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 NationalReview.com 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, and...free.

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.