Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Korean Conflict: A Historical Perspective

"General Bradley said that we must draw the line (against Communist expansion) somewhere. The President stated he agreed on that. General Bradley said that Russia is not yet ready for war. The Korean situation offered as good an occasion for action in drawing the line as anywhere else."

~ From the official minutes of President Harry S. Truman's meeting with his top military and foreign-policy advisers at the Blair House on the evening of 25 June 1950

Here we go, again. Another opportunity for people halfway around the word to die, en masse, for the United States to demonstrate its uncanny ability to enforce a global double standard. While Israel, judging from its recent and not so recent actions, is as reckless and dangerous a government as they come, is allowed to keep its nuclear arsenel without sanctions (and indeed without any mention at all in official U.S. diplomatic circles) while other countries who we don't share a "special relationship" with, are not. In this case, North Korea, representing one third of the Neo-con "Axis of Evil", and already being slowly starved to death by economic sanctions imposed by a U.S.-domininated U.N., is about to take things into some very dangerous territory. Namely, they are about to become the noisy focus of the "Loud Little Handful" of Neo-cons. These are people that would like nothing better than to follow Douglas MacArthur, their ideological ancestor, down the rabbit-hole of nuclear abyss. This is history that could repeat itself, hopefully without a brand new, glowing and radioactive ending. So let's look at that history and clear up in advance some misconceptions that will no doubt be foisted on us again in the coming days by the usual suspects.

At the end of WWII, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were defeated and the world became the domain of the two "liberating" powers. The U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. Even before the last shots were fired in that war, a new ideological war between the two remaining large military powers was beginning. The "Cold War" in which the aspirations of the people of the world were boiled down into capitalist/communist ideological doctrine, would continue to cause turmoil and divert resources from the basic needs of humanity and towards the existance of massive armament stockpiles.

One of the key points of revisionist history is that this massive weapons buildup was able to "keep the peace". In fact, while nuclear war was avoided, dozens of "lower intensity" conflicts raged and millions died. Korea would be joined by a long list of places where Cold War brinksmanship would result in proxy wars, bringing foreign troops, advisors and armament into conflict with eachother.

Most U.S. history books will state that the Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The true origin is murkier, as offensive actions on both sides of the 38th parallel were occurring ever since this border dividing one country into two was established at the end of WWII. The border was in effect a dividing line between the influence of the two superpowers who had divvied up the Korean peninsula after removing the Japanese army, similar to the military occupation of Germany.

Syngman Rhee, the U.S.-approved ruler of South Korea, suffered an electoral setback a month before the war started as popular dissatisfaction with the pace of reconstruction grew among the South Korean population. The tenuous political position he faced seemed to force his hand towards diversionary tactics, such as increased belligerance towards the North, something we may see happening again if Obama tries to get his groove back after the mid-term elections by proving his foreign policy toughness to the incessant cry of the Neo-cons as amplified by the war-hungry corporate media. The Cold War never ended for these people, it just morphed into another War Without End.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Capitalism: The Silent Killer

"The streets and people of New York are devastated for the second time in a decade. This time, the culprits behind the wrecked lives and ruined livelihoods are not foreign extremists, but homegrown. And rather than receive appropriate retribution, the perpetrators receive billions of government dollars for their demolition job."

~Tom Engelhardt

Capitalism. A word that should be at least as well known as Communism or Socialism. Or terrorism for that matter. Yet a word that is strangley missing in most debates about or descriptions of U.S. government. The word is often replaced by sunny sounding proxies such as "freedom and democracy" or "liberty". One wonders about the taboo nature of this word in the imperial lexicon of corporate media. So let's break it down.

This is a system primarily fueled by the most base of base human nature; greed. Yet, this engine of exploitation and inequality is exhorted as instrinsically good and pitted against the intrinsically evil-by-association Socialism. We are thus being sold the idea that greed and selfishness and ranking priviledge by the amount of excess accumulated property is more noble, natural and godly than an egalitarian and selfless existance. What would Jesus do if faced with this assumption? As we are faced with it every day.

And it has been more in our face than usual these days as the system has collapsed in a massive tangle of crooked deals and unstaunched bleeding of outsourced jobs. All of this mess made possible by politicians on a legalized bribery binge pushing continued de-regulation of industries irrevocably driven to excess. Some very public dirty dealing was seen in the last few months as the Democratic congress and president attempted to tackle the most vital issue facing us; health care. We saw how crooked and gamed the legislative process is. The health insurance and pharm lobbies strangled the best option, single payer, in the crib then kneecapped even a weak public option. We saw our lives and well being quite literally given less priority than industry profit. It was there in all its naked, destructive glory, this god called Capitalism, the magical hand of the marketplace that decides whether we live or die.

It also decides where we live and the quality and conditions of our life. One of the sadder stories I have read recently is that of the children affected by the foreclosure tidal wave sweeping the country. This will not be a good holiday season for them, and neither may be future ones as the emotional scars of being uprooted remain for a long time.

So when you hear about the evils of Socialism and Communism or when you hear about the great goodness of freedom and liberty, remember the premature death, suffering and misery of the most dangerous and deadly "ism" out there: Capitalism.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death By Corruption

"The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.

While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

~Justice John Paul Stevens, dissent on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

The 2010 elections are done and spell further doom to anything resembling the American Dream. The lukewarm, mild, tepid support of the New Deal safety net by the Democrats was swamped by a scalding-hot tea mess of ultra-right nutcases parading as populist reformers. The tea they served was brewed from an ocean of money provided in part by the Koch brothers, savvy businessmen who want a return from their investment.

They spent millions on attack ads, robo-calls and other forms of nefarious disinformation and now expect billions from the U.S. treasury to be provided by their army of looters soon to be sworn in to congress. This will come at the expense of anyone hoping to retire before the age of 80, anyone not raking in more than seven figures a year, and anyone trying to go to college without being saddled with debt for the next 30 years after graduation.

The campaign finance system is no longer just broken, it has been pulverized by corporate cash into a shadowy, toxic fog that cannot even be traced. Anywhere there is dissent from the corporate agenda the fog rolls in and blankets the airwaves with poison. The dissent is killed and replaced with a compliant tool to accomplish the further dismantling of FDR's social contract. This wave election may be the wave of the future if the walls between corporate money and fair elections are not rebuilt. Expecting the politicians to fix this is like expecting a drug cartel to police themselves and a drug addict to come clean without any type of intervention. It is up to we the people to get a constitutional amendment to fix this mess. That's the only hope of stopping the slide back to the Gilded Era of robber barons.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Autumn: Death is Life

My death waits there among the leaves
In magicians' mysterious sleeves
Rabbits and dogs and the passing time
My death waits there among the flowers
Where the blackest shadow, blackest shadow cowers
Let's pick lilacs for the passing time
My death waits there in a double bed
Sails of oblivion at my head
So pull up the sheets against the passing time

~ Jacques Brel

Leaves are falling and blowing across the streets and lawns as cool winds whip through my suburban landscape. Gone are the long evenings of slow twilight. Gone are the slow and relaxed gaits of movement. There is an urgency to get through the more turbulent atmosphere and arrive more purposefully at a destination now. The darkness falls quicker and returns slower. The mud and buds of spring time renewal are far away, both in the past and future. Forgotten and not yet imagined. The reality is currently stressing the cold and the process of going dormant. There will be a long stretch of trying to hold on to the promise of renewal ahead of us.

The chill in the air that appears this time of year is incrementally more chilling with each passing year. We feel the slow transition from summer to autumn as becoming less tangential to our own life's cycle. Yet there is a familiar assurance and reassurance that greets us in the annual dying off. We have been through it so many times before that we can feel comfortable knowing the many intricate variations of what we can expect of winter in these temperate latitudes. Imagine the shock if we had never been through a winter before.

The shorter days can be depressing. The cold wind can be painful to endure. The sense of impending death can be a source of dread. Then comes the revelation of our long experience: There can be no renewal without this dying off. There can be no promise without this finality. There is a reason to this season.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good Fucking Riddance

Finally and at long last, the year 2010 has delivered some good news. Rahm Emanuel, the destroyer of Democratic congressional majorities, is leaving, supposedly to try to get a piece of the action in Chicago. No one really believes the motive, the more likely scenario is he is bailing out to avoid the stigma of potentially once again presiding over a huge (and hugely avoidable) Republican renaissance. In 1994, it was his DLC strategy of pushing through NAFTA by the Clinton administration that persuaded the Democratic base to stay home, opening the door to the Newt Gingrich-led raping and pillaging of the middle class. In 2010, it was his continued strategy of allowing corporate cash to rule over all else that is similarly demoralizing all voters that aren't batshit crazy, or millionaires (or in some case, both). History repeats itself and the crooked campaign-finance money machine never misses a beat.

President Obama's hiring of Mr. Emanuel right after the 2008 election was the first clear indication that the hope and change rhetoric of the campaign was not going to amount to much of the susbstantive change as we had hoped for. Two years later, we can clearly recognize it as Clinton redux, the corporate and Israel lobbies still rule the day and the rest of us are still serfs populating an ever-growing feudalist chasm between what needs to be done and what cannot be done as long as the real change, a fundamental restructuring of the campaign finance system, is not implemented.

Let Rahm Emanuel be a symbol, the poster boy, of the need for this change. Twice now he has squandered the hopes and dreams of working people and sold them out to the highest corporate bidder. But we must not focus narrowly and concentrate our disappointment, frustration and anger on the player. We must put our effort into finally changing the game.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Bring Forth the Wedge Issues!

"Most voters, he had found, still voted on the basis of ethnic or cultural enmities that could be graphed, predicted and exploited."

~ 1970 New York Times article on one of the architects of Nixon's Southern Strategy, available here

Wedge issues, as always, are once again a huge part of the Republican Party's electoral campaign strategy this election year. The past two election cycles saw the crash and burn of Republican fearmongering about ruddy-complected terrorists that had been so effective in the two election cycles before that. It is clear that the economy finally emerged as the deciding issue in elections recently and people were seeing that Ronald Reagan's trickle down had turned into a seeping toxic sludge that was annihilating the middle class. Well the Republicans still don't have any answers to that problem except the same old same old, so we can expect to hear a lot more diversion being screamed through the news tickers of corporate media in the next three months. Prop 8, illegal immigrants, health care portrayed as welfare...all the old standards will be new again. Any real debate on how to revive the economy will be drowned out.

As for the Democrats, they do not have the luxury of running against a Republican Party in power, so their strategy is to make people remember how we got here. It will be difficult, since there is the growing realization that the economy will not recover any time soon and may be in permanent decline, only temporarily alleviated by short-lived speculative bubbles. They seem content to let the Republicans go on abusing archaic parliamentary procedures to obstruct any meager attempts to pull us out of the death spiral. Even without their obstructionism, there are no signs of the bold type of actions necessary, such as a radical transformation to renewable energy, and shifting priorities from the military and prison industrial complexes to education and living-wage job creation. This is where the Democrats must take the debate. We shall see how effective they will be.

It seems one seldom goes broke while exploiting the short attention span and prejudices of the U.S. electorate.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Rupert Murdoch's Curse on the World

The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.
~Andre Gide

Perhaps the most teachable moment in network news coverage since the "Balloon Boy" fiasco of late last year unfolded this week. The real question is, in this time of 24 hours news cycles, will anyone learn anything? Before we forget and move on to the next celebrity-going-to-jail story here's a recap:

Right-wing media terrorists do a drive by smearing of a government employee. Obama administration tosses the employee under the bus immediately. Someone actually bothers to investigate the right wing smear machine and discovers it was all a disgustingly manipulative hoax (as well as defamation of character, which could be a sweet legal issue to smack down these fools this time). Right-wing media blame Obama.

The real beauty of this, besides a lawsuit against these bastards, is that they had pulled this shit dozens of times before and gotten away with it. Van Jones and ACORN were the most high profile victims of the lie machine's withering attack on Democratic timidity. But now no one will EVER take them seriously again. We hope.

Fox "News" looks more transparent than ever as the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. And as such, the narratives they adhere to, such as the divide and conquer strategy that is as old as ancient Rome and as young as Nixon's Southern Strategy, has become obvious to all who wish to see it. Rachel Maddow had an excellent breakdown of how they changed tack on the Sherrod smear once the lie had been exposed. She used the network's own video clips from one day to the next to expose their blatant shilling. They are beneath contempt!

President Obama is walking on eggshells because of the power-charged race issue that Republicans have and will exploit to the hilt. However, I don't believe Hilary Clinton, or any Democrat for that matter, would have had any more fortitude than Obama. Do you recall Lani Guinier? The Democrats have enabled the lies and smears by rewarding them instead of fighting them with the most powerful weapon there is: the truth. Ultimately, it falls back on the American public to put an end to the bullshit, but they seem to be more interested in Hollywood gossip than in politics. That is the real source of the problem.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like it's 1789

‎"Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them. The misplaced love of the common people for the wrong which is done them is a greater force than the cunning of the authorities."
~Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, 1944

Today is le quatorze juillet also known as Bastille Day, marking the onset of the French Revolution, which overthrew a hopelessly corrupt, and ineptly deficient monarchy. Far flung wars of conquest had bankrupted the country to the point it could not even take care of its growing number of war veterans. Years of no-so-benign neglect had resulted growing poverty and inequity between the peasants and the ruling class. Sound familiar? Not to fear, the royal warmongers of this country are currently safe, and at this time even seemingly poised for a comeback. If one were to listen to the right-wing media, the biggest issues in the elections of 2010 are not perpetual war, too-big-to-fail banks, or even the continued decline of the middle class from globalization. No, these topics are not even being debated because both of the major political parties are competing for the big money of those special interests, and no substantive change can occur. None of the major media speak of the one solution to this mess: then end of pay-for-play politics.

What we get instead are plenty of wedge issues as a distraction. How long will peasants fall for this? Instead of "let them eat cake" those holding the reins say "let them swallow this BS" and that not insignificant segment of the electorate with racist/homophobic/xenophobic tendencies put their own heads in the guillotine for another election cycle.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ode to the Dead Poets

We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

~Keats, "Endymion"

One of the nicest features of the internet is that it allows you to catch up on your past. Being in a reflective mood recently, I sought to search for the contact information of an English professor whose class (Introduction to English Literature) I took as a college freshman. I wanted to express, almost 20 years later, how much that one course changed my life and made me appreciate the written word as a way of "saying the unsayable", as the phrase the professor used to explain the purpose of poetry.

Now that's deep when you think about it. It means that all poetry is ultimately futile. No matter how well you choose your words and arrange them, they can never fully express what motivated you to write them. But the very act of trying to express those feelings goes a long way just the same. That was just one of the important revelations that unfolded in that class. It was a basic, introductory class, but the reverence shown for the written word combined with the interpretation of the meaning of each line got my attention. The interpretation of each poem was attended by an explanation of the personal motivation of the poet, so that the words could be fully realized and appreciated by the students, who all too often were disinterested, hungover and just there to fulfill a requirement. Which was the reason I was there, too, because I could not get out of it by taking a CLEP test. This was one case of things working out for the best.

When you do intensive physical training, you can actually see your body changing. This class was the educational equivalant of that transformative process. I could actually sense my perceptions of the world around me changing. It made me realize the true purpose of education in making us better at appreciating all we are exposed to and motivating us to seek further horizons. This is what I wanted to thank this professor for after all these years.

So I searched for the name on the internet. Sadly, I found that the professor had died almost five years ago. I knew this was one of the possible outcomes of so many passing years, but it still came as a great disappointment to me. There was no way to express how he had transformed my mind. Then again, it would not have been fully possible to do that anyway, as he had already explained.

Monday, July 05, 2010


"To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."
~ Frederick Douglass "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro", 1852

Each July 4th I am reminded of the classic speech made almost 150 years ago, which fully sums up my feelings about self-congratulatory displays of patriotism made whilst the list of crimes is added to on a daily basis by a government representing not its people, but transnational corporations which despise the very ideals that we are supposedly celebrating. Like most people, I want to join the herd and wave the flag in pride, but unlike so many people, my grasp on reality won't let me. I can feel a quick tinge of emotional patriotism when the promise of what this country is about is alluded to, followed almost instantly by a sense of rage because that promise is so tragically unfulfilled.

To the reactionaries that would call me "Anti-American", I ask for a definition of that phrase. I am anti-war, anti-exploitation, anti-corporate oligarchy, and anti-environmental destruction. I don't approve of democratically governments being overthrown by our government because they threaten the profit margin of an influential cartel of international gangsters. If that's what you mean, then yes, I am Anti-American. And proud of it.

Perhaps someday soon this system will be forced to fall under its own weight. It is unsustainable and therefore will be brought down eventually. But what would make me most proud as a citizen of this country, what would make me wave the flag and feel a great rush of pride, would be if "we the people" forced it to fall BEFORE then. Before it had consumed everything in its destructive path. Now THAT would be worthy of a grand celebration!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Death of Mars

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

Our current on-going disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan are recognized as a lost cause by virtually everyone these days. Everyone except those who have the power to stop them. The "War on Terror" is now recognized by most as what it was obvious to some of us in the beginning; a scam. Osama Bin Laden is still alive more than eight years after he launched the impetus for this fiasco. The recent arrest by Pakistan of an ordinary citizen who took it upon himself to go and find him is as tragic as it is comical.

Have we reached a tipping point? Will Congress deny funding for this fool's errand? I would love to see it happen, but doubt it will. The deficit hawks that scream about large deficits when denying another penny of social spending, will no doubt rubber stamp another 50 billion dollars for the pointless and endless bloodletting. They are the true whores of war, even more so than the mercenary armies they give our tax money to.

No, it will be the public leading Congress on this issue, as is so often the case. People are sick of seeing the U.S. Treasury looted and services cut to support this boondoggle. Even the right-wing chickenhawks that plastered their SUVs with yellow ribbons stopped supporting the war once their Chickenhawks-In-Chief left office in disgrace early last year. Their allegiance to their country only went as far as their partisan political preferences. They were the only true believers and now that they have packed away their Chinese-made flags and ribbons all that is left to look at is the huge price tag in blood (never a concern of theirs anyway) and money, which they do care about. Two years ago it was "we can't cut and run". I think we can all agree on cutting our losses now and going home before our economy implodes for the last time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Short Term Profits, Long Term Problems

There is an endless supply of white men. There has always been a limited number of human beings. If things keep trying to live, white men will rub them out.
~Chief Dan George as "Old Lodge Skins"

Heavily under the influence, to the point of being blinded by, greed, our captains of global industry are barreling down the tracks toward a canyon wall. The docile cargo of the lower classes are finally becoming aware of the existence of the wall, too late to really stop the impact, but not too late to slow the train down enough to make the impact somewhat survivable.

We've all heard about the poisoning of a section of our waters and coast of course, but we haven't really been told of the destruction of large sections of our land through mountaintop removal and other hideous forms of exploitation developed by the extractive industries. When I heard candidate Obama mention "clean coal" I knew that the two major political parties were not that far apart on environmental policy and that King Coal had covered their bets by buying them both off. Our current Secretary of the Interior, "Cowboy" Ken Salazar has been a nightmare for those who thought wolves were finally safe in the northern Rockies or endangered species were actually going to get a break from the relentless assault by the monied interests. The beat goes on, with people placing more importance on the quarterly reports of their portfolios than the long term survivability of the planet.

The 2010 mid-term elections present the choice between keeping the train going at roughly its current speed, or accelerating towards an even worse impact. Where is the real alternative? Where is the long term plan to forge a sustainable economy? As long as we are using the paradigm of quarterly profits, I doubt it will ever arrive and our fate will be sealed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Every Day Wingnuts

In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
~George Orwell

We all seem to know them. Wingnuts. Or just plain ign'ant folks. If we are lucky, we may only see them when we are in line at the grocery store, or just briefly overhear them spewing their bile at the table next to us in a restaurant. If we are not so lucky, they are our neighbors or people we work with so we have to see them almost every damn day. My question to you is how do you deal with them? I usually take one of two courses. One is to just ignore them because life is too short to use up precious time and energy on a lost cause. The other is to confront the ignorance. I usually only do this when they are either egregiously out of bounds with their comments or I'm in a special mood where I need to educate someone who has been fed the talking points, and is badly in need of some context and background information that they missed from Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, etc.

Of course, the chain emails are the easiest to refute, because you can quickly and devastatingly provide factual links and info against the ObamaKenyanSocialist nonsense. But I do richly enjoy the live contact and seeing a wingnut become quickly flustered when hit with a dose facts from this universe, instead of the parallel one they prefer to dwell in. One thing I don't like is seeing how many other people, who I thought were actually too smart to fall for the bullshit, weren't. Yes, the sad part is seeing how well the corporate media have hidden the real history from so many people who have not had the inclination to find it, probably because of their own deeply ingrained prejudices.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Apathy is Not an Option

From each crime are born bullets that will one day seek out in you where the heart lies.
~ Pablo Neruda

Should the Republicans pick up enough seats in the 2010 mid-term elections Rep. Joe Barton will become chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This is one of the countless reasons why this is not a time for apathy. While the Democrats are certainly not the end all and be all for a better world, at least their measured non-responses are much less worse than outright hostility to progress and complicity in envoronmental armegeddon. Wow, what a choice. But let's at least stave off a biological collapse for another decade or so, shall we?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Free Enterprise Isn't Free

There's a particle of risk involved in every venture.
~Allardyce T. Merriweather

The engine of "free enterprise" that is the "magic of the marketplace" touted as sacrosanct dogma by every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has hit a rough patch recently. First came the great Wall Street meltdown of 2008, and now comes the immolation of the Gulf Coast economy. Both of these things were the direct and predictable result of 30 years of right-wing assualt on "Big Government" through the deregulation and ineffective oversight of corporations. Most of the damage here can be laid at the feet of Republican presidents, especially the petrochemical nightmare years of Bush/Cheney. Of course, the assualt didn't stop under the Democrats, it just barely slowed down. Barack Obama's obviously false promise of change we could believe in makes us recall Bill Clinton's disastrous free trade policies, which haunt us to this day with lost jobs and lower living conditions for working people on all sides of the border.

Let's avoid the knee jerk reaction to defend Barack Obama from the wolves of the Republican Party. The Democrats, Obama included, are part of the problem. They can't help it, they are in a life and death struggle for funding from the truly soul-less old men that have been gaming the system since the days of big plantations, railroads and Northern industrialization. We must not delude ourselves thinking that anything can change as long as the system of legalized bribery which is our campaign finance laws are intact. Unless some major changes are made there, we are going to be learning just how corrupt, self-centered, and downright misanthropic the ruling class can be for decades to come. And the fallout from their fetishes will last decades beyond THAT. We have no real brakes on the system right now. Corporate lobbyists write the laws for legislators that were once lobbyists themselves or will soon be once they retire from or get kicked out of office. And the mainstream media is in collusion with all of them, since they are owned by those same interests that write the laws.

Our last best hope is for the people of WalMart Nation to awaken and fight for an end to the deadly corporate merry-go-round of death and desolation.

Hello, Sixth Extinction!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Freedom of Expression

Man reaches his full potential when he no longer has to sell himself as a commodity.

~Ernesto Guevara

What is your favorite song? Or book? Or any work of artistic expression? Why is it your favorite? For me, it seems every song, movie, poem or sculpture that I have found enlightening, inspiring or just entertaining was made as a tribute to artistic expression itself and not to sell X amount of units to an audience determined by accountants in terms of demographics.

I'm sure mindless entertainment/escapsim will always be with us, and damn it, sometimes it even has a purpose I suppose, but when you really need to FEEL something, there must be more than a beat you can dance to. As for music, it needs to hit your heart, mind and soul as well as your ass. The song lyrics are as crucial as the beat in those songs that I can really feel and groove to in spirit.

There are many things I detest in this for-profit society and one of them is the lack of artistic expression for its own sake. This seems to get worse every year. Just like speciation of living things, artistic expression is at its peak when there is a new niche to be filled. As the niche gets filled, innovation is stifled. This evolutionary process is hastened by the demands of the marketers, who quash artistic innovation almost immediately by applying the lowest common denominator.

Now imagine a society where the profit motive or state apparatus does not control artistic expression. Where art is created not to be sold or to sell a state-sanctioned point of view but, free from all forms of censorship, was created to exist soley as artistic expression. What a brave new and perhaps ethereally beautiful world that would be!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wingnut Waterloo

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
-Matthew 7:16

If there is one reason to take solace after the passage of the government insurance industry bailout disguised as "health care reform", it is watching the wingnuts squirm and squeal like an army of stuck pigs. We may not have won much, but these porcine punks lost, and lost big. Let their rallying cry be "Kill the Poor!" Let them show what they are really about, death merchants hired by captains of industry to deny life to those peasants who have not the providence of life to be wealthy enough to afford to live. The mask is off, the ugliness is on the increase. We can take some pleasure in the defeat of actual reform, by watching the defeated Napoleonic Army of Wingnuts march forlornly along, dreaming of future victories while still safely in exile.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Alternative

It's time we talked about THE most important issue in U.S. politics. The one responsible for President Obama hiring Rham Emanuel and following the Clinton DLC playbook, in direct opposition to his campaign rhetoric of meaningful change from the past. It is responsible for the obstructionism of the Republicans and the wavering cowardice of many Democrats. Indeed pretty much all the evil inherent in our current government policies directly flows from this. The only way to get change we can believe in is to get the corrupting influence of money out of the system. And to head off at the pass the Supreme Court majority's attempt to return to the Gilded Age of robber baron debauchery.

The Fair Elections Now Act is a start. I have my qualms about asking a drug addict to eridicate drug abuse. But it's a start at least. I wonder if anything short of a constitutional amendment will get it done. But this is a start. Please check out this website and do what you can to make democracy responsive to something other than dollars.

Fair Elections Now

Monday, February 22, 2010

Your alternative is...You have no alternative.

The odds remain against any kind of mega reform and so from that perspective there's probably upside to these managed care names.
~ Tim Nelson, analyst with First American Funds, describing why you should buy stock in companies that are complicit in the deaths of 45,000 Americans every year.

If the state of affairs in U.S. politics these days does not make you physically ill, you have the stomach of a conservative. And a corresponding lack of humanity. As I have said many times, as indifferent as the Democrats have been lately to the majority of people in this country, the Republicans are that much worse in their outright hostility. Amazingly, President Barack Obama is determined to see the goodness of the Republian heart and still has an abiding belief that they are reasonable people (or he is just cozying up to the same campaign cash trough as they).

The latest kick to the groin of the Democratic base by the "Rham-bama" administration arrived recently in the form of a massive taxpayer handout to price-gouging insurance cartels disguised as the official Presidential "health care reform" plan. What a heaping load of betrayal this thing is. Just like NAFTA, it has DLC fingerprints all over it, and like NAFTA, it is a means of degrading the lives of working people in favor of large corporate campaign sponsors. In another sign of how low our expectations have become, no one was surprised that it lacked a public option that would provide competition with the profiteers. What was a bit of a surprise was an increase in the take from our pockets to the HMO's profit margins.

This plan is so lame and ultimately useless as "reform" it could well have been written by a Republican. It would most certainly be supported by a majority of Republicans in congress if it were proposed by a Republican president. Since it was not, not a single Republican will support it. You see, they might be lying, hypocritcal, nasty, misanthopic pricks but they are extremely disciplined and loyal lying, hypocritcal, nasty, misanthopic pricks. Which is why Rhambama is in a lose/lose situation when it comes to this disastrous strategy of trying to get a Republican on board with anything these days. Even if it were to garner the incredibly hard target of one or two Republican votes it is still a shitty bill that won't energize the Democrat base. The only smart strategy here is to offer this to the Republicans, watch them reject it, then announce to the world that you tried so hard to make concessions to the Republicans, but they refused to work with you. Then announce that you will do what the clear majority of Americans WANT and scrap all the insurance company give-aways, add the public option and pass the bill through reconciliation. If this happens, and if a similar tack is taken in dealing with unemployment, we will see a strong resurgence in the Democrat's chances in November.

What I fear will happen instead is the DLC strategy prevails and the two parties continue to be the evil of two lessers, locked in a death struggle for campaign cash from the corporate interests that are literally killing this country and its economy. People want universal health care, yet we get another industry bailout. People want the wars to end, yet they still go on. People want the Wall Street predators reigned in, yet they still are making the rules and getting bonus money instead of jail time.

The only answer to having no viable alternative in the voting booth is to finally address the only thing standing in the way of change we can actually believe in: we must end the pay-for-play system of government we are currently suffering from.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Good Life (La Dolce Vita)

It's good to teach the world's fortunate people from time to time, if only to shame their pride for a single moment. Because there are higher forms of happiness than theirs, on a grander scale, and more delicate.

~ Baudelaire, "Parisian Melancholia"

One of the reasons I love to travel is to have my badly-battered faith in humanity restored by coming in contact with other cultures. It does my cynical heart good to know that there is still hope in the world, if not in this country. Yes, the rest of the world can offer us much, but perhaps the most important thing they can do is force us to take a good look at ourselves. Americans can be an ugly lot when representing this country abroad, as residents of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada are probably finding out all too well these days. We really need to chill and stop looking at everyone and everything in materialistic terms. I think it would do wonders for our collective psyche and individual psyches for a sea change to occur in our way of thinking.

Let me offer one example from my own experience. Many years ago I attended a conference/tourist junket to Rio de Janiero. There were lavish lunches and dinners, a hotel rooftop pool, and pulsating nightlife excursions which are de rigueur for these types of trips. But the thing I took the most joy from and which I recall most fondly of all my time there was an afternoon of playing frisbee and volleyball with local kids hanging out at the beach. There was a human connection there that was so simple and pure, a familial bonding with people I had never met before and didn't know me or want anything from me besides a moment of camaraderie. Yet this was a feeling totally lacking from the circle of associates that I was travelling with. It made me look at myself in terms of what my value system had become under the influence of American society. It shook me out of my comfort zone and into questioning what I had accomplished in real terms, human terms...which is the only yardstick we should be using to measure our progress. That experience always stuck with me and continues to define my belief that a much better world is possible if enough of us "ugly Americans" would spend more time looking in the mirror.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

We Love to Kill People

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

~ Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America (emphasis added)

The recent demise of anything even pretending to be health care reform in the congress of the Unites States is yet another clear indication of the failure of capitalism in its present form to live up to the ideals of the Founding Fathers and the vision of many of their descendents in what this country should be about. Promote the general welfare? We simply cannot afford it! Providing for the common defense? That only includes making wars, not saving people's lives at home from illness!!

Yet 45,000 Americans will die this year because we will not provide them with health care. This is almost twenty times as many as died in the terrorist attacks of 2001. Where are the memorials for these preventable deaths?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love's Gonna Get Ya

In honor of Valentines Day...

"I be telling you all the time man, you know LOVE,
that word love is a very serious thing, and if you don't watch out
I tell ya that (Love's gonna get you)
because a lot of people out here say "i love my car" or "i love my chain"
or or "i'm i'm just in love with that girl over there"
so far all the people out there that fall in love with material items
we gonna bump the beat a lil' something like this..."

Monday, February 08, 2010

Played Out

There's gotta be a better way, than this hypocritical system.
Yes there's gotta be a better way, because the people are always the victims.
They set our wages, and they set the prices,
this wicked system, and it's evil devices.
They took the chains off our ankles, and they put them on our pockets.
They've gotta new kind of slavery, runnin it like a rocket.
They've got all the money, but before they will lend it,
they say they must tell you, just how u should spend it.
Don't pay the teachers, and they can't pay the nurses,
see illiterate children need only tombstones and hearses.
Yes there's gotta be a better way!

~Mystic Revealers, "Got to be a Better Way"

I'm done with capitalism. Not only does it contain all the tragic scenarios that come with being the predatory phase of human development, and not only is it unsustainable due to its exhaustive exploitation of resources both human and natural, but it is getting just plain boring. No bigger annual example of marketing schemas exists than the Super Bowl commercials and this year I was forced to watch most of them since I attended a Super Bowl party and could not bolt the room during every commercial break like I wanted to, or flip channels via remote like I do within the cozy confines of my own vegetative viewing domain.

In a word, they were flat. In two words, they were played out. They reminded me of any Hollywood sequel of a sequel. Unimaginative, formulaic, predictable, tame and the opposite of anything that might actually offend someone, which is what worthwhile artistic endeavours never fail to do. Then it hit me. This is exactly the current state of our society, politically, socially, artistically. Everyone is too busy trying to sell something to take a chance on offending the most conservative senses of the marketplace. We are the land of the safe and the home of the tame. Then there was the other supposedly culturally iconic halftime show. It consisted of a band that was cutting 1965. I'm not even exaggerating, either.

Then something else occurred to me, selling stuff can't be revolutionary because, well because you're SELLING stuff, which is what this great country is all about and has been since the days of snake oil salesmen and faith healers. It is our most hallowed tradition, the freedom to buy stuff and the liberty to charge a little extra for it. P.T. Barnum has turned to dust, but his axiom is still keeping the economy chugging, or in these days more like wheezing, along. Sputtering and wracked with arthritis, very much like its entertainment institutions. Is it finally, mercifully on its last legs?

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010, WTF??

Ouch. The nearly 30 days since I last wrote has been filled with one humanitarian and political disaster after another. Earthquakes, wingnuts, and five heartless, malicious Supreme court justices have pretty much finished the job begun by Rham Emanuel and Max Baucus to make sure every last bit of hope was wrung out of the dying wish of a weary people and their doomed Democracy. 2010, you have already packed more than a year's worth of destruction in your first three weeks. I trust you to mellow out beginning now. Please! So to catch up to recent events...

God Don't Like the Least of Us

Of all the places in the world for an earthquake to strike, the god of tectonics chose Port-Au-Prince, Haiti home to millions of long suffering victims of the one-two punch of Global Empire and Local Despots. The resulting snuffing out of 200,000 lives predictably became fodder for pseudo-religious crackpots and bloviating, pill-popping psychopaths. Even some folks who I figured to be a little less insane, like Chris Matthews, worried out loud about a wave of dark-skinned, poverty stricken "boat-people" setting out for these shores before the dust had even settled.

I Drive an Old Truck and I want to Fuck you Real Hard

Then came the Great Bay State Debacle. Senator-elect Zoolander grabbing Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. And yes it was Teddy's seat so FUCK YOU, David Gergen you fucking shameless corporate whore. This was the greatest political travesty of our lifetime, but was perfectly predictable given Obama's disastrous DLC strategy of making backroom deals with the insurance and pharma companies, while company pawn Baucus (who deserves a special place in hell) had single payer advocates arrested in a supposedly open hearing. The fact is, this deal should have been done and signed when Teddy was STILL ALIVE! President Obama, if you lose to Sarah Palin in 2012, you will set this country back 150 years and have no one to blame but yourself.

American Sovereignty: 1776 - 2010

Obama losing to Palin, or the similarly creepy Mitt Romney, became a lot more possible thanks to the Felonious Five, who sold out American voters/democracy/sovereignty and their own mothers with their criminal decision to let loose the hounds of Hell on what's left of honest government. The airwaves will soon be saturated with corporate-funded smears, half-truths, and blatant lies paid for by ill-gotten loot in the bottomless coffers of oil companies, Wall Street banks, Saudi sheiks and a rogue's gallery of the world's most dangerous cartels. Our country is rapidly transforming itself into the Haiti of the Duvalier years. Goodbye social safety net. Goodbye middle class. Hello favelas.

Who can stop this?

As discouraging as all of this is, I still believe that people can wake up before it's too late. Perhaps someday soon we will have as much interest in Washington, DC policy debates as we do in Hollywood gossip. Perhaps voter turnout will be closer to 80 percent than 40 percent. Perhaps we won't just repeat talking points we hear from TV pundits but will dig deeper to form an educated opinion for ourselves. Perhaps we can get the money out of politics through a Constitutional Amendment, or good legislation. It's not too late! But it is getting very close to midnight.