Friday, April 8, 2016

The Masochist Says "Beat Me" and the Sadist Complies

Welcome to the land of the punished, of original sin, of the Calvinist work ethic and supreme self-denial. My father used to tell a joke, that Puritanism was the sad, haunting fear that someone, somewhere, was having a good time. He sourced it back to Oscar Wilde, but as I recently found out, it's a quote from the great journalist and all-around fount of sarcasm, H. L. Mencken. My father used this to illustrate how important it was to enjoy oneself whenever the opportunity was presented. My father, of course, being the strict Calvinist, having been brought up in a Southern Baptist community, where the preacher looked down on dancing, but had no problem with close rollerskating (to the point of dancing on skates with underage girls - yeeuch), my father became an atheist at the ripe old age of thirteen. This did not, however, divorce him from the ideas of sin, of the virtue of very hard labor for its' own sake, and regular conversations about only getting a buck knife and an orange for Christmas. When he did enjoy himself it was generally tainted with guilt. When we couldn't work in the yard because the weather didn't permit, whatever we watched on TV better be either some highfalutin' foreign film or something educational. Vacations were all about backpacking into difficult environments.

I didn't mind the foreign films, as it happens - lots of Japanese sword fights made them all the more palatable, and they imbued in me a taste for better-made films.

But I always wondered about my father's attitude toward any kind of pleasure. He liked good food, he appreciated many cuisines of the world, he really loved music (mostly classical, but he was also a big fan of the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Tom Lehrer and Spike Jones). And then, when it came time to work, labor-saving devices were, apparently, sinful. Nothing was better than doing the job with a pick & shovel, where renting a roto-tiller would have gotten the job done in a tenth of the time, for ten bucks.

When my father passed in 2005, he still had an O-Cedar broom that I remember using in the eighties. It had lost three inches off the bristles. There's "frugal", and then there's "sorta nuts". I digress...

There is a weird strain running through the American psyche that tells us that unnecessary or very difficult labor is somehow good for us. That it "builds character". This is the lie we've been fed since Plymouth Rock, and I'm hoping that we're figuring it out, finally. I'm hoping that we've finally realized that, while hard work can be fufilling, tedious labor crushes the spirit, and pointless labor kills it completely. Not to sound like a curmudgeon of my father's variety, but I am reminded of the days I'd spend, mowing a half-acre of grass with a very old lawnmower (that I think came with the house), and then edging the lawn with a pair of grass clippers that were not much evolved from a pair of scissors. I understand economizing, but, even as an eight-year-old,  I knew better. I knew there were inexpensive tools designed to do this sort of work with less labor, but, as my Dad put it, "it made you soft". That, right there, is  America writ large.

Think about what other countries provide for their citizens. And no, I don't mean, "for free". which is a bullshit argument against useful societal improvements, paid for by taxes. Childcare, healthcare, family leave, college - all low cost or no cost, paid for by everyone's taxes. We are told, have kids! families are the cornerstone of American life. Then, "whaddya mean you want time off to have a kid? I can't afford for you to do THAT!" Childcare costs are often the equivalent of a second mortgage. Affordable housing near where you work is usually a non-sequiturr - just look at San Francisco. And once your kid goes off to college, be prepared for that child to come back home, to pay off one of the biggest debts they'll ever incur next to a mortgage - student loans.

It's as if we've decided that a life of self-flagellation is a major building block of society. Of course, the advice we get is "if your job really sucks, well, go find a better one". Once you reach a certain age, going out and changing jobs is about as easy as changing a tire without a jack or tire-iron.

Perhaps a revolution is what we really need. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

We've Got The Runs

Hillary vs Bernie.

Trump vs. Cruz. vs. Rubio vs. Christie vs. Carson vs. Fiorina vs. Kasich vs. Jeb! vs.   .... did  I miss anyone? I'm sure I did....

Whatever.

So, the TPP has been signed and must be ratified.

For once, I am not going to talk much about the Repugnicans, for the simple reason that I don't think I have to any more. So here goes: Trump calling Cruz a pussy, Rubio using a canned line three times in a row during a debate (if Chris Christie can call out your bullshit, you really have a problem), Jeb! begging people to clap for him, Fiorina demanding a seat at the adult table, even though she's polling below the margin of statistical error - is it possible for people to unvote for you? Not sure there's much we can say about this troupe of jugglers, clowns and whores that hasn't already been said by better writers than I.

That leaves the other ticket. According to a couple of older feminists, if you ladies aren't voting for the candidate with the lady parts, you're goin' ta hell. Does anyone else remember the group that called themselves "Ladies Against Women"? Used to show up at Phyllis Schlafly rallies and overstate her positions to the extreme: "You're no one til you're Mrs. someone", that sort of thing. Best part was old Phyl didn't get the joke, and never banned them, because they were so enthusiastic. My thoughts on Hillary I've made before, and it's only gotten worse. I'm not interested in electing the same last name to the White House. The Roosevelts were fine it was practically a generational difference between the two. And Bobby would have been a better Kennedy anyway. But Hillary had her shot, and couldn't convince the Democratic party that she was the better candidate against someone we knew nothing about. Here we are again, and unless you're a full-time listener of Thom Hartmann's show, Bernie Sanders wasn't exactly a household name, either. And he didn't get to deliver any address at any convention.

(can you imagine the fit of vapours that Fox would have had had they let him sell the Democrats during a convention?)

Clinton has taken in more money than God from various banks and bankers to tell them that what we're all about is commerce, and we must work with the banks, rather than against the banks, to make sure that the American Dream can continue unabated. She doesn't actually mention who it's going to be unabated for, but that's nuance, and Washington, DC doesn't do nuance. And Hillary will absolutely ratify the TPP, even if, right now, she says she won't.

While Bernie is definitely on a longer road with the whole Socialist thing hanging over him, Hillary has the baggage of having a large number of Repugs who hate her so much it makes them sick. For them, it's not about policy, it's about the murder of Vince Foster, it's about letting Bill treat the Oval Office as his recruiting tool for, well, for his tool. It's about her probably being more criminal than attorney. It's about Whitewater. No matter that most of this is utter bullshit or something for which they've let lots of their own off the hook, they still believe it down to their shoes and beyond. They're convinced she's the Antichrist, and she will drag the country down to hell with her. I don't know if this is the majority of Republicans, but it's certainly the majority of Repugnican pundits, and they will tirelessly beat those drums until every registered R votes for pretty much anyone else. She's a name brand, but for the most part, she's a completely toxic brand on the Right side if the aisle.

And since I have to vote for someone, I will probably vote for her if she's the nominee. Really hate that kind of "choice".

Bernie is less well-known, and he does have the socialist taint (I've heard normally reasonable people ask, "you mean, the communist?"). But he's honest, and fearless, and willing to go anywhere to spread his message. The guy spoke at Liberty University for goshsakes, not exactly a hotbed of registered Democrats. I can imagine him going on Bill O'Reilly and just killing it, frankly. I won't go into all his policy ideas, since I'm sure they've been covered ad nauseum on other websites and by other writers, but the stuff he's for (Universal Health Care, a higher minimum wage, reining in and/or breaking up the big banks, etc., etc.) is what I'm for, and I see no reason to vote for people who think we should move slowly and pragmatically, when, as far as I'm concerned, that just means continuing not to do anything. I relish the idea of Lloyd Blankfein being really worried, the idea that Jamie Dimon might not get to make as much money for fucking over the country, I want the bankers who screwed us to go to prison, and I want jobs to come back to this country. We desperately need a revitalized middle class, and the sooner we get started, the better. And we need to be prepared for the next industrial revolution, because it has no relationship to the way things are done now.

Bloomberg? Of the smaller sodas? Please don't....

Monday, August 31, 2015

Not Your Grandfather's Racism

While waiting for the next black male to be, ahem, "shot while resisting arrest", let us turn our eyes to the current Repugnican front-runners, to see which of them is the prettiest in the land.

Donald Trump, in all his nativist glory, ejected a Univision reporter (one of the most respected journalists in the US Latino community, as well as in his - formerly - native Mexico) from one of his town hall meetings because Jorge Ramos asked him if he thought all this "Mexicans are rapists, murderers, drug dealers and thieves" talk might be misconstrued by some. This would include the moron who suggested Mr. Ramos go back to his own country - apparently unaware that the US IS Mr. Ramos' country. Mr. Ramos was invited back on the condition that he keep his damn mouth shut.

The Donald, of course, wants to end birthright citizenship, which would impact a whole lot more than a few Latinos in this nation. We're talking every immigrant from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, Iraq, Iran, to name but a few places where we (us, the US, that is) made life such a hellhole, that they came here to escape the oppression that we either supported or made worse by being as culturally insensitive as we possibly could, driving the local rulers insane, or condemning absolutely everything about Western culture, making life untenable for US supporters in those nations. So they came here.

And he wants to send them back.

Others have different ideas:

Pyush "Bobby Brady" Jindal thinks that, so long as someone comes to America and adopts everything that's bad about America, as well as a proper American accent, well, they can stay. If all they're going to do is pick our food, well, fuck them, send 'em back; taking jobs away from Americans, after all (who don't actually want to do those jobs all that much). If you're a Hindu, you should convert to Christianity, change your name to something innocuous and bland (maybe "Gilligan"), and make sure you talk like an angry fifth-grader.

Mr. Christie has now doubled down on treating legal immigrants the same way that Fed-Ex tracks packages. When Chris "the apple has fallen a bit far from the tree" Wallace mentions that these folks don't have numbers tattooed on their wrists (you know, the ones the Jews in the Holocaust DID have), Mr. Christie reiterates that yes, people aren't packages ("Don't be ridiculous" - really?), but we should still figure out how to track people like Fed-Ex tracks packages. RFID chip, implanted when they pass through customs, Mr. Christie?, or maybe we could hide them in jelly doughnuts as a gift when they arrive (but then, how many chips would YOU have roiling around in your guts, Mr. Christie?)

Mr. Walker wants to review the possibility of putting up a wall between us and Canada. 5,525 miles of a wall. I think the Canadians might approve of this, since a few of their (already low-count) gun homicides seem to be perpetrated by Americans who cross the border. But the pricetag? Who can say? It will probably have to be sourced to someone like Halliburton, so that Dick Cheney's walking, talking corpse can make another few billion to leave to his daughters when they can finally figure what kind of metal the bullet has to be in order to kill him.

That these candidates are taken seriously by anyone in the mainstream media is, of course, concerning, but unfortunately we have to take them seriously, since such a large part of the population has polled that they'd vote for 'em. That should always give one pause. To know, not just believe, that a large part of this country (which claims to be "not racist") is this racist. How quantifiable IS racism anyway? If you think that we're NOT a racist country because we elected a black President, understand that when more people vote, the wind almost always swings democratic. After George W Bush, everyone wanted the Dem in office - they didn't care if he/she/it was black or white or green or Satan. We ended up with a very cool cat, to say the least, and my favorite president so far this century.

What I'm hoping is that we do elect Bernie. He seems to be polling pretty damn well. Clinton is, I'm sorry, so hated by the Right that they will do everything they can to dump mud or blood on her head, until enough people believe it, and then vote for whatever asinine twat finally made it out of the clown car. O'Malley is one of the worst tools for fixing racism in this nation. He invented the whole CrimeStat/ComStat methodology that has proven so disastrous to community policing. And Joe Biden? I'm not sure what he's thinking, and I know he really wants the job, but they're going to nail him for kissing Barack Obama's you-know-what for eight years. They will pile as much filth on him as they would Clinton, simply because he represents the Obama legacy.

Clinton could still win it if The Donald decides to run as an Independent, thus splitting the Republican vote between the stupid and the self-deluded. I leave it to you to decide who those are.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Riotous Spring

The death of _minority individual_ in the _medium to large urban center_ by the _local law enforcement agency_ is becoming the simplest article to write. Since everything is on the internet these days, they usually include a viral video that generally proves that the story given by the police is at odds with reality.

When will the police realized that almost everyone is watching, almost all the time?

In the following days, the article about riots in _medium to large urban center_, sparked by the relative inaction by the DA's office, is also becoming easy to write. Very telegenic to boot - all that lovely fire, the sparkles of splintered glass in the street, the occasional spectacle of the police arresting someone for watching - something for everyone. It's all a big wet dream for CNN, Fox, local news, etc.

The worst aspect of this is that eventually it all begins to smush together, like roadkill that has been run over by one too many semi trucks. It becomes part of the noise of daily life, and when something becomes noise, it becomes something we can ignore. It no longer looks like a dead deer (which is sad); it more closely resembles reddish oatmeal, and we no longer recognize anything worthy of concern. Just like watching Detroit crumble from afar, the death of innocent minorities is something that (generally) happens far away from the rest of us. It's becoming too late to do anything.

All of the laudable goals within the Obama administration, such as buying every cop a body camera, are worth doing, but only if they're done everywhere. As a technology geek, I can tell you that technology works only as well as the end-user wants it to work. If they don't want it to work, they will kludge it up so it doesn't. As someone once said, making something idiot proof is difficult, because we're really good at making idiots. You can force them to wear body cameras, you can force the body camera to turn on when certain other pieces of hardware are activated (such as sirens or lights or stepping out of the car), but that can always be overridden by someone determined to do so. Even if the cop on the line doesn't know how to do it, the internet is full of guys who will help them figure out how to disable it, even to the point of making it a one-time glitch (or whatever "easy out" they need it to be). This is not to say we shouldn't do it. I would never argue against preventative measures, because there will be honest cops who might be saved from lynching with body cam footage, as well as the bad cops who will be caught by it. But no one should expect this to work perfectly. And it needs to be deployed in every precinct, on every cop, deputy, statie, etc.

Black homelessness, joblessness, and hopelessness are the final stages of the initial drive to destroy their culture through slavery, and the institutional racism that followed continues to overburden that part of our society. We have been systematically ripping up the avenues that the lower and middle classes had for gainful employment and/or advancement within society, and the African-American population of this nation is always last in line when things do get fixed. While we might bring back manufacturing and infrastructure jobs to the nation, should the unthinkable happen and Bernie Sanders becomes President, even that won't be enough for permanent, gainful employment for everyone. So many systems are being automated, eventually we will be hard-pressed to employ everyone full time. But instead of primarily hitting minority communities hard, it will hit everyone.

Everyone who isn't rich, that is.

Seems these days everyone in the dystopian future is young and attractive. Hunger Games, Divergent, The Seeker, etc., all young people, breaking out of the repressive shell that society has deemed appropriate for them. I suspect they will actually look more like me - middle aged, a bit portly, wandering into the grey haze of afternoon with no job, no money, no prospects, and believing that this wasn't what was meant to happen, that all those votes for the Democrats somehow still didn't manifest a good outcome, because nothing that has to happen in four or even eight years is worth doing well, and nothing that has to last for a hundred years is worth starting. Only science and the arts take the long view, and who takes those longhairs seriously anyway? Sure they can do their multi-decade experiments in outer space, because once it's out of the atmosphere, it hardly costs anything to maintain it or monitor it, and no one down here gets hurt. But something that has to last for a long time on Earth? Costs too much and requires too much maintenance. Who's going to pay for that?

If middle-class white folks truly had to worry about whether or not their children had a future that wasn't The Hunger Games. would they act? Are we all frogs in the great pot of cold water, waiting for the heat to be turned up under us? The African-American community has started noticing the temperature, and they're not putting up with it, but then they've been shat on forever, they know they're the first frogs in the pot. The real middle class in America has only just begun to notice that we're all in the same pot.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like...

ELECTION SEASON              (oh.....    joy.........)

I do this every four years (for the last four years or so), so it's time, once again, to look at the Republican Presidential hopefuls and a short look at the Democratic Presidential hopefuls, and essentially pass judgement on all of them, since that's what my vote will represent.

First, the "official" Repugnican candidates:

Ted Cruz
A Texan born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother, Mr. Cruz is the most condescending asshole in the Senate at the moment, and that's saying something. He's a snob (if you didn't go to Harvard or Princeton, well, fuck you), but he also speaks of his Christian upbringing, which somehow hasn't involved the actual teachings of Christ. His father is a raging anti-communist, Christian dominionist crazy-pants who is constantly making speeches about the next coming of Christ, or the evils of Obama, or commingling the subjects. A major conspiracy theorist who's son is pretty much on board with the conspiracy theories. Ted (right alongside Chuck Norris) is currently warning Texas about the invasion of the military.

Rand Paul
A silver-spoon Libertarian who no longer professes to believe in his own Libertarianism (while publicly proclaiming that he does). Opposed to abortion and gay marriage, for keeping marijuana illegal and invading other countries to let them know who's boss. Also apparently divorced from his own fairly recent past.

Marco Rubio
An Hispanic who has managed to alienate Latinos. In every poll, losing to a rich, old, white lady that everyone claims not to trust. His rebuttal to the President's State of the Union, interrupted as it was by a brief need for fluids, made us miss the eloquence of Bobby Jindal.

Ben Carson
An African-American neurosurgeon with very little understanding of how politics (or the brain) works, and yet believes himself the next coming of Lincoln/MLK. Another candidate who has managed to alienate his own ethnic group by essentially calling them all lazy for being poor. He has also espoused the theory that homosexuality is a choice, and his proof is that people who go to prison often come out having had one or more sexual experiences with the same sex. I guess he's never heard of prison rape, or seen "The Shawshank Redemption".

Carly Fiorina
Former CEO of Hewlett Packard, she took over the company when it was doing badly, laid off quite a few people (who probably won't be voting for her). She oversaw the purchase of Compaq computers when that company was going down the drain (which was not seen as a wise move), and was eventually ousted. Seems to have a nasty chip on her shoulder, and of course uses her faith as both a crutch and cudgel.

Mike Huckabee
Once spoke of rewriting the Constitution to be more in line with the word of God. Sounds relatively reasonable unless he's speaking to his own kind. Then, nuttier'n a fruitcake.

The unofficial Repugnicans:

Jeb Bush
Former President's brother or son, depending on which president you want to talk about. Jeb doesn't necessarily want to be equated to his younger, dumber sibling, but has hired all of Shrub's buddies as his advisers on important matters such as defense and foreign policy. So, you know, wars everywhere as soon as possible.

Rick Santorum
Still has his own Wikipedia entry that he wishes he didn't have.

Scott Walker
Very publicly butt-fucking his own state and all the people in it in favor of wealthy folks. The kind of Repugnican the Tea Partiers love.

Bobby Jindal
An E. Indian who has embraced Christianity and the Brady Bunch (hence the name), but would have disapproved of Pa Brady had he known what a homo he was. His rebuttal to the President's State of the Union speech made us miss the eloquence of George W. Bush.

Chris Christie
A fat man in a fat suit who isn't jolly at all. Always gets points with the local New Jersey-ites for telling people to go fuck themselves, but then, the GTL crowd has never been that interested in the larger picture. Which he is. Apparently as corrupt as everyone always thought he was, but we're still waiting for absolute proof.

Rick Perry
Made George W. Bush appear intellectual. Occasionally made Michelle Bachmann appear sane.

George Pataki
He's okay with abortions, believes in climate change, and universal health care. Not a snowball's chance in hell of making it through primary season.

Lindsey Graham
Not gay. NOT GAY. not gay... He may be an asshole, but he's not gay. 2nd most condescending non-gay asshole in the Senate.

John Kasich
Apparently, just right-wing enough to satisfy the right wing of the right wing, without appearing to be actually crazy. Keep an eye on this one.

Waiting for the debates to begin, just as soon as they get that damn clown car to open its doors...

The "official" Democratic candidates:

Hillary Clinton
Still recovering from the blowjob, Ms. Clinton has too much baggage, and yet fanTAStic name recognition, and polls well ahead of pretty much everyone. Makes nice speeches about how she's for less income inequality, less war, less bad stuff more good stuff. Has weathered more scandals than her husband and still, people like her better than all the other people they haven't actually heard from yet.

Martin O'Malley
Former Mayor of Baltimore, credited by professional Baltimorean David Simon as the guy who managed to make community policing the last thing the police should be doing, instead relying more and more on statistics (and if you can't lower the felony rate, "juke" the stats to fit what you want). A no-nonsense law & order politician who doesn't actually understand how to lower the crime rate. I bow to Mr. Simon's direct experience of this hollow man, and won't vote for him unless he's the only choice.

Bernie Sanders
The one person actually running that I want to vote for. Calls himself an independent, but tends to caucus with the Dems, and wonders why we shouldn't be more like Scandinavia. Wondered that one myself...

The unofficial Democratic candidate

Elizabeth Warren
The one person who isn't running who I'd also rather vote for. If Warren and Sanders were running against each other, I'm not sure what I would do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Future of Work

I think I've made this point before, but I have to ask whoever still reads this screed for comments on a thought experiment. But first, watch this video.

So the question becomes this simple: what do we do with the folks who don't have to work anymore? Do we finally push for a guaranteed minimum income? Or do we start up the meat grinders?

I don't have an answer for this. I think the concept of what this society might look like is either terribly dystopian (like The Road) or strongly resembles Star Trek's version of the future, where (since everything is easily achievable), no one gets paid for anything, and does whatever they can for the benefit of the society, or just for themselves, because everything is free.

I'd like to think it won't suck too hard, but then again, we are human beings after all...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Only Living Hero

New blog listed on the right-hand side of the page, called Stonekettle Station, a fellow from Alaska named Jim Wright, retired US Navy Warrant Officer, who's been through a lot of war. I may never again publish on the subject of military behavior or military politics again, just because of this guy, damn him. He gets it right, he's clearly been thinking about all of the stuff he writes about for longer than I have, and he is full of both righteous indignation and resigned sadness about the role of the military in America. I love his writing, and I'm finicky. I'd salute him, but I've heard that civilians saluting the military is considered weird, or perhaps just inappropriate (unless you're a small child - then the soldier/sailor/airman/marine will take it very seriously indeed).

I consider him my arch-enemy, and that is high praise.*

This is a guy who profoundly gives a shit, and will take none. Why he's not getting paid handsomely for his writing is a mystery to me. Anyway, you're welcome.

* to paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk