Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Village Missing Idiots? Not Likely, They're Everywhere.

We live in a country that is currently involved in nothing short of civil war. No, it’s not a violent war and it likely won’t be for quite some time (not counting the occasional “escapee” from the “lunatic fringe). It’s a war of words. And what both frightens and amazes me is that in what is arguably the greatest country in the world so much can be said without facts, documentation, historical record, or even common sense to back it up.

This war is likely un-winnable. Battles will be won and lost but the war will go on as long as we remain a democratic republic. The truly unfortunate thing to me is that these battles are not won by intellect. It’s a two party marketing campaign. The campaign strategies have been developed as if they were commercials for consumer products. And there is no accountability. Have you ever wondered how it’s possible that more than one laundry detergent is touted as the best? How can it be that nothing lubricates better than a certain engine oil, unless it happens to be another engine oil that nothing lubricates better than. How can you claim something tastes better than its competitors? Isn’t taste a subjective thing? I’ve even heard that toothpastes really can’t whiten teeth (and that the abrasive nature of whiteners can harm your enamel… let’s promote what’s bad for you…another subject entirely). We are continually saturated with an endless stream of advertising that is aimed at making us buy specific products, or vote for specific candidates.

I think we can all agree that the election of public officials is a pretty important thing. Some people should by definition be unelectable. We do not want unqualified individuals making decisions that can prove critical to our lives and life styles. But it happens all the time. How that possible? Well, here’s my take on it.

The first problem is that there is no accountability in political “advertising”. We need an extremely visible watchdog group that monitors this stuff and calls bullshit on it when necessary. Freedom of speech should not protect blatant lies and misrepresentations when it comes to selecting qualified people to run the government. If a candidate lies they need to be called out on it immediately. If a candidate attempts to disseminate information that is inaccurate or misleading they should be called out on it immediately. It’s a shame this is necessary but it is, because candidates and their parties spit bull shit at us all the time, and because of the next reason….

Our country has an extremely high number of voting idiots. A friend of mine recently commented that while at his local watering hole he was amazed at how many people were quoting political ads almost verbatim. It didn’t matter what was being said. They were quoting it. Now, anybody care to bet on whether or not they researched it first? I didn’t think so. This is a big problem. Idiots are given an equal say in what will determine our futures. I don’t like that. I don’t want an idiot making decisions for me. This is how Michele Bachman got into office. I realize we live in a society where every law abiding citizen has an equal right to vote but I’m extremely uncomfortable with idiots contributing to decisions that affect the country. It’s bad for me. It’s bad for you. It’s bad for America.

The next thing that has absolutely got to go is corporate campaign contributions. There is no way in hell that an elected official can be unaffected by large campaign contributions. This is what is meant when someone says our country is run by corporations. This too is bad for me, bad for you, and bad for the country. The only way to eliminate this particular type of corrupt influence (because it is nothing less) is to publicly fund elections. We need a process in place to determine viable candidates. A caucus that starts locally and slowly expands to the level of representation be it a district, city, county, state, etc. Everyone gets the same funding. Everyone gets the same airtime. You create a level playing field. Anything else really doesn’t make sense. When we were kids we were constantly told that one of the reasons this was a great country was because anyone born here could become President. That’s not really true is it? Anyone born here with access to money maybe but, not just anyone.

This next election has me extremely worried. It’s no secret that I lean left and it’s not looking good for those that do. Why? Revisit my comments on idiots. The economy is gaining traction. I read today that unemployment claims dropped last month to the lowest since July. The stock market is up. Most of the “experts” believe that the worst is over. Sure there is still work to be done but there is no doubt the country is in better shape than we were when Obama took office. Yet “the people” are restless. How can they forget the reasons for the ass whooping the Democrats put on the Republicans in 2008? Are we really that short sighted as a nation? Is Obama doing everything right? I don’t think so. Will the Republicans? Definitely not. I haven’t heard a single new idea or viable alternative from a Republican yet. They just parrot the same old crap that they have for the last 20 years. Reduce taxes (VERY dumb move with our current deficit), reduce spending (they don’t strive for that anymore…. GW the MORON spent like a drunken sailor), give the government back to the people (I’m sorry? Didn’t the people elect those currently in office?).

I guess we’ll see what happens come November 2nd. I’m still hopeful that all the doom and gloom talk is just that… talk. I think if voter turnout is huge, the Republicans won’t do as well as they think they’re going to. Nor should they. Christine O’donnell? Really? I’ll be blogging on her next but how can you support a party that elevated her to viable candidate status? Fucking idiots.


Common Sense

Friday, October 22, 2010

I (Bleep) That The (Bleep) Will (Bleep) If (Bleep) (Bleeps)

OK, this has got to be said. We have become WAAAAAAAYYYYYYY too paranoid on the “politically correct” front as exemplified by the recent firing of Juan Williams from NPR. I don’t like Juan, mainly because he hangs around those assholes at FOX “Not News” and any association with that inflammatory, hateful, lying, distorting, bed of ignorance, network is a big negative in my world. But we need to move away from the ridiculous and more towards sanity when it comes to this kind of shit.

When I was young, political correctness was barely a concept. People told racial, sexist, and religion based jokes all the time. I was guilty of it too (but I used to be a Republican as well so you see, people CAN change). I used to justify it by saying I was an “equal opportunity jokester”. I’d make fun of anyone, including myself, therefore it was OK. Well, it wasn’t OK. If someone was laying in bed with lung cancer, knowing they would be passing in the very near future, you wouldn’t walk in and offer them a cigarette thinking it was a fucking riot. Well, when a race, religion, or any other group of people has suffered at the hands of discrimination, bias, or stereotyping, it is very much like a cancer. There’s nothing funny about it.

So, with age I have gradually acquired wisdom and with that, greatly enhanced my ability to recognize ill founded bias. I have become a lot more sensitive to it. I preach it to my kids. Occasionally, they will even say “I have a joke… oh, never mind…. Dad won’t like it..." (which also concerns me because it means this kind of crap is very much alive within our youth). But the firing of Juan was a huge over reaction, a violation of his free speech, and a basic failure to recognize the “elephant in the living room”.

Islam is the largest religion in the world. It isn’t going anywhere. We, as Americans, need to become comfortable with it. But right now, we’re not. And those of you who know me have heard me talk about the answer to that problem (well, what in my OPINION is the answer). Muslims need to rise up and do an overkill condemnation of radical Islam to show the world they aren’t just speaking out about it, they’re doing something about it.

Somewhere there is a moderate Muslim whose brother knows a guy whose neighbor has a cousin that knows where Bin Laden is lurking. He needs to blow the whistle. Somewhere, there is a moderate Muslim whose sister works with the wife of a terrorist sympathizer whose best friend is married to the aunt of a suicide bomber slated to walk into a shopping mall somewhere. That person needs go to the authorities and spill everything he knows. And this has got to happen frequently. And it needs to be publicized heavily. When that happens, the rest of the world, including America, will begin to accept Islam.

I think Muslims also need to consider adapting to the cultures they are emigrating to. Now, those left of me will likely condemn this particular opinion but, people are hesitant to embrace those that are different. Be it out of fear, distrust, or just the fact that it is an “unknown”, human nature tells us to be wary of someone different from us. The mentally handicapped person on the street repels us. The blatantly intoxicated homeless person repels us. People who are very loud and overly exuberant often repel us. It’s not just based on race, religion, and gender. It’s based on “different”. But beyond that…

As civilized human beings (well, some of us) we learn to rise above that base instinct (at the very least, when forced to, but hopefully more often than that) to see what’s NOT different. We look for the good, the worth, reasons to NOT be repelled. We look for what is present that might attract us. It’s not always there (think Ted Bundy), but if fully civilized, we look for it. If moderate Muslims take my advice, we are going to quickly see it. The fact that they wear different clothing and have different religious beliefs will become less relevant. We will look at them as the people who helped rid the world of another bad element. Their children will learn that radical Islam is something to be stamped out, not embraced and through that, the pool of potential recruits will diminish. They need to police themselves even more vigorously than the rest of the world polices them.

I often joke with people that recreational activities that will likely result in death, should something go wrong, hold no attraction for me. I have no desire to skydive. If something goes wrong, you are likely dead. I don’t want to bungee jump. If something goes wrong, you are likely to die. I’ve never been up in a helicopter. Guess why. People have said but you ride a Harley! Well, I’m not a fucking wimp. I didn’t say I avoid things that might HURT me. I just want a fighting chance if something goes wrong. If that parachute doesn’t open, well I’m fucked!

So, take that to the airport. If something goes REALLY wrong on a plane (knife wielding suicide bombers or concealed explosives) I’m likely dead. Am I going to feel at least a little trepidation if there are obvious Muslims boarding my flight? You bet your ass I am. In fact, I’m more wary of those that aren’t obvious. Anyone who appears to be of Middle Eastern descent is going to make me a little nervous. In my mind, someone who has a plastic shiv or some C-4 is not likely to prance aboard a 757 screaming “Look at me! I’m from Yemen!”

Now don’t get me wrong. Unless my “spider sense” is really tingling I’m going to board the flight. I have faith in a few things. First, security is far better than it’s ever been (despite all the negative press). Second, there is NO WAY passengers on a plane will ever again sit back and watch a terrorist fly into a building. Third, I’m going to be watchful and aware. But I guarantee thoughts will cross my mind that wouldn’t have on a plane with passengers exclusively from Nebraska.

So, what Juan Williams did was to voice what almost all Americans who travel have felt to some extent. Firing him for that is beyond ridiculous. What Rick Sanchez said was ignorant. What Juan Williams said was real. It’s an unfortunate fact in today’s world that we have become somewhat wary of Muslims. Not because they’re all bad. Not even because most of them are bad. I believe most of them are good. But most of the time that parachute will open and you’ll float safely back to Mother Earth. It’s when it doesn’t open that all hell breaks loose.

Common Sense

Monday, October 11, 2010

Being Ruined By The Right

I’ve been feeling incredibly stressed lately. I think at some subliminal level I’m even more terrified of the coming mid term elections than I realize. Actually, I think our country could possibly be as divided, maybe more divided, than it was preceding the Civil War. And I feel helpless because what can I really do? And I feel frustrated because some things are just so obvious to me and I can’t grasp how others can’t see them. I think as a country, we have collectively gone insane.
It has been awhile since I’ve blogged. Not sure why. I think there is just so much going on inside my head that I’m having trouble organizing it all and churning it out in a way that makes sense. I think I’ll start with David Stockman.

I read an article recently by Paul Farrell of the Wall Street Journal about Mr. Stockman. Stockman was Ronald Reagan’s “Director of the Office of Management and Budget”. He has recently come out and made a case for how the GOP destroyed America’s economy. Yep, you heard that correctly. A member of the GOP admitting that the GOP destroyed America’s economy. Now he doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about Democrats, or at least their economic theory, but he places the preponderance of the blame on the GOP. Check this out. He states that the GOP’s insistence on extending THE MORON’s tax cuts for the rich is akin to filing bankruptcy. When our national debt is about to hit $18 Trillion, Republicans want to extend a 3% break for the rich. This is just another example of their insanity. He further breaks it down into four missteps.

The beginning of the self destruction was Nixon’s decision to do away with the gold standard for currency. This was on the advice of Milton Friedman. I had a roommate in college who used to refer to Friedman as the father of contemporary economics. I’m guessing that roommate is a strong Republican. Anyway, Friedman’s theory was that if you do away with a currency based on the value of some standard, the free market would set exchange rates and trade deficits would self correct. Farrell points out that Freidman was “wrong by trillions”.

So, with the good old U S of A setting the standard, governments everywhere began to follow suit and just printed money with nothing to back it up. Think about this for a minute. It’s our fault. No, really. It is. There was a time when the federal government had reserves of gold and silver to back up the value of our currency. When I was young, there were still “Silver Certificates” in circulation. They were actual currency that was redeemable in silver. You couldn’t do that now. There isn’t enough silver! But, that was what gave us, the people, the confidence that the money was actually worth something. What has taken over is a kind of blind faith. We know there isn’t enough gold to cover it, but we have faith that it will still be accepted at the grocery store. So we said fuck it, if it works, don’t fix it. Now it costs more to mint a penny than the penny is worth. Who the fuck is steering that ship? I believe we have entered, or are about to enter that same reality with nickels. But, let’s move on.

The second major fuck up by the GOP (according to Stockman) was their insistence that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts. He says that back in the early 80’s, Republicans were very supportive of tax cuts. BUT, they had to be offset by reductions in spending. Then the military budget exploded without cutbacks in most of the domestic budget. Farrell says “When Fed chief Paul Volcker ‘crushed inflation’ in the '80s we got a ‘solid economic rebound.’ But then ‘the new tax-cutters not only claimed victory for their supply-side strategy but hooked Republicans for good on the delusion that the economy will outgrow the deficit if plied with enough tax cuts.’ By 2009, they ‘reduced federal revenues to 15% of gross domestic product,’ lowest since the 1940s. Still today they're irrationally demanding an extension of those ‘unaffordable Bush tax cuts [that] would amount to a bankruptcy filing." Remember, this is based on the opinions of a Reagan Republican.
Farrell takes it a step further by pointing out that recently, THE MORON made it much worse by engaging in two unfinanced military operations and rarely vetoing a bill that spent money. This is where the Democrats get blasted too…. The author puts the GOP in bed with the Dems supporting a “free lunch” fiscal policy. Who knew we were “bed mates”?

Next stage, enter Wall Street. Stockman speaks to the “vast, unproductive expansion of the financial sector”. He says that “Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation.” Did I mention this was a Reagan Republican? Farrell takes it a step further and says they weren’t oblivious at all. He says they knew exactly what they were doing and it was motivated by self interest. Here it gets scary. By allowing Wall Street to get back to “business as usual”, they are creating a financial environment that is bound to deteriorate again. Not to crow, but do you remember me saying awhile ago that if the Republicans do regain control, I would strongly advise you all to sell your stock! Stockman says the banks have become wards of the state. The Farrell says they are in fact RUNNING the state. Many of them were bankrupt and would have never survived had they not gotten bailed out. Hey, what I want to know is how can we, as a society, sit back and watch these bastards pay themselves exorbitant salaries and bonuses with what is essentially our money? And before you go off blaming Obama, this fix was put into motion by Bush. Obama just saw it through. I think it was a mistake.

Finally, Stockman says we won’t have a conventional recovery. We will have a long drawn out period where we liquidate our debt and downsize. He says the modern Republican Party’s platform is irrelevant. The author thinks it’s worse. He sees a class war or revolution of sorts on the horizon. I have “felt” that coming for quite awhile now. Most Americans are helpless to do anything about the fleecing they are taking at the hands of the rich. Here is a statistic for you. From 2002 – 2006 “the top 1% of Americans -- paid mainly from the Wall Street casino -- received two-thirds of the gain in national income, while the bottom 90% -- mainly dependent on Main Street's shrinking economy -- got only 12%.” That’s directly from the article. Is that an incredible gap or what? Marvel at it. Two thirds of the gain was received by 1% of the population. Wow….

Now Republicans are going to tell you this is all bull shit. But think about that. Those Republicans who are stupid enough to believe the FOX propaganda machine aren’t worth arguing with. They will tell you Courtney Love is a virgin if they hear it on FOX. The moderate Republicans might be turned. But the RICH Republicans will fight like rabid dogs to do whatever it takes to continue fleecing us in their never ending quest for increased wealth. I bet they will even tell you that the 1% who realized 2/3’s of the gain deserve it because they “work hard” as opposed to those lousy welfare bums who are mooching a free ride off the state. What would happen, if that remaining 99% of the population decided to do something about it? They can. They can vote.


Common Sense