Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Ant, The Grasshopper, & a Big Steaming Pile of Manure

The Ant and the Grasshopper - a Fable from Aesop

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.


Work hard and save for the future!


The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving.

CBS, NBC, MSNBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast.

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, It's Not Easy Being Green...

ACORN stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, We Shall Overcome.

Then Rev. Jeremiah Wright has the group kneel down to pray for the grasshopper's sake.

President Obama condemns the ant and blames President Bush, President Reagan, Christopher Columbus, and the Pope for the grasshopper's plight.

Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government GreenCzar and given to the grasshopper.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his free-loading friends finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which, as you recall, just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around them because the grasshopper doesn't maintain it.

The ant has disappeared in the snow, never to be seen again.

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident, and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the ramshackle, once prosperous and peaceful, neighborhood.

The entire Nation collapses bringing the rest of the free world with it.


Be careful how you vote in 2010.


The ant works hard to sell the grasshopper (whom the ant knows is unemployed) a mortgage the grasshopper will not be able to afford, and falsifies the documents so that the bank will fund the loan. He then sells the loan to a different bank, which combines and sells packages of mortgages to investment bankers who then slice up these securities into manageable instruments, which are then insured by other companies, who then sell shares in the insurance policies.

The grasshopper finally gets a low-paying job, works hard and pays his mortgage on time, thinking that he’ll be able to re-negotiate the interest rate or the loan terms when the loan comes due in the winter. Meanwhile, the ant thinks the grasshopper is a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the housing market has collapsed (based on the bubble created by so many home sales based on falsified documents), and the grasshopper is about to be foreclosed on. The ant calls a press conference to decry the lazy, foolish, and (possibly) criminal behavior by the grasshopper.

CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and FOX all show up to the ant’s palatial home and kiss his ass. America is not stunned at all by the toadying.

No one asks why one person who works hard and pays his mortgage on time should be evicted, when the crook who set the whole thing up gets to stay in his mansion.

Newt Gingrich appears on Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck, and blames Obama, Clinton, and Woodrow Wilson, respectively.

ACORN does not exist anymore, so they cannot come and help the grasshopper.

Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham ask their followers to pray for the ant, and hint that the grasshopper is probably a Muslim.

President Obama condemns the ant and tries to pass legislation that will prevent other ants from perpetrating such fraud in the future, but only a small fraction of his own party is willing to pass legislation that might deny them election funds in the future.

Mitch McConnell and John Boehner exclaim in an interview with Chris Wallace that the ant got wealthy by putting in long hours of hard work, and should not be taxed any more than the grasshopper.

The US Chamber of Commerce spends millions of dollars on attack ads aimed primarily at any Congressperson who would dare to investigate mortgage fraud in any meaningful way.

The grasshopper is evicted, and forced to move into low-income, subsidized housing, rather than having his interest rate renegotiated to something he could afford to pay. He is laid off from work, as the economy has collapsed. His home is confiscated by the ant, who has received insurance for losing the mortgage payments, and can sell the house for less money on higher interest rates to another grasshopper.

The story ends, but we don’t see the grasshopper at all. Later, the ant writes a memoir, for which he is paid a handsome advance, and which joins many other books about how to succeed at business without really trying.

Ultimately, the ant disappears to Antigua, taking all of his money with him, and never paying another dime in taxes.

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident, and the house, remaining unsold on the market until the bank can get a better price for it, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the ramshackle, once prosperous and peaceful, neighborhood.

The entire nation, except for a few pockets of extreme wealth, collapses, while the rest of the world looks on in wonder at how stupid we got to be. Surprisingly, the rest of the world does just fine without us.


Stop letting corporations run the damn country.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Atlas Stank

I got into a verbal fistfight with an objectivist on the local newspaper forums here in Seattle. To quote the Spleen, "BIG. MISTAKE." I keep forgetting what a cult Objectivism is for some people.

I pointed out something that has come up in a lot of scholarly works about her of late, that she admired William Edward Hickman, a pretty horrible murderer, thief and kidnapper. At the same time, she derided the society that was so up in arms about what he'd done. I won't go into all those details right now, since I don't need to rehash what other folks have done better. Be warned, if you follow the link, you will possibly end up reading about the man's worst crime. It's beyond revolting.

However, this particular Rand acolyte directed everyone to not read anything I was commenting on (as it was based on Rand's less "mature" thought), and to go the website of the Ayn Rand Institute. As with my previous post on the Koran burner, I'm not giving out a website for a group that has more than enough publicity. You wanna read this stuff, go look it up.

The things I find amusing about Objectivists: it's all about Reason, Rational behavior, Rational emotions ("rational" emotions? I was under the impresstion that rational and emotional were kind of at odds with each other), and Capitalism - unregulated, unfettered capitalism - would set everyone free. Financial market meltdowns, depressions, etc., are all caused solely by unwarranted government regulation and interference - not greed, not poor planning, not due to anything that a Capitalist would have done, no, they're all too smart to screw themselves or the economy or the whole world over for a few extra bucks. And Religion, all religion is bad and stupid and wrong and misguided.

Not totally disagreeing with the last thought, but it's not up to me to judge what other people believe, unless their beliefs directly impinge upon my rights and freedoms. Rand thought all religion is inherently evil. She liked that word a lot. So do a lot of objectivists.


Charity: Evil.

Public Education: Evil.

Environmental Protection: Evil.

While I understand the basic premise, that government should only be there to protect us from the violence done by others (physical violence, that is), and to enforce contracts, and to defend the nation against enemies, I think the problem resides in the idea that if everyone just behaved, the world would be fine.

I mean, how naiive can you get?

But the Ayn Rand Institute is carrying water for a lot of large corporate interests, and I wonder how Rand's followers would feel if they really looked at what these shmucks write, and who they like to play with. Michael Berliner, one of the board co-chairs, works for a government-subsidized university, Cal State Northridge. Arline Mann, the other board co-chair, is a lawyer who works as Managing Director and General Counsel of Goldman Sachs. The President, Yaron Brook, regularly appears on Glenn Beck's shows to talk about why government regulation and monetary policies are all bad.

First of all, public education, according to Ayn Rand, is eeeeeevil. So what is Berliner doing, working at a State University, living off the public teat?

And don't get me started on Ms. Mann. Ayn Rand and Goldman Sachs. How absolutely fucking perfect.

Glenn Beck is a practicing Mormon, who promotes the writings of Cleon Skousen, famous for defending the Mormon church against charges of racism (they wouldn't ordain black ministers), by accusing his accusers of being Communists (pretty much anyone who disagreed with Mr. Skousen was accused of Communism - it's an easy out, after all). Beck, of course, regularly promotes religion in his TV and Radio programs, and his Event on August 28th was pretty much a big revival meeting with bits of Sarah Palin thrown in. So, does Brook go on Beck's show and argue theology with him? Of course not. As long as Glenn Beck promotes the idea that income tax is bad, and government regulation is bad, Mr. Brook is perfectly willing to overlook Beck's little pecadilloes regarding the nature of the entire Universe and whether or not there's even a God. Personally, I think Ayn Rand would be spinning in her grave.

One of the "Fellows" of the Institute, Alex Epstein, has written extensively on environmental issues, how we'll never run out of oil if we just keep looking, how all those folks advocating solar, wind and waves are idiots, because it's never been proven to really work that well (except, of course, where it does), and environmentalism is just another form of evil. An Analyst in the Policy Division, Thomas Bowden, writes about Culture (which I thought meant art and music), and at least one of his articles is about how Columbus helped bring enlightenment and prosperity to the American Indian. Never mind about that whole syphilis thing. Mostly he writes about Christmas not being commercial enough (isn't Christmas a relgious holiday?), and at Thanksgiving, we should be thanking ourselves.

The fatal flaw of Objectivism and Libertarianism (which isn't the same, there's no philosophical foundation for Libertarianism - according to the Objectivists I've talked to) is that, given the chance, everyone will behave in a strict, moral fashion, and everyone will have the opportunity to succeed, most especially if government gets out of the way, and lets everyone just do their thing.

Must be nice in that bubble.

All in all, Objectivism is a philosophical wonderland populated by would-be aristocrats who've been kept down by the Man, man, self-deluded, both historically and morally untenable. And I won't fall into the trap of treating one of Rand's followers as rational, ever again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Burning Down Your House*

*with apologies to David Byrne and the Talking Heads

South Fulton, Tennessee probably has a lot to be proud for. I have no idea what (since I can't seem to find an on-line version of their local newspaper - assuming they have a local newspaper anymore), but I'm sure they must think of themselves as a good, old-fashioned, blue-collar community.

Gene Cranick, on the other hand, has learned a valuable lesson this last week: pay the firefighter fee!

See, Mr. Cranick didn't pay the fee, or forgot to pay the fee, or something, and when his house caught fire and got a little too out of control for him to put out the fire himself, he called 911.

The firemen didn't show. He called again.

Still nothing. He called one more time, offering to pay "whatever it'll take" to put out the fire.

The firemen came! He was so grateful. They pulled out hoses, hooked up gear, got ready.

And stood there like statues. The house burned to the ground. The fee? $75, annually.

Cranick offered them money directly. No go. They were there to protect his neighbor's house, in case the fire spread (which, eventually, it did). The neighbor had paid his seventy-five bucks, and by God, he was going to get his money's worth.

Libertarians I have read are saying, well, the guy offered to pay - take his money or his written agreement to pay and put out the fire. On the other hand, if there's only the one fire truck and two fires at the same time (rare occurrence, but who knows?), and only one has paid, well, put out the fire for the guy that paid.

I'm waiting to see firemen walking around with clipboards stuffed with legal contracts that authorize them to fight a fire, and hold harmless the City, that requires multiple initials and signatures before they can put out your house, save your kids, etc. Probably a credit check involved somehere, since, if you can't be relied on to make the payments, you'll have to cough up a cashier's check on the spot.

(off in the distance, you hear the crackling sound of your dog burning, and, on the breeze, the smell of roasted flesh)

I'm waiting for the first pay-to-solve-the-crime police department, myself. Pay the fee, the cops show up and solve a crime, otherwise, you're on your own. It'll make murdering your spouse that much easier - just don't pay the fee!

I'm not going to use this as a metaphor for health insurance and health care, even though it's a really easy shot.

Are we truly this insane, this regressive? I'm reminded of Boss Tweed and Gangs of New York, paying for protection, and the firefighters only putting out fires if the folks have a little brass plate on the front of their building, saying they've paid their "fee". I begin to wonder if this is the future the hardcore libertarians/tea partiers have in mind for us.