#88 Making a Case for Intolerance

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

U.S. citizens are probably the most persecuted group of humans in the history of the world.  Every once of us is a member of some kind of minority.  If we're not, we pick a hobby that makes us a minority.  If we're the ruling majority, we make a law that classifies us as a minority and we run with it.  Whatever group we belong to, no matter how small or weird, we expect that group to be honored as a minority and to be respected as if we are making a valuable contribution to the culture.

One of my hobbies is motorcycling.  Less than 0.5% of U.S. citizens own motorcycles.  Probably half of that group owns a Harley that is mostly unridden, either because it's broken or because its owner is investing a small fortune in customizing the bike and it hasn't been completely assembled since the early years of the Vietnam War.  So, an optimistic estimate of motorcyclists on the road, paying license taxes, contributing to air and noise pollution, amount to a measly one in four hundred citizens.  That's a serious minority.

I live a few hundred feet from a freeway.  I know that's not smart, but it's something I've mostly come to terms with.  I can safely say that a disproportionate contribution to my neighborhood's noise pollution comes from motorcycles.  The blast of motorcycle exhaust noise often overwhelms the blat of semis, the boom of rolling ghetto blaster pickups, and the other 399 of 400 vehicles on the road.

You'd think that noise pollution, alone, would make motorcyclists a bit apprehensive about their status in the vehicle culture.  Because of our minority status, we seem to be more arrogant about our social standing, if anything.  We have successfully overturned noise pollution requirements, helmet laws, emission standards, and common sense through political action and a lot of whining. 

That appears to the standard practice for all sorts of minorities.

Christians represent 5% of the religious world, but that doesn't keep one sect of Christians from acting like the Pope is the true ruler of the universe or another sect from believing that their favorite wild-eyed evangelist is God's only direct spokesman.  Christianity isn't alone in this sort of "my universe, love it or leave it" fantasy.  In fact, it's hard to find a dominant religion on this planet that isn't similarly deluded.  Taken individually, every one of these religions and sects of religions are a minority but they have taken their minority status and turned it into a political advantage, in their own minds.  Combining martyrdom, fanaticism, terrorism, and secular nationalism into a frenzy of self-delusion, the world's minorities create pockets of majority status for themselves. 

Like US motorcyclists, this sort of deluded outlook often gets run off of the road by reality.  Combining nationalism with religious minority paranoia is scary stuff, though.  That throws what Mr. Bush calls "weaponsh of mash disrushon" and a higher power's justification to use those weapons into the mix.  We're now operating at the intellectual level of "my god is tougher than your god." 

Another country operated on this level of paranoia in 1936 and their national delusion became a reality a few years later when all of the folks they imagined hating them really did hate them.  Germany followed a nutball, paranoid, I'm-doing-God's-will wacko all the way into World War II, under the justification that they were a picked-on VIP minority.  Crazy people are specially noxious when they collect in large groups and begin sharing their fantasies.  Sane people tend to want to put walls around them, isolate them, and remove their access to weapons and pointy objects.  Or blow them up.  If we don't find a way to police our crazy people, the rest of the world is going to start wondering if they need to do it for us.

August 2004


#125 Merry Xmas (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day
Scrooge has nothing on me.  "Bah, humbug," would be the nicest thing I can say about this phony, greedy, superstitious holiday.  I grew up in a tense, unbalanced Midwestern home where this particular holiday brought out all the worst in our tension and imbalance. 
Giving and getting presents was only a part of the stress.  Like most Americans, we were driven by guilt to spend every nickel we had on things that the receivers would want nearly as much as a case of the clap.  Like many Americans, the "festivities" were wrapped in superstitious semi-Christian ritual designed to make every freakin' moment as guilty and unpleasant as possible. 
In my old age, now that my kids are grown and living happily (I hope) in their own families, I do my best to avoid everything about this nasty commercial ritual.  Of course, the superstitious aspect of Xmas is lost on me.  I'm not Christian, Jewish, or Islamic, so the Jesus, Jehovah, Mohamad, or Superman myths are just a collection of sheep herders' tales amongst a long, long list of sheep herders' tales that have complicated human history and rational thought since the first caveman painted a space ship on a cave wall and claimed that someone had stuck a probe in his butt. 
I can't escape the guilt crap of being a Midwesterner.  I still buy something for everyone I love.  I try to convince myself I go through this ritual for some reason other than the ones that actually motivate me.  It's not true, though.  I'm as guilt driven as I was when I was a child in my father's house.  I'm just fighting harder to reclaim this dreary time of the year from the marketing scumbags who currently own the period between Thanksgiving and Xmas.  I figure that the more people I can convince to do the same, the fewer marketing jobs there will be and the better the rest of us will live.  Or something like that. 
I'm not mortified enough to try and pretend that I like Xmas, though.  I am upfront about how much I hate this stupid holiday.  I'm not talking about dislike, distrust, or distain, either.  I mean I "hate" Xmas and everything it stands for.  Xmas is not about love, sharing, compassion, friendship, family, or faith.  It's about greed, power, control, guilt, and fear.  Scary people trying to sell garbage and superstition to timid people who hate their lives so much that they spend more than they earn to massage their guilty, selfish hearts for long enough to make the scary folks a little richer and more powerful.  Even buying some little thing for the people I love is contributing to the things I dislike the most about my country.  Someone stronger, more patriotic than me would completely ignore the holiday.  A person worthy of the title of "American citizen" would go public in his dislike of this holiday and do everything in his power to break the chain.  I guess I'm public now, maybe I'll have done some damage to the chains in my own life.  You are free to work the links of your own chains. 


#87 Miss Manners? (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

A recent news broadcast commented on a school program in Chicago that claimed to be teaching "manners" to inner city kids.  On the surface, this probably seems like a good thing.  There's a myth in American culture that well mannered get ahead.  We like to think that good manners are among the skills that allow people to rise to the top of society, politics, and business.  There is what seems like an infinite number of stupid assumptions that we make about our society. 

For instance, occasionally someone points out the fact that we are a highly class-focused culture and that the rich and ruling class regularly pay considerably less of their income toward supporting the culture that, primarily, exists for their use and abuse.  The politicians and spiritual leaders whose purpose is to act as the buffer between the working class and the ruling class will burn precious resources in accusing that person of trying to divide the country into "haves and have-nots."  Of course, we are a nation of haves and have-nots, but it's considered "impolite" to remind the have-nots of the condition of their condition.

It's a dichotomy.  Life is full of them. 

Often in American life, it appears that telling the truth is impolite. 

Another difficult concept to comprehend is how manners will help working class (or children who want to become working class) get ahead in the world of business.  Let's take a walk around Success Street. 

While, on the surface, the people who control business and politics appear to be well dressed and properly mannered, that surface analysis doesn't tell a useful story.  In front of the media or customers, the average ruling class representative can, mostly, appear to be civilized.  That's only a small part of the requirement for being a well-mannered person.  Even the coarsest fool knows to be polite around power (except for those drunken idiots on "Cops"). 

In practice, the rich are irrationally selfish; hoarding resources to themselves at the expense of their neighbors and fellow citizens.  They buy politicians and the media to create laws to insulate themselves from responsibility to their communities.  In times of great need, they will do anything to avoid sharing their wealth and, often, choose those times to flaunt the fact that they are not "like ordinary people."  In practical application, the rich are as likely to be vicious, self-serving, and arrogant as a crack dealer.  Those characteristics are rarely considered to be well mannered, regardless of social position.  Fortunately for the rich and powerful, they get to make the rules so they rarely have to suffer ill comparisons. 

However, I think we ought to develop a nation-wide program to teach manners to the rich and powerful.  Someone who understands the situation of the pampered and powerful and has the courage to explain common decency to the uncommon would be required to do the teaching.  Ralph Nader comes to mind, to toss a name into the hat. 

July 2004


#86 The Real Them (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

"Character," "ethics," "morality," and other right-sounding buzzwords have been the watchmarks of the last few elections.  The media wants to pretend these things are difficult to evaluate, and they are if you don't use a little common sense.  The major media is just one never-ending infomercial and common sense is never part of any marketing plan, so they are the wrong place to go for that resource.  I think the easy source is history; a candidate's history, a party's history, and, in the case of parties that are trying to create a royalty class, the candidate's family history. 

Take our last collection of Presidents, for example.  In modern history, say from Lyndon Johnson forward, we have a fair collection of characters to review.  We have the right wingers: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I & II.  We have the left or center: Johnson, Carter, and Clinton.  I can't seen how anyone could consider either Johnson or Clinton "left," but we'll put them in that category to make Republicrats happy. 

If personal character were a real issue, you'd think that, once someone was on the public dole for the kind of cash that ex-Presidents rake in, a person of character would feel some obligation to the people footing his bills.  So, let's look at the ex-Presidents and see what they did for the public after they left the bright lights.  And they should have been doing something for the public, since they are on the dole big time. 

Johnson left office in shame.  His "War on Poverty" was buried under the Vietnam war garbage and he was practically blasted from the primaries by a series of people he once considered his friends and allies.  He quit the race for President before the 1968 Demolican convention and before he suffered the ignominy of becoming one of the rare standing Presidents defeated by his own party.  Even after all that embarrassment, he followed his Presidency by staying involved in several of his pet social reform programs: Head Start and the Peace Corps.  But, mostly, Johnson faded into Texas society and was a drain on the taxpayer for the rest of his life. 

Nixon ran and hid after being impeached and nearly convicted for a collection of crimes.  Before leaving office, he pardoned a pack of hardened corporate criminals and replaced himself with a Republicrat crony who had balls of fluff and the brains of a golf ball, Jerry Ford.  After leaving office, Nixon became a right wing spokesperson and a corporate board member of a collection of companies who owed him a boat-load of cash for years of non-observant government mismanagement.  So much for character and a much larger taxpayer drain than Johnson, since Nixon built a collection of "memorials" to himself which were funded and maintained by taxpayers.

Jerry Ford served out his appointment term as President, lost the 1976 election, and returned to playing golf with his corporate buddies.  Other than an occasional figurehead position as a "moderate Republicrat leader," Ford has been on a vacation since (and mostly during) his term in office.  Still, no character showing and more wasted tax money.

We've heard almost as much from Jimmy Carter, and received more value from him, after his Presidency as during.  He's been involved in Habitat for Humanity, actually building houses along with finding funding for this charity.  He's worked with Amnesty International and a collection of democracy-promoting organizations, often putting his own life at risk to observe elections from South America to Africa to Florida.  Finally, a large bit of character and something for our money.

Then, Reagan, who didn't show a lick of character before, during, or after his Presidency, followed in the traditional Republicrat model.  Most of the way to senility, before he started his 2nd term of office, Reagan did a little international corporate speaking for huge sums of cash after he left office and, then, succumbed to his natural state; napping and mumbling.  Reagan did receive some monster payments for 15 minute formal mumbles in Japan, as a repayment for his handing massive quantities of US natural resources and political power to that country's elite.  Republicrats named every road and public building they could desecrate after this President, in an attempt to rewrite history so that it might look at Reagan's term in office more kindly.  Which means more tax money than ever was tossed after this lost cause.  Still, we're back to no character, again.  However, if suffering a terrible late life is God's will, Reagan's fate would almost make me into a believer.  On the other hand, taxpayers got stuck for a huge medical care bill for Reagan's last few years of drooling. 

Bush I was the most obvious characterless character the Republicrats ever elected.  He was a corporate scumbag before his term as Vice (the most perfect application of this term ever) President and went right back to scamming the public with oil execs, military-industrial execs, power and communications execs after he left office.  Bush I hadn't done a single lick of selfless activity since he came to government and has been totally wrapped up in creating wealth for himself since he left.  If character really mattered, Republicrats would be ashamed to show their faces or include "character" in their chants after having pawned this scumbag off on the country.  Republicrats are totally devoid of character, however, and no act of failure or immorality shames them. 

Clinton, the right wing's "character" whipping boy, has followed, a few steps, in Carter's footsteps. Bill Clinton has continued to work for peace in the Middle East, being a part of peace negotiations and working for world peace foundations.  Clinton has stayed at the job he started in eastern Europe, whenever he's given an opportunity.  Until recently, he'd stayed low-profile in the 2004 election process, probably because he's such an easy target for the morally corrupt right who want to use his personal failure as evidence that they massive moral void is justified.  Clinton is young and what he does with his personal popularity and clout is yet to be seen.  Still, not Republicrat characterless.

Bush II was a clueless, money-grubbing moron before he stumbled into the Presidency and it's safe to say he will remain one afterwards.  His associations are the same as his father's; evil and greedy.  His motivations are not as convoluted, though.  He's lazy, dumb, and spoiled.  It doesn't take much to make that kind of rich kid happy, so he'll vanish from public life and continue packing his pockets with cash after he leaves office.  Character?  Never had any, never will.  His claim to moral fame is that he managed to stop publicly packing his nose with coke and hasn't been caught driving drunk for at least a decade.  Not much of an achievement, but the best we can hope for from Republicrats.

July 2004


#85 The Purpose of A Business (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

In my foolishly mismanaged career, I've worked for really small and really monstrous companies.  The difference between small companies and large companies is, mostly, money.  The little companies don’t have much, big companies have a lot.  Otherwise, the little companies do the same, stupid things that drive sane people insane in the bloated, brain-dead humongous companies.  Money allows the big guys to get by with more stupidity, but stupidity is its own reward and you never want to sell short the capacity of really small companies to shoot themselves in the foot. 

Take bureaucracy, for example.  You’d think that little companies would, by nature, avoid designing useless accounting practices, stuffing offices with purposeless middle managers, and putting layers of interference between the people who do work and the people who are expecting to have work done.  You’d be wrong.  Far too many small companies are influenced by the management practices of the biggest, least efficient role models.  Small company managers suffer the delusion that their purpose in the company is to live a life of leisure and uselessness.  Once they can afford a couple of employees, they shuffle off responsibility and critical functions to those minimally paid employees, under the hallucination that employees are motivated to do a better job than the idiots who own the business.  That might work until the employees realize that they are being taken for granted, used and abused, and they adopt the “I don’t give a shit” attitude of their employer.  One thing about crappy jobs, there is always another one.

That’s the odd thing about management’s attitude.  When a store owner, company executive, or business owner manages to kill the golden goose, there isn’t another similar job around the corner for them.  You’d think they’d be more concerned about keeping their good thing alive, but they’re not, apparently, that bright.  It’s true that dumb asses flock together and it’s also true that the “good ‘ole boy” network hangs pretty tightly, but the preponderance of jobs available in the good ‘ole US of A are minimum wage.  There‘s no shortage of ex-execs holding on to the remains of their severance packages, shipping fancy resumes to uninterested personnel departments, and hoping another ship will come in before they have to look for real work.  Another ship that they can help sink, once they’re safely accommodated in a padded chair behind a loading dock-sized desk.  

I’ve written about this before, but it is true that some companies seem to go out of their way to hire execs who have failed before.  The fantastic “logic” often spouted is that a failed exec will have learned something valuable about the experience of failure that will somehow translate into success for the moronic fools who give the failed exec another chance.  I suppose these idiots bet on losing horses with the same logic. 

No, most execs don’t learn anything from their failures, except how to do less work, make fewer decisions, and to attract as little attention as possible.  Of course, those were the skills that took them up the corporate ladder, initially, so they must be mission-critical skills in any business. 

Or the real deal may be that leadership is overrated, under-realized, and grossly over-paid.  Several companies, in the early stages of the latest economic crash, relieved themselves of CEOs, CFOs, directors, and other bloated titles without function and found that there was no need to re-fill those positions.  They simply saved the cash, spent it on their corporate functions, or distributed the money among people who actually did work and performed tasks that needed performing.  I’ll admit that this is a rare company, but, since I’m a firm believer that “99% of everything is crap,” any bit of rational thought is encouraging.

June 2004


#84 Restructuring the Rat (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

Another half year has gone by and I've written damn little in this journal.  It's not that I haven't had lots of ideas and tons of material.  It's an election year and I'm part-time employed.  Those two activities alone are enough to start me ranting endlessly.  But I managed to create a monster, a maintenance monster, with the structure of the Rat's Eye View webpage and finally it killed off my desire to write these things.  In a fit of inspiration, I completely restructured the website into my version of a blog journal.  No more "This Week's Rant" page.  Everything gets dumped into the current year's list of babble.  No more snazzy index that allows readers and website search engines to find a particular rant about a specific subject.  Every damn thing I've written is going to be dumped into annual files.  The newest stuff is on the top of the page, the old crap is at the bottom.  If I had a readership, I'd be concerned that I've managed to lose their historical interest.  I don't, so I'm just doing this make life easy for myself.  And, after all, that's what really matters, isn't it?

My hope Is that I'll write a lot more because of this easier, less accessible structure.  I've thrown readership counters on each of the annual pages, which will give me some idea if any of you are out there reading what I write . 

I write a column for local motorcycle magazine, called "Geezer with a grudge." the idea behind that column is that I write something that pisses off the magazine's readers, they write a nasty letter to the editor , if they write often enough, the editor has evidence that there are a lot of readers out there in magazine land, and he can justify his ad rates.  The page counters are doing the same job for me.  I'm not writing this drivel for my health.  At least, I'm not posting it to a webpage for that purpose .  I created these web pages in the hopes that either attract a readership.  So far, that experiment has been a dismal failure, but I've written about one million bytes of text in the effort.  As a writing experiment, I can't call it worthless.  As a self-promotion experiment, it hasn't been worth much, though. 

June 2004


#83 Conservative Morality

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

In case you haven't figured it out on your own, the title of this rant is irony.  Conservatives have about as firm a grasp on morality as Gee-Whiz Bush has on the state of the economy.  The two claims to moral fame held by the religious right are non-reproductive sex (they're again' it) and forced Christianity (they're for it).

On all other issues, conservatives could care less about the poor, the underprivileged, the abused, downtrodden, good manners, or common decency.  The new and old Right are for the power and wealth of those who already hold power and wealth, for keeping the rich, rich and the poor, poor.  They are so inclined to bear arms against their fellow citizens that they form organizations to prevent any semblance of rational legislation controlling personal weaponry.  They gloat over the fact that Amerika has stockpiled more of its citizens in prisons than most of the other industrialized nations put together.  They hate freedom of the press, civil rights, habeas corpus, women's rights, taxation of the rich, and cereal with raisins.  They're all about dismantling the education system and replacing it with menial labor vocational training for everyone who wasn't born leaching from a trust fund.  In fact, there isn't a single positive human value that the Right would fight to protect.  If it ain't about greed or power, it's not an issue for these very un-conservative conservatives.

For that matter, the two moral issues they cling to are not about morality, but about greed and power.  Any group that claims to be pro-life but is so much in love with capital punishment is, obviously, conflicted.  As far as I can see, the conservative dislike for abortion is that the procedure removes the possibility of a later-in-life execution.  That's a power issue, not a moral point.  The conservative passion for government control of bedroom activities is a combination of repressed sexual anxiety or a desire to control every non-economic human activity.  You can't tell the communists from the conservatives without a conservative media to label the two. 

Either the conservative gods are astoundingly stupid, or they're thoroughly disbelieved by their let's-pretend-worshipers.  Conservatives hunt through whatever sheepherder tales they claim were written by the hand of whatever god for any excuse to kill, steal from, or rape and pillage their enemies of the moment.  I'm not just talking about our local nutball Christian "conservatives," I mean every conservative on the planet; Christian, Muslim, Moonie, Mormon, Communist, or whatever timid person's flavor-of-the-century we're suffering at the moment.  If these people aren't killing someone or planning to kill someone, they're unhappy as hell. 

[As a historical aside, read John Adam's defense of British soldiers from post-Revolutionary War execution, “. . . We are to look upon it as more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer. The reason is, because it is of more importance to the community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in the world, that all of them cannot be punished; and many times they happen in such a manner, that it is not of much consequence to the public, whether they are punished or not. But when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security. And if such a sentiment as this should take place in the mind of the subject, there would be an end to all security whatsoever . . .”  Now that's a liberal!]

Two unbelievably vicious examples of Right immorality demonstrated their wrongness recently, during Minnesota's 2002 Senate campaign.  First, the Republicrat candidate waged a smear campaign against the only populist politician left in Washington, Paul Wellstone.  When Wellstone's plane went down a few weeks before the election, the Demoplicans stuffed the vacancy with Walter Mondale.  In a panic, Republicrats worried about losing the election out of sympathy for Minnesota's great loss.  Conservative whackos stormed the Fitzgerald Theater where a debate was the be held between Mondale and Abnormal Coleman.  Outside the theater, they paraded with signs that read "War Means Jobs." 

War means jobs.  Now there's a strong moral position for you.  They were worried that Mondale might not let Gee Wiz carry on his war-plans-slash-economic-recovery-strategy and that resistance to rational thought might cost them precious military industrial jobs.  I'd never been more disgusted by my fellow Americans. 

But conservatives keep trying to set new records for immorality.  In New York, there is a 30 year old Republicrat governors' legislation, called the Rockefeller Law, which puts "drug offenders" in prison, regardless of previous history, mitigating circumstances, or breakfast cereal preferences.  Recently, there has been some questioning of the fairness or rationality of a law that tosses people in jail for crimes against themselves.  Some famous rappers are putting themselves in between the law and common sense.  They're asking why people should be jailed for life, or the majority of a life, for drug possession, especially possession of amounts small enough to barely qualify for personal use.

And the conservatives are upset.  Not because they believe the punishment fits the crime, but because they are concerned that precious right-wing jobs will be lost in the prison system.  Who cares if people are unfairly stripped of their lives, families, and freedom?  Let's face it, it's obvious that prison guards are old fashioned conservatives and it's hard to find high paying jobs for that sort of upstanding low-tech citizen.  Mostly, because the kind of person who would take a job as a prison guard is uneducated, unskilled, and otherwise unemployable.  So what's a person's life compared to keeping conservative dumbshits employed? 

Morality, who needs it when you can pretend to have it and the rest of the country is too terrified of you to correct your error?  If we truly wanted to wage a war on terrorists, conservatives would be in deep shit.  The terrorists of the world are all conservatives stumbling along behind one deeply flawed fantasy or another.  A war on real terrorism would be one that could be easily conducted at home and it's a war that should be won at all costs.  The future of our Constitution and world democracy depends on rooting out conservatives and putting them where they can do no harm.  I'm thinking positions as sanitation workers is about as critical an industry as conservatives are capable of serving.

March 2004