"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Generic politically-correct festive greetings!

To all readers of this blog:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes to you and your family for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

Furthermore, we wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great, (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "America" in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, gender, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.

In conclusion, please select one or more of the following based on your religion, ethnicity, or other personal preference:

▢ Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

▢ Happy Holidays

▢ Seasons Greetings

▢ Happy Kwanzaa

▢ Happy Hanukkah

▢ Cheery Saturnalia

▢ Pleasant Boxing Day

▢ Joyeux Noelle

▢ Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo

Май у вас долгую счастливуюжизнь и, не дай Бог, ваши зубы не должны выпадать.
(May you live a long happy life and, God willing, your teeth should not fall out.)

Mr. Toast

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Easing my way back in

Well, well, well. What have we here...is this really a new post? I hope I actually remember how to use this thing, considering this is only the second time in 2011 I've actually tried to write something. No apologies, no excuses -- I just haven't done squat with this blog in a very long time, but my early "new year's resolution" for 2012 is to start getting back into some sort of regular posting schedule. Seeing as how next year will be a political freak show/firestorm of epic proportion as we head into the November elections, I should have lots to write about as I've got some pretty strong feelings about the candidates and issues involved. But, I will try to not make it all about politics, though, as that can get boring pretty quickly for anyone who is already tired of the non-stop bickering and sniping that has characterized the political scene for the last three years, especially since the field of Republican contenders has coalesced into its present lineup.

Speaking of, if you've watched any of the various GOP debates, you know what an absurd spectacle they've been so far as each participant tries to show off their conservative cred and prove that they alone deserve to carry the party standard against Obama. For me, it's been at turns hilarious and horrifying to watch, as I consider the thought that one of these clowns might actually, possibly, be the next president of the United States. Good grief.

My own personal view is that since the current process is long on entertainment and short on actual content, we should turn the nomination process into an actual reality show. Start with all the declared candidates, including Jon Huntsman and the lesser-known Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson. Then, every week at a designated time, say Thursday night at 7 PM, have an moderated debate and allow the audience to vote via phone or internet. At the end of the show, the candidate with the least votes is "chopped", and is sent packing off Republican island. Eliminate one candidate each week this way until you get down to the final choice. This can't be any more ludicrous than the way it's being done n now.

But in my opinion, the whole system is flawed to begin with. Money controls the entire process from beginning to end, with big-buck corporate lobbyists determining who gets nominated, elected, as well as what measures they support and enact once they're in office. This was very well expressed recently in the following article written by Steve Van Zandt, who you may know best as lead guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band as well as his portrayal of Silvio Dante in The Sopranos. Now, you might be inclined to dismiss the political views of a musician/actor, but Little Steven makes some very good points in his piece, entitled "There is Only One Issue In America". Check it out:

I was obsessed with politics in the ’80s. I’ve recovered and I’m feeling much better now thank you.

By the time I realized, as interesting as it was, I’d better stop this stuff and try to earn a living, I had discovered many of our social problems and quality of life issues could be traced to the same political source: our corrupt-by-definition electoral system. The solution to the problem was as easy to discover as the cause: The elimination of all private finance in the electoral process.

I was working doing most of my research in the area of our foreign policy since WWll, whatever fell under the umbrella of international liberation politics, but I examined and analyzed a fair amount of local issues as well.

I wanted to know how things work? Where’s the power? Who’s pulling the strings?

The economy of the world came down to the unholy trinity of guns, drugs and gasoline — military industry, drugs (legal and illegal), and energy — and now I would add agribusiness as the fourth controlling commodity, and always with the enabling bankers never too far out of sight making their profits far too often from wars and slave labor.

While that readily explained the suffering of the Third World, it didn’t immediately answer why in America it was possible for so many people to be unhappy with our government’s decisions, both foreign and domestic, when we’re supposedly living in a democracy.

A quick analysis of our electoral process revealed the obvious answer. The simple fact is we do not live in a democracy. Certainly not the kind our Founding Fathers intended. We live in a corporate dictatorship represented by, and beholden to, no single human being you can reason with or hold responsible for anything.

The corporation has but one obligation, which is to increase profits for its shareholders by any legal means necessary by the next fiscal quarter.

They have no moral, patriotic, social, environmental, generational or even sustainable responsibility. They have only a short-term economic mandate and their only responsibility to society is to stay within the law to accomplish it.

This doesn’t mean corporations shouldn’t exist or even that their directors are evil by their very DNA. It has been a legally acceptable basic flaw in the form of our capitalist system that allows corporations to operate without a moral compass or obligation to society — but that’s a discussion for another day.

The law is rarely a problem because the corporations’ legal obligations are pretty much designed first and foremost for their maximum profit by the legislation created by the legislators belonging to our two national political parties, both of which are wholly bought, sold and controlled by Wall Street. The banks and the corporations. In other words the game is rigged. Feel like a sucker? We all do because we all are.

The manipulation, aided by a very willing media also owned by the corporations, has made things easier beginning with what has become the amazing Orwellian staple of every newscast, selling the public on the lie that the Dow has somehow become America’s scoreboard!

We’re all hypnotized, rooting for them like they’re our home team at a football game, cheering for THEIR scoreboard mindlessly forgetting WE’RE THE AWAY TEAM!!

You think your congressman is working all day to get you a job? He may want to. He or she is probably not a bad person. They probably want to do the right thing. But they can’t. Long-time Capitol Hill staff and campaign strategists tell me the average legislator spends one-third of their time (or more) every day raising money or on activities related to raising money.

Yes, they are “elected” which creates the mass delusion of democracy to keep the masses from rioting, but congressional races are costing millions of dollars and some Senate seats are going for tens of millions each, and they’re predicting well over one billion dollars for the next presidency.

That’s some democracy we’ve created there, isn’t it?

Of the people?

By the people?

For the people?

What people?

Democracy in America is a sick joke and the masses aren’t laughing anymore.

Yes, we can demonstrate. We can march. We can write and sign petitions to our Representatives. We can occupy.

And we should because it’s healthy to vent, and we don’t feel so all alone. But the truth is, other than the value of venting, we’re wasting our time. It is naïve to expect political results from any of these activities.

Our representative can give us lip service. A lot of sympathy. Empathy even. But we don’t pay their media bills, gabeesh?

We need to eliminate all private finance from the electoral process.

And let’s not be distracted by “reforms.” Let’s spare ourselves the unnecessary discussions about transparent disclosure, or the conflict of interest of foreign countries buying favorable treatment, or protection after protection being gutted by dangerously diluted regulations, or trying to impose this limit or that limit, etc., etc., etc.

Campaign finance doesn’t need reform. It needs elimination.

To accomplish this we must overturn Buckley v. Valeo, one of the two or three worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court.

The ruling makes the extraordinary decision that money is protected by the First Amendment.

Presumably Chief Justice Gordon Gekko presiding!

These smartest guys in the room actually decided that spending money is the equivalent of free speech. You might wonder why no one in that smart room stood up and said wait a minute, if money is speech, isn’t lack of money lack of speech?

You know, as in the rich get to talk, and the poor don’t? How are the non-moneyed classes represented by this decision?

I guess nobody stood up then, but it’s time to stand up now.

In fact, I am now introducing a new pledge to be signed by our legislators. Of both parties. Indies too. Everybody’s welcome.


(We’ll need someone more educated than me to draw it up, or we can copy Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, but it would go something like this.)

I, The Undersigned, pledge to overturn Buckley v. Valeo and eliminate all private finance from the electoral process, thusly restoring America to its democratic principles. I may take corporate, PAC, SuperPAC, or Chinese money to get elected or reelected (martyrdom accomplishes nothing), but upon my election I will make campaign finance elimination one of my immediate top priorities.

Now somebody should be starting a new Third Party whose platform is dedicated to this one idea. Twenty-five years ago that’s what I’d be doing right now.

But the need for a Third Party aside, this idea applies for everyone. Just as much for the Tea Party on the right as the 99 Percenters on the left (the corporate oligarchy actually has no Party affiliation, it just looks Republican).

Both groups should adopt this issue. The Occupiers need not agree on anything else, because frankly nothing else matters, and a bit more focus on the root of our problems for the Tea Party certainly wouldn’t hurt them either.

Let’s see who’s serious about representing the “people.”

And you know what?

We might be pleasantly surprised at how many congressmen and senators sign this thing who would rather be doing something more dignified with their lives than spending half their time begging for money.

Well, Steve has some good thoughts to leave you with so that's all for this time out of the gate. Hopefully more posts will be appearing here soon. I'm just starting to get fired up again.