Believing Your Own Press

One of the many things that makes New Yorkers tiresome to massholes like myself is their consistent, casual assertion that it’s the Greatest City In The World.  As if there’s no argument, as if it’s the most obvious statement one could conceivably make, income disparities and crumbling subways and Yankee fans apparently somehow not contradicting them.

As much as it pains me to say it, though, they’re a lot closer to the mark than the rest of us, considering that we as a nation are more than a little bit given to the exact same thing.  If you do a search for “greatest country in the world”, for instance,  you get a lot of them, and i mean a lot.  It’s bipartisan, too.  De rigeur for the Republicans in the room, but expected of Democrats, too, it’s a verbal equivalent of a mid-2000’s flag pin.  It doesn’t really matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, you’re expected to act as if this is true.

But it’s not, it’s not even close.  And it’s less about whether or not we are or aren’t, were or weren’t, what depresses me is that we don’t even try.  No, let me restate that, it’s depressing that we don’t even think we have to try.  Never mind that we’re heading in the opposite direction, we just are, y’know?

Why should we feel any obligation to look out for the least fortunate among us and help them up out of poverty for as long as they need?  Our healthcare system is the best, because the richest among us have access to the best product of our smartest doctors, scientists, and engineers–but there’s no need to worry about life expectancy or infant mortality for the rest of us, much less the poor.  We invented public education and the rest of the world sends their kids to college here, so we’re good, right?  It’s okay for us to starve/privatize/sabotage the former and wall off the latter with the risk of crippling debt.  We’re fine with our crumbling roads and bridges, clogged public transit, congested airports, and nonexistent trains.  There’s nothing unjust about racist policing, unequal justice, and mass incarceration.  Why even bother with leading the way to clean energy when what we have works so well?

It’s like you haven’t even been listening.

We’re. The. Greatest. Country. In. The. World.

And that’s what we’ll be muttering to ourselves, huddled ignorantly in flooded, crumbling, unhealthy cities, and deserted and desertified suburbs, wondering why the rest of the world just doesn’t understand, and what could have been if we just tried, even a little.

Team Fight Song

When i stop and think about it, i vacillate between being bored and fascinated with a lot of the news stories of our time.

It makes me wonder just how people get so wrapped up in it, so consumed with passion for an issue that all perspective is lost and they become willing to say or even do anything to win a point for their side.

This past Thanksgiving weekend, the family offsite was held near State College, Pennsylvania.  A cute little college town with a big football habit.  A football habit that is so ingrained, so passionate, that it plainly overrides other natural tendencies, such as condemning those who aid and abet child molesters.  How is that relevant to what i’m driving at here?  Because a population so obsessively dedicated to one cause for decades can get to this dangerous line of thinking.  Sure, abusing children is bad, but we’ve gotta think about how this looks for Blue.

Sure, twenty children shot in cold blood is bad, but it can’t be the guns’ fault, ’cause that’d be so bad for Red.

Blowing random people up with drones makes me squeamish, but if big Blue says it’s okay then we’ve got to live with it.

But the excuse-making, despicable as it is, is just the final product; how did we even get here?  i mean, how many of us go through our days and (possibility of getting shot up notwithstanding) worry about whether or not you’ll still be able to buy big clips of ammunition?  Is abortion really a daily concern that’s more important than others?  Does our policy towards Israel really sit at front of mind when you wake up in the morning?  Don’t get me wrong, these are important issues, and we’d be poorer for it if there wasn’t passionate support or opposition in these matters.

But these days i wonder, weary as i am of so many of these issues, are we as a society angry about them over the substance, or angry in the name of the overall narrative of our side winning or losing?  Like being up in arms about a pipeline in the middle of nowhere.  Or a poor vegetative woman in a hospital bed?  Would we be pretending to be terrified of and protesting the welcoming of soaked, bedraggled women and children from the middle east if Red didn’t make boring, page three news about poor foreign people into page one news about scary, known Muslims?

Maybe thinking about these issues as zero-sum wins and losses for your side is what’s helped lead us to this position where intransigence is the order of the day.  A formerly tenuous peace where reasonable-yet-opposed people could understand abortions might be the only thing in some truly awful situations has become a situation where unwanted ultrasounds and denial in all circumstances are trotted out in an all-out war effort against.  Or the reason that ideologically, taxes must only ever go down even as things that we all agree are important languish unfunded.  Compromise is like a tie, and you know who likes ties?  Soccer fans, and liking soccer is like being French.  Oh wait, we like the French now.

And what’s this say about the rise of Trump?  Is he the red team’s Ray Rice or Barry Bonds?  Intolerable, except to the extent that he plays for your team and is winning.  His ideas are objectively horrible and impressively impractical and logically inconsistent, but if you want red to win, maybe they’ve got to become your ideas, too.

It’s one thing for a politician to say anything to win; at least half of us are worse than that–we’re willing to listen to anything to win.

This doesn’t lead anywhere good.

The Punching-Bag In Chief

After the midterm elections, i can’t help but think that Barack Obama’s presidency has has turned into the end of The Dark Knight. We always figured he’d be our hero, the guy who was going to fix everything.

Maybe, to borrow the too-on-the-nose phrase from the movie, he’s the hero we need right now. Think about what he’s done, and then think about what he’s put up with.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that any Democrat was going to be vilified in this day and age in the face of the Republican scream machine. Perhaps it was inevitable that any black President was going to invite overt and subconscious racism, bile, the worst of us. Maybe the combination was too irresistible a target.

But we’ve never seen this before, have we? The man can do no right, it seems. In a world that’s never been grayer, every single thing he does is black, black, black. Every single thing, a bad idea done badly with bad intentions, and nothing short of it.

No wonder he looks like hell. Because no one told him he was signing up to be the punching bag, the target, the man to take the punishment. We believed in Harvey Dent, and we badly wish he could be him. So does he, one might assume. But he’s not. He woke up one day and found out he had to be Batman. At the end of the movie, i mean. Chewed by dogs, chased by cops, and vilified by the people he sacrificed everything to help.

It’s depressing for me to watch, but imagine how he feels. It’s a hell of a thing to live through all this abuse for the staggering achievement of things being less-worse, but who knows, maybe less-worse all we can hope for anymore.

To all the little people

While listening to the wide array of bad news this morning, i looked up at a 757 banking above me, a Delta plane. The airline where i have most of my frequent-flier miles, who nevertheless ‘fixed’ their frequent-flier program so the likes of me are unable to get status anymore. Fixed it so you have to spend a minimum amount of money, fixed it so the people in the suits don’t have to accidentally sit next to me in my frayed jeans in first class once every few years. Seems like it’s somewhat emblematic of what animates nights like last night.

Nights like last night are for those guys who walk up and buy first-class tickets, those guys in the black Escalades that run red lights and park wherever the fuck they want, the guys who have to decide what $50-entree restaurant to have dinner at each night.

Because the derangement of the modern Republican party is mostly attributable to those people. Oh, we can carp all you want about how denying science doesn’t make sense, how austerity doesn’t make sense when the economy needs a shot in the arm, how ignoring infrastructure doesn’t make sense, how starting wars doesn’t make sense. Because they do make sense, but only for those people in the front rows and the black cars. Ignoring climate change, declining to tax businesses, cheaping out on long-term investment, and finding uses for an expensive military all work out well for that tiny group of people.

It’s never going to make sense to me, because it doesn’t help me and feels like it’s just some haphazard collection of bad policy. It’s not like none of us know this narrative, it’s not like i’m saying anything that’s unrevealed, but we forget about it; with every new dramatic twist in each thread of the story, we forget about the overarching plotline. It’s not a conspiracy against public transit, or science, or the environment, or people on welfare, or women and minorities, it’s a conspiracy for rich old white men.

The real innovation is that they’ve managed to package it up (garnished with some social conservatism for those of you who are still into that) and feed it to enough of America as if it’s something that does any of us some good. And it’s hugely successful. Government is (incompetent | evil), the oceans aren’t rising, war comes with no costs, and if the guy in the suit got rich, so can you.

In all the victory speeches, remember that not a word of it, not a single falling balloon or fluttering bit of confetti, none of it’s for us.

Some photos, in minimal context:

One thing to celebrate

The white-hot glare

i Am Waiting For Your Apology

You heard me, Charlie Baker. Before i would even consider voting for you, absent my disagreement with your assertion that things here in Massachusetts need so much fixing and that ‘one-party-rule’ has been so terrible for us. Oh no, the probation department! Throw all the bums out! And replace them with bums who are dedicated to the elimination of departments instead.

Where was i?

Even if i didn’t hate the mistaken and cynical things that you stand for (not to mention your cynical campaign), Charlie Baker, i need you to apologize just for being a Republican.

That’s right, dammit, the R beside your name is enough for me to dismiss you outright. Not because i’m wedded to the Democrats, remember i’m rather left of them. No, it’s because the Party of Lincoln is ruined for a generation. Ruined by people who are not you, to be sure, but don’t you owe better to the people of Massachusetts? If you really think that your ideas are better, give them a chance to win by disavowing what’s left of that party.

Because by not doing so (and by taking their money and support), that tells me that you’re okay with the stupidity of George W. Bush, the recklessness of Ted Cruz, the ignorance of Todd Akin, the shrill partisanship of Darrell Issa, the stubborn mendacity of Mitch McConnell. People who have done nothing short of breaking our government.

While i disagree with you, and think you’re wrong for the job, i don’t lump you in with them. But you do.

Who’s going to be the first reasonable conservative to demand better of his party? Obviously, i won’t vote for him, either, but at least i’d respect him.

But until then, all Republicans can fuck directly off.

Replying to My Grandpa, No. 1

In the hopes that this prevents me from sending it to my grandfather, here’s what i’ve written in reply to his latest tea-drenched (but racist-flavored) email forward.  Here’s hoping the flavoring comes from the originator.

Here we go.  Names omitted to protect them from themselves:

Dear Grandpa,

I’ve received a lot of emails from you over the last couple years, and I am always, always tempted to reply.  Maybe today’s the day I send it.

I took the liberty of replacing your term “FREE STUFF” with “INVESTMENT CAPITAL”.  The argument still doesn’t hold water, but it’s closer.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes, said, “I like paying taxes.  With them I buy civilization.”

I consider the “FREE STUFF” you refer to an investment, to oversimplify.  Consider the recent controversy here in Massachusetts that the Boston Herald so gleefully reported.

Basically, welfare recipients were able to use their electronic benefit cards to buy lots of stuff they probably didn’t need.  And do you know what?  I don’t care.  As a taxpayer, I don’t care.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re improving it, but it is a good example to illustrate my priorities.  Bear with me.

I don’t care if 19 out of 20 people receiving so-called FREE STUFF is a waste of our effort.  It’s that 20th that matters.  If that 20th person goes on to be a good subway driver, or a manager of a McDonald’s, or a good schoolteacher, then it’s worth it.  Maybe that 20th person’s a waste of oxygen, but has a kid who grows up to be a good engineer.  It doesn’t even matter.  We’re playing a long game here.  That 1 out of 20 makes it worthwhile at any price.

You can call it naive, you can call it wasteful.  I call it investment.  It’s flawed investment, flawed generosity, but what isn’t flawed in this world.  The other choice is to not invest, to make a virtue of selfishness and put our faith solely in fortuitously intersecting selfishnesses, or as some would prefer to call it, ‘the free market’.

Obama: Until there’s evidence to the contrary, he’s too good a man for the job.

Borders: Everyone’s able to make this country better.  Many are willing and we should be pleased to welcome them.

Language: Do you have any idea how much of Europe speaks English now?  Because it’s useful.  So is Spanish in lots of parts of this country.  So be it.

Culture: Evolves every single day and those who attempt to stop it will just get tired.

Drug Free: See my previous point.  I don’t care and it’s not worth our trouble to find out, unless it’s to get them help.

From the Hub of the whole damn Universe in the the socialist workers’ paradise of Massachusetts,

-rob

 

P.S. I fervently hope that I shouldn’t be reading anything into the animated monkey image attached.


On May 23, 2012, at 4:51 PM, MY IGNORANT-ASS GRANDFATHER wrote:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Teabaggy McTeabagger <tcot@galtsgulch.xxx>
Date: Wed, May 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM
Subject: investment capital
To:

I AM FORWARDING THIS EMAIL THAT I RECEIVED TODAY TO A FEW OF THE “THINKERS” IN MY ADDRESS BOOK.   IT REFLECTS THE FEELINGS OF A LOT OF PEOPLE.

I have never heard this said as simply or as well.   Class war at its best.

The folks who are getting the INVESTMENT CAPITAL don’t like the folks who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL, because the folks who                    are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL can no longer afford to pay for both the INVESTMENT CAPITAL and their own stuff.

And, the folks who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL want the INVESTMENT CAPITAL to stop.

And the folks who are getting the INVESTMENT CAPITAL want even more INVESTMENT CAPITAL on top of the INVESTMENT CAPITAL they are already getting!

Now… the people who are forcing the people who pay for the investment capital have told the people who are RECEIVING the INVESTMENT CAPITAL that the people who are PAYING for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL are being mean, prejudiced, and racist.

So… the people who are GETTING the INVESTMENT CAPITAL have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their investment capital and giving them the INVESTMENT CAPITAL in the first place.

We have let the INVESTMENT CAPITAL giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting INVESTMENT CAPITAL than paying for the investment capital.

Now understand this.   All great democracies have committed financial suicide somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded.   The reason?

The voters figured out they could vote themselves money from the treasury by electing people who promised to give them money from the treasury in exchange for electing them.

The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 236 years ago.   The number of people now getting INVESTMENT CAPITAL outnumbers the people paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL.   We have one chance to change that in 2012. Failure to change that spells the end of the United States as we know it, especially if the present administration gets it way and gives illegals aliens the right to vote.

If you don’t believe this can happen look at Greece and the election that just took place in France.  Now France is a Socialist Country with                    a 75% tax rate on those that PAY for INVESTMENT CAPITAL .

ELECTION 2012 IS COMING

A Nation of Sheep Breeds a Government of Wolves!

I’M 100% for PASSING THIS ON !!!
For all our sake PLEASE Take a Stand!!!

Obama: Gone!

Borders: Closed!

Language: English only

Culture: Constitution, and the Bill of Rights!

Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!

NO freebies to: Non-Citizens!

<ATT00025.gif>

There’s so much more to say, of course, so tempting to use this same metaphor to point out how many of the folks he thinks are so giving of FREE STUFF are not only not paying for it, but receiving it.  But i’ll content myself with having not hit the Send button.

Or did i?