Friday, February 27, 2015

What's Hidden in All Those "Riders"

Government is supposed to be accountable to the people (play the laugh track here) and that includes the scoundrels we elect to Congress (guffaws) who devised their committee system so that accountability is impossible.

When committees do “mark ups” of pending legislation corruption is in  full flower.  The foxes are loose in the hen house.  Let the good times roll! Fill the pork barrels! Crank up the policy riders!  Anything goes! These guys work behind closed doors and hide their dirty work deep in the innards of the legislation they mangle.

The federal budget is a favorite playground.  Because the thieves and scoundrels know we have to have a budget, they hide all kinds of mischief in it.  In order to provide money for the necessary functions of government, the frivolous, the pork and the mischievous riders have to be passed, too.  

The right-wingers couldn’t pass a stand-alone bill banning abortions, but they can insert riders into the budget bill that deny funding for abortion services and otherwise restrict women’s access to this vital element of their health care.

Republicans hate having health care be affordable for low income Americans, but have failed repeatedly to get Obamacare repealed in the House.  But they can put a rider into the budget bill that cripples it by denying new money for it.  

They hate the fact that the Clean Water Act, which protects the health of the public, is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, so they sneak in a rider that cuts the funding of the EPA.  They’ve slashed EPA funding by nearly a quarter since 2010.

What they can’t do in the public eye, they do in the darkness of the committee rooms with riders, mirrors and voodoo.  The result, in the words of that infamous Straight Arrow  Sen. John McCain, is legislation “jammed full of shit.”

Shit like giving away our land, yours and mine, to rich and powerful private interests.  Even foreign private interests.  The richer the better.

Our enormous military and national defense organism is a huge giant squid, sucking up money like plankton.  Thus you simply gotta  pass the National Defense Authorization Act, right?  Right.

For ten years and counting, the biggest copper mining outfits in the world have coveted a hunk of our  land — we own it, you and I — in the Tonto National Forest fin Arizona.   They could dig more than $130 billion worth of ore out of it, by a process that’s only slightly more destructive than fracking for gas.  The mining giants are Australian and British-owned Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and their wholly-owned subsidiary Resolution Copper. Each time their land grab came up as stand-alone legislation, it failed to pass. Even in Congress, some noses can still smell a rat.

To the rescue now comes Straight Shooter McCain, charging into the Senate Armed Services Committee room with a rider that would approve the copper mining land grab.  His piece of shit, er, rider, was written into page 1,105 of the National Defense Authorization Act — gift of 2,400 acres, four square miles, of our  national forest land to a foreign corporation.

Since long before there even was a National Forest Service, that particular bit of land has been used by the San Carlos Apache tribe for religious rites and for the harvest of medicinal plants.It is part of their ancestral homeland, supposedly protected forever from logging and mining.  

Ah, but white eyes has a mythology, too.  The mining masters say their raping of the landscape will generate $61 billion in economic activity and 3,700 direct and indirect jobs over 40 years.  These ethereal jobs presumably will come from the same Happy Hunting Grounds that magically would have produced 44,000 jobs as a result of building that great health and environmental disaster called the Keystone XL pipeline.  The jobs materialize when corrupt office-holders, snatching polluters’ bribes in their left hands, snap the fingers of their right hands and— Shazam! — armies of happy workers  emerge from the blue smoke.

Buy into that fantasy and next year they’ll sell you their grand plan for storing nuclear waste in the Grand Canyon.  Or something. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Some Oklahoma History for Its GOP

An expatriate friend just received  the news that Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature have voted to toss out the Advanced Placement examinations in American history because they are too negative; they don’t teach enough American exceptionalism and good ol’ patriotic bovine excrement.

I sought to mitigate his outrage by reminding him that the textbook commission in Texas had demanded similar changes in the history teachings there.  Among them was a requirement that history texts publish lists of “outstanding Americans.”  Phyllis Schlafley was on the required list; Martin Luther King was excluded. 

Oklahoma’s legislation mandates certain required reading matter, including, for example, three Ronald Reagan speeches.


Reminds me of a Nathan’s hot-dog-eating contest.  Or that restaurant in Amarillo that offers a 76-ounce steak with “all the trimmings” that you can have for free — IF you can consume everything, including the “trimmings,” within an hour.

Oklahoma, according to the report my friend read abroad, ranks 47th among the states in educational attainment.  Also ranks high in obesity.

The reason for both rankings, I suggested, is that the brains Oklahomans are born with are replaced, over time, by pure lipids. They’re not born morons, like many Republicans, but they become fatheads.

In fact, through my own research, I have determined that the smartest person in Oklahoma is a hostess at a Mexican restaurant just outside Clinton, OK.

Driving west on Interstate 40 a while back, we overnighted in a motel in Clinton.  We asked the desk clerk to recommend a good place to eat dinner.  He gave us directions to the Mexican eatery and warned us we might have to wait for a table because it was extremely popular, but the wait would be more than justified by the quality of the meal.

We followed the directions, found the restaurant and saw a waiting line that stretched through the lobby and out into the parking lot.  Everyone in the queue seemed to be in good spirits, and we had nothing else to do, so we joined them.

As we waited, the world’s most opulent RV pulled up.  The parking lot was full so its driver parked illegally beside the curb.  This thing was about the length of the Queen Mary, bedecked with enough running lights to illuminate two blocks of Broadway, with Brahama bull’s horns mounted over the cab.

Out strode its operator, wearing a Stetson the size of Rhode Island, a western-cut suit obviously tailor made to try to flatter his rotund Me-ness, diamond rings on both hands, a Rolex and cowboy boots that must have cost at least three alligators their lives.

He stomped past the waiting peons outside, admitted himself to the lobby and addressed the hostess monitoring the wait line.  From a pocket he fetched a money clip inlaid with turquoise and pearls.  He withdrew a $50 bill which he flashed before her wide eyes and pressed into her hand. “Honey,” he said, “y’all set up a table for me and my seven friends, OK?  Skeedaddle now!”

Without a word, she stared him down, wadded up his $50 bill, tossed it onto the floor, and ushered the couple at the head of the line to a table that had just been vacated.

The people in line applauded.

The cowboy admiral walked back to his landship muttering curses.

Somebody needs to find that lady and elect her to the Oklahoma legislature.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nuclear Brinkmanship

Barack Obama hadn’t even been born when Herman Kahn’s classic “On Thermonuclear War”  was published in 1960. But there’s still time for him to read it before he goes further down his suicidal road in Ukraine.

John Kerry was 18 and bound for military duty in Vietnam when the somber, scholarly warning against  mutual nuclear destruction first appeared in print.  Whether Kerry has read it is immaterial.  He is, after all, the “veterans against the war” actor who burned someone else’s medals in his demonstration on the Capitol steps.  Kerry’s public life has been and continues to be that of an opportunist and congenital liar, born with a natural ability to shed logic as ducks shed water.

Meanwhile, nothing has changed since Kahn wrote his book except the weaponry: it’s vastly more powerful now.

Yet Obama, Kerry and the rest of the Washington’s Ship of Fools continue to lead this country and its allies in Europe, Canada and the U.K. toward an inevitable nuclear confrontation with Russia.  To risk repeating history by ignoring it, one must first know history.  These idiots appear not to have bothered learning history.  It would be worthwhile for some journalist to ask Obama at his next news conference if he’s read Kahn’s book. Better use of time than most of the foreign policy softballs the hacks toss to him.

The fools weren’t content planning and financing a coup d’etat that drove the democratically elected head of the Ukrainian state into exile.  The fools aren’t content with installing their own stooge as head of the new ersatz government, which promptly turned over two of its ministries to neo-Nazi leadership. The fools aren’t content with a western network of countries illegally smuggling armaments into Kiev.  Now the fools want to take the penultimate step to war itself: openly and officially providing a hostile government in Kiev with the means to attack Russia itself. 

Retired diplomats and intelligence experts in Europe, England and the U.S. have warned repeatedly that this would be disastrous. Then, as the respected German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung put it, “Russia would have to intervene, and then, bluntly speaking, to take Kiev. Then NATO would be in a difficult situation. Then you would have to start World War III, which no one wants.”

Well, that’s not entirely true.  The fools want war.  They want war because the indescribably wealthy oligarchs, who owe much of their power-through-riches to the very policy of endless war, want still more war.  And since they own the very minds and souls of the people we elected ostensibly to run this sorry-assed country,  America’s continuing pursuit of war is a certainty. If that pursuit leads to war with Russia over Ukraine, does anyone really think it will be fought with conventional weapons for very long?

While the truthless Kerry would have us believe — and the media sheep so report — that U.S. economic pressure brought Russia to the table in Moscow last week, the fact is that the leadership of both Germany and France — who are opposed to arming Ukraine — seek desperately now to hammer out a diplomatic solution that would head off the Ship of Fools. 

If the new negotiations in Minsk do in fact lead to a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, there would be no immediate “necessity” for Washington to start arming Kiev to the teeth.

Maybe that would give Obama time to read Herman Kahn’s book.  Or to listen soberly to someone who has read it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

7 Vile Poseurs, and More to Come Forth

Virtually no Democrat holding public office, by any reasonable, historically accurate definition of the term “Democrat,” is in fact a Democrat.  Yet some of these poseurs are more deserving of contempt than others.

Among the most contemptible now doing time in the vile stinkhole that is Washington, D.C., are Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mo.), and Mark Warner (Va.).  They voted this week for the Keystone XL pipeline, a conduit of filth that threatens ecosystems and water tables the length of the country.

Other Dismalcrats in both houses will have abundant opportunity, as this session of congress drags on, to join or even supplant the squalid seven in the annals of American political venality. I wouldn’t attempt to predict how many will do so. Too many.

The American political system has been dragged so deeply into oligarchic fascism that it is no longer possible to restore a semblance of democracy.  There is no viable left in our system.  Most Americans think “liberal” is a dirty word, like “queer,” “nigger” and “non-Christian.”  Where there is no room for the liberal point of view there is no democracy.  Anyplace that equates wealth with speech is doomed to career forever down the sinkhole of anti-democracy.   In the United States Democratic capitalism has become a self-contradiction and Democratic socialism an object of scorn.

Keystone XL is just the beginning of the depredations of which this Congress is capable.  Its invitation to the Israeli war criminal, Bibi Netanyahu, to come here to speak against even the Milquetoastian efforts by President Obama to ease some of the bellicose tensions in the world would have been viewed as treason in saner times.  We have heads of important Congressional committees uttering crude nonsense that in other times would have brought their sanity into question. 

The laundry list of outrages created, endorsed, advocated and legislated by the fools we have elected to office now fills a volume at least as thick as the federal tax code.  It grows by the day, with each new set of outrages somehow managing to be more egregious than the one before it.  Their transgressions against the rights of women alone threaten to drag us back into the Stone Age.  Their commitment to war and to the obscene profit of those who supply its tools is barbaric.  They are in the forefront of a world-wide economic movement that within a few years will have more wealth in the hands of the richest one percent than in the hands of all of the rest of us.  By then, left or right or center won’t matter.  There will only be the indescribably rich and the rest of us, their slaves.

The police, envisioned as protectors of our rights and enforcers of our just laws, have been paramilitarized into racist, uncontrolled brutes whose overwhelming armaments preclude any attempt at armed insurrection, and who put down by force any grassroots expression of outrage against what’s happening.  Soon there will be no public outcry against even the grossest of abuses of power.

Our mainstream media are at the minimum cowed, at the maximum active propagandists for the rich and powerful and their toadies in government. 

Already saddled with the most poorly informed electorate in what we still naively call “the free world,” we are producing ever more poorly schooled young people because the fools we have put in office are systematically eliminating quality public education by hobbling good teachers and creating charter schools and other brainwashing factories.  The Christian churches of the United States are ever more complicit in the destruction of what once was a fragile democracy: no cadre of Catholics in the world is more horrified by the liberal views of that church’s new Pope from Argentina than the United States Council of Bishops.  Their umbrage grew exponentially when he named new Cardinals from Third World countries and (gasp!) none from the U.S.

During the Great Depression, when only the oligarchs had bread on the table and shoes on their feet, one of the monied class won election as president and led a leftward march toward Democratic socialism, revolutionary new steps toward civil rights and dignity for the common man.  Franklin D. Roosevelt “betrayed his class,” many people said, to create a viable American left within the tent of the Democratic party.

But that was oh, so long ago.  We’ve burned that tent down. The Squalid Seven and others of their ilk are urinating on the ashes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Foreign Policy Chief to Face Congress

The director of American foreign policy has been invited to address the United States Congress on Feb. 11.

Benjamin Netanyahu will order new sanctions on Iran and a new deadline for the Islamic republic to shut down all its nuclear facilities, ship all of its conventional arms to Israel and open its borders to

(2) Palestinian refugees from the Gaza who will be

(3) deported en masse to open the way for new Israeli settlements.

Bibi will also call for new sanctions against Russia unless Vladimir Putin agrees immediately to build  new direct pipelines to send oil and natural gas to Israel.  For free.

Among other instructions Netanyahu will give to the U.S. Congress:

—The American Israeli Political Action Committee shall be relieved of having to pay taxes.

—Non-Jewish Americans will be required to tithe to AIPAC.

—Muslim Americans will be required to serve two years unpaid servitude building homes for new Israeli settlers in the Gaza.

Bibi will require that the United States halt all arms deliveries, humanitarian aid, military aid and sale of Coca-Cola to Arab nations.

To avoid middleman costs, Bibi will require that all United States military equipment builders and arms manufacturers ship their products directly to Tel Aviv.  If it can prove genuine need on the basis of national security, Washington will be permitted to borrow some of them back.

Netanyahu will require that Republican senators renew their loyalty oaths each time they are sworn back into office for a new term.  Democrats will be required to do so semi-annually.  Members of the House of Representatives will simply continue to vote for the legislation handed to them by their AIPAC lobbyists.

It’s a simple, forthright agenda.  Presenting it won’t take very long.

Bibi will spend the rest of his time in Congress passing up and down the rows of desks carrying his hat in his hand.  It is to be filled with large-denomination currency.  Cash, U.S. The language Republicans understand.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More on Our Collective Stupidity

The excrement is still hitting the media-powered fan over Jonathan Gruber’s remark that the American public is “stupid.”

Nobody likes to be called “stupid.”  Remember the playground bully who couldn’t spell his own name or add 2+2? He would bloody the nose of anyone who called him “stupid.”

The stupidity of the American electorate is one more inconvenient truth, one more fact that people don’t want to hear. Yet by virtually every accepted measure of social science, we are the second most stupid nation in the First World.  I won’t mention the only more stupid nation but here’s a hint: two males of this ethnicity are on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Part of the reason for our collective stupidity is educational: we have mismanaged public and higher education for too many years.  The schools don’t teach critical thinking.  Our masses are scientifically illiterate.  Our sanitized version of history  is a pious joke: we don’t know we’re racist because we were never taught the truth about slavery and institutionalized racism in the post-bellum south. 

Part of the reason for our collective stupidity is our mainstream media.  As fewer and fewer  huge corporations control more and more of the information providers, the profession of journalism is vanishing.  If we have an electorate devoid of critical thinking, we also have information providers incapable of asking critical questions.  They are stenographers.  They are manipulated.  They are propagandists.  They do not probe.  They parrot.

Part of the reason for our collective stupidity is our propensity for self-delusion.  We believe what makes us feel good.  We believe in a world of white hats and black hats where American exceptionalism rules.  Other guys, who have been assigned the black-hat role by our government and its media  propagandists, torture people; we do not.  Other guys, who have been assigned black hats by our government and its propagandists, commit war crimes, violate the territorial integrity of other nations, brutalize minorities and worship false gods; we do not.

Combine these factors and, in almost any random sampling of Americans, you would have a majority who believe that Iran is making weapons of mass destruction to use on us, but who can’t find Iran on a map of the world. You would have a large, strident minority who think every weather event is an “act of God” and who vigorously deny that anything humans have done or are doing could possibly produce something called climate change.  You would have a majority who believe that we should not  raise taxes on “job creators,” even as those so-called “job creators” continue to export 200,000 American jobs per month to other countries.

Polls suggest that a majority — 54% to 59% depending on the moment the poll was taken and the pollster to took it — of Americans favor the construction of a pipeline to conduct tar sand petroleum from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Louisiana and Texas.  The poll respondents have been told, and so believe, that the pipeline would create thousands of new jobs in an economy suffering from severe unemployment; would result in cheaper gasoline for their internal combustion machines and would “free us from dependence on foreign oil.”  None of this is true.  The jobs are phantoms: TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, originally said it would generate 5,000 to 6,500 jobs.  Even that number, according to an independent study by Cornell University, was high.  In exchange for the support of a powerful U.S. union, TransCanada signed a sweetheart deal with the Teamsters, who began propagating that 13,000 new jobs would result from the pipeline.  When other unions raised obvious environmental issues, the Teamsters upped the ante to 20,000 new jobs.  As the Senate prepared to vote on a proposal to mandate approval of the pipeline, its proponents magically divined 43,000 new jobs.  Absolutely nothing has changed since Trans Canada’s original bullshit guess of 5,000 to 6,500 new jobs.  But somehow the media accepted, and a majority of Americans believe, that 43,000 new jobs would be created out of thin air.  That’s stupid. 

Most Americans who believe in these phantom jobs haven’t the foggiest notion what would actually be conducted through the bloody pipeline.  Tar sands petroleum is NOT fluid; it’s a solid sludge loaded with carbon, the stuff that causes climate change when it’s discharged into the atmosphere.  The sludge has to be heated to more than 150 degrees f. and put under extremely high pressure to be forced through the 36-inch diameter pipeline.  The pipes are held together by seams.  Seams fail under high pressure.  And so, mile after mile, from Alberta to Louisiana, water tables and people on either side of the pipe seams are at  high risk of exposure to dangerous and extremely toxic leaks and spills.  A majority of Americans tell the pollsters they are in favor of this thing.

Which is not merely stupid.  It is utterly insane.

*   *   *

"The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance" --Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Please Don't Bother Us With Facts!

Americans love to be lied to.  This explains United States election results over the last four decades.

The less than perfect individual in the mirror takes on almost heroic dimensions amid unrelenting assurances that it is representative of American exceptionalism.  Wars that bleed our treasury and our youth seem almost noble amid unrelenting assurances that we’re making the world safe for democracy. Climate change is a lie made up by greedy  scientists who want big grants for their work.  Guns don’t kill, people do.  We are a Christian nation and God intended it that way.  Marriage is between a man and a woman; anything else is bestiality, as bad as buggering a donkey.  Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Iran is making weapons of mass destruction and Syria used chemical weapons on its dissidents.  Cops can and should shoot every young black male who runs away with his hands up, wears a hoodie or menaces the neighborhood with Skittles.  There’s no such thing as too much oregano.

Remember Pearl Harbor, the Alamo and the Cold War:  Russians are bad.  Americans and their European puppets are good.  Thus when Obama and Putin rubbed shoulders the other day in China, even the supposedly left-leaning Huffington Post told us that relations between the two “have turned icy over Moscow’s backing of separatist violence” in Ukraine.  The AP reminded us of Russia's provocations in Ukraine.” 

A few inconvenient truths have been swept under the rug here.  Ukraine had a democratically-elected president who was more inclined to side with Russia than with the European Union and NATO.  The U.S. spent more than $5 billion — including sending a cadre of neo-Nazi thugs to Poland to be trained at a secret base in insurrectionist dirty tricks — to foment violence and effect a coup d’etat. The democratically-elected head of Ukraine sought asylum in Russia while the U.S. saw to the installation of Willie Wonka as its puppet in Kiev.  The people of Crimea, who have historically thought of themselves as Russian, voted — again, in  a fair, democratic process — to reattach themselves to the motherland.  The rest of the world knows this.  But Americans only know that the “problem” in Ukraine is Putin’s fault and, oh Pshaw!, we just might have to nuke the bastards.

Meanwhile, back in the zoo called Washington, Republicans think they have seized control of the legislative part of the government apparatus.  The same media who accept as fact Putin’s “provocations” in Ukraine have been telling us that this is so.  In fact, neither party controls much of anything. The country is run by same pack of filthy rich corporations and oligarchs who put Reagan in office. The government maintains a big, well-oiled machine that spews out for public consumption what the oligarchy wants us to hear.

A small part of that machine, called the  Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  told us recently  that the unemployment rate has declined to 5.8% and that 214,000 new jobs were created in October.  That, the media lemmings told us, is good news. What the media do NOT tell us is  us that the BLS statistics do NOT take account of the millions of Americans who have

become so discouraged from looking for jobs that do not exist, that they have quit looking.They are unemployed but not counted as unemployed.

Dr. Paul C. Roberts, a treasury department official in a Republican administration, knows how these things work. He writes:  

The uncounted unemployed can be measured in the sharp 21st century decline in the labor force participation rate. It has declined because there are no jobs to participate in. But Washington (and) the media  lie. They say the participation rate is down because the baby boomers are retiring. However, he participation rate of baby boomers is actually the highest of all and the only one that is rising. The reason is that with the Federal Reserve’s sole concern with the welfare of a small handful of mega-banks —the ones that sit on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank — real interest rates are negative. Therefore, retirees have no income from their retirement savings. To supplement their Social Security pensions (a rigged CPI prevents or minimizes cost-of-living increases), retirees take the temporary, lowly paid jobs that are all that the US economy can produce. These jobs do not provide sufficient income with which to form a household.

The US economy no longer creates First World jobs. The US economy creates jobs for waitresses and bartenders, hospital orderlies, and retail clerks. The complexion of the US work force is becoming Third World.
Look at the BLS payroll jobs report for October 2014:  209 thousand private jobs created and five thousand government jobs created. Where are the private jobs? Almost all of them–181,000–are in lowly paid private services. Retail trade with 27,100 jobs, wholesale trade with 8,500 jobs, and transportation and warehousing with 13,300 jobs and 48,900 jobs. With middle class retail stores closing and even dollar stores failing and with consumer income (except for the rich) and credit (except for student loans) shrinking, do you really believe that consumer spending supported almost 50,000 new jobs in October?

Where is the money coming from?

The vast amount of money that the Fed has created has gone into the handful of mega-banks to support the banks. The banks are not buying consumer goods.

The BLS reports that 37,000 new jobs were created in October in professional and business services. Employment services, such as temporary help services, account for 24,000 or 65% of these jobs.
Another old standby is education and health care services, which provided 41,000 new jobs. Health care and social assistance provided 27,200 of these jobs and home health care services provided 7,400 of these jobs. Together lowly paid services provided 84% of the jobs in health care services.

The major jobs sector in America (is) waitresses and bartenders. Waitresses and bartenders are classified under “leisure and hospitality,” which claims 52,000 new jobs in October.

Here are some other hidden, but disturbing, facts: In October job cuts rose 68% from the previous month and 12 percent from the previous year. So far there have been 414,591 job eliminations in 2014 with 51,183 of these coming in October.

Where are the job cuts? Retail store closings have produced 38,948 retail job reductions in 2014 with 6,874 of those coming in October. Yet, the BLS reports consistent job growth in retail jobs.  Hewlett Packard cut 5,000 jobs in October, bringing its year’s total to 21,000 lost jobs. Microsoft eliminated 6,509 jobs in October for a year to date layoff of 55,511, a rise of 92 % from 2013. In October the electronics industry cut 1,648 jobs, bringing the year to date loss to 18,153. The telecommunications industry cut 5,217 jobs, bringing the year to date loss to 20,038, an increase of 81% from 2013.

In other words, good-paying jobs are being replaced by low-paying jobs.

That, alas, is one of the inconvenient truths Americans don’t want to hear.  They want to hear the likes of Joni Ernst talk about her love affair with her 9 mm handgun.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Great American Snapshots

Somewhere in this benighted land a home is for sale — for $195 million and change.  Honest.  It’s owned, of course, by a one-percenter, an oligarch.  But despite its 5,000 square foot master bedroom suite (more than twice the size of my house), the owner never uses it.  He prefers his somewhat smaller ocean-front mansions.  He rents out the big place — for roughly half a million dollars per weekend.  Honest. The place has its own vineyard, but what you can do with a vineyard during a weekend rental I couldn’t say. 

The United States has more than 16 million children — nearly a quarter of all the children in the country — living in poverty.  They don’t get enough to eat. The electorate has just sent to its national legislature a slew of verifiable psychopaths dedicated to cutting off federal assistance to these kids.  

$195 million+ for a single house.  With a vineyard.

*  *  *

Joni Ernst recently said she believes “there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." A reporter asked what evidence she had. "My husband served in Saudi Arabia as the Army Central Command sergeant major for a year,” Ernst said.

Ernst was just elected to represent Iowa in the U.S. senate.

* * *

Oklahoma has been represented for a long time in the Senate by James Inhofe.  He has said, “Much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science.” He is about to become chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.  Be afraid. 

* * *

A fifth death has recently been registered as the result of a school shooting outside of Seattle.  Voters in the State of Washington last Tuesday approved stricter background checks on would-be gun purchasers.  Republican politicians are outraged at this violation of their rights.

* * *

I am not a scientist.  I want to chair the committee that approves the biology curriculum in my state’s high schools. 

* * *

My representative in Congress, who made his fortune in the oil and gas industry, opposes wind power.  Why? “Those windmills are ugly.” He was just re-elected.

* * *

A guy who served in Reagan’s cabinet says Nixon was actually a liberal.  I’m actually a conservative. I say, keep all that oil and gas in the ground, where it's safe from terrorists.

* * *

“I don't think it's government's job to find health care for people. I think it's the individual's job to find health care.”— Sen. Ted Cruz. “Frank” got down-sized out of a decent job just before his wife was diagnosed with an incurable terminal ailment. Now he’s pounding on doors asking for work — any kind of labor — to earn money for her treatments.  “Go out and find health care,” I told him.

* * *

No other country imposes the kind of costs on college and university students that the U.S. does, and nowhere else do loans cover so much of those costs. The $1.2 trillion in outstanding education debt in the U.S. is more than that of the rest of the world combined.

* * *

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty  . . .”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It Is Time, My Grandchildren, to Go

My dear grandchildren:

I know that some of you worked hard to achieve a different result in  this election.  I know that most of you cast your ballots for the most qualified candidates.  I know that despite the overwhelming odds against you, you made some of the contests close.

But we awakened today needing to confront a sad reality.  None of you will ever live in a free, democratic United States.

I hope that those of you who can will become expatriates.  Political exile is not a formula for happiness, but it is arguably better than enslavement in a police state whose principal purpose is war and the engorgement of the richest few at the expense of the impoverished many.

Go, if you can.  Go to Holland, or France, or Germany or Switzerland. Go to one of the struggling Latin socialist democracies, struggling to keep our CIA from  from pulling off one of its dirty, ill-disguised coups de etat. Go to New Zealand. To Scotland. To Moscow, to work beside Edward Snowden. Anywhere that you can find breathing room. A remote Pacific island is no longer an option; soon it will lie beneath warmed, polluted seas. But go.

Here, there is no choice but to submit.  A weak, failed presidency is all that stands between you and enslavement.  The militarized police and octopoid national spy apparatus assure that no revolution can ever succeed. Protest or dissent will be ever more ruthlessly suppressed. The de facto legalization of torture will one day be formalized.  Stay and you will all become Winstons, betraying your Julias. Abstractions like justice, truth and ethical humanism will be banished from the state vocabulary as liberal treason, punishable by death or penal exile in some Guantanamo. There is no escape from this if you stay. It will only get worse, as it has been doing, with the process hastening, bit by bit, until we can realize the magnitude of our loss only by looking  far back in our history.  

The ruling oligarchy spent $3.7 billion or so — the most expensive election in our history, yet a paltry sum, petty cash, given their real wealth — to buy  this election.  The money wasn’t really spent, just recycled.  It was paid to the media to propagate lies, to brainwash a supine electorate.  Six huge companies, owned and run for the profit of oligarchs who are part of the ruling cabal, pocketed the money.  They will use it to perpetuate the mythology that blinds the people to the truth of how this country works, to continue the policies that make the rich richer, the poor poorer and to maintain an economy fed by the filthy lucre of endless war. It is a self-perpetuating machine, this ugly, dehumanizing system that governs us.

Stay and soon you will live in a nation without wildlife or wilderness, breathing increasingly polluted air and paying dearly for access to a privatized, diminishing supply of potable water.  This is a real fear, based in clinical probability, not the manufactured fear of bloody poop while being beheaded, as John Stewart mocked the lies to which we were recently exposed. Ebola?  What about frack-poisoned aquifers.  Radical Muslims?  What about radical, frighteningly ignorant right-wing politicians. 

We are close to life’s finish line, my mate and I.  “Our” government will gradually take away our retirement income, make our health care unaffordable and allow criminal bankers to raid our meager savings.  Odds are that we’ll die before the thugs can finish the job.

But you, beloved grandchildren, have a lot of life ahead of you.  Go while you can.  Go someplace where that life still has a bit of value beyond dollar signs.  There are better places than this.  Go to them.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Not One Red Cent from Me, Guys

Once, I confess, I opened my checkbook at every whimper of liberal lingo. I know better now, thanks primarily to Barack Obama.
Every day brings a flood of e-mail from Democratic candidates and fund-raisers telling me that disaster is just around the corner unless I give them money.  I consign their pleas to e-limbo without a murmur of compunction.
“Koch Brothers!” “Republican Senate!”  they shriek, the way Republicans howl “Benghazi!” and “Taxes!” A pox on all of them, say I.
What good, pray, has Democratic control of the Senate and the White House done for this floundering, sick, declining, hell-bent-for-war nation?  Democrats have not passed a meaningful piece of progressive legislation since the 1970s. The Constitution says only a simple majority is needed for passage in the Senate, just like the House. But the Democratic majority in the Senate has allowed the Republicans to pervert the filibuster to the extent that 60 votes are needed to accomplish anything. So much for democracy.
What about such liberal stalwarts as Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders . . . Puh-LEEZE!
On July 17, the Senate showed its true colors, cowering to AIPAC and voting 100-0 for a resolution in support of Israel’s murderous carnage against women, children, schools and hospitals in Gaza.  The so-called “Warren wing” of the democratic party was part of that willfully blind 100.
The other progressive in my county joined me for lunch the other day.  “Must I resign myself,” he asked, “to a Republican Senate next year and a Republican White House in 2016?”
I replied as honestly as I could: “Probably.  So what?”
Here’s what: Most of the truly awful legislation that’s passing the House would also clear the Senate. Obama might have the gumption to veto some of the worst of them.  But these actions, like those that have taken place on the Washington stage for the last 13 years, will be just a puppet show for the corporate string-pullers who actually run the country. Our lives will continue to get worse.  Our infrastructure will continue to decay.  The common folk will continue to stagger under the burden of endless war. The Bill of  Rights will be a memory.  
All of this is happening now and will continue to happen after the November vote.  
Chris Hedges, one of the most clear-sighted visionaries still writing, had this to say Saturday at the big climate march in New York:
“Bill Clinton found that by doing corporate bidding he could get corporate money -- thus NAFTA, the destruction of our welfare system, the explosion of mass incarceration under the [1994] omnibus bill, the deregulation of the FCC, turning the airwaves over to a half dozen corporations, and the revoking of FDR's 1933 Glass-Seagal reform that had protected our banking system from speculators. Clinton, in exchange for corporate money, transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. This was diabolically brilliant. It forced the Republican Party to shift so far to the right it became insane.”
Insane.  I hear the word ever more frequently these days. A writer friend noted the New York Times report today under the headline “U.S. ramps up major renewal of nuclear weapons." Our so-called leaders in Washington, he observed, “are insane.  Not just evil.  Insane.”
This ramping up would cost a trillion dollars or so. It would take place under the auspices of a president who was given the Nobel Peace Prize for making a couple of speeches, full of nice rhetorical flourishes, decrying nuclear proliferation.