Friday, December 28, 2012

Dawn or Dusk in America?

I wish I felt more optimistic as I watch the dawn of a new year unfold. Unfortunately, as the “Whew” factor many of us felt after Obama won reelection fades, we’re faced once again with the overarching reality of our present condition — rather than a “dawn,” we’re watching the sun setting on a once great democracy.

A short quote from an upcoming interview with Matt Damon in Playboy brought me back to reality. He says, “It’s easier now more than ever in my life to feel the fix is in, the game is rigged and no matter how hard you work to change things, it just doesn’t matter.” Not an earthshattering insight, but it nonetheless drives home the fundamental state of our nation. Corporate interests — Wall Street, the Fortune 500, defense contractors, gas and oil companies — drive national policy through their many tentacles wrapped around Washington, D.C., and their primary interest is not with the welfare of American citizens or even with the health of our economy, but with profit.

Like others, I was caught up in the moment of Obama’s recent victory, thinking that the good guys had won and they were gonna ride into town, clean out the riff-raff and save democracy, but I came down from that acid trip pretty quickly. The “fiscal cliff” lunacy looms over us, but that’s only one symptom of a serious illness that has infected the body politic in America. Our government is a corporate subsidiary. Forget the quotes of Washington or Jefferson or Lincoln. The only quote that continues to carry any weight, and the one quote that should be chiseled into the monuments and porticos of D.C. is from Charles Erwin Wilson, Secretary of Defense under Eisenhower and CEO of General Motors in the 1950s, who said, “What’s good for GE is good for America.” This is the mindset that is dragging this country down to its knees.

Change? It’s not in the cards, at least, not in the near future. What kind of a country have we become when the Occupy Movement, last year’s minor blip of protest against the current political machine, was treated as a domestic terrorist group by the FBI? In today’s world, simply protesting the status quo can get you lumped together with those organizations that would blow up planes or perpetrate suicide attacks. Our phone conversations and Internet usage are monitored, our movements tracked, our privacy stolen.

Americans are complacent and deluded, and it will take a much larger shock to the system than even the 2008 financial crisis to shake them out of their trance. If nothing significant changes in Washington, D.C., and there’s no reason to believe it will, that catastrophe will happen. The only questions is; will it be too late? 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

George Will: The Eloquent Buffoon

Conservative columnist George Will cracks me up. Here’s a guy with the vocabulary of an English Professor, but the mental capacity of a chimpanzee (apologies to chimps everywhere). He’s a gold-plated Timex. A Neanderthal in a tuxedo. In a recent editorial, he argued that low voter turnout in U.S. elections was actually a good thing and no one should be concerned about it, especially not our intrusive, bumbling government, which could one day mandate voting.

He uses high-point Scrabble words and a quote about Carl Sandburg to argue that one of the pillars of a true democracy, citizens voting in elections, just isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and people who are apathetic, people with “weak motivation,” shouldn’t be voting anyway. And of course, he drags in the Nazis. He seriously argues that high voter turnout is not necessarily a good thing because the Nazis won elections in Germany with high voter turnout.

Let’s start with the fact that 60 million adult citizens in America are not even registered to vote. Then consider that in the 2012 presidential election, only 57.5% of registered voters turned out at the polls. Do the arithmetic and it means that 94 million eligible Americans did not cast ballots for the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet. Ninety-four million. And to George Will, this isn’t an issue.

Well, gosh. I certainly ain’t as smart as Mr. Will, but it just doesn’t make any sense to say that low voter turnout is a good thing in a democracy. Unless you’re a Republican. Traditionally, the lower the voter turnout in an election, the better Republicans do. George Will wouldn’t possibly be arguing that up is down and black is white simply because he’s a card-carrying Republican, would he? He wouldn’t be trying to enchant us by wrapping a partisan, undemocratic turd of an idea in satiny words, would he?

Maybe we should just do away with elections altogether or — and this is probably an idea that Will would embrace — we only allow citizens of a certain high net worth cast ballots for our leaders. George Will could make even that idea sound good.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Maybe the world did end

Best headline of the day: NFL Star Offers Kids Financial Advice. Mmm. Who on the planet would I never, ever want to take financial advice from? Bernie Madoff, John Boehner, my Uncle Al, and…any professional athlete. Maybe the world did end and I’m living in a parallel universe. If I see the headline, Rush Limbaugh To Teach Logic and Critical Thinking at Harvard, I will know the Mayans were right.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Goodbye everybody

Well, it’s been a busy last day. I quit my job, closed out my bank accounts, maxed out my credit cards, sent goodbye emails to all of my loved ones, made my ascension clothes out of an old bathrobe, and I’m writing this from a mountaintop near Sedona, Arizona. I will ring in the apocalypse with finger symbols and generous quantities of scotch. My only source of concern is that I don’t know which direction to face. I don’t want the end of the world to happen behind me. There are several people up here with me, all obviously tripping on acid.

I’ve been chanting and drinking all night. Sun’s just now starting to come up.

A lot of people told me I was crazy, but

Monday, December 17, 2012

Will We Finally Come to Our Senses on Gun Control?

As you would expect, there has been no shortage of insensitive, offensive and downright ridiculous statements from conservative pundits regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Anyone who says that those children died because there wasn’t a Bible in the classroom or a cross hanging on the wall should be involuntarily committed. However, the most Orwellian war-is-peace claim is one we’ve heard before after tragedies like this; if teachers had guns, the murderer could have been stopped sooner.

More guns would have helped. Right. On the surface this is a genuinely illogical argument. But let’s go just a step deeper. Police carry guns, but they also have extensive training in how to use these weapons, and perhaps more importantly, they have training and experience in how to react in stressful situations. Showing a teacher where the safety is and how to aim a weapon is only one part of the equation. Are they also going to go through training on how to react in the event someone enters their classroom and begins shooting? Will they be confident and calm enough to NOT start spraying the room with bullets? Expecting teachers to act rationally and with restraint in an irrational, highly emotional, life and death situation is a fantasy.

More guns in the hands of more people is absolutely not the answer. And I am guardedly optimistic that the horror of Sandy Hook may actually motivate our leaders to start implementing some common sense gun laws in this country. We are, unfortunately, a violent country when compared to other first world nations. We need to do a far better job of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Just one related note. On the same day that Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults in Connecticut, a man in China attacked school children with a knife. There were 23 injuries, but no deaths. The Chinese children will be scarred for life, both mentally and physically, but they are still here to grow up, have families, find rewarding careers and live long lives. The 20 Sandy Hook children are gone forever because instead of a knife, Adam Lanza had a gun. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Criminal Side of Political Correctness

Two years ago, someone held up a bank in Sterling, Virginia wearing a Hillary Clinton mask. Yesterday, the same branch was robbed by a person wearing a Mitt Romney mask. As a precautionary measure, bank employees have been given photos of all known national third party candidates and Ralph Nader. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Too big to fail. Too big to prosecute. Too big for justice.

British-based HSBC, the largest bank on the planet, laundered billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and sanctioned governments like Iran. But no one will go to jail. Instead they have been ordered to pay a fine. Granted, the fine is $1.92 billion, but for an institution that has assets of $2.5 trillion and yearly profits of $22 billion, it’s a write off.

U.S. prosecutors decided that actually punishing the white-collar criminals who oversaw these illegal transactions would ruin the bank’s reputation and destabilize world economic markets. So the British and U.S. executives at HSBC who took part in this criminal enterprise get to stay in their mansions, keep their Rolls Royces and sleep in their satin sheets.

If I go out on the street today and get caught selling an ounce of coke, I would face a mandatory minimum 5- to 20-year jail term, with a possible maximum term of life imprisonment.

I’m too little to win.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Republicans have created a monster

Writing in the Huffington Post today, Bob Cesca makes a good post-election point in his blog. Republicans have spent the past thirty years creating the fear ridden, fact denying, corporate shilling, religiously fanatical, conspiracy loving, racist, homophobic base, and now, like Dr. Frankenstein, they are faced with the reality that they created a monster that cannot simply be ignored or traded in on a new model.

What you sow, so shall you reap, says the Bible, and Republicans are learning that what they have reaped from their efforts is a fanatical and uncompromising core of voters who in no way represent the views of the majority of Americans. The dilemma is if they stick with their monster, they will never generate enough votes at the national level to win the presidency, but if they turn toward the center, they will alienate their valuable cadre of blindly obedient foot soldiers as well as the billionaire corporate ghouls who fund the whole shebang.

It will be interesting to see in which direction the Republican party goes in the next few years, and how the Democrats respond. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A High-Five for Washington State

California in general, and San Francisco in particular, are about to lose their cult status among Conservatives as the Mecca of liberal madness as Washington state decriminalizes the possession of marijuana and legalizes same-sex marriages. Wow. Bill O’Reilly is going to bleed out his ears over this. Glenn Beck will need a blackboard the size of a tractor trailer to connect all of the evil dots inherent in this master plot to overthrow his Father Knows Best hallucinations about America.
            As many of us have noted for years, most politicians and the U.S. Government in general are way behind the curve on both of these issues. The war on drugs has been a violent, money-sucking, crime inducing failure from the moment the words were first uttered by Nixon in the seventies. This futile fire has been stoked by a wide array of people and institutions that have no interest in the logic of the policy itself: politicians afraid of looking weak on crime, police departments who take in millions from confiscating money and property from the accused, the prison industry, the wine and beer industries, and the military. Finally, finally, after nearly 40 years of this lunacy, the people are starting to be heard, and despite the bluster from the feds, this is a ship that is simply too big to be turned around.
            This is equally true of same-sex marriage. The incoherent arguments of the Religious Right have lost even their entertainment value as people realize the simple truth that love cannot be confined in archaic parameters imposed by the few on the many.
            I came of age in the 1960s and it was a tumultuous and eventful era full of progress, but I would argue that those of us alive at this moment in time are in the midst of an equally momentous time as we experience the slow and painful demise of the white patriarchal cultural hegemony and enter a new period of progress, equality and acceptance.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

North Korea, unicorns and the free market

Many people are surprised to learn that blogging is not my main source of income. Although I could certainly live comfortably from my earnings as a nationally beloved political pundit, it is an unfortunate reality that writing will never be as lucrative as my primary business: smuggling unicorn horns out of North Korea for an Armenian revolutionary group.

Called a criminal organization by the U.N., I’ve found the members of the Armenian Socialist syndicate (A.S.S.) to be ethical, hardworking businesspeople who happen to work in an environment where carrying weapons is an unfortunate necessity. They were early entrants into the unicorn horn market in the late 1990s, initially promoting it as an additive in commercial glittery and sparkly products and a value-added ingredient for cutting heroin. After several years of research and development, they created a family of sex toys from the horns that became extremely popular among the wives and mistresses of top Chinese officials, and that has been A.S.S.s bread and butter product line ever since.

My work necessitates spending a lot of time in North Korea, particularly in Pyongyang where the “unicorn lair” was recently rediscovered by North Korean researchers. When I use the word “smuggling,” people tend to assume that my work is done behind the back of the government, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve gotten to know the young leader of the country Kim Jong Eun quite well, and when I arrive in the capital city in our Boeing C-17A Globemaster III filled to capacity with missile parts and pastries, we are greeted as dignitaries.

There are those in the international community who are trying to ban the sale of unicorn horns, claiming that the unicorn is a rare and priceless animal that is close to extinction. To these people, I say pshaw. The harvesting of unicorn horns is done under the strictest of international animal safety laws with ultra-hygienic saws and pliers. North Koreans treasure their unicorns and raise them on a strict diet of four-leaf clovers, fairy dust and ground peasants. And, according to officials in the Unicorn Division of the Institute of Propaganda, cutting out a unicorn horn from the animal’s head is completely painless, and unicorns grow back their horns in the same way a lizard can grow back a tail.

Even though my business dealings may not please everyone, and I am unable to travel to many countries for fear of arrest, I am a proud capitalist, entrepreneur and spreader of magical, glittery love sprinkles. Regulations being considered by the international community to protect the unicorn are nothing more than thinly veiled attempts to stifle the free market and handcuff the economic risk takers of the world. Stand with me. Don’t let them turn the unicorn into a mythical creature seen only by the North Korean elites, eight year-old girls and people on hallucinogenic drugs.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

It’s the end of the world as we know it….

So the world is ending in about two weeks. Regrets? I’ve had a few…but I did it my way. At least I don’t have to worry about Christmas shopping. The question is, how should I spend my remaining time on earth? I’ve got about 14 days to accomplish the things that I’ve been too lazy or incompetent to achieve over the past five decades. I have thought about it, and here is my list of “Must Dos” before I’m incinerated in an earth-sized fireball or whatever it is the Mayans said about the end. I know my aim is high, and my goals may seem impossible, but hey, I’m going to give it my best shot.

  1. Make the Nazi zombie beach party porn musical film I’ve got in my head
  2. Wiggle my nose like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched
  3. Buy something advertised on a television infomercial
  4. Twist Rush Limbaugh’s ear until he apologizes for every breath he’s ever taken
  5. Dance naked Gangnam style through the Mall of America
  6. Become an Iron Chef
  7. Give Al Pacino a noogie
  8. Find Waldo
  9. Learn to speak Urdu
  10. Increase the fiber in my diet