American Shmoos

September 8, 2010 at 3:56 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Today, Jerome Doolittle, over at the Bad Attitudes site posted the above cartoon under the heading, “God save us one and all…because we plainly can’t do it by ourselves.”

I wrote the following into the comments section:
“But the Republicans have learned something: That American voters are just as gullible, ignorant, forgetful, & pliable as Republicans expected.

Silly me, I thought most Americans would remember for at least a few years how incredibly lousy Republican governance can be. But the right-wing’s ownership of all major media & continued control of all branches of government makes them able to induce an amnesiac-trance-like state in the citizenry.”
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Barry Goldwater’s 1964 landslide loss to President Lyndon Johnson was devastating for the Republican party. But more than that, it was an overwhelming repudiation of ultra-conservative politics. Most Americans had lived through the Great Depression & racist oppression. They still remembered what Social Darwinism & laissez faire economics had gotten them. Living Americans had memories of times in which:

Most Americans did not own their homes or much of anything else. They made very little money at their factory, farm, or service jobs where their workweeks stretched for 60 or 70 hours. There was no vacation, no health insurance, no sick days, no safety laws, & no retirement.

Schooling, especially beyond elementary grades, was rare as young people often had to help support their families by working in backbreaking, dangerous jobs. What we think of as the carefree childhood years of play & freedom were usually reserved for offspring of the upper class.

Women & minorities were very limited in their choices for work, education, & general lifestyle.

Very few workers could look forward to ever retiring. Very few got pensions & most never made wages enough to save for their old age. They literally worked until they dropped-dead.

Anyone who fell upon hard times, such as widows, the ill, the injured, or those who lost their jobs were just s.o.l. unless they could find charity.

Wealthy people could afford to hire servants very cheaply because, after all, what other options did an uneducated, beaten-down workforce have?

This list could go on & on but I think you get the picture. And a fairly grim picture it was for all but a fortunate few. The truth is that life, for ordinary people, was all too often a tougher slog than we moderns can fathom.

My point is that those conditions improved drastically, particularly after the Socialist-lite reforms of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. As I said, a lot of Americans in 1964 had lived through tough times, knew how bad they were & what/who had caused them & could not be suckered-in by reactionary calls to return to the “good old days.” But after that blistering election defeat, the hardcore right decided to get a lot smarter & meaner. Some of the bolder wingnuts had already had John Kennedy’s brains blown-out but liberalism kept on coming. So they kept murdering or sabotaging popular lefty leaders while segueing into more subtle but more effective ploys. Over the following 45 years these budding fascists:

Bought-up all mainstream media & used it to propagandize for their cause. They flooded the airwaves & press with a conservative worldview that entirely froze-out all discussion of progressive solutions. And all the while they ridiculously asserted that the media had a bias in favor of liberalism.

Mongered lessening fear of racial, sexual, class, & religious differences back into full-blown phobias. They used this to capture the Republican party & the fundamentalist “Christian” churches. This hatred of the “other” is nearing its culmination as we face the very real prospect of worldwide “Christian” religious war against Islam along with permanent second-class citizenship for groups such as homosexuals & the poor.

Nursed America back from “Vietnam Syndrome,” which had caused the nation to become disgusted with war. By using movies (like Rambo) & other media to recast the wrong-headed war as having been lost by gutless liberals & commie sympathizers and then rebuilding troop morale & citizen patriotism by kicking the asses of pipsqueak countries (Grenada, Panama) the modern Machiavelli rekindled American’s love of war. Also, by fawning over the the military & anyone else who wears a uniform while doing a dangerous job, they have won the undying devotion of all those “heroes.” Sadly, those heroes don’t notice that after they risk their lives, rightwing leaders have no problem throwing them aside like a used paper towel. The scum who run our country now tell us we are in endless war.

Dumbed-down the educational system & poisoned the food, air, & water to rob the people of health & critical thinking capabilities. If the rapidly smartening American masses were rejecting conservatism, then the solution was to make them fuzzy-brained enough to start thinking conservatism makes sense.

Invented the overblown War on Drugs & later the War on Terror as means to persecute & imprison millions of mostly minority citizens. Mostly they were a justification for circumventing the Constitution to monitor activities of law-abiding Americans & squelch dissent.

Made sure money became more and more a vital part of the electoral equation. After all, how many of those corporate personhoods & millionaire/billionaires are going to support politicians who want the rich to do more to help the rest of us? And how can small donors compete with the mega-donors? This has reaped a bought system in which it is impossible for the non-rich to get fair treatment.

This list could also go on & on. But let us suffice to say that after 45 years of this steady re-education most Americans are totally brainwashed. They think trickle-down economics worked, they think labor unions are a bad thing for their standard of living, they think the U.S. is #1 in all the important measures of life, they think the poor are what bankrupted the treasury, they think Muslims are scary & dangerous & hate us because of our freedom, & they are ready to fight at the mere mention of Socialism/Communism. They are deluded enough to think it is possible that they, themselves, may become one of the super-rich in the very near future & so they want all those fantastic rich-people tax-breaks preserved.

We have witnessed the results of a huge & complex sociological experiment. Question: Is it possible to take a population & feed it a steady diet of misinformation, disinformation, erasure, & lies until the population no longer is capable of discerning, much less defending, its own best interest? Answer: It sure looks that way.

And the thought occurred to me: By Gad, this evil experiment is turning Americans into Shmoos!

For those of you too young to remember the famous Lil Abner newspaper comic strip of the 1930’s-1970’s, Shmoos were white, blob-like creatures who can lay eggs or give milk & butter. They are absolutely elated to have themselves sliced-up, thrown into a skillet to be eaten by a hungry human, and they can change to taste like anything from chicken to steak to catfish. They can be sawed into pieces to use as lumber & their eyes can be used as clothes’ buttons. In short, they have no sense of self-preservation & live only to please their masters. And they require nothing but air to live upon.

The new breed of Shmoo-Americans are ideal for the approaching Capitalist paradise. Schmoo-workers will not drain Capitalist resources for healthcare, Social Security, or daycare for their Shmoo-kids. Shmoos will allow themselves to be entirely consumed in the cause of benefiting the wealthy, whether it is by fashioning themselves into a nifty speedboat or being burned as fuel. And no matter what, the Shmoo-Americans will keep voting for the very ones who turned them into Shmoos in the first place.

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Impeachment? Bring it On! (And Pass the Popcorn)

September 3, 2010 at 2:44 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This afternoon I took a break from my internet job search & joined Myrtle’s 22 year-old son in doing some yard work. While we worked, I mentioned to him that I had gotten on the website of a major retailer that has a large nearby catalog-center (they have a huge sign out front advertising there are jobs available & to visit their web address). But I could find nothing under the “careers” tab referencing jobs here in our area; indeed, I could find nothing that admitted there was any facility anywhere near here, everything was in far-away places such as Delaware . The young man agreed by saying that he, too, had visited the website recently & was stymied by the same thing.

A short time later, it occurred to me how odd it is: a man of my age & experience reduced to applying for the same entry-level jobs as youths. By age 22, I had landed a well-paying position with a large company where I would spend the next 22 years, working my way up to management. I mean no denigration to those who make near minimum wage manning fast-food counters, selling tickets at the cinema, or delivering newspapers. But 30 years’ ago those were kids’ jobs. Grown-ups had higher-paying positions which also came with fringe benefits. Now here I am (and I am far from alone) seeking employment that doesn’t pay what I made when my daughter was born 25 years ago. How are Americans going to support their families on the low wages paid by the majority of employers?

I have no doubt that, if our nation’s “leaders” had screwed the workers this much back when my parents were my age, those leaders would have been dragged out of their cushy offices into the street & soundly beaten or worse. The “Greatest Generation” remembered the Great Depression & what it was like to have no job, no money, & maybe no future while seeing the fat-cats do nothing to help. They never would have allowed themselves to be put back into that box.
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I see that a new literary sensation is climbing the New York Times’bestseller list. The number 7 book is “Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of President Barack Obama” by David Limbaugh and it’s moving up fast. Some speculate that if the Republicans win these upcoming mid-term elections they will seek impeachment for President Ojellyfish. Instead of hand-wringing about such a tragedy, I will quote Obama’s mentor, President W. Bush: “Bring it on!”

My interest in B.O.’s political or personal survival would not register on even the most sensitive lab instruments. I see nothing he has done or likely will do that will benefit ordinary citizens in any way. He has neglected & insulted those who believed in his election. I am so fed-up with seeing his endless stream of glitzy vacations & appearances on tv talk-shows that I would happily assist the Republicans by reading the impeachment articles in front of Congress.

However, the Republicans would never be stupid-enough to impeach the best thing they’ve had going this side of Dick Cheney. The power structure tricked us into putting B.O. into office as a way to de-fang the youth, the liberals, the poor, the peace-nicks, and the blacks. Those groups will never become militant as long as the first African-American president sits on the throne. He provides cover for he oligarchs’ continued gang-rape of the nation. In the next 2 years, he will help the incoming Republican majority torpedo Social Security.

Impeach the emptiest suit to occupy the presidency in at least 150 years? Once again I say: “Bring it on!” But it will not happen. Republican political bosses would not risk reinvigorating the constituents whom B.O. & company have so completely dis-heartened over these last nearly 2 years.

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Alan Simpson is an Ass.

August 29, 2010 at 6:11 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In case you just emerged from a mine cave-in, earlier this week former Republican Senator Alan Simpson got overwrought while raving about those who “milk” the Social Security system & compared the whole situation to “a milk cow with 310 million tits.” Back before he committed this gaffe, Simpson was already described as “an extreme foe” of Social Security. But he is no longer in the Senate, so why should anyone care what the 79 year-old doofus has to say? Well, because somewhere between appearing on TV talkshows & taking another vacation President Marshmallow appointed Simpson co-chair of the Deficit Commission.

The Commission has been charged with finding big ways to cut government spending. Although Commission members have been mum about addressing our nation’s astronomical military budget or the ridiculously-high salaries paid to our “representatives,” Simpson & his co-chair, Democrat Erskine Bowles have appeared together in interviews saying that Social Security is on the chopping block. The 18 member Commission is overwhelmingly stacked with millionaires, executives, & think-tankers who are either either champing at the bit to hack-away at Social Security or are receptive to going along with it.

Simpson & his ilk have been beating the drums for years to convince us that Social Security is going broke or that citizens would be better-off to be investing that money in the stock market. They throw the word “entitlement” around like it is some sort of profanity. Now their latest ploy is to blame Social Security for the federal budget deficit. They say the only way to fix things is to 1) cut the benefits paid-out and/or 2) raise the Social Security tax-rate coming out of workers’ paychecks. HOGWASH!!!
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Here are some facts to counter their fear-mongering:

The latest Social Security Trustees’ Report (which has been issued annually since 1941) shows SS is operating with a growing surplus which will reach a peak of $4.7 trillion in 2023. Without any benefit cuts or tax hikes the system is solvent until 2037. And here is another little piece of truth for you: Presently, wages over & above $100,000 per year are not SS taxed. The Congressional Research Service says simply making those wages subject to SS tax would keep the system solvent until 2085.

Would you really rather depend on the stock market for your retirement money? Remember that in the past couple years U.S. households lost $14 trillion of wealth through Wall Street’s shenanigans. And besides retirement, SS also provides disability protection, survivors’ benefits, & additional payments to the impoverished.

Yes, you and your family are “entitled” to Social Security benefits… BECAUSE YOU WORKED & PAID TAXES TO EARN THAT ENTITLEMENT !

Social Security does not add to the deficit. The truth is that it lowers the deficit. Up until 1969, the federal budget & the Social Security budget were kept separate. Because of spending on Great Society social programs but mostly because of spending on the hopeless Vietnam War, the federal budget was going deeper & deeper into the red. To mask that growing deficit, President Johnson’s outgoing 1969 budget grabbed the SS funds and enveloped them into what was called the “Combined Federal Budget.” Every year Social Security has run a surplus & the surplus has been taken away to spend on all the other government programs. In return, SS is given government bonds. So SS money is actually lowering the deficit being run by the rest of the government.
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Does it sound like I am biased in favor of Social Security? I sure as Hell am !!! My father died when I was 3 years old, leaving my mother to work & raise 3 children. Social Security survivors’ benefits were a big part of enabling her to succeed in giving her family a decent life.

Social Security’s positive impact is enormous. Here in Ohio alone:

The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities calculated in 2005 that without their SS payments 46% of Ohio senior citizens would fall below the poverty line. Because of SS that figure is held to 6%.

The Center also says that “…Social Security does more to reduce child poverty than any other program.” SS survivors’ benefits prevent 13% of Ohio’s children from suffering poverty.

2 million of Ohio’s 11.5 million residents rely on SS to pay for their basic living expenses. That is 17% of the population.
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Let me ask you, do you really think Obama & the Deficit Commission members & the rest of Congress are unaware of the facts I’ve listed? Sure, of course they know. So what our crooked elite really want is to cut SS’s pay-out to rev-up that surplus. Then there will be more money to swipe & use for wars, hookers, or whatever else tickles their fancies.

So once again let me repeat, Alan Simpson is an ass. But who is the bigger ass, the crank who co-chairs the Deficit Commission or he who appointed the crank to the Commission? Obama already knew Simpson’s attitudes toward Social Security & tits. My readings since the Commission was formed in February tell me that Obama is counting on this panel to give him cover for chopping Social Security. No Republican president could ever get away with trashing America’s oldest & most successful anti-poverty program, therefore it is up to a neo-conservative in Democrat’s clothing to do the dirty job. Like Nixon’s opening of relations with Red China, like Clinton’s NAFTA, this will be Obama’s contribution to clubbing the American masses back into enslavement to the robber barons.

In order for the Social Security sell-out to succeed, Obama needs this Commission to succeed. That is why our Marshmallow-in-Chief was so quick to ignore calls from prominent groups for Simpson to step-down. Last month, when it came to firing framed government-worker Shirley Sharrod, Obama instantly climbed into the driver’s seat of the bandwagon. But B.O. didn’t even bat an eye at Simpson’s insult to the vast majority of working Americans who hope to someday receive their Social Security pensions. Dear reader, we had best join the outcry for Simpson’s dismissal in hope that will derail the plot against Social Security. Here is a petition calling on Obama to fire him.

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Born on the 4th of July

July 3, 2010 at 11:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Earlier this week, I phoned one of my closest friends, Gary, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia debacle. He carries numerous physical reminders of those days: scars on his fingertips from when his captors tortured him by jamming bamboo shoots under his fingernails, scars on his arms from knife cuts, and every so often he must have his sinuses reamed-out to remove polyps caused by exposure to Agent Orange (for the information of younger readers, Agent Orange was a defoliant sprayed in huge quantities over the jungles of Vietnam in an attempt to kill the plants that the enemy used for cover).

After his return home, Gary served a total of 28 years in the Air Force, serving most of his time at Dayton’s local Air Force base. He spent those years fighting for recognition as a prisoner of war so the Veterans’ Administration would give him the extra consideration he is entitled to. Standing in his way was the unfortunate fact that his flight & captivity had taken place over Laos. I won’t bother going into an in-depth recounting of President Nixon’s highly illegal expansion of the Vietnam conflict into the neighboring countries of Cambodia & Laos (if you didn’t live through those times, you can Google that information yourself). Suffice it to say that the expansion was and is widely known but always officially denied by the U.S. government. Therefore, since American troops were never in Laos, Gary could not have been a prisoner of war. See the logic?

Conveniently for the government, many Air Force files were burned in a massive fire at some office building years back. So Gary’s case was stalemated. He, his lawyers, & doctors presented evidence of his exploits: newspaper articles of his return home, mementos he had gathered during his imprisonment, his damaged body. The V.A. replied that he made-up the newspaper stories, could have got the mementos some other way, and deliberately inflicted the wounds upon himself.

Then about 5 years ago, Gary’s lawyers found U.S. Army files that supported his case. The Army had the information because Gary had been rescued from captivity by Army personnel. Gary got his P.O.W. license plate, his V.A. P.O.W. medical card that entitles him to special care, and a few other perks due to his status.

But Gary fought-on in hopes of receiving extra pension in addition to his retirement pay. The extra money would be compensation for the health problems he suffers because of Agent Orange exposure. Just last month the V.A. made a final judgment that turned him down. They say he cannot prove his multiple abnormal health problems were caused by Agent Orange. Gary got all his files back (I believe he said they amounted to 60,000 pages), boxed them up, and gave-up on it. He says that now, at age 67, his peace-of-mind is more important than to keep fighting.

Why does the U.S. government treat our veterans like this?
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The above information from my old comrade was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve had enough of shabby treatment of our veterans, the BP oil catastrophe, abandonment of the unemployed, the lack of financial reform, bailouts for white collar criminals, endless imperial wars, and so much, much more. The only means I can think of to display my total disgust is by boycotting the July 4th holiday. So this year, no parades, no fireworks, no hanging red, white, & blue bunting on my front porch, none of the trappings of celebrating what used to be called “Independence Day.” I thought I was alone in this decision, but OHollern at the Bad Attitudes site plans also to forgo the celebration.

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Hey, Lookee What We Found!

June 14, 2010 at 10:26 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Will you just look at that? Good fortune smiles once again on the U.S. of A. After spending a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000), slaughtering over a million (1,000,000) enemy combatants & bystanders, and sacrificing over sixty-five hundred (6,500) occupation force troops so-far in our endless War on Terror, it turns out that Afghanistan has rich mineral deposits that should be worth one trillion to three trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000 – $3,000,000,000,000). And that is in addition to the oil we didn’t go in there for in the first place.

By Jupiter’s long, white beard! I should have know better than to doubt the good business-sense of our Capitalists. Their noses root-out money like Scout Hogs find truffles. When I stood in front of the local Federal Building almost 9 years ago with my “NO BLOOD FOR OIL!” sign, I had no idea the Afghans also had an immense treasure trove of iron, cobalt, copper, gold, and lithium. Senior American officials say the untapped deposits are “far beyond any previously known reserves.” America will never run-out of batteries. This changes everything!

Of course, the knee-jerk reaction of the hate-America crowd will be to say that our upper echelon knew of, or at least suspected, the presence of this highly desirable hoard. But this is utter nonsense and it is insulting! Our government and the companies that own it are scrupulously honest and above board. As the late, great Richard Nixon was fond of saying: “Let me be perfectly clear” about this: Our fat-cats absolutely did not allow the September 11th attacks to take place as a pretext to get us into war. They never set up our former ally, the CIA asset known as “Osama Bin Ladin,” as a straw-man in order to invade and occupy Afghanistan. They did not do these things so as to remove Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which had opposed a tremendously profitable oil pipeline that would carry crude from Eurasia, across Afghanistan, to Pakistan.

Since our masters did none of those devious things. Why would we doubt them about these suddenly discovered vast repositories of minerals? No, I feel we can rest-assured that they bumbled us into, and kept us in, this ridiculous costly & tragic war with no thought of long-term monetary gain for the elite. America’s corporations would have been happy to simply have the hundreds of billions of dollars they stole through war-profiteering. But then…this…unexpected gift just falls into their laps! CEO’s must be weeping for joy & falling on their knees to thank Beelzebub.

Well, now that we know our newly democratic friends have all this wealth, I think we can all agree that any plans to ever leave their country must be shelved. Will we annex Afghanistan as the 51st U.S. state or merely view it as a perpetual protectorate where we, of course, permanently station our troops? Either way, we can look at history to provide a clue as to how the U.S. will treat a population that gets in the way of exploiting natural resources. Just ask the Native Americans about that.

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Our National Military Fetish

May 31, 2010 at 5:33 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I would not want to interfere with your holiday-shopping. Lord knows, our battered economy needs any boost it can get. But I felt I should remind you that another Memorial Day finds the United States at war.

In fact, there have been very few Memorial Days on which the United States was not fighting someone, somewhere in the world. Nor was our track-record any less dismal before the establishment of Memorial Day. Our country has actually had very few days of peace and very few periods of peace that spanned into years. Unfortunately, just about the only time America’s leaders talk about peace is when they toss it into a speech explaining why we are going into or staying in a war.

My original intent for this essay was to show readers the many conflicts in which America has involved itself. But the list is simply too long! Take a look for yourself here. I do not doubt that there are times when it is necessary to take-up arms…but this is ridiculous! Since our rebellion to gain independence from Britain, Americans have fought dozens of peoples, including the native American-Indians, Spain, Honduras, Cuba, each-other, Arikara, Paraguay, Germany, and even something called the Chiefdom of Quallah Battoo. Now we are fighting the Iraqis, Afghans, & Pakistanis in a war that just passed $1,000,000,000 ( 1 trillion ) cost. Soon we may be combating the North Koreans & Iranians. The hippies used to say that fighting to stop war is like fucking to stop sex; and there is a lot of truth to that.

What is it with us and our national military fetish? And I purposely use the word “fetish” to denote an icky type of turn on. Take a look at the orgy of movies, tv shows, songs, parades, magazines, bumper stickers, video games, and other professions of devotional love we have for all things associated with the military. A huge portion of our population lap this stuff up with an insatiable appetite. The late, great comedian George Carlin called these people “uniform-sniffers.”

Late 18th through early 19th Century Germany had a similar passion for the ideal of Prussian military discipline and all its overblown trappings such as spiked army helmets, goose-stepping in knee-length hobnail boots, and fashionable dueling scars. That cult-like devotion was in large part responsible for the insanity that caused Germany to destroy itself in two world wars.

Here in modern America we are marching (pun intended) down a similar path to ruin. We spend trillions of dollars on maintaining far too many troops with far too many far too expensive weapons in far too many places throughout our empire. Our “leaders” pick fights as a pretext for invasion in an never-ending and ever-widening crusade to rule the world. Meanwhile, the domestic economy has crumbled and the unemployed, the elderly, the children are told that there will be cuts in the funding that could help them. But there will be funding increases for the war-machine. The pentagon budget is sacrosanct. And one of the main ways our “leaders” keep it untouchable is through encouragement of our national military fetish. Our troops are loyal, brave, and unparalleled; how could we consider cutting the budget for the troops we worship?

Ironically, the uniform-sniffers worship a caricature. That leaves them little awareness or interest in how much this war is costing our soldiers in human terms: the wrecked families, suicides, physical & psychological disabilities, and combat deaths. Our megalomaniacal “leaders” care little to nothing about the troops, they certainly aren’t going to bring those weaknesses to the sniffers’ attention. And so it is up to people like you and I. We must honor America’s present-day troops and the memory of the casualties in that ridiculously long list of battles by doing our best to end all war.

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See How the Mighty Have Fallen!

May 4, 2010 at 5:33 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Reverend Hothoneywater

The oil rig environmental catastrophe taking place in the gulf coast is a national disgrace. Add it to the list. Along with the coal miners recently killed by cave-ins. Also, tack on the soldiers dying for control of Middle East oil to the list. And then remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be this way. The United States could be doing a lot more to wean itself off these dirty and irreplaceable forms of energy.

Germany, for example, has set itself a goal of obtaining 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources such as solar and geothermal by 2050.  I wouldn’t bet against them; they’ve just finished building a huge offshore wind farm as one of the steps along the path and, thanks to cash incentives to citizens for installing solar panels, cloudy Germany is the world’s #1 producer of solar electricity.  And do you remember all that blather during the campaign when candidate Obama pledged to create green jobs? Well, Germany already has over a quarter million jobs in the renewable energy sector and realistically expects many more in the near future. Japan is determined not to be left behind, so they’ve put many incentives in place to drive the their clean energy industries, including putting solar cells on all their public schools by the year 2020. Even Spain has positioned itself as one of the leading nations in solar energy technology.

And yet here in America, if you watch the tv news you’ll often see representatives of our business & politics sit there and pooh-pooh the practicality of these renewable energy sources. The technology is unproven, unprofitable, and can’t possibly supply enough power to meet our American demands. They portray green energy as a myth believed in by either science fiction buffs or the pitifully gullible. Meanwhile, our only real choice is to drill baby drill.

The “no we can’t” crowd finds it in their best interest to keep us enslaved to Big Oil, at least until they find a way to control the Sun. But what America finds impossible –  other nations are doing.

Take trains, for instance. And I wish I could. Back in the early 1970’s my mother took me on one of the last runs of a train that went from Dayton, Ohio to Richmond, Indiana about 50 miles away. She wanted me to see what it was like before the trains were all gone. Although trains are one of the most efficient ways to move people or freight, America gave up on them a long time ago. For many decades, the majority of America’s transportation funding has gone into building highways for ever increasing automobile traffic. Back in 1964, Japan started running its “bullet trains” at speeds of 130 mph and has been improving them ever since. China runs trains at 220 mph. Imagine sitting back comfortably and reading a book or taking a nap while you are carried to your destination at 220 miles an hour! Most every developed nation, and a number of the less-developed, has high speed rail service. The U.S. of A. has a grand total of 1 high-speed (150mph) rail line and most the time it operates at an average speed of 63 mph. And I’d say that 63 mph is about double the speed of any American train I’ve ever seen. But at least we’re starting to make some effort in this area, as the 2009 economic stimulus included a relative pittance of funding for “projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service.”

President Truman first proposed American universal government health care in 1945, calling it “a definite public responsibility.” By 1964, President Johnson got Medicare passed so the government would provide for the medical needs of our senior citizens (and it worked so well that even Tea Baggers love this socialist program). Finally this year, President Obama squeezed through a bill that promised to sort of bring us closer to almost making sure most law-abiding Americans maybe have health insurance even if that still means they may not necessarily receive health care. I won’t go into a detailed description about how civilized nations have managed set-up workable universal health care systems. But here is an excellent documentary from PBS Frontline called, “Sick Around the World.” Watch it and weep for the American people.

I can almost hear some of you saying, “Well then, Parson, maybe we just don’t have the money for all those fine things they have in countries like France or Cuba. And that’s because we spend so darn much of our money helping the poor, and the workers, and the families here in the Homeland. And on top of that, we give away so much darn money to other countries.”  Sorry to deflate your hot-air balloon,  friend, but the facts show the U.S. is actually one of the stingiest nations with its own people and foreigners.

No, we’re not falling behind because we share so generously with the downtrodden. In fact, the cause of America’s slide is exactly the opposite. Much like the kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament Book of Amos, fabulous prosperity for the ruling class has not been tempered with compassion and justice for the poor. God sent the prophet, Amos, to call-out Israel’s rulers about the way they selfishly trampled on the less-fortunate. Then he warned them that their behavior would bring about the near total destruction of their powerful nation at the hands of their enemies. By the way – they didn’t listen.

I would certainly never claim to be a prophet, but I can tell you this:  The United States has enjoyed more than 60 years as the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Unparalleled riches and power came our way. And it’s our national responsibility to use those riches wisely. Call it God or call it karma, but allowing millions of people to be exploited for the enrichment of a tiny greedy minority is a path to destruction of a powerful nation. Even a nation that has 5,113 nuclear warheads in its arsenal.

But as I said earlier in this essay:  “It doesn’t have to be like this.”

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Same Smell, Different Turd

March 30, 2010 at 2:20 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

On Sunday, President Obama and his eagle-adorned bomber jacket made a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan. While there he also took Afghan President Karzai to task for his government’s corruption. Obama lecturing Karzai about government corruption is like some small-time hood being rebuked by Don Vito Corleone.

And while I’m on the subject of President Bush… oops, I mean Obama. I see our Commander-in-Chief is cutting the 2011 funds for the home heating assistance program by 35% ! The program has seen record applications for assistance each of the past three years. And let me tell you, because I know first-hand, those applications are not easy to make. Here in my city, the poor stand in line during freezing weather in the middle of the night to get in the office first thing when it opens; otherwise no heat for you! People literally camp-out all-night like they are trying to get tickets to a rock concert, just to assure their place in line. As it is, the program has a daily quota of serving maybe a dozen people when three or four times that many are in line, so most the people who need help get turned away. And to add insult to injury, since the process takes most of a business-day to complete, that means applicants often must miss work and, therefore, money in their paycheck. Record numbers of Americans are clinging to this program in order to stay alive and the Prez cuts the funding by a third. And this guy is supposed to be the Liberal/Marxist! Maybe in the 2012 budget he will call for keeping poor people warm by burning them as fuel in the furnaces of rich people’s homes.

In other news, I see Congress has deluded itself into thinking it earned a rest, so it started a 2-week break on Thursday. Technically this is not a break, because our “public servants” are supposed to be going back to the offices in their home states to work & keep in touch with constituents (please let me know if you spot any of them around your town). But before leaving to touch the voters, they blew off a few pressing issues like making sure millions of unemployed will continue to get the money they depend on in order to live. Too bad Obama did not stay in Washington, D.C. because he would have probably called them back into session to tackle this vital issue….Just kidding! Obama cares no more for the plight of the unemployed than does my cat!

One of the main lessons I have learned from the Obama presidency is that dark skin is no automatic indication of a person’s compassion or progressive-politics. Most of us made that assumption (and some still do), helped-along of course by B.O.’s talk of “change.” Now that he is in office we find ourselves stuck with just another reactionary power junkie who prosecutes war while tossing poor people on the trash heap.

Please won’t some Obamapologist remind me again how much better-off we are than if McCain had won?

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Monster

February 15, 2010 at 2:43 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Afghan civilians were killed by mis-guided NATO rockets while American forces fought to take over the town of Marjah. The linked article says the deaths will be “a blow to NATO and Afghan efforts to win the support of residents in the Marjah area.” Gosh, do you think so?

I’m ashamed to admit this. But back in the mid-1990’s, in what seems now like someone else’s lifetime, I had a great job and money to spare to invest. In one of the financial magazines (I think it was Forbes) I read an article that said the U.S. had, for years, wanted to build a pipeline across Afghanistan so as to move Russian oil to port for shipment. What stood in the way was the Taliban government who would not let it happen. Well, I figured America’s oil company criminals would find a way to clear that obstacle, so I went out and bought stock in a few of the oil companies named in that article (Conoco was one of them). So I was completely unsurprised when the U.S. found a pretense to invade Afghanistan, remove the uncooperative Taliban, and occupy the country for the next gazillion years.

Unfortunately for my wallet, I had to sell the stocks long before 9/11 because I was downsized from my good job & needed immediate cash to survive. Besides, nowadays I could never countenance playing such games with peoples’ lives, especially after I learned first-hand that the rich & powerful can just as easily play with my life too.

My deepest sympathy & regrets to the Afghan people. America has truly become a monster.

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The Twenty-First Century Criminal-Class

February 7, 2010 at 8:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I miss my stepfather. But there have been many times during this past decade when I’ve been grateful he died back in 1999. Because, if he weren’t already dead, the new millennium would have probably killed him. I mean from the sheer aggravation of it all.

The 1990’s were tough enough on him. By then he had retired from his workaholic life as a plumber. That gave him time to finally read the newspaper and watch tv shows like “60 Minutes” and “20/20” and they’d get him all stirred-up. I’d stop by to visit him & mom and he’d be gritting his teeth and swearing at the “scum,” his term for politicians and business moguls who were crooked.

He was born on a farm in Greenville, Ohio, in 1921. He’d slogged through the Great Depression and World War II and seen the difference it made when working people had finally got a piece of the economic pie. He would turn red-in-the-face and rant mightily at the thought of ordinary folks being cheated, lied to, or otherwise kept-down. Good gosh, what would he think about today’s America. We no longer seem to know any other way of life!

Here in the 2000’s the average American is so inundated by double-dealers, con-artists, and crooks of every size that it is impossible to fight against all of it. The phone company deliberately bills customers for services they don’t have and credit card companies put phony fees on their bills, figuring that a few customers will notice and demand removal but most customers won’t notice and just pay. Doctors & hospitals send bills to patients in hopes of getting paid twice, by said patients & the insurers. Speaking of insurers, nowadays the insurance companies expect to only collect premiums without paying claims. Employers fiddle with employee time cards to screw them out of wages and gasoline giants openly gouge the motorists. If you watch closely next time you go through the supermarket checkout, you might find that the sale items are ringing-up full-price on your bill (it’s happened to me often enough that I no longer believe it’s just a mistake).

True stories: in the past few years I’ve received three notices that I could join in class-action lawsuits against the following thieves:
My life insurance company was chiseling its policy holders.
The stock broker I used was shaving a little bit off each of its clients’ transactions.
Until recently, I owned a convenience store/gas station (for that sad tale see my essay, “And Then the Financial Tsunami Hit.” One of the items I sold was propane tanks. Well, it turns out that the major oil company that supplied propane to thousands of stores was padding its costs.

Last night, a friend of mine was late to our dinner appointment. Seems he was online entering a contest held by a popular magazine he subscribes to. When he got to the end of the form, he told me, he clicked “submit” and was informed that he’d thereby signed-up for a subscription to an additional magazine, which would be charged to his credit card. He spent the next half-hour phoning the company demanding to cancel the new subscription.

My real point is that our casino economy is hooked on this sort of crumb-bummery. It seems to have become the lifeblood of Capitalism, along with endless war and the reverse-socialism of taxing the poor to subsidize banksters and Wall Street wheeler-dealers.

The problem is so widespread that one could spend one’s entire life doing nothing else but guarding against being ripped-off. It’s like being out in the woods and beset by a huge swarm of hungry mosquitoes: while you’re slapping at one bloodsucker another dozen put the bite on you. Up until a few years ago, I believed we could count on the authorities to make an effort to catch and punish those who prey upon the innocent. Unfortunately, the authorities now line their pockets in exchange for looking the other way and increasingly they even cook-up schemes of their own.

So keep your eyes open and your wits about you. Defend yourself. But try not to get too angry while you’re doing it; otherwise you might blow a gasket, die, and then the Twenty-First Century criminal-class wins.

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