Let the world change you... and you can change the world

I Watched The News Today Oh Boy

On the evening news last night the two lead stories were the shootout at LAX and the latest cut in the food stamps program, and it occurred to me that this is the way it goes every day, day in and day out, here in good old America. It’s been almost a year since the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, and nothing, absolutely nothing has been done to curb gun violence. It just continues on, getting worse and worse, killing more people. And no doubt that the answer to this latest episode will be to put more guns in the hands of more people. The stupidity, it burns.

And then there was the story on food stamps benefits cuts. Here we are in the “greatest, wealthiest country on Earth” and yet one in seven Americans are on food stamps, and an incredible one in four children rely on food stamps. We’re in the middle of the second worst economic period in the history of the country, and we’re doing nothing, absolutely nothing to improve the situation. In fact, just like with our reaction to gun violence, we are actually making the situation far worse by failing to pass any significant stimuli programs and instead slashing spending and shutting down the government. And if that weren’t enough, we make matters still even worse by cutting programs designed to help the poor. This goes beyond stupid — it’s callous, it’s cruel, it reeks of selfishness on the part of those that are still doing well.

Is this what American exceptionalism is all about? Exceptionally stupid, exceptionally violent, exceptionally cruel, exceptionally mean-spirited? Maybe I need to just stop watching the news.

The Idiot National Media In Idiot Nation

Ever since Edward Snowden started exposing details of exactly what the NSA was doing some six months ago, we have been subjected to incredulously naive and stupid reporting by our national media. There’s been faux outrage from both Republicans and Democrats, from conservatives to liberals. Of course the Obama-hating Tea Baggers have been leading the attack. And the national media just goes right along with it, echoing all the nonsense.

There’s only one minor problem with all this outrage — the NSA is doing EXACTLY what Congress told them to do when it passed the Bush-Cheney inspired Patriot Act in 2001, which was renewed and even expanded on by Congress in 2007 and 2012. If you don’t like what the NSA is doing, they aren’t the ones that are at fault. It’s the Patriot Act that’s the issue. Gawd is this Idiot Nation at it’s shining best. Repeal the friggin’ Patriot Act if you don’t like being spied on, don’t blame the people you hired and told to do it!

And while we’re getting rid of the Patriot Act, how about we pass some more legislation that bans all the major networks from broadcasting any news shows, and requires them instead to carry The Daily Show in the news slot? In six months of this totally irresponsible news reporting, Jon Stewart is the only one to get this story correct.

Crime and Capitalism

Sam Seder and Matt Taibbi have some fun at the expense of some jerk-weed commentators on CNBC (see below).  How in the world do you defend a detestable crook like Jamie Dimon who has cheated and robbed so many people, and wreaked so much economic damage on the entire country while lining his and his pals pockets with billions of dollars?  These folks on CNBS clearly are totally devoid of any morals or ethics.

That said, though, they do have a valid point, one that I’ve preached about before (see here and here) — and that is that the sole objective of any corporation is to return a profit to share holders, period.  There is no social contract or any other such nonsense between a corporation and society.  Any time there’s a tradeoff between what’s good for society and the country as a whole versus returning a profit, the corporation will and should choose the latter.

And that’s exactly what Dimon has done time and time again.  If he can find some way to manipulate the markets which he knows full well is illegal and for which he knows worst case he’ll get a slap on the wrist fine of maybe $750 million — when the profits he stands to make are in the billions — then he pretty much has a fiduciary responsibility to share holders to do the crime.  Bottom line he’ll make a huge profit, and to hell with all the people he hurts in the process.  That’s just the way modern capitalism works.

So the real problem here is not the Jamie Dimon’s of the world, it’s the American verison of capitalism.  There’s no oversight, no regulation, no downside to committing criminal acts in the name of profitability.  And long term, that’s a recipe for disaster, as corporations and the one-percenters that run them slowly destroy the country.  And no one seems to care.

Idiot Media For Idiot Nation

Once again we are seeing a massive FAIL on the part of the national media in how this government shutdown is being handled.  How can this possibly be portrayed as anything other than blackmail by the Republican Party?  Here are the facts — Republicans have attempted to pass legislation to defund the Affordable Care Act on 42 separate occasions, only to have those bills ultimately fail every single time.  Clearly the U.S. Congress wants no part of that, and poll after poll shows that Americans are quite happy to at least let ACA get started as is.

So given that they can’t derail ACA using legitimate means, they are now refusing to fund the government unless their demands are met.  Please someone tell me how this is any different from some thug kidnapping a person and demanding a ransom before that person will be released?  It’s not kinda like that, it’s EXACTLY like that.  The Republican Party is holding the entire country hostage, demanding that ACA be defunded as their ransom.

How can anyone in the legitimate media portray this any other way?  This is blackmail, pure and simple.

What The One Percenters Have Wrought

From Krugman:

My working theory is that wealthy individuals bought themselves a radical right party, believing — correctly — that it would cut their taxes and remove regulations, but failed to realize that eventually the craziness would take on a life of its own, and that the monster they created would turn on its creators as well as the little people.

This is precisely what I postulated some time ago (see here and here). For years, wealthy conservatives have been running the Republican Party by successfully playing to racists and bigots and religious extremists. But then the nutcases joined forces in the so-called Tea Party movement, and as evidenced by today’s government shutdown, the inmates are now running the asylum that is the Republican party.

So now it’s going to be interesting to see how the One Percenters react to this Frankenstein of their creation. One would think that this government shutdown, along with the upcoming “fiscal cliff” crisis, would do some major damage to the economy, and thus ultimately would hurt them where it hurts most, in the pocket book. But I wonder if that will be the case. Remember that during the Bush Recession, the worst economic period in this country’s history since the Great Depression, the wealthy have actually prospered more than ever. Could it be that the overall health of the economy is irrelevant to them? What do they care if the size of the pie is shrinking, as long as the portion of the pie they get is increasing at a faster rate?

I would like to think that in a democracy, at some point the will of the majority of the people will prevail, and the tide will turn against the One Percenters. But that assumes we still have a democracy. With the power that the rich and their mega-corporations yield these days, that might not be a very good assumption.

Lessons From Syria

This national debate over what to do in Syria has highlighted so many problems with the way Americans think it’s hard to know where to begin.

First off, there’s the obvious issue that most Americans seem to grasp — that any kind of intervention in that part of the world inevitably ends in failure. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were total disasters, and it’s encouraging to see that most Americans do at least understand that now, even though it was painfully obvious even before we invaded Iraq. At least the hindsight is working OK.

Yet still most people fail to grasp the bigger issues of why we are even involved there at all — which is, of course, because that’s where the oil is. Here we are, twelve years since the 9/11 terrorist attack, and we’ve done absolutely nothing to solve the real problem of our dependence on their oil. And so Syria is just the latest hot spot. This insanity is going to continue forever (well, at least until all the oil is gone) unless we do something about our dependence on oil. And yet we do nothing.

Beyond the oil thing, there’s another issue that never gets addressed at all — that we as a people are totally incapable of understanding the people of the Mid East. It’s a different religion, a different culture, with different values and morals and ethics. For us to intercede there and try and thrust our way of life on them is, again, insanity.

Then there’s this comical idea that the U.S. has any kind of moral authority. That’s the one that really boggles my mind. Here we are, a nation that committed one of the worst acts of genocide in history against Native Americans. The only nation in the history of the world to use atomic weapons against another country, and we did it not once, but twice! What Syria is now accused of doing pales in comparison to the horrendousness of what we did to American Indians and the Japanese. And how do we set ourselves up as some type of international policeman, when we have continually thumbed our noses at international law by torturing prisoners on a regular basis?

This notion that we should be telling the rest of the world how to behave is ludicrous.

And what is bizarre about this affair is the way many Americans are reacting to what Obama is doing in Syria. To his credit, Obama decided not to act on his own but to seek Congressional approval. And at least so far, he has not received that and so has not acted. And yet, you have people criticizing him for that? Sheez, that’s the way things are supposed to work in a democracy — these right-wing war-mongers that are all upset with Obama not acting clearly have no concept of how a democracy works. But no surprise there.

But the utmost absurdity is the people criticizing the administration because they are now seeking a diplomatic solution with Russia playing a key role. Again, isn’t this the way things are supposed to work? Doesn’t it make sense that international problems be solved by international accords, not by one country playing policeman? What does it matter who is involved as long as you get a positive solution to the problem? But that’s the way these people think — they really don’t care about what problems get solved or what positive things happen, they only care about who gets credit. It’s their defining trait, pure selfishness. If something doesn’t benefit them directly, even if it makes the world a better place for 99% of people, they’re opposed to it.

But then, this is just another week in Idiot Nation.

Legalizing Murder

If you are carrying a gun and start a fight and someone dies, you are guilty of murder, period. Doesn’t matter what might have happened in the fight and who might have gotten the upper hand. You started the fight and you were the one that brought the gun to the fight. Ergo, you are guilty. You can’t possibly come up with any other conclusion.

How the fuck does the jury get this so wrong? The facts about who instigated the altercation and who brought the gun to the fight were not even disputed. So there was nothing to be decided. Guilty, as charged. Should have taken them all of two minutes to conclude that. Could the jury have been that fucking stupid? Yeah, this is Idiot Nation after all, but still….. you gotta believe there was a huge dose of racism going on in that jury room. Stupidity goes only so far here.

So basically what this verdict says is that if I want to kill you, all I have to do is buy a gun, start a fight with you, and then when you fight back, I can blow your brains out and walk away scot-free. That is not an exaggeration in the slightest. Beyond the stupidity and racism, this whole affair illustrates just how fucked up our gun laws are. Absolutely nothing good comes from gun ownership. ALL GUNS should be outlawed other than for the sport of hunting — and in those cases, gun ownership should be highly restricted and regulated. It’s what every other civilized country in the world does.

We remain one very, very sick society.

Common Sense Economics

This whole fuss over the flawed research done by Reinhart and Rogoff in trying to justify the “austerity” movement would be great comedy if it were not for the fact that so many people are needlessly suffering here in the U.S. and even more so in Europe because of this ill-conceived, wrong-headed economic policy.  Admittedly, a lot of these economic discussions do get rather complicated, and for anyone who doesn’t have much educational background in the field of Economics, I can understand how the average person can feel lost.  And so if your political leanings are towards smaller government, it’s easy to become an austerity fan, regardless of how much you really understand the economics behind it.  But in this case, you really don’t have to be all that knowledgeable about economics to know that the austerity backers are full of crap.  This is good old common sense.  You cut back on government spending, people are going to lose their jobs or face severe cutbacks — which will lead to them spending less, which will impact other businesses, who will then cut back, leading to more people having less money, and so the whole system gets caught in a downward spiral.  Anyone should be able to see and understand that, and therefore be able to reject this whole idea of austerity during weak economic times.

Regardless of how you feel about the size of government, when the economy is hurting IS NOT the time to cut back on spending. This is just plain old common sense. You want to downsize government, you wait until the economy is healthy. Now I know full well that a lot of the austerians understand this, and they just don’t give a rat’s ass about the poor and the middle class, and they got plenty of money to weather a bad economy — so it’s full speed ahead with austerity. Death to the middle class! But what is it about the average Joe, the guy who is getting hurt the most by this demented policy — why can’t he see through this bullshit? That’s what I don’t understand. What happened to good old common sense?


Makes You So Proud To Be A Texan

Speaking of the disaster that was the Bush Administration, apparently the move to rename part of Central Expressway in Dallas to George W. Bush Expressway is proceeding full speed ahead.  When I first read of this I thought surely this was a satire piece from The Onion.  But no, this is Texas where brains and common sense tend to be pretty rare.  Exactly what is going through a person’s mind when they think about honoring George Bush for his presidency?  Here’s a quick recap of the highlights of his administration:

  • worst terrorist attack in the country’s history
  • worst man-made disaster in the country’s history
  • worst financial crisis in the country’s history
  • most disastrous war in the country’s history
  • second-worst economic depression in country’s history

Now to be fair, we should list all the positives that also happened:

  • nothing

Worst President EverYep, eight straight years of nothing but one train wreck after another.  Well, if you are rich and the only thing in the world you care about is how much money you have, then I guess you would chalk up his tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as being a positive.  But then you’d have to be one self-centered, uncaring, stupid asshole to really think in the grand scheme of things that ended up being a positive.

So there you have it — we as a country would have literally been better off turning the White House over to a fourth-grade class in Topeka, Kansas than we were with Bush-Cheney.  And yet, the Texas legislature is looking for ways to “honor” George Bush.  To the credit of the national Republican Party, they do seem to be doing everything in their power to distance themselves from those dreadful eight years.  But here in Texas, Republicans are a very special class of Village Idiots.

Nobody Going To Dictate Our Freedom

Major kudos to the city of Boston in how they handled the Boston Marathon terrorist attack.  Everybody came together as one, got behind law enforcement, and quickly captured the people responsible for the attack.  And now it’s back to life as normal.  No foreign countries were invaded.  No suspects were tortured.  No innocent people were illegally imprisoned without due process.  No “patriot act” was passed depriving citizens of their constitutional rights.

This is the way a true democracy, a truly great country deals with attacks like this.  The Boston Marathon terrorists lost, Boston won.  Can you imagine how much different the world would be today if the Bush-Cheney administration had had the courage and intelligence and moral fortitude to deal with terrorism like Boston and the Obama administration did?

Big Papi Ortiz sums it up: