Monday, July 28, 2008

Trickle Down My Ass

As today's BushCo corporations get bigger, more profitable, enjoy less oversight from the government, their wealth does not trickle down to We The Peoples. From Truthdig:

According to the most recent data from the IRS, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans took home a greater share of the nation’s income in 2006 than in any year of the previous 19. It’s possibly the biggest income disparity Americans have seen since the Great Depression. The average tax rate of the super-rich was at its lowest level in at least 18 years.

Fascism = Corporatism

From Truthdig:

The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that it should more appropriately be called “corporatism” because it was a merger of state and corporate power. (See Eugene Jarecki’s The American Way of War, p. 69.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Grow Your Own Damn Drugs

As usual, I got pleasantly lost on Juan Cole's website today, reading an article on the Afghan narcotics industry. (If you're interested in an excellent report on this subject, which outlines why crop eradication does not work in stemming the Afghan opium tide, and in fact it simply punishes the poor and fuels insurgency, then click here for the PDF.)

For many years I've been reading about the murderous violence of south American drug cartels and the flourishing opium industry in Afghanistan. Then I'd go over to my friends' houses, some of them die-hard Republicans, and listen to them brag about the high quality of their drugs, passing their joints and pipes, and promising they'd get some of the same rich sin-semilia goodness, the very same "uncut" cocaine (yeah right), just for you! As soon as their dealer came back from his vacation in Belize.

There wouldn't be a drug industry if it wasn't for all the yuppies that support it with their "recreational" drug use. Sure, there are many inner city crack and heroin addicts, but my bet is that the big money that fuels the drug trade comes from middle to upper class tragically hip Americans.

Now, not all drug users are as ignorant of the connection between their drug use and violence. I have one group of acquaintances who get their pot from a guy who legally grows pot to supply the medicinal marijuana industry. He doesn't mind selling a few bags here and there to his trusted friends. I can say with some confidence that nobody died in that production chain. But few tokers are lucky enough to have such a supplier. This scenario would be much more prevalent, of course, if America would legalize marijuana.

So, here's what I've been wanting to say for a long, long time to all of my friends and acquaintances who regularly partake in illegal drug use: If you don't have a known non-violent supply chain, or if you're not growing your own pot or poppies or coca leaves in your back yard and brewing your own heroin, crack and cocaine in the privacy of your own kitchen, then you're personally supporting murder, violence and corruption in other parts of the world. OK?

And, you can no longer blithely wave your French-nail-varnished or expensive-watch-wearing hands in dismissal and say, "Oh but all that stuff is happening over (or down) there, it doesn't have anything to do with us." Bullshit.

American soldiers (oh, I know, they are primarily poor kids and brown kids, not sons or daughters of any friends of yours) are dieing in Afghanistan, and if you believe Obama's right-wing-stroking election rhetoric, he's going to send our troops currently in Iraq to Afghanistan the second he gets elected (if McCain doesn't run and tell his boy Bush to start moving troops now, in the vain hope of one-upping Obama and winning the November election), so that even more US soldiers can die in Afghanistan.

In addition, I have no idea on the percentages, but I would hazard a guess that some of the undocumented people in America crossed our southern borders in order to escape the drug cartel violence in their home towns. They risk deportation from the US, but the last time I checked, deported is better than dead.

And to my illicit-drug-taking Republican friends? Please get so fucking stoned that you forget to vote. Or just STOP voting Republicans into office who support failed anti-drug legislation that does no more than flood the courts with petty felony possession cases and fill the billion dollar BushCo prison industry (supported by your tax dollars!) with non-violent, non-criminal inmates.

Oh, and stop being such a bunch of fucking hypocrites, OK?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Insurance Company Rules!

I loved this video, brought to you by Health Care For America Now:

My experiences with health insurance have been typical, I suppose. Years ago when I had the benefit of corporate health insurance and was extremely depressed, on the recommendation of a friend, I went to an actual psychiatrist rather than just a psychologist or counselor. The psychiatrist told me that I was a "freight train running at top speed towards a huge brick wall." (Man, she has a penchant for creative writing, don't you think? What imagery!)

Well then, hand over the pills if that's how you feel about it. I still remember the two drugs: Klonopin to help me stop convulsing, even though I've never had a single convulsion in my life, but she said she just wanted to make sure that I didn't have one in the future...and Desaryl to help me sleep, even though I didn't have any trouble sleeping, but she said that's ok, we just want to make sure that you sleep. I have no idea why those drug names stick in my brain, more than 18 years later. So does the red dot on the psychiatrist's forehead. I liked that about her. And I wanted one of my very own.

In effect, I became a not-caring slug-like lump who slept a whole lot. This didn't feel like the "real me," but I was soon able to leap back into me-ness. Because, as in most drug-laced situations of my life, I either ditched the insane job or the bad boyfriend, and then I miraculously could ditch the drugs too. Waddaya know.

But that one little eentsy beentsy appointment with the lovely red-dotted wrong-drug-dispensing psychiatrist made it impossible for me to get health insurance a little while later, when I found myself unemployed (having ditched the insane job). Maybe those nice people at Joe's Health Insurance were worried that I would convulse my way into a Desaryl-induced coma and they'd be stuck paying for intravenous fluids and $3000 Kleenex for the rest of my (hopefully for them) short life.

I learned a couple of lessons from that experience:

  1. Never go to a psychiatrist again
  2. If I must go to a psychiatrist, pay cash and don't tell a soul
  3. Never quit my corporate job
A job in corporate America for me was like heroin is to an addict. How else was I going to:
  1. Get health insurance
  2. Maintain my respectable veneer (because we all know I was an out of control slut)
  3. Be accepted into the "in" club
  4. Fuck men in suits (only CFO, CTO, CEO and higher - I never lowered my standards dontcha somebody will find this blog and reveal my secret dabblings with the lower echelon. Oh, I hope so! I need the traffic.)
  5. Buy all of that shit advertised in all of those fashion magazines, billboards, TV shows and movies.
After all, if I bought all that shit - the lipstick that never fades, the lotion that puffs up my skin cells to temporarily fill in my wrinkles, the $400 shoes, the $600 suits (new ones for every season!), the expensive car that smells like Corinthian leather inside, the hip new restaurants, the sexy lingerie, the designer beer - then I could continue to be "in," and fuck men in suits.

Men in suits can't fuck, unfortunately. Or at least not very well. They probably need to remove the large stick up their ass. And corporate America doesn't deliver either. It's a never-ending circling-the-drain existence that just ends up dumping you, as a dissipated, designer-wear-flaunting ghoul into some guru's or religion's or psychiatrist's lap. "Help meeeeeee! Help meeeeeee!" said The Fly as he was about to be devoured by the large spider.

I sat on many laps (some undulating) before I finally quit my corporate habit. I tried to do it gently at first, giving up hard liquor, let's say, while doubling my intake of wine. I sold my Volvo and paid $3500 cash for a used diesel Mercedes. (There's nothing like the smell of slow-burning diesel fuel and German leather in the morning.) I started shopping at The Wow Mart and Target for my clothes. And I gave up dinners at five-star restaurants in favor of street-side taco trucks. But, in the end, I had to quit cold turkey. I had to wave a middle finger goodbye to the completely incompetent born-again krishtian owners of the most insane job I had ever held. I had no job prospects. But I just took day at a time.

My company, as required by law, offered me 18 months of health insurance. Guess how much they told me that I was lucky enough to pay per month to insure my little self? $650.

I declined. Then I went to Blue Cross Blue Shield and filled out 650 pages of ten years of medical history to see if I could qualify for an individual policy. Weeks later, I was approved. It's because I never went to a fucking psychiatrist again. See how well I learn my lessons? My monthly policy was $295-ish.

Guess how much my BCBS monthly premium was after my 50th birthday? $350. I kept it long enough to have my uterus boiled (literally), which cost Blue Cross $3000, and didn't end my painful periods. Ah. Such is life.

Today, I am uninsured. I pay cash when I need something lopped off. If something happens to me that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix, then I'll invite my friends and family over to have a fun party before I die. If I'm incapacitated and become a ward of the state, well then, lots of doctors, nurses and candy stripers will be able to see me naked in bed. If any of my friends are industrious, they could sell tickets.

I believe that health care is a human right, and should be freely available to all human beings in America, and can be funded through taxes. If you give me the stupid right-wing question "where will the money come from?" then I'll answer, "Oh, take a tiny portion of money away from the fucking Iraq war and all will be well." We will all be well.

I believe that insurance companies are the bane of our existence. I believe they need to be eliminated as the corrupt and evil middle men between me and my doctor. Yes, that means that all the people employed by insurance companies lose their jobs. But I bet you a million worthless dollars, that they are all dying to get the fuck out of there anyway.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do Strap-On Bombs Come In Pink?

For all those snotty people who say to me, in snide pissant voices, "Oh stop complaining about FISA and your stupid privacy. What do you have to hide anyway?" I would like to point their up-swung noses to this little news item, so they can read about what happens when you let people wire tap all willy-nilly-like.

Give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile. Every time. I guarantee that FISA will lead to abuse (she says naively, as if abuse isn't already rampant). FISA will allow one political party to spy on another (guess which one), it will allow corporate espionage, it will allow our government to spy on people like me who bitch about them having the right to spy on me.

I think we should all start flooding the Intertubes with emails chock full of all the words that wake up the CIA computers from their slumbers. Anthrax. Cyanide. Nail polish remover. (That's a code word for something nefarious, I'm sure.) Just add them to our regular email signature and email away.

I think all our telephone conversations should start like this:

Faux Terrorist #1: "Should we strap on the fannypack bomb or the backpack bomb today?"
Faux Terrorist #2: "Oh, I don't know, which one is pink. I'm in a pink mood today."

Just Wait Until After The Election

Yesterday afternoon I was out and about with my friend Lisa, and we noticed as we walked by our favorite new restaurant, La Sauterelle, that the door was open and Patrick, the owner and chef, was standing at the bar next to his Chariot à provisions (shopping cart), making a shopping list for the evening's meal. I love the fact that everything is local in Paris. Restaurant owners buy their bread from the boulangerie down the street, their fruits and vegetables from the open market stalls, and their fish from the fishmonger, etc. Patrick makes up his menu as he goes along, finding the freshest fish, the in-season vegetables. There are no huge trucks pulling up to his restaurant from some prefabricated food supply house. Everything is local. Everything is fresh.

Lisa and I were tired from walking, and it had turned a bit warm, so Patrick poured us both a cold Vin Rosé, and we stood at his bar and chatted. We were talking about his surgery (he had cancer and had one leg removed) and his recovery, about the medical system and the bills he still had left to pay. Then the topic moved to expenses, the cost of rent here, and the low cost of most food. Patrick said that two people can live quite nicely on only 3000 Euros a month ($4500), probably much less. I agreed. My rent is relatively high, but we spend nothing on everything else: food, phone, Internet, etc. But I added that I'm currently paying for two homes - our apartment in Paris and my condo in Arizona that still hasn't sold (after more than a year on the market). If I could take that monkey off my back, life would be much easier.

Then we spoke about the mortgage crisis, the bank crisis and the fuel crisis in America. I told him that I didn't think it was going to get better anytime soon, and in fact, based on what I've been reading, there's a good chance that the Bush administration is fiddling with the economy in order to stave off a big recession until after the election in November. I don't have many facts to back this up (translation: I'm too lazy to go research my sources), but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Then Patrick said, "Wait until after the election. Then everything will change."

Americans may not be aware of this, but as I read and watch international news, I've noticed that this is a belief that is held widely outside of the United States. There's a general assumption that Obama will win (86% of French people back Obama). And there's a common feeling of patient waiting, that everything will shift and change when Obama, and a larger majority of Democrats in Congress, take over after this election. Even the Israelis and Syrians, as they begin to negotiate with each other indirectly through Turkey, believe that they can only accomplish a peaceful resolution between their countries, after the US election.

I hope they're right. (There it is, that word again...hope.)

Psychology(ical): The New Wingnut Propaganda Word

Here you go. Be entertained. I certainly was. And remember, the fact that you can't afford to gas up or drive your car, or that you may not be able to afford to pay for your heat this winter (unless you live in a state that has accepted that commie bastard Chavez's offer for free oil), or the fact that you might be standing in line outside your bank in hopes of getting some or most of your money out of it, and the fact that you just lost your home to foreclosure (or are about to), or maybe the fact that the chances of selling your home that has been sitting empty for over a year are slim to none (like me), or the fact that you can't afford health insurance (like me), all of this, every bit of it, is in your fucking head. Stop whining, OK?

(If you are reading this post in an email, please click through to my blog to view the video.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Nigger In The Living Room

I just spoke to someone who is visiting my parents and the rest of my family in Arizona right now. She hadn't seen them in many years. On the first visit, she sat in my parents' living room and listened to everyone in the room talk about Barack Obama. They were saying, "We don't need a nigger as president!"

Holy shit. You know, I'm not quite sure why I'm surprised. My mother stood behind me when I was watching TV and they announced that Martin Luther King was dead and she said, "Good riddance, you communist bastard!" My family decided to call Jews by tree names (Oh, will you listen to that mighty oak over there! or Oh, will you look at the elm tree over there in the red hat.), so they can talk badly about them in public. I left Arizona, and America basically, to get away from this kind of bullshit. But in my silly little mind, I thought that people who think these kinds of thoughts and say these kinds of words, are just ignorant, low-class hillbillies.

I guess my college-educated, wealthy family members are, uh, ignorant, low-class hillbillies.

The person who is visiting my family right now told me that she sat there and didn't say a word, didn't show anything on her face. She thought, "Should I tell them that I have a black boyfriend?" Nah. Prolly not.

I have been going to family get-togethers all my life and sitting there listening to the same horrible shit, saying nothing. Before That Guy and I moved to Paris (my mother tells the rest of the family, "Lisa's living in Paris with all the rest of those loonies."), we went to one of these joyful parties. It was during the 2004 presidential campaign. One of my nieces was saying, "Yeah, and the terrorists want Kerry to win!" From the mouths of babes, parroting their "betters" (or Faux News) without a shred of independent research or thinking. Not a shred. That Guy finally came over to me and said, "I have got to get out of here. I can't take this anymore."

So, I took my Dad aside and said something like, "We're going to take off now. It's a little tough being the only Democrats in a room full of Republicans." I think that was probably the nicest thing I could possibly have said. I guess I could have lied too. I could have said, "I'm not feeling well. I think we're going to take off." They would have talked and snickered about us after we left, no matter what I said. Or I could have said, "Excuse me, I have an announcement to make. You are all acting like ignorant hillbillies." But nah. I told the closest thing to the truth that I could muster.

Evidently, after we left, there was a lot of screaming and yelling that went down at my parents' house. Everybody decided to HATE That Guy. That communist bastard. How dare he insult us! blah de blah de fucking blah. He hadn't said a WORD. But evidently, they could READ HIS MIND!

My mother has a large oil painting of a famous black New Orleans clarinet player hanging in a prominent place in her living room (just above the television, which is constantly turned on to Faux News). I guess it's ok to have a nigger in your living room. Just not in the White House.

Sad thing is, my mother hates John McCain with a passion. She's hated him since the first moment he stepped into Arizona. "God damned carpetbagger! Flouncing into Arizona with his entourage! I hate people with entourages!"

I suppose she won't vote at all. But trust me, I'm not going to ask. I just don't want to know. I have my eyes closed right now, my fingers in my ears, and I'm singing, "lalalalalalalahhhhh."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Obama Fantasy

Having been one of those people who cried salty tears of hope and deliverance while watching Obama's Philadelphia speech on race, I'm ready to admit that I'm not immune to falling into the velvety soft, tempting trap of The Obama Fantasy. It's the well-manufactured fantasy that Obama is different. That he will bring real change to our political process, and to our government.

But in my defense, if you read any of my posts during this time, I still maintained a healthy skepticism. This is because I've had personal experience of what some people would call the "realities" of politics. I would describe it differently, as the "dishonesty," the "falseness," and the "bullshit" of politics. Those who think it's just fine and dandy that politics is so false and frankly, corrupt, would brand me as naive.

For instance, I have a friend who had a long-term successful career as a Republican politician. At the time this person was first running for office, my boyfriend was a jeweler. He made a special gold cross for this person, that could be worn as a symbol to attract the Mormon and other Christian right voters in this politician's district. The cross, of course, was a private haha joke. Because it was engraved on the back with pagan symbols such as stars and moons, maybe even a skull. I can't remember. For a brief time in the 80's I attended what I came to call Hollywood Buddhism meetings with this very same person, both of us chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and then listening to wannabe starlets and script writers chant for a job at the studios or maybe even a new Hummer.

That turned out to be a joke too. But me and religion, no matter what package it came in, have never been on the best of terms.

This same representative got into politics and specifically became a Republican because of the business and government contacts they could make. There was no drive to help mankind, no higher goal that I could see. Politics was simply an effective way to gain power, status and money through networking. To be fair, I think this person eventually began to care about what they were doing, but I also saw an envelope thick with 100 dollar bills and listened to funny haha stories of telling people they were signing a petition for one thing when they were actually signing a petition for something quite different. Here, just sign right there. Thank you!

This person is long out of office and their shenanigans long past the statute of limitations. However, my healthy cynicism about the "reality" of politics was engendered from these experiences.

I wanted to think differently about Obama. I really did. But as we can see with his trapeze swing away from Progressive policy and into the snake oil trap of The Middle Way, Obama is just another politician. From what I've been reading, and not anything written by Hillary supporters, Obama really doesn't have a history of acting or voting as a Progressive. If I'd done some research, I would have known that. And that, my friends, is simply the "reality."

I've been watching the media brush off We The People who pushed Obama past Hillary to garner his lead in the primaries, and call us "pissed off Hillary supporters" or "a few disgruntled Progressives." This is simply untrue. I never supported Hillary. Ever. I would have been delighted to have a woman president, but she wasn't the woman. And We The Disappointed are not "just a few" disgruntled Progressives, we're a shitload of disgruntled Progressives.

Be that as it may, I need to get to the point of my story...the dangerous fantasy that Obama is simply moving to the center because he's a smart politician and he knows that he has to pander to gain the votes of the undecided. And then, when he gets into office, he'll miraculously shift back to the left and laugh at all those foolish People Of The Middle Way, and end the war and all that nice stuff that we vaguely hope he'll just do so we can go back to playing Nintendo and standing in line for the next iPhone.

For someone who could rise above the silly chit chat and pundit-driven non issues of race and inspire us all to see a bigger and better way, he sure as hell hasn't been able to rise above politics as usual and actually be a leader, rather than a panderer and cowerer and follower. I may be a fool, but I think that Obama could stand up and make a stirring speech, just like in Philadelphia, and declare that no civilized nation of peoples should ever assume the right to kill human beings who have been convicted of a crime. Death as punishment for a crime, no matter how heinous the crime, in this day and age, should be eradicated. He could say that the death penalty is an abomination, and in effect, blasphemy, because in carrying out the act, we are playing at being God. Instead, Obama panders to the blood thirsty ignorance of the slavering crowd around the gallows, and tosses them the hanging rope. He leaves it up to fallible men to make sure that the "right guy" gets hung. How's that worked for human kind so far, Barack?

And if you think that Obama is going to end the Iraq war, steer America's psychology away from oil lust and imperialism and war profiteering towards peaceful global cooperation, then read this, and think again.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Burger and Hot Dog Day

That Guy just served me up an onion burger, covered in Edam cheese. "Happy 4th of July," I grumbled.

There wasn't a problem with the burger. It was great. It brought back memories of my Dad back in Pennsylvania on some previous fourths of July, flipping burgers and burning hot dogs (my favorite) on the grill on our back patio. My mother probably had the picnic table set up with a table cloth, and jars of pickle relish, mustard and ketchup sat in the middle, beside a bowl of finely chopped white onion. She always bought those great burger buns from the Pennsylvania Dutch bakery - the bread was soft and fluffy and the tops of the buns were dusted in white flour. Dad was probably stunning in his gardening shoes (a pair of his old wingtips), no socks, shorts and probably a Madras short-sleeved shirt. He probably had a cold beer or gin and tonic nearby.

He would never be caught dead in a pair of sandals back then, because that's what those God-damned hippies wore.

The 4th of July is a good memory for me. Even the one where my poor sister got the full force of a Roman Candle into her forearm (my brothers had some bad-ass aim). Especially if it involves family fun, good food, parades, sparklers and other incendiary devices. If it involves people that I love, getting together and seeing who can stick the most watermelon seeds on their face. Or lying on our backs on top of the family station wagon, oh-ing and ah-ing at the fireworks. And later in life, I was grateful for a day off from the corporate work grind.

But all that patriotic God Bless America, flag waving, hand-on-heart, pledge of allegiance shit? Not for me. I've never understood the concept of patriotism. And especially in the last 8 years when BushCo and the neocons (the majority of whom have NEVER been soldiers and NEVER seen any action and NEVER had to stare down the barrel of somebody else's semi-automatic weapon) have used and abused the concept of patriotism to con the dimwitted American people into falling for this oil orgy masquerading as a war. This country in which I was born, America, is just a concept too. It's just a fucking place, a large piece of sod, with make-believe ownership claims trumped up loudly enough to seem true.

I like how America looks, in places. I like how America sounds and feels, in places. I like and love many people who live in America. Now, substitute "America" for "France" or "Ireland" and you've got the same damn thing. It's the people, the experiences, the memories that count.

And why would this so-called God that people have tossed around for eons, why would he or she take notice and bless America? Does that mean that some other country doesn't get blessed? What a crock.

The other day I was on Skype talking to my brother in Arizona and he said at one point, "Come home." And I was struck by the sudden realization that neither Arizona, nor America is my home. I didn't say that to him because he leans to the right of the political spectrum. He might get offended, as if I had insulted some person he loved.

But it's just a lump of sod. With some interesting natural wonders. So is France.

We thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that we're in France, because we haven't had to look at red white and blue shit in every store we go to for the last six weeks or so. I get to escape while über consumptive Americans (they consume so much, they're choking on their debt, and overflowing the land fills) are blasted on TV, radio, in the pharmacy, in the grocery store, at school, every-fucking-where, and coerced into buying every possible red white and blue gadget and food stuff and serving utensil, even flag tooth picks.

And all of these items, every single one, is MADE IN CHINA.

And so I have grumbled, "Happy 4th of July." Now, I shall move on.