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.