Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

I waved at the mailman the other day.

It was a rather involuntary action. I saw the oddly shaped truck ambling down the road. I felt an impulse to offer a friendly gesture, to wish the person well, even though I have never met him and would not know him if he were standing with me on line at the Lady Gaga concert. I waved because it’s rather ingrained in me to feel kindly toward the mailman.

When we are young, at least when I was young, muchh of the media we were exposed to is meant to engender respect and honor for a few civil professions. For some reason, at the top of that list of professions? Yeah, you got it. The mailman. Don’t believe me? Who’s the first person Bob and the Muppet sing about here (besides the laundry man and Santa)?

There is something intrinsically wholesome about the United States Postal Service. It is specifically provided for in the Constitution. It is, in fact, older than the country itself and is the oldest postal system of its kind in the world. And it is about to get frittered away.

In the midst of this insane drive for “austerity” among phony cries from Republigoats regarding the nation’s debt, Congress proposes draconian cuts to this service. They want to close post offices, to cut Saturday delivery, to lay off carriers.

These are the logical results of a long-time effort to run the USPS “more like a business” rather than more like a vital piece of national infrastructure. It would be easy to blame the service’s shortfalls on the advent of e-mail and social media. But an absurd, onerous requirement that the post office pre-fund future retirees’ health benefits until 2017 is the real boot on its neck. USPS must pay out of its operating budget between $5.3 to $5.8 billion annually to pre-fund retirees’ pension funds.

This cynical requirement is certainly not necessary. It is clearly directed at hobbling the USPS, part of a longtime war on government infrastructure and, in particular, on unions.

That is how weird the politics of these Untied States of America have gotten. People are cheering the probably demise of the post office. You can reliably and securely transport a piece of paper anywhere in the country for fourty-four cents in two days or less fewer, yet there’s a contingent in this country who thinks that sucks because there’s not some fat white guy somewhere siphoning off a million dollars an hour in stock options. And yet, getups like UPS and FedEx would be nowhere without the United States Postal Service. Unlike those for-profit enterprises, the USPS has a mandate to deliver to anywhere in these Untied States. That means you, Chanute, Kansas.

In fact. The United States Post Office gets the handoff from the for-profit bozos for 25 percent of their business. Which makes me wonder why in hell the CEOs of those two companies aren’t yelling rather loudly about this current state of affairs.

Let the brainwashing commence, though, I guess. Yes, you’re right, nothing is worth done if somebody isn’t sponging up a fat profit from it; and the free market can solve any problem and has your best interest at heart. Why would I want my mail delivered by an government agency where I can call my congressman and complain if my Post Office doesn’t do right by me when I can have completely unaccountable CEOs run everything instead? The post office is socialism. The post office is socialism. Infrastructure is stupid and who cares.

This country has lost its damned mind.

Give Me Convenience or…

The words come from an unlikely context and from an unlikely man for this blogger. It is an impassioned call to war from a Founding Father who led opposition to the Constitution’s ratification. But I maintain that its sentiment means, specifically, that what’s going on in Georgia tonight is fundamentally un-American.

He is reported to have said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” words credited with urging Virginia into the Revolutionary War. The phrase, though, runs deeper than 1775. It is, I think, the essence of the founding spirit of these Untied States of Amurcka. And it is why I believe that what they want to do in Georgia tonight to Troy Davis runs against the very core of what America is.

If we are truly a country that values liberty more than life itself, then the ultimate punishment the state should possess is that of depriving you of your freedom. Not your life.

There are dozens of reasons to oppose the death penalty. I count highest among them that every execution makes Patrick Henry a god damned liar.

Attention, Corporate Media Whores

This means you too, NPR.

I keep hearing in the routine reporting of the story that Obama wants to pay for his jobs bill by “raising taxes on the wealthy.”

HAVE WE ALL FORGOTTEN THAT THE BUSH TAX CUTS ARE STILL DUE TO SUNSET IN 2012? AS THEY SHOULD HAVE LAST YEAR?

If taxes go up on fat cats, it’s because Bush’s giveaway could not survive the gauntlet of the Byrd amendment, not because Obama is a taxing spending fiend.

Amnesia much?

Ron Paul is a Dumb Assed Cracker!

There may be no better example of ideologically driven silliness than Ron Paul’s position on health insurance. Paul is right of course. People who choose not to have health insurance should not get treatment. It was their choice not to get the insurance and they should suffer the consequences of their actions. People who draw to an inside straight should generally lose.

Ron Paul’s reality is so driven by theory that he cannot cope with this actual fact. Not everyone chooses to be a callous degenerate. Maybe people who don’t pay for health insurance bank on that. Generally humans are generous and caring and they will make sure the fool who did not get health insurance gets treatment. And the cost of treatment will be added to the hospital’s operating costs and passed along to people who can pay i.e. people with insurance.

It is the role of government to understand these basic human foibles and channel and regulate them. The Congress and the President have figured this out and offered a solution in the form of mandatory health insurance. It is a good solution which will force every potential user to support the system. It is human nature that the bill is intended to corral. The instinct to be thy brother’s keeper no matter how stupid the brother is.

There are alternative solutions. For example, a mandatory prohibition against for-profit hospitals serving people who cannot pay. Most people, being caring humans, would hate this. Newspapers would abound in tragic tales of people without insurance being callously turned away. But it would work. And no one would hate it more than corporate, for-profit hospitals. After all they make money off of every patient whether or not they can pay. The costs are passed on to the rest of us.

Back in the old days (prior to the 1970s), there were few for-profit hospitals. Almost every hospital was a charity, and people who could not pay were covered by the hospital, expenses passed onto the community, which paid through contributions, fund raisers, and cost sharing. There were no corporations to support so what now is consumed as corporate profit was then plowed back into the hospital, in part to support indigent patients.

(Most of our community and charitable hospitals were absorbed by mega corporations in the biggest scandal never reported. Trustees who had an obligation to the community interest sold out… often for large payoffs… and helped convert the hospitals to corporate profit centers. A handful of people got rich, lots of people lost access to community based health care. Prohibiting for-profit hospitals from serving uninsured patients may create a demand for charitable health care systems, supported by the general public, accepting any insurance they can get, serving the less fortunate.

Let the free market rule.

Here is where we comeback full circle. Prohibiting for-profit hospitals from accepting uninsured clients would be interpreted by the zealots like Ron Paul as government interference with the free market. After all we are saps enough to insist that uninsured dumbasses get medical care at our own expense. We should be saps enough to allow the corporations who have been ripping us off with high cost health care to profit by our foolishness.

Heck of a Job

I was, perhaps, too harsh on our local fire squad recently. While I still am leery of that sentiment, it occurs to me that this house may have actually sent some people down there for rescue and cleanup. Might have lost a few as well. I am still leery of the sentiment. But they are by no means “assholes.”

September Eleventh pisses me off, though. Impeachment hearings should have followed these attacks immediately; it is clear that the then- president failed to do his job. It was, in fact, the most spectacular failure of any president in history, but it was manipulated so adroitly as to avoid exacting any political price for that failure. He in fact would fail just as spectacularly several times in his presidency, causing that presidency to be the overseer of at least THREE apocalyptic events in the United States. All that and yet Bush defenders went down to the end claiming that their Preznit had “kept us safe,” even in some instances denying that he’d been in the office on this day. That is how insane you have to be as a Republigoat these days. You have to defend the guy who was on watch on 9/11 and you have to deplore the guy who ended up being on watch when we shot bin Laden in the eye.

And where by the way are the similarly genuflecting pronouncements regarding this Democratic administration? Obama has “kept us safe”; in fact, he has proven a much more serious, muscular leader toward that end than the Smirking Chimp could ever have dreamt of being. So, where are these pronouncements? They’re not necessary. We don’t feel the need to jump to a hyper-defense of this president. He has not allowed aeroplanes to fly into buildings on his watch. He has not allowed Americans to drown in their own attics. He has not allowed the economy to leap off a cliff. We often lament here that Obama could do more, but by gods, he hasn’t been the hideous incompetent that the last guy was. I think that contrast is never more clear than on a day like today, on a day of remembrance.

But Bush isn’t the only one who has so many people working to lie on his behalf to make him look awesome despite his boobish incompetence. Behold Rudolph Giuliani’s jackass grin in this week’s Newsweek, heralded in those pages still as “America’s mayor,” even though his foolish planning, his insistence on placing his bunker AT the World Trade Center and his failure to fix NYC emergency communications even after the 1993 attack, likely cost lives. Rumsfeld, Cheney, even Rice (who was due on 9/11 to speak on the subject of missile defense)0 I’m sure, all will get another shot at the media, to obsfucate, to excuse, to gloss over.

I am this morning watching the MSNBC re-run of it’s coverage from that day. Morbid, yeah, maybe. I dunno. I find something comforting in it. And I can’t help wonder if George W. Bush on a day like today reviews coverage like this and looks himself in the mirror and is like, “heck of a job, George.”

What do ya think?

I Celebrate September The Eleventh

I was within a quarter mile of the Pentagon. I heard the crash, the Ritz Carlton shook. I walked outside and saw only one plane, a fighter jet, and one helicopter in a sky normally filled with planes. It was quiet except for the sirens and the helicopter. I watched the Pentagon burn and people told me I should go inside because there might be another attack. I thought I would prefer to see it coming… better chance of getting out of the way.

I have said all this before, but here are the lessons of September The Eleventh.

A few weeks before the event, the President of the United States, The Moron George W. Busch, got a briefing from his intelligence people that Al Queda planned to attack the USA, likely with hijacked airplanes. Busch was annoyed and told the briefer, “You covered your ass, now go on back to where you came from.” The moral of this story is never elect a stupid president, particularly one who has no faith in government.

After the event, the USA enjoyed a tremendous outpouring of goodwill. Americans joined together in a celebration of sadness and determination. We all believed as one for a few minutes. The world embraced us, and sent its sympathy. Arab chiefs pledged loyalty, French people were not skeptical, Masai tribesmen sent us 14 cows. It was a wonderful opportunity for a strong America to lead the world to a better, united place. To launch a lasting vision of freedom and justice.

We could have done a lot with that. We could have used the threat to our oil supply to establish an energy policy that reduced our dependence on foreign oil, made us a leader in alternative energy technology and began to reduce greenhouse gasses. We could have established an international anti-terrorist agency that effectively fought against terrorism in all forms. We could have moved to greater international understanding by establishing universities and study programs to train future leaders for the world. We could have pushed for real solutions to the economic problems of third world communities that are the root causes of terrorism.

I believe that a real leader… Al Gore… would have done some thing like that.

Instead, we had George Busch and an arrogant confederacy of dunces committed to establishing an Empire based first and foremost on military power. In just over a year, Busch was showing the world his ass and focusing on an unnecessary invasion of Iraq. The French and Germans were walking away and Natalie Maines was apologizing to Europe.

The dumbest president in history had squandered a fabulous opportunity… one that no president since Harry Truman had been offered… to assert American leadership toward a peaceful and prosperous future. September The Eleventh is a sad day for those who suffered and died. It is a sadder day for our failure to make something positive out of their sacrifice.

Yeah. Do You?

A little FU to the local firehouse for this phrase on their little message board of late:

We remember 9/11. Do you?

No, you assholes. I totally forget. Um, let’s see. What was that thing that happened again? Some Irishmen drove a train into the St. Louis arch and gave birth to 3,000 lemurs?

I can tell you what. I’m really going to despise the upcoming commemoration. There are T-shirts on sale at our local grocery. T-shirts. I’m sure if you buy one you get a funny beanie that makes sparks and a fireball scream when you run the propeller. And when do the 9/11 action figures show up in our toy stores? Made in China, all of it, I’m sure.

There is a weird sense of righteousness, a perverted sense of ownership and call to arms, that have always clouded 9/11 if you ask me, a sense conjured up and promoted by George W. Bush like Billy Mays hawking Oxy-Clean. This was a completely disingenuous stance taken by our former executive incidentally, because he’s the asshole who got caught with his pants around his ankles on that horrific day.

Do I remember? Sure. I was at 13th and G, downtown Washington D.C., on an absolutely beautiful morning, with autumn just starting to be felt in the air. I was at the office for like 20 minutes, and then I walked home, and I saw the smoke of the Pentagon on my left, and the white pickup drove up and the people in the pickup actually didn’t know what was happening and why there were thousands of people fleeing the city. And it was scary, and then me and PB went to the local and had a beer, and that was one crowded bar. I remember it like it was yesterday.

And nobody owns it, and it should not have been a call to launch a crusade as we did, and it sure as hell looks stupid on a T-shirt.

Have Your Yellow Cake and Eat It too.

The 10th Anniversary has got everyone working over old territory on Middle East policy. This guy Bill Keller is a big time writer from the NYT offered up his reflections on his failure to grasp the basic truth about our invasion of Iraq. Keller, one of many liberals who supported the invasion, has now had a change of heart (surprised?).  An interesting apologia, however, based largely on hindsight… i.e. the war was a blunder because Busch and his boys were incompetent, an unforeseeable fact, and he could not have seen anyway because his views were based on the best reporting at the time. The solution, better journalism.

Of course I agree with the need for better reporting,  and have to credit the NYT for facing up to its own limitations and making what is apparently a strong effort to improve. None the less, we owe the current situation in the Middle East in part to the incompetence of the Times and other major journalistic outlets, whose willingness to accept Busch administration lies over obvious facts took American Journalism back to the days of William Randolph Hearst.

I can remember being stunned and amazed by the bullshit the Times was willing to publish as Gospel, primarily in the form of Judith Miller’s coverage. Keller outlines the reasons for going to war:

“Broadly speaking, there were three arguments for invading Iraq: the humanitarian case that Saddam Hussein was a monster whose cruelties were intolerable to civilized nations; the opportunity case — that we might plant the seeds of democracy and freedom in a region desperately in need of them; and the strategic case that Hussein posed an important threat, not only because of his unaccounted-for weapons stockpiles but also because of his habit of smashing through borders and the hospitality he offered to terrorists of various kinds.”

As to those reasons for going to war. Saddam Hussein was a monster. History is replete with monsters in power and we have never seen that as a reason for war. We did not go to war against Edie Amin, Augusto Pinochet (he was our monster, after all), Papa Doc Duvalier. We are not invading Myanmar or Indonesia or North Korea. I argued in 1991, and continued to note in 2003, that Saddam was not just a monster, he was, like Pinochet, our monster, and far more useful than Pinochet (who was an embarrassment to say the least). Saddam was the only secular leader in the Middle East and as such a significant buffer against religious fanatics, whether they were Saudi or Iranian. The Saudis, after all, were the ones urging us to attack Saddam in 1991 and, I suspected, also in 2002. (Recall that 19 hijackers were middle class Saudis.) Saddam fought a deadly war against Iran. Moreover, we had pretty much curbed the worst of Saddam’s excesses by protecting the Kurds with a no fly zone.

I thought that the history of the Middle East should have given us pause before assuming that we could just walk in and declare a Democracy. I admit that Busch was stupid enough to believe otherwise, and his henchmen, who care nothing for Democracy, were cynical enough promote the notion. Rational people, particularly Congresspersons and liberal columnists, should never have bought this line. Democracy has to be learned over the years. It has to be earned, and it requires many great and wise leaders who believe in it. (Failure of leadership in the current USA may indeed cause us to lose it.) There are not enough Democrats in the Middle East to staff a cricket game. There are fewer great and wise leaders.

As to Weapons of Mass Destruction, it has already been noted that we could have waited for the UN to complete its work before we considered this a valid excuse to invade. Moreover, in 2003 I thought this to be the most compelling argument against invasion. If Saddam had to go out of country to get “yellow cake” to make bombs, how much bomb making capacity did he actually have? Certainly he was not making his own cake. And if our intelligence on yellow cake is true, (it was not) then we knew how much he had and how long he had it, which means we should have been able to figure how many bombs he had… takes about 20 pounds of U-238 to build a bomb. The actual (fake) evidence was that Saddam had tried to buy yellow cake, not that he actually bought it. (Why not fake evidence that he had actually bought it?) Moreover, yellow cake has to be refined, and there was no good evidence that Saddam had the centrifuges necessary to refine it. Reports that Saddam had bought certain aluminum tubes that could be used to build centrifuges (reports that turned out to be false) not withstanding, there was not any intelligence suggesting that centrifuges had actually been built. In short the intelligence we all had available should have led us to conclude that if he actually had a nuclear capacity, it was not of much consequence. In addition, if he had a bomb, we knew for a fact that he had only a limited capacity to deliver it.

Likewise, while Saddam had a history of using chemical weapons, we had no valid evidence that such weapons still existed (other than vague reports of portable chemical labs). Likewise capacity to deliver it was limited. And we had ample capacity to contain any threat from Saddam’s limited delivery system using the air power that had successfully contained him since 1991.

Keller does not address the other BIG Lie that the Busch administration used to justify the war, i.e. that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Queda. This is perhaps the most successful lie told by the Busch administration. Remarkable that anyone might believe that the only not religious government in the area would support a bunch of religious fanatics. Especially remarkable when you consider there is no history between the Iraq and Al Queda prior to the American invasion.

I guess it is true that Iraq would not have been a blunder if things had worked out the way Busch wanted them to. Peace in Iraq, democracy abounding, oil flowing freely to the American Oil corporations. I think even the most competent administration was doomed to fail in this endeavor. The evidence was there for any clear thinking person to conclude that the war was neither justified nor wise. Any clear headed person would have seen that as obvious in 2003. Certainly any competent government would never have gone there even if the liberal columnist at the New York Times wanted it.