It’s Not Obamacare We Should Fear…

jolly

Sick and unhealthy American people, prepare to be boarded, arrrrrrr!

…It’s all these robber baron commercial health care corporations and conglomerates who are robbing us blind. I wonder how much these companies are doling out to FOX News and other right-wing media outlets to oppose the Affordable Health Care Act.

From the always excellent New York TimesDiagnosis: Insufficient Outrage

This scathing piece by H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, begins with this blistering Socratic inquiry about commercial health care in America:

Recent revelations should lead those of us involved in America’s health care system to ask a hard question about our business: At what point does it become a crime?

I’m not talking about a violation of federal or state statutes, like Medicare or Medicaid fraud, although crime in that sense definitely exists. I’m talking instead about the violation of an ethical standard, of the very “calling” of medicine.

Medical care is intended to help people, not enrich providers. But the way prices are rising, it’s beginning to look less like help than like highway robbery. And the providers—hospitals, doctors, universities, pharmaceutical companies and device manufactures—are the ones benefiting.

Ouch.

The Times also also recently published a frightening analysis of how expensive childbirth in the USA costs compared to the rest of the world. Here’s the sad and insane truth about America’s vastly more expensive costs for birthing:

And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.

“It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby,” said Gerard Anderson, an economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who studies international health costs. “It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive.”

Why is the system so completely tilted to favor these massive health care industries? Perhaps because all the lobbyists, campaign contributors, and other paid shills who influence our politicians at every level of government work for the health care industry and not the citizen consumers. These companies are reaping huge profits and spending some of them lavishly to keep the gravy train rolling at the expense of the citizenry. The power and influence of their vast wealth has perverted the system totally to their favor, and goddamn if they’re going to let any legislation pass, or be put into effect that which does pass, that tries to fix this perverted system!

The way working class people badmouth Obamacare, without being even remotely capable of explaining why with any factual veracity, proves that the marketing campaign waged by these rich, vile, robber baron health care conglomerates is working. Public opinion is a cheap whore you can satiate with a few trinkets as long as your message appeals to the inherent ignorance, prejudice, and childish worldview of so many out there. What’s right for the citizenry is massively subservient to the greed of those wielding power and influence to make this country work in their favor, even if it is extremely destructive to the well being of the republic.

The public dialogue is so polluted and poisoned by the sophistry peddled by the corporate oligarchs these days, one wonders if we’ve reached the point of no return and we’ll be witnessing the complete destruction of our middle and working classes over the next decade. By the time the middle and working classes wake up to realize they are completely fucked, and no more than subjects and serfs to the new ruling corporate and wealthy elite, will it be too late?

If Congress manages to roll back the Affordable Health Care Act, the class war will have been won resolutely. We’ll all be fucked from then on. Mark my words on 7/5/2013.

UPDATE: By golly, those rascally Koch brothers are opening their wallets again—$1 million to be specific—to finance even more sophistry to erode the Affordable Health Care Act. The Koch brothers call themselves “Americans for Prosperity. ” However: Just exactly who “prospers” from denying millions of American citizens affordable—hell, and kind of—access to health care? Not the citizenry, of course. Oh, hell no! Who, then? Why, rich fat fucks like the Koch brothers, of course.

What a great strategy. As I’ve said repeatedly, public opinion is a cheap whore, and if you spend enough on specious p.r. campaigns you can convince just about any drooling moron on the street to vote against his or her own right to breathe if you shovel enough tasty sophistry down their throats that appeals to their envy, hate, prejudice, and insecurity. Just rile Goober up that blacks and Mexicans will get a free ride on his back, and old Goober will vote to have himself castrated if he’s convinced that is the solution.

These vile Koch pricks never met a tax they don’t want to pay. These bastards annually spend tens of millions of their vast fortune to avoid paying taxes as if they are fending off a life-threatening disease. How can common people fight this kind of wealth, power, and influence held by two dyspeptic, greedy misanthropes who, like those two saucy old hecklers on the Muppet Show, sit in the elite seats and sneer at the common citizenry as “parasites”?

The Koch brothers are the generals leading the class war in this country, and money is no object in their quest to render us all serfs and slaves to the wealthy elite. What a better way to create a feudalistic society than to destroy all the social-democratic reforms from the last 100 years that equaled the playing field and allowed tens of millions of Americans upward mobility into socio-economic classes to which they were long denied access. Now these doors are deliberately being closed by the ultra-wealthy who want to rule like feudal lords over a dominion of underpaid, unhealthy, and undereducated peasants.

How wide has the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us grown since Ronald Reagan was President? More than is healthy for our nation. I can just see Reagan, hand on heart, joyful tear in his eye, watching with immense pride as the rich keep getting richer while every year hundreds of thousands of poor children suffer needlessly because they don’t have access to health care. But, you know, the rich need more yachts and ski lodges; fuck poor children, the little parasites! Nothing screams “elite” quite like a luridly opulent $10 million wedding that would have made Marie Antoinette squeal with envy.

We live in an era when the so-called “job creators” are taxed less than they have been in a century, and yet where are the jobs they are supposedly creating? Unemployment is still appallingly high and yet these motherfuckers want to erode even more social welfare programs to get back even more of the wealth they don’t need to NOT create more jobs. What a sick, twisted world they are creating. A pox on them all. Of course, they can easily afford to ward off a pox. But not the rest of us as our health care system becomes more expensive and our coverage gets cut even more to the bone.

One Nation, Underdog, Secular

Not a deity, but more believable than your silly god

Not a deity, but more believable than your silly god

I must confess that when I was a kid and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance in school, I always said, “One nation, Underdog” instead of “under God” because I felt that was more appropriate than falsely claiming I believed in the so-called “Almighty.” So to everyone yacking about the exclusion of god in this phrase, let me tell you that I was one of the early ones who did it deliberately and replaced it with a silly cartoon character—which meant more to me despite the silliness of it. I was seven years old and already an atheist.

This is a secular nation; I don’t particularly give a shit about your god, but I love this country. Worshiping deities in this country is optional; respecting, and abiding by the Constitution is mandatory.

What does that mean? It means you are free to worship whatever you want, but please don’t think your god or religious dogma has any place in the governance of the United States of America. Our government belongs to all of us, and many of us don’t share your religious belief system. I respect your right to worship, but I have zero respect for what you worship, and I certainly don’t want our government espousing, promoting, or favoring your religion, even if it’s worshiped by the majority.

Your churches and homes are the appropriate domains for your religious expression. Once you enter the shared public domain and institutions governed by the First Amendment, your religious beliefs should be held in check out of respect for all your fellow citizens who do not share your religious beliefs, but who do share your respect and observance of our Constitution.

If you are as patriotic as you claim, and you love this country and its Constitution, then you should respect the idea we have a secular government, that our public institutions should be free of, and from, any and all religion. If you don’t, then you don’t respect my rights, and all I can say is go fuck yourself. I will not let your religion intrude my public institutions or my life. I will fight this with every fiber of my being.

You have been warned.

The Laughable Liturgy of Libertarianism

Note: This was the third essay in my three-part series titled “The Doubting Lectures,” which I wrote in the summer of 2008.

Part Three: The Laughable Liturgy of Libertarianism

Ideology, like theater, is dependent on the willing suspension of disbelief. At the core of every ideology lies the worship of a bright new future, with only failure in the immediate past.

 - John Ralston Saul

Like all religions, libertarian ideology is predicated on ridiculous leaps of faith when reason and common sense cannot prove—or at least render inconclusive—the tenets of their faith. However, much worse is the historical amnesia that afflicts the worshipers of libertarian ideology. Indeed, libertarians ignore history and its many inconvenient truths out of intellectual laziness or deliberate, willful ignorance, and because of this they overlook the many lessons that all liberal democracies have learned as they struggled and evolved over the last three centuries.

Libertarianism is a lousy religion and a disastrous and destructive ideology that is mostly espoused by what can best be described as post-modern children of the middle class and privileged meritocracy, very few of whom comprehend the 150 years of class struggle that afforded their generation such a haughty conceit and overblown sense of self worth. Libertarianism is, in short, the iconoclastic ideology of well-to-do brats who have benefited from being raised in a peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, and their sole purpose is to destroy this liberal democracy that raised and nurtured them and allowed them to succeed so well. They wish to forge a future with ideas long-ago proven to be destructive for a human society, and they reject the very system that led to their own prosperity and safe and peaceful existence. Their ideology is nihilism wrapped in childish sophistry, a vicious reverse class war determined to undermine social progress in favor of Social Darwinism, which is an attractive concept to individuals upon whom favor has already smiled, due to the luck of their birth into the meritocracy or because they excelled and succeeded within its system. I call it “The revenge of the bourgeoisie brats.”

Libertarians categorically reject all government as “evil” (of course grudgingly admitting some government—such as armies and police, for instance—is necessary) while at the same time unapologetically touting “the free, unfettered marketplace” as the most important aspect of human culture. What follows in their discourse are a series of trite slogans and aphorisms that sounds like religious liturgy, all delivered with an eerily arrogant certainty in the supremacy of their largely untested ideas, or worse, their insane devotion in supporting ideas—such as Chicago School “free market” economics—that have already been well proven to not only not to work, but have caused great damage when applied to large economic and social systems. Just ask Argentina, Bolivia, New Zealand, and Russia how their Chicago School-styled free market reforms fared, to name a few.

Debunking libertarian ideas is like proving the moon isn’t made of cheese, so I won’t waste valuable time here in this essay doing that. Not all libertarian ideas are wacky, but the base assumption of the ideology—that government is bad and must be extremely limited—is asking us to return to a society that existed before the social, economic, and political reforms of the last 150 years. No thanks.

I believe in the concept of liberty and the idea a government should stay out of the personal business of its citizens. I am against the War on Drugs, the FISA wiretapping laws, the Patriot Act, and all other forms of excessive government intrusion into the lives of citizens. I think most currently illegal drugs should be legalized, especially marijuana. I believe a woman has the right to choose. I think homosexuals should be afforded the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. I am against unjust taxation. I abhor all government waste of taxpayer money. I vehemently oppose any government policy that would promote religious intolerance, racism, sexism, or homophobia. So there are issues with which I agree with libertarians.

But I also believe in government. On this subject I cite the brilliant words of the Canadian novelist and philosopher John Ralston Saul, who so completely articulated in his book The Unconscious Civilization what government means and why we need it large and strong in a democratic state:

The most powerful force possessed by the individual citizen is her own government. Or governments, because a multiplicity of levels means a multiplicity of strengths.

The individual has no other large organized mechanism that he can call his own. There are other mechanisms, but they reduce the citizen to the status of a subject. Government is the only organized mechanism that makes possible that level of shared disinterest known as the public good. Without this greater interest the individual is reduced to a lesser, narrower being limited to immediate needs. He will then be subject to other, larger forces, which will necessarily come forward to fill the void left by the withering of the public good. Those forces will fill it with some other directing interest that will serve their purposes, not the larger purposes of the citizen. It would be naïve to blame them for occupying abandoned territory.

How then could individuals possibly replace government? In a democracy they are government.

Individuals do not beat large companies or defeat large armies. Why would one expect them to replace governments? The point is there will be a government as there always has been. People ask: What kind of government? How much government? I think the primary question is: Whose government? If individuals do not occupy their legitimate position, then it will be occupied by a god or king or a coalition of interest groups. If citizens do not exercise the powers conferred by their legitimacy, others will do so.

The citizenry might well wonder why they should put artificial limits on their only force. The power we refuse ourselves goes somewhere else. Yet no other legitimacy is capable of disinterest. If the citizenry agree to exclude themselves from any given area, they are automatically excluding the possibility that in that domain the public good could have any role to play.

It is therefore naïve or disingenuous for those leading the fight against government to suggest that society will be reinvigorated by smaller government. Responsibility will simply have been transferred to an equally if not more sluggish bureaucracy in the private sector. What’s more, by demonizing the public civil servant they are obscuring the matter of the citizen’s legitimacy and of the public good which only that legitimacy can produce. People become so obsessed by hating government that they forget it is meant to be their government and is the only powerful public force they have purchase on.

My point is that the individual and the government are linked together by an artery. If we act to sever that artery by replacing or opposing a central role for government, we cease to be individuals and revert to the status of subject. If democracy fails, then it is ultimately the citizen who has failed, not the politician. The politician can always find a new place in a new configuration of power—witness the growing attachment of the elected to private sector interests.

I would argue that to a greater extent we are already well engaged in the act of cutting our own arteries—in both the wrists and the throat. If we are slipping into such a foolish act, it is largely because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced by our own elites that the democratic system is a secondary product of the free market system. And so, if the system and managers—supported by their acolytes in departments of economics around the West and by the invasive buzz of their eager neo-conservative courtiers—if all these people and institutions indicate that there must be changes, well, we bow our head in respect.

And that pretty much sums up why I reject libertarianism. To reject government is to reject democracy…in favor of what? Anarchy? Organized chaos? Social Darwinism? Who will take the place of government? Warlords? Gangsters? Will corporations become our overlords?

To me, the society espoused by libertarians sounds like a hippie commune run by steroid-gobbling, in-your-face jock frat rats, where the poor, weak, and uneducated become subjects to the whims of the rich, brilliant, strong, and educated. It’s a nice world if you belong to the right side of this divide. If you don’t, you’re doomed to the same existence so many millions faced before the social reforms of the 20th century, when poverty, inadequate health care, unsafe work conditions, unfairly low wages, unsanitary living conditions, an unsafe food supply, racism, sexism, and many other injustices and social ills prevented so many from the pursuit of happiness. The marketplace didn’t create these reforms; democratic governments did. Libertarians call a social democracy a “nanny state.” I call it the best and most enlightened society humans can create; most importantly, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Since most libertarians are beneficiaries of this generous social democracy—whether they admit it or not—the fact they, in their comfortable affluence and peaceful existence, wish to destroy the mechanism that created this good life for themselves, is insanely irrational.

But such is the pathology of the affluent brats we’ve created today. They are ignorant of history and obsessed with the false belief they are “self-made individualists.” They won’t be satisfied until our great social democracy is destroyed and they find themselves licking the boots of some master or other whose power is not restrained and who is a million times more evil than anything these dingbat brats can even imagine our government to be. Without the power of government to protect individuals, no matter how smart or cool or tough you think you are (or how many assault rifles you have in your gun cabinet), there will always be others out there who can easily dominate you, and they will without the restraint and check government provides against their power.

Libertarianism is the false religion of affluent conceit in a free democratic society. It is a self-defeating proposition and a delusion, post-modern science fiction for spoiled brats who are consumed with self-love and an inflated sense of self-worth, and who possess seriously deformed civic virtues.

What it is not is a rational system of ideas worthy of much examination. So much of its ethos is wrapped in anti-government sophistry and delusional conceit that there’s not much substance left except that which liberal thinkers for the last three centuries have already expressed much better and with more ethical authority. So let’s move on.

Empire Rules

Facing the sobering reality of what the United States of America truly has become requires, firstly, the suspension of all mythology devised to hail Americans as the good guys, the gallant cowboys in the white hats saving the world from itself. We are many things but we’re no more good than anyone else, no matter how we like to fancy ourselves through our national myths.

To sustain our hyper-consumptive economy, to fill our malls with a vast array of luxuries that would have made Cleopatra and Louis XIV weep with envy, to build and fuel our tens of millions of gas-guzzling autos so we can drive along our massive highway and roadway system to our space-and-energy-wasting suburban McMansion homes, to “provide” for our children far beyond even a reasonable magnitude of profligate excess, we have cut moral and ethical corners to such an appalling degree that calling ourselves “the good guys” is a self delusion bordering on insanity.

It has been a costly, but necessary, enterprise to keep the massive incoming flow of crude oil, raw materials, and cheaply manufactured goods that we get from the world outside our borders. To maintain our current profligate consumer lifestyle without disruption, we’ve become the greatest empire in world history. To protect, expand, and maintain our vast imperial economic interests all over the world, we have built the mightiest military machine the world has ever seen. Indeed, the USA spends more on its military-industrial complex than the rest of the world combined. Our Naval dominance and air superiority are unrivaled. Our ground forces can easily defeat any foreign army with great ferocity and frightening efficacy. Our apparatus for gathering intelligence data and executing direct action strikes all over the world, powered by space-based satellites, weaponized unmanned drones, and almost omnipotent computing technology, is more impressively and devastatingly potent than any science fiction writer could have imagined a generation ago.

However, as we’ve learned since Vietnam, even the mightiest military is useless at fighting all those pesky little swarms of revolutionaries, insurgents, terrorists, criminal cartels, and other shadowy groups who can deftly evade our imperial military and technological leviathan and are hellbent on disrupting the gigantic economic cash cow that is the world economy over which the USA has been lorded to maintain with its vast military might. Despite our immense military power and moral and ethical “goodness,” especially during the Cold War, we lost innumerable battles, both militarily and in the ever-growing realm of public relations, with these pesky little groups of outlaws.

To deal with them we created a new kind of imperial power structure, super secret, that has largely exercised its power outside the rule of law. And each US President has expanded this power structure and enjoyed its immense benefits.

Since the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, the USA has had a super-secret military-intelligence apparatus in place, under the guise of an ever-changing group of organizations and command and control mechanisms (changing and reinventing themselves to maintain plausible deniability), where the USA has largely ignored international law and military codes of conduct and engaged in “black ops” all over the world to eliminate, without due process or any kind of accountability, those we deem “insurgents,” “terrorists,” or just plain enemies. We largely took our cue from the way Israel systematically eliminated many of the Black September actors after their 1972 Olympic Games attack on Israeli citizens.

By means of the President’s Executive authority and power, the USA has, for the last 30 years, through these super-secret, lawless military-intelligence groups, engaged in acts of kidnapping, rendition, torture, and assassination, by our own hands or through foreign proxies, and now by means of drones as our proxies. Every President since Reagan has used these methods and expanded the Executive powers of the President, regardless of the President’s party affiliation and ideology.

During the 80s countless thousands of Central and South American, Filipino, South Korean, African, and Middle Eastern dissidents, leftist insurgents (real or imagined to be), trade unionists, anti-government activists, terrorists (real or imagined to be), and anyone else deemed “enemies” were systematically kidnapped, tortured, and often murdered by our proxies in El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Panama, et al. This was all done under the careful command and control, or “hands-off” supervision by proxy, of various super-secret US military-intelligence groups such as the CIA’s SOG, the US Army’s FOG/ISA, and the DOD’s joint commands the DIA and USSOSOCOM.

For 30 years this activity has never stopped under any President, and has, in fact, been expanded and given great power to act with impunity and almost zero accountability. The morality and ethics of it all can be relentlessly argued, and has been for the last 30 years, but no one, least of all our Congress and Presidents, has lifted a finger to dismantle and stop this activity. We needed that massive flow of oil, those shiploads of cheaply-manufactured goods, and all the raw materials an sweatshop slave labor

And do you know why? Because of its success in eliminating a lot of problems that lawful action and the rule of law all over the world cannot fix with the same kind of efficiency and efficacy as this lawless and immoral action. Despite the moral and ethical depravity of such action, it is expedient and eliminates a lot of threats, both real and political, that the USA faces outside its borders. So why would a US President, even one so seemingly ethical and moral like Barack Obama, even try to dismantle these black ops groups and their activity, or cut back these vast Executive powers, when they quite often bolster his power in the world and political standing back home?

Obama has surely disappointed the American Left by continuing, and even expanding, all these largely illegal black ops. However, our Empire must be fed continuously, and any obstacles to this must be dealt with harshly, or tens of millions of Americans would be denied their right to profligate consumption. Either we accept the moral depravity that drives our greed, venality, and consumption, or we learn to live with less, dismantle our evil imperial forces, and contract our economy. The choice is that simple.

Fat chance of it ever happening.

Elite Education

The winds of change of our generation could be best exemplified in the 1983 film “Risky Business,” where a group of wealthy kids from the elite Chicago ‘burbs sit around discussing college and their futures. Their goal: “Make a lot of money.” And so the greatest meritocratic goal is revealed for kids headed to the “elite” colleges and who would get the “elite” jobs. Get those tony credentials and make some cash!

Fast forward to 2008 and the financial crash. This was caused, almost exclusively, by self interest taken to the most ridiculous and self-destructive extremes: Make a lot of money indeed, even at the peril of the nation’s economy and well being.

That’s our legacy, because it was (mostly) our generation’s elite who ran or managed at most levels the banks and investment houses, lending institutions, hyper-lax government regulatory agencies, et al. And how many were on the buying side trying to make a quick buck turning over McMansions they couldn’t afford? How many were personally and professionally leveraged with other people’s money to live “the good life”? Our generation’s meritocratic elite’s twisted and amoral values led to this.

Maybe at the base level the value system is what’s wrong in elite education. Such concepts like self sacrifice, noblesse oblige, egalitarianism, good citizenship…are these values taught along with scientific management, numbers crunching, and maximizing value and profit? Do they factor these things into their B school case studies? Do they really teach real ethics, or just the quasi-ethical means and ways not to get caught or convicted–how to manipulate the system by toeing the legal, ethical, and moral boundaries? I wonder, because the record from the last 30 years sure seems to indicate the answer is no.

I think the biggest failure in the country’s elite education system has been the failure of our elite to feel any connection with the greater whole of the citizenry. The meritocracy enriches itself without any regard to how this affects the non-elite. They hoard all the rewards, then entrench themselves in techno burbs far removed from the lower classes. And then the elite blames the lower classes for being lower class, as if the only hard work any more comes from the accumulation of lofty credentials and personal wealth.

I’m not painting all this with a broad brush. Not everyone is to blame. But I think it is fair to say the elite’s, in general, lack of a moral and ethical compass, coupled with its disdain for its role as good citizens in favor of unbridled self interest, has most certainly contributed greatly to this “distortion” of our economy, governance, and social structure.

How about we just teach people to be good citizens again as a major goal? To know and understand that part of the role of the elite in a democracy is to lead–rationally, ethically, and morally-and not just satiate the whims and fancies of grandiose, solipsistic, and monomaniacal self interest? Doing what’s right for the greater good, subservient to what gets one the greatest personal rewards?

Just a thought.

Downton Abbey: Championing the Evils of the Ancien Régime

As a devout anti-bourgeoisie socialist, I find myself horrified by how much I’ve been enjoying the hit BBC TV series Downton Abbey. I resolutely denounce monarchist regimes and elitist hereditary aristocracies with every fiber of my proletarian being, and yet I find myself deliciously enjoying Downton Abbey’s almost mawkish reminiscence of such a system.

I’m fascinated by how easily the show’s characters, who are living in the last years of the Ancien Régime class system, accepted their social status and the fact they were stuck with this accidence of birth as some divine placement system, and the mere idea of changing that social status, high or low, was absolutely absurd—sacrilegious!— to even consider.

This certainly explains why modern Brits still cling to their monarchy and refuse to make Britain a republic. I have always wondered why this was so. This show’s sentimental portrayal of the barbarically static class system of old certainly proves how embedded it still is in the Brit’s mind, even after nearly 100 years of socialist and egalitarian reform.

I think the way Downton Abbey’s servants all revere the rich, haughty, lazy fucks they serve, and accept them as higher beings, is what fascinates me. And the way the show makes the aristocrats appear so magnanimous despite the fact they are lazy and insipid, as if pretending to care for the lowly peasants is noblesse oblige in and of itself. The show depicts them as worthy of their status, regardless of the fact they were born into it and haven’t done an honest day’s work in their lives. That’s just how it was.

Centuries of social conditioning certainly beat down the proletarian class to accept their fate in Old Europe, and, as the show tries to depict, this all certainly changed after WW I when millions of low-born men died or were maimed fighting this utterly pointless war between European aristocratic houses (the German Kaiser was first cousin to Britain’s King!). Socialism was easier to digest after WW I. The show dances around this and hints at it, which is pretty cool, and the Irish chauffeur who marries Lady Sybil represents this modern, low-born socialist agitator who doesn’t accept his fate of birth in the class system.

All in all, I adore the show as well written and brilliantly acted. Americans should watch this show and celebrate the fact we fought a war in 1776 to break free from our bondage to these lazy and insipid aristocrats, princes, and kings who ruled us with their so-called “divine right.” Our forefathers scoffed at this barbaric system, and the first act they performed after we won our revolutionary war and established our republic was to abolish titles of nobility and the “lordly” class system.

That’s what we should celebrate as Americans when we watch Downton Abbey, that this was something we have never been, born to our fate and incapable of moving upwards merely because of the accidence of our birth. Maybe the climb upwards was difficult even in our society, but it was possible and many have done so over the last 200 years.

That brings us all hope.

Elites My Ass

Please read this column first:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/opinion/brooks-the-great-migration.html?hp

The worst columnist in America strikes again. Pay no mind, Mr. Brooks, that your beloved “meritocracy” is fraught with greedy, monomaniacal, ambitious, solipsistic, and amoral swine. Wall Street is filled with these “wunderkind” graduates of elite schools, and yet not many of these überprivileged boys and girls have an ounce of human decency or moral fiber, but instead cheat and steal from their fellow citizens with a gleeful venality and amorality as if it’s their birthright. Meanwhile their poor and working class peers get killed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan while the “elites” cheer on these wars while they themselves are far, far, far from the front lines.

The only acts of “public service” these meritocratic superbrats ever engage in are disingenuous means to pad their college applications and resumes. There are more measures of success in a society than graduating from elite schools, accumulating lofty credentials, and hoarding wealth and privilege. But how would a petty little creep like David Brooks understand this? He’s never served a higher cause in his own privileged life, nor made the kind of self sacrifice and service to others that most of his beloved meritocratic superbrats would mock if ever asked to do it themselves.

Quite a few of my fellow military veteran friends found great success in life by taking a much different path in life than the meritocratic superbrats, and I’d take one of them over a boatload of meritocratic superbrats any day. Maybe part of our moral and ethical problem in America is that real sacrifice and service to others is shared by only a very small fraction of us all, while the rest of the nation pays lip service to it at best, or openly mocks it at worst, and yet we all live within the safe confines of what this service and sacrifice provides us.

We’re quick to call professional athletes heroes, and we genuflect submissively in the direction of celebrities, yet our very survival depends on a very small few among us who mostly eschew any kind of praise or adoration. They do it because it’s right and just, not because it will make them rich and famous. I’m sure most Harvard graduates are good kids, but so are the kids in rifle companies walking point in Fallujah and Tora Bora, or the super brave cops and fireman who risk their lives in service of others, or the inner city school teachers who get paid shit to save our poorest children from a life of illiteracy and alienation. Brooks probably thinks these types are fools for not grasping that platinum ring he finds so alluring.

What a despicable, pompous, utterly useless little clown of a man he is—why does the New York Times employ him to write this piffle?

All Hail the Murder Machines!

After the past few massacres, I’ve argued that the reality of our politics means that we’ll ‘grieve’ and ‘be shocked’ for a few days, we’ll put the flags to half-staff, then something else will come up, and nothing will change, and then we’ll ‘grieve’ and ‘be shocked’ a few weeks later when the next group of students or parishioners or movie-goers or mall-shoppers is gunned down.

- James Fallows, The Atlantic

The accepted public response to these appalling mass murders nowadays is exactly what Fallows writes above. Anything else—expressing ideas to affect change, calling for gun control, or questioning the system and status quo—is castigated as “politicizing a tragedy.” When, exactly, are people in a democracy supposed to politicize anything if not in times of tragedy or in the face of a clear and present anger to our citizens, especially our weakest?

Why are we told just to grieve and pray and do nothing else? Why is politicizing these tragedies to affect change so castigated?

I’ll tell you why. Because a defeated people bow their heads and pray. A defeated people have no concept that they have the power to affect change. A defeated people do what they are told and accept horrors such as this as the acceptable level of slaughter and genocide their diseased culture produces. They refuse to acknowledge the disease.

That’s what America has become: a nation resigned to its fate, defeated by the powerful special interests that subvert our democracy and poison the national dialogue with vile propaganda, force-feeding their lies and sophistry so relentlessly that these lies become the truth in the minds of millions, to the point where no one even has any resemblance of the intellectual tools required to question this insanity any more, but instead bow their heads in cowardly and ignorant silence because they don’t even know how to react in any other meaningful way. That is a defeated nation.

Apathetic and defeated people do what they are told, believe whatever they are told, and don’t question authority. In this instance, most people don’t even know they are repeating, ad nauseam, the exact talking points that the NRA and arms industry lobbies have spent hundreds of millions force feeding into the minds of our country. They just repeat them without once questioning the validity and veracity of these talking points, or ever bother to fact check any and all of the lies, false facts, utter nonsense contained within them. They don’t because all these talking points are framed in a deliciously appealing manner that shamelessly panders to so many people’s prejudices, fears, insecurities, and illogical thinking. And it’s impossible for those who have the facts to compete in the public arena because all the money and power lies with those spreading the lies.

How can free citizens or grass roots groups contend and compete with a PR machine backed by an Army of lawyers, trained sophists, mass marketing experts, and super-rich benefactors passing out sacks of money to make it all happen? These modern lobbying groups, think tanks, and public relations empires are tremendously effective tools used by powerful special interests that literally shape the public discourse to their liking. They pervert and subvert democracy while we’re left picking up our murdered children at the morgue and basically told to shut the fuck up.

Because the truth is much simpler, but no longer even discussed: The arms industry is hugely profitable, enriching a small few at the expense of, well, these children in Newtown, CT this past Friday, for instance. Hardly anyone really cares any more to acknowledge this. Certainly not in particularly meaningful and substantive ways. It’s all about the “freedom” of owning military weaponry. Or called the “price” of freedom. Our second Amendment “rights.”

It is now politically incorrect to even try to discuss rational alternatives to all the gun violence out there.

The message from those who have hijacked the public dialogue is basically this: Go pray to your God, because democracy can’t fix this. Accept this because you have no choice, nothing will change, and we are all powerless under the Almighty to shape our destiny. And people gladly comply, because living in a fantasy world is certainly more fulfilling, and requires much less effort and thinking—and pain and anguish—than dealing with reality. Building a better education system, fixing the massively decimated economy, reducing crime and poverty, disarming all the crazies who own guns out there, rebuilding our decaying infrastructure, providing fair and affordable health coverage to all citizens—all that requires work and thinking.

Your God will not fix these things.

The irony of this tragedy in Newtown is that Paul Lanza’s mother was something of a gun nut who loved to brag about her personal arsenal; many witnesses recount how she loved to talk shop about the killing power of her various guns. This affluent suburban marm probably imagined she needed this arsenal to protect herself from the imaginary negro hordes she reads about in the daily news, the evil gangsta negro criminals who only want to kidnap rich white broads like her and force them into crack whore servitude. So she goes out and purchases military-grade weapons systems designed to kill multiple enemy targets with great efficacy by highly trained infantry soldiers. The irony being, of course, that it was her darling little half-wit moron son who actually murdered her—and 25 others—and not some imaginary rampaging negro criminal she armed herself against.

Moreover I am sure some psycho working for Bushmaster Arms, the maker of the rifle used in these killings, it patting himself on the back that this little shitbag Lanza, largely untrained and unskilled in tactical close quarter combat, killed 27 of the 28 targets he engaged, himself included. That is killing power! Now Lanza’s dead mother can savor for eternity just how many rampaging criminal “scum” she could have bagged with her arsenal given the chance.

From this point forward I will only refer to guns of all sorts as “murder machines.” That is the only proper context for which they should be defined.

If it were my dead kid on one those morgue slabs in Newtown, CT, I’d drive to Washington, DC and shove my foot up the ass of Wayne LaPierre and all the other vile scumbags of the NRA and other pro-arms advocacy groups. They have romanticized the gun far beyond its rational utility in the hands of civilians, and we all pay dearly for this grand delusion. Some pay with the blood of their beautiful babies.

People are right, we need to address insanity as much as guns, and to me, the greatest insanity is the idea we need to own guns to be free. Or that we’d all be safer if everyone were armed. Yeah, just what we need, to become Somalia. Talk about insanity. Is this really the type of society we want to build and live in?

It has to end. We must disarm this country now.

Epilogue: The Avenging Midgets and Other Heroes in My Life

This is the epilogue to a novel I wrote when I was 22 years old, titled A Weekend in Managua. I think at 22 it was quite possible I was insane. It’s still some of the funniest stuff I have ever written. Enjoy.

 

PSSSSSSSST-SPLAT! “Steeeeeeeee-rike!”

“Muy bien, jefe, muy bien!”

Awakened abruptly by that weird sequence of sounds and shouts, my first conscious thoughts engulfed me with a panicky mélange of elation, fear and confusion. I was elated because I was no longer in the Nicaraguan Secret Police prison. This I knew without opening my eyes because the foul, rancid smell and the crying, screaming and pleading voices—the only sensory perceptions I had of the place while constantly blindfolded—were gone. I was frightened because I didn’t know where I was…if not in the prison, then where? I was confused because I had no memory of how I got from there to here. Plus—as if things weren’t already fucked-up—that weird sequence of sounds and shouts, echoing loudly in whatever room I was now confined, was the goddamndest thing I’d ever heard, too weird for my panicked mind to process coherently.

No blindfold! This thought caused me to open my eyes eagerly without regard to the damage that sudden light exposure might cause. Luckily, it was fairly dark, with only a tiny sliver of light entering the room from a door that was slightly ajar. My eyes adjusted quickly to my surroundings: I was lying on a small cot, which was the only furniture in the room; I was not restrained by any means; I was alone and relatively safe; and I was wearing a jumpsuit made of a papery fabric like a disposable hospital gown. It was the first time I’d seen anything since…since…shit, I had no idea how much time had passed since my last conscious thought, so I didn’t know what day it was, what month it was, what year it was—it could have been the fiftieth century AD for all I knew.

I rationalized my situation: Maybe I only dreamt my Nicaraguan adventure and I’m really in a loony ward, chocked full of psychotherapeutic drugs. The first sign of psychosis is usually delusional thoughts, after all. My experience in Nicaragua was so surreal, so fucking weird…it could have been a psychotic delusion, couldn’t it? No, no, no! It wasn’t! It wasn’t! I screamed inside my head. The memories were too vivid. Too goddamn real.

PSSSSSSSSST-SPLAT! “Steeeeeee-rike!” “Very good, chief, very good!”

I realized as my panic and confusion subsided that one of the voices was shouting in Spanish. The “hissing-splat!” sound was a mystery. Judging from the Doppler Effect the sound emitted, I realized that the sound was moving parallel to the left side of my supine position, somewhere outside the room but close. The voices were also close.

I arose slowly from the cot, my head numb and woozy, my extremities tingling…how long was I unconscious? My legs and back ached like a bitch as I stood. I nearly fainted from the head rush I received when I stretched.

PSSSSSSSST-SPLAT! “Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-rike three!” Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap! “Very good, chief, very good!”

I peered warily out the door—no guards were in sight, thank God. I opened the door and got hit by the bright, blinding, midday sunlight. I staggered back into the room, rubbing madly on my eyes as I nearly stumbled backwards over the cot. It took about a minute for my eyes to adjust. Even then, I was still half-blind.

The door opened to a large, roofless courtyard. I still couldn’t see very well but did notice large lumps that I guessed were people standing in the courtyard. I heard voices speaking rapid-fire Spanish. They weren’t Nicaraguans, who speak a slow, drawling Spanish like Georgians speak English. Nope, these were either Cubans or Puerto Ricans.

“Señor Palmer!” shouted one of the lumps to me. The voice sounded familiar…no way, it wasn’t who I thought it was…no way! Yet… I staggered toward the voice like a blind man, moving forward slowly, my hands feeling the air in front of me for hazards or obstacles.

One of the lumps came toward me quickly. It grabbed my arm. “Señor Palmer, it is good to see you among the living,” the lump said to me.

“Bright…cannot see…too bright,” I mumbled incoherently in Spanish.

“Carlos, bring Mr. Palmer sunglasses,” the lump said back to the other lumps.

A tiny lump approached us. “Carlos? Is that you?” I asked the tiny lump.

“Si, compañero,” the tiny lump replied.

He grabbed my hand and placed a pair of sunglasses in it. I put them on—and immediately wished I hadn’t. The big lump was Fidel Castro, the one and only Fidel Castro, who was clad in a New York Yankee uniform. A massive stogie protruded from his smiling mouth. The little lump was my midget friend from the Managua YMCA, good old Carlos, formerly of the wrestling tag team los diablos pequenos, the little devils. He was wearing a little umpire’s uniform—mask, chest protector, shin guards, everything.

The other lumps were Marvella, Spike Ortega, and Pepe—the twin midget brother of Carlos—and Milt, my best friend. I nearly fainted from both surprise and relief; surprise because of whom I saw, relief because I was not psychotic.

Nicaragua happened! Sonofabitch!

“Please, please, sit down, my friend,” Castro said to me with compassion and concern. He led me to a wood bench and eased me down until I was seated.

When he was satisfied I was comfortable, he walked back to the others. I sat silently as I looked over at them. They were whispering to each other, peering over at me every few seconds. Milt grinned at me. Pepe winked. Spike gave me a thumbs-up. Marvella, looking fabulous in a black leather mini-skirt and blue silk blouse, flashed me a lascivious tongue wag.

“What the fuck is going on!” I shouted. “Where the fuck am I! Someone talk to me!”

The entire group rushed to me as if I were an infant in need, suffocating me with loving hugs, back pats, and kisses. Marvella sat on my lap and French-kissed me for about ten seconds. Spike kept hugging me. Pepe and Carlos hopped on the bench and stood next to me, grinning. Milt just stood in front of me with a glum expression on his face, unable to look at me.

“What happened…one minute I’m in prison…the next I’m…” I looked around. All I saw was the courtyard. Milt and Spike blocked my view deliberately. “Where am I?”

“Cuba,” replied Marvella. “You are in Cuba. We are so happy you are awake!” Her Southern belle twang was gone, replaced by flawless, accentless Spanish. Goddamn, she was Cuban!

“How…how did I get…I was in prison. How did I get out?”

Castro laughed and sat on the bench next to me. He put his arm around my shoulder. “My best little spies in the world rescued you…my avenging midgets,” he said as he pointed to Carlos and Pepe. “You do not remember?”

“I remember I was going to be executed by the Sandinista government for some trumped-up shit I didn’t do. I remember being chained to a wall and being beaten. I remember being kidnapped by the CIA, the Contras and the fucking Sandinistas. I remember being used for everyone’s evil schemes. I feel used…used, used, used!”

“But?” Castro inquired almost hungrily.

“But I remember just about everything except being sprung from prison.”

Pepe shrugged at Castro. “Chief, we may have used too much tranquilizer on him…he is a very excitable boy. We didn’t want him to ruin our beautiful escape plan by freaking out.”

“It is difficult to get the dosage right, Chief,” interjected Carlos.

“No matter, my little spies, he is going to be fine.”

“So…you guys all work for Castro?” I asked. Spike, Marvella, Carlos and Pepe nodded. I glanced at Milt. After a few morose moments, he glumly nodded, slowly and deliberately, not looking up at me the whole time. I felt my heart sink. “You too?” I shouted. Milt just gazed at his feet. The traitor!

“These are my best spies and my Praetorian Guard,” Castro said. “I reserve them for special jobs. And you, my dear Palmer, are very special to me.”

“You were using me as much as the others were using me, right?” I sneered.

“Sadly, yes. In fact, much more so. You were the protagonist in my little Greek comedy”

“Why? I’m just a two-bit Marxist writer for a two-bit Marxist magazine…look at me! I’m a loser. This trip to Managua was supposed to make me an important writer, but I ended up becoming caught in a tangled web of lies, espionage, evil plots and backstabbing bullshit. Why me, Mr. Castro, why me? What did I do to be everyone’s stooge? Why was my life turned into such a shit sandwich? Why did you do this to me?”

Castro grinned, bent forward, and elbowed Marvella to move a bit, then kissed me on my cheek, his bushy beard tickling my cheek.

“Ho-ho-ho! I’ll tell you why—because you make me laugh. I have been reading your articles for years…my God, a Communist with a sense a humor! You are a scream, my boy. And I love you for it.

“I’ll tell you why I did it: I am so isolated, surrounded by ass-kissing sycophants and boot-licking courtiers. I am bored! Lonely! The goddamn puto Russians want to control me, the Chinese have no sense of humor, and Americans keep trying to kill me…I have only my laughter to keep me from taking out my pistol and blowing off my head. So…so in order to amuse myself, I create havoc everywhere. You just happened to be my pawn this time. But…my spies kept you safe, did they not? You were never in trouble.

“So tonight we will share an excellent meal, then we’ll retire to my screened porch, sip good rum and smoke my finest cigars…and you will tell me your story. And I will laugh. Afterwards Marvella here will make love to you, and tomorrow morning you will be secretly taken by boat to Barbados, where you’ll catch a flight home to Boston, safe and sound. You will have your story to write about what you experienced; I will read it and have another laugh. That is all…”

“Fuck you, Castro!”

“Ho-ho-ho! I love this boy!” he chortled, hugging me. “Spike, get Palmer a beer and a bowl of black beans and rice. He looks terrible.”

“Si, jefe.”

While Spike dashed off for my food and drink, I looked beyond where he had been standing and blocking my view of the courtyard. The realization of what I saw nearly made me vomit: tied standing to pole was a young man, his face a bloody pulp. Baseballs littered the ground around him.

I leered at Castro. “What the fuck have you done to that man?” I implored, frightened, pointing a shaking finger at the man on the pole. Castor sighed as if bored.

“Oh, another dissident. I’m practicing my slider on him.”

“Jefe was once a big league prospect,” Carlos added. “The New York Yankees regret never having signed him to a contract.”

Marvella, who had been silently hugging me throughout this conversation, kissed me again. Pepe grinned. Carlos patted my back. Castro slid his hand down my back and pinched my ass, a jocular act that implied we were good buddies and pals—compadres por la vida, friends for life. Milt refused to look at me, the traitorous fucker.

So these were my heroes, my saviors…my life really was a shit sandwich if these maniacs were on my side. I felt ten degrees worse than incredulous—I felt mega-ultra-magna-motherfucking incredulous. I felt pathetic. I felt used. Mainly I felt like a nut-scratching, boogar-eating, knuckle-dragging moron.

And I wished I were psychotic; hell, I prayed I was. I wished my adventure had been one big, weird, dopamine-induced delusion of the paranoid schizophrenic variety. I wished I would wake up in my comfortable psycho ward bed to the smiling face of a pretty nurse—Marvella would do nicely in that role—who would inject a massive dose of Haldol in my ass.

But I looked over at the bloody pulp of a dead man on the pole—Castro’s pitching practice target—and then I looked back at my heroes and my saviors, who stood grinning at me lovingly as if I were the prodigal son returned home to feast on the fatted calf. In that brief moment of immense revelation I knew damn well this was too weird for a delusion, that reality was definitely more bizarre than any schizophrenic’s paranoia could produce.

Therefore, I wept. I wept not for me, but for the crazy world in which I lived. I wept and wept and wept. Then I had that dinner with Castro. I had the rum and cigar with him in his screened porch. I told him my story. I watched him laugh. Afterward I screwed Marvella as if I was possessed with the combined spirits of Don Juan and Ron Jeremy. I went home.

No one will believe my story, but so what? It happened. I’m no wiser than when I began, nor do I have any wisdom to impart upon others. All I am able to conclude is this: like the title of the film starring Spencer Tracy, Buddy Hackett and Jim Backus, it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world. And perhaps I’m the only sane person. Then again, maybe not.

I’ll never leave America again, however. You can bet on that.

Score!

After four years of fighting with Russian hackers, I have finally recaptured and purchased the domain name journalofdoubt.com. I’d let my ownership of that domain name slip while I was away on business in about 2008, and it’s taken me four long, crazy years to get it back after being extorted by these Russian hackers to buy it back at an outrageous price.

I told the morons journalofdoubt.com was just a personal blog and not worth jack shit, yet they kept demanding tens of thousands of dollars for it. For about a year they ran a fake “rape porn” site on it, I guess to embarrass me into buying back the domain name, but I am a patient and methodical bastard, probably 100 times as ruthless as those morons.

And now I have my .com domain name back! Try it out! You can now access this web site from two URLs:

http://journalofdoubt.net

http://journalofdoubt.com

I win!