Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"Deep Throat"; Shallow Emperor

So, the long-mysterious "Deep Throat" who helped journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein break (and continue breaking) the "Watergate" scandal, has finally been revealed. The deities who, surely, daily laugh themselves purple watching the goings-on in this world must be particularly tickled that today, also, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lashed out against Amnesty International's assessment that Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is a modern day gulag. Bush was particluarly articulate on the matter: "'It's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world,' Bush said of the Amnesty International report that compared Guantanamo to a Soviet-era gulag."

George W. Bush, who took office in 2000 under the most scuttled, dubious, illegitimate circumstances in modern memory is not a man to be trusted in any case, least of all when he talks about "freedom" and "democracy."

"Sore loser!" the conversatives happily jeer. "Get over it!"

Right, get over democracy. I'm sure every war veteran and family of fallen veterans in America feel the same way.

The Bob Woodward of today, with his epic poem Bush at War would not have written, much less published, the sort of reporting that falls under the umbrella of "the Watergate story." Nor would the man, who in secret, passed vital information to Woodward and Bernstein in order to see that justice prevailed, and democracy won out over tyranny, be hailed a hero today. Deep Throat would be nailed to a cross on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with doubtless hordes of tourists pointing and snapping pictures of the spectacle.

America has gone wrong. The America of the Watergate era was a cancer-ridden leviathan that exercised its ego and hubris bombing the shit out of villagers halfway around the world. After a long anesthetized respite, during which every other scandal paled in comparison to Nixon's colossal "boner", the world now has Emperor George W. Bush casting fire and brimstone halfway across the world, in an utter fit of ego and hubris.

If Saddam Hussein worshiped Jesus Christ we would have seen him leading the Macy's Christmas Day Parade in New York City last Christmas.

America cares nothing about freedom, it cares about its freedom to pick the pockets of the rest of the world.

The only hero I know of today is Sander Hicks, whose gripping, riveting documentary Horns and Halos depicts the saga of the late James Hatfield, author of the George W. Bush biography Fortunate Son, which alleges George W. Bush was arrested for possession cocaine in 1972, and the shitstorm poured upon him.

I'm glad I finally know the identity of Deep Throat. And only the most deluded fool disputes Amnesty International's appraisal of Guantanamo Bay. I just wish Amnesty would have set aside the niceties and called a concentration camp a concentration camp.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Cellphone plans: Beancounter Beartraps. Bread & Circuses that fit in your pocket

Isn't it bad enough that cellphones give people cranial cancer? Apparently not.

Even if you're armed with an abacus, Pentium computer, a slide ruler, and a pack of Tarot cards, cellphone plans still leave you screwed, stewed, and double-tatooed. There must be a kind of Beancounter Bohemian Grove where beancounters worship idols constructed out of beans, where they walk along mosaic paths made of multi-colored beans, where they are served franks and beans, and get stoned on bean wine, before wrapping their neckties around their heads and engaging in pocket protector orgies.

Cellphones are like automobile traffic, offering one of the few opportunities for us to see just what others are made of. There's nothing more depressing than continually witnessing the existential loneliness of the human race, with these phones going off in washrooms, restaurants, movie theaters, in movies -- everywhere. I've yet to be in the presence of a brain surgeon answering an urgent cellphone call. My brother is a doctor and he doesn't own a cellphone. I've yet to be around anyone answering a call as modestly important as what to feed one's goldfish. No, cellphones are yet another gadget for the perpetually distracted, for the endlessly fidgeting masses, for poseurs of every persuasion.

Cellphone plans are like quicksand: the more you struggle, the quicker you sink. I'm sure there are people who believe they have found the plan that has them dialing with glee, believing they have beaten the Devil. When one believes such folly, you can be sure their figurative pants have been pulled down around their figurative ankles, their elbows are propped atop a barrell, and baby oil is being liberally applied to their hind quarters. The fools. In the meantime, they are free to disturb and harass those few of us left who don't require digital handjobs every quarter hour just to get through our miserable days.

And how the beancounters must be chuckling with asthmatic celebratory teeth-sucking joy over the myriad ways in which they slowly, penny-by-penny, enslave our populous. In ten years I predict there will be a Nobel Prize for Small Print honoring these sallow, vengeful, basement-dwelling vermin who associate algebra with eroticism.

"So what are you wearing?" is the most intelligent thing I've ever heard wheezed into one of these goddamned gadgets.

After being privy to more cellphone conversations than I would like to admit to, I think I now understand why there is so little concern, so little press, so little outcry about the cranial cancer they cause.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Nation in the Orange Jumpsuit

Check out:

Gitmo detainees speak

Soldier Lifts Lid on Camp Delta

When I was a kid of nine or ten, my father once cautioned me against smoking cigarettes. He said, "If I catch you smoking, I'll kick your ass." He had a lit cigarette between his fingers as he gestured at me. His statement didn't cause me to stop filching his or my mother's cigarettes, which I smoked behind a tiny union hall on McEwan Avenue with my friends, but caused me to ensure I was never caught. And I wasn't.

My friends and I didn't know the word for what our parents engaged in, warning us against smoking while they, themselves, smoked heartily, frequently, lustily, incessantly. However, I have since learned the word for this -- Hypocrisy.

Whenever we witnessed hypocrisy -- in our banal, eventless lives of home and the schoolyard -- it was a cause for scornful laughter amongst ourselves and seamless disdain toward the transgressor. Accidents were usually excused, like when a kid said, "I'll kill anyone who hits my ball onto the school roof," and then proceeded to bat his own baseball onto the school roof. This didn't make him a hypocrite, nor did it keep us from scornful laughter. However, never did we disdain the kid. We just didn't help me get on the roof to retrieve his ball.

We learned early that hypocrites weren't to be trusted. In any given situation they were apt to "move the goal posts" to suit themselves, and no one else. Like the kid in the snowball fight who insisted we only aim for body shots, and then turned around and beaned one or many of us in the head with slushballs. His punishment invariably entailed a thorough snowbath, if not an outright bloodied nose. Never again would he be involved in a snowball fight -- even if we all agreed that aiming for headshots was permitted.

Call me childish, stunted, simple, or unsophisticated, but I retain much of my schoolyard-learned sense of right and wrong, and it works for me just fine in daily life. So, when the United States of America proclaims to be battling tyranny and spreading freedom and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan (I have to continually remind myself that the war in Afghanistan is still onging; you wouldn't know this by monitoring the news; pity the poor, stranded soldiers fighting that forgotten conflict) and yet runs a well-publicized concentration camp in Guanatanmo Bay, Cuba -- wouldn't want to sully U.S. shores with such an abomination to democracy and freedom -- the old schoolyard clenching of my guts occurs at witnessing hypocrisy on such a grand, glittering scale.

Let's be honest, the government of the United States of America doesn't give a shit about spreading democracy or freedom. It is, in fact, spending quite a lot of time and money restricting the freedoms its own citizens once enjoyed. America's current wars are an effort to grab at much-needed natural resources -- OIL -- and possibly turn the region's populations into sweatshop workers for Nike and Wal-Mart.

The purpose of the concentration camp at Guanatanmo Bay, Cuba is not to glean intelligence from the "worst of the worst" of terrorists, it's there to provoke more terrorism.

"What?!" I can hear the Peoria car salesman exclaim. "Provoke more terrorism?! That's insane!"

Yes and no. Yes, it's insane. No, it's not implausible. Without the level of fear being cranked daily to a fever pitch throughout the United States of America, the charade of George W. Bush's government would collapse instantly. Terrorism, to borrow a phrase, is "the wind beneath" BushCo's wings. It keeps that sorry administration aloft. It keeps the population's vision turned to the Middle east, rather than middle America where I am sure a few hundred billion dollars might have been helpful in repairing school, aiding the elderly and the sick, and so forth.

But BushCo is comprised of businessmen. George W. is the failed CEO of a handful of companies before he found himself governor of Texas. Rumsfeld was CEO of Searle, among other companies, and Cheney the CEO of Halliburton, which is so coincidentally reaping a pimp's winfall in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Businessmen are not known for their devotion to democratic principles. Truth be told, most companies are their own totalitarian regimes, run by autocratic, egomaniacal crusty old white males suffering from various degress of untreated syphilis and Napoleonic complexes. Apparently, Conde Rice is among the "poorest" of BushCo with a piddling net worth of somewhere around $20 million. Who says that BushCo isn't for the poor?!

I didn't need any leaked memo out of the U.K. to tell me that in the build up toward the invasion of Iraq, the U.S.'s feeble attempts at "diplomacy" ("You have the freedom to agree with us and vote the way we want you to vote on this resolution," George W.'s every misstep proclaimed) were hollow, half-hearted, and entirely acted as pretense. We know that George W. Bush intended to invade Iraq the moment he took office in 2001. The question is, does any one care?

If anyone does, then there are not enough among their number to change anything in the United States of America. Because, unfortunately, when it comes to "right" and "wrong," America adheres to its own standard. I'm sure there's not an American alive who would argue with this -- America's "right" is "What's right for America." And it's definition of "wrong" is "What doesn't serve the needs and purposes of America." This may play well in Peoria, but I'm sure it's not viewed as favorably in Peking, Prague, Palastine, Peru, Paris, or Prince Edward Island.

Zbigniew Brzezinski published a book called The Grand Chessboard in 1997, in which he states that the U.S. will have to embark on a natural resources "hunt and gather" mission (my quotation marks) in Central Asia, but cautions that unless an event on par with Pearl Harbor strikes the United States, the American people would support such an incursion. George W. Bush assumes office in January 2001 (much the same way a pickpocket "assumes" your wallet). Nine months later the 9/11 attacks take place. A month later, the US has invaded Afghanistan. All the while plans for the Iraq invasion were in the works.

People speak all the time of George W. Bush's ignorance, his arrogance. I suggest the conversation be shifted ever so slightly to America's hypocrisy: a president who comes into office under highly disputed circumstances proclaims himself "spreading democracy" through the world? It sounds like the premise for a Monty Python skit.

Such talk, as I'm engaging in right now, has prompted such free-thinkers as Ann Coulter and Paul Cellucci to threaten Canada with sanctions and other more sinister consequences. Go ahead and instill sanctions -- once the supply of Canadian lumber to American makers of crucifixes is cut off, George W. Bush will learn who not to trifle with. As for Ann Coulter's threats of invading and conquering Canada, that would be wholly impossible. Most Americans, including the military, are unable to find Canada on a world map. Such an invasion would have to be conducted and coordinated by Mapquest.com. However, in fairness, I'll give the American hawks a hint on where to direct their bombs -- west of Hudson Bay (consult Mapquest.com), at the territory known as The Canadian Shield. It is thus named because all of the machinery that keeps Canada running is centered there.

So, BushCo's false calls for "freedom!" and "democracy!", and all of their associated outhouse stench, has done nothing but clarify in my mind what America is about -- serving America's needs. Within America, you have BushCo serving BushCo's needs. I think most Americans oppose the United Nations because they fear one day there will be a Mapquest.com tutorial that will finally reveal that there are other nations that comprise the world, otherwise known as Earth. Contrary to popular opinion, these other nations' purposes are not simply to provide slave labor for Nike and Wal-Mart. They are comprised of human beings. But BushCo has turned its well-scratched back on the U.N. However, the rest of the world watches the folly and ferocity of American hypocrisy in action, and while the scornful laughter has all but dried up, the disdain deepens and broadens like ink through a white business shirt from a burst pen.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"It's not the end of the world" - Is that meant as consolation?

Of my numerous and multifarious skills, talents, gifts, and boastable abilities, earning a steady living is not among these. It might be said of me that I am a financially fallow fellow -- who enjoys fennel and flan. Which would make me a financially fallow fennel-and-flan-o-phile. I am garlic bread in the City of Melba Toast. I am the friend of fairweather friends. Prodigal son of endless prodding. No New Age platitude will unravel my age old condition of werkhorrer, the sense one experiences while on the job that one is fast losing his soul.

In my first year of high school, I played on the freshman basketball team. By that year my high school had won the city championship five years running. My team's season ended in the quarter finals. The "razzing" and condemnation of previous years' players upon our heads was bad enough, but one phrase I heard over and over -- spoken as consolation -- was like a beartrap around the testicles: "It's not the end of the world." Hearing that said, maybe one or two hundred times that horrid week, I realized just how much I wished the final buzzer of that meaningless basketball game had signaled the Apocalypse. It seemed fitting that the world should fold its final hand on such an arbitrary, anti-climactic, non-violent note.

Because I think there is a need in every human soul for a great shifting from the ordinary. A need to fill sandbags, boil water, say the rosary, or scream "Medic!" Particularly when one's days are spent in boxer shorts, sitting, writing in a room with the window blocked by an ill-fitting piece of cardboard.

My father gave me a ride to school on Black Monday, October 1987, when the stock market crashed heroically. The crash didn't mean much to me then, news buff though I was and its effects didn't impact my life in any material way I could sense. However, I did understand, on some level, that it was a catastrophic event. I recall my father saying in his wise, dismissive way, "It's all just on paper."

I'm off to turn a bowl of Kellogg's "Just Right" into a bowl of "Fucking Right" by simply adding chocolate milk. Kitchen alchemy. Boxer short hocus pocus. And ne'ery a dime to be made at it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Cult of the Child -- Worshipping at the Altar of "Little Me"

One of the first cynical realizations I came to as a kid occurred while watching TV one day and being assailed by a Midas commercial. The ad depicted a woman in her thirties driving a car on a rainy night, obviously stressed out by the treacherous driving conditions. When she finally had to make a quick stop -- to keep from ramming into a fallen tree limb, or something -- she turned, relieved, and looked at a couple of kids sitting seat-belted in the backseat.

Ah, the kids were safe.

And the first tendril of cynicism rose in me as I realized that the target audience for the commercial -- people in their thirties, and older, who drove on dark and stormy nights -- were so jaded that children had to be placed in peril in order to arouse any emotional reaction to the scenario. As though the woman's safety was irrelevant. As though the advertising vultures knew that their target audience would be sitting at home hoping the woman got into a fatal car crash because she reminded them of someone at work who beat them out of a promotion, or of someone who stole their boyfriend in high school, or said no when asked out on a date.

Therefore, the backseat of this mythical advertisement car had to be filled with kids. So innocent. So virginal. So goddamned good. Boyfriend-thieves in waiting. Office-soundrels yet to be. Children, which must be a Latin or Greek-rooted word that means, "Blank slates onto which maturity-addled adults may cast the skewed and pathetic visions of themselves in order to relive the pasts they never actually lived."

Hence this entire Cult of the Child that has swallowed North American culture like a marble going into a baby's mouth.

Adults don't matter. The safety of that woman in that Midas commercial was irrelevant. Violence on television is denounced because of its supposed negative effects "on the children." What about the vomitous procession of programs featuring one precocious rat kid after another, who are so hip and savvy in outwitting their zombie parents? Who's protecting me from that shit? No one.

I was once in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a book-buying mission. While perusing the shelves of a second story used bookshop, there came an ear-shattering cry from across the street, out front of a large chain bookstore. I looked out the nearest window, onto the street below, and saw a little kid lying face down, mid-tantrum, right outside the door of the chain bookstore. His fanny-pack-wearing, knee-socks-and-shorts-wearing, over-educated psychology major parents were saying to him, in such clear, rational tones, "Well, when you're ready to join us, you may come into the store." And they walked in, leaving the kid to his wretching screaming, disturbing the entire city block.

There should be city officials, much like dogcatchers, to deal with these situations. I'm not advocating a beating for the kid who lay at the bookstore door screaming. I'm advocating corporal punishment for the rat kid's parents.

The lives and comfort and pursuits of adults are held up as pointless, ridiculous, and unworthy of consideration when there is a child in the room or on the TV screen. More and more movie plots hinge on some child in peril who is the object of rescue by some formerly deluded parent who has wakened from his/her nightmare selfish existence, and will risk life and limb so that the kid can be returned to a life where some lobotomized redneck might proclaim about him or her, "Dude, you're getting a Dell!"

If you need children to prove your life has value, your life never had any value. If you have to hold up a child to prove you are a "bringer of life," then you were dead to begin with. If you think fawning and falling all over your "little me!" with gifts and understanding and Gap clothing, then you are a fraud for holding up your vaccuous, self-centered thimbleful of life as the zenith of human experience.

Whether I'm driving alone on a dark and stormy night, or captaining the Partridge Family bus filled with Gap children, my life is still worth something. My hopes and aspirations have meaning. I don't need "a little me to fill up with my thoughts," to quote Lou Reed's "Beginning of the Great Adventure."