Thursday, June 6, 2013

Goat #3

So this morning marked the beginning of one of those end of the school year days when everyfuckingthing ends up happening on the same day. Naturally, this is the morning my son decides to raise his I Am My Own Worst Enemy game to a fresh and soaring stature.

A bit of background…

My kids get an allowance. We give them an allowance to teach them about money. They have to buy presents for friends and family with their money and they can save up to buy whatever they want without any input from Mom or Dad. You should see what happens when the ice cream truck comes into our neighborhood now that they don’t have to ask for money. It’s like a 3 alarm fire replete with shouting and reconnaissance, sending a scout out to pinpoint the exact location of Mr Ringy Dingy. Along with the neighbors kids, they quickly establish a monitored perimeter like a bunch of Velociraptors.  

But I digress, the point is the allowance is NOT a reward for good behavior, so the behavioral stipulations around allowance are pretty soft. We use 5 simple rules for allowance.

1. Shower when I say so

2. Go to bed when I say so

3. Bring your laundry down to the laundry room and then come get your clean clothes.

4. Put your dishes in the dishwasher

5. 3 strikes for any other offense.

I really liked having just 5 rules. A list with 5 items is a  good list. Recently it has become painfully apparent that we needed to add another item, though.

6. Eli must have permission to go in Jesse’s room.

Here lies the font of this morning’s drama.

I am perfectly happy to look the other way on any of these Rules of Allowance. I feign deafness and blindness and I’ll shoot a paesan a warning look. Again, it’s more about $$ than behavior. Elias not only went in Jesse’s room without permission this morning, he not only ignored her screams to get out, but after she physically removed him and slammed the door in his face, he started picking the lock. So we had no choice but to take his allowance away. For the third week in a row. For the same offense.

Predictably, Elias starts to cry and flail and wax poetic on injustice both specific and universal. No one can Victim Monologue like my son, he has both imagination and stamina in spades. I say Whatever Who Cares most days because they lose electronic media for a week if they miss the bus (I love this consequence) and being a little late for school is low stakes.

But today we had dentist appointments at 8am; 2 concurrent cleaning appointments, the brass ring of dental appointments, that were made months ago and could not be re-made within 2013. 15 minutes before our appointment and he is still in his pajamas and still crying. 

Mind you, today is also the day of the family picnic where the parents come to school to have lunch with kids. Josh is going to get Eli’s favorite meal, Al’s cheeseburgers and fries and a root beer, and have lunch with his adoring, grateful and beloved son. Later this evening we all get to go to the school to see Eli perform as “Goat 3” in the first grade production of Click Clack Moo. Higher than usual stakes in place on this day is my point.

I run this by Eli, reminding him that these events are ways (that some fucking brain trust decided would be super) of celebrating him and that no one wants to celebrate a big stinking turd. He appears to rally. Everyone gets flossed so their gums won't bleed too profusely and it looks like we’ve cleared the hurdle of Boy. But wait…

As we get into the truck to go to the dentist, Jesse gets the front seat. This is also SO UNFAIR. I say he can have the front on the way back. He says the way there is 5 times longer than the way back and IT ISNT FAIR. I say it’s the same distance. He says it isn’t.

It is.

It Isn’t.

It is.

No.

It is.

You are not the boss of me.

I am SO the boss of you.

No, you do not control my attitudes.

I’m not talking to you anymore Eli.

Now, you are going to think I am exaggerating here but I swear on this month’s Birchbox I’m not.

“Mom, Mommy, Mom, talk to me, why aren’t you talking to me, don’t ignore me please, Mom, Mom Mom, please don’t ignore meeeeeeee, talk to me please Mom, Mommy, talk to me in Mexico, talk to me in China, talk to me in my boogers, can you hear me, are you deaf?…”

In any event, the child lives, I did not lose my temper, and hope springs eternal for a moving iteration of Click Clack Moo. Also several moving iterations of beer.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Compromisinator


This is old but it cracked me up. So.Y'know.

Much is being said about Obama being the reasonable adult in the room and that his willingness to compromise is being unfairly framed as sniveling weakness. I'd agree that this is an unfair assertion because I think Obama is doing exactly what we wants to do. He is a Clintonesque Republican, after all, with a touch more bellicosity. More to the point, I must take issue with compromise being an unmitigated good. What of the political compromise is between 'Completely Dysfunctional and Unsustainable' and 'Batshit Insane'? When one side of the duopoly  is proposing to delay and delude the people using wars for global hegemony viz resource domination as it's main weapon while the other group just pants, drools and scrawls pictures of boobs on the wall with it's own feces, the compromise position is not desirable. 

I am generally allergic to WWII metaphors but here goes anyway: how would history view a "compromise" with the Nazi's whereby, instead of killing all the Jews in Europe, the Nazi's would just kill all the German ones (and maybe a few Polish ones, cause y'know). Winning?

The divisive culture war buffet we are currently being served up in spades is just a ruse to keep us distracted from the fact that the same people control the federal government whether its democrap or a repig warming the chair in oval office. As we continue to dance along to the 2 party monkey mix and continue voting for what we perceive to be the lesser of 2 evils, we guarantee the movement of the compromise position towards Batshit Insane because compromise is an explicit reward for infantile feces throwing behavior.

The purpose of the 2 party system is to perpetuate itself not to produce rational, fair or effective outcomes for the people. Although the interests that control BOTH PARTIES will allow a rigidly orchestrated dog and pony show every 4 years, they will never allow a candidate to rise to the nomination who threatens their monopoly on power. 

So we made to suffer and rent our garments in frustration being pitted against folks with value systems so diametrically opposed that it is a zero sum gain game where no one gets what they want EXCEPT for the fat cats hoovering up the loot while we duke it out with our competing signage. 

Liberal signage is always better BTW. The right needs to up it's game, hire a cleverness consultant, use spell-check, something. But they have better politicians, the left can't top Drunk-n-Orange and McWaddle. The first person to guess to whom I refer gets a stuffed monkey that smells like syphilis.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Through sloth, we shall all be saved


A FB friend posted this totally amazing clip of Rockford spewing the god’s honest truth about civil society’s sanctioning and perpetuation the self-justifying rhetoric of the valorous soldier. You should really watch the whole thing but here is the gist of it:

Wars are always fought for the best of reasons: for liberation or manifest destiny, always against tyranny and always in the interest of humanity. So far this war, we’ve managed to butcher some ten million humans in the interest of humanity..As long as valor remains a virtue, we shall have soldiers. So, I preach cowardice. Through cowardice, we shall all be saved… May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution.

Fucking unreal, right??? So, with this withering monologue still ringing in my ears, I come across this seemingly innocuous advert the other day:

“Capture the things you love about your non-stop life in a photo mosaic”-Estee Lauder Double Wear Makeup

SEEMINGLY innocuous! Let’s pick this apart because it is chock full of ‘wow’. Hmmmm…the things I LOVE about my NON-STOP lifestyle. Right off the bat, they are trying to get the potential consumer to make some lemonade with their lemons here, no? Does anyone actually LOVE their NON-STOP lifestyle? Unless that lifestyle is non-stop because of all the great food, shopping, travel, outdoor recreation and sex in a non-constrained financial environment I’m thinking the answer is no. Most of what makes women’s lives NON-STOP is work, be it at home or otherwise and they don’t call it work because it’s awesome, fulfilling stuff. Sure there are a couple of broads out there that looooove their jobs so much they’d do them for freeeeee! But fuck them. (For real, someone really needs to do this thoroughly and regularly.) Now we're gonna add to the task by suggesting that we not only appreciate being super busy doing stuff that isn’t awesome and kind of bummer but we need to add the burden of creating a visual representation of this. I can see it now…

-the shot of you all bent over cleaning behind the toilet where all the really interesting stuff builds up, the look of horror at what you have wrought as you examine what comes up, capturing the ugly shape your mouth takes on whilst saying “filthy humans!”

-immortalizing your contemplation of infanticide during of one of one of those MOMMOMMOMMYMOMMOM moments.

-the look of  bitterness on your face as load your husband’s dishes into the dishwasher, knowing you aren't allowed to be pissed about it because you didn't leave them in the sink until that very last moment of his consciousness that he was totally planning to use to do that task.

-your befuddled expression (maybe a little flummoxed as well?) watching that co-worker who makes twice what you make walk up and down the hall with same piece of paper all day.

-The look on your face when your boss asks you to show him your panties. Repeatedly.

Now that’s a photo mosaic I’d enjoy looking at! Not one of those fake flim flam I-am-so-blessed exercises in personal marketing. Fetishizing over-full and over-busy lives is some ass backwards sickness. This market driven maelstrom of self promulgating activity is exactly why we miss all the good feeling stuff that can happen if we just fucking stop DOING and GETTING and let ourselves fall asleep on the couch.

You sense that I am about to bring this thing full circle, that I am going to tie it all together now! You are smart as well as good looking!

I’m not going to directly equate compulsive consumerism and American over-consumption with mass murdering warfare i.e. your relentless pursuit of personal style isn't the moral equivalent of using depleted uranium munitions. HOWEVER, our devotion to the idea of American preeminence in all things particularly that demonstrated by our material accouterments has played a big part in creating a sense of entitlement to an egregiously energy intensive lifestyle. This allegiance/dependence in turn serves as a rationalizing mechanism for our lukewarm support of wars waged to protect our ‘security’ (really a dog whistle word for ‘comforts’ and/or ‘profits’). Lukewarm support is all that is required because when the proponents of war begin to beat their drum, the well-oiled and motivated MIC does not require fanfare, only acquiescence.

To the degree that we embrace the super-sized American Dream we condone its support and its support is entirely contingent upon securing the resources (human, mineral, petrol and otherwise) of other places using deadly force. Don’t talk about human rights or democracy, please, I am assuming we are all adults here. Justification does not equate to actual motivation.

If we looked for happiness in being more un-productive in our lives in so far as superfluous accumulation and more un-improving in the social signaling type ways we could all continue to draw breath without, we would be much less consumptive. In being much less consumptive, especially insofar as this can lead to being quiet and contemplative enough to be AWAKE/AWARE of what is done in the name of our non-negotiable way of life, we might be positioned to withdraw our tacit permission for war making.

So, as through cowardice we shall all be saved, perhaps embracing sloth might help too.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Just for giggles because I have a head cold



Basically this movie is an ad for the water related wares of the Military Industrial Complex. Special boats, special SEAL grade planes, special extra awesome SEAL submarines, parachutes, goggles, guns, and strange long haired camouflage that I'm sure looks a lot less Star Wars-y when you see it in person, all in flat black with EXTRA FUCKING HONOR.

Of course there is absolutely no mention of WHY these men are being called upon to use billions of dollars of military hardware to rescue a hot chick in a tank top (literally, it so fucking hot there! How do those people stand it?), lest we allow an awareness of perverse politics to disrupt this gripping human drama (now with REAL SEALS! Most likely a terrible mistake!)

By all means let us take the discussion down to the meaningless level of not just the individual, but the individual SEAL, a personage vested with unquestioning rule following mojo more powerful than anything our pondering this mortal coil, "I'm not particularly interested in dying for that jackass, Bobby", consequence considering civvies can comprehend. And that's just the point: by fully obscuring the possibly corrupt high level machinations that created the situation in which SEALS unleash their ninja like prowess and brilliant one liners like "that aint gonna happen" and "boys, we gotta roll", all that's left to do is cry quiet tears of awe inconspicuously into our cuff. Bros before hos!

A quick aside: That guy talking on the phone with the F-18 taking off without ear protection would have been completely unable to hear his wife AND would be totally deaf now:
Hot Pregnant Wife holding down the flippin fort in a fiercely supportive SEAL wife style: "Be safe"
SEAL: "What? There's a fucking F-18 taking off I can't hear you! Also, I'm deaf now!"

One more quick aside, the "this is way bigger than we thought it was " guy looks a little Sikh-y to me. Should I tell someone?


But they make up for all that silliness with the part where the underwater SEAL catches the dead guy before he hits the water. AMERICANS ARE SO FUCKING AWESOME AT DISALLOWING TROUBLESOME SPLASH!! AMERICUH, FUCK YEAH!!!

In any event, these guys aren't going to let whatever bad thing they are there to stop from happening to happen because that's not how they roll. And if Bobby dies, they'll honor the shit out of that guy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

They can protest all they want as long as they pay their taxes

I am always trying to think of ways to make the idea of Vermont independence palatable to the uninitiated person. By uninitiated I mean someone who hasn't spent a few years in the uncomfortable headspace that rejects the assumption that Vermont, or any state, is required to remain in a posture of political and financial subservience to the presumptive higher wisdom of a federal government; an entity that is chronically and systemically unresponsive to the needs of the people, having chosen to assign the well-being of the rich and their corporations as flimsy proxy for the well being of the citizenry. In Vermont we rally against our geriatric nuclear plant's hopes of perpetual NRC coronation in hopes of avoiding any more irradiation and we show the fuck up to protest the NDAA and PIPA, Bradley Manning and Tim DeChristopher's incarceration and the plunder of our collective wealth represented by the waste and fraud of programs like the F-35. We call for our National Guard troops to come me from Iraq and Afghanistan and we vote to impeach sitting presidents. We lobby for our small farmers like it was going out of style and we hold our town meetings like they matter. We are filled with the spirit, there is no doubt.

I come to believe more and more, however, that the only protest that will matter is the one where people stop paying their federal taxes. Indulge me for a moment and imagine if a large group of individuals were to set up a joint holding account for these retained funds. Initially one could reasonably frame this as a simple tax protest and quite a legitimate one at that given that most Americans (not just Vermonters) want to curtail our militarism, decrease the influence of corporations and require the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. The federal government has not only been unresponsive to these sentiments, it has moved in exactly the opposite direction with the invasion of Libya, Citizens United and it's failure to impose any additional burden on the rich during this terrible recession despite the fact that their tax rates are historically low. Imagine how thought provoking and potentially paradigm expanding it would be for state legislators and other citizens to see all that money in one place and ponder the possibilities.

How would Vermonters feel about the social security and healthcare debates going on at the federal level if we could suddenly fund all our entitlement liabilities ourselves and structure them how we pleased i.e. without having to find a happy medium with South Carolina? How would the balance of power change if the federal government had to ask us for contributions to the wars for global hegemony each year? If instead of having to simply re-up with the thoroughly corrupted federal legislature by expending minimal effort throwing around phrases like "unpatriotic apologist" and "our boys deserve the best", they had to sell the idea to 50 individual states ever single year? What if the federal government had to explicitly ask for money to support corporations that are outsourcing jobs while giving huge salaries and bonus' to CEOs who hoard profits overseas to avoid taxes while smugly awaiting the next profit repatriation holiday? How many Vermonters would agree to funding oil and ethanol subsidies if they could say no? Could Vermont do a better job repairing its crumbling infrastructure if it didn't have to go begging and submit a forest worth of paperwork to the government to get a bit of its own money back? If it didn't have to keep a Leahy on staff to pander and pimp and drag some money back out of the Sarlac Pit of the Military Industrial Complex to bring jobs to the people? (We could make it fun, have an annual ceremony where we'd give his (former) salary to a small business person and blow out a riff on a trumpet or some such.) Imagine if the cynicism and fatalism of paying your taxes were replaced with purposefulness and empowerment?

I can hear you out there worrying about what Mississippi will do to itself if what some perceive to be the federal choke chain of simple decency and "reasonableness" is removed. Let me carefully suggest that said federal choke chain allowed the despoiling of the Gulf of Mexico by an oil industry responsible for creating, on our own soil, one of the greatest examples of The Resource Curse. Allow me to curb your enthusiasm by mentioning that the drug war, so unequally waged against black people, also occurs under its beneficent auspices. And let's not forget that the attempts by those in the lower latitudes to assert themselves against the power of corporations intent on either fracking or mountaintop removing large sections of this country into inhabitability are just as readily squelched by the power of these United States.

In short, you don't have to reject the entire notion of a United States in order to embrace the notion of federal accountability through greater state level financial leverage. Anyone can see that it is hopeless to try and affect change while sustaining the status quo with every paycheck.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Good Times

From December 17, 2011
Josh and Jesse are both sick and we had just about 1 tsp of Nyquil in the house which clearly isn't going to cut it. Now, its Saturday and it's almost 6pm so I've had a few at this point and Josh can't go because he's prostrate on the couch having attended a 6 year old's water slide birthday party this afternoon with Elias who can't swim for shit and that kind of extreme parental vigilance is exhausting. And he's a man with a cold. Enough said. So, toasted lightly brown, I'm looking at this pittance of nighttime relief clinging to the bottom of the bottle and I'm looking at my huge truck which I am just learning to control and I'm like: can't do it, I'm walking to the drugstore. So I announce to everyone that I am, in fact, "WALKING TO THE DRUGSTORE" because I've had a few beers and it isn't OK for me to drive (Teaching. Fucking. Moment. Y'all.) I grab my purse and my flashlight and head out into the 15 degree night. I get to the store and what's the first thing I see (after cracking myself up reading aisle signs. Why?) but this amazing beast cast in the finest Chinese resin. I instantly realize that my intoxication has led me to a date with $5 yellow demon-eyed destiny: "Whooooa! My NAME is Buck!" So, 1 package of spiderman bandaids, a Whitmans' sampler and one off-gassing 8 point buck later (oh and the Nyquil, I got that too.), I am walking home having had the most fun for $20 that I can remember. If you haven't gone shopping at a drugstore after a few beverages in a while (and who has, we all drive everywhere right?) I highly recommend it. I put the buck on Josh's nightstand. I hope he likes it.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Live simply so that these kids can die anyway because your Christmas shopping isn't what's killing them


A wonderful sentiment that rings hollow after only cursory consideration. Let's take this from the top.

What message is this visual device trying to send?

1. Those kids do not have enough food. Those chubby women have too much food.
2. Those women should give $ to those children instead of buying so many toys for their kids.
3. We should all be grateful we aren't starving African children and bitch a little less about stuff.

Seems to make sense, right? But African children with painfully swollen bellies and brain damage are not caused by overweight, slightly crazed looking mothers buying toys.

What would be more appropriate here is a strong condemnation of deforestation, slash and burn cattle farming and poor agricultural practices like improper grazing and mono-culture that deplete fertility and/or cause desertification. We could see a picture of Wall Street commodity traders inflating the prices of grain in order to make very rich people richer. Or we could see western governments supporting brutal and corrupt African regimes in order to curtail China's resource ambitions. Unlike the poorly coiffed, LL bean big shirt consumer brigade pictured above, these factors all tip quite precipitously towards direct causation.

These women could send their annual toy budget to an aid organization but these children aren't starving for lack of $, they are starving because of bad weather, bad soil, commodity price inflation and war, factors pretty much beyond the reach of the average female Toys R Us shopper. Juxtaposing a picture of some spiritually challenged wonk from the IMF or World Bank or some ConAgra douchebag whose policies actually cause this kind of shit might be harder to understand but it would be far more accurate.

I can't help but get a slight wagging finger feeling from this too, like I'm being directed to not feel bad about the American middle/working class' plight. Though the average American has access to plenty of calories they are only one paycheck, one job loss, or one illness away from being homeless. And that cart has maybe $150 worth of stuff in it (it's all box) which is no great shakes when you're spending $2K a month just between your mortgage and your health insurance. So, in addition to being a bad example of cause and effect, this visual unfairly gives the impression of vast squandered resources, engenders a self-hate that is unearned and makes snooty face at anyone fussing about wage stagnation and unemployment.

Arguing for systemic fairness goes much further towards helping these children than sending money to Unicef and certainly effects positive change more than feeling bad about Christmas shopping*. You don't have to be starving and walking around in dirty underwear to be morally entitled to advocate loudly for systemic fairness. Honestly, once you're at that point you wouldn't be very good at it, anyway. 

*the waffle riot people are excluded from this implicit pardon.    

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Massey Murder


Roy Blankenship is back in the coal business. He is free as a bird and back in the coal business after his company paid a measly $200 million fine (the fact that this is a record breaking fine just makes this more depressing) for knowingly endangering the lives of his workers in order to make more money. The government's investigation found that:

"managers at…Massey put profits ahead of workers' safety, and that an ingrained corporate culture of greed and recklessness ultimately led to a catastrophe that should have been prevented…federal investigators found that a preventable methane ignition triggered the explosion, which was then fueled by an accumulation of coal dust…"The results of the investigation lead to the conclusion that PCC/Massey promoted and enforced a workplace culture that valued production over safety, and broke the law as they endangered the lives of their miners." Management showed a "systematic" and "intentional" pattern of covering up safety hazards at the mine, such as the inadequate ventilation and poor roof supports that contributed to the disaster, according to investigators. The mine also had an "established" practice of tipping off managers when federal and state safety inspectors were on the way…The company went so far as to maintain two sets of safety books -- one that included known dangers, and another watered-down version that miners and inspectors could see…Workers who tried to bring forth safety concerns were routinely bullied by their superiors and feared losing their jobs making them unlikely to seek out inspectors. "

Now if Massey were a real person rather than a corporate "person" this would be 29 counts of manslaughter at the very least, more likely reckless homicide. The fact that no one is going to go to jail for killing 29 people, even when it has been demonstrated that systematic and deliberate behaviors mandated by Massey Energy caused this explosion, is as clear an example of our inculcated and compromised justice system as you'll find.

Our justice system has been contorted and leveraged to serve the interests of capital to such as extent that it is impossible within the law to hold the responsible parties to account when their misbehavior causes calamity and death. Our elites; be they energy executives, barons of finance or members of the legislature; have completely insulated themselves from just retribution for their crimes by contorting the law to either make their criminal activity legal or by making their crimes not subject to incarceration. Sure they pay fines, fines that seem like a lot of money to regular people, but these aren't regular people. Blankenship got a $12 million severance when he left Massey AFTER The Big Branch explosion! Massey was sold for $7 Billion AFTER the accident happened!

If justice were to be served, every person who ever ordered a subordinate to implement one of these profit generating, life endangering policies would be going to jail and every lackey who intimidated a whistleblower would be going to jail. But as right now, just one guy might be going to jail for obstruction of justice for actions related to the investigation, not the accident.

When people kill other people out of passion; be it hatred, love or anger; our justice system holds them to account. But when incorporated people kill other people out of greed, it goes unpunished. Personal responsibility dissolves into the soft focus capital C corporate, designed to absolve these entities of the responsibilities of personhood while preserving the rights of personhood.

I think people might believe that there is some higher logic than greed at work here. There isn't. I think people might believe that our laws are held to some ultimate standard of fairness. They aren't.

In a society where justice had any value, our awareness of the pretty well established effect of bureaucracy on perception of personal responsibility ("I was just doing my job loading those cattle cars! It wasn't my decision!") and the difficulty of assigning guilt to groups of people who come together for the sole purpose of making money, should have lead us by now to a simplified and effective method for punishing these transgressions. That the reality is just the opposite speaks to the utter corruption, dysfunction and illegitimacy of the system.

Image by Cat and Girl "The Incredible Lightness of Being Dead" 
http://catandgirl.com/ dorothy(at)catandgirl.com

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waffle Riots

A guy in the comments of an article I just read took the author to task for applauding the "successful" uprisings in Egypt saying "has the author read the news lately, that place is a mess!" 

Part of me says "right on Credulous Man, Arab Spring was a US plot all along and the new boss is probably going to be worse, high fuckin' five!". But another part of me says "Oh Soft American, so drunk on consumerism that you are thoroughly convinced all transitions should be painless upgrades that require no sacrifice or downtime, this must be stressful for you."

I think a big part of why Americans can't seem to pull their asses out of the couch crevasse to demand a better system of governance (hell, to demand a system that won’t eat it self alive in the next 45 minutes) is because they have the expectation that beneficial change can occur in the same sanitized way that old boring white appliances get replaced with shiny new front loading red ones.

Since half the point of consumerism is to turn people into infantile hedonists too preoccupied with developing their "style" with the cheap shiny fruits of globalization to spend more than 5 minutes a day worrying about what their government might be up to, I think my theory is awesome. (this only holds up as long as the cash and credit flows, of course, interrupt this atmosphere too egregiously and well, watch this crowd go after the $2 #blackfriday waffle makers at Walmart. Fucking terrifying, no? Imagine if these people were actually hungry or cold or something.)



This thought flows through the same vein I posted in the other day about how people are resistant to leaving their big evil bank for a small, ethical credit union because the process is sort of a pain in the ass, takes a bit of time and doesn't make them have more money or stuff when it's over. We are very much accustomed to having our cake and eating it too i.e. getting something for nothing. Joining a credit union is damn near the easiest and most direct way to subvert the criminal banking cabal yet this somehow gets lost in all the flustered, confused,  vaguely sweaty 'having to do actually something' shtick.

Fundamental social/political change has always been a convulsive, destructive, highly inconvenient process. Elites very much enjoy being Elites and with institutional inertia working in their favor, depriving them of the favorable climate through which they extract their glorious tribute like a hyena pulling the guts out of a still hot wildebeest will definitely precipitate one of those 'out of my cold dead hand' type situations.  

So maybe Mr. Commenter is keen to Paul Wolfowitz's plan to suck up all those former Soviet Client States before China gets too big to make a fuss. Maybe he's tuned in to The Rand Corporation's devious covert regime change machinations. Or maybe he's just wondering when a better political system will be ready for pre-order on Amazon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tar Sands = Energy Independence = Bullshit

So this tar sands ad comes on while I was waiting to watch a CNN video. Nice looking black man starts telling me how US energy independence is one of America's biggest challenges right now and that tar sands oil is the answer. Now I know that because they are "people" corporations are pretty much allowed to lie under the guise of exercising free speech but this claim really pushes even that permissive standard.


Boys and girls, today we are going to learn a new word: EXPORT. EXPORT is what happens when American energy companies can get a higher price for their products by selling them to other countries! Was I in the bathroom when Obama made his "all domestically produced energy must be sold domestically" speech? Did I pick the wrong moment to go get another beer and miss the announcement of the nationalization of all domestic energy resources? WTF is "innocuous but capable looking black man" talking about?

I understand by and large people are really, really clueless and on the whole disinterested in the issues surrounding fossil fuel dependence and the imminent rack and ruin of Petroleum Man (Hat tip, Gaelan Brown) but they aren't the people watching the CNN video that featured this advertisement, hence my perplexity.

First and foremost, it is hard imagine how anyone can watch an ad from a fossil fuel company and not disbelieve anything and everything they say simply because they are a fossil fuel company. Everything about this industry is malevolent and dysfunctional; from the government subsides that obliterate the proper functioning of energy markets by squelching competition to the externalization of the costs of the pollution it produces, to the highly inequitable pay structures to the unavoidable realization that it is dead end industry; even a credulous but somewhat well informed person (the typical CNN viewer, no?) has to balk at the get go, right?

Having their "innocuous but capable looking black man" spokeswhore talk absolute nonsense about energy security is just the icing on the cake. For fuck's sake, not only are we not entitled to the use of the energy that is produced domestically, we don’t even get a cut of $$$ these companies make unless we live in Alaska! We just get to pay to clean up after them, buy our kids a lifetime of asthma medication before shipping them off the fight in the latest resource war and wait for the PR campaign featuring an innocuous by capable looking Hispanic woman telling us "drinking water security is one of America's biggest challenges right now and privatizing weather is the answer"

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Middle Class or First World Subsistence?

I must take issue with the assertion made in this article that a couple with 3 children making 50K combined is "solidly" anything, never mind middle class.

Let's run down the list of assumptions required to argue that 50K leaves a family of 5 with enough disposable income to be considered middle class vs. living a first world subsistence existence. This couple owns their home (or lives rent free), they have no debt in the form of student loans, car payments, credit cards etc., they have good employer subsidized health insurance and are all healthy and since both parents are working we have to assume that grandma is the work-day caregiver and she gets paid in love.

Even with these fairly outrageous assumptions, that 50K is more like 41K once you take out taxes. That's less than 185% of poverty level income for this family. They would easily qualify for reduced school lunches, subsidized housing and food stamps. That's middle class???

Let's look at this a different way, where we assume they have most of the liabilities most families have. They pay $1,200 a month for Housing (if they are lucky, in Chittenden County this would be very hard to do for a family of 5.), they pay $500 a month for 2 student loans, they pay $300 for health insurance, they have a car payment of $250, they pay car insurance of $100, and they pay $500 a month to have one kid in full time daycare. From the post taxes residual of 41,000 we get around $3400 a month. After just the above expenses (by no means a comprehensive list), this family has around $550 left to pay for everything else; food, utilities, car repairs, all the crap costs like parking tickets and broken teeth that come up and all the discretionary consumption that supposedly defines what middle class is.

Drop one of the student loans or the car loan and it's still insane to call their income situation anything but precarious and stressful. Even though they are both educated white collar professionals, it is Orwellian nonsense to call these people middle class.

YES WE CAN! (give our kids milk in a cup!)

In this fine article, Tom Philpott regales us with the sordid tale of wanton whore bags from the industrial food lobby successfully preserving regulations that allow the lilliputian smear of tomato paste on a frozen pizza to count as a vegetable when calculating the nutritional merits of school lunches. This inspired me to spend part of the morning peppering Governor Shumlin's twitter feed with perky pellets of 140 character cleverness asking why the fuck Vermont feeds our wee ones the bleached, irradiated, emulsified, amalgamated and most likely contaminated swill from outfits like Cargill, Tyson and Hood when we have such stark raving mad unrealized but nonetheless chomping at the bit capacity to meet the needs of our school lunch program with food made here.
Oh Governor, I said, what better way to strengthen our economy and the well being of our children than to commit to sourcing our public school lunch programs locally? Would it not be easier to shrug off the entire federally subsidized school lunch program, a program that offers a mere $1 per meal subsidy to our schools, than to hope (in the Derrick Jensen sense of hope: a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency) that the USDA will one day free itself from the clutches of the agribusiness interests which currently bend policy in the direction of their hungry gaping maw somehow not sated by the steady stream of agriculture subsidies already flowing thereto.

The thing about the corporate capture of regulatory agencies is that, well, they are somewhat restrained by the fact that they are captured. It is hard to imagine arguing that our energy would be better spent reforming the entire regulatory and electoral system of the United States than it would be developing a way for Vermont to feed this one small part of our population that already shows up in semi orderly fashion at the same place everyday. How difficult, within the wider scheme of difficult things, would it be to put ovens and stoves back in our school kitchens and to have people there that can use them to prepare 2 simple meals for children?

Can we really, in good conscience and without hanging our heads in shame say "the federal system only allows us to buy commodity beef and the local milk doesn't come in a box" and leave it at that? We are admitting defeat in a much more expansive way than we intend if we throw up our hands and resign ourselves to supporting industrial milk because industrial milk comes in a box and local milk doesn’t come in a box so we can't serve public school kids local milk.

That is "take us out behind the shed and make it as quick and painless as possible" type talk, folks.

Those boxes suck anyway, they are god damn near impossible to open.

Friday, November 11, 2011

sorry for your service? Ugh.

Veteran's Day is a tough day for me to navigate.

How do you thank someone for risking or giving their lives for a lie, for a mistake, for an oil company, for an empire that has long since abandoned the work of serving its people? How do you say that you would never be willing to unquestioningly put yourself in harm's way for such corrupt, poorly planned and deceptively articulated causes? How do you say 'thank you' when you’d give up your citizenship and leave the country before you'd give your life or offer your child's life to sustain U.S. global hegemony?

Can gratitude cohabitate with the knowledge that regardless of the "threats" at hand, you know that in a less demagogic, less corrupt, less greedy and more incredulous world, we'd have far fewer people to thank for their sacrifices on Veteran's day. It is common sense that military men and women would be far better served by not being sent into harm's way than by any amount of cheap grace we can heap upon them having sent them to war needlessly, out of intellectual lethargy more than conviction, having had no tangible costs imposed on us, taking the knee-jerk patriotic easy way out. When we are asked to honor the service of our military men and women are we not also being asked to honor militarism? How can we hate war and love war at the same time?

Isn't it inherently condescending and disingenuous to say thank you to someone for doing something you are unwilling to do, something you know is folly, something you know is perpetuated by the skillful parlaying of the manipulative power of anachronistic mythology?

In the end I feel like I should just be saying 'Sorry'. I'm sorry our nation can't think of anything better to do with your lives than send you to far away lands to kill and subdue people who will hate you for it. I'm sorry we'll pay you so poorly to do it. I'm sorry we'll often fail to care for you when you come back broken. I'm sorry we'll misplace your body or lose it entirely. I'm sorry we'll lie about how you died to cover up our mistakes. I'm sorry because I believe in my heart of hearts that your act of service, an act that will no doubt color the rest of your life, was a terrible waste of life, of money and of opportunity.

So, like I said, it's a tough day for me to navigate.

*although arguments could be made about WWI and WWII having been wholly being avoidable massive wastes of human life, I can't make them so I limit my comments to the militarism of my lifetime. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Baklava!

So I'm on Twitter, watching the twitards tweeting this Greek debt crisis up, down and sideways. Some wondering how a "disorganized" Greek default and exit from the Euro will affect US unemployment (the going bet is +1.5%, btw) and with some sagely saying "if someone offered to cut my debt load in half I'd take it, haw haw haw" and still others just saying "duhhhhhhh" or "Baclava!".

I'll leave it to the really fine article What passes for smart on the Greek Debt Crisis to 'splain how and where even what is considered progressive media has fallen quite short in evaluating the Greek situation but, let me say this: we the people aren't getting the full story on the implications of Greek default because the full story would undermine the underpinnings of the whole fetid ball of wax under whose stingy patronage we labor. We cannot confront the paucities of the oligarchic capitalist system using its language and its assumptions for both have been purged of any notion which doesn't serve the host.
"This is the Facebook rule: if you don’t pay the freight, you aren’t the customer, you are the product.  Politicians compete for the money and favors of the rich, and what they sell is the ability to wrangle you: to pass the austerity bills, to cut the benefits, to privatize the jewels of the public system, to force through the multi-trillion dollar bailouts…They control the media, right down to the bottom, to make sure that what is discussed is what they want discussed, in the terms they want it discussed. That default isn’t that bad: forbidden.That currency controls mitigate damage in these circumstances: forbidden. That lenders will lend to defaulting countries almost immediately: forbidden."
Please forgive me for lapsing into clich├ęs but it's hard to improve upon "you cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it".

And as for the Greek people themselves, though perhaps less so the most urban among them: a culture that is almost as deeply suspicious of government as they are deeply attached to afternoon naps, that happily relinquishes 3 hours each evening to eat dinner and talk, in this humble writers opinion, will be just fine no matter the outcome of this particular pixel based debacle.

Having said that and though having just recently eaten a truly revelatory bagel and liverwurst delight, thinking about greece makes me hungry so I am off to prowl the pantry.

Starving the Beast

There is a bit of legislation in the rusty crusty works of congress that would require banks to make it easier for people to close accounts, one would assume in order to move their money to smaller institutions that don’t regularly abuse them and/or hold the national economy hostage when their bets go bad.

How ever well intentioned this legislation may be, and I have my doubts about this, it is also a prime example of the kind of top down fuckitude that has paralyzed individual action in our fine nation. Just as the credit union bug starts catching, here comes big daddy fed with a can of Lysol, putting the kibbutz on individual initiative to make the change by stating outright that making the switch is toooooo haaaaaard and implying that people should wait for the government to make it easier/safer/more convenient before they do it.

Now there's a banner idea. Let's wait for Congress to write a new law that makes it easier to walk into a bank and close an account: this should only take 3-5 years and cost about 3 million dollars to accomplish and in the end the banks will have inserted enough caustic bullshit into the legislation to make the move harder and probably have a significant fee attached to it.

I closed an account with Bank of America and opened an account with Vermont Federal Credit Union without any help and with no difficulty. If you hate what the Too Big To Fail banks are doing to this country and you want to help starve them out of existence in the most direct and effective way available to you, do not wait for the government to make it "easier".

Don't make me start waxing poetic about "at what cost liberty" because that would embarrass us both.

Here is a video with Jimmy Stewart in it to get you all hopped up on righteous indignation before you head out to do the deed:

 
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