Thursday, August 12, 2010

R 'n' R

Rock 'n' Roll? No, that garbage gets kicked to the curb some other day. Talkin' about, Rest 'n' Relaxation. 'Tis the season, after all, isn't it?

Here in the United States' Northeast we've been mired 'midst the "dog days" of summer since the final week of June. Disgustingly hot, humid days and sleepless, clammy-skinned nights. Work and/or familial frustrations easily kindled into explosive outbursts. Traffic always at a stand-still while finger-waves of extreme pavement heat ripple like sheets of distortion in the air. Ozone buildup makes it difficult to breathe deeply. Time drags at the job, flies by at home. Weekends seem like only the briefest respite and nowhere near two full days long. Americans (those with jobs, that is) are having to work longer and produce more than ever for diminishing real-time wages. Personal indebtedness is soaring. Job security is a thing of the past. Retirement now seems to coincide with death. The financial crisis is still claiming victims among the innocent while the "criminals" deposit more and more money into their bulging accounts. Congressional Republicans continue to play the "No-ist" role of handcuffing any/all meaningful legislation while perpetrating the lie that such intransigence is in the Peoples' interest, meant to keep the Federal debt from escalating. We watch calamitous oil spills fouling our waters, our lands for over a hundred days and then, once the problem well has been capped, we hear that 200 million gallons of the toxic stuff plus millions more of applied dispersants are almost all gone with the remaining quarter of it not to be a bother. We hear of new techniques (hydraulic fracturing developed by Halliburton) for natural gas extraction that can foul entire aquifers; drinking water for millions; state watchdog agencies saying it's no problem await industry marching orders as to what regulatory regime will be put into place. [Insert laugh here_____.] We read of more of our food being contaminated with shit (literally) and other undesirable additives. Killer heat waves. Gas prices rise. Oil prices begin to climb in time for winter. And, that's just on the hemispherical home front.

Abroad, America continues to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan; in the first instance, because a cabal of delusional Cold Warriors (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Abrams, Wolfowitz – PNAC mainstays) executed a particularly odious assault vis-à-vis American Exceptionalism in the guise of "keeping America safe from terrorists;" and, in the second instance, well, there seems to be only one reason even though the same pronouncements about "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here" are uttered. Israel is poised to launch an attack on Iran, which, if that happens, expect oil/fuel to escalate in price by at least 50 percent upon first Israeli bombing sorties, and more if Iran mounts a serious response. Palestinians are still being tortured, murdered, humiliated daily by Israelis; some of these Palestinians, residents of Israel proper for generations, thousands of years longer than any Israelis. Both of the foregoing events aided and abetted by the American government, with the continuing "approval" of a majority of Americans; such callousness the driving force behind extremist Jihadists. The American government still turns a blind eye to the continuing evidence of widespread long-term impacts of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, refusing to send that government money to deal with that tragic legacy. Rain forests are being clear-cut at alarming rate. Entire species being exterminated daily. Huge, devastating storms and deadly floods wreaking havoc.

But, the above thoughts—if ever existing at all in the minds of Americans —are now lost to thoughts about getting some Rest 'n' Relaxation. After all, this is the time to get away, to take a vacation, to linger a week or two on an ocean beach or mountain lake shore, slugging back Margaritas and/or Lime Coronas, maybe do some swimming, fishing, seeing the sights, buying fetish consumerist products of non-utilitarian nature before heading out to local eateries to partake in sumptuous meals. In general, the idea is to become immersed in mindless ennui to achieve body/mind revitalization.

Wait a minute. "Mindless ennui?" Isn't that a typical American's day-to-day state of mind? Or, rather, their state of perpetual mindlessness? You know, vacant of knowledge yet full of opinions. Filled with dreams of becoming rich, or being a "star," yet having no talent and no idea of how those conditions may be attained. So sure that a Socialist plot is afoot that evidence is not required. Not to worry. Americans are special; held in highest esteem, by ourselves at least. And, that is all that matters. We are, all of us, destined to be exceptional. After all, we are Americans.

Please excuse this writer. [Off to vomit.] [Now cleaning and freshening up.] Thanks, that's better.

The good news is that multi-billionaires are pledging to "give back" half their fortunes. In America, 400 of just such wealthy are being asked to pledge $600 Billion via donation to charity of choice. Which means they're worth over $1.2 Trillion; or, to put it in perspective, worth more than the combined GDPs of Mexico and the Caribbean (22 nations); or equal to that of Brazil; or all of South East Asia; or that of all of Africa (52 nations); or just a few hundred Billion less than the entire Middle East consisting of the GDPs for Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, Israel, Jordon, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, United Arab emirates, West Bank and Yemen United, COMBINED (notice these include the "oil rich" Arab states). GDP defined as the value of all products and services created/performed in a nation during one year; this includes all income earned.

Who among you would like to wager that such an act of "kindness" among the wealthiest of wealthy will go a long way towards helping Americans to be dissuaded from any inspection of Capitalism as worthwhile worldwide economic system. God forefend we should question a system that has produced such wealth for so few at the expense of so many. That would be "class war" talk and totally indicative of a Socialist or Communist talking-point that it would then have to be immediately swept clean from the discussion table with the table itself disinfected. Although, with mid-term elections upon us, you'll be hearing the Republicans chanting this "class war" charge very soon and often as they direct their verbal attacks at the "Socialist" Obama Administration, in particular and Democrats, in general. You see, the only time "class war" can be brought up for discussion is when Republican representatives of the moneyed class do so in order to rage against the envious have-nots; against those whom deserve their poverty and hopelessness and complete lack of opportunity; admonishing the system-rejects for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps (if only these poor people HAD boots upon which to tug). The above mentioned "give back" by the way, will certainly qualify for tax deductions on the billions earned this year thereby helping to replenish the coffers.

The intention of this writer is not to disparage Americans' work ethic nor put forth the proposition that a "break" from drudgery isn't required to recharge the batteries. But, in the context of the dismal lives so many human beings are experiencing primarily because of the Capitalist few-and-many paradigm, will any Americans be concerned enough to educate themselves to what's really transpiring around them? Perhaps pondering how much of the developed world allows for more than a full month PAID vacation/holiday time while Americans are lucky to get an unpaid week or two. Or, maybe reading in-depth analysis of financial news in order to suss out how the Wall Street pigs still feed at the trough of wealth-producing American labor? Will they be educating themselves to lifestyle changes that MUST be embraced if humanity is to survive? Will they be educating themselves to the realities of everyday life as opposed to fiction and celebrity scandals? Will they be educating themselves to the complexities of international issues like Palestinian sovereignty in an attempt to actually know what they're talking about when supporting, say, a criminal Israel?

The answer is, "No." Given this time, Americans will feed their faces, spend their money on nothing of import and lay about in a comatose state of smug satisfaction. While Americans so often excuse themselves from getting involved because of the time constraints they face (e.g., work, commuting, familial obligations), will they now, during their down-time vacations, educate themselves in order to contribute to our democracy via intelligent analysis of issues of import based upon facts and not just their "gut" feelings? Again, the answer is surely, "No!"

So, as Americans laid upon pristine ocean beach sands, in another sandy location, the Negev desert, 45 homes were razed by American made bulldozers. The Bedouin town of al-Araqib was leveled, destroyed by 1500 Israeli border guards, riot squad personnel, armed police and busloads of High Schoolers getting additional credit for removing the furniture and personal belongings of the villagers while mocking and taunting those hapless victims of Israeli policy of spreading misery to Arabs; in this instance on the pretext of making way for a national Jewish forest preserve. That these lands have been tended and lived upon for thousands of years, that these same people are actual citizens of Israel, means nothing. They are Arabs. And, therefore, in the eyes of Israelis they are less than animals and deserving of nothing but brutality. Yet, a major talking point on America's resort beaches, in the restaurants, on radio talk shows, television news, was the anger at the decision to allow a Muslim mosque to be built two blocks from Ground Zero.

As vacationers imbibe spirits and engage other like-minded folk in conversation, how many will actually know what they're talking about? My guess is precious few. How many will still maintain that the current financial meltdown was caused by sub-prime mortgages? How many will still blame Muslim terrorist acts on Islam? How many will side with Republicans on absolutely no addition to the Federal Debt, thereby agreeing that $34 billion for extended Unemployment Benefits shouldn't be spent, that $26 billion for keeping police, fire fighters, sanitation workers, teachers on the job shouldn't be spent; that the Health Care Bill passed into law should be repealed; that all "ear-marks" should be eliminated; that Financial Reform shouldn't have been passed; that an environmental reform bill including cap-and-trade provisions shouldn't be even brought up for discussion; that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent should be extended since not doing so would hinder economic recovery; that American should agree with the near-unanimous Congressional resolution to support Israel vis-à-vis its actions against the Gaza Flotilla; that "special interests" such as unionism should go the way of the Dodo bird? That government is the problem not the solution?

All the above are current Republican talking points. They are all wrong, misconstructions of reality. Charlatan-esque in that Republicans agitate on behalf of the top couple of percent while convincing the American people that such actions are in the interests of common folk. Outrageous. Republicans actually lie in the faces of their constituencies and those people buy it lock, stock and barrel. Why? Because the "masses" aren't sophisticated (read: educated) enough to know better. Most believe that their Republican representatives wouldn't lie to them. Oh, the President would (because he's black and/or Socialist). But, not the likes of Boehner, McConnell, Kyl, nor pundits Gingrich, Palin, Beck, O'Reilly.

However, the FACTS are these:

  • The current financial crisis is totally the responsibility of irresponsible financial instruments (credit default swaps) that were, in many ,if not most, cases piggy-backed on subprime mortgages. It wasn't the subprime mortgage holders that were at fault. It wasn't Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. It was Wall Street and the Bush Administration's insistence that the financial industry would be self-regulating; it was the Clinton Administration's repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act; it was Clinton's successful push for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that essentially made it illegal to regulate the very financial products that caused the financial crisis.
  • The Muslim extremists perpetrating the 9/11 atrocity did so because of Israel's continued illegal occupation of Palestine; because of America's support of Israeli brutality and illegality, because of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982; because of American collusion in propping up brutal regimes in order to secure cheap oil.
  • Republicans have repeatedly voted against allowing the extension of unemployment benefits and against allowing monies to aid state/city workers so they can stay on the job and provide public service; the claim of not doing so due to the fact of adding to the debt is a lie as both these expenditures would be paid for by closing loopholes that allowed huge corporations to off-shore jobs and have the government pay them for doing so and by raising taxes on the top 2 percent.
  • "Earmarks" or "pork" is money that comes back to the People, for neighborhoods. It costs $55 Billion. The Republicans assail this expenditure while chanting in unison that the $672 Billion dollar Bush tax cut for the top 2 percent is no problem; that it will stimulate the economy. However, every Republican Administration since Reagan has increased the national debt. Clinton raised taxes on the top two percent and the best economic period of growth in history ensued; creating 22 million jobs; reducing the debt until a half Trillion dollar surplus was projected. These facts fly in the face of Republican rhetoric.
  • The Congressional resolution in support of Israel in defiance of international law gave a perfect picture of how Israel gets away with atrocity after atrocity; taking a boat by force in international waters, murdering nine people aboard, tampering with evidence (confiscated video) in order to create a video of edited information (creating a fiction of victimization of Israeli troops); refusing to allow independent investigation; all with approval of the American government.
  • Unionism is the American workers' only hope of gaining a living wage and safe working conditions; the rightwing-nuts continuing to bash unions to improve corporate America's bottom-line; apparently a ratio of 364 to one as to CEO earnings compared to average worker isn't enough.

So, every time you hear someone talking, why not question them about their views? Why not ask them to substantiate even one fact upon which their "gut feelings" are premised? Just because one's stance on some issue seems right in one's heart/gut, doesn't make it so. Core beliefs and knowledge seem so strong only because they are familiar, unchanging, repeated from parent to child again and again. Such familiarity, however doesn't make them correct. So, next time you hear someone spewing their opinion, jump in. I know, that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach is the stress of confrontation. Instead of letting that put you off, consider that discomfort compared with the daily brutality of Palestinians (3 million human beings) or the victims of American savage capitalism on billions of humans, and then question those that spew lies, or misinformation, or prejudice. Because, people, if you do not, as we're seeing with the TeaParty folk, such opinions catch on like wildfire and spread becoming a majority opinion that those in power use to further the status quo. To allow this to continue without challenge, makes one accessory to murder and mayhem; guilty, in a word.

Silence is complicity. Speak up. Challenge the status quo. Challenge the mindless spewers of ignorance or there will be no innocents come the next terrorist attack here in America.

Maybe R 'n' R should be less about Rest 'n' Relaxation and more about RESPONSIBILITIES that go hand-in-hand with Rights.