29 March 2009

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Six)

These are hard times, and, for the foreseeable future, they will get even harder before substantial improvements are made, if

at all.

In the meantime, I think that one thing that even someone as poor and obscure as myself can do, is to keep tracks of what's

going on in the world, using as wide a variety of sources as possible, whether domestic, foreign, etc, and across as much of

the ideological spectrum as possible, too.

It also means reading articles, listening to or watching on-line or off-line radio broadcasts, videos and streaming media, as

carefully, attentively and sceptically as one would read a newspaper article, magazine story or book.

It means talking with others, both off-line and on-line and getting their takes on such issues.

It means using one's own background and experiences to evaluate, analyse, and decide for oneself whose takes on a given issue

or set of issues comes closest to the truth of the matter under discussion.

Finally, it means not succumbing to the understandable urge to either panic, run riot or give up and settle into a fatalistic

apathy out of despair over the fate of the planet, one's country, or oneself. It's no sin to be uncertain and afraid,

especially when confronted by a stream of seemingly unending bad news.

It can be fatal, and often needlessly so, to do those, however.

Be aware, both of what's going on in the world, but also of what's going on in oneself. Think, question, analyse, and be

prepared to wrong, when need be.

Also, try to keep as much of a sense of logic, proportion and humour as best one can. They may not help all the time, but

they are certainly better to succumbing to fear and panic and engaging in the kinds of foolish behaviours that, sometimes,

end up in mass murder, if not genocide.

I say this as much to myself as to you out there, because there are days when I can succumb to those emotions too. All of us

can. The trick is not to let them sweep everything else in oneself away, including one's humanity.

Here Endeth The Lesson, and Be Seeing You.

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Five)

Conbined with the rise of various forms of alternative media, especially on-line news groups like the various Indy Media

outlets, which had been originally formed to cover the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999, but which came into their own during the

Bush Administration, as well as, on the Right, sites like Free Republic.com, and one can see where a considerable variety of

information became available to many Americans who'd not access to such information and view-points before.

But, perhaps the biggest problem with such open-source media is that, and yes, at least with the Indy Media outlets, there

were and are rules against the posting of spam, commercial messages, racist and other forms of hate speech, and so on, the

information posted on many of these sites is only as good as the source posting it.

As much as I can often detest the old form of journalism, with its many editors, sub-editors, and so on, one advantage to

that was, and remains, the existence of an editorial process, with its many editors, sub-editors, and even fact checkers, to

question and verify the veracity, or not, of information given out by any source.

This isn't generally a feature of many on-line, open-source, news outlets, especially many blogs, which tend to be one-man

bands operated on a shoe-string(am writing this from my own experience alone, and could well be wrong, especially when it

comes to group blogs), and it's pretty easy for factual errors, rumours, half-truths and lies to slip by, depending on the

personal preferences and ideological bents of the blog or other on-line media outlet poster.

Thus, at least to me, it doesn't come as an incredible surprise that a lot of bad, or at least incomplete, information gets

out onto the 'Net, and into people's heads, and with an ease and speed that makes even television news outlets look like 18th

Century newspapers by comparison.

It also means that, in turn, a lot of people, especially those who are already, and for good reason, freaked out by the

current world economic situation, the political and social situations in many parts of the world, and climate change, among

other factors, are going to look to any solutions, no matter how dubious in execution or outcome they might be, that promise

to end these problems and provide a meaningful, satisfactory existence for themselves and theirs.

These people aren't puppets, being strung along by cynical, evil types, though my guess is that some of those providing some

of this information and proposed solutions might be, but who have been buffeted over the years by a sea of propaganda of

various kinds and from various sides, as have we all, and who are trying to make the best possible choices in what appears to

be a pretty small and dismal range of them.

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Four)

The panic-driven aftermath of 11th September, 2001, is perhaps the best and most immediate example I can think of it

illustrate this point.

Within six months of the attacks on Washington D.C. and New York City, the US government, with the willing, if not entirely

knowledgable, consent of much of the US public, had passed the Patriot Act, created the Department of Homeland Security, and

had gone into Afghanistan to smash Al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts. Along the way, especially in the first days and weeks

after the attacks, some American Muslims were attacked, and even some non-Muslims who appeared to be so, like the unfortunate

Phoenix Arizona gas station owner, who was a Sikh, who was murdered only a few days after those events by a man who called

himself, "a damn American", when arrested by police for his crime.

Many others were detained, some for quite lengthy periods, and, following former Vice-President Dick Cheney's cue about the

US "going over to the dark side", a network of secret prisons and arrangements with other nations, like Egypt, Jordan and

even Syria, in which detainees were flown from the US and other parts of the world, placed in prisons in those countries and


All of this is now well known, as well as the use of the residual fear left from 9/11's aftermath by the Bush Administration

and the Republican Party to essentially either stifle debate, or, at the very least, restrict it to certain "safe"

parameters, both inside and outside of the governing classes, push through what would become the expensive, gruesome

misadventure known as the Iraq War, and begin chipping away at constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms in the name of

national security.

The Bush Administration and the GOP would go on to use this fear to win two key elections, the Congressional one of 2002 and

the Presidential one of 2004, and it wouldn't be, at least in my opinion, until the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the

dismal performance, on all levels of government, but especially the Federal government, in September, 2005, that much of that

fear which had many Americans in its thrall, would start wearing off.

By that time, and in the intervening three-plus years until the November 2008 Presidential elections, the deteriorating

conditions inside Iraq, especially in 2006 and 2007, combined with the beginnings of the sub-prime crisis that would

eventually result in the current economic mess we are in now, further eroded whatever remaining credibility the Bush

Administration and its supporters had with many members of the American general public.

Try as they might, neither the Administration, the GOP, nor its political and media allies could maintain the kind of fear

generated by the 9/11 attacks, at least outside of much of their political bases, to retain control over Congress, which they

lost in 2006, nor the Presidency. By that time, too much of what the Bush Administration and its supporters had said had

turned out to either half-truths at best, or outright lies at worst, and the McCain-Palin campaign simply couldn't overcome

the disgust and revulsion felt by many Americans at those half-truths and lies.

But, certainly it wasn't just the Bush Administration and the Republican Party who fell down on the job. Much of the

mainstream media, particularly in the first three or so years after the 9/11 attacks, failed to adequately provide the kind

of investigative journalism that the aftermath of those attacks, as well the US government's policies and practises, and

especially the build-up to the Iraq War, demanded, but didn't really get, from the majority of the US mass media.

There are many factors behind this, media consolidations, fear of looking "un-patriotic"(a fear which also paralysed, or at

least disabled, many Democrats as well), shrinking budgets for foreign news desks, etc.

But, even when one takes these factors into account, the fact remains that, when the American and world public needed solid,

truthful, information the most, much of the US mass media stood down.

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Three)

Some would say that that's the exclusive province of the Left, to which I say "Banana Oil".

The Nazis, first with the German and Austrian Jewish communities, and then, during World War Two, engaged in one of the

biggest, if not the biggest, mass robberies seen in European, if not world, history, in which whole countries' lands, labour,

and other resources were grabbed wholesale and used to enrich Germany, and especially the German elite. In turn, those

Europeans who collaborated with the Nazis found, at least for a short time, that their masters' "Aryanisation" policies could

be quite profitable, even if not as profitable for them as the good German boys and girls above them.

That's just one example of such large-scale larceny in world history, and, anyway, is kinda beside the point, except to maybe

illustrate another, and that's any dirty deed, whether theft, murder, whatever, can be done and even glorified, given the

right ideological justification, and it doesn't matter from which part of the political spectrum, nationality, race,or

wherever else it comes.

The history of the Americas shows that even ostensibly liberal democracies, like the US, Canada, Argentina and a number of

others, can and have engaged in campaigns of mass murder, rape and theft(just ask any member of the various Amerindian tribes

found in the American Hemisphere about that), just as conservative, or, much more rarely, if only because there have been so

few of 'em, left-wing dictatorships have. Even the various Amerindian groups, especially large-scale civilisations like the

Mexica(or Aztecs, if you prefer)and the Inca engaged in such practises for religious reasons, among others.

The principles at work here are psychological, at least partially so, in that one has to either feel hard done by another,

or, from the other end, feels that one's neighbour's so utterly and irredeemably inferior to oneself, family and friends,

hard-pressed, which is as much a matter of perception as fact, and that the course in which one engages is the only sound,

"logical" and "just" one available that coshing one's neighbour's head in becomes, at least in theory, the best and easiest

one at hand.

God knows, I've struggled with that part of myself in the past, and do so, from time to time, even now. It's the meanest,

most ungenerous part of ourselves, rooted in our basic survival instincts and biological needs, and which come out, in

generally more elaborate forms, in human beings whenever they are, or at least feel, pressed up against the wall.

These are uncertain times, to grossly understate it, and people, like any other variety of animal, can and will respond to

uncertainity with fear, and, depending on the individual, even panic, in one form or another.

Fear and panic, like any emotion, can be useful survival tools for getting oneself or one's group out of a dangerous


But, particularly when used by politicians, media figures and outlets, and even so-called ordinary people, it can make an

already bad situation far worse than it is.

26 March 2009

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Two)

As I see it, the on-going world economic crisis, at least for most of the world, as India and Iran, for reasons of their own, haven't been affected as badly as many Western and non-Western nations, hasn't yet been fulled revealed in its scope and extent. But,from what has been seen thus far, it's broad, deep and wide-ranging in its extent and reach, and won't be solved easily nor quickly, regardless of the various nostrums, suggestions, commands and threats made by politicians, pundits, economists, and so-called ordinary people from all portions of the political spectrum across the globe.

This, of course, has most people, except for perhaps the professional purveyors of apocalypse, running anxiously, if not straight-up scared, and am no exception, as, being on Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income, with few other resources, I feel particularly vulnerable. After all, one of the first things that politicians, especially right-wing ones, can and will call for is a thorough purge, if not out-right abolition of, welfare and other social support programmes for the poor and working class.

Have lived with the anxiety of having my benefits either greatly reduced or entirely cut off since the 1994 Congressional election and the resulting Republican Congressional majority that lasted until the 2006 Congressional elections. Thank God that my anxieties didn't come to pass, but don't know either way if this time 'round, they won't, in some form or another.

But, these anxieties are nothing compared to those who've either lost huge chunks of cash thanks to the economic policies and practises that resulted in this crisis, or those either in the workforce or who were only marginally so, who now have lost their positions and are looking at taking posts that are part-time at best and poorly paid enough that it becomes either difficult or impossible to have more than the barest standard of living at all. This is particularly true for those out there who've families with children to support.

I could go into a long spiel about how this is the end result of economic, social and tax policies that have generally favoured the upper and upper middle classes at the expense of the lower middle class, working class and poor over the past thirty plus years, the de-industrialisation of much of the American economy, which, together with the policies just mentioned, has resulted in a tremendous growth of social inequality in the US in that time, the financially, politically and socially draining effects of fighting two medium sized wars, as well as engaging in the various operations and interventions abroad that characterise the "War On Terror", and financial sector policies and practises that resulted in large segments of the American people using credit cards and home equity to cover gaping holes in their weekly and monthly budgets that their incomes couldn't and wouldn't cover.

In fact, just did that with that whopper of a sentence, which would make any good newspaper or magazine editor run screaming with horror into the night. But, either way, while it's good to know the various causes of our present dilemma, and who's responsible for it, knowing these isn't, by itself, going to fix the problems nor provide practical solutions that benefit, or least, least hurt, the vast majority of people in the US and internationally, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Even if every banker, hedge fund manager, stockbroker, payday loan store operator and other financial service provider in the world were dragged out into their respective town squares, hanged by the neck until they were dead, dead, dead, and Good Riddance(Ptui!!), their families run out of town on a rail, and their homes burnt down to the ground, these problems wouldn't go away. Whether we like it or not, this is the situation with which we're stuck, and are going to be for some time to come.

Cold comfort, in fact, no damn comfort whatsoever, I know. But, here we are.

So, it's understandable that a lot of people, some uneducated, others only semi-educated, and a number of educated ones, reach out to theories and solutions that sound great, at least theoretically, and to the prospects of getting those responsible, or likelier, those people whom they already despise who are close to hand(a principle that any schoolyard bully instinctively understands-if one can't get the target one wants, the most convenient will do in a pinch), and their possessions.(continued in Part Three)

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part One)

Well, time for the occasional bit of psycho-sociological spew that I call an essay.

Have been busy noodling around on the 'Net, or at least in certain small corners thereof, after getting my new computer, courtesy of my loving family, back in mid-February, and, considering that I don't get out much, nor pay any attention at all to off-line media anymore, it has become an extremely important part of my life.

So, much of what you will see here are reactions to bits, bobs, odds and sods that have seen on-line in that time, and whatever limited and poor analysis that have made of both them and myself.

One of the most disturbing trends that have seen, though, mind you, it's been a sort of underlying thread throughout much of the culture, at least on-line, is all the talk of conspiracy theories, revolution, the imminent end of the world, or at least of civilisation as we know it.

Much of this, especially from the Left, is an outgrowth of the Bush Administration years, although, depending on which segment of the American and international Left one's discussing, it's been going on, in one form or another, since the 1870s. From the Right, which was stunned by the repudiation of its ideas and policies in the recent US Presidential elections, many of the conspiracy theories and revolutionary rhetoric that have since appeared are of considerably more recent vintage, mainly dating back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, though some wrinkles in it, like the New World Order hobby-horse, are even newer, dating only from 1991.

The point is that these theories and rhetoric neither popped out of someone's head fully-formed just within the last four months, nor, thus far, have they borne much in the way of real results.

Yes, there have been the occasional out-breaks of left- and right-wing terrorism in the US, whether the Weather Underground and Symbionese Liberation Army of the 1970s from segments of the American far Left, or the deadlier and more effective, at least temporarily, outbreaks from US Right groups like the Order and Posse Comitatus in the 1980s, or the Aryan Republican Army, which launched a number of bank robberies in the lower Midwest in the mid-1990s, and which may have had at least a tangential connection with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the perpetrators of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, as well as the militia movement of the 1990s.

But, ultimately, these groups were either suppressed, disbanded, or found themselves pretty much as they were when they started out, rather unimportant and marginal groups in American politics.

So, what is it that makes the re-emergence of these ideas, rhetoric and groups worrying to me???

I think it has as much to do with the current state of US and international politics and culture, the current economic situation, and my own situation, as anything else.

12 March 2009

Get The Rope(poem)

“Get the rope” said one fella to another in a small town one fine day./

So, the other got the rope, while the first got some friends./

And they all went and got some poor bastard, whom they'd never liked,/

pulled him out of his house, and dragged 'im down to a nice, tall tree./

On the way, they cuffed, punched an' kicked 'im good,/

callin' 'im and his mother every name in the book an' more./

He plead for his life, but weren't nobody listenin', 'cos he was just a son of a bitch,/

whom nobody liked./

So, they told 'im to shut up,/

an' shut his God-Damn mouth with a couple of shots,/

upside his head./

When they got to the tree, they asked 'im if he'd anything to say,/

but, when the fool opened his mouth, they smacked it shut,/

an' told 'im he was gonna die like a God-Damned dog./

So, up went the rope, onto the strongest branch of the tree./

'Round his neck went the noose, which they pulled good and tight./

On a box somebody brought, went his feet, 'tho' they wouldn't be there long./

Then, after sentence was pronounced, and finished with, “And may God have mercy on your soul, you sonuvabitch!!!!”,/

the box was kicked away./

Dunno how long it took 'im to die,/

maybe 15 minutes, maybe a half-hour./

Don't matter, y'see./

Same goes fer whether he was guilty or not./

Don't matter the crime nor the reason,/

'cos nobody liked 'im, and nobody missed 'im,/

so they hung 'im, an' that's that./

But, that was years ago,/

an' all of us're in the bone-yard, now./

Layin' in the ground,/

long-past worm food, now./

Nobody knows,/

nobody cares,/

'bout the fella,/

an' what we did,/

so long ago./

We're in the ground,/

an' so's he,/

an', from this view,/

seems to me,/

we weren't any better/

than the poor dumb son of a bitch/

we put in the damn ground./

We all stank,/

we all rotted,/

same as him./

We thought we were better,/

maybe we were./

But, down here, don't matter a bit,/

'cos we're dead./

That's what matters now./

The rest, I'll leave you to decide.