Sunday, December 04, 2011

DON’T WORRY. DIE HAPPY.




Really and truly, death is nothing to be scared of. Plus, it’s not going to be a hassle to any real degree. Once it happens, it’s not like any activities that were interrupted at the time are going to matter anymore.

Oh sure, sometimes, like a lot of other folks out there, there’s been places in time where I’ve wished that I was dead. The option is always there for self-termination (and as for any of those folks who think that it’s inappropriate to say that someone committed suicide or killed themselves, oh, fuck all those people, because in reality there’s no right or wrong way to describe the final act anyway). In consideration to family and friends who have chosen that particular route of self-induced death, I hold no resentment or even disagreement with their choice. I hold the firm opinion that the individual in question is the only party with the right to choose such an undertaking.

The philosophy that I’ve taken as I get older is along these lines: Y’see, if you really feel suicidal, then the safest and most painless method is to keep living, because life will kill you in a very efficient manner eventually. Still, I would be inclined to suppose that for many of us, in a world where very few of us can realize anything close to true personal happiness, security and fulfillment in life, most of us can see death as an mystery cloaked in our last unrepressed glimmer of optimism, which we will welcome like a ride home from an old friend rolling up to meet us at the curb in the middle of a strange and dangerous neighborhood. In contemplation of all that the trials and tests of life in this existence which confront us every day for nearly the entire duration of the short time that we spend in this plane, how can we ever reason that the next phase of the journey can be any worse?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

SO, YOU’VE OCCUPIED THE PARK. HOW DO YOU OCCUPY THE CONVERSATION?



Co-ordination was not so good
But everyone did just what they could
Unarmed with inexperience
We had to use our common sense
- From Rats, performed by Subhumans, lyrics by Dick Lucas

So. People gathered in parks and plazas, marched, ranted, raved, rioted in a couple of municipalities, maybe even engaged in some sort of meaningful dialogue with each other. That’s nice.

The tough question that I must ask to anyone who will be willing to at least try to answer is this. Has the majority of the American middle, working and poverty classes come to realize that they need to somehow assimilate themselves into the political and socioeconomic conversation of the nation, which has been shut out to them for practically the entire stretch of American history?

So far, the answer I’ve been getting from simple extended periods of observation since the start of what’s been now referred to in many circles as the “Occupy Movement” is: Fuck. No.

Don’t count me in that equation, as the sentiments and awareness surrounding the Occupy Wall Street protest equals preaching to the choir when drifting in my direction. I’ve been writing about this stuff as well as talking about these sorts of subjects to anyone who’ll listen, both online and in the real life, and it’s been that way for years now.

However, since I happen to be one of those working class Americans that the self-appointed and reputedly leaderless faces and voices of the Occupy Movement claim to be fighting so hard for, please allow me the moment to educate for whoever has eyes to read a bit of hard truth about the so-called Average American.

Most people who could be labeled as “Average Americans” are barely even paying attention to national, much less international, current affairs anymore. Their topics of discussion in the workplace, bar, holiday dinner, front porch etc. usually deal with such heady subjects as the reality show they saw on TV last night or the raccoon that attacked their dog in the back yard or the big game last night or Scarlett Johansson’s boobs. (Come to think of it, those subjects I just mentioned as examples are the only relevant current events, at least in their minds.) Sometimes the subject turns to the latest round of layoffs or a neighbor walking away from their mortgage and getting foreclosed or somebody’s son getting killed by an IED in Afghanistan, but there is never any real wonderment about why these things happen, and these types of incidents are usually shrugged off as uncontrollable circumstances of everyday life. “Coping” is more often than not confused with “submission”.

Add, or even mix in, to the aforementioned segment the American citizens who have been seduced by the system to the point where they’re pretty much nothing but tools for the corprocratic wing of the American Dream Fabrication Machine, who have a couple of credit cards and a tract house with a huge mortgage and think that somehow they are inextricably linked to those at the top of the oligarchic foodchain. These are the people who are genuinely convinced that a more unfettered free market and less taxation and regulation for business interests will magically revitalize the economy and all of its current woes. They genuinely believe the pundits who dismiss any sort of dissent of the sort spurred on by the Occupy Wall Street protests as socialist propaganda or (perish the thought!) class warfare. In short, any criticism of the imbalance of wealth and political power in this country translates in their heads as unpatriotic national heresy.

These are only some examples of the types of folks who have not been reached by the message of the Occupy Movement, and it will be an uphill battle to try to motivate them into any reasonable dialogue in terms of contemplating the wealth gap and its subsequent economic injustices and unfairness among the workers and impoverished of 21st Century American society.

Also, I would not be too optimistic in terms of garnering any significant show of support from most or even any of our elected officials. Politicians have what seems like a genetically inherent talent at playing before the news cameras. If their role is not to be the usual preordained spokesperson for the corporate-friendly right, then they are going to carefully mince out a condescending statement about how they understand the frustration of the Occupy Movement’s participants, and covertly hope that it all blows over so that they can go back to being the same type of business jocking sluts as they usually are. None of these politicians are going to change their attitudes, policies or legislative strategies by one iota. That is, unless there is an ideological tsunami of dissent generated among the currently silent (or actually, for the most part, authority, society and media silenced) majority of the American public.

The true challenge, however, is in how to get through to the so-called ninety nine percent.

The United States Census for 2010 counts the current population at 308,745,538. Times one percent, that’s an unscientific estimate of about 3,087,455 Americans out there who are sharing the blame for the general fuckedupedness of our unbalanced distribution of wealth. That can be a significant number in terms of financial as well as media and cultural control. Many of these few million are, quite predictably, in various social positions that wield considerable influence and power. They can, and do, with glaring regularity, control the flow of information, jack up the price of food and other vital goods and services, and restrict the opportunity, health and general welfare and even the free communication and expression of dissent against the status quo.

Any true outreach effort will need to have a fairly equal amount of people at what’s been described as the 99 per cent level who are not only just passionate, but able to communicate and interact with others around them to the point that the discussion spreads as far as the next ninety eight people from each originator’s own personal space.

Is it perhaps becoming clear now that this type of sea change in the American psyche is going to take much more than just hanging out in a park in relatively small groups and talking amongst ourselves?

Hopefully it does, because after leaving those parks and plazas all over the country, and returning to your homes, workplaces, campuses and neighborhoods, you must try to get those people next to you in your everyday lives to realize that a lot of what is accepted as part of just another day getting screwed, abused and enslaved by the system of the privileged few does not have to be taken as acceptable, in any way shape or form, whatsoever.

Otherwise, without any real affect in that area, these protests just become a footnote in American history, and a curious political anomaly for scholars and sociologists. That would be a goddamned dirty shame.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

IT’S THE RETENTION OF ASSETS, STUPID.


The American moneyed and ruling class won’t admit that there is a poverty problem in the U.S., even if the situation gets to the point that millions are sleeping on the street and subsisting on gruel and sop, and at that point they’ll be holed up in their gated community and mansion fortresses, ignoring and dismissing the issue entirely.

In the postwar years of the American economy, ‘round the 1950s to at least the mid ‘60s, the poverty rate decreased and things were a bit different from nowadays in terms of general opportunity and financial security. Folks could find jobs in many sectors for a living wage. Many could easily afford a down payment on a decent home from simply saving their money over time, and housing expenses were routinely around or just over twenty five percent of the average salary. If that wasn’t the case, entry level service jobs, attainable without a college degree or in many cases a high school diploma, were available as a means to pay the rent and survive. Rich folks didn’t quite get so concerned about taxes and such, because they realized that revenue was paying for infrastructure improvements that helped to make them even more money, and besides, they had already tried to overthrow the U.S. government in the 1930’s and failed.

Quality household products such as furniture and electric appliances were not only becoming increasingly affordable, many were American made and could be bought on non-predatory store payment plans as well. People had much more opportunity to save and many could depend upon some sort of company pension to supplement their Social Security upon retirement. Gains in civil rights increased though they did not perfect economic diversity in terms of equal opportunity and overall standard of living for racial and ethnic minorities. For those who were truly indigent, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations began to push for programs such as Food Stamps and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.

Forward to the Debtor States of America of the 21st century. The average American household carries about $10,000 in credit card debt. One out of six Americans are living in poverty, with a staggering number one paycheck away from homelessness. It’s only getting worse as the years, or even months, move along.

So how does the right side of the political aisle respond to this increasing problem? By employing a mind-boggling level of denial, such as the Heritage Foundation’s report, based upon circa 2005 data and charmingly titled “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?”. I’d suppose that a more truthful title, “Hey, Fuck All You Liberals, Nobody’s Poor in the United States”, wasn’t as scholarly sounding.

Let's take a peek at this, erm, enlightening and educational research.

Ferinstance. Did you know that you are not poor if you have “amenities” like “a refrigerator, an oven and stove, a microwave, and a coffee maker…” and/or “ air conditioning, a clothes washer, a clothes dryer, ceiling fans, and a cordless phone...”? Somma them thar po' folks even have, according to the Heritage study's interpretation of the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) index, some kind of convoluted combination of "two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR..."!

Gee whiz. Let’s just close down the government and call it a day! Everybody’s fancy and everybody’s fine! Your body’s fancy and so is mine! It truly is a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

What’s missing from this sunny Mister Rogers-based outlook is the fact that, unlike generations past, more and more people may have some basic household gizmos in their abode, regardless of income level, but on an ever increasing trend, those doodads will end up tossed out on the street by the landlord after eviction or sold in an auction for delinquent payment on a storage bin. Of course, you don’t count stuff like air conditioning, ceiling fans or clothes washers and dryers, because those will stay in the apartment that residents will be kicked out of.

People might be able to pick up certain “amenities” on an increasingly cheaper basis than the past, or get them as part of living in lower income apartments, but the fact remains that the income necessary to maintain day-to-day survival is becoming increasingly scarce. Add to this the fact that things like food, utilities and health care are on a constant increase in cost, and the Heritage Foundation’s bullshit-in-a-pretty-wrapped-package study contains far less relevance. This relevance is further diluted when you consider the fact that unemployment and poverty is much higher in non-white population segments,and in such racial and ethnic groups, recovery and sustainability is even more difficult.

The ways to reverse this trend of increasing poverty are not simple and are not cheap. It’s going to require more government intervention and regulation as well as fiscal stimulus, only this time, instead of funding Wall Street fat cats and banks, we need a return to the days of the New Deal and the Great Society, while analyzing and learning from the mistakes made by social programs of the past. And to get that funding, yup, there’s going to have to be an end to many tax breaks for the wealthy as well as an increase in taxation for the top percentile of income earners overall. In other words, the folks who will be financially hurt in their lifestyles by increased taxation the least will need to sacrifice the most.

Are the rich folks at the top of the economic ladder going to fight this type of government effort hook line and sinker? Sure they are, but fuck ‘em, they got theirs. Those who “have not” presently outnumber those who "have", and somehow the have-nots need to organize and fight for a better life. This means fighting for stuff like a living wage, affordable and available health care, and adequate aid for times when the ability to find and hold gainful employment just isn’t there. People in the lower rungs of the economic ladder want a temporary, not permanent means of assistance when needed, and a hand up, not a handout, despite whatever any conservative radio talk show host or oligarchy apologist mouthpiece will try to say.

Remember, voting is free, and besides, it doesn’t matter who wins an election. That person elected to public office is sworn to represent all of the people, and if they do not listen to all of the people, or act in deference to “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare”, then We the People have the right, nay the responsibility, to get together with our situational peers and demand a better way of doing things.

Don’t just trudge around through your day expecting the ruling class to make it all better for you. They will be satisfied to see you quickly rot and die, because they will be safely tucked away in their luxurious cocoons and will not have to witness you, and as a matter of fact, they feel that they have the right to use you and destroy your body and your life in order to achieve their ongoing personal gain. True democracy is a process of correction. It’s high time that America’s working people rise up and correct the irresponsible tactics of today’s leaders and begin to truly fight for a better world for each and every citizen, regardless of whether or not your apartment has air conditioning or you were able to put milk on your breakfast cereal this morning.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN THE WORKPLACE. LESS BRAINS, MORE LIPS.



Hey, American Worker, if you really suck at your job abilities but have the God-given talent to be an all-star sycophant, the Establishment Media has some great news for you!

According to CareerBuilder, an employment website that makes money off of, well, employers, a survey of 2662 hiring managers found out that seventy one percent of ‘em would forsake potential hires who could actually walk and chew gum at the same time, instead hiring those perceived as being high in a trait known generally as emotional intelligence, or EI as it’s known for short to them fancy psychology type folk. Emotional intelligence has been under a marked degree of unrelenting criticism in that particular neck of the scientific woods, namely in regards as to whether or not EI can be an actual measurement of intelligence. It’s a relatively new concept, where the term "emotional intelligence" didn’t show up until the mid 1960s and models concerning EI didn’t begin to come forth until around the mid 1980s.

Generally, EI in any positive light can be seen as the ability in a person to admit and adapt to his or her own mistakes, cooperate with others, and manage emotions in order to be productive and meet various sorts of goals in various areas of life.

I would dare to surmise that the HR respondents to the survey, as well as the executives and managers of most companies and their respective departments, don’t see these abilities in quite that pragmatic of a view. In actuality, they are seeing the term “emotional intelligence” in the exact same light as a more traditional workplace trait known as “kissing ass”. In other words, those holding the power to hire and fire, and the corresponding paycheck purse strings attached, are becoming increasingly prone to foregoing actual talent and ability. Instead, they seek the type of workers who can’t produce or function worth shit, yet move along in the day to day operations with a big stupid grin on their faces, going through the motions and playing right along with any old fucked up policy that the boss hands down to them.

This trend actually makes plenty of sense. The unemployment rate is currently so high in most of the country, and a lot of people are practically killing themselves and each other to find and hold a job, any job. Employers in many sectors are now able to make potential job prospects not only jump through flaming hoops, but then lick the shoes of the hiring manager in gratitude for the opportunity to jump through said hoops. Top this off with the fact that those in the upper levels of companies, thanks to ever growing severance and bonus packages, feel mobile enough to move on from one job to the next. Under these circumstances, the tendency to favor shiny-happy apple polishing over actual skills can become potentially epidemic in proportion. After all, if the current ass-kisser turns out to be an incompetent fuckup, there’s always the next prospect to come through the door, in an endless supply. Sooner or later they figure that they’ll get it right, and if they don’t, that’s just an excuse for the leaders themselves to skedaddle to a greener pasture.

So, if you are out of work or looking to get out of the shitty job that you already have, keep in mind that your cognitive skill set now means absolutely nothing to a potential employer, and when going to any of the interviews held by the companies at which CareerBuilder employers are surveyed, don’t forget the knee pads.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

THE U.S. ECONOMY. FUBAR AND FORGET IT.




"It's the people's business -- the election is in their hands. If they turn their backs to the fire and get scorched in the rear, they'll find they've got to sit on the blisters."
- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Face reality. If you are not holding assets in the neighborhood of a billion dollars or more, the special interest whores inside the Beltway do. Not. Give. A fuck. About you. Your future chances of receiving anything resembling today’s Medicare, as well as your Social Security, is rapidly becoming set with odds of close to infinity-to-one. Be thankful, Pilgrim! Your noble sacrifice is helping to keep the Department of Defense solvent through the worst of economic times! Well, maybe not the veterans’ benefits. Those painful (and mediocre) defense budget cuts that need to be worked out as part of the latest debt ceiling deal will have to be taken SOMEwhere.

The already laughable phrase “job killing taxes”, at this point in our history and economic condition, is about as sensible as saying “teeth staining toothpaste”. The overwhelming majority of American businesses, especially the larger corporations, are not engaging in job growth now, and they are not going to do so in the foreseeable future, or probably well beyond that time. The game plan is clearly to continue to send jobs overseas on the cheap and explore technological innovations in order to do the same amount of work with less actual American workers in the building. Anybody left in the nation’s labor force still able to find work will be expected to be the taxpaying fund of the government, and they are not going to get jack shit in return for that revenue.

Ultimately, our elected officials will just let things run along as business as usual. Today's politicians, most not even close to a progressive ideology, are too weak-spined to truly take on the various corporate interests that are skating along in today’s economy with nary a cent of their profits going into the national revenue. For some reason, the job title and prestige accompanying it, or something or other, precludes most politicians from putting their so-called public service career on the line and representing the interests of working people, the poor, children and the elderly. Those rare few whom are truly walking the talk of progressive policy and do have the luxury of the backup of their local constituencies receive no support from their fellow representatives when they actually try to create legislative change, because their elected peers are too timid to confront the local loudmouths at home, regardless of whether said loudmouths represent the true will of the citizen majority, let alone the truth of any particular matter.

If the right wing of the political spectrum gains an advantage in the White House in 2012, let alone the houses of Congress, 2013 could turn out to be a year when anarchy in our society becomes a fact of life. There will be blood on the streets.

Personally I don’t condone such a violent possibility, but that’s what I see on the radar at this point. No one will have a monopoly on the bloodshed. It will be anarchists on the far left directly rioting in the cities and extremist domestic terror cells on the right plotting out one fucked up operation or another in the suburbs and rural regions.

The ruling class, holed up in nice secure gated communities and well-guarded mansions and the like, won’t care. If anything, such a situation would be exploited to clamp down on the lower income classes and their respective neighborhoods, and encourage the funding and resuscitation of such dubious government projects as COINTELPRO and a massive steroidal pumping up of the USA PATRIOT Act.

It might be a good time, now more than ever to take all of this newfangled technological innovation in communication and try to effectively spread the message that it’s not about anything close to lower-class entitlement abuse that’s sending the nation’s economy down the toilet. It’s the interests and cliques at the top of the nation’s capitalist caste system treating the remaining majority, from the middle class on down, like a toilet and trying to shit on each and every one of us for the collective gain of the richest one percent that is beating the working people of the United States down into increasing impotence in terms of overall political influence.

Get out on the streets, start talking about the world around you, and complain if you want to, because at this point, we’ve earned the privilege to do just that. Please leave the guns and bombs behind. If you want to really fuck up the program, it’s called non- violent resistance. Learn all about what that means, start organizing, and make it a reality soon. No bullet or explosive will match the damage of a national people's show of force to the targets that deserve to get hurt. Sooner or later, folks out in the working world need to figure out that the controlling hierarchy is leaving the majority of the American populace not only unnecessarily divided over various pointless dogmas, but also over and over again luring in the electorate to get used and abused, tasted and wasted, time after time.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

PERHAPS WE NEED MORE AMERICAN CITIZENS TO STAND IN FRONT OF OUR TROOPS.



I had caught a phrase recently that for some reason was disturbing to read:

“If you can’t stand behind our troops, then feel free to stand in front of them.”

Really? What exactly do they mean when they utter this slogan?

Do they mean, like the guy who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square?

Or perhaps the folks who stood in front of British troops in front of the Old State House in Boston back in 1770?

Are they maybe hoping that things would go down like the students who stood in front of Ohio National Guard troops at Kent State two hundred years after the Boston Massacre?

Is that what it gets down to?

So, I’m curious. Tell me, based upon that saying, what would happen if I, as an unarmed American citizen, walked up in front of one or even some of our soldiers and said, “I think that you are in two illegal wars that have been fought way too long, and if our government isn’t careful, you will be in a third before long. The troops need to come home and stop being used as expendable pawns of the chickenhawks and pseudo-patriots influencing this nation’s leadership.”

Or, what if I simply stood in front of them, saying nothing?

Enough with the rhetorical sayings. Let’s continue the conversation right now. What’s going to happen?

Should I look forward to a hail of bullets coming to my head, or at least a rifle butt in my face?

I’m not sure who thinks that it’s OK for a nation’s military to shoot at unarmed citizens, especially those who are engaged in peaceful protest, or even just engaging in freedom of speech or otherwise freedom of assembly or expression, but they’re not with the type of mindset that I want making any pertinent decisions re: this country’s foreign policy, or anything to do with its domestic policy for that matter. A nation in which we would live in fear of the iron hand of a military-backed regime is not the kind of place where I want to live. In such a drastic situation, I would be more than ready to place myself in front of the troops. At least my place in history would be secured, and future generations could hopefully learn about what happens when militant pseudo-patriotism runs amok and destroys any semblance of the true principles of democracy and human rights.

A lot of folks out there would tell me that we are already under the control of the military-industrial complex, but I’ve never really been the type to give up that easily on these United States. Still others live under the dogmatic phrase, “My country, right or wrong.” I’m more along the lines of, “My country right, and when I feel that it’s wrong, damn straight I’ll complain about it.”

Am I an enemy of the Constitution? No. Are people who assemble and express their dissent in peaceful gathering enemies of the Constitution? Of course not. So if anyone gets in front of the troops to exercise their Constitutional rights, isn’t that exactly what the troops' military ancestors and comrades have sacrificed so many of their lives for? I could only hope to literally stand in front of the troops if it only meant ending the disrespect of so many young people who represent the future generations of our nation, and preventing them from being spent like poker chips in situations better suited to the whims of isolated selfish interests of the rich and powerful than those in the interest of defending the true safety and liberty of a nation’s people.

I have a quiz for you.

Go take a look at an American flag flying on a pole out there somewhere, and as you’re standing there checking it out, ask yourself the following question:

Yours, mine or ours?

And yes, this quiz has only one correct answer. After all, the nation represented by that flag isn't the Divided States of America.

Perhaps, instead of suggesting how to be patriotic, we should be asking ourselves about what true patriotism means instead.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

CHEVRON IS TRYING TO MINDFUCK US ALL INTO SUBMISSION. DO YOU AGREE?




No, it’s not your imagination, Pilgrim.

Chevron really is trying to get into your head and control your mind, yea, possess the very essence of your soul.

And I’m not talking about the cute cartoon cars, either, although one can argue that those lil' suckers are Big Oil's version of Joe Camel.

I’m talking about the wickedly insidious mass manipulation tactic that Chevron likes to call its “We Agree” ad campaign.

There’s no escape. If you watch any TV channel with commercial breaks, there they are. Thinking that PBS may be an exception? Nah. You will see the entire spots, same as the ones they show on paid TV, right before and/or after the programs on your local public broadcaster. Open up any of the largest daily newspapers. Oh, look, there’s a print variation on the TV ad, facing page bottom. Turn the page, and gee, there’s another half page ad in the exact same position on the bottom right of the page! And yet again, one more time, a THIRD half page ad, same place, same size, same “Can’t we all get along” brainwashing attempt. Don’t bother going online, there’s no escape. Click through ads on practically every major web site, and especially the web versions of the newspapers taking all of that Chevron ad cash.

Every televised ad has the same premise. On the right side of the screen, a “real person” who is genuine folk, outside of the sphere of Big Oil influence (or at least that’s what you, the viewer, are being persuaded to presume). On the left side of the screen, some paid executive or employee or something-or-other for Chevron. Each party simultaneously states his or her case from his or her side of the TV screen. Hey, Right Side Common Person is concerned with the environment. Well, hey, Left Screen Company Person sez that Chevron is developing clean energy alternatives. (Then they’re allegedly turning around and patenting them, then shelving said technology or using it in limited quantity to lower competition and keep costs high.) Big oil is making lots of profit, Right Side Common Person declares, and is concerned about that too? Well, hey, here’s a big multi-billion dollar figure to throw at ya from Left Screen Company Person to show how much that Chevron is putting back into the businesses that they buy stuff from! (Of course, that’s called “operating costs” and does nothing to explain why Chevron and the other Big Oil conglomerates think that it’s perfectly cool to pull in and accumulate billions in tax-break-facilitated profits from jacked up gas prices due to rampant speculation.) But, we need safe energy alternatives right away, squeals Right Side Common Person? Left Screen Company Person counterpoints, well, hey, Chevron’s pulling natural gas out of Australia that, like, can provide fuel to lots of people and shit! (And who cares about that silly tree hugger talk about fracking? Natural gas is totally safe to use! Just ask all those folks in San Bruno, California! Besides, just because drinking water becomes flammable, that doesn’t guarantee that people will die from it. Just don’t drink so much.)

Chevron wants you to recognize and respect their existence in your world, John and Jane Q. Public, and goddammit, they are going to make sure that you are seeing and hearing it from every corner of the planet Earth’s media that you pass through.

One who chooses not to keep up with current events, or simply is too busy with the necessities of everyday life to contemplate them, may not be wondering why Chevron is so concerned with their PR image, or care for that matter. Fair enough. After all, it may or may not be very important to note that this whole “We Agree” ad blitz was conceived largely due to the $19 billion dollar fine given to Chevron (thanks to acquired subsidiary Texaco) by the Ecuadoran court system for fucking up Amazon rainforest resources. The suits outta San Ramon are real nervous that this could somehow spill into the American consumer spotlight somehow, and they want to make sure that their share of your hard earned dough continues to get into their bank accounts via your filling the ol’ jalopy’s gas tank using their extortion-level-priced pumps at the local Chevron station.

Look at it another way. There’s no telling that Chevron’s sins of the soil could manifest itself in the American justice system sooner or later, especially if people take a good hard look at the company’s track record in the U.S.A. alone. As a matter of fact, since Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, it could likely be decided by an American court to go after Chevron’s money in this country after all, in order to satisfy the Ecuadoran judgment. We could well be witnessing the most widespread and expensive attempted proactive jury tampering attempt in world history.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

THE LABOR MOVEMENT. IT’S NOT JUST FOR UNIONS ANYMORE.



A lot of American workers nowadays seem to be afraid and/or mistrustful of organized labor, and that’s a damn shame. Many members of today’s workforce seem to take for granted the fact that the eight-hour day, forty-hour week, minimum wage and almost all of what can be considered employee benefits were established by the direct action and political efforts of labor and trade unions. In this writer’s opinion, I’d be willing to bet the farm that if the current lobbying work of business-related special interests is any indication, and if somehow said effort succeeds, those aforementioned accomplishments, which were quite literally earned through the bloodshed of our ancestors, will begin to gradually fade away and eventually disappear.

The corporate element of politics, with its accompanying infiltration of all levels of government, is making what seems like a full frontal assault upon the conditions and security of American workers regardless of whether said workers are organized or not. The robber barons of today, through their campaign funding of elected lapdogs in high and influential positions, are making a most dogged effort to turn back the clock to the “Good Ole Guilded” days of Jay Gould and Henry Clay Frick, which amounts to an ultimate goal to cultivate a cheap and easily manipulated workforce that will be willing to work for future pennies on the current wage dollar out of sheer desperation to survive.

Today’s organized labor needs to restructure and redefine its purpose and principle. Instead of a basic philosophy of solidarity in insulated pockets for the sake of self-protection and preservation, unions need to see themselves as the elite special strike force in the battle for workers’ rights, and in the name of every worker, not just those who are union members. Along with a concerted effort to network and unite with each other, unions should develop a focus on the big picture, in regards to broad outreach aimed at those who are not only fortunate enough to organize, but who, as a result of various circumstances, can’t or won’t join or form unions on their own.

Union membership has dwindled down to a mere 12% of the national work force. Imagine if you could only get even half of that “outside” 88 percent informed (and if successful, probably pissed off) enough to join in on the fun of organized assembly and protest. A situation where the true majority of working people are speaking out and asking questions can become a world in which we’d be talking about a credible threat to the “one percent” wealthy interests that are funding the maintenance of the current status quo.

It is time for the workers of the United States, all of us, with and without union membership, to start to think about how to defend our collective health and well being, not just for ourselves but for future generations as well. To ensure a promising start, we need to begin to talk amongst ourselves openly and fearlessly about who and what is trying to make our jobs as well as our lives, yea our very value as human beings, less significant, and what we can do to stop the efforts of such parties in their tracks. The corporate and moneyed interests may have the assets (for now), but as a force, we have the sheer human numbers.

The last time that I checked, the First Amendment had not been repealed (at least not yet), and the people of this nation still have the right to peacefully assemble on the streets and air grievances. The streets of the U.S.A. can be ours if necessary, as long as we simply go out and occupy them. We live along them, we paved them, we drive goods down them, and we worked and fought in the wars they instigated throughout our nation’s history to earn our rights to occupy them. Let’s take true control of them if we have to, and keep them.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

THOSE FICKLE WASHINGTON BULLETS.



When it comes right down to it, the United States of America, in its government’s foreign policy just as in its popular culture, is a country that for the most part never really knows what the fuck it wants. Like the fads that are rapidly rotated through American media, the definition of what qualifies for the nation’s international alliance as well as aid to other nations seems to change directions with the wind, seemingly day by day.

Today is no different than the past for U.S. foreign policy, or at least for its more aggressive tendencies. It would be an amusing and thought provoking work of satire as a novel or film, but unfortunately it’s all too real, and not quite as entertaining or escapist if one contemplates the circumstances with any considerable level of thought. Here are the citizens of a number of nations, chiefly in the Middle East and Africa, whom are trying to overthrow rule of force and institute rule of law, which is allegedly the type of dissent that the U.S.A. enjoys seeing when it happens anywhere outside of its borders.

However, for various underlying nefarious reasons, Uncle Sam simply can’t seem to view dissent against certain regimes on an equal level to others. They arbitrarily criticize, selectively and somewhat covertly infiltrate and attack, then toss the ball to NATO (and let’s face it, the letters should more appropriately be capitalized nAto) to make things look like as much of an allied multinational effort as possible. Long before the recent controversial actions in Libya, the United States, its government, and that government’s various leaders have made incredibly Machiavellian moves on the world stage, from the darkly tragicomic (Bay of Pigs) to the downright reprehensible (the 1973 Chilean coup d'├ętat). This type of political behavior needs to be relegated to the same historical garbage heap as slavery and Native American genocide.

There needs to be an approach of balance, where the American government makes the message clear. On one end of the scale, sovereignty needs to be respected as well as recognized for all nations, whether on the U.S.A.’s border or on the other side of the planet. On the other end of the scale, it must also be established that the expression of dissent is an essential human right, and any world government that does not respect this inherent human right will not be seen in a favorable light, with America's objections acted upon as change in interaction with said offenders, political, economic and otherwise, and carried out in a clear, humanitarian and uncompromising manner. Measures need to employ common sense and make no arbitrary exception. Efforts to address perceived abuses need to be carried out across the board based on clear and realistic principles of liberty and equality and not on selfish interests, most especially of the mere financial kind.

America doesn’t need to make friends with the whole rest of the world. It just needs to make it clear that the nation is going to make an effort to be good neighbors, minding to its own business and not being a volatile imperialist nuisance to everybody else in this neighborhood called Earth. In return it should expect the same from the world's neighbors, but as life teaches us by the time most of us become adults, all we can do is live in the example of how we expect to be treated by others. It’s only fair. It’s what America’s message and contribution to the world should be all about.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

SACRAMENTO – PRESCRIPTIONS FOR A SICK CITY, PARTS ONE AND TWO.


Sacramento’s alleged civic leaders, as usual, are failing to come up with any kind of constructive ideas aimed at revitalizing general growth and improvement for the quality of life in our city.

Since a lot of people seem to sit around complaining a lot about what they perceive as the city’s shortcomings without any kind of suggestion as to improve things, I feel compelled to offer some thoughts of my own. It’s inevitable that some folks will not pay attention to what I have to say, or will vehemently disagree with my opinions, or simply look down their nose at me.

Well, fuck ‘em.

Regardless, I’m going to offer my two cents anyway. Ready? Here we go.


HOW TO DEAL WITH THE KINGS LEAVING TOWN.


I’m not really trying to pretend that I care either way if the Kings leave Sacramento or not, but gee, so many people with barely any real life whatsoever seem to be scared and disturbed by the prospect of the team pulling up stakes. It’s heart wrenching to witness. I’d better try to help.

This team has pretty much been a gypsy band for practically the entire total span of its existence. Back in the 1920’s, when the now-Kings were started up as a semi-pro company sponsored team, they were the Rochester Seagrams, which is appropriate because they’ve been stumbling across the U.S.A. from town to town in a drunken stupor ever since.

That’s the big problem here. They’re nobody’s team. They landed in Sacramento pretty much as a bargaining chip for part of a land rezoning scheme, and once the Natomas prairie was properly exploited, they were sold to a buncha out of town rich kids who washed down Carl’s Jr. burgers with a 24 year old bottle of French Bordeaux while a ballot measure was pushed (and voted down) to build them a new arena.

It’s time to start over, and I mean over.

First of all, let’s actually hope that the Kings get the fuck out of town. Once that’s done, the biggest mistake would be to try to get some other failing pro sports franchise to relocate to Sacramento. So that’s where the New Orleans Hornets come in.

Currently, the NBA owns the Hornets because the previous owners couldn’t get their shit together and had to sell the team to the league. They’re not faring too badly this season, with a decent home record, but they’re a disaster as a franchise, and therefore as a business.

Here's my suggestion. I put forth that Sacramento should push for a plan which sounds like something bordering on insanity, but hear me out. If anyone in this city with the money and ability is truly interested in keeping NBA ball in the area, here’s what should be done.

Approach the league and propose two things:

1. Dissolve the New Orleans Hornets franchise, and
2. Grant Sacramento the right to a brand new expansion team.

If this sounds rather pointless and illogical to some, let me explain my reasoning. On one level, we can have a team that is clearly made and grown in Sacramento, not some beat up jalopy that’s gotten into wrecks in other parts of the country. The new team’s local residents, and therefore potential new fans, can get involved in the naming and team colors and anything else that the new owners and anyone who is interested can think of and create a general good feeling of knowing that they are supporters of a truly hometown team from the beginning. I could care less about this type of stuff myself, but what the hell, I can see how it could be fun to go see a game occasionally or, who knows, maybe even riot with a rabid mob downtown after winning a league championship someday.

On another level, I also feel that starting from scratch could work out well in the long run. There would be the added benefit of an expansion draft where experienced players can be picked from other teams around the league. (It didn’t fare too badly for the Charlotte Bobcats, and by the way, the Bobcats picked Gerald Wallace off the Kings, who in turn became the Bobcats’ first All-Star, then was recently traded for three players and two draft picks.) Sure, expansion teams tend to suck for a while, but at least we’d have a true home team, and I’m thinking that the odds of a future NBA championship, as well as any (slim) chance of a new arena in the foreseeable future soon, would be much more closer to reality than the FUBAR franchise currently stinking up the Sacramento area.

There. I made a suggestion about the plight of the future of pro sports in this city. Now, here’s what I feel is a much more important one…


MAKE SACRAMENTO VIBRANT AS A CREATIVE CITY, NOT A PASSIVE ONE.


One of the oldest and most popular complaints about Sacramento is that its only saving grace is being conveniently located between the Bay Area and the Tahoe/Reno region. And we have never tried to use this as a serious selling point because… why?

Sacramento is the perfect area for the creative mind exactly because it is not an excessively problematic (and therefore not overly distracting) large metropolitan area, and to fortify that atmosphere, the median quality of life is actually quite enjoyable, especially compared to other parts of the country, or the world for that matter. Businesses (at the startup level and also those that are established and successful) which are seeking a new home would be stupid to overlook Sacramento as a potential base of operations. It will be a sad future for those of us still living here if this city becomes a stagnant pool of government jobs, with the mere alternative of retail and service work rounding out the employment picture and not much else. Various technical, professional and even manufacturing outfits could thrive here and some businesses of these types already are taking advantage of the area, though not nearly as much as should be.

By all means, this city’s leaders and shapers need to do everything possible to develop the “walkable workable neighborhood” concept. I consider myself very lucky to be working and living within a variety of available goods and services, not to mention decent restaurant and entertainment options and such, without needing to use an automobile or even a bicycle in most cases. I feel like part of a dying breed, and that is, quite frankly, a goddamned shame. An urban environment of that level should be pursued and developed into the norm, not written off as merely an anomaly that is perceived to be long extinct.

Most importantly, Sacramento needs to stop trying to be like other cities, or to be more accurate, avoid the tendency to beg, borrow and steal from the socio-cultural elements of other places. San Francisco did not copy Boston and Los Angeles did not rip off New York just like Boston did not co-opt London nor did New York schlep off in Amsterdam’s footsteps. All of these great cities have their own stories and shaped their own unique personalities and destinies.

People don’t flock to these places because they are reminded of someplace else, or there’s a really cool sports team in town, or there’s a bar with paid employees in mermaid costumes swimming around in a tank and winking at you as you drink. They move there and live there and love it in these cities because it makes them feel alive, somewhat accomplished and mostly satisfied, even hopeful, if not even entirely successful. There’s opportunity and energy and most importantly, a genuine heart to each city.

Sacramentans, ask yourselves: what is here that is unique and of superior quality and value, that we can celebrate as ours? It is all around us already, and has been all along. We just need to learn to recognize it.

There are so many wonderful people and places in and near Sacramento. I’m not going to play favorites at this moment by naming any of them specifically. I can tell you that, even for a deranged loner and part time hermit, I do feel fortunate to be living in this city. There are qualities here that aren’t the same, much less exist at all, in many other places out there. Sacramentans, for the most part, should feel somewhat thankful on a general level that they somehow ended up settling here, regardless of reason or circumstance.

If you want Sacramento to be a great place to live, make sure that it becomes a meaningful and enjoyable experience for the most part to live here. To do this, we have to be a city chiefly of thinkers and doers, and encourage the passive perpetually unsatisfied full time spectators, conformist clones and confused complainers to get in the game or step back.

If we do this, we will only attract like-minded people to want to be a part of the action.

And we can do it with or without a bunch of millionaires tossing a rubber ball through a hoop somewhere in town for 40 days a year.

That’s how the best and brightest of the cities of history grow and succeed. So let’s finally grow up and build an original city together.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

CLASS WARFARE? COOL! SIGN ME UP!



"There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." –Warren Buffett, New York Times Magazine November 2006

It’s a seemingly never ending effort for the plutocratic ruling class to control production, drive down wages and beat down and homogenize the labor force in the United States of America as well as the rest of the world.

We’re currently in a state of class warfare, all right. Unfortunately, the lower rung of the economic ladder, which also happens to be the majority of the working population, is fighting like 1939 Poland and/or behaving like 1940 Vichy France.

Yeah, a lot of you out there were pretty buzzed right after the Obama election, huh? Me too. Admittedly, I was a bit of a Johnny-Come-Lately but eventually the guy got to me, just like he did for millions of other progressively minded pissed off voters at the time, from all ages, ethnicity, and social stratification. I went to the polls and copped my hit, and we were LOADed that Tuesday night, aw shit, the whole three months afterward!

It was one Hell of a headache once the buzz started to wear off, eh?

Any of us who go out and actually work for a living, especially for someone else, have obviously learned a rather potent lesson about hope and change. Namely, that hope and change won’t make any difference in the election of an individual to public office, but rather that a populace united in hope must demand change, regardless of the political representation of the time.

It’s not the elected official who is going to improve the quality of life for the bottom eighty percent of the population which, by the way, has only about seven percent of the nation’s total financial wealth. It’s going to have to be an uprising of one form or another by that very majority. Furthermore, it seems that four out of five of us need to try to get to know each other a little bit better and figure out how we can work as a team in order to level the playing field against the remaining twenty percent. If the latest machinations of the Establishment Media and Corporate America against free speech, Internet content neutrality and the like are any indication, most of those “one out of five” are already forming a battle line aimed at suppressing our voices and abilities to question authority, access alternative information sources and express dissent.

In order to engage in anything resembling true class warfare, or a resurgence of working class activism at the least, there will need to be a sort of remedial education necessary in regard to the hell raising working class movements of the old times. A good way to look at the general strategy is like this: direct action is live action. While online social networking and similar technological methods are helpful on an organizational level, the most effective weapon of change is direct live dialogue. It’s time to stop staring at the screen and walk outside to start talking about the world around us, as well as what to do about our lives and our current challenges, face to face. A line of communication from person to person, one person at a time, can work wonders.

We are all living beings, and not robots under the remote control of a ruling class. No matter how hard that the moneyed oligarchs try to get us to believe they are our overlords, we need to keep letting each other know that our only support in overcoming this attempted clampdown is from each other. Whatever it takes, be it something along the lines of mass labor disruption, collective product boycotts, or just plain old fashioned nonviolent protest and resistance, the sense of common need among us needs to be recognized and acted upon, and soon.

I’m calling out to you. It’s time to get out there and start talking amongst us. What do we really want, and how are we going to get it done?

I’m in. All in. Talented terrors of the American working class, unite to fight.

Let’s go to war.