Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How to Solve the Energy Crisis

Any time there’s a crisis, some demagogue or politician (is there a difference?) will come up with a magic solution. And somehow this “solution” always seems to be the exact same thing that this demagogue has always wanted to do. How convenient.

Ask Grover Norquist to solve a problem, any problem: “Shrink government down to the size of a bathtub and then drown it.”

How would James Dobson solve the same problem? “Bring Jesus back into our lives. Ban abortion. Kill all those $#!$%&!# homosexuals!”

And now the President of the Oil Industry has the solution to our economic crisis: Drill for oil. Now!!! Get those $#!$%&!# trees and animals out of the way and start drilling Goddamnit!

Funny how this MSNBC headline was worded (it’s that damn liberal media again): “Bush Chides Congress For Lack of Action.” Kind of sounds like our hands-off free-enterprise president wants to roll up his sleeves and get in there and fix things and help people, while those meddling big-government Democrats are just sitting there doing nothing.

According to this survey, gasoline prices are America’s most urgent problem. This is a more serious problem than the war in Iraq? Jobs? Health care? Oooookay.

This is excellent news for Bush and his puppetmasters. (And in a related story, ExxonMobil is just about to become the world’s 18th largest economy. Their year-end revenue is expected to be higher than the Gross Domestic Product of Sweden, currently number 18.)

Bush started today’s press conference by saying he’s “open to any ideas.” And these ideas run the full gamut from A to B: Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And let's rip open those useless national parks and national forests and drill drill drill!. We need to build more oil refineries, and let's get rid of those cumbersome clean air regulations.

Bush also wants to use closed military bases as sites for new refineries. The oil industry isn't even interested in this idea, since most of these bases aren't near any oil pipelines.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Undercover: Into the Bowels of the Evangelical Movement

No matter what you’ve already read and heard about deranged herds of bookburning tongue-speaking “Christian” wackjobs, there’s always something even worse that’ll have you going “WTF??? Oh. My. God!”

Matt Taibbi went underground and infiltrated a 3-day workshop put on by John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church. Aside from being one of John McCain’s friendliest bedfellows, John Hagee is the leader of Christian Zionism. This is the belief that America and Israel should unite for the purpose of speeding up the arrival of Armageddon.

As True Believers all know, Jesus will be reappearing, but not until after Israel is involved in a final bloody showdown with the forces of Satan. And then — ooooohhhh I’m so excited! — the RAPTURE! Come on, let’s get this party started!

When you think of “Christian” demagogues, you probably think of those wacky televised presentations. As Matt Taibbi describes it: “Perfectly groomed people in pale suits and light-colored dresses, smiling and happy and full of the Holy Spirit, robotically singing hymns at the behest of some squeaky-clean pastor with a baritone voice and impossible hair.”

But: “We don't get to see the utterly batshit world they live in, when the cameras are turned off…in other words, there's a ready-for-prime-time stage act — toned down and lip-synced to match a set of PG lyrics that won't scare the advertisers — and then there's the real party backstage, where the spiritual hair really gets let down.” And does it ever!

This is a long article but it’s an excellent read. It has all the suspense of a cop show when somebody goes undercover and infiltrates a vicious gang. Obviously the author came out unharmed since his article was published. But all through the article there’s this nagging tension, this sensation of “oh my God, what if he gets recognized? What if somebody figures out he isn’t one of Them?”

During the final day of the “Encounter Weekend” (as they called it), there was a fire-and-brimstone ceremony for exorcising demons. The workshop leader (his name was Philip Fortenberry) repeatedly yelled out “In the name of Jesus I cast out the demon of _______.” These are the demons that were cast out (in order): Incest. Sexual abuse. Astrology. Lust. Cancer. Handwriting analysis. Intellect. Anal fissures. Philosophy. Pornography. Disconnect.

And the Encounter Weekend wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory Harry Potter anecdote. Philip Fortenberry (again) mesmerized the audience. His nephew had called him up one night, frantic. His two young sons had collapsed on the floor and they were writhing and gasping for air.

“And I said to my nephew, I said, 'It isn't something they've done. It's something you've done.' I told my nephew to look around the house. I said, 'Do you have a copy of Harry Potter?' And he said yes. And I said, 'That's your problem.' So I told him to go get that copy of that book, tear it in half and throw it out the window. So he does it, and guess what? Both of those kids stood up completely recovered, just like that." Praise the Lord.

Damn You Harry Potter!

Enjoy this article. You’ll laugh. You’ll cringe. You’ll clench your fist and yell out a few cusswords you haven’t even thought of since high school. And you’ll probably need a massive hit of your favorite drug.

This is a necessary glimpse into America’s seamy underside. It isn’t pretty, but we need to recognize and acknowledge it. And if you’ve ever wondered how rightwing “Christian” demagogues could have so much power — remember, there are millions of Americans who are exactly like the people portrayed in this story.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Yes, the Mortgage Meltdown IS your Problem

Sure it’s fun to sit there all smug and superior and think “why didn’t that stupid shit read the fine print?” or “I’m not gonna bail out some greedy irresponsible $#!%&*$#& who bought a house he couldn’t afford.”

The foreclosure tsunami has been wrecking neighborhoods all across the country. And it isn’t just happening in “bad” neighborhoods. Mass foreclosures are having a domino effect in middle class and upscale neighborhoods as well.

Abandoned houses are a target for vandalism. In some cases thieves are stealing all the copper wiring, copper plumbing fixtures and aluminum siding from empty houses.

These empty buildings are also a magnet for prostitution, drug dealing and gang activities. Even without these new additions to the neighborhood, your own property values will go into freefall if there are too many foreclosures nearby. You weren’t thinking of selling were you?

According to one calculation, every 1% increase in foreclosures will produce a 2.23% increase in violent crime. (The linked article has a .pdf link giving the details.)

According to this report, about three percent of all homeowners will enter the foreclosure process by the end of 2009. And forty-three percent of all homeowners will feel the ripple effect of these foreclosures.

A favorite conservative mantra is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” And now we’re seeing the flip side of this.

It comes down to a matter of priorities. If you’re gung ho about property values AND you go ballistic at the thought of somebody getting “something for nothing,” you have a choice to make. You could let the foreclosure crisis ruin your own life, just so you can keep thinking “Yeah, that serves those lazy bastards right. That’ll fix ‘em!” Or you could have that rising tide lift (or at least maintain) your own property values, even if it means fuming and pulling your hair out because somewhere, some lazy worthless parasite is getting a handout.

There’ve been a lot of anecdotes about neighbors ganging up on one homeowner who doesn’t mow his lawn or has a disabled vehicle parked out front. “He’s bringing down property values!” With cognitive dissonance being such a popular affliction, there are probably millions of homeowners who are simultaneously 1) going apeshit because somebody down the street has a car up on blocks; and 2) thinking to themselves “Mortgage crisis? Not my problem.”

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Net Neutrality — Again…Still…

It's the battle that won’t die. If you spend much time online, you’re probably familiar with the term Net Neutrality. This is the idea that telecom companies have absolutely NO right to give preferential treatment to certain Internet customers — a Fast Lane for their highest-paying premium clients and the Slow Lane for the riffraff.

Since there are literally billions of people using the Internet, this seems like a no-brainer. And the good news is, only a few people actually think it’s a bright idea to allow a few telecom executives to play God with the world’s Internet traffic.

The bad news is: these few people are Republican prostitutes legislators who have taken hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes from their johns in the telecom industry. And yesterday in Congress, these Republican skanks did some major trick-turning.

The funniest (but not ha ha) part of yesterday’s debate was FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s argument for why Net Neutrality is unnecessary. He said the FCC has the authority to crack down on telecom companies that try to give preferential treatment to one customer over another; and he promised that the FCC will assert that authority as needed. “Trust me” (picture Jack Nicholson’s shit-eating grin).

Kevin Martin thinks we need MORE media consolidation: there are too many small news organizations out there, sharing the pie; it would be so much nicer if two or three mega-monoliths were in control of everything. And this is the person who wants to be the one and only referee — the Decider — whenever there’s a dispute between a telecom company and its customers.

To make everything even murkier, the telecom companies are insisting that the FCC does NOT have the authority to prevent a broadband provider from relegating certain customers to the Slow Lane. Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like the exact reason that we NEED a law to enforce Net Neutrality.

Think about it: would you rather have a clearly-written law prohibiting murder? Or would you feel perfectly secure if your local police chief said “don’t worry, I have complete authority to protect you and your loved ones. If you think you or a family member is in mortal danger, just give me a call. Ahem — now, uh, you HAVE made a contribution to the Policemen’s Charity Fund now, haven’t you?”

Also in the Funny But Not Ha Ha department: Republicans. When it comes to invading other countries, spying on millions of Americans, bailing out large corporations every time a bad decision was made, regulating everyone’s private life — they’ve never met a big expansive government program they didn’t like. But when it comes to preventing a consortium of mega-corporations from squashing their customers — “Government regulation??? [gasp] oh dear.”

And now: Ted Stevens. He’s probably in the twilight of his senate career — he’s old enough to make John McCain look like a tireless 2-year-old running around the house — but he won’t fade away any time soon. He’s already segueing into his second career as a rapper. He’s channeled his ideas about Net Neutrality — he’s agin’ it — into a kickass techno-rap video.

Check it out: the badass 2 Live Ted-Z. Betcha can’t sit still for this one.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Devastating News for the Bush Crime Family

[sigh] The best laid plans…Why Lord why??? OK, you’re one of America’s most influential families. Where there’s money to be made, you’re on it. Trading with Nazi Germany in the 1930s, protecting global corporations against those pesky natives — there are fortunes to be made here, as long as you aren’t hung up on some wimpy concept like morals or a conscience.

One of the shrewdest moves for a wealthy family is to own huge amounts of land, in a lot of countries. This way, wherever there’s a new conquest — corporate, military, drug cartels, whatever — you’re right there in the thick of the action. You’re already in on the ground floor.

Being a prominent crime family, you always have an exit strategy, a Plan B, in case things go wrong. After all, your family has several grown-up (chronologically that is) sons who are constantly having business empires handed to them — and they invariably fuck everything up. Mass layoffs, millions of dollars lost, companies going out of business — yawn. Daddy, I broke that one too. Can I have a baseball team?

In the most blatant example, your family’s oldest son is currently occupying the ceremonial figurehead position of President of the United States. Now, this hypothetical scenario is highly unlikely, but there’s just the teensiest little chance that this son could possibly be charged with war crimes. If the unthinkable should happen, your whole family will need a nice safe refuge to flee to.

As always, you’re right on top of it. You’ve already gone and bought up a huge parcel of land in South America. And not just anywhere in South America. Nosireebob, you did your homework. Most of South America has fallen to the Communists, so you shopped very carefully.

In that giant cesspool of leftwing pestilence, there are still two shining beacons of freedom: Colombia and Paraguay. Colombia is a little too volatile. The drug trade is every important of course, but you don’t want your family members getting caught in the crossfire when these drug dealers are killing each other.

That leaves Paraguay. And what a foolproof choice that was. The same rightwing political party has been ruling with an iron grip for 61 years. It’s a paradise where millionaires can wheel and deal with each other and get even wealthier on the backs of millions of peasants and injuns. And those peons know their place; they stay out of trouble if they know what’s good for them. Everybody wins! Damn, this was a brilliant choice. Nothing could possibly —

WTF??? NOOO!!!!!!!

There was an election, and the riffraff have taken over. Who lost Paraguay??? Why did these people need an election anyway? They’ve been perfectly happy for 61 years, and now everything is ruined!

Will the Bush Crime Family still be able to seize Paraguay’s largest aquifer? Will they still get in on the ground floor of those lucrative mining conglomerates and drug cartels? Will they even still have a place to run and hide if the family fuckup gets put on trial???

(to be continued)

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Iraqi War? What War? President Who?

Republican strategists — with plenty of help from Democrats and the “media” — have done a brilliant job of pushing George W. Bush out of the public consciousness. He’s the biggest, most bloated pestilent putrid albatross in American history. But how do you turn this albatross into a campaign issue if it’s invisible and nobody ever mentions it?

Republicans — moving in lockstep as always — seem to have an unwritten law against ever mentioning or acknowledging George W. Bush, President of the United States. And it’s working. As Will Durst says, Bush has become “as forgotten as the stitching contractor for the ‘54 DeSoto Diplomat seat vendor.”

We can NOT let this happen.

John McCain should have single digit approval ratings in his campaign for president. He’s pretty much said he’ll be a continuation of the current albatross. Leave No Millionaire Behind, “let’s stay in Iraq for a hundred years,” “fetuses are sacred right up until the moment of birth” — we won’t even be able to tell when the current fuckup has left office and the new one has moved in.

To be fair, there are some differences: McCain is older and has more tantrums.

Eighty percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. And yet many of these same people might actually vote for the candidate who will lead us even further down that same track. WAKE!!! UP!!!

The Worst President Ever. The quagmire in Iraq. The two-tiered third-world economy we’re turning into. These issues need to be front and center, 24/7, from now until November. As the conservative rallying cry goes: Never Again!

It’s a shrewd move for the Republicans to turn George W. Bush into an invisible forgotten non-entity. And the corporate “media” is only too happy to cooperate; and besides, they’re more interested in the Britney Industrial Complex.

And that leaves the Democrats. Will they ever ever pull their thumbs out of their asses and do what they have to do?

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Doctors: Going the way of the Telephone Operator and the Milk Man

How quaint. Remember those halcyon days when people got their medical advice and treatment from a D-O-C-T-O-R? These were people whose entire profession was devoted to the practice of medicine. They couldn’t even set up their own practice until they had a Ph.D.

Well, savor the memory. At the rate things are going, doctors will soon be joining the hula hoop and the stage coach in those nostalgic "remember when..." articles.

More and more articles in medical journals — and the “research” behind them — are being written by the pharmaceutical companies. Doctors and medical researchers are allowing their names to be used, but the actual writing is done by the drug companies. Doctors, regulators and publishers have all been taking bribes and other “gifts” from Big Pharm, and in return they’re rolling over for them.

This shouldn’t be surprising. It’s similar to the change that’s already taken place with politicians. Face it — our senators and congressional representatives are pretty much just secretaries now, taking dictation from the CEOs and lobbyists who are actually writing the laws. Or you could say they’re prostitutes, bending and gyrating according to their johns’ instructions.

(Er, didn’t mean to insult either secretaries or prostitutes by comparing them to politicians.)

And now doctors. So when your doctor gives you medical advice or a prescription, will this be based on medical research conducted by scientists? Or will it come from the latest market research by GlaxoSmithKline?

The word “doctor” is totally ingrained in our everyday vocabulary. Think of all the common phrases that will need to evolve in order to keep up with the times. “Ask your doctor about…” — those ubiquitous TV ads will have to change that to “ask your pharmaceutical consultant about...”

That warning label on your medication will read “if symptoms persist, see your Merck sales rep immediately.” Practicing medicine without a license — that won’t matter any more. But practicing medicine without an MBA, that’ll get you in some big big trouble.

This post was brought to you by MerckPfizerRocheBayerJohnson&Johnson. (Yes we’ve all merged; I thought you knew.)

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

California Government Tells Millions of Residents: "Fuck You!"

In California everything revolves around the state's agribusiness lobby. Whenever they yell "Jump!" their government prostitutes yell back "How high Sir?" And right now these skanks are getting ready to jump again.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is planning a massive aerial pesticide-spraying campaign this summer. Agribusiness is worried about the light brown apple moth. "Jump!"

Last fall there was a more "limited" spray campaign: Helicopters inundated Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties with a chemical mist. 487 people reported various medical symptoms after the spraying was done. State officials insisted that there was no clear link between the pesticide-spraying and people's breathing problems.

And now a bigger and better spray campaign is being planned for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to the health hazards, a lot of local officials are worried about economic devastation. The entire 9-county Bay Area is dependent upon tourism. How many vacationers will want to go there if every leaf and blade of grass has been (or is about to be) coated with poison?

The local real estate industry is also threatened. Sellers will have to warn potential buyers about the looming probability (and/or the after-effects) of being blanketed with pesticides. Failure to disclose this information would result in an expensive lawsuit.

And — not that it matters a flying fuck to the Powers That Be — organic farmers would lose their certification (hence their livelihoods) if their crops were sprayed with pesticides.

My only personal experience with this situation was in Sonoma County, CA. (I left California in 2004.) During the summer of 2001, the wine industry — Sonoma County's 800-pound gorilla — was threatened by the glassy-winged sharpshooter. If one was found, there would be spraying; no ifs ands or buts. Back yards, open windows, children, people with respiratory problems, pets — all fair game.

Fortunately, none were found; but it was a pretty tense summer.

I don't know the details of other insect pests, but the grape growers' farming practices attract and exacerbate pests. I assume that's true of modern agriculture in general.

Having a monoculture (thousands of perfectly lucrative orchards and vegetable fields were chopped down and plowed over and replaced by vineyards) makes insect pests much more likely. And there were other non-lethal methods the grape growers could have used, but they were either too "unsightly" (coating the grape vines with a harmless ash that would make them unattractive to insects) or they might cause a .01% profit reduction (leaving a few trees or shrubs around the periphery of the vineyard instead of planting grapes on every square inch).

Also, the nursery industry (another 800-pound gorilla) was partly responsible for this. The glassy winged sharpshooter is native to southern California; the species comes north by being imported on plants shipped and sold by nurseries. The nursery industry could prevent insect pests from being exported to other regions, but that would be too much effort and/or a .01% profit reduction.

This should be an interesting summer for the Bay Area. Here are some other links to the California spray controversy.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Wonders of Modern Medicine

What ever did people do back in those dark ages before the pharmaceutical industry saved us?

Now, thank God, there's a cure for everything.

cross-posted at Bring It On!


Friday, April 11, 2008

Bulletin: Terrorist Plot to Cripple American Agriculture

It had to happen. They've already flown airliners into highrises and tried to poison the population with anthrax. And now this: Some gang of terrorist wackos is planning to spread foot and mouth disease throughout America.

This disease does not affect humans but it's highly contagious to animals. The smallest outbreak would kill tens of millions of farm animals. America's agriculture would be devastated overnight by this attack.

Here are a few sketchy details of this sick twisted scheme.

Not much is known about this group's leader, but a few photos of him are available here, here and here. If you know anything about this deranged nutjob or his whereabouts, please contact authorities immediately.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thank God for Colombia

With growing horror, we’re seeing most of South America move to the left. Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador are the most blatant examples. But even such former rightwing stalwarts as Argentina and Chile are slowly moving away from America’s ideals.

One would think that with all we've done for South America, they'd be more grateful to us. For decades we've hand-picked most of their leaders and pretty much made all of their decisions for them. These countries needed us to nurture them through their infancy and adolescence. Now apparently they don’t need us any more…

But like an oasis in the desert, one country stands head and shoulders above the rest, exemplifying everything America stands for: Colombia.

Most of the continent is being seduced by dangerous ideas that are abhorrent to red-blooded Americans: coddling labor unions, and redistributing the aristocracy’s hard-earned wealth to those lowly peasants.

But not Colombia. Nosireebob! The Colombian government, knowing that labor unions have ruined the economy of civilized nations, has put its foot down. And hard. Liberals will probably whimper and wring their hands, but this problem needs to be nipped in the bud.

Colombia will NOT tolerate labor unions. Even joining a union, or telling somebody you're in favor of them, is a life-risking move. [beams with pride] Ah, a country after our own hearts. If only the American government had been this firm ninety years ago when our own laborers started pulling their little shenanigans…

If there's ever a conflict between Colombia and those commies in Venezuela, America will need to get involved and help out any way we can. At last, we have a friend, and we will do whatever it takes to help our friend.

There's just one little problem that remains, but I’m sure we can work this out: those damn coca leaves. They're ubiquitous throughout the entire country. How many times do we need to explain it to these people? Millions of wealthy Americans are addicted to a byproduct of their coca leaves; and Colombia needs to fix this problem by getting rid of all those coca plants. Come on, what's the holdup?

I know, I know, something about coca leaves being the livelihood of millions of dirt-poor farmers, and chewing coca leaves being a social ritual that goes back thousands of years… [yawn]…WhatEVer! Anyway, as soon as this little problem gets ironed out, America and Colombia will be best friends. It'll be us against the world.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Boycott The Olympics?

It’s a tough call. Should we boycott the Olympics in Beijing this summer? This column explores both sides; the pros and cons of boycotting the Olympics. And this column is in favor of a boycott.

A boycott would ruin everything for the athletes who’ve spent their lives training for this event. Why should they be derailed by a political situation that they didn’t contribute to?

On the other hand, China is one of the world’s worst police states. Since the mid twentieth century they’ve slaughtered millions of their citizens and wrecked the lives of hundreds of millions more. Why should they be granted the honor of hosting the 2008 Olympics?

To steal a phrase from one of my fellow bloggers: What say you?

cross-posted at Bring It On!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rocky Balboa: Survivor of a Brutal Life!

I saw Rocky when it came out, a long time ago. I vaguely remembered the parts about his struggling life in South Phillie — part-time loan shark, hard-working boxer who finally gets his big break after a lot of hard training, etc.

But this recent news item reminded me of just how brutal Rocky’s life really was. How could I forget? How did he ever make it out alive??

First there was the rough and tumble of the high school debating team and the student council — and yet he came out unscathed. And like they say, nothing separates the tough guys from the pussies like a few sets of tennis at the country club.

He survived this ordeal, only to be thrust into the hellfire of the political science department at Wellesley. Indestructible! What didn’t destroy him only made him stronger.

Well, you know the rest of his tortured life. The bare-knuckle brawling at Yale Law School, the gut-wrenching brutality of political schmoozing, making partner in a major law firm, sitting on the Board of Directors at Wal-Mart — Brutal!

Folks, this is True Grit. Presidential timber. Yo, Adrian.

cross-posted at Bring It On!


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney Have Resigned!!!

Dick Cheney has issued a statement:

"My administration has been a scam from the beginning. It's nothing but a trainwreck. The Iraqi invasion was based on lies. My tax cuts for the rich have crippled the treasury. I've undone forty years worth of labor and environmental protections. My insane foreign policy has turned the entire world against us.

"America will again be a great country in the future, but this will not be possible as long as I'm occupying the White House and fucking everything up.

"I can no longer live with myself. My sockpuppet and myself have been taken to an undisclosed location. We've made a suicide pact. Do not try to stop us. For the first time in our wretched lives, we're going to do the right thing."

Happy April Fools Day.