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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Conservikaze

In the waning days of World War II, the once mighty forces of Imperial Japan were facing defeat in detail.

It was a situation nearly inconceivable only a few short years before.

The military commanders of Japan, xenophobic Bushido warriors who saw themselves as the spiritual descendants of the fabled Samurai, believed that they were favored by the ancient gods of their religion and as such felt morally superior and exceptional in every regard.  So they confidently and deliberately started a war knowing they were outgunned and short on resources but certain of their victory. They began as a formidable force and they scored solid wins early on, but not in the later critical battles that would ultimately decide the conflict. After a series of rapid victories, Japan’s warriors suffered one bitter setback after another.  It took a while and the fighting grew ever more fierce and brutal, but after Midway the ultimate end of the campaign was never really in doubt – and yet the most extreme elements in Japan’s military government continued to soldier on in a fervent state of denial, futilely praying that some miracle would reverse their fading fortunes. 

Until finally, bloodied and ragged, even the extremists knew that they could not win.

In a sane and rational world they would have cut their losses and stopped fighting then (in a truly sane and rational world, they would have found a way to resolve their problems without going to war in the first place, but I digress). But, of course, we don’t live in a rational world and so the fighting raged on long after the end was no longer in doubt. 

Knowing that they could not win, knowing what was at stake, knowing that millions of lives were hanging in the balance, the extremists choose instead to sacrifice entire populations.

As fate rushed inexorably toward them, they became increasingly desperate.

And desperate men choose desperate solutions.

These desperate men chose suicide.

Not just the small suicide of seppuku and of the kamikaze, but suicide on a grand scale.

They chose to end their way of life.

It was a civilization that had once, long ago, been admirable in it’s own unique way, steeped in honor and duty and selfless obligation enshrined in ancient tradition.  But recently that way of life had been perverted by extremists and had become morally diseased and brutally bankrupt and stripped of all the ideals that had once made it great.

When such a philosophy decays to such a degree it is nearly impossible to reverse course, human nature being what it is, and mass suicide then almost always becomes an attractive option to the extremists.

When it became obvious that they could not win, the extremists of the Rising Sun chose to kill their entire civilization rather than surrender to the inevitable, rather than make an honest peace and seek compromise with their enemies. When those nuclear fireballs blossomed above Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they signaled not just the end of the war, but the end of the warrior.

It was the end of a religious and political philosophy. 

It was the end of a way of life.

And it was the end of extremists who simply could not and would not meet others halfway.

History is replete with such examples big and small.

Always the extremists are willing to commit suicide rather than admit their defeat, rather than compromise.

“Does anyone remember Charlie Sheen when he was kind of going crazy last year? He was going around, jumping around saying ‘winning, winning, we’re winning.’ Well I kind of feel like that. We are winning. And I’m not on drugs but we’re winning, I think we really are.”

That was the Republican from Kentucky, Rand Paul, comparing conservatives to a deluded substance abuser before the Liberty Political Action Conference last Thursday night.

We’re winning, I think we really are. We’re like Charlie Sheen! Winning!

Meanwhile Armageddon falls even now from the sky, but, yeah, we’re winning.

We are a week from yet another self-inflicted disaster, from suicide writ large – and Rand Paul, like a drug-addled sociopath, is convinced that his extremism is winning.

That America is somehow winning.

“I think we’re also winning in regards to cutting spending. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that the sequester is not actually really cutting spending but it is cutting the rate of growth of spending. I didn’t vote for it because I didn’t think it was enough, but now I’m trying to hold firm to it so we don’t break the sequester and actually spend more than the sequester.”

Sequestration is a winning strategy about the same way as the Japanese sending the Battleship Yamato, alone and unprotected, low on fuel and ammunition, on a one way suicide mission to Okinawa was a winning strategy.  Those who sent the battleship knew that she would not survive, they knew that the battle was lost before it even began, but they told those sailors that their sacrifice would change history and then they sent the ship anyway.  Yamato was destroyed out of hand and went down with most of her crew still bizarrely convinced that they could turn the tide of an already lost war. 

Extremists are always willing to sacrifice their loyal followers, and everybody else, in pursuit of their dogmatic idealism.

I think we’re winning, say the extremists, despite the fact that it’s obvious they are not.

And their fanatical minions charge into battle and commit suicide on command.

Why?

“I think if we approach these issues with passion and zeal…the passion and zeal to defend basic justice and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, I think we will be the winning party.”

Because they have passion and a zeal to win. Because their hearts are pure. Because they die in the service of right and light. God loves them best.  Blah blah blah, it’s always the same martial drumbeat. The same willingness of their leaders to suicide instead of compromise.

As if the opposition wasn’t just as passionate in their beliefs, wasn’t filled with just as much zeal and just as convinced of their own righteousness.

Passion and zeal, not reason, no compromise, idealism over the greater good. It’s all or nothing as they drive inevitably toward self immolation.

Paul says, “I think we will be the winning party.” 

Party.

And that tells you all that you need to know.

Paul and his fellows are perfectly willing to burn down the country for their idealism, if they can’t have it, no one will.

These are extremists, the political equivalent of bushido warriors. They have seized control of the GOP and the once admirable conservative philosophy of small government and personal freedom, and perverted it into a fanatical xenophobic hatred of any government at all. 

They have replaced reason and compromise with unblinking red-eyed zealotry.

House Republicans have now voted forty-two times to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Forty-two times.

And last Friday, by a vote of 230-189, the conservative majority in the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution that would finance the federal government through December 15, but remove all funding for the ACA.

The bill has no chance in the Senate.

The bill has no chance of passing the president’s desk.

House Republicans cannot win no matter how many kamikaze attacks they launch – and yet they continue to throw themselves upon their swords and threaten to kill us all in some quixotic gesture of defiant seppuku. 

Next the Senate, if they bring the bill to the floor at all, will strip out the provisions defunding the ACA and then send the resolution back to the House.  They have less than a week to reach a compromise and if history is any guide, they won’t.

If no deal is struck, the government will shut down on October 1st.

And even if a deal is reached on the continuing resolution, the federal government will hit its borrowing limit, the so-called debt ceiling, a few weeks later. 

The debt ceiling must be raised, there are no other options.  This is not a limit on future spending, but a payment for money Congress – including conservatives members of the House – have already spent.

Republicans, or more correctly the fanatical extremists who hold them hostage, declare that the ACA must be repealed or they will shut down the government and default on the nation’s debt. 

This is the equivalent of killing yourself to keep from losing.

Defaulting on the national debt will do more long term damage to the United States than all of the terrorist attacks we have ever faced, combined.

And yet, this is exactly what Republicans are threatening us with.

The last time republicans threatened to default on our debts, it cost the nation nearly $19 billion, put millions out of work, and resulted in a national credit downgrade. This time it will be far worse. And that is only the result of the threat, not its actual implementation.

Republicans justify this terroristic extremism by saying that we must reduce government spending, or more precisely the national debt.

And yet, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office the estimated budget impact of the ACA is a positive.

When estimates are compared on a year-by-year basis, CBO [Congressional Budget Office] and JCT’s [Joint Committee on Taxation] estimate of the net budgetary impact of the ACA’s insurance coverage provisions has changed little since February 2013 and, indeed, has changed little since the legislation was being considered in March 2010. In March 2010, CBO and JCT projected that the provisions of the ACA related to health insurance coverage would cost the federal government $759 billion during fiscal years 2014 through 2019 (which was the last year in the 10-year budget window being used at that time). The newest projections indicate that those provisions will cost $710 billion over that same period. 

Those amounts do not reflect the total budgetary impact of the ACA. That legislation includes many other provisions that, on net, will reduce budget deficits. Taking the coverage provisions and other provisions together, CBO and JCT have estimated that the ACA will reduce deficits over the next 10 years and in the subsequent decade.

That’s correct, a combined committee – both democrat and republican – continuously working since the ACA’s passage into law, having examined the law in detail, having continuously analyzed the ongoing implementation of the law, and having access to the best economic figures available and the best subject matter expertise in the nation, continue to the report that the ACA will in fact reduce overall government spending over the next twenty years

The ACA will reduce government spending and will provide access to healthcare for more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

Conservative extremists know this, and yet still threaten us with suicide if they don’t get their way.

This isn’t about reducing the debt. By Rand Paul’s own admission, it’s about winning – in the Charlie Sheen fashion. QED.

If the continuing resolution is not passed, the government will shut down.

If the debt ceiling is not increased when the bill comes due, the federal government will default on its debts.

House Republicans, held hostage by a handful of Tea Party extremists in thrall to a small minority of libertarian fanatics, have loudly declared that they are perfectly willing to destroy the good faith and credit of the United States of America in utter defiance of the Constitution they claim to revere so very much, solely in order to defund the ACA.

Knowing that they can not win, they are fully willing to commit suicide on a grand scale.

If only they had put one fortieth the effort, one fortieth the passion and the zeal, into actual healthcare reform, into immigration reform, into election reform, into finding solutions to gun violence, into job creation, into creating an actual budget that actually decreased government spending and the national debt in a reasonable and sustainable and logical manner.

But they can not. 

Instead they have chosen the illusion of winning.

Like those battle maddened Imperial Japanese commanders, they are no longer capable of reason.

House Republicans are no longer “the loyal opposition,” they exist only to seek revenge for the shame of their party’s loss to Barack Obama. Their uncompromising extremism drives them forward oblivious to all else, fixed on a single unobtainable goal that they will never reach even as their civilization crumbles unnoticed around them. Their unreasoning rage and boiling arrogance blinds them to the very people who they are supposed to be representing and they leave us all sitting out in the open, unprotected, while death falls from the sky.

Americans as a nation had a clear opportunity to end Obamacare themselves.

Last November they could have elected a president who promised to repeal the ACA by executive fiat on his first day in office.  Instead they overwhelmingly reelected Barack Obama. The message to congress, to conservatives, and most especially to the Tea Party extremists, was clear and unequivocal: their philosophy was soundly rejected by the people and the country they claim to represent.

And yet, the extremists refuse to admit their defeat.

They are pathologically incapable of it, they are pathologically incapable of reason and compromise.

Which is, of course, the very nature of extremism.

Always there are extremists who know that they are on the wrong side of history, they know it, and yet instead of compromise and reason they inevitably choose to ride the last bomb down into oblivion.

This really isn’t about the Affordable Healthcare Act.

It’s about denial.

It’s about arrogance.

It’s about burning obsession

It’s about all consuming hatred.

It is about saving face.

It’s about willful pride.

For these men, it isn’t about winning – because they have already lost.

Rather than admit defeat, these extremes are willing to sacrifice the rest of us upon the altar of their own vainglory.

This isn’t about winning, it is about not having to admit defeat.

When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination…
                     - TokkĊtai Pilot’s Manual (Kamikaze), Imperial Japan, 1944

 

 


Postscript:  After the bombs fell, the fanatics who had led Imperial Japan into a pointless conflict were gone forever. 

They willingly destroyed themselves and their own followers.

And their way of life was erased from the flow of history.

Interestingly enough, the civilization that emerged from the ruins of their corrupt philosophy was sane and reasonable and willing to coexist with its neighbors in peace. 

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. 

The suicidal conservikazi in Congress should take note – but they probably won’t.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wright Answers The Mail, Accidentally Triggers Armageddon.

 

Update:  I’m getting mail on this piece.  Some folks feel like I’m mocking all Christians.  Not so. Allow me to clarify: I’m not lumping all Christians together. Nowhere in the text do I say “all Christians.” No where. In fact, if you actually read the post you’ll see that I’m making fun of two people in particular, three or maybe four if you stretch it.  There’s a reference to 22 million Americans with possibly similar views.  There are 265 million self identified Christians in America or about 83% of the total population.  22 million is 1/12 of the total Christian population. 2 people is ~.00000009% of 1/12th of the total Christian population of America – e.g. hardly “all” Christians.  I’m not Anti-Christian any more than I’m anti-Muslim or Anti-Semitic or Anti-any-other-religion. Where I have a problem is when advocates of a particular religion attempt force their beliefs on the rest of us though law, government policy, tradition, or custom. If you’ve read me long enough, if you’ve read my other stuff, it should be readily apparent that the only thing I’m vocally intolerant of is intolerance. Like all of my stuff, this post is an opinion piece, it was intended to provoke laughter and hopefully some introspection and to reiterate the wisdom of separating government from religious belief.

As I said in the comments section: if you see yourself in this piece, well then that’s on you, you deal with it.

  //Jim

 


 

hella funny you god(gut)less libbys keep trashing the bible when it is all coming true. whose laughing now?! Syria is the final peace as predicted by God and Jeuss. its all true even if you don’t belive it. You can not denye we are now living in the end Time!  keep laughing libbys your gai boy war mongral owebama was predicted more then 2k years ago! its right there in black &white . sad

I’ve been busy this last month.

Too busy to do much writing.

Which is a damned shame, because the lunatics are out in force.

The above warning was floating in comment moderation under my previous Syria Red Lines post. I read it, chuckled yet again at the childish silliness of Christian Apologetics (It’s all twue! Twue!) and deleted it from the queue without allowing it to post.  I think that’s what Jesus would have done, by most accounts he didn’t have much use for haters and idiots either and quite frankly I seriously doubt he intended heaven to be populated with dimwitted dickheads – honestly, can you imagine spending eternity surrounded by these self-righteous jackasses?

Try to imagine which cheek Jesus would be turning after a couple centuries of having to put up with this crap.

You can’t deny we’re living in the End Times?

The End Times. You can’t deny it.

The. End. Times.

Because Syria, that’s the Sign.

Syria, oh no! Not Syria! It’s the End Of The World! It’s the Apocalypse. Armageddon. The Last Trump. Ook! Ook!

Run for your lives, everybody!

Everything is a sign of the End Times with these people. Everything. Same sex marriage? Ahhhh! It’s the End Times as foretold in the Bible! Black guy in the White House? It’s the Antichrist! Hurricanes? Evolution? Floods? It’s a Satanic Plot to destroy our souls! Abortion? It’s the Rapture! Earthquake? It’s a sign! Thunder? Intestinal bloating? It’s another sign!

Right.

I mean, come on, who actually believes in this ridiculous claptrap? I mean really? What is it? The 14th Century?

 

Sigh. Yes, yes, I know. It was a rhetorical question.

 

Last week Fox News’ Neil Cavuto suggested with a straight face in public on national TV that the Syrian conflict will “bring about the Second Coming of Christ.”

That’s right, we bomb Syria. Jesus shows up. 

We bomb all of Europe into flinters for four damned years. No Jesus. We nuke Japan and vaporize a half million people in two days. No Jesus. We bomb Korea and Vietnam. No Jesus. We bomb Bosnia, Somalia, Libya, Lebanon, Cuba, Panama, Cambodia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, every country in Central America and half the islands in the Caribbean. No Jesus. But lob a couple Tomahawks into Syria, and Jesus shows up with the Antichrist in tow to destroy the world.

Because, Syria, that’s the sign.

What if Israel bombed Syria? Do they get some Jesus? They’re Jews, what are they going to do with him? Have him crucified again?

What if an Arab country bombs Syria, will Jesus still come to the party?

Why is it always that only American Viagra can bring about The Second Coming?

Suppose Cavuto had looked out of the camera at the Fox News audience and said in all seriousness, “Look, folks, I saw this James Cameron movie once and I’m really scared that if we bomb Syria those weird glassy aliens who look like snot and live in the giant spaceship at the bottom of the ocean will be pissed off and they’ll use their control of water to destroy the world with gigantic tidal waves in some huge flood. And then all the good people will go live on the mothership with the fishy transparent snot aliens in fishy alien paradise forever and ever, and all the bad people will have to listen to that bitchy chick sobbing about her shitty apartment and how she’s all alone in the dark until they want to gouge their own eyeballs out to make it stop. So we shouldn’t bomb Syria no way no how, because, Dude, aliens. It’s true, it’s all true! Cameron is a God!” 

It’s all True! Really it is!

Uh huh. But if you say essentially the same thing except you toss in Jesus, then instead of shooting Cavuto with a tranquilizing dart and dragging him off to a nice place with soft walls and an excess of institutional lime-flavored Jell-O, Fox News gives him an hour-long segment to fondle his psychosis in public.

"This Syria stuff is way old. I mean Old Testament old. That's how old I'm talking about. Don't laugh. Some biblical scholars say it's all there in black and white."

Don’t laugh.

A grown man, scared of campfire ghost stories told by goat herders two thousand years ago. Booga booga! Ook! Ook! It’s all true!

But don’t laugh.

How about if I just point and giggle mockingly? Would that be okay?

Don’t laugh. Right, I can’t help but laugh. It’s either that or cry at the utter stupidity of it all.

Cavuto was talking to born again evangelical Judeo-Christian pundit, former Rush Limbaugh staffer, and general End Times doomsayer Joel C. Rosenberg.

Rosenberg, a part-time Jew who dabbles in Christian Apologetics while writing about Muslims in order to scare the fundamentalism out of evangelicals with his Jihad novels, explained:

"These are prophecies more than 2,700 years old, some of them, but they have not actually been fulfilled.  But this prophecy, as you [Cavuto] just pointed out, talks about the complete and utter destruction of Damascus. That's an End Times or eschatological prophecy. It's a very sobering thought to think that a judgment of a city or a country could happen in which an entire city could be wiped out, but that is, in fact, what the Bible is predicting. I think it's wrong for people who teach Bible prophecies to guess, I mean, in a sense try to say for certain it's going to happen now. But you have seven million Syrians that are already on the run, two million have left the country, five million are internally displaced. That Jeremiah 49 prophecy says that people will flee, but there will still be people in Damascus when the prophecy happens. So, the bottom line is that we don't know if these two prophecies, Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49, will happen in our lifetime or soon, but they could because they haven't happened yet."

Hard to argue with that circular logic, eh? The prophecies, see, they could come true but they haven’t yet and because they haven’t yet come true we know that they are true and could happen but they haven’t yet which is how we know they might and remember to keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times, kids!

Some guy in the Bible predicts that Damascus will be destroyed, and then leaves the timeframe open-ended?

Okay, sure, sooner or later, his prophecy will come true but, c’mon, it ain’t exactly magic.

You know what? I too predict Damascus will be destroyed.

Damascus and every other city on the planet.

Sure, I predict that the sun will eventually use up its hydrogen fuel, clog up with heavy elements, and then swell up into a bloated red beach ball the size of Mars’ orbit swallowing the earth in burning plasma. I predict that when this happens, and it will, whatever is left of Damascus will be utterly obliterated. I predict this will happen sometime between, oh, say tomorrow and eight billion years from now.  Look at me, everybody, I’m a prophet!

You want to impress me, Nostradamus, give me a date and time – oh, and then actually be right.

Anyway, to recap, Rosenberg thinks it wrong to guess … and then goes right ahead and makes a couple of guesses.

I’m not entirely clear on the Jews For Jesus Who Hate Muslims rule, but I think Rosenberg is going to get sent to Scientology hell for that. 

Unless, wait, hang on a minute, unless he meant it was wrong for other people to say one thing and do another – or does that only work for TV preachers?

And isn’t the supposed End Times and the Second Coming predicted in Revelation? And isn’t that, and Jesus, in the New Testament?  Maybe it’s just me, but religion makes my head hurt. Frankly I think the Twilight series makes more sense, it certainly has a better plot, and that pasty stonefaced vampire chick is a marginally more interesting character than anything Rosenberg has managed to crank out.

Twenty-seven hundred years, folks, the “prophecy” still hasn’t been fulfilled – but it could happen, any second now.

Any second now.

Any second.

Any. Second.

Sort of like that two thousand year old Mayan calendar people were talking about last year. Or that whole “bible math” end of the world thing Harold Camping was prophesizing – what was it? Oh yes, “we know without any shadow of a doubt that it’s going to happen…” except it appears old Harold dropped a decimal point along with his marbles. And before that Michelle Bachmann was telling us how the hurricanes and earthquakes were biblical signs of the pending Blue Light Special at the end of the universe. And before that these same people were telling us how Mitt Romney was a sure thing. And before that it was … well, it just never ends with these terrified childish dolts.  Go on, give me some proof, actual no kidding proof, that the bible prophets quoted by Rosenberg are any more accurate than any of these galoots. Go on. I’ll wait.  You’ve already had two thousand years, what’s another week or so?

You have to wonder, you really do. You have to wonder if the reason Jesus was so eager to have himself nailed to a cross was to get the hell away from these unhinged assholes. 

Hey, Jesus, when you coming back? We’ve got some gay hatin’ to do! And then we’re gonna light poor people on fire! Woohoo!

Listen, tell you what, I’ll make a beer run, you guys wait here. If I’m not back between, oh say sometime tomorrow and eight billion years from now, you guys go ahead and Armageddon without me, K?

Okay, Jesus, but don’t be long!

End of the world! End of the world! Ook! Ook! The sky is falling, it’s twue! 

Any second now.

Any second.

Surprisingly, neither Cavuto nor Rosenberg openly named the world leader they suspect of being the Antichrist (who obviously must be afoot in the land even now for the prophecy of the End Times to be fulfilled anywhere in the immediate future), but I’m pretty sure we all know who it must be.  Right? You know. Wink wink. You know, yes you do.

It would be easy to dismiss this ridiculous End Times biblical bilge as the fevered fears of few hysterical dimwits (or the sly opportunism of a hack writer and a news organization who makes a tidy living off those self-same mental patients), but it’s really much worse than that.

Rosenberg gets around.

On his website, Rosenberg explains how he recently spent a couple hours with an unnamed congressman talking biblical prophecy, specifically the “Burden of Damascus” as outlined in the Old Testament’s Isaiah 17. 

The basic idea here is that in the final run up to the end of the world, God will level Damascus in favor of Israel and bring the world within spitting distance of the Rapture.

Now, how Damascus will be destroyed isn’t exactly made clear, the Bible doesn’t explain what method God will use.  Most of Damascus was blown up and burned to the ground by the French in 1926, but I think we can safely say that the French are not God’s favorite people, so I guess that’s why the world didn’t end.  In fact, various parts of the city have been burned, reduced to rubble, and blown up for going on a couple dozen centuries now. What makes today different is beyond me. I did an online search but Bible Gateway Search returned exactly zero hits for “Tomahawk Cruise Missile.” Go figure.

As I said, Rosenberg gets around. Fox News cites him a “nuclear expert,” which is lot like calling Stephen King a “ghost expert” … or for that matter calling Ayn Rand an “economist.”

Last March, Rosenberg met privately with Texas Governor Rick Perry and Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Both of which are big fans of this apocalyptic nonsense. Because, sure, who better to be in charge of our country’s future than a bunch of people who think that the world will shortly be destroyed by mystical forces and that most of us are doomed to eternal damnation anyway.

Ever wonder why these people don’t seem to give a shit about the environment or sustainable energy policies? It’s because they don’t figure to be around long enough for it to matter.

And now they’re basing their foreign policy positions on this dreck? Oh, yeah, nothing to go wrong there.

Rosenberg says,

"The innocent blood shed by the Assad regime is reprehensible and heart-breaking and is setting the stage for a terrible judgment."

A terrible judgment.

You know, you’ve really got to love a religion that is essentially indistinguishable from a mafia protection racket, but I digress.

Look, I’m no expert, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say this silly nonsense has some merit. 

The End Times come, the final Trump is blown, everybody dutifully lines up in front of Jesus for the Big Judgment, Jesus looks sternly down at the first guy in line – just for fun let’s just say it’s Louie Gohmert – raises one eyebrow and asks, “So, you could have done something about all those people suffering and dying, but you didn’t.  And you didn’t because you figured the quicker the everything went to hell, the quicker you got to go to heaven. Is that right? Uh huh. Get in the sack, Louie… .”

Right around seventy-five percent of American Evangelicals believe that they are living in the supposed End Times.

Seventy-five percent, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-two million Americans.

Twenty-two million Americans actually believe that two thousand years ago some Bronze Age goat herder who’d spent all day sitting on his ass in the broiling Mediterranean sun while slugging down one skinfull of wine after another really actually talked to a real actual no kidding winged mystical being who really actually told him that “sometime” in the future there was really actually going to be some kind of big battle where a giant demon man would wrestle a smiling bearded non-violent hippy for control of the earth that he, the hippy man, really actually already controls anyway since he’s really actually the supreme being who’s actually his own father who created not only the aforementioned world but the giant demon man too according to his big mysterious plan but never mind that and then all the right thinking people will really actually literally fly naked up into space and live happy lives free of want in some kind of socialist paradise with Hippy Man in the cloudy blue sky forever and ever while everybody else gets cornholed by Satan for all of eternity in lakes of boiling pitch and brimstone. Really. Actually. No foolin’. It’s all twue!

Oh, sure, it does sound frighteningly plausible when you read it out loud, but then again so does the Twilight saga.

Here’s what I don’t get, isn’t the End Times what these people are praying for?

Don’t they all want to be Raptured?

Don’t they want all the rest of us to get cornholed by Satan?

Isn’t that basically their entire religion?

Aren’t they just dying to fly up to hippy heaven and leave all the rest of us behind to eternal torment? Isn’t that exactly what they pray for each and every Sunday, all smug and pious in their pews?

So why don’t they support military action in Syria? If they actually believe in their version of Christianity, I mean really actually believe in their own ridiculous dogmatic mumbo jumbo, if they really believe that military action in Syria will bring about the End Times, shouldn’t they be demanding the total annihilation of Damascus? 

And yet, when polled, more then seventy-five percent of evangelical leaders oppose military action in Syria, action which they claim could lead to a series of preordained events that will bring about their ultimate salvation in accordance with their God’s design.

How come it’s okay for them to thumb their nose at The Big Plan, but not people like us?

And we’re right back to where we started, aren’t we?  Do as I say not as I do.

 

Folks, I hate to say it, but we might need to give up a couple of aircraft carriers and put our money into some kind of massive mental health care program that involves forcible restraints combined with high amperage electrical shocks.

You need me? I’ll be over here hosing out the mailbox.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Causes: Maureen “Mo” Ramey

I make it a point not to solicit for causes on social media.

So when I do, you can bet it's for a good reason.

At the end of the previous century, the suicide rate in the US had been declining.  However, since the beginning of the new millennium that trend has reversed. Over the last decade suicide rates in the US have steadily increased. Today, suicide is the tenth largest cause of death in America. In 2010, the last year complete figures are available, 38,364 Americans died by their own hand - or about one every fourteen minutes.

38,364.

10-leading-causes-of-death-2010_large (1)

 

 

Why? Well, that's a good question, isn't it?

My friend, Janiece Murphy, recently lost her daughter to suicide. Her grief is still horribly raw and she's trying very hard to find a way to deal with the tragedy. 

Her friends are rallying around her and her family during this terrible time. Two of them, Stacey and J.R. will be participating in the upcoming American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Westchester County Walk Out of the Darkness Community Walk on October 6th in honor of Janiece's daughter, Maureen "Mo" Ramey.  The walk raises money for the AFSP's ongoing efforts to answer the question posed above, why? And to do something about it. 

I think this is a worthwhile cause. I'd like you to take a moment and visit J.R. and Stacy's pledge page on the AFSP website. I'm NOT demanding that you donate, I'm only asking you to think about it.   Note: If you choose to give, you can elect to keep your donation anonymous. Nobody needs to know how much or how little or even if you did at all. Again, I'm not demanding that you donate, only that you consider it.

You can learn more about Mo and Janiece on the Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men blog, which Janiece writes.

911 Twelve Years On

Note: This essay first appeared on Stonekettle Station on September 11, 2011.  Two more years have passed and I find that I don’t have anything to add //Jim


 

It’s been ten years now.

A decade today.

And frankly, I think that’s about enough.

There comes a point where you have to stop reliving horror over and over.

There comes a point where you have to say enough, this and no more.

I think a decade is enough time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the events of September 11th, 2001 were traumatic on a national scale.  911 was a shock like no other in American history, hell, maybe even in world history.  The modern Information Age saw to that, bringing it right into our living rooms without any delay to soften the impact, live and in horrifying color. 

All of us remember where we were and what we were doing on that terrible morning, I know I certainly do

I’m not in any way saying that we should forget, but there comes a point where you have to allow history to become history.

There comes a point where you have to move on.

Today marks a decade now, since 911.  In that time, we went to war and seven thousand more Americans, some of our very best, died.  Tens of thousands more were maimed and scarred and damaged forever.  Hundreds of thousands of innocents died.  Entire countries were laid waste and we became a callous people who could look upon those devastated lands and say, well, you know they had it coming, all of those bastards had it coming including their goddamned children. We became a nation that tortures people and disappears people and detains people, including our citizens, indefinitely without trial or recourse in abject repudiation of the very spirit of our nation’s own founding – and we are unashamed of that and unrepentant.  We have become a nation where, as an American, you must put aside your freedom a dozen times a day. You must show your papers. You must submit to naked body scanners and you must allow unsmiling uniformed men with the force of secret laws behind them to grope the most intimate areas of your children and yourselves. Such has become the price of freedom in America. We have become a nation  where you – as an American – can be detained for a glance or a gesture or a careless word or for checking out the wrong book from the library or for worshipping the wrong God.  We have become a nation where the only acceptable response to uniformed authority is immediate and polite submission, talk back, question, stand pat on the rights of previous generations and you’ll be branded an enemy. We have become a nation that claims to revere liberty and justice, but believes those things can only be had when secret agencies monitor our every email and our every communication without warrant or probable cause. 

The day after 911, September 12th, 2001, Congress stood upon the steps of the Capitol with the smoke of the burning Pentagon still hanging in the air above their heads and solemnly pledged to the American people that they would put aside their partisanship and their personal agendas and work together for the sake of our nation.  And in the decade since we have become a nation divided instead, a nation of partisan rancor writ large – and those who stubbornly proclaim their patriotism loudest are the very ones who would lead us into civil war and secession.  They would destroy what terrorists could not.

In the decade since 911, we have found those responsible, rooted them out, and ground them into dust.  It took ten years, but Osama bin Laden is dead at the hands of Americans.  So is his successor. So are hundreds of his lieutenants.  So are thousands of his foot soldiers.   So are many, many others, including Americans.

But it has not brought us closure.

It has not brought us peace.

It has not healed us as a nation.

911 was horrifying. It was personal to us all, every single American. It left us scarred, as a nation, traumatized.

And we keep using that horror as an excuse to lash out in a massive case of collective post traumatic stress disorder.

The wounds of that event run deep and are still raw a decade later – but those wounds will not heal so long as we keep picking at the scab over and over and over.

Today, we will relive the horror yet again – a fevered nightmare that simply won’t go away because we will not allow it to go away.  

Again, don’t get me wrong, we should always remember the events of September 11th, 2001, just as we remember Pearl Harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the hundred other events that shocked and traumatized our nation. But if we are to heal, if we are to move on, we have to stop reliving that horror over and over. 

Certainly we should build the memorials and lay the wreaths.

We should always remember the names of the fallen and hold them sacred.

But we need to stop covering ourselves in the blood of that day.

Today, right now as I write this, hundreds of media channels will play the recordings of those trapped in the towers.  They’ll play those recordings over and over and over again. Recordings of the tortured calls to emergency services and the final calls to loved one.  And we’ll listen, yet again, to the intimate agony of those dying people.  They will play on endless loop the videos of those who jumped seventy stories to their death, lingering lovingly on their faces, speculating about their last moments, reveling in the horror. They’ll interview those who witnessed the death and destruction and horror and they’ll beg, “Tell us what you were thinking. Tell us what you were feeling at that very moment.” We don’t need to know what they were feeling, what they were thinking, because we felt the same exact thing. We’re still feeling it. But we’ll listen anyway. And we’ll watch the towers fall. We’ll see the Pentagon crumple and explode.  We’ll hear the tapes of the air traffic controllers, of the horrified confusion in the towers, and the phone calls of those Americans who fought back above the corn fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  

I hear those tortured voices, I see those dying faces, and I don’t feel hate. I don’t feel a need for revenge. Instead I feel revulsion.  There is something obscene about listening to 911 calls, any 911 call.  While those records may have value to history, it is nothing but a voyeuristic grotesquery to broadcast those intimate communications to a public jaded by reality TV and violent slasher flicks. 

It serves no purpose whatsoever but to keep open festering wounds that should be long scabbed over.

Today, pundits and politicians will use this anniversary to drive us further apart, to reopen the wounds, for their own selfish agendas, to further inflame partisan fervor and to brand their neighbors as enemies and un-American. 

And we will let them do it, because in the decade since 911 we’ve become a nation of cutters who hack at our own flesh with mean abandon.

 

Since 911, an entire generation has been born and grown to self-awareness.

Those young Americans have never known their nation at peace. 

They have never known a nation that is not divided.

They have never had a single day where they weren’t told to hate their neighbors and to report them if they don’t seem patriotic enough.

They have never lived a single day in a nation that wasn’t bent to the terrible business of revenge.

They have never known a nation that didn’t roil in fear and cringe in terror every single day.

They have never flown on an airplane without having been treated like a criminal.

They have never checked out a book from the library without having been subject to secret scrutiny.

They never sent an unmonitored email or made an unmonitored phone call.

They have never lived in a house that isn’t subject to unwarranted search.

They have never had the right to redress or legal challenge when their name is placed on secret lists – and in point of fact, they don’t even have the right to know if their name is on that list at all.

They have never lived in a nation where they have the right to confront their accuser and demand proof of more than just suspicion.

They have never lived without the threat, however unlikely, of being disappeared.

They have never lived in a nation that didn’t regard the torture of human beings as an acceptable option.

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.

 

The terrorists didn’t do that.

We did it to them.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day, Then and Now

A version of this essay appeared on Stonekettle Station several years ago.  I was going to write a new post for 2013’s Labor Day, and realized I’d said pretty much everything I have to say on the subject. I’ve cleaned it up, changed a few words, and added some new thoughts. It amuses me when people talk about the good ol’ days.  //Jim






You ever stop to wonder what you life would be like if you lived a hundred years ago?

Imagine.

Imagine what it was like to be your great grandparents here in America.

A hundred years ago, the United States was in the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution. 

It was a time of wonder and ever advancing technology.

The first Industrial Revolution began in the 1830’s with coal and steam.  The Second Industrial Revolution began in the 1860’s and would last right up until the beginning of World War I. It began with steel, the Bessemer process to be specific, a cheap and easy way to mass produce strong and reasonably lightweight metals.  Strong lightweight steel was the skeleton of the modern age, the core of everything from the new cars to steamships and oil rigs to utensils and lunchboxes, to the machines that manufactured the future, to the finest handgun ever made – Colt’s model 1911, named for its year of first issue and still in production more than a century later.  In 1911 a tall skinny fellow by the name of Eugene Ely landed a Curtiss #2 Naval Pusher on the deck of USS Pennsylvania and took off again – and thus was born naval aviation, a profound moment that would change the very way wars were fought and thus change almost everything else too. Many of the pilots who, a few years later, would fly over the battlefields of WWI carried Colt’s Model 1911.  For the first time, you could buy a Cadillac with an electric starter – and despite the fact that there were still plenty of horses out there on the roads, the car had become so ubiquitous, affordable to almost anyone, that Michigan created the first modern roads when the state started painting white lines down the middle of the more heavily traveled avenues. Electricity itself was no longer a novelty.  Though many factories were still powered by steam, electricity was becoming increasingly common.  The first modern public elevator began operation in London, England, and soon became common everywhere – leading directly to the modern city skyline. 

A century ago America was booming. Her factories were churning out new products at a record pace. The western frontier had all but disappeared – oh, there were still a few bandits and cattle rustlers out there, but the wild wooly west was long gone.  The gold rushes, the boom towns and gun fights were long over.  Hell, Wyatt Earp was living in Los Angeles working as a “trouble-shooter” for the city police department.  He’d fought his last armed battle in 1910 and would soon move to Hollywood as a consultant for the new movie industry. 

It was certainly a marvelous time.

If you could afford it.

If you lived through it.

See, those churning factories were horrible places. 

Most were still powered by a massive central steam engine which drove an enormous flywheel, which in turn powered shafts and belts and pulleys, which finally powered the machines.  And though, as noted above, electricity was becoming increasingly common, most of those factories were gloomy dimly lit dungeons illuminated solely by the light coming in through skylights and banks of single pane glazed windows.  Often boiling hellholes in the summer and freezing dungeons in the winter – both air conditioning and central heating were still decades away – the buildings were filled with smoke and poisonous fumes from the various manufacturing processes, lead vapor, heavy metals, acids, chlorine, bleaches, all were common.  Normal working hours were from dawn to dusk, typically anywhere from twelve to fourteen hours a day, sixty and seventy hours per week for wages that would barely pay the rent and put food on a factory worker’s table.

Child labor was common, especially in the textile industry, though in some states there were supposed to be laws regulating it.  The kids toiled right alongside their parents.  The children typically worked the same hours as adults, but for a quarter, or less, of the pay.  Pictures of the time show children working barefoot among the machines, ragged sleeves flapping near the flying belts and spinning pulleys, squinting in the dim light, eyes tearing from the fumes.  Whole families hired out to the factories, the men doing the heavy labor, the women and children doing the more delicate tasks.

Towns sprang up around the mills, often controlled by the factory owners. Company towns, where workers very often became little more than indentured servants.  Life in a company town was often better than the alternative on the streets or in places like Hell’s Kitchen or out in the fields of the South. Company towns gave workers a higher standard of living than they would otherwise be able to afford.

But the running joke was that while your soul might belong to God, your ass belonged to the company. 

Mill towns and mining towns and factory towns and logging towns were common across America, places where the company owned everything from your house to your job to the church you prayed in to the store you bought your food from. And prices were whatever made the company the most profit, and there was no law regulating what the company could charge or what rules they could impose.  

In fact, in many places there were laws that prevented employees from renting or buying outside the company town. 

The company might pay you a decent wage for the time, but they got a lot of it back too.  Get crosswise of the company and you lost it all.  Get injured on the job and could no longer work, and you lost it all. Get sick, and you could lose it all.  Get killed, and your family was out on the street.  There was no workman’s comp. No insurance. No retirement but what you managed to save – and since you probably owed a significant debt to the company store, your savings were unlikely to go very far.

Of course, you could always take a pass on factory work and return to the land. 

In 1911, millions of Americans were farmers.  Farming was hard back breaking work (it still is, just in a different way) – so hard that seventy hours a week in a smoke filled factory with a high probability of getting maimed or killed looked pretty good in comparison.  The majority of those farmers, especially in the South, didn’t own their fields. They were tenants or, worse, sharecroppers, living in conditions little better than slavery or the serfdom of the Dark Ages.  Of the small farmers who did own their own land or rather owed the bank for their own land, more than half lived in abject poverty.  In the coming decade, the decade of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, most would lose everything.

Most of America was powered by coal in those days and if there was anything that would make life in a factory town or in the sweltering fields look good – it was working in a West Virginia coal mining town. 

It was a race to see what would kill you first, explosion, cave-in, or the black lung.  And just like in the fields and factories, children worked alongside their parents – if they had parents, orphanages were also common. And orphan labor was even cheaper than the average child, both in life and in pay. Renting out orphan labor was a good gig, if you could get it.

You could always become a merchant seaman, if you were a man, though life at sea was damned rough.

You could move west and become a logger, though you’d probably live longer in the mines of West Virginia.

You could still be a cowboy, or a cop, or carpenter none which paid worth a good Goddamn and had the added benefit of a short lifespan.

Since people got sick and injured a lot, and most couldn’t afford even rudimentary medical care, many turned to patent medicines.  The pharmaceutical industry was only loosely regulated, but by 1913 there were some few laws in a handful of states regulating the more outrageous claims for the various elixirs. The big medicine shows were gone, but  there were still plenty of drug store shelves stocked with hundreds of varieties of patent medicines. Some were mostly benign – like Coca-Cola – and some were downright toxic – like Radithor, made from water and radioactive radium.  As late as 1917, The Rattlesnake King, Clark Stanley, was still making Stanley’s Snake Oil (and now you know where that phrase came from), a poisonous mixture of mineral oil, turpentine, and red pepper. Stanley fleeced sick people out of their money by making them yet sicker and there wasn’t much the government could do to prevent it.

Hell, as late as the 1960’s TV commercials touted the benefits of smoking for sore throats. And, as late as 1970 there were still devices in use in a handful of shoe stores across America that used massively powerful unshielded X-ray beams to measure your foot but could also give you a terminal dose of ionizing radiation in the process.

In 1913, only a few states mandated that your kids attend school, and then only though elementary grades, the factory owners weren’t interested in an educated workforce.

In the South segregation and Jim Crow Laws were in full force and civil rights were decades away. By the first part of the last century, lynching wasn’t exactly common, but it wasn’t exactly uncommon either.  On the other hand, women could actually vote in six states. 

Maybe three out of ten Americans could ever expect to own a home, most would pay a landlord their whole lives. Few had any rights in those relationships either, you paid the owner and you lived with what you got or you got thrown out. Period.

A lot of Americans were hungry. More than fifty percent of seniors lived in poverty, but then the average lifespan was only about fifty-five, maybe sixty if you hadn’t been breathing coal dust or lead vapor all you life.  Few of those seniors had pensions, most lived on the charity of their families – if they were lucky enough to have families.  Sanatoriums were a common place for the aged and infirm to spend their brief final years. 

If you had ten kids, you might expect six of them to survive to early adulthood.  If you were lucky. Polio, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, pneumonia, whooping cough, hard labor in the mines and factories and fields, lack of social safety nets, lack of proper nutrition, lead paint, food poisoning, poverty, orphaned by parents killed by the same, would probably claim at least four of those kids. Likely more.

 

People from that generation always wax nostalgic for The Good Old Days – and then they immediately proceed to tell you why life was so much harder and more miserable back then.

 

The simple truth of the matter is nowadays, even in this time of economic downturn, we Americans live a pretty damned good life. 

And we live that good life because we’ve put systems and laws and regulations in place to improve life for all of us. 

Programs like Social Security and Medicare have a direct and measurable effect on how long we live, and how well. Regulations governing working conditions and workplace safety have a direct and measurable affect on the probability that we’ll survive to retirement.  Laws that prevent the rich from owning a whole town, or abusing workers, or turning them into indentured servants, or hiring children at pauper’s wages to maintain the machines in their bare feet, have directly benefitted all but the most greedy few. 

The American dream isn’t dead, far from it. 

I’ve been to countries where dreams have died, America is far, far, far removed those hellish places. 

It is a measure of just how far we’ve come, and just how big an impact that those laws, regulations, and social safety programs have had that those who directly benefit from those very same laws, regulations, and programs can complain with full bellies just how terrible they have it.

Things like Social Security, Medicare, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance, child labor laws, federal minimum wage, occupational health and safety standards, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Centers for Disease Control, The departments of Education and Health, Labor Unions and workers’ rights, and yes, even Welfare, all of these things were created for a reason. For a good reason. For a compelling reason. 

These things were created because when you leave it up to the church and charity to fed the hungry and clothe the poor and heal the sick, a hell of a lot of people go hungry and cold and ill.  It is really just that brutally simple. 

These things were created because when you leave it up to charity and family to take care of old people, a hell of a lot of old people end up stacked like cordwood in institutions. The moldering remnants of such places are all around us.

These things were created because when you leave it up to people to save for their retirement or a rainy day or for accident and infirmity, a hell of a lot of them don’t, or can’t, or won’t.

These things were put in place because when you leave it solely up to the market to weed out poor products and fake medicine and unsafe machines, they don’t, or can’t, or emphatically won’t. 

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to industrialists and share holders to treat their workers with dignity and respect and to pay them a living wage for their hard work, you end up with indentured servitude.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to devoutly righteous people who go to church every Sunday to decide what is right and proper and moral, you end up with lynchings and segregation and Jim Crow.  You end up with minorities as less than second class citizens. And that is a Goddamned fact.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to the benevolence of industrialists to decide fair pay scales and safety and working hours, you get child labor at a pauper’s wages. When you leave it solely up to bankers and the factory owners and the CEOs, well Sir, then what happens is they end up owning it all and you get to pay them for the privilege of eating out of their garbage can.

And right up until very recently that’s exactly how it was.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m as big of capitalist as any American, I believe in the free market and I’m opposed to regulation for the sake of regulation and government interference in business for the sake of interference, but fundamentally government exists to protect the weak from the ruthless, otherwise what damned good is it?

The question you need to ask yourself, on this of all days, is what century do you want to live in?

 

Happy Labor Day folks.

ddd



Caveat: One thing to note, no matter how our future goes from the this point forward, good or bad, sooner or later, we’ll be calling the present the good old days. 

I can’t help but wonder if we shouldn’t maybe try a little harder to make this time, right now, worthy of that distinction.