Bob Is Dead

Bob Feller died yesterday. One of the highlights of my years in Denver was getting to see Feller pitch at McNichols Stadium in an "Old Timers" game. Feller was in his 70's and most of the guys in that game were either unrecognizable as athletes or in their late 30's to 50's and barely out of the game and looking to prove they were still players. Feller was a Cleveland star before I was born and he was one of the most amazing players of an amazing generation of players. When white-haired Bob Feller came up to pitch I didn't expect much, but his first pitch blew by the batter and the next three batters didn't touch him. He walked off to a standing ovation and gave the stands a tiny tip-of-the-cap.

I don't know why, but it always moves me unexpectedly when someone who was a hero to me as a kid turns out to have been a truly special person. Rapid Robert interrupted the prime of his career to join the Navy and fight in WWII. When he came back, he restarted his career and in his spare time he barnstormed the country with players from the Negro League in his off-months. His star-power was responsible for introducing thousands of white fans to men like Satchel Page, Josh Gibson, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, and the players who revolutionized the game in the late 1950's, after Feller retired and moved on to his business career. He just did the things he wanted to do and, often, what he wanted to do was the right thing.

He said what he thought and he thought more than the average person. His lack of political correctness got him labeled as racist or worse by a media that hasn't been worth noticing for at least three decades. I feel lucky to have seen Robert Feller pitch, even it if was 40 years after his prime. In his prime, he was said to have thrown a 106mph fastball. In his old age, he whipped up on men half his age and made it look easy.


Tipping, When Your Career Path Depends on Begging

I was in Durango, CO when I began to write this. My grandson and I were taking a Rocky Mountain motorcycle tour and we ended up here after a few days of camping. Right after parking the bike at the motel, we went for a walk downtown and stopped at an ice cream shop. An ice cream cone and a smoothie cost me about $10 and the server was obviously putout that I didn't leave a tip.

I suspect my father went his whole high school teaching life without spending much more than $10 on tips. His advice on tipping was that extraordinary service might warrant a tip, but just doing your job is what you get paid for. Today, people doing practically any sort of job that requires some sort of interaction with a customer expect a tip for the slightest nod to common courtesy.

I suppose I should be interested in the fact that most of these folks have done a pitiful job of planning their careers. I should probably care that their lack of technical knowledge or employable skills has relegated them to a life filled with the repetitive phrase, "Would you like fries with that?" or "Can I get you another beer?" I should find sympathy for the awful situation these people find themselves in after a life of screwing off in class, taking the easy path through the public education system, and grabbing an easy job at Old Navy or Payless Shoes instead of pursuing a career in manufacturing or doing something meaningful and useful. Sorry. I can't generate any sympathy for any of those decisions or the results.

A kid recently told me he had "the best job in the world." He was a guide in the Grand Canyon. So, having recently experienced the tactics guides use to weasel tips out of customers, I said, "Cool, you're a beggar." He was offended. Go figure.

When you spend at least half of the time you're with a customer telling them about how hard you've worked for all of your "outdoors degrees" and how much student loan debt you're in because of those degrees, you're begging. When you mention, every five minutes or so, that your guide has worked hard to show you a good time and that the guide deserves something extra for that effort (even if you paid $500 for a couple of days on a rubber boat), you're begging. When you make a special trip, with your hand out, around the group of tourists to be sure they have an opportunity to tip you, you're begging. There is no such thing as a "professional beggar." You're either a panhandler or you aren't one.

There are all sorts of jobs that are more critical, more entertaining, more helpful and more important than the occupations that incorporate begging. Firemen don't expect a tip after saving a home from a kitchen fire, so why tip a valet for parking a car? Teachers don't expect tips for educating children for a life free from begging and panhandling, so why tip a waitress who didn't bother to listen in school and who chose the high tech life of moving plates from a counter to tables? Not that long ago, craftsmen refused tips as a matter of pride. If we have degenerated so far that begging for handouts has become accepted practice for any act of employment we might as well walk around with "will work for food" signs on our backs.

No tipping for common courtesy and expected service isn't disrespect or cheapness, it's reasonable. You chose your career, you do your job, you know what the salary was when you accepted the job, why imagine the public is obligated to make up for your lack of foresight? If the foodies wonder why most people would rather grab a fastfood burger and go home, look at the unrealistic expectation of "food serving" beggars for your first clue.

The Cost of Inclusion

At the school where I teach, we "enjoy" all of the fruits of our inclusive society. We do our best to cater to non-English speaking students, even though we have practically no foreign language skills among our faculty. We try to find a way to include students with all sorts of mental and physical handicaps. At the core, we are a vocational school (as terrible a thing as that seems to be these days) and while our educational focus is directed toward giving students the background for obtaining jobs, our administration (and federal and state law) appears to be disconnected from the fact that some disabilities preclude the possibility of success in some fields of employment.

There is a delusion in the United States that we "can be anything" we want to be if we just want it bad enough. Working hard to achieve success is generally considered to be unnecessary. Having skills and natural abilities is equally superfluous.  All that matters is that we want something and are given a chance to achieve it. This is an extension of the American weirdness that puts individual rights over the obvious needs of society. Not only do you have the right to prepare yourself for an occupation and employers who wouldn't employ you under any circumstances, but you have a right to require the public to provide you with a school loan that you will never be able to repay.

Here's a hot tip: if you are 62 years old, fat, short, slow, and as agile as a wounded hippo, you can not play professional basketball. In fact, if you are any one of the above things you can not play professional basketball. If you can't sing, you won't star on "American Idol." (Of course, if you are the spoiled offspring of a wingnut media star, you might be a finalist on “Dancing with the Stars” because only nimrod wingnuts watch something as dumb as DwtS and they will, obviously, vote for anything if it is stupid enough.) If you are unable to master the basic concepts of algebra, you will be an unemployable engineer, scientist, or math teacher. If you are lazy, you will fail at everything you attempt. (Unless you are a rich kid, then money trumps everything in politics and business.) If you are stupid, you will be doomed to a career behind a fast food counter, hauling garbage, driving a truck or a road construction implement, or (if you are a child of our ruling class) managing one of the nation's financial institutions. No amount of legalistic coddling will convince anyone to hire you for a job for which you have no ability (unless you have Daddy's money). You may have a degree in Creative Writing, but if you can't write you won't sell books (unless . . . you know). You could, however, be an intern editor at most of the nation's publishing houses for as long as your school loans will support you or Daddy's money holds out.

Reality doesn't have much of a grip on political correctness and federal legislation, though. As in everything about our system, it will apparently require a massive, painful, disastrous depression or a population-depleting plague for us to come to our senses. We will keep pretending that little Buford can become anything he wants to become, simply because several of the dumbest people ever born have become President of the United States. It would be worth noticing that any damn collection of cells can make it to the top if those cells come from the ruling class; Bush II being the best ever example of that. However, people who rise through the classes are a whole different breed from the harelipped spawn of our social elites. Like them or not, Ike, Carter, Clinton, and Obama are considerably brighter than the average schmo on the street. We've had a few mental midgets from the working class, Nixon and Reagan come to mind almost instantly, but the majority of ground-up Presidents have been pretty exceptional people. The representatives of the ruling class haven't been so impressive. Other than the two Roosevelt's and Kennedy, you have to go back to the early 1800's to find an example of a brilliant rich kid rising to power. And Kennedy doesn't look so good under close examination.

Since too much of our "higher education system" has become a babysitting service for rich kids, I suppose it makes sense that we've dumbed down the standards of education to accommodate that bunch. I think it's cruel to set these kids' sights higher than Congress, Wall Street, or the other repositories of fools and bums. It would be unfair and unkind to tell a doofus like G.W. Bush that he could "do anything." His whole life was about proving that he couldn't do anything and that's exactly what he proved while he hung out in the White House. So, in the interests of kindness I recommend that federal college loans be given to kids who have some hope of actually being educated. The rest of us should remain content in the knowledge that most of "higher education" is boring, pointless, and barely manages to be poor preparation for a management position at Starbucks.

The Incredible Old Party

After a conversation with a co-worker last week, I've decided that Republicans have done something truly amazing; Republicans have joined the interests of the rich and powerful and the poor and uneducated. So, I recommend the acronym for the party be changed from "GOP" to "IOP" or the Incredible Old Party. This is a really incredibly achievement and the party and its politicians should be celebrated for their accomplishment.

Democrats and minority party hopefuls might as well hang it up because once the rich and powerful are joined with the gross mass of humanity in a common cause, whatever that cause may be (and I have no idea what the occasionally-working-class expects from their distant and 3rd class association with powerful elites), there is no stopping them from achieving their goals.

I had sort of suspected that Democrats had become obsolete after the mid-term elections. When the loony right joined hands with the country's idle rich and stuffed ballot boxes with votes for candidates whose only campaign promise was "no taxes for rich people," I thought the country had taken a last turn toward the right and the sort of upper crust inbred degeneration that has marked the fall of every great empire since Greece. The most recent concession of what was left of the Democratic party convinced me that the war is over and the rich have won. When Obama decided to cave to Republican demands that the Bush Tax Cuts be not only extended but enhanced so that the idle rich and the braindead elites of the country be allowed to soak taxpayers (a category of citizens the rich avoid and an activity of which they do not participate) for even more luxury and indolence, I realized Democrats and progressives are dead and just don't know it. It's not just that Obama gave in to every Republican demand on the tax code, it's that he did it after "fighting" for a more rational tax system during an NFL commercial break. I guess the "change" Obama has brought to Washington could also be called "wimpiness."

So, I hand it to Republicans everywhere. You guys are the Incredible Old Party; the party of the incredibly rich and the incredibly stupid.


My Father's House

Xmas is approaching. It's a season I've disliked all of my adult life. Of course, I love the break from work, in the few years that break occurred, but for most of my life Xmas meant suffering awful commercial music and phony sentiment and propaganda from the most unsentimental and least spiritual institutions in the history of humanity; American corporations. Outside of the togetherness and joy my family receives from Xmas, I'd rather skip the whole thing and hide out in a Montana hermit's cave for the whole second half of December. I am an atheist and if it weren't for Tom Jefferson's precious "separation of church and state" and that beautifully worded opening statement in the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"), I suspect most of my love for the United State's Constitution would have been sorely tempered. Xmas is when most of the country ignores the First Amendment and we all pretend to be religious and loving. All of us except for those Americans who go on bombing and killing throughout the world in the interests of our favorite international corporations. It's a time full of contradictions, oxymorons, cynicism, and greed. It can't end quickly enough for me.

Part of the Xmas ritual for the last 35 years of my life has been an semi-annual trip to western Kansas to visit my parents. "Semi-annual" because of weather, distance, and the constant tension between my father's fundamentalist family and my secular nuclear family. Two years ago, my step-mother died. Last spring, my father died. Kansas is forever in my rear-view mirror. I still have a brother who lives in Kansas, but we've agreed to meet anywhere but Kansas from here out. Today's rant is the view from that driver's seat:

This is the Google View of my father's house, in Dodge City, KS. The home where he lived for the last 15 years of his life. Dodge City, KS is where he spent almost all of his adult life. Feel free to examine everything about that place. It's currently occupied by a free-loading minister who has convinced my step-sister he is improving the place by squatting there indefinitely. The housing market in Dodge has dried up so completely that this modern, well-cared-for home will probably sell for less than 50% of what it might have brought four years ago. Dodge is a wonderful example of the damage pseudo-conservative values have brought to the Midwest.

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My father was a high school math teacher for more than 40 years. Making a rough guess, based on his class sizes and typical course load, he taught 10,750 kids Trigonometry, Algebra I & II, Business Math, and, finally, Consumer Math (idiot math). Those years he was confined to teaching idiot math were supposed to be a punishment, incentive for him to quit, but when he lost his sight he was cared for and appreciated so much by "his kids" that he looked back on those classes as some of his best in a long career.

His last few years as an educator were doubly cursed by near-blindness brought on by chemotherapy, which he suffered in an attempt to suppress thyroid cancer, and a hostile school administration, which was endured because the new administration was hostile to older teachers. The cancer wasn't as malignant as the mismanagement, in the long run. My father loved teaching. He retired, reluctantly, at 73, and that pretty much marked the end of his life; although he survived almost 20 more years.

I think he would have enjoyed part-time assistant teaching, in a more enlightened community, or tutoring, but his last years teaching in the Dodge City School system were so miserable that he left the profession completely. He looked back often. In all of the conversations I had with him about his last 5 years, he had nothing but good things to say about the kids he taught (and those who taught him) and nothing but bad things to say about the spoiled brats in administratiion who mangled his city's public school system and squeezed all of the inspiration out of his career. I have no names to name, but I hope they know who they are. After spending more than half of his life in the same school, he left with about as much honor as if he'd been caught dipping into the school's petty cash.

My father's career was almost entirely in a small, rural area. He was a devastatingly conservative man in a completely conservative area. They were made for each other. Since nearly half of the city passed through his classes, you might say they were made of each other. Because of his perception of the Pendergast Democratic machine in Kansas City (mostly from the right wing editorials of Emporia's William Allen White) and his life-long dislike of Harry Truman, my father was a consistent Republican, regardless of how rarely Republicans lived up to his moral and philosophical values. It was a constant source of disagreement between us until the year he died. When I read Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, I saw my father in every page. When I hear any version of Pat Metheny and David Bowie's This Is Not America, my father's logic and his patriotism and his unwavering loyalty and the constant Republican betrayal of all of those things are my mental videography to that soundtrack.

At different periods in his teaching career, he was a basketball coach, a football coach, and a tennis coach. He coached a state championship runner-up basketball team in 1955 and '56. Several of his tennis students had successful college careers and a couple became college tennis coaches. At times, my father was a famous man in Dodge City. At times, he was almost an outcast; as when he publicly and loudly opposed the installation of the teacher's union in Dodge's public schools. For most of his life, like most 1950's K-12 teachers, he held several part-time and summer jobs to make ends meet; manufacturing company and department store accountant, farm laborer, filling station attendant, newspaper delivery, and various Amway-style (including Amway) pyramid marketing scams. In fact, when I looked at Wikipedia's list of "multi-level marketing companies," I saw more familiar names, from boxes and literature in my parents garage and basement, than unfamiliar. When my father was 60, he was working a 7-day work week, putting in an 18-hour workday five-days-a-week, with a 5-hour weekend break. When he retired, his teacher's pension, Social Security, Medicare, and some veteran's benefits provide him with the only security he'd enjoyed in his life. He had, practically speaking, next-to-no money in the bank, although his home was paid for and he had no debt. The fact that two decades disconnected from an active life was all that it took for my father to fall from a valued member of this small society to someone who's death was barely noticed is evidence that if you want to be remembered, die young.

He was a WWII Navy veteran, although he believed that FDR had unnecessarily involved (possibly through conspiracy) the United States in an Old World war. He had been an LST officer in three European Theater invasions (North Africa, Italy, and Normandy) and, later, became a gunnery officer on assorted aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Colonel S. L. A. Marshall's "military efficiency" book, Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War, that described how our military could "improve" training so that new recruits are willing to kill on first contact at a much higher rate. Marshall complained that only 15% of WWII soldiers were willing to shoot to kill on first contact. Tyler Boudreau describes the resulting campaign of "improvement" in his column, To Kill or Not to Kill. My father was one of the 85%. In fact, he hoped to stay in that group throughout the war. When he accepted his Navy officer bars, he promised that he would never return fire if he was in a "kill or be killed" situation. Fortunately, he didn't have to. He sort of managed living by that promise by not having to directly fire a gun, although he targeted his aircraft carrier and LST gunnery crews. He told me about this promise in the 1990's, two-and-a-half decades after our Vietnam War battles that had seemed to place us in opposite camps regarding war and organized murder.

After the war, he returned to college, finished his teaching degree, got a job as a business teacher and football coach, started a family, and tried to put everything about war behind him. Eight years later, the love of his life, my mother, was diagnosed with liver cancer and one year later she died at age 34. I don't think he ever recovered, although he remarried four years later and added three more children to his responsibilities.

Our relationship was always a war zone, mostly over religion but also politics. We, honestly, loved to argue. We wanted to understand and "convert" each other, especially during a particularly verbal and intellectual period during his late sixties and through his seventies. I learned more about this complex, reserved, intelligent man in that decade than I imagined there was to know.

My father's (and my mother's) collection of 78 rpm Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Spike Jones, Duke Ellington, and big band and dixieland records introduced me to music and jazz. His 1950's appreciation for the Everly Brothers (in the midst of his general dislike for R&R and country music) taught me that music is mostly about pleasure and humor rather than some serious concern. That attitude has helped preserve my love of music through some pretty difficult times. It also allowed me to make a generally cantankerous character, Stephen Temmer, into a friend instead of someone who was convinced I was a musical idiot.

His mathematical approach to analysis, eventually, found its way into my career when that mutated into electrical engineering. His willingness to debate philosophical and political issues (a trait that came late in life to him) without fouling personal relationships became one of my life's ideals. His idealism, honor courage, work habits, loyalty, pursuit of knowledge and career goals all set standards for my life that are beyond my capabilities.

He was a small town farm-boy who lost countless friends who poured out of his LST into WWII enemy fire, left the career he loved, unrecognized and unappreciated, buried two wives, and suffered the loss of his incredible vitality and lived another 30 years practically as an invalid. Partially out of self-protection and more out of practicality, he absorbed those injuries and kept going. My father was my connection to Kansas and now that he is no longer there and there are so many things wrong with that place I happily relinquish and sever that connection. On this first anniversary without an obligation to ask me to consider that 1,000 mile trip to a place that is as foreign to me as any European country, I acknowledge that my ability to let that place fade into my life's rear-view mirror is a gift from my father.


A Burden on Peasants

Something I read in Jared Diamond's Collapse has stuck with me all week. "Construction of royal monuments glorifying kings was especially massive between A.D. 650 and 750. After A.D. 700, nobles other than kings also got into the act and began erecting their own palaces . . . All of those nobles and their courts would have increased the burden that the king and his own court imposed on the peasants." Diamond was talking about one of the factors that contributed to the decline and dissolution of the Mayan Empire, but he probably wouldn't object to that statement being applied to the cause of death for practically every failed empire in human history.

Near the end of the Mayan society, the elite class really found their stride. They began increasing the distance between themselves and the working class and expanding their power, wealth, and attaching even more religious significance to their self-defined superiority. When we visit the ruins of a failed empire, we marvel at the incredible structures they left, as if there is something complicated about enslaving skilled people to make monuments for the inbred spawn of our masters. Those castles of kings, palaces of priests, and fortresses of robber barons are evidence that humans are destined to funnel power and wealth into the hands of the greedy and incompetent who will reward that society with collapse, famine, and the opportunity to become another tourist curiosity for the next generation.

Humans appear to be a significantly defective species. We are desperate for "leaders"; people who tell us we are inferior, who sell us fear and foolish superstition, and who give us "something to look up to." We will toss out liberty, justice, security, and our future to make a small portion of our society supremely comfortable and powerful. We do it willingly, or not, but we have done it over and over from the beginning of human history and we'll keep doing it until our species has found a way to wipe itself (and most of life) from the planet.

The fact is the existence of an elite ruling class is a burden on all of the working classes that can not be sustained. Wealth is either fairly and justly distributed or it exhausts and corrodes the culture until it self-destructs under moderate pressure from environmental, economic, and/or outside competition or invasion. The position the Republican Party has taken regarding the protection of wealth and power for the minority ruling class is consistent with conservative politics throughout the history of humanity. It is also a consistent cause of cultural death.


Republican Freedom Fighters

I'm watching Casino Jack and the United States of Money as I write this. The Young Republicans, (K Street hucksters Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Hal Kreitman, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, Grover Nordquist, Michael Scanlon, and the rest of the Republican aristocracy) loved to see themselves as "Freedom Fighters." It was a sign of how useless and illiterate our media has become that the self-dubbed term didn't come to mean exactly what it says. These boys and their inheritors, the Teabaggers, are absolutely freedom fighters. Every place democracy, justice, or freedom (for anyone who didn't inherit a fortune) begins to fight out from under the corporate elite, these vicious animals beat it down and turn back the best motives and ideals of our species.

Republicans and all conservatives are notoriously incapable of art or creativity. Abramoff's Red Scorpion series (I & II) is about as inventive as conservatives get and II wasn't even worth converting to DVD. Abramoff's stint as a writer/producer was bad enough to land him in prison, if his all-around corruption didn't do the job. Funny that this boy founded the "Committee for Traditional Jewish Values in Entertainment." While the violence, language, and disregard for facts and common sense depicted in Red Scorpion are consistent with Republican "values," only the perp's mothers would find something to enjoy in this drivel.

This pack of rats couldn't fight freedom any more effectively. They worked to set international corporations and the idle rich loose on middle class America. They created our Extreme Court and it will carry their corrupt and anti-democratic policies on for decades. Their "Contract on America" was a mob hit called on everything that the best of this country once represented. And now they are back.


Talk about Cynical

Conservatives argue that liberals think the average American is dumb. It's true, of course. But we're not alone. The elite core of "conservatives" (a vanishing breed, if there ever was one) are just as cynical toward their fellow citizens. It's pretty obvious that the least intelligent of our species is the most afraid of change; a core definition of "conservative." The rich and powerful are also inclined to protect their status quo, so they will also be conservative.

In fact, their definition of "conservative" and the working class definitions have about as much in common as their lifestyles. The rich only pretend to be religious because religion keeps the masses busy. Any country willing to carpet bomb a city (Baghdad, for example) is clearly unhampered by any sort of pro life concerns. While the children of the working poor do the bombing, the children of the rich profit from building the bombs. Why worry about an occasional abortion when you're willing to firebomb children of all ages? Don't ask me, I'm a liberal.

The ruling conservative elite class not only fails to share the religious values of the dumber aggregate of that political spectrum, they don't share social values. The children of the rich are as likely to work for a living as they are to grow wings and flap their way to the mountain tops. The rich and their offspring have promoted the academic tendency to dumb-down "higher education" to allow these inbred hillbillies a route to some kind of credential (see G.W. Bush's academic career for evidence). Without moronic programs like Business Administration, modern humanities (popular culture, ethnic and sexual self-examinations, all of the inbred academic-administrative crap), and communications (the degree athletic departments would be lost without), the idle rich would have to leave their brats in daycare until the nasty spawn graduated to wheelchairs. Probably the best part of Oliver Stone's W, was the depiction of G.W.'s disdain for work and people who do work. Little George did his class proud.

Probably the most cynical tactic the ruling conservative elite have taken is in the hand-wringing over the national debt. These folks invented the debt. They force the country into profit-making wars. They scam every public works project, every tax loophole, and corrupt the nation's political system for their own gain. They demand reimbursement when their speculations go bad.When the nation is about the be overwhelmed by their incompetence and arrogance, they pretend to want to fix it by taking away the minuscule value government provides to working people. They tear apart Social Security, Medicare, and every government program that doesn't exclusively benefit them.

The current "bipartisan" National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposal to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69 by 2075. This commission managed to pretend to be putting the burden of the national debt on all classes without putting a lick of burden on the richest 10% in the country who currently control more than 80% of the nation's assets and income and pay a measly 43% of the income taxes. Anyone who believes that middle class jobs exist for working class people at the current retirement age, 65-66, is doped-up and living on a trust fund. For most of us, finding work after 55 is difficult to impossible. But that is unimportant compared to protecting the inheritance of the idle rich.

The conservative elite are as ruthless toward their fellow citizens as they are toward the 3rd world countries they claim are our enemies. The fact that at least 50% of us believe them is why liberal and conservative elites know we are stupid. The difference is that conservative elites treat the working working class like shit while they pretend to be on the same side. Liberals can not suppress their disgust in the face of overwhelming foolishness.

The Pointless Lives of the Idle Rich

Forbes recently published an idiotic story titled, "Quirky Billionaire Passions." The Forbes article tells us about:
Of the lot, it's marginally realistic to argue that Halle and Casden had something to do with their incredible wealth and power. Casden's wealth comes from southern California real estate speculation, so he's always been dependent on connections and politics. Halle is the Discount Tire guy and we fought a war to protect his industry's access to natural resources. The rest are spoiled rich kids who have spent their idle lives burning up cash on pointless pursuits and doing as much damage as possible to the culture and the country. They are poster children for why the estate (inheritance) tax should not only be revived but should be returned to its original purpose. One of that tax's greatest proponents, Teddy Roosevelt, said, "Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our Government.''

Obviously, from the evidence provided by this Forbe's article, not only is "idleness the root of mischief," but it inspires some pretty stupid personal habits, too. Reinstating the 50% top income tax bracket and at least the 15% estate tax bracket for estates over $1-2 million would go a long way toward re-balancing the nation's debt and restoring economic fairness in the country.

Call it "class warfare." I'm good with that. There is a reason these rich assholes barricade themselves in their "members only" compounds. They've been at war with working people for centuries. They fire their weapons in every election, in every tax bill, every time they close a factory, pollute a community and abandon it, and every time they take our tax money and ship it to some 3rd world country where they build factories, mines, steal natural resources, and begin the cycle again. Anyone too dumb to figure that out is too dumb to have a job.


Back to the Future

Teabaggers stomp a Move-On protester for trying to hand Rand Paul a sign. I've been hearing that the Teabaggers are trying to restore American to the values of the past. I assume that means the "past" when rednecks and rich assholes lynched minorities, their police and corporate thugs beat the crap out of union strikers, when our military ran roughshod over the democracies of the 3rd world, when racial and religious discrimination (especially against non-believers) was the standard for most of the nation, when our nation went to war every time some international corporation was inconvenienced by some small country trying to protect its natural resources or population from being robbed or raped, and when white men ruled the earth and women and children and every non-white race was an object to be used and abused? Looks like we have a good start on that world with the characters involved in Teabagging. 

Being the shills of some of the worst characters in history is a great way to establish the agenda for this "party." Even the Salt Lake Tribune has figured out where this "movement" comes from (not unlike a bowel movement). While the chief Teabag Lady, Glenn Beck, misdirects his minions away from reality, the Koch Brothers are after nothing short of an overthrow of the United States federal government. These boys are familiar with violent revolution, too. They owe the core of their their fortune to Stalin and the Russian revolution.

So, if this is the revolution you want, plan on it being as un-American and anti-democratic as everything associated with this crowd of clowns. These people could care less about working class Americans and have no more in common with people who have real jobs than Glenn Beck has with people who study history.


Kill Welfare? Not the Parts that Feed Me

Everybody is crying over the deficit. The solution, according to practically every expert, is to cut the welfare strings that hold up dependent citizens. A recent Week Magazine article cited statistics claiming 45% of Americans don't pay taxes and nearly 50% of us are on "government benefits--Social Security, Medicare, Medicade, unemployment insurance, food stamps." The Teabaggers use this sort data to justify their existence and most of the Moon-Murdock conglomerate harps on "American dependence" as a sign of the Apocalypse.

As usual, the media is barking up the wrong tree. For starters, more than 1/3 of "employed" Americans work for local, state, and federal governments. Another big chunk of our citizens depend on government retirement benefits. A huge portion of what's left of industry in this country produces products intended for government consumption. The military, alone, chews up billions in American manufacturing productivity. Add the military crap we produce to sell to foreign governments (mostly those hostile to this country) and you have a lot of corporate welfare that always seems to be slipping under the media radar. [Since the media is a top corporate welfare recipient, that should be no surprise.] Top that with tax incentives, government grants and loans, and taxpayer financed corporate infrastructure and you have a very socialist nation that does a lot of whining about socialism. In fact, we may be the most successful socialist country in the history of the world.

Success, however, is something you have to work at and if you don't know what it is you're working for that becomes less productive. The Teabag Ladies' constant whine about their brand of social conservative fantasies is a distraction. Many, if not most, of the Teabaggers are on some form of government support; notably unemployment insurance and Social Security. Fighting against the system that feeds and houses you and your family is an odd sort of logic.

What would happen if we gave up our pretense of "traditional American values" and admitted, as a culture, that we are socialist, have been socialist since the late 1800s, and are likely to become even more socialist in the future? The most socialist beneficiaries in the country would go ballistic, for starters. Bankers and investment firms would fight this acknowledgment because it would threaten their pretense of capitalism. Banks simply borrow money from the public and loan it to the public at elevated interest rates. If we admit that banks provide no useful or necessary service that a national bank couldn't do better, thousands of inflated corporate executive salaries would disappear in a puff of logic. Financial speculation offers nothing but a lottery system slanted to benefit insiders, but if we decided to drop government support of that farce we call the stock market, more puffed-up salaries would be jeopardized and acres of propaganda would be generated to try and convince a gullible public that "you need us to keep your something for nothing fantasies alive." A significant portion of manufacturing in the United States is intended to provide products requiring  government support or outright purchase. Most of our military-industrial exports depend on associated government military grants and loans to the "purchasing" country. The auto industry requires government to build roads for their vehicles to travel. The entire medical products system (drugs and devices) depends on Medicare and Medicaid for paying customers.

The historic problem with actual socialism is that someone needs to do real work: grow food, build housing, fix broken stuff, and all of the actual production required to feed the inept and unnecessary bureaucratic masses. An obvious requirement of a successful socialist state is population control, but the usual way they mismanage that task is through wars and terrorism and purges and genocide. Maybe an honest socialist state would admit that the patriotic bullshit they usually spout is a cowardly way to get around population control. Maybe pigs will fly out of my ass and trees will grow golden apples. 


Interpreting News

The more media we have, the more sources that appear on the web, the more cable "news" channels we have, the more dense the new digital on-air world becomes, the harder it is to figure out what's going on. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. Ever since crazy Ronny Wrinkles abolished the "Fairness Doctrine," the media has steadily gone downhill. Of course, that was the intent behind eliminating the one thing that held the American media accountable so Reagan could have claimed "mission accomplished" if he had been able to put together two such obscure words into a single sentence.

With the advent of all of these news "sources," American citizens are all the way back to those days when being more than 10 miles from the event is the equivalent to being across the ocean from useful information about the event. If you didn't see it, you can't know what happened. Even pictures lie, words are valueless. This is a serious problem for democracy. "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." - Thomas Jefferson

Clearly, today we are not to be trusted with our "own government." Our government, our world, belongs to corporations and their representatives in governments all over the world and they don't trust us, themselves, each other, or humanity at large. All my life, I've realized that two things float to the top of the toilet bowl: cream and turds. In the corporate world, cream isn't often produced. Which means that the people who are running the world are the lazy, inbred, retarded children of the people who have been running the world for decades. George W. Bush, for example. (No, by the way, I don't miss him.)

Until a solution like the one the Fairness Doctrine represented is found, the integrity of our democracy, the quality of discourse, the value of our actions, the usefulness of "information" will be minimal. If that seems unimportant to you, you are not alone. Reagan's FCC henchman, Mark Fowler, argued that abolition of the Fairness Doctrine was a First Amendment "matter of principle." The principle was the "right" of corporations and the elite to have their position strongly made over all objections. You have to give Republicans credit for consistency.

Obviously, the authors of the First Amendment would have gone to war to defeat that sort of argument, but Republicans have freely interpreted the Constitution for their own purposes since Teddy Roosevelt fooled the party into being responsible to all citizens for 8 short, incredibly productive and progressive years. Of course, TR had to invent his own party (Bull Moose) to try and hold together the people who were honestly "conservative" and ethical after Taft returned Republicanism to it's rightful, corrupt, inbred roots. The Taft administration was intellectually lazy, administratively incompetent and corrupt, and personally gluttonous (sound familiar?) and set the nation and the world up for the first World War and 1929. The Republican Party has been repeating that formula ever since. The intention and end result is redistributing wealth from the many to the few: socialism and wealth for the elites, capitalism and disaster for the rest of us.

But this kind of discussion is blasted out of the MSM with the irrational "class warfare" argument and as far as Faux News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, Murdock and Sun Myung Moon's media conglomerates, and the rest of corporate wingnut America's "news sources" are concerned that is the end of the discussion. Of course, the American Revolution was the ultimate class warfare and our Constitution was supposed to be the platform from which that battle could continue throughout the life of the Union of States. The classes will battle, regardless of the illusions and fantasies of propaganda, and the only real issue is "are both sides equally armed?" Today, the rich and powerful have all the weapons.

Reagan and his cynical and corrupt henchmen and heirs fired a fatal shot to the heart of democracy in 1985 and there has been no sign of democratic life from the corporate media since. Despite the fairyland wingnut whining about "left wing media," the media is overwhelmingly far right. Apparently, any sign of responsibility, integrity, fairness, or curiosity displayed by reporters is taken as evidence of political apocalypse by the wingnuttery. While it is true that the majority of intellectuals are liberal, it is equally true that most corporations are owned and mismanaged by the inbred children of inbred children of robber barons and ancient royalty. Those true "elites" hold the purse strings and money is what makes our world spiral down the toilet.

Without the protection and balance provided by the Fairness Doctrine, fairness is the furthest thing from the mind of corporate America. Without honest, balanced news, corporations like Murdock's and Moon's are free to distort and pervert "information" until it is as credible and useful as the babbling of priests or miracle cure peddlers. Once that task is complete, democracy has a half-life measured in minutes. The cynically misnamed "Patriot Act" was an example of that sudden death as were G.W.'s grotesque overuse of the State Secrets Privilege and Cheney's secret "National Energy Policy Task Force" meetings. From where I stand, it looks like the ride is all downhill from here.


Why We Believe Them

In an interview during a break in his Nuremberg trial, Hermann Goering explained, "Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece.

"Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship."

Goering's interviewer, German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist Gustave Gilbert, naively argued, "There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

Goering answered, "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Repeatedly, we are suckers for these lame arguments. At the beginning of the Iraq invasion, I argued that this was Tonkin Gulf and Vietnam all over again. I was told there was no similarity between the two wars and Vietnam was much more complicated than Iraq would be because of the terrain. Unless you are willing to kill everyone in the country you invade, terrain makes no difference. Of course, some of the crazy convinced poor slobs on farms can't see any reason not to kill everyone in the country, in an effort to "save" those people from whatever awful situation we've been convinced they are in.

Nothing changes, unless humans become dumber every generation. Eugene Debs said, "“The people can have anything they want, the only problem is they do not want anything.” The trinkets that most Americans consider the important "production" of our so-called capitalist society amount to nothing in more brief intervals as we wind down our civilization. Today's $700 Apple iPad will become tomorrow's near-useless $25 eBay auction item by the end of the year. The most important entertainment tidbit will be forgotten and no more than a SNL laughable moment three months later. The useless drug promoted by Big Pharma on prime time television will turn out to have known side-effects far worse than the imaginary mental or physical disease the drug was advertised to cure. Today's Gulf oil spill will seem as minor as the Exxon Valdez tomorrow.

Mr. Debs also said,
“I am not a labor leader. I don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.”

Every tiny step forward humanity has taken has been followed by a race backwards. John Kennedy was followed by Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. Carter, as lame but well-intended as he was, was followed by Reagan and Bush; two people who never had a good intention in their lives. Clinton, a man who was equal parts progressive and regressive, was followed by Bush-Cheney; two men who make the word "regressive" sound impotent. Obama is probably more in the Carter mold than Clinton, so we can count on the follow-up to Obama to be something along the line of another Bush; probably Jeb. Humans can always be counted on to do the dumbest thing possible.

Mark Twain probably wrapped it all when he said, "
Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion-- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven.

"The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste" [The Lowest Animal essay, 1897]

Obviously, religion is a human invention designed to keep "some poor slob on a farm" distracted while he is being sent to some idiot war and being sold a pile of useless toys. The real question is, "What could possibly convince humans that a god would be interested in an animal as idiotic as that?" The reason we believe them is because we are dumb enough to fall for the same stupid trick ad infinitum.


Impossible Missions

The United States has long been addicted to the idea of impossible missions; crusades and causes and impossible ideals. The Revolutionary War was our first national impossible mission. The Revolutionaries hoped to build a nation where "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," but where some men could own other men and where a very few men could live outside of the boundaries of decency and community. Maybe the idealists who wrote those words in the Declaration of Independence had nothing but the best of intentions, but there were men among those who saw opportunity in the misfortune of the many. The more I learn about the origins of this nation, the more I come to believe that something other than democracy was a principal creation with the United States of America. So many things stayed the same, or became worse, after our revolution but one thing that came to be and only grew stronger during the next 235 years; marketing mythology.

Since then, the American public has been sold a succession of wars and invasions that have been, primarily, intended to make that original group of marketeers, and the few who joined them in the last century, rich and powerful. In our nation's short history, we have been at war with some other nation, or nations, for a minimum of 76 of our 235 years; at least 32% of our life. Many of those "wars' have been simple invasions for profit: from the Barbary Invasion of 1801 to the Mexican-American War of 1846 to today's incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the invasions haven't even been declared and are not part of that 76 year total. Since 1950, we've been at war for 65% of those years. Again, that does not include CIA and undeclared military activities.

In his famous War Is A Racket speech and the book that grew from public appearances, General Smedley Butler, a former USMC Commandant who was twice awarded the Medal of Honor said, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes . . .

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

The nation has been conned into at least a dozen wars since Butler's time, not including the CIA's violent and illegal interventions in practically every nation in the world. Now, we're wrapped up in a War on Terror, which from the start sounded oxymoronic to me. War, by nature, is terrorism. You can not drop bombs on civilian populations and be anything but a terrorist.

That wasn't the first instance of wars conducted on imaginary "enemies." We've had a War on Poverty, which lasted until Republicans distracted the American public with a variety of delusions from the early 70's until today. At least that "war" had some good intent. What followed was purely profit-motivated.

That might have introduced the outrageous idea that you can declare war on a noun; let alone a pronoun. Seriously? We're going to launch an invasion against everyone who causes terror in the mind of Americans? I'm pretty sure that isn't possible. Even more unlikely is the possibility that our government--which was well-stocked with rich men who counted on the sources of terrorism (Saudi Arabia, in particular) for much of their wealth--would wage war on the actual source of our particular terror of the moment; the people who attacked New York City on September 11, 2001. Obviously, they picked a place semi-close to the actual source of terrorism and fired away with the nation's treasure and youth. Today, they are much richer and we are nearly a nation in poverty. Fortunately for the rich, "money knows no borders" and after they've bankrupted and demoralized this country, they'll move to some other country and ruin it. It's what they do.

77 years ago, the nation ended its first experiment in prohibition; our War on Alcohol or The Noble Experiment. 1917's 18th Amendment and its enforcement legislation, the Volstead Act, created one of the most violent, destructive periods in the nation's history. This government effort to legislate and enforce morality resulted in 16 years of all out war (at a cost of $500 million/year) against the working class by several branches of government. It also created the US version of the Mob and strengthened their grip on several government agencies, including the FBI and state law enforcement. In the end, prohibition was ended with a gentleman's agreement between government and the Mafia called "Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938" and "Marihuana Tax Act of 1937." These gifts from our government to the Mob provided extensive territory of illegal markets and activity so that the underworld economy could continue and prosper.

We've waged an incredibly unsuccessful and expensive War on Drugs ($20 billion for this year, so far) since Nixon first coined the phrase in 1971. The Alzheimer's Candidate, Ronnie Rayguns, made this war on a noun his personal platform, created the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1988, and appointed our first Drug Czar that year. He and his nutty wife consulted tea leaves and Gypsy fortune tellers for advice on waging this war (and other policy decisions) and the result is trillions of dollars wasted and millions of lives ruined or destroyed. Supposedly, the Obama Administration will stop using the War on Drugs mantra because they believe it is "counterproductive." You have to love their love of understatement. This has been the longest, most expensive, least successful war in the nation's history. The history of this make-believe war has been vicious, dishonest, and destructive. There is no end in sight.

In October of 2001, Congress passed the War on American Civil Rights and Liberties Act, also known as the Patriot Act. This amazing 56,800 word incursion into the Bill of Rights and the Constitution couldn't have been nicknamed more poorly. Like most of our wars, this war eliminates basic rights that were once thought to be central to our democracy.

A Small Sample of our Long Wartime History (major events only):
Began Ended Years at War Formal Name Who and Where
1775 1783 8 American Revolution English Colonists vs. Great Britain
1798 1800 2 Franco-American Naval War United States vs. France
1801 1805; 1815 5 Barbary Wars United States vs. Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli
1812 1815 3 War of 1812 United States vs. Great Britain
1813 1814 1 Creek War United States vs. Creek Indians
1 War of Texas Independence Texas vs. Mexico
1846 1848 2 Mexican-American War United States vs. Mexico
1861 1865 4 U.S. Civil War Union vs. Confederacy
1 Spanish-American War United States vs. Spain
1914 1918 4 World War I Triple Alliance: Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary vs. Triple Entente: Britain, France, and Russia. The United States joined on the side of the Triple Entente in 1917.
1939 1945 6 World War II Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Japan vs. Major Allied Powers: United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia
1950 1953 3 Korean War United States (as part of the United Nations) and South Korea vs. North Korea and Communist China
1960 1975 15 Vietnam War United States and South Vietnam vs. North Vietnam
1 Bay of Pigs Invasion United States vs. Cuba
1 Grenada United States Intervention
1 US Invasion of Panama United States vs. Panama
1990 1991 1 Persian Gulf War United States vs. Iraq
1995 1996 1 Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina United States as part of NATO acted peacekeepers in former Yugoslavia
2001 2010 9 Invasion of Afghanistan United States vs. the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to fight terrorism.
2003 2010 7 Invasion of Iraq United States vs. Iraq


It's worth noting that practically none of the "wars" that General Butler mentioned in War Is A Racket are on this list. Most of our war-like activities in South and Central America and Africa are unlisted, also. Obviously, the many wars against native Americans are also unlisted. If those were included, it's possible the United States might be the most warlike nation in the history of the world. We might be more warlike than the Romans or the British. It is easy to imagine that our country has been at war with someone for more than half and, possibly, nearly every year of its existence. If we really wanted to wage a battle against terrorism, we'd probably be tearing ourselves to pieces. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

After describing these depressing statistics to my wife, she asked, "Well what do you want to do about it?"

Obviously, there is nothing I can do about it but my answer is, "Restrict the President to the very limited military powers the Constitution gives to that office and grow a pair of testicles on Congress." Before that will happen, the country will have to purge itself of the interests the Republican Party represents and create some political alternatives for the tiny number of people who actually are "conservative" and "liberal." What I expect will happen is that we'll keep following this nutty militaristic path until the rest of the world rises up and beats us down, the same way every other violent empire has died in human history.


Miss Me Yet?

The disreputable descendants of apes in Wyoming, MN have posted this brilliant political statement near I35 just outside of town. This moronic question has raised its idiot head on bumper stickers and rear windows all over the country, since.

Yeah, we all miss this kind of international embarrassment over the crassness and arrogance of our Commander in Thief. We miss having to hang our heads in shame as the premier representative of our country puts both feet in his mouth and talks out of his ass. We miss being represented by someone so stupid that he inspires automatic references to Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman. We miss being lied to, stolen from, and laughed at by "conservatives" who would be welcomed as leaders in the old Soviet Union. We miss levels of incompetence at the highest levels of government that would embarrass any 3rd world nation. We miss the instant and total access to the White House that the worst, most corrupt corporations of the world once had. We miss the certainty we once had that, as our economy collapsed from corruption and incompetence, that nothing could ever get better as long as that gang of idiots held office.

Yep, we miss all of those wonderful things that Republicans bring to the table. Mostly, we miss our reputation as being the world's idiot, violent children. I feel confident that conservatives will restore that reputation as soon as they install Palin or some other conservative bimbo in the White House. We Americans are proud of our inability to learn anything from history.


Subway Sticks a Footlong up Its Ass

An open letter to the geniuses at Subway Restaurants:

Sometimes I wonder if competitors plant lawyers and marketing idiots in the employment of their competition. For example, whatever idiot decided it was in McDonald's best interest to sue a pair of British protesters, Helen Steel and David Morris, for libel in 1989 almost had to be working for Burger King. After seeing a documentary made about that legal action, McLibel, I took my already skimpy fast food business to anyone but McDonald's ever since. In the long run, McDonald's didn't win any money from the suit, engendered a shit-load of bad will from anyone interested in corporate fairness, safe and healthy food, or good government. The idiot judge who settled the case in McDonald's favor ended up costing the British government a load of money ( £57,000) in the European Court of Human Rights where the case was overturned and England found itself owing that court money for violating Article 6 (right to a fair trial).

In all, the moron who advised McDonald's to sue these people produced a lot of customers for everybody but McDonald's. I'm not kidding. I haven't eaten a crumb produced by that miserable company since sometime in 1990 and I never will. In my opinion, the best thing that could happen to McDonald's is bankruptcy. I do my best to direct people to McLibel and every bad word I can think of to say about McDonald's gets said as often as possible.

One of the companies that benefited from my deflected business was Subway. That all ended in late May, 2010. Subway sent a letter to Coney Island Drive Inn stating, ""You must immediately remove all references to FOOTLONG (tm) in association with sandwiches."In the crazy mind of Subway's doofus legal and marketing departments, they imagine they invented the word "footlong" in regards to sandwiches. Good for them. Going crazy is a symptom of getting too big for yourself and this is obviously nuts. I would imagine that many businesses, like Coney Island Drive Inn have been making sandwiches called "footlongs" for longer than the morons at Subway have been alive.

So, this is my notice that I'm done with Subway; one of my wife's favorite food franchises. We're done. No matter how hungry we get, how poor the rest of the choices might be, we don't do business with corporate bullies. So, fuck you McDonald's and Subway. We're gone.


Whose Country Is This?

Just so you are clear on where you are living, I strongly recommend you watch this recording of storm troupers invading a residence, killing a family dog for recreational purposes, and arresting two adults on trumped-up charges (possession of a minuscule amount of marijuana and a CYA charge of "child endangerment"). Obviously, what endangered the child was idiots in uniforms carrying weapons.

A short article discussing the case is included here http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/05/video-of-swat-raid-on-missouri and http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/feb/23/family-questions-swat-drug-search-that-led-to/.

A few weeks ago, I worked with a kid on a video shoot who was once on track to become an engineer before he decided he wanted to take the easy way into life by becoming a cop. Like many nerds, this kid barely qualifies as "socialized." He's got a superiority complex, is often a bully (mentally, since he doesn't have the skills or the weapons to physically push anyone around), and is superstitious and a wingnut. Other than having had experience as a high school bully or an actual criminal (as best I know), he's perfectly qualified to join the US version of Nazi Germany's SS.

At one point during the show we were taping, he made the comment, "I don't know why people hate cops. We're professionals like doctors or lawyers." He claim to professionalism was based on the fact that to get their lifetime guaranteed employment jobs, cops have to "earn a college degree." Of course, unlike doctors and lawyers, a grossly misnamed "Criminal Justice" bachelor's degree is a minimal education with grade school difficultly courses offered by every fly-by-night correspondence program on the planet. You can get your Criminal Justice piece of toilet paper from the same fine people who bring us degrees in Court Reporting, Culinary Arts, Health Insurance Customer Service, Paralegal, and Video Game design training. Some of these degree mills have the gall to call their programs "Public Safety Administration." Watching the video above sure makes this member of the public feel safer.

For laughs, here are some of the course names from a typical criminal justice program:
  • Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice,
  • Police Report Writing,
  • Precision Driving,
  • Firearms,
  • Current Issues in Criminal Justice,
  • Criminal Justice Internship,
  • Physical Fitness Conditioning,
  • Physical-Defensive Tactics,
  • Conflict Management in Criminal Justice,
  • State Criminal Law,
  • State Criminal Procedures,
  • Criminal Investigation,
  • Patrol Problems,
  • Traffic Management,
  • Law Enforcement Assessment,
  • Advanced First Aid,
  • and Crime-Violence in Literature.
I'm not making this up. These are acual class names for a state college's Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program. Of course, basketweaving and pushups are liberal arts requirements for this pablum degree. If you are currently employed as a cop or meter maid or security guard or crossing guard, you can receive 50+ credits for "time served." For all this empty-headed crap, a "student" receives a "bachelor of science" degree. I will never again criticize Communications degrees. Compared for Criminal Justice, a Communications degree is actually academic. The closest thing to a science requirement in this entire program is "Advanced First Aid," a course often taken by people wanting to do activities like scuba diving or motorcycle safety instruction. The rest of the degree requirements make a mockery of the word "science." I would expect a normal person to be less intelligent after completing this pointless program. If this crap doesn't numb your mind, you don't have a mind to work with.

The kid who inspired this rant dropped out of his EE program because it was too hard. He figured if all he was going to do with his life was issue traffic tickets and break down residential doors, shoot household pets, and terrorize unarmed citizens, why learn anything useful? The next time you watch one of those idiotic television programs that has a highly-skilled geek whipping through loads of information, chasing down criminals using beyond state-of-the-art tools, remember this kid. He will probably end up being some police department's "genius," but he wasn't near bright enough to complete a real engineering program or diligent enough to work his way through a real college degree program. The fact is, all our police can do is break into ordinary citizens' homes and terrorize the family next door. They don't have the skills necessary to protect society from real menaces. They have a degree in Criminal Justice.

As for why people hate and fear cops, I'd bet the 8-year old who saw his parents treated like dangerous criminals and his family pets shot down because men in armour felt like killing something could answer that question. I'd imagine that Jonathan Whitworth could give you a pretty good explaination of why he is afraid of his local nutcases with guns. Anyone with a lick of sense ought to be afraid for their lives after watching this video, especially with the knowledge that teams like this exist in every mid-sized city and they are itching to pretend to be tough.

Ideally, they can exercise their bullying instincts in safe environments like the bust shown in this video. If they were busting bikers cooking meth, they'd have to worry about getting shot at. Busting a recreational marijuana user and his family is about as dangerous as beating up kids at the local Dairy Queen. Let's face it, if these bozos weren't employed by the local cops, they'd be doing exactly that, beating up kids and hanging out in bars. It's not like they have real skills, a useful education, or any social value.


Imaginary Alternatives: Reagan's $50

In one of his most quoted statements, Reagan said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. " And then, in true Republican fashion, he went on to deregulate a hoard of industries that had a long, well-documented history of desperately needing regulating and he created one of the longest periods of unemployment and wild government spending in US history. In the end, he left a shattered economy and massive debt as his legacy. The Republican history revisionists want to recreate his legacy as one of moderation and economic opportunity. There was opportunity alright, but it was for mobsters who took over S&Ls, the military-industrial complex who had a field decade with taxpayer "investment," and Wall Street's gamblers.

What was lost was the opportunity to fix America's real problems: taking on alternative energy solutions, converting to international metric standards, downsizing the post-Cold War military, modernizing our education system, facing the end-of-the-Industrial-Period and American Century facts and realigning the country for those reduced resources, and the rest of the unaddressed list of real problems. Instead, Reagan put on his happy face and set the country back two decades or more. He deregulated the media, giving us Faux News and the rest of the right wing corporate spokesperson networks. He busted unions, shipping the working class out of the middle class and into debtor slavery. He set Wall Street free of its post-Depression shackles setting the economy up a half-dozen boom-and-bust cycles since he took office and turning our economy from one that produces goods and services to one that produces con games on an international scale.

In a complete flight of imagination, Republicans are promoting a change to the $50 bill. They want to replace U.S. Grant with Reagan's mug. There is some historical connection between the two: 1) they both headed supremely corrupt administrations providing federal and state prosecutors with working material for a decade after they left office, 2) they were both hands-off Presidents (Grant was drunk for his two terms, Reagan was senile and asleep through most of his administration), 3) they both presided over substantial periods of economic recession, and, least likely, 4) they both supported Civil Rights. Grant was a strong advocate for the 15th Amendment (before the Supreme Court turned it to crap) and Reagan once said, "I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at gunpoint if necessary." Who would have thought that the man who took best advantage of the southern flight from the Democratic Party because of the Civil Rights Act actually believed in its principles? Of course, Ulysses Grant actually provided a service to his country, leading the nation's military against the hillbillies of the Old South and saving democracy, the Union, and ending slavery in North America (until the 20th Century revived slavery in a variety of forms, something R Reagan had a hand in).

Since Reagan never actually accomplished anything useful in the defense of the nation or in any other useful area, I think dumping Grant for Reagan would be a foolish mistake. However, Reagan and G.W. Bush did an awful lot toward burying the country in debt and I would strongly recommend that their likenesses be put on an instrument of debt; the $100 savings bond, for example. I am in no way a graphic artist, but the included example is along the lines of what I would recommend. A legend such as, "I need your money to burn" or "Buy U.S. Bonds so Democrats can pay off our bad debts" or something equally quaint could go a long way toward truth in advertising our national savings bonds.

It looks like the $50 Reagan bill is doomed to failure. Something like 80% of Americans favor Grant over Reagan. Apprarently, the repackaging of Sleepy Ronny hasn't gone as well as the promoters hoped. Republicans always want to take the easy way out of work, representing the idle rich as they do. It's going to take a lot more Faux News propaganda before Boomers forget their losses from Reaganonmics. Of course, the quote Reagan should have been remembered for is, "
It's true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?" He never did.