Monday, December 28, 2009
That’s enough of a reason.
Here are the 10 things I think must change.
Not just on America’s K Street, but everywhere on Earth. Corporate influence on the law and regulations must be made illegal and be vigorously prosecuted. No reform or honest lawmaking is possible without the extrication of the corporation and big industry from the process of making the laws that WE human beings live under.
Outlaw media monopolies.
Newspapers, Magazines, Television, Radio and the Internet are too important to the understanding of reality to be left to the likes of greedy oligarchs like Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp.
No one should be allowed to own more than one media outlet.
No one should be allowed to own media outlets in different mediums.
If you are in a particular sector of business (E.G. General Electric owning NBC,) you should not be able to own a media outlet: We know we will never get honest reporting from NBC about its parent company and we know we will never get honest reporting from News Corp. about anything. These immediate conflicts of interest should be obvious to everyone.
House, clothe and feed every human being.
This one is also obvious: There is more than enough wealth in every government on earth to accomplish this, and if there wasn’t? Ask yourself if there is anything else you can think of that is more important, more worthwhile and a better reason for going in to debt? We never question the price of defense, of roads, or of subsidies for big business. It takes very little to guarantee the safety of fellow human beings around the world and here in the United States. No veteran, child or senior citizen should be homeless or hungry -ever.
Legalize all drugs.
You cannot protect people from the things they want. It’s never worked and the enforcement of prohibition laws and the black markets they create around the world and in the United States have killed more innocent people than all the drug overdoses ever will.
If we can handle alcohol, we can deal with everything else.
Guarantee education for all.
People everywhere should be enabled to go as far with their education as they need or want to go. It should not be impossibly expensive to become a doctor or a lawyer. In any case, stupid people are dangerous, so let's get rid of them humanely: with education.
Mandatory draft for all.
This one is for the United States specifically, but would be a good idea all over the world: EVERYONE, man or woman, from age 18 to 50 should have to serve in the armed forces should their country go to war.
That means the President’s children, the sons and daughters of all Senators and Congresspersons, the spoiled asshole princes of Brunei, the kids of all the people working at Lockheed Martin and Halliburton get drafted.
No deferments, no loop holes, no exceptions.
If you’re in a wheelchair you can man a communications terminal near the frontline.
Unless you’re a quad amputee? -you’re going to war.
There’ll be a lot less war if nobody, not a single soul can avoid risking their life in it. When there is a war? -We’ll be sure it won’t be only our dedicated and honorable youth risking their lives for the rich, everyone will really think about what's going on and why.
Outlaw the creation of perennial wastes and toxins.
No one, no individual or company anywhere can be allowed to create artificial substances, materials or compounds that cannot be broken down within 100 years.
If a corporation creates a new plastic, it has to be accompanied by the creation of its own solvent that will break it down into its harmless constituent elements. Substances toxic to humans, plant and wildlife cannot be used in the manufacture of anything, ever.
This is not a big deal, it is totally doable and it’s the way we lived in the 19th century before the entire world got fast, cheap and out of control and the most toxic substances were mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead and smoke.
Invest in the reclamation of raw materials.
Landfills have to be mined for recyclable materials, and our current system of waste management has to be changed to a recycling system. No paper should ever end up as pure waste, no serviceable metals should end up at the bottom of garbage.
Establish a global minimum wage.
People in China should not be making 4 dollars a day while taking a manufacturing job away from a person in a country with higher standards of working and living. We no longer build television sets or computers here in the United States yet America pioneered both technologies… where did all those manufacturing jobs go? To a place where you can pay people 4 dollars day and make them settle for standards deemed inhumane in the United States a century ago. Corporations are moving manufacturing and all kinds of jobs off shore so they can do business as if it were 1810.
Teach the possibility of change as a functioning philosophy to all.
For the sake of our species we need to do away with the destructive notion that things are immutable. We must ridicule and obliterate the idea that things are always the same and that idealism and futility are mutually inclusive outlooks and conditions…
if we are to survive.
I didn’t even touch upon human rights, habitat, healthcare or fossil fuels…
What are the 10 things you would change my friends?
Friday, December 25, 2009
An honest, courageous writer who honorably searched for answers while posing thorny questions out here in this ether. Macarthur Walton held court in this nebulous online world that has been derided as: a waste of time; a medium for mindless recreation; a platform for disseminating lies; a dehumanizing congress that separates rather than connects; a medium that abbreviates conversation to the point of insignificance.
Walton’s explorations on daddyBstrong allowed me to see that critics of discourse on the Internet (Of which I was one, until MyCue23 dragged me into blogging last year on Random Thoughts) are only assessing a nascent medium by its worst examples, like judging the act of cooking by citing a potted meat casserole.
I never had the pleasure of knowing him, only the honor of reading his posts and sharing in some of his indignation. Words have failed me since the news of MacDaddy’s passing into that undifferentiated oblivion which we all must return to. I knew he had been sick but I had no idea to what degree: such were the force of his words and his clarity of thought to the very end that I had no idea was coming so soon.
I occasionally return to the works of Wilfred Owen, Walt Whitman, William Butler Yeats and lately James Fenton for some perspectives on the loss of our contemporaries and maybe even a little guidance on how to continue as our departed friends and colleagues would insist we do in their damnable and unjust absence.
“This is where I came from.
I passed this way.
This should not be shameful
Or hard to say.
A self is a self.
It is not a screen.
A person should respect
What he has been.
This is my past
Which I shall not discard.
This is the ideal.
This is hard.”
- James Fenton
Macarthur Walton will be missed, but not forgotten by any of us.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
That’s what Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat, representing West-by-God-Virginia said, apparently defying Senator Tom Coburn's hopes AND prayers by just being there alive, alert and well enough to cast his vote today. But I respectfully suggest that Senator’s Byrd’s vote is also for a few other warriors who could not be here to fight: it’s also for Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Sargent Shriver.
Take a breath America.
This is what making history feels like. We’ve been making a lot of it lately, however we may feel about its scale and detail. Regardless of our legitimately dashed expectations, this is history.
Not to have his obstructionist efforts overshadowed, Minority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said:
“I guarantee you the people who voted for this bill will get an earful, when they finally get home for the first time since Thanksgiving.”
--You’re right Senator McConnell, I just called my Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and thanked them profusely for standing up to cowards and sell outs like you.
Merry Christmas, Mitch.
I couldn't have gotten you a bigger present than the number "60."
It has been quite a trying year for me but thankfully I've always had this blog to help me keep my sanity. I can't really express how reassuring it has been to come here and read the thoughts of SJ and of the all the great writers that we have come to call our friends. The passion of Jack Jodell, the healthy cynicism of Vigilante, the spiritualism of the incomparable Gwendolyn Barry, the honesty of Mad Mike and the overall brilliance of so many others whose writing reminds me that our country has not lost its way. I'm far too old to expect a jolly man in red suit to be dropping off gifts for me tomorrow night, but I can honestly say that getting a chance to read the thoughts of our new friends and to discuss the problems of day with people whose opinions I respect so much, has provided me with more than even jolly St. Nick himself could carry on that magical sleigh of his. So this Christmas I'm satisfied with all the gifts I've already gotten. Thank you Yellow Dog, Oso, Beach Bum, Manifesto Joe, Will Hart, Tom Degan, Burr Deming, Truth 101 and anyone I've forgotten to include (it certainly was not an intended slight). I'll even thank our occasional nemesis, Sepp. You have all made the year immeasurably better than it would have been without our dialogue.
I couldn't end this without saying a few more words about my partner in crime here, SJ. He is, without a doubt the most talented person I know and besides being my friend for almost 30 years (for which I am forever in his debt), he quite literally saved my life this year. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to read his articles is aware of his talent. That however does not begin to scratch the surface of who he is. I hate to get all sentimental here, but suffice it to say that I'm not sure where I would be without his help.
So Santa, I know you're busy. I just wanted to let you know that you can skip my house tomorrow. My stocking is already full.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
It was always a time of afterthought, second thoughts, second-guessing and abstract hopes. Christmas was a last catching of my breath before the careening diminuendo of the New Year’s Eve count down. Christmas was a last look over the shoulder at the waning year behind and its happenings, promises and unfulfilled wants. That is what Christmas was to me until about 1992, a year when I started looking forward to getting drunk at parties more than I did being at parties. That was the year that many friends went afar, and remained there. Pining for old get togethers, big dinners and the fraternity of our younger days seemed silly.
Life goes on, and it will drag you along. Working life is a kind of plateau in adulthood. It sets in, and flattens everything, dividing and averaging out all of our emotion, our love and our dread until one day we find ourselves wondering why certain things don’t make us angry anymore or why other things no longer make us happy. It’s important to remember: the things are the same, it is we who change for better or worse.
Maybe the return of Christmas’s personal significance to me has something to do with the coming end of another decade… -my fourth on Earth as a proud, if at times puzzled and angry member of the human race. If you’d talked to me twenty years ago, I’m sure I would have had no idea so much time could pass… and yet 2009 has been a long year. 2009 was “long” in the way the years of my early childhood were long. Time stopped still many times this year, as they used to before summer vacation, before Christmas day and a long awaited gift. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day in 1976 was the longest period in human history.
I can’t prove it scientifically, but trust me, waiting for my “Jackie Stewart Rev-A-Matic Competition” AFX Ho Scale slot car race set with magna traction chassis cars was longer than the “100 Years War”… which we all know didn’t take 100 years.
It’s been such a long time since I’ve hoped for so much.
I yearn for a proper future, a good life for my friends, for my neighbors, for my mother, for my country, for my generation, for my time and my world. In this way, I feel genuinely connected, for possibly the first time in my life with the writers whose work has informed my own. I feel, after this year of rancor, spite and triumph that I understand Charles Dickens, as I didn’t before. I understand now that when he wrote of Ebenezer Scrooge, he was writing chiefly of himself. Scrooge, is a profound confession by a man of letters terrified at the way he may have misspent his life amongst his fellow human beings. This year, I’ve been thinking of Charles Dickens’ various imagined worlds, his assorted “Englands” as too many in our country try to pretend that intolerance, indifference and greed aren’t aspects of hate.
Cruelty is not a perspective. It is violence, and when it’s done to the least of us: the defenseless, the poor, it is unforgivable.
Dickens introduced two children to me in A Christmas Carol. They are stark, inelegant allegories: “Ignorance and Want.” The Ghost of Christmas Present brings the hideous twins to Scrooge in the story with a warning:
"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."
Here's hoping the writing on the boy's head and the damage inside his skull can be undone.
I am hopeful and optimistic for the first time in many years. Although 2009 brought the death of my beloved uncle, and the death of a life long friend, it also brought the end of the Bush administration, it brought the confirmation of a non-Conservative woman to the Supreme Court, it brought a man of formidable intellect to the White House. 2009 brought the end of abuses too numerous to mention in our country’s name.
And yet there is much to hope and wish for:
Real lasting peace in the world: the kind of peace that allows people to listen and see clearly the liars in their midst.
More money for schools: so that our kids grow up to be the smartest work force they can be.
Health Care Reform: even if we can only pry from the lobbyists an inch at a time.
I’d love to see the America that actually manufactures the goods it consumes again. I would love to see an America where electronics and technology and even our fuels and energy are generated stateside. I’d love to see an entire world of nations that create jobs everywhere and don’t eliminate livelihoods just to make the rich, richer.
Feed and clothe every man, woman and child.
I may not live to see it all, but as in years past, I just can’t wait for it all to get here.
Merry Christmas, my friends.
Rest in Peace MacArthur.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I am shutting my eyes and imagining a deafening applause in New York City. I have to use my imagination because so many of the people who needed this protection are long gone. Taken from the city by the AIDS epidemic and others lucky enough to die of old age will never get to know the supreme satisfaction of having their rights guaranteed by the state they paid taxes to, within the country many of them served.
In the 1980s I marched with grass roots activist groups like ACT UP in Washington DC. Those groups and the people who lead them changed the world. The plethora of changes in law, and just as importantly, changes in the support by medical research companies, Pharmaceutical companies and government funding for the development of drugs has meant that AIDS is no longer an immediate death sentence today. It’s a different world. It all happened at the urging of all of the people who marched alongside their fellow Americans in response to the Reagan and Bush administrations’ institutional disregard for all of the dead and dying in the 1980s. During that time I weathered no small amount of animosity from Gays and Lesbians in the activist community who questioned my motives and sincerity because I wasn’t a Gay man. It gave me an inkling of what White college students must have felt in the 1960s when community organizers mistook their lack of common experience for a lack of dedication or commitment.
But I marched.
I painted banners. I silk-screened shirts. I drew artwork for flyers… and I marched. I marched miles in DC and again back home in New York. This was back when I was younger and I really did think the people had the power. I’ve often wondered why, if it worked, does it happen so rarely today. In particular there has always been a strange disconnect between the G, L, B and the “T” in GLBT in New York. Intuitively, it’s almost a predictable schism. The Transgendered are by far the most marginal people in any community. When you look at the “Rock-Paper-Scissors” game of Class-Race-Gender-Sexual Orientation-Identity in America, the Transgendered will often find themselves on the outside -even amongst Gays, who I sadly found out can possess their own backward Conservative reflex just like everyone else. When it came to civil rights, the Transgendered had to wait some years before being brought into conversations about protection and equality under the law. Gays and Lesbians as a whole are still waiting for the larger civil rights communities (themselves now an established institution some fifty or more years down the road) to call Gay Rights: Civil Rights. I don’t see the NAACP coming around anytime soon to take up the cause of Gays and Lesbians among their own broader goals.
Among religious groups in America, there is disagreement about a great many things, but they almost all agree on the exclusion of Homosexuals and the Transgendered. The Religious Right and the Social Conservative movement is largely defined by their refusal of America’s Gays and Lesbians. The Transgendered are generally not on the Moral Majority’s radar and with their at best diminished presence on the Gay Rights agenda, the Transgendered are the only group in America that anyone might be able to argue face more obstacles than our Native Americans.
The Transgendered have been “on the outside of the outside” for most all of recorded history. Their ongoing plight speaks to injustices that are more related to infantile reflex than any superficial claims about our social fabric’s fragility or insistences on religious orthodoxy. Much is said and worse is done in the name of righteousness and intolerance.
Tolerance is not weakness.
Tolerance is a moral and ethical strength. The Moral Majority and the Far Right would have us all believe that recognizing the humanity and asserting the normalcy of ALL Americans is a weakness of character, as if guaranteeing or simply letting someone undesirable exist is a character flaw, a sign of society’s decline. Nonsense.
I’d argue that today’s signing of Executive Order Number 33 is in fact another step towards our eventual ascension: America’s rise to meet the promise of the principles behind our Constitution,
Oral Roberts is dead and Transgendered Americans don’t have to worry about government treating them like non-persons –in New York State…
Governor Paterson remarked glibly today that if you want to get anything done in government, you have to do it yourself. I suppose I’d say in response that sometimes, if you want to accomplish the obvious, you have to act just as boldly Mr. Paterson.
My tired feet in 1988 thank you Governor, as do future generations.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I’ve had some profoundly nasty, vitriolic arguments with people over the years about politics. Being a Progressive, pro-union, working-class Liberal who listens first before engaging most issues means I’ve been invariably pegged as too radical for some and not angry and doctrinaire enough for others.
Six years ago, when I worked one of the worst jobs I have ever had, (I know I should never complain about being employed, but this was a terrible, soul-sucking gig that operated out of a tiny 12-foot by 12-foot computer room that had to accommodate 3 hapless human beings and their terminals) I had the misfortune of having a graveyard shift that overlapped with that of one of the most miserable pricks I have ever encountered in any workplace. We all know the type: walks in tired, complains about every aspect of his life, the unfairness of the world, how little he has in the way of luck, money or good fortune. (-Meanwhile the man was married to a beautiful woman, had a beautiful son.-) This man sighed more times per minute than a front tire weeping its air from a flat.
This was one miserable, unhappy, bitch-of-a-man and whenever he was done moaning he set about trying to make conversation, -generally about politics. He made a point of talking to everyone as though they had voted for George W. Bush. He was a Columbian national who was in the process of “naturalizing” toward citizenship and having a tough go of it. Despite all I have written about him thus far, I should add that he was extremely intelligent, knowledgeable about a great many things, well-read, -if given to believing elaborate conspiracy theories generally more common amongst Anti-Semites. Surprisingly, like too many South Americans I have known, (My parents hailed from the Dominican Republic and I speak Spanish fluently lest you think, I too am being a xenophobe) he was a matter-of-fact racial bigot who was often annoyed when told to watch what he said.
I just didn’t respect this man. I took great glee in embarrassing and exposing him when he’d attempt to bait me with leading questions. He had a favorite; one of the most naive questions anyone can ask an American:
“How can you stand it?”
The presumption within that question is a judgment: an implication that we do stand it. That we somehow let it happen. As if the deck isn’t stacked against the average citizen from up on high.
What is going on right now in America is criminal. I don’t care how many handfuls of morons spill out of buses with “Obama=Hitler” signs, -that’s not the nation, it’s not even the nation’s elbow… it’s more like a cyst.
The Public Option is now gone. The Republican minority got its way thanks to a bunch of asshole Democrats who decided to use the GOP’s dogma as an excuse to weasel away from defending the poor and the working class -who don’t have a lobby, -who can’t get in to see a Senator because they’re too busy just trying to survive in this once-growing economy the GOP shot down the toilet for the last decade.
After what happened at Walter Reade Hospital this decade, I don’t give a fuck what any Republican has to say on the subject of Health Care, Hospitalization, Medical costs or the efficiency of anything ever again.
Joe Lieberman can go burn in the hell for what he and his fellow sell-outs are consigning 50 million people in America to. These corrupt sycophants had better be made to pay for their lack of integrity in the next election cycle. I’m sure Jack Jodell or another blogger with his prosecutorial honesty will give us their names.
Howard Dean said last night that he is among those who accept replacing the Public Option with a Medicare buy-in for Americans between the ages of 55 and 64. Those who read Random Thoughts know that I respect Mr. Dean and that I hold him in a very special regard, but he doesn’t honestly expect me to believe that he’s okay with people under 55 being in basically the same situation they were in yesterday:
-at the mercy of an industry that will let you die if it costs them too much money.
Every Representative, every single Senator who ever accepted campaign support from the Health Care Industry and opposed the Public Option, and the Single Payer System before it -should be made to explain how they had no conflict of interest, -how they weren’t bought outright.
Because they were:
Orrin Hatch and Max Baucus are as corrupt as politicians come.
For the first time this afternoon I asked myself: How can I stand it?” For the first time I’m thinking:“Maybe that asshole I worked with in 2003 was right about Americans and their complacency, their ignorance?”
We have politicians who absolutely do not care about working people and we have working people who absolutely do not care about each other or themselves. I thought rational self-interest, or saving our industries (like Automotive) at the very least could be counted on as a reason to insist on medical coverage as a right, not a rare and expensive privilege.
I’m looking out of my office window onto Times Square. It’s a fittingly grey, cold and rain soaked Wednesday. The news of this “compromise” is being flashed across several digital running boards, gigantic screens, and video billboards and nobody, not one single person is looking up from their shopping to see what’s going wrong with their world, their nation, and their lives.
I am disgusted.
Monday, December 07, 2009
It’s a strange song as its lyrics express a nostalgia for an era that, at the time of the song’s debut, had not yet passed into memory. He asks if people remember their President Nixon among other rhetorical questions about the times and mood… as if anybody in America could ever forget Watergate. Bowie seemed to be singing about how American lives “blow by” in some respects, urged by panic, national tragedy, failed expectations, the dashing of grand but personal hopes and the day-to-day pressure of making ends meet in a country where freedom is ironically mitigated and qualified by how much money you have. In this Bowie has something in common with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sad understanding of life in America.
"Where have all Papa's heroes gone?" is a question I mull over in my head from time to time. David Bowie was not singing about anybody’s “papa” in particular of course, not mine, not yours, nor his. The implication seems to be that heroes always belong to another generation, and that maybe we can’t see them clearly or feel their significance until they’re gone. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we Americans try to rush out of the present so damn fast… so we can get a look and some much needed distance to appreciate things in scale, -unblinded by our proximity to greatness.
“Hero” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. As a born skeptic, rewarded early in life by disappointments in people and things, it’s not a word I’ve ever used to describe anybody, except characters in fiction. Maybe I don’t feel I have the right to bestow it. It’s no small thing to call someone a hero. You are imparting a responsibility as well as conferring an honor… maybe that’s why we often wait until they’re dead?
Clearly, firemen, and our military are heroic people. They are heroes beyond understanding as they do things for hourly wages that most people would not do for any amount of money in the world; running into burning houses, patrolling streets where armed adversaries lie in wait, but those are, for the most part anonymous groups.
While it may be “jaded” to say: “there are no heroes,” it is certainly false to say so.
A more appropriate question to ask is may be: -Where have they gone?
In this age where entertainers, celebrities, professional athletes and political demagogues so easily capture our imaginations; our attention once held by accomplished persons, scholars, civic leaders, inventors, artists, writers, doctors, healers, and yes Presidents, is diffused and scattered -where are those individuals we would call heroes without embarrassment, qualification or excuses?
Who can I name without feeling like some silly thoughtless flatterer in search of someone to worship?
-And that’s the real truth isn’t it?
It feels weak, even juvenile to name someone a hero today. Perhaps, in our modern insistence on sober equanimity and self-reliance we just can’t afford them anymore.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
The Public Option is in more danger now than it ever has been since the moniker was coined. It’s closer to being dropped than at any point since it became the substitute for the Single-Payer System that was excised before the bill took shape. A few so-called Conservative Democrats, (Joe Lieberman and others) have said they will block the entire Health Care Reform Bill if the Democratic Caucus doesn't agree to weaken the public option.
Joe Lieberman and his fellow sellouts are standing against 50 million uninsured human beings in America. These men are standing against working mothers, single parent households, the recently unemployed, the homeless and infants.
Yes. That's right, in my opinion, Senator Joe Lieberman doesn’t care about babies.
MoveOn.org has formed an emergency petition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to not dilute the Public Option.
Sign the petition here and tell Harry Reid to FIGHT as though he were Sargent Shriver or somebody with real balls:
Forward this link:
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
"My first issue for the Obama administration is Afghanistan. Concurrent with our withdrawal from Iraq, the President has already said that he will be increasing our presence in Afghanistan. The issue that I have with the war in Afghanistan is the same one I had with Iraq. There is no real definition of "victory". We are essentially fighting a guerrilla war against small bands of terrorists across a vast stretch of land. I really would like to know what our ultimate goal is in Afghanistan. Is the goal to wipe out the Taliban and all the terrorists in the area? If so, that seems to be an unreasonable goal. Is the goal to set up a government that is capable of withstanding the challenges from the Taliban or a similar terrorist group? That also seems unreasonable... A long term occupation of a country in the Middle East only leads to the breeding of more extremists. Without an exit strategy, we risk a never ending war and the creation of a new generation of people who are dedicated to our downfall."
As we now know, the Obama administration will be sending an additional American troops to Afghanistan, along with asking for increased participation from our NATO allies. My question still is, what is the goal? If the goal is to train the Afghan forces and build up their defenses, then I don't understand why that would require so many additional troops. Does it require over 100,000 American troops to train soldiers? How long will it take to get that job done? When are our troops coming home? How many more trillions can we afford to spend on an unwinable war, when we have so many problems at home? Are we making ourselves safer or are we just creating a new generation of people who are bent on our destruction? I guess tonight the President will give us his vision of what the future holds for us in Afghanistan. I will be looking for some answers and hopefully we'll get some because we haven't heard anything from this administration so far that makes me think that we are any closer to bringing our troops home.
Obviously there have been thousands of words written on this blog and on many of our friends blogs on this issue. As we know the Democrats gave up the idea of single payer without a fight. The administration has been on the defensive from the beginning and they continue to fight it out with members of their own party over just how much the health insurance companies will be allowed to get away with. I personally think the whole debate was handled badly by the administration. They gave up their best bargaining chip before the game even started. They have negotiated from a point of weakness and allowed the foes of reform to lead the debate. That being said, we might actually be on the verge of an historic first step in health coverage. It won't be everything that it's supposed to be, but it's a hell of a lot better than nothing. And as someone said, every great journey begins with a single step.
Literally nothing has been done. I haven't even heard the words "education reform" from the lips of a major player in the Obama administration. Having the President tell kids to stay in school is nice, but the problems that the kids have to deal with still remain. Why are spending trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan when we have all but ignored the education of our own children? What will it take until and administration takes public school education reform seriously? Why don't we make all of our elected Representatives have to send their children to public school? And not one of the magnet schools either. I think everyone elected to Congress, presidency or named to the cabinet should have to put their kids in one of the local schools in Washington DC. I'm sure that public education would get some attention then. I've asked this question about the health care debate before but, why don't our publicly elected officials care about the people who elected them? Is it so hard to ask them to actually attend to the needs of their constituents. I'm sure the Republicans and Democrats would have different approaches to reform, but if it affected their kids, at least they would have an approach. The lack of attention is shameful.
Well, this hope went out the window pretty quickly. The Attorney General has huffed and puffed, but there are still no real investigations into the transgressions of the previous administration. If the President says that he wants to "look forward not backward" one more time, I might spontaneously combust. Some of the prisoners at Gitmo will actually get a trial, but some innocent detainees had to be sent to a distant island nation, because no one would have them, even though they had done nothing. There are still others at Gitmo (and at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan) that will never see the light of day. We won't know who they are or what they supposedly did, but they will be detained (apparently in perpetuity) in our name. This administration hasn't quite been the open book that they said they would be and at times have been downright paranoid (like when they refused to release the names of people who had visited the White House). The air of secrecy that surrounded the Bush White House seems to have infected the Obama White House as well (having an active fight with the Fox "news" Network seems childish and the kind of thing the Bush administration would have been crucified for by those of us on the Left). I wrote an article back in April about what Constitutional rights actually remain, so I won't go over that ground again. Let's just suffice it to say that it hasn't gotten any better under this administration.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, which are now less wars than violently contested occupations at best, is as difficult a decision as can be made. Inherited decisions are always fraught with multilateral second-guessing and rancor when lives are at stake.
The consequences of being on the wrong side of history are two fold:
There are the lives already lost by the United States and her allies in the attempt to secure two nation-states, which will have appeared to have been sacrificed to a failed foreign policy by future generations.
Secondly, there is also the very real possibility that the region now has two anarchic pseudo-states where everything from the terrorism that the Bush administration claimed to be containing, to a resurgent heroin trade trickles across a now borderless membrane out to the world.
I feel it’s my responsibility to point out that we’ve been on the wrong side of history ever since we stopped holding the Bush administration and its shadow players accountable for what they proposed and wrought in our name. These “wars” were an inevitable consequence of our collective guile after the September 11th attacks.
President Obama’s latest announced move, to increase troops by 30,000 does nothing substantive in regard to the operations in Afghanistan, in my opinion.
It’s a cynical number.
Politically, it’s not a big enough number to make Democrats take to the streets in mutiny, and it’s not enough to make the Republicans support or criticize him on this issue. It neither shuts up General McChrystal, nor placates his immediate concerns.
But the number 30,000 is significant in undeniable, mathematical aspects.
It’s 30,000 more human beings away from the United States leaving Afghanistan.
It is 30,000 lives further away from President Obama’s campaign promises.
It’s 30,000 reasons why, in retrospect, I now believe this man doesn’t deserve a Nobel Peace prize.
Pulling out of the regions is not a simple task. Just because it’s not simple doesn’t mean it cannot be done, or that it shouldn’t be done.
Much more thought will have to go into exiting these now dysfunctional kleptocracies than went into bombing and invading them. Much thought must be given to the central truth of the matter: the United States Armed Forces cannot continue to operate as police in regions they have attacked with bombs. Ever present in all of our minds, at least those of us willing to tell ourselves the truth, should remain the names of the architects of these disasters: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and many others too influential and powerful to be known to an average American citizen such as myself. We must be honest with ourselves and concede that these policy makers were never interested in bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. Their “bait and switch” has cost countless Afghani and Iraqi lives in a tragically pointless dismantling of two countries in supposed recompense for the actions of cowardly murderers who can call no nation home, and despite Al Qaeda’s own best efforts can ultimately claim no religion or culture either. History will show that these fundamentalists took their own myopic worldview for law and attempted to make religion a reason for murder. Bin Laden is not the first and he will be far from the last to massacre in the name of his own presumptions about God and morality. I don’t have to wait around for History to catch up to what I already know.
I want Osama Bin Laden’s severed head on a pike, -AFTER his billions in wealth are seized and his followers are tried under what Al Qaeda themselves ignorantly call “Western law.” Al Qaeda’s and Bin Laden’s humiliation will be complete when they desperately exercise the inalienable rights and due process they insist must be denied the rest of the world under their bizarre interpretation of what is just and holy. The bombings, invasions and now all-but-in-name occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq do not bring us any closer to the day when we speak about Osama Bin Laden in the past tense. I do want that day to come. That day will be a triumph over fighting fire with fire, over taking an eye for an eye. It will be a return to sanity. It’s not as viscerally gratifying as the first sentence of this paragraph, but it will have to do.
We must always remember these differences in ethics, in perspectives, when rage, however justified, threatens to do away with our principles and the only weapon that can ever be used to build the future: reason.
Remaining in Afghanistan and Iraq, is not avoiding a decision, -it’s prolonging a wrong one.
President Truman was doing more than stating the obvious when he said “The Buck Stops Here.” Harry S. Truman was telling his country that he knew he was held ultimately responsible for its progress and its woe, and that he would not pretend otherwise.
It’s time to stop pretending and instead do some really unpopular things Mr. President.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The release of these two books offers us a chance to take a real good look at ourselves as a nation. Their respective publication is an indictment of our lack of focus on things that are grounded in reality versus things that are created to appeal to our desires, insecurities and weaknesses: We want pretty people to be good and smart, after all, if they’re not, what does that say about us for liking them?
It would be nice if someone with Sarah Palin’s looks, background and experience; a child of teachers, a beauty queen, a parent, a woman who sought state office and attained it, was actually a capable leader and dedicated public servant –but she’s not. All the pretending and best PR won’t make her into anything other than the bumbling out-of-her-element wannabe that Charlie Gibson interviewed last year. All she remains is the walking remnant of that failed GOP grab at the national female vote made in hopes of capturing Hillary Clinton’s supporters. In this way, she’s as counterfeit and ceremonially significant as RNC Chair Michael Steele. Steele is illegitimate for reasons I trust are too obvious to you (and frankly too embarrassing) for me to go into here.
Helen Thomas continues to speak the truth to power, even though few will listen. Helen Thomas will never be as nice to look at or as pleasant to listen to as any of the women on News Cable Networks, whether it’s the smiling peroxide automatons on Fox “News,” or even someone with indisputable intellect like Campbell Brown. Let’s face it; we just don’t listen to unattractive people, specifically unattractive women on TV.
Imagine if Abraham Lincoln or Mother Theresa’s worth, their very ability to be heard, had been dependent on their looks, or their entertainment appeal?
We are a nation that can’t handle information unless it’s wrapped up in a superficially appealing package. The news anchors, talking heads and politicians get better and better looking with every passing decade. With the advent of Kennedy and Reagan, Presidents had to become bona fide media stars on par with actual media stars in movies and TV: pleasing to the ear and eye, inoffensive to the mind. Their policies, (for better or for worse in either case) were secondary to their looks and “feel.”
We hear less and less important things in direct proportion to the appeal of the speaker.
As for reading? Sarah Palin’s book is setting sales records.
It appears America would rather read the boasts of an attractive, appealing but superficial pretender who quit her duly elected office in hopes of being entrusted with more responsibility and power, than read the critical thoughts and painful first-person observations of someone (I can only hope,) was much closer to the White House than Sarah Palin will ever get to be.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Because of these greedy motherfuckers pictured right here.
Our jobless rate, being what it is, gives no cause for celebration.
Yahoo! Finance reported Wednesday that as of the close of the bell, the Dow has hit five figures again, a number not seen in over 12 months. They reported that “investors can start focusing on the next benchmark for the market's recovery.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has been the market’s most widely feared, revered and accepted barometer for decades. Like sedimentary layers that illustrate flush wet fertile years versus periods of rainless drought, trending the DJIA will show us the last century’s worst financial crises against its greatest stretches of prosperity... for some. It’s like the way counting tree rings won’t tell you a thing about disease in primates, only if they had more or less water to drink.
Joblessness is here to stay. Many jobs shed across economic sectors may in fact be permanent in America. There is a consumer credit and loan crisis in the offing once the rate and total number of defaults on individual credit cards accounts hits a point of no return. -I’d say “tipping point” but I feel like Malcolm Gladwell has that term copyrighted, and in any case I always laugh when people repeatedly throw it in conversation as if they’re citing some great work in philosophy.
Everyone in government last year, from George W. Bush to Hank Paulson down to the lowliest Democratic junior Congressman managed to convince every poor schmuck, working-class schmendrick, and hapless debtor treading water in America to ignore the foreclosure sign on their lawn, but also that AIG’s, Bank of America’s and even Goldman Sach’s* pain was also somehow their own. Now that these monstrous financial institutions are repeatedly posting profits, their joy is strangely not changing the fortunes of the people who footed the bill for their massive rescues or supported their restructuring. Not one person’s immediate situation is changed by the Dow’s rise yesterday. If you lost your job, the 10,000 point Dow is not calling you on the phone to offer you a new one.
Quite the opposite:
I just got a letter from Bank of America two days ago; they are amending the agreement they made with me on a fixed rate loan that they repeatedly assured me would never change. I called them and asked: “The term fixed rate doesn’t mean anything when you say it, does it?” The woman on the other end of the phone actually laughed. I respected her not being able to hold in a chuckle at a sucker’s expense, just as she probably knows I would’ve choked the life out of her had she been standing in front of me.
I am paying tax dollars to stabilize financial institutions that are turning around and raising interest rates on me.
And where the fuck is Glenn Beck’s outrage now? -Oh that’s right, Glenn Beck passionately argued for AIG keeping their bonuses, -and why not? Glenn Beck is rich. He won’t be crying any of his theatrical tears on TV for you, or for me or for anybody that does the actual living and dying in America at the whims of banks. They’ll compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler, but neither he, nor anyone at Fox “News” Channel will ever go after the finance and banking corporations that make life miserable for working class Americans. They will never decry the subsidies and corporate welfare that keeps the downtrodden, stepped-upon.
So I ask again; to every smug jackass on the NYSE trading floor, sitting behind four screens watching indexes, I say again to every asshole in finance whose livelihood we saved with our tax dollars last fall who:
-won’t create a job;
-won’t pull a family out of foreclosure;
-won’t even pay their proportionate share of taxes:
Just what are you dicks smiling about?
-Oh right, you’re fucking us over again, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
That’s what you’re smiling about.
I said it last year and I’ll say it again, tax money should go to help the actual individual people in trouble who “owe” the money that “imperils” financial institutions, it should not go to the finance, insurance and investment entities who put Americans in the hole with variable APRs, sub prime loans, escalating mortgages. It’s their own money, Americans had to put it up, why can’t it go to helping them first? For once, I’d like to hear somebody admit, sincerely and without qualification, that deregulation was a bad idea. I’d like to hear it from all the politicians who supported it for the last 25 years.
For once I’d like to see an economic initiative trickle up, not down.
But financial institutions would never support anything that equitable and just, would they? It practically sounds like agreeing to be pissed upon from up high doesn’t it?
* Goldman Sachs is about to report a tripling in profits compared to one year ago according the Wall street Journal yesterday morning.