Watching the decline...

Interesting Times…

May you live in interesting times?

 

It isn’t a Chinese curse, it may not exactly be a curse at all and they are all interesting depending on where or how you live.

 

It is amazing the amount of myth that we take as history.

 

All history is in some way shape or form, myth. Taking a very rough estimate of 90% of all history being lost into account, and this is a VERY generous estimate, so much of what has happened is left unrecorded as to make what is recorded insignificant without the weight its been assigned. Supporting information we never knew changes both the events and the context of history, or at least its absence stripping some of the “color” from it. We are honestly in the dark about the majority of what we’ve experienced as a species.  Human history being, of course written (and edited) mainly by those who have vested interests in supporting certain “facts” over others, is more than suspect, by its lack of completeness and context it really isn’t history at all.

 

Everything is a lie, at least to a certain extent. Everyone has at least one dearly held “fact” that dries up and shrivels when exposed to light. Some are just errors of convenience and others have simply been adopted and accepted over time.

 

May you live in interesting times, ironically, is one of them.

 

It is probably just a truism someone spoke one day, arranging words artistically so that their meaning is intentionally vague but meaningful isn’t hard for someone who knows what words mean, but something being said by an everyman apparently removes some of its weight.

 

A Chinese curse? A curse at all? The first is almost certainly no. the second I choose to believe can be either a curse or a blessing depending on how close you are to the fighting.

 

These are “interesting times” in the United States. They are arguably MORE “interesting” in Iraq, Israel, Syria, on the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank. They are “interesting” in places we have never heard of with no free press and internet, let alone the ability to read either. How interesting is it actually to focus 100% of your energy on survival and not 10% on bitching about taxes or supplying (or receiving) free healthcare. How “interesting” is it to run from the warlords or have no rights? How much more interesting would it be if we had no right to free expression nor the right to vote in even our Trojan horse elections? How much more interesting will it be after we are shaken awake with the realization that it could get really bad, really fast. Not “The Walking Dead” bad, but much, MUCH worse.

 

This is a public service message. To all of you, including myself, who through accident of birth lucked into living in the modern, industrialized world. When we swear at that asshole following us too close or complain about how the barista couldn’t sling our late fast enough. Remember there are more interesting places to be. When we bitch about not being able to carry a semi-auto, or that we have to wait in line sometimes for shit that its better than NEEDING to carry one or there being no shit to wait in line for.

 

Fuck you, shut the fuck up and be happy your fat privileged ass has access to caffeinated beverages and the time not running from some really oppressive asshole to drink them.  Fuck your “rights” and your belief in the innate superiority of the real housewives.

 

Slow the fuck down and kiss whatever “God you believe in’s” ass that you are lucky enough to live largely without worry and realize there are places in the world, actually MOST of the world, that suck so much more than this one does.

 

Don’t be such an asshole. Myself included.

 

Oh, and do something for someone else, preferably someone who you do not know, and do it because you have a house and a bath, maybe even a car and they don’t have shit.

 

And again, don’t be such an asshole.

Coming (back) Soon

With all that’s been going on in the world I needed a short breather from the blog and since the world hasn’t suddenly gotten any nicer, kinder or safer I guess it still requires observation…

The Waiting #HoodsOff #Ferguson

“We have to infiltrate! Infiltrate the military! Infiltrate your local governments! Infiltrate your school board! Infiltrate law enforcement!”

Tom Metzger  Former KKK and current leader in WAR (White Aryan Resistance) in a 2004 speech to skinheads at a hate-rock festival

So now we wait….

There is a palpable sense of dread and danger surrounding my thoughts on the Grand Jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson Police Officer who shot Michael Brown.

There will surely be at least one incident of violence regardless of the outcome, but the question is, who will fire the first proverbial (or actual) shot.

How the events after will proceed, who will be involved, and who will let their passion and frustration get in the way of decency and common sense is becoming cloudier by the second. After the KKK decreed on social media that there were gearing up for some kind of altercation (ironically, and later proven cynically, citing “good people” in their defense, making careful mention of their black friends) the hactivist group Anonymous pulled off their greatest action yet and exposed many Klan members faces and posts to the world. Apparently they (and most 20 year olds on Facebook) haven’t quite figured out that not setting your privacy settings leaves you open to all kinds of mischief.

What has followed has been an uncovering of hatred and a subculture of violence just waiting to erupt.

According to the AP gun sales in counties surrounding Ferguson have skyrocketed, albeit mostly because of some overblown sense of racist paranoia, but even racist paranoia is real in some respects. Frank Ancona the imperial wizard of the Southern Missouri Klan has been outright antagonizing both Anonymous and the people of Ferguson, especially since the initial Klan flyer was published on twitter.  So anon members have been antagonizing back.

Since then, they have hacked a Klan account, getting access to many of the members and tracking down their information including businesses they own, their cell numbers and addresses etc and posting them, basically outing them for the entire world to see. One insurance agency a few counter-protesters (including Acona) and possibly a cop or two later and the flurry of outings have slowed, but they are still coming.

Everyone expects there to be some kind of uprising after the announcement, whether pro indictment or not. The Klan, unmasked by #anonymous in a shrewd and targeted response to a threat of violence have been shown to be stuck in the thug hole they have been trying desperately to re-brand themselves out from, and the thick stench of what is a deeper American issue will all play out in the next week or so.

It’s really hard not to see how all of this is interconnected, flowing off from the river of poison race hatred that came to a head in lead up to 2008, when everyone making mention of the birth certificate also tried to claim they hadn’t any racist proclivities, or back in 1988, when the Lee Atwater approved Willie Horton ad tapped the same vein. Or back in pre-civil war America where images of the black savage were legion… Given the conditions I’ve written many times before about, economic stagnation or downturn, the continued reserved place in many White American minds of “their place” as an exalted “race” regardless of their own paltry understanding of what that means, and the continued frustration of both Blacks and whites over continued economic insecurity are bubbling to the surface in a frankly terrifying way.

There is no doubt in my mind that the prevalence of coded signaling from many Whites (Gadsden flags, revived fear of losing “rights” etc.)  signals at least an association and sympathetic  leaning toward the more virulent racism of the Klan and the “White Patriot” movement. I would go further and say that most whites have some feeling of superiority inherently bestowed upon them by the culture and/or direct experience with others with racist beliefs. I realize this is like saying that growing up in a gang infested neighborhood steers you in the direction of becoming a gang member yourself and yes, that is part of it. In both cases though, one makes a choice, you can choose to follow the path of least resistance and become a thug or you can rise above and seek something else.

This culture has been feeding us all a message of white superiority and black inferiority since its inception, hell the country was literally built on the principal of superior/inferior. It became inherently racist early and the various messaging reinforced it even as in other areas we’ve moved on.

The question now is, will it continue?

Whatever happens in Ferguson it will be culturally trans mutative, if there is a dismissal of charges there will be an explosion, I think the lead up, the media coverage and the racially charged narrative will go a long way to inflame passions already in a state of immolation. If there is an indictment the township may still not escape violence, from protesters who have had their worst fears apparently realized, that one of their own may have been targeted and slain because he is Black or from racist agitators looking as this to be the beginning of the “Race War” they have so long wanted.

A Tale of Two Realities Election Day Edition #thisishowdemocracydies #Midterms

Political drumbeats have a habit of fading out at the end of the song. Especially when the conventional wisdom is eroded by factual information, politicians HATE factual information.

Take the recent Job numbers VS. the President’s approval rating. Part of that reality is the fact that there is still a huge amount of wage stagnation despite the economy’s on-paper bounce back, another part is, simple and succinctly put, propaganda. We’ve been told for so long that the President and his Democratic allies are job killers, they want some sort of Socialist utopia where no one has to work and everyone sustains themselves off the government. All this despite the fact that Democrats have pushed since Clinton, to roll back welfare, hold the line on the minimum wage and sheer away waste and spending in programs like Head Start and Medicare.

Republicans have made the Obama administration more about personality than fact; the latest job numbers prove that in multiple ways.  The economy being the main issue for both the 2008 and 2012 elections and he doing everything within his power to try to correct it, including a truncated stimulus that, if it was fully realized would have made an even greater and sooner impact.

Yet, somehow, the economy has not been the talking point of either side in this midterm cycle. It makes sense that this would be so on the republican side, as the dual cobras of “I told you so” and having to explain how a rise in GDP of 3% hasn’t shown up in Joe the plumbers pocket yet. They could correctly say that the vast majority of the new jobs were comprised of low wage part time employment, but then they would have to explain why, and that could get messy. Politicians in general and republicans in particular are really bad at lying about specifics, if you can get them to talk about specifics in the first place. The Democratic silence on this is even more astounding, unexplainable and borderline insane. But to hitch your wagon to the increase in jobs, the re-expansion of the economy and the “saving” of America would be admitting the Colored guy in charge had something to do with it.

Since the depth of the financial crisis and the mathematical end of the recession in June of 2009, the news has been long-term good. Although somehow we have all managed to fall into the stock market idea that short term gains are more predictive than looking at the big picture, the general economic prognosis is that we are recovering, and that recovery is accelerating. Republicans hate this. They have all but fallen silent on the latest job numbers, have ignored the test kitchen failure in Kansas and instead, have decided to run on, well, Kansas.

Take Tom Foley in Connecticut, in a way it is very much a rehash of the 2012 Presidential election, more than most, with Malloy, whose approval among CT residents of all parties is less than stellar, but among Republican voters is dismal, polling neck in neck to Foley. That Foley, who has a long record of screwing workers and flouting federal income taxes, is doing so well in a progressive labor state like Connecticut speaks volumes about both potential who is voting and how stupid they are.  Have we not already gone down this road with Brownback? Is that not turning into a dismal failure? Why is this guy even an issue in a dark blue state like CT?

Yet Republicans in a muddled and misinformed message have relied more on the country’s fear and Racism than any bit of factual truth. They wish us to feel that raising taxes on high earners is somehow treasonous and smacks of socialism, if that is so then the US was a Socialist country during the war years. We raised the money to pay for our wars by increasing the marginal tax rate to 75% at its highest.

During the Bush Administration tax rates fell, consistently as we fought one of the most expensive “wars” in history. Much of the damage done is still being kept under wraps, no caskets were shown as dead men and women were kept away from the media sites for fear of inciting anti-war sentiments, and the massive protests that were occurring with regularity were not covered by the corporate press for fear of alienating advertisers, many of which had ties to either members of congress or the administration itself, as well as a clamping down on civil liberties such as the right to assemble that was also largely ignored.  And with that erasure ramped up during Obama’s first turn and nearly completed today, with the erasure of what a desperate state the truly incompetent Bush left us in, and the painstaking steps the Obama administration had to take to dig us out nearly closed, here we stand.

Fear, ignorance, hate, and money.

4 Billion, with a B. Largely now coming from who knows where, tying other Democrats to a president who they have always regarded as a liar and a fraud before a policy was ever written. Money that no one can trace against a President they say covered up information about everything from his birth certificate to Benghazi.  It is one of many ironies that plague our process.

Yes I believe that Election day should be a national holiday and that voting should be compulsory. I believe that if you make people show ID to vote you should make every effort to get everyone in your state an ID who is eligible, or as part of the registration process you should get a state issued voter ID card, no more of this unfunded enforcement mandate bullshit.

Even better, let the bastards who have been crying about voter fraud pay for IDs instead of spending 4 BILLION on ads ever election cycle decrying it.

Yes, this is how democracy dies.

What no one is talking about.

There are three issues surrounding tomorrow’s mid-terms that everyone is missing:

GOP redistricting: Republicans have been very smart (sometimes I think they collectively have a ton of rocks for brains on topics ranging from Religion, Foreign Policy, Guns and money, but you can never say that they are strategically stupid, like the Cylons, they have a plan) about winning Gubernatorial races just in time for congressional redistricting. Only 5 states have independent supposedly nonpartisan commissions for this purpose, the majority have either complete legislative control or partial control by the legislature. The GOP swept to victory in a few key races in 2008 (New Jersey and Virginia being the most notable), and more in 2012, 6 more to be exact. In all of those states the legislature has a strong, or the only hand in deciding redistricting. Guess who has done the majority of redistricting since 2006?

GOP voter suppression: Even if the GOP never physically kept a single person from voting, they have done more to dissuade the key Democratic voters, Minorities and young people from voting in this election. Let’s face it, it really doesn’t take much to keep minority voters from the polls, especially in a midterm election year, as a matter of fact Democrats of all stripes are less likely to vote in midterm elections. But add the constant assault of voter id laws and the insane amount of misunderstanding as to what the rules are, especially among poll workers, and those numbers are driven even lower.

Money, money, money: as I noted in the last post, the spending is out of control. The unrestrained, unaccountable numbers of millions being spent on some of these races just boggles the mind. The scare tactics and outright lies, unchecked by a cowardly corporate media and the sheer ubiquity of negativity both turn off and infuriate voters. When you have only the angry voting, you get only the ideologically unhinged elected.

As another blogger so eloquently put it; “this is how Democracy dies.”

Less bang for the buck

So this election is poised to be the most expensive mid-term election in history with outside groups spending more than some candidate’s camps and most of that extra being spent largely on the Republican side. (though the Dem’s Act Blue has been no slouch, it isn’t nearly on the same level of Rove or Koch) As the cliche goes, more is being spent on some of these races than the GDP of many small nations, the up-front payola being no secret on either side. What the general public sees of this investment is absolutely nil, though logically and frankly since we did not make the investment, why should we see any benefit? This is what our American political system has come to. This is the pay to play the Supremes said would not be a result of the Citizens United decision, this is yet another step towards rule by the elites masquerading as democracy.

Two races in particular have called attention to the circus that is our campaign finance system, the Grimes / McConnell contest in Kentucky (fucking Kentucky? Really?) and Udall / Gardner in Colorado. The absolute batshit insanity of the spending and the thought that if they are spending this much on races, exactly how the fuck much do they expect to get back, should keep us all awake at night. Aside from the obvious thought that all this spending is yet another example of the lateral distribution of income it is also a harbinger of far worse things.

If the midterm elections go the way everyone seems to be predicting, both the house and the senate could go Republican and far greater than the President’s legislative agenda is at stake. Supreme court positions that may or may not become vacant, still vacant federal judgeships, one conspicuously absent Surgeon General… Republicans, especially the more right-Libertarian variety have been trying to dismantle government, and all its protections for the little guy for decades, if they win this election, even with the slightest majority, they have a shot at legitimizing the effort, and making it a reality.

So what do the Democrats do? As Rachel Maddow famously stated, maybe the cowardly Democrats deserve to lose, but do the rest of us deserve the results. If you judge us by our turnout, the answer is a resounding yes. Yes, there has been a continual drumbeat by many that signals that voting doesn’t matter, yes there has been constant pressure on Minority groups, and young people who came out in large numbers for both presidential elections to not vote through the enacting of insanely ridiculous laws that would be fine if they accompanied concerted efforts to get voters the state issued IDs they are being asked to provide, and yes there is the fact that we have largely ALLOWED ourselves to be ignorant Wal-Mart zombies who pay more attention to celebrity gossip than politics, but do we really and truly metaphysically deserve serfdom?

So again, what do the democrats do? They suddenly discover Black people. Yep, in one of the most cynical, offensive moves in my lifetime, the desperate Democratic party finally acknowledges the Black vote in a midterm election.

After collectively turning their backs on the President after the 2010 midterms, and doing so AGAIN, they expect African-Americans to be appreciative of their sudden noticing of them and come out to vote? After years and years of pulling to the hard right and for fear of losing their most horribly inconsistent voting block, straight white (angry) men, they suddenly rediscover the most reliable Democratic voting block since FDR and put on the full pander to get them to come out? What the fuck?!!????

If the Republicans get largely deserved heat for playing lip service to Blacks and Latinos, the democrats deserve it twofold, threefold, TENFOLD.

Let’s go down the list of dubious Democratic blunders as far as people of color are concerned, shall we?

1) Completely and utterly ignoring the minority vote: “Blue Dog” southern and Midwestern Dems sided with Republicans for some of the worst reasons imaginable during the 2008 elections through today, from not answering the Republican claims of lies about “Obamacare” death panels, government takeovers and “rationing” (none of which, I might add, have come to fruition, and none of which are being used as examples of the stupid ass, lying sons of bitches most Republicans have allowed themselves to become) by calling bullshit on them as loudly and plainly as possible, therefore getting Barack’s back, and yes, ingratiating themselves to the people who got him elected in the first place, truly and honestly and not suspiciously and cynically after the fact.

2) Being pussies about the ACA: AGAIN, in states where poor people have been helped (or not yet helped, because of stubborn Republican Governors) by the ACA. Angry whites and the Rich almost always vote, engaging the people most helped by “Obamacare” and energizing the ones who haven’t yet should be the job of every single Democrat. Period. Apparently it isn’t only George Bush who doesn’t care about Black people.

3) Ignoring the blatant pandering of the GOP to white racism, brown tide fear and other assorted mental disorders. I have yet to hear a united chorus of democrats call out the GOP on their Racism. This should be coming especially from White Southern Democrats, fuck fearing losing, call out the truth.

4) Distancing themselves from the President. If the Democrats stood with Obama on some of the key issues the Democratic platform stands on, both would benefit immeasurably.

5) Listening to polls. Minority representation in polling is notoriously low. Always has been. In 2012, famously wrong. By catering their message to the polls Democrats largely ignore segments of the population that would otherwise come out and vote, if candidates said what all of their constituents wanted to hear they would be singing a very different tune. Especially in districts where every Democratic vote counts, counting out those historically prone to vote D only makes sense.

With generally dismal turnout rates among all but the most committed “values” voters, and ads skewed to energize them, the Democrats are fighting on a narrow field on which they cannot win. And that is not only bad for us, but it is also terrible for democracy.

Much ado About Ebola

Add Ebola to the list of paranoia inducing world events that don’t matter until they affect us. Check.

Social media is the trashcan of all good ideas buried in the backyard and left to rot. The latest stinking dung pile, Ebola fear, is streaking its way across Facebook as I type this. As usual people are, once again, freaking out over next to nothing.

And by no means do I believe that Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is anything but terrible, but its less terrible as long as the brown people keep it in their own country. Now that its been shipped by carrier to the US (by someone as described by a friend of a friend as a “piece of shit”) Mericans’ is losing their collective minds. As long as it stayed “over there” it was a terrible tragedy that hardly eclipsed latest YouTube sensation Ray Rice’s video, or the White House gate-crashers , until it came here.

Oh and add to the non-threat Ebola presents at the moment that “conversation” between Sam Harris, Ben Affleck and Bill Maher the internet is abuzz about. First off I like all three of these guys as much as someone who doesn’t know someone from Adam could, they all piss me off as much as someone I’ve never met would, and this conversation between three white guys about Islam makes about as much sense as a priest and a Rabbi walking into a bar.

Look guys, Mr. Harris and Mr. Maher especially I’m not a big fan of religion and its opium dispensing companion spiritualism but going and insulting all Muslims without clearly identifying what its adherents have done in the past several thousand years to advance math, science and literature  is just pissing off Muslims for the sake of pissing off Muslims. And it’s also part of the reason the ones that do hate us. After about a minute of this conversation between what I think are three relatively intelligent human beings, with none of them recognizing the fact that none of them having grown up in the culture of Islam have the authority to make any of these statements without qualification, I honestly tuned out. There is only so much wealthy educated white guys yelling at each other I can take in one sitting.

And on a related note, Joe Scarborough, you are an ass.  Aside from the true fact that the guy from the times was right and global warming does pose the biggest existential threat to the planet at the moment, its fundamentalism, be it Christian, Muslim or any other religious extremism that is the greatest threat as you define it. Singling out Muslims when we have more than our fair share of wingnut crackpots in the good ol US of A, is just plain fucking delusional. Yet again, you prove that you are blinded by your own ignorance and identity, as an America, a Christian, and a Republican.

Stupid Poll of the Week

1 out of 4 Americans would be open to succession. Really?

I don’t think anyone would have to strain their brain so far to guess where the majority reside. Or try too hard to guess what the demographic makeup of those who would vote yea would be.

According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week, 1 in 4 Americans would vote for their respective state to succeed from the union. No shit.

Now as with all ridiculous polls, and this one is certainly by all accounts ridiculous, you have to take the results with a grain of salt. First off, how many Mericans’ really understand what succession would mean? Secondly, have any of these knuckleheads read the history of their own country because if they did they would know how that worked out for the south, who pushed for the south to succeed, and who paid the price for it when they did.

The same wealthy, slave holding, landowning oligarchs who presided over the destruction of the union then, the same who used the poor whites who outnumbered them 2-1 as a bulwark against the slaves who in some states outnumbered all whites 5-1, are calling the shots this time as well. Mr. and Ms. Tea Party, don’t tread on me while I collect government disability payments probably make up at least a sizable portion of those polled. If you are going to believe the incredibly bias confirmation-ing of the Huffington Post’s retelling of the Reuters story they made up close to 50%, but I don’t but that, there is far too much stupid in this country to have that much concentration in one stereotype.

Now granted it IS a poll, and polls often reflect what our worst face fears, but judging by this poll our worst face is not only stupid but ignorant as well.

I love my Country, Feel Okay About My Government and Am Terrified of My Fellow Citizens.

Here we go again: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/22/eric-matthew-frein_n_5860800.html

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-pa-trooper-eric-frein-manhunt-sunday-20140921-story.html#page=1

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/22/justice/pennsylvania-suspected-cop-killer/

The $1 Tax Dodge

Beware the $1 CEO. Revere the $1 CEO.

CEO’s, entrepreneurs, the super-rich are our new heroes. They are  Zeus, Apollo, Jesus, King…they outrank sportsmen and women in trustworthiness polls, even though the institutions they run are the same that are ranked consistently untrustworthy. They are our new icons. The self-made man, the great American myth is back with a vengeance.

The $1 CEO’s are particularly crude about garnering our favor, John Mackey famously remarked that he made enough money and wanted to work for the joy of it. An interesting remark coming from one of the most ardent libertarian businessmen, or at least one of the few who will publicly address and defend their pure market capitalistic beliefs. The Koch brothers, Adelson and the other notables under this big green tent espouse no such pussyfooting, so are exempt in this case.

Personally I do not believe that these people deserve our admiration, respect or even pity, especially the ones who publicly tout their $1 salary. Mackey started his company from investments (gifts) from friends and family and started it as a small cooperative and grew (as most Übermensch businessmen would tell, organically) into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, who started the company from his HARVARD dorm room (a) lucky enough to go to college b) smart and lucky and wealthy enough to go to Harvard c) went to fucking Harvard) as a “hot or not” style hookup site. Or the founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Stanford students, Page’s pedigree includes a father who was a leading computer scientist and Brin’s father and mother are also scientists, all are tops in their fields.

All these men have taken the $1 CEO route. Though Mackey has been most vocal about the reasons, all of them have allowed the more important reality of their decision be buried in a sea of crocodile tears generated by the financial press and sympathetic politicos.  They’ve become revered as generous and selfless when exactly the opposite is true.

As Robert W. Wood writes in Forbes, the reason these guys do what they do has more to do with good old-fashioned tax dodging than any altruistic motive. After all, altruism is bad, greed is good. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2014/04/05/tax-smart-billionaires-who-work-for-1/

So instead of paying a fair portion to the taxman like the rest of us, they get off taking alternate means of compensation in the form of shares and other non-cash payments that are taxed at a substantially lower rate. All the while allowing the PR machine to crank out puff piece after puff piece about how generous and selfless these guys are. That line of bullshit also only adds to the veneer of untouchability and John Galt heroism that the establishment narrative reinforces in us plebes.

And what you say? But these guys work hard, are self-made and do good work. Well I say that their “work” is in no way proportionate to the exorbitant scale of their pay, however it comes. None of these people were “self-made” they had nurturing environments massive financial assistance from family members, damn good educations or all of the above. They may be extraordinarily smart people but they are all extraordinarily smart and at least in some way, extraordinarily privileged.

 

In a way, its kind of like pulling back the cape and discovering that Superman has been rescuing humans is because he’s been pimped out by the guys from the “To Serve Man” episode of the Twilight Zone.

Heroes indeed.

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