Monday, February 23, 2009

Current Comedy 2/23/09: Not Only of Cowards

Howdy ever’ body, my name is Mikel W. and I am a fake.
[Crowd murmurs “howdy” and “welcome.”]
Sure nice of you folks to have a support meeting like this here group, Fakers Unanimous. I just never knew that there were enough folks in America willing to face up to their own falseness to where we could even have such a support group. I never would have guessed this many Americans were finally ready to acknowledge our economy, our country’s sense of self, in fact our very existence has been a-swirl in a Chomsky-esque wash of necessary illusions and the truths that were always mounting behind the masks are now massing to destroy us. The threads are at last unraveling; and the emperor’s new suit has arrived worn and wrinkled, shoddy and soiled.
And we ourselves are to blame.
Yipes! I am duly impressed by the pitiless self-awareness of the members of the F.U. group; but I am not sure I am ready to join just yet. There’s all that stuff about admitting we are powerless to our weakness, acknowledging our mistakes, making amends. Twelve steps may be a little bit further than I am currently willing to walk to change the channel. I am an American after all.
I want my MTV. I want all that and a bag of chips. I want to feel wanted and safe and plush and adorned and forever young and forever oblivious and I am willing to spend like crazy to get that feeling. I want it my way or the highway.
Look, I’ve already spent all of your money and all of mine. Talk about generational theft, I’ve already spent your kid’s future and my parents’ past. Yes, like most Americans I want more than my share and want you to leave me alone about it, OK? I mean it’s a free country, isn’t it? I can believe what I want to believe. I’ve got the right to do what I want, even the right to be wrong.
So that’s why I don’t want to make the effort to fix our health care and education systems. We know both continue to slide in comparison to the rest of the civilized world. In health care you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than of affording health care that can save your life and at least with the lightning the charges would make more sense. In education, American urban high school students rank in achievement somewhere between Romanian meth-baby dropouts and moldy sweat socks.
It’s easier to pretend it’s not broken than to try to seriously fix education, so that’s what we do. We say schools are about the joy of learning then budget-cut all the fun out of it. We say there is so much they need to know then only teach them how to pass one test. We teach our kids to glory in stupidity then wonder why they’re not bright. We create every convenience item we can imagine then wonder they’re so lazy. We make money off of the punks and twerps and criminals we sell to them as idols and then wonder how it happened we’ve raised all these punks and twerps and criminals. We teach them sluts are cool, and then wonder why abstinence-only education isn’t the only thing around here that sucks.
We also tell our children how important learning is then invent every other way for them to fill up and thus empty their time. We say we love entertainment because it relaxes our mind when in fact we know it destroys it. The visual mediums, whether TV or the Internet, are meant to limit our interests not expand them. Megabyte by megabyte we get trained to learn nothing quite so much our impatience for the next thing to the point we understand no thing as seriously as our urgency for the new.
I would Twitter you about it, but if I tried to actually discuss substantial ideas then this paragraph is too long and I haven’t even said--
Economy’s a fake, entirely. The people on top won’t stop selling us the idea that we could spend all the money in the world because they make all the money in the world peddling the idea to us like dope. Since they won’t stop selling it, we don’t stop buying it and over-spending on it, even though for years folks have been telling us we should know better. We did know, but we did not care.
Small wonder this whole hopped-up fantasy economy had to crash. Every few years a new speculative bubble built up to bursting--now our very homes. Too many houses sold, some say; but from where I stand I see too many houses foreclosed. ARMs made to strangle the homeowner, the banker’s handshake that turned into a clenched fist.
Pundits like to rag on the buyers they claim should have known better. But buying a house is the American dream. It is what we were told to do. We looked to the experts, our realtors and our banks, who told us they were out for our trust when in fact they were just after a piece of our ass. The deals seemed too good to be true, but the banks and the realtors said it would work. We wanted to believe it would work, so we did. We signed on the dotted line, just like they did; but the difference is they knew it would all have to collapse one day. They simply had already planned their way to make their pile of dough first off of our dimes. Become too big to fail, so the poor have to feed the rich.
And it wasn’t just banks. If you really want to see where to start fixing the problem, look in the mirror. Everyone knew that that same house we sat in for five years while the paint rotted did not legitimately gain 100K in value. But somebody told us it did and some other idiot offered us the crazy money for it. We knew we’d get ahead so we went along.
Everyone took a hit. It was the drug of choice. Government officials swam in seas of lobbyist lucre and bent the rules for their newfound friends. Big business and big banks bent the rules for each other. Everyone was the richer. No one was the wiser.
It wasn’t like we’d learn anything from the news. News is a fake. Once upon a time news worried about its myth of impartiality. Now no news is safe from the TV newsreader’s opinion of it. Press can purport a new doggedness claiming they regret the slack attention they paid to Bush. So they pretend to be aggressive in their examination of every potential Obama flaw on the horizon. But this isn’t a case of new dogs up to old tricks. They are mostly aping the Elephant line. After 8 years of cheerleading for Bush they don’t know where else to go. So nowadays CNN starts every story with a hostility they’d never have dared with Bush. Perhaps they’ve become “fair and balanced.”
Maybe so, but I think they’re fakes. I think Holden’s right, they’re all fakes, phonies. That’s why I’m here, with all of you at F.U. because I’m a fake too. And it takes one to know one. So, so are you too.
[Crowds grumbles]
War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.
[Crowd murmurs in ascent.]
And Eric Holder is also right: we are a nation of cowards, merely faking it when it comes to race relations and many other taboo topics as well, and not in that ultra-qualified and mitigated way Holder used when he spoke commemorating Black History Month. Still right wing pundits from Rush Limbaugh to Anderson Cooper umbrage at his remarks, offering us yet another opportunity to watch rich white guys scold a black man because he doesn’t understand race relations.
But if America now attempts to claim to be a post-racial society, it is not because we no longer act based on the built-in biases 400 years of subservience cannot help but inbreed, it’s not because we no longer see in black and white. It’s because we’re all just wearing masks.
Happy Black History Month, Mr. Holder, no faking.
--mikel w. writes from the left coast of AZ.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Current Comedy, 2/16/09: And Featuring John McCain as Count Olaf

Dear Reader,
If you enjoy stories with happy endings then you are better off reading some other comedy column. It is my sad duty to document this woeful tale and inform you of an extremely unfortunate event. Once upon a time, a newly-minted president found himself thinking he would bring together all Americans from sea to briny sea to sail into a new American future; and instead he found himself tasked with explaining to the American people about the ugly episodes of their past.
Much to mainstream American media’s surprise, though they claimed to have fairly and objectively reported on the man’s every move for eight long years, it turns out that the previous president, a two headed mobster, oh excuse me I meant monster, named "Busheney" (a word which here means, according to the esteemed political writer Daniel Handler, "an evil man with no concern whatsoever for other people,") had not only killed over a million people in a far away foreign country in a war based on lies, he had imprisoned and tortured free speech and poisoned the air here at home, all in typical mad villain fashion.
But not only that, he also had enabled his friends, first in energy, then in military industrial complex, and finally in the banking and credit industries to rape the country so badly the entire world was near collapse from the damage. Then in suave Grover Cleveland style, Bush-Cheney waltzed out of office and into the rose-colored land of right-wing revisionist history, leaving the follow-up Obama administration to take the fall Benjamin Harrison style.
Not easily daunted, our heroic helmsman, Obama quickly enough came up with a stimulus package to save the day. For some. Various industries shared their “woe is me” stories. Even the porn industry at one point came groping and when a country’s porn industry needs a stimulus, it’s a sure sign somebody’s suffering from electile dysfunction.
And, speaking of boobs and pricks, Congress in particular got stimluted. Democrats launched all their tiny sailboats at once into the great big waters of the emergency spending tidal wave to save those flagging under the crippled and contracting economy. In the typical hastily hacked-together pork basket fashion that passes for legislation these days, hundreds of billions of dollars of proposed government spending were designed to intricately and elaborately defy understanding.
Since rushed legislation is notorious for being very long, very dull, and very difficult to read, in the end when the conference committee version had swelled to over 1100 pages and nearly 800 billion dollars, our legistators did the most reasonable thing and passed it without reading it; in much the same way the similarly long, and in the end equally expensive, Patriot Act had once been passed for a GOP president when the GOP was the party in power in Congress.
Never ones to tolerate tits for tats, or saucy geese for saucy ganders, Republicans donned their Kabuki makeup and pretended to care about the American people. Generational theft, they cried, insisting that spending money to educate our children was somehow worse than cutting taxes on wages they will be too ignorant to earn when we refuse to fund their schools.
To hear the Republicans tell it, the horrors poor Americans will encounter under Obama are too numerous to list, and you wouldn't even want me to describe the worst of it. In fact, as soon as the dust had settled and America had a stimulus on the way, the GOP took to the talk shows and called the final passage of the bill “a bad beginning.”
Lamenting Obama’s success at pushing legislation through Congress, while the opposing minority party sits on the sidelines and gripes about lack of bipartisanship even as they reject each overture to conciliation just doesn’t have much ring of sincerity from a party that had just enjoyed just such a power trip for the last 8 years while mismanaging their own jobs program, AKA Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The difference is, while in office, the GOP waged wars against the truth, against fiscal restraint, against science, against the environment, against Moslems world over, and all Americans who didn’t support them. Obama on the other hand will simply have both his hands full just waging war on the messes they left behind for him to clean up.
Still Republicans keep claiming to frame their arguments in such a way as to make them not sound like a continuation of the party of Bush, though they refused to change any rhetoric. They claim they are just trying to protect us from a hideously misguided Obama administration which will be little more than an unfortunate series of events. But they’ve got another think coming if they expect the American public to orphan Obama.
And so, for that very reason, I, your humble narrator, beg to differ as to whose misfortunes shall be documented over the next four years. Gauging from America’s still unwavering support for Obama and fresh pile of mud the GOP just kicked on their own steadily curdling brand name, if they think this first power struggle was a “bad beginning,” they’re going to hate the way this story ends.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coadst of AZ.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Current Comedy, 2/9/09: GOP Goes to War!

It has only been a few short weeks of the Obama administration, but it is already beginning to seem excruciatingly redundant to note that the Republican-led Washington which in the past created the problems Obama is currently charged with solving has zero credibility when it comes to challenging Obama’s sense of fiscal responsibility in crafting the stimulus package they’ve been emoting over this past week. Still it remains rather difficult to initiate most sentences on the topic without having to at least mention the 8 trillion dollar elephant in the room.
Just to recap: First Republicans spent us through the last eight years like crack heads with credit cards, wiping out a budget surplus and doubling the national debt. Among other achievements, their gargantuan tax cuts slashed revenue making it impossible for government to ever again afford a surplus, much less meet its expenditures without borrowing money.
Republicans then bloated the size and complexity of the federal government by creating our biggest single bureaucracy, the Dept. of Homeland Security; and they did it by spending even more of that good old borrowed money. They also vastly expanded military spending at the same time they were cutting revenues to pay for them; and then went the extra mile and bought themselves an estimated three trillion dollar war that arrived damaged goods and remains broken. How was this afforded? Same deal, debt. Trillions in debt. What was purchased? Death and fear and tax cuts, the GOP troika.
Now out of power, the GOP, with all the honor due any gaggle of reformed whores, glance askance at that spend crazy Obama who wants to waste your children’s inheritance over silly things like schools.
Of course, ever a portrait of restraint, Obama didn’t go into such details when he chided the GOP during his first primetime scheduled press conference Monday February 9, 2009. But even President Obama himself repeatedly felt impelled to utter the “lack of credibility” epithet in what amounted to a Stimulus Package Monday Night Halftime Show. Those few cutting and a couple of other thoroughly accountable remarks aimed the GOP record was as far as the newly embattled but not perceptibly bloodied Obama ventured into the realm of calling the elephants out for the rats they’ve been.
Obama was so generous that he barely noted that by squandering their first opportunity at seriously reversing some of the disasters they’d knowingly created over the last dozen years, Congressional Republicans, with their mudslinging and hand-wringing song and dance over the Stimulus Package this past weekend, showed themselves, and not the Democrats, to be the Asses.
However, having shifted through hours of CSPAN Senate coverage of the detritus of lame Republican attempts at shape shifting the issue from “them as the scumbags and Obama fixing the mess they made” to “them as the heroes because they insist they get to make a mess once again,” I, on the other hand, am far less inclined to be polite. I say, why even give the GOP the benefit of a doubt, and I am ready to rule that based on the evidence we have in our possession the GOP has declared war. God knows the GOP loves wars, except this time it’s on you.
Guided as ever by stalwart Republican chief economic adviser, Herbert Hoover, GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell, John Thune, David Vitter, and Arizona’s twin disgraces, Jon Kyl and John McCain, tried to dismiss the crisis and the need for action and resorted to the kinds of artless rhetoric and twisted data that would’ve made a Bush blush. McConnell opted for the conveniently current, though thoroughly erroneous rewriting of history that seeks to discredit FDR and the New Deal. McConnell insists that it was only the war, WWII that is, that saved America from the Great Depression. While saying this McConnell failed to either offer Americans a fresh war to die in for the cause of national economic health, or to acknowledge that the “shoot an Arab for oil” type war he’s already bought us couldn’t chase Al Qaeda from a wet paper burqa.
Of course, that war, the holy American/Christian war neocons and evangelicals promote, as bad as it is, is not the GOP war that has me most concerned. I am much more worried about the GOP’s war against US, the one they seem to be winning.
It’s not surprising that the GOP could go to war against our own people. As Milo Minderbender showed in Catch-22 the most profitable war is the one you get the people to wage against themselves, it eliminates the middle man. Somehow, despite discrediting themselves at a rate of 8 times per sentence every day since back when Reagan used to claim to be your friend by claiming that the federal government, of which he was the head of, was your enemy, the GOP has again and again turned the American people against themselves.
The actual war declaration came in the May 14, 2001 posting of The Nation, when top GOP strategist Grover Norquist was publicly quoted saying, "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years … to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Well since the Constitution explicitly states that among the purposes of government are to promote the general welfare and tranquility, any plans that destroy or weaken our national capacity to do so are by definition treasonous.
Thus the hidden beauty and actual purpose of the GOP tax cut, which is widely acknowledged to not do much economic stimulus good--tax cuts aren’t meant to do our country good, they’re meant to destroy it. What tax cuts do is shrink the budget of the government thus imperiling it when it attempts to maintain a stable budget, thus also weakening it when it deals to deal with expanding populations or expanding problems. No project can long be fully funded or committed to, no matter what its success, as long as some Repug thinks they can appeal to American greed by calling for a tax cut.
The term tax cut, ultimately means budget cut, especially if you create your currency from bragging about not going into debt. The rhetoric about letting people keep their money in their pockets has a hollow ring when one considers all the things our government does poorly because the GOP insists on saving you money.
But, like Obama, I too am an eternal optimist. Just as he gave a hint that there might yet be some truth and justice regarding the GOP backed Bush junta when asked about Patrick Leahy’s move to establish such a commission, Obama also gave a hint he was aware of the Republicans war of attrition against the republic. Following the lead of Arizona’s state Republican which the week before slashed its state ed budget despite widespread protest, the US Senate GOP managed to claim they were doing America a favor by cutting over forty billion from education out of the Stimulus package, called it a waste of time and money--educating your children that is.
But Obama let slip he understands that with their latest press to not educate our public, the GOP war of rhetoric had risen to a shooting war, when he acknowledged, “There have been [those] on the Republican side or the conservative side who said, "No matter how much money you spend, nothing makes a difference, so let's just blow up the public school systems."
Of course Obama was joshing, just engaging in hyperbole. Me, I’m not so sure. The way they work against our country it is hard to tell where the joke ends and the killing begins.

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

Monday, February 2, 2009

Current Comedy 2/2/09: To Keep Your Interest

As many of you know, Monday February 2nd was this year’s celebration of the high holy holiday known in America as Groundhog Day. Worshipers of this holiday go back to pagan European and Celtic traditions. In essence, a representative groundhog is called on to be the symbol of the deity-like power necessary to create or prognosticate six weeks worth of chilly weather. Rather than trust in themselves and their own ability to look out the window and see which way the wind blows, folks around the country make an elaborate ritual out of putting their faith in a burrow dwelling woodchuck.
This year our most famous groundhog, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil did indeed see his shadow which mean he’ll have 6 more weeks of looking over his shoulder to see whether we seriously intend to blame him for the next six weeks of messy weather we’ll have to endure whether we believe in him or not--ultimately powerless against the weather under most conditions, much like any other groundhog.
Take presidents for example, as likely a deity as an oversized rodent any day. Also as when dealing with rodentia, how can one know if they’ve selected the correct icon to worship and not wound up with a nutria in their ignorance? Like our own personal groundhog, Americans look to Obama to guide them through the stormy weather through his actions in one symbolic moment as if he had the power to change where even one raindrop fell.
To be sure Obama has a heftier hand at the tiller than most North American fur bearing mammals, but with all sectors of the population expecting Obama to solve their personal problems, with our numerous cross purposes, not everyone can get what they want.
Republicans, for example, currently want to still play by rules and with the same moves that they just lost with as if their former game still functioned. They’re once again resorting to the same copy-cat stale strategies that brought you an ersatz war hero they’d kept on a shelf for eight years and in ’08 were finally getting around to selling to you as if the contents of the war-hero box were still either fresh or new. More than anything else, McCain’s recent lame delivery of the cliché classic, “that’s typical liberal spending,” reminded everybody why we didn’t vote for him.
Stalling the nomination hearings in a fit of pathetically partisan passion, John Cornyn from Texas reached back even farther into the stereotype bin when he was caught holding Holder’s nomination up in fear Holder would seek to prosecute torture, because the Southern White Man didn’t want a Black Man to seek justice. In yet another variation on this theme, the new Aunt Jemima’s face of the newly repackaged pachyderm party is (oh all things where did they find one) a Black Man, Michael Steele, thus recreating a GOP stereotype going all the way back to Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The decrepit GOP brand is running so desperately old school these days, the Arizona branch office of this cabal of Republicans has vowed to go all the way and taken to beating up on school kids to make themselves look like heroes. Despite protests on the state capitol lawn of 2000 educators from around the state; with the help of her statehouse henchmen, newly installed Republican governor Jan Brewer has pulling 275 million out of the state education budgets and taken her first steps to tax cutting her state back into the Stone Age.
Meanwhile the Dems want us to stop listening to the GOP and begin to think of the Dems as the tax experts, but it turns out that even the best possible Dems Obama could possibly find to be his hand picked advisors--Tim Geithner and Tom Daschle--don’t even know enough about taxes to pay them.
Millionaire congressmen want to condemn socialism except for their millionaire farmer friends and their buddies in banking and they want you to pay for it with your kids. Rich CEOs want to buy their 50 million dollar jets and get drunk on bailout dough too. You know that sort of “have-their-cake-and-eat-ours-too” attitude also known as the Bush Doctrine?
And Obama, bless his heart, with some social equality coming through, wants salary caps for CEOs to be equal to his, about 400K a year and a bunch of killer perks. Once upon a time Babe Ruth could laughingly crow that he deserved a bigger paycheck than then President Herbert Hoover because Ruth had had a better year than Hoover. In 2009, Wall Street could not try the same crap with Obama, it’s just not so. Imagine that, a black man seeking social justice. Surely some Republican will figure out a way to get in the way of this in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile millions of Americans want the latest near trillion dollar stimulus package to save their butts or at least keep them in out of the cold. With the money being given to banks, they could pay off hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of loans of the people caught in the ARMs of evil. It would seem this sort of thing could be the win-win; but that’s not going to happen. The banks and credit industry don’t just want you to have your house and them to have your money; they also want to keep your interest.
It’s not about win-win, it’s about profit and growth. It’s unfortunate that the American economic system and cancer are the only organisms that pursue unlimited growth since that pursuit will inevitably lead to killing the host.
When the climate of our country has elected officials turning the sick from their hospital beds, firing your children’s teachers, feeding the rich with the bread of the poor, and muzzling justice, and then claim themselves heroes, the power of prognostication by a groundhog or a president must be limited at best. That’s a whole lot of rain on a parade.
So, which groundhog will you worship? I would rather not worship one, but looking at Obama’s uphill battle, if I had to pick, Punxsutawney Phil would be just fine. He’s only predicting six weeks more of stormy weather, which is a lot brighter picture than my forecasts for Obama.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ