Thursday, September 30, 2010

Right in the middle...

As we all know this country is a two-party governmental system. With the primaries sneaking ever closer, there are few illusions as to the voiceless middle's absence from any sort of campaigning or long shot chance at a victory in key races. Wandering through the myriad of news stories yesterday, I came across an interesting piece on CNN discussing the "Militant Middle" as they're coming to be known. If you follow politics, you'll know that most of the US is not made up of tea partiers and Greenpeace vegans. At least, at the very least, 1/3 of Americans are in fact moderates. That doesn't necessarily mean independents or Green partiers that like ruining the election for the terror twins. No, it just means that they don't necessarily fit the corporate status quo laid out by the left and right pillars of our government. I found it interesting when the article quoted Rep. Kathleen Curry (Colorado) as saying she left the Democratic party due to their demands she listen to them more than her constituents. It is a complaint too few politicians are making and far too few voters are acknowledging. However, according to the article, there is a growing middle "party" if you will, that is acknowledging this horrendous disconnect between voters wants/needs and what is actually getting done. I checked out one of the sites mentioned in the article, and found an interesting buffet of moderate styled news. Their key phrase at the top reads: "First, there was the conservative Drudge Report. Next, there was the liberal Huffington Post. Finally, for the rest of us, there is Moderate Voters."
While I joined the site and appreciate the growing forum for people who don't like being pulled left or right for the sake of a politicians career, I wonder if it's not unfortunately more lip service. Rick Bayan, a moderate who was excited about Obama and now complains he's more establishment than promised (sorry Rick, should've seen that coming) concedes that what this country needs is "extremist moderates." I don't really like that terminology. Extremist anything implies the inability to see anyone else's point of view other than your own. It smacks of arrogance, self righteousness and overall asshole-ishness that I don't think we need more of in this country.
I will however agree that if shit is going to change, the people who aren't loony tuned extreme left and right need to step up and do something, without pussy footing around issues or people's personal feelings. Bipartisanship my ass, it's called getting shit done for this country. You don't need to "cross party lines," you need to ignore party lines, lay down your ill-placed loyalties to elephants and donkeys and focus on the people instead. There is a growing middle and I think we've all noticed it. The Tea Party has certainly provided moderate Republicans a reason to start walking towards the middle a bit. Disappointment with Obama and really anyone else elected under a Democrat or Republican party flag is coaxing more and more people to head center. And contrary to popular belief, these are the people that are the most engaged in politics - again, what this country needs. Many people complain that moderates or independents just need to make up their mind. In fact, they have. Just like most atheists or agnostics are so because of their experiences in religion, most moderates chose to be so not because they're indecisive but because they dug past party propaganda and found nothing but empty promises and mud slinging popularity contests.
So, what's next? Well, as I said, while I'm excited about the new mutterings of moderates getting louder, I fear it may be more talk than action. The right and left history of this country is ingrained in more than just those who uphold it. If a third party were to be introduced would Americans (even those who are tired with the right and left) know how to handle it? Is the two-party system too tattooed in our political minds to break away from the choking comfort it brings?
Apart from the voters side, the terror twins are not likely to willingly accept another contender for CEO of the White House, particularly if that contender is more honest and less corrupt.
It's a long, hard road for an endeavour such as this. One thing is definitely for certain. If moderates are to rise to legitimately battle the right and the left for power, toppling status quo and the for sale nature of our government, they must rise above forums and the chic suffering of an alternative culture.
Another article I read today spoke of conservative activists crossing lines of custom, tradition and even the law to get their point across. Not to be a bad influence, but how come the middle isn't doing that? Why are the Ann Coulters the only ones who have a fire in their bellies? Grab hold of the average American psyche - the one that can't be explained with extremist left or right hectoring. Grab hold of it and change something, not hope for change or campaign for change, really change something. As I sit here writing this with no plans to blow up parliament, I realize the hypocritical nature of this post. So, I leave you to go write some incendiary lyrics to stir the pot...hope to see you on the other side.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This country is our fault

Campaigning, vote haggling, mud slinging and all the joys of democratic elections are in full swing. You may have noticed today that Republicans blocked a bill slated to stop American companies from out-sourcing much of their labor. According to Democrats, this Durbin bill was a vital push for the economy and the still embarrassing unemployment rate throughout the country. According to Republicans, it was a vain effort to clinch votes in an uphill battle, arguing that many of the companies effected by the bill were merely going out of the country to try their hand at foreign markets, thereby creating jobs over here. Sigh...either way, nothing is getting done, as per usual. It's your typical playground rumble basically boiling down to who can make who look worse before the class chooses a winner. If both sides could spend a little more time fixing shit and less time promising to, this country would be in a much better place. But alas, the popularity contest draws nearer and nearer so out come the boxing gloves wrapped in sweet promises and slyly spun lies.

Meanwhile, the class is leaning on every left hook, enthralled in this superfluous dance of political giants. As a people, we have ahead of us a very important decision, a vital new chapter in the book that is our country's past, present and future. It is now that we should do our best to focus on key issues, ignore the childish put downs and tawdry remarks. When people wonder why our country is in the state it's in, I have only one thing to say: it's our fault. If you don't believe me, check this out.
Obama was in New Mexico today giving a town-hall style speech on the economy when all of a sudden a woman asks him about his Christian faith and abortion. Clearly these two subjects are WAY more important than the fact that our economy is the shittiest it's been since the great depression. Clearly.
She wanted to know about his faith in Jesus Christ as well as his stance on early and late-term abortions. It's too bad she didn't get a chance to ask about gay marriage. The voyeuristic tendencies of Americans to care more about a woman's vagina and who people are fucking in their free time, than the downfall of their country's economy is a never-ending source of dismay and disbelief for me.
The article that I read regarding this gave no mention of what Obama actually said about the economy. And why should it? He was only there to discuss the economy.
I seek in vain to find any mention of any of the real issues at hand. It's all bantering back and forth: he saids and she saids that culminate in one hellish day of supposed democracy being played out in the political equivalent of the village idiot contest. I'm willing to bet a kidney that come election day, the majority of Americans won't have the slightest clue who they're voting for or why. Is that a display of democracy? Is that our proud constitution at work? Is that what it means to be American? God, gays and aborted babies help us if it is.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The ironic civil war

Rumor has it that the Right isn't playing nice. So, what's new, you might ask? Well, I'm talking about the in-fighting that has escalated between the good ole boys at the GOP and the new blood of the Tea Party movement. Here's the basic rundown as I see it: The republicans of the GOP put up people like Tea Partiers as figure heads, the Tea Partiers just put them up as actual candidates. In other words, the GOP makes a poster with the hard working average American and puts it up on their wall next to their Harvard degrees, family tree and pictures of their yacht. The Tea Party takes that poster and makes it a poster for a candidate. The result: a civil war brewing between the elite right and the lowlier, uncouth variety. Ironic, considering who the Republicans usually count in their constituencies. Take Christine O'Donnell for example. She has about as much political background as any other "average American" and will mostly likely prove to be just as ineffective in governance. Aside from apparently being a witch (google it, I'm serious), she barely scraped through a nondescript college, had heavy economic problems and has recently landed a long coveted Republican seat with a dumb smile on her face and not much upstairs. Why is she so popular? The same reason people supported Bush. "I could see myself having a beer with him."
Unfortunately many Americans can not separate politician from drinking buddy, or church from state or Satan from fossils...pardon my tangent. I don't want my senators to go drinking with me, I want them to fucking get things done. On one of my previous posts, I shared a video of a man video taping supporters outside a Sarah Palin book signing. When asked what policies of hers they supported and agreed with, not one person could answer, or even tell what her policies were. It made my soul hurt and my brain cry. The uneducated American public think this way. It's an evolutionary (yep, evolution, I'm a demon seed) need to fit in. If you feel you're a part of a group, a pack, it gives you a sens of belonging and purpose. Now, why the hell you'd vote for someone when you don't even know what they're gonna do when they get into office is a whole other story. However, that's how the Tea Party works, and they are quite successful with their "block party" mentality of likable candidates that can play at the heartstrings of the average American.
But if you look at their agenda and compare it to the GOP agenda, there's not a lot of open air between them. Except for a few issues that push the Tea Party closer to loony-land, the GOP and Tea Partiers are cut from the same political cloth. The problem lies in the social cloth. It's really a class war. The elite GOP slither and scheme, whisper and make back door deals while the Tea Partiers are uncouth and palpably insane in full view. Very few people in the senate are just senators (democrats and republicans alike). Their back door deals with corporate lobbyists and private interests balloon their pay checks and their status in the social elite. There's not really such a thing anymore as public service, it's career politics and business is good. As we saw from Karl Rove's condescending comments on O'Donnell, there's no attacks on the issues, there's the good old fashioned "checkered background" attacks. Karl Rove and his political idols, the Bush's don't know what foreclosure means (maybe because it's a three syllable word), they never had to scrape by. When the average American with bills, a shitty job or no job, looks at two candidates on the right, they are more likely to go with the one they feel can "relate." This was also the case with Clinton. His southern drawl and lower middle class background was cause for pride and support in the typically right wing areas of America.
So where is this civil war headed? Will their be a right wing Appomattox where both factions can come to terms and celebrate with a BBQ atop Darwin's "Theory of Evolution?"
Only time will tell. Political experts are a little splintered on that question. Some say that the in-fighting will prove costly for the GOP, who is looking to gain seats this November. Moderate Republican voters may begin leaning to the left when confronted with the "proud to be extremist" mentality of the Tea Party candidates running. However, the split may give right-leaning voters touched by the Tea Party's grass roots, mom and pop feel, the extra push to head out and vote on the way to Wall Mart. As O'Donnell said, "We cannot elect any more liberals to Washington, D.C., especially ones who wear the banner of being a Republican. It is an honor to be a Republican." The patriotic pride could injure Democratic chances at holding on to seats. The outcome of this right wing tiff is very much up in the air. The Democrats need to jump on it and do their best to point out the absurdity, inexperience and unprofessionalism of the Tea Party candidates while maintaining that the right is not right for America. Republicans need to stop shoving the Tea Party away as if it were an annoying fly. It's escalated into a hornets nest and shooing will only make 'em more pissed off. They need to be dealt with and recognized as a worthy adversary, by both parties. And unfortunately, while I too can appreciate a grass roots, working man organization, the Tea Party is a sad excuse for a remedy for the broken two party system. They are for the most part, uneducated, bigoted, racist, extremist religious, hateful and inexperienced.
As I say in almost every post, unless you educate yourself, unless you study the system, it's pros, cons, history and present, you will be unable and unfit to contend with it. An overhaul is needed but the Tea Party is more of the same, more of the problem, not the solution.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Middle East is short on weapons and we're gonna help

You know, kinda like we help out the Israelis, kinda how we trained and armed the Taliban to fight against the evils of Communism...yeah, kinda like that. Since we saw such great results from our previous forays into arms dealings, we decided to keep the ball rolling, this time in Saudi Arabia. President Obama is going ahead with a $60 billion arms deal, the largest in history, to shore up Saudi loyalty against Ahmadinejad and Iran. According to Defense Industry Analysts, this deal is crucial to “US efforts to boost support from Arab allies against Iran.”
You know how they say history repeats itself? Yeah, you know why they say that? Because dumb shits don’t look back and learn from dumb shit mistakes. Let me give you a for example: World War I. What do you get when you write up a bunch of alliances with trigger happy countries? A world war. Only these days, machine guns aren’t the cutting edge of technology. What is? How about 84 new F-15 fighter jets,70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds (all helicopters). That’s the cutting edge of what’s going into the Saudi deal once Congress puts a big check mark by it, using it as a momentary job creator and another reason not to sign off on any significant economic reform. Ah yes, there’s more than one way to skin a nation.
In other shadowy news, this deal would also lock Riyadh into at least another 20 years of favorable diplomacy with the US, something we don’t wanna risk considering their oil fields and arsenal. Clearly, we don’t feel that their dictatorial government, human rights violations (i.e. public beheadings of primarily foreigners) and general lack of a “free society” (i.e. women aren’t allowed to drive, are subject to physical and sexual abuse and extremist Islam is law) is anything to be up in arms about (pun intended). No, that’s for evil wrongdoers like Hussein who had absolutely fuck all to do with the largely Saudi crew of terrorists supposedly behind the 9/11 attacks...oh how the plot thickens.
Amid this haze are more talks of future deals involving naval and missile-defense upgrades worth billions of dollars over the next decade. Anyone find it largely ironic that Obama was awarded a peace prize? So, Mr. President what are you going to do now that you won the peace prize? Oh, I’m gonna send 50,000 more troops to Afghanistan, sell a bunch of weapons to one of the most volatile countries on the planet and then smoke and mirror you into thinking the Iraq war is a “mission accomplished” b/c I brought home some troops and gave it a different operational name. Score! Hey, if I go beat the shit out of my neighbour, sell crack to a child, and then pet a dog I just ran over, can i get a peace prize too?! Give me a fucking break.
Peace is not won, it is earned. Wars are not won, they are always losses. This triangle of well cloaked evil in the form of Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Washington only throws more logs on the flames of hatred for our meddling government as we wave the hypocritical flag of democracy and freedom. This goes beyond a diplomatic backing. This is a direct threat to those countries at unrest in this region which is ummm...all of them. You don’t walk into a snake pit, give one snake a mongoose and flip the other one off. Your ass is gonna get bitten, and rightfully so.
The Obama administration made it very clear that they were going to work towards peace and diplomacy in the Middle East. Everyone bullshits their way through elections but this is just downright inexcusable. However, as per always, it’s only inexcusable if we say that it is and so far, yep, nothing but crickets. Maybe we’re too caught up in the glorious thought of 75,000 new jobs barreling our way. A hungry people is an obedient people. They tell us to look left and we do, ignoring the violation of our trust, our dignity and our safety. The deeper we dig this ditch, the harder it will be to climb out, that’s just simple physics. The more we meddle, the more our name is spread in circles you do’nt want to be mentioned. I don’t want to retire myself to the fear factory, but unfortunately it’s not just depressive realism that dictates we’re on thin ice. Logic, historical events, common sense, diplomacy and intelligence dictate that friends aren’t made on the faulty legs of brown nosing politics. It’s made through hard work, a constant careful dance between compromise and fast morals. That ice we’re standing on is melting under the desert sun and we don’t have a leg to stand on.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9 years, a world of fears

As I'm sure all of you know, today is the 9th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th. For my generation, it is the quintessential moment where people of all social standings, races, religions and creeds can say, "I remember that morning..." As I sit here and raise a glass to those who needlessly died that day, I can't help but feel sick to my stomach. But not just the nausea that comes with the empathetic reaction to loss of human life. There is a tinge, a hint, a gnawing thorn that makes today more uncomfortable than other memorial days. As I have said before, I am no conspiracy theorist and I do not intend to spend the rest of this evening focusing on the past 9 years of controversy and chaos. Instead, I'd like to suggest that we as a people look forward. Whatever happened on September 11th, whoever and whatever was behind it, can we say that we as a country, as a people, have evolved? Have we moved forward on a national and global stage that calls for citizen engagement more than ever before? Or have we retreated to the comfortable La-Z-Boy culture that rewards apathy and honors ignorance? Have we garnered respect in a troubled world? Or are we looked upon as the bad cops of a flailing roman empire-esque dictatorship flying a corporate flag?

Whatever your answers to these questions may be, I think that all Americans, no matter what side of the aisle you stand on, can agree that the future, the near future is vital and volatile. This generation stands on the precipice of some major decisions, some major changes. Whatever happened in the past, whoever can and has been blamed, it is ours now. We hold the victories and failures of our predecessors. It might not be fair, but it is the truth. Our involvement in the world is undeniable, and significant. The moves we make are not a game. They effect more than just the few people who still vote. They effect more than the people carrying a US passport. We need to acknowledge that, and act like that is the case. We must not forget the past but we can not afford to dwell on it. I don't give a shit if Bush is an ape who was strategically shaved and put in the oval office with all the grace of a real monkey in a porcelain factory. His time is past and whatever he left behind is our present. We're all standing in glass houses so what good is it to throw stones?
The togetherness we felt on September 12th, 2001 reverberated through the nation like ripples in a lake of human emotion and suffering. Looking back, perhaps that momentary unity was misdirected and ultimately lost to the bickerings of right and left, invasions and middle eastern murmurings.
How many people need to die before we realize that too many have died? In honor of all those who lost their lives that day, let us come together, but for real this time. Let us come together as a nation, dedicated and driven to do the best for this country, ourselves. They are the same thing...remember: of the people, for the people and by the people. That's us.
I hope all of you take a moment of silence today, pray if that's your thing, or simply raise a glass as I am and make a promise, that your generation, your lifetime will not be the last to call this nation great.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This party's got a cover

Ever been to a club and the bouncer that's the size of a blue whale demands you fork over your ID and cash cover. Yeah, that's US. The glorious US of A is now that dimwitted mound of lard and muscle grabbing $14 from international travelers coming in to the states from a seemingly randomly selected group of 36 countries, the bulk of which are European. Yep, unless you have a visa or are friends with Donald Rumsfeld, your ass is coughing up some cash before you even get to the miniature statues of liberty and angry cab drivers.
The tax has been christened, the "operational and travel promotion" fee which is government speak for "we're poor and hate foreigners."
Basically what happens is if you live in any of those 36 countries (list can be found here: then you are allowed to come to the US for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa. This visa waiver program (WVP) is governed by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), an online screening process that dictates whether you're fit to enter the country or not.
The gist is, you go online (sucks for you if you don't have a computer or internet) and answer a string of questions, which you must answer in English, because let's be honest, who the fuck speaks other languages? Quoted from "The traveler must provide, in English, biographical data including name, birth date and passport information. The traveler also must answer VWP eligibility questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests and convictions for certain crimes, past history of visa revocation or deportation and other questions. The traveler will also need their credit card information to pay the associated fees in order to complete the ESTA application."

Yes, indeed. You will need a visa, master card, discover or american express to be allowed into our country :)
Up until now, this process was free. "This process" being what advocates call "extra time and resources to check a traveler's name against "no fly" lists and other terrorist databases." Oh yeah, and it's run by the Department of Homeland Security aka Organized Crime (with shittier suits and less morals).
So, here you are with a cheaper alternative to getting a visa, which can sometimes cost up to $100. But then again, that's a visa. A visa is a visa. This shit is, well, shit. Between the mandatory credit card, and internet connection, Homeland Security has made sure not to miss another opportunity to hoard as much information as they can get their hands on. Oh, did I not mention that?

ESTA application material is stored for 12 years, regardless of whether you're approved or not. Quote: "The information collected by and maintained in ESTA may be used by other components of DHS on a need-to-know basis consistent with the component’s mission." aka your information is out there, for the world to see! Herbie the Hacker and friends have 12 years to wander thru the shadowy, electronic highways and find out about your snickers bar theft and passport number.

So, for all of you dirty foreigners that thought the visa waiver program seemed like a great idea, bust out your modems and your credit cards and welcome to the U S of A!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Light the fires

Oh you know the elections are coming when politicians lunge at every opportunity to put their best foot forward. It reminds me of the bumper sticker: "Jesus is coming, look busy."
Well, Obama has been busy with his economic team formulating a new plan to be unveiled on Wednesday, in the hopes of bolstering the Democrats teetering popularity.
Among groans that Obama's 2009 stimulus package didn't quite deliver the earth shattering results politicans always promise (and then use as venom to pierce each others campaigns with), Democrats worry that this new economic plan won't be able to either pass by election time or realistically have any sort of impact before the five Americans who still vote head out to the polls.
Speaking from the Rose Garden, Obama stayed after to answer questions from reporters, a rare occurrence, marking the levity these elections carry for his party.

Some teasers until the full unveiling on Wednesday: The proposal will cost $100 billion to be paid for by closing other corporate tax breaks. The bill seeks to extend middle class tax cuts as well as permanently extend the tax credit for business research and development costs. It will also bolster new investment in clean energy. On that same note, Obama revisited the stalled bill, urging Congress to get off their asses and pass what would offer tax breaks to small businesses and create a $30 billion loan program to encourage community banks to lend.

As of the end of last week, unemployment was up to 9.6% despite the numbers showing that 67,000 new jobs were created by private employers in August. Obama was sure to make note of that, reminding reporters that August is the eighth straight month of private job growth, defending his christening of this summer as "recovery summer." He also made sure to remind everyone that it took us a while to get into this economic cluster fuck so getting out won't be done in the blink of an eye.
This is of course true, but will it matter in November? And November aside, will our broken, inefficient Congress do anything with this bill other than use it as a seat warmer or coaster? Until Wednesday rolls around, I can't say whether this bill is more fluff spewed out at random two and four year intervals or if it's a solid step towards pulling us out of this economic shit hole.
If rumors are true and Obama is actually venturing in to the lions den, attempting to take away some corporate tax breaks, this may be an important and vital step in unfucking this economy. But it's never that simple is it? Congress aside, corporate America is more powerful than Godzilla on steroids and phen-phen. Their hungry, greedy little hands are not gonna get slapped away from the cookie jar without a fight.
I wonder if Obama, or indeed the American people are up for that fight.

The fight for votes is a more tangible one and one that will hurdle Obama and friends through some rough, bumpy terrain until November. While I hope that this new economic plan shows a more go-getter attitude from the president, I'd like to see more of this when it's not just election time. I want people to be busy even when Jesus isn't coming. Of course, as per usual in my rants, a lot of that hinges on us. I wish I was just being a morose old cynic when I say that five people will be lining up to vote, but it's more a solemn exaggeration than gross overstatement. Obama may be commander in chief, but he can't do dick without some help from the people. So, since it seems that parts of the government still straighten their act as our voting fingers begin to twitch, it's damn important to take note of that and do our part. There's a lot that goes on behind closed doors that we'll never know about, until we look. So, let's light the fires and get shit done, not just as elections loom, but between those glorious displays of a rotting republic. We need a few more pyros around here...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Operation New Dawn

Quoting an email I got from President Obama last night: As Operation Iraqi Freedom ends, our commitment to a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq continues. Under Operation New Dawn, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain to advise and assist Iraqi forces, protect our civilians on the ground, and pursue targeted counter terrorism efforts.

Well, that just sounds lovely. Operation New Dawn...mmmmmm, would go well with a cup of Tea and a Harry Potter book. If anyone else sees the bullshit writing on the wall, feel free to do as I did and sigh exasperatedly and close my email.
Giving an illegal war a new name doesn't make it any less illegal, colonial or wrong. We're still occupying Iraq. I'm not even gonna begin to talk about Afghanistan. In so many words, we're still up to our necks in shit in the middle east and Obama takes this opportunity to give us all a fatherly pat on the back and thank us for the 4,400 American soldiers who died in that useless, futile crusade.
Granted, Obama didn't start the war but his middle eastern diplomacy follows in the footsteps of spineless democrats everywhere.
The corporate juggernauts still hold reign over the Green Zone, still pocket billions of dollars of Iraqi money without giving back to the people, even in so much as to fix broken water lines or roads. On an aside, before we invaded Iraq, Iraq had a higher literacy rate, lower unemployment rate, updated infrastructure and lower poverty rate. Of course Hussein was a murderous bastard but since when did that ever bother us? Chile, Argentina (oh, those were our guys)...Cambodia. We don't give a rats ass if dictators kill their own people...unless, they have something we want. If you turn your nose up at us, we'll gladly take the opportunity to raise our flag and send the cavalry in.
Between the colossal cluster fucking of Iraq's infrastructure, the incident a month or so ago where we just, poof, lost $9 billion of their money and our continued "stay" on their soil, it seems to me that the only thing New about this operation New Dawn is how much longer the Iraqi people will look up at the spires of the Green Zone and shrug their shoulders. Considering our behaviour, the Iraqi people have been WAY more than patient with us. Imagine the tables were turned. Some country invaded ours, toppled our government, destroyed schools, priceless museums, shattered the infrastructure, built a lock stock palace behind barbed wire and cement and over loud speakers insisted they were there to help, while robbing us and raping our natural resources...
ummmmm, I'd be fucking livid!
But we excel at not looking at anybody's views but our own. We're the greatest, the best and we never lose.
So, everyone, raise your glasses to Operation New Dawn, the dawning of a new era where Iraqis and Americans will walk side by side in the quagmire we've dug. Mazeltov.