As in a tasty mix of talk

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Econocides Rise as Republicans Dicker for Power

Yesterday in Wilmington, California, a man and wife who both had lost their jobs at Kaiser Permanente enacted a suicide pact, first killing their five children, including two sets of twins. Meanwhile, in our nation’s capitol, Republicans dickered over provisions of President Obama’s economic stimulus proposal. Will their obstructionism raise the likelihood of more “econocides” in the future?

I’m not sure who coined the term “econocide,” which refers to a suicide that is the direct result of economic loss, but there is no doubt that this tragedy is on the rise. Unlike the crash of 1929, which caused some bankers to jump from their skyscraper windows, today’s economy is causing econocides among everyday, desperate citizens. This past fall, in Porter Ranch, California, a man who had lost his job, house and savings committed a similar family murder and suicide; and such tragedies have unfolded in other states as well. Even the fat cats are vulnerable… so far there have been five (that we know of) top financial executives who have committed econocide.

Job loss has always been a trigger for despair, especially among men who define themselves by their breadwinning ability. As far back as March, 2008, the Labor Department reported the jobless rate — also called the “not employed rate”— at 13.1 percent for men in the prime age group. Only once during a post-World War II recession did the rate ever get that high. It hit 13.3 percent in June 1982, the 12th month of the brutal 1981-82 recession. The jobless rate for January, 2009 is not yet available but it is sure to be higher, especially considering that, in December, 2008 alone, U.S. employers took 2,275 mass layoff actions, involving 226,117 workers.

If you count yourself among those who are annoyed by panhandlers on freeway off-ramps holding “Help Me, I’m Homeless” signs, you may wish to meditate when you drive… because homeless statistics also are skyrocketing. Accurate, current statistics are sandwiched within a proliferation of websites dedicated to helping the homeless survive… but there are tens of millions, including an unknown number of American children, whose only “home” is a cardboard box.

Clearly, now is not the time for Republicans to put Obama in his political place by fabricating mock arguments over the efficacy of his stimulus plan. Republicans raised no objections when Bush converted an economic surplus into the biggest deficit in American history by profligate spending on an ill-advised preemptive war. It didn’t bother them to pay government-contracted Blackwater operatives more per day than our soldiers earned in a month. So it shouldn’t offend them when indigent teenagers receive free condoms to help prevent disease and avoid unwanted pregnancies that they, and our welfare system, cannot afford.

Republicans were defeated in the recent election because they demonstrated an appalling lack of responsibility for the economic crisis their policies largely created. Now they are demonstrating an equally dim view of their own best interests. Instead of dickering to regain face and reassure themselves that they can strut if they feel like it (although in their passion to claim undeserved power even walking might be difficult for them), what they should do is reach across the aisle in a sincere, bi-partisan effort to resolve our economic crisis.

Or, maybe Republicans would rather coin a new term for political suicide… any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's Plot to Seduce the Voting Poor

By claiming that Obama is plotting to commandeer the lifelong loyalty of the poor by giving them a tax break, Rush Limbaugh makes one wonder: Is he high on OxyContin again? This is not a rhetorical question. Limbaugh’s paranoid commentary on the subject has been so inflated, even for a gasbag like him, that he might have sucked it from a helium balloon.

What makes Rush think that Obama would use the Bush/Rove strategy of buying votes with tax breaks? The poor are not as easily bought as the rich. The poor have scruples.

Rush has forgotten that the poor, especially those with religious convictions, have helped elect Republican candidates against all logic, since Republican agendas seldom benefit them. Using racist scare tactics masquerading as morals, GOP strategists have manipulated the poor into voting Republican for 20 years or more. But the poor, without the benefit of Ivy League educations or undeserved tax breaks, managed to wise up to this tactic during the last election cycle. They rejected the Obama-as-Muslim-Bogeyman inferences and helped elect him. Even the religious right lent its partial support to Obama.

The lesson to be learned from this is that the poor will not snuggle up in the pocket of any political party unless they trust its ethics. If Rush and the Republican leaders he caricaturizes don’t understand this, they have no one but themselves to blame when the poor redirect their political allegiance.

But perhaps they do understand it… and that is why they are so nervous. The Bush Administration arguably has been the most immoral in American history. It lied about the reasons for invading Iraq… and the sons and daughters of the poor died in disproportionate numbers fighting on Iraqi soil, defending an agenda that to this day remains unclear. Like everyone else, the poor watched as the Republican Administration approved torture, spied on its own citizens, politicized the justice system, looked the other way while bloated bodies floated over rooftops in New Orleans, and… gave undeserved tax breaks to the richest of the rich.

Now Republicans face a paradox: the poor class in America, whose shifting allegiance they so fear, has doubled or even tripled in size as a direct result of the GOP’s own unfair policies. The poor represent a formidable voting block, now that there are so many of us.

Maybe, as Obama repeatedly stated during his election campaign, he wants to give tax breaks to the poor because they… we… deserve them. Maybe tax breaks for the poor are fair and honorable.

Yeah, that’s it… Obama is plotting to seduce the poor with fair and honorable tax policies.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

VP Will Have Lips Sewn Shut to Prevent Gaffes

Vice President Joe Biden, the White House announces, has agreed to consider an elective surgery that will silence his big, gaffe-mill mouth by sewing shut his lips.

House Democrats and Republicans, as well as a substantial Senate majority, agree that this is the best treatment option for Biden’s post-campaign tour-ette syndrome of kooky comments. “If Sarah Palin had made comparable remarks she would have been satirized on Saturday Night Alive, (sic)” Pat Buchannan is rumored to have said. SNL writers declined to confirm that tonight’s program will make hay from the VP’s fast-growing field of eyebrow-raisers, but neither did they deny it.

The gaffe which led to the unusual treatment option occurred when Biden, while swearing in a crowd of White House staffers, quipped that, "my memory is not as good as Justice Roberts" (who flubbed the words to the oath of office during Tuesday’s inauguration). That quip, and the evil-eye stare it elicited from President Obama, traveled at the speed of light to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where it was mercilessly rewound and repeated over canned laughter. The gaffe also made an appearance on YouTube, although there is no indication it will match the hits earned by the “Leave her alone” performance of Brittany Spears’ crybaby fan last year.

White House insiders claim that little Sasha is purported to have asked, “Daddy, why does that guy with the big white teeth keep saying all those silly things?” She added that, “everybody in third grade says he’s trivializing his position.”

The President, who has publicly stated that he seeks opinions from a variety of sources, was then drawn aside by First Lady Michelle, whose remarks on the subject were emphatic but not clearly heard. Apparently, the two then consulted with the President’s mother-in-law Marian Robinson, who, in light of the country’s economic woes, offered to perform the procedure using her own sewing kit. The President, however, seeking to avoid any appearance of impropriety, visited the AMA website to find an appropriate specialist, which he then text-messaged to Biden. At no time during this process did the President, or Sasha, or Michelle, or Marian or Malia have any contact whatsoever with disgraced Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevish, although the Governor has threatened to reveal details of the medical appointment at his next regularly scheduled press conference.

Members of the Press Corps did not ask Vice-President Biden to comment on the unusual procedure, but he offered that, “It seems like the right solution for now, although if I had known that Michelle would be such a poor sport about a few harmless remarks I wouldn’t have spent $20,000 on my veneers.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pee-Wee's Playhouse: The Secret word Is "Former"

The transparent Obama Presidency unfolding before us, when compared to the Wagnerian eight years of the former Bush Presidency, appears to be almost as much fun, and certainly as hopeful, as the now defunct kids’ TV program, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

Although the program was ostensibly for kids, I was not the only adult who enjoyed watching it… as evidenced by loud screams throughout Saturday whenever my friends or I used the current “Secret Word.” Remember?

At the beginning of each show, viewers were told the day's "Secret Word" and were instructed to "scream real loud" every time a character on the show said it. The word was always used continuously throughout the episode, and Pee-wee always said it right before he got onto his scooter at the end of the show.

Hey kids… we have a new Secret Word: “former.”

President Obama prefaced the Presidential Orders he signed yesterday by remarking that his administration valued transparency, and would endeavor to leave the light on when it came to freedom of information. Layered between closing Gitmo and the Cabinet pay-raise freeze, he addressed the issue of the Presidential Records Act, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that administers it. Claiming (and I’m paraphrasing, because I can’t find the actual text of his remarks online) that just because an administration could legally withhold information doesn’t mean that it should, he defined the manner in which Presidential records… of the incumbent and “former” President… would be made available.

In Pee-wee’s Playouse, everyone screamed “former.”

Although the actual text of this Day-One proclamation is so densely worded in legalese as to be almost indecipherable, when combined with President Obama’s remarks it seems to indicate that Dubyah’s presidential records will be more accessible now than during his administration. Not that this is a wormhole through which prosecution may be introduced. If, for instance, the United Nations requested information it could use to strengthen a war crimes case, under Section 5, paragraph c, the proclamation states: “This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”

However, for historians and others who seek greater understanding of the arcane inner workings of the Bush administration, this new Executive Order redefining the Presidential Records Act could be a beacon of enlightening information.

Of course, those who make use of it may also find that, in the day-to-day record of his former Presidency, Dubyah conducted himself in much the same manner as Pee-wee sitting in the arms of Chairry for a hug.

I said “former.” Scream real loud, everybody!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stand in Astonished History

Today, overcome with pride and a hope that no disparagement can tarnish, I offer this poem to you.

Stand in Astonished History

Stand together
in this time that we
have created, more
sacred than historic
for today we all
are better angels
transforming ourselves
and this nation we are free
to cherish once again.

Today we have
no color other than
the golden glow of those
who cross a glorious
threshold, who leave
downtrodden hopes behind
by realizing hope
is not a feast to hoard
but a single world we share.

This is our moment
to begin again, redefining
the ends that move us
forward, that light our
dreams and break
our last and darkest chains.
Today we honor
Barack Obama and ourselves
immortal in astonished history.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Last Stop on Bush's Magical History Tour

As departing President George W. Bush rides out his Magical History Tour with a farewell speech, onlookers are left with one more emotion to add to the horror, outrage, disbelief and despair that his administration has engendered: boredom.

After eight years of acclimatization to Bush’s magical thinking, in which democracy is a condiment to spread over other nations like butter on a slice of Wonder bread, and everything in our wide, wonderful world can be reduced to absolute categories of good or evil, most of us are beyond hearing, believing or caring about anything that rolls off the well-trod footpath of Bush’s tongue. In the interest, though, of protesting one last time that the emperor is not wearing new clothes no matter how sincerely he believes he is, let us note the most flagrant of W’s delusions.

The Bush Doctrine has not made our world a safer place. Afghanistan is hardly the young democracy that now encourages girls to attend school… unless throwing acid in their faces as they walk to class can be considered encouragement. Nor is Iraq the shining beacon of Arab Democracy and friend of the U. S. that will revolutionize the Middle East. Our friends don’t throw shoes at our President when he is making a speech… notwithstanding that many of us in the homeland can understand the impulse. And as for Bush’s pat, farewell claim that, “Democracies do not elect terrorists…” what, exactly, did Palestinians do when they used their first Democratic election to put Hamas in power? The only thing we can say with certainty about Bush's Adventures in TerrorTown is that 100,000 Iraquis and 4,200-plus Americans died in them, while Haliburton and Blackwater grew richer.

Which leads to a Bushism that is only partially delusional: mostly it’s self-serving hypocrisy. When he said in his farewell address, as if blowing a kiss to a lover he was dumping, that “America must maintain our moral clarity,” sensitive JPL instruments registered a sustained rumble as jaws dropped across America. What right does the leader of an administration that gave us Abu Graib, Gitmo and the Katrina fiasco have to utter the words “moral clarity,” much less wave them like a tour-bus banner? Whatever America did or didn’t demonstrate to the world in the past eight years, moral clarity is the furthest thing from it.

Before climbing back onto his history bus, Bush tossed us a final, magical thought: We may not agree with his decisions, but we must at least give him credit for making the hard ones. I won't be the only or last one to point out that, if the decisions made were very, very bad... like, launching a preemptive war over weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist... no credit is due.

Throughout his presidency, Bush has whined that the work of governing, winning wars and rescuing hurricane victims is “hard.” Yes. And it is especially “hard” when the administration responsible for doing the work is unqualified to do it, as it would be hard for a 65-year-old ex cheerleader to lead today's Lakers to victory with a back-flip exposing her size XL thong. What’s the connection? None. If George Bush can say goodbye to America with a string of non sequiturs, I can plant one in my blog.

As Bush’s Magical History Tour recedes into the distance, many of us believe he has proven that radical conservatism doesn’t work. Hopefully we also will realize that collective national denial, just like individual personal denial, offers the briefest of comfort before it collapses in failure.

Monday, January 12, 2009

McCain Inaugural 2009

By Guest Blogger Ronald P. Wolff

I think my friendly American readers will enjoy this short story...

John McCain’s “Inaugural Address”
My friendly Americans:

First let me clear up the mystery surrounding my failure to appear on the Capitol steps at noon yesterday. I overslept. I’m sorry. I screwed up.

My administration is grateful to Fox News and Hannity and Combs for permitting me to apologize to the American people and give my inaugural address on this show. As a means of expressing my deepest appreciation, I will answer some questions from the press immediately following my speech. I’m sorry Alan Combs could not join us on this austere occasion. For some strange reason he had three flat tires this morning, so he wasn’t able to make it in to the studio. However, I’m certain that my good friend Sean Hannity will do an excellent job of posing questions that are fair and balanced.

First, let me address the war on terror. Terrorists are not my friends. Terrorists are my enemies. However, we should not torture them; we should just shoot them. Or, maybe we should let the Iraqis shoot them – the Iraqi terrorists, I mean. What I mean is, the good Iraqis should shoot the bad Iraqis. They are bad people. Well, the bad Iraqis are bad people; the good Iraqis are good people. You know what I mean.

Fortunately, the surge worked, and their days are numbered. I mean, the days of the bad Iraqis are numbered. Therefore, my first international trip as your President, and as your friend, will be to Iraq. Now, for security reasons, I can’t tell you when I’m going, but the Secret Service assures me I’ll be safe if I don’t announce my arrival in advance and don’t stay more than a few hours. But I feel it is my duty, as a former prisoner of war myself, to visit the country we have liberated.

My second international trip will be to Ethiopia. I am aware that new Presidents of the United States normally visit our international friends first. My advisors recommended that I go to England. But I’m a maverick, and I think Ethiopia would be an exciting place to visit. I understand that it’s possible to Gogle things like that and find out where they are. So that’s what I plan to do, as soon as I learn how to Gogle something on my new computer, courtesy of you, my friends, the American people.

My third international trip will not be to France. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to France. Even if I really wanted to go, which I don’t, communication with their leaders would be difficult, because nobody in my Cabinet speaks French. Some of the residences Cindy and I own have French doors, and that will have to be enough. I don’t think I’ll be visiting Spain anytime soon either. There is no point in trying to talk to anyone who enjoys that much bull.

Now, I know that many of my fellow Americans are concerned about the economy. They say that failures of government oversight created an environment that unscrupulous business people were bound to take advantage of. Nonsense! Our American free market is the envy of the world. It will come back stronger than ever before. We have nothing to fear but regulation itself!

My friends, despite a few soft spots in the financial, manufacturing, real estate, automotive, pharmaceuticals, leisure and travel, technology, health care, and retail sectors, our economy is basically sound. We hear about an employment rate that may rise to as much as 9 or even 10%. Let’s not forget that an unemployment rate of 10% means that 90% of our able-bodied men and women have jobs! Things are really not as bad as they seem! But if things do get bad, I have a plan – Cindy and I will donate one of our homes to the government, and we’ll auction it off to the highest bidder. That should put a dent in the deficit and ensure the blessings of liberty for our posterity that our ancestors promised.

My friends, I promise you a strong defense for this country. Protection of American lives is Job #1 for any American President. George W. Bush was President for 2,922 days, and we were attacked on our own soil on only one of these days, which is less than one tenth of one percent. I intend to do at least this good, or better.

To preserve our freedom, we need strong defense contractors. One of my predecessors, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned that the military industry was complex, and indeed it is. But I know where the hatchets are buried at the Pentagon. I buried some of them myself.

That reminds me -- I’m sorry that Vice President Sarah Palin couldn’t be here to share this opportunity with us, my friends and me. Or my friends and I. I’m not sure which. I guess I’ll have to hire a good speech writer. Anyway, she is out helping our economy by shopping for the new clothes she will need when she visits Russia next month. She’ll be the first Vice President in history to travel internationally using a dog sled, dressed in a suitably fashionable fur coat.

Finally, my fellow Americans, I just want to tell you that today – well, actually yesterday, but you know what I mean – that the torch is being passed to a friendlier generation of Americans, tempered by legalized torture, disciplined by lobbyists. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has requested that I include in this carefully vetted speech the following admonition: Ask not for discounts from your friendly local business owner; ask what you can do to make his business prosper, because what’s good for business is good for the Country! May God be with you.

If you like Ron's brand of humor, you might also like to purchase his satiric novel, "Operation Capitol Hill."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Choosing Sides

"Choosing Sides" is a poem in progress, dedicated to all mothers but especially Laurie, Nikki and Stacy:

Young on the side of right
March into war and die, while
Young on the other side
Of right, also march and die;
Honor bound
To spill their unlived lives
On the dumb, indecent ground.

So Mothers on the edge of madness
Wait for their young, who die;
And Fathers wait for Justice,
As bitter days go by, while the cup of
War is stirred, tasting sadder than
Hate on both sides, and justice dies
In lands where children lie.

God sits by without choosing
A side to say is right.
Allah doesn’t lead in battle, or
Shine a healing light; for inside
God’s soul, we are dying,
Poisoned by our hate,
One Agony over two side’s fate

The right side never stops, for
Some of them would die; so the other
Right never stops, for some of them
Would die. So all, on every side

Stop the fight.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Argument with Gala Dali

The freaks all say you’re just
What we must become;
Tall, enclosed within
The absolute perfection
Of never being wrong,
Lovely aristocrat
Who it’s rumored once won
An argument
By plucking a spider from
Its busy life and
Eating it, eight legs
Still wiggling, and you with
Utter aplomb.

I take issue with your tyranny
Over feeling, your inability
To visit the condition of
Humility, not even in
The face of someone else’s gift for
Pure creation. I guess even
Dali needs someone to hold
His hand, reward him for
Insanity, and there you are,
A spectre in your African beads,
Stolen icons from other
People’s lives and feelings,
Your own heart more polished
Than an amethyst.

You are the constant foil for
Melting clocks and clouds
That drift their edges into
Eternity, yet the breast you bare
For Dali’s brush doesn’t
Suckle, is not the bringer of joy
To anyone’s tender hunger. Still,
You think your life is made
By attachment to the sides
Of Dali’s ship to nowhere,
While the brilliance of his fame
Fades lighter and lighter. Gala:

I would rather have known the spider.

Happy 2009 to all the beautiful, bright-eyed spiders of our world, and to each and every one of us as we spin our webs and pursue our dreams. May all of yours be realized in the coming year. And may they intersect with mine.