Friday, October 28, 2011

When up means down

The Mayans were far less pessimistic about 2012 than the people who fill my inbox with prophecies of economic doom every day. Actually doom is too mild a word and so is apocalypse if one is trying to set a mood so terrifyingly descriptive of what is happening now and is about to happen, thanks to that Obama. Of course these people are selling investment strategies which I'm sure include buying things they're desperate to get rid of like the gold they bought at $1900 an ounce, but any way the market wind is blowing, they make money from the seminars and newsletters and from screaming like Chicken Little. There's a lot of money in the doom business.

Most of the people I talk to seem convinced that everything is getting worse and won't get better until we "get rid of" Obama in 2012; replacing him no doubt with someone who thinks managing a worldwide economy is an easy task for someone who once managed to save a pizza business by firing everyone, and yet has the nerve to talk about being able to "create jobs." Not to change the subject, but it's truly stunning to see the seamless segue from "government can't create jobs" to "elect me and I'll create jobs, jobs, jobs."

I guess it's no less stunning than Fox News' and John McCain's embarrassing assertions that the 2008 economy was "robust" as we all marched unwittingly off the cliff like a certain cartoon coyote -- and of course, that because "Liberals" were warning us about the inevitable collapse, they "hated America." Not like those forward thinking optimists that modern conservatives are.

We can expect, now that the next presidential election is a year away, that the howling and wailing and rending of garments will grow louder and angrier and numbers will appear proving that calamity awaits us all, no matter what actually happens. It's far too soon to be sure, but this chronic pessimist and a few others with more credible credentials are noticing that our Gross Domestic Product After adjusting for inflation, climbed to $13.35 trillion last quarter, topping the $13.33 trillion peak reached in the last three months of 2007.

I hate to make too much of it, particularly with the Filibustering Vandals doing everything they can to sabotage the economy until November 8th, 2012, but the reality is not quite what the pseudo-conservative chorus is chanting. At least for the moment, things are looking less down. Unemployment is still high, of course -- just a bit above Ronald Reagan levels and we can expect the screamers to keep screaming about that while refusing to do anything about it. We can expect Tea Pissers like Tom "Looney" Rooney (R-Florida) to keep meeting with "Job Creators" and telling us that business owners will hire more employees, irrespective of demand, if we cut their marginal rates even more -- and we can expect that if things do recover steadily and noticeably, he'll find a way to take credit for it because after all, they kept that O-BAH-ma from doing anything for four years while lambasting him for doing nothing. If there is anything these Doomsters are optimistic about it's that they'll always have someone to blame.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


With the Florida Coven of the Republican Party making the Visigoths look like Cub Scouts these days; arguing that a prohibition of "Dwarf Tossing " is destroying American jobs, I think I'm more than justified in a certain lack of restraint when describing the moral character of that party as having everything to do with gaining power by any and all means, and having nothing whatever to do with making the US a real Democracy. These days it's as much about making the news a series of passion plays meant to obscure and often reverse the facts as it has been about suppressing votes and Gerrymandering.

The practice of dirty tricks has come a long way since Richard Nixon. Tricky Dick used the media to convince us that the media was lying and that the vast and silent majority was a small and unpatriotic minority. That hasn't changed. What has changed is the confidence level that allows them to strongly support something one day and denounce it in hyperbolic tirades on the next according to tactical needs.

It's possible to denounce Wall Street brokers and banks; insist that we let them die and scream about it in the streets with tea bags stapled to three-cornered hats, yet support the same corrupt and unpunished entities passionately by denouncing the same sentiments; associating them with "hippies" in fine old 1968 style two generations after the last real hippie got a haircut and went to work on Wall Street.

And yes, you're damned right that Fox News is the Joseph Goebbels of the new Right. You'll remember how ACORN was smeared and destroyed by patched together video, You'll remember fake video made to look like millions were at Republican rallies, but you're less likely to remember that fake video was used by Brit Hume to denounce Iraq war protesters in 2003 as "hippies" -- Protesting the Protesters documentary and other fake documentaries like Indoctrinate U that was intended to show how righteous "conservatives" were being censored at those hotbeds of hippieism, the Universities. You may then not be surprised that the same saboteur behind those atrocities, one Evan Coyne Maloney, has been at work on the sidewalks of New York, handing out rolling papers with pictures of Che Guevara and bongs so that the recipients can be filmed with them and another invidious documentary can be patched together so that we can be Foxed again.

Never mind that the streets are filled with veterans and economists, businessmen and others who demand respect and deserve to be heard, Fox wants them out of the way and can think of no better way than to dredge up hoary straw men in tie-died T-shirts. Look! that investment banker, that war veteran, that Nobel Prize winning economist: HIPPIES! COMMIES! DRUG FIENDS! HATERS OF OUR SACRED CAPITALIST VALUES!

Has any nation been able to stand; been able to avoid catastrophe, been able to maintain the illusion of freedom under such an internal assault?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fox fight

Perhaps you're old enough to remember Dick Tracy and Pruneface; perhaps not, but the current leader of the Pruneface lookalike race may also be the most powerful man in America. He's got superhero powers you see, and is able to create reality from scraps and leavings and imagined things. Some might prefer to call it a Frankenstein power however, but hoping the monster he's created may eventually destroy him is, more than likely, an ephemeral dream.

Still it's nice to see him stood up to. DirecTV is threatening to dump Fox programming as of November 1st because the network is demanding a 40% price hike. Fox in turn is playing the "I'm shocked -- shocked!" card because the largest Satellite provider has gone public about the dispute. Perhaps Fox has come to believe they can do whatever they please and expect no argument, but although I would miss House, I wouldn't miss the cartoon news: the polemics, the lies, distortions, polemics and fables; the temper tantrums, the self-contradictory political stances or the zealous zombies in pancake makeup.

But real life isn't Dick Tracy and the bad guys tend to win far more often. Still it would be fun to see that invisible hand of the market slap the wrinkles off that old prune, wouldn't it? It's always a good time to let Cox know how you feel anyway.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Open the pod bay doors, Siri

I'm glad to have been raised on the English language, not just because that allows me to understand what I'm thinking about, but because the English language is gender neutral, at least when it comes to nouns. We do hear people calling groups of females "you guys" but that's another thing.

Of course there are exceptions. It's traditional to speak of ships as though they were female which quite frankly baffles me and so I always use 'it' instead of 'she' when referring to them, just as though they were cars. Of course there are those oddballs who anthropomorphize their vehicles too and usually in the female sense -- but not me and that's all you need to know about that. When it comes to my car or boat or motorcycle, I'm the 'it' guy.

Same goes for those things some brilliant marketing creep has decided to make female; like cell phones and GPS units for the car. Their synthetic voices, if not tired and meaningless are none the less dispassionate and unsympathetic while telling you to make the next legal U turn. We seem to take it for granted that this sort of robot should sound aristocratically female. I mean Americans when I say we, of course. I read this morning that BMW had to recall a 'female' GPS system in their domestic versions, German males being reluctant to following orders from female cars. I admit I did contact General Motors about converting my car's female navigation voice to a German male voice as I'd be more likely to do what it said. I've been conditioned to ignoring female voices in my car for a long time -- safety reasons, of course. The voice from the passenger seat being so likely to shout things like "Right Here!" meaning "turn left here." I have to point out that the GPS and other things in the car are supposed to respond to voice commands. Mine won't listen to me -- perhaps out of reciprocal spite. Asking it to find a gas station has often given me the locations of nearby cemeteries. Perhaps I might get better results if I addressed her as 'Mistress Vette?'

Anyway digital voices, unlike ancestral voices tend to be female in the US. Does that say anything about how Americans view females? I'm sure it does, but do we prefer them because we see females as subordinate advisers or assistants, as in personal secretaries, or do we prefer female bosses? My carefully considered and scholarly opinion is "who the hell knows?"

Of course we've been listening to female machines for a couple of decades now, but it takes some Act of Apple to transmogrify the quotidian into Genius. The latest manna from the Apple Store features a voice they're calling Siri who has been deliberately 'detuned' to sound less human and more SciFi, which to the masses means "High Tech" which is what we call taking standard technology and putting it a sleek plastic box. Not to get too far off track here, but any visiting aliens will certainly be able to buy Manhattan for a box of beads and trinkets and maybe the whole East coast if the trinkets have pictures of half eaten apples on them.

But once again, this is an American phenomenon. British and French versions of the brain numbing plastic parasites called iPhones sound like men as tells us. This confirms the pathogenic nature of gadgets designed to latch on to our subliminal receptors like drugs and viruses do to our waiting and vulnerable cells. Do French and British iAddicts have different gender stereotypes, different attitudes toward women than Americans, or do their men just have more pleasant voices than their women? The answer may depend on your prejudices and the iPhone may be just another iStone to grind our axes on as we so often do when we pretend our stereotypes are better than other people's stereotypes.

Should I mention that my new Android smart-phone simply tortures me with beeps and other weird noises instead of human voices? Of course perhaps that's because I haven't yet discovered what all those odd hieroglyphs do and there's some peremptory and Teutonic male voice waiting in the software telling me to "turn left NOW -- und you will like it."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Killing him slowly

There simply aren't words adequate to describe Rush Limbaugh unless we quote his own. I'm tired anyway, to tell the truth, of trying to match polemics with him, tired of denouncing him and of course the ears of his acolytes are deaf to such things anyway.

I admit that I don't actually listen to him any more and that's been true for many, many years. I simply can't trust myself in the presence of so much evil, so much hatred of the kind of America I hope for, but at the bottom of it, I can't stand to hear some sinister thing that the law requires us to treat as a human being and citizen, so incapable of reason, so bereft of any human feelings and so unable to feel any kind of shame, so full of hate.

But as I say, his followers can listen to him demanding harsh treatment - even death - for drug users while knowing he's a long time abuser of opiates who has had his employees risk their freedom by buying drugs for him. His hangers on can quote his self contradictions without pause and will smile and nod when he wishes disaster on our country if disaster is what it takes to promote Republicans and destroy any Democratic president. Who but Rush, after all, can call Obama an ineffectual "empty suit" and a tyrannical demagogue at the same time; tell us he was born in Kenya and Indonesia simultaneously and not instantly be dismissed as casually as one flushes a toilet.

Certainly not Limbaugh's ignorant army. They surely applauded his latest verbal atrocity; telling us how that evil Obama sent troops to Africa to help kill Christians: The Lord’s Resistance Army. They certainly aren't going to notice or care or believe that the LRA are a genocidal terrorist group who has murdered, raped, kidnapped and terrorized tens of thousands over many years. They've killed some Muslims, you see and that makes them Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.

They aren't going to be shocked at the way Limbaugh assembles scraps of misunderstood or non-existent or invented stories without any concern for truth or decency or patriotism or anything but the potential to destroy Barack Obama. No, not as long as he keeps up the endless supply of nasty little lies they can tell their friends over a beer and at the barber shop where Fox plays on the TV, where the stupid go to get their wisdom confirmed and hate is in the air.
"Hey didja hear how Rush called Oh-BAH-ma an empty suit? He sure got that right!"

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Nine Percent Solution

A flat rate income tax, a national sales tax and a flat rate corporate income tax and all fixed at 9%. Is it the number of the Beast standing on its head?

Why not 8, why not 10? Is it because Nein, Nein, Nein sounds like standing up to something bad, or because it's easier to chant? Certainly there wasn't a lot of mathematics behind Herman Cain's arrival at this Goldilocks level and those who have done some arithmetic, like Melissa Labant, an accountant with the American Institute of CPAs, say that since Warren Buffet's income is mostly in capital gains, the billionaire investor would pay no taxes. The poor fellow trying to support a family on 25 to 30 thousand a year? That 9% means some painful choices have to be made particularly if he has to pay for medical care out of pockets with holes in them.
That national sales tax will certainly diminish already taxed disposable income and harm those of us who spend all of it just keeping the family fed and housed. Yes, this is a simple plan indeed -- simply disastrous unless you're rather well off, like Herman Cain. Sounds great on paper though, just like Communism and some other really disastrous isms.

Would there have to be exemptions for those for whom 9% of income and another 9% of necessary consumption would be ruin? Probably so, but then we're back where we started with loopholes, exemptions and deductions and with almost half the country paying nothing, a situation the simple minded tea bag wavers are making much of in a rather confused way -- as if it was a situation Barack Obama were responsible for. Still the plan offers hope to those for whom paying taxes is a serious burden even though it's false hope that promises to make us more of a country of many serfs and a few lords.

We love simple ideas because life is complex and scary and Herman Cain, although far from the first to propose such regressive tax structures is simply tapping into the power of simple mindedness; maintaining that he wouldn't, as President, sign a bill of more than three pages. It's a good thing that idea wasn't popular when the country was founded. It's hard to envision our already terse constitution being reduced to something acceptable to the minimalists and reductionists looking for a free ride and to people who think the complex global economy should be run more like Godfather's Pizza where you keep firing people and closing stores until it all looks good -- on paper.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

All the shallow things

"If this be treason, make the most of it."

What a different line that would be without "if." It would become an admission of the crowd's charge of treason rather than Patrick Henry's defiant stand for the law it was.

"Thou hast said it."

Is that an affirmation or a denial; or a refusal to answer the question?

"If I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness. . ."

How would that statement differ if the 'if' disappeared? That's a question being asked today about one of the inscriptions on the new Martin Luther King memorial being dedicated in Washington, where the 'if' does not appear as it did when it was spoken at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1968:

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all the other shallow things will not matter."

The 'if' matters. It matters a great deal because without it King is assuming a mantle and with it he is not; that it is not about him but about Justice, peace and righteousness. Is this a shallow thing or insignificant? I don't think so. I think it speaks of the way our heroes are elevated, to become, in death, a 30 foot tall man expressing stern, stony determination rather than just a man struggling with a mission, struggling with himself, struggling with a stupid, angry and vengeful world that will continue to be just that long after he is gone. The quote on the monument is not phrased as part of a question and that raises many questions.

Are we making him what he was not and apparently did not wish to be? If we make his life about him, then we can opposes him more readily than we can argue against justice and we can make the movement he participated in, a mere matter of quotes and formulae if we like him and personal failings if we do not. Perhaps some can ask his stone idol for guidance and support for their own objectives and pretend he is not gone and will magically return some day. As always happens when our heroes die, we are making his life something less than it was and something more about our lust for leaders, prophets and even gods and we do it to preachers and prophets; polemicists and presidents when we put our desires into their acts and words and thereby worship ourselves.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupational Hazard

I first heard of it a few days ago from a blogger noted for outrageous claims, but I have been late to pick up on the ploy, even though it has been used against liberals and liberal causes for some time. Similarly overbearing "conservative" commentators once assured me that of course Bill and Hillary Clinton were obvious anti-Semites and if you're old enough to read this you'll remember that Barack Obama was of the same racist, intolerant and bigoted stripe and perhaps even a Hitler Sympathizer and Muslim terrorist.

Of course there's always an anecdote, a selected collection of irrelevant or even fabricated 'facts' to prove the point -- and of course and strangely, those making the claim aren't often Jews. I've learned to discount these attacks, of course, you should pardon the metaphor, for many reasons including the observation that the accusations most often come from iron fisted defenders of a faith only they call Christian and who have only suddenly and temporarily stopped accusing Jews and other infidels of persecuting them. ( Sorry Muslims, you'll have to wait your turn for forgiveness.)

So for now, this week only and especially for you, I'm offering 99.99% off (what a deal) on the notion that the Occupy Wall Street people are really there to express their anti-Semitic notions about bankers and brokers and not their antiestablishmentarian anger at those who accepted massive and expensive rescue only to continue their shoddy practices to the detriment of the public and national survival.

That's a sentiment strangely similar to the Tea Party disdain for government bailouts, and the strange bed-fellowship implied here is difficult to sweep under the rug for those who need to look like the only ones discontent with the status quo on Wall Street. So how do you make the Tea Party look good and other people with the same idea look bad? You find something or someone atypical or irrelevant and promote it or him as the prototype.

The Jewish Journal today reminds us of the infamous "protocols of the Elders of Zion" that was used by Czarist supporters to identify the feared and hated Jews with socialism, a practice not unknown to this day and a book that was printed by "Christian" organizations around the world until recently -- if indeed they've stopped. I certainly remember the promotion of Abbie Hoffman to leadership of the many disparate and mostly respectable protesters in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. I was there and I'd never heard of him until I heard on the news that he was my leader, but of course it was enough to taint the many clergymen, Vietnam veterans and business leaders with the yellow star.

The fear of being labeled a racist of any stripe is, I think, being used quite deliberately to downplay the legitimacy of this protest. It isn't enough to play up the numbers of people who are making a mess of the city and its public and private facilities, particularly for a party trying to wear the mantle of some 18th century destructive, anti-Government protesters. It's hard to convince us that they're really secretly Mexican illegals or African Americans demonstrating their disdain for enterprise and civility, but anyone can be a Jew, or at least accused of it and so the sudden concern by the Religious right that their best friends are being offended on these holiest of holy days, by those unwashed, free loading, anti-Semitic hippies who seem to be gathering around the world calling for regulation.

And of course President Obama we already know to be a Jew hater and if he tries to impose regulations on the Jew-Dominated financial and banking interests, we have additional proof that regulation equals bigotry and not just Communism - just don't think about it too carefully and you won't notice the absurdity -- and if you do, the Tea Party will turn on you too, you bigot!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Nomad Exquisite

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth
The big-finned Palm
And green vine angering for life,

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides,

And blessed mornings,
Meet for the eye of the young alligator,
And lightening colors
So, in me, come flinging
Forms, Flames, and the flakes of flames.

-Wallace Stevens-

I spent the better part of last week washing, weeding, pruning, mulching, painting, planting; fixing the landscape lighting, scrubbing the patio pavers and the pool screen. You'd think I could take a few hours and sit in the sun and enjoy my little paradise and the two new bronzes we installed last week, but no: there will be no Sunday breakfast by the pool, no afternoon tea in the sea breeze -- that immense dew came blowing in at 40 miles per hour, dumping 13 inches of rain, littering everything with palm fronds and tree branches and leaves; flinging flakes of vegetation and patio furniture, toppling flowerpots and shaking the house so that I haven't slept in two days.

In Florida, we don't bother to give such little storms names. Those without boats to worry about, getting up before dawn to run down the road to the club and add extra spring lines and fenders, for those it's just another weekend without Golf watching football; another weekend with lightening colors like night club strobe lights and cannonades of thunder on long, sleepless nights of relentless wind where tall palms wave like sea grass in a shallow lagoon.

You can hear the surf in the interlude between the wind gusts, the angry Atlantic eating away at immense Florida, knowing it's only a matter of time, hymn and plangent hymn as it eats the land.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Amerika Über Alles

Mitt Romney is hard to figure out, partly because his most salient feature is the love of ingratiating himself dishonestly with any group he thinks is worth ingratiating himself to. So I have to wonder if he really thinks the United States is the nation chosen of God to lead the world as he told cadets at the Citadel yesterday or whether he just assumes that people embarking upon a military career are dreaming of imperial glory. I have no way of knowing whether these cadets have Napoleonic dreams or are attracted to arms because of some sense of personal weakness and humiliation, but I'd hesitate to bet that many really think that US history isn't filled with mistakes at home and abroad or that we aren't a better, more moral nation than once we were. Of course I don't mean to say we shouldn't strive to be a good influence in the world, but being a good influence doesn't mean command, doesn't mean control, doesn't mean we're the infallible and mighty hand of some invented Lord as Romney would be implying if there were any implications beyond opportunism in anything he has ever said in public.

But as I say, you never know what Romney thinks, particularly if your assessment is derived from listening to the man. You certainly can know that he's willing to put some strange interpretations on events to bolster his imperial and messianic aspirations whether or not he believes them. President Obama's "apology tour" for instance; Mitt would like to make the psychorabble feel important and loved by associating honesty with apology and apology with weakness and weakness with Jonah-like abdication of a divine mission. Of course Obama never went on an apology tour, but what black man has ever not been in danger from Godly Americans when someone accuses him of winking at a white girl. Where there's smoke, there's fire, we say, forgetting that where there's smoke there may be a smokescreen and there may be arson.

That Obama portrayed American history in a poor light by admitting that we have sometimes been guilty of arrogance and have sometimes made mistakes is a big fish to swallow, to invert the metaphor and it clashes with Romney's carefully crafted humble demeanor. There's nothing humble about him and there's something disturbing about the belief in divinely ordained male control of family life his religion seems to demand, at least to an outsider like me.

"An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender"

said the man who is more frightening for his benign smile. To me there is no one more dangerous than a man who can call upon a sufficiently established god to justify world domination and I don't think I need to offer examples. No one more dangerous unless, of course, we add the photogenic charm and the forked tongue. What Mitt really is saying is that America is chosen to be the priest and caretaker of the planet and what he is implying is that by being its ordained leader, he's God's agent on Earth. Where and when have we heard this before? Certainly not from the founders of our Republic who took up arms against God's own chosen King.

I've often been told that Obama "went over there and apologized to them" by Fox News victims totally ignorant of where there is or who said what. It's a lie of course and a big one but it isn't going away even if Romney never says another word about it or is magically transported to another world for him to rule, as apparently he thinks he will be. Lies, like cancer cells, are all but immortal. Truth and decency and the hope for a world not run by pompous and powerful thugs in expensive suits and plastic hair are as fragile as a dream.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Zen and the art of dismissal

So I hear these two guys talking on the radio. It's a conversation on the Amateur Radio 20 meter band, so half the world could be listening if conditions are right.
"I heard one of these protesters said he was there because 'Capitalism was taking over Wall Street' -- like it hasn't been Capitalist for over two hundred years! What an idiot!"
Well I'm assuming this guy isn't an economist any more than he might be a historian, and I'm assuming he got the information about what the "typical" loony-left and ignorant protesters are from some artisanal propaganda source like Fox News.

Yes, of course, there were protesters baring their breasts and preforming other charming acts having little to do with constructive criticism of laissez-faire Capitalism. While I'm the last person to discourage such acts, I'm also the last person to believe that this kind of New Yorky opportunistic revelry has anything to do with the reasons more qualified critics like Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz would lend support by their presence: reasons having to do with Wall Street practices, their relationship to the market crash, the credit crunch and the dire state of the world economy -- subjects the people who script and sculpt the news would rather mock, would rather have you mock, than discuss intelligently.

For someone who suffered through the late 1960's as an adult, the techniques political enterprises use to dismiss well grounded movements hold no novelty. I remember quite well how anyone openly questioning the benefits and reasons for maintaining an unwinnable war in Southeast Asia was told to "get a job" and had his personal hygiene questioned as well. Easier to dismiss someone, albeit clad in Brooks Brothers attire and obviously gainfully employed, as a silly, radical and stupid "hippie" than to answer disturbing questions as why killing peasants, bombing millions and stifling free elections was preventing the 'lights of freedom from going out in America' as was wrongly claimed by the Right. Then, as now, the real struggle was to keep the lights of reason off and it was fought with the same kind of smugly simplistic and fatuous fallacies the powerful always use to crucify the good.

But the dishonest selection of unrepresentative examples and illuminating them as "typical" is ancient and not the property of right wing extremists. It's the sort of thing our foul species does to advance our cults and parties that want to keep us in squalor and ignorance and the occupation of Wall Street isn't about the irrational or Communist inspired hatred of freedom or free markets, as you know, or you wouldn't have read this far. It's about corruption and the lack of rules and oversight that promotes private exploitation of free markets to the detriment of all. The occupation of Wall Street is just another station of the cross where the sidewalks are filled with mockery and abuse.

That unwitting clowns are flopping about in over-sized shoes, honking horns and mocking, is inevitable, given the well-fed smugness of the stupid. Their invisible rulers are very good at making them eager participants in their degradation and suffering; but failure isn't inevitable. It's tempting for old-timers like me to opt out of the circus, but perhaps there's hope, unlikely as it may seem, that enough people can be made to see how they're protecting the practices of the looters, pillagers and vandals on Wall Street and in Washington to do something about it. There's hope, but I'm not yet ready to bet on it.