Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The long absence

I've been nudged by precisely one person about my absence from this tiny forum over the past month, and that after promising a post of some weight, size, and temperament. I have no excuse, except to present the current cascade of scoffing, incredulity, and righteous indignation echoing from columnists far and wide on this day just past known as Labor Day. It seems that they've all suddenly discovered that the main purpose of our current economic ideology is the collective deprivation of those who have some to provide more for those who have much.

I've been saying that (and many other things like it, on topics not constrained solely to the economy, as well) for years. And I get really tired of repeating myself on the same issues, over and over, especially when the arguments against my statements become weaker and weaker as time goes on. Far be it from me to arrogate enlightenment to myself. There are many more people than me who've been saying this long before the timid morons and the Washington Post started. And that's perhaps precisely the point: I'm not sure that anything emerging here is in any way different or of more particular value to the struggle at large than anything else.

At one point, I assumed that this would be a viable venting outlet. But venting often invites feedback, and with so little of it, the compulsion to keep venting becomes very weak; almost pedantic. So, apologies to those who expected something better, but no guarantees on when and how much singing to the void will continue in the future. There are a lot of other things to read on the Web, anyway...

Monday, July 31, 2006

Just an aside

There's a larger post coming. It's something I've been thinking about for a while but I want to make sure that it comes off correctly and life outside the IntarWeb has been busy. However, I couldn't let this pass without a comment or two:

A bill passed the House on Saturday that is one of those minor omnibus efforts; it's an election-year thing to give the reps something 'positive' that they can show to all of their constituents as they head home to campaign over the summer break.

Item #1 was an extension of the tax credit for corporate research. Just what America desperately needed. Another corporate tax cut. You know, because the Dow is crashing to the ground. It would also certainly help if much of the research at, say, Big Pharma wasn't already federally subsidized by farming out the research to places like the Center for Disease Control, but that's more detail than CNN wants to give you. After all, more research means faster 'Internets' if you listen to Senator Ted Stevens, communication genius that he is.

Item #2 was a $2.10 raise to the minimum wage. Of course, this will likely never make it past the Senate, since not enough of them are actually running for re-election to hang themselves on this issue. It's also not nearly enough to provide a living wage for most of the nation. It's also supposed to be phased in over three years. This, as usual, is a sop to major retailers, not the small businesses that are typically proffered as the excuse for the ever-expanding class of working poor. If you allow places like Wal-Mart to pay $5.15 an hour, they will. Meanwhile, Mom and Pop's grocery is typically already paying far more than that because they actually treat their employees as humans and not drones. It's awfully tough to keep watching your workers come in looking thinner and more exhausted every day as they work two jobs and stop eating more than once a day so they can pay the electric bill.

Item #3 was a further cut to the estate tax.

Remember our friend the estate tax? See, this is how this little bit of chicanery works: the paltry wage increase provides an increase of a couple thousand to the vast numbers minimum wage worker's income; the estate tax cut is on the order of BILLIONS for the tiny fringe that can truly benefit from it. This is the third time the House has tried to get this particular tax cut through, but even some Republican senators can't stand the smell of elite welfare that emanates so strongly from this concept. So, the easy trick is to attach it to the same bill carrying the first minimum wage increase in a decade. Anyone voting against the estate tax cut can be accused of voting against increasing the minimum wage in campaign ads. Pretty smooth, huh?

Of course, it doesn't matter that the House has let a minimum wage increase die in committee every year for the past 10, does it? That's effectively like not voting for it, but people wouldn't understand that. Too complicated. It's not like voting on American Idol.

The Newspaper of Record, of course, accuses the reps of 'going on vacation without doing their job.' But they did do their job. They got a corporate tax break extended (one half of campaign contributors happy? Check!) They got a tax break for the rich enhanced (other half happy? Check!) And they're raising the minimum wage to a level that's still effectively worthless if you're trying to live on one job (veiled insult tossed to the masses that don't matter? Check!)

Happy campaigning, assholes!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Differences, or the lack thereof

Our Prez-dent made an appearance in front of the NAACP this week for the first time. The organization's president, Bruce Gordon, made a rather short statement about the fact that for the five prior years, the White House had always noted 'scheduling conflicts' as the reason for the CiC's absence: "In other words, they've spent most of their time scheduling conflicts."

My question is this: why does the NAACP care? The open secret is out and doesn't even deserve the latter half of that phrase: the Republican party does not like black people. Oh, sure, they'll have a few token guys who don't happen to be white who've swallowed the current fiscal ideology and figure that going along to get along is the best way to make a difference. But, by and large, Republicans don't appreciate the African-American vote because that vote goes in overwhelming numbers to Democrats. Problem is, Democrats don't really give a shit about black people, either. The NAACP has done a pretty good job of not noticing that little fact, as well.

See, Democrats, just like Republicans, don't care about poor people. The latter are incidental to the conduct of their business, if not a trial to be sloughed off whenever opportunity presents itself. The concept occurs of the average Congressman walking two blocks off of Pennsylvania Avenue and stepping on a homeless person (of which there are many in our capital), which would present one of life's great oddities in that a human being would have been stepped on by vermin...

Poor people are 'not productive'. They're reliant on too many 'entitlement programs'. They're 'not pulling their own weight'. They're also disproportionately non-white in this country, which makes one wonder why organizations that claim to serve them should care about any federal politician currently serving in office.

Both major parties like 'elite voters' because those people can contribute to campaigns and can show up at organized events looking like good old-fashioned AMERICANS. But there's not enough 'elite voters' for either party to claim victory in most instances. They need the poor people. So, Democrats mouth platitudes about serving the interests of the poor, the black, the Hispanic, whatever. And Republicans use bad stories about the latter two to drive a wedge between them and the poor white people so that the latter will vote for them, almost always against their better economic interests.

On the world's list of honest campaign slogans should be the following: "Don't want those lazy black folk to take away your jobs and welfare dollars that you really need? Vote for me and I'll do it!" because it perfectly encapsulates the attitude of most elected Republicans. It's not that they're inherently evil. It's simply that a) they're rich and think like rich people; and b), they've completely swallowed the current economic ideology which has little, if any, empirical value whatsoever.

In most cases, you don't even need to use money issues to demonize the black minority to the white majority. You can just use the media. How often do we hear the suspect of the latest fantastic crime described as a 'black male, in his 20s, approximately six feet tall'? It's virtually guaranteed, witnesses or not. How often do we see events surrounding black or Hispanic youth spammed across the headlines, while similar or worse events that involve white youth are kept to page 11, for fear of convicting someone in the public eye before the family's lawyer can get them into a pre-trial program?

The Center for Disease Control, which tracks drug use, alcohol use, and other kinds of 'destructive behavior' among youth recently tossed out some interesting stats:

- White kids are almost 2.5 times as likely as black kids to drive drunk

- White males are 1/3 more likely to have been carrying a weapon in the past month

- White kids are 3.5 times as likely to have used coke, hallucinogens, or steroids

These are not based on quantity (obviously, there are more white people than black people in the US.) These are based on rate.

BUT they're both equally likely to have smoked a little weed in the past month so make sure that you first demonize the black kids for possession and then screech about the evils of marijuana, sure to make George Hearst chuckle in his grave.

And Democrats, the favored party of the majority of black people in this nation, are frequently noted for their 'tough on crime' attitude. After all, if you're not 'tough on crime', it's a viable question to ask: Willie Horton or will he not get elected? (thank you, Michael Franti) It would, of course, be a violation of the economic scripture to suggest alternatives to the life of misery that turns people toward crime. That, of course, would be completely within the interests of poor people of all colors, but so long as we live within a supposed two-party system (really one party with two right wings), you won't find any relief until you're willing to make a change.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Those people don't count

2nd post tonight. I'm irritable...

Guess what kids? It's hurricane season again! Everybody give me a Special Ed 'Yayyyyyyyyy!' And, look at that! Much of New Orleans is still largely in ruins, half of its population is absent, and a good chunk that did return are still living out of FEMA trailer parks! Why would that possibly be, within the borders of the richest and most generous nation in the world? Because those people don't count! Why? Well, because they're neither white nor rich, of course!

It was interesting to watch the utter disparity in news coverage last September. On the one hand, you had a few American sources and almost every other media source in the world absolutely appalled at the state of poverty that existed within a major metropolitan center of the Yoo-nited States of AMERICA! Land of opportunity (if you're white)! Greatest democracy in the world (if you're white and economically secure)! Land of the free (as long as you pay for it)! On the other hand, you had a few right-wing American media sources decrying the fact that people were looting the various Kwik-E-Marts around the city for, you know, food and drink, which some of them had done without for days. Oh, did a few of them grab a TV in the process? Yeah, that's a shame. Might have been the first working TV any of them had ever seen and, of course, without working electricity (something most of the affected neighborhoods STILL don't have), they still don't know how it really looks.

But, hey! We done solved that poverty problem! With most of the poorest (read: blackest) citizens forced to seek shelter elsewhere, New Orleans is now far more affluent and far whiter than it has been in almost 200 years. Federal programs really DO work! Especially when it comes to housing, since it was pretty easy for FEMA to dump a few thousand trailers in select areas around the city and then fail to offer any other significant aid to those who had to stay in them other than debit cards with no direction as to how (or where) to use the funds. Pretty quickly, they became havens for predators, as desperate people turned on each other to try to scrabble their way to the 'top' in true American fashion. And when investigators like Democracy Now! tried to talk to the unfortunate residents of these parks, THAT'S when federal security stepped in to keep the reporters out and the prisoners in, informing the latter that they could not speak to reporters about the conditions in the parks. Land of the free, right? First Amendment? Well, only when its good news for the people in power. Otherwise people might have to face up to the reality that those people don't count. Because, you know, they're not white. Or rich. And those people are, of course, the lucky ones. The unlucky ones end up on the street.

The health system in New Orleans is a shambles. The court system essentially has to rebuild from the ground up while 6000 cases remain unheard. Utilities are unavailable. The educational system is being privatized. Come on, you know the tune! Just like Johnny Mathis sang: It's beginning to look a lot like Bagh-dad... Everrrywhere you go!

George W. Bush Reconstruction, Inc.! All systems go! We'll pour hundreds of billions into the pockets of our campaign contributors and do nothing in a city halfway around the world! As a consequence, we'll have a good fiscal argument as to why we can't spend even 5% as much to help a city that's one of ours! Sounds like a perfect plan! Stock options for EVERYBODY! Cue Special Ed: Yayyyyyyyyy!

Uh, by the way, kinda like the US Embassy in Baghdad, somehow most of the casinos along the Gulf Coast received a great deal of federal assistance and are as shiny as ever. Rumor has it, a ton of the cash from those debit cards went right into those gambling coffers. When you have no other options, trying for that one-in-a-million payoff seems pretty damned tempting, doesn't it? And who could be happier to get the money of the poor than those people who already have plenty of it (including tax funds)?

So, who are these people and how can you make them count? Not by helping them, anymore, but by working with them, because those same people probably live right in your vicinity. As Lila Watson said: "If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us struggle together." Perhaps the revolution begins in New Orleans...

Hearing only what you want to

I've long referred to myself by a particular political term that tends to either raise the hackles or the eyebrows of any American that hears it. That term is 'communist'.

Now, most Americans at this point in time have been trained since birth to believe that 'communism' equates to 'evil'. No reasoning is ever stuck behind this statement short of two words: Stalin and gulag. Gulag falls in nicely behind the misconception that communism would entail a reduction in personal freedom. If by that one means a reduction in the possibility of the many being exploited by the wealthy few then, yeah, I guess you're right. Stalin is usually tossed in there as a perfect example of the worst kind of dictator: one whose secret police and hired mercenaries kidnapped and imprisoned people without charge or sentence; one who kept his entire nation in a state of fear, as they knew that they were being spied upon and the 'enemy' was always right outside the door; one whose actions led to the indiscriminate deaths of thousands. Hm. Whom do we know who sounds like that...?

"This guy's nuts! He just compared GWB to Stalin and America to the Soviet Union!"

Well, no, actually. I didn't. I just laid out a few facts. But it's interesting to see people continually jump to that conclusion, right before they scream in protest that whomever said such a horrible thing is clearly crazy, or unAmerican, or hates America, or blah, blah, blah. When the movie V for Vendetta was released a few months back, many people immediately drew direct comparisons between the fascist-like world presented in that film and the current state of affairs in the US. The movie and its makers were automatically condemned by the right-wing press. Of course, the story was originally written in the early 80s about Thatcher's Britain. One begins to think that if one's first reaction to seeing such a film is to scream "We are NOT fascists!", then those people who get so defensive may have a lot more to think about than they realize.

So, yes, I tend to refer to myself as a communist, precisely because I focus on the 'communal' root of that word: the idea that the health of the majority of the community is more important than the wealth of the few at the top. Any basic social program, like national health care, guaranteed pensions/Social Security, or a living wage is an example of that perspective.

"But communism means gulags!"

Ah, the gulag. No, labor camps are actually a horribly inefficient way to run an economy, to say nothing of the moral and ethical violations. Stalin was a paranoid control freak. One of the men he almost destroyed, Trotsky, had vision. Leon Trotsky spoke often of the 'continual revolution'; the idea that change was constant and the human society must change with it in order to not only survive without frequent outbursts of mass violence, but also to most effectively insure the health and welfare of all. What change? I dunno. Could be little things, like gay marriage and stem cells? Could be big things, like returning corporations to a finite length of existence so that entrenched power bases of wealth don't begin keeping them running at taxpayer expense solely to serve the interests of that power base, rather than community or customer.

"But- Trotsky! Kronstadt!!!" (look it up)

Uh, yeah. When you're literally fighting the money and bullets of many other nations supporting a rogue army within the borders of your own nation, you tend to get a little short with people. Am I excusing it? No. Did Trotsky regret it to the end of his days? Yes. No one talks about the massacres inflicted by such notables as Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill as soon as their names are brought up.

So, that whole communism thing may be a bit different than you've been led to believe. Changing the perspective of the majority of Americans may, in fact, require another one of those outbursts of violence, but here's hoping that many little efforts like this lonely shout into the ether can be another way around that. To put it in hallowed science fiction terms, communism, at its very root, means this: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And it has nothing to do with gulags, dictators, ICBMs, or shitty, black cars that didn't run very well, even for the Politburo.

But let's bring that 'hear only what you want' thing back to a topic of continual American relevance: Shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the office manager where I work was asking me about why all of this was happening. She presented the president's case about how Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda and therefore MUST have been behind the events at the World Trade Center. I explained to her why that was seriously unlikely and she agreed that she hadn't heard any of that opposing viewpoint and how it made a lot of sense. No more than 15 minutes later, she was on the phone with her mother, who brought up the impending invasion, to which she replied: "Well, we have to, Mom, so that they don't attack us again like they did on September 11th."

As another noted dictator once said: Repeat a lie often enough and the people will believe it. And soon they'll only hear that, because they want to, because someone else is going to take care of it, and consumerist America can toddle off down its shopping path...

"He just compared GWB to Hitler! And Stalin! In the same post!"...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Now it begins

According to the Newspaper of Record (aka the NY Times), Israel has launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, bombing airports, killing civilians, and specifically declaring Beirut as a target, while putting the nation under a naval blockade.

Yesterday, Bush chimed in with the concern, not that Israel appeared to be committed to full-scale war (which we now discover, they were/are), but that the actions of the IDF might 'destabilize the Lebanese government.' Of course it will, you Mensa candidate. That's exactly what Hizbollah wants, because the government started making noises about cooperating with the US and eliminating Syrian influence. And, par usual, the trigger-happy Israelis are only too happy to assist in destablizing their neighbors, since their first response to any kind of crisis is a bombing sortie.

Even better, just on the other side of Syria, even the Pentagon is now using the phrase 'civil war' as violence tears across Iraq. Before it was 'outside agitators/terrorists'. Then it was Ba'athists (or 'Saddamites', as a White House spokesperson called them the other day; still no sign of the Gomorrahans...) Then it was 'insurgents'. Then it was 'Sunni insurgents'... and 'Shiite insurgents'. Now it's simply multiple factions locked in a death embrace and the US sitting squarely in the middle of it. Kinda like... Lebanon in 1983. And if we look at Lebanon now...? Uh, better not. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Easy lessons:

1. By the very definition of the word, you cannot impose democracy. Any idiot knows this.

2. The more you foment an imbalance, the more the other side will seek redress.

3. Violence (and especially mass bombing of civilians) never really solves anything, much as it pains me to admit it when I think of some people who could really use a bit more violence than birdshot in their lives. It just kind of shuffles the problem aside until someone else picks it up and reloads.

Thus endeth the Remedial Middle East 101 lesson for the neo-cons. Final exam now being conducted. If you can keep the forthcoming ocean of blood off your test sheet, so much the better. 'Course, now that I think of it, this is probably the closest some of those 'End Times' retards are going to get to their long-awaited 'final battle'. Not that I'd think it possible for them to plan long-term like this, no matter what they spew about prophecies.

Thanks for your time, if not your effort. Idiots.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The mind boggles

And I'm going to be talking about government bureaucracy here, for which the bar should be set appreciably high. Note that because this requires a higher level of mental strength to get past the 'ridiculosity quotient', I'm including a few links.

Today the Pentagon announced that they're ending their exclusive contract with Halliburton to provide support services for US troops deployed in Iraq. After pouring uncounted billions down a hole (no, really. I mean 'uncounted'. There's at least $8.8 billion unaccounted for.), they've decided to bid the jobs out to multiple contractors (including Halliburton) instead of just handing a sweetheart deal to the company formerly headed by one Vice President Dick 'Dick' Cheney.

Seems that someone finally got tired of shelling out $45 for a case of soda and $30 for a bag of laundry and having contaminated water supplied to shower systems on US bases, not to mention the litany of jobs that were supposed to be done for the Iraqi people that, 3 years after 'major combat operations' have ceased, still aren't done. And we're not talking about running fiber optic lines and satellite uplinks from Basra to Kurdistan (although they have those in the Green Zone, amazingly enough.) We're talking about repairing water treatment plants and power plants and refineries so that Iraq can start regular exports of its primary resource and so its people, floating on a sea of oil, don't have to pay gasoline prices that are 600% higher than
before the invasion. 11 contracts with Halliburton for the reconstruction will expire this fall with little to no progress made on them. That includes a $1.2 billion deal for oil reconstruction services.

But, regardless, as Army spokesman, Dave Foster, says: "The Iraqi reconstruction is winding down, so there is no need for new contracts to replace the old." You know, after all, if the job hasn't been getting done and the damned liberal media and Congressional busybodies keep asking about it and all, we figgered we might as well do something... like let the original fuck-ups bid again along with 3 other guys who might have done a better job in the first place. We're understanding like that.

Kellogg, Brown, and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, has been squarely in the middle of many of the problems, but someone forgot to inform their company spokesperson: " By all accounts, KBR's logistical achievements in support of the troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan have been nothing short of amazing," said company spokeswoman Melissa Norcross.

All accounts, huh? You mean like these? Wait. How about these? No? Maybe these?

Meanwhile, Randy King, program manager for the Army, agreed yesterday. "Halliburton has done an outstanding job, under the circumstances," he said. He added that Pentagon leaders ultimately decided they did not want to have "all our eggs in one basket" because multiple contractors will give them better prices, more accountability and greater protection if one contractor fails to perform.

Really?!! Figured that one out all by yourself, did ya? Yer a genius! Genius, I say! Please, explain to us the mind-twisting qualities of being both a genius and a fucking idiot at the same time! It must be like the first person to discover that you can use your head for more than just a place to grow hair! You can use it... to pound nails into drywall, for example! That explanation wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that it's SOP for government contracting and plain, common sense, would it? I mean, bloated bureaucracies like our hideously overfunded Defense Department are supposed to be incompetent and hopelessly corrupt, but that's taking it a bit far, don't you think?

[From the Washington Post]: Known formally as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP, the contract "has expanded beyond what anyone could have imagined," said Dov S. Zakheim, the Pentagon's comptroller from 2001 until 2004 and now a vice president at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

Uh, no. No. I think quite a few of us were able to imagine pretty much everything that's going on right now. And said so. Quite loudly.

[Continuing from the Post]: "The KBR people themselves would point out that the challenges they had coming out of Iraq, over and above everything else they had to do, were taxing their systems. You're really asking too much of one firm to be able to manage all of this."

I... see. So, would there be any reason that one firm was given the exclusive, no-bid contract for this job in direct contravention of written government policy? Is it just too hard for people to connect the dots here and start waving around that verboten phrase: war profiteering? After all, VP Dick was still getting some deferred payments from Halliburton around the time this whole debacle started. Heh. See, ordinarily, they try to be a little more, um, subtle about this whole corruption thing but, granted, the current administration is not noted for its subtlety.

But, of course, wave this thing in front of your average conservative suck-up and you'll get accused of being a 'conspiracy theorist' (here; note the date, and the fact that the prior administration was fond of using these weasels, too.) See, Oil-for-Food... Now THAT'S a scandal! Make a few million bucks off of a program designed to get people food and medicine? Conspiracy run rampant and an offense to the world's upright and moral standing! Make a few billion off a program as a consequence of widespread destruction and leaving people bereft of clean water, electricity, and fuel? A trifle that shouldn't even be considered. What's the difference? In the prior circumstances, Iraq was the ENEMY. Now they're a FRIEND. Occupied friend at gunpoint, but let's not split hairs here. And, of course, in the case of the UN, those criminals just aren't American...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Same old song, but don't dance

The American Family Association of Michigan filed suit against Michigan State University the other day to prevent the school from providing same-sex partner benefits (like health insurance), thus putting the lie to all off the pooh-poohing that went on prior to the 2004 election, in which a constitutional amendment was approved in Michigan (and several other states) to ban 'gay marriage'. Details are here.

I can remember them on the local NPR affiliate, day after day, whining about how everyone said that they 'hate gays' when they really didn't and how the amendment would have nothing to do with financial issues or insurance issues or hospital visitation issues, but was merely about protecting the 'sanctity' of marriage. My first reaction was always to ask: Something wrong with the sanctity of your marriage? If you have a personal problem, perhaps you shouldn't blame the rest of us for it.

And now, of course, the truth comes out. It is about reviling and persecuting 'the gays' because it always has been. It's Jim Crow all over again: separate, and somehow not quite as equal. Or equal if they stay out of sight. And don't get near children. Because, you know, as Helen Lovejoy always reminded us: WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN! No phrase other than 'think of the children' was as sure to make me retch as that being uttered on the House floor as it was over and over again for most of the 90s (and still is whenever someone wants to sway the public without the latter actually thinking... Wait. Is that all the time? That is, isn't it?)

So, those good Christians, always on the lookout for moral turpitude lied... like good Christians should whenever they think that they know better than you, I guess. Or Muslims. Or Jews. Or whomever thinks that they have the moral high ground based on some thousand-year-old text. Most major religions are like that: they're popular with people who really have no idea what they actually mean.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not anti-God. I'm anti-stupidity. You believe in God? Fine. You believe in Allah? Great. You're a Buddhist? Yee-hah. It's the same perspective I and everyone else should take toward other people's behavior/being. You're black? So? You're gay? Meh. You're a guy who likes to wear see-through panties and gartered thigh-highs while dancing to raps from Aqua Teen Hunger Force in your front yard? Hey, knock yourself out. Can't say I'll be coming by for the show, but do what ya like. But do it in YOUR front yard. Don't bother me with it. Don't bother my neighbors with it. And don't, by any stretch of the imagination, attempt to inhibit the rights of other people based on your supposed set of morals. Denying people health insurance and the right to visit their life partner in a hospital is not exactly what I'd refer to as a 'moral' issue, anyway.

The typical response at this point is some blather about the degradation of 'societal values' and how society can't possibly function without some kind of moral code handed down by a supreme being through the aforementioned text written perfectly by his imperfect followers (follow that train of thought for a little philosophical exercise...) By said tome, one is said to avoid the crime of 'moral relativism'. Heh. Let's test that one out.

Do you still encourage the holding of slaves? The Bible says it's ok. Do you still believe in being stoned to death for violating the Sabbath? The Bible is right there with you.

Assuming (for some insane reason) you to be a rational human being, I bet you don't believe in either of those things. So, clearly, you are not a moral absolutist according to the set of 'morals' or laws laid down in multiple places in the Bible. If you were, it'd be quite difficult to function in the modern era.

But, wait!, you say. Most of those strictures are from the Old Testament. The New Testament is more modern and clearly the route to follow. Well, now, I don't think I'd be too far out in left field (little joke there) by suggesting that our society is more modern than the period of time over which the New Testament was written, too. So times, in fact, do change. Guess what? The concept of gays as- ssshhhh -humans is one of those changes. Wake up.

Let's use a couple examples specific to the US:

1. Slavery. Time was, people would actually make the statement that you couldn't have freedom without slavery (Richmond Enquirer, 1856: "Democratic liberty exists solely because we have slaves . . . freedom is not possible without slavery.") Society has pretty much given up on that but it took a helluva fight to get past it.

2. Women's suffrage. Some elements of society fought tooth and nail against it, believing it would bring 'democracy' crashing to the ground. But, yeah, we've kinda gotten past that, too.

So, here we are with the concept of treating homosexuals the same as any other folks who work and pay taxes. People are going to fight against it... but they're going to lose, because at some point, the concept of civil and human rights outweighs the ignorant bigotry of the past. It's that simple. And no arguments about absolutist/relativist thought can cloud that fact. And don't do yourself a disservice. You can decide what's right or wrong for yourself without relying on a 2-3000-year-old text to tell you thus and so. At least, I hope you can.

However, there will still be the outliers, like the true believers of the AFA, who insist that 'GOD' says that this or that specimen of humanity is, in fact, less than human in the eyes of 'Him' (read: them) and shouldn't even be entitled to basic rights because their chosen lifestyle is a crime in the eyes of their god. Well, it might be a crime in the eyes of said bigoted assholes but, again, that should be their problem. And, in a nation that had elected officials who didn't feel compelled to refer to 'God' in every third sentence out of their mouths (much to the disgust and occasional humor of the rest of the world, who understands that religion is and should be a private thing, not a public one (but, y'know, they've gotten the stupid education (read: wars, and many of'em) for that.)), we wouldn't have that problem, either. But, besides the religious fanatics that currently occupy the throne (gives new meaning to the idea of the 'crusade' against the jihadis, doesn't it?), we can always hearken back to the warm and pleasing days of 1998, where Bill Clinton uttered the word 'God' or some synonym for it 43 times in a state of the union address that took less than an hour...

People say that the US shouldn't pander to the fanatic Muslims in the Middle East. I think our government shouldn't pander to the fanatics right here in the so-called homeland. It isn't for nothing that Australians have been known to say, with no small degree of irony (please, PLEASE, look it up...): 'Thank God we got the convicts and they got the Puritans.'

They're stealing from you

It's obvious to anyone who pays attention. Land of Opportunity, free market, classless society, rising tide lifts all boats - all bullshit. Always has been. Always will be.

Corporate taxes are at the lowest rate they've been since the early 20th century. Who's making up the shortfall? You are, of course, because you're likely an idiot and believe all the crap that's shoveled to you via the major media and the common wisdom of the moment. Some of you are old enough to remember 1982, when the now almost-deified Ronald Reagan had to violate conservative ground rules and raise taxes. But did he raise them on those people who had money to burn, corporations, the wealthy, et al? Of course not. He raised payroll taxes; that little category known as FICA that you always glance at but never fully understand. So, Joe Public is bearing the burden so GM doesn't have to. And, if the company is run into the ground, anyway? No matter. Welcome to the government-backed public bailout for major corporations. Remember 'business hero' Lee Iacocca? Progenitor of the modern CEO as public champion and superstar? How much of a superstar would he have been without a few billion of Joe Public's tax dollars to keep Chrysler from imploding?

But that's the way all of this works. Free trade? NAFTA? Oh, they're sold as panaceas to the public's monetary ills. 'Free' trade will benefit everyone. Why? Well, because products will be cheaper... unless, of course, they're simply made in one country and then sent back to the other to be sold at the old prices. And, as a side effect, labor (your labor) becomes what is referred to as a 'liquid commodity'. That liquid sound that you hear is your job being pissed away across the border so that someone scrabbling to survive can do it by working for 14 hours at 30% of what you were being paid, if they're lucky. Oh, and don't forget that those trade agreements supersede state and federal law, too. So, if a massive Canadian funeral corporation decides to try to illegally rub out the local competition in Mississippi and a state court decides against them, they can sue the US government to recover 'potential lost profits.' And if a giant US chemical company decides that they still want to build a plant upriver on a small, Mexican town's only source of water, even after a public referendum declaring that the local citizens do not want the plant there, they can sue the nation of Mexico to either pay them their 'potential lost profits' or let them build the plant, anyway. Your governments in action. Small business owner? Sorry. Need not apply.

These plans are implemented by people that you elect. Why? Because the people you elect are not like you. They are wealthy. They are 'the rich' and F. Scott Fitzgerald t'weren't kidding: they're different than you and me. 99 of 100 US Senators are millionaires. Most Congresspeople aren't too far behind. And if they are, they certainly won't be by the time they leave Capitol Hill. One of the most lucrative fields in the world is lobbying, especially if you're a former representative who knows who to talk to and where they have lunch and play golf.

And Democrats, please spare me the 'Republican-controlled Congress' horseshit. Those tax changes that Reagan implemented? Solidly Democratic Congress. That little NAFTA issue? Promoted and signed into better-than-federal-law by none other than Bill Clinton. They didn't call him 'Slick Willie' just because he had a way with interns.

Who is suffering? Everyone who doesn't have a second and third house in Aspen, like dear, departed Ken Lay (ok, just departed; my grandmother always said to say good things about the dead, so I will: Good. He's dead.) How about those other lionized figures, the US soldier/sailor/airman? You'd think that they'd be beyond the kind of onerous crap that's served out to Joe Public and his rent-paying, three-job-working ass. After all, they're heroes! Well, it turns out that a bunch of personal data was stolen from the VA a few weeks ago and so the government has decided to make it all better by paying for a year of free credit monitoring for veterans. It's going to cost $160 million. How will they pay for it? By taking the money from a program that gives veterans health insurance and job training. Oh, and another program for farmers' assistance. And a student loan program. And a program to help young people just released from prison. All of it recommended by the White House Office of Management and Budget and soon to be put in the budget by the 535 stooges on the Hill. Way to pay back those people who put their collective asses on the line so we could shoot the shit out of dark-skinned nobodies a few thousand miles away because, you know, they're on our oil...

They're stealing from you. And you're letting them. Because you're swallowing all that crap about the 'land of opportunity'. Because you actually believe that capitalism is the best system ever created, and doesn't simply serve those who already have capital. Because you don't yet understand that it's a crime to be poor in America. Because you think that watching vermin like Paris Hilton and her glitterati pals on TV is somehow evidence to you that your version of their success isn't far away. After all, reality TV pays people thousands, right? It could happen to you! One difference you might think about, though, is that little thing called the 'estate tax' or, as it's known to its detractors, the 'death tax'.

See, Paris and her friends (and family) don't like the estate tax, because it means that all of that wonderful wealth (not income; wealth. There's a difference.) that they've not worked at all for will someday be routed to someone else via the government (if only it actually worked that way, it would be even better.) And that just won't do. It's far better if their kind keeps what's theirs. And the people that don't count (read: not rich) will simply stay that way, because you only count if you got stuff to count up. So, they scream at the 'death tax'. They say it's unjust. They say it will ruin small farms. They say it's double taxation.

Unjust? Is it more or less just than allowing most of the wealth of this nation to remain firmly ensconced in the hands of 1% of its population? Ruin small farms? No one has ever lost a farm to the estate tax. No one. Ever. The lower limit is far higher than most family-owned farms are or will ever be worth. Double taxation? It's not income. They didn't earn it. It's wealth. They simply own it. And, in fact, wealth is one of the things in this nation that is far UNDERtaxed. But, you know, when your elected representatives are part of the same monied class as Paris and her buddies, they might have to think of their small, family farmland on which they've just built a 27-room, 6-garage, 2 tennis court estate. Life's a bitch that way, huh?

By this point, you might be aghast at my use of language: 'they', 'their', 'monied class'? Decrying the wonder that is capitalism? By the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I was just speaking in favor of income redistribution! You might even suggest that I'm using the language of... [gasp] class war!

Ya think?

You're goddamn right I am. There's been a class war going on in this nation since its inception and it's been a war on and against the poor and anyone else who didn't have the money to buy their way out of it, from Shays' Rebellion (look it up!) right up to Katrina. And you, most likely amongst the afflicted class, are letting them do it because you've swallowed the delusion of the American dream and capitalism and, for some reason, are still waiting for it all to work out. Keep waiting... or start thinking.

They got the guns but
we got the numbers
- Jim Morrison