Friday, February 25, 2011
March 5th, 2040
Portland, Oregon – Pacific Northwest States
It’s been a while. I was talking about the aftermath of the Mideast War.
A lot of people were stunned with the Romney Administration’s lack of action – but apart from dropping nukes ourselves, there wasn’t much we could do. The Iranians had purchased a new air force from the Soviets – brand-new MiG 35’s, complete with training; we had two carrier groups in the Persian Gulf, but that wasn’t going to be a match for the combined forces of several enraged Arab nations.
The Russians and the Chinese were doing a lot of business in the region, particularly with Iran; being a net-debtor nation made it possible for the Chinese to tell us to keep our nose out – and they’d do the same (plus, they wouldn’t call every note they held and start dumping dollars). What could have become a catastrophic world-conflict remained regional.
There were a lot of Fundamentalists in America back then; if you look at our history, Fundamentalism has raised its head on more than one occasion; the big resurgence began in the 1960’s; saw its peak in the early part of this century; it came apart at the seams when Israel became Palestine again (albeit with a little Arab help) in ’14.
I’m reminded of what happened when Caesar invaded Gaul; he took the time to learn their religion – the Gauls worshipped a pantheon of gods which were made manifest in nature. They were particularly fond of trees.
Caesar sent the Tenth Legion ahead of his army, not with swords, but axes. They cut a regulation Roman road at five miles a day and paved it with de-limbed tree-trunks.
The Gauls turned to their priests, who invoked the gods – and when nothing happened, they were forced to admit one of two things – either their gods had abandoned them, or there were no ‘gods’ in the first place. Regardless, it shattered the very construct of Gallic society.
By the time Vercingetorix was starved to submission at Alesia, the Gauls were a demoralized lot who’d lost faith even in the very universe they inhabited. They were a people without a purpose. That’s what happened to the American Fundamentalist movement.
After the fall of Israel, some went to hilltops to pray for the ‘rapture’; others predicted the Four Horsemen and the worst parts of Revelation – but as ’14 gave way to ’15 and beyond, it became clear that nothing was going to happen – and even the staunchest of them started to lose followers.
As things stand now, the Twentieth Century Fundamentalist Movement is a thirty-year-distant memory; there are plenty who still remember megachurches and the influence they had on everything from education to government – now; they get mentioned as part of and a contributing factor to the the dissolution of the United States.
I understand they're still around, though. That, too, is part of our history - Fundamentalism comes and goes; it's buried deep in the fabric of this land, taking its origins from the border-areas of Scotland and England. They come and go. We haven't seen the last of 'em.
The rest of ’14 went by with everyone wondering what was going to happen next. Business ground to a halt. The neighbors and I got together and started cultivating every bare patch of dirt in the immediate area – we planted root-crops and things like cabbage, once we learned that the dirt was all right. One good thing – we all lost weight, although we all had a tough go that winter.
The banks back East raised hell about Oregon and the rest of the Northwest – they were still hell-bent on collecting mortgage-money and foreclosing on homes out here! The governor put a stop to that – he told the Federals back in Washington that if they wanted to take someone’s house or business and sell it, they’d have to come with an army and take it all back. We were in the process of putting together the new government in Spokane by that time, as Washington decided that throwing in with Oregon, as well as recruiting Idaho and Montana, was a better shake than staying with a group of people back East who looked down their nose at us.
Anyway, the governor declared all debts forgiven and all mortgages paid in full. He mollified the local banks by allowing several of them to merge – the idea caught on across state borders, and that’s how the Bank of the Northwest States came to be. After the Constitutional Convention in Spokane in late ’14, the BNS issued the new currency; most of us thought it looked like play money, but before long most of the Federal banknotes were nothing more than novelties; there were a few rich folks who found out that money’s only as good as the nation that issues it – they had a hard time getting used to the change. Eventually, we signed a treaty with what was left of the Federal government dealing with currency-exchange; most of those folks got at least something for their greenbacks, or so I read.
The law wasn’t much good for a while; the first couple of years were a hard time for a lot of folks living in cities; there were a lot of desperate people here, too; not just in California. I’ve never been fond of the notion of killing anyone – but I can see where what passed for ‘justice’ in some parts of the region was a temporary necessity.
I saw that happen when I went to the local courthouse to finalize the new deed on my house; they’d caught three people – kids; really, no more’n about twenty, each of ‘em – they were caught driving a local couple’s car; they had the couple’s I.D. and some things from their home in the vehicle, also. A deputy was sent to the home, where they found the couple dead and the house torn up in search of valuables.
I asked a local man what was going on – he told me the particulars, and I stood there and watched a trial, right there on the courthouse steps – all the courtrooms were full of paperwork and people trying to sort out who-owned-what; it was a warm May day – 2015, if I remember right – and without a judge present, the Sheriff dealt with the problem himself, right then and there.
There were two girls and a young fellow – like I said; they weren’t much older’n twenty – the guy said something like, “I don’t have to tell you nothin’ ‘till I see a judge.” The Sheriff responded that this was the only trial he and the girls were going to get, and he’d better start by explaining how he and the girls were caught driving the dead couple’s car with their wallet and purse, and wearing some of their clothing. Some words were exchanged; they each got to make mile-a-minute excuses in their turn; then the Sheriff found ‘em all guilty.
One of the girls figured it out first – she bent over and emptied her stomach on her shoes, quick as you please; the other girl just started to wail and blubber. The guy started swearing at the Sheriff, all the while one of his deputies tossed three ropes over the upper support-beam of the courthouse entrance.
Within five minutes, all three were pissing their jeans, tongues swelled up and stickin’ out like sausages; hanging in front of the courthouse-steps as an object-lesson.
I used the back-entrance that day. I guess a lot of other folks did, too.
By 2016, we had a government, a national currency, a flag – hell; we were a country. We’d traded our one aircraft-carrier back to the Federals for five destroyers – then we turned around and sold three of those to China in trade for solar and wind technology. The Chinese were rearming like nobody’s business – they wanted to be the top dog, and that was fine by us – they could police the world as far as we were concerned - just as long as they traded with us and left us alone beyond that. We sold ‘em our one big submarine, too, if I remember right. I can’t recollect if they ever used any of that stuff, but it was a good deal for us.
Me? I went to work for the big energy cooperative, selling power through Montana to the Midwestern States; I did that for another fifteen years before I finally retired for good. Turned out that independence for the Northwest meant that the big banks back east no longer held any power over us – and my thirty years of business experience actually mattered, now that we were creating jobs for our own people again, rather than sending them all overseas. (When you’ve got a country to build, unemployment disappears overnight, even if the standard of living is lower.)
I drive a Chinese-made pickup now; it’s all electric, and it’s treated me right (it gets me to the farmer's market, where I augment my savings and government pension with specialty goodies I grow in the garden.) I’m old enough, of course, to remember names like Ford and Chevrolet – but those are all history, except for the few that you can see in museums and the occasional rich guy’s garage. Gasoline is around $15.00/PNS per gallon, but some folks can seem to pony up the cash to take their antiques for a spin. I never realized how much the damn things smelled. Having clean air is another good thing about what happened.
Like I said, there are about 2/3’s the people that there were – the birthrate dropped like a rock hereabouts for twenty years or more – and even with immigration, a lot of towns here just disappeared. It’s hard to make a living as a real-estate agent, what with the Homestead Laws and housing free for the taking in a lot of cases.
Canada took their time, but they recognized us in ’17. As I mentioned, they’re second only to China in trade. British Columbia petitioned Ottawa and Spokane to join us in ’26; that took a while, too, but they’ve been a part of the P.N.S. for the past ten years now.
Alaska voted to stick with the Federals back in Washington. Oil or no oil; that was fine by us – their politics were more’n a bit extreme.
I remember everyone talking about the Balkan countries back then, and how horrible it was that the U.S. was going that way – but what most people don’t remember is that when they'd finished splitting up and creating their own countries again, the Balkans started to thrive. We’ve done the same thing in our own way, and while there are aspects of it that I miss, I don’t miss the raging inequality; the Second Great Depression; the country tearing itself apart over things like religion and empire-building. Now that it’s all done, I know I’d rather live here than in what the U.S. was becoming.
I’ve often heard it said that democracy is just the notion that extraordinary things can be expected from ordinary people. I suppose that’s what happened - things came apart; the center couldn’t hold; mere anarchy was loosed upon the world, and it was up to us to rise to the occasion and put the whole shiterree back together again, even if it was on a smaller scale.
But, like I said – I’m old. Sometimes, I think the only thing I really know is my garden.
(Portrait of a dead country with the failed motto, “E Pluribus Unum”; a cautionary tale for those who believe that some things are Too Big To Fail – and a warning: It can happen here.)
Thursday, February 24, 2011
February 11th, 2040
Portland, Oregon – Pacific Northwest States
We’ve had snow most of this winter. Clean snow. I promised I’d get back to that.
In ’13, when Romney’s government was thrashing around with the legacy of over thirty years of economic fuckery, the rest of the world wasn’t exactly standing still. Most of the Middle East was in the process of throwing off fifty or more years of dictatorships; the Afghans stepped up every form of resistance, to the point where there were thirty or more Americans dying every damn day over there, with no end in sight.
Late in the year, we had to come to grips with the fact that a group of irregular troops armed in a lot of cases with ‘70’s-era Soviet weapons had forced the nation with the world’s strongest military to up and leave. Even the Joint Chiefs were finally forced to admit it: The damn thing just wasn’t winnable. There was no talk of an ‘honorable peace’ this time, like what happened with Nixon and Vietnam so many years ago; we just packed up, and went home.
As I said earlier, when President Romney used his State of the Union address to announce that the troops were going to come home in a staged-withdrawal, we had most of everyone in the National Guard over in Iraq and Afghanistan at a frightful cost. There was no one here to keep order if things got out of line, and that’s just what happened when California defaulted.
While we were going through our own problems, the first of the troops came home – and, as I mentioned, a lot of ‘em came home crazy. We had our hands full just trying to process all of this when Syria and Egypt threw eight divisions across the Israeli border a week after California’s default, preceded by a combined airstrike which took out most of Israel’s airbases and weapons-storage facilities.
Back in 1973, Egypt’s ruler at the time (a fellow named Sadat) came up with a plan to take out Israel, once and for all. His plan would’ve worked if he’d had the military, which he didn’t. Well, that, and the fact that the Israelis were supported by tons of American military hardware and a whole mess of our money.
That wasn’t the case in early ’14, and most of the Arab nations knew it. That’s why they moved on Israel when they did.
The Israelis learned damn fast that they weren’t beating up on largely-defenseless Palestinian civilians for sport this time – the Egyptians took out two Israeli armored divisions in the Sinai and the Syrians were through the Golan and headed to Jerusalem before the Israelis used the one weapon they swore they didn’t have – tactical nukes.
The first word of it came from surviving Syrian troops, who managed to get word out the next day; it turned out we’d known the moment it happened by way of satellite imagery; we confirmed it with spy-plane overflights armed with cameras and sensing equipment – the photographs of the destruction on the ground, plus the background-radiation readings confirmed the worst.
The same day, most of the Arab nations declared war on Israel.
It was over in a week – Amman; Cairo; Damascus – they were all hit by Israeli nukes within a few hours of the tactical strike; Jordanian troops were nuked before they crossed the border – then Iran entered the conflict.
Eighteen divisions of Iranian troops crossed a very pliant Iraq behind an air strike by Iranian MiG’s – the few American troops left as advisors in Iraq found their bases surrounded by Iraqi troops, with a stern warning to stay put – the Israelis tried to move troops to defend their eastern border, but engaged as they were by Syrians to the north and Egyptians to the south and west, the most they could muster were parts of two armored divisions. On Day Five, they hit Tehran with two megaton-sized missiles, and hit the advancing Iranian army on Iraqi and Jordanian soil with six tactical nukes. Still, four Iranian divisions managed to come through more or less unscathed – they rolled right through Jordan - and then stopped, right near the border, with orders not to move an inch.
On Day Six, the Iranians launched two nukes by offshore cruise-missile on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. That’s why the Iranian army called a halt – they’d played Rope-A-Dope on the Israeli army in advance of the missiles.
On Day Seven, the Third Arab-Israeli War was over.
There wasn’t ever an official ‘surrender’ – there was no one left outside of minor officials in cities like Ashqelon over on the Western coast; Nazareth and Haifa were in Syrian hands; most of the southern part of the country was held by the Egyptians – and the Iranians rolled right in and disarmed what was left.
The Palestinians who weren’t affected cheered like no tomorrow – and what happened afterward isn’t really fit to discuss. Let’s just say that when the bullets ran out, they solved the rest with knives. The few Israeli citizens who were left were granted safe passage out of the country – I understand that Europe took most of ‘em; some went to friendly nations like South Africa; others managed to make it to the U.S. How they made out is another story; I really don’t know.
For a couple of decades, the whole region was a ‘hot zone’ – some of the Arab countries took in the Palestinians and others who had no direct affiliation with the former Israeli government; it was only about ten years ago that they began to rebuild the cities and put the place back together.
I’ve often wondered why the U.S. and the U.N. didn’t get more involved – but I’ve a feeling that if the official stuff ever gets released, it’ll boil down to the fact that the U.S. was broke and sick of war, and the U.N. secretly was glad the whole thing was over with. Regardless, Romney sat this one out, while the U.N. postured, and did nothing.
It was still winter in the U.S. when the war ended. Rain and snow was falling over much of the country still; it wasn’t enough that we had to deal with the aftermath of California; we had to deal with real-time nuclear fallout. Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as we thought it'd be.
Most of the weapons used were subkiloton nukes; they didn’t kick up much sand at all – the four megaton-sized weapons used on both Tehran and the Israelis settled back down rather quickly; the most we had to worry about was background-radiation, and the Northwest got the least of it. Still, for two decades after, people were warned to tell their kids not to eat the snow. We didn’t have a ‘nuclear winter’ – not enough stuff reached the upper atmosphere to cause anything other than some spectacular sunsets for a few months.
I’ve always filtered my water up here, so I didn’t have anything to worry about in that regard - and for the price of a small radiation-detector (not much different than the Radon-kits they used to sell to homeowners), I was able to determine that my garden wasn’t affected any more than normal. I sometimes wonder if I’ve ‘eaten my dose’ – but hell; I’m eighty-five. I don’t suppose anyone’s going to ask ‘why’ when I don’t wake up some morning. I beat all the odds, years ago, and then some.
Anyhow, the snow’s clean now.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
January 4th, 2040 – Pacific Northwest States
I’ll be 86 years old this year, and damned if I know how I made it. Long life? Hell; I’ve no idea what the ‘secret’ is – plenty of good men (and women) died in their twenties and thirties courtesy of the American War Machine; some of them certainly deserved to live longer’n me. At least, I think that’s probably true. Who knows?
Right now, it’s snowing outside. Clean snow. I’ll get to that. Saw some coyote tracks when I took my walk this morning; some smaller tracks that looked like they might be squirrels or maybe field-mice. Varmints abound up here; it’s a part of life, especially since there’s 1/3rd fewer people than there were forty years ago.
But, I got the garden put to bed last fall; I always miss summer when it’s gone, and I keep telling myself I’ll move – but to where? Hawai’i’s another country; the New Confederacy runs Florida, and no one with any sense tries to go to California or Arizona any more. I suppose I’ll stay here. I’ve likely not much time left on the cosmic-clock, anyhow – and while I never lived in high-style when I traveled, I can say I’ve been to all of those places, and a few more, back before travel became too expensive for all but the well-heeled.
Again; I’m ahead of myself. Damn. Where was I?
I suppose I’ll start with 2011.
It was a bad business; that year. As I mentioned, the problems started with Wisconsin, and spread to at least twenty other states which were, on balance, in worse shape. I’d like to say that the whole country came to its senses and started throwing the bums out of office; the one’s who’d sold us out to the Wall Streeters and their lackeys; but that’s not what happened.
After Wisconsin fell apart in ’11 when the governor got his way and ended the public-employee unions, there were at least twenty other states where the sitting governor decided to do the same thing. About half were successful; the other half ran head-on into some pretty stubborn unions. No one bothered to address the real problem – the whole damn country was losing near–to-half-a-million jobs every damn month; the Wall Street crowd and their cronies were sitting on a pile of cash, literally betting against the country by way of not reinvesting in new industry – just what in hell they planned to do with all that cash is beyond me; I’ve never found a use for the stuff unless you could spend it or invest it in something – but that’s me.
The word ‘defund’ was used a lot in Congress a lot in 2011 – they defunded over a dozen programs; all aimed at making life better for poor or working-people. That didn’t sit well with over half of the country. With nearly thirty million people out of work and twice-that either not counted or underemployed, no one could pay to live much of anywhere after a while. The housing market, which had tried to recover, simply failed.
Back then, people took out what was called a ‘mortgage’ – nearly anyone could borrow money from a bank, which would carry the homeowner for up to thirty years, as long as they made regular monthly payments. The national bank here still does that here in the P.N.S., but I understand that what’s left of the Federal government can’t support such a program; neither does the New Confederacy. The Midwestern States have a farm-loan program, and the Republic of Texas has something similar – but that’s another story.
Most of those ‘mortgages’ failed when the borrowers either wound up so upside-down (their homes were worth at least 20% less than the amount they owed), or they simply couldn’t pay any more, because they wound up among the nearly half-million a month, every month, who lost a job.
I was luckier than most – and really, that’s it; luck saved my ass. My customers continued to buy what I had to sell, in greater numbers than I expected – that; and my own innate frugalness kept things going for me.
A lot of state governments ceased to function. Like I said, 2011 was a bad business. It got worse in ’12. All of those unemployed state workers – well; it caused problems like you wouldn’t believe. Roads went to hell. County hospitals didn’t work any more. Shit backed up into storm-sewers, and the smell in some towns in the Midwest stank to King-Hell, with rats running the streets, bold as you please.
It was as if the governors of these states said, “You don’t like it? Live with the garbage and the potholes and the iffy water supplies and the shit-stink, and the hell with you if you don’t cave in and live on nothing.” This was what eventually caused things to unravel at hellacious speed in ’12 and '13.
This all happened the same time the housing-market went to hell, and Obama backed up the banks, which had told him that they wouldn’t support him in a re-election bid if he didn’t take the Federal mitts off ‘em while they foreclosed all those houses. Pretty soon, there were near to twenty million people living in homeless shelters; under bridges; in doorways and in ‘alternate accommodations’ (by that, you can read ‘other people’s living rooms, spare bedrooms, or whereever’).
I wound up with a couple of friends staying with me for a time. That worked out as well as it could; one left when I made it clear he’d have to work around the place before I’d feed him; the other decided that he’d take his chances on the road. I asked him to reconsider; America had become a fairly unsafe place by the middle of ’12, but he wanted to see if he could find a job someplace, and he couldn’t do it living with me. I never saw or heard from either one again. I can only hope life turned out well for them.
As I said earlier, there were near to thirty million living in the streets by the time Romney took office in ’13; jobs and housing simply sank without a trace; the chit-system was the only thing keeping California afloat, and several Midwestern states by this time had come close to defaulting. I imagine that if California hadn’t been the first to cave in, there would have been some fairly spontaneous revolts in the tent-cities in the Midwest; full-up with government workers and others who were part of that fallout, I can’t imagine they’d’ve lasted for long.
And, the rest I told you earlier – California defaulted a year later; Oregon defended its borders against a horde of desperate people from the Southland, and it wasn’t soon after that the Northwest decided to cut itself loose. I’ve heard it said that most people will, good or bad, choose their own government over that of a foreigner.
In the end, I suppose that’s what we did.
Monday, February 21, 2011
December 12th, 2039 – Portland; Oregon – Pacific Northwest States
I suppose it's a good thing; this series.
What the hell; if one of you doesn’t like it, what are you going to do? Quit reading? Threaten to come and take away my youth? Ha!
What the hell; if one of you doesn’t like it, what are you going to do? Quit reading? Threaten to come and take away my youth? Ha!
I never thought I’d live this long. Life was pretty iffy around thirty years ago; there were a couple of times I thought I might starve - but hell. I’ve got a garden; there’s still fish in the rivers (secession helped with that, ironically; we declared a 200-mile fishing limit off our coasts, and as a result the salmon are running like they haven’t been since the 1930’s.); I pickle and preserve a lot of things; it comes in handy in the wintertime (ever eat preserved lemons? They’re good) – turns out my penchant for cooking turned into a survival-hobby of sorts. I’m better off than most.
But I’m ahead of myself, as usual. Y’see, a lot of things happened before California defaulted. Some of them were the province of over thirty years of fiscal mismanagement starting more-or-less clear back during the early 1980s and the Reagan Administration. Most of the people reading this weren’t alive back then; those who were had to bear the brunt of the consequences. A lot of them wound up shooting themselves for lack of options; the American suicide-rate spiked in the ‘teens and twenties of this century – but that’s another story entirely.
It wasn’t so much that we’d lost the sense of who we are – it was that we’d lost our sense, entirely. As a country, we believed we could do anything; in fact, we'd flattered ourselves for decades that we were 'exceptional', and that whatever the bad-things were, they just couldn't happen here
We supported other countries which beat down their own citizens, just as long as those countries supported our worldview – which, if you boiled it all down, said “Fuck you and everyone who looks like you; just keep the oil flowing and gimme my lifestyle.”
Sooner than later, people began to say ‘no’. We should have taken a huge clue from 9/11. Instead, we preferred to believe nonsense – it wasn’t our fault; it’s Militant Islam/the gays in America/a huge conspiracy – take your pick. The stories got more and more outlandish. No one bothered to say, “Look – there’s a group which took responsibility – all of the evidence points there. Why did they do this?”
That would have led to questions like, “What did we do?” We weren’t thinking that way – not with the trained-chimp we had in office as President at the time, who believed that it was some sort of Holy Crusade to go blow the hell and gone out of the Middle East, rather than do a little self-examination.
As history’s proven, if we’d just listened – and learned from the wake-up call of 3,000+ dead and three demolished buildings – we’d’ve been able to change our policies in the Middle East and avoid what happened later.
But no, we’d elected G.W. Bush the Second – a goat-roper from Texas who couldn’t put two words together in a sentence – but who had the power to send us all to war.
I remember talking to the son of a friend of mine – a neighbor; actually – who came back from a tour in Iraq; he resigned his commission and was living with his parents when he came over along with his Mom and Dad for a party I was holding. He said, “Imagine doing the worst thing possible in the world – and imagine doing it in Hell. That’s Iraq.” That was a few years before the morale issues began to surface; the suicides and mental-health problems of the war veterans – between Iraq and Afghanistan, we’d all but destroyed an entire generation; those who weren’t near-to-crazy from the experience came back mean.
Crime went up. We finally admitted to the truth and pulled the troops out of Afghanistan in ’14, just before California defaulted; when they came home, they came home crazy. Crazy and mean. They shot their relatives; their friends; each other. They drank; too much, really. Booze fuels crazy. We all began to see what the government had done to Generation Y. Of course, by the time the Arab countries started to threaten us with an oil embargo if we didn't stop propping up Israel, there was nothing we could do about it - enlistments had dropped like a rock from all but the reddest of red-state families, and by then we were spread too thin to matter.
Most of Gen-Y didn’t give a twopenny damn about the Government. They tried voting, but when they finally realized that the government had been bought-and-paid for by moneyed-interests on Wall Street, they gave that up, too. The few who bothered to vote were old farts like me who remembered how good things really were – and the others, who’d been convinced that the current state of things was somehow an expression of greatness. Small wonder Romney won in ’12.
The Middle East started coming apart around that time, starting in ’11. Egypt was the first; Libya hung on for almost a year (Khadafi wasn’t about to give up a good thing); Jordan fell apart that summer; in early ’12 someone had the balls to walk right up and shoot King Abdullah in the head – like I said; ‘balls’. He was dead in a hail of gunfire within seconds; an outcome he had to know was coming – but Abdullah was deader’n a doornail before he hit the ground.
Tunisia; Morocco; Kuwait – all the work we’d done to build an empire fell apart within months.
With Kuwait, the whole oil-game changed. It boiled down to this: We’ll keep the oil flowing, and at decent prices, but you’re gonna give up Israel as a client-state.
(I’m still convinced that was what did-in the Obama administration. He had a slim chance up to that point, but faced with feeding his Wall Street buddies or the pro-Israel lobby, he had to side with Wall Street. Romney rode a loose coalition of Teabaggers and religious-types to the White House.)
Y'see, that was the era of the Tea Party – an agglomeration of poorly-educated Americans who’d been hornswoggled into believing that government was ‘bad’; that they were overtaxed, and that they needed to give all the rich people tax breaks so they could turn around and hire cooks, housecleaners and drivers. They called this ‘trickle down economics’ – a term from back in the ’80’s – and it worked about as well as pissing down someone’s neck and telling them it was rain. I know; it sounds crazy now, but that's how things were, back then.
Those of us with a brain in our heads took to calling them Teabaggers (a sexual term; it might still be, I don’t know) – there was a Teabagger who was elected governor in New Jersey; another one in Wisconsin; the House of Representatives back in Washington was full of Teabaggers; when they won the Senate in ’12, that turned the whole country over to ‘em.
The governor up in Wisconsin got his way in ’11; he killed off the public-employee unions. Teachers couldn’t make any money any longer, so they all up and quit; the Governor responded by suspending credential requirements in Wisconsin schools – before long, grade schools were being taught just like they were back in the 19th century – by housewives, retired people and the few who felt they didn’t have any other options.
The brain-drain affected every other aspect of Wisconsin government – those who could; got jobs in the private sector, or just retired before the new pension-laws went into effect. For a time, the State’s entire information-technology department was run by a twenty-two year old system administrator, who spent most of his time ordering in pizza for his ‘crew’ and playing videogames on the State’s dime.
Several other states followed this lunacy. Perry in Texas was the next governor to jump on board – Texas didn’t have collective bargaining, but they had a State pension fund which could be raided to balance the books, and that’s what they did. In the end, it was just a matter of time before the rest fell in behind them.
I can’t imagine that it was pleasant, being President Romney in ’13; there were twenty states near-to-default at that point; he was 100% beholden to the Wall Streeters for his job; the Chinese were pounding on him to do something about the nation’s economy – and he had nearly fifteen million homeless to deal with; the number growing every month - a fair number of them enraged veterans of our Middle Eastern wars.
When he finally cried ‘uncle!’ in ’13 and submitted a budget calling for the closure of about half of our military bases and the reduction of the armed forces by one-third, the Teabaggers and others who’d voted for him screamed bloody murder – the Wall Street crowd wasn’t happy, either, because it turns out that even though the companies they represented were all ‘international’ by then, having a country as a host which was spending the last of its real wealth on an army which supported their interests was a good thing to have – especially for free.
I don’t suppose the Federal Government would have survived much past ’16 in any event – no one was going to loan them any more money; Wall Street was nearly done with moving its operations overseas, and we were all just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I suppose some of you have felt or sensed genuine fear at some point in your lives – either working for a company which later went broke, or something similar – I tell you, it was possible then to smell the fear in the air – you walked down the street; you felt it – everyone was afraid. Something had to happen. No one can live like that for long, and we weren't all that exceptional there, either.
As I said earlier, I’m old. Today, things are a lot different; people don’t have what they did when I was in my thirties, I can tell you – but they’re not afraid, either.
I suppose that’s worth something.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
General Insanity; News of the Weird; Legislative Batshit; More….
Seems that the states’ legislators have the corner on batshit this week, what with South Dakota’s proposed legislation making the killing of physicians ‘justifiable’; a move by a Georgia Republican to ban driver’s licenses; Oklahoma’s attempt to make Creationism the only valid ‘scientifically approved’ philosophy of the universe, and (finally!) Montana’s attempt to declare global warming ‘beneficial’.
(I remember a skit from the sketch-comedy ‘Laugh-In ‘ many years ago, where a faux Richard Nixon declared that we were going to blow up the sun. Most of this proposed legislation sounds just about as insane. )
News of the Weird
There’s always someone willing to make a buck – souvenir condoms are being rolled out (so to speak) in honor of the upcoming Royal Wedding in Great Britain; you can buy your very own Jesus Sandals ($7; the pair); a driver’s dog here in my home state of Oregon actually helped a state trooper make a drug-bust - speaking of dogs, there’s a casino in Atlantic City which aims to become the first dog-friendly casino in the nation (no word on whether they’ll be allowed to play poker under a velvet painting of same, or not) – and finally, there’s a guy who’s made a clock which operates on dead flies, which said mechanism catches and 'digests' all by itself. (I’m not kidding. The damn thing lives on dead flies.)
For Dumbass Quotes of the Week, you can go here to read Dan Quayle’s little boy, Ben, step into his father’s shoes and wax-eloquent over Reagan’s jellybeans; here to read Sarah Palin’s missive on the Egyptian revolution, or here to read Ellis Washington’s disjointed, batshit rant about “the progressive-Muslim axis” (not one word of which is even sane.)
The Ark Encounter theme park has left an important Biblical critter out of the Ark (no word on whether this guy is going to help 'consult' by way of Biblical correction); here are some batshit-insane Scientology facts (in case you ever needed them); a Tea Party leader at the recent CPAC conference said that she ‘doesn’t want to speak Chinese’ (hey - clears that up for me); the city council of Fort Wayne, Indiana wants to name a municipal building after a man named Harry Baals (somehow; I don’t think that’s gonna fly); Mike Huckabee says if he runs for President again, it’ll be to end abortion (guess things like fixing the economy and putting people back to work aren’t good enough reasons) -- and lastly, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly get together on O’Reilly’s show for what my Grandfather would have called “Midnight at a butt-f*cker’s Reunion”.
Finally, the winner of Astra’s Batshit of the Week Award (and proof that bugfuckery abounds, even in the highest levels of the American military) goes to retired Army general Jerry Boykin, the Army's Head Fundie for years until his recent retirement -- he stated this week that he’s uncovered a secret plot by President Obama to ‘take over America using the health care bill.’
Epic. Friggin’. Fail.:
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Vintage Batshit; News of the Weird, and More….
This week, I’ve shoveled some of the best batshit available for you –no need to go to the local zoo; you’ve got it all, right here!
First up, we’ve got a whole list of people who qualify for ‘batshit’ status this week; Sarah Palin tops the list, for her attempt to trademark her name (seems I remember a Mickey Mouse episode where Scrooge McDuck tried to ‘patent the alphabet’); Tila Tequila went off the rails (again) this week; David Barton (my favorite non-historian) claims that Obama is ‘trying to remove God from America’ and that the Founders ‘intended’ to ban abortion (hey - creating alternate realities is fun for some folks; David Barton’s been doing it for over twenty years); and, while this one’s got some age on it, Michele Bachmann is certified by no less a luminary than Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi as being batshit-insane (hey – what do you expect from someone who says that she ‘wakes up every morning with one goal – repeal Obamacare?’).
News of the Weird
In news-of-the-weird, the whole spa-craze has gone ‘round the bend into Batshit Land, also – it turns out that you ladies can schedule a steam-bath for your va-jay-jay.
Afternoon naps are prohibited under Islamic law in Abu Dhabi. (Vuvuzelas are all right, if the screech is kept to a minimum.)
Donald Rumsfeld received a “Defender of the Constitution” award; Tucker Carlson and Ken Timmerman received an “Accuracy in Media” award at the CPAC convention this week. (No word on whether they’d found a recipient for the “Adolf Hitler Humanitarianism Award”, or the “Joseph Goebbels Truth in Media Award”).
Charles Krauthammer, a Washington Post pundit and climate-change denier, came up with his very own theory about Al Gore: Godzilla; and spores. I’m serious.
Here’s the entire Oklahoma GOP Platform – just click on the link; you know you want to.
Speaking of batshit by the ream - here are eleven of the Tea Party Republicans’ pending bills in Congress.
(Note to the reader: Click on any part of those last two; anywhere. It doesn’t matter which page and which line – anywhere you look, what you read is almost 100% guaranteed to be batshit-insane.)
For vintage batshit, I really don’t have to go any farther than my own home-state of Oregon.
Turns out that back in the late ‘40’s, a nice couple with way too much time on their hands decided to start a restaurant out on the Oregon coast, just for kids. Their creation, the Pixie Kitchen, served straight-up hash-house chow (burgers; fish-‘n-chips; bad pizza) – but the waitstaff catered to the kiddies with free gum-balls and jellybeans, and the tables all had recessed centers covered with glass, with sand-bottoms and little Pixie Villages in them (hey – I told you the owners had too much time on their hands).
The basement had a full-on arcade, where parents could send their older kids downstairs unattended with a sackful of quarters to play pinball. (Back then, it wasn’t considered strange, much less creepy, to send your kids downstairs to play pinball), even though the place looked on the outside like it had been designed by the same guy who did ToonTown for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”)
They had so much success parting tourists from their money that they decided in 1967 to create a theme-park based on the restaurant. They called it (are you ready for this?) – Pixieland.
There was a Pixie Train, which pulled into a Pixie Depot. There was a Pixie Log-Flume ride; there were Pixie Mermaids in the Pixie Lagoon; a Cheese Cave (sponsored by a local dairy) where you find more cheese for sale than a person could eat in a year (I know – ‘WTF’; right?).
There was a Bread Hut (sponsored by a local bakery); a Scone Hut; an Opera House, where you could see Evil Bart and Gorgeous Nell, along with a cast of other cardboard characters. The Pixie Kitchen people sank $300,000 of their own money (long cash in 1967) into this agglomeration, as well as opening it up to public ownership via two stock-offerings. In all, it’s rumored they sank $3M into this operation.
The result, as you can see by the photographs, looks like a more-than-vaguely-disturbing Twilight Zone-esque creation. I never went there myself, because it opened when I was fifteen – and in my world, there were three things a fifteen-year-old boy was interested in –and if it couldn’t help me play my guitar better, get more girls or masturbate more effectively, I and my buddies didn’t want anything to do with it – this place was strictly geared to kids 10 and under.
Two problems – first; the demographic was too small (even Disneyland has 'something for everyone'); second, on the Oregon coast, there’s (maybe) two and a half months where an operation like this can make any money – the rest of the time, it’s raining and cold.
Predictably, the place folded within five years. The two main rides (none of the others were ever built) were sold to an outfit in Colorado; the rest was abandoned, and became a bit of a project for archaeology students from Portland, who went out to the place every so often to check on the decomposition. Huge blackberry vines grew up through the walls; the concrete which made the ‘cave’ turned out to be substandard, and started to crumble off the chicken-wire forms in a couple of years – by 1980, the place was barely recognizable.
(In 2005, the State began to bulldoze and remove all of this crap and return the wetland areas to their former state. That’s the best thing that’s happened with this joint since it was built.)
So, my official Vintage Batshit Award goes (at least, this week) to Pixieland and the Pixie Kitchen – because there no batshit like the kind of batshit that spends $3M to build a creepy biodegradeable theme-park.
If you’re not familiar with Benny Hinn, he’s a televangelist (read: Batshit scam artist who uses religion to bugger people out of their money) with a huge national following here in the ‘States. He’s fond of getting up on stage; ‘casting out demons’ from people and performing other acts of hoodoo.
Kudos to the guy who did this video – he managed to put a light-saber into Hinn’s hand – which makes a lot of what he does, if not plausible, at least enjoyable for those of us who don’t buy into his batshit-behavior.
(Does this mean that Benny is ‘Imperially Batshit'?)
Batshit of the Week Award:
Finally, we come to this – Astra’s Batshit of the Week Award.
Now, understand – the reason I write this piece is to have fun. Batshit behavior is supposed to be funny – but in most cases, much of what you’re seeing here is actually dangerous. Bigots fall into that category, generally, because they’re attempting to get the rest of society to exclude one group or another based on their narrow worldview. However, sometimes their behavior is so egregious it actually becomes funny. Or borderline-funny, depending.
Bryan Fischer is one of these people. Normally, he takes gay-bashing to a level we don’t normally see (unless it’s from that old bastard and his family at Westboro Baptist.) This week, however, Fischer delivered, in spades – this time, he took on Native Americans.
Fischer says, with a straight face, that they were ‘morally disqualified’ from exercising or retaining control over the continent – and that the best thing they could do is to leave the reservations, convert to Christianity, and become ‘real’ citizens.
I swear. It’s true. Cross my heart and shoelaces. The guy actually said that. But hey – as I’m fond of saying – stand on a streetcorner and spout gibberish, and they’ll take you to a rubber room. Avoid the padded cell long enough to get some followers, and you get a tax-exemption, a radio show, a seven-figure salary, and a megachurch to call your very own. (Note to those who might think of trying this: It helps, at least in this country, to invoke the word ‘Jesus’ a whole lot.):
Until next week; folks. Leave your comments below...
Sunday, February 6, 2011
There’s Something We Can Do While Crazy Continues To Sell During The Twilight of Empire
With all that’s going on in the world, it makes me wonder.
“Sea to shining sea” doesn’t cut much ice any more – hell; it’s barely mentioned anywhere worth quoting; love of country isn't in vogue, and the only people who do make the effort don’t know their elbows from third gear (I’m speaking of people like Sarah Palin, who thinks she can see Russia from her back door, or Michele Bachmann, whose litany of batshit-crazy comments is the subject of an entire post in-and-of-itself).
Bill Maher, in his latest show, asked if ‘crazy in America was peaking’. His guest-panel was divided – but I’m going to say ‘no’, and ‘hell-no’. Crazy hasn’t peaked. We haven’t seen anything yet, if past events are any indicator of the future.
You’ve heard me say this before, but it bears repeating – the average American is a moron.
Where’s my proof?
1. 75 million copies and counting of the “Left Behind” series (I sat through the movie version of the first book, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how anyone can take even one molecule of this drivel seriously. Whatever the reason, the real conclusion is simple math: 75 million of your countrymen and women believe that their god is going to come and snatch them up bodily from the earth, and bring them all back on white horses to judge the world Real Soon Now. That alone should have you convinced that almost a quarter of the population have suspended reality to the point where they could actually, if not legally, be considered insane).
2. The last goddamned election. Forget the not-so-subtle nuance that Bush stuffed the Supreme Court, which turned around and granted citizenship to disembodied corporations, which turned around and bought Congress – had the average American not been a rank idiot, he or she would have seen this happening, and voted accordingly. Instead, they stuffed the place with Republicans and Teabaggers, most of whom not only believe the drivel in the first point, above, but are hell-bent to bring about an America in most of us would have trouble living at all.
3. Rank ignorance. I was invited to a wedding recently, where the preacher reminded everyone to ‘thank god for his bounteous gifts’ or somesuch drivel, while almost a third of the guests were out of work, largely due to American companies taking advantage of deregulation to ship those jobs to China, where what those same workers purchase is now made for half the price and resold to them via their unemployment checks at Wal-Mart. It’s this sort of sanctimonious bullshit which makes possible the theft of Third World resources at the same time the plutocracy has strong-armed America’s working-class from paychecks into unemployment checks using a good dose of late-stage Capitalism (Wal-Mart now has a check-cashing service to serve those who’ve been screwed-out of their accounts by the damned banks. Whodathunk!) Question: Does any of this make you say, “WTF?” It does, me – and this is just one such example. Apart from being a moron, the average American has the attention span and memory of a gnat – or they’d’ve collectively marched on Wall Street years ago, leaving plenty of rich white guys in their $1,000 suits hanging from lampposts.
4. Entertainment; in general. “Spartacus?” Couldn’t get made now. “The Lion in Winter?” You’re kidding, right? The average American wants panem et circenses, served up with flashing lights and lots of noise. (This is the time for me to point out that babies, too, love this crap – that’s why letting babies watch light-patterns is actually discouraged by pediatricians; it can actually disrupt their brain-development and in some cases cause seizures. Mental midgets? Oh, yeah. Give Cletus and DaisyMae the remake of “Red Dawn”; another season of “Idol” and the like; make sure their snot-nosed, booger-picking illiterate larvae have the latest copy of “Grand Theft Auto”, and they’re all as happy as clams in shit.) I can’t help but wonder if this nonsense, plus the regular advertisements for psych-meds and the like aren’t a plan to keep everyone docile, stuporous and bovine-like; incapable of any advanced thought. The cost is probably frightful, but the payoff keeps the status-quo, and that’s got to be worth trillions to the Powers that Be.
So, what are we to do?
Egypt is your answer, as it turns out.
The average Egyptian lives on $2 a day – that’s about 500 times less than the average food-stamp allocation in America. While I’m not going to denigrate anyone’s suffering – I know that it’s more than real; I see the homeless at shelters and kitchens – but it’s important to know that they’ve put up with a whole lot more than we have before they finally said ‘Enough!’
Given their situation, the only resources they have are their own bodies. They can put those in the streets, and take their chances, which is what they’ve done. If enough of them do so, they’ll effect a change. It may well be that they trade one dictator for another, but that was the chance we took in the late 1700’s; it’s the chance that the French took a little later, and it’s the chance anyone takes when they choose to change a government which has failed its primary goal – serving the people.
While we don’t have the luxury of time, we have the luxury of resource. The lesson we can learn from Egypt is that change can be effected with few resources – and with the resources we have, we can start the process a step earlier.
What can we do? We can start by giving a damn. We can start by looking at things where they are right now: There’s a president in office who’s done little but pander to the money-interests; we’ve a Congress which was bought-and-paid-for; we’ve a Senate which can do little but veto what the lower House sends them for the next two years.
What’s left is counting the days until we can vote again. With that kind of time, we can organize.
I’ll admit, the odds are long, and there are a lot of people who’d like to see the whole sorry thing implode. I know that there are more than a few of you who’ll say, “But if we do all this, ‘they’ll’ come down on us; hard!”
Yes; ‘they’ will. You can count on that, because there’s really just two sides to this thing – them what have, and them what don’t.
I’ll guarantee you that the plutocrats and other assholes who really run this place are scared shitless about one thing only: The fact that we still have a vote. That’s why they spent billions buying Congress.
I’ll guarantee something else – if we organize, and genuinely threaten them, they’ll land on us with everything they’ve got in a formidable arsenal; from IRS lawsuits to agents-provocateur with clubs and knives. They’ll beat us down like no tomorrow – and that’s where the revolution begins.
We can still save this thing. If we do, we’ve saved democracy (the real thing) itself. If we don’t, at least we’ll be counted among America’s real nobility a century from now when the final history is written – those who made one last, final attempt to secure the future.