This is my last blog for True/Slant. It looks like I'll be blogging elsewhere come September- but since no contracts are signed, I can't really tell you where (hint: it rhymes with Morbes). In the meantime, the LAST column gives me a chance to do something that blogging rarely allows me to do: reflect. And upon reflection, this is what I've learned from my time at True/Slant.
When I first started this column, I was pissed. Bush was still in office, two illegal and imperialistic wars were in full swing, and although the Wall Street Ponzi scheme built on the democratization of debt had not yet collapsed, it was increasingly clear that most of us had been screwed by Neoliberal capitalism. Three decades of tax giveaways to the richest Americans and the destruction of the social safety net meant 80% of us were worse off than in 1980. I was finishing up a book on just that topic (American Plastic) and the more I knew about how in debt Americans were, the more angry I became. It was clearly a case of us vs. them, the working classes vs. the super rich who were robbing us blind. I truly believed that it was time to stop this nonsense, band together as the majority, and take our country back. It was in this spirit that I started "Class Warfare."
Ah, has the world changed since then. Oh, don't get me wrong. The rich got even richer in 2009, the rest of us are worse off than ever, but the idea that there might be a possibility of uniting around our common class interests and taking our country back from the robber barons who have been running it seems so completely disconnected from reality that I want to travel back in time two years and throw a bucket of ice-water into my stupidly optimistic face.
If I had been shocked into reality with a faceful of water, perhaps I would have predicted the success with which white resentment would be mobilized in groups like the Tea Party. The righteous anger of the white masses is not at the bankers and politicians who put us in this mess, but at Mexican immigrants. And if I could have predicted that a huge portion of angry white Americans would have their rage misdirected, perhaps I could have also known that the Obama administration would not be able to resist the lure of military "solutions" to political and economic problems. I might have even predicted that the Obama administration would be given far too much of a free pass by the "Left" to do whatever they saw fit, and what they saw fit to govern as a Centrist Right party, especially without any pressure from their base.
Ah, but I was ever so young when True Slant editor Coates Bateman called me up two years ago and said "Listen, we've got this idea." Of course, I'm ever so much older now and can see that the world we have won is a bigger mess than I could have ever imagined. A good map of the place we're at can be found at today's New York Times. It is a map of the latest vote on military spending in Afghanistan. Just days after WikLeaks released documents to illustrate what a futile waste of life and resources the war in Afghanistan is, the House voted to spend another $59 BILLION dollars on it. And where is the resistance to this total disaster? The usual places- Democratic Vermont, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin. Some unusual resistance in Florida, Arizona and Texas and then some Republican resistance in Utah and Texas.
The rest of the country? Firmly on track to the end of Empire. Red and Blue armies marching to their doom- too distracted by the promises of patriotism, guts and glory, to notice that the economy is collapsing, the environment is destroyed, and the Empire has already imploded.
But here's the other lesson that I've learned . We cannot give up. There is too much at stake. We can all do things- right now- to protect ourselves and our futures. Here are ten of them. You readers can think of hundreds, maybe thousands, more. In other words, I may be less naive than I was at the beginning of "Class Warfare," but I'm angrier than ever and more convinced that WE must do something about it.
1. First and foremost, we must demand that our government be of the people and for the people; not of and for big banks and big guns. The only way to make this happen is to get campaign finance reform through. Without that, no matter how brilliant and even ethical a candidate, they will be sucked into the inevitable desire to get re-elected and the constant prostitution of themselves for contributions to their campaigns.
2. Second, we must convert the economy to peaceful means. Guns into plough shares and all that. Economic conversion is NOT a pipe dream. It is an absolute necessity because without it, we will always be wasting our resources on getting ready for wars and therefore there will always be a need to have wars.
3. Third, we must reinvigorate labor. Until workers have some ability to represent themselves, Americans will continue to work more hours than anyone else on earth. And working more hours means less time to exercise, to eat real food, to spend with our families, etc. It's not that Americans are falling apart because we live in a toxic food environment, but we live in a toxic food environment because our work environments are toxic. Stop feeling lucky to have a job and realize that without workers, capitalism would not produce profit. The owners of the means of production live off of our labor, and they live well. Let them share the wealth or face strikes, walk outs, and general sabotage.
4. Fourth, we must figure out a way to get single payer healthcare. We cannot even do it at a state level right now because the Obama administration not only shut down single payer as an option at the national level, but insisted that states not be allowed to implement their own single payer systems until well after the patchwork, half-assed system of national healthcare reform gets put into place. States must fight for their rights to have single payer and opt out of the national Frankenstein monster of insurance coverage we're being offered. Healthcare should not be a product sold in the market for profit. It should be a basic human right. Once all Americans have it, we will be able to band together for better working conditions. In other words, a social safety net also allows labor to get organized against greed and exploitation.
5. Fifth, higher education MUST be reformed. The system we have now of poor and working class students taking on ridiculous amounts of debt to get an education and then in half of the cases being forced to drop out of school before they've even finished their degree while upper class students get degrees from elite institutions at the cost of $50,000 a year, graduating with little or no debt and all the connections they'll ever need, is the opposite of democracy. It is an aristocracy- a way of passing wealth- economic, educational, and social- from one generation to the next while the vast majority of us are shut out. Higher education should be affordable to anyone who qualifies and should not require a lifetime of debt. Without this basic mechanism of fairness, the ruling elites will become increasingly dynastic.
6. For higher education to become more fair, we have to make our elementary and high school education more fair. No longer can we fund schools on property taxes- a way of ensuring rich neighborhoods with high property values have far more money for their schools than poor neighborhoods with low property values. Higher education must be funded fairly across an entire state. All students receive the same spending, regardless of the neighborhood they live in. No more kindergartens without paper and crayons while in the next town over kindergartens have state of the art computers and swimming pools. Education that is fair and equal is a basic building block of democracy. Without it, we are doomed.
7. Localize as much as possible. We must opt out of the global economy. Buy local foods, of course, but also move your money out of mega banks and put it in a local credit union, go see local live theater, consider a staycation and spend your leisure time and money where you live. This is good for the environment, good for your money, but even more importantly, a necessary brake on the madness that is globalization.
8. As long as we're localizing, we might as well get involved. Social psychologists are showing us what we already know: Americans are a socially isolated and therefore unhappy bunch. And coupling does not solve our isolation- in fact, coupling may increase our social isolation. So we must go out and join a local knitting group or even a religious group, invite your neighbors for dinner or start a community garden. We cannot solve our social isolation by technology- social networks, blogging communities, and online dating are fine, but we actually need to spend time in the same physical location with other human beings.
9. We may have screwed up the earth beyond repair, but we better start working now on creating real alternatives to the oil economy or we're going to burn up in a blaze of global warming as we drown in seas of oil. In the same way that we must force the government to convert the military economy to a peaceful one, we damn well better force them to convert the oil economy to a sustainable one. We have to force the state to regulate oil, tax gas, and invest in public transit and clean energy technologies. Period. Or we all die.
10. This is the most important one so pay attention. I know this is a long blog and kinda preachy, but it's aimed as much at me as at you. Anger is a far better response to threat than depression or apathy. We ought to be angry and we have to utilize that anger into action or we will perish as a country and possibly as a species. We cannot afford to wait and see. We cannot afford to allow half of the country to flirt with fascism. We have to work now to convince our fellow Americans to stop worrying about imaginary threats and focus on what's really going on. We have to work right now to focus ourselves on what our real interests are and not get distracted by pretty little pieces of plastic- like our new i-phones or our new breast implants. We have to band together as a class of people who are less economically secure, less environmentally secure, less emotionally secure than ever. Even if we don't figure a way out, at least we'll perish knowing that we're in this together.
And it is that human connection, the class as a group with solidarity and support for itself, that can move us from Class Warfare to class action.
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I do a sport that results in a lot of broken toes. What I've learned is this: once a toe is broken, it will break more easily in the future until having a broken toe becomes a regular part of life. This is, I believe, why God invented sports tape.
Broken hearts are different. Once a heart gets broken a few times, it builds up a tough shell that stops it from ever breaking again, or at least from breaking into a million pieces again. That's the way it is for those of us who actually opened our hearts and our wallets and our lives to getting President Obama elected. We got our hearts broken over and over and over again. And now, for many of us, we expect nothing but betrayal.
Of course, like any dysfunctional relationship, there were clues immediately that we should start hardening ourselves to the fantasy that we would finally have an administration that was ours and ours alone, rather than a President that is always sneaking off to cavort with big military and big banks. But then came Larry Summers and the TARP bailouts and the increase of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan and so many betrayals that by now, my heart is like stone and there is nothing left for the Obama-ites to do that will hurt me.
Or so I say. Like any broken-hearted lover, continuously rejected and then courted and then rejected again, I harbor a small piece of hope. This time he'll do the right thing. This time will be different. This time he'll appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer advocacy agency that she invented. But even that little piece of hopefulness buried deep in the recesses of my stony heart knows, deep down, that the chances of this happening are about the same as the chances of a perfectly romantic ending to my life, where my beloved rides up on a white horse and takes me off into a sunset to live happily ever after.
According to an article in today's New York Times, the Obama Administration has not ruled out appointing Warren, especially given how vocal the support for her is from leading Democrats and some of the press, as well as some labor unions and progressive. The Obama administration knows what we want.
It is essential to the bill and very, very important that Elizabeth Warren be appointed,” Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and an architect of the law, said Friday on MSNBC.
But not surprisingly, our arch rival, the banking industry, opposes Professor Warren as too invested in protecting the people rather than being "neutral." As if the head of a consumer protection agency should be neutral about how the banks have profited from the immense information asymmetry involved in debt. In other words, Warren actually believes we ought to know what we're getting when we take on a mortgage or a credit card instead of continuing to allow a system where you would need an MBA to understand what the hell it means to sign on the dotted line.
According to Roger M. Beverage, head of the Oklahoma Banker's Association, Oklahoma native Warren is "competent" and "exceptionally bright" but
We just fear what she might come up with. She’s a partisan and she’s bull-headed and she’s opinionated. And she’s terrific. She’s a great advocate. We just respectfully disagree with her view of the world.”
Already key Democrats, such as Senator Christopher Dodd (CT), the chairman of the banking committee, are warning that they won't be able to muster the votes necessary for Warren's nomination. It is only a matter of time till the Obama administration shrugs and says "What can I do."
And the heart-broken progressives of this country either continue to excuse our beloved, like any abused spouse, with "He had no choice" and "He couldn't help it" or, more likely, turn our backs on the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections and risk losing the only thing like a happy ending we have ever had.
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Everyone now knows that Department of Agriculture employee Sheryl Sherrod was unjustly forced to resign and vilified as a "reverse racist" by the Obama Administration and even the NAACP. Ms. Sherrod, who is Black, was filmed giving a speech at an NAACP banquet in March where she recounted how her work with a poor white farmer taught her to care about the have-nots of this country, regardless of race. This speech was then edited into a version that looked as if Sherrod was saying she discriminated against this farmer because he was white.
And who ran this highly edited and completely untrue version? None other than Andrew Breitbart and our friends at Big Government. The same lovely people who created the total lie that ACORN was not an anti-poverty group, but rather a human trafficking ring! And the result was what? Oh yeah, the defunding of ACORN by Congress, the vilification of the organization in the mainstream media, and the long lasting lesson on the part of the far-right that the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress are so easily scared into submission that all it takes is some bad video and some ridiculous lies to get them to comply.
Over at Big Government, they're not even apologizing for the "mistake" they made with the video. Instead, they're saying there is all sorts of proof that the NAACP encourages racism and that the mainstream media is ignoring it. And although the Department of Agriculture has apologized to Sherrod as has the head of the NAACP, I don't hear the mainstream media that ran with this story- AGAIN- even after they realized the ACORN story was highly orchestrated propaganda- apologizing?
Although CNN and the Atlanta Constitution Journal correctly reported that the video was a misrepresentation of the full speech, Fox News and the right-wing GOP noise machine started the drum beat and the Dems did what they always do- they caved. According to Yosi Sergant, it is time for Obama and the Dems to "grow a pair." Sergant would know what it's like to be thrown under the bus by the Dems and this administration, since he himself was also misrepresented by Breitbart of Big Government when Breitbart misrepresented his work as trying to use the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Obama Administration.
Let's pretend that the Dems are actually capable of learning from their past mistakes (no evidence yet) and say they do learn to "grow a pair" or perhaps more accurately and less sexist- get a spine- and begin to stand up to the absolute hate and propaganda that is Big Government, Fox "News," and the rest of the noise machine. It could involve not just funding good organizations like ACORN and holding onto good employees like Sherrod, but perhaps even not caving on Afghanistan, Iraq, Gitmo, Iran, healthcare, financial reform and whatever other disasters the right seems intent on getting us into.
Now that would be worth the pain of living with this spinelessness. To find that the Dems actually can find their spine and stand up to the ballsy nut jobs over at Big Government and Fox News.
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Ah, spy speak. "Goodness in having a robust capacity." That's Marine Colonel David Lapin, a Pentagon spokesperson, describing the ridiculously large super secret spy network that was spawned after 9/11. What does it mean? Let me get out my decoder ring and see if I can translate it.
The Washington Post writers, Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, are releasing a series of articles entitled "Top Secret America" that outline the incredible expansion of the US spy agencies and their contractors after 9/11 and it's making those spy agencies nervous enough to try and defend themselves with completely incomprehensible spy speak. See, no real attacks on US soil after 9/11 is "goodness" and is the result of insane amounts of money being poured into spy agencies and their contractors.
What Priest and Arkin have found may surprise you, but probably not.
To ensure that the country's most sensitive duties are carried out only by people loyal above all to the nation's interest, federal rules say contractors may not perform what are called "inherently government functions." But they do, all the time and in every intelligence and counterterrorism agency... What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether... the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities... The Post investigation uncovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
The Post investigation makes clear what we already know: bureaucracy's main function is to grow. Spy agency bureaucracy is no different. Given the injection of post-9/11 hysteria and helplessness, spy agency bureaucracy grew like e-coli bacteria in a pile of manure.
Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.
And the news media can't stop talking about it. On True/Slant alone there are already at least five stories about the series.
Yet what do we really know now that we didn't know before? The series, an amazing piece of actual journalism at a time when our news is dominated by opinionated bloggers like myself, but it's real use is in the facts and figures, not the story. We already knew that defense spending (secret or not) is completely out of proportion to what the US can afford to spend and it only grows bigger by the day. There is little accountability in terms of private contractors or, let's face it, the paid employees of the US defense industry, here or around the world. And like a BP oil spill, curbing the military industrial complex seems unstoppable.
The real value of the Post series is that the facts and figures coming out might shame politicians in Washington to investigate and possibly limit some of these excesses. But a real shift in American priorities and spending would require a lot more than facts and figures. It would require a revolution. Curbing defense spending excesses would require dismantling the ideology that justifies the military industrial complex. Then the structure of politicians and corporations that feeds off military spending would also have to be taken apart. Only then can we say that "Top Secret America's" "goodness" is "in having a robust capacity."
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The financial reform bill has finally passed. Should we celebrate or feel even more disgusted that Washington cannot extract itself from the grips of Wall St. lobbyists? Disgusted, says Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), the only Democratic Senator to not support the bill and the reason? Because it will do nothing to protect us from the sort of Wall St. practices- like bundled derivatives and excess interest rates on mortgages and credit cards- that brought about the Great Recession. According to Feingold,
The reckless practices of Wall Street sent our economy reeling, triggered the worst recession since the Great Depression, and left millions of Americans to foot the bill. Despite these cataclysmic events, Washington once again caved to Wall Street on key issues and produced a bill that fails to protect the American people from the pain of another economic disaster. I will not support a bill that fails to adequately protect the people of Wisconsin from the recklessness of Wall Street.”
Sure, the reform does manage to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and some oversight of the Federal Reserve, but with Wall St. spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying since January 2009, it' s not a huge surprise that the reform will stop short of actually protecting our economy from Wall St.'s recklessness. Even Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who supported the bill and wrote some of its provisions, pointed out in an email to constituents that the reform does nothing to break up
banks deemed “too big to fail.” Incredibly, three of the four biggest banks in the country are larger today than they were before taxpayers bailed them out. Sanders also wanted the bill to impose a cap on runaway credit card interest rates. Senators rejected an even more modest proposal to let states enforce their own usury laws.
So whatever the reform is worth, it is hardly worth popping the cork on the champaign. Unless of course you are a lobbyist for Wall St. In which case, you can be drinking to a job well done.
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I'm afraid that I'm losing my ability to think critically. See, I sign up for all these right-wing email lists (part of my job as social critic), but today's missive from Ann Coulter actually made sense. Well, half of it did. Does that mean I'm now half stupid? Maybe, but listen to what the Coulternator is saying:
Dear Fellow Conservative,
"Somehow we just missed that home prices don't go up forever."
No, that's not your idiot brother-in-law explaining how his four home equity loans eventually landed him penniless on a futon in your rec room. It's the billionaire CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon.
Dimon was explaining to Congress's Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission how he and his fellow Magic Men crashed the entire U.S. economy and then turned to taxpayers for a bail out.
Really? So Dimon's defense to Wall Street's utter recklessness with other people's money is to claim that Wall Street doesn't really understand how the market works? Again: Really?
But no one on the Commission challenged Dimon because, while the Commission's stated purpose is "to examine the causes of the financial crisis," its actual purpose is to conceal those causes -- especially the federal government's own central role in creating the housing bubble.
Further proof that the Commission isn't serious...
See what I mean? She's kinda making sense. Of course, after this the letter devolves into a typical Coulter tirade where our current economic woes are blamed on Obama, the census, and a lack of commitment to Reaganomics. Saying Reaganomics will save us from the effects of, well, Reaganomics, is the sort of Alice in Wonderland, nothing makes sense that comes out of the Mad Hatter Coulter's mouth nonsense with which I find it easy to disagree.
Over at the Nation, Robert Reich makes far more sense when he argues that the current Recession and coming Depression is the result of the rising economic inequality created by the Neoliberal policies of Reaganomics in the first place. In other words, when you stop taxing the rich, take away the ability of workers to represent their interests, drastically cut the social safety net, and deregulate everything with a fetishistic belief that "the market knows best" you create the circumstances the US is in now and was in in 1929. According to Reich:
in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation's total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America's total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total.
Each of America's two biggest economic crashes occurred in the year immediately following these twin peaks—in 1929 and 2008. This is no mere coincidence. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don't have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing.
Get it? Rising inequality creates economic downturns. The greedier the rich are the more we all suffer, except of course for the rich. In fact, the rich are making a killing off the current Recession/Depression Era. That's right. The rich are getting richer.
Millionaires in the U.S. and Canada saw their wealth increase 15 percent in 2009, to a total of 4.6 trillion dollars."
So given that there is widespread agreement among many of the country's leading economic experts that rising inequality hurts nearly all of us, why can't the radical right that Ann Coulter represents get on board and start clamoring for worker representation, rebuilding the social safety net, and taxing the wealthiest among us?
That's where "class" gets complicated, because although Coulter's followers are primarily the working and lower-middle class whites who love her brand of vitriol, they are a class of people more interested in protecting their racial privilege with anti-immigrant sentiment and their sexual privilege with traditional marriage rhetoric than in protecting their economic interests.
And that's too bad. Because when the likes of Ann Coulter start making half sense to the likes of me, we're halfway there to a broad-based coalition of Americans who want a distribution of wealth that reflects fairness and opportunity, not selfishness and greed.
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As I sat in a bar to watch the Ghana/US football match on Saturday, I was struck by the intense optimism of the young American men milling around the TV sets. Their faces painted red, white and blue and their large, corn-fed bodies tensely focused on the game, they really and truly believed that the US could win the World Cup. Their chants of USA and "You Suck" toward the enemy team were a stark reminder that not just masculinity, but national identity too is being created and performed in the ritual of televised sport. And then just as suddenly this boisterous gang of American men were quiet, fear showing on their faces, as the realization that America could lose hit them. These same young men who imagined America as heroic in all things- from football to war- suddenly looked like they might cry. The US lose? To Ghana? To the Taliban?
Increasingly, the reality of Afghanistan is sinking into an increasingly sober Obama administration and US Army. The Taliban is not going to be destroyed. Instead, it will be accepted as part of the mess the US will leave behind in Afghanistan. This is being described as a necessary response to the corruption and incompetence of the Afghan government.
The approach amounts to "Afghan good enough" instead of an overly-idealistic "Afghan impossible," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In Washington and NATO capitals, there is now "more willingness" to reach an accommodation with middle and lower level members of the Taliban, as well as trying to peel away some senior figures if possible, he said.
Or, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, the Taliban are part of the "political fabric" of Afghanistan. Continuing the sports/war metaphor, the Chair of the House Subcommittee that oversees Afghanistan, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens) told the New York Daily News
The strategy in which we're engaged is certainly not a slam dunk. We're doing the best we can with a bad situation with players that we don't - and didn't - have the expectation of being able to completely control."
Meanwhile, back at the game, my table, a bunch of unAmerican types, joked about the End of Empire, but quietly, so as not to make the young men angry, but also so we wouldn't make them cry. After all, these beefy young men might be going to Iraq or Afghanistan. And even if they weren't, their friends were. It's one thing to lose a game; it's quite another to be killed in what is now being described as the Ignored War.
At $6.7 Billion dollars a month, Afghanistan ought to be a source of pride and prejudice for these young men. Instead, like the game on the TV, everyone, even the people running the war know it cannot be won. With tens of thousands of casualties (even though the US media usually only counts military casualties, there are far more Afghan civilians killed every day than soldiers), this is not a war to be celebrated.
And yet, like the US defeat at the World Cup, the best defense is a good offense. Soccer sucks. Who wants to play it anyway? Afghanistan? Let's either turn it into a real American style football match and kill the bastards or get the hell out of the game. As Ross Douthat points out in today's New York Times, there are apparently only two possibilities open to the US: soccer or football. If we continue to play soccer, we fight the counterinsurgency with strategic violence. If we play football, we kill indiscriminately and therefore "win."
This grim possibility is implicit in the Rolling Stone profile that undid Gen. Stanley McChrystal last week. Ostensibly a left-wing, antiwar critique of counterinsurgency, Michael Hastings’s article relied heavily on complaints that the current strategy places too much value on ... innocent Afghan lives. “In a weird way,” the Center for a New American Security’s Andrew Exum pointed out, Hastings ended up criticizing counterinsurgency strategy “because it doesn’t allow our soldiers to kill enough people.”
It's really too bad so much masculinity and patriotism is at stake in war and sport. Otherwise, the US government and the American people could think outside the football/soccer metaphor and see there are all sorts of other games. Like withdrawing all military and feeding the billions of dollars we're spending now on war to aid Afghan groups that support democracy in the region. But that might be too Ultimate Frisbee for the American jocks who run this country. And Ultimate Frisbee just doesn't have any balls.
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What exactly is the G-20 thinking besides protect the rich and screw the rest of us? The leaders of some of the world's biggest economies decided to not pass any regulation of banking nor any taxes on financial transactions to support social services or environmental clean up. What they did decide was to cut deficits in half by 2013.
In the US that would mean $780 BILLION in cuts. And what would be cut? Social security, unemployment, education. What would not be cut? War, corporate welfare, tax breaks for the richest citizens of the world.
According to Naomi Klein, author of the Shock Doctrine, the G20 is a relatively "new" club (1999) that was an attempt to create a larger group than the then G-7 to let developing economies like China and India in. The idea was to invite countries that were not just large economies, but large economies that were strategically important to the US. So Iran no, but China yes.
In other words, the G-20 was from its inception a top-down, "old boys club" that was meant to circumvent the United Nations in order to benefit the world's richest nations. Is it any surprise, then, that the leaders of these nations decided to, in Klein's words,
smash social safety nets and burned good jobs in the middle of a recession. Faced with the effects of a crisis created by the world’s wealthiest and most privileged strata, they decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable people in their countries with the bill.
And who was behind the creation of the G-20? Our friend and neoliberal apologist Larry Summers. That's right. Larry Summers, former Harvard president who doesn't think women can do math and is also one of Obama's top economic advisers, was, in 1999, Bill Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury. Summers not only spent the 1990s deregulating the banks so we could get into this crisis in the first place, he also helped create the mechanisms that would circumvent international regulation of banks. Now Summers is part of an administration that wants to stick the people with the bill for the crack binge that is Wall Street.
Anyone who is still operating under the delusion that the Obama administration is not part of the old boys club that is the G-20 should wake up and smell Summers, who has the distinct odor of all the rotten and decaying lies that created the deregulation of banking, the gutting of the public sector in the name of the "free market," and the G-20 save the banks, screw the people policies.
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Somehow I missed this story until I saw it on the headlines of the National Enquirer. Perhaps that's because the "respectable" media has been trying to avoid it. And yet, it has all the elements of a great story: man who was elected president but cheated out of it by GOP dirty tricks then turns moral crusader for the environment attacks a massage therapist in a hotel room. In other words, Al Gore, a massage therapist, and a strange stain on a pair of pants.
According to a complaint filed by the massage therapist in Portland, OR, Gore attacked her in a hotel room where she was giving him a massage in October of 2006. The woman apparently saved her pants as evidence of her contact with Gore which leads to one and only one question: Where the hell was Al Gore when Clinton was impeached for "evidence" on Monica Lewinski's dress?
Of course there are a few other questions circulating too. According to the complaint, the sexual contact was unwanted. But if it was unwanted, why are there rumors that Al Gore left Tipper because of a relationship with a massage therapist? Also, why did the woman describe the former Vice President as a "giggling sex-crazed poodle." What does a sex-crazed poodle look like and how does it giggle? Finally, why did the woman initially refuse to cooperate with police even as she hired an attorney and carefully saved the pants as "evidence." She says she wasn't interested in money, that she didn't want to be labeled a "gold digger," but she simultaneously tried to sell her story to the National Enquirer for a million bucks.
Also, why do Americans continue to care about the sex lives of our political leaders? Why does Al Gore being "happily married" to Tipper for forty years mark him as a good person while Bill Clinton, who is married but has a clearly complex relationship with Secretary of State Clinton, is considered lacking in moral leadership?
Marriage is a property contract between two people, not a sign of moral superiority. It doesn't guarantee that the husband and wife will be better people, take more ethical stances in their lives, or even be nice to the family dog. The only thing "married" guarantees is that both will have a claim to any and all properties, including children.
But because our country is so embedded in the idea that good people are those that discipline their sexual impulses and confine them to marriage, we are unable to actually consider what politicians stand for until we have forced them to prove themselves "good husbands" (and sometimes "good wives"). Until we can stop believing the Disney fairytale that marriage is the only goal, the one path to a good and happy life, we will continue to elect leaders who are actually sex-crazed poodles but stand around waving with their wives tightly by their sides.
And that's too bad. Because a lot of those poodles would be better off chasing sticks than leading this country. And as for Al Gore- his real lack of ethical judgment was when he backed down from taking his rightful role as the elected leader of this country and gave it over to George Bush, leaving us with Afghanistan and Iraq to contend with ad infinitum. Anything else Gore does, moral or immoral, pales in comparison to the horror his lack of backbone visited on this country and the world. Bad dog indeed.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"][/caption]
Have you seen the "Eat Da Poo Poo" video yet? It's of Ugandan minister Martin Ssermpa who is leading a church of homo-haters in disgust and revulsion at what gay men do behind closed doors. And what do they do? They "eat da poo poo," of course, "like ice cream."
Despite the very real possibility that this sort of propaganda will lead to the death penalty for men who have sex with other men in Uganda, the man is so ridiculous and clearly located elsewhere that American queers have responded with humor more than outrage . In fact, there's even a dance remix of the minister's anti-homo remarks.
Having watched this with my teenaged daughter - it was on her favorite vlog- we had one of those "teachable moments."
Teenager: That's so messed up. Uganda's messed up.
Me: Yeah, but they're funded by American conservative Christians.
Teenager: But Uganda's more messed up than here.
Me: I hope so.
Of course, "here" is a big country. And what happens in the Northeast or the West coast is not necessarily what happens in Texas. This is particularly true with the new Texas GOP platform that calls for the re-criminalization of sodomy AND seeks to make gay marriage a felony. According to the party's platform,
We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, refuse to recognize, or grant special privileges including, but not limited to: marriage between persons of the same sex (regardless of state of origin), custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.
Wow, the Texas Republicans must be watching some pretty strong anti-gay propaganda, maybe even Ugandan anti-gay propaganda, if they want to start putting people in jail for having sex that is not "reproductive." Because that's what sodomy is: non-reproductive sex. So really, straight couples are often guilty of it too if they engage in oral or anal, but somehow they're not the ones targeted by the police. And although it was the Supreme Court's decision in Texas v. Lawrence that overturned sodomy laws nationally, Texas Republicans apparently think they can vote to ignore Supreme Court rulings.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Obama administration is surprised that queer Americans aren't satisfied with all that the administration has done for "the gay agenda." According to an article in the Times today,
The Obama White House has accomplished more than any other on gay rights, yet has drawn sharp criticism from an unexpected constituency: the same gay activists who backed the president's election campaign. Instead of the sweeping change gays and lesbians had sought, a piece-by-piece approach has been the administration's favored strategy, drawing neither serious fire from conservatives nor lavish praise from activists.
But according to many people living queer lives in the US, it's too little too late. The Obama administration hasn't repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, has defended "traditional marriage" including by invoking "incest" in one of its briefs, and has generally insisted it cannot pass any sweeping gay rights because Americans don't support it (despite at least half of Americans supporting gay marriage and 70% of Americans thinking gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military-- and if we throw Texas out of these polls, I'm guessing the numbers are much higher).
Hopefully the GOP in Texas is a dying party, not due to its anti-gay bigotry, but its anti-Latino rhetoric and policies. In fact, the GOP wants to make sure there are no rights for children born in Texas unless their parents are citizens, arrest any and all illegal immigrants immediately, shut down day-laborer centers, and is utilizing a variety of anti-immigrant images to whip up its base. With Latinos expected to be the majority population by 2015, this seems like a losing strategy. At least, I hope so.
But I'm afraid of Texas. Remember those bumper stickers when Dubbya was President?
Somewhere in Texas a village is missing an idiot"
I think the idiot has been found along with the rest of his kind. And they're running the Texas Republican Party. And they might even win the elections.