Thursday, December 24, 2009

Current Comedy, 12.22.09: Live Free or Die? Yeah, Right.

Though seasons greetings might suggest I write something even more warm and cozy than last week’s Yule Log, I dedicate this week’s holiday column to the presumed patriot I recently saw downtown with the titular slogan emblazoned on the passenger side crew cab window of his pickup. “Live Free Or Die.“ It was a large display. There was the whole “Don’t Tread on Me” snake twined around a Liberty Tree of sorts, presumably watered by the blood of patriots, as Jefferson suggested. There were other rightwing redneck bumper stickers on the vehicle. As a person whose own tailgate is held together by bumper stickers, I understand the compulsion, and so I scanned the other slogans eagerly, but nothing stood out to me with the power of the simple Revolutionary era slogan/New Hampshire state motto that has been recently re-appropriated by the Tea Partiers.And I thought: “Live Free or Die”? Dude, please do. I mean go ahead and die, because ain’t no one, at all, anywhere, “livin’ free.” If you really are the kind of person who would live and die by such simplistic propagandistic hokum, then you are the kind of person the Darwin Awards were invented for. I have not been convinced that people of your ilk are actually benefiting our society and while I in no way would agitate to pursue your harm, I wouldn’t necessarily mind if you voluntarily thinned the herd.OK, I guess that’s a poor example of holiday spirit. Maybe a little. Let me re-state this: First off, there is no freedom--existence, every existence, comes with a certain set of parameters or limitations thus making being “anything” the opposite of being “everything” and thus, to “be” at all is to not be “free.” But not a more basic level, you are not going to Wal-Mart and snag yourself a twelve pack without paying for it, or put in your 40 for the boss man without expecting something back for it, because there is no “free.“ This is not a free country. Everybody’s got bills to pay, everybody’s got to get paid--ain’t no free lunch, ain’t no living free, only dying and how appealing is that during the holiday season?You aren’t going to live in America without commerce, that is income and expense, that’s cash, and cash, in this year as in days of old, remains the actual risen King. And cash is just the first sacred cow among the infinity of restrictions we accept to exist. Among two of my favorites: corporality and animation. Again, no freedom. I like living among walls and floors, which also restricts me. Again, no freedom, but dang this time of year especially, indoor living is a prison maybe, but it’s life.So, there is no “live free” and those who claim to live by such, should, by their own rules, die as such. Not that I actually want you to take it this seriously; but you could take your life or at least your belief system more seriously. Just saying. If you think of our country as a democracy then this is not a free country because then you are obligated to participate in the decision making and improvement creating processes of the country and taking an obligation is a rejection of freedom. You can’t say forget everyone else and just look out for yourself: that’s not democracy.Mr. “Live Free or Die,” are you not even aware of the conditions of servitude you accept daily, no matter how much joy you believe you take in them? Since these kinds of bumper stickers surround me like a sea sometimes, I am hoping I am dealing with people who are a bit more aware than that. But sometimes the evidence suggests I’m wrong.I for one think of our country as an obligation. It’s not a ground-score meant for my plunder, it’s a chance at a stewardship and maybe we can make it better. Of course that concept involves giving of one’s self from time to time and so giving up one’s freedom; thus democracy itself is not free. If you say you think of the country as capitalism, then it is even more clearly not “free,” since capitalism is explicitly an assignment of value and thus a negation of “free.”Mr. “Live Free, Or Die,” my good brother, have you thought this through? Obviously not, but perhaps we can write this off as a growth experience. Child, I forgive you; but now if you’ll take a second to realize the hollowness of that slogan, perhaps you could acknowledge that there might be a few other concepts you’re being sold by the hucksters of the right that also might, maybe, slightly be, less than truthful.Perhaps the most subversive thing a person can do in a capitalist society is to give something away for “free.” Maybe that is the actual truth and that is what will set you “free.” This is the season of giving, so give this idea a chance Mr. “Live Free Or Die”: When we give of ourselves, or our things, then we are not being part of someone’s system for profit. It’s still a choice between various sets of limitations, but it is closer to “free” than most. Maybe that’s why we claim to take a break from oppressive capitalism for a day or two around the holidays and just give. No worry about the cost, just give. Well, that’s what we claim to do. Just as some claim to exist by a credo of “Live Free or Die.”--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Current Comedy: 12/14/09: Wingnuts Boasting By An Open Pyre

Gosh-ee, happy holidays, bah-humbug, and all that other rot. ‘Tis the season to make folly, as I seem to say every year when it comes time for the Xmas piece. With so many jokes available in this present, one hardly knows which cans of worms to open up 1st.
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Gosh-ee, happy holidays, bah-humbug, and all that other rot. ‘Tis the season to make folly, as I seem to say every year when it comes time for the Xmas piece. With so many jokes available in this present, one hardly knows which cans of worms to open up 1st.
Let’s start with a lame off-topic celebrity news distraction joke to give some credence to the current crop of marshmallow fluff they feed us as news. As I know you’ve heard, Tiger Woods is a sports star who has been bagging babes from here to Kalamazoo since he was old enough to want somebody else to carry his balls for him and that is as expected. Face it, the fantasy of getting to bag beautiful groupies is a component of the determination that keeps some kids, maybe most kids practicing long enough to grow to be sports stars; and that particular fantasy is also a component of the communal fantasy we share of our sports stars. We want ‘em to be sexy. Sports is all about vigor and that makes it sexy. We’d be kidding ourselves with somebody else’s false morality if we tried to pretend it was otherwise, by and large, for most sports fans in these American states. For every mock-shocked talk jock out there who pretends to have his delicate sensibilities afflicted by the news Tiger Woods has shagged his more than his share in the rough; well, there are scores of red meat Americans on both the left and the right who are quietly thinking "You go bro. Nine women, no way?" Now those people will wait till the Pharisees finish their faux scold and wind up liking Tiger even more because of it. So in the long run the yolk will be on the shock squawkers over this one. So this joke here is for those who feel they were honestly shocked and awed: hey folks, they didn’t call him pussycat, did they? No. They named him "Tiger." Though apparently horn dog might’ve worked just as well. Now, the present I’ve have most wanted to open for the longest time has got to be those miraculously "found" 22 million Bush era emails that somehow "disappeared" right around the time investigators began to have questions about the odd pattern of firings of US Attorney Generals around the country for patently political motives. Lawsuits against the Bush Admin finally shook the long missing emails out of the underbrush, but 22 million emails means there are a lot enlargement spam and lol cats forwards to weed through so this might take awhile. Then there’s that one piece of news so weird it’s like somebody paid Chuck Shepherd to make it up: Official War Prez Action Figure Barack Obama staged a26 hour attack on Oslo to steal somebody’s Nobel Prize and then triumphs in his proclamation that war is peace. To make sure the audience didn’t bolt before they can make their getaway, this same week Team Obama also threw down numerous landmine treaties and defended John Yoo in a lawsuit against him brought by one of his tortured. One can only imagine what Obama will do for education if war is his answer to peace? It’s seems the freedom of slavery works in there somewhere. The joke in this one? The prize itself. While the stunned world gasped, Team Obama hurried back to Washington so he could appear scold big banking. The joke on this has got to be Obama’s quote to 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft, "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street." Really? I thought that’s what they had hired him for. They were his number one campaign contributors after all. Alas, the joke in this case seems to be on us. Lastly, this week, I want to climb up on Santa’s lap and go wah-wah-wah about all those Grinches turning Copenhagen into Nopenhagen. The Palin fanned fake "Climategate" to get things off to a bad start and get the deniers all erroneously up in arms. Though demonstrably faked up to create derailing controversy the right wing anti-global warming noise machine drummed up the call of faux scandal. As time wastes away at another climate conference while the US fiddles around and the rest of the world is doing a slow burn. Which would be bad enough all by itself without the further holiday mistreatment of having to endure all these GOP wing nuts boasting by the planet’s open pyre. Then when the news of a secret back channel treaty between the US and other industrialized nations that gave very little got out the G77 (which somehow equates to 130 different countries) denounced America among others as callously destroying everyone’s planet. I mean, when you’ve got 130 nations banding against you and walking out of the talks, you may well be offtrack. Just saying. But the most sobering news from Copenhagen is not the damage we are about to fail to prevent, but the grim results of the damage already wrought. US scientists gave an opening day report on the impending end of Arctic ice which could not help but give one chills. As expected, the ice is melting more than expected. Seems CO2 loves cold water, so it absorbs more right out of the air, conveniently put there by greenhouse gases, conveniently put there by you and I and our coal, oil and gas.. Yes, it‘s those same greenhouse gases global warming deniers propose to purport as harmless. Meanwhile, this increase in carbon in the seawater raises its acid level, eventually killing ... well, first plankton, then the guys that eat plankton, then the guys that eat them and so on. The scientists say that they don’t want to alarm anyone by using the phrase "tipping point" but they sure make it sound more like "Already Gone Over the Cliff." The ice will go away, be gone by 2050. The water will turn to carbolic acid, and that’ll be a problem by 2020 and then the planet will, what, pickle? The Great Pacific Gyre, a Sargasso Sea of plastic crap thrown into the oceans, gathered by the currents, a floating monument of our mess. Dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico where not even Oxygen lives and now an acid Arctic, which is already spreading? Have we really, already killed our oceans? We’ve come to another case where Vonnegut may have indeed written humans’ epitaph when he quipped this quote should carved into the Grand Canyon as our memorial: "We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap." Ho, ho, ho and boo, woo, woo, I’m trying to fake some holiday spirit here; but this acid oceans thing sure leaves a sour taste in my mouth. This is the ghost of many interesting Xmases to come announcing it is time to check your boarding passes and survey your quarters. Ladies and gentlemen, the Titanic has sailed. If that’s what passes for you as holiday spirit then, get your deck chairs, strike up the band, the show should be spectacular. Season of lights, after all. --mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Current Comedy 12/10/09: This Week in Capitalism

And no, this week’s title is NOT a ploy to once again promote Michael Moore or his new movie Capitalism. Aside from that blatant plug.
No, this has been an exciting week for Capitalism folks, as in the economic enterprise that supposedly sails our ship of state through the stormiest of seas. If only we believe. If only we believe and remove the shackles of unfair unfree trade. Once again that definition of Free Trade: anything Bill Kristol and Rush Limbaugh agree is good for business and they always agree with their bosses.
Broken down to its nuts and bolts: Capitalism means you screw people over as hard as you can for as much as you can. If they lose their homes, die from lack of medical service, or find themselves treading water next to a drowning polar bear, it is not your problem if you can successfully deny it through litigation. OR, that other popular definition for capitalism: provide as minimal a good or service as possible all the while convincing your customers that they are happy. OR, the one most of us live through: essentially slavery, except they also get to torture you with math problem you’ll never solve: how can you afford to live on the little bit you make. And the capitalists will tell you loud and long how they have done you a favor by inventing this system and your place in it; but most of all theirs.
By those and numerous other standards, 2009 has been a very good year for capitalism. This year saw the number of billionaires in America nearly double at a time when the rest of the world lost over five trillion dollars. Where did the money go? Up the ladder. It’s the famous trickle up theory made famous by Reaganomics loving neocons way back when. There are now 793 billionaires in America. That’s a lot of billions that had to go somewhere, such as away from our schools and roads and healthcare. But it sure made a lot of millionaires a whole lot richer.
In fact among the factoids amid this week’s news flotsam is that the 400 richest people in America got 30 billion richer. Whew. At a time when 3.5 million more homes are expected to go belly up, it warms my heart to know the money is safe.
Look how much happier we all are now that they have our money and not just our houses, but our taxes too. With a year like this, it is hard to keep straight which example of unfettered capitalism is the most audacious, so I personally have taken to breaking down my list to a week-by-week basis. With several outstanding examples of why this paradigm has been good for society in the current news cycle there are so many choices to be dazzled by.
To hear the right-wingers blog about it, the biggest news this week is that the entirety of global warming is a hoax and that every scientist everywhere who does not propound that Jesus dated dinosaurs is part of a conspiracy to ruin petrodollar profits and thus screw over Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and several Bushes all at the same time and that, sir, is Un-American.
Those of you who know that Rush is always right also knew it all along that it’s all those phony lying lefties that cooked up this whole fake global warming thing and now they have been busted. Sure.
Where is my Hummer? Can I get it to reduce my mileage to like 5mph, maybe 3? And why not if there’s no global warming? Maybe you can get it rigged up to run on clubbed baby seal?
Anyway, all that was good red meat for the anti-environmentalists around the country. Except the opposite side, the folks who say that quote scandal is a classic misdirection, folks who say it’s all a conflation and intended to distract the public support away serious commitments at Copenhagen’s Climate Change Conference, happen to be the majority of the world’s scientiests who are hoping we as a people will wise up before we destroy our planet beyond recognition.
They explain that the accusations being hurled against the emailing climate scientists in question are intentional outlandish distortions of language and intent. By the way, backers of the emailers include their bosses, and John Roberts, the CNN reporter sent to talk up the teapot into a tempest and even Bill Nye the Science Guy doing his level best to debunk the global warming would-be debunkers. The CNN coverage of the controversy was a load of bunk to be sure. But as Roberts noted, finishing his coverage, by the time the experts sort it out, Copenhagen will be over and Exxon-Mobile can continue to make billions by destroying our future for the mere cost a few hackers and a couple of bribed talking heads spreading a little doubt.Capitalists win!
Over in the Banking sector which has been so inspiring this last year when it comes to doing dirt unto others and calling it good clean profit, many folks are impressed with Bank of America’s announcing they are attempting to return their TARP money so they can award themselves more profits and bonuses. But I am partial to that other Bail Out Powerhouse AIG. In “Bailed-Out AIG Forcing Poor to Choose Between Running Water and Food,” Yasha Levine’s not-that-astonishing expose on AIG going all 3rd world on the poverty stricken of Rural Kentucky. Taking a page from the Bechtel rape of Bolivia’s water supply back in 2000, AIG subsidy Utilities, Inc. acquired the water supply for poor mountaineers who barely keep their families fed and then jacked their rates by more than 51%. Phony, erroneous and repetitive billing ensued. Kidding aside these are people whose per capita income is 13,000. Through the rate hike and working out the “bugs” in their new billing system, AIG nets an additional 3/4s of a million and all they had to do was torment a few more poor people. Why not, they’re good at it, they’re capitalists.
But my choice for This Week in Capitalism’s “Just Getting Down to the Brass Tacks of it All” Award for cutting to the essence of capitalist values, at least the espoused capitalist values of our captains of capitalism in the press and the pubs of America … well, it actually goes to Mexico. That’s right, the people who were once held as farm animals and concubines for their Spanish missionaries have now gone that ultimate last mile for capitalism, cut labor costs completely and just kidnapped themselves a bunch of slaves right in the heart of the biggest city in the world. That’s right, December 4th the Associated Press, among others, reported that a factory in Mexico City that disguised itself as a rehab center was actually kidnapping people off of the streets then forcing them to work 16 hour days making shopping bags and clothespins. One hundred and seven people were rescued having been found working as slaves and 23 suspects allegedly working as their overseers and guards were taken into custody.
And I say, well what happened here? Why has the free market failed capitalism? People need their cheap plastic bags and clothespins and business man has a right to make a profit doesn’t he? Of course that’s not that different from the occasional corporate faux pas here in America where dozens of undocumented immigrants happen to be working in the same meat packing plant, or restaurant, which just happens to be owned by some big American business: like Tyson, like McDonalds, like Swift.
Like another Swift might once have suggested, next thing you know the capitalists will be selling us our own babies to eat. Why not? It’s pure capitalism in motion. They don’t have to pay for the labor. They don’t have guarantee the product. They don’t have to protect the consumer. Yipes, if the capitalists ever figure out how to make a buck on this, we’re doomed.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Current Comedy, 12/2/09: Terrorists

Let’s get one thing straight from the start. If you are the kind of person who would hate a person because they are a Muslim, then you are neither a good American, nor a good Christian for that matter, and there is no point in this discussion.If you are still reading, I will type more. In the recent major news there were two stories of public figures with Muslim sounding names responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. I am, of course, referring to Nidal Hasan and Barack Obama. The case against one seems simple, but is not; and the case against the other seems outlandish, but is quite simple. So, as a long time peace activist, I would advocate that one of these men is a terrorist. As surely most of the media-fed world knows, Nidal Hasan is the US Army Major, a military psychiatrist no less, who treated returning GIs for PTSD, until he himself went nuts and shot up half of Fort Hood, TX in early Nov. Thirteen dead, thirty wounded. Hasan made Harris and Klebold look like amateurs, which of course they were. Hasan wasn’t a major by accident. He had worked himself up through the ranks and gone back to college and earned an MD. He won service medals for fighting in the Gulf War and the “War on Terror.“ All of which sounds good, until he starts shooting up the place.While there is no doubt that his actions, and the media reactions it triggered, have terrified the nation, there has been a subsequent wave of news about the murderer that has tried to paint him as a terrorist, an Islam-o-fascist as the phrase goes. There can be no doubt in looking at the man’s life, he was a devotedly religious man who grew revolted at the carnage he was forced to face from his patients. As should any religious man when faced with tales of violence, cruelty and depravity, in particular happening for a cause itself that he felt wrong. The rules about killing are fairly clear in most belief systems.However taking vengeance into one’s own hands put one above or separate from that religion. It’s not serving god, but playing god, a role we would want no man to have.While Hasan’s actions clearly could qualify a person as a religious fanatic, if it were indeed religion that drove him to it, and, it is well known it is always a good idea to keep the weapons away from the religious fanatics, it does not make that person part of an international terrorist network, or a member of a sleeper cell or another representative of this crazy killer religion and so we have more proof on how we have to hate the Muslims. Like we used to be told we had to hate the Jews. Think of all the Gentiles who have done evil things. Perhaps we should hate them too and that would just include everybody, since we are still being shown all the reasons we should hate Blacks, Hispanics and Indians all the time.But I digress. In Mark Ames’ chilling AlterNet article “The Memory Scrub About Why Ft. Hood Happened Is Almost Complete ... If It Weren't for Archives,” there is a different picture much of the media would like you to forget. Ames’ compilation of original and subsequently revised major news coverage of the Ft. Hood Shooting reminds us what we already knew the second we heard the news of a lone gunman shooting up his workplace, in this case a military base. It’s the tragic case of a loser who loses it. In this case he happened to be trained in small arms.Hasan was a faltering officer doing a well documented slow public decline. He was religiously, emphatically, against the war, he was appalled by the same stories that were devastating his patients. His personal life sucked, his performance evaluations were going downhill. He was trying to report his patients for war crimes, because, of all things, they were reporting war crimes and he told people it was driving him crazy. He was fighting his deployment tooth and nail and obviously exactly the wrong guy to send to the war front and in typical military snafu, that’s exactly where they insisted on sending him. And he went postal. Stupid us. Remember all the calls about why didn’t anybody catch the warning signals? It was because there were so many for so many years that the military ignored. It’s not because he was deep double agent, part of some super-secret Al Qaeda spy ring operating out of the same Falls River Mosque attended briefly by two of the 9/11 highjackers. That would be simply guilt by association. By that rationale then the Bush family would be terrorists because they were in bed financially with the Bin Laden family, as in Osama. In fact George Bush, Sr. was doing business with them that very day of Sept. 11, 2001 and that does not make him a terrorist.The Bushes, both father and son, have been well proven as terrorists in their own right. Once again we need to set some terms here: WMDs? No. No WMDs. Never Happened. It was a deception the administration put upon America to sell us the war. Saddam = 9/11? Pure BS. Even though at one point as many as 70% of the public swore it was true and thought President Bush had told them so, it was never true and he officially denied it in the press the day after the 5th anniversary of Sept. 11. Look it up.If you’re still with me then follow this: As FAIR will document exhaustively for you, the Bush admin knew there were no weapons of mass destruction and Hussein was never linked to Al Qaeda and yet over 900 times they quite intentionally mislead the public to believe to get us to believe it in the lead up and first year of the war. So, it’s a war of aggression. It’s a war sold on lies. It is a war that is wrong and while there are tons of reasons speculated as to how or why Bush did it, there can be no doubt he made America a terrorist. We needlessly destroyed another country to attack a misrepresented image of a man. Though of course Hussein was a terrorist to his own people, he was not a threat to us. He was a target Bush trained America to attack by lying to us. It is an ugly truth, a shameful truth and until we act to correct it, we perpetuate the crime. In America we have the luxury of blaming our president; but a country at war is every citizen’s shame. To the rest of the world, it is America, the terrorist. Until we correct this great wrong, it is hard to prove them mistaken. Why do they hate us? It has Nothing to do with our freedom, and lot to do with their chains.So here’s my argument: If Bush was a terrorist and awful and wrong to wage this war he sold us on lies, how could Obama not also be guilty if he continues Bush policies. The dribble of public relations style cosmetic restoration of civil rights and cessation of hostilities dried up it seems. Obama sides with Bush on torture a little, Guantanamo a little, Iraq a little, domestic spying a little. A little here, a little there, it kind of adds up. And now a surge in Afghanistan? If you can risk an spare 40,000 US soldiers and not have to return your Nobel, how many can you spend and still walk away with an Oscar?Oscar for what? Impersonating George Bush, terrorist. As Oscar winner Michael Moore reported and Jon Stewart skewered on the Daily Show, shortly Obama is now quoting Bush nearly line by line. Moore simply compared Fox News transcript of the Obama speech announcing his surge to excerpts from various Bush speeches. Obama: "We Did Not Ask for This.” Bush: "We Did Not Seek This.” Obama: "New Attacks are Being Plotted as I speak.” Bush: "At This Moment ... Terrorists are Planning New Attacks.” It is almost too comic, if only it were funny. But here’s the truth. If Obama sends more soldiers then more soldiers will die and the war will still be wrong and, unlike the recession, those war dead, including his extra American soldiers, will be his.If Obama is imitating Bush then he is being a terrorist and it has nothing to do with the sound of his last name. Of course, now that Obama’s hired back Dana Perino, Bush last days press secretary, who would be surprised what happened next. Whatever it is, I pray it gets better. I am so tired of being America the terrorist.--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Current Comedy, 11/25/09, “Democrats Rising!”

I kid you not, at the recent quarterly meeting of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP, as the in-crowd affectionately abbreviates it) held in our own fair Kingman, AZ this last weekend (11/20-11-22/09), I was asked to join in singing the following lyrics written by retired music teacher/longtime Dem party member, Del Bohlmeyer to the tune of “Zip-pediddie Doo-Dah: “Democrats Rising, we’ve had our say/Washington’s changing, what a great day/With Obama in the White House, all the world is praying/ that for eight years he’s staying ….”At this time when the national GOP requiring “purity tests” and loyalty oaths, it seemed like a small request, but somehow I balked.We were in the banquet room at the Hotel Brunswick on a Saturday night after a long day of Democratting for the awards dinner of the League of Democratic Women Voters. It was the capstone event after a day of caucuses and speeches. My wife a teacher turned novice political candidate was about to receive an award and possibly campaign donations. I had walked in with a dark beer on draft and the crowd was taking up the tune.“…He has won the No-bel Peace Prize, Now, we’ll all see whether we can live in peace together/ Zip-pi-ty doo-dah, zip-pi-ty ay.”There’s young Ron Glassman, a giant of a man with a mile-long resume and potential powerhouse senatorial candidate whose exploratory campaign is trying to net 10,000 AZ contributors before he intends to declare against John McCain; or, at least wait till Jan. 2010 to officially announce his candidacy, less as a Tucson city councilman Glassman would have to resign according to AZ election laws. Glassman’s singing with gusto, his handlers gathered around him in color-complimenting outfits and in a pretty fair harmony. Nearer to the door and not to be outdone Attorney General candidate Felecia Rotellini, beneath her busy business woman’s scarf, is pumping her arms in rhythm. And there was my sweet loving wife, Beth Weisser, bravely chasing after the tune. Essentially an independent until the GOP blatantly self identified as an enemy of the state, in particular our education system, Beth had thrown herself into the hornet’s nest of AZ statehouse politics to challenge current state senator Ron Gould on everything from haircuts to tax cuts, but mostly on education funding. She’s one of a handful of locals I recognize. While not quite the James Carville and Mary Matalin of our time, Beth is a centrist-progressive and I’m from the “Kucinich wasn’t even left enough for me” crowd.In a town and a county that typically skews 65% Republican, my wife is much more in keeping with the majority of local Dems who challenged Bush ideas, and state GOP party ideologues. Though Kingman herself boasts fewer public Democrats than militia chapters, the party faithful from around the state had schlepped to town and filled up the room to reach out to Mohave County. County Dem leaders showed up in their regalia. The award winning Dem volunteer duo of Mitch and Susan Smith were in from down in Fort Mohave. Kingman’s mother-son team of Mary McLaughlin and Patrick Gonzales were there through the day though Patrick was elsewhere that night. Plus there were all the other Dem faces from around the state that I’m supposed to be remembering. The lyric sheets were on the table at each placemat in the rows of banquet tables that fill the hall. And everyone was singing and several were looking at me. “… He is trying to fix our health care; and the wars around us/the e-con-o-my that hounds us … Democrats Rising, What a Great Day!”And, in all honesty I did not succeed in joining in the song. Well, not wholly. Like the majority of people in this city, this county, this state, but not in this country as a whole, I am not generally a Democrat. I am not one to support blatant war criminal thieving would be dictators, so I haven’t been able to support the GOP for quite some time. But the Dems have been no bed of roses either. As a true liberal, there is much about the mainstream approach of the Democratic party that I find obstructionist, shortsighted, or even farcical.That’s not to say I haven’t given them my time on issues over the decades, however. In fact, shilling for the Democratic Party was the first political thing I ever did. I would have been nine then, it was the eve of the presidential election in 1968. I scrawled “Humphrey-Muskie Are our Man [sic] Nixon-Agnew Garbage Can!” on the street in front of our house in chalk thinking that would make all the difference, which it did not. Since then it is true, I have championed most every Dem against most every Republican in most every election I’ve encountered where party mattered. I wrote pro-Clinton anti-Bush material in ‘92 and pro-Gore anti-Bush material in 2000. I volunteered with the Dems for their presidential campaigns in both ‘04 and ‘08, though neither candidate was the one I wanted. It wasn’t the first time either. I found Carter ineffective and thought the only thing truly Democrat about Clinton was his libido.But now, I have taken the whole Dem-love thing to a new level and am actually in bed with a prominent local Democrat--my wife. Still, like George Washington I emphatically oppose political parties, though like the rest of America two hundred and thirty some odd years afterward, I am held their hostage. Washington feared that when political activists drew together to promote their own agenda that that’s what they would do and the needs of the people would become secondary to the men’s efforts to further themselves. And pretty much since Washington’s demise in 1799 we have suffered exactly that fate. As a younger much more idealistic thirty year old, I was once offered a job to report on the Illinois State Legislature. I lived in the capitol, Springfield, IL, which is definitely a company town, with 35% of the metro workforce employed by some government agency. Reporting on how the legislature made the whole thing work seemed like it was going to be such a cool job. I got into work at 9am that first day and had quit before 3pm. Both sides of the aisle were loathsome. Petty egos, controlling the lives of the public through their caprice, posturing, and self aggrandizement. Sent to solve crises, they perpetuated them. Sent to represent the public, they handcuff our access, ignore our pleas, make backroom deals, condescend and grandstand away most true progress they could have achieved. Sent to be the solution, they become the problem.Democrats as much as any. It is a two party lock in this country. Like they say “clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.” In fact the only good thing I can say about the party as a whole is that at least it is not the Republicans. Between Reagan and the Bushes most any safeguards the public had from predatory businesses and a war-profiteering economy were stripped away. Plutocrats have been raping the rest of us and now the global economy is on life support, while the right wing have been holding us in position so they can get a better aim for god and country. Rights made shambles, our integrity as a country squandered, our economy destroyed. America the beautiful has become America the train wreck. And then when we elect one party to throw the bums out, in most cases, they replace the faces but not the policies. At least I knew with my wife that wasn’t going to happen-- Which is why, when Beth opted to become a Democrat, then a candidate and challenge Ron Gould for the state senate seat in LD3, I shuddered for a second, then threw in with her and started attending events where donkey butt is considered a fashion accessory. Though a longtime political pundit myself, when we do Dem deals I am strictly the arm candy, only the candidate‘s spouse. It was fun to roll along in the auxiliary role like that. I actually spent much of the day volunteering with the Penny Kotterman campaign for Superintendent of Public Education. One of the main issues of the party meeting and the talk of a variety of caucuses was a proposed change to the party bylaws which would have allowed the party to essentially ignore the rural corners of the state in favor of a tri-annual state party meeting schedule aligned along what was called “the I-17/I-10 Corridor.” Seems several central party members in the central state areas--Tucson/Phoenix/Flagstaff--considered it a hardship to attend meetings out in the rural corners of the state such as Yuma, Bisbee or any place in Apache or Mohave County. Party dismay over travel time showed in the attendance numbers. Last quarter’s party meetings in Flagstaff filled a huge auditorium of over 300 and hosted luminaries like soon-to-be Dem gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Terry Goddard and President of the Navajo Nation, Dr. Albert Hale. Of the 640 some odd party delegates from around the state, only 152 arrived for the Kingman convention, far short of the 272, or 40% that should have been present for the assembly to conduct business. However more than 300 proxy votes were sent in with those that did attend. Through out the day you could tell how many votes each delegate was responsible for the proxy of according to how many nametags he or she wore around their neck. Some’s necks appeared to be bowed from the weight as if hoisting accordions. However despite pressure to urbanize the party outreach efforts from some, the party that presumes to represent the power of the people, democracy itself, will now continue to represent all the people of AZ, even the ones who don’t conveniently live in Maricopa County. When the issue was put before the delegates assembled for the afternoon meeting, the voice vote on the issue wasn’t even close. APD wants all Democrats, even the ones who don’t live in Phoenix. Many say it is the only way the party will ever achieve that holy grail they pursue every election cycle: to turn AZ Blue.As one local Dem called out in the Progressive Democrat Caucus that morning, “The party already wins in metropolitan areas. Until you work on all 15 counties the way Howard Dean set up the 50 state strategy of fighting in each state, not just some of them, until you work to change the mentality throughout the state and not just in the cities, Arizona will continue to think like a red state. The best you will do is give AZ a blue stripe, but it won’t become a Blue state.“National party strategists are hoping that the Copper State democrats can pull it together for the 2010 mid-terms and are watching AZ as a “likely to flip” state by 2012. Though both political parties are suffering from the recession, the Dems claim to be out raising the state GOP by a 2 to 1 margin. To be sure, throughout the day the state party members seemed optimistic that they were a party of change and change was on the way. They act as if just because Obama’s in the White House, the Democratic Party was large and in charge, despite the fact that nationally the GOP with the help of the media, as they did in Carters’ time and in Clinton’s, manages to derail any progress their president tries to make. And despite the fact that in the state itself, the Republican party out and out ignores any overtures toward negotiations with the minority Dem party and runs roughshod over any opposition. The AEA, aka the state teachers association, recently filed a lawsuit against the new education budget which includes policy changes designed to limit free speech and punish teachers for actively opposing ed budget cuts throughout 2009. AZ GOP leaders contend the state does not need public education and several have been caught in private school funding frauds. Meanwhile in addition to millions in cuts, new policies which just went into effect on Nov. 24, strip away teacher seniority and tenure, and penalize teachers for political activism. Lord knows what they will make of this column.Any AZ Democrat honest with himself would tell you the Dems are not in charge around here … yet. The last eight years damaged the party in ways a few pundits cannot dismiss away and the GOP leadership keeps tarnishing the brand. With continuing outrages from earlier GOP offenses and the outlandish statements made by Republicans during the Obama administration, it is safe to speculate the GOP could marginalize themselves out of relevance within a couple of election cycles, even in traditionally conservative areas such as the cowboy state West. AZ is a red zone. Kingman in particular I might add. The opening Friday night of the convention dinner parties popped up around town and some Kingmanites, in typical red-state redneck fashion, did not take it well. At the Dambar, when a local big booted big hatted Kingman cowboy found out the Democratic Party in that very building, he hissed , “Sheesh, Democrats. That’s all we need.”I, ever the antagonist, piped in, “That’s right. Democrats ARE what we need.” As he and his buddy and their wives all stood aghast I rushed them a little. “Democrats, yes! After the last eight years of our president making our country a war criminal, after our state GOP destroys our people so their rich friends can have a tax cut, Democrats are exactly what we need. Peace and love, man, peace and love.”At which point his buddy spat me an expletive and shot me the finger as they left. The ADP may be ready to reach out to Kingman, but Kingman still has a long way to go to be ready to reach out to the ADP. In the meantime, Del, can we work on that song?--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Current Comedy 10/26/09: “Capitalism” Isn’t Funny

Dear Kingman Readers:More or less two months ago I read a fellow blogger’s column in my hometown Kingman Daily Miner: Edward Tomchin’s “An Open Letter to Michael Moore regarding his latest offering, Capitalism, A Love Story.” Tomchin hadn’t liked Moore much and preemptively disparaged Moore’s upcoming film. I then took umbrage, being a big fan. Neither of us had seen the movie at that point. There was some spirited debate online. A variety of readers weighed in, which was all cool. Nearly two months ago.BUT, on many levels, as soon as I hit the “send” button and whisked away my snappy little missive to splatter all over that other guy’s page, I felt like a doofus putting myself out there defending Moore’s latest since I also had not seen it. Sure I got to take the high minded approach of saying don’t condemn the thing until you’ve seen it; but what if it did suck?So, knowing the chances of catching it at the local theater on Stockton Hill Road were about as great as seeing Nancy Pelosi kissing babies in the Andy Devine Parade, the very next weekend, while out of town, I saw the film. I haven’t been the same since. And have not known what to write since. So now after more than 8 weeks of deliberation on the issue, I can render a verdict. Forgive me Edward Tomchin. You were right. You said Moore would work against Capitalism in his film, that he would trash Capitalism, he‘d wreck it. He does, Moore makes an absolute mess of it. Capitalism is clearly Michael Moore’s weakest film since 1997’s The Big One. Which is a shame, because it’s also his most important, about the most important topic anyone can even discuss about the life of our country, despite being comparatively weak next to his other recent work (Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko). Which is so disappointing because this is a topic so serious that it makes Bowling for Columbine and The Big One seem trite in comparison. Unfortunately, Capitalism makes those films look like Truffaut. Of course, Tomchin was right, a person does not have to see the film to know Michael Moore purported premise: capitalism is killing America. And No, as I expected, when referring to the concept of “capitalism,“ Moore is not talking about your average mom and pop business where everybody works their hardest because they love each other and love what they do. And neither he nor I are not talking the diligent inventor who toils away his nights to create a device that improves life on this planet and thus deserves compensation; but he is talking about companies that get richer taking out insurance policies that bet on their employees dying while they leave the surviving widows and orphans penniless to cope. We’re talking an economic enterprise that is preparing to reward its “talent” with billions of dollars in bonuses because that talent figured the way to make money off of rendering another American family homeless every 7 and one half seconds, about the time it took to read these words. All in the name of a bottom line. We’re talking the kind of mentality that America has been taught to think of as success, a kind of capitalism as a vampirism: sucking the vitality of a society away. Rest assured, Moore has the super-sobering goods on the super elites whose money makes this happen, the fabled 1% who now control more than 90% of the rest of us and are ruining everyone’s life in the process. Thanks to a leaked Citigroup memo that is a centerpiece in Moore’s case against unfettered free markets we now know this cabal see the world as a “Plutonomy,” with its greatest threat being that the other 99% of us still vote. As Warren Buffet once said and Moore quoted in the closing credits, “There’s a class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class that’s making the war and we’re winning.”That one quote by itself, (originally appearing in a New York Times article by conservative humorist Ben Stein--btw, not made-up by Moore, as his numerous detractors might have you believe) should be enough to prove the scary reality that the robber class rich are destroying the lives of the rest of us and have taken control of our government via Goldman-Sachs and our millionaire class congress. This crisis in our country is so urgent an issue that it should be required viewing for every American before it’s too late. Yes, required viewing for every American, especially the patriots who mistake their love of our country with their allegiance to a rigged economic system that insults the name “free market.” It’s the same thing those liberal agitators have been saying since history. And they’ve always been right. The difference is that at this time the gap between rich and poor is widening rapidly because in addition to buying everything else, the rich have also purchased Congress to tip the tables even further in their direction and as the crap rolls downhill it is fouling everyone else’s next. So many of the problems that our country and our world are facing are generated by the rich and won’t be solved as long as they can profit. Climate change, health debacle, housing crisis, credit crunch, all manufactured by the elite for their own benefit, at our expense. If these problems are not solved soon there may not be a world left for the meek to inherit. And all this urgency of message rest upon the shoulders of the most widely reaching liberal ideologue pundit provocateur in America, Michael Moore. Funny thing that the conservative Michael Moore haters fail to realize about his films and message is that the serious left dismiss him as a hack, frequently complaining about the same issues the right dislikes. The true beret wearing Sartre quoters carry laundry lists of the flaws in his films, which they are as happy to read riot to you any time you say something nice about the guy.Understand, I am not just familiar with Michael Moore. And I didn’t get my info on him from Rush or O’Reilly either. I am more or less a fan. I’ve seen everything since Bowling For Columbine, some of the earlier stuff and own a couple DVDs. Seeing Fahrenheit 911 with my son its opening weekend back in ‘04 is easily one of the most powerful movie experiences I ever had. I later conducted screenings of that film at the local community college. I’ve also shown Sicko several times to houseguests here at the themepark, including one screening with one of the doctors from the film’s Cuban scenes watching it with us while she was in town for a visit. Further, I’ve read 3 of Moore’s books and own a couple of others, been to his website on and off since the Iraq War began, and even written him fan letters.Including one in the middle of week four and five of not finishing this column.But also understand: even though I love his ideas, I haven’t always loved each art work. Moore is a master of mixing mind boggling facts and outrages, gotcha video, with droll commentary and comic stock footage till he comes to the big sell at the end, but he also tends toward shambling slack narrative, simplification to the point of parody and a kitchen-sink aesthetic, where he throws all sorts of scenes together that seem to relate to a topic, whether they advance the clear-line narrative or not. It works or it doesn’t. By those standards, the meticulous construction of Fahrenheit 911 and the scope of Sicko are works of art. Capitalism is not.On the plus side he won an Oscar, a Palm D’Or at Cannes, and thirty-one other prizes. On the other hand Moore’s work is often poorly supported by those on the left you should be his biggest fans and positively detested by those on the right, without any consideration to the points Moore labors to make. As critic Leslie Felperin explained in Variety, even those who “agree with Moore's politics, just can't stomach his oversimplification, on-the-nose sentimentality and goofball japery." In specific I have my own laundry list of faults in this film and despite my love for his passion and praises for his efforts to bring these issues to a public light, after now two months, I still can’t get over them. We teach our school kids that the opening and closing sentences in an essay are the most important parts. Moore muffs the first so badly it challenges the viewer. Without much introduction or exposition the film opens with two set of vignettes: an old classroom video on the Fall of Rome with shock cuts of contemporary footage spliced in and a heart wrenching home video of an eviction taken from inside the house as the police arrive and start breaking in to serve the papers. Each piece is in itself amazing, but they don’t actually connect well and neither gets to the economics lesson we know the film is meant to be. And in the middle of them, somehow, Michael Moore chooses to play an lol-cats video. That’s right, the most important topic he has ever taken on, and the man’s not been a lightweight [pun intended], and here he breaks in the action to show us a cat flushing a toilet, like 5 times complete with crappy music. Having seen it twice, I can’t say that I ever recovered. It wasn’t the only weakness in the film (the under focused visit with the “Realty Vultures“ slime ball in a business suit stands out as another misdirection that dilutes impact of the stronger scenes around it), but starting off that way made this viewer weigh each questionable choices Moore made in making his film.Which brings up a second big little problem: cussing. Now as everybody freaking knows I flipping am not the flap afraid of an frog forking fouled-up f-word now and then; so this is not an issue of prudery. BUT, as far as I‘m concerned, profanity, violence and sexuality are all choices that must be justified as advancing the artwork. If they don‘t help the project they need to be jettisoned. When it comes to cinema, the issue of profanity can have direct immense impact on the type of audience a film attracts, so a choice to include cussing in a film should only be made if the profanity helps not hurts. There are some pretty clear lines regarding the ways films get rated and the audiences those ratings dictate. Cinephiles out there, I recommend Kirby Dick’s 2006 film, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, for the ins and outs of the ratings game. For the simple version look to John Travolta’s character Chili Palmer in 2005’s Be Cool, “you get one f-word in a PG-13 movie.” One. It is a line directors legendarily dance around, a mark Moore surely knows and yet crosses here, gratuitously, with three f-bombs tossed, one by Moore himself. They cluster in the middle of the movie, much as the three f-monsters huddled in one war zone scene in Moore’s Iraq War masterpiece Fahrenheit 911. And in both cases the cluster-f earned the films R-ratings, which cut the film’s viewership in a great big way.It is a very odd conscious choice. It bothers the firetruck out of me.This topic is so pertinent to our society that Moore has to get it right, right now. The whole “recession” with 10% unemployment numbers (some say the actual figure is already up to 17%). Biden now acknowledges it is the “depression” our country is going through, and this crisis is due to the long train of abuses from this same banking crowd who then repaying themselves for their own foolish losses at our expense because they also are running the government. While it is true our country has always in general been a self-made plutocracy since we broke free of the aristocracy of England, this current group, principally in the banking industry, are making decisions that imperil the public. Wall Street bankers began appropriating the White House as home turf during the Reagan years. Moore documents the distain in the interplay between Reagan and treasury Secretary Donald Regan with a moment of contempt on Regan’s part toward Reagan that is so scalding it almost made me feel sorry for the Gipper, even though I’d generally longed to see him indicted for Iran-Contra.Regan directed Reagan’s actions to free up the restraints corporate banking interests had had placed upon them to protect the public good. Bankers, principally for Goldman-Sachs, then enter the government and control the purse strings of government through Treasury or more insidiously through the Federal Reserve--which is not a part of the government at all, though it acts that way. These people control most of the money in America and thus control everyone else’s lives. And now they have found a way take the wealth away from the people and the same time they impoverish the people by rendering them homeless and jobless, creating public misery for profit. And yes, it really is a vast conspiracy.Vast is a key word here, because even though we want to consider a paltry number like 1% as statistically insignificant, when you’re talking a population of 300 million, it still adds up to something three million people, the richest three million people in America. Having already rigged the game to make sure they win, they’ve now taken to making money off of making sure the rest of us lose as well. For example their carefully manufactured mortgage crisis. The housing crash that involved banks selling each other bets on faulty mortgages that they wrote themselves, then selling those debts round robin till they rose on a mound of artificial value only to crash and need to be subsidized by the poor being thrown out of their houses. It’s like the Tulip Bubble all over again, it’s like the S & L Crisis all over again. Except worse, because the problem is now global and they are impoverishing the rest of us for this artificial money. Numbers like hundreds of millions are moved around like pawns by those who duke it out with everybody else’s money on Wall Street for prestige points in their joisting game; but here in the real world that hundred million wasn’t just some board marker, it was the life’s blood of families, millions of families destroyed for this theft, while the government endorses it and the citizens are sold to the corporations as fodder for their profit even if that profit means making society miserable. The health care industry makes profit off of keeping people sick, banks make profit out of throwing people out of their houses, successful companies make profit by laying off their workers.It’s a problem that is accelerating and we can’t count on the government to solve it without massive prompting because they are consciously among the crowd that is causing the problem to make a profit. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now recently reported that now 237 members of Congress are millionaires themselves with seven valued in the hundreds of millions. Of course we now live in a world where there are thousands of billionaires, most of the money made through artificial profit for them, bought by real-world suffering for us.Where do we go? Not long ago, while at the dermatologist’s, an older woman in front of me was lamenting loudly to the clerk about the co-pay. She explained she was a fixed income cancer patient, and the three and four $35 a pop co-pays a month were starting to add up. As she finished with the clerk she continued to lament, at which point I said, “Lady look, the rich people got the tax cut they bought for themselves and that’s the American Way. And as long as they can make money off of our suffering they’re not going to let us fix it.”There was an understandable silence following my remark. What could we say? The game was rigged. She paid her co-pay and we all shut up.What else was there to say? It has taken me months to figure out some way to overcome that silence. That silence also brings back to mind the biggest problem with Michael Moore’s movie, the other elbow of the parenthesis from that jarring opening act, that‘s right: the ending.Truth be told, in between the beginning and the ending Moore, who functions as an American Idol for instant-justice for the corporately abused, is a man with plenty of stories to tell and most of his segments in this outing do work fairly well. Some of the pieces he covers are terribly moving. In particular the grieving family of a dead cake decorator Wal-Mart made a mint off of the death insurance for and the evicted Peoria, IL who have to burn their own possessions as part of their eviction are hyperbolically heart-wrenching. Moore orders his arguments well as well, bringing in the religious case against the kind of capitalism being practiced by the plutocrats, the enormous social costs we are enduring, the historical evidence of its rise, the way propaganda campaigns have been used to sell the concept to us; and the basic anti-democratic nature of the whole enterprise. But he only taps the surface of the possible condemnations available by a scan of the numbers of the afflicted in the headlines. A topic like this: “how have the rich screwed us over today?” could have provided Moore not merely with more movie, but surely with an entire TV series, even a daily syndicated series.Instead Moore brings us a film with a modest two hour running time that attempts to bring us up to speed on a crisis that has taken decades to perpetrate. There are so many things he had to leave out, but for his finale Moore still breaks out his patented fat guy slapstick and begins mock harassing Wall Street: call in the keystone cops, Moore’s going to make a citizen’s arrest. At what appears to be about midway through a supposedly sidesplitting routine involving crime scene tape, however Moore pulls the film to a screeching halt and over a blackened screen says, “I don’t think I can keep doing this--”Which is exactly how it feels sometimes when I sit staring at monitors trying to make jokes about something that is no laughing matter. Moore gives himself a way out by adding, after a pregnant pause, “--without your help.” Then he tells up to hurry up and the credits roll. No further hope, no further discussion. He just throws up his hands and seems to walk away. Which is why the fact that the movie had movie flaws in it upset me so much I could not speak, or at least type on the subject. If Michael Moore is so overwhelmed he’s giving up what chance do I have? I attempted to do a piece on rightwingers’ outrageously shameful schadenfreude over Obama losing the Olympics, then it seemed he got the Nobel as a consolation prize and that felt ridiculous to try to defend, so nothing there. Though you’ve got to admit, in comparison it wouldn’t take much to look like a peace prize winner next to Bush. Heck even Mike Tyson seems in the “Sister Teresa” range next to Bush. By the time I tried to blend that all together it was called “Degree of Difficulty” and it lived up to its name.But something inside me makes me want to keep trying to change the world through my writing. Moore’s choice to film his disillusion and apparently leave us hanging, while quite effective theatrically, was in the end more of an artistic choice than a life choice. If he had truly been defeated there would have been no point in finishing the film, much less doing all the press over which is where, months ago, I entered this fiasco of a writers block. And I know I will not be free from this cursed topic till I completed this article. So dear Kingman readers, now I have done just that. To overcome the paralysis I had to write more about Moore, really I really wanted. I in fact have written the first and last word on “Moore” this round. I think I’ve tried to do justice by this topic and doubt I should or possibly could say any more.

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Current Comedy, 9/29/09: Easy Answers

Before anyone even asks: Yes, I’m going to try to take the easy answer about the G20 protests in Pittsburgh last week: I think that the vandals at the heart of the Thursday night riots in Pittsburgh should be caught, arrested, jailed and made to pay for the personal property damages they did. However, I doubt they can be suitably punished for the far greater crime they committed: the damage they did to the legitimate causes they claimed they were working for is irreparable. Once again, ALL liberals and their ideas get demonized for the violence of a few. Thanks, you scum.
As if the news from the G20 protests wasn’t already bad enough, as many expected it would be, the disparity of enforcement and coverage between DC and Pittsburgh was grave injustice that any Americans who cared to watch plainly saw--in the ways that the Sept. 12th anti-American government protesters were treated by DC police and lionized in the press, and the ways that the anti-global oppression protesters were tear gassed, rounded up, and pepper sprayed by the Pittsburgh police at said G20 Summit. Sound Cannons? OMG.
Now, I know, when I put in all those qualifications my easy answer isn’t so easy to swallow. It’s in fact the harder answer to make because it sounds like I am avoiding the $50,000.00 of property damages done by the vandals. What a terrible thing some people did in protesting for what they thought they believed in. It’s almost as bad as shooting an abortion doctor for Jesus, while he’s ushering at a church. No, not really.
But as supposedly liberal groups from the Weather Underground to Earth Liberation Front have had to admit: violence in protests damages more than the buildings razed or even the lives lost: it discredits the whole idea of a movement, the good the movement already had made or may have done, and all the good work of everyone else who is also working on that cause. Your group is now the demon whether the rest of you earned it or not.
Well, it’s for certain your opposition will attempt to use it that way.
Ending the Vietnam War was in itself not a bad idea, but the violence of some of the protests against it turned the judgment of American History against those whom the events of history have proven right. But if you talk to Mr. and Mrs. America, those rotten dirty hippies were all worthless no-good-nicks who hated America.
History has again and again Americans were right to complain about some of the things our governments have done. It is not un-American to note that our country has often suffered through and had to work against the some type American governmental misbehavior and those who work to condemn the tyranny get demonized by government and the press as a rabble of no consequence.
In the Spanish-American War: business sentiment called for a war, the press whipped one up and we went on to slaughter Filipinos in the name of democracy far worse than their Spanish colonial masters had. Meanwhile US government contractors unscrupulous business dealing outfitting the war effort led to ten times as many GIs dying from food poisoning due to tins of tainted beef than those that died by a Spanish bullet.
In World War One, Wilson campaigns as a pacifist to get re-elected in 1916, then does an about-face and throws us into a war where huge numbers of righteously indignant Americans openly resisted the draft, so Wilson made it illegal to speak against the war in any way, which led to outrageous civil liberties oppressions. Afterwards it was clear bankers and weapons manufacturers had trumped up the war for their own profits. After wards people looked back on this folly and thanked their preferred deity we humans could learn from such mistakes.
And that’s just two of the wars we said we’d learn from.
Yet when Iraq comes along the government with the aid of the press gin up some fake story about weapons of mass deception, demonize Saddam enough to where Americans want to wipe the whole of Iraq off the map, we jump on the bandwagon just like 1890s rubes. Then when the whole thing fizzles as it was bound to, we quibble over which act the underlings did that qualifies as torture and leave the policy makers alone when they were the ones who made decisions to destroy the lives of millions then consciously sold those decisions to the American public based on lies. Meanwhile government contractors make billions while building showers so shoddy they electrocute our soldiers. We wind up killing Iraqis at a pace far greater than Saddam and his sons ever managed in their finest rape rooms.
Nowadays, climate change, fiscal regulation, peace in the Middle East and addressing religious violence are all worthy causes and most Americans would in themselves support some interpretations of these issues. But now due to the violence in the Pittsburgh streets so reminiscent of 60s era mayhem, each of those issues now will to some seem unjustly radicalized, suspect, un-American. And that is a mistake on our parts, both our people and our press.
Meanwhile Wall Street is clamoring with excitement over their good news: strong 3rd quarter earnings will once again lead to outrageous executive bonuses for Wall Street, even though their business practices first impoverished the nation. Even though they enjoys their current fortune due to being propped up by the rest of us. So they are expected to spend as much as half of their earnings on compensations and bonuses. This year, Goldman-Sachs alone will have its profit measured in hundreds of billions. And where did they get that money? From the people they foreclosed the homes of.
And this doesn’t even address the issues of climate change and ocean acidification. This list doesn’t address the efforts of protest groups in Pittsburgh to call attention to China’s civil rights abuses. You remember those? Tibet Conquest, Tiananmen Square, Prisoner organ harvesting, Falun Gong religious persecutions? Internet Censorship and governmental spying? The same old stuff we always said we hated. Remember how as children we were taught to always hate the Chinese governments for their inhumanity to their own citizens?
Until those governments became our favored trading partners and bankers. Now the American governments turn a blind eye. It’s supposedly better for American business.
These concerns were just a fraction of the driving issues that pulled tens of thousands to Pittsburgh last week. All of them now with their reputations tarnished due to the violence of a handful of hateful zealots. As a liberal I must tell my readership how sorry I am to see such behavior in my name and in the name of causes I believe in.
I cannot imagine how shamed some of you must feel following the Sept. 12th rally, which came off like a rightwing hate fest. Surely those folks shown in so many photos with the racist treasonous signs were a miniscule minority among the 50,000-70,000 loyal American activists who converged on Washington to make their love of country known.
Well, I guess it must be hard to defend some of those images your movement is now associated with. I know how it goes. With some behaviors there are no easy answers.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Current Comedy: 9/21/09: Peace Will Soon Be At Hand

Somebody notify Glen Beck. As he could have predicted, with more and more protesters taking to the streets, the powers-that-be have started their crack down. In the latest outrage, two separate grassroots protest groups are suing over harassments and defamations. These loyal Americans had taken to the streets to bravely and loudly advance their vision of a viable political agenda for our times, only to be mocked by the media and harassed by the man.
Same joke as last week, I am NOT talking about the lynch mob-like crowd scene on the National Mall that was literally choreographed by and for Fox “News” last week on Sept. 12, but the current, equally valid, environmental protesters being pre-harassed by the Pittsburgh PD in advance of this Thursday’s G20 Summit.
Quick reminder: This week economically devastated working class Pittsburgh hosts this year’s annual “G20 Summit.” Leaders of the world will dine on fine foods, couch their agendas in terms that sound magnanimous, size up the new American president, and, if possible, discern the best way to be on America’s best side. Let’s face it, even though China and India are doing blockbuster business in the way of catching up, the US is still the driving economy of the planet. For now.
The G20 Summit is the US’s turn to hang with the best of the rest. The G20 are the countries with the 19 biggest economies in the world plus the European Union en bloc. Long ago and far away, the group used to be a much more exclusive “G6,” also the even luckier sounding “G7,”and, after some entourage adjustment, the more sporty “G8.” Full disclosure: in an earlier feverish bid for inclusiveness back in ’99 they shot all the way up to the sonorous “The G33,” but backed off down to awkward sounding “G22,” which didn’t quite have the ring to it, so two more nations were jettisoned, and there you have it.
Working together, these nations’ economies control about 85% of all the money in the entire world. And their meetings have long attracted world class protests, but not in Rustbelt Pittsburgh, thus the crackdown. Racist posturing, propagandist pandering and mounds of trash on the National Mall to denigrate the president in as vulgar terms as possible = good clean fun for loyal Americans. Groups of environmentalist protesters staging street theater to try to draw attention to the catastrophe unfolding as we ignore Global Warming = clearly anti-American who thus need to be surveilled, and have their vans unlawfully searched and seized.
A lot of environmentalists hope to set the stage at the Summit for the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. It’ll be the first time in a long time that the rest of the world could possibly look to an American president in hopes of leadership in dealing with the pollutions that are poisoning the planet. Previously the Bush presidency played the bad boy and had scorned calls for stricter regulations on carbon emissions. At one point, in typical Bush fashion, he even mocked the assembled body and laughingly called himself, “the world’s polluter.”
Much of the world is wondering, with the rightwing holding Obama to the ropes, will there be hope for any environmental progress? The cultural warfare we’re engaged in as a nation over health care is just the warm-up for the battle we’ll see the Right put up when America tries to adjust our self-destructive addiction to pollution. Already the rightwing/Big Oil cabals are engineering the next set of protests Tea Party type Americans will be suckered into. Already they are working to challenge the president in so many ways that he can’t accomplish much beyond working to defend himself. As Yogi Berra once said, it’s déjà vu all over again.
Just as had happened in 1993 when Clinton came to power, like they had successfully done to Carter over a decade earlier, the right wing organized an all-out assault on the democratic president’s agenda in health care and energy. In Clinton’s case the onslaught took down both his plans for universal health care and energy consumption tax to regulate us off of fossil fuels.
The rest of the world has been waiting for us to join in the effort to keep the planet from choking itself to death. But they could be waiting a long time more if the Right has anything to do with it and it looks like they do. Just as the rest of the civilized world realized long ago that, as Tory MP Tony Benn so delightfully phrased in the Michael Moore movie, Sicko, “If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.” It’s such a basic principle of human, one could even say Christian dignity, and still, look how not-far health care reform has gotten since the Right kicked up the noise machine. Here’s what’s next.
Oil corporations have already practiced staging Astroturf fake energy protests, in Houston no less, where oil company workers were shipped in for the protests, paid their company wages for being there and actual protesting citizens were kept out; and then the event was billed as a spontaneous citizens’ uprising at the American Petroleum Institute's Energy Citizen event.
And as phony as that is, I just imagine Glen Beck will soon be leading the charge for a December 7th Club or something like that to ‘drop the bomb’ on Obama’s energy policies. And the rest of the world will keep watching while America continues to over-pollute, over-consume, underfund our education, over-fill our prisons, over-export war and weapons, undercut our own health care and overly congratulate ourselves for our freedom.
Meanwhile, while we weren’t looking, we’re losing another war. As of Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, TV news anchors and commentators talk about Afghanistan as if America’s chances are already over. The Taliban have virtually regained control of the country and if we want the control back, it’s going to take four times the manpower and four decades to do it. The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, had heartily concurred in the call for more troops. You remember Karzai, the former Unocal employee we installed in power within months of Sept. 11th 2001? The guy who recently claimed a reelection victory in an election widely recalled as a fraud. That Karzai. Well, Karzai still has that all that Unocal pipeline project to protect; so you can bet when it comes to getting an army to fight off Taliban, he would much rather borrow ours than create his own.
Currently the best estimates say that if we had the political will to send in 600,000 troops and to have generations of them stay there for 40, count ‘em, 40 years, then we might make some headway. Sounds like a mighty big amount of political will. But these days, most Americans barely have the political will to get out of bed in the morning, unless, of course, they’re being fueled on hatred of all things Obama. So, here’s the silver lining in all this:
That Afghanistan War is likely to go down the tubes too, once the Right Realize they can hate him for that as well. Iraq was Bush’s war to lose, and lose it he did, but Obama is likely to have Afghanistan taken away from him. When right-wingers can claim to be patriotic by calling for an end to “the Awful President’s Illegal War,” then you’ll know peace will soon be at hand.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Current Comedy 9/14/09: In Praise of Joe Wilson

Suddenly the name Joe Wilson is back in the news and lots of liberals are trashing it. I have to break from the pack on this one and note that Joe Wilson was a patriot who stood up for his country and did what had to be done in the time when such a thing was a lot to ask of a guy. Joe Wilson stood bravely even when he was humiliated by the president and his goons and the lives of his family were threatened. I mean, I feel the criminality of Joe Wilson’s treatment at the hands of the administration rises to the level of impeachable offense.
Oh yeah, I wasn’t talking about the current goof, South Carolina Republican, Addison Graves “Joe” Wilson. The latest in the long line of GOP buffoons to attempt to make their name by calling the president names? No way! Addison Graves Wilson is as much a “Joe Wilson” as Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher was a plumber. I was talking about an actual American hero. Let’s face it, the GOP section’s audience reactions to Obama’s big Health Care Speech Wednesday were anything but heroic. If that was the crowd representing me, I’d hide. No wonder they keep those people in the back row. You saw the kind of behavior that gives neighborhoods a bad name.
The current politician in the news, the latest “brave patriot Republican” to do the brave patriot thing--of hurling insults from afar while in a pack of sullen buddies acting tough in the balcony--is not the kind of Joe Wilson I think we should remember. Joe Wilson is a cool name. It shouldn’t be squandered on jerks in the peanut gallery. Whether you agree that the president lied in saying that government money would pay for immigrant healthcare, or should I say continue to pay for government health care, is beside the point.
But here’s the point as to Wilson’s lie remark: Right now if a person goes into an emergency room and needs care they get it. Just to double check, do you, dear readers, prefer hospitals to deny folks service in the emergency rooms?
Think about it.
If the answer is “no,” you are not the kind of goon who would leave the sick and wounded to die in the streets. Then you have to see that currently, “yes,” the desperately poor and sick get their emergency room treatments as a government treat, citizenship or no. Again the question: leave the sick and dying to rot on street corners because of immigration paperwork?
Do we really want hospitals denying folks service and leaving them to die on the sidewalks. Imagine the fumigation bill that entails to keep downtown areas tourist friendly. If you’re down for that sort of thing, then the rest of America, the majority of Americans btw, though not the majority of Americans shown on TV these days, the majority is right to work against you. But to Wilson’s point: Are there provisions in the health care bills Obama was discussing that set up new protocols for paying for undocumented immigrants? No.
And the fellow, I shan’t call ‘gentleman,’ from South Carolina knew that. Like a herd of jocks over in the corner misbehaving at a school assembly, the Republican supposed leadership paced, taunted, and puffed themselves up, until somebody went too far. And, just like they say, everybody thinks it’s funny until someone gets caught. And now it’s freaking hilarious, right?
Again think of the kind of person who looks up to such behavior. If you’re argument’s good, you don’t have to be a jerk to make it. If you’re wrong being a jerk about it just proves it. Is that the kind of person you’d look up to: the rude jock telling fart jokes while the principal was talking about the cancer fund? It’s not the kind of image I’d want representing me.
Now the real Joe Wilson was very much not a jerk when he told his president off. Of course, back then the president was Bush, it was 2002, and he was illegally assembling fake evidence to prosecute a case for an unnecessary and illegal war. Award winning diplomat, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, was the “go to guy” on Africa, having served under numerous presidents in African postings going back to the mid 70s. When the Bush propaganda machine was ginning up the war on Iraq, Wilson was sent to verify what was already widely considered as a false accusation that Iraq was buying uranium ore from Niger, the famous false “African Yellowcake” story, the press let us ignore.
At first Wilson followed protocol and reported that the story was false through proper channels. By the way at the time, that was what the CIA was saying about Iraq and nuclear weapons as well. But some speech writer somewhere was in love with the phrase, “the smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud;” so Bush goes ahead and makes the assertion anyway with his famous “16 words” from another presidential speech delivered to the joint Houses of Congress.
After the speech and after Bush got to start his war, you know the one we’re still fighting, the real Joe Wilson also called his president a liar for all the world to see. It wasn’t just a cheap catcall from the bleacher seats either. In fact he didn’t even use the word “liar” anywhere in the text of his piece. Instead Joe Wilson proved it. In a thoroughly documented article published in the July 3, 2003 edition of the New York Times, Joe Wilson published a piece called, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” demonstrating that the Bush admin knew better when they claimed Hussein was pursuing, not even having, merely pursuing, nuclear weapons. Now in this case, since the president knew something wasn’t true and said it anyway, that makes him a … well, you get the point.
In response back then, a GOP admin to a Dem troublemaker, staffers for the vice president’s office wound up taking the fall for leaking to the press that Wilson’s wife was a CIA covert agent, one with a thoroughly blown cover these days. Though the trail led straight to Cheney’s desk, henchman, Scooter Libby, eventually stood trial and was found guilty of obstruction of justice. As many have noted, exposing the identity of a secret agent in a time of war is the kind of thing folks have faced firing squads for, Bush instead issued a partial pardon.
So we have one situation where a certain Joe Wilson, a fierce supporter of Strom Thurmond and member of a Confederate loyalist group that seeks to justify slavery, I mean, the kind of guy who makes such an ass of himself that the entire GOP ought to swap the Dems for the donkey logo, who calls out “You Lie!” when he’s lying himself. And in the other situation we have a man with a lifetime of distinguished diplomatic service (winner of three different State Department Distinguished Service Awards), who researches the issue thoroughly, risks his career and, ultimately his wife’s life, to speak out at a major untruth, not a quibbling misrepresentation.
I think it’s clear which Wilson deserves to be thought of as a regular Joe.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of Arizona

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Current Comedy, 9/9/09: Have to Be Upside Down

Have you heard the one about how now resigned environmentalist Van Jones told Obama he had to move the dreaded “Welcome Back to School” speech from the original Wed. Sept. 9th date, because of concerns about the environmental impact of the massive cleaning bills necessary to mop up after all those evangelicals crap a brick sweating out the Rapture because the Devil himself will be speaking directly to their children on 9/9/9, WHICH upside down is 666, or the mark of the beast, which proves Obama is the anti-Christ just like they’d been warning us about? And who was going to take care of their pets when they were gone?
Yeah, I didn’t think it was funny either.
But at least one atheist group did, as Tara Lohan reported 9/02/09 on, an organization calling itself Earthbound Pets has offered to take care of Raptured Christians’ pets if the second coming came to past. With this being the day that so many the hard core Evangelical Christians have been looking forward to, to have their literally “holier-than the-rest of our” behinds raptured on out of here up to heaven to sit among the chosen 144,000 who sit on the right hand of God and get to hang with the J-man himself while the whole world roils in the torments brought by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and so on.
Insignificant, comic, glorious or absolutely terrifying depending on where you stand in the sliding scale from seriously Christian to seriously non-Christian, today, 9/09/09 is one of the most horrifying days for some true believers, certainly the worst since 6/06/06, when the gods unleashed that horror of horrors, the remake of The Omen and it was so scary it was in fact a bomb.
I’m not surprised if you haven’t kept up on the latest Revelationist lore; but some people do. Some folks take this more seriously than the Super Bowl and are expecting a hell of a light show. Maybe you personally are not a Revelationist, but you shouldn’t ignore the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are living their lives expecting that the Beast, the anti-Christ and the Whore of Babylon are soon to be their future dominatrix. Talk about making it hurt so good.
So, if you are not one of the true believers who thinks that today is the day that Obama is going to detonate the world and your little pumpkin patch is among the 144,000 most earnest, then joke lightly on your Christian brethren today, my fellow Americans, you will have no idea of the terror some of our fellow citizens might be feeling all day today. There are so many things to fear.
Like the number 144,000, a darn small eye of a needle to shove a rich man through. Once upon a time, i.e. 1st century AD Judea, 144,000 of the most devout Christians was somewhat selective but a fairly encompassing number of the number of potentially anointed. You could probably even get away with being somewhat of a slack-tivist martyr and still find a ticket in coach. Nowadays, there are something like two point two billion folks around the world who claim to be Christians all competing for a berth in steerage when the Rapture Express lifts off. The math breaks down to only one out of every 15,277.8 Christians will get a golden ticket. It’s enough to have kept the fans of LaHaye and Jenkins up all night planning how to decorate their little piece of heaven when their kingdom comes. And, apparently wondering who will take care of their pets.
Some people will say, ‘why do I pick on these poor people, just trying to practice their religion? Why make it about religion?’ My answer is, of course, I never would want to tease about somebody’s religion. Except, of course, when that religion wants me dead.
But like other vengeful gods throughout history, the Christian god has been used to brutalize the multitudes and the god of Revelations intends to throw a whole bunch of us into a lake of fire. This is how he will show his brotherly love for mankind. Percentage wise, none of us have more than a .0000020571% chance of making it to heaven. That’s some pretty slim odds even for Vegas casinos, even when the fix is in. Sounds like the kind of guy our US government leaders should work against if they were indeed looking out for the people. But sad to say that is rarely the case.
Every since the founding deists created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; some Christians have been working on tweaking the rules so they can gain more power. It must be the ones unfamiliar with the passage about the meek inheriting the earth.
In recent history, many of our American Christian religious and political leaders have been openly Revelationist, believing that god’s will is that they should do all in their power to bring about the biblical Armageddon. Two of the most notable would be Billy Graham and his acolyte George Bush. In comparison to destroying the entire planet for the sake of a population the size of Gilbert (though perhaps with better malls), it makes Jeremiah Wright’s little “Goddamn America” dance seem downright silly.
Unless of course you believe you are one of the chosen, one of the very, very few to be chosen. If you are one of those elite then everyone else is expendable, right? In America alone that’s something like three hundred million eight hundred and fifty-six thousands Americans killed, making their fantasized for 9/09/09 something like 102,285.333 times worse than the real world 9/11. So many terrifying thoughts shredding the nerves of poor Christians as they try making their way through 9/09/09 today, which is indeed 666 … if your sense of the whole world is upside down. Like:
What if they’re the ones driving when the Rapture hits and their cars wreck and kill others or even their family. Can lawyers get a hold of the area code for heaven? What if you get Raptured, but your honey does not? Can you borrow one of a Moslem martyrs’ forty-nine virgins? What if you get to heaven and the only other family member that gets there is that one uncle you always hated and he wants to pal around? What if the rest of your family goes, or that annoyingly overfriendly Buddhist down the street is actually the good soul that gets Raptured and it turns out you weren’t nearly as holy as you thought?
And don’t forget the ever pressing issues of whose going to feed Fido and clean the cat box?
But most of all the question that will torment some Christians today is the thought that has terrified Christians for Millennia: what if the whole thing’s just wrong and you and all you devout ancestors have been duped and used as tools? As another foretold date comes (and hopefully) goes unfulfilled, many Christians may have their entire worldview shaken today and have to face up to a different Revelation: the Copernican one—that they and their god are not the center of the universe.
Which makes them only about five hundred years behind the times.
Let’s pray they hurry and catch up.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Current Comedy, 9/2/09: Preaching to the Choir part 3: The Right Jeremiah

Right away people are going to ask about this title. ‘What is he trying to say?’ they’ll say. ‘Is that a reference to controversial minister, Jeremiah Wright, and if so, what does that have to do with the long delayed third part of a purported trilogy about our congressman’s townhall meeting back on the 22nd?’ That sort of thing.
Some might try to pass it off as a reference to the biblical preachers of old who preached fire and brimstone and a message of retribution for the people who dwell in iniquity, but the structure is far too arch for it to not be about Wright, right?
You remember Jeremiah Wright? The hard preaching Chicago minister who sermonized to Barack Obama for 20 years before being dropped like a flaming spud-nick back in March of ’08, when then-candidate Obama started to take some heat for the texts of Wright’s sermons. You surely remember the whole “Goddamn America” thing, what fun it was watching that traitor get fried, huh? What does that have to do with little protester me, attempting to call Trent Franks to the carpet in the middle of 900 rabid right-wingers?
When last we traced the exploits of our protagonist, it was August 22nd of 2009, over a year removed, and at a Kingman, AZ church, not Chicago. And furthermore, Trent Franks was the speaker and there was no Wright in sight.
So, as I was saying, I asked my question, “Mr. Franks, you are part of the same crowd who sold us the George Bush Administration with its WMD deception that led to the deaths of over a million people, that sold us tax cuts which created massive deficits, which have crippled our economy, which sold us the stripping of American liberties in the name of security. As a millionaire you have worked very hard to help the wealthy at the expense of the many; and that appears to be what you are doing now. When our healthcare system is the most expensive in the world with worst record among developed countries for actually helping the sick and the poor, here you are, feverously working to spend more on weapons, but not on saving lives. My question for you is this: with such a long and distinguished record of doing what is wrong for America, why should we trust you now?”
And Trent Franks flinched. Not much, not for long. The guy’s been in public office somewhere or another since, you guessed it, 1984. He’s dealt with dissidents before. He knows how to channel the energy in a room. Before his adoring rightwing audience, he sliced me and diced me, duly thrashing me for my serial transgressing on the right wing’s recent record while his fans cheered on.
Just as my braying had spooked the herd of elephants in the room, his soothing voice reassured the converted that the heretic was of no consequence. It was like a scene from the WWF, as Jesse Ventura explained in Alex Jones’ “The Obama Deception,” a political bit of fakery meant to move the masses, but after the cameras are off the supposed opponents buddy up and laugh at the stagecraft. Silly little audience heckler gets trounced by the circus strongman, the crowd goes wild! In fact, it worked so well for Franks; I could have been a plant, a straw man for the hero to pillory so the audience can glory in their righteous indignation.
But, there was a difference between the scene we played out in public and what he told me in private afterwards. Trent Franks’ official response to me as duly reported by Suzanne Adams of the Kingman Daily Miner was,
“Bush ‘would be pretty surprised to hear that I was supporting his administration,’ Franks said. He had supported an alternative to Bush during the election. And the people that made fun of Bush and his focus on nuclear weapons may one day wish he was back, Franks said. ‘There was a lot that I didn't agree with him about, but he did keep us safe. As far as the status quo, I think we should be moving toward a more freedom-oriented system and I think that's what our healthcare bill will do.’"
Like various remarks Franks made throughout the course of his two and a half hour speaking engagement, Franks’ reply to me, while pristine on the surface, was full of inaccuracies and intentional distortions, contradictions so blatant that they showed themselves within the context of that single afternoon’s talk. For the two simplest examples: Franks attempted to distance himself from Bush in that opening line of the quote, but elsewhere in the course of the afternoon, he spoke long and waxed eloquent about his “good friend George Bush,” and “flying on Air Force One with George Bush,” etc. with each variation on the truth gauged towards maximum audience effect, not absolute veracity.
Then there’s the scene in July 2008 at the Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Imperial Presidency” dubbed the “non-impeachment impeachment hearings” led by Dennis Kucinich. Franks had loudly been part of the Bush cover team in the impeachment hearings, making impassioned speeches about the injustice of besmirching a glorious man like George Bush by merely suggesting he ever even erred. Here is an actual quote from my coverage of the hearing for OpEdNews: “somehow we're going after this president you has done everything in his power to protect us.”
Later on “Franks contended that though the president has only has a 30% approval rating Congress' approval rating is in single digits due largely to its despicable hounding of the poor president. Coincidentally later that same day MSNBC showed the latest poll which had the numbers at Bush 23%, Congress 15%.” He also claimed any who questioned Bush should “be ashamed” and any accusations of Bush wrongdoings were “fairytales.”
Further, a scan of Franks’ complete voting record, again courtesy of Vote, shows Franks’ allegiance to the party line, which by definition was explicitly the Bush agenda for the last 8 years. So whatever “distance” Franks wants to feign, it wasn’t significantly shown in his actions as a legislator either.
As for “keeping us safe,” Bush and his policies have probably done more to enflame Moslem extremist ire than any one else since Popes stopped holding crusades and presidents took over the funding; as Erik Prince of Black Water recently acknowledged. The fact that the whole world knows the Iraq War was based on a lie and that America still refuses to do little more than grudgingly ignore it is the kind of genuine reason people in one country come to hate the people of another country. Creating millions of new enemies for us is not my preferred method for promoting the American public’s safety.
It was through Bush and the Republicans’ efforts that de-regulations of the housing markets coincided with the sub-prime lending that set up the housing bubble. Then, a change in policy led to the stampede that brought the market contraction to a crisis. Then while millions of Americans roiled in the foreclosure waves and job losses Bush offices again with Repub support organized the trillion dollar bailouts which give public money to the rich and debt to the poor in addition to their foreclosed homes. You remember the bailout? The one we now condemn Obama for?
And don’t forget Bush once proudly laughed as he called himself “the world’s biggest polluter” at an international conference. His multitudinous efforts on repealing the environment progress of previous presidents through the potentially impeachable practice of signing statements was monumental enough by itself but that amounts to only a fraction of the decimations promoted by the Bush administration with Franks adamant approval. The changes in policy direction were widespread and have already caused irreparable harm. And not just some namby-pamby environmental impact like the extinction of some silly little spotted wombat living on some tiny river valley nobody cares about.
Based on policies his office pushed, engineers stalled and underfunded levy maintenance in New Orleans, then stalled and underfunded the initial rescue effort. And in the aftermath, Bushco quietly sanctioned the widespread land grab of poor people’s property in the name of business investments, leading to widespread homelessness and misery.
All of which reads like the exact opposite of keeping America out of harm’s way.
But these were not the facts Franks’ audience wanted to be confronted with. The message they were wanting to have reinforced was god, country, guns and tax cuts and that was the raw meat Trent Franks was serving up. And Kingman ate it up. For better or worse, Trent Franks is the icon of what the Republicans of western Arizona want to see as their noble world vision.
So, it was small surprise Frank’s supporters gave him one of his biggest standing ovations following his reply to me. While Dem congressmen around the country were hashing their way through hostile town hall moshpits, Franks was preaching to the choir, greeted like the feature speaker at a church revival, which in fact is what he was.
The minister who introduced Franks keenly, perhaps intentionally explained that when he recounted their numerous experiences together, both social and religious. Folks dressed up in their Sunday best with lots of red, white and blue. The stage craft of the event made it clear: It was essentially a Saturday go-to-meeting service. Franks was one of the brethren, a returning hero for the church of the Republican Religious Right. Or at least the way it looks from Kingman, AZ.
What Franks said to me were the lines people needed to hear to be reaffirmed in their belief system. Franks’ speeches about the glories of the Republican positions on healthcare, immigration, the war on terror and the economy, didn’t have to be based on reality. They just had to satisfy the moment till the talk could get back to what the audience wanted to hear about: god, country, guns and tax cuts and oh yes, how we’re number one and all that stuff.
Even if it’s not true, it’s the only message some conservatives want said. And it is not that they just don’t want to hear it, they don’t even want it said. As if to really love a country, one must deny its flaws at all costs. Germany had had a lot of deniers at one point and look how far a government can stray if people are expected to ignore and deny misdeeds. It’s certainly not an attitude I would take with my children, to deny their misbehavior, they’d never correct it. It’s been proven again and again it is not a safe one to take with our leaders either.
But the Republican Religious Right of America have a lot of denying to do these days and are not ready to be held accountable for the indignities and inhumanities their reign has wrought. Like the recently reported on Republican mother who is outraged that the president might want to speak directly to the children of our country with his Tuesday Sept. 8 speech, afraid her child might hear that America is imperfect because the president wants to get kids believing we need to work to fix it.
This is the kind of willful, insistent angry ignorance that filled the halls of a church that claimed to proclaim love and joy of our great and varied country, yet told a woman who dared admit she was a democrat that she needed to leave, she wasn’t welcome to see her own congressman because she was a commie, etc. This is a true story of someone else whose willful public humiliation didn’t quite make it into the news. And, like me, she made a point of recording it for the good people of Mohave County to share.
Bullhead City blogger Kim Lawrence recounted her catalyzing experience in her account of the event posted on “Activist in Training” ( ): “I still don't understand what people were trying to prove carrying guns into a church, but while I felt somewhat nervous, I wasn't afraid...yet. My friend and I sat down and I was immediately called out for being a Democrat. I was called evil, a socialist and a communist, then asked to leave. All this coming from a well dressed older gentleman who looked like he could have been very nice. I stayed my ground, stating I am an American citizen and had a right to be there.
“I am also appalled at the out right lies regarding our President and how Rep. Franks not only allowed it but encouraged it. He seemed smugly pleased with the anger and hate. Shame on you!! And in a House of God no less!! … Hatred toward your fellow human beings should never be condoned.

“It was a frightening ordeal and not necessarily from the standpoint of being a liberal in a hall of extreme right wingers, but more from the standpoint of an American seeing such outright hatred. I understand anger. Many are angry at rising costs, that their man didn't win the Presidency, and many don't agree with liberal politics, but the blind, raw hate that has come to surface and enticed by so called leaders like Franks is the most disturbing thing I think I've come across.”
This was the kind of crowd who scared also a man in attendance because as the event proceeded he became physically afraid he’d be called out as a non-believer and the crowd would turn against him and the guy was once a wrestling coach. This is the kind of crowd that wants a man like Trent Franks to tell them they are the good guys even as they do things their bibles tell them are bad: acting in hate, supporting unjust wars, ignoring the needs of the sick and the poor.
And Trent Franks is the right Jeremiah to preach that such acts are righteousness and it’s the wicked in the society that are to be condemned for its sufferings: the immigrants, the foreigners, the poor. Trent Franks is as anti- an anti- liberal as could be concocted in a Heritage Foundation think tank if they had a genetic lab. In fact, if you took an alphabetical laundry list of liberal stances on issues from abortion to women’s equality, he’s been against it. For just one example, he is so determinedly against legislation aimed to improve women’s equality that he’s figured out a way to vote against bills to help women end wage discrimination five different times, under five different names. That’s dedicated.
So after his momentary flinch, that brief shining instant of his tape loop reloading, Franks made the right move to cast me, the designated non-believer, to the flaming pit while the multitude cheered and then continued to entertain “birther” questions long after even the converted had lost patience with it. Why? To focus the hatred of the masses against the president. In this, Franks was little different from Tempe’s Steve Anderson, the stridently Right AZ minister who now has twice called for the president’s death from the pulpit. If that’s not the equivalent of “Goddamn America,” then I’m unsure what qualifies.
But, here’s the thing that the righteous of Kingman missed, after the crowds had left and the autograph lines formed. Yep, I got Trent Franks’ autograph, even a couple of photographs of us mugging for the camera and talked with both him and his staff separately, cordially, and extensively. I’ve got this one photograph showing us smiling as he told me how much alike we were and how much we probably agree on.
Just like Jesse Ventura noted in the “Obama Deception,” the scene was little more than stagecraft meant to sway the masses. Franks had played me like a ricochet and won the moment. But if Jeremiah Wright had been wrong for using the church to condemn our country’s leaders, then Trent Franks is the Right’s right Jeremiah.
And if Trent Franks is what passes for what is right these days, I am proud so many call me wrong.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of Arizona