Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let them get chauffeurs

Considering the constant need for scapegoats required by political movements today; in this time when the traditional bigotries are less effective then they were in the days of minstrel shows and segregated lunch counters, it's not surprising to see article after article telling us just how bad for everyone (everyone of course means Randian Rangers) it is to  allow  older people to survive past the end of wage earning, what with how much it costs us real working-folk (and parasitic political journalists) to maintain that surplus population.  After all, back in the dog eat god golden age, people knew their place and had the decency to die in their 50's and 60's after a few years of abject poverty and disease - like God and the Conservatives intended.  Too old to work?  Die Grandpa, die.

We are asked by Liberals ( and how we hate Liberals) to tolerate the strain of civilized values on the economy these days, and those values require constant inflow to the Medicare and Social Security systems, but of course it's rarely mentioned that today's recipients have been paying into those funds for their entire working lives and that future recipients are building credit for themselves as well as supporting current recipients. In fact that's how private insurance plans work too but at a higher cost.  

But I've talked this to death and my rant today has more to do with the more important things in life -- like cars and driving.  David Frum writes in Newsweek today that "old people" once again are jeopardizing the prosperity and safety of the eternally and righteously young and -- if we allow it  -- they are going to bankrupt our country -- because after all, that undefined category of drivers: the elderly, has more accidents than anyone but teenagers.  It's hard, of course to argue that teenagers are going to bankrupt us in that way, but really, the most common tool of douchebag Republican flim-flam artists like Frum is to create categories and attribute the proposed characteristics to all individuals in that group.  Of course by bankrupting the economy, Frum really means his insurance rates might go up - you know just how his health insurance rates are so high because so many people have to resort to the most expensive health care: the emergency room.

In the interests of glasnost, I have to mention that I'm old, but with 20/20 vision, unimpaired senses and reflexes; with decades of  accident free driving, on and off of race tracks and in high performance cars, I have to weigh a million miles and 50 years of experience in rain, snow, sleet and dark of night against the skills of  chubby cheeked Dave, whom I'm willing to bet would soil himself  in circumstances I've safely dealt with since before he was born.  SUV drivers have a higher accident rate, so do those who like to talk or smoke while driving. Frum is silent about those ad hoc groups.   Could it be that this really isn't about economics or about safety on the road?

But we have to get them off the road, says the Frumster. We have to cut them all off from society and relegate them to dependency and poverty because, this isn't actually about cars or safety, it's about shirking responsibility, about increasing economic disparity - the foundation of modern Conservatism. It's about promoting poverty and suffering so that the elect can live better while their parents are put out on ice-flows to die where we don't have to see or pay.  Don't weed out bad drivers, let's disenfranchise millions of good ones and justify it with fallacious arguments.

Why not simply require vision and driving tests for those over a certain age?  (perhaps 16 for New York drivers) That way guys like Paul Newman and me can continue to race cars into their octogenarian decade and the incurable menaces of all ages -- the cellphone addicts, the people who stop on tollway entrance ramps and slow down for green lights -- the incurably confused  -- can be put into oil drums and sunk to the bottom of the Marianas trench along with David Frum.  Why not argue for decent public transportation like they have in decent countries so that perhaps I could actually get somewhere without driving?  What are you -- a tax and spend socialist?  Let them get chauffeurs!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Obey in the name of freedom!

"[It] is quite unlawful to demand, defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing or worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man."

-Pope Leo XIII-

Face it, we live in a country in which the KKK can adopt "We shall overcome" as a song about their own struggle for freedom, where the unrepentant South can pretend that their secession was about protecting  freedom -- and where only a 'genetically inferior Liberal,' as Allen West, Republican candidate for Congress in my district calls me, would mention anything like irony.

So really, I shouldn't be surprised to read in the local paper that the Roman Catholic churches of the Florida's Treasure Coast are hosting a "Fortnight for Freedom," in a pathetic attempt to avoid having to comply with the demand that in return for the tax exempt status they consider their due, they treat secular employees in the way that other employers must do. Perhaps the hope is that while a major political party, fond of asserting nearly absolute personal freedom can get away with saying "Take your government hands off my Medicare," they can get away with campaigning against reproductive rights, the equality of civil rights and other guarantees of a secular Democracy.

Forgive my recurrent mention of irony and my  ridicule of organizations that promote freedom only when it suits the need to maintain authority, but if there is one single organization that has campaigned against religious and even secular freedom longer than any other in the Western world, it is the Roman Catholic Church, and please remember that heresy is just another word for religious freedom. We've had nearly 2000 years of genocide, repression, torture, war and the most grizzly executions imaginable resulting from claims to divine authority.  A decent respect to the opinions of mankind, as Jefferson wrote in 1776, seems always to have been at odds with the peremptory proclamations of  God's enforcers, and the idea that we the people have an innate and inalienable right to liberty and  pursuit of happiness that owes nothing to the demands of priests, preachers and shamans is clearly anathema to the Catholic Churches of the Treasure Coast, much to their shame.

The fact is that nearly all American Catholics ignore the ban on birth control that is based on a rather flimsy interpretation of  what their God(s) said to a man who never existed in a time long before birth control was an option.  This embarrassing little attempt has little support amongst anyone but churchmen (Church women have no vote and are sworn to obedience anyway) and it certainly has nothing to do with our freedom.  I hope that some people, even in this stupefyingly religious and resoundingly Republican part of the country, will see through it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Upside Down

Remember when the word bitch referred to a female dog or colloquially, to a female human who wasn't very nice?  Remember when it was a one syllable word?

Today it seems odd to apply the calumny only to a female.  To many it conjures up a sexually submissive prison inmate and it seems odder to pronounce it without the usually grotesque attempt to mimic the grossest racially stereotypical dialect. 

It's as though our popular culture, while avoiding proscribed words, none the less has become a racist minstrel show with white people in baggy pants, backwards hats and thousand dollar shoes, calling  each other "ho."  Hispanics covered head to foot with gang tattoos and young, black men with oversized, beltless pants all striving to illustrate the basic shiftlessness, ignorance and propensity to steal  so dear to the heart of racists everywhere.  How far have we come from "I am a man" to "I am a bee-otch."  Do young people still dream of being able to say "I am a doctor, I am an engineer, I am a professor, I am a poet, I am a president?"  Or is it all about conformist, commercial self expression through self mutilation and degradation? 

Am I old fashioned or clueless when I cringe at the echoes of "whasssuuuuuup beee-otch" in places filled with white teenagers?  Sure, the trend across the entire ethnic spectrum of  our "culture" is to dress like a bum, talk like a jailbird and make fun of  'da soots' but I can't think of a nation that has had a desirable outcome to such a cultural inversion. China's Cultural Revolution comes to mind and I can't help wondering how the ever immaculately dressed Dr. King might feel about his sacrifice if he were here to see this confirmation of the idea that a black man's place is in jail or at some level far below dignity and respectability.

Of course it's probably only one facet of America's infatuation with the low-life and contempt for civilization and its values. Anyone not part of the beggars opera must think he's better than the rest of us, after all and God knows, the rest of us are all about beer, dope, payday loans, unemployment and parole officers -- bee otch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


There's an old and tired joke about a patient being given a Rorschach test.  To every ink blot, he replies with some sexual reference and when the psychiatrist suggests that perhaps the man has a problem, the irate patient replies, " hey, you're the one showing me the dirty pictures!"

When I saw the image of German shoe manufacturer Adidas' latest effort at teen exploitation; a shoe featuring a plastic shackle attaching the shoe to the ankle, the last thing I thought of was slavery and the first thing I thought of was the 'jailbird chic' culture that has our young and would-be young folks pretending to the lofty cultural and social status of convict.  In fact I had to smile a bit since a gang of tragically hip home burglars was finally apprehended in my neighborhood after having performed over 50 burglaries in the last year -- unable to run from police because of their fashionably laceless shoes and hugely oversized shorts which made it impossible to run and to hold the pillowcases of loot and their pants at the same time.  At least they were properly attired for the next stage of their careers.

Slavery was however, the first thing some thought about. The Rev. Jesse Jackson expressed his own outrage yesterday:

"The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive,"

The idea that racists would wear such things on their own feet, or worse, would force reluctant black teens to wear expensive shoes in shame seems far-fetched enough to suggest that life for some people is a continuous Rorschach test where every blot looks the same; where the shackled briefcases you might see in the financial district, being accompanied by a Brinks guard or two can only remind us of the anti-bellum South.

Of course  it's all too fashionable to get neck and face tattoos and affect the garb and gaudy patter of convicts and ex-convicts and soon-to-be convicts  -- as though the human degradation of our exploding prison system, choked as it disproportionately is with minorities, wasn't also offensive but it's self inflicted, self perpetuated and popular and has been for a long time.   Addidas, it seems to me, is trying like everyone else to cash in on fashion, exploit extant popular culture and is not commercializing or popularizing a longing for slavery as much as trying to make a buck out of being outrageous in already outrageous times.