Apr 28, 2006

Money's For Nothing & the Chicks are Free

Downhill Cruising. So Far so Good.
I hear that the oil companies are making a pretty penny these days, especially after the current gang took over our White House and the Congress. There's nothing wrong with it--making a profit--not the way the Praetorians are running things. Our President wears cowboy outfits, bought a ranch a few days before the election, and talks like a tough big dude. Impressions sometimes matter more than the facts. And, he isn't fighting for us, but, as Kevin Philips points out, he fights for the oligarchs and how to institutionalize cleptocracy as the order of things in this country. Of course, he makes others do his fighting when blood runs, so he doesn't feel the pain himself. Lately he's been complaining about high petroleum prices but he doesn't want to bring in the oil execs to his office and exercise some leadership, nor, god-forbid, try to even the playing field, or at the very least have some refs in place to enforce the little rules left in this brutal football game. Besides, everybody knows that the rich make money in the vacuum of space so it'd be unfair to be subject to a progressive tax system.

Let's see what he's done since the price per gallon of oil was $1.40 (US average) when he took office. He refused to force the auto industry to raise CAFE standards, he made his buddies in the oil industry so rich that when they retire they get half a billion dollar bonuses, has given upwards of $80 billion in incentives and tax breaks to oil companies, and he relaxed the environmental safeguards on air pollution. His Republican guard wants to give the taxpayers some $100 to offset the high gas prices, which is a crude joke. To be fair, some Dems are trying to be twice as ridiculous by offering a $200 rebate! Anyway, when BushCo started a war in Iraq he told us that, among other good thinwouldn't wouldn't cost us much since Iraqi oil would pay for the war & the reconstruction, and it would ensure ample oil supply & lower gas prices! Of course, we're running up a big tab (more than the Vietnam war), and guess who's saddled with this debt? The statement "Mission Accomplished" [click on the link for a cool video] takes on a new meaning, doesn't it?

The $100, or whatever amount we might get back, doesn't sound like a good deal to me in light of the big money given to the oil companies. What we've been paying at the pump and all the other price hikes because some 60% of all goods delivered in this country go via truck, plus
the cost of the war, is a very heavy burden. Yeah, we got an energy policy that was formulated in the same manner as the Iraq war--and you know how careful, competent, and effective this has been.

Again, gouging isn't a good thing and there should be some serious investigation, but Americans have their share of blame. They're responsible for electing BushCo. Second, they're demand for oil hasn't diminished; actually, it has increased. There hasn't been any reduction in the numbers of 8-cylinder, gas guzzling vehicles sold in the US. Assuming that the auto manufacturers have done their marketing research, their ads for new cars emphasize power, size & speed, not fuel efficiency. Heck, Europe and Japan are flooded with smaller & much more fuel-efficient cars that would fit very nicely our city driving needs and for most short trips taking place in suburbia. Why do Americans buy off-road vehicles when some 95% of them never come near a dirt road?

Despite the con games played by the oil industry and our current political leadership, the fact is that all cheap oil has been burnt up. Cheap prices--I guess anything under $2 per gallon--aren't coming back. We are a tiny percentage of the world's population and yet we're consuming more than 25% of the oil produced. China is rapidly developing a bigger thirst putting more pressure on the demand for fossil fuels. Interestingly enough, China has higher fuel efficiency standards than the US! But, like many other things in life, choices must be made and priorities must be set. People who don't like politics should be reminded that leadership does make a difference. The elected representatives act in our name and have the power to re-arrange our national agenda. They may give us $100, our money, while they still possess the national credit card--which is the only way they can spend money today since they managed to waste a huge surplus and turn it to a huge deficit, about $8.4 trillion!

By the way, I wonder if most Americans realize that our debt is financed by the Chinese government and others who have a rather antagonistic relationship to the US. Why do they lend us money? I hear the interest is good and they can play the Repo man if necessary. As for the priorities, I can only dream what hundreds of wasted billions of dollars could have been used for, healthcare, scientific research, education, alternate fuels--something that could have benefited the common good, increased the commonwealth instead of mortgaging our future.

Now let's get back to a bumper-sticker mentality and hot-button divisive issues. After all, this is an election year when the appeals to the lowest common denominator will again add to the cacophony of our politics.

Apr 22, 2006

Earth Day Should Last More than a Day

If You Clean it They'll Will Come
Earth Day is here; I hope you do something to celebrate the day, even if it’s thinking about how to help our beautiful blue planet maintain its health, and what legacy we’ll leave to our children. Another practical action will be to throw out the Republicans from office this coming November. I don’t think there’s been another US administration, including the Congress, more hostile to the environment. The Republican party is controlled by the lunatic fringe which doesn’t really like science. For example, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is led by an anti-environment champion, James Inhofe (R-OK) who prefers the “expert” testimony of fiction writers to that of scientists.

I think this country doesn’t fully appreciate science. I’m not sure that most Americans know what science is, its methodology, its tools, and its impact on the bettering & prolonging of human life. The dumbing down continues, and I don’t think it’s an accident that certain elites don’t want an educated public. Recently, I was told by people active in the ACLU’s fight against Intelligent Design as the case was unfolding in the courtroom in Dover, PA, that the consensus was to avoid painting this as a struggle between religion and science. The reason being that Americans would choose religion over science. The majority of our compatriots actually believe that humans were created in present form and that the Biblical account of Genesis should be taught alongside the theory of evolution! They also believe that Satan is an actual entity trying to destroy us, that Earth is under 10,000 years old, and that 44% believe that Jesus will probably return to Earth in their lifetime! If 59% believe that the prophesies found in the Book of Revelations are going to come true, and that 44% believe that we live in the “end of times,” then why worry about the environment? Especially if they believe that the faithful will be rescued!

For those of you who are free thinkers and are inquisitive, Jared Diamond’s
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is an interesting book that examines past civilizations and the underlying reasons for their total collapse or extinction. The environment has played a very important role in fostering or dooming a civilization. Science is the best tool we have to understand the world we live in, and although this tool isn’t perfect [none is] it’s strength comes from looking at the facts and revising them after careful consideration. There is a global warming going on. Earth may be going through warm-cold cycles, but we’re the only species (in its history of billions of years) that in the last 100 years we’ve been pouring huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other toxic particles in the atmosphere and the oceans. This is having an effect; we may be tipping the balance beyond return. The worst effects will first be felt by the poorest people on our planet. Earth is our home and therefore it should get our attention and our tender loving care.

As I said in an earlier post, our salvation is only possible from within, that is, we humans have to be the custodians of this lonely planet. We are part of this ecosystem that gave birth to us. It’s insane to pollute and damage our own home. Unfortunately, it takes a collective effort to see results, and as long as intelligence-able people choose to stick their head in the sand, little can be accomplished. Let’s have an open and honest discussion, let’s examine the scientific facts, and set a serious course of action. At the very least, we there’s lots of room for improvement. Even in the absence of long-term ill effects, wouldn’t it be wiser to clean up our living space and the air we breathe? It’s pure common sense.

Apr 19, 2006

Rummy & Coke For the Captain of the Titanic

Bush's in Charge of a Ship of Fools
What’s all this talk about the Secy of War resigning? Rummy should stay on. So, what if he’s incompetent? He’s not the only one in the White House since BushCo took office in 2001. It’s a ship of fools, and changing a crew member won’t do much good. For once, I agree with Brush Lintbowl that changing the gunner would reflect bad on the captain, who’s adamant about staying the course. What iceberg ahead? This Titanic of a mess has already torn open its bowels and nothing will prevent it from sinking; a few cosmetic changes here and there won't do any good. As long as we have the same captain—who, by the way, hand-picked the crew—nothing will change for the better. He’s stubbornly wants to “stay the course” and refuses to admit mistakes. His political wife, Condie, tells us that the few mistakes committed were “tactical,” not strategic, meaning that there was a sound policy but those who implemented it on the ground “may have made some mistakes.” Yeah, right, whatever.
<-Napping in all positions

The generals are coming out asking for Rummy’s resignation. Why now? OK, I can buy the argument that they now speak as concerned citizens. Every American has the right, indeed the duty, to speak out on all important matters that affect the nation. Better late than never, I guess, but where’s the bravery, men? Rummy was your boss, but how about his boss, the commander-in-chief? Why don't you talk about him too? He not only strongly advocated the Iraq war, he was the liar-in-chief in trying to sell it to us. Why don’t you explain to all of us how the decisions were made to go to war, and what information was available to those in charge? Why don’t they tell us how open was Bush to the policy analysts & other experts who advised against going into Iraq, and, whether this administration did any serious planning on the occupation/reconstruction of Iraq. What was the role of the commander-in-chief? Huh?
All Loyalists Get Promotions & Medals

If Bush were to fire Rummy he would have to tell us why. Rummy, Dickey, Condie, Wolfie, et al, wouldn't utter a word if Shrubie didn't approve. OK, we've often heard that the phrase, “to spend more time with his family,” has been used frequently to mask the real reasons behind a firing/resignation. There are ways of sending Rummie back to the military-industrial complex to make more money. The problem is that Bush is so incapable of admitting a mistake and changing policy, so clearly it doesn’t really matter who’s the Secretary of War. It’s not likely that Bush would hire anyone who’d give good & honest advice. We’ve seen that this president doesn’t like people who disagree with him, doesn’t read the papers or any serious books, or anything that would broaden his horizons. This is in line with his theocratic, apocalyptic vision. Stay the course, don’t let Satan distract you, he probably mumbles to himself. Actually, I do appreciate his lunacy, because it makes it easier for Americans to pin the disastrous policies on the person who's ultimately responsible. So, let Dickey, Rummy, Condie, Rover, Nuts&Bolts, Molten, Gonzo, and the other incompetent cohorts of his imperial court stay on. Let them think that by re-arranging the chairs on their Titanic will help them from drowning.

Apr 13, 2006

A Personal Jesus, Chocolate Eggs & the Easter Bunny

Transforming an Icon
Easter was big in my family and for just about everyone around us. Holy week was a god-sent reprieve from school so no complaints there either. The food, well, we had to wait until Easter Sunday to stuff ourselves with all the goodies that were taboo to eat just a few days earlier, but I didn’t really care. Not as if I couldn’t get anything I wanted outside the “normal channels” [my mom’s kitchen] as long as I was careful not to be spotted eating the forbidden food. At that age, I was more interested in goofing off, scoring some cool music in vinyl, playing sports, and ..girls. I think in that order too! Religion was just a thing adults tried to pound through my head, that I had to behave in a certain way because “someone up there” was keeping track of my every move and thought. I reasoned, heck, with all the billions of people and all the important things happening in the world, my activities would either be missed or appear very ordinary, not worth the Almighty’s bother.

Easter was about family time but without the endless hours of football to distract us from family dysfunction. We always found ourselves in bigger groups of extended families, a way to share the joys and the miseries. It was like comparing notes, that no family was breaking the norm by having sensible communication between its members, and that no ..cheating was going on regarding the ascribed rituals. Much like the society at-large, where everybody plays the role of keeping the fa├žade up and acting as if they knew what they were doing! Everybody had to go to church and go through the prescribed cultural rituals. Before I went to college and learned about the division of labor, I had already observed it in our family gatherings. As soon as we got together, the women would gravitate toward the kitchen and the men toward the couch! After being interrogated by all the relatives and friends present about my performance in school, I’d be off to do whatever.

Easter was about the cultural norm, a sense of identity. I realized that all those adults around me didn’t know much about the customs and the religion they happily followed since they were kids. They seemed relieved that there was order in the universe and a moral code to govern human relations. I was amazed that no one was asking questions nor willing to entertain alternative theories. They were utterly convinced that God had written a book and had given it to the “chosen ones”. End of story.

I thought about Jesus during Easter. How could I have not? All those movies about the Ten Commandments, Moses, Crucifixion, A Thousand and One Arabian Nights (well, maybe not this one), live broadcasts from some big church where some unknown language was spoken, and the religious spell everyone seemingly was under during Holy week. I thought, poor Jesus, no person should suffer so much because of his religious or political beliefs. I guess this lesson hasn’t impress upon many of his followers since.

I love chocolate, and Easter brought me lots of it, along with eggs—that I didn’t care much for—and the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny?!! What the hell was this about? I mean, I could understand if this was the ..food of choice, but no! That bunny was for some other special purpose! It’s still a mystery to me. I like rabbit. It’s gamy and my mother could do a rabbit stew out of this world. So, yeah, I began to make up stories, that Jesus had a pet bunny that laid chocolate eggs during Easter—which hadn’t been invented yet, but it was in the works. I gather that Jesus was a very calculating guy. He didn’t do things by accident. He had a plan!
A divine plan. I think he still does. That’s why I don’t pray to Jesus. I don’t want to impose. I mean, who am I to show up one day and pray for something that may not be part of the divine plan? If things are to happen, they will, regardless of my begging or the bargaining I offer. That’s simple logic to me. [George Carlin thinks along these lines]

Anyway, speaking of planning to invent Easter. Did you hear about the discovery of the
Gospel of Judas? Fascinating stuff, I tell you. It seems (just as I had suspected 30 years ago) that Jesus had a plan, so, he told Judas to betray him to the authorities. I mean we couldn't have much of a Christian faith without the resurection of Jesus, would we? Judas complied and the rest is history as they say. The powers that be don’t take kindly to people who aren’t ready to sacrifice to the “official gods” and are challenging the socio-economic order. Nothing new here. We’ve seen this ever since Jesus passed away. Sadly, many people in our country hold this view of intolerance.

I liked long hair back when I was in high school, but this didn’t sit well with my teachers and my mother. Jesus to the rescue! If he could have it why not me? We reached a compromise: not as long, but not a crew cut either. Don’t be too quick to judge me. People have been using the Bible to justify worse things than the length of hair. We pick and choose (not we but the Church leaders over the centuries) what suits the greater purpose of maintaining a certain socio-political order in our society. Thankfully, we don’t stone to death the non-virgin women, kill blasphemous children, homosexuals and those who work on the Sabbath, to name a few “condemned” to death as the Bible commands. Unless you believe that the Bible is the literal word of God…

One day, I got smacked by my mother because I dared to compare Jesus to the Helen of Troy! I said, both appeared to be mythical persons, up to interpretation since neither bothered to write anything about anything. Homer was smart never to describe the beauty of Helen, so, go ahead, make your day… Those who wrote about Jesus did so many decades after his death, not exactly eyewitness reporters. And, nobody had any video or pictures of him. The
scholarly study of Jesus leaves too many doors open and asks too many questions for most Xtians to bear.

I don’t see why I can’t have a personal Jesus like the faithful do. Mine is definitely a liberal. Oh, yeah! A few others agree with the
Jesus as a Liberal idea. He was for uplifting the poor & the underprivileged, against social injustice, against violence, for generosity & sharing, compassion, and had no problem with prostitutes. I don’t think he’d agree with the fundies in America who told us that his father brought death & destruction to New York City and New Orleans because we had too many people like his friend Mary Magdalene practicing hedonism and non-sanctioned love!

I believe what I want like anybody else. My process of believing may be different than that of the faithful, at least when it comes to accepting "divine revelation." I like to ponder and I have many, many questions still un-answered. I'm easily elated by ideas and new discoveries. What's exciting to me is that we humans have an amazing brain power (which we often don't take full advantage of) to make sense of the world around us and peer into the depths of the universe. Moreover, we have the ability to shape the world we live in, to be the change we want to see! In a recent conversation someone said, "I don't have hope in humanity though I have hope for humanity." But, what hope there is, it will not appear in the vacuum of space nor will it be brought by a returning Jesus or any other deity. It is humanity that must choose, like the choices we make for good over evil. We are capable of both good & evil, of greatness and of utter obliteration. Like most things in life, what we do is a choice, much like a pesonal Jesus!