Friday, October 28, 2011

Using the Hannibal Lecter Principle to understand the Republican candidates

Two female Mormon cannibal crickets  feeding on a third (Wiki Commons)
I used to write a “lowly paid” column about ethics for a nominally unaligned online newspaper that turned out to be right of Genghis Khan’s center. In short order, the “opportunity” had turned into a nightmare in which I had to field excessive and abusive commentary from that organization’ core constituency, right-wing zealots who make Ann Coulter look sane and balanced, and some of the more gormless right-wing writers on the site itself.

No matter. Perhaps those articles have enlightened someone, which was my intention to begin with, not―lord knows―getting rich on the internet via pay-per-click.

In those columns, I dealt with ethical concepts, one of which was touched upon by Matt Taibbi in his recent Rolling Stone article about his first glimpse of a presidential wannabe, Rick Perry: The Best Little Whore in Texas. Wrote Taibbi:
…voters who want to know who Rick Perry really is would do well to remember the advice of noted political analyst Hannibal Lecter, who instructed Jodie Foster about the serial killer she was tracking in The Silence of the Lambs. What does he do, Lecter asked, this man you seek? He kills women? No, that is incidental. Don't look at what the man does, look at what he is.
That should be the AHA! moment in American politics. Taibbi looked hard at what Perry is, although I think we all know what he is from his escapades in governmentally sanctioned murder, that is, capital punishment with no more thought given to it than swatting a mosquito. Does one really need to know any more to decide that this man would not be a good leader for an ethical population, positing that there is still something of an ethical population left?

Think about it: We might all have known sooner what George W. Bush might do to the nation had we simply applied the Hannibal Lecter Principle early and often.

By their idiocy shalt thou know them
Dubya was famous for little except being the son of a one-term president, talking his friends into buying him a baseball team by trading on the accident of his birth, and for putting record numbers of inmates to death, as well as mocking one of them in public. This was a kid the righteous would have shunned in the school yard. This was a kid your parents would have told you to keep well away from. This was a kid the local cop on the beat, had Geroge been born into a working-class family, would have been keeping an eye peeled for and cracked over the head with his nightstick with some regularity. This wasn’t, however, the boy your parents warned you about; your parents wouldn’t have bothered, thinking he was so no-account that no self-respecting teenage girl would touch him with the proverbial ten-foot-pole despite his loot.

How did intelligent grownups miss this? Why did Americans not apply this rather simple ethical litmus test, the Hannibal Lecter Principle, to little George? A good question. But perhaps the answer is to be found in two things: human decency and America’s checkered past.

Human decency? How so? The same parents who might tell their kids to keep well away from troublemakers also often impart the necessity of giving the benefit of the doubt. That’s one possibility.

Another is that George was at pains to present himself as an ordinary guy. None of us ordinary guys wants to think we are as decidedly unempathetic, as vicious, as gormless as George certainly appeared to be. So we studiously ignored all that. Still, the smirk should have been a clue. Various online dictionaries define the expression as, “An affected, often offensively self-satisfied smile,” or, “a smile expressing scorn, smugness, etc., rather than pleasure.” That’s George. And we didn’t get it. Republicans still don’t get it, except those who DO get it. Those who do? Mainly, they’re named Koch. Or Rove. Or Cheney. Or they are the great untutored, a/k/a the Teabaggers, so blind they will not see, so fearful they dare not look in a mirror.

Goat or sheep?
But that’s water under the bridge. More to the point: How can we quickly get to the heart of who the current Republican front-runners might be? Simple. Assess them for who they are, not who they say they are.

Perry is easy. He’s got a squinty smile that reminds me of nothing more than a guy on the Strip in Vegas trying to cajole people into a casino where he promises a lot for virtually nothing. In short, a sleazoid. Scummy. Probably washes his jockey shorts once or twice a year whether they need it or not…just so he has a loud silk tie to set himself off with.

Romney. Who knows? Who cares? He comes out of the Mormon tradition of straight-laced, unforgiving followers of the greatest manmade religion (well, they ALL are, but you know what I mean…it doesn’t say Latter Day Saints for nothing) until EST. Trust him? Not bloody likely. First, he’s too rich to be normal. Second, he flip-flops almost daily. Third, did you know neither women nor blacks can be full members of his native church? Enough said.

Bachmann. Derivative, without the Alaskan creds. Dismissed.

Who’s left? Well, that is, who remains on the right as a viable candidate? Santorum?
The most interesting thing about Santorum is his name. Except of course that business of Mr. and Mrs. Santorum bringing home their premature stillborn child to introduce the poor dead wee thing to the living children, and then sleeping with the stillborn overnight. Creepy. At best.

There’s the Intelligent Design thing he’s fond of, speaking of oxymorons.

And there’s the dodgy bit about in-state or out-of-state tuition for his kids at college, and maybe his claiming a false residence…all of which perfectly fits him to ring in on immigration, since he has been involved in living in one place and reaping benefits from another. The only difference between him and the Mexicans seeking a better life, the ones he wants to fence out or shoot? Money, and crossing state, rather than national, boundaries. In short, no difference to speak of. A hypocrite.

Leave our history in the dust, please
Leaving the fascinating subject of assessing political candidates’ aberrant psychology via the Lechter method, there’s still America’s checkered past to bring to the discussion, however, as a way to explain how Americans can be so foolish about whom they elect.

America was settled by the following groups:

  • Puritans, whose fundamentalism knew no bounds (you may recall that they determined whether a woman was a witch by dunking her, head and all, into a pond. If she drowned, she wasn’t a witch);
  • Criminals, sent by His Majesty to the colonies where they could serve out their terms in misery and then be let loose to populate a captive land mass, and:
  • Adventurers, out for gold regardless of how they got it, mainly by raping virgin forest, killing native inhabitants, wiping out herds of valuable beasts and finally being granted large tracts of that wilderness by a monarch or two grateful for the riches they sent home in tribute.
Can spirit trump genetics and history?
And therein lies our national inability to see the unethical forest for the immoral trees; we are not too many generations removed from those who pillaged the nation to create it. At some level, perhaps, we realize we are one with them, one with either the criminals sent to the Georgia penal colony, or the patroons that gobbled up the Hudson Valley, later morphing into Robber Barons of a different sort. Or Puritans who begrudged every human any joy and regarded all compassion as weakness, and had a few squirrelly concepts about cause and effect as well. Seem to fit?

There were a few decent folk―the founding fathers, for the most part―among them. But too few to make a dent in the gene pool of the populations enumerated above and change the character of most of their descendants. Many of us understand that, while we carry those unfortunate genes, the world―physically, spiritually―has advanced and it is no longer necessary to act in accordance with our unfortunate history, but rather in accord with the ways in which a decent, compassionate, brave and free people would want to behave.

Until we do this―until we elevate whatever innate decency somehow survived our brutalized and brutalizing history―we will remain ill-equipped to practice the Hannibal Lecter Principle and recognize perfidy and worse when we see it. Unless we surmount our history of vicious individualism and trade up to benign individuality, we will be doomed to deal with the George Bushes the gene pool pops out so disgustingly often.

Monday, October 24, 2011

One insult too far: America’s class war, one prole at a time

Bush as Moronic Scion of the Moneyed Class
All through the 2000 campaign and up to Sept. 11, 2001, the corporate media depicted Bush as an affable, tongue-tied bumbler — the kind of guy Joe Six-pack would like to have a beer with — turning a blind eye to his dark underside. It mattered not that he stocked his illicit administration with the worst of the worst: John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Gale Norton, Paul O'Neill, Harvey Pitt, Thomas White, John Negroponte, Otto Reich and convicted Iran-contra felon Elliot Abrams who received a 1992 Christmas Eve pardon from George W.'s father. Click here for whole story. (Bev Conover, Online Journal)

For many of us raised in lower middle-class families, our aspirations to moremore wealth, more recognition, more luxury, more acceptance by the upper classwere sated somewhat during the nation’s economic good times. We were able, for a minute, to forget that we really were one pay check or contract from the streets, as our parents might have been but for unions. We were able, for a minute, to pretend to be part of the beautiful people, however we defined the term.

This, friends, is another mea culpa which I hope will be instructive to those who fail to support OWS (Occupy Wall Street) in every possible way. I am, I think, very much an Everywoman in this, or if not Every, at least Verymanywoman.

Heady times on the East Side
As much as I hate to admit it, we attended church in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and not just any church, THE Episcopal Church in Manhattan, St. Thomas. It is beautiful, a French Gothic cathedral nestled amongst the international boutiques of Fifth Avenue. We lived nearby, on the WEST side. Still, it was only an eight-minute walk. (Later, we moved on up to the East Side, still one contractwe were freelancersaway from living in a packing crate over a warm, if odiferous, sewer grate, like the wheezing fat woman who slept in hers beneath the buttresses of OUR church.)

We loved the church. It was hard not to. The Rector was a supremely well-educated, well-connected and absolutely rigorous Englishman who seemed to appreciate our slightly off-kilter reactions to things, our willingness to serve, and our ability to use the proper fork.  He appointed us to all sorts of thingsus being me and my second husband. We were happy; it seemed we had been accepted, and all we had to do was genuflect and contribute.

The music was world-class, too. What a church! And there, we met one of the many clergy on staff and his family. They lived on the East Side, a bit farther from the church, and light years away from living in a packing crate over the sewer grates at St. Thomas. We became friends, spent Christmases together, visited each other’s houses when we moved out to Darien, CT….still one contract away from living in a tent on the Goodwives River, which flows amongst mansions of historic value and stunning beauty. 

We were renting one of those places, a falling-down one. You could see ground if you were vacuuming in the ground-floor sitting room and got close to where the walls met the ancient floorboards. Beetle damage, we later learned. We might be able to afford to buy the house at its fire-sale price, about $250,000, but repairing it to livable standard would cost twice that. We could live in this historic home in frozen misery, but could never have afforded to bring it up to snuff. So we moved on. One frozen winter in the epicenter of American snobbery was sufficient, and the promise of Reagan’s trickle-down economy seemed to have frozen in the pipes.

Ashes to ashes
Years and years and years passed. And behold, a dim-witted psychopathic son of one of the nation’s self-proclaimed best families became president. And I became seriously annoyed. No, incensed. I decided the least I could do was include one of Dimwit’s many blunders as a sort of mini-bio at the end of my emails. I lost a couple of clients over it, but then, I really didn’t want to write stuff for insurance companies…although I was a lot less than a whole contract away from living under the trees on smelly Western Run in Baltimore, the skunky trickle that passed for a river behind the formerly luxury apartments I lived in, alone.

One day I got an email from the clergyman. It said that he could well understand how “you people” could disdain the heroic president but if I cared to continue to be “childish,” I needn’t correspond with him in future.

Oh dear. What had happened to our friendship? They had moved, too, to the far West and rented out their Manhattan townhouse to pay the death duties on the $6.5 mil it was worth, as it wasn’t theirs: they had been freeloading on a parent for decades.

It took me precisely 4 seconds to figure out what had happened. We had been no more than amusing house pets to our rich friends. The Rector had once remarked to my husband that he was glad we were friends with the rich couple. We didn’t understand it at the time; in retrospect, we decided it was so that they could be kept in touch with normal people, people who couldn’t sell a priceless Ashcan School painting they didn’t like to pay private school tuition for their kids. This beat working, you see, becauseanywaythey really didn’t know how to actually work.

So I wrote back, immediately. I can’t recall exactly what I said, but I can tell you, it was not apologetic. I basically torched the sucker, verbally, which was the least I could do after a few decades of being the house pet of the moneyed class, now that I understood. My friends, of course, applauded my action. We had a lot of fun for a while with the word childish, bandied about at odd moments, and with the phrase you people as well.

Trickle-down blew up in my face
How did all this happen? If I had written best-sellers instead of being a journeyman journalist, would I have appended the moronic statements of George W. Bush to my emails as I did? Would I have felt differently if I were a resident of the aeries of the rich and not a late royalty check away from living outdoors beneath the spires of a church that served the moneyed classes of New York so very, very well?  My emails were a possibly pathetic attempt to convince at least one more person of Bush’s unsuitability to lead so much as a walk down the street, never mind a huge, rich, populous nation into endless, lower-class-eating wars.

George W. Bush was deemed suitable because he was of the class of my former friends, those who don’t need to work, which is a good thing, because they don’t know how. And a good part of the rest of the nation was fooled by him, attracted by the thought of being one with him by voting for him, and not realizing that in actuality, they were house pets. 

But this rich owner, unlike the people I allowed to keep me in ignorance for too long, was abusive. After a small taste of fresh milk, Americans of every class but upper were to be treated not only to the toe of a boot, but to the added abuse of all Bush’s cronies, conspiring together because, suddenly, they didn’t need the house pets anymore. House pets became expendable, more trouble than they were worth. And so, now, those house pets are camped by the river, looking for a way to regain a place even in the shadow of the house, somewhat protected from the elements, if not the coveted place at the rich man’s fire.

It is pitiful. It is as pitiful as my supposed friendship with the Swell Family was. The swells of every stripe have revealed themselves as false friends, as those who will kick the house pet out into traffic as soon as the house pets become troublesome, think for themselves, or understand that there is not one single thing their government has done since George W. Bush moved into the mansion that was not insulting and designed to make everyone not of his lofty strata live in sewers and eat shit.

Frank Rich penned a recent, well-reseached and lengthy column in the New York Times about class warfare. Read it here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Old-Time Religion: What the Baggers ain't got

Disclaimer: I am not a follower of any religion, although I count myself among those informed by the Episcopal rubric which dependsmore than most, I thinkon a common-sense approach to the valuable insights and teachings of a very important Jewish rabbi of antiquity, Joshua Ben Joseph of Nazareth. One of his mentors, Joseph of Arimathea, is thought by many to have taken Joshua to southwest England to study with druids, a reasonable thought considering the mysticism that permeates the teachings of Joshua Ben Joseph. And contrary to the beliefs of the uniformed, there was abundant trade between the southern Mediterranean and the British Isles back then.

St. Benedict of Nursia (Fra Angelico; Wiki Commons)

It is a shame that the religious right knows so little about religion. From their actions, it seems doubtful that most Tea Baggers have ever heard of The Rule of St. Benedict. It might surprise the Tea Baggers that both St. Benedict and the Gospels they claim to love encourage socialism. For example, Acts 4:35 notes that, “Distribution was made to everyone according as he had need.” Sounds socialist to me.

The early monasteries, particularly those in Ireland as chronicled by Thomas Cahill in his book How The Irish Saved Civilization, were the western founts of learning for hundreds of years. The monks, in all that time, must have figured out a thing or two. With or without the ‘god parts,’ the Rule of St. Benedict, venerating as it does a sober, sanctified, charitable, wisdom-bearing approach to daily life in a coherent community, might well be a road-map for a modern approach to otherwise almost insurmountable problems, the problems of lack of work, lack of health care, lack of food and clothing, lack of respect for others. In short, charity in all its guises. If only the “godly” right wing recognized the Rule, or any part of it.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (The New Testament, King James version, Matthew 22:37-40)
The best Benedict, whose Rule informs thoughtful lives today
St. Benedict (a far cry from the current Pope of that name) was a Roman Catholic monk of the sixth century who set forth the totality of ways monks were to behave and the manner in which the self-sufficient monasteries were to be run. In times of economic stress, it would seem his Rule might have much to say to modern populations. The thrust of the Rule was to care for others before self. There are at least half a dozen specific instructions which, if the right-wing pseudo-Christians knew their importance and attempted to follow them, might change the landscape of current political discourse in the US.

Those few important rules are:
  • To relieve the poor
  • To hate no one
  • To visit the sick
  • Not to be arrogant
  • To guard one’s mouth against evil and vicious speech
  • Not to abandon charity
Those are among about 75 rules in all, including the ten commandments as the very first ones. But perhaps the one I like best of all is the last of those six, as it covers all the rest.

Charity begins…one hopes
Abandoning charity is the very thing the pseudo-Christians who inhabit the right-wing of political America have done, and done very nearly completely. A rundown, rule by rule:

Relieve the poor
The right wing does not wish to relieve the poor, especially not if those poor come from afar (like Mexico, for example), rather than within their own state at best, or the nation if they must be that generous. If they must. Not by choice. Never.

Hate no one
Far from hating no one, they seem to hate just about everyone. They hate them so much that foolish men like Herman Cain can, with a straight face, tell people that if they don’t have a job, it’s their own fault. Inanely, he can tell them that in an economy that fails by a good ten percent or more in providing jobs for all workers.

Visit the sick
Even if one or two Baggers occasionally visit people in the hospital, they do not, for all intents and purposes, visit the sick.  These days, visiting the sick might be taken to mean providing for the care of the sick, since medicine is far to complex for most of us to do anything ourselves except provide ways for professionals to attend to the problems.  They seem to have taken a vow of ignorance regarding understanding the true horror of a large community lacking universal access to health care.

It is unthinkable that a monk or even those who worked as lay people in the monastery, or even travelers or visitors would be turned away by the monastery’s infirmarer. No abbot worth his salt would have tolerated such a state of affairs. 

Whether health care consists of the herbs and leeches of the middle ages, or the sophisticated diagnostic equipment and medications of today, it is intolerable that a cohesive communitythe United States, for instanceshould not provide care for its members.

It is unchristian, for one thing. For another, it is just plain stupid. A community with a number of sick members and no help for them is asking for contagion and plagues, a breakdown of work life, a diminishing of the community sooner rather than later. Sick people can worship neither God nor mammon; sick people cannot build  a community that serves all, and they  cannot expand that community and help others. Failing to care for the sick is, at any level since contagion may affect all equally, just plain stupid.

Do not be arrogant
The Tea Baggers are arrogant in the extreme.

Without any visible powers of discernment, without benefit of a belief in anything except their own short-term gain, without a frame of reference to the historical failures and successes of the universe in human terms, they nonetheless think their self-referential desires should determine how a community/nation runs. In their arrogance, they believe others to be less worthy than they. Among those they regard as less worthy, they include younger people, artists and craft workers, the marginally self-employed, the low-paid, those they see as lazy, the infirm, those of other beliefs, those of other colors and backgrounds ad infinitum. The Baggers are, indeed, the Philistines of our age, denigrating culture, art, and most of all, spirituality.

Guard against evil and vicious speech
They do not guard their mouths against evil and vicious speech. Indeed, the celebrate and heap honors upon those who might be chosen as role models for how NOT to live a thoughtful, Christian (or Jewish or Hindu, etc.) life. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, to take two sterling examples, trade on their own arrogance in consigning to perdition any person who disagrees with them in the least trifle. Vicious hardly begins to describe Coulter’s speech; evil is inherent in almost every opinion Limbaugh utters. And yet, they both think they are good Christians. I doubt they’d want to debate that with St. Benedict. Although I’d love to watch them try.

Charity: The idea that giving…in every way…is better for everyone than taking
The religious right in America has abandoned charity, in the particulars above and many more. Charity is far more than giving your old clothes to the Purple Heart. It is far more than putting a dollar in the collection plate during the one day a year you go to church, hedging your bets against the possible actual existence of god. It is more than refraining from commenting on your friend’s horrible new hairdo. It is more than passing by a Mercedes with a man slumped over the wheel and doing nothing because, “Hell, he’s rich; he can just dial for an ambulance on his own cell phone.”

Charity is the practice of finding out what help you can render, and doing that. Period. The Jews call it a mitzvah, a good deed. Not a deed done for your own good. It must be selfless, and doing it anonymously is a plus. It includes donating to causes you believe in; it also includes praising others for donating to causes they believe in even if those causes are not yours. Baggers have bashed me for supporting animal rescue organizations before human-oriented ones, forgetting that by giving us dominion over the animals, as their god said, we are also given responsibility for them. They fail to understand that by donating to any helping organizationwhether it is people or animals being helpedone is increasing the net supply of kindness in the world, decreasing the net experience of suffering, and actually attending to their god’s business.

Baggers just plain fail to understand, because they fail to empathize. They fail to embrace charity at its most basic. How do the supporters of draconian anti-immigration laws know what an illegal immigrant might have faced at home? They don’t. Worse, they don’t care to know. They insulate themselves from the suffering of immigrants, as well as the jobless and those who need medical care they cannot get. Their arrogant is clear in the ways in which they wrap studious ignorance around themselves like an impenetrable cloak.

No illusions
I have no illusions that one Tea Bagger will recognize himself or herself in any of this; I have no illusions that a Tea Bagger will read it. So I am preaching to the choir. 

If I were a Christian, I might chide myself for saying it is not likely the godless religious fundamentalists will take any of this to heart. So it’s a good thing I’m not a Christian, though I don’t imagine I can say that with impunity. I expect, actually, to be pilloried from both the right and the left on this, no matter how many times I insist that I am actually an existentialist informed via an Episcopalian background, and leavened by a soupçon of intense exposure to the ideas and community of classical Judaism.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Price-fixing and (the) IRS

(Wiki Commons)

Now that I've got your attention, this isn't about the IRS we all know and loathe. It is, however, about a woman whose initials were IRS, and who was loathsome. She was a managing editor for a publishing house I worked for back in the dusty eons of recorded time...and I got her good. Indeed, it was one of my finest hours, and I'm going to crow about it a little. Since I paid for my fun with blood, sweat and tears, I figure I'm entitled.

“Men of the same trade seldom meet but that it ends in a conspiracy against the public.” -Adam Smith
I was reading a great column on Smirking Chimp just now in which the author, Joshua Holland, editor at Alternet, made the case that the "new right" is not a political ideology at all, but a religion, and a particularly hide-bound fundamentalist one at that. Included at the bottom of one of the comments to that column was the quote above. It put me in mind of my editorship of a little known, and totally crappy, publication called P.S. For Private Secretaries.

I wanted that job badly. I NEEDED that job badly. My husband and I had just moved from Athens, GA, to NYC with a scrimped thousand bucks to our name. We had just spent more than $600 of it getting a teeny little apartment on the Upper East Side, a pricey neighborhood but safe. Except for the woman killed on the block I lived on a week before we moved...but I didn't know that until I visited my new dentist, who told me while poking around my teeth and occasionally peeking at his car, parked on the West Side docks, to see if it was still there. This was NCY in the 70s, not yet Disneyized, but as god made it, warts and all. (The dentist's office was on the 52nd floor of the Empire State Buildling; I still miss going there. Plus he was a great dentist.)

So, anyway, I got the job. I had interviewed after a publishing specialist employment agency had shoehorned me in at the last minute.  I was given a "test" assignment to write. And I did it really, really badly. But I knew it. So I simply wrote another one and delivered it. My spunk and the quality of the second one clinched the deal. Whew!  We could eat!

Time passed, but not much time before I realized the publication was crap and the managing editor, initials IRS, certifiable. We didn't know about the Queen Bee syndrome then, but she could have been its poster girl. Some of us took to killing off her flowers while she was at lunch by pouring salt into the vase. We would knacker her desk chair by letting string twine around the rollers on the legs. She was really a fright, and truly deserved the pranks. But still, I decided, after less than six months, that I had had enough. I decided I could begin freelancing, as I knew ALL the ropes by then. (Stop laughing.) I did have good feedback from no less than Lewis Lapham...but never did get published by him.

I did, however, get my own back with IRS. On the back page of each issue was a cute little feature whereby we slightly messed up a few of ten sentences and the trick for the private secretary reading the issue was to find the bad grammar or spelling. Luckily, I had that task for my final issue. I shared editing that title with another editor, which left both of us so much free time that we wrote a porn novel that actually was purchased for publication by some sleazy book publisher. But we pulled it. She was a minister's daughter, and I was chicken.

In that final P.S. issue, one of my sentences read something like (who can remember exactly after almost 40 years?): "The CEOs of several major corporations met to discuss what the price structure of their products should be for the coming year." It was one of the un-screwed up sentences, so it flew by IRS's final edit.

Then the issue came out. My buddy, Pam, called me when it arrived. "You should have been here," she said, or something similar. "I thought IRS might literally fly, she was so wound up.  We had a great time at the editorial meeting. And when can we have lunch?"

I remained friends with Pam for years. She left that company, eventually, and went to a fashion/pattern publisher. She convinced her colleagues to hire me to write copy. As a result, I know more about Kenzo and Betsey Johnson than most freelancers alive, and moreover, I can write about them in very few characters, as copy was specified to fit ad layouts. I can also instruct people on inserting zippers. But it was a fun gig. The offices were freaking perfumed, very pleasant. The company was on lower Fifth Avenue, the edge of Greenwich Village, so there were lots of good places to have lunch.

Eventually, Pam and I lost touch. But not before we had gotten to know and appreciate each other quite well. Who knew she would knit? But also be able to climb a mountain? This seemed an odd combination to me back then, but I used it to create the first short story I ever sold.

Moral: Do what you have to do, up to and including zingers for horrific bosses who would be better off in Bellevue's psych ward than on the eighth floor of a publishing house in Manhattan. Oh, yes. About those CEOs. I was pretty much right, no?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If he did it

Bush, blowing his own horn, at Ground Zero. Take it as you will. (Wiki Commons)
There is little doubt in many minds that the book If I did it by O.J. Simpson was in fact a boast by a tortured mentality--an ego of global proportions, enhanced further by successfully playing the diametrically opposed race card simultaneously. It can hardly be considered a denial; rather, it is a most profound mea culpa dressed up like the doggy's dinner.

Not long after that book came out, O.J.--high on what he doubtless perceived as another wool-over-eyes coup--was arrested for a stupid crime. A crime an imbecilic high school footballer has been might have done. Idiocy.

What does this have to do with September 11, 2001 and the major player in that game, George W. Bush?

Everything. The only reason we don't have an "If I did it" book concerning the take-down of the Twin Towers by George W. Bush is that he wrote his book in blood on sand instead of ink on paper. He expiated his failure (I'm not going to deal at length here with whether he was actively responsible, but he was at least passively culpable) by embarking on a 'book tour' of the Middle East, loudly proclaiming that he/his nation had been wronged "If I did it"-style, and demanding that others pay attention.

Bush's behavior is so like O.J.'s after he was found out, it's scary. O.J. went on his "slow speed" chase. Bush went walkabout on Air Force One. O.J. made his jail cell into Party Central; Bush partied whenever he could--more than any president in history, even those who served in less perilous times--at his ranch or Camp David.

You doubt it? Today, in his column for the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman applied the party idea to everything Bush did in office. He wrote: "...rather than use 9/11 to summon us to nation-building at home, Bush used it as an excuse to party — to double down on a radical tax-cutting agenda for the rich that not only did not spur rising living standards for most Americans but has now left us with a huge ball and chain around our ankle."

The appearance of truth can be bought and paid for
O.J. spent his fortune on the trickiest lawyers money could buy, and counted on them to intimidate the mere functionaries in the D.A.'s office who had never prosecuted such a high profile case before. He also managed to get two highly respected lawyers to work for him, F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz, lending an air of respectability to OJ's side of the courtroom.

Bush surrounded himself with the greatest number of glib scoundrels he could amass--Rove, Rumsfeld, Yoo--and counted on them to dazzle a public whose sight was dimmed with the tears of a recent unfathomable tragedy. He also prevailed upon a man of good character, Colin Powell, to carry the Bush message--all lies though it was--abroad in the universe, via an equally duped United Nations.

In the years after each man's involvement in murder--for whether one believes Bush orchestrated the events of 9/11 or not, he most certainly killed thousands of Afghans, Iraqis and US soldiers--that man continued to live pretty much the life he had lived before, except for the odd inconvenient snub by those who believed they were guilty and wanted nothing to do with them as a result. Each man enjoyed the unconscionable good will of those who had something to gain from continuing the friendship. With OJ, it was other ex-football players and Hollywood hangers on. With Bush, it was the authoritarian, knee-jerk Christian dry-drunk apologists of the neo-con movement.

In each case, the man is known by the company he keeps. As for me, I'm waiting for Bush to over-reach as OJ did, to attempt another high-profile crime of some sort, for which he can be caught, tried and, if found guilty, convicted. I imagine there is a reason Bush hasn't traveled to some European nations, though; some of them were reportedly unwilling to wait for a second instalment in the Bush saga of global criminal acts to arrest him, although the Washington Post reported a few months ago that his arrest is more possible in theory than in actuality, global alliances being what they are.

But no one ever failed to accuse Bush of being a coward, least of all me.

Monday, September 5, 2011

9/11 and the Sway of Fear

Popular sentiment in England: Could America benefit from a bit of it? (Wiki Commons)

There is little doubt that the events of 9/11 were fearsome. Until the past ten years, the longest period in US history marked by fear was the lead-up to and duration of  World War II.  Amazingly enough, civilians were less frightened and more willing to pitch in during WWII than they are now. There are abundant very logical reasons for this difference. Most would cite the fact that, back then, the fighting and dying was all done on foreign shores, even if US GIs were dying, too, fighting for Europe's freedom.

Back then, the US government, in demanding sacrifices of consumer goods to support the war effort, rewarded the population with as much support as it could muster: “Feel good” movies were produced, rewards for heroic acts at home were bestowed, the opportunity to assist as plane spotters was created to involve everyone in the endeavor, and so on. 

In the current “fright theater,” the deaths that caused the problem were on US soil, but the government reacted in ways that made the horror even worse. This time, rather than demanding sensible sacrifices by civilians, the government simply ramped up the tax bite on the many and lowered it on the fewalways grand for morale. With the money--and more--it invaded sovereign states in the name of protecting America. This was the precise opposite of WWII, in which US GIs attempted to save sovereign states already invaded by a dastardly rogue government. In short, this time, instead of fighting to save others from fascism, the US acted like a fascist state and invaded for one simple reason; because its leader wanted to. Like Hitler. (The collusion between the Bush family and Hitler's Germany has been well chronicled by others; a simple googling of Bush-Hitler will give you more information than you can digest.)

Rather than giving the population work to do, such as WWII's plane spotting (a useful task in those days with those planes), it made the US into a nation of snitches and quaking whiners who feared a murderous Muslim lurked around every corner. “Report suspicious activity” flashed from overhead signs on every highway, making some of us who are at least casual students of history cringe at how reminiscent that was of the old USSR; students of literature knew that the ersatz world of Orwellian fiction had come to pass.

Bush: A decade of insufferably inferior leadership
The difference between the 1940s and the first decade of the 21st century resides first and foremost in who was sailing the ship of state. In 1941, it was a man who had faced a debilitating disease, polio, and coped with it before he won the presidency. He was wealthy, which no doubt made all things easier. But he was no stranger to pain, and no shirker of the hard choices and the difficult tasks. He was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 2001, the putative leader was a man who had faced nothing in his entire life, George W. Bush. Bush was coddled through school, and passed on for his MBA despite lacking the intellectual rigor and basic honesty to earn the degree, according to his major professor. Yoshi Tsurumi, one of Bush’s professors at Harvard when Bush was shoehorned into Dad’s school’s MBA program, said Bush “showed pathological lying habits and was in denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was famous for that. Students jumped on him; I challenged him.” 

(Aside: One has to wonder why no one in Congress challenged him. One need not wonder why Cheney did not challenge him; in Bush, Cheney’s pathology had found a perfect mouthpiece for Cheney’s own dark compulsions and biases. Bush famously said, in his Harvard class, that poor people need not be bothered with because they were lazy. Such intellectual laziness itself, and such incautious speech and cavalier attitudes alone, should have been enough to warn all and sundry that this was no fit person to led the free world. Unless one were equally unfit…and severalCheney, Rove, Yoo, Rumsfeldwere.)

Bush sat out his National Guard service god knows whereanywhere but on a military postwhile so many young men and women were suffering and dying in southeast Asia. The closest he had ever come to death was pushing the button on a record number of executions when he was governor of Texas, a state that illogically elected him despite his rather dubious dealings with sports club ownership in that state.

Fear explains it all
There is little doubt that when Bush wasn’t presenting the world with a vacant stare. When (we are told) Bush was informed by an aide of the Twin Towers disaster while he visited a second-grade class in a “safe place” for him--his governor brother’s state, Floridahe was whipping the nation into a frenzy of illogic based on a surfeit of fear. It is hard to think straight when you’re terrified out of your shoes. Bush’s every action post-incident was calculated to lead to an increase of the nation’s fears. A man with the agenda carried by the Bush family and supported by intelligent, rapacious, unscrupulous hangers on like Cheney and Rove would need a population frightened into witlessness to get away with it all, despite his well-documented ability to claim he hadn’t said what he said not 30 seconds earlier.

What he did spoke louder than what he said; it always does
At the moment, there is a catchphrase in England that should have been the motto for the reaction of the US post-9/11. That catchphrase is “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Did Bush suggest anything of the sort? Not at all. Rather, he instituted a nerve-wracking system of colorful alerts, with red naturally being “Jeez, god, the Muslims are at the freakin’ door.” All the while, of course, Bush’s lips were moving like the proverbial lying lawyer’s, telling the world how tough America was even as he made it weaker. Bush was busy telling the rest of the world how tough America was as we failed over and over at bringing American justice to other cultures that had little, if anything, to do with what happened on 9/11. Unless, of course, American justice has descended to globally shooting and asking questions later. That's the hallmark of Texas justice, of course. So perhaps it is no surprise after all.

Bush apparently heeded well the words of a world-class crooner, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra quoted, in The Way You Wear Your Hat, as saying, “Fear is the enemy of logic.” Bush could not afford to have a thinking electorate, one to whom logic was as natural as turning on the stove to cook a meal. He needed an electorate so busy looking for the gas knobs and some sort of instruction manual, their heads down and getting hungrier by the minute, that they wouldn't notice that nothing Bush did made the slightest sense for the nation as a whole, but only for the small cadre of oligarchs whose aberrant psychology was in charge.

The second mistake
Thus misled and purposely confused, Americans followed the lead of a man in control of only one thing, his own escape from responsibility. If Bush simply instituted a system of alerts, his minions could post them without his interference and he could get on the plane to his ranch with a light heart and a goofy grin. And so it was. And so it became apparent rather quickly, despite the compromise of so much of the nation's intelligence by fear.

An excellent question: Why?
But why did we allow fear to continue to hold sway?  Because the Master Chef of Unreasoning Terror was not finished with the feast yet. He was cooking up more treats to deflect our knowledge of what was happening.

First, of course, there was the anthrax attack. That was fear-inducing….and it went on and on and on with swamps drained and a man under suspicion, but no resolution. Finally, supposedly, the man who did it committed suicide in 2008. The original suspect? He was exonerated, but the bugle wasn’t loudly sounded. If he was the culprit, then why was another man found to have killed himself over it?

Everything….EVERYTHING…about the anthrax scare suggests, in fact, that that is precisely what it was, a scare, and no perpetrator need ever have been identified as long as the population became more afraid. The first suspect, Dr. Steven Hatfill, was awarded huge monetary damages by the Justice Department, when charges against him were dropped. The award was so huge that neither he nor his heirs will ever have to work again, possibly an adequate payoff for the suffering and ruined reputation. 

Dr. Bruce Ivins, identified finally as the perpetrator, killed himself. Did he do it? Or did he react that way to being informed of an investigation by the Justice Department? Who can know?  But it doesn't matter. However the anthrax incident was contrived, it had the desired effect. The population was terrorized. To quote George W. Bush, mission accomplished.

“To him who is in fear everything rustles.”


While it was OK, after the suicide of the putative perpetrator, to give up the unreasoning fear of anthrax, how to keep the population afraid so that another fear-mongering Republican could be elected? The population's terror of anthrax was kept alive for seven years via the occasional announcement in the press about this or that additional finding, despite no additional biological attacks. But that fear had abated, and the popularity of the president could be measured most accurately in its absence.

A new flash point for fear had to be found. It wouldn't be terrorists, or at least not so much, because that would give the lie to all the extreme measures taken that the administration claimed kept the US safe from terror.

What to do?

AHA!  People with no stable employment are easily made fearful, aren’t they?

Do you really believe in coincidence? It will be difficult to, if you read this and think even half of it might be true.

Post 9-11: What to do about the fear

FDR: Fireside chat (Wiki Commons)
 (Read the companion piece to this article here.)

What to do about the fear
AHA!  People with no stable employment are easily made fearful, aren’t they?

And whose homes are being snatched out from under them? How much worse could that fear be if they were effectively prevented even from declaring bankruptcy in Bush’s land of the corporate serf, or at least, not without signing the rest of their natural life away to do so. (Please read Republican Tortures for the Middle Class for more information.) Unlike corporations, of course, which can go bankrupt totally, at will, leaving the employees empty-handed.

It’s no wonder the population was still scared seven years after 9/11 when it quakingly elected a man they thought perhaps, just maybe, could bring some sanity and safety back to their lives. Because deep down, they KNEW they were not safe. They knew that everything they had ever planned, hoped and dreamed was more at risk in Bush’s America than at any time in US history. Even their superstitions had failed to provide solace for their misery.

Never mind religion; There’s a new opiate for the masses
No less than Bertrand Russell, one of the philosophical giants of the 20th century, noted that, “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. (An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish)

Superstitiously, restaurant had owners changed French Fries to Freedom Fries in the months after 9/11. Why? Because the French government refused to join Bush’s juggernaut against the entire Arab world. The restaurateurs thought casting the French symbolically out of the ignominy of the rancid fat in the deep-fryer and into oblivion would keep them safe. Their customers ate it up.

Superstition was responsible for that minor cruelty, a mere stupidity in the run of human events, but it was emblematic of many much, much larger ones to follow. For example, suddenly Saddam Hussein had to be overthrown, despite his antipathy toward Al Qaeda, which the same agencies that failed to warn of an attack had miraculously identified as the perpetrator of 9/11. 

They had help ignoring the warning signs, of course. And there was the impenetrable fug of Bush’s mind to cope with, and the hubris of the leaders of the agencies involved in public safety and, not to put too fine a point on it, the likelihood that Cheney’s once and future connections with the likes of Halliburton stood to gain mightily from any protracted military action the US was involved in.

But Hussein was an Arab, providing reason enough for the superstitious mind to want to destroy him. Destroying him would bring peace. Wouldn’t it?

Daddy Bush and Baby Bush
For Bush, destroying Hussein held more magic still.  Bush’s father had failed to destroy Hussein; what the man failed to do, the boy attempted and so very unfortunately succeeded. Not that Saddam was a saint. He was a horror show. But he was his own nation’s horror show, not ours. And toppling him led Bush to superstitiously believe that Bush and Co. could do no wrong, and worse, could get away with just about anything. They had lied to get the US into the war. They would be out of office before anyone had to tell the truth and get the military out. They would be busy with their revisionist memoirs when…if…the nations they invaded and destroyed got busy resurrecting whatever could be salvaged of a culture, an infrastructure, and any belief system except despair.

One has to wonder if somewhere, sometime, the misfiring synapses in Bush’s pickled brain ever suggested to Bush that what he had done was wrong. He had taken apart a nation and killed its leader by constructing a not-totally-credible lie about WMDs, and further, caused some of those who followed him to lie as well. 

An officer and a gentleman
Colin Powell, a decent human being and honorable man, did not have the devious constitution to understand that the man leading the free world would lie to him, and get him to lie, to achieve ends that were wildly less than sterling. As much as anyone, Powell was the victim of the Bush government. Luckily, Powell’s strength of mind has outlasted most of the damage done to his reputation. But his public service is probably a closed book because of the way he was duped, on a world stage, by Bush & Co.

Cruelty is not gratuitous
Fear is the parent of cruelty, wrote James Anthony Froude in Short Studies on Great Subjects. Cruelty cannot be said, thus, to be without explanation, nor can cruelties be done for no reason at all. Cruelty is in thrall to fear, is part and parcel of fearits very offspringand must, therefore, follow fear absolutely.

From their fear of the demonized Iraqi population and the terrorists they were told were hiding behind every tree*, American military personnel tortured and degraded prisoners in wild contravention of the Geneva Conventions, rules that were written by wiser, calmer men to grapple with the natural fear that combatants feel in a war.

Some of the American military in Iraq chose to ignore their own humanity, in a superstitious belief that if they sufficiently degraded and dehumanized their prisoners, they themselves would be more than they thought they were, forced into a meaningless war by gormless politicians who exposed them not only to enemy fire but to vitriol from those at home who saw the truth. Not that many doves castigated the servicemen and women. Indeed, in Bush’s wars, the home front was at pains to honor the service of the soldiers but agitate against the decisions of the politicians. So at least the Bush-era GIs were spared some of the demoralization  faced by GIs in the Vietnam era. However, not being idiots, those very servicemen had to suspect something was not right and they were part of it. They had a hard time figuring out how officers and gentlemen (and women) had become tools of a craven mentality that cared no more for them than for the copperhead he killed last night at the ranch.

George Bush wielded more power than anyone lacking empathy or a conscience should ever wield in the universe. He is an opportunist for all the worst reasonssupremacy, not having to be accountable, acquisition of toys and of undeserved honors. Indeed, if he has not earned the honors, he is completely capable of wearing the badge anyway, as he did whenever he donned flight togs, gave a victory salute, and attempted to ingratiate himself with bona fide officers and gentlemen. He is corrupt to the bottom of his soul, and, as Prof. Tsurumi noted, he is a pathological liar.

Power corrupts, but it gets worse
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it,” wrote Aung San Suu Kyi in Freedom from Fear.

The fear-based psychology of America’s leader at its most vulnerable moment was the start of a superstitious period in which ordinary people clutched at absurdities, like renaming French Fries, as a way to protect themselves. It was also the start of a level of corruption rarely seen in human history. 

The corruption has so pervaded America that ordinary people believe that the two percent of the population that controls fifty percent of the wealth will help them up the ladder. They have become Teabaggers, a name they chose themselves unwittingly. It refers to a gross sexual act. They thought it cunningly described the ludicrous hats they constructed when they began protesting against universal health care, at the same time demanding that Medicareno more than universal health care for the old and unwell, and therefore infinitely more costly than truly universal care which would save money on the young and healthynot be touched. They demand, now, to be called Tea Partiers, but they are not hosting an event any sane person would wish to attend. The Tea Bag nation celebrates half-truths, lionizes stinginess, and exhibits the same pathology as any garden-variety sociopath.

It is easy to be corrupt and to foster corruption when it is so easy to control others by instilling fear; it is easy to become corrupted when one fears what those in control might do. One will likely believe any liesthat is, subscribe to any superstition (Horatio Alger gone mad, too broke for health care, no way to create a healthy economy for everyone, etc.) in order to be exempt from the very conditions the fear has induced.

It may well be that there is no antidote for the gut-wrenching terror most Americans find themselves living in. I’ve experienced a recent dose of it myself, although I gave up living in America a while back. America still has a long reach, and unfortunately can export its own brand of greed and hubris worldwide.

I was spending all my time conditioning myself to cope with the frightening and suddenly headlong dissolution of both the institutions of government and population of a nation based on a great idea, freedom and liberty for all. Then for some. Now, sadly, for almost none.

Something has to change.

It is time for a new Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is time for America to come to grips with its fear; possibly, it will take putting the architects of that fear on trial. Bush, Cheney, Rove, Yoo, Ashcroft, et al. At least, they must be marginalized, forgotten as thoroughly as Rutherford B. Hayes (who?). It is time for someone, anyone, to begin convincing the quaking mass of disheartened Americans of the thought by which Roosevelt dragged/pushed/cajoled America through the Great Depression and through World War II:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1933

What a different world we would be living in today if FDR had been in the White House on September 11, 2001.
In Iraq, terrorists were and are hiding behind every tree. But the problem is, of course, that destroying a nation gratuitously is likely to make its people eager to remove the invader however they can. In short, US military presence has created most of the terror they are facing. 

How do you get people who volunteered to fight for their nation's honor and safety--US military--to fight when it is obvious they are engaged in an unjust war? Here are some clues: brutalization by their own command (see Abu Ghraib), the knowledge that there are no jobs at home, and treacherous re-deployment when a combatant's psychological reserves are diminished. All of these have been factors the military has faced for the entire recent past.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

9/11’s tenth anniversary remembrances: Day One

Twin Towers, Apr. 15, 2001 (Galvin Costello;Wiki images)

September 1, 2011

The New Yorker is publishing the memories of its writers concerning September 11, 2001. Where they were, what they were doing, how their lives have changed since that date. Not surprisingly, the first memoir I read was by Jane Mayer, who wrote an amazing book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, that I took with me on vacation a couple of years ago, and devoured. In Key West.

I’ll grant that it is unusual to take a heavily political book on a beach vacation. But any trip to Key West, wasfor mea drinking vacation as well. Open-air bars abound, so one can amuse one’s self by getting some fresh air while lubricating one’s brain cells and watching the passing parade.

What of the rest of us, though? What of those of us who were not, like Mayer and other New Yorker writers, immersed in the middle of the seminal event of probably all of our lifetimes?

Where were we when?
I was alive when JFK was killed, and when his brother was killed. And when Martin Luther King was killed. And when the Iranian hostages were taken. And when the Berlin Wall fell. And when Russia was opened up for criminal activity not associated with the Kremlin.

September 11, 2001 was far more life-changing than any of those events, or even all of them combined. Here’s how it unfolded in my small corner of the world.


I had the habit of bathing, making breakfast and watching some of the Today show while eating. I generally turned the TV off before nine, so I could be in my home office working, or at least preparing to work, by then. That day, I needed to phone a friend about riding our horses together that afternoon.

About five after nine, I tried to call. Her office was less than 30 miles from my apartment, but I kept getting a message, “All circuits are busy.”  How odd.

A phone glitch gets serious
About 20 minutes later, I decided to call a friend who lived in the same apartment complex and leave him a message about an event coming up, as he generally left for work by 7:30 a.m.  But he answered the phone. Was he home sick?

“Didn’t you know?” he asked. “The World Trade Center has been attacked so we were sent home.”

None of that made sense. We lived in Baltimore. OK. There was a building called the World Trade Center in Baltimore, but it wasn’t THE World Trade Center, and Don worked miles and miles away from it. Why would he be sent home if that was attacked?

I couldn’t get it straight, until finally he realized what page I was on and turned to it. “No, the World Trade Center in New York.”

My knees buckled. Like all native New Yorkers, I had both loved and loathed that building. But I had to admit, when I had taken Don’s two sons to NYC a couple of years earlier, that I had loved the way the towers shimmered on a hot summer day as we rode toward them on the Staten Island Ferry. His sons had bought me an NYC shot glass for my collection; on it were the Twin Towers. I’ll have to put that away, I thought to myself, the memories of Scott and Sean and our brilliant day-trip flooding in along with the realization that as many as 50,000 people might die.

“Come on over,” Don said. “Jeffrey and I are watching the coverage and drinking coffee. There isn’t much else to do, and it’s pretty horrible. You don’t want to be watching alone.”

No, I didn’t. Don and Jeffrey were two of my best friends. It would be good to share tears with them.

As I walked through the end-of-summer breeze, under the maple trees dappling the path between my building and theirs, I thought, “Ah, it wasn’t nine o’clock yet when it happened. New Yorkers don’t go to work early. Indeed, most arrive sometime between 9:30 and 10.” New Yorkers work late in the evening, though, and they’ll work hard and work Saturdays. But they avoid morning rush hour if they can.

I was proved right. The only people in the building were building workers themselves, financial types who are there before the stock market opens and their support teams, and some restaurant workers from Windows on the World. Not a full complement in all the offices or the retail space underground. Thank goodness.

Hijackers: Ignorance or planning?
I wondered, then, if the hijackers were ignorant of New York’s working hours and thought that they’d do extensive killing, like the Oklahoma bomber did by arriving early. Or perhaps they didn’t want to kill as many as they would have killed by flying later, and so they chose early flights to hijack. The first theory held more water if they were really ignorant hijackers, hired only to wreak havoc and not for their ability to assess a culture and a target.

The latter theory held more water if whoever had organized the operation wanted more to make a statement or to change the course of history than to actually kill people.

I was leaning toward one of those conclusions as early as that first morning.

But mainly, I felt sad and oddly disconnected. Everyone felt oddly disconnected, I suspect. But my feelings of disconnection had also to do with the fact that I felt I should have been there, should have been in MY city with my peers witnessing and suffering through this worst of all global terror attacks in history. I felt I had made a cheap escape by living elsewhere, when my heart belonged in the Big Apple, my spiritual, and often my physical, home during much of my life.

New York would recover. I never doubted that. But as the day wore on, what I doubted was that any nation that had elected George W. Bush as president could deal effectively with whatever it was that had wreaked havoc that morning. By that time, it was clear to anyone with one scintilla of common sense that George W. Bush was too common to cope with a multi-faceted disaster, a fact that crystallized more profoundly later on as he failed during Katrina as well, and during the financial meltdown. 

Being kind to Bush
Using the term failed is a kindness; what I mean nowand probably had inklings of thenwas that Bush was responsible in large part for the terror attack (whether by omission or commission will be debated in some circles for decades), the ineffectualeven cruelresponse to Hurricane Katrina, and the execrable trashing of the American economy by his leadership or lack thereof until the financial meltdown and his handling of it as he left office.

Did I know all that then? I’ve been a journalist for a long, long time. My instincts were kicking in, alerted by the stench. And on the morning of September 11, 2001, there was a lot more stench in the air than that of jet fuel and crumbling glass, steel and mortar. There was a stench of negligence at best, complicity at worst. It’s a stench that lingers still, as the posturing buffoons of Bush’s dunderheaded government continue to spew their filth onto the population they served so ill.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lie Down with Dogs

Strung Ducks: Tea Baggers by any other name (Wiki Common)

There must be a simple way to break through the mental fog of the Baggers.

Possibly clichés would work. Clichés are simple. Most people know what they mean. Maybe we should offer the Baggers some clichés they could use in lieu of brains. Maybe that would help one of them blaze a new trail, prevent them making a president who inherited a huge can of worms from being the fall guy to the previous president, that “ordinary guy” they so admired, despite (or because) of his being a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

For example, here’s the very first I’d like to present for their consideration:
You reap what you sow.

Teabaggers need to reap what they sow

OK, Baggers. This means that if you give stinginess, you will receive stinginess in return.

Example: You want to deny benefits to those who are out of work because of the greed you so admire.

Think about this: If you end up out of work, you will be denied assistance if there is any truth underlying that cliché. And truth underlies most of them. Moreover, because your admiration of greed is tinged with abject fear that what you think you worked for will be taken from you,* I expect divine justice would require that you all become panhandlers, preferably in a state or city with no tolerance for the down-and-out. I’m thinking Texas, Arizona. Places like that. Except they are too warm. So maybe the Dakotas, where winter would actually be problematical.

Do you still want to deny relief to others to save what you think you worked for? You do? OK. Let’s move on and try again.

Flea-bitten Baggers

Next cliché:
If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get some fleas.

This means that by becoming door mats for the unprincipled wealthy, such as the Koch Brothers, John Bonehead, Bachmann et al, you are likely to end up scratching in misery as they move off to a new, clean bed and you are left behind with the “fleas”the nasty little bad parts of blindly following greedy, unprincipled jackasses they forgot to tell you about. This would include being caught along with everyone else when the financial system implodes, and ending up in the gutter when the taxes you pay as an enormous percentage of your income are increased yet again to ensure that rich folks’ taxes fall from the pitiful rate they pay now to virtually nothing. But then, no one ever lost money betting Baggers were not as dense as a London fog.

Do you still want to be in bed with the likes of the worst of the Republican Party? With fleabags like Rick Perry? It’s only a matter of time, of course, until he disappears in some legal ignominy or other because he’s already got one hand on the chicken coop.

Bunking with Mongrels

But you Baggers still want to be in bed with those mongrels? OK. Here’s another one:

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

This seems to be what a lot of Baggers are doing, trying to stick with the Republican Party, which it knows gave us two wars, a tanked economy and a bad rep all over the known universe (in addition to No Child Left Behind which is reason enough for any god one might posit to smite the US into oblivion). But what didn’t happen is that the US didn’t open its doors to the less-advantaged; it slammed them, thereby circling up the Koch Brothers' Mercedes and the Bagger’s Golfs. It didn’t join the rest of the civilized world in various treaties concerning the environment and international criminal tribunals, thereby making the US safe for those who would rather waste plastic bags because who cares if tortoises choke to death, and safe for George Bush becauseheh, hehnow they can’t haul him in front of a world court for crimes against humanity and get him judged by a bunch of panty-waist Froggies or something.

So Baggers, what if you actually understood that plastic depends on oil, and oil is precisely what you’re afraid of losing to such an extent that you permitted George to finish his Daddy’s war games. Except of course he didn’t finish it because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, especially if the apple is rotten and can’t roll.

There really is no reason to continue, except for the hope that even one single Bagger will have a lightbulb go off in his/her head, and understand. It might only take one. After all, birds of a feather flock together. And, as similar in their idiocy as Baggers are, if even one of them changes his/her tune, it’s likely the rest will go along like strung ducks.

* This refers to Social Security. They all believe it is insurance, a sort of annuity, to which they contributed and should therefore reap the rewards of their insurance investment. Wrong as a screen door in a submarine. Americans pay F.I.C.A., but what they pay doesn’t go into a fund with their name on it. It goes into a general fund. Perhaps they failed to note all the pundits warning that the Social Security fund would run out. How could it run out if it was individuals’ earmarked funds? It couldn’t. Someone could abscond with it, a sort of governmental Bernie Madoff. But run out? No.  Americans pay F.I.C.A. because, with the force of both law and arms, the United States government says they must. It does not say they must get anything back. It is at the whim of Congress that people get Social Security, a whim-based program that also determines what they get and when they get it. Did the Baggers work hard for their Social Security? No. They worked reasonably for their parents’ Social Security, since each generation is contributing to the payouts of the generation already receiving the handout. Who’s paying for the Baggers? Their children and grandchildren, and the Baggers really don’t give a rat’s ass whether it requires half their salary just as long as the Baggers never miss a meal on their next trip to Florida.

Self-explanatory (Wikimedia Commons)