Monday, June 12, 2017

That's Just Impeachy

Sure, we all know how we GET a president.  In November, we walk into a little cubicle with a curtain, color in a bubble on a form (a VOTE) and whomever has the most bubbles, erm, votes, wins!  Usually.  Ok, not if you're Al Gore.  Or Hillary Clinton.  See, they flunked out of the Electoral College.  Bet they both wished they had stayed awake in ol' Ex Proff's class, eh?  Then they too might have been president.  But who cares how we get 'em?  The hot topic today is how we GET RID of them.  Hypothetically, what if the man anointed by the Electoral College turns out to have, I don't know, colluded with a foreign power to steal the election through information theft and a massive campaign of propaganda and disinformation.  Let's say further that the "President" then used the office to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the national interest.  Oh, and finally, what if the individual in question is a real douchebag?

The biggest, best, most un-be-lievable douchebag ever seen...
Why, just impeach them, I hear you cry.  Weeelllll, not reeeeeaaaalllllly.  The real answer is that nobody's all that sure, because since our nation's founding, we've never had to get rid of a president before today.  Wait a minute, you say, what about Andrew Johnson?  Richard Nixon?  Bill Clinton?  Weren't they all impeached?  Wrong again.  Only Clinton and Johnson were impeached.  Nixon probably would have been impeached but he resigned first.  Clinton was acquitted, and so was Johnson, though the latter was just one vote short of being convicted.  But all this isn't to say we haven't gotten rid of presidents before.  The only problem is that they've all been assassinated.  And I don't care how big a douchebag anybody is, nobody deserves to be assassinated.  I think.  Unless you're talking about someone who's really, really horrendous -a complete threat to our democratic way of life.  And is a colossal douchebag, a literal douche-pontoon-aircraft carrier.  So, back to our original problem: how do we get rid of Tr-- err, a hypothetical Douche-Bagger-In-Chief?

I think it should start with Impeachment.  That much is certain.  That's how to get rid of recalcitrant executive department officials that won't leave when asked, and Federal judges who would rather take bribes than do their jobs.  Not just anybody can be impeached, however, The Constitution specifies that in order to be impeached, the impeachee must have committed a "high crime or misdemeanor."  What this means is that they had to break a law slightly greater than sidewalk spitting.  Heck, that's easy.  Any crooked cop can plant some pills on an unsuspecting traffic stop and presto, the defendant goes to trial.  However, what the Clinton impeachment shows us is that in order to get rid of the President, you have to have the votes in Congress --a super majority at that.

I was NOT convicted by THAT Congress
So, impeach, then try them by a Congress that will convict them, then,,, then what?  Again, nobody knows for sure because it's never gone this far before.  There are a few very important "what ifs?"  Let's start with this one: what if the President leaves the country for, I'm just spitballing here, Russia and claims that they're the victim of a legislative coup d' etat and they'd really appreciate Russia's help at getting them back in the driver seat over at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave?  What if a lot of other countries around the world believe it too?  What if the United Nations weighs in, calling the impeachment trial "problematic" or "of suspicious motive?"  Does Congress then defy the world?  What if the convicted president doesn't skip the country; who arrests them?  The Capitol Police?  Supposing they are arrested; where are they held?  Or is it enough that they have been kicked out of being president?  Do we just forget about those high crimes and misdemeanors that cost them the job, or does some attorney general or other indict them in front of a grand jury and then go try them --in which court?  Federal?  The state court where the crime took place?  The Washington DC Municipal Court if it happened in DC?

So many questions... I have the best questions... my questions are spec-tac-u-lar...
Once again, nobody knows.  We'd be making up all this shit as we went along.  That said, there have been judges who have been impeached and subsequently prosecuted for their crimes, so Congress could just copy what happened in those events and apply them to the problem of what to do to a wayward president.  But these questions pale in comparison to the one, big, unstated question:  what the heck do we do if he just won't go?

This is not as far-fetched as it seems.  At the beginning of our republic, John Adams was convinced that Thomas Jefferson was getting ready to unleash the horrors of the French Revolution --complete with guillotines in the public squares --onto the American people following his election in 1800.  There was talk, some of it quite heated and serious, of Adams barricading himself in the White House and summoning the army to arrest Jefferson and his supporters.  Adams took the high road, however, choosing only to leave tacks on all the seats in the East Room and swipe all the soap and monogrammed towels.  Jefferson did the same to Madison, by the way.

I also left all the chamber pots full.  Of poop.  Haha!
What I'm getting at here is the very real possibility that an impeached president just may try to brass-balls-it-out and go on national TV or, let's just see here, Twitter, and complain that it's all the result of a Deep State Conspiracy against him, engineered by Obama, with the collusion of the Fake News industry, and all True Americans need to help their legally elected president by taking their constitutionally protected guns and hurrying to Washington.  If this happens, about half of those NRA KKK MAGA* dipshits would head for Washington state and get arrested by a bunch of Washington State Police, but the other half would spread murder and mayhem all over the country until downtown Sheboygan resembled the Kabul Green Zone.  While they were doing that, their political allies and apologists would do everything in their power to aid and abet them from the sidelines, until the country settles down into a comfortable civil war.  And let's remember how much fun the LAST one was: 650,000 soldiers dead, famine, disease, social upheaval and foreign meddlers on the doorstep just itching to step in and carve the United States up into spheres of economic and political influence.  Planet Earth will then be lead by another power (China probably), while the United States enters a period of cultural, economic and social decline, from which it may take centuries to recover.

*National Riflemen's Association, Ku Klux Klan, and Make America Great Again

Introducing North America's next great Superpower...
But let's not let a little thing like uncertainty stop us from doing what needs to be done.  If a president acquires the office through the collusion of a foreign power, they must be removed.  If they use the office for their private enrichment and their family's gain, they must be removed.  If they are too dumb to do the job or too lazy, then they should resign.  Either way, Donald Trump should resign or else be impeached.  But that doesn't stop the problem that created Donald Trump.   If they want to hold onto their jobs, Democrats and Republicans need to see to the good of the American voter who voted for Trump.  Some meaningful constraints must be placed on the real fake news, ie., Breitbart, Fox and the dark, racist corners of the web, in order to silence the lunatic fringe's propaganda machine.  And finally, American politics needs to purge itself of rancour and ideology and raise high the moral standard of public service.  The American Presidency is not a prize to be fought over by billionaires.

I WON'T live in the White House, Mummy!  It's to old and small
and there are NO gold toilet seats!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Trump & Hitler Had a Lot of Help

Please, America, please have been awake for my Nazi class...
How many times have you heard a variation on this historical-content-laden polemic: "Hitler killed seven million Jews during WWII" --at least seven hundred times per Western Civ. II class?  Wow, that A. Hitler must have been one busy little fellow!  If we take the number of seconds per year (31,536,000), multiply it by 5 (175,680,000) and divide that by 7,000,000, we get an astonishing kill rate of one Jew every 22.5 seconds.  Not bad for a middle aged Austrian politician who was also a vegetarian, hypochondriac, and a devout believer in the occult.  And that doesn't include the Allied soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians he killed as well.

Relax- I am not trying to cry "shenanigans" on the Holocaust.  It totally happened and we should never forget that it did, indeed, happen.  All I am doing is making the point that Hitler did not personally go out and whack 7 million Jews, or any of the other 53 million people who died directly because of war, or indirectly because of its associated outbreaks of disease and famine.  In fact, as unlikely as it seems, Hitler very probably never personally killed anybody during his life, except for himself at the end.  This is because one of the psychoses he suffered from was hemophobia, fear of blood.  So, how'd all these people die?  They died because Hitler had help --a LOT of help.

"Zere just veren't enough hours in za day to kill 60,000,000 peoples!"
And who might these helper have been, I hear you cry.  The worst of the worst were grabbed by the British-American-Free French at war's end were put on trial in Nuremberg and included Herman Goering, who slipped through the hangman's noose by poisoning himself when the outcome became certain.  Then there was Rudolf Hess, a.k.a. Vice-Fuhrer, a.k.a. the Nazi official who flew to Scotland in 1941 in order to negotiate peace with Great Britain, a.k.a. Spandau Prison's last and mostly only inmate.

Another bunch were grabbed by something called Operation Paperclip, flown to the USA, and ended up putting Neil Armstrong (no relation to Lance) and "Buzz" Aldrin on the moon.  One last bunch made the move to Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina and lived the South American life in exile, only to spend it forever looking over their shoulders for agents of Israel's Mossad who wanted to have a chat with them over in Tel Aviv.  One guy, and I SWEAR I am not making this up, moved to Norwood, Massachusetts in 1955, got a job at a car assembly plant in Framingham, and lived until he was finally outed in 1994, stripped of his US citizenship and put on trial for his crimes against the Jews in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Norvood... Why didn't I ever move to Vestvood?  #&*@ing Jews...
Hitler was also helped by lots of ordinary Germans who, for one reason or another, were so totally brainwashed by Nazi propaganda or were so afraid of disobeying orders to do terrible things to fellow human beings, that they up did them anyway.  To be fair, a lot of these people just were cogs in the Nazi Engine of Death and either had no idea of the implications of what they did, or consciously turned away from the horror of their own small contributions.  Many Germans served in Germany's armed forces and did so honorably, performing the soldier's duty that sometimes includes killing enemy soldiers.  A few Germans worked for the Underground, helping Allied spies and escaped prisoners of war and concentration camp escapees, putting their own lives at risk to help strangers.  But then, you also had this fine bunch of Aryan women:

"Klaus invited me to a 'party in his pants.'  What do you suppose that means?"
Of all the guards at Nazi death camps, about 10% of them were women.  Now just a minute here!  Aren't women supposed to be the moral compass of the human race?  Aren't women supposed to stick up for each other?  How does one explain the cruelties, savageries and petty acts of unkindness perpetrated by these women on their women charges in the camps?  Again, relax --I am not going all misogynistic on you, just simply pointing out that Hitler's helpers included women as well as men.  And this is not even including the women at home who had as many Aryan babies as they could so that they could get get something called the Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter, A.K.A. the German Mother's Cross of Honor. It came in three classes: bronze, silver and gold, and to get one, you had to give birth to and "appropriately" raise at least four children so that they could serve the fascist state.

"Vill dis cross make mien boobies look bigger?"
Hitler's helpers came from every race, religion, social class, educational level, ethnicity and country of origin in Western Europe.  They included lots of Germans (duuuh!) and lots of French, Norwegians, Finns, Danes, Czechs, Slavs, Russians, Poles, Italians, Rumanians, Albanians, Spaniards --you get the picture.  These collaborators had various motives.  Some only wanted to preserve their country's existence within the ever expanding Nazi Empire.  This was probably the desire of French WWI hero-turned-Nazi-puppet, Philippe Petain.  Others were more interested in trying to out-Nazi the Nazis who now ruled their country.  This was probably the plan of the notorious Vidkun Quisling of Norway.

At this point, we should all pause and ask ourselves, What would I have done if I had lived under Hitler's rule?  It's all well and good to sit in judgement of ordinary people who did terrible things in the mid 20th Century, here on our high perch of the 21st Century, where we all live at the Sky Pad Apartments, have flying cars, talk-screen telephones, robot maids and have cool neighbors like the Jetsons.  Ok, so we DO ACTUALLY have talk-screen phones, but my point is What Would I Have Done?  And you know, constant reader and fellow bloggers, I have no idea what I would have done.  I hope that I would have found the courage to at least passive-aggressively resisted Hitler and his minions, but the pressure to conform would have been immense and the penalties for non-conforming would have been so severe, that I just don't know if I could have had the cojones to resist.
The Face of a Collaborator?
Or just some goofy guy?

But here's the thing, and the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century: nobody should have ever have had to decide which side to be on, Nazi or Human, because Hitler never should have been allowed access to the German political-military systems he then perverted to serve his ghoulish aims.  He could have been prevented from doing it all not through the firing squad, but through the BALLOT BOX.

Adolf Hitler was an Austrian national whose party, the German Socialist Worker's Party or Nazi party, was elected in a legal election held in a democratic manner in the Republic of Germany. The German people sincerely believed that he could "make Germany great again," especially after its humiliating loss to the Allies in WWI and the crippling effects of the Great Depression.  They liked the message Hitler was putting out there: ultra-nationalism, blame the Jews for undermining German greatness, xenophobism towards the rest of the world --especially people not regarded as "True Germans" --and vows to re-arm and throw Germany's weight around again.

Vote for me, or else no strudel for you! 
The German people also liked the way Hitler campaigned for his party.  He flew all over the country in an airplane, still kind of a novelty at the time, making speeches before big crowds where he would denounce his opponents as "losers, whiners, communists, degenerates, un-German" and such.  This was a big departure from politics as usual, in an age where politicians were expected to be polite and act like statesmen.  Hitler looked like he was having an orgasm or a seizure in front of the microphone, depending on your angle of view.

There were others who helped Hitler at this stage, who stuffed his campaign bank account full of Deutschmarks, people like the industrialist father-son duo Gustav and Alfried Krupp, whose company, Krupp Iron Works, went on to manufacture tons of tanks, guns and cannons before being bombed into tiny bits of rusting iron by Allied air raids.  There was the financial genius, Emil Kirdorf, who was such a Hitler fanboy that he published an early Hitler speech as a pamphlet that he circulated among fellow financiers.

The list goes on and on, including but not limited to companies that used slave laborers during WWII in order to produce war and consumer materials, and not all of these companies were headed up by the likes of Oscar Schindler.  Make no mistake about it: Hitler was good for both business and  the working man.  In Hitler's Reich, the only unemployed were the very old, the very young, the very Jewish or the disabled (disabled through accidents at work --the physically or mentally handicapped were sent to the camps to be exterminated or experimented on).

Never forget.  Never.  Never forget what Hitler did.  And.  Never forget that Hitler Had Help.

Now we come to our own age, one where the demagogue this time is an American, but the message is the same: make America great again; my opponents are losers, whiners, un-American; foreigners are to blame for America's problem, especially foreigners who are here illegally from Central America so that they can live without fear of organized criminal gangs in all but failed states, raise their children in safety and a degree of comfort, make a pile of money through hard work and then retire to Florida.  The supporters of this demagogue use the media for their propaganda war against the government of the United States of America.  Here is one example of their graphic work:

Um, quote taken slightly out of context
The obscenity above comes from a very scary site called, the self-described "Leading Firearms Forum."  If you visit the friendly folks there, you can chat with Eric (whose profile pic is a hideously grinning ghoul-thing), DonGlock26, or ChuteTheMall.  I hope to God the FBI and ATF and the Secret Service are all watching these gun nuts.  But maybe they aren't.  Maybe they are instead investigating Anonymous for a hacking they didn't even do.  Meanwhile, look at how Mainstream Media handled the whole thing (sorry if you're a fan of The View, but they just crack me up sometimes!  Again, not being a misogynist, just reporting what's out there)  Granted, there was a fair, balanced discussion by the co-hosts, but the fact remains that they got taken-in too, with 4/5 of them reacting with fear and distaste, while TOTALLY MISSING THE POINT: America, jittery from its war on terrorism, will go running to and defend any demagogue who "has all the answers" or "makes them feel safe," even if we have to sacrifice our liberty and freedom in the process.  Because we're scared.

I urge you all to fact-check every lie passed off as fact that issues from candidate Donald Trump's mouth before you cast a vote for him, either in the primary or the general election, unless the Republicans can get their asses together and stop the man who could prove to be the beginning of the end for the American Republic.  I urge you to laugh along with the late-nighters like Jimmy FallonJimmy KimmelJohn Oliver and Seth Meyers, but also do what the co-hosts of The View suggest and VOTE.  For anyone.  Except.  Donald Trump.  In my opinion, an America lead by Herr Drumpf would be as intolerable, as brutal, as morally corrupt a place as Germany was under Adolf Hitler.

Don't be one of the little people who helped Der Donald.  Learn something from history for once in your life and stop him before he turns this wonderful country of ours into the next incarnation of Nazi Germany, circa 1942.
No caption necessary.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Idiocracy? It Can Happen Here

Since nobody was paying attention last class,
consider this a remedial session.  Ahem!
Have you all seen this wonderful B-grade movie, "Idiocracy?"  It's got a marvelous premise. Essentially, people in the future are really, REALLY dumb, but the United States is still a democracy, so instead of electing smart leaders, the idiots in this "idiocracy" elect leaders who are slightly smarter, but way more flashy.  Check it out:

This begs the question: can our republican democracy prevent the U.S. from electing a really dumb, silly, dangerously uninformed, mentally unbalanced or otherwise five-fries-short-of-a-Happy-Meal president?  To answer this question, we will have to go back to the writing of the U.S. Constitution.

In or around the year 1787, democracies were rare in the world: we were pretty much it.  Even the much talked about Dutch Confederation still had at its core a hereditary prince called a Stadholder, who was usually Orange --that is, usually the Prince of Orange.  There was a decent reason for all this aristocracy in the world.  Only aristocrats had the free time to become educated and thus make wise, informed decisions about what a country should or should not do.  They had all this free time because the reason for their existence had pretty much evaporated.  You see, the aristocrats were at the top of the social heap because they were supposed to spend all their time training how to kill and maim people while riding on a horse.  Since kings now used smaller, professional, paid armies, all tricked out with the most expensive new killing technology (black powder muskets with --wait for it! --bayonets on the end!), there wasn't a reason to call out the feudal host any more because someone would probably blow them all sky-high with a cannon.

Come to think of it, going to Kings College, Oxford sounds a good deal
more jolly than going to the Holy Land and having my balls cut off en route.
And most of the time, these aristocrats did make good decisions.  What the English aristocrats didn't count on was the fact that their ugly stepchildren in America --or at least the part that wasn't owned by Spain, France or Indians --were so damn cheap and stingy that they didn't want to pay any taxes at all which their colonial assemblies didn't, ahem, vote for.  The nerve!  Things got so bad that the otherwise sensible King George III fought a terrible war with the Americans over this issue, and he lost, first the Colonies, then his mind, then he got it back again, then he lost his life to old age.

For all their talk about democracy, America's Founding F-ers shared the same reservations about unbridled democracy as the Brits did, because let's face it: the average American in 1787 believed every word in the Bible was literally true, was pretty sure that grand-dad had done him a solid when he burned all the witches in the colony, and that Indians could fly, change color, sprout as many arms as they wanted, and probably had at least one parent that was a horse.  In order to stop the Ship of State from being skippered by these bumpkins, the Founding F-ers had a few rules about who could vote and for whom they were allowed to vote.  For instance, of the newly minted Federal Government, only Congressmen were elected by the voters.  And those voters had to be male, white, over 21, and own a certain amount of "property," which could be real estate, money, or even people, just as long as those owned people were black.

See if you can spot the new American Voter!
Hint: it's no one on the top row!
Senators were elected by the members of a state's legislature, who had to pass all the other qualifications as a regular voter, plus be one of the "popular kids" back home.  And the President of the United States?  Here's where the Founding F-ers got really, really creative.  Each state had a number of people chosen as Electors.  How many Electors a state had was based on its population, plus two extras thrown in just for giggles.  These people would gather after a Presidential Election and cast their own votes for president.  Whichever candidate had the most votes would be the President; whomever had the next most votes would be Vice-President.  And it was this half-assed shit show that elected Washington and Adams as POTUS and VPOTUS not once, but twice.

Over the years, the system has been tweaked around a bit, but it is still the Electors who actually elect the President and Vice President.  Sure, there are formal and informal rules that pretty much say that Electors must vote for whichever candidate gets the majority vote in the state on Election Day, but things are sort of vague about what happens if an Elector goes off-script and votes for someone who --and I'm just speculating at this point --the Elector believes would actually make a good president.  I'm guessing they have to pay for their own lunch at the meeting of the Electoral College (I am so not making this name up!).

So okay, now this guy is running for President:

Whoops, wrong country, wrong election.  Wait a sec... ah, here he is:

Long story short, he makes "Idiocracy's" President Commacho look like Abraham Lincoln by comparison.  And who do the Democrats have lined up to run against him?  Either Hillary who for some reason is liked less than her skirt chasing husband, Bill "Bubba" Clinton, or some old, transplanted to Vermont New York dude who has an actual Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream flavor named after him (again, so not kidding!)  There is a very real chance that this dipshi-  uh, Donald Dude could become our next president,  Who can save us?  Superman?  Batman?  Nope, they are for reasons still unclear to me squaring off to fight each other this year.  Well, can the Supreme Court?  Nope, they're too old and they're down a member besides.  Who can help?  I'll tell you who: The Electoral College!!!

Horse and I would help, but you're not in the
British Commonwealth of Nations any more.  Sorry!
I'm telling you, if Trump does somehow manage to win in November, we've got to go to the one firewall standing between us and worldwide ignominy.  We've got to make sure that the Electors elect someone, anyone else.  Hell, at this stage Sarah Palin would be a better risk.  She at least had been a state governor --in a state that has more caribou than people, and more Arctic fox than minority people, but at least she can hire a bunch of handlers with some solid experience, while the Donald would probably move a bunch of his corporate ass-lickers and hatchet-men into Cabinet level positions and stack the Supreme Court with Celebrity Apprentice fails. 

So give it up for the Electoral College, my peeps!  And be sure to know WHO THEY ARE from your state and threaten them with an infinite number of noogies and purple-nurples if they cast one friggin' vote for Trump.  Because although they were flawed men, the Founding F-ers usually knew what they were doing.
Your Electoral College at work: Electing Presidents since George Washington.  We could be America's last hope :-0

Thursday, December 10, 2015

It's Time to Go All-Roman

We have reached the point in the country's latest war --the war on everybody who doesn't make a million bucks net per year --where one side or the other has got to give in.  On the right, there is 1% of the population who owns, I dunno, about 22% of everything worth anything in the entire United States, including 90% of the Senate, 99.33% of the House of Representatives, and 5/4ths of the Supreme Court.  Just slightly to the left are the other 9% of the top 10% who own, according to CNN, about 65% of the rest of the country's wealth, including just about all the rest of government, industry, farming, manufacturing --you get the picture.  On the left, we have 90% of Americans (plus all those undocumented workers who work for the top 10% under the table) who own about 23% of America's wealth, including Senators Boxer and Sanders (D-CA and D-VT respectively), US Representative Nikki Tsongas (D-3rd Cong. Dist. MA) and maaaybe one other Congressman from either Ohio or Michigan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her more lucid days, President Obama, but not on his golfing days -or when he's busy making a speech after the latest mass killing -or when Michele, a.k.a. The Flotus, is bugging him about all the fat kids in America -or on days when he's forced to grovel before the Republican Congress to, like, KEEP  THE  UNITED  STATES  OPEN.  Oh yeah, and a Taco Bell in Fresno.  Oh, and a couple of late model Chevys and one Subaru.

To be fair, it looked a whole lot better back when I had a job

I know what you're thinking: if it was a tug-'o-war instead of a class war, the left would totally kick ass.  There is one small problem: this ain't no tug-'o-war.

"Over? Did you say it's over?"
You see, the right has managed to buy the media, government, legal establishment (except for one legal aid clinic in Newark, NJ), the police, the military, the health care industry, all the farms and grazing ranges, all the mines, oil wells, and even most of the other 90%, or at least the 90% who work for the 10% and are regularly cowed into silence by the ever looming threat of unemployment.

To put this in perspective, the unequal distribution of wealth in contemporary American society far surpasses even that of France's Ancien Régime just before Louis XVI literally lost his head during the French Revolution.  So is this our fate?  Must we set up la guillotine in places where Occupy America, um, protesters pitched their quaint camps and go 10% head huntin'?  I think not.  For one thing, Americans don't go in for killing people unless they do it with one or more of their legally owned, Constitutionally protected guns that take clips of 20+ rounds.  For another thing, the downtrodden of today can institute meaningful economic and social change by doing as the Romans did a couple thousand of years ago: leave.

The year was 494 BCE; the place was what was then modern Rome, but is in fact that which we today call ancient Rome (try translating that tortured syntax into Latin!)  The Roman underclass, the so called Plebeians, were sick and tired of getting shafted by the Roman 10%-ers, the so called Patricians.  I mean, they were paid literally in bread and salt, had no legal rights, couldn't even run off and join the army, and had literally had it up to here, when some wily Plebeian had a stroke of genius: let's all just fuck off and leave the stupid Patricians to fend for themselves.  Which they then proceeded to do,  The whole lot of them -men, women, children, old folks, transvestites and a dog named Rex -left Rome and set up camp on the nearby Sacred Mount.  Days, then weeks went by, Patricians in their nearly empty city, all eyes on the Plebeians, who in turn watched the Patricians, who finally freaked-out when somebody started a rumor that the Gauls were on the way to administer a little elective surgery upon the persons of the Patricians.  In short, they caved-in, gave the Plebeians rights, officials called Tribunes and welcomed them back with open arms.

So here's my plan for today: how about the entire 90% of America go on vacation for a whole month, all at the same time!  We could all go to Mexico, unless the undocumented bunch want to go somewhere else like, um, Canada.  We'll all pool our meager resources and rent a nice but not too expensive thousand square miles of Manitoba for the month, eat breakfast at Tim Horton's every day, watch hockey every night, say "eh" a lot, and watch the CBC for reports of how those spoiled rich bitches and bastards are doing back in the States.  I just bet that Paris Hilton will crumple in the first hour, Kanye West might make it a week, and that blow-hardest of the blowhards, Donald Trump, will be Donald-please-oh-please-come-home-you-losers by the end of week two.

So, who's with me?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Separation of Church and State

Today's post focuses on those times and places in human history when government and religion either got along or didn't, or maybe they didn't even notice each other for a while, or maybe, like, Religion got all weirded-out and did some stuff that got the government all p-o'd and junk, which made Religion behave even weirder until government was all like, "Yeah, no, you can't ever do that again, so we're just gonna kick you and all your followers out."  So Religion was all like, "FINE, what-EVER, just don't go bother us right before you DIE and want to be saved from the ultimate unpleasantness that awaits you on the OTHER SIDE, because we'll probably just ignore you, so HA!"

Not very mature for a venerable institution like Religion, which actually predated government in the chronological order of sociological institutions.  This is because the first of what we might call governments were probably extensions of the family's extended cousin, the clan.  Humans are similar to dogs, cats and naked mole-rats in that they are social animals who like to live together in groups.  There are genetic and psychological reasons I won't go into here that evolutionarily favor species that can live together without killing each other or eating up all the food in sight, so until early humans figured this out and set up actual rules for living together in groups larger than a clan, Religion had the whole place to itself.  This is because humans are the Earth's only animals that practice religious rituals.  Note, for example, the complete lack of synagogues inside a termite mound.

How do we know humans practiced religion?  A combination of two things: they way they treated their dead, and the pictures they drew on rock walls.  As far back as 50,000 years ago, people were burying their friends and families underground, arranging the corpse carefully, and including stuff the dead person owned along with the body.  This implies a belief in some sort of an afterlife, where the deceased person will need his stuff in order to get along.  What would you like to be buried with?  If
Ok, there's Fred, Jacquie, Wanda, Billy, your Mom and some random dude,
but WTF, who is that HUGE guy-thing on the right?!?
you believe the song, Willie the Wimp was buried in his Cadillac Seville.  Now, about those cave-rock wall- rock overhang drawings: they seem to show supernatural beings interacting with primitive people.  Could these be ancient aliens? --or could they be Supreme Beings conjured from the minds of primitive artists?  Also, among the animal paintings at Lascaux cave in France, there is a picture of a fearsome cave lion that had been struck thousands of times.  This implies a ritual --a ritual killing of a powerful predator in this case.

Government and religion ultimately collided in that totally man-made, artificial environment called the city-state.  These places were breaking out all over the Near East (as opposed to the Way-the-f*ck-over-There East) in places like Jericho and Sumeria.  Historians are fairly certain that the earliest governments of these places were priest/kings.  Why?  Because up to that point, only religious leaders could convince that many people to do things they might not ordinarily do, such as dig and maintain irrigation canals, not immediately kill people who offended them in some way, or construct these really weird statues and temples dedicated to gods and goddesses,  In Sumer, the priests even had a corner on the sex-trade market.  The temple of Ishtar was staffed by priestesses who were literally prostitutes.  For a price, men could lie with a priestess who was specially trained in the arts erotica.  Even amateurs got into the act.  If a Sumerian girl wanted a husband and wasn't rich enough or pretty enough to get a lot of suitors, all she had to do was to hang-out at Ishtar's temple and give it away for free --just as long as the guy took her home and raised a family with her.

My victory over these infidel unbelievers is made all the more complete
by using my wind-up horse chariot to smash the city's idols!  Mwa-ha-ha!
Religious leaders had to take a back seat to military leaders once cities started raiding each other for scarce supplies, but religion was still important.  What would make an army fight even better than usual?  Why, a special blessing from a priest!  However, there was trouble on the horizon.  See, whenever a victorious army broke into the walls of an enemy city, the second thing they did was to trash that city's gods by smashing the idols and killing the priests.  The first thing the army did was, of course, wipe their hobnailed boots on the corpses of dead enemies.  Thus began humanity's first religious war, a war that has been raging off-and-on for about four thousand years!

Sometimes, religious leaders and government leaders in the same city got into spats.  These usually worked themselves out with select banishments or a few well-chosen executions.  Sometimes religion won; sometimes government won.  This was the state of things when the Roman Empire was forced to deal with a new religious cult that had started in one of its eastern provinces.

Colosseum cat-food time!
On the whole, Romans thought of themselves as very open-minded when it came to the subject of religion.  There was, in fact, a temple in Rome called the Pantheon that had idols of every god/goddess/religious-type-thing worshipped in every corner of the Empire.  Romans had their own religion, of course, which was bits borrowed from the Etruscans, Greeks, Carthaginians and stuff they had pulled right out of their own toga-covered asses, but they generally left the different peoples within the empire alone when it came to practicing religion, except when that practice included human sacrifice which, strange as it may seen what with their love for gladiatorial contests and public executions, the Romans totally hated.  Because the Celtic Druids were big into the old kill-em-for-piety's sake rituals, the Romans got rid of Druids wherever they found them.  So what were they supposed to do with this weird messianic cult of ex-Jews who reportedly ate flesh, drank blood, and nevertheless professed to love their neighbors?

The first Christians were, of course, Jews who followed the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, an itinerant rabbi who had his own problem with the Roman state --it crucified Him.  After Saul of Tarsus' conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul, as he was now called, enlarged the Christian communion to include Gentiles, ie., guys who still had their foreskins attached.  Pretty soon, there was even a bunch of these Christians living in Rome itself --they had followed the Apostle Peter there and helped him set up a church.  All went swimmingly until the sect began to grow and flex a little political muscle among the Roman plebeians, the working stiffs of Rome, with whom the new cult was very popular.  Slaves liked it too.  Emperor Nero came up with the idea of blaming the Christians for the great fire during his reign ("Woah, I've seen fire during my reign," he reportedly sang from his own private stage during the worst of the flames), and thus kicked-off a kind of free-for-all on Christians.  Things got so bad that Christians were driven literally underground into these burial vaults called catacombs, where even there they were sometimes ratted-out by a jealous neighbor or total dipshit.

The Mass is ended.  Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.  And Tiberias? Tell your mom to keep her big, fat mouth shut!
However, Christians hung in there (some at the end of their ropes) and eventually were made the official religion of the Roman Empire.  There was only one small problem: the Roman Empire kind of sucked at this point.  It was invaded by a bunch of Germanic tribes and one Central Asian bunch called the Huns, until nothing was left but the Greek part which historians later called "The Greek Part of the Former Roman Empire," shortened to "Byzantine," just because.  So now that the Church was still relatively ok and the State was on life-support --at least in the West --the Church busied itself with setting up a hierarchy because it knew that the state would come around sooner or later and have it out with the Church at some point.

Note to self: don't piss-off Henry I-
he's a really mean drunk!
And a mere 604 years later, trouble broke out between Pope Gregory VII and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over something called investiture.  Basically, this bit of silliness was over the question of who got to hand out Church offices like Bishoprics and Archbishoprics: the Pope or the Emperor?  To be fair, the Church was well-meaning, attempting to curb the practice of Simony, whereby Church offices were sold by the nobility in the district, the offices often going to friends of the nobles.  When Gregory's reform-minded clergy told the Holy Roman Empire's nobility that Church offices were no longer for sale, the Emperor himself got into the fray, sending off some nasty-grams tot he Pope wherein he called the Holy Father, "Hildebrand, not-Pope but false monk," and other such neener-neenerisms that made Pope Greg hopping-mad.  The issue darkened the relationship between Henry I of England and Pope Paschal II, resulting in Henry's pal, Thomas `a Beckett, getting sliced-up by a quartet of Henry's knights in the basement of Canterbury Cathedral.

It wasn't until 1122 that H.R. Emperor Henry V and Pope Calixtus II settled the whole unpleasantness with the unappetizing-sounding Concordat of Worms.  The meat of the Concordat is something like this:  kings and emperors and, I don't know, Grand High Poo-bahs, have this stuff called secular power, with which they can make Bishops in their territory help equip an army if the place gets invaded.  Popes have this stuff called sacred power, with which they give Bishops the power and authority and the duty to go out there and save some souls for Jesus.  So yeah, after all the pushing, shoving and at least one murdered Archbishop of Canterbury, it all came down to a compromise between Church and State that puts Bishops under both authorities.  Still want to be a Bishop?

Now you would think that with this kind of sensible solution, there would never again be a problem between the Church and State, right?  I sure thought that!  But alas and alack, this was not to be.  See, there was this little dust-up called the Protestant Reformation that brought out some... issues... that had been swept under the ol' altar rug for about 350 years.  In England, a different number Henry --number VIII --completely kicked the Catholic Church out of England and set up his very own church just so he could get a divorce.  And that new church, the Anglican Church?  Yeah, the English King was in charge of it.  In Germany, there were a couple of small wars (the Schmalkaldic Wars) that ended with the Peace of Augsburg, which basically gave German princes the right to pick Catholicism or Lutheranism as the official religion of their territory.

Things got positively out of control with religion and the state with the 30 Years War, which lasted, um, 30 years.  It pitted the Protestant nations of Europe against the Catholic nations.  Nobody really won, lots of people got killed, but the French --who entered the war late and on the Protestant side, which is weird because the country was run by a Catholic Archbishop --kind of came out on top by not losing as badly as everyone else did.  They even got to thrash their next door neighbors, those miserable Spanish, in the process.  Hooray for religious wars!

Those are the Spanish on the horses, wisely choosing to not make horse-kebabs on the ends of French pikes.
Church vs. State conflicts became a bit more subtle after the 30 Years War, and it mostly had something to do with how much influence States allowed the Church to have in their countries.  There were countries like Spain and England where a person's religion was basically ordered by the State.  In 1492, Spain kicked all the Moors and Jews out, then created the feared Inquisition to find people who had fake-converted to Catholicism but were still secret Jews or Muslims.  The Catholic Church would hang onto this much influence in Spain until the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in the 1970's.  In Elizabeth I's England, she didn't really care of some English people were Catholic, just as long as they showed up once a month to an Anglican service.  The Stuart Kings followed harder lines: James I kicked the Pilgrim Separatists out, first to Holland, later to Plymouth, Massachusetts, North America.  His son, Charles, got his head cut off because 1. he married a Catholic; 2. he probably was a Catholic; 3. he pissed-off the Puritan Parliament.

In America before our revolution, Church and State had a mixed relationship.  New England started out pretty much as a theocracy lead by fiery Puritan Calvinist preachers, which went great until Salem and some other towns were convinced they were besieged by witches from within their communities and hanged a bunch of mostly harmless old women who had a few too many pet cats.  In Virginia, they allowed so-called "dissenter meetings" such as Presbyterians and Baptists, but they had to pay a tax which was used to support the Anglican clergy in Virginia.  Maryland was basically set up as a place that English Catholics could go and, if they didn't starve or get killed by Indians, live in relative peace and quiet.  However, Maryland was soon overrun by Protestants, and Catholics had to put up with not being able to openly go to Mass without being molested by their neighbors.

I am Thomas Jefferson.  #*$! religion!
Enter Thomas Jefferson.  He was a young man who traveled in Europe, was a good student of Enlightenment authors, and although a nominal Anglican himself, was kind of bugged by Virginia having its own "official" religion.  I guess some of his best friends were Quakers, Lutherans, Anabaptists, Catholics, or Presbyterians.  He drafted Virginia's Religious Toleration Statute, which was basically copied and stuck into the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights which, along with Article IV, made the United States of America the very first country in the entire world that explicitly separated Church from State.

Over the years, lots of Supreme Court cases tested and further refined the "Establishment," "Free-Exercise" and "Religious Test" clauses of the Constitution, which has had the effect of really pissing-off the fundamentalist Christian right-wing wack-o's who basically want to unite Church and State and have THEM in charge of BOTH.  On the other side of the coin, atheists get all bent when they look at the money in their pocket and have to read, "In God We Trust," or send their kids to a school where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, especially the "One Nation, under God" part.  There's basically just no pleasing some people!

Go in peace, and thank you very much.
There are a lot of religions in the United States today, some familiar, some exotic, some weird, and at least one completely preposterous religion.  I am referring, of course, to the Chapel of the Church of the Divine Elvis Presley, a "religion" that was invented by my friend, Voga Wallace, as a way to get out of paying his city property tax by claiming part of his apartment was a religious shrine devoted to --you guessed it --Elvis.  A small room that was probably supposed to be a pantry was outfitted with four Elvis posters lit by a dangling black light, an old guitar was set up on a trunk, into which people were encouraged to leave free-will "Love Me Tender" offerings, and the perpetual "Elvis Light," a candle stuck inside an Elvis drinking glass, was always lit --whenever Voga remembered to do it.  And I am completely not making this up when I tell you that the city bought this charade, even listing it as one of the city's "places of worship"  on some grotty official publication.  That, despite the fact that the whole time I hung out with him, there was never one, not one person who visited Voga's stupid shrine!

Lastly, let me just say this: even though our state and religion are separate here in America, that doesn't mean that Americans aren't friendly towards religion in general.  Just look at the parking lots that surround mega-churches on a Sunday morning and you'll see what I mean.  So Iran can just suck it whenever they try to pass us off as the Great Satan or whatever.  I bet you there are more mosques in America than there are in Iran, tons more synagogues and tons-squared more churches to boot.  We just don't think our religious leaders should have a say in fixing potholes in the streets, or whether or not to go to war with some country whose religious leaders call us the Great Satan.  Get it?  So here's to religion and government: may they peacefully coexist as separate institutions because bad things tend to happen whenever they team-up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cats! They Walk Among us!

In this, my 41st posting to  the blogosphere, I thought it would be fun to write about cats and how long they have been sponging-off of humans.  I have two spongers now: Mimi and Ebby (short for Ebony).  They are both black American shorthairs, but that's all they have in common.  Mimi is very talkative, can be playful, likes to look at all the birds, squirrels, raccoons, badgers, dogs, elephants and orangutans cavorting around in the back garden; Ebby is invisible.  Most of the time.  And doesn't meow.  And is literally afraid of his own shadow.  Every now and then, especially whenever I am feeding them their expensive cat food --the kind that promotes a healthy feline urinary tract --I find myself complaining to them about the 21 1/2 hours a day they sleep, grouchily saying things like, "And I suppose you'd like it better if we worshipped you two freeloaders as goddesses, just like the Egyptians!" or the equally mean-spirited question, "And just HOW MANY mice did you catch and eat today?"

Truth be told, I suppose I'm a bit envious of my cats.  I'm sure that if I went to, let's say, the Serengeti and tried to move in with a pride of lions, I doubt I'd get fed "human chow" every day and have my hair stroked, or be given bits of leftover bones to play with.  We humans are --with the exception of the sign-language-communicating gorilla named Koko --the only species that keeps pets because we like them.  But was this always the case?  When did humans and cats connect?  And given that there are few "working cats" left in the Western world these days, just why the heck haven't we turned these furry little freeloaders out to fend for themselves?

Not Mimi and Ebby- I have no pictures of them together because
Ebby is too scared to come out from under the bed.  Dipshit!
Domestic cats are descended from the African wildcat, a little guy who lives in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.  In 2004, a neolithic grave was discovered in Crete that contained a human skeleton and a cat skeleton, side-by-side --although I have no doubt that the cat caused the human's death by twining around-and-between the human's legs until he tripped and cracked his skull on a Neolithic rock.  The gravesite was carbon-dated to about 9,500 years old, and it takes a few hundred years at the very least to domesticate an animal species, so cats have been hanging around humans for close to 10,000 years.  That's a lot of cat food cans!  But why in the world would cats choose humans to cozy-up to back in the Neolithic?

No!  I will NEVER be tamed!  I will not be... wait, is that cream?
I like cream.  Hmm... but No! I must not... ooo, is that fish?  Prrr...
It's simple, really.  Cats, both wild and domesticated, are carnivorous, solitary hunters, who nevertheless live social lives, usually with other cats, but who won't turn their noses up at the odd scrap tossed their way.  By the Neolithic period, humans were giving up their nomadic ways in favor of a more or less fixed address, just as long as the fish, fowl, game animals, roots, wild berries, nuts and fruits held out.  A few intrepid bands had supplemented their diets with these weird animals called pigs, cows, chickens and goats that they had managed to domesticate, with the help of Man's Best Friend, the dog.  With all the food hanging around a Neolithic campsite being prepared, grown, caught or eaten, it was just a matter of time before the domestic cat's wild African cousin took notice, and decided to throw her lot in with humans.

"Can I haz a tiny nom of wheeeat?"
"No.  But I can haz juicy mousie, nom nom nom!"
By the time the Neolithic Age had given over to civilizations in the Fertile Crescent, the Nile valley and China's Yellow River Valley, cats were firmly entrenched as human companions, and rightly so, because they had the all important job of helping to guard the grain surplus these civilizations had managed to accumulate, from marauding bands of mice, rats, birds and the like.  This was a totally huge problem, because ancient peoples of the Near East hadn't yet discovered the Midwest Grain Silo, the storage innovation that made it possible for so many Americans today to suffer from wheat gluten allergies.  Given the chance, wheat and grain-eating rodents would reproduce like mad and munch their way through the entire surplus of, say, ancient Jericho without even breaking a sweat.  They were, like, total opportunists.  Luckily, we humans had our own opportunistic animal allies fighting the good fight at our side: felis silvestris catus, a.k.a. the pussycat.  They aren't mentioned in the Sumerian written record, nor do they show up in Mesopotamian clay tablets, but cat skeletons are found at the same level of ancient Sumerian cities, indicating that cats lived and died inside the city walls.  If they lived inside Sumerian households, they probably chased and ate mice and rats that invaded the Sumerian home.  If they didn't it was probably because their services were required at the central granary and Sumerian priests may have had a monopoly on cat ownership.  Which totally makes sense, because across the Sinai desert, the Egyptians had a very close and well documented relationship with cats.

This is a contemporary drawing of the Egyptian goddess, Bast, a.k.a Bastet, shown in her later, anthropomorphic form of a woman with a cat's head.  She carries in her hands a sistrum, a kind of bronze rattle that sounds like a key ring being jangled about, and the ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life.  To her devotees (which I am sure included lots of little old Ancient Egyptian ladies who had a few too many cats at home), she looked after cats (well, duuh!), protected people, and was a source of joy, dance, music and love.  She had an entire temple devoted to her worship, staffed by a bunch of priests who took care of the sacred cats, who were sometimes awarded to lucky supplicants and taken home to protect it from vermin.  This temple was even visited by Herodotus, the dude who actually invented history.  Here's what he had to say about it:

"Save for the entrance, it stands on an island; two separate channels approach it from the Nile, and after coming up to the entry of the temple, they run round it on opposite sides; each of them a hundred feet wide, and overshadowed by trees. The temple is in the midst of the city, the whole circuit of which commands a view down into it; for the city's level has been raised, but that of the temple has been left as it was from the first, so that it can be seen into from without. A stone wall, carven with figures, runs round it; within is a grove of very tall trees growing round a great shrine, wherein is the image of the goddess; the temple is a square, each side measuring a furlong. A road, paved with stone, of about three furlongs' length leads to the entrance, running eastward through the market place, towards the temple of Hermes; this road is about 400 feet wide, and bordered by trees reaching to heaven."

Nice digs for our Egyptian goddess!  I, however, was somewhat surprised that Herodotus neglected to mention anything about the temple litter box, which must have been extraordinary as well.

I told you to get the cat a meatball!  What the Hades
is she going to do with a yarn ball, you twit?
There is no doubt that cats were purring, scampering, chasing balls of yarn and otherwise on the hunt for mice and moles in Ancient Greece.  One of the most important things that a Greek housewife did, especially if she was a noblewoman, was to prepare and weave wool into all kinds of useful things, like clothes, curtains, wall hangings and blankets.  With all of that yarn around to chase, I have no doubt that somewhere, on some lovely Greek island, there was a cat in the middle of it, making a hilarious muddle of things, much to the enjoyment of the lady of the house.  At least one Greek potter put this cute domestic scene on one of his pots.  

If you close your eyes, it's easy to imagine cats all over Ancient Athens: prowling the Acropolis for mice trying to steal the food offerings to Athena, sideling their way through the Agora on watch for any dropped kibbee or discarded fish, sitting on Socrates' lap as he peppered Plato and his other students with his socratic questions.  Now open those eyes, and if you're in Athens, you can see descendants of those Classical Cats ranging all over the city!  I visited Athens in 1981 and was astonished to find myself trailed by no fewer than three cats wherever I went.  They were kind of like my personal feline Greek homies.  I ended up always having a spare bit of kebab on hand as a little treat for them.  Abandoned and scruffy as they were, they always politely waited their turn for their treat, and never bit or scratched me.

The Romans had cats, and so possibly did the Etruscans, the Romans' neighbors to the north, who conquered and ruled the Romans for a while before the Romans got their act together and took over 7/8ths of the Known World.  We know without a doubt that cats were in Ancient Rome around the time of Christ, because an archaeologist recently found cat paw-prints on a section of clay roofing-tile, dated about 2,000 years ago.  I wonder what that tile-maker's cat looked like, and what it was doing strolling across damp roof tile.  Speaking of tile, before Mt. Vesuvius blew its top and turned Pompei into the ancient world's biggest ashtray, there was a place called the House of the Fawn that had some pretty great mosaic artwork.  The most famous piece is Alexander the Great at the Battle of Issus, the one where the Great Al totally kicked the ass out of the Persian Empire's army and just about snagged the King of Kings, Darius, off of his retreating chariot.  A lesser known mosaic is this one here, presumably of the family's felis silvestrius catus:

Ego sum: Fera pessima bestia formidetur!
Although the claws are a little fanciful, the mosaic shows a really pretty kitty with orange fur and black tiger stripes.  Unfortunately, every human, dog and cat died when Vesuvius erupted.  But cats were in the empire to stay, and wherever the legions went, cats either followed or were already there once the legion pitched camp.  And when the empire fell apart and was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy courtesy of the Goths, cats stuck around to help chase the mice out of the barns and help themselves to any medieval handouts that came their way.  It was during the middle ages, however, that cats find their way into the written record.  Literally.  During the 14th century, an Italian manuscript called Lettere e commissioni di Levant, Vol. 13, has inky cat paw prints across a couple of pages.  Why the scribal monk who wrote this book didn't fix this feline desecration is because in order to do so, he would have had to trash hundreds of hours of meticulous, hand-written copy.  Better to just beat the cat instead.

There are strange appearances by cats in medieval literature, with people talking to cats and the cats talking back, cats being associated with angels and devils, cats being chased by dogs and cats chasing lions (and catching them, too!)  But there are sweet portrayals of cats as well.  My favorite one is this poem by an Irish scribe/scholar about his pet cat, Pangur Ban:

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Watch out, you moussesss!  Pangur Ban is in da houssssse!
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

During the Age of Exploration, cats hooked a ride on many a caravel and pinnace and found themselves in some pretty exotic locations.  Sailors really liked having cats on shipboard because they ate the mice and rats that ate the sailors' food, such that it was.  Once on shore in the South Seas or the Spanish Main, cats found themselves among fauna that had never met them before.  And that fauna, in some instances, suffered for it.  Biologists estimate that domestic cats are responsible for 32 species of New World birds going extinct.  Forever.  But the sailors didn't know what they were doing, and cats were just doing what they had always done, so although regrettable, we can't really blame cats for everything that went down.  And sailors being the superstitious crowd they are, no cat on a ship, no crew. Cats were literally that well respected.

Wherever Europeans set up colonies, cats came along to police the grain supply and to ingratiate themselves with people who owned warm fireplaces.  Although there is no mention of cats at Monticello, Mount Vernon or Paul Revere's house, it's not a huge leap of imagination to picture a grey-and-white tabby sitting on John Hancock's lap in the front parlor of his Boston home, having her ears scratched by the hand that wrote the biggest signature on the Declaration of Independence.  Hey, even this lady had a cat.

He's stuffed.  That's because he wouldn't
sit still for his portrait.
Which brings me to a very dark part of the feline/human relationship: the belief that cats are evil spirit-familiars who carry plague and kill children in their sleep.  While it is true that cats are disease carriers --hey, so are you! --they are certainly NOT carriers of bubonic plague.  They, like humans, were victims of plague, but only if they were bitten by an infected flea.  They were also collateral victims of medieval medical quackery that went something like this: plague was spread by the bad air breathed-out by cats and dogs, so kill all the cats and dogs and your town will be plague-free.  You can see where this is going.  Without cats and dogs around killing the host animals of the Bubonic Plague-infested flea, those fleas will jump onto humans, bite them, kill them, and > poof!< one-third of Europe's population is on their way to meet Jesus or Satan, depending on their level of medieval faith.

As for killing children in their sleep, the theory was that cats would crouch on a child's chest at night and steal their breath, thus killing the hapless child.  The reality of the situation is that cats like a warm place to sleep (who doesn't?), and it just so happens that humans radiate a lot of heat from their heads, which are usually outside of the sheets, blankets, duvets and duvet-covers at night, unless there are monsters under the bed, in which case the child's head is under the covers.  This is why I often wake up in the morning with a cat sleeping peacefully on my head.

Onto the part about cats being the familiar spirits of witches, warlocks, demons and that crowd.  As stated in the fourth paragraph of this article (scroll up- it's next to the picture of the African wildcat), cats are social creatures.  This means that they like to hang-out with people and other cats.  You could say that cats are familiar with people who feed them, clip their claws, play with them and stroke their fur.  When an old, ugly lady who had a couple of cats for mousing-purposes and for companionship was accused of being a witch, one of the exhibits for the prosecution would always include the poor little pudddycats, who would be put to death as well.  Such a raw deal!  Usually these cats were completely screwed if they happened to be black cats, the Devil's favorite color.  The sad part about this is that presently, people will cat-nap and torture black cats around Halloween, or sacrifice them in satanic rituals they make up by pulling some random occult shit right out of their asses.  This is why my two black cats are NOT allowed to trick-or-treat by themselves anymore, even though most of my neighbors are probably not closet satanists.
Actual autographed publicity-shot of Felicitte, the
French astro-cat

Finally, neither NASA, the Russian space program nor the European Space Agency have any current plans to send a cat into space, although dogs, monkeys, rabbits, mice, rats, frogs, frog eggs, fruit flies, a guinea pig (really?  using a guinea pig as a guinea pig? how droll), parasitic wasps, flour beetles, one tortoise, white flies, meal worms, spiders, a couple of fish, nematode worms, a stick insect and I am so totally not making this up, a couple of newts, have made it into space.  Only the French had the sense to send a cat into space.  The date was October 18, 1963; the place was some grotty French launchpad.  On board the Veronique sounding-rocket was Felicitte, a black-and-white stray cat from Paris.  Her flight lasted 15 minutes and she went 97 miles into space!  Her capsule was recovered with the chat blanc et noir safely inside, although the miserable French had stuck electrodes into her brain and recorded her brain activity, which probably went something like this:

"C'est dommage, there are no souris in this place to chase and ironically play with.  Et bien, I will nap for a... mon Dieu, what the hell was THAT noise?!?  I shall float over to the fenêtre for a look.  Ah, la beauté de la Terre is so, how you say, breathtaking this day.  Excuse me, I must see to my toilette."  There is no documentation from France's space program whether of not any litter box was included in the original mission specs, but I doubt one was due to the only 15 minute mission length.

Just because there has only been one cat in space so far, I firmly believe that as people venture off this lovely planet we call home and colonize miserable, airless, rocky, ultra-violet-light-bathed worlds completely hostile to life as we know it, sooner or later, a couple of mice will sneak along with us, making cats a necessary mission specialist for future space travel.  And since it takes a long time to get to the planets that are just in our own solar system, future astronauts would no doubt appreciate the company provided by a good cat.  Sure, something will have to be done about their shedding and feeding them in a weightless environment, but cats are adaptable creatures, so I bet they can hack it.  Besides, cats like cheese, and I hear that the moon is made of cheese... or was it Lunar Regolith?

"Mission Specialist Skeeter here.  I am stepping off the lander platform now.  The surface is loose and granular, perfect for liquid and solid waste disposal.  Will continue E.V.A. for 30 minutes, then return for some lap-time and a few treats."