Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The government lies about everything...except 9/11

There’s an article in today’s Huffington Post that features a video of a lecture given by the legendary linguist Noam Chomsky. For some reason, during the question & answer period, someone asked him about 9/11. He then went on a tear denigrating 9/11 truthers and stating that there is absolutely no evidence the Bush administration was involved. The money quote from the article was, "There happen to be a lot of people around who spent an hour on the Internet and think they know a lot of physics," he added, "but it doesn't work like that ... There's a reason there are graduate schools in these departments."

Funny thing is, Chomsky isn’t a physicist either. He doesn’t know anymore about the science or physics of what happened on 9/11 than I do. He is merely picking one group of physicists and engineers to believe over another. I wrote this in the comments section of the article. What was disturbing to me was the level of anger and vehemence you find from so many who believe 9/11 happened just the way the commission said it did. There was name calling and ad homonym attacks and ridicule. And I also find it interesting that so many lefties, people who distrust the government on so many levels, want to believe that everything happened just as the government said it did.

The corporate media has done a very good job of demonizing and marginalizing those who oppose the government’s 9/11 position.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Car hacking: The next big scandal?

Journalist Michael Hastings, who had written a scathing critique of General Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone, died this past June in a car accident in LA. His car hit a tree at high speed and caught fire. There are plenty of sources on the Internet where you can find out more details about this, but there are some who suspect that the computer in Hastings’ car was hacked and that someone other than Hastings was controlling the speed and trajectory of the car.

This got me thinking. What if the NSA and CIA were working with car manufacturers the same way they are working with telecomm companies, and incorporating code into automobile computers that only they can activate? So if they wanted to, they could track your vehicle, listen to conversations in the car, take over the cars controls or deactivate it completely.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps, but after the Snowden leaks, would you put anything past these people?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Walmart. Always the lowest wages.

A Walmart in Ohio has set up donation boxes in its break room soliciting food gifts for, wait for it…Walmart employees. That’s right. The retail Goliath brought in $15.7 billion in profits last year, yet it can’t pay employees enough to feed themselves.

What’s interesting is how management at the store apparently doesn’t see the sad irony. If you were paying your workers a livable wage, donations wouldn’t be necessary. Once again, it is glaring glimpse of how oblivious the haves are about the plight of the have-nots. Republicans at the state and national levels consistently oppose raising the minimum wage based on bogus talking points supplied to them by industry lobbyists.

Merry Christmas, Walmart employees. Here’s a can of cranberry sauce.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Everyday People: A Short Story

The pale, middle-aged woman couldn’t have looked more out of place shuffling down the narrow labyrinth of palm-tree shaded boardwalks that connected the beachfront hotel’s luxury villas. From the knitted grey vest to the taupe wingtip oxford shoes to the red floral scarf pulled over her head, the woman looked like a Hollywood extra who had stepped out of a gritty Cold War drama into a 60s beach movie. The Cat Eye sunglasses finished the ensemble and she adjusted them on the bridge of her nose as she stepped down into the white sand leading to the ocean.
Rolled up bills vacuumed lines of coke off the glass tabletop in a whooshing breath. Photographer Eischi and his assistant Paulo alternately rubbed their noses and rolled their eyes as they endured fashion model Kendra Solano’s rant from the bedroom as she changed into her next bikini. The fan was too noisy and the fit of the suit was all wrong, and her high-pitched whine pierced the thin walls of the tropical villa like an overheated dentist’s drill. She soon emerged from a back room of the cabin pulling a bathrobe tie around her waist. She plopped into a high-back wicker chair where a make-up artist began touching up the flawless face that rested above the scientifically plumped up cleavage and air-brushed curves that mocked Midwestern housewives and drew sideway glances from their husbands in grocery store check-out lines. Model of the Year, Sexiest Woman Alive, the face and bust that launched a thousand products, Kendra was the most desired and despised woman on the planet.
            “Tom, get me a diet coke. I feel like I’m sucking on a cotton ball.” Her overly tanned and tattooed boyfriend Tom put down his iPad and obediently fetched the drink from the kitchen. “Eischi, I’m practically falling out of this suit just sitting here doing nothing. Does it have to be this damn small?”
            “If we were shooting in a suburban kitchen for Good Housekeeping, no. However, we’re in Bora Bora shooting for Maxim, so yes, Dear, it does. Darken her eyes. I want a panther look.”
            Outside, Eischi prepped a beach location and soon Kendra made her entrance, throwing off her bathrobe to the cheers of a dozen onlookers standing in a roped off area nearby. As Eischi barked directions, the voluptuous, golden-skinned beauty barely contained in a tiny black suit leaned, pouted, arched and flirted with the camera as the bright Polynesian sun backlit the paradise around her.
            As shadows lengthened and energy ebbed, Eischi called it a day and he and Paulo began packing up equipment. Kendra donned her bathrobe and sauntered back through the sand to her luxury cabin, ignoring the thin applause from a small group of oglers still in attendance. As the sun dipped below the low verdant hills west of the resort, Kendra sat in a wicker chair holding a glass of wine and critiqued the day’s work on her iPad.
            “I look like a greased sow,” she complained.
            “You’re the sexiest greased sow I’ve ever seen,” said Tom, handing her a glass pipe. She took a long draw and laid her head back, hoping that when her eyes returned to the slide show she would look more appealing. Neither the pot nor the momentary distraction helped.
            “The suit is just too Goddamn small. It makes me look beefy.”
            “We’re on a barnyard theme tonight. It’s Maxim, Babe. There will be millions of men around the world—”
            “Stop. I don’t want to hear about it.”
            “Christ. You’ve been a grouchy little bitch since we got here. What the hell?” asked Tom, flopping down on a nearby sofa.
            “I didn’t realize Eischi took shots of me walking back here,” she said, ignoring him, which he was used to.
            “Probably for the creep’s personal stash. Why?”
            She shook her head as if wondering whether to say what was on her mind aloud. “This woman standing here. I swear I’ve seen her before somewhere.”
            Wearily, Tom got up and sat next to Kendra. “Her?” he asked pointing to a drab middle-aged woman wearing a scarf and sunglasses. “Looks like a sexually frustrated housewife from Peoria on her once-in-a-lifetime cruise. Not one of your typical fans.”
            “That’s what makes her stand out.” She handed the pad to Tom. “Find the pics we kept of the Key West shoot. The one for Bacardi.”
            Tom’s fingers danced on the screen and soon he handed the pad to Kendra. “Here’s the file.”
            She progressed through the slideshow and then stopped, a triumphant grin spreading across her face. “There. I knew it. See?” Tom leaned in and squinted. “She’s standing next to that fat guy. Same scarf and glasses.”
            “Yeah. I see her.”
             “Don’t you think that’s creepy?”
            “Well…she just doesn’t look like someone who would travel halfway around the world to see you in a photo shoot. I know you have some crazy fans, but seeing her there and then here does seem a little weird.” He took the pad from Kendra. A few moments later, the two were scanning photos from a shoot earlier that year in Cancun. “Holy shit. There she is.”
            Kendra looked at the photo and then at Tom. “What the fuck? Do you think she’s a stalker?”
            “Her?” he laughed. “She doesn’t look like she could hurt a fly.”
            “Neither did Hannibal Lector.”
            “You know he’s not real.”
            “Then why is she following me all over the world?” Kendra drained her glass of wine. “She is following me. That’s clear.”
            Tom stood up and filled her glass with chardonnay. “Every celebrity has a stalker or two. I’m surprised there haven’t been more. Don’t let her get under your skin. She’s just an admirer who has more money and time than she knows what to do with. Maybe she’s gay and has a thing for you.”
            “You really know how to comfort a girl.” She set the pad face down on the table. “I guess I feel sorry for her if her life revolves around following me everywhere I go. That’s just sad.”
            “Really? I do the same thing.”
            “Mmm. I need to get more sleep. Do you think I have bags under my eyes?”
            Tom walked over to Kendra and examined her eyes. “They look fine to me. You really do have to work hard to find something to complain about. Don’t you?”
             “Get me another glass of wine. Please?”
            Tom obeyed. How could he not? What’s a damaged ego compared to traveling the world with the hottest, sexiest woman on the planet? A long forgotten male model without a high school diploma and no other saleable skills had only so many options. This was as good as it gets. He could tell that Kendra was obsessing on the woman in the photo even if she seemed to have moved on to other topics as members of her personal entourage came and went throughout the evening. He’d been with her long enough to read the signs. Smiles faded quickly, words were clipped and her overall tolerance level had declined several notches. And she was drinking more than usual, although he knew better than to make an issue of that. A steady stream of partiers came and fawned over her into the late morning hours; a cavalcade of manufactured exuberance, pretension and barely veiled contempt. In other words, a typical night for Kendra.
            “Should we turn in?” asked Tom after he’d escorted the last woozy hanger’s on out the door around three a.m. “We start early….”
            “I want a cigarette, Tom.”
            The smile evaporated. “Kendra…”
            “Don’t lecture me. Not tonight. Just get me a goddamn cigarette.”
            This was a bad sign, he noted as he went into the bedroom. Cigarette’s only came out during times of extreme duress, like the day her mother went on a morning talk show drunk or the weeks after her brother died. This was unusual. He set the pack and lighter on the table in front of her, and then sat in a chair nearby. She lit a cigarette and exhaled slowly.
            “What’s going on?” he asked as she stared off into the dark evening.
            “Nothing. Just let me enjoy my cigarette.”
            She was gorgeous cast against the hazy moonlight, blue smoke curling up around her face like small adoring spirits. Her silhouette reminded the long-time film buff of stills from movies featuring a young Katharine Hepburn or Grace Kelly. Kendra had timeless features that defied generations of cultural identifiers of beauty and went back deep in time. The momentary lapse ended abruptly.
            “I have to go puke,” she announced and staggered down the hallway to the bathroom. Concerned about her edgy behavior, he broke a six-week smokeless stint and pulled a cigarette out of the pack.
            The next morning Kendra arrived at the shoot blurry-eyed and hung over. They were working in front of a thatched shack that Eischi felt conveyed both the influence of colonial oppression on indigenous peoples and the essence of self-sufficiency found in local tribal culture, and Tom had to literally dress his girl in the halter-top and vibrant sundress required for the shoot. The first half-hour went smoothly, with Eischi shrieking orders interspaced with Latvian curses and Kendra reacting instinctively as she always had. At one point, Kendra abruptly stopped the shoot and walked stiffly through the sand to Tom.
            “There she is,” said Kendra, without indicating where “there” was.
            “What? Who?”
            “The woman,” she hissed. “The one in all those other photos. She’s here.”
            Tom leaned around Kendra and looked toward the small crowd of onlookers pressed up against the yellow tape. “Actually, I don’t see her.”
            Kendra stomped. “She was there. I saw her.”
            “Is there a problem?” asked Eischi, eyelids fluttering.
            “No,” called Tom. “Just a minute, please.” He turned back to Kendra. “Listen, I’ll keep an eye out for her, and if she’s there, I’ll…talk to her. Okay?”
            “Yes. Now go back before Eischi starts hyperventilating.”
            The photo shoot continued, but Kendra couldn’t relax. Tom could see her scanning the crowd of onlookers every few minutes. Eischi grew frustrated and ended the session early.
            Hair pinned up on her head like a tornado survivor and wearing only a frayed bathrobe, Kendra started her second bottle of chardonnay.
            Working on dinner in the kitchen, Tom took a break and joined Kendra in the living room.
            “What is it, baby? Why are you drinking so much?”
            “Never mind how much I’m drinking. You’re not here to scold me like a parent.”
            “Then why am I here?”
            She ignored the question. “I want that woman arrested as a stalker.”
            “Jesus,” said Tom standing. “Why are you obsessing on this woman? All she’s guilty of is standing and watching the beautiful Kendra get photographed.”
            “I don’t want her to watch me. She’s too old and ugly and plain to watch me. It’s just weird. She’s weird.”
            “You’re too drunk to reason with.”
            “Screw you, Mr. Perfect.”
            Dinner will be ready in ten minutes,” he said, turning his back on Kendra and walking to the kitchen.
            The night was starry with a large low moon that covered the island in a bluish blanket of light. Her head throbbing, mouth dry, Kendra sat on the edge of the bed working up the energy to make it to the kitchen for a handful of ibuprofen. She made the journey without any major mishaps and washed downed several pills. Glass in hand she found her way back to the bedroom. Halfway across the room something caught her eye and she glanced to her right toward the large sliding glass doors leading the to deck. The black, motionless silhouette of a figure stood in front of a door. Kendra screamed loudly and dropped the glass to the tiled floor where it shattered. Tom’s bedside light snapped on and he jumped to his feet.
            “What? What is it?”
            “She’s out there,” yelled Kendra, pointing to the door. Tom started running toward the door but was caught up short when he stepped on a glass shard. “Shit,” he shouted, hopping on one foot. “Why didn’t you tell me there was glass on the floor?”
            “Stop fucking around and get out there,” she demanded.
            Cursing, Tom hobbled to the doors and flicked on the outside light, revealing nothing but several plastic chairs and a potted palm. He opened the door and stepped out on the deck, scanning the vicinity.
            “There’s no one here,” he called out angrily.
            “She was there. I saw her.”
            “Right,” he said through clenched teeth.
            Kendra cleaned up the broken glass while Tom bandaged his foot, neither saying a word about the incident until they were both lying in bed again.
            “I saw her, Tom. She was standing on the deck looking in.”
            “Good night,” Tom responded and flipped off his light.
            This was the last day of the Bora Bora shoot, and it was going horribly. Kendra was tired, hung over and short with everyone. Eischi ranted and rolled his eyes like a broken slot machine, taking out his frustration on Paolo. His right foot bandaged and aching, Tom sat near the small crowd of onlookers, keeping his eye out for the woman in the scarf. The shoot lasted two hours before Kendra called it quits.
            “I have to stop,” she called out, picking up her bathrobe and putting it on.
            “What?” yelled Eischer. “We’ve got another half-hour of good light. We can’t stop now.”
            “Yes we can,” shot back Kendra. “Tom could you bring me my flip flops?”
            Agitated, Eischi approached Kendra, kicking sand as he went. He lowered his voice only loud enough for her to hear. “Listen, you little…, I don’t have all the shots I need for the spread. Do you understand me? If I don’t come back with the photos they need, I will lose this very lucrative account. Take your robe off and let me finish.”
            Kendra pulled her sunglasses down her nose. “You can shoot my ass, and kiss it too, as I walk back to my room.” She turned and trod through the sand to Tom, who shrugged his shoulders in Eischi’s direction.
            “I’m going to get you kicked off this account. Do you hear me?” Eischi angrily kicked sand in her direction.
            “Kendra,” pleaded Tom as they walked the path back to the hotel. “This isn’t a good idea. Eischi’s an idiot, but he has a lot of pull and—“
            “Stop. Okay? Just stop. Did you see her?”
            Tom looked confused at the abrupt change of topic. “What?”
            “Did you see the woman with the scarf?”
            “No. I didn’t see her.”
            “Well I did. She was standing on a balcony at the hotel directly behind the shoot. She was watching me.”
            “Are you sure…?”
            “Of course I’m sure. I need to get out of here. She isn’t just some harmless fan.”
            “Why do you say that? You’ve never spoken one word to her.”
“I just know. Book us on the next flight to New York.”
Two days later Tom sat fidgeting in an uncomfortable leather chair in an outer office of Ford Models agency in Manhattan, cringing at the exchange of angry voices emanating from the president’s office. A door slammed and a fuming Kendra strode stiffly into the lobby choking her coat in one hand. Tom got up and followed out to the hallway.
“Kendra, stop. What happened?”
“I quit.”
“Babe, wait. You quit?”
She stopped at the elevators. “I quit. I know people in town. I’ll have another agency in 24 hours. These…assholes have no respect for me or how I’ve helped their pathetic little agency grow.
The west side building emptied out onto a busy 57th street, and the two made their way toward a taxi when Kendra stopped short. Her eyes were following someone in the crowd walking east. Before he could say anything, Kendra took off and was jostling through people along the sidewalk.
“Hey,” she called out. “Hey, you.”
Following her, Tom could now see what had caught her attention. A woman wearing a scarf just like the one worn by the fan in Bora Bora was walking away from them, with Kendra right on her heels. Kendra nearly knocked a man to the ground as she caught up with the woman, yelling all the way. As Tom followed her, he watched the woman turn around and face Kendra. It was an elderly African American woman with a shriveled apple face, none to happy to be accosted by a stranger on the street.
“What kind of drugs are you on, Girl?” she asked.
“I…I’m sorry. I thought you were somebody else,” explained the out of breath Kendra.
“You almost gave me a heart attack. What’s wrong with you?”
“Really, I am so sorry.” Tom reached her and gently slid his hand under the crook of her arm and guided her back toward the cab. She was trembling. “What’s wrong with me, Tom? I feel like my world has gone insane. That woman is almost all I can think about, and I don’t know why.” He helped her slide into the taxi seat and he followed her in.
“You just need some rest, Kendra. You’ve had a brutal schedule for months, and now you should take a little break.”
Over the next few weeks, Kendra’s mood grew darker and darker. Ford’s must have put out the word on her because she was not having any luck getting another agency. She stopped her daily workouts and runs, and was spending more days in her pajamas than dressed. Tom felt the distance between them growing and despite efforts to get her out for dinner or a show, she always declined. Like a cat warming itself, a great part of her day was sitting on a wide windowsill staring down at the street below. She lost interest in virtually everything, her work, sex, and even simple conversation.
            The money started to run low and Tom began considering his own future. On the one hand, he wanted to try and help Kendra, who was now neglecting even the most basic aspects of self-care, like showering, brushing teeth and washing her clothes, on the other, their relationship was never so much about love as it was about filling unmet needs in each others lives, but he felt that this was more than he had signed on for.
            “I’m not pretty anymore. Am I?” came out more like a lament than a question.
            “You’re as beautiful as you always were,” he lied.
            “No. Now I’m plain and boring just like all those people down there.”
            One day spilled over to the next until a morning where Tom sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee between his hands, working out the break up monologue in his head when Kendra’s body stiffened and she pressed a hand against the window.
            “There’s the bitch,” she snarled, and then jumped off the sill, ran into the kitchen where she pulled a carving knife from its wooden sheath, and scurried toward the door, barefoot, wearing only a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. As she ran out the front door toward the elevators, a stunned Tom went to the window and looked down. There indeed was the woman with the scarf and sunglasses standing in front of Barrett’s dry cleaners looking up at him with an odd and disturbing smile. Kendra was planning to kill her. He dashed out of the condo and jumped down four flights of stairs, finally pushing open the heavy glass door and stumbling out onto the busy street.
            He was in the midst of a crowd of New Yorkers moving by like currents in a river. He turned his head, frantically looking for Kendra in hopes of averting a disaster. Directly across the street was Barrett’s, but the woman was gone. Horns honked and drivers yelled as Tom rushed across the street like a running back picking his way through the defense. He stopped again in front of Barrett’s and scanned the crowds until he spotted the top of a woman’s head scarf about three-quarters of a block away. He frantically picked his way through the walkers until he was a few feet behind the woman.
            “Excuse me? Ma’am?” he called out, but her gait remained steady. “Ma’am? Kendra?”
            The woman stopped as if she’d just experienced an unpleasant thought, then, almost imperceptibly, shook her head, chasing away whatever dark cloud had passed over her. A truck horn startled Tom and he turned away for a second. When he looked back, he caught one last glimpse of the woman, her bag tucked securely under her arm, disappearing into the crowd of everyday people.

Shroud of darkness: The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

I don’t claim to have a very deep understanding of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a pretty good post that explains the problems with this international trade agreement (here). Like me, most Americans know next to nothing about TPP because the negotiations between the 12 Pacific Rim countries (including the U.S.) have been kept secret. It has only been through the release of documents by Wikileaks that we have some slight understanding of how damaging this agreement is.

Why does it have to be drafted in secret and then fast-tracked through Congress so there will be little to no debate on it? The answer to that is pretty obvious. It contains provisions that will anger and upset a whole lot of people. This is an agreement crafted by multinational corporations to benefit multinational corporations, with the blessings of Obama (whose presidential campaigns they helped pay for). It is clearly not in the best interests of American citizens. How do I know that? By their very nature, politicians are front and center when they support a policy that is popular with Americans. They want you to know they had a hand in it. Conversely, when a policy reeks of political slight-of-hand and the influence of special interests, the less we the public know the better.

What I do understand about TPP is that the influence of international corporate behemoths over American governmental policy is frightening. Disney, GE, Halliburton, Monsanto, Eli Lily, Microsoft, Dow Chemical and others now tell Washington what to do, not the other way around, as it should be. With the help of Citizens United, we now live under a corporatocracy, where the military/industrial/media complex calls the shots.

Hopefully, once word spreads about TPP, voices will be raised in the same way they were in the lead up to the proposed Syrian bombings. Our collective voices stopped that, and we need to stop TPP, too.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We’re under attack, dear citizen

Democracy itself is clearly under attack in America. Congressional Tea Party extremists are circumventing the will of the people who elected Obama to office twice by sabotaging the President’s agenda anywhere and everywhere they can. They cost us billions by shutting down the government and they are blocking Obama’s judicial appointments for no other reason than they can. As Elizabeth Warren says, congressional Republicans are working feverishly to nullify the results of the last two presidential elections.

Then there are the right-wing billionaires, most notably represented by the Koch brothers, who are buying national and local candidates and quietly pushing their “privatize everything” ideological agenda through state houses just below the radar, again undermining the desires of the American people.

Finally, as I wrote about yesterday, we have a deep state or secret government run by high-level military and government officials who rule over surveillance operations that are not only unaccountable to voters, but unaccountable to the politicians who are supposed to oversee them.

The question is simple, but the answer is complex: How do the American people get their government back? Perhaps it’s already too late. It may be that the Pandora’s Box of policies and programs ripe for abuse that Bush and Cheney opened after 9/11 cannot be closed. In 2016 when we vote for our next president, our choices will probably be the establishment’s Democrat Hillary Clinton against some rabid lunatic like Cruz or the slightly less crazy Christie. Regardless, the end result will be 1) things will continue pretty much as they are (bad), or 2) the Republican will win and our country’s collapse will be hastened (worse).

There have been more and more articles in recent years discussing the similarities between the rise of the Third Reich in Germany during the twenties and thirties and America’s situation at the beginning of the 21st century. Why didn’t the German citizens see what was happening and stop it? How could they stand by and watch as a madman ascended to power? How could they be so blind? For many converging reasons, I think the average German who opposed Hitler felt powerless in the same way that we who oppose our government’s actions feel powerless. There is no organized resistance party we can join to bring about change. The government won’t allow that. The goals and agendas of the opposition groups that do exist are far too diverse at this point for meaningful resistance. And too many people are still too financially comfortable to tip the balance in favor of real change.

So we write blogs and send letters to our representatives and grouse to friends and family, and all the while the drones keep killing and the NSA keeps listening and the rights we once believed we had as Americans keep disappearing. Our country is under attack while we continue sitting on our collective ass in a classroom listening to someone read My Pet Goat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The deep state and the death of democracy

Most progressive emags, blogs and news sources shy away from conspiracy theories such as 9/11, the JFK assassination and the like, and from their perspective, it makes sense. They’re already marginalized, and their credibility is important to their very survival, so delving into highly speculative and controversial “theories” could easily backfire and do more harm to their reputation than good.

There is one area that some might consider a conspiracy theory, however, that the progressive media has investigated and written about extensively, and that is the deep state (great in-depth article here). The deep state or shadow government consists of people we as citizens know very little about, yet who are the ones whose hands are actually on the controls of the surveillance state. This is a relatively small group of civilians and military personnel who work at the highest levels of the NSA, CIA, Department of Defense and other far less visible government organizations. They are the keepers of the secrets.

Sir Francis Bacon is attributed with coining the phase, “Knowledge is power.” This aphorism has never been so true as it is today. A small cabal of officials in Washington has the power to find out virtually anything about anyone, and that includes you, Mr. President, and you, Dianne Feinstein, and you, potential whistleblower. The deep state has the access to, and the control over, information that can ruin political careers, embarrass allies into cooperation and even bring down governments. Bearing all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise that those who could theoretically reign in the spymasters, like the president and congress, haven’t done so, and will not do so in the future.

The idea of the deep state might sound like tin foil hat stuff to some, but it really makes a lot of sense when you consider how little control we the people have over anything done in Washington these days, no matter who we elect to office. Some call it a silent coup, and that seems pretty accurate to me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Boomer-Bashing Article Hits a Sour Note

There’s a new cartoon blog post floating around the ether about how the musical icons of the boomer generation were horrible, horrible people. It’s clear by the tone of the piece that the author takes sadistic glee in pointing out the deep personal flaws of these famous individuals. The stories about Jimmy Page, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia and others are certainly not new revelations, and yes, some of their actions were deplorable, but there are a couple of serious problems with this kind of article that I feel compelled to point out.

This is a classic example of the straw man fallacy. The author accuses those who admire classic rock icons of being hypocrites for deifying people who did some rotten things in their personal lives. The reality is that Page, Lennon, Clapton et al are deified for their talents and contributions as musician/songwriters, not because we pretend they led exemplary lives. The basic assumption of the author, that we should vilify any artist’s work because they did bad things, is, as Spock would say, illogical. Using his reasoning, we should ignore the work of Mozart because he was a womanizer and heavy drinker or Van Gough because he was insane and mutilated himself. It’s about the art, stupid.

The second major objection I have with this kind of hit piece is that it arbitrarily picks a time out of music history to imply that these musicians were somehow worse human beings than musicians before or after them. If you don’t think there was racism, pedophilia, domestic violence, addiction, and other unsavory behavior among musicians prior to 1965 (Jerry Lee Lewis married his thirteen-year old cousin), you need to reenter earth’s atmosphere. And what about post-boomer musicians? Well, we have candidates for sainthood Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Ice T, Snoop Lion, Miley Cyrus, Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, oh, the list could go on and on.

I am not condoning or making light of the actions of so many musical artists, my point is simply that if we don’t make a distinction between the art and the artist, we would have to empty out the museums and destroy all the CDs in the bonfire of our demagoguery.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The American economy: It’s worse than you imagined

Writer Michael Snyder has an eye-opening article posted on the Zero Hedge site titled, Which America do you live in? — 21 hard to believefacts about ‘wealthy America’ and ‘poor America.’ It’s basically a compendium of economic data reflecting the colossal and continuously expanding inequality between rich and poor in this country. It’s sobering stuff, because those of us lucky enough to have decent jobs can too easily barricade ourselves from the reality of poverty and inequality that exists all around us.

I have actually lived in both worlds. During the financial tsunami of 2008 I was laid off and it took me over two years to find another job. Never having the luxury of being able to save money, I lost my condo and went through bankruptcy during that period, and if it were not for my girlfriend, I could have easily found myself living on the streets. It was a bleak period of bouts with depression and anger and self-esteem issues, and it is the curse that more and more Americans are experiencing in their lives. It is not, as conservatives would have you believe, only a problem for the laziest among us.

The cars in the parking lot where I work are almost all newer model, mid-priced vehicles. There are a few BMWs, one or two Mercedes, and a clunker or two, but the lot generally reflects a group of mostly white men and women with college degrees making a reasonable income. I would guess that many of them are two-earner families with homes they are paying for. They, we, are isolated in a way, living on a shrinking island of middle-class comfort. If nothing is done to address our broken economy, if we don’t demand that something be done, the island will eventually be swallowed up by the sea and we will join the millions of other Americans treading water merely to stay alive.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

A point of agreement between left and right

If you locked me in a room with a Tea Partier and forced us to debate politics, there would be very, very little common ground, except, I believe, on one important point: I think we would both agree that the American people have lost control of their government. Now the paths taken to reach this conclusion will vary greatly, but the end point is the same. The U.S. government no longer works for the people, but answers only to the military/industrial/media elite.

They allow us to go through the sham of elections every couple of years, but it really doesn’t matter if we vote for George Bush or Barack Obama, men who outwardly anyway, have very different political philosophies, because the real drivers of our government are controlling it from behind the scenes, like drone pilots thousands of miles away from their target. They sit in offices in the Pentagon and at Goldman Sachs and GE and Koch and the NSA rewarding those politicians who do their bidding and punishing those who oppose them. For the most part, the person who warms the chair in the Oval Office matters little.

Many people who can’t clearly articulate exactly what is wrong with our government have nonetheless made their disgust known by not voting, not participating and basically not giving a shit about who is in office. And that’s okay with the powers behind the scenes. The fewer people who participate means it is less likely their plans will be thwarted by the common rabble.

What to do? Ron Paul gave a speech this past week that all but called for armed revolution. Others on the far right have suggested as much. On the left, there have been similar, yet more timid, allusions to the need for a people’s uprising. My belief is that there won’t be any significant large-scale protests unless the economy truly tanks. Too many people are still too well off financially to be angry enough to take to the streets. If the economy goes south, however, and unemployment rises dramatically, only then will we see a significant citizen’s uprising.

The irony, of course, is that the day might come when Tea Party conservatives and socialist Lefty’s are marching shoulder to shoulder in the streets of America.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Debunking a Republican myth: Federal investment in the U.S. at lowest level since 1948.

It seems like every time a Republican in congress opens his or her mouth, no matter what the subject, the phrase, “Government spending is out of control” will be inserted into the statement. It’s one of those mantras that has been said so many times by so many conservative pundits and politicians that it’s basically taken for granted without argument. However, like most conservative mantras, it’s not based in reality.

An article in the latest Financial Times states, "Public investment in the US has hit its lowest level since demobilisation after the second world war [1948] because of Republican success in stymieing President Barack Obama’s push for more spending on infrastructure, science and education.”

You’d think Republicans would be throwing victory parties after having bullied, extorted and threatened Obama and the Democrats into giving up on much needed federal spending, but no, they want still more cuts. And the administration and congressional Democrats deserve their share of blame for being spineless acquiescers who are ready to cry “uncle” at the slightest arched eyebrow from a Tea Partier.

Yes, the President did stand firm in this last round of negotiations, but he’d already given away far too much to the Republicans, and they figured, hey, he’s caved before, why should this time be any different? Fortunately they were wrong, but it was only one loss after a series of wins.

When some idiot in Texas starts ranting about secession, there are days when I’m all for it. Let them conduct their conservative experiment in government so that the rest of the country can clearly see how misguided and dangerous it really is.