Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Passing thoughts on the State of the Art(ifice)

Thought of The Police the other day while I was thinking about the police:

Poets, priests and politicians
have words to thank for their positions
words that scream for your submission
...no one's jammin’ their transmission
- The Police

The noise level is so high these days you can have trouble hearing your own thoughts...

Florida apparently passed a law that says, basically: shoot first, then claim self-defense – it’ll be alright (especially if you’re an upstanding white guy and the other guy/perpetrator/victim is black).

Irony clause: This was vigorously supported by women’s groups trying to find a way to protect abused women who lashed back at their torturers.

The Congress passed a bill (instantly signed into law by the Prez) that effectively bans all protests anywhere near the object of the protest. As one officer put it to a sign-wielding protester: “The no-protest zone moves to be anywhere you are.”

Asma Assad’s (who finally let her hair down on Twitter, said “I am the dictator here.” – as we all suspected) government is now using social media to counter-propagandize the Syrian revolutionaries. (Death Count: 8,000 and rising)

Foxconn is evil, Apple is evil wait, wait… the guy who said this stuff in a one-man show apparently got some of his info from people who weren’t authorized by Foxconn to say that Foxconn was evil… so Apple and Foxconn aren’t evil after all, phew!, all our iPhones are safe… but the suicide nets at the Foxconn plants are still up…

Rick Santorum wants to know who you’re fucking, when you’re fucking and why you’re fucking… he especially wants to know these things about women; men, not so much.

Republicans have come up with yet another economic plan that fails to address any of the economic problems we are faced with except for the wrenching tragedy suffered daily by the very wealthy: apparently they don’t have enough money (see Ann Romney for commentary)… the White House is desperately searching for a way to capitulate.

Supreme Leader Imam Khamenei has, effectively, taken over control of the Iranian ‘Republic’ (ever notice how the grander the title, the punier the tinpot dictator?) from Ahmadinejad (too batshit crazy even for Khamenei). He’s declared that no, they are not producing weapons grade fissionables… now. It seems that the 30,000 centrifuges they have been running day and night for the last six months aren’t separating out the U-235 at sufficient purity for bombs… yet.

In its wisdom, the US Army sends a guy with brain damage back to the front for a fourth tour and then is ‘shocked, shocked’ to find out that he went off the reservation and shot anyone he could find in an alcohol-soaked redout… forget Sun Tzu, von Clausewitz and Musashi, didn’t any of these people see “The Hurt Locker” ?

On the other hand, in the time of ‘Obamacare’ vs ‘Romneycare’, we don’t hear a peep nowadays about ‘single-payer’ or Vermont…

The gutting of NASA continues apace, I guess that Obama was really pissed off that NASA couldn’t duplicate Star Trek technology – y’know, it’s been 40 years now, I mean, jeez, how much time do you guys need?

The economy crashed in 2008 due to weasels stealing everything they could carry and then sticking us with the bill (nice move!) it’s now 2012, four years later and NOT ONE PERSON has been indicted for the greatest fraud perpetrated against the citizens of the United States, in history… news at eleven?, I think not…

In a comment on the political situation in Europe wherein the European Banksters are taking over the governments and overruling or displacing any democratically elected regimes and replacing them with dictatorial states that answer to the German Central Bank. One politician said:

“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetimes.”

…wait, that sounds familiar, did I hear that before somewhere?

A shallow, narcissistic, incompetent corporate hack is being challenged by a shallow, narcissistic, incompetent corporate hack, an ignorant, shallow, incompetent, religious, misogynist, xenophobic bigot, a schizoid, incompetent, ethically convicted, opportunistic, cruel, serial betrayer and a fraudulent, self-serving, incompetent quack… my, my, my… how to choose.

I’m reminded of a story told about Dorothy Parker (a founding member of the incomparable Algonquin Round Table). She and Jean Harlow (the Britney Spears of her day) arrived at the door of the Algonquin at the same time. Harlow, trying to be witty (big mistake!) held the door for Parker, saying “Age before beauty.” Parker replied “Pearls before swine.” and swept through the door…

...no one's jammin’ their transmission…

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I’m not fair anymore

I'm not fair, I'm not even-handed, I don't give the benefit of the doubt, I don’t suffer fools gladly any longer- I'm way past that these days. I'm angry and outraged at the cowardice, venality and stupidity I see in the political sphere, I'm frustrated that bog-obvious solutions to our problems are gathering dust while the clown circus magic pony ride goes on and on and I’m especially furious when ignorant, self-righteous twits attempt to foist their narrow-minded bigotries on me (or anybody else), case in point.

Rick Santorum (the Pro-Rape candidate) removed any possibility of his being elected and probably killed whatever chance the GOP hoped for in the general election even if they nominate Rubio for VP:

In an interview with El Vocero newspaper, Santorum said he supported Puerto Ricans' right to self-determination regarding the island's political status.
"We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop," he told the newspaper.
But Santorum said he did not support a state in which English was not the primary language.
"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum said. "And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

1) Of course there is no federal law mandating English (or any other language) as the 'principal' language
2) Nowhere, except in the fever dreams of rightwingnutland is this even an issue.
3) Can he say that in Spanish so everyone can understand him?

Every Hispanic in America just registered as a Democrat...
I think that this issue will be a tremendous loser for Republicans in this election (especially among the Hispanic community). So far, there has been no official language in the US, English has been proposed, German was proposed as a co-official language with English between the wars and of course Spanish has been proposed more recently - in some areas it is a de facto standard along with English if not de jure.

I don't like ‘Imam Rick’ very much on a visceral level. My nomination of him as the "Pro-Rape" candidate is an extrapolation of his stand that not even incest or rape are sufficient cause for a woman to seek an abortion. I consider his statement to be an invitation to rapists everywhere, after all, they get to increase their power over their victims by forcing them to bear their children.

As for the Republican party in general, I'm of the opinion that the GOP is populated mostly by corrupt corporate stooges who have left their ethics, morals and ability to think, at home on the bedroom dresser along with the cufflinks.

Sad to say (having been a Democrat for 40 years) this applies to the Democratic party too, nowadays…
…just to be fair.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A Brilliant Maneuver

Yesterday the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood’s mammogram outreach to poor women, because a right wing Congresscritter had started an investigation into Planned Parenthood for, frankly, who cares? Some absurd allegation, trumped up to provide this very excuse.

This utterly transparent ploy is the basis of a brilliant maneuver by the right wing-anti-abortion, hate-women crowd. First, they carefully infiltrated the Komen Foundation with Karen Handel, who apparently bedazzled founder Nancy Brinker with her ‘born again’ fervor to serve women (although she had made her career as an anti-abortion politician).

Then Handel convinced Brinker and apparently some other gullible members of the board at Komen to support this astonishingly stupid decision (talk about a snake in the garden!). And eventually got the Komen Foundation to make what is arguably the worst decision made by a woman since Nancy Pelosi declaimed that ‘Impeachment is off the table.”

But for the right wing women haters, this is win-win! Now, no matter what happens next, the Komen Foundation has lost all credibility with its grass roots supporters. It’s once cherished position as the preeminent US charity fighting breast cancer and providing poor women with the help they desperately need, is now in cinders. As an added bonus, the women haters got to cut off funding for their objet de d├ętester - Planned Parenthood…. It’s a twofer!

And, in addition, now Karen Handel and the rest of the women haters have a fan-dab-tastic method for closing down anyone they hate at any time they want. All they have to do is get a tame Congersscritter to start any kind of bogus investigation into the target group and presto-chango, they can justify any hate-filled, anti-woman action their little black hearts desire.

To the right wing fanatics who thought this up: I have to tip my hat to a vicious tactical victory – well done.

To the idiots like Nancy Brinker who just drove her Foundation into the ground, you really should resign because getting suckered like this means you’re pretty much too stupid to be trusted with anything this important.

In the larger picture, I wonder what it’s going to take for the left wing in this country to wake up and realize that they’re in a war with an implacable, merciless enemy that absolutely will not stop until all women are slaves? Think I’m overstating the case? Have you listened to Rick Santorum lately? No abortions for any reason including incest and/or rape (I’m thinking of naming him the Pro-Rape candidate), no condoms for anyone and no sex at all unless it’s between man and wife (women only as wives, of course) and even then only for purpose of procreation - How could you tell, Rick? And how would you find out? If you think this is starting to sound like the Reader’s Digest version of The Handmaid’s Tale, you’re right.

I’ve often wondered why women in this country don’t just stand up and take power – they’ve got the numbers. I see things like this happen and I don’t understand why they don’t burn the place down. I’m not a woman (obviously) but I have a wife and a daughter and Hell would have to freeze over before I’d allow any, cramp-assed, pea-brained, woman-hating bigot tell either of them what they could or could not do with their own bodies.

Time to step up ladies, if you don’t grab hold of your own reins, there are plenty of people out there who will be glad to – for you own good of course.

The Susan G Komen Foundation has reversed course due to the massive outcry against their boneheaded move against Planned Parenthood. However, Ms. Handel still has her job so i would expect there to be a stealth move to block funding after the attention has died down.

Apparently there's a caveat: The Komen Foundation announced that they will honor current grants - which they were legally obliged to do since they had already publicly issued the grants. However, they made no mention about grants for next year, which were the ones in question.
It's possible that this is a planned Red Herring: approving already approved grants and waiting until the heat dies down before refusing the next years' applications.

We'll see...

Well, that didn't take long, see this article in HuffyPo. Turns out VP Karen Handel was actually targeting PP all along and so the right wing woman-haters are doing exactly what I predicted they were doing. Champagne tonight in the Halls of Right Wing Batshit Crazy Woman-haters!

Who's reading? I note that this press release was done at the unique time of year guaranteed to get it the least possible attention in the universe: on Superbowl Sunday just as The Game was about to start. I took a quick look around the web to see who was aware of the story: None of the MSM of course: NYTimes: No. CNN: No. Salon: No. Slate: No. NBC: No. ABC: No. CBS: No FireDogLake: No. ... Huffington Post: Yes, Daily Kos: Yes. I'm heartened to note that Arianna Huffignton found this story of enough interest to actually folllowup on it, And the DK has two articles offering some actual insight on the underlying issues. Well done HP and DK.
Shame on the rest of the so-called 'press' - let us know how the Great Battle in Indianapolis turns out willya?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

“Inter arma enim silent leges.”

“In Time of War the Law is Made Silent.” – Cicero

The infamous, illegal, immoral and shameful American war of choice in Iraq has ended, as it should, in ignominy. The few remaining American troops took the flag and slunk over the border to Kuwait, home of another American war that, at least, had the virtues of being morally right and being legal (insofar as any war can ever be called ‘legal’).

Almost 5,000 American lives were lost in vain, more than a million Iraqis died also, it looks like, in vain. Just a few days in and the Iraqi republic is falling apart like a sand castle in the waves.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

We shattered our army, paupered our economy, destroyed our reputation and drowned our morality in Fallujah, at Abu Graib and with the imperial satrapy of Mr. Bremer in the Green Zone…. and all of it in the Name of Oil.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

At home we threw Habeus Corpus out the window along with Posse Comitatus. We created the Department of Homeland Security: the largest and most comprehensive secret police service since the Stasi. We allowed torture and secret prisons, ‘rendering’ and ‘extreme interrogation’ we regularly submit to x-ray machines and full body searches for internal and external traffic, we’ve created another branch of surveillance and control, the TSA, with almost unlimited powers of control and no accountability. We no longer even require the rubber stamp of security courts post hoc for eavesdropping and now countenance ever more surveillance by any agency for any reason they care to offer, or not.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

Our local police departments have been transformed over the last ten years into militarized heavily armed crowd control shock troops, rent-a-cop security forces casually pepper spray seated protesters – prophylactically. The riffraff are herded into ‘free-speech zones’ where they can howl their fury against the chain-link fences that conjure images of every dictatorship we’ve ever encountered… they may even be able to glimpse the motorcade as it glides serenely by, several blocks away.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

For 500 years the Roman Empire ruled the Mediterranean world and for 500 years before that, the Roman Republic fascinated and terrified an ever expanding sphere of influence. What made the Romans so powerful? What made their power so long lasting? What made them fail at the end and fade into history?

Volumes, entire libraries have been written about the Roman Empire. Extensive studies, archeological evidence, contemporary testaments abound and certain themes emerge.

Development of the Roman Model

  • Development of a permanent, professional standing army – the legions’ training and tactics were far ahead of adversaries (with some notable exceptions).
  • Development of a network of hard infrastructure – the famous Roman roads and aqueducts
  • Development of the Rule of Law – Roman jurisprudence was evenly and widely applied

Distribution of Power

  • Distribution of Power - A militant Republic develops elite classes

o The orders of Roman Knights

o The concentration of money and power

o The ascendance of familial/tribal networks

· Distribution of Power – The Republic becomes The Imperium

o The path to power is through the military

o The means to secure power is through the granary (Egypt)

o The means to preserve power is through Bread and Circuses

Dissolution of Empire

  • As the power concentrates, the Rule of Law begins to break down
  • As the money concentrates, the social contract dissipates
  • The Center Cannot Hold, the Empire melts away

Inter arma enim silent leges.

Even in the drastically abbreviated ‘Rise and Fall’ above it is easy to see parallels to our contemporary situation, or to any empire for that matter. The difference is that, now, we know that we know (‘known knowns’ in Rumsfeldian). We need not follow Santayana’s dictum to destruction.

But we’re in a permanent state of war now: War on Afghanistan, War on Pakistan, War on Terror, War on Drugs…

The total cost, so far, for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is at least $3.2-3.4 trillion. (1)

The river of blood flows on, the river of treasure bleeds on, the river of the spirit continues to hemorrhage.

Never has Yeats been more apropos:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

–William Butler Yeats

The dead cry out for meaning, the living cleve to rotting gods, the worst dance on the grave of our morality.

Stop our several wars, stop our home-grown Monsters of the Id, restore the Rule of Law before it really is, too late. All war is a crime and the first casualties are truth and the Rule of Law.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reboot: America 2.0

It doesn’t help to be right if you can’t make things change. Cassandra was terminally frustrated – I know how she felt. It also doesn’t help to sit in the warm bath of your own self-regard and point fingers at all the bad guys – they’re merrily running off with the silverware and they aren’t looking back.

If the political situation is FUBAR – and it is… and if the economic situation is FUBAR – and it is… then we’re left holding a hand-lettered sign:

Ideologues and fanatics from right and left (mostly right) will gibber and howl, trot out their buzzword propaganda and try to stifle any kind of discussion, much less real debate, about making any change – because they know exactly what that change must be and they’ve convinced themselves that if they can prevent anyone speaking the truth about our situation, they can somehow prevent any change from taking place. In all honesty, they’ve been pretty successful; anyone with two brain cells to rub together could see this train wreck coming decades ago, many did, and said so, and were buried under an avalanche of scorn and derision. See Peter Schiff being laughed at when he accurately predicted the crash here , see the saga of Brooksley Born, read Krugman, Stiglitz, Roubini, Black, Galbraith the Younger, remember how Elizabeth Warren went down in flames… this isn’t a recent revelation: read Galbraith the Elder or John Maynard Keynes; this goes way back.

And it’s not that we don’t have latter-day prophets: Chris Hedges sums up the current situation nicely: here or you could read anything recent by Chomsky, or Howard Zinn for that matter. The information is out there and has been out there for quite some time – so why don’t we ‘get’ it?

I think it comes down to three dysfunctional syndromes we exhibit as a nation:

The Not My Problem Syndrome

This is familiar to everyone: you have a job, your wife has a job, little Johnny is on the baseball team, little Susie is taking ballet lessons. The mortgage is under control, the college fund is looking good, you’re two years into the car financing and you’re planning that vacation to Cabo… not you? Me neither, but there are enough elements in that scenario that people can relate to and they don’t really want to know about the neighbors down the street who had to move out last month. Or the guys who seem to be on every street corner with handwritten cardboard signs: “Will work for…” After all, you never hear about this stuff on the news, so it can’t be that bad, can it? Besides, what can I do? I voted for the hopenchange guy, I don’t want people to suffer… but I’ve got my own problems to take care of…

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this guy, he’s just been protected from the reality of his environment and trained to apathy about acting to make things better… and it’s certainly a lot easier to watch ‘Jersey Shore’ or “American Idol’ than to write a letter to your Congressperson or walk a picket line in the ‘free speech zone’.

Until, you get sick and lose the job, or get riffed so the CEO can make his quarterly numbers and collect that fat bonus check, or – any one of a thousand things that throws you on the scrap heap where your neighbors avert their eyes and say to themselves: not my problem.

Those annoying activists, y’know, the ones who keep pestering you to get up and do something? They’re actually on your side – the flacks you hear on the radio and on the TV, telling you that ‘it’s all good’, things are gonna turn around, just be patient. These folks are your enemy, they are lying to you to keep you quiet because there is only one thing they fear: millions of people in the streets, telling them to get out.

The Strongman/Savior Syndrome

No foul on anyone with this one, it goes back about 3 million years: the strongest ape leads tribe because: who’s gonna say ‘No’ to him? We see it all over the place today: starlets who think they’re immune to the police, athletes who have hissy fits when they’re not worshipped, newspaper magnates who think it’s fine to delete the voice mail of child kidnap victims on the chance they can steal the kidnappers’ ransom demands (nothing personal, just business). It’s the basis for all our hierarchies, from priests and kings, warlords and dictators, corporate CEOs and imperial presidents. The nature of the beast, one might say. We run to it when things are bad: got severe problems? Look for the White Knight to solve ‘em. In a terminal jam? Hope for the 7th cavalry to charge in for the rescue. We constantly look for saviors and gurus to extricate us from our messes. It pretty much hard-wired.

In the political world that means, dictatorships, tyrannies, warlords or, at best, feudalism with all its inefficient chaos and destruction. Democracy doesn’t really come into it. Depressingly, if you look at democratic rebellions throughout history, almost all of them end up with some strongman or other taking charge and trying to build an empire. This isn’t surprising given that rebellions need leaders and leaders are strongmen and strongmen see no reason to relinquish power once the ancien regime has been swept away.

The Boiling Frog Syndrome

The way to cook frogs (or lobsters for that matter) is top put them in a pot of cold water and increase the heat gradually. By the time the water gets hot enough, they’re already cooked. We’re pretty much cooked – it’s taken about 30 years by my count, you may choose an earlier of later start point, but the deed is done: democracy is on its way out in this country.

For a long time I was an advocate for a third (or fourth or fifth) party. I don’t see that any longer as a viable option – the corruption is too far gone, any new party that spontaneously forms will be overwhelmed by money from the outset. Good luck to the Tea Party btw, I don’t agree with their agenda but at this point any effective, disruptive entity is welcome, anything that could help to derail the corporate juggernaut has my support. I just hope they don’t get co-opted by Wall Street too soon – and it’s not looking good.

It’s time to start thinking about what comes after: after the current depression/corporatist coup d’etat now underway, after it becomes clear to everyone that we no longer live in a democracy (or a republic), after we finally wake up and discover that all the money now rests in the hands of the thieves – and no, they’re not giving any of it back.

There will be a time, just before the police start firing on the protestors (in the free speech zones) and the ensuing ‘torches and pitchforks’ riots begin, when it may be possible to institute some structural change. I don’t think this is likely but the protestors in Egypt are trying and I never thought they’d get this far (in all likelihood they will get ground up by the iron fist of the army and it’ll all go to hell under the Muslim Brotherhood).

But if we get the chance, this will be the time to build America: 2.0.

OK, that’s pretty depressing, you say, but what have you got to replace version 1 with? Those were some pretty smart guys and the founding documents they wrote have stood up pretty well for 225 years.

Well, I think we have to start by acknowledging that the America train has gone off the track and needs some drastic reworking to get it back on track.

Unh… OK, so what would that look like?

A Constitutional Convention

To address the systemic problems mentioned above and to make the structural changes that are necessary if we are to move forward as a nation, we’ll need a constitutional convention. This will be hard to do but it is possible if enough people are convinced that it is required.

There are two ways to initiate an Article V convention:
A two thirds majority vote by both houses of Congress

An application for a convention by two thirds of the state legislatures

While convincing two thirds of Congress to vote to create such a convention would doubtless be the faster, more efficient way to do this, it is unlikely that either of these dreadfully corrupt bodies would be able to summon the courage to do so. That leaves the longer, more difficult route of going through state legislatures. One thing is for sure, this is an idea fraught with danger: will corporatists thugs try to take it over? Of course they will. Will avalanches of money be thrown at participants to buy them off? Of course that will happen. But there’s also the intriguing possibility that right wing interested parties will support this idea for their own purposes and that corporate interests will think they can secure their control over us by some well placed bribes to whomever participates in the convention…. In fact they will be certain of this. But if we are forewarned of these dangers we can be prepared to counter them, if we can counter them through preparedness, organization and focus, we may be able to enact…sanity.

If it’s not yet clear if we’ll be able to make a convention happen or how we’ll ensure that we get the changes we need, nut in the meantime there’s still the job of deciding what those changes will be…

The US Constitution was adopted in 1787, just 12 years after James Watt developed the first commercially useful steam engine and just 50 years before Samuel Morse demonstrated his telegraph. There is no doubt that the framers were extraordinary men who deliberately tried to create a blueprint for freedom that would last for the ages. They included the amendment process to keep it updated and they did their best to address the crucial problems of their time: preventing the takeover of a religious theocracy, keeping power out of the hands of a would-be dictator, protecting the individual from the state and the states from the federal government. But… there were some problems they could not resolve, see ‘slavery’ for example and there were other problems they had no way of knowing about: the rise of corporate power, for example. Nor could they have possibly have known anything about the explosion of technology that was just around the corner.

These are now our problems and now may be our opportunity to resolve them. You must have ideas about this, I have some ideas myself – we can start by talking about them… time for a change.