Saturday, July 31, 2010

Interview with the Christian

Ann Rice didn't invent the vampire, but our infatuation with them and our vision of them has a lot to do with characteristics she gave them. I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, but soon lost interest as she seemed to be trying to force these supernatural creatures into her supernatural Christian beliefs, which to me are far harder to swallow and far less fun.

What a surprise to read that she's declared that she's dropping out.
"Today I quit being a Christian ... It's simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”
I can understand that quite well. Of course she's not quitting her mythological beliefs or her belief in the supernatural:
" My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me."

The definition of an addiction has more, I think, to do with how bad you feel without the junk than how good a fix makes you feel, but in truth, I cannot tell the difference between the addiction to a belief and the addiction to a substance except that you don't have to pay for the former: at least not in dollars. One believes because it feels good, but one needs to believe because in fact the "pessimistic view" removes all importance to us, our deeds, our passions, our loves and hates; the importance of existence itself. If reason and fact assures us that we will die, our species will die, our planet, or sun, our galaxy and all that is in the Universe will disappear in time, as though we had never, for a brief instant, been here, it's crucial to give up reason and deny the facts.

Still, I do understand. I wouldn't want to be associated with what has been the motivation for murder, torture, oppression, conquest and the suppression of science either and I have to give her credit for insisting that the addiction to magical beings doesn't have to result in those hideous things. Belief addiction may be something we're subject to by nature, but it's possible, if rare, to seperate it from the creature that sucks the blood of mankind.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Muslims hate dogs

Shortly before I left the Midwest for Florida, a local Methodist Church with a largely Korean congregation was spray painted with the message: "Chines go home." Swastikas were spray painted on sidewalks and a leader of a self-styled Evangelist Church murdered a black Football coach and shot up a car containing two local Korean-Americans in protest of the growing ethnic diversity of America. Yes, it was an upscale suburb of Chicago and yes, most people were appalled. Since then, we've become more inured to such things, and since then, major political groups have become indistinguishable from what was a demented, lunatic fringe. The largest news disseminator in the country has become a preacher of the same kind of rage -- and we listen as disciples at the feet of wisdom.

I can't act surprised to see a similar fear and loathing phenomenon pervading my Florida neighborhood. No shots are being fired, but it's hard to come away from any social gathering without that sick, sinking feeling in my stomach resulting from some offhand remark about Mexicans. What must they be thinking of me? Is anyone really a bigot as concerns only one group? I think not. Is such bigotry confined to the uneducated? Hardly: the Beck Brigade contains the majority of millionaires I know and none who have anything to worry about from some undocumented day-laborer hanging around the Home Depot parking lot. Yet they do. They worry themselves sick that our government is being taken over by Black people who will make sure that no other black people will have to work for a living any more. They worry themselves sick that American Muslims will somehow institute Sharia and set aside the constitution, while they themselves see that tattered document as an impediment to Christian sovereignty.

"Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant [sic] on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law...."
reads an anonymous e-mail tied to a California Tea Party group. Where I live, such a thing is likely to be as sermon to the converted. It's a tenet as firmly adhered to as that "Obamacare" depends on "death panels" to keep costs down and that the US constitution is meant to subjugate all people under Christian law. But there are no Mosques here, not Islamic community centers as there are in other parts of the country. In California, in Tennessee, in New York and elsewhere, the bigoted scum that is America is being called upon to disrupt prayer with loud protest and being encouraged to bring dogs: because Muslims "hate dogs."

When I was a young man, traveling and studying in Europe, I heatedly defended my country against pervasive charges of racism and bigotry and imperialism, pointing to the strides being made in the 1960's. I was wrong, I was a fool and I wish I had not been. We have been jailing people for their political thoughts since the beginning, we replaced slavery with repression and subjugation, we've had laws reducing the rights of one ethnic group after another. We've denied entry and we have expelled citizens for their racial origins. We whine about invasive government while we use it to invade the lives of millions. We've made a straw devil out of those who have worked to undo the intrinsic hatred that is American culture. We have, save for a few glorious moments, been cowards, bullies and barbarians as likely to tear our own countrymen apart as the enemies, real and imagined, from without. There is no patriotism, no sense of a common goal, only flag waving and warriors at war -- and fear, always the fear.

Have we forsaken our ideals or did we ever really have any beyond "every man for himself" and "fuck you?"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arizona burning

"The law was made for man, not man for the law"

-Jesus of Nazareth-

He's "not going to put up with any civil disobedience" said the notorious Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff on Good Morning America. No doubt he expects to see some, as the infamous Arizona "show me your papers" law goes into effect tomorrow. Protest is all "hype" anyway and it's "a crime to be here illegally and everyone should enforce" it. Everyone?

It sounds like fun and I can't wait to start enforcing the law myself -- I mean all the laws, of course and since I have the firepower, why not stop every blond person I see a
nd make him prove he's not Canadian? It's all a cowboy movie to sheriff Joe Arpaio, so why shouldn't I play along? But, of course, it's not the law in general that we should all enforce, it's the infamous Arizona law reducing the rights of anyone looking to any Arizona Cop like he has Native American ancestry.

But why pick on this comic book villain? The idea is widely popular, particularly in the old Confederate states, where good manners, big hearts and small minds go hand in hand. Civil disobedience is, in fact, just what we need to clog up the courts and disable and
embarrass the damned fools who pretend it's all about the law and not a distraction to hide another expansion of police power. We need just what was so effective in the 1960's; thousands and thousands of people to flood the streets of Arizona looking illegal. We need a spectacle: sit-ins, marches, civil disobedience, dogs, water cannons and an impotent, sputtering, apoplectic, beer-belly Joe looking like the Dukes of Hazzard relic he is.

Now, before you reach for some more canned rage: no, I'm not in favor of allowing undocumented workers to remain, or letting people overstay their visas, just don't tell me we have to become a brutal, inhumane police state to correct the problem and if it isn't all based on racial purity, tell me why we don't know or care how many Canadians or Englishmen are working here and living here without benefit of citizenship.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy now?

Is the Gulf of Mexico becoming the cesspool of the Oil business; the repository of all the spills resulting from accidents, neglect, irresponsible drilling and all the other inevitable situations we refuse to listen to while sneering at "enviros" and calling for more oil whatever the cost?

Sure it is, but we may just be beginning to give a damn, now that it's appearing that many of us won't live to see that section of the great mother of life, the World Ocean, and it's shorelines restored to any kind of health.

We have another gusher, apparently. Just off the coast near New Orleans where a barge has reportedly crashed into a well spilling more oil just where we need it least and just where we have our equipment otherwise occupied. It hasn't been the first time, and it won't be the last, but maybe now we're starting to realize that you can't get all the world's oil out of the ground without the nasty consequences we've been ignoring. You can't transport it by ship or by pipeline and you can't pump it without leaks and spills and fires and of course, loss of life.

Yes, that's right, you're paying three bucks a gallon -- much, much less than other countries do and all our efforts to ruin what's left of what's worth keeping in our country aren't going to reduce that price. It's all going to get worse until you start listening to those hippie, treehugging, sandal wearing weirdos and stop listening to the bought and paid for politicians who refuse to do a damned thing that might stop the campaign contributions and free propaganda that keep them in office. The rich TV blowhards, your friends, your neighbors and all their stupid stories about vast reserves of oil ready to pour into your tanks if only the government and those environmental freaks would let our friends at Exxon sell it to China and Japan at a higher price than we want to pay.

I'd like to blame it all on Republicans, like the ones in Florida who refuse to take any steps whatever to keep the oil off our shores ( or the industrial and agricultural waste that poison our inland waters) but even the President we elected in our naivete, thinking that he could be immune, has been tainted.

Oil corrupts. Big oil corrupts big time, whether it's in Nigeria, Venezuela or Iraq. It's corrupted us and has corrupted presidents since the Harding administration. But before you think I'm going into another partisan rant, think again. It's us - it's you who elect these people. It's the American people, the snickering snarky states of America looking for scapegoats while we support the Palins and the McCains and the Cheneys and the Bush's who tell us we need more oil and that we need only to disregard all prudence to get and use more of it and faster. Yes, they either bought or bamboozled Obama into thinking it was all so safe despite the shaky safety record and now they want you to forget that we all cooperated in eliminating all traces of safety standards -- you know, the things we've been dumb enough to see as "Communism." It's us, the soccer moms, the commuters, the SUV fashionistas who don't think past our daily concerns and laugh at the concept of giving a damn about the future. You wanted oil and you've got oil. Are you happy now?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dumb and Dumber

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to vote for Rick Scott or Bill McCollum for Governor of Florida in the November election but there'a an obvious winner if I look at the contest as a test of who can put the biggest DUH in Flori-DUH.

In the last few gubernatorial elections, the very dominant theme here has been taxation. Florida has been known for low taxes yet there have been ads featuring a full minute of a voice chanting taxtaxtaxtax while showing the tap dancing feet of the opponent. If zip codes had their own flags, mine, which is always in the top three in wealth in the country, would have a banner showing a chisel and a pinched penny, but this year the carrot dangling from the GOP stick has been the Mexican Menace.

Scott has been spending large sums of money on a media blitz based on his support of Arizona's "show me your papers" law and features raw mockery of McCollum's attempt to cozy up to Miami Cubans with his speeches on the benefits of immigration. "We don't need it here" has been a McCollum theme. It's common sense to let police check for immigration status, says Greene. I could write a lengthy treatise on the use of common sense as a basis for argument, but I'll spare you.

I'm afraid the majority of hysterical, racist wankers here agree that no method is too dangerous in protecting us from illegal busboys and dishwashers, but on either side, there's little conversation about the license it gives to law enforcement to find some reason to stop anyone who looks Central American or Haitian and force them to prove citizenship or be arrested. There's no discussion touching in any way on the idea that a real problem does not justify a bad solution and of course there are no end of Republican scholars willing to twist the constitution into a mockery of itself in support of anything that will elect Republicans.

I'm not saying that more than a small minority of cops would misuse this travesty of Probable Cause, but enough will to be able to drive any minority they like out of their towns. Florida has an unbroken history of using the police for this purpose already. There's no discussion in Republican circles about instituting a government of men along with their intuitions, hunches and prejudices instead of a government of laws. There's no discussion of the constitution unless it's about our rights to bring guns to presidential speeches or our 'right' to tell lies that harm other people.

The most egregious ad yet, which ran last night, ended with " Bill McCollum: too liberal for Florida!" Face it - the Constitution is too liberal for Florida and it always has been.

Too much business

It's one of those things many Obama supporters hoped he would do, and do quickly. It's also one of those things nobody should have expected him to be able to do given any amount of time. I'm talking about the malignant, corrupting influence of unfettered, and unlimited lobbying.

Amidst the chorus singing about too much government influence in the oil industry being the culprit in the Gulf Oil Disaster (along with the president, of course) isn't it time to listen to the quiet voices trying to remind us that it's too much business involvement in Government that's corrupting both sectors? Of course they're quiet only in comparison, because the volume of noise is directly proportional to the volume of oil bucks and Gas bucks and the volume of Republican/Corporate money wells pumping away at the opportunity to make even more through more obfuscation and deregulation.

If The Washington Post has it right and 3 out of 4 oil and gas lobbyists were formerly part of the Federal Government, we have to believe that congress isn't going to find fault with a practice that can offer lucrative employment to the departing congressman or the promise of election support that opens the spigot of campaign financing from those industries. No, I don't see Obama doing much about it. In fact I don't see us or anyone else doing much about it. We just can't afford to compete.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I hope he fails!

Limbaugh said it and the Republicans echo it. It's more important that the Democrats fail -- that even if successful, Little Black Obama must be seen to fail in any attempt to fix anything, much less to end the recession. To be the party of business they claim to be isn't important, because the public is illiterate and it's cheaper to buy belief than to generate it through doing what you say you'll do. Wave flags and buy pins - that's all the patriotism one needs - the real purpose of politics is winning.

Forget that supply side economics never has and never will work: anything that does work in helping small business survive and thrive and create new jobs must be sabotaged along with anything that helps families stay together long enough to benefit from those new jobs.

That's right, the Republicans who just finished up trying to extend unemployment benefits are trying to sink a bill to help: not Exxon or BP or Halliburton or Goldman Sachs, but to offer credit to small business. Why? because it might just work. The same party that offered apologies to BP for making them pay for their criminal negligence intends to block a small business relief bill because it offers 30 billion in credit. The same party that requested three trillion no questions asked with Secretary Paulson to have exclusive and secret stimulus spending discretion. The same party that would still rather have starvation and poverty and disease rather than give a nickel to anyone who lost their job. After all, non-Republicans are just lazy, illegal immigrant bums without the gumption to be white. No, if it creates the millions of jobs that only small business can do, it might help the Democrats in November. Better to let it all go down and blame it on Obama.

No, making loans to stable small businesses is wasteful government spending, you see -- not like waging useless and unnecessary wars and building useless weapons systems and giving tax breaks to BP.

No, it's the same old GOP, the same party that was willing and eager to let millions of Americans starve during the last Depression they brought on, rather than get a dime they hadn't worked for and couldn't have if they had wanted to. Let it fail - desperate workers are cheaper labor and slave labor is cheapest and just think how well they could live with no middle class and all the burden on the serfs.

Proving the pudding.

Warren G. Harding; if you listen to the Cato Institute he may have been the greatest president ever, because he's responsible for the great prosperity bubble of the "Roaring Twenties." Of course he was corrupt; his fingers found in the Teapot Dome scandal (proving that government involvement is always bad) and was noted for taking the presidential yacht down to Stuart Florida to fill it up with illegal booze run in the inlet at night from West End in the Bahamas. ( you wonder why these people hate government "intrusiveness?")

Bubble or prosperity? I'll leave it to the guys with the degrees to fight it out, but Cato Institute writer Jim Powell's assertion that the Depression originated in "too much government involvement in Business" is too slippery -- too oily ( to tease you with a metaphor) to let pass without comment.

The weasel word here is "involvement" and to make my discomfort with it shorter and easier to read, let me ask whether referees corrupt the game simply by enforcing the rules -- and whether having rules is necessary to differentiate between Football and Assault and Battery. See what I'm getting at? I hope so, because if I agree with the non-Cato premise that having slashed taxes for the very rich and permitted unregulated markets, a bubble was created in the late 1920's and because Wall Street was more like the wild west than it's been until recently, the bubble inflated and blew up, then you'll understand my confusion. Banks failed, businesses failed lives were ruined and books like The Grapes of Wrath attempted to get the message through to Cato types that these "cycles" and the unwillingness of Americans to suffer any aid given to anyone, created unconscionable suffering for millions and millions and set back our country by more than a decade.

Then as now, that suffering was blamed on the intrinsic laziness of the "inferior classes:" black people, immigrants, people who willingly are ill or injured or incapacitated. It's a premise somehow supported even by those who have now lost their jobs and are collecting unemployment much to the angry chagrin of conservatives calling themselves Libertarians.

But I digress. Can we talk about government involvement in business as though there were only one kind and all kinds are bad? No, I don't think so, but that's what they do. I think Cato is simply indulging in the fallacies of simplification, albeit more articulately than the average T-Party bozo who thinks his taxes have gone up and his guns snatched and people who control hedge funds, brokerage houses, insurance companies and banks, caused the credit crunch only because of "too much government." The kind of bozo who thinks safety regulations and honest regulators cause oil spills. Can it be that too much business involvement in government starts that vicious circle of corruption? Can it be that too much business involvement in government is a core value of the GOP?

Cato libertarianism assumes, and I think maliciously, that a playing field will not only exist but be level and remain level all by itself and it expresses that with a studied pose of innocence. After all a car or an airplane will self correct and remain more or less on course without a pilot. Pilots are bad because most accidents are the result of pilot error.

It assumes incorrectly that large concentrations of wealth that tip that playing field in their favored direction will not occur because entrepreneurs will always be able to compete with huge multinationals and break up their monopolies. It assumes, worst of all, that companies like Enron will be persuaded by competition to act honestly, their books smelling like roses and that the crimes of Arthur Anderson simply won't happen unless, of course, someone demands an audit and thereby corrupts their moral altruism.

No, the Great Depression wasn't ended, wasn't eased, but was perpetuated by things like the TVA and WPA and CCC that built infrastructure and kept many people working. Despite the statistics that show GDP and employment rising and falling with FDR's spending, it was ended only by the draft, says the Cato Institute's Powell to great applause from conservatives. Yet, somehow, the Vietnam and Korean War draft didn't have a similar effect, but not to be distracted, didn't the economic expansion continue after the troops came home looking for jobs, taking advantage of government housing loans, going to school on the GI bill, starting businesses and taking advantage of all that government spending? Maybe I'm off base, but the Cato scenario is set on a very bare stage and seems to need a few more props to be convincing. Could it be that all that government borrowing and spending on huge plants to make trucks, tanks, cars, airplanes, ships had a positive effect? could it be that massive government involvement in the electronics business and aviation technology and nuclear science and rocketry extending through the Cold War made the US the world leader? Can we speculate that the GI bill created the middle class we'd never really had before? I think we can and with more factual support than the other side with its austere and simplistic assertions.

After all, the First World War was followed by recession and perhaps because the troops got no support from Warren G. Harding who vetoed the whole idea that we owed them a damned thing because after all, "government involvement" is a bad thing and really, what have they done for us recently? No work, no food -- no handouts you lazy bum! ( now shut up while I buy booze at your expense and sell your property to the oil men.)

Ok, so I don't have degrees in all this stuff and nobody pays me to write -- especially not the people who pump the Cato Institute's output with all those corporate bucks, but I do have a simple question nobody seems to want to answer in a serious manner. If, there will be no crime in the absence of law; no crime in the absence of oversight and enforcement, why do we have a government at all? Assertions that we don't need one are not an answer, but an evasion. To be more specific, if oil companies can drill on our common property without having any safety rules imposed on them and if we must automatically grant the rights to do so without regard to when and where and how without "government involvement" why then don't we stop requiring airlines to inspect and maintain their planes, stop requiring prescriptions for drugs, close the schools, disband the police and fire departments, open the jails and let freedom ring? I really want to know.

I really want to know why if the Reagan and Bush tax cuts stimulated revenue growth and created jobs, don't the statistics show it? Why there were no new private sector jobs created during Bush's eight years? I want to know why public and private debt soared while private capital pumped the markets up to the bursting point and corruption spread like cancer. I want to know why the biggest and fastest growth of government size, expense and intrusiveness have occurred by preachers of the "government is always bad" gospel. I want to know why this pie of prosperity a la laissez faire mode has remained in the sky for nearly a century now and as the proofs of failure pile up over and over and over again, it's obscured by excuses, by repetition of doctrine, by scapegoating, stereotyping and creative slander.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Drill it, spill it - we don't care.

The subject of off shore oil and gas drilling has been a frequent discussion topic since I've lived in Florida. My particular part of the state has a large proportion of people who have environmental concerns, at least as far as clean water and the health of fish stocks are concerned. Most oppose rapid growth, virtually all of my local friends are extremely concerned about the ongoing discharge of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into our estuary and are likely to show anger at the sugar industry and even the cattle industry that are sources of much of it and who benefit greatly from the government guaranteed status quo. But when it comes to oil, it's been Drill Baby Drill even despite former Republican Governor Jeb Bush's opposition to it.

Before the BP disaster, one couldn't bring up the subject without becoming an audience for vituperation against "the Enviros" who were the root of the problem: the problem of course being high oil prices. The Environmental bogey men, they insist, are the reason we don't have more and cheaper nuclear power and why our bottomless oil reserves aren't being tapped as cleanly and risk free as turning on the bathroom faucet. It's the Liberals -- it's always the Liberals. They're all Republicans and conservationists without being in favor of conservation and environmentally concerned without being environmentalists. It's doublethink at it's finest.

One would expect that to have changed, and indeed it is changing, but not by as much as you might think. The illusion persists that there are huge amounts of oil off our coasts than can be easily accessed by sticking a straw into the mud and that the sooner we give the right to do that to foreign oil companies who sell into a competitive worldwide market, the sooner we'll be back to 26 cents per gallon. Efforts -- my efforts at least -- to dispel the mythology haven't been worthwhile. There's always some secret reserve or hidden oil field kept under wraps by a malicious government and their familiars: the Enviros.

They're not chanting Drill Baby Drill any more; not out loud at any rate, but Floridians aren't yet solidly behind a Constitutional amendment preventing these operations in Florida waters. The Republican-led Legislature seems firmly against it and abruptly adjourned a special legislative session after 49 minutes Tuesday, squelching Governor Charlie Crist's proposal to put the amendment on the ballot. Florida legislators, of course, get a lot of money from the oil and gas industry and before the false equivalence parade float is pulled out of the shed, the lion's share goes to Republicans.

The House Republican leader, Adam Hasner claims that Crist is making it "all about politics" but of course opposition to environmental responsibility has little else but politics to offer as a basis. It's all about continued profits for the oil industry, continued support for their party (which Crist has recently left) and continued disregard for public safety, health and the common resources of our country.

I don't expect my local friends to put it all together and realize that we' can't preserve our local environment while letting the unholy alliance between oil and government rape the land and water and food sources, but according to the Miami Herald today, support is indeed growing for a permanent ban on at least near-shore drilling. That means at least a few more people are willing to see the picture beyond what is framed by their job, their backyard and their circle of idiocy. It's far too soon -- enormously far too soon to sound like an optimist and in fact I'm convinced that slogans and dogmas, slanders and stupidity will remain the song of the South until the Gulf looks like the LaBrea tar pits and we have to resort to eating termites and grasshoppers while the crops die -- and even then, I'm not sure many minds will be changed in the direction of responsible oversight and regulation by a government agency.

What the hell, might as well just drill!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Crack in the floor

You didn't think the monster on the sea bed was going to stay muzzled, did you? I was on a ship headed for Palm Beach when I saw the news report that the well had been capped and the pressure was rising. That rising pressure was a good sign seemed to confuse my fellow passengers, being young Americans and thus not quite up to seeing the analogy between this and trying to pump up a tire with a hole in it, but the early good sign didn't stay very good as pressure failed to reach what it should be if there were no other leaks and now it seems there are. Oil is seeping up from cracks in the sea floor.

A young woman sitting next to me was confused by the word seep and wanted to know whether it was spelled 'sepe' or 'seap', but to those who are at least as smart as a fifth grader, it spells bad news. The cap either has to come off or the relief wells have to be completed before the cracks widen and proliferate and we lose control completely.

Of course what may be a disaster for the world may be a boon for Halliburton and perhaps for Darth Cheney himself. The Dubai based corporation posted second quarter earnings substantially higher than expected; an 83% increase in point of fact. Can we understand now why the power behind the Bush kept his energy policy meetings with the oil men a secret we'll never have access to in our lifetime? Can we begin to suspect that it really wasn't about 'principle' but about power and money?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The conch man

The last bottle, the last moment, the last dollar;
The last conch eaten at Billy Joe's.

Ankle deep in the warm sea,
Six black rays flee like silent birds.


Things I've learned:

America is indeed a classless society, but not in the good sense.

Every American, male or female, under the age of 40 is covered with tattoos.

If a restaurant requires a shirt, shoes and long pants, the only Americans in it will be over 60.

You may not be able to tell a prostitute from a debutante any more, but you can spot an American from a mile away: Mohawk, Mullet, basketball shorts down to the ankles, tank tops covered with advertising, towing black bags behind them large and small and trailing more cloth through the lobbies of five star hotels and grill-hot tropical streets than a dismasted Portuguese man-O-war in a gale.

What else:

America isn't worth it. Arteries clogged with malls, covered in ads and logos and paved over and everywhere the same plastic, the same prejudices, the same ignorance, the same proud stupidity, the same pretense, the same anger eating at our hearts.

Life is still sweet and lots of people know how to live it.

Black really is beautiful.

Raw conch and red snapper; jerk pork grilled on a wood fire on the beach at sunset, served up with sweet potato bread and plantain and peas and rice: rake and scrape making your feet dance and island patois and trade winds and seas as green as absinthe -- Life -- it's still there.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Off with his hair!

Yes, it's hard to get behind anything the government of Iran does: stoning people to death, building nuclear weapons and all that, but to give credit where it's due, they do have the same lack of tolerance for certain hairstyles that I do and when it comes to demonstrating intolerance, Iran has few equals.

Yes, I'm all for freedom of expression, but there are limits and the mullet haircut is beyond that limit. As I'm concerned, ponytails on anyone over 60 and greasy spikes or Mohawks on anyone of any age are an abomination unto the Lord. So yes, I'd be right at home in the Islamic Republic and they certainly agree with me over there about what needs to be stomped out if the human race is to avoid divine retribution. Police in Iran can lop off that ponytail and that mullet can earn you jail time -- and rightly so. As I said, there are limits.

Of course, being a land of compassionate conservatism, Iran has provided an illustrated compendium of hairstyles that, according to Jaleh Khodayar, the man in charge of the government- backed Modesty and Veil Festival, are acceptable in light of "Iranians' complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law." See for yourself:

Friday, July 09, 2010

Drill Baby Drill!

Think 'Drill Baby Drill' has been set aside for the nonce while a bazillion barrels of toxic crude poisons the gulf? Think again. Think it's wise to re-examine the permits issued by a government agency that's been run the Oil producers for aver a decade now that we know they've been rubber stamping every request without bothering to asses the danger? Think again and remember our new national anthem: Drill Baby Drill.

Agree with the dittoheads that Obama is the problem? That if he had or hadn't done some nebulous thing we'll think of if we have to, that we wouldn't have had this mess? Of course you do even though his attempt to make sure we wouldn't have another blowout before we've stopped this one has been shot down by courts to the tune of Drill Baby Drill. It's a victory!

Yes, the real disaster is Barack Obama and we'll all smile and nod approval and even giggle when our friends tell us 2012 will be "the end of an error." 2012 - we can get back to calling people traitors for criticizing the government. We can restore the cap on BP's liability and teach those lazy unemployed people to eat tar balls and shut up.

Maybe we can take advantage of the new corporate personhood by electing Exxon as president; replace congress with the Shell Oil board of directors or even make Sarah Palin Chief Justice if we can count on her not cutting and running halfway through. The possibilities are endless.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Lady Blah-Blah

Contrived extrapolations from the trivial and inconsequential event to gross generalizations, sweeping condemnations and general non sequitur makes up so much of the right wing blather that I'm tempted to say that blissful silence would ensue if it were to stop and inclined to pray for it.

What kind of "journalist" would pounce upon small children for giving away lemonade because they didn't truly understand the concept of profit? Lady Blah-Blah herself, Terry Savage, of course. Jumping from her car, she writes, she admonished them for not being capitalists and likely scared hell out of them. Of course that only constitutes being rude, self important and nasty. Yes, that's a prerequisite for being a Republican pundit, but what elevates her to the ranks of the truly despicable, is her blowhardian expose in the Chicago Sun-Times in which she rants about welfare, government subsidies for things other than oil drilling and the decline of America. She tilts at all the usual windmills with all the same old cliche arguments having nothing to do with the innocence of Kindergarteners and the righteousness of profits and all at the expense of some cute little kids who have yet to learn just how nasty, pompous, self-righteous, dishonest, stupid and bad at their jobs Right wing columnists can be.
"If we can't teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?"
The government does not exist to make a profit, and if, as you say, unemployment benefits will only impoverish the employed, you owe us an explanation of why your version of capitalism has done exactly that, why no new private sector jobs were created by it in 8 years and why each Republican administration has brought us ever increasing expense and debt and ever decreasing standards of living. Never mind tiny tots and lemonade -- explain that.

Sorry, Terry, perhaps some of the 6 quarts of botox you pump into your aging face every morning has leaked into the parts of your brain concerned with basic human decency and has totally paralyzed any notions of honesty. Yes, Terry, we can teach our children about economics - they're already learning thanks to your having driven us over a cliff. No Terry, these are just babies, and sorry, we all know what a profit is and no we're not having a recession because we try to help struggling Americans and keep them from the Dickensian hell you dream about every night.

We're suffering high unemployment because of your insistence that Giving the very rich a tax break will create new jobs, raise government revenues, reduce the tax burden on the middle and working classes; because of your insistence that businesses will resist cheating and corruption and fraudulent activities if we no longer test their claims, audit their books and make fraud itself legal. We're suffering not because some kid you made cry hasn't been reading Ayn Rand, but because you're still reading it while each and every one of your and her bogus axioms has been proven false over and over and over again. At least the girls you're exploiting are giving away real lemonade instead of the toxic and even lethal witches brew you're giving away.
"The Declaration of Independence promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It didn't promise anything free. Something to think about this July 4th holiday weekend."

Stop me if I'm wrong, but it didn't say anything about subsidizing Oil Drilling or looking the other way while our resources are stolen; while we're sold fraudulent securities by fraudulent corporations, while the government starts wars for profit and gives away billions to friends of the Vice President either. It didn't promise corporate feudalism and it didn't suggest a Randian denial of responsibility or a great many other things you're trying to work into the discussion of a lemonade stand. If that's the best you can do, perhaps it's time to shut the hell up and send the RNC their check back.

A decent human being -- and by that I mean someone other than you -- would simply have given the girls a dollar and told them they would earn some money to replace their stolen bicycle by charging, but no, not you. You made it into a baseless condemnation, a sales pitch for calamity and a caustic attack on the innocence of childhood. You found it more important to bear false witness against your country than to protect the feelings of small children who will doubtless remember the nasty witch screaming NO! from her car for the rest of their lives.

If people like you can call our President Pol Pot and Hitler in the same breath simply for talking to them about making the future a better one, I can certainly call you worse for trying to perpetuate the same twisted economic madness that's brought us to our knees as it did in 1929 and screaming it at our kids. I can call you all kinds of things with a clear conscience but none can be so damning as the name you've made for yourself.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Suing Arizona

Years ago, returning from a visit to El Paso, we were booming along a lonely Texas road in my old Corvette, enjoying the breathtaking desert scenery on the way to Carlesbad, New Mexico. Seeing something on the side of the road a long way ahead, I backed off on the throttle and coasted down to something resembling the speed limit. "Damn" I said to myself as I saw a uniformed officer getting out of his car to flag me down. I thought perhaps I'd been snagged by an airplane and was going to get a ticket, but no, the very polite officer simply asked me where I was going and where I'd come from. "And you ma'am?" he said to my uncustomarily silent wife. "He wants to hear your accent, dear. Say something."

It was really no surprise. Returning from a number of trips abroad, someone from the government hanging around the baggage claim always has managed to inquire as to where she was born or something like that -- just to hear her speak. I'm used to being embarrassed by and for my country and its undying suspicion of non-European genetics. Now of course, in Arizona, the State we usually passed through on the way to visit her brother, a retired US Army Colonel, she would be required to furnish proof of citizenship to any officer who used any pretext to stop us. My home state is hell bent to emulate them.

That's not the sad or the unexpected part of the story. That would be the fact that a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. national poll conducted a month ago showed 57 percent of Americans support Arizona's unconstitutional power grab, an attempt that if it had been backed by Democrats would surely be compared with Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin and Ted Nugent's favorite, Mao Zedong. Perhaps we can blame a lack of respect for citizens of foreign birth or for citizens with certain ethnic backgrounds or the appearance of it. Perhaps we can blame the smug attitude that "I'm blond, so what do I care?" Instead they're already trashing Obama for what they would have trashed him for had he supported it.
"The American people must wonder whether the Obama administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law,"
said Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain in a joint statement as though any bad and illegal measure was justified by a legitimate problem. Representative Lamar Smith, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (Republicans all) Piled on with the same arguments and attacks on Obama with all the enthusiasm of an 8th grade football team in response to the Justice Department's decision to sue.

Whether these gentlefolk really are so concerned with a real, but already decreasing problem or whether as usual, they're just trying to sabotage the Democrats even if it sinks the ship of state is impossible to tell, but of course I suspect the latter.

I do have to ask whether 57% of Americans would support the Federal Government's efforts in other important respects by allowing small town police to stop anyone and demand tax returns of anyone who appears too wealthy? I have to ask why the Tea Bag twits get away with insisting we're losing our freedom while supporting the loss. I don't have to get an answer however and I'm sure I won't. I'm also sure that nothing will ever induce me to visit that state again.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Have a little tea with Ted.

Ted Nugent; where do I begin? Where does it end?

Obama is not only spitting on the constitution, but the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. It's hard to see the evidence and it's hard to know why he was silent about the unprecedented abuses during the Bush administration, unless we conclude that he's either psychotic, or a lying son of a bitch. The former seems certain, but of course much of it could also be attributable to ignorance. That he believes all Americans are commanded to worship Yahweh alone and keep a Kosher household and that the government is remiss in not enforcing this, can only be attributed to insanity - if indeed he believes or is even aware of anything he says.

I confess that I can't find any way to fit that old Golden Rule thing into the equation but for the fact that he's treating our basic institutions with extreme contempt while asking for something different than a government of laws and not of mobs for himself and his fellow tea heads. He certainly can't be saying that we shouldn't invade other countries or bomb civilians or overthrow elected governments because we don't want it done to us, because his favorite presidents are as famous for it as he is in being silent about them. Again, only rank insanity balances that equation.
"With the Mao Zedong fan club in the White House, a clueless, rookie president hellbent on spending like a maniac as unprecedented debt piles up all around him, and every other imaginable indicator of an America turned upside-down, it comes as no surprise that this insane level of madness has metastasized into a Supreme Court wherethe Bill of Rights is being trashed by clueless, dangerously insulated old people intentionally disconnected from the real world"
he says to Insanity Hannity about the dissenting vote on the Chicago handgun ban. I suppose he thinks Obama appointed those judges and that this hasn't been a contentious issue for a lifetime or two. But who knows what he thinks or if he thinks when he wraps himself in the flag and spews his tea at us. Surely it isn't often or deeply since he claims that Martin Luther King is his mentor and yet he's fond of shooting machine guns in his back yard.

Certainly it's more than hyperbole and more than just ignorance to call the administration a Mao Zedong fan club, certainly it's more than mere hypocrisy to blame Obama for trying to do what FDR did to ease the Depression and to ignore the fact that each and every Republican administration, at least from Reagan onwards, has set new levels of government size, expense, corruption, spending and borrowing while the Democrats haven't. But this is Ted speaking: Ted the flag waving teabagger who claimed to have been clean and sober all his life when talking to the Fox mob but to have dodged the draft by smoking Meth when talking to Rolling Stone -- and then tells us that he was lying to them but telling us the truth.

This is Ted blaming Obama for going after his massive arsenal of weapons when he didn't and the Court for banning them when it didn't. This is Ted telling us he is the will of the people, free elections and a majority vote to the contrary. This is the devil in a cowboy hat. This is horseshit wrapped up in a flag like some foul taco. This is just the failure they warned our founding fathers about.

Indeed, where do we begin with the Ted Nugent story when Ted Nugent himself says he's a liar and an addict and doesn't know MLK from Chuck Manson or Mao Zedong from a wishy washy middle of the road conservative? I don't know. I don't know where the teabag story ends either but it certainly doesn't end in a free, democratic country.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Odd Couple

No, not Felix and Oscar, but Joe and John: Lieberman and McCain. Putative Democrat and the Republican quondam candidate. Often appearing to be on the same side, their opinions drive us to confusion and not to any conclusion.

The right wing outrage machine has been like a chorus of vuvuzelas, blaring accusations that the classified rules of engagement instituted by General McChrystal on his own initiative were in fact forced on him by president Obama and his opposition, despite his sworn public testimony to the contrary, was the reason he was relieved of command. I suspect Joe Lieberman agrees, although I know he knows better.

The policy of trying to reduce the heavy civilian casualties so as to give the US less of the appearance of an invading horde bent on its own objectives and with no concern for innocent life or limb, is misguided says Lieberman; as though to say we shouldn't be concerned to appear as liberators with the best interests of Afghanistan at heart. We shouldn't care that people whose children we've cavalierly blown to hell aren't going to try to make our efforts any easier and so he's advising General Petraeus to shoot first and ask questions later. It's hurting our morale, says he as though 9 years of getting nowhere can be blamed on being the kind of nation we're supposed to be and more importantly as though it were president Obama's fault for worrying too much about worthless Muslim lives.

Perhaps John McCain's statement that even another ten years of war may not be too much to ask of our country, fits with Lieberman's disinterest in having the country we tell ourselves we're helping on our side. Ten more years of shooting up innocent families at weddings, on the streets, in their cars and in their homes will likely draw us into many more decades of war, and that McCain thinks this war is self justifying if not actually morally or functionally satisfying is not beyond conjecture. Another ten years, another 3, 4, 5 trillion dollars and who knows how many more dead: economic and moral collapse -- that should make the country crazy and enough to elect another Republican.

Pretty clever, and to think I thought McCain was an idiot.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Why I hate the World Cup

For the same reason I dislike the Olympics, of course and I dislike the Olympics for the same reasons I dislike McDonalds and Coca Cola and Nike and all the other rapacious multinational corporations that milk humanity like a herd of cattle while pretending it's a noble endeavour. Hosting this event costs huge amounts of money and it doesn't necessarily repay the investment, at least not to those out of whose hide it comes. With the hordes of foreign visitors being herded away from local vendors selling local food and African products; with long-time venues for those vendors being reserved for large, foreign sponsors, McDonalds and Coke will get the lion's share and the locals will have to forage like jackals for the leavings.

Will South Africa be a better place for South Africans after the noise stops and the clean-up begins? Does history hinge on whether or not a bunch of ball kickers from the Netherlands beat their counterparts from Uruguay and will international relations be more peaceful or tolerant because of anything that happens here? Will any of it matter ten minutes after it's all over? I have a hard time believing that the health or the wealth or the education of South Africans will see a benefit commensurate with all the noise and expense. Even the infernal Vuvuzelas are made in China.

It's true, I have little taste for watching men running around kicking things or for the feral screams of crazed viewers blowing into noisemakers as though anything happening in the arena was of any consequence whatever unless it was to the already huge profits of Nike or the sellers of beer and cigarettes -- or plastic horns. I have a greater distaste for the mass purveyors of opiates, even the real and quiet ones.

Panis et circenses, bread and circuses; it's a tried and true way to calm the animals in the feed lots and holding pens; to pacify the proletarii and the slaves while the emperors and the senators grew fatter. Gooooooooooooooal!