Category Archives: Playlist

By The Numbers

numbersPLAYLIST
In The Hall of The Mountain King – Hugo Montenegro and His Orchestra
Sénégal Fast Food – Amadou & Mariam
Meditations – Charles Mingus Sextet/Eric Dolphy
Smile – Madeleine Peyroux
Le Mal De Vivre – Barbara
Sunday In Richmond – Danny Cohen
Non Photo-Blue – Pinback
Businessmen – Carla Bley
Guitar Solo 5 – Neil Young
Happiest Guy in the World – The Cheesies
The Struggle – Minutemen
No One Does It Like You – Department of Eagles
Caterpillar Playground – The Nurses
The Group Who Couldn’t Say – Grandaddy
Roots And The Ruins – Karate
Sentinel-Restructure (Nobel Prize Mix) – Mike Oldfield
I Wish I Was Bob Dylan – Bleubird
Earl Sweatshirt – Chum
In an Ice Palace – The Music Tapes
Stuff is Way – They Might Be Giants
the Deep End – Mike Garlington
Swamp Root – Harmonica Frank
Banking on a Myth – Andrew Bird

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-23: By the Numbers by The Stranger on Mixcloud

The news coming from Cyprus is but the latest in the class warfare being waged in seemingly every nation, at every level by the powerful moneymen. What you need to know can be boiled down to this: The victims are expected to pay restitution to the wrongdoers. There is no penalty for being wrong or wrongdoing if you’re part of the global financial elite. What happens in Cyprus does not stay in Cyprus, can and is happening here.

The decision to hit ordinary people’s savings violates norms, expectations, and values that have guided Western democracies for thousands of years.

But demonstrators resist despite poverty, unemployment, even suicides.

Some 1,500 Greek demonstrators non-affiliated with political parties mobilized through social media. The demonstration ended when police shot tear gas at protesters—a police tactic also used during the anti-austerity demonstrations in Athens when the debt crisis began in late 2009.

Earlier this month, three people in central Greece killed themselves on the same day, and analysts said there is a correlation between the rising rates and three years of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that have pushed many people into poverty.

In light of all this, important questions emerge. Like, what good is democracy coupled with capitalism? Or more accurately, what good is this unrepresentative, bribed version of democracy with this bizarre, bastardized form of capitalism?

Joshua Holland makes some great points about the unwillingness or inability of a majority of Americans to participate in their democracy.

In 2011, Newsweek asked 1,000 Americans to take the standard U.S. Citizenship test, and 38 percent of them failed. One in three couldn’t name the vice-president.

Psychologists David Dunning of Cornell and Justin Kruger of NYU conducted a series of experiments showing that incompetent people vastly overrate their own abilities. “For people at the bottom who are really doing badly — those in the bottom 10th or 15th percentile — they think their work falls in the 60th or 55th percentile, so, above average,”

Republicans overestimate their constituents’ rightward tilt by an average of 20 percentage points, which is “roughly the difference in partisanship between California and Alabama,” the scholars wrote

Catherine Rampell of the New York Times penned a series of posts showing how confused Americans are about the nation’s income distribution and their place in it. “Americans all seem to think they’re ‘middle class,’” she wrote, “even those in the top 5 percent of all earners. As a result they frequently misunderstand what political mantras like ‘let’s tax the rich’ really mean.”

The latest example is evident in a recent Gallup study, which found that 6 percent of Americans in households earning over $250,000 a year think their taxes are “too low.” Of that same group, 26 percent said their taxes were “about right,” and a whopping 67 percent said their taxes were “too high.” And yet when this same group of high earners was asked whether “upper-income people” paid their fair share in taxes, 30 percent said “upper-income people” paid too little, 30 percent said it was a “fair share,” and 38 percent said it was too much. An income of $250,000 per year put them in the top 4 percent of American households – “upper income” by any reasonable estimate.

A 2011 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF), Harvard economist Michael Norton and Dan Ariely, a psychologist at Duke, took a look at Americans’ perceptions of how wealth is stratified in this country and what an “ideal” distribution of wealth might look like.

They found that “respondents vastly underestimated the actual level of wealth inequality in the United States, believing that the wealthiest quintile held about 59% of the wealth when the actual number is closer to 84%.”

Perhaps more tellingly, “respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution, reporting a desire for the top quintile to own just 32% of the wealth.”

Other fun numbers about what Americans believe:

Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns. Thirty-six percent believe in UFOs. A whopping 24 percent believe dinosaurs and man hung out together. Eighteen percent still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. Nearly 30 percent believe cloud computing involves actual clouds. 18 percent, to this very day, believe the president is a Muslim. Forty-five percent of Americans believe in angels. Roughly 48 percent – Republicans and Democrats alike – believe in some form of creationism.

This is serious stuff. We need more rationality in those irrational numbers. How else can we expect to battle the lunacy and lies among our elites. Those who believe it is not “serious” (i.e. politically viable) to talk entertain anything other than austere, conservative talking points. This has the chilling effect, of course, of steering us off the path to recovery, hell, even sustainability, and paints any marginally progressive solutions as frivolous and “unserious” with their rhetoric.

Paul Rosenberg at Al-Jazeera describes the damaging effects of rational problem-solving ceasing to be “serious”:

The culprit here, however, is not just GOP extremism – which is, after all,  wildly unpopular – but rather the morally feckless elite centrists who enable them by obscuring what they’re up to

[S]eriousness can refer both to the merits of an initiative or to its political viability. So  scrapping the minimum wage in favor of a Guaranteed Basic Income isn’t a serious proposal, since obviously it stands zero chance of passing Congress.  the  fallacy of equivocation, in which one word is used with two different meanings for “Serious”.

“Nothing is better than eternal salvation. A ham sandwich is better than nothing. Therefore, a ham sandwich is better than eternal salvation”

If some sort of action is eventually necessary (as it is with budget issues, and most other governmental questions as well), then the unreasonable side – which by definition cares less (perhaps not at all) about real-world consequences – has an increasing advantage the longer that the issue remains unresolved, thus further motivating them to remain unreasonable. If they start at 50 percent (equal blame), things only get better for them over time, as the blame burdern remains constant, but the cost pressure to do something rises much more accurately on the reasonable side.

A classic example of this second bias against reasonable alternatives is the Progressive Caucus’s repeated offerings ( 2011, 2012) of a budget that would balance in ten years – unlike Ryan’s – provide pro-growth investments for the future, preserve popular welfare state programmes, and include a diverse mix of tax increases that still leave tax burderns well below historic highs. The Progressive Caucus budgets have been routinely ignored, despite having significant support

This is why the President and Democrats are putting social security and Medicare on the bargaining table. This is why they repetitively betray their negotiating position before they even begin. This is why they still refuse to raise taxes on the rich or close tax loopholes.

We are the richest nation in the history of the world — richer now than we’ve ever been. But an increasing share of that wealth is held by a smaller and smaller share of the population, who have, in effect, bribed legislators to reduce their taxes and provide loopholes so they pay even less.

The budget deficit “crisis” has been manufactured by them to distract our attention from this overriding fact, and to pit the rest of us against each other for a smaller and smaller share of what remains. Democrats should not conspire.

Inequality is spiraling out of control. The United States already has a poverty rate among the elderly of 24 percent. Why are we even discussing increasing that?

This is exactly what Noam Chomsky writes about when addressing that question of capitalism, or as he puts it, “really existing capitalism.” Can our democracy survive? Can civilization survive?

The system is highly monopolized – In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply.

Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.

Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.

These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.

Because, as it turns out, the wealthy and super-wealthy are very different than you or me.

According to a new study by the think-tank Demos ( PDF), , authored by David Callahan and J. Mijin Cha, the affluent tend to hold a different vision of a just society than the public at large, and it is that vision which tops the political agenda in Washington and in state houses across the country.

“Wealthy interests are keenly focused on concerns not shared by the rest of the American public, like keeping taxes low on capital gains, and often oppose policies that would foster upward mobility among low-income citizens, such as raising the minimum wage.”

And yet we know, and the Demos report notes, “the affluent… have greater influence over public policy.”

This is why they would rather structure the law to dodge paying taxes. Why they go offshore. And why they still expect Uncle Sam to benefit them with the military, blockades, resources, procurement of oil, Navy protection of shipping lanes, safeguarding of copyrights, provide bailouts and corporate financing, and keep the highways open for business.

Bill Moyers thinks we should just tax those politicians who turn lobbyist, a large and ever-growing bunch, with nefarious organizations like ALEC around. And with so many of them outright lying about the debt and deficit to distract us and further their regime(s), he may be onto something.

Finally, even John Boehner confessed that “we do not have an immediate debt crisis” on ABC’s “This Week”.

So of course, we aren’t having a sober and measured discussion about such pragmatic solutions. Instead, the national conversation about the budget is dominated by debt demagogues with ulterior motives.

Thom Hartmann reminds us that this is ‘economic terrorism‘, and its no way to run a country:

The last time the GOP played political games with the debt limit, economic growth slowed in our nation, and citizens and businesses alike faced increased borrowing costs.  According to Boehner, Republicans plan to wage economic terrorism again, unless the President agrees to cut spending dollar-for-dollar with the debt ceiling increase.

This is dangerous for them, as voters are increasingly seeing the GOP as “scary”, “narrow-minded”, and “out of touch.” A party of “stuffy old men.” But this is more dangerous for the country, and what it is, is a class war.

Don’t expect Obama to save you. In many ways, he’s worse than Bush. In some ways, he’s worse than Nixon. I urge you all to dissent, even if it does mean you’ll end up on the new COINTELPRO lists.

The key is to not fall victim to their lies. But don’t become some conspiracy nut yourself. There are plenty of evil-doers and deeds to focus on without inventing imaginary ones. Your saving grace will be your cool head and reason. Examine the claims, and look at the facts.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-23: By the Numbers by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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Private Insecurity

manningPLAYLIST
In the Hall of the mountain king – Silver Fist
Led Zeppelin vs The Beatles Whole Lotta Helter Skelter – SoundHog
Scatterbrain – Jeff Beck With The Jan Hammer Group
Displaced – Amon Tobin
Wheels of Confusion – Black Sabbath
Sort It Out – The Caesars
Torn And Frayed – The Rolling Stones
Undun – The Guess Who
Oscillations – Silver Apples
Confusion – Fela Kuti
Loose Ends – Sergio Mendes
Interruptions – Rogue Wave
Frayed – The Naked And Famous
Entropy – Synaesthesia
Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain – DJ Shadow
chaos – unkle
Da Lata – Distracted Minds – Buddha-Bar (CD Series)
Frazzled Coyote – Carl Stalling
Disorder In The House – Warren Zevon

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-16: Private Insecurity by The Stranger on Mixcloud

I’ll just say it. The sequester is (yet another) excuse for some class war bullshit.

Regardless of who owns up to its inception, the dire consequences are ours. The American people. The sequester’s automatic cuts will hit Republican-governed states hardest, but these small-government clowns don’t seem to care. They don’t seem to care how the impoverished, the middle class, and the barely recovering will be financially challenged or ruined by their unnecessary ‘gamesmanship.’

Via Mother Jones:

  • Public housing subsidies:$1.9 billion in cuts would affect 125,000 low-income people who would lose access to vouchers to help them with their rent.
  • Foreclosure prevention:75,000 fewer people would receive foreclosure prevention, rental, and homeless counseling services.
  • Emergency housing:100,000 formerly homeless people could be removed from their current emergency shelters.
  • Educational programs: Learning programs for poor kids would see a total of $2.7 billion in cuts. The $400 million slashed from Head Start, the preschool program for poor children, would result in reduced services for some 70,000 kids.
  • Title I Funding: The Department of Education’s Title I program, the biggest federal education program in the country, subsidizes schools that serve more than a million disadvantaged students. It would see $725 million in cuts.
  • Rural rental assistance: Cuts to the Department of Agriculture would result in the elimination of rental assistance for 10,000 very low-income rural people, most of whom are single women, elderly, or disabled.
  • Social Security: Although Social Security payments themselves won’t be scaled back, cuts to the program would result in a massive backlogging of disability claims.
  • Unemployment benefits: More than 3.8 million people getting long-term unemployment benefits would see their monthly payments reduced by as much as 9.4 percent, and would lose an average of $400 in benefits over their period of joblessness.
  • Veterans services: The Transition Assistance Program would be forced to cut back some of the job search and career transition services it provides to 150,000 vets a year.
  • Nutritional Assistance for Women & Children: The government’s main food stamp program is exempt from cuts, but other food programs would take a hit. Some 600,000 women and children would be cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides nutrition assistance and education.
  • Special education:$978 million* in cuts would affect 30.7 million children. For example, the scaling back of federal grants to states for students with disabilities would mean that cash-strapped states and districts would have to come up with the salaries for thousands of teachers, aides, and staff that serve special needs kids.
  • Job training programs:$37 million would be slashed from a job retraining and placement program called Employment Services, and $83 million would be cut from Job Corps, which provides low-income kids with jobs and education.

Via In These Times:

  • Military Jobs: furloughs 750,000 civilians employed by the Army to ensure that the richest men in the world can continue paying an unconscionably lower tax rate than their secretaries.
  • FBI Jobs: slashes $550 million from the FBI, hindering response to cyber and terrorist attacks after the equivalent of 7,000 workers are furloughed each day just to ensure that corporations can continue to get tax breaks when they offshore jobs?
  • Mental Health Care: ends treatment for 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and severely emotionally disturbed children just to ensure that the 1 percent continue to receive tax breaks for their corporate jets, yachts and golf carts?
  • Air Travel and Safety: cuts back customs agents and Federal Aviation Administration workers, including air traffic controllers, causing airline delays just to accommodate the demand of multi-millionaires like Mitt Romney to pay a 14.1 percent tax rate, a rate lower than many middle-class workers pay?
  • Vital Health Services: $350 million cut from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eliminating, among other crucial health interventions, 540,000 doses of vaccine for flu, hepatitis and measles as well as tens of thousands of cancer screenings for low-income women, just to ensure that 30 highly profitable Fortune 500 companies continue to pay less in taxes than they do for lobbyists?
  • Science: cancels 1,000 National Science Foundation grants for research in areas like cyber security—especially now that it has been revealed that Chinese groups have hacked into the nation’s electrical power grid, gas distribution and waterworks systems—in order to continue massive government subsidies to oil companies, which are among the most profitable corporations in the world?

There will be no end to tax loopholes for the rich, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has asserted. The Republican ruling: The vast middle class, the elderly and the poor must suffer. Republicans chose, once again, to coddle the rich.

Furthermore and deeply concerning, as The American Prospect points out:

  1. The sequester will hurt job growth: The worst component was the non-renewal of the payroll tax cut, which is already dragging substantially on the economy. All told, if the sequester kicks in the economy will likely end the year with roughly 500-600,000 fewer jobs than if it were repealed. These are jobs the economy desperately needs. Further, it’s worth noting that even a full repeal of it with no offset will still result in an economy growing much too slowly to quickly return to full-employment. In a nutshell, arguments over the sequester are roughly about whether we’d like to be $900 billion or a full $1 trillion below economic potential in the coming year.
  2. It’s unnecessary and perverse: The sequester is the perfect illustration of how D.C. policymakers and pundits think that all economic policymaking can be reduced to shrinking the budget deficit, always and everywhere. However, the nation’s budget balance should be seen as a tool, not an invariant target. When the economy is healthy, rising budget deficits could indeed push up interest rates and “crowd-out” private investments. But when the economy is unhealthy and starved for demand, then budget deficits can (and should) be increased to finance job-creating transfers (unemployment insurance and food stamps) and public investments, with the resulting spur to growth actually “crowding-in” private capital. Further, in today’s economy deep spending cuts won’t just harm the economy (though this alone should rule them out), it will depress activity so much that the resulting fall in tax revenue and increased safety net spending will actually make the nation’s debt ratio worse. One doesn’t need to look hard to see this destructive dynamic in play—the United Kingdom’s clearly disastrous austerity programs has seen not just an increase in unemployment, but also a steady increase in the nation’s debt ratio.
  3. Paying for it with other spending cuts is absurd: Far too many in the Beltway have argued that it is the form of the sequester’s spending cuts—across-the-board and indiscriminate—that constitutes the real problem. From the perspective of job-creation this isn’t right. A cut is a cut. So, in terms of supporting economic activity and jobs in the next year, “paying for” a repeal of the sequester in the form of allegedly more-rational cuts of a similar size will do nothing but cause the same pain the sequester promises. The GOP notion that Keynesian economics applies only to defense spending is just as silly as it sounds.
  4. The sequester is worthless even as a commitment device: Nothing in the law prevents Congress from simply de-activating the sequester with nothing to pay for its impact on deficits. Further, nothing in law prevents Congress six, seven or eight years in the future from scrapping it. In short, it is a completely voluntary commitment device.
  5. Entitlements are our future: Replacing the sequester with cuts to these valued programs would be a disaster. We have shown, for example, that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid combined contributed ten times as much to income growth for middle-income households over the last generation than growth in hourly wages. Gutting them in the name of securing a better economic future is perverse indeed.

Because that debt everyone is freaking out about? It doesn’t even exist. We owe trillions to foreign and private creditors, but the debt we have as it stands poses essentially zero threat to the country’s fiscal health, as ongoing growth of the economy would send our debt-to-GDP ratio dropping like a rock. We haven’t yet incurred the debt that the Republicans are worried about. It’s merely a projection by the Congressional Budget Office.

Sure, we use CBO data all the time, and it does its job for good reason, but making such predictions about the future, especially for such long trends about a volatile and erratic thing as the economy, is sketchy at best. So why are we focusing on pretend economic crises, when we have all-too-real crises in the right-here, right-now? In fact, the very same CBO has projected our deficit to be stable for a decade.

Not only that, but the federal deficit is actually falling. It is down about 50 percent as a share of GDP since fiscal year 2009 and is falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War IIMedicare cost growth is also down.

There is no deficit problem. There just isn’t. Yet the only “serious” Washington talk is about how to make severe cuts to put us back into a recession.

But only 6 percent of Americans know that the budget deficit is getting smaller. That’s what makes it so easy for disingenuous politicians like Paul Ryan to distort the math for his austerity framework to:

  • Repeal Obamacare (though keep Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare, as well as new taxes).
  • Convert Medicare into a private and corporate voucher system.
  • Big cuts to Medicaid.
  • Big cuts to other domestic programs.
  • Repeal of the sequester cuts in the Pentagon budget only.
  • “Simplified” income tax system with only two brackets, 10 percent and 25 percent, benefiting the highest earners.
  • A reduction in the corporate tax from 35 percent to 25 percent.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers and found that Ryan’s proposal would cost roughly $5 trillion over 10 years. On average, his plan would lower taxes on people making more than $1 million per year by a whopping $400,000. From there the benefits plummet.

Incomes between half a million and one million dollars would owe about $50,000 less, on average. People earning between $20,000 and $50,000 would save just hundreds of dollars.

So here’s the real point, if you want to be scientific about this, and we do. We tried austerity already. It didn’t work.

Aside from the disastrous example Europe is going through right now, we’ve seen in recent years as Obama has slashed government and public sector jobs since the recession.

Federal, state and local governments have shed nearly 750,000 jobs since June 2009, according to the Labor Department‘s establishment survey of employers. […] ~The Wall Street Journal

This adds to unemployment, and there are nearly 950,000 fewer people employed by the government than there were when the recovery started in mid-2009. If none of those people were counted as unemployed, the jobless rate would be 7.1%, compared with the 7.7% rate reported on Friday.

So if the pro-corporate politicians who are dismantling our social contract like to convince themselves that government should be run like the hallowed big businesses.

But smart businesses would never act this way. They invest, they don’t cheat their consumers, they listen to financial experts, they learn from experience, encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking, and charge the consumer the right price.

But when you live in an oligarchy, those few wealthy elites get to decide whatever happens, no matter how unpopular with the masses. That’s why neither party is really interested in balancing the budget at all. It’s a redistribution scheme to get more income to the wealthiest one percent.

Not just Republicans, but Democrats are ready, willing and able to put social security on the chopping block.

Our supposedly “liberal” President repeatedly and needlessly tries to cut Social Security. But Social Security cost-of-living increases are already inadequate. And the grotesque implication that old folks need to ‘live below their means’ to serve the system completely ignores the fact that Social Security is not insolvent, cannot add to the deficit by law, and was already paid into by these folks.

The President’s “sequester” offer slashes non-defense spending by $830 billion over the next ten years. That happens to be the precise amount we’re implicitly giving Wall Street’s biggest banks over the same time period.

You see, they do not represent us:

A new study Conducted by the University of California’s David Broockman and University of Michigan’s Christopher Skovron surveyed nearly 2,000 legislators from across America, documenting politicians’ perceptions of their constituents’ views on issues like universal health care and same-sex marriage. It then compares those perceptions with constituents’ actual views.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers hugely overestimate the conservatism of the very people they are supposed to represent. In all, the report finds that “conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by over 20 percentage points, while liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points.” Ultimately, that has resulted in a political system inherently hostile to mainstream proposals and utterly unrepresentative of public opinion.

Broockman and Skovron argue that one answer has to do with the prevalence of right-leaning mythology. Citing “Richard Nixon’s pronouncement that a ‘silent majority’ of Americans backed his policies” and “Sarah Palin’s suggestion that a latent ‘real America’ supported her,” the researchers correctly note that there remains “a folk theory among conservative politicians that the American public is considerably more conservative than it seems at face value.” This theory is undoubtedly fueled by a Fox News-ified media that pushes such inaccurate fables.

Of course, don’t ignore the fact that in a system of legalized bribery and big-money politicking, our lawmakers are so far removed from the commoners that they are wholly unrepresentative of their constituencies.

These conservative sell-out fuck-wads would have us all reading Atlas Shrugged by requirement. They would have us silently accept our metaphorical rape while the rich prosper. The wealthy gett all the rewards while the rest of us get nothing.

Our two-tiered economic recovery is an indication of that Randian Beltway thinking.

  • As of 2010, the top 1 percent of households owned 35 percent of all the stocks in America while the bottom 80 percent of us owned only 8 percent.
  • Increases in the use of advanced technologies allow corporations to produce more with less labor, thereby keeping unemployment high
  • Increased global production creates jobs elsewhere
  • Fiscal austerity leads to job, wage and benefit cuts for public employees
  • Fiscal austerity also prevents the additional stimulus we need to create jobs
  • Attacks on unions further erode workers’ bargaining power and keeps wages low
  • Wall Street is using indirect government support to gamble rather than to rework mortgages and invest in businesses

They would do away with unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, public job creation, teachers and public employees, give as many tax loopholes and subsidies to large corporations and hedge funds as they can.

They would give the corporations the right to fucking vote.

But failing that, they’ll just appoint lapdogs to the CEOs instead of watchdogs over abusive industries. Mary Jo White will be the newest SEC appointee and revolving door beneficiary of Wall Street grievances. She has made millions defending the very companies and banks she is now, supposedly, somehow going to investigate and prosecute. The same is true of the FDIC.

Attorney General Eric Holder has publicly admitted that the Department of Justice considers big banks too big to jail.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., most recently lamented: There is one lax system of justice for wealthy corporations and their shareholders, and another draconian system of justice for everyone else.

Meanwhile, privatization is stealing our public land, our water, our air, patents to life itself. They are assaulting our public education, and they are commodifying our children as products, and eventually churning them out as inmates in the private prison system.

The private enterprisers at the top get to use common corporate tax tricks and insane loopholes to pay for their private security, jets, stock options, vacation homes, yachts, and large SUVs.

They use offshore tax havens to drive their corporate tax rates down into the single digits.

They are essentially legalized organized crime syndicates.

There is no accountability for their crimes; their loan sharking, money laundering for drug cartels, rogue nations and terrorist organizations, fleecing homeowners (often fraudulently and, in one case, to the death), and illegally foreclosing on active-duty service members. We are told, it’s all just too bad. Bend over and take it, because these guys are just too big to jail. (Then you’d think they would also be too big for us to take up the ass).

Why don’t the self-proclaimed free-market individualists allow them to fail of their own deeds, and eschew big taxpayer bailouts? I’m sorry, did I stutter? Because they are filthy fucking liars. In the face of all evidence to the contrary, they allow the loathsome market manipulators to have their way.

The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own half the country’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while the bottom 50 percent own just .5%, half of one percent, of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

This is the same machine that uses Dick Cheney policies and rhetoric to murder wantonly around the globe. The same well-oiled machinery that would happily target you on your own soil, if given the chance. Drone strikes, signature strike assassinations without trial, extrajudicial rendition and torturesecret national security letters… all parts in the complex schematics of the Obama Justice Department.

That same Eric Holder doesn’t think the President can be limited by the Congress, or by the law, apparently.

Of course, when the shoe is on the other foot, and journalists pry into the surveillance and police state, the Watchers don’t like having their privacy invaded.

This is why Bradley Manning, and those like him, are heroes. In that context, their bravery and sacrifice are all the more poignant. Political prisoners to an immoral or morality-bereft system of robots, we now finally have audio of Bradley Manning’s motives, his intentions in revealing U.S. war crimes to an aghast world.

Wired’s Spencer Ackerman was there and reported:

“Wearing his Army dress uniform, a composed, intense and articulate Pfc. Bradley Manning took ‘full responsibility’ Thursday for providing the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks with a trove of classified and sensitive military, diplomatic and intelligence cables, videos and documents. . . .

“Manning’s motivations in leaking, he said, was to ‘spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general’, he said, and ’cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.’

“Manning explain[ed] his actions that drove him to disclose what he said he ‘believed, and still believe . . . are some of the most significant documents of our time’ . . . .

“He came to view much of what the Army told him — and the public — to be false, such as the suggestion the military had destroyed a graphic video of an aerial assault in Iraq that killed civilians, or that WikiLeaks was a nefarious entity. . . .

It is because of the persecution he faced by the very same unjust system he attempted expose that makes this message even more valid. Because it was not easy for him, it was torture in fact, that is why he is the most important human individual as a symbol of morality and a compass in our struggle against madmen who would confuse us, divert us, distract us, make us scatterbrained and insecure in our reality. They will tear and fray our society, bringing chaos and disorder with their greed and near-sighted self-interest. They will attempt to displace altruism with avarice, and undo the very fabric of a just and free society.

Listen to Bradley Manning’s full testimony here.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-16: Private Insecurity by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Circa 1948

1948

We break the taboo tonight and de-segregate the post-war Blues era, co-mingling  syncopations signaling a broader tolerance, “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.”

But I do fear a social conformity will take hold with all this fear-mongering and witch-hunting!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Will Bradley-Ray McKinley Band
As Time Goes By – Arthur “Dooley” Wilson
One O’Clock Jump – Count Basie & His Orchestra
Butterfly Strut – Ziggy Elman And His Orchestra
Artistry in Rhythm – Stan Kenton & His Orchestra
Jersey Bounce – Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
Boogie Woogie – Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Flying Home – Hamton, Lionel & His Orchestra
Drumming Man – Gene Krupa
Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians) – Danny Kaye
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition – Kay Kyser & His Orchestra
I’m My Own Grandpaw – Guy Lombardo
You Keep Coming Back Like a Song – Dinah Shore
Don’t Get Around Much Any More – The Ink Spots
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah – Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers
Besame Mucho (Kiss Me Much) – Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Brazil – Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra
Heartaches – Ted Weems & His Orchestra
Ciribiribin – Harry James & His Orchestra
C Jam Blues – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Canned Heat – Chet Atkins
That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine
Deep In The Heart Of Texas – Horace Heidt And His Musical Knights
Riders In The Sky – Vaughn Monroe
Pistol Packin’ Mama – Al Dexter and His Troopers
Detour – Spade Cooley
Move It on Over – Hank Williams
Cool Blues – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Sophisticated Lady – Duke Ellington
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – Les Brown
Bebop – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Elmer’s Tune – Dick Jurgens And His Orchestra
Snowfall – Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra
Stardust – Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
Do You Dig My Jive – Sam Price and his Texas Bluesicians
Mean Old ‘Frisco Blues – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
Knockin’ Myself Out – Lil Green with Big Bill Broonzy
Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Open the Door, Richard – Count Basie Orchestra
I Wonder – Cecil Gant
Laura – David Raksin
Nature Boy – Nat King Cole

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

The convention of Americans for Democratic Action was winding up today in a lather of resolutions giving scant sign of enthusiastic support in November for President Truman. The ADA, heavily representative of the old Roosevelt New Deal group, gives the back of its left hand to the Wallace third-party people the back of its right hand to the Taft Republicans. Yet in three days of debates seemed to bury Mr. Truman in censure rather than praise him. A phrase borrowed from Europe may have political significance here, “the third force” which is used to describe the non-communist left, intellectuals opposing “both the tyranny of reaction and tyranny of Communist totalitarianism.”

While Senator McGrath of Rhode Island sounded off against Henry Wallace’s third party, saying “a third party has as much place in American politics as does a third party on a honeymoon” adding the Wallace campaign and supporters “will either waste their votes or give aid and comfort to reactionary candidates.”

Speaking of those Reds, the Communist Police State Action in Czechoslovakia was legalized as the Czech President accepted the Red Cabinet and their brutal plot, who will not be working with any opposition parties, whose ministers turned in their resignations last week. New Cabinet members told foreign reporters that the events of last month giving Communists controls were the ‘will of the people.’ There are no numbers on how many persons in the former government got the bum rush from their positions/arrested as “reactionaries”. Legal elections have been promised the Czechs by Communists, but many other grand promises to workers and farmers have also been made by the Soviets.

Finland, conversely, has turned down Stalin’s request to join a Russian Defense Pact Ring, fearing a loss in their liberty.

The pressure, many Washington correspondents in-the-know fear, may quicken the pace towards a shooting war, and a military pact aimed at Russia.

So while the US has written off Czechoslovakia, here at home Gov. Arthur Coolidge of Massachusetts charged that Russian agents are busy in Hawaii. He claimed to have evidence, but hasn’t spilled it to the public as of yet.

(We remember well how) Soviet diplomats obstructed the UN founding meeting in San Francisco, dormy spy rings uncovered…

Meanwhile, the United States called for nation-wide elections in Korea in defiance of a Russian boycott. China immediately joined with the United States in the proposal laid before the United Nations little assembly. Both powers agreed that steps toward establishment of a free and independent Korea were of utmost importance to world peace, and that Soviet non-cooperation should not be allowed to stand in the way.

(As for Russia, I do highly recommend reading ‘A Russian Journal’ by John Steinbeck with photographs by Robert Capa of that country’s reconstruction, a special correspondence with the New York Herald Tribune).

The U.S. may also remain isolationist regarding the Palestine issue, declaring it firmly stands for diplomatic peace; this despite a recent bomb plot in the Holy Land admitted by Arab hatchetmen. The United Nations is holding special sessions to consider and cope with the crisis. The surprise resolution moves that a council be formed to set up a committee to study the advisability of such a special assembly. The Jewish Agency for Palestine had no comment pending a full study of the speech, but there are those contending that a Palestine partition and peace are inseparable. The British, for their part, have declared that they will fire upon both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land.

So support the United Nations as they punish future aggressors before they launch WWIII. See “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.” (Wendell Willkie’s One World)

All while Truman chops are busted by segregationist southern governors who came to Washington to protest civil rights legislation. Here is the exchange from the stenographic record, Gov Strom Thurmond: “Will you now, at a time when national unity is so vital to the solution of the problem of peace in the world, use your influence, as chairman of the DNC, to have the highly controversial civil rights legislation, which tends to divide our people, withdrawn from consideration by the congress?” Senator McGrath: “No.”

Just who is dividing the people, and on whose terms is this so-called unity, and whose problem with peace? Our strength is in democracy, a spiritual strength that derives from our freedom, fair-play, tolerance, and the guarantee of civil rights in our Constitution. Though we have not achieved these things completely, that is the ideal we raise before the world. What would the world say if we went backward as that chiseler Governor Thurmond suggests? We can only move forward, even if slowly. Who is dividing the people; those who want to realize our ideals, or a few noisy Southern politicians and a minority of southern people.

The Dixie Democrats are hopping mad over at least four of the 10 points in Truman’s proposal, and began serious talk of convening a split from the Democrats on the civil rights issue. (1. federal anti-lynching law, 2. permanent fair employment practice commision, 3. and end to Jim Crow laws and 4. outlawing state poll taxes). The remainder of the points were a permanent commission on civil rights, a joint congressional committee on civil rights, a civil rights division of the justice department, toughening of existing civil rights statutes, home rule for the District of Columbia, statehood for Alaska and Hawaii, equalization of naturalization opportunity, settlement of evacuation claims of Japanese-Americans (who got a bum rap). The program is in particularly hot debate due to the election year.

But I worry that the conservative con to brand New Dealers out of touch, arrogant bureaucrats is a short hoof from labeling them Communists! How soon they forget! Look! Truman didn’t keep government-built or backed plants at the war’s end! They went right back to private owners.

You’ll remember how Daddy Warbucks was revived, gloating at the corpse of FDR!

And the fix is in, government contracts were rescinded, plants closed up, flat soldiers come home expecting jobs instead to join picket lines against fat head moneymen. Gallup polls show 62% of the public fears another Depression in the next ten years.

“Yet once the war is over its backwash smears over us, and the nation succumbs to greed, fear, ineptitude, fumbling of the morning hopes, shoddy dispersal of the evening dreams. That in late 1946, the two most painful and pressing shortages in the land should be the most primitive necessities of life; food and housing, is evidence enough of the disintegration, no matter how temporary these shortages may turn out to be… Does show that to become efficient this country needs the stimulus of war? Does it mean that 295,000 Americans have to be killed in order to give us true effectiveness as a nation?” -journalist John Gunther, 1946

So Truman places a $15 billion ceiling on defense spending, bolsters social welfare. Truman; small-business populist, anti-monopoly, distrusting of Big Trust, Big Labor and Big Business.

Indeed, 1947 had seen a boom set off by the savings of both war worker and war profiteer, pent-up demand and rising wages! And demand means more jobs! Hundreds of houses built in a day! But it’s not all silk!

Truman lifted price controls on meat when conservative businessmen raised prices and fears and turned up the heat. He blamed “reckless group of selfish men”, the same group that “has opposed every effort of this administration to raise the standard of living and increase opportunity for the common man.” By appeasing them, Truman tipped his mitt again, his policies gummed up by cheap flimflam! Inflation accelerated, cost of living up, special interests feeding frenzy, prices raised by the greedy.

Federal subsidies work when directed and divested correctly; housing, swimming pools, playgrounds, baseball fields, suburbs accessible by highways… Mortgages guaranteed by the GI Bill.

Hayek (free market anti-socialism enthusiast) and Keynes (that economic interventionist) both agree that antitrust laws and minimum wages are necessary!

Blind ‘stereotypes’, referred to by head shrinks, are fixed attitudes towards an idea, event, or person. A blind spot in the mind, the cause of which is emotional and irrational, disallowing the person’s attitude to change with changes in factual evidence pertaining to the object of prejudice. Pertinent illustrations such as race prejudice, an extreme sort where individuals are vilified in generalities incorporating all the evil traits which may have ever been found or imagined in any one past member of the race. Attitudes expressed about the late President Roosevelt and his ideas often fall into this same category. His name has been slandered with such intensity and emotion that one could almost feel the murderous hatred in their hearts; there is nothing analytical or thoughtful in what they say.

It’s an excuse to ally political highbinders with big business high pillows and their dough, fear-mongering the pliant into cheesy loyalty, making chop suey of the rest. Right-wing groups are firing off their ‘confidential’ (re: unsubstantiated) dope to HUAC and the FBI, fueling Hoover’s inquisition. Now we’re grilling not only union leaders but teachers, book reviewers, social workers, and librarians. the Chamber of Commerce is demanding that authorities ban whomever they deem too pro-Communist off of radio airwaves. Even social gospel ministers ousted from their pulpits! No totalitarianism or infringement on freedom of speech here, my friends.

I do fear a social conformity will take hold.

The jingle-brained conservatives are enjoying a counterrevolution with William Jenner, John Bricker, William Knowland, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon… even the once pro-New Deal Hollywood liberal Ronald Reagan is espousing more conservative malarkey, see what they know!

Texas Tom Clark (Attorney General) architect of the list of subversive organizations, making guilt by association a national security policy.

And Adolph Menjou (Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals) spilled to HUAC last year, “I am a witch hunter if the witches are Communists”.

They dress it up as a Christian crusade to despoil your children. But they’re putting the screws on the working man, gunning for all of us, with the convenient moniker that they’re protecting us from the reds, when they’re really putting us behind the eight ball. One of HUAC’s loudest mouths, John E. Rankin, is a notorious racist and anti-Semite, as are several other committee members. That’s why they’re spending so much energy giving the up-and-down to Jews who escaped Germany. It’s all pretty hinky, I tell you.

After all, unemployment for blacks is three times that among whites; their pay only 30-70% what whites make.

So the fat cats have ginned up big support for their Crusade, even though a few short years ago in 1945, Americans sick of war, some 70%, opposed a “get-gashouse” approach with the Soviets, lousy with post-war blues: triumphalist despair. But ever since Dean Acheson said we have to be on ‘permanent alert’ against some unknown phantom forces, resources and scratch are diverted to purely military industry. They see their support now against the Communists as an egotistical Holy War to save Christianity and Civilization. There are those who don’t believe the War ever ended. We’re being given a Hobson’s choice between appeasement and containment, disarmament and military strength- ignoring all diplomatic alternatives. They’ll use the crack-up in Czechoslovakia as a crummy excuse to drop atom bombs on more babies.

And that means there’s little bumping gums for progressive programs without a crisis. Truman’s campaigning on the messages of national health insurance, federal aid to education, and civil rights. He may be in the right, but he’s in real Dutch if the guys in graft tell him to take it on the heel.

It doesn’t seem like much of the Fair Deal or New Dealer policies have much tooth any more, the final being the GI Bill. We still do not have an Economic Bill of Rights.

Gin up Solidarity among veterans, workers, the common man. The saps.

1947 Gallup poll shows one-third of veterans feel estranged from civilian life, either in a jam or off their noodle, and 20% feel ‘hostile’ to civilians. War Department survey replicates this; one in five is “completely hostile” to civilians. Survey finds there are 15.8 million vets, average age 29, 80% of them under the age of thirty, 33% went directly into service from school, only 25% finished high school. Veterans and their families make up one-fourth of the population.

The divorce rate today is more than twice that of 1939. But the marriage rate and birth rate are also spiking. So is the homicide rate, as any of these Joe Palookas could go off the track in a moment!

HUAC and the blacklists has made it impossible for any picture to get made taking the side of the workers, who for their part have seen hourly drops in pay since VJ Day.

And Truman himself overestimates the power of the unions to make his points. He wants to draft men who strike during peacetime, as in Germany or Russia! That’s the crop of it! He seized the mines after criticism that he was too pro-labor. Most unions are on the square, hostile to Communists, fearing it damages their cause.

A late challenge to the Taft-Hartley law is entering our courts. The act restricts the activities and power of labor unions. Named after sponsors Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr., overcame Truman‘s veto last year; labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill” while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech”, and that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society”. The latest orderly and properly challenge is by CIO News and its president Philip Murray, trying it in the courts in a democratic manner. Mr. Murray said he and the CIO were acting in complete respect for the “law of the land” and not in a spirit of “defiance or bitterness.” This refreshingly constructive and calm way of tackling the issue hits on all eight, and may end up in the Supreme Court, a matter on which Congress will be called upon to expand, condense or clarify.

In Chicago, the National Lawyer’s Guild charged in a policy statement that there is a ‘co-ordinated and unrelenting’ attack being made against civil liberties in the U.S. Over 200 delegates to an annual meeting voted their approval yesterday calling upon Congress to repeal the Taft-Hartley law and abolish the House Committee on Un-American Activities, for violating four amendments to the Constitution. Benedict Wolf, New York lawyer, read that recommendation to Congress to investigate the Federal Bureau of Investigation itself.

This is the Age of Distrust – engineer enemies for the upcoming election; if the Nazis and Japanese won’t do, use Communism. Without recommending an advocation of the tenets of Communism, one does not need then to fly into the arms of right-wing fascism or “narrow nationalism” (Wendell Willkie’s One World). Upton Sinclair warned us that it can happen here. Fears of totalitarianism abound when there are disingenuous geezers in charge! Hard facts have a way of melting into the shadows of ambiguity.

Ah, TINSEL TOWN!



Stay tuned for all that plus hokum, bunkery, science and more! On this time-displaced episode of a Stranger in a Strange Land!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

The Future

future

This week, aaron.Jacob and I look to the future of hoverbikes, robots, augmented reality and bio-hacking. Forecasts and predictions exceed our wildest imaginings, but will they prove realistic or surrealistic?

Try not to get too future shocked as we set the dial on our experimental time machine and hope for the best… tomorrow!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King (Terramix) – terraon
Future Shock – Curtis Mayfield
“The Daleks” (Serial B): TARDIS Computer – Brian Hodgson
Past Present and Future – Demon Fuzz
Tank! (TV Edit) – Seatbelts
Robot Parade – They Might Be Giants
2014 – The Unicorns
Idioteque – Radiohead
Violent – The Faint
Remember The Future (part 1-2) – Nektar
Buffalo Stance – Need New Body
In The Bio Burbs – PASSAGE
Energy Traffic – The Mole
We Are the Future – Non Phixion
Virus – Deltron
Seventeen Years – RATATAT
Friends 4 Ever – Girl Talk
IBM MT/ST The Paperwork Explosion (instr.) – Scott, Raymond
Uske Orchestra – Pel-Pun
Polka Electronic Death Country (Otto Von Schirrach remix) – Mochipet
Laser Eyes Clip – Sifl & Olly
Cyborg Control – Man Or Astroman
Look Back And Laugh – Minor Threat
Jetson’s Theme – Man… or Astroman?
The Future – Leonard Cohen

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-23: The Future by The Stranger on Mixcloud

In the not-too distant future, political scientists have reason to suspect what the major issues of the next few years will be. Climate, Drones and Terrorists, Pentagon Spending, Agriculture/Energy, and Campaign Finance Reform.

This all seems a little optimistic to me. But as we’ll soon see, these wonks aren’t the only big dreamers.

The World Futurist Society has released their forecasts, and they are impressively grand. Some seem inevitable, others outlandish, but all of them progressively more challenging, and some beneficial, to mankind.

  1. Electric cars powered by fuel cells earn extra cash for their owners
  2. Open-source robot blueprints cut the cost of robots by 90%
  3. Smart phones help spur political reform in Africa
  4. The world’s oceans may face “mass extinction event” by 2050
  5. The “cloud” will become more intelligent, not just a place to store data
  6. 3-D Printing Revolutionizes manufacturing
  7. India may eclipse China in population and innovation by 2028
  8. Robots may become gentler caregivers in the next 10 years
  9. A revolution in smart materials creates a new energy boom

Idealistic indeed, as those of us who see their gadgets more as personal adversaries than helpful widgets.

“Technology that promises to remove small annoyances of one kind introduces small annoyances of another.” ~Pamela Haag

But there is the tendency to hope for the Best of All Possible Worlds,
in science-fiction, in science fact, and in augmenting our very reality. Soon people will be able to purchase Google Glass and make immediate (if superficial) improvements in their worldview. It gives new meaning to the concept of ‘rose-colored glasses’. I personally can’t wait for Super Saiyan mode, They Live mode, and Cyclops mode.

But the fact of the matter is, you can’t predict how new technologies will change the world until they become part of the commoner’s usage.

Tim Maughan argues in a fascinating new interview about augmented reality with the Huffington Post:

Technology becomes the most effective — and thus potentially the most damaging— when it passes that novelty stage and becomes mundane and commonplace. The way smartphones have radically changed the way we lead our daily lives is perhaps the most recent example. It’s been an incredibly short six years from revolutionary product launch to utterly mundane ubiquity.

And few of us have had time to pause and think about the effect it has had on us, either as individuals or society. When it comes to judging how technology effects us there’s an understandable tendency to look at the bleeding edge, at first adopters and hackers, those that take the plunge and dive in. I think it’s a tendency in part by academics and journalists to want to be seen as ‘cool-hunters’, finding the latest trends and speculating about what they could develop into.

The truth is until it becomes commonplace and in the hands of a massive range of people we can’t tell how it will be used. I don’t want to bruise anyone’s geek-pride here (okay, maybe I do a little) but being an early adopter only makes you special for a short while, and on your own you’re not going to make any paradigm shifts. By definition you need everyone else with you to do that.

Many people just don’t know what to do with the future transforming reality around them. It makes them uneasy, even panicked; Future-Shocked. And others worry that the technocratic digerati will forge ahead, leaving other classes behind; an ageless human problem for every era, none better than the rest.


Can Futurists even make a difference? Does science-fiction and those rosy-eyed optimists benefit the scientists in hot pursuit of tomorrow? Do they create a Utopian vision for which we aim? Or can they do more damage than good? Or are we all just way off the mark?

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-23: The Future by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Love and Destruction

heartPLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Funk United
Light My Fire – Minnie Riperton
The Atmosphere Routine – Mr. Dibbs
Love And Happiness – Al Green
Do Your Thing – Isaac Hayes
Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-On – Leonard Cohen
New Comer – W. Rockman
Munchies for Your Love – Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Velvet Voyage – Klaus Schulze
Why – Gemini (Birthday Song)
Take It All Away – CAKE
I Blame You – They Might Be Giants
Debonair – Afghan Whigs
Djed – Tortoise
You To Thank – Ben Folds
Spent on rainy days – Bright Eyes
Options – Pedro The Lion
Hogin’ Machine – Les Baxter
The Dean And I – 10CC

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-16: Love Songs by The Stranger on Mixcloud

It’s a good thing Fox “News” credibility has been steadily dwindling, falling by 9 percent in three years, and is now at a four-year record-low. These are the idiots are are trying to kill jobs, keep the minimum wage low, and encourage the toxic philosophy of companies laying off employees to dodge taxes.

 makes an excellent point about those long lines in stores when the fat cats decrease hours and increase layoffs to avoid paying fair wages and health insurance:

Were they being “penny-wise and pound-foolish” and costing themselves business today as well as in the future?

Because this misunderstands taxes. Taxes are not a “cost” as Marco Rubio said. Taxes are on profits. A company pays taxes after all costs — including wages and salaries — are deducted from revenue. The fact of the company paying a tax at all means they have the right number of employees serving their customers and meeting demand so they make a profit.

It is the poorly-managed companies that employ too few people who are not going to do well enough to pay taxes. (I doubt very many companies are employing too many people. What are they doing, having them sit around reading the paper?)

Obviously being profitable — which means that they pay taxes — does not cause a business to lay people off or reduce hours. When Rubio says taxes make companies “pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs” he is just wrong.

For the minimum-wage employee an increase means an immediate increase in demand at all the places he shops. Millions of people with a bit more money to spend because of a minimum-wage boost would certainly mean more hiring, because more customers would be coming through the doors. A well-run business employs the right number of people, period.

And while the Republicans are so interested in the drummed up controversy over the public debt, it ignores the debt that Wall Street hasn’t paid back to the American taxpayers, despite their astounding bounce-back and profits. Of course they face no criminal charges, but what about the$245 billion of TARP funds spent on banks, with only $26 billion received in settlements. 

And while their predatory practices effect the poor, and people of color, the most, governments and private enterprise seem all too willing to collude on bringing back debtor’s prisons.

Via In These Times:

A 2010 report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lays out the breadth of this problem. Titled “In For a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtor Prisons,” the report examines how “day after day, indigent defendants are imprisoned for failing to pay legal debts they can never hope to manage. In many cases, poor men and women end up jailed or threatened with jail though they have no lawyer representing them.”

Meanwhile, Obama is increasing domestic drone surveillance, and clamming up when asked any questions about these (or related) policies or programs.

Via Mother Jones:

During a Google+ “Fireside Hangout” Thursday evening, President Barack Obama was asked if he believed he has the authority to authorize a drone strike against an American citizen on US soil.

He didn’t exactly answer the question.

“First of all, I think, there’s never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil. And, you know, we respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counterterrorism operations outside the United States. The rules outside the United States are going to be different then the rules inside the United States. In part because our capacity to, for example, to capture a terrorist inside the United States are very different then in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan.

But what I think is absolutely true is that it is not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we are doing the right thing. I am the head of the executive branch. And what we’ve done so far is to try to work with Congress on oversight issues. But part of what I am going to have to work with congress on is to make sure that whatever it is we’re providing congress, that we have mechanisms to also make sure that the public understands what’s going on, what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are. And that is something that I take very seriously. I am not someone who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants, or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counterterrorism. There have to be legal checks and balances on it.”

Even with Rand Paul on the job, so serious questions are being asked of John Brennan in his confirmation hearings, despite concerns about civil liberties killing Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in 2008.

  • Why Did the President Kill a 16-year old American Teenager?
  • Are there ANY Qualifications for Authorizing Death Sentences?
  • Why did the Obama administration wait until election season to codify rules for assassinating people?
  • Do you see a problem with “signature strikes?”

So why didn’t Obama just say, “no, the president cannot deploy drone strikes against US citizens on American soil”? Because the answer is probably “yes.”

Even so-called “liberals” like Dianne Feinstein are dead wrong on the issue, both morally and factuallyShe stated that civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes each year has “typically been in the single digits.”

According to an extensive report by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School, disputed the line coming from the White House and from Feinstein on Thursday. The report cites statistics from the U.K. based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), which found that from June 2004 to September 2012 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed between 474 to 881 civilians, including 176 children. The BIJ relies on newspaper accounts and its own independent researchers in Waziristan.

The Stanford/NYU study backs up such figures with evidence of the trauma of living under drones strikes, based on “interviews with victims and witnesses of drone activity, their family members, current and former Pakistani government officials, representatives from five major Pakistani political parties, subject matter experts, lawyers, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists.” Even if the BIJ’s lowest estimation of 474 civilians in Pakistan alone were accurate, Feinstein’s figures would still be far off the mark.

Washington Post offers data from the Web site Long War Journal, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen killed a combined 31 civilians in 2008, 84 in 2009, 20 in 2010, 30 in 2011  and 39 in 2012.

The New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, says that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone killed at least 25 civilians in 2008, 25 again in 2009, 14 in 2010, six in 2011 and five in 2012.

Hell, let’s give the drone pilots medals while we’re at it! They might get sore asses from sitting down all day!

Among self-described liberal Democrats, fully 77 percent endorse the use of drones against terrorist targets. On the question of killing Americans in drone strikes, Democrats approved of the use 58-33 percent, as did liberals, 55-35 percent.

A separate Pew study from October 2011 found that 87 percent of Americans support “increasing the use of unmanned drones,” including a majority of Democrats who said it was a “good thing.”

This is due to the false dichotomy of the blind theology set up by militant drone hawks. Either robot death from the skies, or boots on the ground?

“Drones are a lot more civilized than what we used to do. I think it’s actually a more humane weapon because it can be targeted to specific enemies and specific people.” ~Sen. Angus King’s (I-Maine)

[Drone strikes] inflict fewer civilian deaths than bombing campaigns, boots on the ground or any practical alternative.” ~New York Times columnist David Brooks

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calls the other alternative.

“We can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks”

But the dogma doesn’t allow for such creative problem-solving when singular destruction is narrowly employed. And secret, no less!

All the more reason that Yours Truly can’t wait for our civilization to be destroyed by alien life, life-destroying asteroids, or rather, exploding meteorites.

At least that wouldn’t be politically-motivated. It would be a mercy. A labor of love. Ahh.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-16: Love Songs by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

14 INSULTING LOVE SONGS

heartThis Valentine’s holiday, remember to take special care for the thoughts and feelings of your spouse or significant other. And also be careful to ensure that your words, actions and gestures can’t be taken as backhanded compliments, mixed signals, or even veiled threats. Many a promising affair has been aborted too soon by an unseemly, often unintended, insult.

This list of derogatory love songs isn’t necessarily about couples fighting, arguing, exploiting, cheating, breaking up, breaking hearts, or falling out of love. Each of those topics do cross over, of course, but could fill entire lists of their own. I believe I read some statistic somewhere that something like 152% of all songs written are love songs, so there was bound to be ample evidence of disparaging or downright offensive lyrics, whether intentional or not.

For the sake of brevity, I haven’t included any hip-hop songs, though their declarations of love are storied with unfortunate metaphor and sexist symbolism.

  1. It’s All Right With Me

Ella Fitzgerald’s song about ‘the other man’ is sort of about cheating, but she’s not addressing her devoted partner, but that secret lover that one would find so tempting.

There’s someone I’m trying so hard to forget
Don’t you want to forget someone too?

As someone who has been ‘the other man’ before, it is pretty disrespectful to be told that you are playing second-fiddle, or perhaps the rebound, or the distraction, for the head honcho who’s officially claimed your lover’s heart. Whether or not the subject in the song is aware of his role in this infidelity makes some small difference, but the insinuation is hurtful either way.

And hey, what do you mean by strangely attracted!?

  1. A Fine Romance

Surely an example of one of the first sarcastic love songs, this 1936 Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields song was used in the Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time.

These two are essentially discussing the difficulties of their “relationship”, but we all know how much Fred and Ginger (in-character) are really head-over-heels for one another. The sniping would’ve been pretty cute, if it didn’t reveal some tawdry innuendos about their lackluster love life.

A fine romance, with no kisses

So far, it has all the passion of a Rodney Dangerfield one-liner…

…you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes
A fine romance, you won’t nestle
A fine romance, you won’t wrestle

I– never mind.

I might as well play bridge
With my old maid aunt

Damn, dude. Just– damn.

A fine romance, my good fellow
You take romance, I’ll take Jell-o
You’re calmer than the seals
In the Arctic Ocean
At least they flap their fins
To express emotion

Hey, maybe she’s into that. Ew.

In the film version, their ‘fine romance’ also has the complication of previous engagements, compulsive gambling, lies, a love quadrangle, missed connections and procrastinations. Who would ask for any other convoluted love story to tell the grandkids?

  1. I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good

It’s all in the title.

Songs about negligent and/or abusive loves who don’t treat you ‘sweet and gentle the way they should’ could fill an entire catalogue of their own. But when you’re so deeply in love, and yet somehow still lucid enough to realize that it’s a bad situation to be in, you need to accept some outside help.

And when she says:

He don’t love me like I love him, nobody could…

Does she mean that no one else has the potential for a love as monumental as hers (including him), or that she’s the only one foolish enough to fall for such a loser?

  1. Use Me

So while I actually do find this Bill Withers song pretty endearing (not to mention steamy), in which a man fends off the criticisms of his friends and family about his lady love, the underlying theme is one of masochism, and possibly a dangerously co-dependent relationship (see also: any Annette Hanshaw song).

…my answer yeah to all that ‘use me’ stuff
Is I want to spread the news that if it feels this good getting used
Oh you just keep on using me until you use me up

Eeew. Listen, if I’m your brother, I do not want to hear about how your girlfriend *ahem* used you.

He doesn’t even defend his special lady from these allegations, because he doesn’t disagree with their shit-talk at all. He just happens to enjoy the things that others, in their misguided wisdom, see as twisted and wrong.

It would be one thing if the context of hot, hard use were relegated to kinky bedroom activities, but he seems to allow and even get off on being treated ill in every-day social settings:

Oh sometimes yeah it’s true you really do abuse me
You get in a crowd of high class people and then you act real rude to me
But oh baby baby baby baby when you love me I can’t get enough

Notice that he doesn’t put up with her abuse because she has an otherwise effervescent personality, or a brilliant mind, or she’s a misunderstood monster, or even rude to him in particular but kind to children, animals and waitstaff… no, it’s specifically her naughty nighttime skills that make all this pain and suffering worth it.

…but it all depends on what you do
It ain’t too bad the way you’re using me

Could it be sexy Stockholm syndrome? Sounds like somebody needs to read 50 Shades of Grey instead.

  1. Love the One You’re With

Proving that the progressive movements of the nineteen-sixties were not without their own forms of misogyny, Stephen Stills belted out this free love anthem to hundreds of thousands of mud-covered fellow travelers, many of whom had trekked to Woodstock without getting a ticket for their freaky mama or man.

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talking to

Like, woah, man, I wonder why that might be?

…your baby is so far away

This is what’s known as “rationalization.”

And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Well, heck, any old person will do! That’s what love is all about, right, Charlie Brown? Just reach out and touch someone! The next lines at least establish the parameters of consensual love:

…a girl right next to you. And she’s just waiting for something to do…

‘I’m bored, wanna fuck?’ Now, the song doesn’t necessarily advocate cheating, per se. The ‘one you love’ in question may just be an unrequited crush, or imaginary ideal, or even Jodie Foster. But that means that the ‘one you’re with’ is simply a hole for your temporary amusement. Well, she may even be fine with this arrangement, but to frame her as a consolation prize… I mean, I don’t know any woman who is turned on by the words ‘Eh, you’ll do.’

Turn your heartache right into joy
Cause she’s a girl and you’re a boy

Yep. That’s all it takes. Unless you’re in the LGBT community. Or also, y’know, have standards.

By the way, I don’t even want to know what “rose in the fisted glove” means. Yeesh.

  1. Run for Your Life

Old blues and country standards are known for men professing their love for a woman with such romantic gestures as threatening to fucking kill her. You’d think that by the ’60s and ’70s we might have overcome our baser urges. And though this Beatles song from Rubber Soul was most likely a tongue-in-cheek tribute to that trope, I feel as though most people enjoy the jaunty ditty without ever acknowledging the horrifying lyrics.

Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man…

Personally, I’d rather see her happy than dead, but what do I know?

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That’s the end’a little girl

At least the potential homicidal maniac is self-aware of his little foibles:

Well you know that I’m a wicked guy
And I was born with a jealous mind
And I can’t spend my whole life
Trying just to make you toe the line

Because if you can’t make your woman toe the line, she’s broken and must be murdered.

And in case you had any question to the sincerity of his words (they are, after all, a little hyperbolic):

Let this be a sermon
I mean everything I’ve said
Baby, I’m determined
And I’d rather see you dead

  1. You’re The One For Me, Fatty

Not only does he belittle his beloved repeatedly in the song with his economical lyrics, in typical Morrisey fashion he also makes the issue about himself by getting all needy and self-doubtful:

Promise you’ll say
If I’m in your way
You’re the one for me, fatty

I didn’t include ‘Fat Bottom Girls‘ because a) he’s not idolizing any one fatty, but all the fatties of the world, b) I’m pretty sure that no girl, fat or not, would have been Freddie Mercury’s cup-o-tea, and c) that song is clearly a genuine and sincere appreciation of big-bodied women. They do indeed make the rockin’ world go ’round.

  1. Amie

I can see why you think you belong to me
I never tried to make you think
Or let you see one thing for yourself

So here’s a guy who has given mixed messages to his girl, both putting down her ability to think on her own and admitting that he was controlling her in some way. That is Pure Prairie League, man.

But now you’re off with someone else and I’m alone
You see I thought that I might keep you for my own

Oh, now I get it. Now that she’s with somebody else, our protagonist realizes what life is like without her. He just wants what he can’t have! It’s not even about her at all! He doesn’t spend one second of the song praising her personage, intellect, humor, or even her beauty (which is what most love songs go for).

Amie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you
For a while, maybe longer if I do

I mean, Iunno. Whatevs. Leave that other guy for me and I promise you that I will commit to sort of liking you sometimes and showing up at your place at my convenience. There’s nothing a woman finds more attractive than wishy-washiness in a man. It doesn’t help that they end the song with the repeated refrain of:

I’d keep fallin’ in and out of love with you

Gee, what a lucky goil.

  1. Ruby

Ruby, don’t take your love to town

I can’t think of anything more special than immediately insinuating that your special someone is a whore.

So, right of the bat, I do feel bad for this guy. He just came back from that ‘old crazy Asian war’, or more accurately ‘atrocity-filled and unnecessary Vietnam police action.’ He tells this girl, who may or may not have been waiting for him, it seems, that he’s “not the man I used to be.” And with all the PTSD and ‘Nam flashbacks, I don’t think this is the best sweet talk. He grouses and moans about nobody wanting a mutilated amputee veteran, and pathetically opines that he just “needs some company”.

It’s hard to love a man
Whose legs are bent and paralysed
And the wants and the needs of a woman your age
Ruby, I realize,
But it won’t be long, I’ve heard them say, until I’m not around

Jeez, okay, we get it. You’re not exactly Casanova right now. Do you think it might not be your handicap, but your attitude? I missed the part where pity was supposed to be foreplay. And while I feel awful that society and the wretched U.S. government leaves its veterans out to dry, just because he’s done his “patriotic chore”, that doesn’t mean that Ruby’s “patriotic chore” is to pleasure or service your demanding ass. And if you really did realize the ‘wants and needs of a woman her age’ (shades of the chauvinistic assumption that weak-willed women are slaves to their hormones), then you’d step– *erm* –roll aside and let her live her own life!

This– this is where the song takes a sudden turn.

And if I could move I’d get my gun
And put her in the ground
Oh Ruby
Don’t take your love to town

Oh, country music. You old reprobate, you! How I wish that The Gambler or perhaps even The Coward of the County would show up and teach this old horny toad a lesson or two in the mannerly way to treat a Lady.

  1. Until the Real Thing Comes Along


So, Dean. What have you got for us?

‘d wait for you

Good so far…

I’d slave for you

That’s a tad extreme, but fine…

I’d be a beggar or a knave for you

Um, not really sure that’s necessary, but okay…

If that isn’t love, it’ll have to do

Aww, kind of sweetly modest…

Until the real thing comes along!

Wait– What? So… you’ll do anything for this woman, literally anything… unless a woman to be determined later comes along that you end up liking more? That is… fucked up, Deano. Is she just, like, your place-holder, or something? What about all the other words? Were those all lies??

I’d lie for you

Did those words mean NOTHING?

With all the words, dear, at my command
I just can’t make you understand

At this point it just sounds like a lot of empty promises and sweet nothings, in an overcompensating attempt to convince some woman that he is committed.

My heart is yours
What more can I say?

  1. If You Wanna Be Happy

This one speaks for itself:

If you wanna be happy
For the rest of your life,
Never make a pretty woman your wife,
So from my personal point of view,
Get an ugly girl to marry you.

A pretty woman makes her husband look small
And very often causes his downfall.
As soon as he marries her
Then she starts to do
The things that will break his heart.
But if you make an ugly woman your wife,
You’ll be happy for the rest of your life,
An ugly woman cooks her meals on time,
She’ll always give you peace of mind.

Don’t let your friends say
You have no taste,
Go ahead and marry anyway,
Though her face is ugly,
Her eyes don’t match,
Take it from me she’s a better catch.

Now look. If this song were about accepting and loving somebody regardless of their appearance, or appreciating them for their inner beauty, it might still be a little insulting, but still a well-meaning message overall. Instead, this song manages to be superficial and shallow to both attractive and unattractive women. Pretty girls will hurt you, and ugly girls have no hope of finding better, so they’ll stay at home and cook for you. As if it would be impossible for an “ugly” girl to commit adultery, or have a bad personality. As though there are no “pretty” women who are kind, generous, witty, caring, or faithful.

Say man.
Hey baby.
Saw your wife the other day.
Yeah?
Yeah, she’s ugly.
Yeah, she’s ugly but she sure can cook.
Yeah? Okay.

And what makes you so great, asshole? You don’t really seem like the most self-secure man on the planet.

  1. Different Drum

I respect any consenting adult’s decision to explore open relationships, to honestly play the field, or just be a generally ethical slut. But this classic Linda Ronstadt tune from 1967 reads more like an excuse to blow off some pushy sycophant.

Oh don’t get me wrong
It’s not that I knock it
It’s just that I am not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me

I’m more into guys who are… you know… kind of… whores.

Yes, and I ain’t saying you ain’t pretty
All I’m saying is I’m not ready
For any person place or thing
To try and pull the reins in on me

Hey, it’s not you, it’s me! Really! I’d be no good for you! I just can’t be tied down right now! I don’t need some needy little pissant trying to get with me. Get it?

So good-bye I’ll be leaving
I see no sense in this crying and grieving
We’ll both live a lot longer
If you live without me

So, go on now. Scoot. Go find a girl that will put up with you. Because you can’t handle this.

  1. Better Man

I hesitated to add this song, of course, because it’s so tragic and beautiful. But the implication of not being able to find a better man is pretty psychotic, when you think about it. She’s most definitely denigrating her own prowess (she really can’t do any better?), but it’s not a great vote of confidence for the man, either, that she thinks he couldn’t handle the truth about her nagging doubts and feelings.

She lies and says she’s in love with him… can’t find a better man

That’s a pretty horrible secret to keep from your boyfriend. And it doesn’t say much for either of your relationship or communication skills. He can’t intimate her emotions at all, and she’s more content living a lie than upsetting his fragile confidence.

She loved him, yeah, she don’t want to leave this way
She feeds him, yeah, that’s why she’ll be back again

This might be why she can’t find a better man. Most people wouldn’t put up with that shit.

  1. My Funny Valentine

I wouldn’t actually find this sort of thing that insulting, really. I mean, if you appreciate somebody for their weaknesses, quirks, or eccentricities, that’s much more meaningful than simply having an unrealistic ideal of your loved one (which is what most songs, poetry, and romance fiction is interested in). If you have a deeper understanding of that person, you’ll appreciate them every day, for every wrinkle, freckle and dimple. You want to find someone who doesn’t want to change you, but loves you just as you are.

In the above clip, however, Ole Blue Eyes just lays it on so thick as this poor, hapless girl just sits there and takes it. And what can she do? He’s the Chairman-of-the-freaking-Board! Even if she did muster the guts to find fault with, say, his drinking, or his family matters, or his portrayal of Pvt. Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity, he’d probably have just hauled off and slapped her.

Some people, you see, are not capable of love.

So the next time you’re putting together a playlist for your sweetheart, don’t just simply compliment their eyes and breasts. Tell them how much you deeply, sincerely, genuinely, truly, honestly appreciate their eyes and breasts.

Happy V.D., y’all!

Worst 90s Show

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The Stranger is joined by old friends to fill our time with only the very worst that the 1990’s had to offer. A challenging proposal to fit into a mere two hours, but we hope you’ll be excruciated, nonetheless.

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Erasure
Pump Up The Jam (1990) – Technotronic
What Is Love? (November 1993) – Haddaway
Meet Virginia (1999) – Train
Don’t Speak (1996) – No Doubt
Smooth (1999) – Rob Thomas & Carlos Santana
Children of the Korn (1998) – Korn
Man! I Feel Like A Woman! (1997) – Shania Twain
Achy Breaky Heart (1992) – Billy Ray Cyrus
Macarena (July 1996) – Los Del Rio
Ice Ice Baby (October 1990) – Vanilla Ice
I Wanna Sex You Up (1991) – Color Me Badd
Miami (1998) – Will Smith
Wannabe (1996) – Spice Girls
Hit Me Baby One More Time (1998) – Britney Spears
Space Jam (1996) – Quad City DJ’s
Believe (February 1999) – Cher
Butterfly (1999) – Crazy Town
This Is How We Do It (1995) – Montell Jordan
Tootsie Roll (1994) – 69 Boyz
Step By Step (1990) – New Kids On The Block
Coming Out of Their Shells, T05 Pizza Power (1990) – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Mortal Kombat (1995) – The Immortals
I Like To Move It (1994) – Reel 2 Real
Sweet Dreams (1996) – La Bouche
Better Days (May 1999) – Citizen King
Pretend We’re Dead (1992) – L7
Naked Eye (1999) – Luscious Jackson
3 Strange Days (1999) – School Of Fish
Do Right (1999) – Jimmies Chicken Shack
We Like To Party! (1999) – Vengaboys
My Heart Will Go On (1997) – Celine Dion

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-09: Worst 90s Show by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net