Scams

Setting:

FOX restaurant, somewhere in a red state

Mr FOXwatcher
Morning

FOXbot
Morning

Mr FOXwatcher
What have you got, then?

FOXbot
Well, there’s Muslim and Benghazi; Muslim Kenya and Benghazi; Muslim and scams; Muslim, Benghazi and scams; Muslim, Benghazi, Kenya and scams; scams, Benghazi, Kenya and scams; scams, Muslim, scams, scams, Benghazi and scams; scams, scams, scams, Muslim and scams; scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, socialism, scams, scams, scams and scams; or a series of discussions featuring four conservatives to every liberal moderated by someone who hasn’t had a clue about anything that’s ever happened since 1987 and scams.

Mrs FOXwatcher
Have you got anything without scams in it?

FOXbot
Well, there’s scams Muslim Kenya and scams, that’s not got much scams in it.

Mrs FOXwatcher
I don’t want any scams!

Mr FOXwatcher
Why can’t she have Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya?

Mrs FOXwatcher
That’s got scams in it!

Mr FOXwatcher
Not as much as scams, Muslim, Kenya and scams.

Mrs FOXwatcher
Look, could I have Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya without the scams?

FOXbot
Uuuuuuggggh!

Mrs FOXwatcher
What d’you mean, uuugggh? I don’t like scams!

Vikings
(singing) Scams, scams, scams, scams, scams … scams, scams, scams, scams … lovely scams, wonderful scams …

FOXbot
Shut up. Shut up! Shut up! You can’t have Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya without the scams.

Mrs FOXwatcher
Why not?

FOXbot
No, it wouldn’t be Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya, would it?

Mrs FOXwatcher
I don’t like scams!

Mr FOXwatcher
Don’t make a fuss, dear. I’ll have your scams. I love ’em. I’m having scams, scams, scams, scams, scams socialism, scams, scams and scams.

FOXbot
Socialism is off.

Mr FOXwatcher
Well can I have scams instead?

FOXbot
You mean scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams?

Mr FOXwatcher
Yes.

FOXbot
Arrggh!

And so on and so on and so on…

RIP Bartcop

Terry Coppage, known to many of us as “Bartcop“, was one of the original bloggers, doing it before the term was even coined. He was a boisterous, unapologetic supporter of liberal causes and an opponent of everything the right wing has done to us over the years. Sadly, since the professional left has no conception of the idea that you need to support people like Bart, he did most of his work while struggling to keep his rent and bills paid, but it never lessened his enthusiasm for what he did, nor ruined his love of life, particularly drinking Chinaco and playing poker.

The original title of his blog was “Rush Limbaugh Lying Nazi Whore”, so in that vein let me present this, this song was obviously done many years ago (you can tell by the references), but it was very cleverly put together, as that’s really Rush’s voice, carefully edited. The music video was done much later.

An excerpt from Bartcop from way back in 1996 is perhaps the best example of how he dealt with issues of the day:

I have a satellite dish. I caught some audio of Dole after the show. The caterer brought some food in. “Bob Dole wants a diet Coke,” he said. “Bob Dole wants a Hot Dog!”

Someone, maybe a kid serving the food, asked Dole if he wanted mustard on his Hot Dog.

Bob Dole said: “Well, I feel that’s it’s my view that mustard is certainly one of the options we’re looking at. We’re looking at a number of options, actually. There’s lot of condiments… ketchup, for instance. Some like it, some don’t….

That’s not up to the federal government to decide. Those decisions are best made locally …the states. Some people talk about relish, relish… is…

Cheese! Lot of cheese lovers in America….. Perhaps we’ll go with mustard, but we haven’t made a final determination on that, haven’t decided… It might come down to a situation where we have some ketchup and some mustard…we’ll know soon…”

Mrs. Dole interrupted and said:

“Bob Dole has always supported mustard on Hot Dogs. Bob Dole has been, and continues to be pro-mustard. Mustard has a friend in Bob Dole.”

Rest In Peace, Terry, you are already missed.

Here are some other links remembering Bart

Raw Story

Democratic Underground

Crooks & Liars

Smirking Chimp

Peasantry

The human body needs air, food and water to live. Take any one of those out of the equation………..and you die. It’s that simple.

So it’s a wonder to me that states allow corporations to poison our lands, poison our air or poison our fresh water supply, showing a complete disregard for human life, all in the name of profit.

Corporate industrial pollution is a crime against humanity. For states to allow it is suicide.

Brandon From Brooklyn

No no no, you’re forgetting the Second Principle of conservative thought: Money and Power are the only things that are real. Air, water, food, clothing and shelter, these are only things you obtain with that money and power.

Never mind anything else, that’s the mindset. It’s always about the acquisition and retention of wealth and power, period. The First Principle of conservative thought is justification: Some People Are Better Than Others. The Second Principle is application, the third, The World Ends When You Die is arrogance: a disdain for any future above and beyond your lifetime. Because as long as you have what you have, what happens after you die is of no concern, apart from whatever legacy you hope to leave behind.

Sadly, most of the people being poisoned in the name of the Second Principle continue to hurt only themselves by supporting these policies and politicians under the false impression that the 1% earned what they have and the rest deserve their fate. Maybe some honestly believe that if they work hard enough they too can be one of the 1%, but at this point that has to just be a delusion, as it should be very clear by now that that just isn’t going to happen.

That’s the difference between a medieval agrarian mindset and an modern industrial mindset. A peasant can never be a King, but a free citizen can have a good life without being either. It’s harder work, being a free citizen, but it’s definitely more worth it.

Our Stupid Minds!

“A friend once asked if it was true that no politician ever failed by underestimating the intelligence of the peasants and the livestock. I told him we would never know, because their intelligence was something that was impossible to underestimate.”

-President Weishaupt, from Cerebus The Aardvark

I read about a lot of people who are surprised and amazed when they hear some of the things said by Republican politicians these days. While obviously there are serious reasons that one political party will oppose another, there’s a difference between an honest disagreement and an opposition that’s based on no facts whatsoever. Like the idea that President Obama was born in Kenya, or that he’s a Muslim: that both of those statements are undeniably false means nothing: they validate the hatred of the President and that’s all that matters. As Im so fond of saying, discussing politics with some of these people is like discussing baseball with someone who is absolutely and unwaveringly certain that Babe Ruth played shortstop for the Chicago Cubs in the nineteen-fifties, it’s that far removed from reality. And it really becomes pointless to even try to talk to them.

My usual answer when I read about these comments from politicians is that if you think they’re idiots, you have yet to meet their constituents. I saw a video of a town hall meeting where one lady was saying with absolute certainty that the President was bringing Muslim terrorists into the country as pilots, which was a new one on me. She didn’t make this up herself, on further research it seems this was a story going around on the B-level right wing talk circuit, but it’s a perfect example of how people will believe the most ridiculous things if it concurs with their already existing prejudices.

Lincoln famously said that the Union could not exist half slave and half free, it’s also true that the Union cannot exist when half the population, or half the elected officials, is batshit crazy.  Because crazy they surely are, and I for one don’t entirely understand the motivations behind some of the things they do. Granted, for the ones perpetuating these stories, most of it is just a scam, an advancement of things that televangelists have been doing for ages to separate the rubes from their money. If you don’t believe me, watch an hour or so of a show like The 700 Club, if you can bear it. We’re all in danger, send money is what it always boils down to, and there are no end to the assorted threats and dangers, when one is forgotten there is a new one: we have always been at war with Eastasia, etc.. That it comes from a private organization and not the government doesn’t make much difference. Of course victory can never be achieved, if it did, the gravy train would stop, and you can’t have that.  So I can at least understand the desire to catapult the propaganda, what I don’t really understand is why, time and time again, the marks fall for it.

I recall many many years ago I watched a documentary about the origins of the religious right as a political organization in the US, and apparently they began to organize politically when President Carter was preparing to order the Justice Department to investigate some of these scams. Because of that the hucksters learned how to organize politically, and thanks to massive amounts of funding from individuals like the Koch brothers (who aren’t associated with the religious right but on whose vote they require in order to pursue their own agenda), as well as the gerrymandering of numerous congressional districts that ensure the craziest of crazy people can say pretty much whatever they want without fear of the consequences, we have a situation where this country is very much in danger of falling apart completely.

At Cooper Union, Lincoln correctly pointed out that the slave states would never be convinced that the free states had no intention of ending slavery, which of course they did not. Many businesses relied on slavery for their business just as much as the slave states relied on it for their economy.  Most people of the day in fact believed that slavery would continue, that some sort of deal would be made, and many in the free states even sympathized with the slave states to an extent, and had no more love for slaves than the antebellum South. That all changed when Fort Sumter was fired upon, and Lincoln was proved right: only through bloody war were the slave states brought to bay, and even so, to this day, they remain absolutely convinced of their righteousness, ignoring the facts of history and looking forward to the day when the “South will rise again”.

A country cannot be allowed to go this crazy without consequences, and I believe one of two things has to happen in order for us to return to any reasonable sense of normalcy: a massive political revolt along the lines of the New Deal, when things get so bad that tremendous changes need to be made not just to how we do government but to how we perceive our daily lives, or that sort of change has to come from without, from an outside force moving in to make these changes for the safety of the rest of the world. I think that will be more of an economic struggle than a military one, but we’ll see. I think such a thing is inevitable, just a matter of when, and I wonder if it will happen in my lifetime.

Until then, I will remain unsurprised by any of the stupid things being said or done by the Republican Party.

The Problem With Atlanta

Speaking as someone who has lived in both cold weather and warm weather environments (including Atlanta), and speaking only for myself, I have to say I’m rather enjoying watching Atlantans cope, or more precisely, not cope, with the little snowstorm that paralyzed the Atlanta metro area a couple of days ago. To me, though, it has nothing to do with an inability to drive in harsh conditions: in my time in Atlanta as a professional driver I had to deal with some of the most selfish drivers in the country, I can say for a fact that their inability to drive has nothing to do with weather conditions. The truth is, no one in any city can drive on ice no matter how good or bad a driver you are. Not changing your driving habits, well, that just comes with the territory.

No, the reason I’m enjoying watching them collapse under a couple of inches of snow is because it’s something they could have easily avoided if the entire philosophy of the Atlanta metro area wasn’t “you’re on your own”. Also “fuck everyone else”. What happened in Atlanta this week, writes Rebecca Burns, is not a matter of Southerners blindsided by unpredictable weather. More than any event I’ve witnessed in two decades of living in and writing about this city, this snowstorm underscores the horrible history of suburban sprawl in the United States and the bad political decisions that drive it.

And those bad political decisions are based on the policies of pridefully ignorant, selfish, and self-centered people whose wealth still comes from the taxes of people they disdain. I would make more mention of racism as well, but why bother?: since it would be belaboring the obvious even above and beyond the supposed subject of this entire blog. The residents don’t call MARTA “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta” for nothing, you know. That’s why the Braves are moving out to the suburbs.

This is about more than just roads, or bad driving. It’s about a mindset that rejects the idea that people should work together for their own benefit, or that we are a self-governed nation seeking common goals, or that there is a world that exists beyond their own little bubble. It’s not just Atlanta, it’s the whole country, and if the US is in decline, this is why. It’s not the politicians, the politicians are only the symptoms. The disease is us.

Things I Don’t Understand

I’ve been reading a lot about the chemical spill in West Virginia, and you’ll have to forgive me but I really don’t have a lot of sympathy for the people of West Virginia in this, as they have consistently elected the kind of politicians that have allowed large corporations to get away with this sort of thing for decades. I’ll be honest and say I really don’t understand the thought process that enables you to believe that “freedom” is getting ripped off by corporations and “slavery” is having the government write and enforce legislation that makes your life better.

West Virginians pride themselves on overcoming adversity, which would be an honorable thing if it weren’t for the fact that they go out of their way to create adversity for themselves, and of course to wish it on other people. This isn’t limited to safety regulations, it also has to do with other things, like for example poverty-level wages. Mountaineers Are Always Free is the state motto, and it’s apparently been interpreted to mean that work here is cheap, and the workers themselves are proud of it.

I have developed, over the years, a deep loathing for the American South and that part of Southern culture that takes great pride in being ignorant, overworked, and underpaid, and who apparently want to make everyone else as miserable as they are. Not all Southerners are like that, of course, and not everyone who believes that are Southerners, but they’re the main cause of it, and if my reading of history is correct, they’ve been that way since before this country was founded.

Sadly, even in the wake of the chemical spill disaster that poisoned their water supply, I doubt very much will change. It’s one of those things I hope I’m wrong about, but I’ll believe it when I see it. It’s time the citizens of places like West Virginia or Alabama or Mississippi and other states began to act like true citizens of a free nation (which means taking responsibility for more than what each individual does) and less like peasants to be exploited by their “betters” under the false belief that that’s how it’s always been. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I really don’t know why they don’t just see it.

Starvation As Policy

Times are tough in the US. Everyone seems to know that but as always seems to be the case we can’t agree on the cause of it or how we can fix it. I have my own ideas, of course, and I’ll get to those in a moment, but I wanted first to discuss the larger issue in the context of this article from Bloomberg concerning the long-term unemployed, particularly this paragraph:

The view that desperation will force the unemployed to get a job, which seems to drive Republican opposition to extending federal benefits, just isn’t supported by the data. And that’s leaving aside the moral problems with starvation as a policy strategy. Moreover, the long-term unemployed who have lost benefits have especially little chance of finding work, research from economist Rand Ghayad shows.

Starvation as a policy strategy. That’s a very frightening statement, especially when it applies to what is still a major political party in the US, a party that has the power to make and influence policy, and whose ideology has, in fact, been the primary political force over the last thirty years or so. I would very much prefer not to believe that the politicians and their financial backers who support this idea of “kicking the poors”, as Atrios would say, is something good for society, or that they would rather those of us (like myself) who have found themselves locked out of the job market would just get it over with and die rather than be a burden on everyone else, but it’s hard not to reach that conclusion.

In keeping with the tone of this blog, it should be clear to everyone that what we have now simply doesn’t work, that deregulation and “austerity”, that an economy -no, a society– built entirely on the idea that the acquisition and retention of wealth and power is the primary purpose of said society, does nothing more than make everyone, rich and poor alike, miserable. Why should we want to live in such a world? Why do we work so hard to make things difficult? Why, when a poor person who is struggling sees someone making more money and has better benefits, thinks not “how can I improve my life?” but “how can I bring that person down to my level?” Further, why do we idolize and make celebrities of people whose only skill is having been born rich: whose incompetence is hidden by the vast sums of money that have because of birth or connections? I don’t have an answer to any of those questions, but I don’t think the why is necessary, what’s necessary is to change that.

You would think that we would have learned this lesson by now, that there really is no such thing as a “free” market, left to itself it can be as oppressive as any Communist dictatorship. It should be painfully obvious that the private sector alone is incapable of providing full employment: it takes a combination of public and private sector employment for things to work better, and a strong social safety net so that those who fall through the cracks for whatever reason need not suffer. But I think that type of economy, which dominated the US from the inception of the New Deal until the so-called “Reagan Revolution”, is long gone and not coming back, at least I doubt it will in my lifetime. It seems to me that the reason it won’t is because we’ve lost the sense of outrage that was what brought about the New Deal to begin with.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with the rich or with the idea of wealth to begin with. I am perfectly happy to let Donald Trump and Paris Hilton live their lives and do what they do, whether they become celebrities or not, it’s really not my business. Even the Koch brothers, whose influence on our government is, I believe, damaging and dangerous, have a right to be happy and live lives of luxury, whether they earned their money or not. I’m not one who cares to make those sort of judgements.

But the problem is that people like the Koch brothers, and like Mitt Romney, are never satisfied with the amount of money they have. They could own the Earth and still it wouldn’t be enough, and the impression I get is that it doesn’t matter to any of them how much the rest of us have to suffer because of their greed. I see it as a sickness, and again, I don’t have an answer as to why they think the way they do. But we have a right to stand up to them, to make sure that while they play their little games and pretend to be Masters Of The Universe, the rest of us can still lead happy, financially secure lives. And I’m sure most people in my economic sphere would agree with me.

How I Came To Name This Blog

It took me some thinking to come up with a name for this new blog. Some of you reading this might remember my Cup O’ Joe blog from a few years back (which accompanied my radio show), but that was a much more politically-oriented blog than I intend for this one to be. Not that I won’t talk politics here, but it will be just one of many things I intend to write about.

But on those occasions where I do discuss politics, I find I’m not doing much more than repeating some of the same arguments over and over again, and mostly preaching to the choir. To me, a lot of the talk about what’s going on is painfully obvious, and it feels a bit frustrating when people with a very strict ideological bent don’t see things the same way, or assume that my arguments are based on premises as ideological and inflexible as theirs.

Take, for example, the issue of guns. People who are “pro-gun”, for lack of a better term, tend to have a fairly simple argument: Everyone should be armed, at all times, with however many and whatever kinds of weapons they can get. To this they also add, in an attempt to make us think they want the world to be a better place, that An armed society is a polite society, the logic being that people would be forced to be less rude if they knew there was danger involved. This, to me, is only true if you believe that deadly force is actually a deterrent, or if you feel that deadly force is the first, or perhaps even the only acceptable response to any disagreement or showing of disrespect.

Pro-gun people tend to give two main reasons to explain their philosophy: self-defense and government tyranny, though some will jokingly (and not jokingly!) add zombie apocalypse to that list, meaning a breakdown of society in general. But as I see it, only certain types of weapons are best for self-defense: I don’t understand why anyone would think that an AK-47 is a “defensive” weapon, as it’s really designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Seriously: if you can’t kill someone with six shots fired at close range you have no business owning a weapon of any kind in the first place. As for government tyranny, well, it seems to me there are better ways of preventing that than simply having everyone armed.

And no, I don’t buy the argument that compares other devices to guns in terms of safety. Yes it’s true that any item can be used as a weapon, but just because people use them as weapons doesn’t mean that’s what they were designed to do. A lot of people get killed by cars but the purpose of a car is transportation. Even knives, which were designed as weapons, are more useful in other applications. I hear some people use the argument that guns are designed to fire a lead pellet using expanding gas. No. That’s function, not purpose. And yes, the purpose of bows and arrows and swords is to kill as well, just because people use them for other things doesn’t negate that. Guns just make it easier, and particularly assault weapons, which as I mentioned earlier are clearly offensive weapons.

Now some gun owners among the “pro-gun” crowd don’t use those arguments. Many of those are hunters who don’t concern themselves with issues of “self defense” or “government tyranny”, they’re hunters. They tend to prefer rifles to handguns, and use their rifles for a very specific purpose. Not that all of them are responsible with their firearms: as my friend Bob Kincaid points out, there’s only one letter of difference between a lawful gun owner and an awful gun owner, but on the whole my impression is they’re pretty responsible with their weapons. Sadly, they are a very small minority among the pro-gun crowd.

Another hot-button issue is abortion, with the people who oppose abortions calling themselves “pro-life”, which to me is rather odd when you consider that many of the same people who call themselves pro-life are also pro-gun. But I’ll not get into that. The pro-life crowd doesn’t even really have an argument, they have a statement, which is Abortion Is Murder. When asked to expand upon that, they tend to fall silent. If abortion is murder, I like to ask, Then who gets charged with the crime and what is the penalty? That seems to me to be a pretty straightforward question, and I for one would like to hear an answer to it, but I never do. At least if they said, Well, the mother and the doctor should be charged with infanticide, and face whatever penalty that comes with a conviction, we could probably come to some kind of agreement. But I have yet to hear, and all the arguments I hear from the pro-life crowd have to do with how beautiful babies are and how we should save them all. Hard to argue against that in emotional terms, but in practical terms, what would it mean to make abortion illegal?  Again, it’s not even brought up.

Now to me, in both these issues, there are better ways of dealing with them. Most of the people I discuss them with assume, falsely, that I and others like me are diametrically opposed to their point of view and just as stubborn. I’m not pro-gun, therefore I want to take everyone’s guns away. I’m not pro-life, which means I think abortions are just fine. Perhaps if they ever bothered to talk to me rather than talking at me they might see that in some cases I agree with them, or at the very least that I recognize some of the more valid points they make.

Personally, I would rather that no one would be armed except trained professionals such as police or soldiers. But I recognize that this is unrealistic and seeing how some police are today, and how militarized we have become as a nation, I just don’t have much faith that either the police or the military will behave responsibly.  And I can certainly see the need for people to keep a handgun in their house for their safety, even though I think being armed actually makes you less safe. I read too many news reports about domestic fights or petty disputes escalating into gunfire, and too many stories about irresponsible handling of guns leading to unfortunate deaths. I’d like to see more clear definitions of what constitutes a defensive (or hunting) weapon as opposed to an offensive weapon, require renewable licensing and regular training, and clear and reasonable penalties for failing to follow the law. And such laws need to be national in scope: I hear people talk about how strict gun control is here in Chicago yet we still have a lot of gun-related deaths. Well, obviously (obviously to me, anyway) people aren’t buying guns here in Chicago, they’re buying them elsewhere and bringing them here. I am opposed to concealed carry laws, and any laws that allow people to carry weapons with them. People are just too irresponsible for that. I support background checks, waiting periods, traceable ammunition and oppose the idea that all gun sales must be private and secret. None of these things, to me, affect anyone’s ability to own a firearm for their own protection, even if the reality is they’re no safer than they were before. There’s more, but I think you all get the idea.

As for abortion, well, I don’t like them, and I don’t know anyone who does like them. I do think they should be legal, however. I just think if you want to prevent abortions there are much better ways of doing it that don’t require making it illegal. Sex education. Birth control. Building a society where we’re more accepting of sex for the pleasure of it, where we neither repress nor exploit it. Better adoption laws: why do we make it so difficult for a couple to adopt a child when any two people, regardless of economic circumstance or mental capacity can have one, and we demand they care for it? Also, more people who are more willing to adopt minority children or disabled children or children from drug addicts. Building an economy where simply having a child doesn’t crush you financially, which I think is the biggest reason people have abortions in the first place.

Look, I’m not qualified to say why these people believe what they do, or take the attitude that they do about these issues. I’m neither a psychologist nor an anthropologist. In the case of the pro-gun crowd, my feeling is that they just love guns and are looking forward to the day when they can blow someone away. That the “pro-life” crowd refuses to address any of these issues seems to me to indicate that the only thing they really want is to feel morally superior to others for being “pro-life”.

Now these things seem painfully obvious to me, and it’s difficult for me to even write about it because I feel it should be painfully obvious to everyone else, or at least I hope we can try and find better solutions. There’s a difference after all between what I don’t like and what I’ll accept, I wish it was that way for others. In any event, that’s why I came up with the name of the blog. I hope someone reads it some day.