Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How To Read The News

If you actually want to know what is going on, just reading one or two newspapers simply won't cut it.  In fact, keeping current isn't easy.  It requires a lot of work.  That's why most people prefer to turn off their brains and let the entertainment based media shovel news about Kim Kardashian and other important national matters into their brains.

Even if you read a supposedly important newspaper, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post, this simply isn't enough.  It's a great start, but not enough.  There are inevitably stories and issues which the main stream media will ignore but may nevertheless be incredibly important.

You used to have to subscribe to foreign newspapers, academic journals, and other sources to get a more complete picture of what is going on.  Thanks to Google News, you can now type in a subject area and it will aggregate news articles from around the globe.  You may be surprised, for example, to see what the Australian, Canadian, or British press has to say about something like the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The same goes for the American elections.  Try searching for "Republican primary" and see what you get.  You may be surprised.

You are also well served in seeing what both the left and right have to say about an issue.  To see what the right has to say, other than reading the National Review, look to the business press.  The institutional mainstream conventional thought will be reflected in such periodicals as Bloomberg News and Forbes.

Being well informed is hard work.  Most people don't want to do that.  Scrutinizing everything you hear and analyzing it is tough.  However, if you want to be informed, you must work at it.  Ideas do matter.  People live or die based upon the ideas of others.  If no one will do the work, not even you, then who?

The future of this country is decided by those who care.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

America the Terrorist?


the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce,especially for political purposes.
the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting government.


"When they commit atrocities, it is called "terrorism."  When we commit atrocities, it's called "national defense."  

--Noam Chomsky

We can develop all the nuclear weapons we want.  We can even sell nuclear weapons to our "friends" like Israel.  But if a country like Iran tries to develop nuclear weapons as a check against U.S. and Israeli aggression, that simply won't be tolerated.  Never mind history.  The CIA helped put the brutal regime of the Iranian Shah in power, a regime so hideous that it was driven from power because it killed and tortured its citizens.   Never mind the fact that the Reagan and Bush presidencies propped up Saddam Hussein and gave him weapons to fight a long and bloody war against Iran before Saddam was considered a bad guy by the American political elite.  No, we must protect ourselves against Iranian aggression.  We can never be aggressors.

None of this would matter if it weren't for the current set of Republican presidential candidates beating the drums of war in a pathetic showing of who can be tougher against Iran.  The sole exception to this madness is Ron Paul, the candidate whose candidacy the major news media refuses to even acknowledge.  If a Republican is elected, there is the very real chance for yet another war in the Middle East.  America is too broke and has shed enough blood.  

The same goes for Cuba.  The now-deified John Kennedy saw no problem in placing nuclear weapons aimed at the Soviet Union in Turkey.  In April 1961 the U.S., through the CIA, sponsored the Bay of Pigs invasion, which was essentially a failed terrorist plot to overthrow a sovereign government.  So in 1962, the Cuban government welcomed nuclear weapons into the country for the purpose of deterrence against unchecked U.S. aggression.  Again, the U.S. would have none of this.  What is good for us is not okay for anyone else.  Just like we wouldn't permit the Cubans to determine their own form of government--a government which was popularly supported by the people-- we certainly wouldn't allow them to protect themselves.  No way.  So Kennedy, being the foolish risk taker that he was, damn near led us to nuclear armageddon in a deadly game of chicken.     

To this day, the U.S. policy of blockading Cuba by force is state terrorism at its best.  We are saying "You don't have the right to determine your own form of government.  We must decide that for you.  If you won't play the game our way, we will starve your women and children until we get what we want."    

At the Republican debates, Newt Gingrich said that he wished Fidel Castro would go to hell.  I wonder how Castro must feel, considering the declassified documents by the CIA showing that there have been over 300 attempts on Castro's life.  Despite forty years and being only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, Castro has held on.  Even after the fall of the Soviet Union and through the U.S. embargo, Cuba has adapted itself to survive.  The literacy rate in Cuba is 99.8%.  The health and mortality outcomes in Cuba are above those of the United States.  This is astonishing considering the small size of the Cuban economy and the hardships it has had to suffer because of U.S. aggression.  

Political elites will say that Cuba is a rogue state that violates human rights by imprisoning political dissidents and commits torture.  Sound familiar?  Because surely we don't have indefinite detention, targeted killings, and torture, here, right?  I forgot--when they do it, it is terrorism.  When we do it, we are protecting our freedoms.  Looking at the matter  objectively, George W. Bush is far more of a murderous war criminal than Fidel Castro.  Bush's concocted war in Iraq has led to the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi civilians and soldiers, not including the 5000 or so American lives lost.  But we only count the American lives lost.  Lives of those other people really isn't worth all that much, not when you are "defending freedom".

Take Afghanistan.  When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, that was considered unacceptable aggression.  You need to boycott the Olympics for that.  But when George W. Bush threatens to bomb the country until suspected war criminals are turned over, that is perfectly fine.  No problem.  

Liberals are just as blindsided as conservatives.  If George W. Bush uses drones to kill people, tortures, or illicitly detains people and unconstitutionally suspends habeas corpus, then that is terrible.  Never mind the fact that Barack Obama has doubled down on the same terrorist methods.  It's okay so long as a Democrat is the one committing the atrocities.  After all, Obama is a nice guy who surely can't have anything but the best of intentions, not like those nasty Republicans.

Look at what happened with Osama Bin Laden.  No one will argue that Bin Laden was a good guy.  He deserved to die.  He was a menace.  No one can forget the unspeakable loss of life because of the 911 attacks.  But if we are supposedly the good guys, then you would think we would value the rule of law and not use terrorist methods.  This is entirely not the case.  The American media didn't report it, but if you looked closely at the international press, you would see what really happened.  Without getting consent from the Pakistani government, we violated their airspace, illegally entered the country, murdered not only Bin Laden but killed a few other people too, and wounded one of Bin Laden's wives.  Bin Laden was dragged outside and executed in front of his children.  Then the body was dumped at sea to get rid of the evidence.  You would have thought that American legal scholars and lawyers would have been shocked at the violations of international law.  Bin Laden had been stunned with a stun grenade.  He was unarmed when shot.  He could have been arrested and faced trial.  This is what happens if you are a country that values the rule of law.  Since we don't, we considered it too bothersome to make him face trial.  Better to just off him and be done with the matter.  No one seemed to mind that the government essentially sent in a team of assassins to kill a private citizen.  If the Mexican government sent in a team of assassins into L.A. or Dallas to kill a private citizen, the U.S. would have a fit.  Imagine if Castro ordered such a hit.  It would have led to war.  Yet when the U.S. does it, Obama is a big hero and no one asks questions.  Disgusting.

Don't get me wrong.  The United States has some major benefits compared to other countries.  From a freedom of speech perspective, we are far freer than anywhere else in the world, even places like France, where you can go to jail for what they consider "hate speech."  But we must also be objective and realistic.  We must watch out for hypocrisy.  We can't expect to live by different moral standards than others.  We can't expect to be special.  Not when we are a country that exists because of the mass genocide of the Native Americans.  Not when we have a history where the founding fathers agreed that a black slave wasn't a full person under the protection of the law.  And not when we are a country that put people in concentration camps for the crime of being of Japanese ancestry.  God doesn't think we are special.  There is no such thing as Manifest Destiny.  American Exceptionalism is a lie.  

Even to this day, the government uses the police force of the state and the courts to profit off the poor.  The war on drugs, for example, has nothing to do with stopping the use of illegal drugs.  The harmful effects of illegal drugs are nothing compared to the harm that ordinary alcohol and tobacco usage causes.  Nothing is more expensive to our society in terms of health costs, violence, car accidents, and injuries than alcohol abuse.  Few things are more dangerous to one's long term health than smoking tobacco.  Yet these things are not criminalized.  Marijuana, on the other hand, that is what poor people, illegal aliens, and working class people use.  These folks are easy targets.  Constantly arresting and pushing poor people through the court system gives judges, magistrates, lawyers, bailiffs, and the prison system jobs.  It is much easier for police officers to arrest the poor with marijuana than to spend time catching white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff or Wall Street criminals who defrauded and bankrupted the entire economic system.  To this day, Obama hasn't sent more than one or two corporate fraudsters to prison.  No, we must stop the marijuana users.  That is dangerous and must be stopped at all costs.  Everywhere there is the risk of people pigging out on Doritoes and taking naps.  No, this menace must be stopped at all costs.  As we speak, the Obama Justice Department is cracking down on state run medical marijuana operations in California and Colorado.  The menace of the munching Grandma must be stopped.  All of this despite Obama's pre-election promise to not use Justice Department resources to crack down on medical marijuana users.  

The same goes for illegal aliens.  When the American government gives smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans, or just openly slaughters them as they did at Wounded Knee, where 150 men, women and children were massacred, that is perfectly fine.  Again, as we speak, the Obama Justice Department is cracking down on illegal aliens, many of them students and small business owners who employ people, for political purposes.  Obama is trying to show how tough he is compared with the Republicans against the weak and defenseless.  Never mind the fact that he can't stand up to John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.  He is tough when it comes to killing people with drones, ordering hit squads, or deporting those who are powerless.  

The system works perfectly to keep the terrorist policies going.  Look at the 2012 election.  We have a choice between a beast with two backs--the Republican or the Democrat.  Each one is sold out to corporate power and special interests.  Barack Obama in 2008 received more money from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms than John McCain.  In this election, Newt Gingrich just received 10 million dollars from Sheldon Adelson, who has essentially ordered Gingrich to take a far Right position on Israel.  Gingrich now claims that the Palestinian people "are an invented people."  Ten million dollars can buy people out of existence.  This would mean even a more hardliner U.S. stance against Iran under a Gingrich presidency and more violence when Israeli interests are threatened, possibly even another war.  

All the while, the corporate American media refuses to acknowledge alternative voices.  Ron Paul, the only mainstream candidate with a dovish stance toward the Middle East, is ridiculed for even running.  Despite his early positive polling numbers, he was dismissed out of hand by the media.  One reporter on NPR last week chided Ron Paul as being a "spoiler" if he were to run as a third party candidate for the presidency.  The mainstream media refuses to even acknowledge an alternative voice for the presidency.  Outside of the two party system, which is funded by corporations and special interests, you are not even permitted to run without being ridiculed.  It is damn near unpatriotic to exercise your right to be a candidate outside of the two party system.  This is how the corporatist state holds onto its power.  

To end American terrorism, it simply will not happen from the top down.  Barack Obama or any other mainstream candidate is not going to be our savior.  Anyone willing to sell themselves to the highest corporate bidder is not going to have the moral courage to lead America away from its current path.  Real change has always only happened from the bottom up.  When the working class asked for help during the Great Depression, FDR said "make me help you."  He knew that he couldn't do it alone.  The system wouldn't let him.  It took the hard and dirty work of labor unions, sit down strikes, protesters, and grass roots organizations to force real change.  The system will not allow better behavior unless forced to do so.  Barack Obama will not do the right thing unless he is pressured to do so by the voters.  

There is renewed hope.  The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been a loud and clear voice for reform.  In the spring of 2012, the protests will continue.  There is hope here for real change because the people will demand it.  Nothing short of this will matter.  Unless the people tell Obama that they are going to stay home on election day unless he stops his current unjust policies, nothing is going to change.  The same goes for any Republican president.  Unless the people demand that there be no further wars in the Middle East, there will not be peace.  War is too lucrative to the defense contractors and to the hard line war mongers who run the Israeli government, not to mention the political cohesion and sense of power war brings to the president himself.

The bottom line is that we matter.  It is up to us to demand change and accept nothing less.  





I'm Nocturnal

I'm nocturnal.  You know, like an owl, a raccoon (don't worry, I promise not to dig through your trash and knock the cans over), or a Nosferatu.  Bram Stoker perhaps described it best, when he said "Contrary to widely held belief, the vampire can move about by day, but it's not his natural time, and his powers are weak".  Instead of feasting on blood, however, my natural nectar is coffee, which I drink with great exuberance.

Despite my best intentions to become a productive, red-blooded, God fearing morning person, my body always rebels.  When I was teaching high school, I had to get up around 6 AM.  No matter how much I tried to go to bed early, my body refused to adjust.  Instead, I just felt sick from lack of sleep all week and then slept on the weekends.  I could go to bed by 10 PM every day and it wouldn't matter.  No sleep for me until 2 AM.  By Friday, my emotional state was very fragile.  Even as a teenager, I never adjusted to the high school time schedule.  I always thought this was deliberate--keep kids sleep deprived and they are less likely to act up and torture the teachers.  With half-sedated teenagers, perhaps the flag holder and the windows would be safe from vandalism.  I had to sleep walk through high school.

Fast forward 17 years, and little has changed.  I still stay up past 2 AM and sleep until I wake up.  Being self employed, this is the single greatest benefit one receives from being one's own boss.  Getting up at the crack of dawn is a special form of torture worse than water boarding.  If I were at Gitmo, they could pour water down my throat all day--no problem.  But put an alarm clock that will molest my sleep at 6 AM, and I will confess to anything.

I think it's genetic.  I have cousins who stay up until 3 AM on a regular basis.  I know this because they are on Facebook and "ready to chat."  My brother is the same way.  My 80 year old grandmother stays up until 2 AM.  Age hasn't slowed her down a bit.

If I had to work for a boss, my schedule would have to be third shift.  I could do the midnight to morning shift no problem.  He wouldn't even have to pay me extra.

 I love everything about the night--it is peaceful, quiet, and there is no traffic.  The telephone doesn't ring past 10 PM, which gives me a break from the incessant ringing of my telephone.  All is well with the world.  It is an introvert's paradise.  My wife and I get groceries at midnight at Wal Mart.  There is no dodging sick people coughing their lungs out, and the aisles are wide open.  Forget about waiting in line--the clerk practically begs you to go through the line to break up the monotony.  It's like Wal Mart is open just for me in my own special parallel universe.

Due to genetics, like a vampire I am condemned to walk the night, apart from the normal business of the world.  Yet I consider all of it a blessing.  The only real punishment is having to make myself available for very early morning appointments.  The court system tends to operate on a "normal" schedule, which means I have to be up early.  Thankfully this isn't every day.  Otherwise, I am free to schedule my client meetings and do my work in the afternoon, during times when I feel mentally fresh and ready to go.

There are some who cannot understand what seems to them to be a strange alternative lifestyle.  Some people have notions of propriety that don't include orthodox ways of being.  You must do this or that or the sky will start falling.  When I was growing up my father used to have a heart attack every time I drank warm pop (aka "soda" for you non-Midwesterners).

"You can't drink warm pop!"

I then took a deep sip.  "I just did".

"You have no business drinking warm pop!"

"What difference does it make?"

"You don't care, just go ahead and drink your warm pop!"

Wasn't I quite the asshole.

If I don't mind my pop warm, then that's my prerogative.  I do all sorts of unusual things that some may deem weird--I don't eat carbs, don't like to wear socks to bed, don't watch the Super Bowl or TV, and think Obama is too conservative.  Whatever the case, I'm not harming anyone.

I believe evolution has selected owls like myself for a unique purpose.  While everyone else is busy sleeping at night, it was our job to keep the campfire going and to watch for predators.  The tribe needn't worry about  a sneak attack while I'm on guard.  Just don't wake me to collect roots and berries at the crack of dawn or I'm going to be pissed.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Ron Paul Is The Only Candidate That Matters in 2012

2012 is shaping up to be another uneventful election.  The breakdown of candidates are all uninspiring:

1.  Romney--Empty suit, looks presidential, top 1 % that has no concept of the working class, sold out to large corporate interests, is a Wall Street insider, waffles on important issues like abortion, offers no new ideas or concepts.

2.  Gingrich--Failed as Speaker of the House, three time adulterer with no morals, wacky ideas ("i.e. we will build a colony on the moon"), subservient to corporate interests and Wall Street, incompetent in every job he has ever held.

3.  Santorum--Right wing extremist, hater of gays, also sold out to corporate interests, climate change denier, unelectable, and mean spirited.

4.  Obama--All words and no action, more Republican than Democrat, approved the bank bailouts, appointed Robert Rubin insiders (the architects of the banking meltdown) to run his economic team, betrayed his promises on closing Gitmo, advocates presidential assassination of private citizens, indefinite detention, and has cracked down on immigrants for political purposes.  Is currently looking to cut Social Security and Medicaid to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, and of course has absolutely no spine or will to fight for anything.  Tempermentally incompetent to lead.

If you want to see where the above candidates stand on any given issue, just look to who their campaign contributions come from.  All of them are favorable to Wall Street, the big banks, and large corporations.  The system gives us the false illusion of choice--Obama vs. Romney, for example.  Yet this really isn't a choice because both generally subscribe to the notion that Wall Street is more important than Main Street.  People have the illusion of choice because the Republicans are so far to the Right that it scares the hell out of people on the Left.  Yet Obama is more of a moderate Republican from thirty years ago than he is a true Democrat.  He bears no resemblance to the Democrats of the New Deal era, who would have never considered cutting Social Security or Medicare to balance the budget while offering massive tax breaks to billionaires and millionaires through the Bush tax cuts.

The bottom line is, we are being sold a lie.  This is where Ron Paul comes in.  Ron Paul has never been given a fair chance by the media, who basically exclude him every chance they get.  They dare not utter his name, no matter how well he does in the polls.  Paul isn't a corporate candidate.  In fact, he speaks against the corporatist policies of the government perpetrated by both parties.  He has integrity and can't be bought off by special interests.  He advocates positions that might imperil the corporate welfare and socialism for the rich that the top 1 % favor.  This makes him dangerous.

Ron Paul is the only one who has been making substantive arguments during the race.  Romney and Gingrich are busy offering platitudes about "creating jobs" and favoring "job creators", which means nothing.  Paul is actually talking about how the bailouts hurt Main Street and how the foreign wars are bankrupting this country.  He is the only one bringing a dose of reality to the situation.  If not for Paul, this election would be 100% farce.

Now I don't agree with Paul on many issues.  He is too libertarian for me.  But the difference is that he isn't a sell out.  He has integrity.  With Obama, Romney, or Gingrich, essentially you would be getting more of the same.  The illusion of choice designed to placate the rabble in the pit would be fulfilled.  Ron Paul is a real choice.

In 2000, Ralph Nader ran for president.  By running, he helped to bring substantive issues and discussion to the race.  This was important because it meant the advocating of real civic dialogue.  Without people like Nader and Paul, the corporate dog and pony show would continue unabated.

That's why it is my hope that Ron Paul runs as a third party candidate for president and is able to remain in the debate.  I would love to see him up against Romney and Obama.  If that were the case, this nation would see how ridiculous the choices between Democrat and Republican are.  On the issues of the Afghanistan War, indefinite detention, bank bailouts, Wall Street policy, Gitmo, and monetary policy, Romney and Obama are in complete agreement.  Paul has the opposite views on these.  A three way race would show us the nature of the illusion--that our corporate overlords don't want us to see.

Thank God for Ron Paul and his integrity.  It's the only thing that matters about this 2012 election, regardless of whether he wins or loses.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I remember seeing Bill Clinton's plastic smile during the Democratic Convention back 1994.  He was doing his annoying lip biting thing.  You know, the thing where he pretends to be so excited, child-like and pure he can barely contain himself from wetting because he is witnessing such an ordinary wonder as being in someone's presence.  It's sort of alike a puppy that tinkles after you get home from work because he's excited to see you.  It's incredibly fake, and totally annoying.  His entire persona was nothing more than a fabricated lie.  Why people couldn't see through the facade was beyond me.  His lip biting nonsense was just one notch above Richard Nixon's fake smile, all the while wearing a nervous toupee of sweat above the lip.

Whenever I go to a restaurant, I watch closely how the waitress interacts with me.  Is her smile just a little too wide for someone she just met?  Is she laughing when I am not joking?  And, most tellingly, when she drops off the bill to the person she expects to pay, does she only make eye contact and say goodnight at the bill payer or to everyone else?  This, more than anything, gets to the heart of her real motivation.  Not that I should especially care.  I've been to Europe, where servers don't work based on tips.  The service is horrendous.  They don't even try.  In France, you ask Pierre to bring you your bill and he flips you off and finishes his cigarette while filing his nails.  I suppose I should be happy I'm getting a shit eating grin along with a warm dinner plate, even if it isn't real.  The problem is I hate to be had.  I don't like it when others think they can manipulate my emotions.  The lack of authenticity bothers me.  There is a dishonesty, a perversion of the nature of human interaction that shouldn't be happening.

I was a waiter for three years during college.  While greeting tables, I was pleasantly warm, but I tried to never overdo it.  I didn't want to become the flair button guy from Office Space.  At all the customer service jobs I've had, management never seemed to properly understand the balance between being transparently fake and pleasantly warm.  Most of the sales suggestions from higher up consisted of advice that would make even a rabid Jehovah's witness run away.  Obviously the higher up sales executives never worked at the ground level or they would know how to properly interact with customers.

Whenever I call a customer service center and I get some corporate greeting such as "Hello, welcome to Rip Off Center, how may I delight you today?"  I feel nauseous.  Just keep it real.  The same goes for television commercials when you see  workers dressed with tucked in shirts, smiling, and speaking to the customers with such formality you feel like you are in pre-1950 Alabama.  "Gee Ward, why'd you have to be so tough on the Beev?" I could hear Mrs. Cleaver saying.  Not that I would rather almost get shot or treated like I'm at Wendy's, but something warm but authentic would be nice.

Perhaps the thing I dislike about it is because instead of seeming friendly, fake niceness ends up being dehumanizing.  It turns the person into an object--a customer.  The purpose of the customer-object is to extract money.  While obviously this is the case in business, it shouldn't be so transparent.  The naked emotional brutality of the transaction doesn't need to be highlighted.  One egregious example of recognizing this and using Orwellian Doublespeak to hide the truth is at Target.  They stopped calling people "customers" and started calling them "guests".  Somehow, this was supposed to make everyone believe that shoppers all of the sudden were their best friends.  I'm not shopping, I'm coming home.  If that's the case, can I open a jug of milk, drink from the nozzle, and then put it away almost empty?  Can I take off my shoes and relax on the furniture?  Maybe air my socks a bit?  Until I can do these things, then I prefer to be a customer.  After all, I don't want to be best friends with Target, I am just looking to buy a toilet plunger.

People should be authentic and warmly pleasant, even if they are having a bad day.  But this is just using normal manners.  After all, normal manners and being polite are the social grease that makes social interaction bearable.

Social intelligence is about drawing a fine line.  If someone is very sensitive to someone being plastic, then it can really be a turn off when they are fed playdough.  Overacting in movies is annoying.  In real life it is the same way.  Being an effective waiter, waitress, or customer service representative isn't easy, especially when you have bosses who expect you to act like a Ken or Barbie doll in hopes of ringing a little bit of extra money out of the customer.