Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Family Resemblance?

Here are a couple of headshots. You tell me if you see a family resemblance between them.

On the left is Psycho-Eyes Florida governor Rick Scott, and on the right is Heaven's Gate Comet Cult suicide Marshall Applewhite.

I was tempted to call this "separated at birth?" but Applewhite is too old. It could be long-lost father and son, but I recall that Applewhite castrated himself some time before the New Nike Shoe Suicidists took that final step.

How about this one? Do you wonder what their children would look like?

Here's your answer:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When is LOL Not Funny?

That's today's riddle. Answer: When she's in the car in front of you doing 15 in a 35 zone. LOL in this case, of course, means "Little Old Lady", who is only marginally worse than an LOM. Especially if that LOM is wearing a hat. But you probably already know that.

Recently I inadvertently let my drivers license expire. For about five months. (Hey, I've been busy!) Anyway, I had to go to my local Dept of Licensing outlet (which mysteriously does not handle vehicle license renewals -- my Jeep was also expired; that took a trip to the local privatizing-enabled "licensing agent" who charged their tacked-on premium on top of the regular renewal fee) and wait in the "sitting room" -- or sit in the waiting room -- for my name to be called.

It was amazingly quick. With blinding speed I got called in only 89 minutes.

So I shuffled up to the counter and mumbled something about hoping I wasn't "in trouble" for driving so long on an expired license. I fully expected to get the "lecture finger" and have to endure the memorized spiel about the importance of renewing on time, etc. So you can imagine my surprise when my only penalty was a $10 surcharge.

No lecture, no finger wagging, and -- most surprisingly -- not even an eye test! And certainly no general medical questions, such as, oh I don't know, "Have you had a stroke?"

Okay, I will be 67 years old on my next birthday. Which seems to be rushing up towards me with the exponentially-increasing speed of a runaway train bearing down on a pale frail heroine tied to the tracks.

But I digress.

At my age, a lot of us "senior citizens" -- aka old people -- start to develop vision problems. I suffered from cataracts for several years until I finally decided to bite the bullet and get them taken care of. Fortunately I had health insurance through my job, but even so my doc the eye guy and I had to jump through a lot of hoops to get them to pay for it. As if someone would want to go through that harrowing experience for the fun of it! The point being that many old people have only Medicare (for now) and may not have a such a smooth path to vision correction. Which means they won't bother with it because they don't want to jump through all the hoops, can't afford the copay, etc.

So once again, back on topic. I think it is unconscionable for the state licensing agency to be so cavalier about it. At the very least, they should have insisted on an eye test. Next time I'm up for renewal, I'm going to go in withopaque shades, a white cane and a borrowed seeing-eye dog, just to see what happens. If anybody says anything (which is doubtful) I'll whip off the shades, drop the cane, set the dog loose, and announce, "Surprise! I was just fuckin' with ya!"

It is anathema to the "gray panther" crowd to even suggest that old people ought to be required to take a periodical driving test. Go ahead and ask your typical AARP retiree and you'll find out that even they would support the tests, but not the vocal minority who claim that it is "age discrimination".

Which brings us back to the Little Old Lady who was impeding traffic today on Capitol Way. A simple ten-minute even driving test would have been sufficient for even the Dept of Licensing to suspect something was wrong, suspend that license and no longer allow her to drive.

The gray panther crowd points to statistics to "prove" that older drivers are safer than, say, sixteen-year-old terminal testosterone cases stoked by alcohol and hormones. Okay, I'll grant them that, but that's pretty much beyond your traditional apples-and-oranges. It's more like apples and Roman candles.

Statistics are wonderful things, but they do not show the incidence of accidents which are indirectly caused by slow drivers who provoke -- there's no other word for it -- other drivers to take matters into their own hands and pass the slow driver, only to meet a truck full of live chickens head on. The LOL goes on about her business while the rest of us are left to stew in a slew of chicken feathers, mangled beaks and feet, and blood.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Uninformed Voter: The Biggest Threat to Democracy

It happens every election. Uninformed voters cast their votes at the last minute for the candidate whose last ridiculously-expensive television commercial they saw, cast their votes against candidates based on gut-level emotional attacks – monumental lies, mostly – by their opponents, without ever taking the time to really examine the candidates, what they say they stand for versus what they really stand for, and what it really means for their own economic and social well-being if Candidate X wins the election.

In Washington State, we also have a cumbersome initiative process that over the last few elections has managed to confuse the public and bog down the electoral process. Unfortunately, many of these initiatives, while they are skillfully titled and worded to appear benign, cynically manipulate those who are not really paying attention to vote against their own best interests.

For example, to us progressives, pretty much any initiative proposed by our own Republican political gadfly and pseudo-Populist Tim Eyman is automatically suspect. Every one of his initiatives, despite whatever innocuous-sounding name he slaps on it ("Initiative Measure No. 1132 concerns state expenditures on transportation"), is aimed at crippling government and destroying the public's faith in it. His centerpiece, of course, was 1999's infamous I-695, which, even though it was subsequently declared unconstitutional, had – and is still having – a tremendously devastating effect on this state. His many subsequent attempts were never quite as successful, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a master media manipulator and successful wingman for the Republican right wing. He's become such a "media darling" to a complaisant press in this state that they always know that he can be counted on to say something so borderline outrageous that, even if it makes for bad public policy, makes for good television.

Progressives, sadly, really don't really have anyone with Eyman's skills and abilities. He might be selling snake oil to the voting public, but he also makes them want to buy it. It may well be that the truth will set you free, but first you need to know the truth.

So what can be done? How about a massive educational drive designed to make voters understand what they can do to avoid these manipulations by a select corps of Grover Norquist "starve the beast" acolytes?

Sidebar: Norquist, you may recall, is a Republican operative whose most famous line was that he wanted to reduce government to a size where he could "drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the tub".

Beyond that, it is up to each and every one of us to educate ourselves on the candidates and the issues for which we are expected to cast a thoughtful ballot in November. It's also up to each and every one of us to talk to our friends, relatives, co-workers, even that stranger on the bus, and educate them on the candidates and issues. This is true over the entire country, not just in Washington State. And don't drop your guard. This year's election is only the warm-up round for next year's Battle Royal.

This is where we progressives have it over the so-called "conservatives". They won't do that because they can't. Most of them cannot successfully articulate their positions because they are among the very worst when it comes to uninformed voting. On the other hand, they have a follow-the-herd mentality which means that they don't have to think about things. We do, and we will.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Low Point of the "Debate"

I don't know why I continue to put myself through this torture. Unless it is that, like the Faux News-Google-Orange County FL staff who set up the stage and placed Romney and Perry within arm's length of each other, hoping that the verbal sparring will turn into physical confrontation.

It was as boring and sad and scary as I expected it to be, except for the appearance of former New Mexico governor Gary "Dogshit" Johnson, who got in the best dig by saying that his neighbor's dogs are responsible for more "shovel ready" jobs than Barack Obama.

I admit, I had to laugh. It was a good laugh line. Too bad Johnson won't be around much longer, since he seems to be the best with the one liners out of everyone on the stage.

But the low point of the whole two hours (two hours, that's all that it was? Jeez, it seemed like six or more. I was calling it the Orlando Death March long before it was over...) was our buddy Google-me Rick Santorum, who fumbled and stumbled his way through a question from now-openly-gay soldier Stephen Hill, currently serving in Iraq (cue chorus of boos from the audience) concerning a new GOP administration's intended handling of the gays-in-the-military issue:

Yeah, I — I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they're making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to -- to -- and removing "don't ask/don’t tell" I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.
We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform.
And I believe this undermines that ability.
MEGYN KELLY of Fox News: So what -- what -- what would you do with soldiers like Stephen Hill? I mean, he's — now he's out. He's — you know, you saw his face on camera. When he first submitted this video to us, it was without his face on camera. Now he's out. So what would you do as president?
SANTORUM: I think it's -- it's -- it's -- look, what we're doing is playing social experimentation with -- with our military right now. And that's tragic.
I would -- I would just say that, going forward, we would -- we would reinstitute that policy, if Rick Santorum was president, period.
That policy would be reinstituted. And as far as people who are in -- in -- I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in -- in conformity with what was happening in the past, which was, sex is not an issue. It is -- it should not be an issue. Leave it alone, keep it -- keep it to yourself, whether you’re a heterosexual or a homosexual.
Get that? "Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military"!

What is it with these people, that it all comes down to sex? And not just sex, but "sexual activity"? So I guess that all of you straight people in the military, when President Santorum (god, it gives me the willies just to write that) takes over, you are all cut off for the duration.

Jeez, think of the depressed local economies that will result in every town that exists at the front gate of every US military base in the world. No more hookers, no more massage parlors, no more party girls in the barracks. Yeah, way to go President Ricky.

I guess the GOP really wants a bunch of mindless robots, automatons whose only job it is to kill the "enemy" (whoever they are determined to be) and not be real people, with real lives and real issues. Supporting the troops? Yeah, right...

And no, except for some dueling "Read my book!" jibes from Romney and Perry, they didn't get into any fights. Too bad. I was kind of hoping for some WWF smackdown action.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feeding a Family on $200,000 a Year

Jeez, thank god I don't have to live like that.

Louisiana Teabagger Congressman John Phlegming is whining that after he feeds his family, he has "only" $400,000 left over from the $600,000 that he takes home from his businesses. Note that he's not including his $175,000 congressional salary in those calculations.

For those who are math-challenged, that means that Phlegming is eking out a hand-to-mouth existence on only $547 per day to put food on his family.

I don't know how many family members are reliant on Phlegming for their daily sustenance, but it seems to me that, even in age of conspicuous excess, that's a little high.

But still, you gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to putting food on your family, even if that "food" includes coats made from skinned weasels (aka "mink") that your mistress wears across her surgically-enhanced bosoms.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sheriff Joe to the Rescue

This is more from my RUFKM file, which seems to be growing exponentially day by day as we get into the 2012 election.

Our old buddy Sheriff Joe "Pink Underwear" Arpaio now says that he's going to investigate Obama's birth certificate.

Say what? Well, I guess that he's got such a handle on the crimes of Maricopa County that he can take the time to investigate a Federal Case that has already been solved to the satisfaction of everyone except die-hard birther/wack jobs who couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel.

So what's Sheriff Joe really up to? It's not political. He says so himself. And the "cold case posse" he's assigned to the task is an "all volunteer" group that nevertheless has been forced into inactivity recently due to "budgetary limitations" in the county.

Okay, I may have an IQ of only 63, but even I can see there's a problem with an "all-volunteer" group going "over budget"...

Jeez, people, give it a fucking rest already. With all the problems we are facing as a nation, Obama's birth certificate seems like it ought to be a remote and miniscule issue. But for some people, I guess, it's all they've got.

Sad, really.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Ghosts of Vietnam

As you may recall, I belong to several email discussion groups and am Facebook friends with a number of my fellow Vietnam veterans, and one thread that keeps reappearing on a regular basis is this: Many of them so desperately want to believe that we could have "won" the Vietnam War, but were prevented from that because we were hamstrung by the "politicians" who wouldn't let us, because we were "sold out" by the anti-war movement and "traitors" like Jane Fonda and John Kerry, because we were ambushed by the "liberal" media, etc. etc.

When I got back from Vietnam and tried to go to the American Legion and the VFW, both of my local organizations were populated by a bunch of crusty old embittered alcoholic WWII veterans who were, to put it mildly, less than welcoming of recently returned Vietnam veterans. Their attitude was that they had won their war, and we were a bunch of maggot-infested hippie longhairs who had "lost" ours.

Reading these posts I am struck -- and dismayed -- by the fact that many of my fellow vets have now turned into those guys.

News flash, guys: There was -- and remains -- NO WAY that the war was "winnable" in any real sense of the word. The US went in originally to prop up a failed dictatorship consisting of a Catholic "leader" and his corrupt and authoritarian family, who ruled with an iron fist over a population the vast majority of whom were Buddhists and Confucianist. The so-called "communists", because they had booted out the hated French colonialists and their puppets, had the hearts and the minds of that population, in a way and to an extent that our own puppet boy could never achieve on his own.

It is both foolish and naive, from a historical, a sociological, a psychological point of view, to think that the Vietnam War could have been "won" by the US or the South Vietnamese government in any real sense of the word. If you doubt that, why don't you tell me how it could have been "won", except in the timeless words of the Roman historian Tacitus in 98 AD, "They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace."

Yes we could have dropped a nuke on Hanoi, but that's just one city. Vietnam was -- and remains -- a largely rural country. We could have sprayed the entire Indochina area with napalm (as we tried to do with Agent Orange), we could have engaged in an all-out war of genocide, but in the end we still would not have "won". You can't suppress an indigenous population forever, as we found out -- but didn't learn -- in the Philippines in 1899-1904. Unlike Korea, which has the name, this really was the "forgotten war" -- ithas been assiduously scrubbed from the national memory. You could look it up, however, and you will find that we committed genocidal atrocity after atrocity against the people of that country and still didn't end up "winning", as a look at the historical events there over the last century will tell you. See Phillippine American War for an overview and here for examples of contemporary letters home from American soldiers describing the atrocities that they had seen or committed themselves.

The anger that Vietnam vets feel over the Vietnam war is valid, but it is misplaced. The anger really ought to be aimed at the US corporations that were behind the war, at the obscene profits reaped by the military-industrial complex, notably and significantly Brown and Root from LBJ's home state of Texas (no, nothing suspicious there), which got untold millions of dollars in military contracts and which later became part of the notorious Halliburton. Those profits were reaped at the expense of the lives of the thousands of Americans and the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who were victimized by that profit-driven consortium. And send some of that anger towards the politicians who, encouraged by millions of dollars in "campaign contributions", enabled those corporations while simultaneously enriching themselves.

In 2008 I returned to Vietnam, and one of the striking images that has stuck with me from that trip is this one: I spent a night in a beachfront hotel on the South China Sea, at the resort town of Vung Tau. You couldn't see them in the daylight, but at night the horizon was lit up from side to side with a necklace of lights from offshore oil drilling platforms. Back in the day, we were told by the "authorities", in response to the Marxist-leaning critics of the Vietnam War who held that all wars are at their base economic, that Vietnam had no natural resources to exploit (even at time, that baldly discounted the vast rubber plantations that Michelin owned and operated in SE Asia), but no one knew about the offshore oil deposits. Not true, that NO ONE knew about them; they were known to Big Oil, and now those resources are being exploited by that same Big Oil.

It's awfully convenient to call Vietnam "communist". They even call themselves that, but it's pretty hard to see the communism in a society that has its own stock market, a plethora of advertising billboards littering the sides of the main highways, and whose only road from the airport to the capital is lined with eye-catching advertising banners for LG Electronics. Multinational corporations run sweatshop factories which exploit workers willing to work for the US equivalent of less than $200 per month.

Karl Marx must be rolling in his grave. The only thing that Vietnam shares with real communism is its name.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A "Mere" $5000?

I find it interesting that Prick Perry had to go out of his way to say that he can't be bought for a "mere" $5000.

Okay, fair enough, but it kind of begs the question: How much would it take to buy him?

I think the answer is found here.

It's an old joke but one that has more validity today than it ever did: It's the best government that money can buy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Christian National Registry of Atheists -- RUFKM???

I just got wind of this through seeing my atheist chuckle-of-the-day over at LOLGod, a great "non-theist" blog, where I saw his story on it, where some wackjob fundo down in Florida is starting something called The Christian National Registry of Atheists.

There's a pretty good story on it over at Think Atheist outlining what it's all about.

Here's the word from the founder of the organization, one Pastor Michael Stall, on the project:

Now, many (especially the atheists), may ask "Why do this, what's the purpose?" Duhhh, Mr. Atheist for the same purpose many States put the names and photos of convicted sex offenders and other ex-felons on the I-Net - to INFORM the public! I mean, in the City of Miramar, Florida, where I live, the population is approx. 109,000. My family and I would sure like to know how many of those 109,000 are ADMITTED atheists! Perhaps we may actually know some. In which case we could begin to witness to them and warn them of the dangers of atheism. Or perhaps they are radical atheists, whose hearts are as hard as Pharaoh's, in that case, if they are business owners, we would encourage all our Christian friends, as well as the various churches and their congregations NOT to patronize them as we would only be "feeding" Satan.
Frankly, I don't see why anyone would oppose this idea - including the atheists themselves (unless of course, they're actually ashamed of their atheist religion, and would prefer to stay in the 'closet.'). [emphasis in the original]
Stall "wants your name and photo to be listed, so Christian folk like him can find out if they're living next to atheists. 'I mean, think about it. There are already National Registrys [sic] for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc.."* Pastor Mike runs an internet church called the "Living Water Church," where he posted on his "I-Net" blog about his scheme to create a grassroots organization for compiling atheist stats.

As LOLGod pointed out with some graphic examples, we already know how this whole concept worked out last time it was tried:

[picture credit to LOLGod Blog]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Pro Life Party ? Um-hmmm...

Really? The Pro Life Party.

The Rethugs have gone out of their way over the years, ever since Roe v. Wade, to brand themselves as "pro-life". They even went so far as to make a bunch of huge-lettering "Choose Life" t-shirts available through churches and youth groups and whatnot, to the point where my pre-adolescent daughter came home with one from somewhere.

"Do you know what it means?" I asked her. She said she did, but it turned out to be one of those "kinda sorta a whole bunch but not really" things. After a little foray into parental education, she came away with a more balanced view, but I had to hand it to the Rethugs and their minions in the fundo churches: They do know how to brand an issue. Never mind that they don't really believe in what they are bible-thumping over. That doesn't matter. They are "Pro Life", which leaves the rest of us to be, what? Pro Death? That's really not working for us, is it? But that's what happens when we let them define us.

So what are we to make of the Pro Life Party now? Last week they erupted into frenzied applause when PRick Perry preened about the stage and crowed over the number of death row inmates he had murdered.

I didn't get to watch last night's "debate" for some technical reasons (satellite dish problems), but I awoke to the news that Crazy-Old-Man Ron Paul got the Teabaggers rockin' when he talked about "personal responsibility" and health care.

It appears that if you get sick and don't have insurance, or if your insurance cuts you off, that's pretty much on you. You should have known better and planned for it. That's what Ron Paul would have done to this hypothetical patient -- turned him over to the good graces of "Christian" charity. Society has no useful role in making the potentially ill be healthy or keeping the soon-to-be-dead from fulfilling their destiny as inhabitants of a morgue-bound body bag.

When moderator Wolf Blitzer called him on it -- "Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?" -- the crowd erupted into shouts of "Yeah!"

And they are the Pro-Life Party. Uhhhh, yeah... okay....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is it Time to Stop Wallowing in 9-11?

Okay, I admit that we as a species -- and as a citizenry -- like to commemorate stuff at what we think of as significant intervals. Ten years is a big deal to us, so I am willing to cut the media some slack when they are put stuff on the air to mark the ten year anniversary of the attacks on 9-11.

But enough is enough. You can hardly find a channel that isn't doing something to mark the date. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the Cartoon Network had some kind of special about it.

Mark Karlin over at Buzzflash has an excellent editorial today, It's Long Past Time to Get Over 9-11, and don't forget to check out Connsortium News' A 9-11 What if to see a great analysis of what could have happened if we had not had a trigger happy gunslinger-of-evil at the top of the heap (Darth Cheney) and a rootin' tootin' cowboy moron as his ventriloquist-dummy stooge (Baby Doc Bush).

A few years back one of my Republican friends (back when I still had some--they've all either awakened to the light and become liberals or have shunned me as the anathema that I am...) allowed as to how glad he was that Bush was president instead of Gore when 9-11 happened.

I told him that if Gore had been president, 9-11 wouldn't have happened. He didn't like that very much, but I believe it to be true. Or if it did happen, the response would have been very different. For one thing, I don't think we'd be under the fascist thumb of the Homeland Security Act, we wouldn't be bogged down in unwinnable wars in the Middle East, and the economy would be in much better shape.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

In Memoriam: Dorothy Dandridge

Lost in the tornado swirl of politics, let's take a moment to reflect that today marks the anniversary of the death of super-foxy Hollywood actress Dorothy Dandridge, who died of an accidental overdose on this date in 1965.

Okay, I'll admit it up front: After I saw her in 1954's Carmen Jones, I was madly in love with her.

Bear in mind that this was 1954 Oklahoma and most of my friends were aghast at this. I was, too. I was nine years old and I wasn't supposed to have "those kind" of feelings, let alone having them towards a "Negro".

But I did, and it broke my heart when I learned in 1965 that she had died.

La-La-La I'm Not Listening!

Jeez, Obama hasn't even started his jobs speech and already, according to Norman Goldman, the monkey-boys of the wingnuttery are shouting, in unison, "we don't agree"...

What is this, third grade?

Never mind. I haven't been in third grade in 58 years or so, and even I know that third graders are more advanced, more aware, more intellectual, more reasonable than the nattering nabobs of negativism on the right.

This isn't even kindergarten, where one of the goals was on "gets along well with others"...

More on the Debate

BTW, it was also a disgusting charade, a spectacle of how many people could kiss a dead president's ass in less than two hours. Even elderly moron Ron Paul, who so famously told Reagan to kiss his ass back in the 80s, and not in a good way. He was right there sucking at the Holy Dick of Saint Ronald along with the rest of that sad pack of political porkchops.

Of course, to be fair, it was held at the so-called Reagan Library, and some praise of the dead saint and his "revolution" was probably thought to be de rigueur, seeing as how it was taking place under the suspended corpse of a plane reputed to be Air Force One. Okay, maybe it really was, but at any given time there was more than one "Air Force One" in the nation's arsenal. In practice, there were several, if not many, and each would get its designation as Air Force One only when the president was actually aboard... And did you see Nancy Reagan the couple of times they cut to her? If she actually knew where she was and what she was doing there, you couldn't tell it from that spaced-out look she had. She's either on some good meds, or Alzheimer's turned out to be contagious in Reagan World.

Anyway, I digress. The most appalling -- the most chilling -- moment came when Brian Williams, the moderator, made mention of the fact that serial-killer Rick Perry had been the executive in charge when 234 people had been killed by the state. Before Perry had a chance to stroll out his smug canned response, the room erupted in applause.

Applause. These are all presumably kind of mainstream-ish Republicans, and they applaud the fact that the Texas governor has killed 234 people.

But keep it in perspective: The current governor's body count is negligible compared to that of his predecessor, Baby Doc Bush, whose total body count, direct and indirect, is in the hundreds of thousands, maybe even by this time the millions, nearly rivaling that of Pol Pot.

But, as Orrin Hatch (R-Underwear) said one time, without a hint of irony or sarcasm, "the death penalty is how we show our respect for human life"...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Seven Dwarfs and One Mental Midget

I just watched the Rethug "debate". I'll leave it up to you to guess who the "mental midget" is. I guess it doesn't really matter who you choose, it'll still be the right one.

All I brought away from it was some notable quotes: "Blah blah blah Obama bad blah blah blah Republicans good blah blah blah Obamacare bad blah blah blah..."

Jesus Christ, is this the best that they can do? The scary thing is, barring some unforeseen circumstance, one of these fuckers is going to be the Rethug nominee next year.

And, as I've often said, we're just one "October Surprise" away from having that person become the next president.

As Badtux the Snarky Penguin is given to saying, WASF...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Bachmann Out? Say it Ain't So...

According to the latest buzz on the Internets, it appears that Crazy-Eyes Bachmann's campaign is over.

Damn, when you get headlines like "I believe in god and $2 gas" and "Bachmann suggests eliminating Dept of Education" and "Bachmann says hurricane and earthquake are signs from god"... Well, it's gonna be a less humorous year for those of us in the snark business.

Too bad. I love watching people I hate self-destruct. Now we can only hope that on-again-off-again half-governor Sarah Palin will finally -- and really -- get in the game. If she doesn't (and all indications are that she eventually won't), then the campaign can be really boring.

But not necessarily. Rick Perry is an untapped reservoir of humor. With Bachmann out, it's only a matter of time for him to fuck up royally. He's perfectly capable of gaffes of immense proportions, as a quick Google for the phrase "Rick Perry idiot" will reveal.

I'm Back

Of course you probably already knew that, from my Sept 1 posting of the Book of the Month. Nevertheless, I'm now back pretty much full time, with my usual rants, raves and kicking against the pricks*, taking arms against the slings and arrows... well, you get the idea.

The 2012 election is just 426 days away, and I keep watching the unraveling of the progressive dream with some alarm. If this keeps up, I will be reluctant to give the Obama reelection campaign the full-court press next fall, at least not the way I did in 2008. As I saw someone comment a month ago or so, "The thrill is gone"...

Still, all we have to do is imagine the presidency of another legal-execution-serial-killer governor of Texas, long on swagger and short on humanity, in the White House and that ought to scare us enough to campaign for pretty much anyone who is not a Rethug. But I hate having the feeling that I am voting for just the lesser of two evils. After all, the lesser evil is still an evil.

I hope you all had a good summer. Our weather here FINALLY started cooperating with the calendar. A little late if you ask me, but it's going to be in the 80s all week, with clear skies. I've been wanting to get the telescope out all summer and do some star gazing and planet watching, and it looks like I'll finally get that.
[* The Xian Bible, from the writings of the most macho of the followers of Jesus, a guy named The Axe of the Apostles; apparently this phrase, like "pussyfooting", is not what it sounds like...]

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Book of the Month: The Shock Doctrine

You know the old bumper sticker wisdom, If You Aren't Outraged You Aren't Paying Attention.

My new Book of the Month, Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, will fuel that outrage. It's been out since 2007 but I just got around to reading it last week. I'll admit up front that I kind of thought it was another routine exposé of how American business interests exploit natural disasters for obscene profit, like what happened after Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.

I could not have been more wrong. Klein goes back to the early days of "Shock Therapy" and the CIA's infamous MK/ULTRA experiments on innocent victims at Canada's McGill University in the 1950s, in which people were subjected to a bunch of psychological brainwashing experiments that included massive overdoses of LSD and actual high-voltage electrical shocks, all of which were designed to "erase" their existing personality so that "professionals" could rebuild them into a new person.

Of course it didn't work, and Canada is still today littered with the walking corpses of those who were unlucky enough to get into the program so they could have their brains fried by professionals.

The procedures and their results were decried by pretty much every reputable scientist, sociologist, psychologist and psychiatrist who studied them. But that didn't stop anti-government free-market guru Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago School of Economics, the chief purveyors of laissez faire capitalism, who saw in the experiments a way to destroy and rebuild whole nations. The basic driver in all this was the intent to eliminate the state and contribute to the rise of corporations. Remember amoral Friedmaniac Grover Norquist, whose stated intent is to "starve the beast" by shrinking government to a small enough size that he could "drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub"?

This so-called free-market capitalism led eventually to the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Salvadore Allende in Chile, and ushered in several decades of economic "freedom" coupled with authoritarian dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet. Friedman and his gang of economic thugs knew it was happening, but still kept at it. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil -- all eventually fell under the murderous sway of the Chicago Thug School, all in the name of "freedom" (which means the freedom to live in poverty, the freedom to starve to death, the freedom to die from lack of health care, the freedom to be homeless when your job has been eliminated, the freedom to sell one daughter into brothel sex-slavery so that two others might eat, and the freedom to be tortured or disappeared if you speak out against the repression).

As did, in large part, the UK under Thatcher, with her unnecessary Falklands War (once described as two bald men fighting over a comb), and let's not forget China, Korea, most of SE Asia, Poland, South Africa, Russia, and even far-off Sri Lanka. All of those societies suffered greatly under the imposition of Friedman's doctrines, which led inevitably to repression, union-busting, economic inequality, loss of real democratic freedoms, mysterious "disappearances", and, in numerous cases, actual torture.

And when professional liar Baby Doc Bush, at the urging of torture queen Darth Cheney and the rest of the Chicago Mob (who by that time had infiltrated -- infested -- most of the high-level government positions and agencies) unilaterally and brazenly and illegally invaded Iraq, it was a wet dream for the Chicago bullies. Here was the perfect blank slate, wiped clean of all government "interference", onto which they could impose their ideal economic model. Never mind that it came at the cost of blatant corruption, starvation, unemployment, theft, murder, and torture.

Well, we all know how well that worked out.

There weren't any Al Qaeda in Iraq prior to 2003. Now there are a lot of them. Hmmm, I wonder why that is...

By the time I was almost done with the book, I was depressed enough to take to my bed with the vapors. But it turns out all is not lost. As with many of the 1950s CIA torture-test victims in Canada, nations upon which this "shock doctrine" had been imposed can eventually come out the other side, and now forty years later South America is rebounding, rebuilding societies, re-imagining and re-engineering economic systems and making long-overdue fundamental changes. For all the demonizing in the Capitalist Pig US Media, there can be no doubt that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales have done wonders for their countries and their peoples, moving them out of the nightmare of "free" markets and into economies designed for the benefit of the nation and not the multinationals.

We can actually take heart. As Martin Luther King said so eloquently, "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!" We can start by actively putting our consumer dollars where the disaster capitalists won't get them. I'd rather pay a little more to support the kind of business I want to support than give WalMart or a Koch Enterprises business one stinking dollar.

For example, I buy most of my bottled beer made by worker-owned Full Sail Brewing, my groceries from the local food co-op, my dining-out meals from locally-owned bars and restaurants, even my fast food from a locally-owned drive-thru hamburger stand. I'm sure there are many such businesses in your area that you can support as well with your consumer dollars.

As Thom Hartmann often says, we are in the cancer stage of capitalism. It's up to us to provide the cure, whether it's some "chemotherapy", or, if necessary (and let's hope it doesn't come to this), "radiation" therapy. Draw your own conclusions from those metaphors.

The Shock Doctrine is an eye-opening work of massive psycho-socio-historical significance. It's probably the most fundamentally influential book I've read in years. Get it, read it, think about it, and start making your own economic decisions supporting the ideals that you possess.

BTW, this Shock Doctrine is still at work, in insidious ways. This explains why I was in the mental state that I was this summer. I was actually in the throes of The Shock Doctrine myself. It wasn't coincidental that I fell back on the example of the shocked dog. That's what THEY want, and that's how they want us to react. Well fuck them. I won't do it. The only resort is to fight back.

Bonus: See the actual results of the Shock Doctrine in action in the terrific 2002 movie, City of God, based on true events taking place in the 1990s in Rio de Janiero's slums (favelas), wherein the fruits of laissez-faire capitalism ripen, drop off the tree and turn rotten. It's available from Netflix, and you can read all about it here on the IMDB and here on Wikipedia. This is Friedmanism in action in South America, and perfectly describes the things that Klein talks about in the book.

A warning, however: The film is extremely violent, graphically so, but it pretty much has to be to make its point. Imagine Lord of the Flies meets The Godfather by way of Menace 2 Society and you'll get the idea. The handheld documentary-like cinematography is gripping, as is the character development and the seemingly-right-on depiction of gritty life in the Rio favelas where most of the film was shot, using as actors actual denizens of the slums. It is easily the best film I've seen in the last two years; I gave it ten stars (out of ten) on the IMDB ratings system.
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Okay, so I'm a Capitalist Pig who wants to swill at a trough of beer. So sue me...