Friday, February 26, 2010

A Man, A Plan, A Plane

Calhoun's Can(n)ons for February 26, 2010

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrine he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. H.L. Mencken

It was a tragically perfect metaphor for our times: Average American, Joe Stack, angry at “the government” over his own self-created problems, burns his own house down then kills himself by flying his small plane into a Texas IRS building.

America has now self-devolved into a mook’s game. For over twenty years, a sufficient number of Joe Stacks believed the patent nonsense being fed to them by the carny barkers setting them up for a proper fleecing: Tax breaks for the rich would “trickle down” and make them all rich, too. Government is the problem, not the solution, which is why government needs to be starved until it’s weak and small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. The Free Market doesn’t need rules and regulation because The Free Market is never wrong and will solve all problems. Poor You are hideously, unfairly overtaxed! After all, Poor You shouldn’t have to pay taxes in order to pay for all the services you voted for. No, The Other Guy needs to pay for those things, not Poor You. Move your war-profiteering corporate and personal assets offshore into tax havens and you can still receive a standing ovation at a GOPAC convention. Question those tax same havens and you’re engaging in class warfare and are a bad American who wants the terrorists to win. The growing gap between rich and poor is a Good Thing because the American Commons is nothing but “French Socialism.” Our motto isn’t e pluribus unum, it’s “I’m All Right, Jack.”

And so, while the distracting carnival music blared in our ears and the Ferris wheel spun, our real national wealth – workers actually making things, including a living wage that created and supported whole communities -- was drained away offshore and our imaginary wealth – housing bubble Ponzi schemes and stock market gambling with imaginary money selling imaginary “products”—was finally revealed for what it always was: A mechanism to fleece the mooks.

And Everyman Joe Stack brooded. And all across the country angry citizens brooded, then put Hitler moustaches on posters of a President Obama oxymoronically labeled “Communist.” Or gathered in the thousands to angrily declare that they were tired of being overtaxed at the same time they had actually been receiving tax cuts via various stimulus packages. Inchoate anger being fueled by various demagogues – phony Astroturf groups fronting and funded by well-paid lobbyists for a variety of special interests – carny barkers signing best-selling books while preaching doctrine they know to be false to people they believe to be idiots, while the “idiots” sadly refuse to look behind the curtain.

And so it goes. Congress is now in self-inflicted gridlock because voters didn’t send a sufficient number of politicians to Washington with a clearly committed set of marching orders. Or, more accurately, didn’t send a sufficient number of politicians who weren’t already wholly own subsidiaries of Corporate America. And Congress itself continues to suffer from self-inflicted rules that have moved “majority” into “Supermajority,” procedural rules that virtually guarantee that nothing will get done. So here we are, two scorpions in a jar, locked in mortal combat, focused only on jockeying into deadly striking position, while polls now show a country adrift and best described by the phrase, “Yes we want no bananas . . . maybe.”

Over at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi continues another hilariously brilliant report on “Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle,” noting, “Instead of liquidating the prosecuting the insolvent institutions that took us all down with them in a giant Ponzi scheme, we have showered them with money and guarantees and all sorts of other enabling gestures. And what should really freak everyone out is the fact that Wall Street immediately started skimming off its own rescue money. . . . ‘It’s evidence,’ says Rep. Kanjorski,’ that they still don’t get it.’ . . . More to the point, the fact that we haven’t done much of anything to change the rules and behavior of Wall Street shows that we still don’t get it. Instituting a bailout policy that stressed recapitalizing bad banks was like the addict coming back to the con man to get his lost money back. Ask yourself how well that ever works out. And then get ready for the reload.”

And so it goes. Self-ignited, Rome burns. Demagogues fan the lucrative flames that bring them riches while burning most fiercely their self-blinded adoring supporters. And the usual foxes grin and pick fresh chicken feathers out of their teeth while Joe Stack lights a match to his own house and heads for the airport. Get ready for the reload, indeed.


Patrick O'Hannigan said...

An eloquent rant with a faulty premise, because Joe Stack was not an American "Everyman." There was more in his addled head than aversion to big government (which itself is no pathology). My neighbors, for example, don't hate the Catholic Church or quote approvingly from the Communist Manifesto, as Stack did in his suicide note.

annerallen said...

A glorious rant. All horribly true. I hadn't read that Mr. Stack quoted Marx and hated the Roman church, but that only reinforces what Ann is saying. The teabagger/anti-government (Get your evil government hands off my Medicare!) crazies are, like Stack, narcissistic,delusional,and profoundly stupid: blaming all percieved authorities for their own actions.

Yesterday one of the Repubican nay-sayers told the President he thinks health care shouldn't be run by the government--it should be run by "people". I take it by "people' he means "large, multinational corporations." And if he, a member of the government isn't "people" --what is he? A werewolf? A vampire? Maybe a zombie?

Zombies! That's it! Congress isn't made up of people--they're all zombies. That explains so much.

Alon Perlman said...

Most suicidal people are not exactly just like us (I hope). But it works for me, as a metaphor.
There is a zeitgeist of despair and a statistically probable response to malaise, and the perpetuation of attention by the media, as well as me-too-copy cat phenomenon. So there will be more.

The death of Capital with the prosperity pockets still shifting the rat-piles around. It's a festering mess, free markets in the traditional sense can't operate to turn out NEEDED goods and services. Regulation; can't live without it, can't live with it. And its not just the people we eleted to steal our money, the very institusions are creaking under decades of disrepair. Too many cracks for special interests to ooze through, too many gatekeepers and table rearrangers, with a sweaty palm up.

It almost makes you want to walk up to your congressperson and offer them the top of your head for a bite. A few minutes in through the crunchiness and into the soft chewy center and it will all start to make sense again.

Darnit; Ann- first I got depressed, now I'm ranting. good thing I never took up light aircrft piloting. Tomato bisque soup with Huge Croutons?

Yeh dropped yer Reid Kandy Apple, Sonney?
I’m ahm jist the Carneyman, not the free-Kandyman.
Annit it looks lahk, ye paid yer perty penny arlraidy and you done tooked yer chances.
So pick it up arl carefill like, and taik a bite from ther side that don't got no gravel on it.

Donna said...

i cannot tell you the last time i even thought of the word, "mook". does it just come swirling up or do you have to stretch and rewrite your delicious articles?

Churadogs said...

Anne Allen: WOA! Start writing, girl. The Declaration of Independence With Zombies! A best seller, for sure. Throw in some Emily Dickinson and there you have it!

Donna. Mooks. No, that just sorta popped into my head while watching this whole health care discussion. Of course, maybe Mat Taibbi used it in his brilliant series on Wall Street and it stuck in my brain waiting to fall out.

Alon. offering our skulls for a knosh. hahahahahahah, what an image.

Patrick: I think what makes Stack an "everyman" besides being an ordinary guy -- family, hobies, mowing the lawn of the house in the suburbs, a hidden inner life and a head filled with strange theories -- is the last part; head filled with half-baked theories and notions. Watching the TV news of the Tea Party folks, for example, out falls this strange, confused mash-up of tropes and mantras, few of which they've actually thought through. The classic was the we don't want government health care so keep your hands off my Medicare. Or what Anne mentioned above, we want a system run by . . . people. Instead, we get frightened people handed pre-digested mantras and carefully worded "talking points" designed to mislead and manipulate and too often lead them to doing harm to themselves and others. And if we have a growing nation of dumbed down, historically-challenged naifs who do not know how to parse a phony talking point, (exactly what does the phrase "death panels" actually mean in the context of the health bill, Hmmmm? Please explain, exactly, the message your conveying when you arrive at a medical reform rally with a pistol strapped to your leg? In what way do the gun and Medicare payment schedule adjustments relate? Please be specific and outline the points of connection.) then lying to them becomes a piece of cake. And when one muddled guy jumps his own personal sharks, aided and abeted by all the cooked-up phony sharks, eyes start shifting sideways, fingernails get suddenly interesting and gazed at as if they held important information and as quickly as possible the subject is changed. Oh, Stack was sui generis. WE had nothing to do with HIS problems, No, No, perish the thought. More coffee anyone?

Spectator said...

I wish I knew what makes Ann Calhoun think like she does. She is like two persons, one with the light of beauty from without shining within, the other doomed to despair.

Churadogs said...

Gee, Spectator, that's called being fully human, or as Walt Whitman described it, I contain multitudes. Are you so shut off from the full range that life offers that everything in you is a limited pallett of a few greys? Gosh, I hope not.

Spectator said...

Hola Ann!

I am not so sure that the doomed aspect leads to being fully human, although it is normal to contemplate death. Containing multitudes is strange split multiple personality stuff that I studied at university. They called it psychosis: abnormal personality.
You are not that way. It is just that very few happy people can contemplate dogs, flowers, and poetry, while being extremely bitter that life is screwing them.

I wish you had a life like mine. As I look out the windows of my fully owned and paid for 5200 sq. ft. house in Boquete, the sky is blue and the temperature is 69 degrees with 65% humidity. It will get no warmer than 76 degrees today. The sun rises at 6:30 AM and sets at 6:30 PM. I have a wonderful wife and neighbors who love it here. No pallets of grey, everything is vivid. We have internet, cable TV, and no property taxes for twenty years. Our sales tax is 5 1/2%. No inheritance taxes or beggars. Hard workers, although with limited training. One hour a way I have my boat at and the boat is only 2 hours from the Hannibal banks, the finest big game fishing in the world. It is warm on the coast and humid. But life is always grand at Boca Chica.

Boquete Panama, has been found to be the fifth best place to retire to in the world. Carpe diem.

Churadogs said...

Spectator. You must be unfamiliar with Whitman. Maybe you didn't take literature classes at university? "Multitudes" does not refer to psychosis. Whitman's a poet. It's a metaphor. And you misread me, which is not a surprise. A few folks on this blog misread me all the time. I'm not bitter and life is not screwing me. I am extrordinarily lucky and, like you, could spend my time crowing about my I'm All Right, Jack life, but I am also not blind to or unmindful of the sad, painful, often terrible stuff that's hitting so many of my fellow travelers on this planet. And I'm betting, just down the road from your lovely enclave, there are many, many sad, painful, often terrible stories going on, too. And who knows, there might even be some stories down that road that you could help improve, if you chose to. Of course, doing that might interfere with your fishing time, so I guess that'd be out.

Spectator said...

Ann: You would never again wish to be a gringo if you could one time be a Panamanian on Saturday night.

No sad, painful, or often terrible stories going on down the road or close by. I live in an agricultural province, and people work. They are 98% catholic and live for religion and family. They have families that they assist and assist them. People here are mostly givers, not takers.

Sure, many are poor by US standards, with an annual income under $5000. But they don't care about TV sets, fancy cars (many have beautiful horses), etc. What they care about mostly are their children and grandkids. They are happy. Nobody here wishes to move to the US, they have no reason to.

The people here in our agricultural society are conservative, trusting in tried and true values. The government does not have it's hand in their pockets. They know that they have to work to succeed. This is totally unlike progressives of the Obama persuasion who do not care about putting a terrible debt upon US children and grandchildren as long as they get what they want.

The only place socialism and communism has ever succeeded is with nuns and monks who have none and get none. If you wish the concepts of Marx to succeed prepare yourself for none.

I keep hearing about all the people in the US (30-50 million) that do not have health care although any one can go to an emergency room and get such without refusal. It appears to me that many of these people have made the choice not to buy insurance because of this, fully understanding that a good car, six pack of beer, TV, and amenities in a home are more important than the sacrifice to buy a policy.

I also cannot understand how the US government can force people one way or another to buy insurance without taking their freedom away ( or at least a new TV set, six pack of beer a day, or shiny car.)

Actually, I cannot understand how people will allow this.

Mike said...

Thank you Spectator...!!!!

I think you once apon a time wrote what it takes to buy a property or to retire down there... Would you mind readdressing those requirements once again... I'm more than intriqued....

Thanks, Mike

Mike said...

Just found this link...

Churadogs said...

Spectator sez:"I keep hearing about all the people in the US (30-50 million) that do not have health care although any one can go to an emergency room and get such without refusal. It appears to me that many of these people have made the choice not to buy insurance because of this, fully understanding that a good car, six pack of beer, TV, and amenities in a home are more important than the sacrifice to buy a policy."

Actually, I'm betting these folks bought into the magical Grover Norquist/Ronald Reaganish mantra that taxes are BAD, without understanding that taxes PAY FOR STUFF the people who think taxes are BAD want to have, like emergency room medical care that they somehow think is "free." Like they think roads are free and public education is free and wars are free and tax breaks for corporations are free and they see no reason why THEY should pay for those things even while accessing them.

And sez "I also cannot understand how the US government can force people one way or another to buy insurance without taking their freedom away ( or at least a new TV set, six pack of beer a day, or shiny car.)"

This one will be interesting and may well end up in the Roberts' Supreme Court: Can the U.S. government force citizens to buy crappy private insurance policies from private for-profit companies?

and sez:" Actually, I cannot understand how people will allow this."

Actually, it's amazing what people will allow when you lie to them, or use scare tactics and lies to buffalo them into voting against their own best interests or believing absolute nonsense & etc.

Mike said...

...ya must mean the way the Recall folks did with their "Plan" and the way the PZLDF did NOT pay their own legal fees per the "agreement"... Ya mean THOSE LIES...????

Are you really for continueing the Californina welfare state...??? How about the waste in the education system...??? Why not spend some energy on eliminating the goverment giveaway programs and out right fraud...??? Hell NO, we don't need more taxes..!!!!! We can't continue to spend more than we take in...!!!! ...and that doesn't mean continue to tax the working man so the lazy can continue to buy their 6-packs and dope...!!!