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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tittybabies, The 1%, and the Olympics

Olympic Symbol -  Used without permission.

Why I  Don’t Give A Damn About The World’s Olympic-Sized Love-Fest With Wealth
“I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived” were the words of one of the characters in West Side Story; a musical about what was then called ‘juvenile delinquency’.   Today, in a counterargument worthy of Schopenhauer, children of the 1%’ers are now saying that their depravity is because they were raised with every advantage, and are thus unaware of any consequences. The sad thing is that there are judges who actually agree with this nonsense.

Not long ago, I heard a similar argument from a soon-to-be-Olympian, claiming that Olympic participants didn’t get ‘any respect’.  Vladimir Putin is shocked – shocked, I tell you – that people are raising a wary eyebrow (along with straight-up statements of corruption) at the $51 billion dollar price tag of this year’s Winter Games.  Gone are the days when emergent nations could field a modest few participants in the ‘classic’ sports of disqus, javelin, et. al.  Today, the Olympics, as with everything else, is the province of the wealthy few.

While some rely on both private and corporate sponsorships, a disproportionate number of Olympians simply tap the family finances – this is what makes it possible to snowboard 10 hours a day rather than having to schlep like the rest of us goons and get a paying job.  Some even sell themselves to another country – a sort of ‘Olympic mercenary’ – when that country is in need of someone with their particular athletic skills.  (Understandably, poorer countries in Asia and Africa want the citizenship requirements tightened in order to prevent that last one – but this is only one of many issues corrupting the Olympics, and as with anything, money talks – and poor countries walk.)  

In point of fact, for thirty years the United States (and much of the rest of the world which had a cabal of filthy-rich people capable of purchasing their respective governments outright) has transformed itself into a bang-on plutocracy.  This ‘rule by the wealthy’ manifests itself in large ways and small – from corporate ‘bonuses’ to the aforementioned pampered ‘athletes’.

Whether it’s the kickbacks and corruption on which the very stadium in Sochi was built, or the privileged-few who get to participate, the Olympics is the manifestation of plutocratic corruption – the Olympics, like so many other things in the New Millenium, have become the province of the very rich, and a love-fest/celebration of wealth.

Lenin?  Marx?  They’re rolling over in their graves, along with Jesse Owens and others who participated in the competitions of a simpler time.

Likely, you'll hear one or more well-coiffed and painfully young 'journalists' on one of the major cable networks going on and on about the roundup of stray dogs in Sochi; the latest 'accomplishment' of a 1%'ers wealthyspawn as they 'do what they love', or (quelle horreur!), the complete lack of basic toilet-function in the Olympic village.

Me? I've got better things to do this month than put more money, albeit indirectly, in the pockets of these people. There are other, better things to do - and I hope you'll join me in doing them, no matter what they are.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The State of the Union - 2014

Can We All Go Back To Jefferson?

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient….”

-          Article II; Sec. 6; U.S. Constitution

“President talk purty.”  

That was my three word analysis of last night’s tawdry spectacle, and if you want to stop right there, that’s fine – because the rest of this piece is commentary (with some hard stats thrown in, if you want to read them.)

If I were from another planet and had cleverly disguised myself as a human, having learned the English language during my stay along with a modicum of American law, I’d likely be passingly-familiar with the Constitutional requirement above.  At the end of last night’s theatre I would have scratched my head and thought, “I didn’t hear anything about the state of the union.  When does that happen?”

Clearly last night, it didn’t. 

Last night, The Man We Elected President, Barack H. Obama, late of the state of Illinois by way of Hawai’I, began his speech (as he usually does) by pandering to the Other Side.   He touted his humble beginnings, then turned on what passes for charm by way of saying that America was the kind of place where the son of a barkeep could be Speaker of the House.   Aw, shucks, and stuff. 

He went on to say – well; he went on to say little to nothing.   America is great; everyone should live well; we need to increase the minimum wage; because poverty, and all.   This will be the year we Finally Shut Guantanamo.   This will be our Breakout Year.   This year, I’ll use my pen.   Because Executive Orders, and stuff.

(Earlier, CNN had Newt Gingrich as a commentator – he said, “If he’s had these powers for the last five years and hasn’t used them by now, what a dereliction of duty!!”   It’s not often I agree with Gingrich on anything – but damn. )

He continued by saying that we needed to protect the environment – and then said that he’d work to ‘guarantee America’s energy independence’ (a dog-whistle in support of the Keystone pipeline and fracking, in general.  By the way - a note to Mr. Obama:  You can't do both.)

We heard, “Those at the top have never done better, but average wages have barely budged.”   Then, he offered still-a-poverty-wage to Federal contractors – and the crowd applauded and cheered.   He offered no other remedies for income inequality – because millionaires in the audience in thrall to Wall Street, and suchlike.

On the subject of trade, he was careful not to mention it by name – but the statement “…new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs” was, if anything, a nod to the fast-track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – something which will complete the process set in motion by that other great Democrat, Mr. Clinton, with the passage of NAFTA.

Obama made vague statements regarding the problems in America – and offered either vague, watered-down, or no solutions.   As with most of Obama’s speeches, the real information lies in what he didn’t say.

Here, in case you wondered, is the real state of the union:

Most growth has benefited the 1%.   As most stock is owned by the wealthiest Americans, the gains in the stock market have passed most of us by.  It’s true – the rich got richer under Obama’s watch, because they were the ones who got him elected.  

One child in four lives in poverty.   It must be an embarrassment to Obama to have to deal with the output of Federal statisticians, who keep fairly good records of such things (with the exception of employment). 

1.3M Americans are part of the long-term unemployed – and while Obama made an anemic request of Congress last night to extend their benefits (along with pointing to someone he invited to attend who’d been out of work for months), he made no other attempt to address the issue past that statement.   The clock is ticking on these folks – and the chances are great that you know at least one of them personally.

Speaking of employment – those employment numbers are phony.   Eight million new jobs?  That’s aggregate since 2009 – and doesn’t factor the loss of government or private sector jobs which hemorrhaged at double-digit rates through the first half of his presidency.  In fact, the dirty little secret is that most of those jobs are low-wage, and the rest are ‘independent contractors’ – absent medical coverage, retirement, Social Security or other benefits.

One child in three lives in what’s called ‘food stress’ or ‘food anxiety’ – literally, neither they nor their parents know where their next meal is coming from.   He didn’t mention the cuts to SNAP and other programs intended to feed these kids in what’s become the Thirty Year Neoconservative Economic Experiment.

Nine million people signed up under the Affordable Care Act – Yeah, that happened, if you count Medicare renewals.   The fact is that the ACA isn’t attracting the large numbers of young people necessary to make it work – they’re too busy paying off those student loans Obama bragged about last night.   You know – the ones that can’t even be bankrupted if the student can’t find a job – or even if he or she dies.

Speaking again of poverty – one American adult in two lives in that condition right now – Yes, it’s true, and nothing Obama says or could possibly say will change that.  Action is the only thing which will change that condition.

He was right on one point – climate change is a fact.   However, natural gas, in spite of his glowing reports about its use and our ability to produce it (you can look up ‘fracking’ again if you want to see just how) isn’t the solution.   His equally-vague statement about ‘leaving a safer, more stable world’, and ‘yes, we did’ simply doesn’t cut it.

We are over the 350PPM carbon level which most climate scientists consider a tipping point – and the date of 2050 which is often stated as the Year Everything Goes To Hell is actually the latest-possible estimated date; we’re living through the effects of anthropogenic climate-change right now, and the leadership to effect the real changes necessary to put an end to it simply doesn’t exist in the person now occupying the Oval Office.

The half-digested cherry on top of last night’s Shit Sundae were the ten-odd paragraphs at the end, where he trotted out a man named Cory Remsburg who’d been deployed ten times (yes, TEN) to Iraq, where his luck finally ran out.   Hit in the head by shrapnel, he became Obama’s trained-chimp, trotted out to appease and entertain the millionaire elite on the floor.

Up in the gallery, I’m sure that the younger member of the Robertson clan, late of Hooterville, Louisiana and made famous by the ‘reality’ show ‘Duck Dynasty’, thought it was a grand event.   Invited by his Congressman (I’m sure as a slap at those of us who think his relative’s recent commentary was inexcusable), he likely enjoyed every minute.   (I mean, why not?  He’d never been north of Atlanta before, and probably won’t again.)   Just where a sitting Congressperson got the idea that inviting the likes of that fellow to such an event is mind-boggling – but then again, as I pointed out earlier, it’s all just theatre.


The President’s empty rhetoric last night is just another in a long, long line of pandering speeches, delivered to keep the masses happy and mollify the people who are Really in Charge.  I’ll give him props for orchestrating the Best Damn Show in a While – but anyone expecting serious content was gravely disappointed.

Back in The Day, Thomas Jefferson refused to deliver a speech, preferring to make his State of the Union presentation to Congress in written form, and asked that it be read into the record; he considered a speech to be too much like the King’s ‘Speech From The Throne’, and rejected the idea of an address.

Personally, I know that if, during my days as an account manager I’d been asked to deliver a presentation on the state of my territory and I had the bad judgment to deliver something similar to last night’s dog-and-pony show, I wouldn’t have a job the next day - but the private sector is like that; they expect content.   Perhaps we should hold our presidents to a higher standard of reporting.

And insist they take a page out of Jefferson’s book, while we’re at it.
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