears. Register to vote. Hold your duly elected representatives' feet to the fire. Get loud. Protest for God's sake. Write letters. Talk to your friends and family. Get involved. Get organized. Please, American people. Be as great as our politicians say we are when they pander to us. Don't allow them to keep you ignorant and complacent. Rise up, people. Rise up.

Inside The Surge: Part One - (9min 56sec), Oct 20 2006

Inside The Surge: Part Two, The Provinces, Iraq - (6min 21sec), Sep 10 2007

End Game In Iraq - (16min 43sec), Sep 10 2008

There was no embed code, so click here to watch Sean Smith's latest video on YouTube.

Monday, September 29, 2008

SPLIT: A Divided America

I found an interesting website this week and before I forget, I want to pass it on: Split - A Divided America.

It's about a documentary directed by Kelly Nykes (read his recent HuffPo article) who traveled around America and interviewed regular ol' Americans. The film makers wanted to understand what was dividing Americans politically and why things get so, well, heated.

Of course, I'm an interesting person to talk about this. I cuss and spit and yell at Republicans and Neocons and BushCo. I really don't have any desire to reach my hand across any aisle at this point. I am so angry at the American people for voting for George Bush twice, that I'm not sure I can ever forgive them. I don't even think that Obama is the answer...because he's not liberal enough. I said that the other day to my friends visiting from Las Vegas and they laughed...kind of nervously. One of them had said that this election was a tough one because there wasn't really any candidate that was any good. Ha! I doubt they expected my answer. Americans are so afraid of the words "liberal" and "socialist." They think if you even say them that lightening will strike and the whole country will fall into the sea. Meanwhile, the socialist country of France is tooling along with a strong Euro and no bank failures (yet). Go figure.

I even look at my family who support BushCo and I wonder if they've lost their minds. We don't talk about politics. Otherwise, we'd kill each other. So....this film is an interesting one. I encourage you to check out the website. Meanwhile...'s the trailer:

Make Bernanke Sweat

I am not a financial guru. Let's just get that out on the table. But my brain sometimes comes up with some interesting questions. Lately, the question on my mind has been, "What happens if China calls our Iraq loans?" While Congress runs around in circles and works through the night on an emergency that I sincerely doubt is an emergency, I wonder what China is thinking. If greed or opportunism exists in the hearts of Chinese politicians and businessmen, the time to strike is, well, now.

I haven't read any articles yet from real financial gurus about this subject. But I'm 17,286 articles behind in my feed reader. So, I might have missed them. If any of you can send me links, I'd be happy to get them.

Meanwhile, that busy little mind of mine has been observing something else. This great big emergency, this once in a century disaster, this economy that is teetering on the brink of the abyss, these poor poor little banks who are so so very worried.........none of these things have imploded. Nothing has exploded. No body parts have been flying. No blood has been let. Each day of Congressional wrangling slips quietly by. And nothing bad happens. McCain even had time to do his insane stunt, flying back in his super granddad costume to save the day, only to muck things up and take a few photo ops and then have an expensive dinner in DC while his pals stay up all night working on the problem. The first presidential debate happens and the candidates get to talk about this impending disaster. That was Friday. It's npw Monday. Days tick by. The disaster has yet to strike.

There is no emergency. But don't just take my word for it. Read this article.

There have been some takeovers, and some layoffs. But by and large, the banks open up in the morning and their employees set out the plate of cookies on the teller desk and the ATMs are cranking out cash and my mortgage or Equity Line of Credit hasn't been called in. At the end of the day the bank closes and the employees wash out their coffee cups and somebody refills the ATM machines and they all go home, pretty much knowing they will come back and start the whole thing over the next day.

Maybe I'm wrong, sitting over here in Paris. What the heck do I know? Maybe the bank tellers all go home at night and have no idea how long they can hold onto their jobs.

But if it was such an emergency, wouldn't system-wide layoffs have happened by now? That's the first and easiest thing to cut: payroll. Right?

Maybe I'm crazy, but I would love to see the Republicans and Democrats argue about this bailout bill for the next, oh, 45 days. I'd like to see an impasse. I'd like to see Bernanke sweat.

Then I'd like to see the government give the $700 billion to the American people who have lost their homes or are about to lose them. Not directly hand the money to them. But pay the back payments on their mortgages and/or work with the banks to renegotiate the loans so that the payments are lower. That's what I'd like to see. Fuck the banks. Fuck the investment "advisors." Help the American people.

Monday, September 22, 2008

BushCo Pulling A Fast One Again

And our corporate press is letting them get away with it. Section 8 of the proposed bailout bill:

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

There you have it. And most of the media so far is mum. Completely mum. Can we spell collusion?

Here's what Jason Linkins at HuffPo says:

"In short, the so-called "mother of all bailouts," which will transfer $700 billion taxpayer dollars to purchase the distressed assets of several failed financial institutions, will be conducted in a manner unchallengeable by courts and ungovernable by the People's duly sworn representatives. All decision-making power will be consolidated into the Executive Branch - who, we remind you, will have the incentive to act upon this privilege as quickly as possible, before they leave office. The measure will run up the budget deficit by a significant amount, with no guarantee of recouping the outlay, and no fundamental means of holding those who fail to do so accountable."

McClatchy Newspapers also alludes to Section 8 with concern, citing the "unfettered authority" that Paulson would be granted, and noting that the "law also would preclude court review of steps Paulson might take, something Joshua Rosner, managing director of economic researcher Graham Fisher & Co. in New York, said could be used to mask previous illegal activity."

At least Chris Dodd has proposed a different bill. We'll see what happens. Based on past performance, I'm not too optimistic.

Juan Cole Is Pissed OFF

"And in the wake of the greatest and most sustained act of systematic plunder since the Mongol hordes appropriated to themselves the riches of everyplace in Asia from Beijing to Isfahan, the reaction of the supine and slave-like American voting public is to scratch their heads and have a hard time deciding if they would like more of the same."

Amen, brother.

Nothing Real Behind The Scenes

I was over at reading about the upcoming Values Voters Summit. A Christfest!

I worked for a financial services marketing company run by fundamentalist krishtians and one of their pals wrote a book and a piece of software for "Values Investing." Of course, none of my freakin' values were included, but I did get to have my say about the software since I was integrating it into my product offering. I asked them, innocently, my halo pulsating rhythmically above my head, "So, where is the climate change value....and the socialized medicine value....and the social welfare value?" Hmm? They looked at me as if I were a bit dense. "You know," I said, "I make it a part of my job as a product manager to well, you know, understand who my market is. And, well, you may not know this, even though you've been doing this job for 50 years, but not all of the independent financial services reps that will be using this product are, well, christian. And their clients are necessarily christian either. There are some, horrors, Jews in the crowd! And, equally horrible, Democrats! So, we may want to rethink this little values questionnaire and balance it out a little, dontcha think?"

This is why I never made it in corporate America.

The first "value" on their list was "Abortion." Nice.

Anyway, the software programmers are usually the lucky guys in the corporate mix, because they can escape much of the political fol-de-rol. They just sit in their cubies and program away, with Star Trek music in their headphones. But the guy in charge of this particular product integration was from India. He was a Brahman, so he wasn't just ANY Indian, dontcha know. And he overheard me talking about the creepy fundies who I had to work with on the project and he shook his head and said, in his cultured Indiaglish, "It's crap. The software is crap, anyway." huh? "All the algorithms that predict which stocks you should invest in based on your values - all of them are crap. There isn't anything real behind the scenes here."

Sounds familiar. Just like the fundamentalist hootenanny Republican National Convention this month. And the Voters Values Summit. It's all crap. There isn't anything real behind the scenes here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Questions For The Democrats In Congress

As BushCo asks Congress and the American people to bend over and take it, yet again, I'm sure the Democrats in Congress will comply. BushCo has engineered another "emergency" that demands unprecedented money and unprecedented powers in a do-it-right-now-or-else-we-all-die time period. Oh, and make sure you are non-partisan about it, ok Congress? Which translates to "make sure you do what the neocon Republicans want you to do."

But I have some questions. Surprised?

Why does our government get to profit off of the American people's foreclosures?
Why do they get to buy our "bad debt" or our foreclosed real estate, and then sell it at a profit?
Why does the bill allow our government to pay down debt of non-American institutions?
Will the Democrats take advantage of, or use this "emergency" situation as leverage and add some minor things to the bill like:

  1. Capping, limiting or eliminating executive pay, perks and stock options at the institutions they will bail out
  2. Forcing mortgage institutions to work with homeowners who have not yet succumbed to foreclosure and renegotiate their loans. Maybe stretch out monthly payments over a longer period of time, thus lowering the payments.
  3. END THE FUCKING IRAQ WAR so that the billions we are pouring into that country can be used to save our own country's ass
  4. Reinstate banking, finance and insurance regulations that were put in place after the 1929 crash and ensuing depression to protect the American people from ever having to go through that again. Those same regulations that McCain's buddy Phil Gramm eliminated.
  5. Build some checks and balances into the bill so that Paulson and Bernanke don't have free reign to rob the American people of more money
  6. Find $700 billion in pork and other non-social bullshit spending to eliminate in exchange for the $700 billion gift we are about to give BushCo
Just asking.

America: A Country Of Children

I just returned from visiting my friend a.k.a. Marla in Biarritz, where I had the opportunity to have several very interesting conversations with her boyfriend, a Tunisian cardiologist whom I'll call Larry. I turned him on to NetNewsWire and loaded him up with my Arab/Middle East blog and news feeds. He'll never be the same.

The funniest story he told was yesterday on the beach in Bayonne, where he and Marla treated me to a goodbye lunch of delicious tapas and rosé wine. That morning he did a check up on one of his long-time patients, an American 87-year-old man. Larry said to his patient, "If you promise me you will vote for Obama, then maybe I'll make sure that your defibrillator works." His patient was amused, and promised he would vote for Obama.

I don't think Larry ran much of a risk cracking his joke, because I'll hazard a guess that most Americans who live in France are probably Democrats. Although, I have a Canadian friend who does computer support for the expat community here in Paris, and he told me he had a neocon client who was clueless about his PC and incredibly demanding and impatient. I would like to say that computer cluelessness and being demanding and impatient are neocon traits, but I've done computer support before and I know that those three traits are shared by lefties, righties and terrorists alike. I'd just like to know how my friend knew the guy was a neocon, and I'd love to know who he is. What's a neocon doing in the Land Of The Socialists? But, I didn't ask. There's a part of me that's afraid to know the answer.

Larry the cardiologist asked me an interesting question - why are Americans so bent on war and agression, versus diplomacy and trying to get along? I had to think about it. I thought perhaps it's a group psychology that supports a mythology that America and Americans are "independent," like lonesome (gay) cowboys, mafiosi, war heroes and action figures in the movies. We love Bruce Willis and a take-no-prisoners attitude. We like corporate raiders and aspire to be one of those people who act first, and ask questions later, and most of all, get away with it. We honor knee-jerk decisiveness over measured actions taken after balanced analysis. Just think about Sarah Palin's "I didn't blink" or "we can't blink" talking point, which she repeats over and over and over again. Rove and/or his surrogates are running McCain's campaign, and they are experts at the power of repeating emotional, vacuous slogans that the American people eat like candy and repeat to each other so they can feel like one of the knowledgeable elite.

My answer made Marla mad. But I wasn't surprised. I was born in America, but I don't like nationalism very much, so I don't take any of this personally. I don't go around defending the American people. Nor do I emotionally adhere to a false construct of American pride.

After I finished ruminating, Larry said, "Oh. So Americans are naive, like children." Well...yeah. Since only 10% of Americans own passports (but aren't we delighted that Sarah Palin just got her very own for the first time at age whatever?), they don't get out much. And the American corporate press encourages American naval gazing with insular, sensationalistic, celebrity-focused, depth-free reporting. Nothing much about the rest of the world. And if there is anything, it's hardly worth reading. If Americans travel, they might cross the border into Mexico and hazard an American corporate hotel that keeps them insulated from those dirty locals. Even when they go to Europe, they tend to look at the world through an American lens, demanding "American coffee" and bitching about everything that seems the least bit inconvenient. Thus the term Ugly American.

I think about the derision thrown at Obama's message of hope. Like hope is a bad thing. I think about the snarling, caustic speeches made by Palin and that fucking cross dresser Giuliani at the RNC. (How sad that cross dressers now have him as a poster child.) I think of Palin jeering at community organizers. Then I realize that this is school yard behavior. The nice kids get kicked. The bullies get an entourage. The smart kids get laughed at. The weak get beaten up. When they go home with bruises, their parents ask them why they didn't fight back. Name calling is a high art.

In America today, right this very second, people who want to end this horrible mistake of a war in Iraq are called wimps and pussies and told that they just want to "cut and run," like cowards. Those who want to stop Cheney's next war with Iran are called radicals! People who want peace are the ones being called naive. People who favor negotiation over aggression are called Pollyannas, or collaborators or apologists for the enemy. People who are smart are called elitists. How dare they think they are smarter than us! As an old cowboy boyfriend of mine used to say, "Make sure you don't git above your raisin'."

Not all Americans are spoiled, childish, empty-headed, tantrum-throwing bullies. It's just the regime that's in charge right now, along with their corporate partners, their slavering press toadies, and their mindless sycophants. Some Americans proudly espouse peace, stand up for the weak, include the excluded, defend the poor, speak for the voiceless. They educate themselves, are not afraid to voice dissent, they ask difficult or unpopular questions, and if they don't get a real answer, they ask again.

To me, they are the true heroes. Now, if we could just dress them up as action figures...

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Late last night, just as BushCo was asking for MORE extraordinary powers so he can bail out his banking, financial services and insurance buddies, I was here in Paris, watching the documentary Zeitgeist. You can divide the film into three interrelated segments: religion, 9/11 and banking. The 9/11 segment details how it was an inside job. You can call me a conspiracy theorist and I don't give a shit, because a long time ago, when I read a description of how Cheney reacted as he watched the Twin Towers fall, and the fact that he immediately leapt into action, not into directing rescue operations, but instead "...contemplating the founding question of the legal revolution to come: What extraordinary powers will the president need for his response?", I knew it had been a false flag operation and I knew he was behind it.

But this isn't the point of my post. It's the banking segment at the end of the film that is most relevant at this specific moment in time.

I urge you to watch this 2-hour-long film (embedded below) from beginning to end, and pay attention at the end to the bit about banking and the Federal Reserve. Based on the past dicklessness of Congress, I predict that they give Bush more extraordinary powers this weekend or by Monday, with little to no caveats. Just read this quote: Congressional leaders of both parties welcomed the administration's bold moves, after a series of ad hoc rescues. I also predict that many Congressional "leaders" will not take time to read the BushCo bill before they sign it, just like they failed to do so when BushCo decided to invade Iraq (And people wonder why, when I have a pussy and all, I never wanted Hillary to be president).

And the American people will be fucked. Again.

There are some people out there who have been saying that they hope that McCain gets elected and America is destroyed, because maybe then Americans will wake up and take back their nation. The only problem is, Americans don't yet know the full extent of the incredible loss of their liberties and rights (although some found out at the RNC how easy it is to get arrested and detained while doing nothing but riding rented bicycles to a concert), and so they will suddenly feel the need to object, and will be surprised at the fact that they no longer have the right to do so.

Friday, September 19, 2008

'Til I'm Blue In The Face

I keep wondering if anyone in my family will ever admit I was right about BushCo. As the economy crumbles and the Feds socialize the banking, insurance and financial services businesses, and soon also the automobile industry, do my Republican mother, father, brothers and sisters sit in front of, as my mother used to call it the “boob tube,” watching the boobs at Faux news and say, “Holy shit, that youngest daughter of ours, the one we said belongs in France with the rest of those socialist kooks, has been right all along! This administration is a mess!” Will these words ever be uttered by my parents, the ones who think Democrats are Socialists?

Ah, if that part about Democrats being Socialists were only true. Here's what the real Socialists think about the current crisis. (Hat tip to Arthur)

Will those who said “Get rid of big government!” and those who said, “Get rid of tax and spend Democrats!” and those who said “Stop strangling businesses with too much regulation!” and those who said, “Give more tax loopholes for businesses!” and the ones who approve of corporate welfare but hiss like snakes at the idea of human welfare ... will they now finally say, “The only thing that's trickling down these days is shit.”? The name of that shit: job loss, consumer debt, home foreclosures, bankruptcy, uninsured adults and children, sky-high gas and home fuel prices. And that's just the shit that's falling on the heads of us little guys. My brother, who owns a commercial construction company, can't get loans anymore to buy the materials he needs to get started on the jobs he's sold. Because the banks don't have any money to lend. Is my brother ever going to say, “Maybe regulating corporate greed is a good thing after all.”?

I won't hold my breath.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Me and My Rape Kit

When I was raped, I didn't get a rape kit. They didn't have them back in the day. My friends took me to the hospital because I was in shock and kept thinking that the blood pouring out of me was my period, even though gigantic tampons wouldn't stem the flow. That's because I was peeing bright red blood, not menstruating. But I was a little dazed and confused. Forgive me.

Instead of a rape kit, I got a nasty little fucking twerp of a dickhead man doctor who came into the hospital examining room with my test results and said to me with condescension and disgust, "Whoever you had sex with was filthy." Like it was my responsibility to make sure that my rapist had bathed recently.

But honestly, I was too busy trying to cover myself after my "date" stripped me naked and brute forced me to sit outside on the sidewalk of a busy street. As day two dawned after a night where he hoovered cocaine while he continuously fucked me and beat me (he never did come), he finally fell asleep with the threat that if I moved on his jiggling water bed and woke him up, he would kill me. I honestly didn't have time to ask him if he had washed his peepee or not. And I figured it was in my best interest that I not move, so I didn't pee for two days either. Staying alive seemed more important at the time, than peeing. So it was also my fault that I got that nasty bladder infection. Those 900,000 bacteria in my urine that the nice doctor told me was way more, disgustingly more, my-faultiness more, than the 9000 which would indicate that I was sick.

Like millions of women before and after me, I didn't report my rape. Why would I bother? I was underage, and I had been drinking, used a fake ID that I manufactured with my keen artistic ability, and it was date rape. In the eyes of that doctor, that supposed nurturer of the sick, in the eyes of the courts, in the eyes of whomever the rapist would hire as his defense attorney, of most men, of most Republicans, of all fundamentalist krishtians, of way too many ignorant and cowed women, and my mother, it was all my fault. I deserved what I got.

And in Sarah Palin's eyes of krishtian righteousness, I should have paid for my own rape kit. I probably should have paid for it even though I didn't get one. I mean, it's only right.

Fuck Sarah Palin. She "fired police chief Irl Stambaugh and replaced him with Charlie Fannon, who with Palin's knowledge, slashed the budget for the exams and began charging the city's victims of sexual assault. The city budget documents demonstrate Palin read and signed off on the new budget."

The rape kits cost anywhere from $500-$1200. So, if you were poor or a college student, too fucking bad for you. That's called being raped twice. The third rape would be reporting it and the fourth rape would be the trial.

I have never told my rape story in a public forum until the terrifying and impossible rise to Republican stardom of the likes of Sarah Palin. But I think now is the time that all men and women who have suffered from sexual assault (1in 6 women, 17.7 million American women, 3% of American men — or 1 in 33), all men and women in general if they have any fucking sense, and all men and women who care about their wives and husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends and children, should rise up and metaphorically (yes, I was reluctant, but I had to add that qualifying adjective) crucify Sarah Palin.

Maybe then she can feel closer to GeeZuss.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Heil Bellamy!

We've been entertaining a couple of ladies for the last few days - one from Los Angeles and the other from Ohio. They are old high school friends who try to travel together once a year. One is a singer/songwriter and actress, the other is a traditional mom. Both are very nice people. Since I took the train to Biarritz yesterday, I missed last night's dinner with these girls. I hear that the conversation turned to politics. The gal from LA said she likes Obama. The gal from Ohio said:

  1. She doesn't like what Bush has done to the country
  2. She doesn't like McCain
  3. BUT...she's concerned that Obama refuses to say the pledge of allegiance.
Holy canoli. I'm kind of glad I wasn't there. I don't know how I would have been able to stop myself from saying, "I need to touch you to make sure I'm not imagining this. Am I actually sitting across the table from somebody who a) believes that kind of horse shit and b) cares about something so incredibly inane?"

Do I really have to link to pages that refute this lie? Are there really people with half a brain out there that even listen to or worry about this kind of crap? I guess so. I guess that's how Shrub got elected for two (count 'em, two) terms and I guess these are the very people who truly threaten Obama's chances in November.

Why are we pledging allegiance to a tri-colored piece of fabric? Anyway, have you ever read the history of this little ditty (Wikipedia page)? It was written by a guy named Bellamy who was a Christian Socialist. "He had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided they were too controversial since many people opposed equal rights for women and blacks." Niiice.

It didn't originally have the words "under God." So, the Catholic Boys Club (oh, sorry. The Knights of Columbus) unsuccessfully pressured the shit out of the government to add it to the pledge. It was a Presbyterian minister in 1954 who finally strong-armed Eisenhower into implementing the addition. That was a great day in history for separation of church and state. At least the Jehova's Witnesses had enough gumption to object about the fact that reciting the pledge was compulsory in schools. They "considered the flag salute to be idolatry." Well, yeah. The Supreme Court agreed with them: "In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that "compulsory unification of opinion" violated the First Amendment."

That phrase is a whopper: "compulsory unification of opinion." I guess that means that the pledge is just an opinion. And, under the First Amendment, you can't force people to express it.

So, even if Obama refused to recite it, he is protected under the First Amendment and has every right to refuse to recite it.

The best part? It used to be accompanied by The Bellamy Salute, until some very wise people decided it was a little too Nazi-ish to continue, and so they changed it to the hand-over-heart salute.

I liked the gal visiting us from Ohio. She's a nice human being. But I would still like to slap some sense into her...using the Bellamy Salute.