Friday, December 31, 2010

Our Dick Cheney

Here’s how it basically went down:

“All right, ya rat fuck. I got you dead to rights. You an' me both know ya bribed some fuck who already pled guilty to bribery and corruption. So here’s da deal: Pay a $26,000,000 bribe to da state treasury, stay the fuck away from peoples’ pensions for the rest of your life and we can fugettiaboutit, huh?”

“Go fuck yourself.”

“Oh, that so, tough guy? OK, lemme put it in toims even you can unnerstand: Give us a $20,000,000 bribe and we both walk away.”

“You ever heard of ‘sloppy seconds’, Andy?”

“OK, ya rat fucker, Final offer: Ya pay us $10 million in bribes and ya stay away from New York Securities fer two years. Dat’s my final offer, doitbag. Take it or leave it.”

"Hold on a minute, leg breaker."

“Take it, Stevie. It’s the best deal you’ll get."
"But I got him where I want him, Barry! Another couple of minutes, he'll let me fuck his new trophy wife."
"Look, Dick Cheney’s thugs had to pay a quarter of a billion to Nigeria to get his fat, pasty ass off the hook, for crissake.”
"Oh, all right."

“Well? I’m waitin’!”

“On the advice of counsel, I’ll take it. But you’d better blow me first before you’re sworn in. And you better go easy on the back stroke, ya toothy wop.”

“Once again, justice is soived! Well, I’m off to da Governor’s mansion.”
"Andy, I'm waiting!"

Yeah, basically it went down exactly like that.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Republicans: Never Too Stupid to be Crooked or Obscenely Lucky.

As with Queen Bee Sarah, the Christine O’Donnell saga never ceases to amaze. This time O’Donnell is the subject of a federal probe addressing allegations that she’s used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. Naturally, I thought of O’Donnell’s impending book deal, so I thought I’d write another open letter to her scumbag literary agent Daniel Strone, CEO of the Trident Media Group.

Dear Danny boy:

Man, you sure know how to pick ‘em. First, you pick to represent someone who is surely the stupidest woman in America and possibly, next to Ayn Rand, the stupidest woman who ever lived. This is a person who doesn’t know the rudiments of the Constitution, beginning with the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights, got only 30,000 people to vote for her in the Delaware GOP Senate primary then got crushed by 17 points on Election Day.

Now she’s a subject of the liveliest interest by the federal government, including the FBI, for using “magic money”, or campaign contributions, to pay for personal expenses.

Danny boy, I never thought of you as being a bleeding heart liberal but I gotta hand it to you, reaching down and pulling Ms. O’Donnell out of her own muck and mire by personally getting for her a huge book deal, sight unseen, is the epitome of a bleeding heart bailout. To see a greater show of generosity, one would have to go back earlier this month to the Congressional Republicans when they bravely sought a third round of bailouts for the wealthiest 2%.

No doubt, the controversy swirling around Ms. O’Donnell as the feds close in on her for using her own campaign war chest as her personal ATM or sugar jar will surely drive up sales regardless of what will be ghost-written for her. Perhaps, if you’re really lucky, Danny boy, she’ll prove to be as controversial as other frauds who signed big book deals. I’m thinking specifically of the guy who faked Howard Hughes’ and Adolph Hitler’s memoirs. Maybe O’Donnell will oblige by titling her own biography “Going Rogue” or "America by Heart."

Indeed, Mr. Strone (do you have kids and, if so, are they ridiculed by their peers as “mini-strones”? Just curious), you could not have chosen to elevate from base criminality a better candidate for respectability than if you’d gone to mug shot websites and picked a crack whore or pickpocket or husband killer using the eenie meenie miney mo/dart-over-the-shoulder process obviously used by John McCain when he was still hunting for a running mate.

"Now, open that wallet, bitch! I got radio spots and 6 months of back rent to pay for!"

After all, look what Aileen Wuornos did for true crime nonfiction and the popcorn concession industry (aka the movie industry) when some hot blonde chick underwent a makeunder and played her. And O’Donnell could be the political analogue of the protagonist of Monster. Knowing Christine, who even lies about fingering her clit, she’ll use the same excuse that Wuornos used: “How was I to know that all that money given to me by all those horny men would wind up in the central accounts of my landlord, insurance companies and utility companies?”

Except now she’ll have a huge book contract, courtesy of you and St. Martin’s Press, surely the greatest blow to American literacy since Robert James Waller and Joe the fucking Plumber were signed. So you may have screwed the pooch there a bit.

Still, controversy sells books. Well, maybe not for OJ “If I Did It” Simpson but usually it sells. So who cares that I’m brilliant and talented and can actually write my own stuff? I deserve each and every one of the several dozens of form rejection letters and cold shoulders I’ve gotten, including some from your agency, in response to my hundreds of queries and proposals because I wasn’t smart enough to run for a national office for which I was vastly unqualified.

Because the more that I, and other writers of actual talent, circle around the rim of the toilet of the publishing/literary representation business, the more we realize that talent, diligence and obeying the rules and laws of the land doesn’t count for a dung hill. It’s flouting the laws, reaching beyond one’s grasp and being a shining, ignorant example that if you’re a Republican, you’re never too stupid to be crooked or obscenely lucky.

So when are you going to go out and get Tom “Dancing With the ‘Tards” DeLay and Duke Cunningham?

Robert Crawford, author of American Zen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

American Life in Stasis

It’s a paradox, really.

The further you travel, the wider your opportunities even as the end of the road poking the horizon narrows to the head of a pin. The hand gets slick on the wheel and your eyes gloss over the seemingly endless spool of white or yellow paint in the middle of the road.

What’s that? The rumble strip or the intermittent pieces of metal they put in the middle of the road to warn you you’re about to get hypnotized into one undesirable direction or another. The road never seems to reach its termination yet your gas tank gets lower and lower and the engine gets hotter and hotter.

This is what it’s like being unemployed year after year. Predatory creditors and temp agencies dot the road while getting more and more numerous, little Rutger Hauers and Sean Beans just writhing to climb into your car and to do what they do worst.

Maybe if you’re smart, you’ll learn before it’s too late not to pick up strangers. Those with better cars than you learned that long ago. They’d learned that the people without cars are precisely the ones you should not and cannot help. Employers and literary agencies also learned that Randian lesson- not to give a helping hand to the unemployed and the unpublished.

On second thought, Gentle Reader, this isn’t Highway 66, its wide, arable land of opportunities beckoning with its inaudible siren calls. It’s Death Valley and only those with referrals worn on the chest like pasteboard placards offering work for food can get considered.

It wasn’t like this when I first got my driver’s license. Back in 1978, I was a fresh-faced 19 year-old kid just out on his own making just over $3 an hour and still able to support myself and put money in the bank every week. If my father drummed anything into my sieve of a skull, it was this:

Pay your own way, in cash, live within your means and you’ll do just fine, sonny boy.

My Dad had one, maybe two credit cards and maintained a respectable line of credit that he only dipped into when he had to. Back then, it wasn’t so easy to get a credit card. You had to prove you needed it and that you were solvent enough to get one. It was a privilege having a credit card.

By the 80’s, dogs were getting gold cards.

But then, slowly but surely, something evil began happening on the road of my life that even my dear old, trusted, pragmatic Dad couldn’t have foreseen.

By the early 90’s, potential employers interviewing for crappy, dead-end retail jobs began doing background checks on one’s credit history. By now, it’s almost the norm. Now, to even get a consideration for an even crappier temp job at minimum wage, you’re made to take literacy tests, math tests, quizzes on safety films, eye tests, pass CORI (criminal background), drug and credit rating checks.

Dad, oh Daddy-O, how could you not see this coming? You used to work for Digital. Why didn’t you tell me that the day would come when a guy could hardly hope for a job unless he took some computer science or software class?

Not that they even exist, anymore. Now, the US Chamber of Commerce has made the road more desolate than ever by not so secretly outsourcing jobs overseas to get around that irritating minimum wage so people in the Third World can do the same jobs for pennies an hour, jobs for which we’d trained ourselves at our expense or on the government's dime (until Reagan and David Stockman destroyed CETA).

Somewhere around the same time, credit card companies and other lenders also realized that their customers paying their bills on time was such an antiquated way of doing business. Now, they’ve found a way to make lots more money by stacking the deck against you and making you default on your credit card and mortgage payments and raising your formerly low APR just because you paid late a bill that was completely unrelated to your card.

And, even if you, despite all that goal-post moving, continue making your mortgage payments on time and even own your house outright, well, places like Bank of America found their way around that pesky little ownership thingie, too, and just foreclose on you by signing you up for credit-destroying home loan modifications even if you don’t ask for it.

So, in summation, the road gets drier and more desolate, save for the occasional Rutger Hauers, Sean Beans and other assorted and sundry predators and you’re literally running on fumes. The government that has victimized you by giving away trillions to the same predators who are even now cinching the noose tighter and tighter as jobs are harder and harder to get helps you out once in a while by sending a tow truck your way that’ll drop you off at an abandoned gas station where you’re then left to your own devices. The little bit of help they intermittently give gets you just enough gas to break down within towing distance of the next gas station and the end of the road is now the point of a dagger stabbing at the bruised underbelly of heaven.

Wall Street’s craps game with derivatives and mortgage-backed securities has cost us millions of jobs. The US Chamber of Commerce has cost us millions more with its brazen, despicable agenda to outsource as many manufacturing jobs as possible. And corporations, whether at the behest of Tom Donohue or not, are outsourcing more jobs to be done for as little as .03¢ an hour, have outsourced countless millions more while still enjoying the tax breaks that offshore corporations still get to this day.

But the little guy driving his car still has to pay his state, federal and excise taxes on his overheating car every year. It’s a Mad Max movie out there and the Mohawked lunatics with the bigger and better jalopies are winning the war.

And you wonder as you shift the wheel a bit this way and that, trying to keep it straight and narrow, when things will begin to change and what that would have to involve. Those on the left and right side of the shimmering road can easily agree that our country and the government that guides it has been completely taken over by, or merged with, the corporate sector.

Heaven has run out of manna and saviors and we've killed off the last Good Samaritans. When will it end and when will the common man finally get a break on the wayside? Or is that even in the works?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas with the Wife and Kid

Last night was an adventure in Christmas gift wrapping. As with last year, Popeye kept pawing at the presents even as I was trying to wrap them, especially the cat toys on which I'd sprinkled cat nip. Unlike last year, the little shit didn't get his way and had to wait until this morning like everyone else.

.oO WTF was he thinking? Oo. "I mean, thank you, honey!"

As usual, the annual frogs calendar was a big hit.

.oO Hm. Spicy sausages. Is he trying to tell me something? Oo.

Peace on earth... finally.

Christmas, 1914-5

(This was a post I'd put up on Christmas Day two years ago. Out of my thousands of posts written over the last six years, it's one of my personal favorites and I just thought it was worth reposting. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all and may today, and every day thereafter, be marked with joy, love for your fellow man, safety and hope.)

Every Christmas, ever since the invasion of Iraq, I remind myself of the moving and legendary Christmas truce between British and German forces that took place in 1914. Actually, contrary to most any other historical event, rather than being exaggerated, the truce, singular, is actually downplayed and scaled down. The cease-fire between opposing sides on Christmas Eve 1914 was more widespread and longer-lasting, even spawning at least two sequels in the two succeeding years.

The First World War was one of the most barbaric ever, the century's first global clash of nations using mechanized tools of war. Unlike previous wars, dogfights between pilots in airplanes were common and the strange spectacle of diesel-powered tanks dipping and rumbling across the cratered terrain of European battlefields had easily led people to believe that war between humans had crossed that threshhold into the inhuman.

Which is why the story of the Christmas truce between enemies during this same war is all the more remarkable. It's a still-heartening reminder that, while the technology of war had evolved, the human heart had remained constant and good will toward one's fellow man had yet to become a quaint notion.

When German soldiers were observed decorating their foxholes and barricades and overheard singing Christmas carols, the British soldiers across No Man's Land had responded in kind. Soon, soldiers approached eachother, their hands up, without permission from their officers and a truce was declared. Presents such as jam, cigars, cigarettes and so forth were exchanged. Equipment was also exchanged between sides so living conditions could be improved. The dead left out in No Man's Land were buried and mourned by both sides.

Then someone proposed playing a game of soccer. Actually, several soccer games broke out. The high command of both sides were outraged this was going on but were powerless to stop it since many of their lower field officers had happily joined in the abrupt festivities.

Similar stories began emerging that this had happened among French and Belgian forces. Perhaps photographs of loved ones were traded during the truce and whatever little communication there was between French, Belgian, English and German troops spoke of simple, common pleasures. As with the current Pope Benedict today, the last, Benedict XV, had earlier that year called for an end to the bloodshed.

Contrary to popular belief, these truces lasted longer than Christmas. According to several accounts by those who were there, the truce actually lasted for the better part of a week and wouldn't resume until fresh troops would relieve the ones who'd lain down their arms.

It was a very necessary reminder to these men that whatever advances had been made in war technology, the mustard gases and ugly machines that had taken over the landscape, humans were still humans the world over and fellow Christians could still find some common ground and celebrate a common holiday, putting a world war and the unimaginable human devastation on a back burner.

It is impossible to imagine anything like that happening these days, partly because we are fighting a nebulous enemy that wears no uniforms, carries no identification cards or dog tags nor even shares our religion or celebrates our holidays.

But the differences in religion don't fully explain the new breed of barbarity we're seeing in the world today. War has gotten more impersonal than ever with longer-range weapons, faster and harder tanks and laser-guided smart bombs yet when it gets down to it, it can still get quite personal and ugly.

Maybe, as Albert Einstein said, the fourth world war will be fought with rocks and Mankind will once again be able to see the whites of eachother's eyes as they try to kill and maim eachother again. And perhaps that proximity in the absence of sophisticated war technology will better remind these future enemies that Christmas and Easter afford irresistible opportunities for them to recognize and celebrate eachothers' similarties instead of hating them for their differences.

The truces of 1914-5 were held in defiance of generals and politicians who had seen no place for the Christmas spirit in the alien desolation of the battlefields. This defiance in defense of what is fundamentally and universally human is something we're seeing all too infrequently these days and may never see again.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Desperately Seeking Susan

Meet the real-life Lisbeth Salander.

We live on a planet where it's a perpetual truism that truth, as Lord Byron famously observed, is stranger than fiction. Fiction, especially the kind that depends upon Coleridge's suspension of disbelief, needs to catch up with real life if it is to be taken seriously. Bestselling author James Patterson sagely observed recently that if someone penned a novel about an ex NFL player who murdered his wife and one other man then led the LAPD on a nationally-televised, slow motion chase down a California freeway and had done so before 1994, that person would've been laughed out of the publishing business. As a working novelist myself, I concur.

Therefore, it only follows that Susan Lindauer had to come around years before Lisbeth Salander, the waspish heroine of the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. And, as it so often happens, the real life case has been virtually ignored while the fictional Salander's fictional travails have been, justly, celebrated in both print and film.

I'm shamelessly stealing from journalist Michael Collins' "The Hornet's Nest Kicked Back", his review of Susan Lindauer's new tell-all autobiography, Extreme Prejudice. I've yet to read the book. But then again, this isn't a book review nor does it pretend to be. Let's call this, instead, a review of the Kafkaesque/Orwellian/Larssonian persecution undergone by Lindauer during much of the illegitimate Bush administration.

To anyone who's read Larsson's excellent book, the reasons for paralleling Lindauer's experience with Salander's are obvious. Both women are of Swedish extraction who were then charged with crimes they didn't commit, had their sanity questioned by the Powers That Be and were even illegally incarcerated. Both women had information that could take down their respective governments, which necessitated their disappearance a la Pinochet.

Here's the difference. Salander has celebrity journalist Michael Blomqvist on her side, as well as, eventually, several members of law enforcement.

Aside from her Protean legal team, Lindauer had no one but Michael Collins, a freelancer who hardly has the celebrity of Millennium's publisher and crusading financial journalist. Blomqvist, in Larsson's books, always found himself playing private detective and either insinuating himself into the official investigation into Salander or running his own parallel investigation with the laissez-faire freedom that only a crusading, nationally-known, therefore dangerous journalist of Blomqvist's stature can muster. Collins was virtually the only accredited journalist who consistently took up Lindauer's cause and still is and the mainstream media had hardly touched Lindauer. Salander, at least, was the source of tabloid fodder in Sweden and had ridiculous stories about being part of a "lesbian Satanic gang" circulated about her.

Salander, in the last two books, was essentially held prisoner from the age of 12 on and victimized by the evil Dr. Peter Teleborian. Lindauer's own Teleborian goes by the name of Sanford L. Drob, PhD.

Drob's diagnosis, if one were to honor his findings with such a dignified word, was to treat Lindauer, literally and figuratively, as if she was too incompetent to defend herself. In fact, Drob's contention was that the more Lindauer called for witnesses who could exonerate her of espionage charges, the more "proof" it was of her delusional structure and persecution complex. In other words, the more she demanded the trial that was forever denied her, the more they kept denying it to her. It was the first time that I'd ever heard of the prosecution claiming the defendant was too incompetent to stand trial.

For those of you just tuning in, the basic reason Lindauer was arrested, detained and accused of espionage was her opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq. She'd written at least 11 letters, some of them to her second cousin, then WH Chief of Staff Andy Card, vehemently advising against such a rash policy of regime change. Lindauer had prophesied, among other things, that invading Iraq would be used as a great recruiting tool for al Qaeda, a fact borne out a few years later when the Flypaper Effect became apparent and our troops found themselves fighting a new enemy called "Al Qaida in Iraq."

What happened to Lindauer, not a covert agent but a supervised intelligence asset, went in some ways even further than the much more publicized Valerie Plame outing. Plame, because of a now-infamous NY Times op-ed written by her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, had her career destroyed and her life put in jeopardy when the late Robert Novak, at the behest of senior Bush administration officials, outed her.

Lindauer was the Nexus phase of the paranoid Bush junta's persecution, losing almost everything in the process yet somehow falling between the cracks. It's impossible to fathom why she'd suffered the same fate as Sibel Edmonds, former translator for the FBI who'd also been vigorously shunned by the MSM.

2002 was not a good year for the Bush administration. That same year, Edmonds had been fired from her translation job at the FBI Washington, DC field office after threatening to make public revelations of federal impropriety that could've endangered national security. This was the exact same rationale used by that same government to persecute Lindauer.

Without going into details (read Lindauer's 466 page book for them. I trust it will make for riveting reading), the federal government:

  • Incarcerated Lindauer at Carswell Federal prison for women beyond the legally permissible time.

  • The prosecution, incredibly, tried to have Lindauer declared mentally incompetent to stand trial, a legal tactic exclusively used by defense attorneys, often in capital crimes cases.

  • Both the prosecution and the psychiatric "experts" who'd had, at best, middling contact with Lindauer, lobbied to have her forcibly drugged with Haldol, a powerful antipsychotic medication.

  • Valuable information, analysis and testimony that could've exonerated Lindauer or at least shed some doubt on her condition and even guilt was deliberately withheld from the court of Michael B. Mukasey, who would later become the Attorney General of the United States.

  • The case was later transferred to Loretta Preska, someone who'd been elevated to a federal court by none other than George W. Bush.

  • The case against Lindauer abruptly lost steam within days of Bush and Cheney, after a massive, self-satisfied burp, waddling out of the White House on January 20th 2009.

  • What's happened to Lindauer, who'd been denied her freedom and credibility and justice for years, her career ruined and sanity questioned, is, if anything, an even more egregious blow to her civil liberties than that endured by Valerie Plame. Yet, the mainstream media, except for followup filler blurbs on Lindauer's court dates, hardly touched it.

    Lindauer's book promises to set the record straight, revealing much more detail about her experience and evidence of the coverup. However, it's telling that the book was published by the obscure CreateSpace and that Extreme Prejudice couldn't get the backing of a literary agent (who are as a whole, on top of being career-driven and greedy, also literarily moronic and cowardly).

    That means we have to get the word out. Because Lindauer is not like Lisbeth Salander in the respect that her own persecution and false imprisonment does not have the massive, money-making PR machine as enjoyed by the estate of Stieg Larsson.

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    How Conservatives View the Unemployed

    They pretty much look at us and those of us complaining about getting reduced unemployment benefits while the wealthy got an early $801 billion present from Obama and Congress as this tramp determined to have Christmas by stealing from someone else.

    We're hobos for wanting back some of those unemployment benefits that we'd already kicked into all our working lives. "How dare you want to pay your bills because you were thrown out of work and make us pay for your welfare?" is what we're hearing. Well, to those good, momentarily gainfully employed folk, I say, "If you're complaining about an additional $57 billion in extended unemployment benefits that's not even enough to cover our bills, then I can't wait to hear about you bitching about how you'll pay for that $801 billion in tax breaks, not to mention how you'll cover the trillion dollars in lost Social Security taxes over the next decade."

    But it's easiest to kick us around because, unlike the Rush Limbaughs and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world, we're not pulling our weight and collecting $135 a week is so much easier than it is to find work that would easily pay twice that much after taxes.

    Forget the fact that we're raging economic engines who are forced to live hand to mouth and to pump that pittance we got back from the Obama administration into the hands of insurance companies, mortgage lenders in one way or another, petroleum cartels, utility companies and Big Agra and that the wealthiest 2% will simply take those extra billions and stuff them into a CD or money market account. Anybody that can afford to almost absentmindedly stuff an additional several million or two dollars into a bank is someone who doesn't deserve to scream about wanting and needing more.

    So come this Christmastime, this is how we're being portrayed by the right wing and many among the 90.2% of us who are employed in some capacity: Hobos out to steal their trees and presents like some poor man's Grinch. Even though we're not the ones who were bellowing for more tax cuts at the expense of the economy and our childrens' and grandchildrens' futures.

    It's a shortsighted, eliminationist mode of thinking that depends entirely on one's dodgy prospects of hanging onto their job during a time when the US Chamber of Commerce is nakedly and brazenly calling for the destruction of America through the outsourcing of all our manufacturing jobs, leaving only a nation of minimum wage-earning shopkeepers without unionization and without power and without a voice.

    So be it. If the only way to wring compassion out of such people is to be thrust into the same position we were thrust in, to be forced to deal with predatory temp agencies and to drop one resume after another into a black hole, then so be it.

    I'm not going to ask for any more donations because a lot of you are already stretched to the max. Many of you already donate to some blogs and news outlets as well as having to fund your own Christmas and to stay caught up on your bills. But until you were suddenly put out of work and then found yourself to be some unemployable dinosaur and that the skills into which you grew were no longer enough, until you'd found out to your shock that living within your means and paying as you go had actually hurt you because more and more employers insist on doing credit checks, until you've sat in a fast food restaurant during a cattle call and realizing that you're competing with people with college degrees for minimum wage jobs...

    ...then please keep your ignorant, bubble boy observations to yourself.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Christmas is That Time of Year...

    ...when Republicans and corporations think of themselves and each other. People more often than not get laid off at Christmas while their former company's executives receive huge bonus checks. People tend to get evicted around Christmas, as if the most uncharitable and unconscionable elements of society save their worst for the worst time of the year.

    The Republican Party is just such a case. Out of 42 Republicans in the Senate, only one, Sam Brownback of Kansas, voted for the Zadroga bill that would free up to $7.4 billion for 911 first responders. Every one of the other 41 Republicans in the Senate voted against it while prioritizing two major tax cuts for the wealthy plus the undermining of Social Security. As with DADT, START, the DREAM Act and an unemployment extension, the Republicans nakedly held up all other legislation until they got their tax cuts for the most undeserving scumbags on the planet earth.

    But now that they got what they wanted yesterday, they're saying they don't have time to vote on the Zadroga bill. Jon Kyl of Arizona said it would be disrespectful on the holiest holiday in all the Christian world to work between Christmas and New Year's. Harry Reid wanted to work during that week to enact this legislation, which has already passed in the House with some bipartisan support.

    But Senate Republicans like Kyl think it's more Christian to take a week or so off to drink egg nog and give and receive expensive presents instead of completing the legislative process to make this seven billion in 911 first responders' aid available.

    As Jon Stewart pointed out on this year's last broadcast of The Daily Show, the three dinosaur networks dropped the ball on this and hadn't covered the Zadroga bill in 2 1/2 months. Fox "News", to its credit, excoriated the Senate for holding up the bill but failed to mention it was completely the fault of the Republican Party (Majority Leader Harry Reid was the only Democrat to vote against the bill but that was for purely procedural reasons. He simply didn't want to let the bill die).

    Furthermore, Stewart reminds us the only other network to devote any serious time to the Zadroga bill of late is Al Jazeera. Yes, an Arabic television news network that's sympathetic to al Qaeda is also more sympathetic to the plight of ill and dying 911 responders than the Republican Party and Fox "News."

    Welcome to the rabbit hole.

    It's not very often that you see a party that so thoroughly implodes its value system so soon after a major series of victories. The Republicans haven't even taken control of the House yet and they're already proving to America, even Tea Baggers, what a horrible, horrible idea it was to give them the majority in the lower chamber and near parity in the higher. People who voted Republican last month, if they're not already, will be experiencing not just buyer's remorse but sticker shock. They bought a car that will take itself where ever it wants but its owner nowhere.

    They've brazenly held 911 first responders' aid to languish, filibustering the bill virtually into a legislative coma. They've blocked the repeal of DADT. They've blocked START. They've blocked The DREAM Act. They'd blocked unemployment extensions for people who've been out of work for more than 6 months.

    But they sure moved fast and furious on those tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, even though the Democratic Congress and President Obama were still willing to give those tax cuts to the "bottom" 98%. That wasn't good enough. Our government and our neediest citizens were essentially in a barricade hostage situation so a handful of billionaires and multimillionaires could resume getting money they can't possibly need.

    And you have the Republican Party to thank for that, a party that never learns, a party that can't even define shame since it's not in their lexicon, a party that will always have ass-backwards priorities, a party that never tires of using 911 for partisan political gain until it comes time to cash that $7.4 billion check they write with their big mouths.

    Merry Xmas, America, and thanks for the gift of the Republican Party, the gift that keeps on taking and taking and taking.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    On Julian Assange and the Tax Cuts

    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

    "We were better off at 28 percent under Reagan than we’ve been since. And we are going to be at 39 percent come January." - Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), the wealthiest member of Congress, on Fox

    What connection does Julian Assange have to the nearly $900 billion tax cut/UI extension bill that Obama signed into law today? Absolutely none... at first glance. But look more closely.

    Both issues, the saga of the inexplicably crusading founder of Wikileaks and the third billionaire bailout, as I call it, are admittedly more dissimilar than similar until you see the subterranean commonality. And the one similarity is as telling as it is striking: The wealthy, in some ironically perverse socialist mindset, are caring for the wealthy while virtually ignoring the not so wealthy.

    Multimillionaire Michael Moore and at least nine other celebrities rushed to Assange, the mere conduit of Bradley Manning's massive theft of intelligence, to post his bail between $310,000 and $316,000 USD (depending on fluctuating currency exchange rates). Even now, Assange is staying at a posh resort in the English countryside, Ellingham Hall. In fact, he's already given his first interview with Matt Lauer, with Ellingham's stately castle in the background, whining about being made a victim. Who's paying for his indefinite stay in the lap of luxury is anyone's guess. The way it looks, the only inconvenience and concession Assange will have to make is the electronic bracelet around his ankle preventing him from going on Fox hunts. Let's just hope the martinis are dry enough.

    Meanwhile, we've conveniently consigned Pfc. Bradley Manning to the ash heap of history even as it's still in flux. He sits in a tiny jail cell in solitary 23 hours a day and even Wikileaks, by far the biggest beneficiary of his largesse, an organization that has gotten at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in sympathetic donations, had balked on its promise to kick in $20,000 toward Manning's legal defense fund. It's true that Wikileaks had been under attack in both cyberspace and the real world and have had their cash flow interrupted no thanks to Paypal, Visa and Mastercard. But somehow I don't equate having one's cash flow interrupted with another getting thrown in jail for seven months, starting in Kuwait, and with Uncle Sam throwing away the cell.

    Meanwhile across the pond, Congress, spearheaded by wealthy Republican Congressmen and Senators who stood to make a big windfall with it, rammed this down the majority party's throat with the industry of Harry Reems. They'd shamelessly held piddling and even reduced unemployment benefits hostage so they and their wealthy country club buddies could get a massive tax cut on two fronts while beginning the undermining of Social Security that's indispensable for the actual working class by lowering the payroll tax by 2% for a year.

    Obviously, the Republicans are already gearing up to make the tax cuts permanent across the board, especially the payroll tax upon which Social Security's solvency completely depends.

    A study came out not too long ago that members of Congress' personal net worth, in spite of the economy they largely wrecked, had risen by 16% since 2008. This starts with Rep. Darrel Issa, the presumptive next House Judiciary Chairman, whose own net worth is estimated to be over $303,000,000, making him the wealthiest man in Congress.

    All the same, even while Congressmen and senators have been kicked in their tender portfolios, the average net worth of a member of Congress is almost $3,000,000 each, which boasts 261 millionaires and multimillionaires (Democrats occupy seven of the top 10 spots in terms of Congressional wealth).

    And in return for the $1.7 trillion in lost tax revenue over the next decade (and these tax cuts will last at least that long, if not forever), they gave the chronically jobless table scraps, the only evidence we've ever seen in 30 years that Reaganomics, or Trickle Down Economics, actually works. And hardly a soul on Capitol Hill ever had the guts to stand up before the well of either chamber to point out that if one half of the bill (tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%) resulted in job growth, there wouldn't have been any need for the other, forgotten half of the bill (the third federal UI extension since last spring).

    We've been hoodwinked yet again. Wall Street billionaires and their tennis partners got bailed out yet again, only this time they didn't need it (Gates and Buffett even said not to give it to them, marking the first time in decades that our government did not listen to the wealthiest 1%).

    The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Julian Assange

    "Suffering the aftereffects from his spell in solitary confinement" is how the British reporter in the video above reminded us. There are people in this country who haven't eaten since Assange first saw the inside of a jail cell in Great Britain yet we're expected to be reminded that Assange is suffering from some PTSD that could only be cured by being rushed to a stately mansion and a dry martini screwed into his pathetically shaking fist.

    It would interesting to hear Pfc Bradley Manning's expert take on Assange's own horrendous treatment but we have to remind ourselves of two things: Manning doesn't have access to television any more than he does to those who regularly appear on it.

    What we're seeing in the ongoing Assange saga is what we saw with O. J. Simpson both times, Robert Blake, Klaus von Bulow, Patty Hearst, Phil Specter and every other tawdry mystery that featured celebrities: It becomes only fully relevant and compelling when wealthy white people are involved. For every Paris Hilton and Lady Di, there are a million indigent or middle class folks like Bradley Manning whose suffering remains more debatable rumor than incontrovertible fact.

    This is vividly delineated in the other big news item, the ratification and signing of the tax bill. Virtually every journalist in print and TV had forgotten the other half of the bill, which is extending unemployment benefits to those out of work for more than six months. If you aren't on unemployment or jobless and had no vested interest in it, you'd swear that the two year, $858 billion bill, the first one Mitch McConnell bothered showing up to see signed out of 29, concerned itself just with tax cuts for everyone (over 10 years, the price tag will actually be about twice that).

    Incredibly, there were Republican members of Congress who were philosophically (if greed can be said to be a philosophy outside of Wall Street) opposed to the bill because it contained scraps with particles of meat on them to the hobos (hereafter referred to as the unemployed). Even more audaciously, Republicans wanted to know how this third bailout of the unemployed would be paid for without once asking how $1.7 trillion of tax breaks for the most undeserving would be paid for.

    Meanwhile, the mainstream media, earning its Palin-esque moniker of the "lamestream media", is marching with the Obama administration in lockstep in parroting the line that the jobless recovery is underway, that the stimulus did everything it was supposed to do, that we'd somehow crawled out of the recession without knowing it in June of 2009.

    Really, now? Then why was a third bailout of the unemployed necessary and why was this third bailout contingent on a third bailout of Wall Street billionaires like Lloyd Blankfein passing in Congress? How, if the Reagan-era mantra of tax cuts for the wealthy translates to jobs, was an unemployment extension really necessary? Why has the unemployment rate risen to 9.8% and hovered at or around double digits for well over a year after tax cuts for the wealthiest reached its tenth consecutive year?

    If the pity party surrounding Julian Assange and the wealthy prove one thing, it's that tragedy and perceived persecution of the wealthy always count for more even among the proletariat than the real tragedy we face. After all, who wants to see The Housewives of Watts or The Housewives of the Bronx? For every Mark Madoff who hangs himself, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who kill themselves and their families because they cannot support them.

    And Assange's unusual persecution from Sweden, selectively scummy though it is, is always a sexier headline than Manning facing actual cruel and unusual punishment before he's even been charged with a single crime. So is Nigeria's bribery charges against Dick Cheney getting dropped. Between being bailed out by Halliburton to the sweet tune of $250,000,000 and getting his fat tax break early next year, it will be a very good year for Cheney and many of his ilk.

    But somehow, if we could see or hear them, I think Bradley Manning and the unprotected whistleblowers and unemployed and homeless of the world would cry foul and for good reason.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    The Duke of Ellingham

    Julian Assange was granted bail today by a British judge. The pictures you see below is where he'll be placed under some kind of brutal house arrest. It's called Ellingham Hall, which has its own website.

    This is where Julian will winter. It's not quite as large as the estate in Sandringham but it'll have to do.

    This is where the poor guy will be taking his meals. Somehow, I get the feeling this isn't a self-serve environment or that he'll be carrying trays to his table.

    This isn't the foyer but the mud room where Julian can shake the snow off his riding boots after the fox hunt.

    OK, in all seriousness, I almost pity poor Assange if he has to spend a minute in this room, which looked as if it was designed by Professor Plum.

    This would be pretty posh if it was the servants' quarters but this is, I shit you not, a rental cottage called "the Hen House."

    Ellingham Hall's website says of itself on its index page,
    Taking over your very own stately home is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people. Set in the heart of Northumberland, close to rolling hills and breathtaking coastlines, Ellingham Hall is a country house venue comprising a seventeenth century historic hall ideal for holiday rental, parties, weddings, birthdays or corporate events – a fabulously unique venue for your holiday or special occasion.

    Ellingham Hall is a Northumberland country house venue with 12 luxury holiday cottages and is also available as a corporate venue or wedding venue.

    So my question is this: We know that Michael Moore and other celebrities are rushing to this guy's aid and scraping together $316,000 to bail him out while Bradley Manning continues rotting away in an 8x8 cell 23 hours a day for months on end.

    Who's paying to put up Assange in this posh Northumberland castle?
    Update: Apparently, I got the wrong Ellingham Hall, according to a reader in the state government of New Jersey. There are two, apparently, in England. One is in Northumberland and there's another in Norfolk. The Northumberland Ellingham Hall issued an addendum on their website which reads as follows, perhaps as a reaction to my error:
    The Wikileaks Founder, Julian Assange, is NOT staying with us at Ellingham Hall, unless he's sneaked in with a wedding party. He is apparently staying at the other Ellingham Hall in Norfolk.

    Whilst we would love to host your wedding or corporate event with us, we are not interested in bringing down Governments via Wikileaks, nor any other form of anarchistic behaviour!

    Assange is staying at the Norfolk Ellingham Hall, which is just a little less posh, as the satellite view of the estate shows a swimming pool off the west wing and palatial grounds. Plus, I hardly think that putting up Assange under court order can be construed as being "interested in bringing down Governments."

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Assclowns of the Week Year #85: The Top 50 Assclowns of 2010 edition

    (Photoshopped pic courtesy of my sis Alicia Morgan at Last Left Turn B4 Hooterville.)

    (By way of a pre-introduction, if you could spare a few dollars to help out Mrs. JP and me just before the holiday season, any help would be greatly appreciated. I just got my weekly UI benefits reduced by $25. We both really are looking for work but if you're in your 50's and have been unemployed beyond a certain time, you find out pretty fast what a cold, cruel world it can be. But even if you can't, I still hope you enjoy this year-end retrospective, my Xmas present to you all, half as much I had writing it. Happy Holidays.)

    Oh, America, how could you? After the GOP (7) stonewalled America practically back into the Dark Ages of Bush the Younger (45) and after amply demonstrating time and again that they didn’t have any ideas beyond “Repeal health care reform!” and “Cut taxes!”, what do we then go and do? You (10) give them control of the House, which is like giving a drunk the keys to a brakeless cement mixer after making him stand by the side of the road incorrectly and incoherently reciting the alphabet.

    And this unusually vicious midterm election cycle provided yours truly with roughly half his annual retrospective of the 50 worst assclowns the US had to offer in 2010. At least New England managed a clean sweep so the American voter can at least give itself a love tap on the back if not a full-fledged pat. Then again, we’d also voted out of office liberal stalwarts like Alan Grayson and Russ Feingold while also saying goodbye to Joe Sestak and Patrick Kennedy.

    But not all this year’s dishonorees were midterm-related. There was also Lady Gaga (50), Andrew Breitbart (16), Jon Stewart (40) and the US Supreme Court (3). So hop aboard the flaming shit wagon that’s barreling toward America as we review these assclowns of 2010 and much, much more!

    (Read the rest here.)

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    It's a Wonderful Life

    Now I know what was going through poor George Bailey's mind as he stood on that fucking bridge realizing he was more valuable dead than alive (then again, George had $500 equity on a life insurance policy, so he was actually better off than me.).

    Santa's been a bad elf this year. This afternoon with the mail came a letter from the Massachusetts DET informing me that as of Dec. 11, I'll be losing the extra $25 a week I got from the Obama administration. That's $100-125 a month. Since Mrs. JP's out of work, too, that means I'll be making $137 after child support to supplement her $135 a week. At a little over $1000 a month, that won't be enough to pay the rent ($650 a month), the auto insurance ($46+), internet access ($35), gas, electric, food, gasoline, cell phone minutes and whatever else comes up.

    They gave me two day's notice. Helluva way to spend Christmas.

    Meanwhile, even if I do get my UI benefits extended, it'll be minus the $25 I've been getting since May last year. and it'll be conditional on bloated, jiggling billionaires getting their 6 figure tax breaks at our expense. What a country. I get UI benefits reduced by $100 a month and Rush Limbaugh gets another couple of hundred thousand stuffed in his pocket.

    Don't tell me there's no God much less a Santa Claus. This gives us no chance to even celebrate the holidays by buying presents. It'll be another miracle on 34th Street if we'll be able to meet all the bills on New Year's Day. I sent out another five letters and resumes this morning alone. No responses. Since last year, I've signed up with six, count 'em, six temp agencies and they have not gotten my foot in one fucking door. I've never seen it this bad before.

    So, sorry, Bad Santa, no cookies.

    (Whatever you guys could do to help would be greatly appreciated but it being the holidays, I know a lot of you are stretched to the max, too, so I don't expect anything.)

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Letter to a Literary Agent

    I've had it. I've fucking had it. I've lived with constant form rejection letters from brain-dead literary agents' flunkies while no-talent cunts like Sarah Palin and George W. Bush got signed to combined $14,000,000 contracts for ghost-written, plagiarized pieces of Republican propaganda.

    But when I found out tonight that Christine O'Donnell, a woman who makes Sarah fucking Palin look like Margaret Meade on a great day by conspicuous relief, got signed to a book deal, I saw crimson. So I looked up her literary agent and discovered that not only was this bimbette signed to a huge contract by Trident Media Group, a literary agency that's rejected my books time and again with form rejection letters, she was snugly ensconced under the wing of its CEO, Daniel Strone.

    What follows is a letter I just sent off to this unconscionable, money-grubbing douchebag just seconds ago. I hope you enjoy reading this orgasmic blast of rage and resentment as much as I enjoyed writing it.

    Dear Mr. Strone:

    You wanna know what I look for in a literary agent? A Great White in a fucking gabardine with enough talent and cajones to actually sell an unwritten book sight unseen by an ignorant, brain-dead zombie like Christine "Palin v. 1.1" O'Donnell. And you, sir, are exactly what I'm looking for, someone who's made a very, very handsome living amassing an enormous client list of people who generally don't write their own books. How George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber got by you is anyone's guess. Guess you can't win 'em all, huh? But congrats for essentially camping out on this lovely loser's doorstep like some half mangled chipmunk killed and left there by the family cat the minute you detected the faintest whiff of opportunity and money.

    Anyway, I figure if you can sell unwritten books necessarily sight unseen by people who aren't qualified to write deli specials on a fucking white board at Kroger's, I figure you should have no problem selling an actual, written book by someone who actually has two neurons to rub together, someone who actually doesn't have a problem with masturbation, never dabbled in witchcraft, and actually knows the rudiments of the US constitution.

    I know, I know, you're probably asking yourself, Yeah, but can he contort the truth like Glenn Beck, Jason Mattera and conservative blogger Pam Geller, all of whom signing huge contract deals with various publishers for sowing fear and discontent and basically doing to the facts what a bunch of Aryan Brotherhood psychopaths would do to a young blond newbie in the prison shower?

    Well, that's the thing, Danny Boy. If these brain transplant candidates can get signed to high powered literary agents like you to huge book deals for essentially having bullshit ghost-written for them, think of what an effect The Truth would have on the somnolent American reading public. Think Bulworth, think The Candidate, think All the King's Men only without the dyke smoking endless cigarettes and the Huey Long corruption.

    Anyway, my book is called The Mike Flannigan Diaries. Mike Flannigan is the protagonist of my bestselling Kindle book American Zen. He's a liberal investigative political journalist, which means he doesn't think before going to his keyboard, How can I make the reality-based community and Comrade Obama and liberals in general look bad?

    Mike, you see, deals in the facts and correctly surveys the political landscape with the discriminating eye of a jeweler.

    Now, I know what you're asking now: Well, Mike Flannigan, if he's the protagonist in a novel about politics and rock music and so forth, isn't real. True enough, Danny boy. Mike's my alter ego, my idealized version of me but he calls a spade a spade, unlike a Tea Bagger like Christine O'Donnell, who calls a spade a nigger.

    And I know that my biggest handicap is that I'm not a "name", which seems to be the secret password or handshake toward getting one's well-shod foot in the doors of the Parnassian publishing houses. But neither was Pam Geller, a blogger woman who had successfully supplanted rational political discourse with baring her breasts. Apparently, all that was needed in her case was to reference an Ayn Rand novel in naming her right wing blog Atlas Shrugged to get prompt, enthusiastic grunts from the Right Wing Powers That Be on the Avenue of the Americas.

    But where was Christine O'Donnell herself prior to this past election cycle? As recently as this spring, even Delawarians hadn't heard of her until a whopping 30,000 people voted for her in the sleepy Delaware Republican primary where she beat a milksop like Mike Castle. And if anyone besides Joe Biden has put Delaware on the map, besides the dead troops that stream off the transports of Dover AFB, it's Christine "I'm Not a Witch Neither Do I Finger my Clit" O'Donnell!

    So give my idea a chance and please consider reading Mikey's dispatches from the previous 2 1/2 years at the Democratic and Republican national conventions through the '08 elections all the way to the '10 midterms.

    Hey, if Joe the Plumber can get a book and a recording deal despite having no other talent than waxing his head and hating Obama and picking fistfights with Israeli journalists, then anyone can get published and make some serious pelf, right? And if America proves anything, Danny boy, it's that we can never have too many Joe the Plumbers and Sarah Palins.

    I'm telling you, Danny Boy, if the American people love one thing more than bullshit, it's The Truth. It'll be boffo, bubby, boffo, I tell you. Have your people call my people and we'll do a Cobb salad at the fucking Four Seasons. I eagerly await your response, you fucking gabardined Great White, you. (Playful chuck on the chin)

    Robert Crawford aka Mike Flannigan, aka Jurassicpork

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    The Most Dangerous Man Not in America

    (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein.)

    If you were to ask Rush Limbaugh in between trips to the hubs of the child sex slave trade, he'd stubbornly insist it was Daniel Ellsberg. Then again, Limbaugh is a latter day Republican who still probably harbors a grudge about the Teapot Dome Scandal and, if Eisenhower was still President, he'd be calling for his impeachment for being a radical, anarchic Socialist for taxing the richest 1% up to 90% of their income.

    But, as usual, el Rushbo fails to see the bigger picture and insists that Wikileaks founder and head Julian Assange, this decade's answer to Dr. Richard Kimble, is a traitor on a par with Ellberg.

    Let's get a few things straight, starting with waving away the superficial similarities:

    As with Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in the latter half of June 1971, Julian Assange made Wikileak's most massive disclosures a year and a half into the Obama administration. The first of these Four Horsemen were the videos of gunship troops killing over a dozen Iraqi civilians, two of them Reuters photojournalists, in 2007. The second was the hardly stunning revelation through 75,000 documents pertaining to Afghanistan that not all is going well there. Hot on its heels was Wikileaks' biggest disclosure yet: The release of nearly 500,000 documents pertaining mostly to Iraq that read like a massive police blotter going back to the invasion in 2003.

    Then just after Thanksgiving, the State Dept's internal memos and cables, some of them going back to the Johnson administration, were released, making Secretary of State Hillary Clinton grab her phone to apologize to foreign governments for all the nasty things she and her underlings had said amongst themselves about them. In other words, it revealed that the State Dept. was filled with little Richard Armitages, petty gossips who apparently forgot their cables and internal memos are now part of the digital age.

    It's almost like the Dreyfus Affair all over again, only real and multiplied by 251,000.

    The Obama administration, because it's still a new one, can hardly be held as accountable as the eight year-long Bush administration for the embarrassing and outrageous disclosures that, just as embarrassingly, were brought to us courtesy of a fresh-faced Pfc. barely out of high school and who used little more than a memory stick and a Lady Gaga CD.

    As with the Pentagon Papers and the two year-old Nixon administration, the latest Wikileaks furor and the two year-old Obama administration is outraged not because it's being blamed for originating the abuses and lies spoon-fed to the media, the US public and even foreign governments but for perpetuating those self-destructive policies.

    But let's be clear about the even bigger differences: The mainstream media have not divulged the secrets of the government and one nowadays can hardly imagine it showing the same intestinal fortitude of its ancestors that had holed up for weeks in hotel rooms while dedicated reporters hammered out millions of words and braved the DOJ's barking.

    Wikileaks, an online entity answerable to no one, did it from the safety of their anonymity and seemingly impenetrable firewall. This time, the press is spreading the news not as actual, crusading journalists but passive spectators. In fact, it could be said the passivity of the US press, especially during wars, since Watergate is the very reason for Wikileaks' existence.

    Daniel Ellsberg was a hero, an insider who was a policy analyst for the Pentagon and the Rand Corporation in California who was genuinely tortured by his conscience and felt, rightly, responsible for helping to create the bloody juggernaut that was the Vietnam War. Julian Assange is an egomaniacal little martinet living safely beyond the grasp of a vengeful government that isn't even his by birth who doesn't possess one shred or molecule of the moral currency still wielded by Ellsberg, a man who never fled the country and was quite willing to go to prison.

    Ellsberg was motivated by a conscience as tortured as an Iraqi detainee. Assange's motives for embarrassing the US government? No one really knows aside from perhaps an abstract sense of outrage. Or maybe Assange and Wikileaks are merely the Nexus phase of gossip, an indelible reminder that we live in the most Gotcha Age of all time, the Alan Funt of Uncle Sam.

    It's still unclear whether or not Assange authorized the leak of any classified material. In Ellsberg's case, it was undeniable (Ellsberg even had his children helping him Xerox classified documents at Rand, even cutting off the "Top Secret" from the tops.). But one thing is clear:

    It will set our diplomatic credibility back to the Stone Age, which is to say back to the Bush years, a time in which the Bush Doctrine boiled down to, Agree With Us or We'll Either Blow You to Smithereens or Ignore You Until You Agree With Us. It'll make it that much harder for foreign governments to trust us and work with us and will all but wash away whatever few inroads President Obama had made to repair our international standing.

    But to accuse Assange of being a traitor is ridiculous since, unlike Ellsberg, he's not a US citizen.

    Assange seems to have a problem with the United States in particular and, to a lesser degree, governments that keep secrets, which is to say all of them. It would be easy to look at these four highly publicized disclosures as the World against Julian Assange but the fact is the latest batch of disclosures shows it's Uncle Sam against the World, with a greasy thumb perpetually at the tip of his nose.

    KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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