We Don’t Need No Stinking Pensions Anyway

June 25, 2008

While the CEOs of the American oligarchy continue to reap obscene bonuses and raises, even when their profits and share prices slide, “our” legislate-whores—the ones who constantly kowtow to these captains of magic paper wealth (not so much of industry any more)—are voting to make life worse for average working people.

Instead of trying to find ways to fund future pension needs, Kentucky’s piss poor General Assembly “leaders” are taking the easy, expedient route to ensure the solvency of the state’s public pension fund by, voila !, reducing the amounts it will pay out in the future.

I’m sure that among all the charts and graphs to which those brave souls refer in making their decisions is the one showing how the cost of things will be staying the same or going down in the future?

They call it a pension “reform” bill. Reform, of course, rarely means what it once did, which was improvement. Now it just means cutback, and underlying that is the same insulting “code” philosophy that was behind welfare reform: those lazy bums are sucking too much off the public teat. Never mind that state workers pay their dues for decades in order to reap this so-called exorbitance.

But hey, what other kind of decision-making would you expect from these wannabes. After all, they’re only following the example of their CEO heroes, the ones hailed as geniuses for coming up with the original idea of cutting payrolls to boost profits. Wall Street always lauds them and corporate boards always reward them handsomely for it.

The legislators have gotten the message, cut the heart out of the peons and everything will work out OK.

“We live in dangerous times,” says an expert whose company protects CEO’s from kidnapping and other threats.

Yes we do, and just why might that be?

If there is a coming revolution, breakdown, apocalypse or whatever in this country, our so-called leaders are bringing it on themselves. –EG

House to Vote On Pension Reform Bill (Courier-Journal)

Keeping the CEO Safe Can be Costly (Wall Street Journal)

Why CEOs are Giggling (Jim Hightower)

-EG


$5,000+ These Fuckers Didn’t Get From Me

April 22, 2008

I’m sure all of you saw this motley crew of oil execs assembled before Congress a few weeks ago, mainly so legislatewhores could posture and put on an impotent display of righteous indignation in lieu of actually doing anything to push real alternative energy solutions. While most of you out there have been grumbling but continuing to line the pockets of these oilmen (and their multi-wifed brethren in the Middle East) I have been taking the bus to work, in tandem with my bicycle (and yes, winter doesn’t stop me).

It was two years ago this month (April) that I began this daily ritual, and in the process lost 30 pounds, increased my muscle tone and improved lung capacity, heart health, metabolism, blood pressure, circulation, digestion and so on—not to mention notching piles of unread books on the 20-mile journey each way.

Oh yes, there’s much to be recommended about the complete lack of stress resulting from letting someone else do the driving, not having to swerve and avoid maniacs and playing stop and go with my feet on a gas-guzzling pedal. I can sleep, read, dream, whatever. And I’m inside a vehicle bigger than a tank, so it’s pretty safe.

And it costs $29 a month. See how much gas that gets you–and how far you can get on it.

AS for me, I ride for free because one of my perks of employment is free unlimited TARC rides with an employee ID.

But the most satisfying thing of all is that the oil industry and the profit-gluttonous CEOs who are sucking up all that cash from you got no more than $6 from me over the last two years. (Had to fill up my lawn mower a few times; otherwise most weeks I use a gasless Scott’s reel-mower, just like my grandparents did.)

So adding that up, that’s about $5,000 or so that Big Oil didn’t get from me in the past two years.

And although I know this is an overused picture on the Internet, there is just no better F-YOU! photo ever taken than this one of Johnny Cash. So Big Oil, let Johnny Cash send my message to you loud and clear.

-EG


Postal Service Joins the Price Gouge Parade: or, Peanuts Don’t Cost Peanuts Anymore

May 14, 2007

costbill.jpgI knew postage would be more expensive today. The news media has been saying so for weeks. And I was prepared for a modest hike.

But consider this.

In order to help myself get by in this increasingly expensive world, I sell small items on Amazon and sometimes Ebay, mostly VHS videotapes and CDs that are out of print or rare or relatively so, and mostly at $6 or less.

Normally, sending a videotape via media mail has cost $1.59, almost without exception.

Today, it was $2.13, each. That’s $4.16 just to send two videos, one of which I only sold for $6, minus the various fees and commissions. (First class would be even more, around $2.50). In the end, the best I made in profit was $1.50.

Guess where all my $6 videos are going from now on? In my mother’s yard sale. I’d rather clear a straight up $2 than put up with any more of this shit.

So, thanks USPS for joining the price-gouge parade and driving the super-small businessman further into the fringes of the black-market economy.

For my part and doubtless the thousands of others who will follow, Amazon will get a taste of this when I de-list several hundred small items from my current listings.

I know Amazon is in no danger from this and that they don’t care.

Everytime Amazon ups the amount they charge buyers for shipping costs, the amount they reimburse me is supposed to increase to cover that, but in fact is always eaten up by the concurrently rising commission that Amazon, Ebay and the rest always end up charging.

So, enough’s enough.

coststoomuch_.gif

You can add postage to the list of things that used to be marginal, insignificant costs of living that now have gotten out of control and become luxuries: things like health coverage (remember how this used to be like, $25 a month, and that was with real insurance, not HMO crap). My family coverage—and this is not even the high-end product—is more than $500 a month. In other words, not too far from the cost of a home mortgage.

And I’m stuck with it.

Despite the spurious cost-of-living index malarkey we’re always fed (somehow the index never seems to surpass 1 percent even as gasoline, home heating oil, health insurance, car insurance and everything rises in double digits), you literally have to be Rockefeller today just to eke out a pale imitation of the decent middle-class lifestyle we had in the 1970s and before.

costpeanuts.jpg

A couple of bucks worth of peanuts

A can of peanuts, and I’m talking a tiny 9 ounce can of lowly Planters Cocktail nuts, pushes the $3 to $4 range.

Are you friggin’ kidding me?

And paper towels. not only are they now about the circumference of a measley baseball bat, but they all cost more than $1 each. A two-pack is more than $2.

Give me a friggin’ break.

One item that seemed to be holding the line was Vo5 Shampoo. This staple bottom-of-the-price-line hair cleaner always stayed under a dollar, but not anymore. Kroger finally succeeded in getting even that to surpass its vaunted dollar price point: $1.05.

There’s a lot of stuff I wanted to comment on regarding how this all came to be, but I just don’t have time to do the analysis.

I’m too busy trying to make enough bread to buy peanuts. Or should I call them “caviar on trees”?

-EG


When Weirdos Ask Good Questions

March 2, 2007

Against my better judgment, I’m becoming a fan of Coast to Coast with George Noory.

You know, whacko overnight radio.

Radio where people call in claiming to be psychics or have visions of Armageddon. People who have had sex with aliens. Lotcoast_to_coast.jpgs of conspiracies are forwarded, nearly all of which Noory seems to agree with.

It’s the old Art Bell show. (Semi-retired Bell only hosts the show on Sundays, typically).

The show is good from the get-go, from the moment the deep-voiced announcer gravely intones the various continental phone numbers: “West of the Rockies, George Noory can be reached at…”

A whole vast sweeping continent in the midnight dark ready to tell ghost stories. It just gives you a chill.

I find myself drawing the curtains, lest I be startled by a peeping grey alien.

Red Elk the shaman discusses his dreams of a coming cataclysm. Indian mythology, Jesus and aliens all get jumbled together in a tasty melange.

Breaking news.grey_alien.jpg Seven-foot-tall reptilian beings have been spotted in the French Quarter in New Orleans. No, it’s not Mardi Gras. The witnesses are credible, so verifies the guest UFOlogist.

Somehow, amid of all this Weekly World News fodder, a seemingly legit story manages to find its way into the mix.

Did you know that honeybees are disappearing, en masse?

That’s right. The honeybees that pollinate vast swaths of American agriculture land are flying off and simply not returning to their colonies. Absent massive numbers of bee corpses, where are the bees dropping dead?

This is not a bogus story. It has made CNN and the pages of the New York Times. Pesticides, genetic mutation, global warming? Nobody knows why it’s happening. But the effects on the honey industry and on agriculture in general could be devastating.

And I wouldn’t have known anything about it if I hadn’t listened to Coast to Coast.

My old reporter’s instincts told me to check and verify with other sources, and so I did.

But the danger of shows like Coast to Coast, of course, is that the ignorant and gullible don’t know when to distinguish the fantasies and the lunatic conspiracies from the legitimate stories.

But tabloid radio is little different from the mainstream media in that regard, as old-line TV networks sell out their hard-news reputations for celebrity gossip “specials,” pedophile-entrapment series’ and opinion shows masquerading as news.

It really takes an enquiring mind to sift the wheat from the chaffe.

Another good example is Alex Jones’ Infowars site.

Jones’ perspective/worldview is of the old right-wing (non-neocon), libertarian, isolationist sort. Which means among Jones’ loopy, looney labyrinthine coalex_jones-bw.jpgnspiracy theories about the evils of the New World Order and big government, he is nonetheless asking a lot of surprisingly good and hard-hitting questions. Questions which governments and the mainstream media have not satisfactorily answered.

Take a cursory glance at his site and you’ll see a lot of points on which to agree. It’s just his over-arching conspiracy construct that taints some otherwise good observations.

Jones is presently battling the BBC over a provocative 9/11 conspiracy incident that makes the British network look like an accessory to an evil plot.

Jones and other 9/11 conspiracy buffs allege that many minutes prior to the collapse of World Trade Center Building Number 7 (the Salomon Brothers building), a BBC reporter announced its collapse on the air. Somehow the BBC had been “tipped off” but then mis-timed the collapse announcement.

Yet at the same time the reporter announces the collapse, a time-stamped video shows the building still standing, directly behind her left shoulder. It’s on the web, you can see it for yourself.

What does it prove? Was it merely a mistake, or proof that the building was slated for demolition as part of the fear campaign that would sweep a fascist New World Order into power?

Instead of saying Jones’ allegations are hogwash and offering proof of same, the 9-11.jpgBBC counters with (to paraphrase), “it’s old news, and anyway, we’ve lost our 9/11 tapes.”

The latter statement has raised flags at rival news networks. The idea of a major news operation “losing” or misplacing its 9/11 footage stretches credulity.

Rather than making Jones and other conspiracists eat crow, the BBC has added fuel to the fire. The conspiracy, so it seems, is deeper than previously thought.

The end result: Now it looks like Alex Jones is really on to something.

The 9/11 conspiracy theories don’t persuade me, but they are understandably appealing because they allow people to assign evil to particular cabals. Evil men behind closed doors are methodically and consciously planning world domination.

It’s comforting, in a way, to blame the man behind the curtain. It’s more orderly and understandable than messy everyday reality.

But, in truth, bad things happen in the world for more banal reasons, mainly having to do with the attainment and hoarding of money. Everyday corporate machinations are too dull. Blaming a system is a nebulous prospect for the population. Finding a Darth Vader is much more graspable.

So when you engage the fringe media, enjoy the goofy parts, and think deeply when, occasionally, they hit upon some damned good questions.

-Evan


When Evil is Confused for Smart

March 2, 2007

He was evil, sure, but he was smart; you can’t deny that.

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Charles Keating, Dick Cheney, Ken Lay, you name the guy. All smart guys.hitler-study-map-65per.gif

As Pat Buchanan once observed, Hitler was a bad guy, but he sure had moxie.

Enron—The Smartest Guys in the Room, so the film title goes.

Al Capone was smart because he seized power and got rich by killing the right people and paying the right graft and instilling the proper fear. That guy may not have known much, maybe he didn’t finish school, but boy, he had street smarts.

I keep hearing how people who exploit other people or scam the system or usurp power and tell a big lie to sway large numbers of gullible people are smart. I still hear this every day. Hell, even I say it myself once in awhile.

Nowhere in this practical, survivalist, jungle-law conception of smartness does the notion of wisdom intercede. Were Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi or Cesar Chavez not smart for eschewing personal wealth and expending a lot of their energy to make the world better?

einstein-2-75perc.jpgTo me, a smart man is not merely so because of a facility to scheme and hoard. Moxie, cojones or a proficiency for reptilian power maneuvering do not mark a smart man. Wisdom does. A truly smart man is reflective. He sees the world as troubled, looks at the historical and social causes of those troubles and sets out—even at the cost of personal sacrifice—to correct them. To do otherwise consigns the world to the perpetuation of injustice, ignorance, hunger, inequality. Making the world better for all is the smart thing to do. Does a truly smart man want anything less than a cleaner, safer, more tolerant world for his grandchildren to live in?

The smart man (or smart person, to be inclusive) leaves the world better than he found it; not one who builds a a self-accumulated mountain of gold treasure and leaves in his wake a trail of tears, or scarred or poisoned Earth.zordon.jpg

A smart man knows that perpetuating a system that rewards greediness, pettiness, selfishness and ignorance is stupid, and ultimately suicidal.

Do I in my complacency, apathy, conformity and feeling of powerlessness and tendency toward self preservation exhibit the amount of smartness that I should?

No.

Am I a hypocrite?

Yes, but—and there is a but—there is a kernel of wisdom in my self awareness. The possibility of hope and change in my own self-criticism.

It’s something that a lot of so-called smart men never realize.

In the postmodern neocon world, ’60-style idealism that demands change, progress, social justice, et. al., is called naive. The really smart guys, they say, realize that humanity is scum and thus are smart enough to claw and scratch their way to their own material security.

I don’t call that smart. I call it giving up. I call it an insult to the intelligence and potential of the human race.

This is all nothing that wiser people have not said before—nothing better than what the best of the Greek, Roman, Native American, Chinese, German, French and other philosophers have said.

I just felt the need to say it.

-Evan


War No More

February 16, 2007

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[I posted this in early 2007 in the hopes that our derelict Congress would finally do its job of checking and balancing, but a year and a half after the great Democratic sweep they having proven so wimpy and impotent that they’ve managed the amazing feat of garnering themselves even lower approval ratings than Bush himself. I repost this article in memory of my former optimism. -EG]

“The time has passed for accepting this administration’s assurances at face value. The human cost of its repeated assurances is too great.”
(-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.)

Scratching their underarms, stretching and yawning, and batting their sleep-laden eyelids, our hibernating legislators are emerging from their caves to behold with a double-take the wrecked landscape—the result of six years of blissful somnolent denial, of handing the unchecked reins of government to a cultic, fanatical cabal then turning over to snore and get another 400 winks.

Yes, finally, maybe, the Congressional Iraq War debate is a sign that our absentee representatives have checked the alarm clock, seen that the time is way past for them to get up, brush their teeth and hair, dress the part and then hurry up and race to work to get busy and do their jobs, part of which is to check and challenge and, yes, even deny and disallow the extreme inclinations that obsess and self-delude the out-of-touch royals holed up in their fantasy palace of Versailles.

The sacrifice of those delusions is never borne by their well-heeled, secluded, blanket-wrapped originators; only by those easily persuaded or in denial themselves. Now that in our vengeful fury tens of thousands more have died and been injured than in the 9/11 attacks—very few of whom were actual terrorists and none of whom were the original 9/11 terrorists and most of whom have been our soldiers, innocent civilians and people who have since converted to insurgency as the result of our occupation—it is finally time to say enough is enough.

Saddam is dead. The weapons of mass destruction are elsewhere. They are wherever the old Soviet stockpiles are ending up, not in Iraq. Mission Accomplished. We’ve stirred the hornet’s nest; we whipped up this civil war. The glue that kept tribalism at bay, however heinous, is dissolved. We’re traipsing around lumpenly, fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong place, and leaving a mess—one that won’t be cleaned up or cleared up or organized any better or any more efficiently than the derelict and mishandled response to Hurricane Katrina. There are those who say we have to stay and finish what we started. At least they have one thing right, we started it. Neither Osama nor his minions were in Iraq, now they are. The Project for a New American Century couches its realpolitik in grand words, just like Bush. The subtext of the Project’s idealism becomes clear in action: to wage perpetual war. With living wage jobs shipping offshore, war keeps the remaining American business interests fat. It’s quite elegant in a way, send a taxpayer-funded war machine into a country, destroy it, then send more taxpayer dollars into the coffers of the privatized profiteers to “rebuild.” But when is the rebuilding done? When does the broken iraq_war_money.jpgseive that is this gravytrain end? It’s kind circular in a way. My American dollar goes from my wallet into the wallets of Cheney’s pals, ensuring the widening income gap and prepping us all to accept the lower New World Order wagescales. Iraq is the place—appropriately enough, the front—where this money exchange takes place. Like a Mafia money laundering scheme, more money goes in than seems to come out. It has been well known for several years (if you’ve paid any attention to the rightly skeptical alternative media) that $9-plus billion of your taxes have disappeared, unaccounted for, into the nebulous morass that comes with shady bribes and payoffs, no-bid contracts and unaudited overcharges. Only now is some of this actually being addressed.

So congratulations Congress. You’ve finally taken some wobbling, timid steps up to the plate. So hit a good one and bring all the runners in, and bring our young men and women home.

-Evan