12/28/2009

Only A Game

It's that time of the year, again. The time when the Minnesota Vikings are making a pass at the NFL playoffs and when their management and local politicians and our completely useless media are campaigning for $750 million of taxpayers' cash.

At the beginning of the season, I was slightly sucked in because I sort of like Brett Farve. I like him because he's an old guy still competing in an young guy's game. I like him because he says what's on his mind in a sports world full of clich├ęs and boilerplate sports jabber. Farve is more interesting than the whole pack of sports writing talking heads and our local columnists. However, leveraging my fondness for this old guy's tenacity into making me pay for a stadium for a near-worthless corporate entity that is part of a monopoly pack of gangsters is an unlikely sell.

Sports fans are idiots. Because we can be fooled into identifying with guys who have no more in common with us than our relationship to superheroes, we can be fooled into thinking we have something to do with these mutants' successes. Our shouting at the television screen or screaming in the stadium has nothing to do with their abilities. If these guys were playing on an abandoned field in outback Alaska, they'd still be competitive, beyond normal abilities, and they'd be finding a way to make more money in obscurity than the rest of us make anywhere we apply our meager skills.

Nothing any athlete can do can overcome the desperate need every city has for a superior education system, modern transportation, efficient and affordable energy, and a profitable business sector. Pro sports does practically nothing for the business sector. Pro sports take funding directly from education, transportation, and research. Pro sports decimate everything important in a city and leaves the city with massive debt, undevelopable property, and a lower urban and state IQ.

The best thing a struggling economy can do is to abandon any public support to unnecessary distractions. Pro sports are several steps below unnecessary. Sorry, Brett. I’d love to see you go out on top, but I’d rather you did it in Green Bay or any other city than Minneapolis. We can’t afford your success.

12/13/2009

Seriously? Someone is surprised at this?

"It's like having 26 kids that I have to watch after . . . Who's smoking hashish around here?" This YouTube video is an interesting insight into how the war in Afghanistan is going for the men and women on the ground. While Congress and the President pontificate about "winning," the people responsible for "building the Afghanistan army" are wrestling with a corrupt local government and derelict material with which to build a puppet army that will hold up long enough for Obama to escape with some pretense of "winning" Bush's war against the Taliban.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2F80llZ5F4

Empire-building is frustrating work. When the people who want to liberate their country are all on the other side, what you get work with is pretty poor material. We have been here in the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, and we're there in Afghanistan. The "advisers" in Vietnam made the same kind of comments about "training" the ARVN.

"They've recruited the wrong kind of men. They're all stupid and ignorant. These young men are a bunch of delinquents." Big surprise. What sort of men did the British manage to recruit to fight against American revolutionaries? Benedict Arnold, for one. Even the British didn't think much of the Tories they had to repatriate after losing that war. In the US, our record of honoring the Vietnamese who served our side has been less than stellar.

You don't win civil wars, especially by foreign intervention. Hell, we can't honestly claim to have won our own Civil War, since a substantial portion of the southeast consistent elects representatives (and Presidents) who fight against the ideals of this nation and who support only 1 of 27 2nd amendment) of the Bill of Rights. Further, their only reason for supporting the 2nd amendment is that they still have dreams of resurrecting their lost secession by taking arms against the United States government. If we can't create democracy, promote civil rights, protect working people from abuse by international corporations, or protect civilians from invasion and terrorism by foreign terrorists, how do we plan to create that kind of democracy in the places where racial hatred, religious superstition, and inequality is ingrained in the culture?

12/11/2009

How Do You Win?

My neighbor has a sign in his yard, "Support our troops. Let them win." I see that sign every day and everyday I wonder what it means.

How do you know when you've won a war against insurgents? Who would offer the surrender of thousands of independent groups, hundreds of thousands of pissed off, homeless, jobless, religious fanatics? Who would rightfully be able to hand over the domain to their own country to an invading force? What would a win in the ridiculous and pompous “War on Terror” look like?

In Vietnam, I often heard old farts and returning vets claim that the way to win that war was to bomb the Vietnamese into oblivion, to "nuke 'em" until there was nothing left alive in that country. Since we, supposedly joined that war to protect the Vietnamese from other Vietnamese, that "win" never made much sense to me. You win when everyone is dead? You win when no one opposes your invasion of their country? Really? People really believe that you can win this kind of military action?

Since this war supposedly began when New York was attacked by a group of Saudi Arabian Islamic fundamentalists who hijacked a quartet of airliners and used them as bombs, I'm particularly curious as to how war can be fought against people who will kill themselves for the honor of killing us. In particular, I’m curious as to how we defeat Saudi militants by attacking every country except Saudi Arabia?

Every time one of our $10.5 million Predator drone's missiles strikes a village in Afghanistan, we kill a few people and turn a few more people into someone who has nothing to lose. With every military or Blackwater attack on civilians in Iraq, hundreds of Iraqi youth lost family and security and set themselves to wreak revenge on the country who hired those mercenaries. Seven years later, we have created armies of young people who have nothing but hatred for the United States. Generations later, this hatred will continue to fester. People with nothing to lose are tough to defeat, as the British discovered in its wars against “insurgents” from United States, India, Africa, and the Middle East. Rome took a shot at overcoming insurgents and, for a long while seemed to have the formula, until insurgents on both sides of the gates took down the empire. The old Soviet Union, at one time, believed itself to be the only successful modern empire, silencing dissent and propping up incompetent local governments, until it ran out of money and energy. Afghanistan had a lot to do with the end of the Soviet Union.

The United States has been creating enemies and battling insurgents since the turn of the last century, in the Philippines, in Panama, in Korea, in Vietnam, and, now, all over the Muslim world. For that matter, we’ll send troops any place that has a natural resource that our corporate masters want to incorporate. That policy has made enemies for the country all over the world. The reckless and ignorant Bush administration accelerated and expanded our enemy-making to new heights, so we have decades of surprise suicide attacks stored for our future.

Maybe worse, we are creating another generation of injured American men and women who will perpetrate the illusion that their wars could have been won if they’d have been allowed to carry out total war. Like the psychological damage done to the victims of our imperialist wars, the damage done to our own citizens tends to make it easier for us to keep trying to win these unwinnable wars. They want revenge, we want vindication.

It may be true that no enemy will ever be as clear and present as were the enemies of “the great wars.” Germany and the Axis powers made a pretty obvious target, even if they were supplied by Standard Oil and financed by Preston Bush’s Union Banking Corp. Withstanding the US and world banking interests that profited and encouraged WWI and WWII, our enemies mostly wore enemy uniforms, used weapons of their own manufacturer, and were based in their countries of origin. Today’s wars are fought by enemies wearing Levi’s and Nike’s, with weapons supplied by US weapon makers, and with techniques often learned in our own training camps.

As with McVeigh and Terry Nichols, some of our own soldiers bring those wars back to us, creating a completely different sort of terrorist with whom to wage this war. If the corporations and our government fights that war, we will all be insurgents. How will we define "winning" then?

12/06/2009

Corporate Welfare

Robert Reich supposedly invented the term "corporate welfare," back when he was Secretary of Labor in the first Clinton Administration. He started a firestorm of CEO whimpering and whining that somehow convinced Clinton to get his nuts clipped and back off of any sort of meaningful reform for the next 8 years. Bush, of course, was the world's greatest supporter of corporate welfare, having been the recipient of millions in handouts as an "oil man" and a part-owner of the Texas Rangers MLB team.

It remains to be seen where Obama stands on corporate handouts, but early signs are not good. His administration has treated the bankers and investment speculators as if they were valuable contributors to society. He's protected GM and Chrysler from the results of decades of lousy management and a half-century of embarrassing engineering. Of course, the bankers threatened the country's economic stability and Republicans and the right wing media wouldn't have tolerated treating them any differently. The car manufacturers hold the keys to hundreds of thousands of jobs and the country has no other middle class worker industry with which to replace it. It's possible that there were no good choices either with the banks or Detroit.

Locally, we're arguing about the most despicable of all forms of corporate welfare; publicly financed sports stadiums. In 1990, the state gave the NBA joke team, the Timberpuppies, the new $120 million Target Center. In 2000, St. Paul and the state handed the NHL and the Wild a welfare check for $120 million with the Xcel Center. Minneapolis smoke-filled-room-crooks robbed the city's taxpayers for the Twins' new $400 million stadium last year and the bill for that boondoggle will haunt taxpayers for thirty years.

Because too many middle class kids could almost afford the state's University of Minnesota system, our worthless state government (under Pawlenty) stuck taxpayers and students with a $300 million football stadium, higher tuition costs, higher state taxes, and an opportunity to become a 1st tier football school and a 3rd grade educational organization. The nation's football colleges are notorious for being party schools with a plethora of "communications majors" and MBAs and the associated worthless contribution those degree holders make to society.

Now, the Vikings have their paws out and their deadbeat "fans" want the rest of us to cough up a half billion during a time when the state is running a $1.2 billion deficit and has cut back education, state and city services, and taxpayers are suffering the worst employment crisis since the 1930's. While the state's head crooks are pretending that they care about the plight of the working class in these hard times, there is no question where this is going. The NBA holds LA out as the threat against any city or state that pretends to a conservative fiscal policy. Minnesota is just another place in the land of sports wimps. It's gonna happen, it's just a matter of when.

The fact is, pro and college sports do not contribute anything meaningful to a city's economy. Usually, they do the reverse. A few politically connected development crooks scrape off some taxpayer money, some politicians get closed door handouts in exchange for votes, the team gets a free ride, and the nation's IQ continues to drop through the floor. The rest of the city and state cough up welfare for both the team and the fans who refuse to pay ticket prices that will support the extravagant lifestyle the pros expect. In the meantime, our education system continues to decline from lack of attention and funding. Our economy stagnates while the rich Romans watch the gladiators as the city burns. Bridges collapse, working people lose their jobs and homes, businesses move from the area as the quality of life degenerates, and, eventually, we'll be a cold Omaha; except that Omaha has a much more robust economy without the deadbeat overhead of a half-dozen pro sports teams.

11/30/2009

Cures and Capitalism

There are two absolute reasons for fixing this country's incompetent, inefficient, and unfair medical system: cures and capitalism.

The first is the most important. Modern medicine, as practiced in this country, is about treatment not cure. The entire economic focus of our system is all about keeping patients in the system as long as possible, or until their money and insurance runs out. The last thing a hospital wants is to eject a patient from the facility with cash still untapped. As the current system becomes more stressed and over-committed to this amoral philosophy it is becoming more mercenary and greedy. The end result is that more prospective patients are wary of allowing themselves to be hospitalized for any condition, allowing treatable disease to become untreatable and creating less faith in the medical system.

Doctors, of course, have much of this to blame on themselves. Instead of showing themselves capable of healing themselves, they have demonstrated almost no capacity for self-regulation. Back at that 1950's turning point in US medical history when physicians chose to exchange being trusted, honored citizens for being rich citizens, practitioners of US-style medicine put themselves on the path to becoming poorly regarded and distrusted by much of society. Suppliers of medical devices and drugs have blazed that trail so well that it is paved and polished. Nobody but a complete fool would trust anything said by a drug company CEO about any subject more complicated than bribing a Republican Senator. Their smarmy ads are loaded with misinformation, make-believe illnesses, and the only honest information is contained in the long, scary list of side effects.

The medical system is close to a critical point in history. Genetic engineering is almost capable of absolutely curing many disabling and fatal diseases. Medical device and drug companies have vested interests in subverting these cures while society has exactly the opposite desire. For years, drug dealers have been in opposition to the best interests of society, where we are now presents a dramatic ramp-up in that conflict. At best, drug companies will pervert absolute cures into temporary respite, requiring regular treatment instead of a one-time application. More likely, the drug dealers will just repress genetic research to avoid having to deal with the possibility of cures. So, when science is nearly able to do away with disease, the medical system will prevent that from happening.

The second reason for fixing this mess is economic. The US economic system is as uninventive, unimaginative, and uninspired as it has been since the Great Depression. Our products are inferior and rarely designed or manufactured in the US. Our colleges are overstocked with business, social science, liberal arts, and basket-weaving students and professors and our engineering and science departments are staffed and attended by foreign students. The future is being manned by young people who "just want a good job," not by inventors or creative entrepreneurs. Universities are cranking out people who can manipulate investors, the tax system, and superstitions, but the people who might invent the next energy source, modernize our transportation system, or solve the major problems of the future aren't there.

Worse, much of the nation's great innovators have come from the working class and those people are desperately hanging on to crappy Home Depot jobs just for the insurance benefits. That goes not only for the inventors and grass-roots entrepreneurs but for the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto repair technicians, and the rest of the support talent that every technical society depends upon. Nobody can afford to start a business today, unless they are deluded enough to imagine themselves and their families immune to accident or disease. 60% of US bankruptcies are due to medical expenses and many of those families were insured under our current corrupt and incompetent system before discovering how useless that overpriced insurance can be.

The best way to get America back to work is to get the medical catastrophe off of the backs of American workers. When creative, innovative people believe they can take a chance on an idea without risking the lives and security of their families, the economy will find the road to recovery. As long as Washington is more interested in protecting the interests of drug dealers and insurance hucksters, we're all screwed.

11/14/2009

Our Crazy Teabag Lady Is at It Again

Nutty Michele is scaring kids all over the country, again. With that withering death's head grin, the look that makes serial killers nervous all over the world, Bachman planted her crazy face on Faux News and in a leadership position at the head of a protest march of angry call-center employees and mid-level insurance executives and a few oddly anti-public-option Medicare recipients.

Exhibiting her usual ability to see the world in a distorted perspective, she touted her crowd of 10,000 to be at least 40,000. I wonder if her quadruple vision is politically motivated, since she regularly managed to under-count Bush-era anti war protestors and still can’t manage the numbers for pro-public-option voters?

From the words of our local Loony Lady, in front of the US House of Representatives, “The American people overwhelmingly reject the government takeover of our health care. Last Friday a couple from Hawaii decided the time was so short they needed to get on a plane, come to Washington, to beg their representative to vote no — from Hawaii. What sacrifices freedom-loving Americans are making to get their government’s attention. And how big our government has gotten.

“They brought me this beautiful, precious lei and I’m reminded that the one who created this lei also created our freedom. Are we so insensible to the high cost our forbearers paid to purchase our freedom? Tonight, would we foolishly bargain those freedoms away? The American people, our forbearers, generations yet unborn are crying out to us tonight, for us to preserve their freedoms. Vote no on the government takeover of health care?”

Aaaahhh, what? Tom Paine, Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson made leis? Or did her mythical Hawaiians happen to be employed by one of those real Hawaiian patriots, HMAA (Hawaii Management Alliance Association), HMSA (Hawaii Medical Service Association), Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Summerlin Life & Health Insurance Company, United Healthcare Insurance Company, or UHA (University Health Alliance)? Pretty likely since Crazy Lady is the 21st biggest recipient (of 435 House members) of swag from the insurance industry. The health care providers aren’t nearly as impressed with her, since she is 230th on their list of graft-takers.

One of Nutty Lady’s biggest promotions is the plot to stuff Intelligent Design (sorry, Brad) into the science programs of public schools. If she really wants to do that cause some good, she should put some serious distance between Intelligent Design discussions and herself. She is one-woman evidence that that Designer wasn’t particularly intelligent. Any reasonably competent engineer would have tossed her into the factory seconds pile and stuck an alternative label on her so nobody would confuse her with the quality brand.

(Note to myself: I'm waffling between Faux News and a new one I discovered while Googling the Minnesota Nutty Lady, "ClusterFox.")

Academic Idiocy

Ok, I know this is a redundant rant title. At least 90% of all college degrees are idiotic. Just look at the degree listings from any any religious, liberal arts, or business school. You’d think Comedy Central invented some of these "programs." Jon Steward did find a lot of humor in both the UC ad and the job description.

Academia likes to pretend that getting a degree isn't about employment, especially when many college graduates career-peak at Starbucks. However, University of California Santa Cruz just hit the Braindead Lottery on several counts with their ad for a Greatful Dead archivist. I realize that these are desperate times for people with degrees in alphabetizing useless stuff, but a new standard in petty uselessness has been set with the goals for this position:

"The Archivist will be part of a dynamic, collegial, and highly motivated department dedicated to building, preserving, promoting, and providing maximum access both physically and virtually to one of the Library's most exciting and unique collections, The Grateful Dead Archive (GDA). The UCSC University Library utilizes innovative approaches to allow the discovery, use, management, and sharing of information in support of research, teaching, and learning."

Now, I could be wrong about this (but I'm not), I bet you could get at least two over-degree-credentialed central California stoners for the advertised salary of $50-60,000. You could probably clean out the management staff of several Starbucks for that price. Regardless of the silly-assed goals for collecting the "works" of a pack of stoned, atonal bozos who managed to attract an even bigger collection of idle stoners who were desperate to spend mommy's money for 25 years, the credential requirement for the dude or dudette who will be packing up bongs, spent and bend needles, miles of badly recorded analog recordings, and thousands of dope-messaging t-shirts and storing them in the academically approved cardboard boxes where no one will ever want to see them again are amazing. You need a master’s degree to be able to use the alphabet? Man, talking about dumbing down the education system!

If there was ever justification for suing your alma mater for providing a trivial education at non-trivial prices, this sort of nonsense would be high on the list. By the way, good luck to Trina Cherisse Thompson in your suit against the Monroe College Office of Career Advancement. It's about time someone sued a college for academic nonsense. Like those fools who paid $750k for a prefab 3-bedroom in Riverside, the long welfare cue of folks silly enough to pay $70,000 for a bachelors (or more) in Information Technology or any number of business-related or the opposite purpose (Hi, all you liberal arts kids!) degrees is long overdue in our courts. If you can sue McDonalds for selling you hot coffee without requiring a sippy cup for the retarded (who are in the driver's seat in the drive-thru), you ought to be able to sue for any dumb thing a human will spend money for. I want my money back for my pet rock. I’ve had it for 20 years and it still can’t do a single pet trick, except “sit!”

The long list of pointless academic exercises that are passed off as being worthy of 2-to-8 years of adult study is amazing, you have to admit. However, getting back to UCSC's most idiotic waste of California's vanishing and over-stressed taxpayer dollars, even the most dedicated lover of academic trivia has to admit that this job is a stretch. Visit a trip to any library and do your best to find anyone there doing a job more complicated than every job at Wal-Mart. Now that I think of it, why isn’t Wal-Mart experience on that list of required experience for the UCSC job?

11/13/2009

Taking Sides

Every once in a while, a wingnut confronts me for my opinions of poor government management. "It seems incongruent that you are critical of the policies of a style of governance that you apparently are strongly in favor of," goes the argument. This "analysis came from a comment I made about the Faux News' bias and stupidity that led into an article about how foolish it is for a city to paper its streets with parking meters and, then, whine about the lack of business downtown. I don't see the inconsistency. Money is the source of both corruptions and idiocies. Corporations are the source of the money. I'm bitching about the same problem showing its face in more than one place.

You can't get a political office in the US unless you have corporate money behind you. The overwhelming majority news comes from conservative corporate sources and most Americans get their information from these low-brow, biased, corrupt sources. Corporations are, by design, psychopathic and short-sighted. They don't care if they kill themselves as long as the parasites within are rich when the host dies. Who is surprised when an executive turns out to be a Madoff, Petters, Lay, Skilling, Fastow, Ebbers, Sullivan, or any of the other mobsters who wore suits and took up valuable space in corporate offices? Anyone who's worked in a Fortune 500 corporation knows that scum floats to the top of most corporate structures. It's not a surprise that some of these douchebags get caught, it's the result of contaminated government that most of the nation's CE?'s aren't in jail. Corporate crooks aren't the exception, they are the rule.

As for the flaws of government, Soviet Russia and both China's demonstrated how corrupt government can get. Like corporations, their fatal flaw was arrogance. Like corporations, that fatal flaw didn't show itself quickly enough to cause the biggest criminals much pain. Societies move glacially. You can get away with a lot in one human lifetime, if you create a big enough crime. Steal a loaf of bread three times and you're in jail for life. Steal an entire nation's wealth and you get a federal bailout and pat-on-the-hand regulations and a boatload of sympathy from Faux News and parades by the Teabaggers. Seriously, go figure.

If you're a mindless freemarketer I suppose you can imagine and anticipate a world government by corporations. Piles of refuse hidden away from the rich and heaped over the working class and poor. (They deserve it, right? They are poor.) Rivers streaming with floating garbage and saturated with chemicals, but there will still be bottled water and special reservoirs to supply the rich. Mountains cut flat for their minerals. Oil fields left as poisoned fields of contaminates for future generations (if there are any) to deal with. An enforced separation of infinitely rich owners and desperately poor slaves with no civil rights or hope for the second class citizens. A justice system (like our current Supreme Court) that enforces the worst traits of humans and human organizations and represses community and individual rights for the advantage of the rich and powerful. No invention, no creativity (the idle rich don’t have the inclination, ability, energy, or time for innovation), no future, and no hope for anyone who doesn’t already possess power and wealth. Sounds like the worst of communism, to me. Which is why I can’t tell the difference between a corporatocracy and any other totalitarian state.

The only state or world I have any hope for is a democratic one. Any system, including corporations, that are not democratic are useless and corrupt. That’s where I stand. That’s where I’ll live.

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

The idea that a corporation could, in any way, be less corrupt, more competent, more responsive, more valueable to society than a democratic government is insane and completely out of touch with reality.

11/07/2009

Make It Less Boring

Way back when my kids were young, our family would spend the occasional evening playing Monopoly; the board game, not the computer version. Some evenings, we'd play for a couple of hours. As the girls got older, the games got shorter. The reason they got shorter was that it became obvious how boring the game really was and we wanted to get it over with sooner. The way to make Monopoly go fast is to treat it like real business. You take shortcuts. When one of your competitors gets into trouble, you buy their property cheap. You plot strategies to do the most damage possible to your competitors, in this case my kids and wife. If you are lucky, ruthless, and reasonably clever, you can "win" pretty quickly. The point of winning being, the game ends and the boredom ends with it. Don't get me wrong, I loved spending time with my family, it was the Monopoly I hated.

It struck me that this might be the core problem with modern business (and government). In my experience, the closer you get to the top of American corporations, the more uninteresting the people become. I've been stuck in meetings with C's, vp's, directors, and the like and there wasn't a one of them that you'd want to invite to a party. Unless you expected your daughter to grow up to be a useless, dependent bimbo, you wouldn't want any of them dating your daughter. The only kind of sport you could imagine them playing would be the kind of activity that crippled old men suffer: golf, bowling, bridge, riding Harleys, and tossing dice in an alley.

So, with that as a background fact, maybe the solution to resolving the lack of ability, integrity, and intelligence in the nation's board rooms is to get rid of the boredom. The key to livening up business (and government) is to eject the boring people. The problem is, most Americans are timid, conservative people who freak-out when their dull little worlds are challenged. So, this is purely a theoretical exercise because we are clearly a dying culture with no more hope of rejuvenating ourselves than a body with a severed head.

Imagine, if you can, business, political, and cultural systems designed to remove the boredom from work, politics, and life. For starters, the corporate system has proven, repeatedly, to provide no useful value to society. It attracts mobsters to the top management levels, it produces useless trinkets that quickly turn into giant trash piles, it endangers the environment and the future of the nation. The existence of corporations, as they currently exist, restricts freedom and democracy. Worst of all, corporations are the ultimate conservative organization, far more so than even government, so they are coward-breeding facilities. If you want to bust boredom, you have to get past cowardice.

Minnesota tried a government experiment at busting boredom in 1999. We didn’t like it. Jesse Ventura shook up the state bureaucracy, rattled the cages of the vested powers, challenged our braindead media, and got more done in 4 years than the previous half-dozen Republicrat governors had managed. Like any good leader and intelligent citizen, he got out after 4 years and went back to living his life. The state followed Ventura with Pawlenty, a likeable, attractive, incompetent, hopelessly useless, and boring hack politician. He’s one of the douchebags the Republicans are hoping to pawn off on the nation in the next Presidential election. If you thought national politics are idiotic today, wait till you elect Polluty to national office. The nation’s IQ will drop as quickly as it did in 2000.

There are small pockets of communities and small businesses that work to remove boredom and boring people from everyday processes. If anything from this country survives into the next century, it will be their legacy. Everything else is doomed to fail and deserves that fate.

11/04/2009

Fairness and Democracy

Once upon a time in the United States of America, news reporters worried about lying in print or on the media. The reason they worried about lying was because they might get caught and exposed on their own territory. How they would be exposed was through a convention the country had devised called "the Fairness Doctrine." The Museum of Broadcast Communications describes the Fairness Doctrine as "an attempt to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair. The FCC took the view, in 1949, that station licensees were "public trustees," and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance. The Commission later held that stations were also obligated to actively seek out issues of importance to their community and air programming that addressed those issues."

Reagan took offense to everything that resembled competent government or democratic regulation and the Fairness Doctrine was one of the first pieces of government that the senile bastard and his band of gangsters started disassembling when they slithered into office in 1980. That and deregulating the FCC's ownership rules are the basis for the coating that provided Reagan's "Teflon Presidency." Reagan bribed the media with overwhelming control of the nation's information sources and they rewarded him with near-universal approval for every idiotic thing he did. Reagan is responsible for the harebrained drivel spewing from Faux News and wingnut radio. The new generation of media "personalities" consider themselves neocons, but they are nothing more than ignorant liars with a corporate agenda. There is nothing "new" about being conservative and corporate spokespersons have been around since the beginning of that incompetent institution.

Democracy can not exist without information. Even more important, the information has to resemble the truth. The only way to obtain the truth is to the only way to do that is to make all of the information available to as many people as possible. If there is a single public information source that is allowed to lie about every important issue without responsibility or ethics (yeah, I'm talking about you Faux News), the system has a cancer that will destroy the nation.

The older I get, the less I care about economic systems. I do not believe that the USSR died because it was a communist country. I do not believe the USA was so successful for our first 200 years because were were a capitalist country. I believe the strength of a nation is directly tied to its dedication to democracy, as Webster's describes it " a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections." I'm pretty happy with Webster's secondary definitions, too: "the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority" and "the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges." Anything that weakens democratic rule, the strength and the ability of the "common people" to act competently as the "source of political authority" is the enemy of democracy and my enemy.

The FCC Administrator, Mark Fowler, Reagan's usual sort of appointee, ruled that the Fairness Doctrine created a "chilling effect" on reporters' willingness and ability to report on controversial issues. Rephrased in honest English, that meant they were unwilling to invent "facts" and lie about controversial issues because they would be called on their lies and look as stupid as they often were; and are. In a rare act of courage and corporate independence, Congress passed a bill enforcing the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, but Reagan managed to remember to veto it before his nappy time. It came up again during Bush I and Pappy vetoed it, too.

Since then, the quality of discourse has continued to fall in the United States and the media has allowed itself to become polarized; with the overwhelming majority of news sources falling on the corporate right opposed by a few scattered and underpowered sources in the democratic center and a microscopic squeak from the the radical opposition from the left. Without a Fairness Doctrine, Faux News is allowed to say any crazy thing that comes into their tiny little heads and the closest thing to a correction we can expect comes from Comedy Central, since the MSM is solidly corporate. While I'm all for the idea that we should all switch to Jon Stewart and Steve Cobert for our daily news fix, I'd rather that the whole media provided useful information.

Congress needs to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and make it current with today's media. Any media that receives any government funding, including any publicly financed advertising or support resources, should have to live up to the standard provided by the original Fairness Doctrine: "allowing editorializing only if other points of view were aired, balancing that of the [network, newspaper, magazine, or website]." In fact, I'd go even further and force media to present alternative views of every aspect of the news. If a thing is worth knowing about, it's worth knowing everything about that thing.

In that spirit, comments on this blog are and have always been unmonitored (except for R-rated language and spam) and you can post whatever crazy opinion you have without even having the courage to identify yourself.

11/03/2009

Polishing Reagan's Turd

A while back, a friend told me about a collection of PBS videos he'd been watching with his family: The Presidents. I haven't seen the series, yet, but according to my friend the series is particularly friendly to the man who called the Nicaraguan Contras "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers." Reagan's memory, unlike his actual memory, has received a thorough polishing in the last decade. The man who began his administration by swapping weapons to Iran for hostages, who'd practically bankrupted the country with his Star Wars folly, and an administration that rivaled U.S. Grant's in corruption is, now, seen by a myopic many as some kind of "great leader."

One of the nasty features of being old is having to hear people who weren't alive when history happened (or where alive, but were too damn dumb to know what was going on) tell me what happened "way back when." For instance, the fruitballs at Motley Fool have been trying to sell me on their brilliant investment advice by screeching, "When Ronald Reagan signed his $750 billion stimulus plan in 1981, it snapped the U.S. out of a deep recession, ignited a high-tech revolution, and signaled the start of the greatest bull market in history... " And so on.

There was no "snapping" of the economy in 1981 or in any year surrounding 1981. The US Misery Index does a fine, month-by-month, non-partisan job of graphing the combined effect of the economy on US citizens and that index steadily grew in the early years of Reagan's administration and didn't begin to fall until the last year of Reagan's 2nd term. It didn't drop substantially until Clinton's 2nd term. The US's flawed and disingenuous "unemployment" statistics peaked at 9.7% in 1982 and fell back to the 6-7% territory (as it had been during Carter's term and the previous 2 Republican administrations) in 1987. It dropped all the way to 4% in Clinton's last year of office. The graph to the right (thanks to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank) demonstrates the "snapping" that went on during the Reagan years. Thanks, Ronny. You really improved our lives.

Most likely, the speculators and con artists on Wall Street made a killing during the Reagan years. After all, he handed over the keys to every S&L in the country to mobsters (like one of the Bush brothers) and they made off with billions of taxpayer dollars (~$150B). Reagan raised the public debt more than 4 1/4 times--from $700B to $3T--and joked about it. So much for the "conservative economic policy" king. The GNP, always a contested statistic, rose fairly steadily during Reagan's terms. Since the average quality of life of the working class dropped steadily during the Reagan/Bush I years, I don't know what that meant. The fact is, most of us were better off before Reagan, unless "we" were building bombs.

Joe Conason wrote in Salon.com, "However historians will assess Reagan's responsibility, the record is what it is. Gathering dust in the news archives are thousands of clippings about the gross influence peddling, bribery, fraud, illegal lobbying and sundry abuses that engulfed the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon, to name a few of the most notorious cases." Dozens of Reagan appointees were prosecuted and jailed for corruption. Cheney learned his infamous "I don't recall" defense during the Iran-Contra hearings. If the President can get away with claiming senility as a defense, why can't everyone else? Now, our ex-Vice President uses that infirmity every time he's put in a position of recalling any past decision. Of course, when Cheney does remember something he's notoriously wrong, so it's probably true that Little Dick is senile and always has been.

What I remember about the Reagan years was economic terror. I was well-employed during most of those years, but I knew lots of hard-working, talented people who weren't. I knew several talented engineers who couldn't find work anywhere outside of the military-industrial complex. I knew doctors who were forced to quit their private practices and join HMOs because insurance companies squeezed them out of business. I knew lots of people, including myself, who held a couple of jobs and needed them to pay their bills. I knew people who lost a job and were out of their homes and on the street in a few weeks. Like most working class people, I lived in fear that I'd lose my job, be unable to find a replacement, and be unable to protect my family from poverty. Like my depression-era parents, I've lived in fear of being broke and on the streets for much of my life and it affected how I spent my money, where I saved it, and how much or little confidence I've had in personal security. Those twenty Republican years are the cause of that insecurity, 1972-1992, and the Bush II years amplified that insecurity. Carter didn't count for anything. Johnson-Nixon-Ford and Vietnam had bankrupted the country and Carter was in office with nothing to work with and no clue where to begin. Reagan promised a magic cure, but he was just more of the same.

The one thing I do know about Reagan is that I wouldn't invest a nickel with anyone who claimed there was a Reagan economic miracle. That is the kind of fool who is doomed to repeat the past indefinitely.

Anyone who is good for the speculators is bad for the rest of us. Anyone who is good for the military and its contractors is bad for the country. Anyone who conducts private wars, financed with drug money and siphoned tax money is bad for the world. Anyone who believes that making the world tax-free for the idle rich will "trickle down" prosperity on the working class is a fool and/or a crook. Reagan was all of these things and a lot more. I don't remember anything good about the man and his evil has lived on in the wingnuts and is doing damage to our democracy and economy every day.

11/01/2009

Falling Down

This isn't the first time I've marveled at the arrogance of fools. It won't be the last.

In the public debate, a substantial number of "contributors" appear to be beyond proud of the fact that they are dumb as toast. People brag about having minimal education, the reading habits of a six-year-old, no technical abilities, and a fondness for a past that never was. It's as if being incapable of making a useful contribution to society has become a bragging point.

Another "value" the wingnuts appear to treasure is an independence of reality and truth. Limbaugh's claim that "thought police" got between him and his craving for an NFL franchise is pretty hilarious. Even the notoriously right wing, corporate NFL is put off by Limbaugh's racist craziness. The boy who said, "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies." And, "They're 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?" And, "Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." And who told an African-American caller to his show to "take that bone out of your nose and call me back." The man who called the President an "‘halfrican American" and the "affirmative action candidate" and who plays a song on his Faux News show that refers to the President as "Barack the Magic Negro" has a lot of nerve, or stupidity, in assuming that no one will remember or call him on his past statements.

Even dumber are his fans who think they can avoid being labeled "racist" for being his fans. You sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas, KKK'ers.

I think that's a problem with much of modern leadership. As we down-breed the nation into a pack of howling fools, the fools have sufficient numbers to affect/infect public policy. If the fools can find enough media spokespeople to present their case loudly and often, they infect even more fools and the pack begins to have enough mass that their fear factor pushes away anyone who isn't willing to dive into a fight for the truth. Most of the corporate media is right wing and those who aren't are infested with corporate ignorance and cowardice. Unless Obama brings back the Fairness Doctrine for all public media, the country is screwed. As long as the fools can lie about every subject without being called, on their own ground, for those lies, we might as well call this country "toast" and look toward a 3rd world future. Rush and his butt-buddies Rove, O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck, and the rest of the low-brow Faux News crowd are lowering the intellectual bar so far that it appears that Hannity's next "liberal" debate opponent will be a chimpanzee. I wonder what kind of handicap Hannity will require for the chimp?

The weird thing about America's dependence on dunces is that it is so counter-intuitive. You'd think pretty much anyone would look for advice from the most intelligent source they can find. You'd think that, but in America that has almost always been wrong. Adlai Stevenson was beaten twice by a notoriously inactive, ineffective, and intellectually limited Ike Eisenhower. Much of Eisenhower's appeal was that he was not an "egghead." Republicans actually bragged that their candidate wasn't as limited by intelligence and insight as the Democratic candidate. Our last three national elections were practically comedies of dichotomy. The Republican candidates, Bush, Cheney, McCain, and Palin, were so anti-intellectual that they were practically cartoon characters. Not a one of those buffoons were able to raise the level of public debate above grade school levels. That didn't do much damage to their electability. In fact, it might have been an advantage.

After 10 months of struggling out of the economic depression Bush/Cheney created, the brainless crowd are already arguing that Obama's intellect is a handicap. They are egged on in this display of ignorance by their retard Republican media cheerleaders from Faux News, but that is no excuse for listening to those idiots. In fact, there is no excuse for listening to anything Limbaugh and that band of fools says about anything. I think it's fair to consider knowing what Rush has to say about any subject as a failed IQ test.

9/10/2009

What News?

The decline of the national news media has echoed (or led) the decline in the national intelligence. Someone once said that modern television news is a collection of "thank god that s**t didn't happen to me" events. Those were the good old days. As the national ship sinks, the news programs are busy distracting the public with brilliant exposes on what's happening in their network's reality shows, which talking head is going to be interviewed on which nighttime variety show, and the all important love lives of movie stars. The movie, "Stupidity," described the target audience of television news as a group with a third grade education. I have to ask why anyone would need three years of grade school plus kindergarten to comprehend the drivel presented on prime time network news?

In the last week, the distance between what the marching morons are being fed and what is happening grew so massively that I doubt the sanity and mental capacity of anyone able to watch more than 60 seconds of network news. Wall Street's mouthpieces aren't much better. The Wall Street Journal, the right wing rag most respected by derivititive traders and other hucksters, barely bothered to mention the fact that several of the recent short-term federal Treasury bond auctions had to be supported by the Fed. To put it simply, the US government is selling US government bonds to the US government. This means that the Chinese, the Japanese, the Arab oil governments, and the rest of the world's suckers have finally learned their lesson. They aren't interested in buying our paper, because our paper is nothing more than paper. The gross national product of the United States is devolving into worthless collections of imaginary money and the world knows it.

But we don't. NBC's news program, the only major news program running in the morning after this series of economic catastrophes, spent 10 minutes interviewing some douchebag who tried to sell his parents on Craig's list. The economy is swirling around the toilet bowl and what the nation hears about is this kind of crap?

This is an interesting look at what's left of our economy: "US is on the slippery slope to economic collapse."

I have to wonder if this is trickle down from the political idea that what people need is good news? Reagan won his elections ignoring reality and jabbering about imaginary good news and looking goofy and delusional (or, if you loved Reagan, you probably think he looked happy). CEO's around the country tell their middle managers "tell me what is right, I don't need to hear about what's wrong with this company." As if problems fix themselves and by gazing fondly upon the few things that are still working we can wish problems into self-correction mode. That's how you create a quality control system that resembles the United States Congress: clueless, incompetent, disabled, dysfunctional, and irrelevant.

If you say stupid things often, loudly, and with authority, it eventually becomes "common sense." Common sense is "common" in the sense the word means "falling below ordinary standards ." One piece of good advice I've followed in my past has been "figure out where the crowd is going and go the other way." That applies to common sense.

9/09/2009

Capitalism and Invention

I'm facinated by a lot of the uninformed argument about health care, relative to technology. Without Medicare and Medicade, the profitibility of the major medical device companies would be so slim that they wouldn't exist in any recognizable form, but those corporations are fighting "the public option" as hard as the more obviously self-interested insurance companies.

People claim that our capitalist system "produces" innovation and it does seem that many of the more socialist countries are less inclined to develop new drugs and devices. On the other hand, we're consistently generations behind in surgical procedures and preventive therapies and our physicians often go to Europe, Japan, India, and Singapore to learn the newest surgical tactics.

Being the traditional "ugly American," I have absolutely no personal experience anywhere but here and Canada. So I'm only getting what little I know from the media and second-hand reports and experiences. Still, it seems to me that trying to work both sides of the capitalist-socialist boarder has created an expensive, sluggish, marketing-based system that works pretty poorly for the majority of citizens. The link between capitalism and technical advances doesn't seem particularly tight.

A friend and I, about 6 years ago, came up with an invention for which he inisisted on applying for a patent. I was more convinced that we should build a product, first, and worry about the legal crap later. He went ahead, with his money, and dumped a load of cash into a New York patent law firm. The patent is still in the system, but another company is making exactly our product and selling it. They aren't making much money from it, as I suspected would be the case for our production. The whole process really made me thing about how I feel about invention, innovation, and business, though.

I've had about two dozen experiences with the patent process, in and because of my career. I invented a mobile electronic scale in the 1970's. I applied for a patent with that product, about six months after a company a friend owned went into production with the product. I did not follow up on the patent and the concept, as far as I know, is public domain now. It's also obsolete and went that way about 2 years after it went into use. I made some money. My friend got his company off of the ground with the product. I learned a lot about how corporations breech individuals' patent rights. I ended up in another industry and decided to keep my weight measurement ideas to myself. I wrote many of two companies' patent applications for a decade. I worked with patent lawyers and still communicate with one them, as a friend. The more I know, the less I want to participate in that system.

An engineer who worked for me in the 1980s had a common experience in lighting design in his own business. A Chinese company started copying his product designs and he ended up getting a consultant's fee for helping them steal his design. The feel-good stories and movies about inventors ending up rich after fighting off the corporations are mostly myth or massive good luck. My friend still creates some pretty amazing lighting controllers, but he submerges them in artwork and his customers could care less how he does what he does, so he's not as likely to get ripped off. The more he learned, the less he wanted to contribute to the corporate intellectual property theft system.

Just looking at my own experience, I don't think everyone invents and creates to get rich. I do think people might stop being publically inventive to avoid being robbed by corporations. I know people who create some incredible things for their homes and hobbies who will die with those secrets rather than lose them to some corporate scumbags. The Open Source computer world is a terrific example of that "look what I did" attitude and its disconnect from the profit motive. Moore's Law appears to be in stall-mode for the last near-decade. I wonder if the legal system has an effect on that?

Energy is an area where practically anyone in any area of technology and science could find the critical breakthrough that would save us all. Energy is probably the most tied-up-in-corporate-shell-games areas of invention law. Oil companies control Washington DC. They have the lawmakers, the lawyers, and paid technology thieves lurking around every corner looking to snag every invention that relates to their profits. Anyone foolish enough to announce "I've found the solution" to any energy problem is going to be sucked into a blackhole of corporate lawyers. Anyone smart enough to find the solution is probably going to be too smart to talk about it.

The founders of this country knew that the future belongs to invention and innovation. They created a patent office in 1790, George Washington signed the amendment. The office called itself "Commissioners for the Promotion of Useful Arts" or the "Board of Arts." Today, we talk about "intellectual property" and the associated rights, but that concept ought to be renamed "property of the powerful." Instead of protecting the rights of inventors, current law protects the corporate owners of concepts that were invented decades earlier. While stifling invention, our "property of the powerful" laws make sure publishing companies retain profits from art that was created decades ago, while ensuring that current artists are screwed multiple ways before their first fan experiences the art. The "property of the powerul" laws give priority to those with the most lawyers over those with the clearest claim to invention. The overall effect is to encourage inventors to stay out of the system, to keep their ideas to themselves.

Product design, today, closely reflects this constraining of mass participation in invention. Medical devices, for example, move in baby steps. New ideas find their way into products so rarely that you'd think human creativity had dried up. A friend described aeronautical engineering as "sued out," meaning that every new idea got so entangled into patent lawsuits that the industy has agreed not to do anything new. For an industry that is so dependent on the price of oil, you'd think that agreement would be the kiss of death. It probably will be. Auto manufacturers seem to have made a similar agreement. The movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" depicts an auto industry that is so connected to oil interests that the industry sabatoged its own best ideas to keep the oil companies happy. Today, every car company is offering exactly the same solutions to alternative energy and high efficiency vehicles. That ought to be proof that invention is not a significant part of those company's culture.

How do we fix this? We probably won't. If "necessity is the mother of invention," we're most likely going to be forced to wait for necessity. As it has taken a world-wide depression to force finance to mildly reform its corrupt practices, it will probably take a world-wide energy crisis to force industry to consider reforming creative property rights. Until then, we can enjoy the incremental, baby-stepping stutter-step of progress that we've learned to expect from our existing system.

9/08/2009

Why Teaching Sucks

In a recent conversation, my daughter made a comment about how unfair it was that teachers make $40,000 a year and "only have to work 9 months" for it. For the last decade, I've taught at a private college. For about 3 years of that decade, I had the time of my life teaching. For those 3 years, I would have agreed with her, except that I was making about $7,500 a year at the time. I was, also, working 12 months a year at two other businesses that paid the bills.

I wasn't teaching for money. I sure wasn't doing it because it was easier than my previous job. I was teaching because it was fun.

It was fun because I'd stumbled into a school situation where my boss was a terrific person with honorable motivations and his boss was, possibly, an even better person with amazing management skills. It was fun because I was learning as much as I was teaching, if not more. That's not a typical teaching position in the modern United States. It didn't last long where I worked, either.

Most schools are mismanaged as badly as the worst corporations. Most teachers find themselves in systems that provide no outlets for their own education. Most teachers are as unsupported in their classrooms as a National Guard foot soldier in Afghanistan. The web is jammed with articles describing the conditions teachers work under: Top 5 Reasons Many Teachers Quit, Why are So Many Teachers Quitting after 5-7 Years?, Valid Reasons Teachers Quit, Why Teachers Quit and Why They Don’t, Why New Teachers Quit, and hundreds of other articles on this subject.

18,000 California teachers quit every year. 6%, nationally, leave the profession every year. 20% quit after 3 years. Nationally, 50% of urban teachers quit in the first 5 years of their career. Most teachers are short-timers. Our national divorce statistics look better than the teaching profession. If the pay is so good, the hours are so short, and teaching is one of the last jobs in the country to be "protected" by a union, why is the job so unwanted after a few years of experience?

The reason is that teachers are constantly exposed to the nation's dirty laundry. From both ends of the work, teachers experience disrespect, incompetence, and disregard for their work. Students are ill-equipped to be educated. Administrators are mostly failed teachers. Society can't decide if it wants a professional education system or an amateur religious indoctrination. Government involvement swings from indifference to demanding hours of dysfunctional testing and mountains of pointless paperwork. From top-to-bottom, side-to-side, and front-to-back, teachers are surrounded by factors that would demotivate a saint.

What we're often left with is the institutional dumbing-down of the career that has paralyzed small towns and the Midwest. All of the smart kids leave for the city or better jobs as soon as they can escape and all the dumb kids stay home, reproduce, and down-breed even dumber kids. The smart kids who become teachers quickly see how screwed up the profession is and get out. The dumb kids who can't find better jobs stay in teaching, infect new teachers with their incompetence, and wait to be promoted into administration jobs where they can do even more damage.

Top all this foolishness off with the national drive for "efficiency" and you have larger classes, fewer resources in the classroom, more demands on a teacher's after-class time, fewer teachers with special skills (particularly math and science), no time for class planning, mountains of No Child Left Behind paperwork, and more needy children desperately looking for a parent substitute. Getting a day off is easier for soldiers. Having a weekend free of class planning, paper grading, or required-attendance school activities is rare. Getting support from administration is as unlikely as getting an honest answer from Little Dick Cheney. Summers are spent on a 2nd job or advanced degree pursuits or class preparation.

"Efficiency," in the US, means lower taxes for the rich. This efficiency is producing a workforce that is so incompetent that practically every 3rd world nation has better educated labor. Eventually, the rich are going to find themselves surrounded by incompetence and they won't be so rich anymore. The middle class drives everything in this country, in every country, and wreaking the education system that feeds the middle class is cultural suicide.

Any reasonably intelligent person would do anything to escape from this rat's nest of a job. And they do. That leaves the unreasonably unintelligent holding down the fort. Great jobs don't see mass evacuation from the profession. Teaching is not a great job. Try it sometime. Let's see how long you last.

8/23/2009

Police State: Yes or No?

One of my favorite commentators of American life, Ted Rall, recently wrote a column titled, "EVERYONE HATES THE COPS." Ted's point was "I can't point to a single positive experience I've ever had with a cop." He concedes that "No one should be less scared of cops than me. I'm white, clean-cut, middle-aged, invariably polite . . ." And goes on to say that, nevertheless, he's afraid of cops in practically every country in the world, especially Uzbekistan and the United States.

This subject came up for me when I recently watched Phillip Hoffman's "The Party's Over," his documentary about the 2000 election campaigns, conventions, and the final result of that moment when the charade of democracy in the United States formally ended. Recently, wingnuts have been comparing their violence-edged demonstrations at town hall meetings over health care to protests about the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. The kids and adults who protested those wars were met by cops, rubber bullets, teargas, and arrest. The wingnuts and their insurance company instigators are welcomed by the cops and their gun-toting behavior has been ignored by the press and the cops. There is no aspect of personal courage being displayed by the wingnuts, since they are in no danger from anyone but themselves.

On the other hand, watching the gross overreaction of the L.A. cops at the 2000 Democratic Convention and the outright lunacy of the Philadelphia police and national guard at the Republican Convention, anyone familiar with the degeneration of the United States since WWII has to wonder where and why we went so wrong. Peaceful protest from anything resembling the left in the US is always met with overwhelming violence, police lawlessness, and depraved and pitiful reporting from the major news outlets. When the wingnuts carry automatic weapons into the street to intimidate participants at the town hall meetings, it barely makes the editorial section and never makes it to television news.

Which brings me back to my point, "Everyone Hates the Cops." Of course, that's not true. Wingnuts love the cops, since they act as official bodyguards for the right. Corporations own the cops, so they gotta love 'em. The rest of us are afraid of the armed force whose unpredictable behavior was best described as "cops on the take can't take orders" by reporters covering the unleashed violence Chicago police let loose on Vietnam protesters in 1968.

That is a big problem, too. Every Latin American country has discovered that building a police force, including a military, based on serving the interests of the corrupt rich and powerful creates a system inclined to self-destruct. You put guns in the hands of characters who will follow any order, regardless of legality or morality, and you are sowing the seeds of your own destruction. We've probably past the point of no return, in the US, on this regard. Between the un-Constitutional "Commander in Chief" designation of the President and the century of corporate invasions disguised as acts of "national security" defense, the war decision-making process has been handed from civilian to corporate-military and, since they have the guns, that is probably irreversible.

I've always thought that critical jobs like policing, governing, and maintenance should be nationally drafted positions. I totally agree with Rall that, " the kind of person who would want to become a police officer is precisely the kind of person who should not be allowed to work as one." That goes for politician, bureaucrats, and highway maintenance among most of the nationally vital tasks. But it's too late for that sort of logic. What we're left with is the choice to keep out heads down and try to avoid the scrutiny of our corrupt police or join the wingnuts and take to the lawless streets.

8/20/2009

Irrelevant Republicans

Sen. Jon Kyl, accurately called "the No. 2 Republican in the Senate" said, in a conference call with fellow wingnuts, "One of the concerns I have about the approach of the Democrats ... is an assumption that there has to be a national mandate on all insurers to do various things." That about sums up the Republican position on health care reform. Whatever is done, the last thing they want to do is insist that private insurers "do various things"; or anything except ration health care to their customers and make a shitpot full of money that they will distribute to their own executives and the politicians who are so securely stuffed into their pockets.

At last count, those corporate crooks were spending $40M/day buying politicians and spreading propaganda. Obviously, this golden goose is producing a good bit of spare change. Otherwise, these characters wouldn't have this kind of money to dump into convincing us that the godawful system we have couldn't be improved.

Turdballs like Senator Kyl (hence the "No. 2" designation) are against anything that resembles value-provided by the federal government to working class citizens. Fortunately for them, a substantial portion of working class citizens don't want anything of value for their tax money, either. As long as we're just dumping trillions of dollars into fake wars that profit oil companies and the military-industrial complex, they're happy as clams in a bucket. If someone is crazy enough to suggest that tax money might be used to benefit taxpayers, suddenly we're freaked out about "socialism." A few crazy fuckers are even making the jump from socialism to fascism, which demonstrates why "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Ah, the power of words with nonsensical definitions. Rush and Hannity calling someone else a fascist. Who'd have thought that would ever amount to anything more than a comedy routine?

Siding with Republican corporate spokespeople, these morons don't want to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against customers with pre-existing conditions (which is usually defined as anything expensive that might happen to an insured victim), equal and fair rate limits for all applicants, allowing the government to negotiate reasonable drug prices, or even the crazy idea that (like income taxes, Medicare, SS, and Unemployment insurance) if everyone kicks into the pot the individual cost becomes reasonable.

Pretty much, Kyl is saying that the corporate dope dealers, grossly misnamed "insurance companies," and the quacks running the nation's health care system shouldn't be inconvenienced by any sort of regulation. Of course, Kyl has a healthcare program that is provided by taxpayers, so why should he care? After "serving" (himself?) for five years, he's vested for life in that "socialized" system.

The only platform the Republicans currently possess is the desire to "make the President fail." As in the past, conservatives are willing to take the whole country down in their battle to stuff their own pockets with dope dealer money and ship jobs to foreign countries. They could care less about the brown-shirted morons who chant sheep-talk at town meetings and march around the meeting places with their AK-14's shouldered high and their automatic pistols holstered where everyone entering the meetings can see them. If anyone had any doubt as to the danger the right poses to democracy, these meetings ought to squash those thoughts.

But they won't, because America has become the Home of the Dumb and Dumber. The greatest fear the average citizen has is that someone much smarter might try to do something good for the country. They elect idiots like GeeWizz because he made them feel better about themselves. The worst possible political situation is a non-white President with an IQ in triple digits while the majority of the white population has bred itself down to the point that watching reality TV has become an intellectual pursuit.

In this environment, characters like Senator Kyl are doing exactly the right thing in doing nothing. It's the kind of action that Americans understand. Anything more complicated is "elitist intellectualism." The last thing we want is smart people thinking about solving problems.

Ted Rall recently wrote, Violence Works, Incrementalism Doesn't, where he described Americans as "one of the most gleefully anti-intellectual nations on earth." That about sums up the pathetic state of the union. That doesn't mean that we have to go backwards in time, though. Americans have been stupid often in our history. Sometimes leaders have to lead, even when the followers are wandering around like brainless chickens.

At least some Democrats are beginning to figure out how irrelevant Republicans are, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said "I think that at some point everyone's going to see that the Republicans simply are not going to agree to any kind of healthcare reform that the insurance industry isn't supporting and that, reluctantly, we're going to have to do it without them." When it comes to doing anything other than As if that is different from the last 100 years of Republican inactivity.

8/04/2009

Looking at the End

In Our Endangered Values, Jimmy Carter recently described what the Red Cross found in US torture camps in Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. The story is so vile, so unbelievable that it equals the horrors of Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, and all of the depraved, arrogant, sick dynasties of history. Truthout summarized only a bit of our actions against civilians, women, and children and you can read it for yourself here: http://www.truthout.org/080309X?n. There is no point in my trying to add anything to this.

While the crazy right is pretending that nothing can be done to rectify the crimes of Bush/Cheney ("the past is past" argument), they may be right. As the conservatives' best attempt to comprehend what was done, Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."

"Some very serious charges?" What is more serious than "rape and murder?" If that doesn't move them to shame and action, they are immobile. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Not only did good men do nothing, but some knowingly did evil things.

This is so sick, so beyond humanity and reason, that it makes me believe we are done as a civilization. We're just waiting for the collapse. No society can survive this level of depravity. Once this kind of sickness sets in the culture is doomed to fail. And deserves to fail. I can't think of an example in history of a nation dipping so low and recovering. If you can, I'd appreciate the encouragement.

All through Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II's reign, I felt the decay of the general public accelerate. I feel the United States is just too damaged to continue now. It's just a matter of time and momentum before the collapse. We have proudly elected, twice, a President and Vice President who had no respect for the Constitution, the nation's laws, or our once proud history. We have raised children who became "soldiers" who committed these terrible acts. We have hired mercenaries and bureaucrats who administered crimes against humanity that can never be forgiven. The fantasies of the crazy religious right be damned, some crimes are unforgivable. Their own argument for capital punishment recognizes that fact. Once a human, and a culture, has stepped beyond a line of civilization there can be no redemption.

At the absolute minimum, Bush, Cheney, and their cast of international criminals should be subjected to a Nuremberg Trial before the world. But I'm not sure that if that trial resulted in that venal group hanging from scaffolds it would make a lick of difference in our nation's future. The fact that so many of us have degenerated into "conservatives" may be insurmountable. The ideals that created holy documents like our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the many great moments in the United State's of America's history may have been overcome by eight years of non-stop, unlimited evil.

7/30/2009

Being Conservative

Yesterday's conversation with my neighbor really stuck with me. In fact, I think I dreamed of what my responses should have been all night. The comment that in regard to a national health care system, "We need to go slow. To make sure we get the best outcome for everyone," stuck with me the strongest.

I'm reading a David Halberstam book, Teammates, about Ted Williams and his friends in the last days of Williams' life. In that book, Halberstam spends a little time explaining one of baseball's most controversial moments; the last game of the 1946 World Series. In the 9th inning, the game was tied and Boston's excellent centerfielder, Dominic DiMaggio, was injured and out of the lineup. A journeyman, Leon Culbertson, was in his place. Enos Slaughter, one of the game's most dangerous baserunners was on first and Harry Walker, a scatter hitter, was at bat. "Country" Slaughter had decided that he was going to go all the way on anything Walker hit out of the infield, particularly if that hit went into centerfield. Walker put the ball right where Slaughter wanted it.

Here's what Bobby Doer said about the play," It was brutal--as bad a field as I've ever played on. So bumpy and rough. Dom (DiMaggio) was accustomed to it by then, and not afraid of it. But Leon was very tentative with it. Dominic played balls aggressively; Leon played this one conservatively."

That's my definition of "conservative," too. My experience with taking the conservative route always ends in losing, too. Shakespeare's Falstaff used a less common term when he said, "The better part of valor is discretion." Playing the ball "conservatively," avoiding battle with "discretion," running away in outright cowardice, it's all the same.

The United States Congress has been talking about a single-payer national healthcare reform since Harry Truman's administration. Nixon side-tracked that movement by handing the keys to the nation's medical system to the worst of all possible "solutions"; HMO's. At that point in history, even conservatives realized that our national system was "in crisis." The conservative "fix" during the 1990's was to defeat, again, the Clinton's national healthcare system and to allow dope companies to market directly to consumers, which ballooned drug use and cost. So, "taking it slow and carefully" means wasting trillions of dollars and sixty years to get to . . . what? An opportunity to "break Obama," according to hillbilly senator, Jim DeMint? Another opportunity to pork-barrell more profits for insurance companies, dope dealers, and the rest of the crowd who prey on America's sinking national health crisis?

We are a conservative nation.

All this reminds me of the conversion to the metric system that every industrial expert describes as one of the most critical competitiveness disadvantages our country faces. We are, for practical purposes, the last nation in the industrialized world to give a damn about the length of the king's foot and a base-12 measurement system and the rest of the archaic "standards" that make up the English/SAE measurement system. Thomas Jefferson was the first American President to recommend that we convert to a decimal/metric system and in 1792, the United States was the first nation to adopt a decimal currency system. The metric system was made "legal for trade" in 1866. In 1971, the infamous Report to the Congress: A Metric America, A Decision Whose Time Has Come was delivered to Congress and that study recommended the country fully convert to the metric system in 10 years. A decade later, the Great Communicator Ronny Reagan, disbanded the U.S. Metric Board and declared the movement "dead." In 1988, Congress converted the federal government to the metric system and industry has been "electively" moving to the metric system since the 1970s. However, complete conversion to the metric system is nowhere in sight.

Apparently, our overwhelmingly conservative elected representatives will not be satisfied until the United States has the worst national health system in the world. In 2000, we were somewhere between 37th and 39th, falling below the high standards of the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Columbia, and Oman. In 2000, we were still healthier than Cuba, Slovenia, and Croatia, but just barely.

I am still working on generating a similar comparison for the 2006 data. They seem to have been effectively attacked on the 2000 position, from U.S. conservatives, that they are avoiding such a clear ranking of nations. Battling data is an easy win for conservative "think tanks" (the ultimate oxymoron), since US citizens are doing as well with math and science as is our healthcare system (28th of 40 industrialized nations in mathematics scores). If history is a guide, moving to a rational national healthcare system is at least 200 years in the future. If we can't manage something as rational and simple as changing to the international measurement system, something as emotionally charged, financially motivated, and easily misled as a healthcare system is impossible.

If I'm right, it's just more evidence that the United States is a radically conservative nation. If you don't understand my meaning, let me be clear: the country is cowardly, mentally disabled, and lacking in necessary survival skills.

7/29/2009

Who Do You Trust?

"You can't trust politicians, they're all liars and crooks," my neighbor said, as a final nail in the coffin he'd built for national health insurance and taxes on the wealthy.

He's normally a fairly reasonable guy, but we had a few hot flashes during the last election cycle when he decorated his lawn with McCain/Palin and Norm Coleman posters. My Obama and Franken posters, apparently, caused a little conflict in his home life and he pulled the Coleman posters down almost immediately and the McCain posters slowly vanished over the next week or two. I think his wife is less strident about her Republican commitment.

Listening to him chant "we need to do this slowly and carefully" so that the politicians he distrusts so much can "get the best result for everybody," I realized that there are people, with normal-sized brains, who still listen to Faux News and yak-radio. Somehow, I'd hoped that all that crap had vanished into blurbs specially produced for Jon Stewart's monologue. Who knew that Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and whatshisname O'Reilly still had an audience? I'm not kidding, I had foolishly assumed that the only listeners left to the crazy right were safely occupied by the unemployment line. Unfortunately, not so.

Here's a question for you, if one believes that all politicians are "liars and crooks," what makes so many of the middle class gravitate to the collection of "liars and crooks" with the worst record for insight, foresight, corruption, or any other important characteristic of leadership or accurate information? If you look at the record the Faux News and yak-radio crowd has generated in the last two decades, it's hard to find a single important issue where they have been right.

They totally missed their Crazyland guesses on how the Afghanistan/Iraq invasions would work out; in the sort and long term. They lied (or were "wrong") about the Bush Administration's abuse of the Constitution and the laws of the country. Remember Willy O'Reilly's "You can't produce one person who's been tortured by the United States" statement? How about Tony Snow's 2003 Faux News moronic claim, "Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics' complaints." Yep, we all know that war's been over for six years, right? Google "iraq invasion 2003 quotes" or just check out this page (http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2842) to see how far off the conservative news goofballs were on that issue.

Their proclamations on the state of the economy have been consistently out of focus with reality. I clearly remember the wingnuts' babble about our strong economy based on "the growth in homeownership and consumer spending linked to accumulated home equity." Yeah, everybody knows that an economy based on unrealistic inflated property prices and massive borrowing on imaginary "equity" is the core of a sound economic system. The logical extension of that thinking would be to borrow money against purchased groceries under the assumption that the crap digested groceries "produces" would be worth more than the food input.

The Republican/Faux News' blind loyalty to the idle rich and corporate socialism seems to be more deluded by the moment. Soon, we're going to hear Billy O'Reilly rant how Paris Hilton is going to take her fortune and inventive spirit to the Caymans and that great loss will be the downfall of the United States. Explain to me where the idle rich are going to go where they will be safe, marginally taxed, entertained, and properly honored. Not to mention the fact that most of their assets are tied up in US real estate, corporate investments, and state and federal bonds. How, exactly, do they move all of that to tiny islands in the Caribbean? I suppose they could move to the places where they've shipped middle class jobs: China, South Korea, and India. Sure they can. They'll be safe and loved in Communist China where the slightest dissent will get the most powerful people in the country a trip to a tiny cell and the opportunity to make toys for rich children in the US. I can see Paris and our overpaid, under-talented corporate execs going for that, can't you? No? Me either. The only place in the world where rich people are protected from the working class, have unlimited access to entertainment and power, and can freely wallow in their excesses is the United States. A change in the tax code is not going to change that.

So, what makes working class people gravitate to the sources that are consistently wrong? I can't figure it out any more than I can figure out why urban residents listen to country music or why rich white kids listen to rap. I'm not kidding, this is an aspect of human nature that totally baffles me. I imagine there are components of racism, suceptability to fear-mongering, the herd mentality, and psychological manipulation that contribute to this, but I'm still surprised that it works after decades of failure, corruption, incompetence, and outright foolishness.