Sunday, December 18, 2011

The quiet exit

Well, we certainly made an entrance: the here-comes-the-cavalry yankee yell, guns blazing, stores-a-looting, oil fields a-pillaging (don't mention the WMD's - cough, cough), and now, we're making a quiet, subtle exit: a solemn flag lowering ceremony at the bunker Baghdad airport, a few predictable words from Defense Secretary Panetta and then...the end.
More than 8 years after the start of the Iraq war, the last of the US troops have left.
And, that's pretty much that. The whole affair smacked of the disillusioned disappointment in this democratic crusade. As many Iraqis have said, "It's worse now than it was with Saddam." One man commented that although he hated Saddam, when he ruled, Iraqis could safely walk the streets, so long as they didn't openly oppose his rule. Now, they are afraid to go out at all. Human rights organizations estimate the Iraqi civilian death toll to be upwards of 100,000. Over 4,000 US troops lost their lives. Nearly $800 billion have been spent, and as you can see from the image above, taken from a British paper, the other numbers associated with this arrogant endeavor cast a dark shadow on an already clouded and soiled operation.
Both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani were invited to the ceremony. Neither came. The only notable Iraqis to attend were a former defense minister and three generals who have worked closely with U.S. forces and who frequently pressed for them to stay.
Others have made the case for pressing on, considering that sectarian violence continues, although significantly less than the surge around 2006/07 when our ground troop count rocketed to 168,000. Others argue that the country is not ready to take full control, having had all their own security forces and army disbanded ; that leaving now would effectively pull what little security was available right out from under Iraqis.
However, few Iraqis support the US's prolonged occupation. And with good reason. As the man said above, things are a considerable cluster fuck compared to the organized yet dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.
For example, prior to the death of Al Qaeda enemy Hussein, the terrorist organization was absent from Iraq's "godless" regime. Since his death, Al Qaeda has begun to win favor in the disorganized country, along with the long suppressed militant Shia groups.
On the flip side, the northern Kurds, who were brutally persecuted under Hussein, enjoy new found freedoms in politics and business, with an oil-rich economy fueling happy handshakes between their representatives and ours.
But victories such as those are few and far between.
The fragmentation of a country as rich in natural resources as it is in cultural conflict, paints a messy picture of warring clans fighting for what we left.
And one of the critical things we didn't leave was any sense of organization or strong hierarchy a country like that requires.
Why? Well, because we have no idea how to. We planned for six months before invading Iraq, and that lack of preparedness and understanding has followed us on this near-9 year run. It is a haunting sting for those who were sent and those who were left behind to try and make sense of things.
As the last troops make their way home, the only thing I can make sense of is that there was no sense in it. This wasn't a war of honor or heroic acts. As the past shows, we had no problem with Hussein being a vicious dictator - except for the fact that he wasn't OUR vicious dictator. He snubbed us one too many times. He posed no threat to us, militantly, economically or otherwise. This venture was purely financial. It was a flex of muscle and top tiers marking bottom lines. It wasn't about freedom or weapons. It was about power, resources and financial opportunities.
I sit, thinking back to the wars I heard about growing up - today, it seems almost fictional: Hitler, the bad guy must be stopped. US is here to help! Look at our burgeoning economy, our proud nation coming to the aid of our European friends in need!
Today, as our economy limps along, and a fractured nation barely notices the murmur of the end, I can only hope that we learn something here.
I can only hope that we see the parallels - the parallels of a nation usurped by greed and these blood soaked escapades that will always end the same: no victory, just a silent flag lowered, perhaps more indicative of the ideals we failed to uphold...
Billions were spent and billions were made. Thousands of lives were lost and many were lifted to the gilded arches of riches and political power.
I am forever grateful to those who fight for our country, who stand up to protect us should we need it.
And I will forever fight, my anger a sharpened tool of determination, against those who use their own people as pawns for fortune and frivolous business ventures.
I am glad the troops are home. I am greatly disappointed that they were ever there.
Welcome home. Let us hope that you will never again be sent on a mindless money mission. That is our duty - as citizens, to protect those who would protect us, from ever having to war under these conditions. You served us. Now we must serve you. We, the people, must learn from this, or Iraq will be a blueprint for many more freedom crusades. Don't let that happen.
Think. React. Do Something.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The true American religion

Taken from a fax by novelist Don DeLillo, responding to interview questions posed by the PEN American Center, founded in 1921 and devoted to both literature and human rights:

"...I think the true American religion has been 'the American people.' The term quickly developed an aura of sanctity and inviolability. First used mainly by politicians at nominating conventions and in inaugural speeches, the phrase became a mainstay of news broadcasts and other more or less nonpartisan occasions. All the reverence once invested in the name of God was transferred to an entity safely defined as you and me. But do we still exist? Does the phrase still soar over the airwaves? Or are the American People dead and buried? It seems the case, more than ever, that there are only factions, movements, sects, splinter groups, and deeply aggrieved individual voices. The media absorbs it all."

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's not you, it's me

Don't fret-i haven't gone from activist to relationship consultant. Although I am going to give some harsh criticism - constructive, but harsh - to the splintered and dysfunctional relationship between our government and we, the people.
To be blunt, what the fuck happened?!
When did it go from well oiled machine to a oil greased, dream crushing, hope destroying, trust raping greed machine?
The answer to that is obviously not a simple one, nor is it immediate-it spans decades of bad decisions and bought legislation-but the clincher-the real catalyst for our trip down democracy death row, has been our own apathy.

Tough to hear? Well it doesn't get easier.

Jonathan Turley in a recent article in the Washington Post, commented on a new initiative set forth by President Obama that would no longer require a warrant to affix a GPS tracker to your car.
The argument being that if you have nothing to hide, why do you care-and of course, the fear factory's favorite catch phrase: it'll make you safer.
If you, like me, are tempted to scream bullshit at an obnoxiously loud volume-save it, and consider this.
Since 9/11, our right to privacy has diminished by extreme leaps and bounds. In fact, it is now completely legal for the government to spy on you of you exhibit "hyper-critical" or "extreme" viewpoints agains the government. Furthermore, if they feel your comments are threatening, they are legally allowed to throw you in jail without due course. Evidence? Nah-we're makin us safer!
Feels good doesn't it?

As I'm sure you've noticed, a good portion of the country is "hyper-critical"
of the government right now. In fact, in a recent poll, approval of Congress is at 9% whilst approval for a Communist government here in the US of A is at 11%. Glad I got my festive red dress ready.

So red herrings aside, the real issue here is that, if approval of Congress is so low-mostly due to their inability to get dick doodle done-why are we not making a stink about the cow patties they are passing as law?
And why are we not making smarter choices and more distinct plans on how to gain those rights and equalities we so eagerly spray paint on signs.
Really-what gives?
It's so childishly simple to march around blaming government for its trespasses against us-throwing stones at corporate goons in the halls of the mighty. But we're standing in a glass house.
The fact of the matter is that no government has ever listened to a people unless they demand it. Its not in the makeup of human nature to use power wisely-that's why the people's job is to work those checks and balances, to ensure our rights, freedoms and safety.
As of yet, we haven't pushed government, much less their corporate puppet masters, to give two shits about our disenfranchised 99%.
Our movements are too splintered and disorganized and our message is too vague.
Until we put enough effort into looking out for the 99%, we can't be surprised by our governments unwillingness to do so.
Money talks. We gotta talk louder-louder and coherently-else we're doomed to the same downward spiral sucking our country towards total meltdown, courtesy, ironically of the 99%.

Think. React. Do Something.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The tangled deficit web

While the 99% continues to camp out, speak out and stand up, the powers-that-be are busy doing what they do best: bantering back and forth.
It seems a sad red thread for many movements and governing forces in this country: little to no organization and in-fighting that effectively neuters progress.
Now, I have to hand it to Congress, they have made in-fighting into a sick, twisted art form. This super committee in charge of cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade is coming up on the November 23rd deadline. What's the update? Nothing here, back to you.
Last week, the Democrats proposed an over-achieving plan that would cut $3.2 trillion from the deficit by cutting $500 billion from entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security and adding $1.3 trillion in tax revenues. The Republicans, led by Boehner, predictably retorted with the stone cold blocking of any and all new taxes. His plan rebuttal? A $2.2 trillion plan that would source largely from entitlement cuts and a few tax code revisions. Democrats scoffed at that plan due to its complete negation of new incoming revenue.
Let me start off by saying this: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now, let me continue by saying that the naming of these revenue sources is way off point. They are not entitlement programs, they are already bought and paid for social services. You pay out of your check for social security - where does that go? Well, fuck me, it's supposed to go into the social security bank account...guess that's been dipped into before the golden years even got a subtle sheen. You don't get a bill when you call the cops, do you? Oh holy shit - how socialist of us!
And unless Republicans are marking corporate loopholes for the chop block (which of course they aren't), any tax code revision is totally superfluous. You don't raise a country up from the trenches by slicing and dicing the only thing standing between them and poverty, sickness, hunger and homelessness. You raise a country up by offering job opportunities (cough - new deal - cough, cough), taxing people based on their income, not how much they effect your political outcome, and putting money towards what the PEOPLE need and want, not what the Koch brothers and friends lobby for.
Sound too simple? Well in reality - it is.
I stand by the first motto this blog ever had: move forward, not left or right.
Republicans will never forsake big business or their ideological tenet of no new taxes. Democrats will wildly fling exorbitant numbers around and arbitrary new taxes. Neither party will address the fundamental issue: economic reform.
Why? Because the source of that fundamental issue is also the source of their private jet ride, their family vacay to Cancun and their sweet corner office once they finish with politics: corporations.
So, what happens if this supposed fix-it super committee doesn't do dick?
Sounds like a warm up at a horse show, but what it means is this: if no plan is reached by November 23rd, it would trigger $1.2 trillion across-the-board cuts to the federal budget from 2013 onwards. This would include about $454 billion from defense and $123 billion from Medicare. Sound scary? Not really. Some argue that that's probably our best option, since genuine reform is unlikely at this point.
Others say it would be disastrous, particularly for troops still in overseas conflicts, already struggling with aging hardware and gear.
I hate to sound like the BIGGEST cynic but I don't think it matters either way. The fact of the matter is, that the way our government is set up, laws like this sequestration rarely move forward untouched. Congress has a rich (pun intended) of fiddling and revising federal budget amendments long before they go into effect. So, although this across-the-board threat sounds scary, it's really just the nightmare equivalent of seeing a coat hanging on the door and thinking it's Freddie Kreuger. The real Freddie is as always, the total lack of organization and reform happening here.
Whether this goes through in a few weeks doesn't matter. Either way, the decision or lack thereof will meet with changes, waivers, cuts and amendments - like putting band aids on cancer.
All we're doing is wasting more time - more precious time that continuously moves us closer and closer to all out economic failure.
And the worst part about that? The ones responsible, won't feel a thing.
We, the people will.
That's fucked up.
Let's not let that happen - please. Look beyond this toddler like tiffs to the source, and let's fight that source - this corporate rule.
Think. React. Do Something.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Diet Occupation

This is actually my first commentary on the Occupation in LA. I've taken quite some time to gather my thoughts, take in the various vibes, events and stories. End result: It's a diet occupation.
How fitting for LA to have a light, sugar free, decaf version of a political movement. Mind you, I don't want to completely discount it. There are some people that are working very hard to get things done, and to move forward.'s not moving forward. It's actually not really moving - it's a quite stationary movement.
Occupy LA is disorganized, discombobulated and too varied to make an impact. And that really sucks.
I live downtown and I've been down to the "campsite" several times. As you walk towards it, a myriad of signs and messages blast you. And they are all different. The Ron Paul fanatics have their chem trails signs searing blue against the dirty, grimy tents. You have the greenies hoisting tibetan prayer flags and imploring people to love their mother earth and recycle. You've got anarchists, socialists, communists and an arbitrary drum circle all clouding the political stage outside city hall that's already rank with compost, weed and B.O.
I spoke to three different tents regarding a presentation on corporate control and personhood that I wanted to give. It was like being on the phone with, ironically, a corporate help center. You need to talk to this person - oh, no not me, talk to this person - you know, whatever's cool, we're open to ideas, but talk to this person...AHHHHH!
I don't care how equal and PC you wanna be, but movements have to have a centralized leadership. The General Assembly that they hold every night at 7 is more like a come and air out your issues support group. No one is taking responsibility for this movement. No one is in charge. And in that same vein, this movement has no central focus.
Now, everyone has an issue that is the most important to them, that they feel trumps all others. That's fine. But understand the source of your issues. And no, I don't mean mommy and daddy. I mean corporate America. All issues: environment, education, health care, foreign policy, infrastructure, economy can all be traced to the corporate control of our government. Sound too simple and a little too conspiracy theorist? I don't want you to believe me. I want you to find out for yourself. Don't trust me - you don't even know me.
Ask Google. Ask Noam Chomsky. Ask Naomi Klein. Ask Amy Goodman. Ask former politicians, bankers, economists. Ask people that have more experience, more knowledge. I'm always searching for more information - always questioning the "facts." Read up and dig in. It's our country and that's our duty - to know what's going on with it.
And again, if on your way you find an issue that speaks deeper than others. Awesome. But know where it comes from, know the source.
Don't put a band-aid on cancer by screaming at politicians over troops in the Middle East. Understand that this thinly veiled democratic corporate crusade began on September 11, 1973 in Chile and has been ongoing ever since. Similar patterns arise in all the aforementioned issues.
This source connect, this common goal, is starkly missing from the Occupy movement. If leadership does not step up and claim a straight direction, this movement will fester and die in the muddy grass outside of City Hall.
And that would be a damn shame. Bringing people together is a feat, but mobilizing and effecting change is another battle that needs to be waged. And it needs to be waged now, before fleeting momentum crumples and the drone of nay-sayers and dark chuckle of corporate kings drowns out the intentions and passions of we, the people.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Death: black and white?

I imagine last words are all the more weighty when you've had 20 years to think of them. "I am innocent...May God have mercy on your souls." Those were the last words of Troy Davis just before he received lethal injection for a crime it's pretty clear he didn't commit. In 1989, he was convicted of killing a white off-duty cop in Georgia. No physical evidence was ever found to link him to the killing, and seven of the nine eye witnesses who placed Davis at the scene later recanted, some saying that police had pressured them into the conviction.
Over 1 million people signed a petition to save him, but to no avail. His case was never reopened, his innocence only questioned by those who did not have the power to answer.
It is a staggering example of the inefficiency and corruption within our justice system.
The same day that Davis was killed, Texas executed Lawrence Brewer, convicted in 1998 of dragging James Byrd, a black man, behind his truck and killing him. He was tattooed head to toe with KKK symbols and burning crosses. His last words? "I'd do it all over again."
So, here's the question. Did they both deserve to live?
My take: no. Now, I'm not willing to go full Hammurabi here, but I do feel that certain crimes are so senselessly horrific and some people so hopelessly warped in the head, that they do not deserve to live. The retort - who am I to make that call? Who is anyone to make that call? Who are 12 people to make the call to put a man in prison for 120 years? Who is anyone to make the call to send thousands of troops overseas? Let's not kid ourselves. We make that call everyday. The how-dare-you argument is defunct by our own human ways. We, as a people, have already taken lives into our hands. It is naive and sick to suggest that the sanctity of life should apply to convicts and not to 18 year old soldiers. The death penalty should not be abolished from our justice system. Corruption and trigger happy decision making should be.
And the argument that countries without the death penalty are safer and have less crime. Yeah, because these countries also have better education, economies, infrastructure and justice systems. We have a shit ton of work to do before we get to talking about the death penalty as the most shining example of our hedonism.
People like Brewer, or take Brian Steckel, put to death in 2005 for raping and setting a woman on fire in Delaware - even his defense attorney said that he was a "gruesome man," that his actions were calculated and made to serve his own thirst for fear and power over people. Steckel sent sick and menacing letters to the girls mother from jail, gloating and proud of his crime. So, here's the alternative: Brewer and Steckel and countless others stay alive, continue getting three square meals a day, shelter, continue gloating, continue living. Is that justice?
You tell me.
As I sat and discussed this with my friend, he made the comment that the problem isn't the death penalty, it's the justice system that enforces it in cases that don't deserve it. I hesitate to say that I'm pro-death penalty because the connotation there is that it's available to use, like a multiple choice question. No. The death penalty should only be an option in the most extreme of cases. Of course the problem there is defining "extreme case." Put simply, a case where the perpetrator shows no remorse, no admission of fault. A case that shows no evidence of self defense or extenuating circumstances to suggest some reason or logic in the crime. The logic behind raping and setting a woman on fire? Nope, none. The logic in tying a man to the back of your truck because he's black? Nope, sorry - none there either.
And I can hear the arguments now, so let me go ahead and reply before you ask. 1. How is it right to kill someone in order to show that killing is wrong? Well, it's not. It's not right to kill at all. But that argument is crap in my opinion, because it's just not that simple.
In nature, when an animal is unfit to live amongst its group, it doesn't survive. We put down animals for attacking humans. Is that right?
Despite the colors of the men in these stories, death really isn't that black and white. Nothing in life or death is. The problem arises when we treat things so strictly. He shot a cop. He did it. Die. Ummmm...what?
Again, the problem isn't the death penalty itself. It's that this country has severe issues with the center - the grey area. It has severe problems with looking at facts, looking straight at events and problems without trying to skew them left or right, black or white.
And just to show you some consistency not available either in this country...I'm pro-assisted suicide and pro-choice as well.
Let's step off our pedestals, our ideological high horses, and treat life and death with some justice, some logic, some fair and honest intelligence, you know - maybe some of that grey matter...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Volvo with a gun rack

As I read through some of the debate dialog, from Republican hopefuls to the Senate Resolution, an old memory of Robin Williams' voice put a smile, albeit a weak one, on my face. "Compassionate conservative? That's like a Volvo with a gun rack."
Back in the day, 'compassionate conservative' was an actual term, a tongue-in-cheek way of noting certain right wingers un-right wing affinity for government sponsored social organizations and subsidies. It was a snide remark back then, descriptive of few. Now, it's damn near ludicrous and imaginary.
At last weeks debate, Wolf Blitzer from CNN posed a question to Ron Paul about a hypothetical 30 year old man with no health insurance who had fallen very ill. In order to survive he would need 6 months in the ICU. Should, he asked, "we just let him die?" Before Ron Paul could answer, several Tea Partiers in the crowd yelled, "Yeah!" followed by cheers, jeers and applause. Ummmmmm...
Let me put it this way, if I beat the ever loving shit out of you, not kill you (because then I know we'd go with death penalty), but just beat you to the point where you need a fingerprint to prove it's actually you - society should pay for me to sit in jail, get three meals a day, learn how to shank and become a drug dealer, but you, you, the victim - society should let you either die in a gutter or, pay medical bills for the rest of your life...
Hmmmm - justice?
Now, let me go ahead and say that I don't think this country could EVER become a socialist nation. It's simply not in our DNA. However, I do think that a socialized republic is a lofty but ultimately attainable goal. That is of course, if we can get up off our asses and do something about it. But that's another soap box I'm not getting up on right now.
Right wingers seem to think that simply by cutting down government, everything from the market to humanity will even itself out to its best full potential. For fucks sake people - I mean, come on! Daniel Foster actually wrote in the that the best way for people to get through tough times is to lean on family, friends and the church, not government. OK - well let's say all your friends and family are shit poor too - and the church? Oh, blow it out your ass Foster. The only thing the church is good for in times of need is to remind you how fucked you are by having to pay taxes they skirt because of some guy nailed to a pair of sticks.
Wanna know what I see here in downtown LA? On the average day, just going out for simple errands: walk to the bank, post office, coffee shop, the car - I see on average 20 homeless people. Wanna know what else I see? I see people outside of government subsidized missions and homeless shelters, waiting in line for food and blankets. Guess whose stoop is empty? The church.
It sounds nice and philanthropic but this utopia where a band of family, friends and make believe deities is always there with the right amount of cash, love and guidance just isn't fucking reality. Forgive me for entering into the realm of depressive realism, but reality blows sometimes.
That being said, reality can blow a lot less with a buffer against the harsh, biting winds of bad times. That buffer is called a government for the people, by the people and of the people. A government that works on behalf of the people it governs. It does not sit, laissez-faire while its people beg each other for loose change and a hand out. However, it does not hand out needlessly or without self interest. Interestingly enough, when a well formed government acts in its own self interest, that self interest is your self interest - hahaha, wow! Follow along with me for a second...
It creates and maintains a system of give and take. You put in an appropriate amount of your earnings knowing that should you need that buffer, it's there for you. You realize that when you go into the hospital or when you send your kids to school, it's your money that's paying for it, but also that of your friends, family and neighbours (not the church tho - they don't pay dick). You can feel proud and ironically, free, knowing that you are part of a strong, people drive system, working for the people, by the people. It is a colossal behemoth of human ingenuity and drive - progressively moving forward without leaving everyone behind. It cares without coddling. It sets up rules and regulations based on the interests of many, not the prized few. It takes into account well being, not accounts. And in so doing, it has a healthy account, both monetarily and in the hearts and minds of those it governs.
Sounds Utopian? Probably. But these tenets are tenets taken from the ideas and dreams of the founding of this country. If the constitutionalists behind people like Ron Paul really wanna feel patriotic, consider stepping outside the confines of bottom lines and extremist propaganda.
There's no such thing as a free market that works. There's no such thing as a non-existent government that works. And there's no such thing as a free people under either.
Drop your extremist ideologies, and come see what the center feels like. I promise, if you look back at our country's history - it looks pretty damn healthy, happy, successful,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fast Blast: News 9.18.11

So, again - there's just too much going on for my coffee laden mind to focus on just one news story. I had contemplated discussing the jobs plan but it just makes me too angry. Not the plan itself - although you'll be hard pressed to find actual layouts of the plan amongst all the useless political deliberation and verbal excrement clouding the points of the bill. And therein lies the catalyst to my anger. What the fuck people? Can I get through one article about possibly desperately important legislation without getting into a dick measuring contest about 2012, and this party and that party and he said this and they did that. If everyone's so fucking frustrated by government ineptitude, why the fuck do we keep feeding into it?! WE NEED jobs, WE NEED an economic boost. All other conversations hold no place in the discussion of the JOBS plan. This incessant child like interpretive dance around issues and solutions fuels a downfall already in rapid motion. Our own apathy, ignorance and arrogance don't help either.
On that note...the news:

Bathroom time limit: An F16 fighter jet escorted a Detroit bound Frontier Flight to ground on 9/11 (paranoid much?) when flight attendants became concerned at the length of time three passengers (separately) spent in the bathroom. One was an Arab/Israeli woman who subsequently complained of racial profiling and the other two were Indian men, one of which was apparently sick. So, word to the wise: if you gotta go, I mean really go - try to take care of it before you get on the plane. Because apparently longer than 5 minutes denotes you in there with the anarchist cook book and a pipe bomb kit.

Give me your poor...: According to the latest Census Bereau data, 46.2 million Americans now live in poverty - defined as an income of $22,314 for a family of four. The median income also dropped to the lowest levels since 1996: $49,445.

Commonwealth Ave vs. Wall Street: Outspoken Wall Street critic, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advocate and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren announced that she will run for US Senate in Massachusets next year. She was originally slated to head the CFPB (whose duty is to protect consumer rights against banks and large financial corporations) but the Republican response disallowed Senate approval...big fucking surprise there. So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I hope for, but as always, can't dare to expect big things from her...

Sick man: Speaking of corporations, Rick Perry fell into some hot water when information surfaced detailing his very close ties to the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. ; for example, mandating the use of Merck's HPV vaccine on young girls. In return of course, Merck contributed upwards of $30,000 to his campaign, a bit more than the $5,000 he admitted to at a debate. Beyond that chunk of change, Merck has also contributed more than $380,000 to the Republican Governors Association, an Association that has in turn contributed over $4 Million to Perry's campaigns over the years...oh, isn't corporatocracy fun?!

Racism is racism: A popularized protest song in South Africa called "Shoot the Boer" has been banned by a Johannesburg court. The song, about killing white farmers was a favorite by activist Julius Malema, leader of the youth wing of the ruling African National Congress. The ANC complained that the court was "trying to re-write South African history." Ummmm, bullshit. Just because I don't go around singing songs about how great slaves are doesn't mean that I am pretending slavery never happened. While the banning of anything under the banner of free speech is a tricky subject, racism is racism. There's no such thing as reverse racism or the idea that racism is an appropriate form of retaliation for former trespasses. How can you move forward if you're still stuck in the back and forth? Hate breeds hate. Quit copulating past ills.

Civil War: The threat of civil war in Iraq's Anbar province is certainly not forgotten, and it looks as though it's not gone either. Last week, gunmen attacked a Shiite bus on a pilgrimage, forcing women and children off, only to slaughter the 22 men on board. It's marked as a response to several attacks on Sunnis in Anbar. Both sides complain that the government is doing little, Sunnis in particular, feeling that the Shiite-led government is too laissez-faire in regards to violence against them. Ah, glad we have our guys in there handling this one.

Speaking of Middle East quagmires...: The US embassy in Kabul was attacked this past week, along with the NATO headquarters. 16 people died and newfound fears at the capabilities of insurgents were fostered anew - people left wondering how 10 attackers were able to construct and carry out such a plan in one of the most heavily guarded and secured areas in the Middle East. Meanwhile US Ambassador Ryan Crocker quotes "It's not a very big deal." Well, I'm glad we can downplay it whilst simultaneously keeping the fear factory churning out the hits. Again, glad we have our boys and girls over there handling this one. May not be a big deal to you Crocker, but to the men and women and broken economy and infrastructure, it is a very, very big deal.

2,000 years ago: Looks like the feuds of old are just aching for a come back. Egypt and Israel are back at it - last week, a mob of Egyptians destroyed the Israeli embassy in Cairo, apparently a response fueled by the killing of Egyptian soldiers by Israeli soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula last month. Not to mention that most Arabs aren't big fans of the Israeli occupation and just outlook in general on their culture, in particular the Arab Spring. Stubborn boar Netanyahu doesn't make matters any better, from his banter with Turkey to his pig-headed response on the Gaza issue. As with most altercations, it's a two way street. But if you wanna find your way forward, you're gonna have to embrace change, something Israel is historically shitty about. Egypt is going to have to simmer down too - let the revolutionary guise fall to diplomacy. Let the fires go out boys, lay down your swords and try talking - it's not popular these days, but hey, you never know what kind of revolution you could set off by not being stereotypically revolutionary.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years: looking back and forwards

Amidst the commemorative tributes, the solemn moments of silence, the reflection gives way to a question: where have we been? And from there, where are we going?
As with any tragedy, it's almost hard to remember what life was like before 9/11. And psychologically speaking, it makes perfect sense. When something that shocking happens, your mind is so preoccupied with trying to understand and get through it, the world around those events matters little. And when the haze of shock and awe wanes, your eyes blink open and accept what they see, accept the changed world with little rebuke.
I make no statement as to whether this is right or wrong - it's human. Shocking events don't effect the critical thinking areas of our brain. But as we sit here now, 10 years down the line, the critical thinking should really be in high gear. It seems however, that is not the case.
From journalists to economists and teachers to unemployed servers, this decade is being stamped as one of the worst in our history. Of course, as soon as that argument is suggested, someone inevitably points out that since 9/11, there hasn't been a terrorist attack on our soil.
Yeah, but there wasn't before that either. It wasn't as if 2001 was the first year we were deemed unpopular by extremist groups in the Middle East.
And how does one explain the trillions of dollars spent on wars? Afghanistan is still a sad and sorry excuse for a transitional democracy, not to mention this past month having been one of the bloodiest for our troops there to date. And Iraq? At this point, I think most people that haven't Hellen Keller-d their way through the past decade can agree Hussein had fuck all to do with any of it. He was quite happy killing his own people, using our arms and trained forces to do it. Oh, and let's not forget Bin Laden who used to be on the CIA's pay roll.
That aside, what have we got to show for those two wars? A wrecked economy and one terrorist floating in the middle of the ocean...supposedly? Are we really safer?
As Iran continues to gain influence and our idea of diplomacy is little more than drones, undercover operatives and threats, I don't feel much safer. And yet, I was never really scared.
I have long felt that the product we are best at manufacturing is fear. We took Bush's word and stormed into Afghanistan. We continued to shrug and wave flags as we blazed into Iraq. We nonchalantly accepted legislation that crippled our economy, infrastructure and rights. Again, the shocking haze...
But again, that haze should have lifted - the fog from fear and hate created on that day 10 years ago should be gone. We should now be able to look at cold, hard facts. Yes, this decade has been utter shit. Yes, on this day we are still saddened and effected by the attacks. We can take both in stride. What we took away in the days following the attacks was that together, we are strong. Together, we can get through anything. Where is that sentiment today?
As Congress continues to tear itself apart with bitter in-fighting, as apathy and distrust snowball throughout hearts and minds, can we not bring those sentiments forward with us? And leave the haze back in the rubble where it belongs?
I sit here tonight, a flag above me as I write, and I am proud. I am proud to be a US citizen. I am proud of the ideals and foundations of this country, that can not be brought down in falling buildings, that live inside, intangible yet stronger than steel. It dictates to me that this is wrong. This decade is not deserving of those who are not here to see it. It is not deserving of those who fought so hard to protect it.
This is our country and our future. In this moment of silence and reflection, consider our past and our future. Consider this day 10 years ago. Consider this day 10 years from now. What has changed and what needs to change? It must come from us, we, the people.
Think. React. Do Something.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Spare the Rod

I've never hit a child. Well, when I was a kid, I hit other kids, but that doesn't count - I wasn't trying to discipline them, I was just trying to show how angry I was when words fell short. Using violence as a form of discipline is silly. However, using apathy is just as silly.
With as many peace signs couched within my closet, on patches, shirts, pins, even underwear, I must say, it appears that yet again, words are falling short. It's time to step up, stop spoiling with apathetic nonchalantness and get in there - to set 'em straight, and to raise...a country.
Compared to other countries in this world, we are in fact still children. And christ, do we act like it too. In case you missed it due to your own soap operas, or really, anything else news worthy, government has once again shown us how exceedingly difficult it is for them to act like adults.
The story: Congress is due back in session on Wednesday September 7th. A Republican Presidential Debate is scheduled for that evening. Obama needs to make his highly anticipated address to Congress regarding the economy and plans for growth. He wanted to do it on the 7th. Boehner said "No." And no, I'm not paraphrasing, he just literally wrote back, "No." He then asked if the President could reconsider for the following evening.
And mind you, all of this is going public, each response and counter-offer, like some high school banter over saved seats and flirt fests. If only it were that trivial. These are our FUCKING REPRESENTATIVES!!! They hold in their power all of our futures, the lives of our kids, our friends, and family. For fucks sake!
In the end, Obama agreed to give his speech on the 8th but not until considerable damage had been done.
This has never happened before! Historians note that in effect, the president asking to speak before Congress is mostly a formality and to anyone's knowledge, has NEVER been refused. It is customarily handled by the respective offices, until now, without issue.
Now, those respective offices continue to comment and banter as to whose fault it was - who didn't check up with who - who failed to appreciate the necessity of the others event - who this, who that - blah blah blah blah blahdy blahdy blah!
As I read through various articles, I felt as though I had been asked to read through badly written teenage screenplays.
As citizens hoped that a recess back to their homes would knock some sense into Congress - well, bummer - not so.
Clearly we're in for more of the same - and with issues on the table such as oh, the economy, a juvenile tangent is the last thing we need.
And yet, there is no change on the horizon. Would different faces equal different fates, or would they just echo the ideological verbage of a broken two-faced system?
You tell me.
Is it not time to step up and bring the bitching some action? Take this conversation out of our heads and into fruition? It is clear that our "oh just ignore them" policy is not working.
They are spoiled on their own gluttonous indifference to serious issues - waving the American flag as if they had the slightest fucking clue what it stands for - not the corporate cash in your wallet buddy!
Spare the work, spoil the foreman - if we don't act up, they don't act on our behalf. Pretty simple.
Eric Hoffer wrote in his book, The True Believer, that men of words are not men of action. And that men of action fail to see the sense in men of words - hence why revolutions and coups are often so disorganized and violent.
I'd really love to prove him wrong.
Couldn't we get some educated men of action out there? That's what I'm working towards-that's what we should all be working towards: Think. React. Do Something.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Newfound inspiration

You must excuse my absence from the blogosphere as of late. I have not felt motivated or inspired to write a blog in the past week or two. One reason could be the copious amount of work I've had to do ; planning a tour not being the least of the time eaters - another reason, one that presses on me quite often, is that I feel so overwhelmed ; ideas dart around my mind like hummingbirds on PCP, and I in an embittered haze of lies, corruption, tired determination and hope grab after them to attempt a collective step forward.
Granted, I feel that steps forward have been made on my part - I have opened the dusty doors to political thinking in people, shaken the cage. But yet, sometimes, looking up at the gleaming spires of falsified pride, the twisted ideals of a country at odds with itself, with its true character, I feel small and insignificant. I feel helpless. Inspiration feels weakened by the dark clouds looming over progressive thinking and action in this country.
And then, something glimmers. Sometimes it's an article, other times I just wake up with a new found energy as if my mind had snuck out while I slept, gotten a massage, had some drinks and exhaled. This time I felt it necessary to share that glimmer with you.
My guitarist and I went to a local bar to play this past Monday. It was a combined open mic and networking mixer for composers and sound designers. We took the opportunity to showcase one of the band's songs - a piece called "Chains," written about the corporate chains that bind us as a people, and how if we are to break free, we must, Do Something. As with most open mics in LA, there are also comedians that perform. We had finished our song and retreated to the bar for more mingling and a margarita. The comedian who came on a few acts later was an ex-Marine. He was one of the few funny comedians there. Both my guitarist and I laughed and cheered - as his five minutes came to a close, I handed my guitarist the half empty margarita I'd been holding and went over to talk to the Marine.
The first thing he asked when I confessed I would love to discuss his time in the armed forces was, "What spin are you going for?" I immediately replied, "Yours."
I was gone for about 45 minutes. My incessantly vibrating pocket signaling a worried and tired guitarist was the only thing to break the cloud of intense conversation.
He was born in Queens (and his sense of humor loudly projected it). He enlisted, he said, as many do, because he wanted to serve his country. He said he had a lot of fun, made friends, enjoyed the work on the ship, and although he didn't always agree with choices made above him, he was a proud Marine, and he said, no one was more proud than his mother.
He was her only child and she had raised him as a single mom in Queens - to be strong, independent, proud and honest. Needless to say she meant the world to him.
During one of his tours, the Red Cross came aboard with a message for him. His mother was deathly ill and his presence was requested. He said that usually when such messages came, there was no question. The soldier was sent home immediately. He said it is exactly like Saving Private Ryan - one child, one way ticket home.
Apparently, not this time.
He stayed. He went to his commanding officer every day, sometimes multiple times, pleading, or as best he could while standing at attention. Pleading with him to allow him leave to go see his mother before she died.
Reply: "We're working on it. That will be all."
She died while he was aboard the ship. He received notice and was only then allowed to leave to attend her funeral.
The conversation turned quiet. I had nothing to say and he had nothing to add. He stared at the floor for a moment and shook his head.
"They just don't take care of their own."
My eyes welled up and I pushed them back down, only thinking to squeak out a "I'm so sorry." and "Thank You."
Not just sorry his mother died and he was forced to stay away, but sorry that is the way things are. Sorry that we, as a people, have not demanded better. Sorry that this is allowed to happen - that men are allowed to come home from service, mentally and physically maimed and not receive help or treatment. Sorry that you are sent on greed soaked missions to fill pocket books and graves. Sorry that we didn't stand up for you. Sorry that all we've done to show support is put a dumb ass sticker on the back of our cars. I'm sorry. As an American, I am truly sorry.
He fashioned a weak smile and I bought him a beer.
As the conversation sat, consistently all week, at the edge of my mind, I felt inspired. This was not a country I was prepared to accept. This was not a country I was prepared to be proud of. This was a country completely at odds with itself, with the foundations of its character. This is a country that needs help. And as this country was founded...of the people, for the people and by the people, so it is only we, the people, that can change her. I hope this inspires you as it did
Think. React. Do Something.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

London calling

The Washington Post calls 2011 the "year of rebellion by the dispossessed." I wonder if they catch the irony in that statement for the dispossessed Americans...moving along...
The riots have quieted in England but needless to say the reverberations are echoing off broken shop windows and major media outlets across the globe.
The shocking disbelief has waned and now explanations flood in, by everyone from sociologists to teenage kids. There appears to be a primary focus in the aftermath: rich vs. the poor. One teenage girl, when asked the reason behind the riots replied, "to show the rich that we can do whatever we want."
Sorry sweetheart, I don't think the rich give a shit that you're destroying mom and pop stores in North London - they're probably stoked in fact - more little guys out of the way! I doubt very many MP's or lords have convenient stores in Tottenham...

The problem with mindless violence is that it is just mindless violence. What point were you trying to prove? Oh fuck, I don't know, but you look like a bunch of uneducated, coked up, violent dumb-asses to me. Any sympathy, any hope of solidarity and a push forward becomes quickly covered by the dirtied soot of your dick stick fires. Moves forward are done by those that can think forward, beyond the sense of power at robbing an innocent person, beyond the ego trip of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a police car - it comes from those that can understand the issues and present hope and ideas for how to solve them. It comes from a people united, not in violence, but in peace and knowledge.

So, interestingly enough - although the riots are a stupid, juvenile way of trying to make a point, the aftermath may be just the thing to sweeten the sour taste of violence and mayhem. Thousands of Londoners have taken a page from the Arab Spring and organized online meet ups to clean up after the riots and bring a peaceful solidarity to the streets of London. Activists have been marching and cleaning, waving brooms instead of guns, condemning the violence and giving some insight into the unrest they say fanned the flames of the rioters fires.
One man, walking in front of a "Stop the Cuts" banner said it's about government, and the economy. It's about how they continue to cut spending for social services and continue to spend money in wars - Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. Another woman said that although she certainly doesn't condone the riots, she said it was only a matter of time before the people got pissed off enough to do something drastic. Unfortunately, they didn't' start with the peaceful marching.

This brings new meaning to the phrase, "two countries separated by a common language." It appears that we have far more in common with our old colonizers than we thought. It's interesting to sit and watch as facebook is flooded with group upon group, all above the 10,000 fan mark, discussing, organizing, planning and moving...forward.
I must admit, I'm jealous.
I use this blog, my band and most of my time trying to engage and educate, to think and move forward. I am happy to see the aftermath of the riots is leading towards a social understanding, a social engagement that we here in the US don't even think to dream of. As I say at the end of all of my video blogs, we have to Think. React. Do Something.
As the woman said, it is only a matter of time. However, it's not that rosy - we can not just sit around and wait for that time to come. We must create that time. In a country for the people, of the people and by the people, a step forward in our name won't be made until we demand it.
Go out there and demand it.
Do Something.

**we can start by coming together online - and of course, here. Educate yourselves - find the information they don't even bother hiding - create change by being change.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Where do we go now?

As much as I love quoting Axl Rose, it is an unfortunately serious question - I mean, really, what the fuck?!

According to a breaking news poll by CNN, 82% of Americans disapprove of how Congress is handling its job. That's horse-shit. Only 82%? I guess the other 18% is too busy talking to collectors on the phone to answer a damn poll wondering if they know who to blame.
It makes the point, as other have, that this is in fact the point. It is much more difficult to follow the intricacies of government when you are trying to survive. Congressional incompetency is not one of the fundamentals of human survival - although, lately you'd think so.
However, there is a breaking point. There comes a time when the flip is immediate. When things get to the threshold where the effects are such that the causes must be dealt with. When the people are too pissed off and too betrayed to let it go. When trying to survive is enveloped by the fight against why you are trying so hard to survive. Back in the olden days, it made no sense to curse the deer if you didn't shoot it. But you could sharpen your arrows and practice your aim. Cause and effect.
For the time being, our country is solely focused on effects. It appears that we stand in a giant shit heap, with continuous mounds being dumped daily, out of some chute somewhere. At the moment, we're too preoccupied with the shit, or even worse, ignoring it, pretending that we're standing in a bed of roses. All it takes, is for us to dare to look up, see where it's coming from and Do Something.
Sounds so elementary, but in reality, that's all it is. Wouldn't you agree? How far away would you say that threshold is? How much more shit are we going to take? How much more banter, more corporatized, partisan, extremist crap will we allow to settle on our day-to-day before we take action? 82% think Congress it's up it's own ass. And with good reason!

The fiasco that ultimately led to our AA+ rating with S&P was by far the most embarrassing display of pointless posturing I've seen since guys comparing dick size in grade school. A deal that petty, that insignificant could have been drawn up in about 15 minutes, 5 months ago.
S&P warned Congress long ago that unless the $4 trillion was agreed upon, the US rating would be at stake. Well, here we are! And what does our sub-par debt deal do?
It does nothing but push back important decisions until after the 2012 presidential election and sets aside valuable time and resources in order to form a "super" congressional committee to deal with the issues that congress can't deal with.
Sound retarded? Well, if the shoe fits.
Critics are already pointing out the obvious: if each party gets to choose who sits on that parties respective 6 seats - what are the chances that it will essentially turn out to be a microcosm of the larger congressional body? Republicans will assign hard line hawks and Democrats will most likely assign right leaning lefties to do what Democrats do best - sit down and shut up.
Meanwhile, the key issues feeding off our feeble economy remain untouched. The deal does not close loopholes, it does not discuss new taxes or raised taxes, it does not seek to reform government spending via sensible solutions - it merely throws things like health care and education on the table and suggests, "Cut 'em." It does not take issue with the hemorrhaging of funds via foreign "conflicts" and wars, or address the irony that although the Pentagon receives $100 billion more each year since before 9/11, our forces are getting older, smaller (in numbers, not in stature...I think) and less equipped and trained to do their jobs.
Take the news that came in today, of Marines in Afghanistan losing their lives due to insurgent attacks. Well, what the fuck are they doing over there? I can smell the scent of back-pedaling. Not to change the subject too abruptly, but I'm willing to bet this could prompt a renegotiation of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Oh Obama - we had such hopes for you.
Granted, I don't envy his position. But this country needs a president with enough of a spine to stand up for forward movement, not play both sides and claim to stand in the middle. I'm not even going to continue harping on Congress. This blog could end up a book.
I will simply close with this thought - the US indeed does need a president with resolve, and the politicians under him must show the same resolve while upholding and respecting the tenets NOT of their party but of this country, of the republic for which it stands, ONE nation, not two dip stick colonies fighting over Wall Street's spoils.
At the same time however, the people going to elect these officials, the citizens of this country, must show the same resolve. I'd love to just blame Congress and call it a day. But that 82% approval rating is a reflection of our report card as well. We are not taking care of this country. As Ben Franklin said to a woman asking what type of government America would have, he replied, "A republic madam, if you can keep it." That may be a myth, but the message isn't. We are not keeping it, we are not tending to it. As we head down this steep decline, it is not outward blame we should be casting, but inward reflection. From there, Think. React. Do Something.

Friday, July 29, 2011

T-4 days and counting...

Well, I kinda feel like I should consult my Bucket List for some crazy shit to fill these next four spontaneous travel? tango lessons? eating monkey brains...well, maybe not that last one. But I do hear they're quite good chilled.
Regardless, the final countdown is upon us. And judging by the news blasts I get from various sources, we're full steam ahead towards a default and every damn politician's too proud to reach for the break or cut the wheel.
As it stands right now, the Senate has rejected Boehner's debt plan and Obama is pleading with everyone to move forward with a plan.
The way I see it: the right, who's stance has become hardened and far more immovable by extremist Tea Partiers is going to force the left to cede on several points, making the eventual deal absolute dog shit. If that doesn't happen, we'll default. And you know what, why not?
Maybe we need it. Maybe as a country we need to fall on the cold, hard surface of concrete failure to wake up and fucking give a shit! To demand that this ridiculous juvenile banter NOT be a part of democratic governance. To become engaged, or at the very least, have the slightest fucking clue as to what's going on. Maybe it will take a massive default to make that happen. Because the way I see it, either way, things will get worse.
I really hate to be so pessimistic but let's look at the options. As I suggested, new taxes won't be on there in any useful form. Loopholes for the rich and greedy will remain in tact, because both sides are up to their necks in corporate shit. Government spending will be annihilated. In fact, anything remotely "Keynesian" will be flushed.
Keynes, as you may know, was the British economist who among other things, founded the IMF (the original one, not the debt hauling colonialists of today) and built up an economic theory based on choice government spending to bolster a sagging economy. It was this mentality that the New Deal was founded upon. Even Nixon once said, "We're all Keynesians now." Well Dick, not so much anymore.
Nope, now we're Freidman fostered, free market corporate junkies, and anything government can do, big business can do better. Cut government spending, cut taxes and hope by pulling the regulation rug out from under the market, it'll be stable enough to find footing. Well, it's not! For fuck's sake, look at the facts: for example (again, I urge you to do research as well - not hard facts to find), according to JPMorgan Chase - a corporate heavyweight - U.S salaries are at a 50-year low relative to the GDP and company sales. Simultaneously, profit margins of big corporations have soared to almost 13%, the highest since the 60s. And why are profit margins so damn high? Well, at least 75% of the reason, is because wages are low. In a nutshell, pay people less, keep more. Makes sense. Is that any way to boost an economy? Fuck no! Does anyone give a shit? Apparently not.
As Harold Myerson says in the Washington Post, "Where's the rage?"
I'm with you Harold, where the hell is it?
We may not have the ability to pull out a New Deal, but we certainly have the ability to cut tax loopholes for the rich and raise taxes to boost revenue, WHILST boosting government funded infrastructure projects. That in turn would provide jobs for the now 9.2% of Americans out of work, who would then be taxed according to their wages, and in tiny steps, the economy would pick itself up off the floor, begin to lick it's wounds and maybe, just maybe sneak out of the House before right wing Tea Partiers beat the ever loving shit out of it.
But I fear that view is too Utopian. At least for where we stand right now. And that is why I play with the idea of a default, play with the positive aspect of giving every single American a kick in the ass. Because that's who's gonna get it. You don't think the pansy political players in Washington are gonna feel a pinch. No, no. They're career politicians, pockets deeper than pre-historic caves. They'll be fine. It'll be you, and it'll be me. The ones who have up till now, paid for it, and due to our laissez-faire response, will continue to, because we make no motion to object.
So for the next four days, enjoy apathy, enjoy the nonchalant carefree attitude of a citizen with no woes. Because the gigantic cloud of woes hanging above us, will drop. If not on August 2nd, at some point in the future. We will be forced to care. Unless by some miracle, we wake up before we are woken...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ja, vi elsker dette landet...

Scandinavians aren't terrorists. Scandinavians aren't terrorists. Scandinavians aren't terrorists...
I can recall hearing about a Bush visit to Denmark a few years ago. Apparently, there was to be heightened security after "Danish Terrorists" threatened violence against the unpopular W. I remember chuckling to myself. Danish Terrorists? Oh for fuck's sake.
Scandinavians aren't terrorists. Scandinavians aren't terrorists. Scandinavians aren't terrorists...
Think about it. When someone says terrorist, your mind immediately shifts to men draped in bullets and automatic rifles, dark eyes and black hair peering out from behind militant head scarves. You don't think of a blonde, blue-eyed Norwegian.
Is that wrong? You tell me.
Whether we like to admit it or not, our brains categorize information. If you've gotten stung by a jelly fish twice, you're more likely to think of one when you feel a sharp pain in your hand as you splash around.
Of course, unlike with jelly-fish, our media and mass produced fear over-exaggerate the threat of masked Muslim gunmen overtaking our city upon a hill. The graver threat is with the deliberately downtrodden international masses we mine for money...but that's another story.
In terms of our highly organized minds, it is interesting to ponder the pathways, the apparent roadways our thoughts like to take. When hit with certain information, most of us like the well-lit paths that we've walked before. Abstract thinking is of course something entirely different, where cobwebbed corners are most inviting - if you're into that sort of thing. Many aren't.
But this smacked of something straightforward - evil acts. Something bad happened. It looked like this. It happened like this. Bomb. Shooting. Innocents killed. Extremist.
What's the image in your head right now?
Well, maybe now it is the clean face of Anders Breivik, about as Aryan as they come. But maybe it's not...maybe it wasn't...
Yesterday I posted a question on my facebook page asking people to comment on the events in Norway. Interestingly enough, not many commented on Norway. There was almost an immediate shift to the Middle East. Even my comment as to the relevance of that connection did not stifle the commentary that ensued: Mossad is involved, it's Israel and Palestine, the Saudis, the Arabs, and on and on. Meanwhile CNN is posting excerpts from the perp's right wing extremist "manifesto" foretelling a European civil war and an end to "cultural Marxists" and Muslims.
News outlets from around the world say with solemn tones that Norwegians are racking their minds to understand how one of their own, a Norwegian could do this, why?
Can you blame them? What happened...Oklahoma City, Columbine, Waco, and more recently, Tuscon? One of our own...Americans. They didn't fit the profile of scapegoat. They were in our midst - in hindsight, they showed signs, but come on, they were one of us, how are we supposed to know?
Is this argument bullshit? Can we sit here and say that had he been our neighbour, we would have singled him out as someone capable of this - as opposed to a rather vehemently patriotic odd ball?
Unless you're overly paranoid, probably not. For those of you who haven't been to Norway, this shit just doesn't happen. Being from Sweden, I can tell you that a man attempting to rob a bank with a wood splint constitutes news (true story). But in that same breath, does that allow us to ignore the unthinkable when it becomes the unavoidable reality?
Why is it when our own do it, they're ill and when Muslims do it, it's their nature? I'm of the mind that anyone who kills innocent people, detonates bombs in highly trafficked civilian areas and clings to ideals like white on rice is absolutely stone cold fucking nuts.
So what now - if we can allow ourselves to accept it, what does that mean for the future? Anyone can be a murderer? Anyone is capable of the most atrocious acts in the name of bigotry and extremism?
Call me romantic, but I still have a little faith in mankind. This will only push us to paranoia if we allow it to. This is not the norm. The banter has begun, and will continue. But it is up to us to control the knee jerk reactions of those well lit pathways in the mind. Paradigms shift. In the complexities of our thoughts, we can reign in the fly aways and focus on the issues at hand.
As of now, that is bringing to justice the man (or men, however this unfolds) responsible for this.
From there, I think it would behoove all of us, to use those cobwebbed corners a little more frequently. Not just to allow for broader horizons in respect to "othering" and projection of faults, but to actually search for those faults, to find where hate is bred, where acts like these are born. And not only where but why...
Let us learn from this. My hear goes out to all those involved in these tragic events.
Hårde tider har vi døyet...Ja, vi elsker dette landet.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's my party...

Have you ever been to a party where the hosts are arguing? Or just finished arguing and the tension could tear through those cute little puff pastries? A snide comment here, a stubborn refusal there - It's pretty damn awkward.
Now magnify that times a billion and throw in a sagging infrastructure, a bankrupt economy, faltering credit score, arrogance, ignorance, not to mention, the lives of 300 million Americans, including ones with M-16s and tanks in the sweeping desert sands of foreign quagmires-oh and take away the puff pastries.

As much as I hate to admit it, comparing our political stage to at-odds party hosts isn't much of a stretch. For a start, there are only two sides. In political systems with only two parties, progress must come from the center - there must be a constant compromise and debate, ideologies can not be ultimatums but instead starting points from which to move towards the middle. If you've been paying attention at all, it's pretty clear - that's not the case here. Ours is a classic example of two pulling poles - the grey area squashed by the extreme black and white - right and wrong, my side and your side. I've mentioned this before but in truth, there is no compromise between good and evil. When your platform is your ideology, your faith - God help the guy on the other end.

And that is the birth place for these juvenile dealings. Why the fuck have we not reached a decision on the debt crisis? Because the no-man's land center is entirely void of political dealings. Agendas cling to their far left and right platforms and ideas are shot down by the other side before they can even leave the trench.
Now, I do have to hand it to Obama - at least from what I've heard, he seems to be far more interested in negotiating than the Republicans, who simply can't imagine raising taxes or closing loopholes for the wealthiest in the nation.
In fact, if you take a look at the contenders for Republican nominee, you'll find a streamlined group of conservatives, more or less, seemingly allergic to anything not stated in their far right tenets of government.

For example, on Ron Paul's "Debt Ceiling Betrayal Petition," he writes that Boehner will only cave to Obama's wishes to raise taxes and the debt ceiling: " long as Speaker Boehner refuses to take a clear stand in support of only passing a debt ceiling if a strict 'Cut, Cap, and Balance' plan is also enacted, then he's just playing 'Let's make a Deal' with America's future."
Cute names - reminds me of kindergarten when you'd learn little sayings to remember the planets and presidents. And by the way Ron, I'm not sure where you studied politics, but making a deal is WHAT GOVERNANCE IS ALL ABOUT! You make deals to move forward - ummmm....heard of the New Deal by chance? Heard of compromise and debate? Probably not - he'd have been too busy scribbling 'End the Fed' on his notebook to notice the keystone of successful governance is DEALing with the wants and needs of your constituents, DEALing with the opposition, not just clapping together a cute saying, plastering it over an extreme platform of free markets, no regulations and itsy bitsy government.

And how about Mitt Romney...oh boy. He must've really liked see-saws as a kid. After his comment that Obama has only made the recession much worse, when faced with the facts that he indeed hadn't made it worse, Romney jumped to the other side of the see-saw, hoping to rise back up saying that's not in fact what he had said, he said it hadn't gotten better...somewhere, a comedian is very happy...his platform is similar to Paul's: small government, free trade, lax regulations, kill the federally funded programs, yet contrary to Paul's anti-war stance, Romney supports an even stronger military, saying "The best ally world peace has ever known is a strong America." Good Christ, I wish these people would read a fucking history book!

And then there's Michele Bachmann - I don't think I have enough space on the world wide web for this one. It actually says on her website, as a top priority: "Rebuild respect for America as the shining city upon a hill." This kind of idealistic, Utopian psychotic behaviour is what pushes the US to lose all semblance of respect overseas. We're not a fucking city upon a hill, and with platforms such as Bachmann's tiny government, cuts to federally funded programs, "strengthen the family and defend marriage," spending more on military and defense, and opening up the environment to our out-of-control fossil fuel addiction, we're not inching too close to gaining respect any time soon. Again, the steadfast ideological stance is clear. There will be no compromise - you can not compromise with policy based on faith, based on intangible beliefs in our superiority, our arrogant greatness. The dirty truths slide off your mind like water off a duck.

There are other contenders for Republican nominee but I'm too angry and exhausted to share those with you. I will tell you to check out for a complete list. I do recommend that you nap in between, maybe have a punching bag nearby. All joking aside, these politicians are serious choices for many Americans. And what about Obama? Is he doing a good job? Is he representing us to the best of his ability? These aren't rhetorical questions. I want to know what you think.
This party is out of control. I know it's uncomfortable to step into the fray, to stand up and get involved. But unlike most parties, this one has our future on the line. This one has our livelihood on the line, and for many, their lives.
Put the puff pastry down. Think. React. Do Something.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I leave the philosophical musings for a moment, to bring you...our impending doom.
August 2nd marks the date the Treasury has set for a likely default if a decision is not reached on what to do about the behemoth deficit.
Obama has met with congressional leaders all throughout the week, and plans to meet again on Sunday to try and close the gap that is keeping the ideological right and left "far apart." Still, he expressed confidence that they would reach a decision before that looming deadline.
Well, at least he can still play the calm, collected leader in times of economic mayhem.
In the proverbial nutshell, here's the rundown: the right wants to slice and dice government funded programs while extending tax cuts, and keeping loopholes. Meanwhile, the left is against any government funded cuts and wants to raise taxes for the upper echelons and in general, increase taxes across the board.
Result: gridlock.
While reading through various news reports on these meetings, I am unbelievably irritated at how many mention what political gains are at stake and how the negotiations are centered on party platforms more than on the key issues at hand. Now, I'm not mad that they mention this - it's true and should be mentioned. I'm just mad that they don't note that this is really fucked up!
The issues lie squashed under a colossal mound of party ideologies, fluff and empty promises - politicians literally sit, hovering over the economic quagmire like Aladdin on his carpet - the detachment is clear. You can bet if they were sinking into it, these meetings would be a helluva lot more productive. But again, we're the ones sinking - quietly. As I often like to point out, we have that lid somewhere, we have that lid that can close that atrocious abyss and we have the tools to close the gap - we just haven't used 'em since the days of yore. They're dusty and rusty, sitting in a closet, along with our dwindling rights, boarded up with apathy and ignorance.
Back to the halls of the mighty - this gridlock is nothing new. Right and left have been bickering non stop about the economy since the beginning of the year. The splintered body politic just can't seem to find a way to put left and right foot forward. We just keep pushing further outward into an ever more uncomfortable split.
As I noted, Democrats worry that cuts to federally funded programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would not look good on that report card at the polls. Republicans worry that any tax increases would tarnish their shining star of no taxation.
Still, at the meeting on Thursday 6 out of 8 voted in favor of the most ambitious deal - equal to $4 trillion in savings.
This of course would mean that all is on the table: government funded programs, the tax code, maybe even corporate loopholes, but that last one's a tricky beast.
However you see our political system, there is no angle nice enough to obscure the tremendous impact big business has on our government. Like politicians, they talk a good game, about wanting to ease the swelling deficit, fiscal responsibilities, and overall economic growth. But as David Leonhardt points out in his NY Times article, "the [business] roundtable is actually part of the problem." He's talking about the lobbying group, The Business Roundtable, as the name suggests, a corporate roundtable of who's who constructed to lobby in the interest of their corporations. Allow me to be more crass: a roundtable of America's top 1% with hands deep in political pockets steering a country supposedly of the people, for the people and by the people - forgive my poetic musings.
Never mind the gridlock on Capitol Hill, the contradictory rhetoric in the corporate boardroom is ever compounding this incessant economic headache. Corporate lobbying accounts for huge additions to the deficit. They want to of course keep the corporate loopholes, hell, add more, and at the same time, bolster the sagging infrastructure, building new roads, bridges, tunnels, etc. Where they think that money will come from is a massive mystery...
So, let's do some quick math here for a second: we're reaching for $4 trillion in savings. If we add up the corporate lobbying, the extreme right and left rift, the narcissistic concern with party platforms and ideologies and our ignorant apathy...does that put a divisive dent in the lofty $4 trillion savings plan?
Calling on depressive realism, I feel that if that $4 trillion in savings does come to fruition, it won't be on the backs of corporate kings or the politicians they lobby to, but on the backs of the apathetic masses, the people, we the people.
Hmmmm...maybe time to find that dusty rusty closet...I'll give you a hint, it's not to your left or right, it's center, forward.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Today is...

...a lot of things. It marks the 235th birthday of our nation. It marks the birth of an experiment, a manifestation of ideas. It marks a day for sun, fireworks, hot dogs, burgers and flag waving. It marks the day Abraham Lincoln asked for 500,000 troops as the South demanded secession. It marks the day Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died in 1826, Thoreau moved into his shack on Walden Pond in 1845, the Statue of Liberty was presented in Paris in 1884, Lou Gehrig made his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium in 1939, and tonight I'm going to see the Mets play at Dodger Stadium...

So what? Not just to the Mets and Dodgers, but so what to any of it?
What does it mean? What is the significance of declaring independence? One can speculate as to what it meant as the founding fathers stood in what must have been an atrociously warm Philadelphia, a year of war with Britain under their belts, finalizing what would become a beacon, a cornerstone for this American experiment. But today, what does it mean? Polls suggest that 1 in 4 Americans don't even know who we declared independence from. A mere 58% know it took place in 1776. The poll also suggests that the younger the person was, the less likely they were to know the correct answer.

In the prologue to one of my fathers books he notes, if one does not know one's past, one can not hope to understand the future.
In my experience, Americans walk blindly into the future, clutching to ideals they don't even fully understand, using them as a crutch against the weight of our own issues and realities, hoping all will be well because of the flags they fly and the big guy in the sky.
They wander into political parties because of friends or loose affiliations. They push to an extreme simply because the rhetoric sounds cool. Solid issues and stances take a back seat to pandering and bantering. Intelligence and familiarity with key issues pales in comparison to the importance of party loyalty and ideological faith.

As an activist growing up, I pushed my truths and opinions on others. I wanted them to see that I was right, that my point of view was the start of enlightenment, the beginning of finding more information, more knowledge, because for me, it of course was.
Now, I just want people to see. I don't want people to know exactly what I know. I want them to research, think, dig, and find other truths, other buried aspects and dirty secrets of this city upon a hill. I do not wish to preach, I wish to teach.

Like Thomas Jefferson wrote (granted, many Americans might not even know who he is):

“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

Ergo, if a people is not informed, they can not be trusted with their own government. They will hold no sway over this sagging republic, this corporatized state...sound familiar?
Because that's where we are today.
Our government is a corporate entity wholly outside our jurisdiction. It is a free floating society, the medium between the top 1% and the bottom 99%.
It is a constant banter between left and right, the center being all but erased, considered "wishy-washy," unpatriotic, indecisive and well, just un-American.
It's ironic to think so when if one looks at history, the bulk of all forward moving legislation was done from the center, from a place of debate and compromise.
But who bothers with history anymore? My twitter feed is updating and True Blood is on in half an hour.

James Palombo, a professor, lecturer and author (and dare I say activist) has been through the system. With an undergraduate degree and three graduate degrees, he's seen and knows a few things about education. Being that he earned his undergraduate degree in prison, he has a pretty good grip on the justice system as well. In his book, Criminal To Critic, he chronicles his own life as well opens up a dialog for some major hypocrisies and pit falls of this American experiment. The interesting thing is how he comes to know them, to share them. He explains in detail his education, from inside the cell to outside - indeed, the theme of education is a red thread throughout the book. It is constantly in the back of your head, creeping forward and touching on various points of your mind as you read.
It brings to light the very basic fact that a country of the people, for the people and by the people will create a political system in direct parallel of the people. That those in power will write laws, will create legislation based on the position of the people. If they can get away with building a government around capitalist and corporate ideals, well shit, why not? More dough for the top and fuck the bottom, they don't care anyway.
If we are apathetic, lazy and disengaged from the issues at hand, how can we possibly expect the government to pull our weight, to push our needs and wants forward?
If we pull left and right, pushing the envelope to ever more remote extremes, how can we blame the government for reaching no agreements or conclusions? If we do not act, do not stand up, how can we complain over the things that come to pass?
And how can you act if you have no knowledge of the issues needing your attention? And at this point, how can you educate yourself if you don't know to?
A tricky conundrum. One that I myself try to constantly hurdle, using the medium of music to transport a message. It is a problem James Palombo, along with CIC (Campaign for Informed Citizenry: attempts to tackle - promoting an engaged and educated dialog on current issues and concerns.

Point being, it's not enough to say that shit is wrong - that's blatantly obvious even to someone just crawling out from under a rock. Citizens, and as we have seen, particularly youth, need to be more conscious of their role in a republic. We have to constantly stay up on happenings, here and all over the world, as our scope of greed and arrogant power is clearly borderless.
And from that education, that knowledge, we must push forward for change. We must Think. React. Do Something.

This is our country, our experiment, our choices - and yes, not making a choice is still a choice.

So, on this 4th of July, while you're kicking back a brew, enjoying a burger under a perfect blue sky, a proud flag waving in the soft breeze...let these thoughts, these questions cross your mind:

If we are to celebrate independence, let us think what independence means.
Do we have it?
If so, do we care for it? How?
If not, how the hell and why did we lose it?
And how do we get it back?

Happy Independence Day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The unthinking majority

Ahhh - so much in the I flip through pages of magazines, newspapers, online articles, I get that same overwhelming feeling you get when everyone comes to you with their problems at the same time - you have to pick sides, give advice, make sense of it all in your head - while simultaneously clinging to that optimism that's getting the shit kicked out of it by circumstance. Sigh....
Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Israel, Afghanistan - well fuck, the entire Middle East - the economy, 2012 elections and the cast of characters therein, E Coli outbreaks, global warming, radiation - good times.
And these good times are only amplified by right and left hectoring, corporate control, flanked by rising apathy and ignorance. This dangerous concoction is the subject of my post.
I'm feeling too broad minded and general to focus on one particular issue. There are simply too many.
Instead, I'd like to discuss a philosophical and psychological aspect - how we deal with this news, these events, how we filter them - when all this information comes crashing down, our resolve, our power over circumstance.

The first question is of course do we even notice it? These days it seems many people are quite content to entirely avoid news and current events - to pretend that world events only happen to other people. And in part, that's true. Bad things don't happen to us, we do them to other people. We are outwardly offensive in a way that far exceeds the term bullying. We use the same tactics to wage wars as we do to protect ourselves: money and violence. The true reasons and events are masked by the same corporatocracy that pulls the trigger in the first place. It's the same corporatocracy that prefers you not look into things, prefer you wouldn't question or educate yourself - the same corporatocracy that put the White House up for sale, along with our values and morals.
That's a lot of treachery and backstabbing to handle. That's what they bank on. Some of the things that have been tucked into folds of recent history are so extreme, so intensely horrible and unbelievable, the powers-that-be are banking on a) you'll never look to find that information or b) if you do find it, you won't believe it to be true. Well, a) they don't even bother hiding it and b) it is very, very true.
The next question, perhaps the most important, is why do people not educate themselves?
I've asked myself this question for years, and have never liked the answer, but the answer is always the same. It's easy.
It's easy to remain ignorant, apathetic. It's hard to read up on things, to search for truth, it's time consuming and exhausting. And then, why bother? The country isn't perfect but it seems to be trucking along fine.

In the years after the Vietnam war, one might say that the US entered a slump - culturally at least. The summer of love wasn't what it was cracked up to be, the war didn't end so much as implode upon itself, peace didn't triumph, it limped home with the rest of the mentally and physically maimed soldiers.
I take this example because in my opinion this is the last time there was widespread involvement in government and political issues. This was the last time that people took to the streets en masse to march and demand change. The Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War - these were mobilizing agents - art and culture supported this message - the country seemed alive.
But, in my mind, the disillusionment that followed cast a dark shadow that we still live under today. After 9/11 happened, no one marched. The Iraq war protests were a joke. Having organized many myself, I can tell you that the people who did get up on soap boxes to loudly protest, that paraded in front of traffic, were either marked as complete loony tunes or thrown in a cell for a day. The specific ins and outs of how we came from A to B, the crackdown on our rights, would take up entirely too much space and time. I'll save that for a book...
However, the important thing is that we are now in effect, an unthinking majority. And an unthinking majority is the perfect petri dish for extremism.
Although polls show that most Americans think moderately, those are not the loud Americans. They are the quiet, disillusioned ones. The ones that don't vote because they don't see the point, or the ones who choose the lesser of two evils because they know it makes little difference who the face of the presidency is, when corporate strings pull at all the branches of government. They are the ones who don't do anything.
The unthinking majority however, are at the ends of the spectrum - they sit there, ignoring facts, constructing webs of truth on whatever seems to best line up with their proposed ideologies.
For example, the far right. Both religiously and politically resolute, they shove God and country into the barrel of a gun and point it at anyone who disagrees. Facts and truth are mere speed bumps, easily rolled over in a faith driven Hummer. I can recall seeing a video of a line of hundreds of people standing outside a bookstore waiting to see Sarah Palin. A young man was interviewing the patrons as they stood in line, hoping to glean some insight to her supporters. Not one of them could name a political issue she was against or supported. They couldn't explain her platform other than to say that she was a Patriot. One woman said she really loved her "spunk," and that was enough to gain her vote. The God card was played a few times, as was the anti-liberal card. As long as she was those two things, to hell with her political platform.
The unthinking majority.
And same goes for the other side. Many left-leaning centrists or liberals like to think extremism is something meant for the other side. Yet ironically, even by commenting on the "other" side, you separate yourself in such a way that is ripe for fundamentalist thinking.
For in fact, the whole idea behind extremist thinking is that you are right, they are wrong. "They" are evil, you are good. There is a stark separation rooted in the inability to question your own beliefs.
In the end, both sides suffer from the same delusion, both extreme left and extreme right completely miss the mark. Right and left is not progressive - you can not move forward by continuously bouncing back and forth like a drunk pin ball.

A democratic form of government is based on compromise.

Extremists don't compromise, They don't need to - they're right, everyone else is wrong.
The only problem is you can't govern with that mentality. It produces the stalemate we're in right now.
If you look at history, all our groundbreaking legislation - including the civil rights act, new deal - was done from the center. It was done from a place where educated people could look at facts and with an elastic relationship to their ideals, get things done.
They were able to take the facts at face value. They did not shy away from reality because it's too scary, too hard to handle. The Great Depression sucked the life out of this country - here are the images, the stories, the truths. What do we do about it? As opposed to these are my ideals - build legislation around them.

And as a people, if we are to remain the unthinking majority, if we avoid facts, if the tornadoes of truth are too much for us, we deserve every bit of rotten legislation, every blood soaked lie we're fed, every penny we're robbed of. If we don't even take the time and energy to give a shit, why should the powers-that-be give a shit about us?
Instead of seeing the news and cringing, see the news and get pissed off. Not just about the events, but how they're doled out to you - how they're twisted, sugar coated, exaggerated and piece-mealed. Use that information and push forward, don't retreat to a place where the thinking is done for you. Where you walk in, are handed a list of rules and ideologies to follow and you can leave your brain and conscience at the door. Don't do that!
Don't allow your own self to be taken over by a mass minded extremism. Think for yourself, research for yourself. And don't sit in the center and bitch and moan about the ills of society. Think. React. Do Something

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sex = jail time

I like having sex. It's fun, good exercise and depending on who you do it with, an emotional experience as well. Humans are in fact one of the few species that derive pleasure from having sex. Ergo, it has become more than a form of procreation, it is in fact an entire culture...a suppressed one over here, but still, a culture.
For as much as I like sex, I really don't like children. I hate to generalize on such a large group of the human race but for the most part it's true. In terms of my own reproductive abilities, I would really prefer never to utilize them. Not only because of my aversion to children but also because I just don't think I'd be a good mother. I have very little patience, prefer to make my own schedule around what I want to do, like spontaneous adventures and can't imagine giving up wine for 9 months. Oh, and I'm a nutty activist.
With that, if for some reason, my birth control failed me, I would more than likely opt for an abortion. And due to recent events in the good ole land of the free, I'd probably fly back to Sweden to do it. Even with the airfare, it'd be cheaper than doing it here. That, and I wouldn't end up in jail.
No, I'm serious.
A 32 year old mother of three living in Idaho faces a felony conviction and up to five years in jail for aborting a fetus. She said she couldn't afford to get it done at a clinic so she purchased "abortion drugs" over the Internet. In South Cackalacky (that's South Carolina for those of you not privy to the lingo), a Mexican migrant with three children was jailed for three months for using pills to induce an abortion. And in Iowa, a 22-year old was charged with "attempted feticide" following a fall down the stairs...authorities claim she threw herself down the stairs to terminate her pregnancy.
In all seriousness and disgust, I predict the return of back alley abortions using clothes hangers. What an enlightened fucking nation. As George Carlin once said, we want live babies so we can make 'em dead soldiers...with somewhere around 250,000 troops deployed overseas and this nonsense going on at home, how could you argue that point?
I have long felt that abortion should be as far away from any ballot as God, sexual preference and fidelity issues. I don't give a shit, I don't wanna know, tell me what you're gonna do for me and my country and leave your penis/vagina and bedroom tales out of it.
Sadly, that's not the case. This year alone, states have passed 64 new anti-abortion laws and introduced 900 new restrictions. Even without the new found stranglehold on women's freedoms and vaginas, horror stories have long been circulating about denied abortions, having to sit through lectures and atrocious images of aborted fetuses, doctors laying down guilt thicker than a double condom...and speaking of which, studies suggest that a vast majority of teen pregnancies result due to ignorance of proper safe sex methods. Instead...abstinence. Are you fucking kidding me?! When I was a teenager, I would get so fucking horny, I'd have to masturbate just to complete a sentence in my own head!
For a mostly far right leaning platform preaching ever smaller government, they sure want to know a shit ton about what your genitals are up to. Nosy fucking perverts. And it's no wonder - they must just be DYING for a good screw.
You can't fight nature - no matter how many prayers wrapped in self loathing emanate from your repressed lips. Your body will want somebody and if you're smart, you'll allow it that awesome pleasure. If you're a dumb ass, you'll probably end up bitter by age 30, raping little kids, ruining your mind and body with hate and repression or a combo pack of the three.
Like I said before, humans are one of the few creatures to enjoy sex...if you're a creationist, how do you explain that? If sex is to be a mundane function of propagating our disgusting species, why is it so much fun?!
If you don't want people to abort fetuses, why the fuck don't you teach 'em how to avoid getting pregnant in the first place?
If you don't want people to abort fetuses, why don't you support a better education system, better welfare, and less want live babies for sardined life and pro war....
My sincere belief is that all those who fall under that category should never have children, for they would make a far more twisted, sadistic and terrifying parent that I could ever become.

Friday, June 3, 2011


You may have noticed, I'm kinda into politics. You may also have noticed that I dig writing, words and all the wonderful eccentricities and pitfalls of our mother tongue.
Last night, a new friend gave me her book - a book of photography. It's a beautifully presented book: a black canvas wrapped hard cover. Against the black background sits a map of the United States. A hologram image consisting of the blue and red map of the 2000 elections. Guess which state changes as you move the image? Ah - Florida, yes...memories...
As you flip through the book, words blitz your brain - big, bold, blurred, superimposed, digitally broken, faded, tiled and tilted. Words that have come to signify our time, our country, our legacy. Although it is short, one feels as having read an entire manuscript of information by the time the last page flips over. It is an artistic avalanche of information - a unique way of representing not only our past but how the media serves it up and how we devour it. The book is entitled Newspeak.
For all you out there who haven't read George Orwell's 1984, first of all, go get it - the parallels and eerily prophetic musings make this book a top priority in any literary canon. Secondly, newspeak, in the book, refers to a dumbed down language promoted by the state. It is based on English but consists of an entirely impoverished vocabulary, with the intention of demonizing any thinking outside the box..."crimethink." Any words supporting the ideals of freedom, rebellion or independence are systematically pulled ; an ever dwindling language, destroyed at the hands of a centrally controlled corporate-like dictatorship. The ultimate goal is to reduce all language to one word that will encompass all emotions and thoughts deemed suitable by the state, for the un-thinking masses.
Now, this book was first published in 1949. It takes place, obviously, in 1984. While the full scope of this dystopian society wasn't realized by 1984, nor even now, the wheels of a "Big Brother" styled society were set in motion long before teased hair and neon barrettes.
When corporations first came into being, they maintained a strict civic and business role. Damned if they were allowed any place in elections or political policy. They were also contractually only allowed to exist for a certain period of time, unless a charter was renewed. Basically, they would fill a charter and that charter would have to deliver some sort of social service. Once that was fulfilled, the corporation would be dissolved. At that point, the shareholders would take their portion of the assets. By law, corporations were only allowed to exist within the rigid confines of their charter, and charters were not handed out willy-nilly. It was in fact, pretty damn difficult to create and operate a corporation.
As difficult as it was, Corruption and the American corporation became fast friends. More and more frequently, corporations overstepped the bounds of their charters - using their corporate power to control labor, resources, elections and rights. Huge factory systems and company towns were born. Money and power were never meant to be steadfast bedfellows of the body politic. But the turbulent romance flourished as the industrial age surged ahead, creating an exodus from the rural "mom n' pop" to the urban big leagues. The influx of former farmers looking for city work created an ideal platform for corporate power to breed on. Blacklists of workers rights organizations and unions became commonplace. When the smell of rebellion wafted through the stale factory air, corporations hired private armies, bought newspapers, and legislators to disinfect the activist auras.
The days of the Charter were gone - although legislation still exists outlining the purpose and duties of a corporation, the people to stand up for it are missing.
Words on their own are just words. Just like the book I was gifted, just like 1984, just like our prized Constitution - all just words. Unless there is someone who attributes meaning to them, unless there is someone who sees it, thinks and reacts, they are dormant ideas.
Interestingly enough for Orwell, the 80s saw the largest increase in corporate trusts, conglomerates, privatization and transnational dealings. And here we are, 2011.
Our government, supporting corporate deregulation, personal rights - giving praise to the very entities holding a match while the domestic and international hell fires burn.
I don't want to ruin the book for you, but it doesn't have a happy ending. It takes more than one "crimethinker" to fight against Big Brother - it takes more than one mind uncovering meaning and hope in words and ideas to effect many of us are there?
The greatest threat to a dictatorial regime is a thinking populous. It may sound extreme to liken our situation to a dictatorship, but think of our issues - economy, health care, education, infrastructure, terrorism, homeland security, foreign policy, wars - tell me one of those that isn't wrapped in a corporate contract.
The more you think, the more you dig, the more you research, the more you find, how much of your life is not your own, how many rights you don't have, how much of this country is not what it seems to be. And in effect, that's our fault. By doing nothing, we have allowed them to do so much.
It's about time, we all did more "crimethinking" - think critically - think of freedom, rebellion against a dictatorial regime built on power and greed.
Think, react - Do Something.