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