Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Indiana GOP's Laughable Obama Mailer on William Ayers

South Bend, Indiana
--What do you do when your party has nothing to offer the public except more of the same corruption, pederasty, whore-mongering, ethical-lapses, and an unbending loyalty to the rich at the expense of the rest of the public? You keep beating the same drum, over-and-over again because you have no new ideas or agendas and never did. In that moronic indefatigable spirit, Indiana's GOP sent this piece-of-paper to me.

This isn't to say Barack Obama is perfect by a long-shot, but the connection to
former Weathermen leader Bill Ayers is stretching things more than a little bit. The truth is, it's a blatant lie meant to squeeze the rest of that 9/11 fear out of a frightened minority of the public.

Recall that this piece is coming from someone who doesn't intend to vote for Barack Obama, but for Ralph Nader (a write-in, Madonna's...well, Madonna, though Mickey Mouse is a real person). That said, I don't have a problem with the majority of the Weathermen bombings, though the truth be known, their core leadership (people like Ayers and Dohrn) were all rich kids throwing a tantrum over their parents' war. Like their parents, they had--and probably still harbor--a lust for power, which they got a good taste of during their rampage.

But the United States was committing genocide in Southeast Asia at that time, violence against Black Americans over the Civil Rights movement was appalling and widespread, and the nation was in flames and divided as it had been during the Civil War. Today, one could argue forcefully that we're doing the same things in slow-motion in Iraq, and that the GOP is doing their best to neglect and disenfranchise Blacks. One would expect similar activitites as the Weathermen today, but welcome to the post-9/11 and Oklahoma City bombing world. Today, domestic terrorism is unlikely to come from a leftward-direction.

If you're an individual who sees these things for what they are--unspeakable crimes against humanity committed by our government for the benefit of giant corporations, you have some options.The choices are few and difficult: you could just try to go on with your life knowing what's really happening in another country in your name. If you have a conscience, this isn't going to be easy, but never underestimate the power of rationalization, it worked wonders in Germany under Hitler. One of them is what Ayers and the rest of them did during the Vietnam war, though I don't recommend doing so.

Another option is to back what's happening wholeheartedly, eventually becoming a party to the slaughter, if only indirectly. This is the easiest route, since most of society and its institutions are going to tell you constantly that this viewpoint is not only valid, but necessary for "the maintenance of our way of life." And isn't our way of life wonderful? You'll be rewarded for doing what's wrong in most cases, but it's even money you won't be punished...at least not by Americans.

Yet another option is to take the route of nonviolent civil disobedience to the war, not even allowing for the application of violence against property that serves the war's expediencies--property that makes the war possible at all, like supply-dumps, recruiting centers, military bases, defense research labs, defense contractors and their facilities, defense research labs at public universities, and-so-on. These were the kinds of targets that the Weathermen targeted, and their main goal was to destroy property only, not to target human beings. But they did want to instill fear and terror in those who supported and expedited the war in Southeast Asia, making them terrorists. They wanted to "spread the love," which I don't find morally wrong.

Ultimately, I don't advocate what Ayers and others in the Weathermen Group did during the 1960s-70s. They and a group that became the PLP (the ineffectual Maoist People's Labor Party) splintered the most effective progressive student political organizations, SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) America has likely ever known. That's not the issue. The issue is Obama's connection to Ayers, which is practically nonexistent. Times have changed, but the GOP doesn't appear to have noticed.

For example, the generation of new voters never lived through the red-baiting of the Cold War years, scarcely knows all the details of the 1960s, and doesn't really care at all. They just know things are fucked-up and that they don't make enough money to live on. No "socialism" there, just common sense by ordinary people. The kids don't want to hear about Bill Ayers. Neither do the majority of Americans who want to hear about what McCain and Palin plan to do to "fix" the economy and to stabilize it. Reform is in the air, but all candidate McCain can do is talk about Ayers. This is because he has no "plan" and no vision, and neither does the rest of his obsolete party (who said they were ever good? not I).

Imagine that: all the GOP has to sell is fear. That's not a good platform for needed change that the vast majority of the public now wants and is going to start demanding before long. But please, please keep banging that same drum until the bitter end. I know you will. In one week--at-minimum--you're going to lose a lot of seats in Congress. And, oh yeah: thanks Indiana GOP, I needed kindling to burn the rest of my trash out here in the country. Thanks.

If Bill Ayers was a threat to anyone during the 1960s-70s, it was himself and the rest of the Weathermen, a cop, and a janitor. He and his wife Bernadine Dohrn helped splinter most of the New Left, making it essentially impotent in-the-face of an escalating war under President Nixon. It's all reminiscent of what Pier Paolo Pasolini said about the student riots in Paris during the Spring of 1968. "It's an internecine struggle." said the radical Italian Communist, poet, philosopher, movie director, and general polymath. Pasolini was right about Europe--and unwittingly--about people like the Weathermen. Ayers and Dohrn came from privileged-backgrounds. While underclass radicals went to prison in the 1970s-80s, Ayers and Dohrn were allowed into academia. Maybe that's why they do so much community work today. They should for the rest of their lives, they owe us and their comrades in our prison system.

This Republican mailer below omits quite a bit. If you were ignorant of the facts--as most Hoosiers are--you'd think Ayers met Obama right after he stopped bombing and turned himself in alongside his wife in 1980. Obama was a blip at that time, a nobody.

Barack Obama a radical Leftist? Take it from someone who actually is: that's a laugh. If only he was a Fred Hampton, a Malcolm X, or a Martin Luther King Jr. The fact is, he isn't.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

CNN, Fox News, and the rest of the American mainstream media not reporting Italian General Strike

Berlusconi's Italy--If you watch tv for your news, you would never know this. Just one more reason that the internet is a better source of news and information, even with all the noise, mis-and-disinformation, and outright lies.

Internet searches only bring a few American notices, none of them any of the major wire services, excepting UPI, though they narrow it to being just a "transport strike." As far as mainstream American media is concerned, it never happened. Neither did the renewal of the Italian Communist Party as a force in national politics out of the strike, or the 300,000 protesters in Rome's Piazza San Giovanni.

What's it over? So-called "reforms" by the Berlusconi government in public jobs and education. The President wishes to cut pensions, have fewer teachers in classrooms, and wants to institute an authoritarian structure in Italian education. Few support these moves in Italy.

If you do a search on the subject on most any major search engine, you're not going to find much on this. The General Strike began on October 17th by educational, public transport, healthcare services, and by members of various other public occupations. Only lasting a few days, it's been a resounding success with the participation of students. Understand now why you aren't supposed to know this? Maybe there are other wire stories on this, but they aren't coming-up in any deep searches.

The great thing about the Italians is that they don't take things lying-down like Americans. Capital still has its battles with ordinary people there, often losing to worker demands. For all intents, the strike has ended with a defeat for the rightist Berlusconi, who like Canada's Stephen Harper can expect to be politically isolated in the event of a Democratic landslide on November 4th.

Note: The ANSA article has served as the general template for what few American news-outlets covering the story at all. That means that virtually no American journalist has reported on this story from Italy. Were they told to "stand down"?

"Strike brings Italy to a halt, "ANSA, 10.17.2008: http://www.ansa.it/site/notizie/awnplus/english/news/2008-10-17_117266546.html

Friday, October 24, 2008

If Obama becomes president-elect

A'murka--Look, you have no idea how thrilling the idea of a Black American president is to me. The only single group of Americans that I've consistently had respect for besides Jews are Black people. Not Poles, not German-Americans, not anyone else.

But the problem is, we're probably all going to hate Obama after he's done very little in the social agendas we all need expedited. We're going to have to fight and pressure him to do what's right. Even if the Democrats somehow win a veto-proof and filibuster-proof majority in both houses of Congress, most of them are going to do their best along with the Republicans to derail any substantial social-dividend.

That's right: I'm saying that if Obama wins, in three-years you're all going to hate him and think he's the same kind of son-of-a-bitch that's leaving office on January 20th, 2009. Why do I think this? My knowledge of American history and its trends and cycles, especially regarding the last 30 years. That said, I wouldn't dissuade many voters from casting their votes for candidate Barack Obama, and would never advocate them voting for a Republican in any lifetime. Obama's record is hardly sterling or pure on a social agenda, let alone on the wars in the Middle East, nor regarding the obvious crimes of the Bush administration.

Obama has voted for funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without exception, and there are troubling-signs elsewhere. For a former professor of constitutional law, he has some very peculiar viewpoints on what's acceptable behavior by a presidential administration. He has not called for the prosecution of a patently criminal administration, let alone for its impeachment. While it's true that he didn't vote for the authorization of force in Iraq, it's even money that he would have, his only out being that he wasn't a member of Congress at the time.

Mark these words: you're going to hate this man if he wins, and in a very short time...unless you apply extraordinary pressure on him and Congress to push for a more social agenda for all, a genuine redistribution of wealth that's unprecedented in our history. Only then can we be a viable nation that can compete on the world stage, bringing-back a nation that was once an innovator in so many areas.

This requires breaking the logjam of concentrated power, that greatest threat to ingenuity, spontaneity, and inventiveness that really did make this a great nation at one time. My feeling is he's going to blow it because he's going to be told to by his handlers. He shows all the warning-signs. I'm voting Nader/Gonzales so I can sleep at night.

A new plan for Seward's icebox, by Len Davinny

Below is the logo for Alaskan Independence Party.

Now listen carefully: First we help them secede and achieve nationhood. Then we declare war on a made-up pretext like destruction of the international ecological balance (don't worry about us being more to blame than anyone else, truth has never stood in our way in the past, trust me on that), invade, and take possession of mineral rights though not admitting it as usual, and then we deal with their former Head of State. Just like in Iraq.

Only we feed her to a lovable AIP mascot, just like the one on the romantic, maverickishly- inspired logo. Case closed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Breaking news (OK, it's old): "Obama girl" for Nader and ruminations on the Cult of Personality

The Campaign Trail of Hope(?)--Obama girl has changed her mind on Barack over the last few months, and she's not alone.

Neither major party candidate is addressing the current financial crisis in any substantial or concrete terms, just more of the same. For this reason and all the numerous others, it's time to build a strong third party movement in America, and it has been a long time coming.

Though attempts at this during the Great Depression didn't pan-out, the voice of the people was heard loud and clear through the protest vote. The message remained clear, even after being filtered through the tragically flawed "pundits" and "Populist" leaders of that time, like the Catholic Father Charles E. Coughlin, Huey Long, and Dr. Francis E. Townsend.

Coughlin was a Catholic priest who preached a kind of peculiar social liberation gospel out of Northern Michigan and had a radio show from which he railed against Wall Street after the great crash of 1929. Long was an utterly corrupt Governor of Louisiana (though he did deliver social programs better than most states, even bettering the federal government's) who was dead by an assassin's bullet by 1935, and Dr. Townsend was a retired Doctor who found himself 66 and destitute during the Great Depression. After a long period of lecturing for aid to the elderly, Townsend actually had some real success with the creation of Social Security for the elderly. Millions listened to his radio broadcasts on the economic crisis and the government's inaction, and sent his organization large amounts of money as they did with Long and Coughlin. But these weren't perfect men by any means.

The others succumbed to their own egos in some way or another and became what is commonly known as "demagogues," which is much like accusing someone of yelling fire in a crowded theater. You might cause a stampede. But were they rabble rousers trying to fan the flames of hysteria in-the-midst of the Great Depression and the government's inaction under Herbert Hoover? Yes and no, though--like everything else--it's down to one's political opinions and persuasion where you come down on their methods and rhetoric. The fact is, people were angry and confused just as they are today and wanted some voice of reason, or any voice, that echoed their concerns and offered proposals to fix the economy. Not being genius material, these very famous men were really just channels for the feelings and ideas of the public during hard times, lifted-up by the masses to address and convey what the public wanted.

After all, here are no supermen coming to save us, and the public is the solution. As then, we're trying hard not to learn this, but we might succeed despite ourselves in improving our lives when this all blows over. When we no longer need them, we discard the so-called "strong men," because we should.

Predicably, Coughlin tended to go with whatever the trends of the day happened to be at the moment on his radio show, a program that was heard by as many as 40 million at its peak. In some respects, the "radio priest" whose broadcasts and sermons originated out of Royal Oak, Michigan, resembles today's Michael Moore who uses the mainstream media to spread the message of a socially progressive agenda. But that's where the comparisons end.
[Ed., 10.25.2008--Both men have roots in Canada. Coughlin was originally from there, while Moore has Canadian relatives.]

Charles E. Coughlin was the same kind of disappointing blend of Jew-baiter and hypocrite as many of the Populists of the 1890s had been (my own great-great grandfather
possibly being one). To be certain, the radio priest was a reactionary fascist who made a fortune from his radio broadcasts against Wall Street and the rest of big business--and then promptly invested in it. The irony is that without much of his agitating--and the agitating of the other Populists and the Left--against the Roosevelt administration and Congress, a number of important pieces of social legislation might never have gone anywhere. Bad times open-up these kinds of opportunities, and nothing comes from power without a demand, even when the messengers are wrong-headed boobs.

Coughlin, who claimed to have confronted the KKK for their acts of anti-Catholic violence degenerated into--or was revealed to be--a rabid anti-Semite and a hypocrite, finally embracing Hitler and National Socialism in Germany by the late-1930s. He was far from alone in this, and shared this opinion of fascism with that of the business class of his day. One of them was the grandfather of George W. Bush. After Pearl Harbor, nobody wanted to listen to the radio priest anymore. His Union Party and the Populist convention that converged in 1936 couldn't agree on much, his popularity was waning due to revelations of his own large-holdings on the Wall Street he railed against, and with the assassination of Huey Long, the momentum for a viable Populist Party had stalled once again (an 1896 attempt had also failed).
But then, there's the fact that change sometimes occurs on-accident, but that's life. Long was larger-than-life.

As should be clear by now, Huey Long ran the state of Louisiana like a dictator. Yet Long began what was the template for massive public works programs in the state and went as far as to levy heavy taxes on the oil companies drilling off the shores of the Gulf state. Imagine a politician doing this today, because you're going to have to. At one point, Long was both the governor and a senator of and to Louisiana. Many in and out of Louisiana thought he was a run amok demagogue who had to be stopped.

To say that Huey Long was flamboyant would be an understatement, and the governor used the medium of radio and speechmaking as well as Coughlin and FDR, if not better. Eventually, his growing power and fame would put him in an adversarial position with the president and many others. Ironically, the Louisiana governor was a longtime supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but his own aspirations for the White House severed the ties between them. In 1934, Long created the "Share-our-Wealth Society," a political organization that was supported by tens-of-millions like Coughlin's and Townsend's own groups. When Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama mentioned the term "share-our-wealth," he was referring to Long in an oblique way.

Long stated in an April, 1935 radio address:

Now in the third year of his administration, we find more of our people unemployed than at any other time. We find our houses empty and our people hungry, many of them half-clothed and many of them not clothed at all.
Mr. Hopkins announced twenty-two millions on the dole, a new high-water mark in that particular sum, a few weeks ago. We find not only the people going further into debt, but that the United States is going further into debt. The states are going further into debt, and the cities and towns are even going into bankruptcy. The condition has become deplorable. Instead of his promises, the only remedy that Mr. Roosevelt has prescribed is to borrow more money if he can and to go further into debt. The last move was to borrow $5 billion more on which we must pay interest for the balance of our lifetimes, and probably during the lifetime of our children. And with it all, there stalks a slimy specter of want, hunger, destitution, and pestilence, all because of the fact that in the land of too much and of too much to wear, our president has failed in his promise to have these necessities of life distributed into the hands of the people who have need of them. (http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5109/)
It all sounds very familiar, even timely to our present crisis. Long was dead not long after the broadcast, and it had been hoped that he would be part of a coalition with Townsend, Coughlin, and other progressive groups fighting for social programs to fix a broken nation and economy. With the exception of Huey Long, none of these men ever held public office and were generally off the public stage by the end of the 1930s. Their dreams--and the dreams of the tens-of-millions of Americans who backed them--of a unified national Populist Party--were dashed on the rocks.
Yet, things changed in the several of the directions they had pushed, and they influenced the public dialogue for a badly needed social agenda during an unprecedented economic crisis. It wasn't just FDR or Congress that created the New Deal. It was the American people, speaking through these horribly imperfect men, who achieved the Social Security programs, the public works programs that brought people out of widespread unemployment and poverty, who created progressive taxation, who unionized the workplaces of predatory and exploitative employers, and who helped civilize this society in ways their ancestors would have thought unthinkable.
But where does Ralph Nader fit into this? Why should he run at all if he doesn't have much of a chance of winning?

Things change, and contexts change. We're in a threshold moment in our history where things are never going to be the same ever again. These moments hold incredible opportunities that must be acted on by the public if they want them to go in a constructive direction for all. Some of the infrastructure is already here with the internet, but we must begin rebuilding social-networks based on trust and friendship. The day of "me first, and only me" is coming to a crashing end, and only by banding together and helping one another will we come out the other end with a nation worth living in and defending.

"Obama girl" isn't a girl at all, but a woman. She's grown-up and understands that the two party system is going to fail us without some very hard shoves. For this reason, she--like myself and many others--will be supporting our most responsible public citizen, Ralph Nader. Because, you don't always have to "win," but you have to pressure the people in Washington endlessly to do what you want them to do for the good of everyone. Hint: you don't ask. Trust is important, foster it in yourself and others. Have someone else's back. Smile. Make a friend. Open a door for an old lady. Give people the right-of-way. Treat others as you would like to be treated. That's the social contract, and it's time to retake the political process in this country. Why Nader? Why not? People like Ralph Nader are here to push the politicians to serve the public.

The myth is that Nader's the "spoiler" of the 2000 election, which is a lie and holds an anti-democratic attitude that deserves no quarter. Democrats should remember that the Republicans are working hard to attempt stealing this election as they have done so for a very long time. But there's a catch: it has to be close. That's also not Ralph Nader's fault, but the fault of the electorate for choosing poorly, especially when they vote Republican, truly the party of crime and corruption.

Vote with your heart and your mind, but also with your conscience. Don't ignore the warning-signs of a candidate, and remember that you're going to hold them accountable once they're in office. The last eight years is the cost of apathy and indifference in these areas.

Postscript, 10.25.2008: The best thing to remember with Nader is that he's also a person-of-color, an Arab-American, and one of the finest examples of the positive-effects of immigration for America. His parents were Lebanese. I will be voting for another historically unprecedented candidate besides Obama. Who's done more for America? Obama or Ralph Nader? It wouldn't matter who it was--don't listen to me--a voter--and you're going to be out. That includes Ralph Nader, or anyone else.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Poor Old 'Joe the Plumber' " line being parroted by mainstream press

WWW--Yes, "poor" old Sam is getting his ass kicked all over the terra because he felt compelled to make inane comments towards Barack Obama, on taxes, lied about his occupation and name, and why he has such a stupid haircut. The abuse came, as it tends to, from the late night shows like David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and the Tonight Show.

So what? You knew the cameras were around, and you knew your own past...or did you? Get over it. Grow-up. "Sam the plumber" deserves no defending whatsoever, and he decided to open his big mouth, chasing-down the candidate and the news crews with his predictably unimportant comments on the state of America. With luck, he and others like him will never vote again if they plan on it always being for the GOP.

Lesson: people with storied pasts should watch what they say regarding issues like taxation when they have their own questionable behaviors surrounding said issues. Wurzelbacher is a 34-year-old blowhard and a tax-cheat.

Nuff said, but even (even?!)
CNN's Lou Dobbs is out there asking with unbelievable temerity: "Has Plumber Joe been treated unfairly by the media?" No. How about asking yourself, Lou? Stupid, just stupid. Quit embarrassing me, America. Nice try, GOP, it didn't work. Pathetic.

"Our beloved Nancy Reagan is in the hospital." --John McCain

WWW--McCain mentioned this for no apparent reason during the final presidential debate, just underscoring again-and-again that he's living in the past. That's right, she's yours, not ours, and those of us with a clue would never refer to Nancy Reagan as "beloved." Not even for when she pressed her ignorant husband to say something about AIDs while he was still president. He eventually did, but it was too late.

Those who refer to Ronald Reagan and his wife in such terms have an agenda in saying such wildly ridiculous drivel. If they care at all, it's because he irresponsibly deregulated so many industries that they and their superiors got rich. Absurd. I know, but I'm...just...jealous. Of what, I have no idea.

Songs from the Site Meter: The Sibley Clan?

Site Meter--My "relationship" with close-to-erstwhile attorney Montgomery Blair Sibley (former DC Madam counsel) has been storied-at-best. Like erstwhile author Bill Keisling, Sibley's come around looking for my pieces of information regarding the case, and I have to be fair: he's been pretty equitable in sharing, which is saying a lot more in his favor than Keisling who wanted and never gave-in-return.

Sibley's also been much more well-mannered than Keisling, whose overall sincerity I doubt on a number of topics. That might be because he filed for chapter 13 reorganization before his role in the DC Madam's saga, and needed a big story to pay some outstanding bills. It appears that I'm not alone in my suspicions that he's ingenuine. But Keisling told me a number of extraordinarily wild "facts" surrounding the case, and claimed they were by-way of Sibley.

Some of these statements appear to be spot-on, but then he clammed-up entirely after getting a few emails between Palfrey and I. I'd love a clarification from Mr. Keisling, it might allay my own fears, and the fears of others regarding his investigative behaviors that smack more of a used car salesman than someone wishing to fix a broken system. My own hunch is that one thing he told me was true: that he's ghostwriting Sibley's book for a cut. If that's the case, it explains why he won't discuss anything with me--he's under contract to the Marianne Strong Agency and cannot.

That said, the Sibley clan originates from Rochester, NY, where Montgomery Blair Sibley was raised. Interestingly, Keisling once conveyed to me that he was researching a story in upperstate New York before he cut all contact. But "Blair's" also been awfully quiet these days--he's finishing his take on the Palfrey scandal. Who knows who this hit might be? Without being prolix...

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rr.com ? (Commercial)
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74.74.155.# (Road Runner)
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Joe (really Sam, but "Joe" sounds more iconic, so he ran with it) the plumber butt

" 'I’m kind of like Britney Spears having a headache. ...Everybody wants to know about it.' ” --Faux Ohio plumber Samuel Wurzelbacher shooting his mouth off again on Thursday. (AP)

Holland, Ohio--Poor Joe. He won't pay his taxes, he doesn't really have the legal right to work as a plumber in and around Toledo (making him an unqualified scab), and he couldn't sto
p and think about these facts when he opened his big mouth towards presidential candidate Barack Obama. This would all be due to the fact that he's clearly unintelligent, making him a Republican by-default.

The Obama campaign was doing door-to-door meetings with voters in Joe's neighborhood, and it was entirely coincidental--but very likely, it being Ohio--that they brushed-up against a very silly and stupid man named Samuel Wurzelbacher, who likes to go by the name of "Joe." Or was it a coincidence?

Wurzelbacher finally had his "chance" at his own fifteen minutes of fame, and now he wishes that he hadn't taken it. He's now ducking any and all media outlets. But all the lapdog press has been doing is balancing him with the reality of his statements about the candidate, his platform, and Wurzelbacher's
claims about himself. Unsurprisingly, they don't match-up with objective reality, but since when has that ever stopped a wrong-headed American from shooting their mouth off in a way that can only hurt themselves? Ahem.

As we all know by now, Wurzelbacher questioned Obama's tax plan, echoing baseless GOP attacks that we're all--all of us--going to be taxed higher, even the rest of us who make under $250,000 a year, like "Joe." Except "Joe" doesn't make what the rest of us do, he makes significantly more, at least $100,000-a-year. Yes, I feel so sorry for everyone who makes that much a year, but they shouldn't be so afraid of Obama, he's got their tax-cheat backs more than they or Wurzelbacher might suspect. Even the late DC Madam paid her taxes properly.

Not ever wanting to look into someone's background, as in the case of VP candidate Sarah Palin,
John McCain's campaign grabbed for any straw man they could. McCain went on to mention that he was fighting for "the Joes out there" during the final presidential debate, the name being a kind of catch-all for the "everyman," the working man.

The problem is, it's not 1951 anymore, and by that point the ladies were part of the workforce anyway. Women don't figure highly in the McCain campaign's rhetoric, Palin aside, and the implications that they favor a male-dominated nuclear family as a social model are obvious. "Joe" (Sam) personifies this ossified model of wrong-headed patriarchal pacification of the rest of us. Hasn't it worked wonders for the economy and our rights these last eight years? How about the breadth of our history?

Never mind all that, Joe doesn't want to pay taxes, and he told Obama this squarely:
“Do you believe in the American dream? I'm being taxed more and more for fulfilling the American dream. ...I’m getting ready to buy a company that makes $250,000 to $280,000 a year. ...Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?” [emphasis added] Yes, it's hard to feel sorry for someone ostensibly poised to make a quarter million a year who doesn't want to pay their share of taxes. These were just some of the loaded questions in which Wurzelbacher neglected to provide the full-context of who he is and where he's been--he's practically a partner in the "firm" he works for with one Al Newell, and that's for starters. Do both of them split the money evenly? We don't know. I don't believe in the American Dream, that's a myth, it's crap.

Even if they did split their business's income previously, Obama's tax plan wouldn't cause a rise in their taxes, and Wurzelbacher knew this when he hit the candidate with the question. It gets worse regarding
taxes for Sam.
... And Mr. Wurzelbacher has provided only vague information on his and the company’s finances since talking to Mr. Obama. But if the plumbing business remained a two-person company and the net proceeds — after deductions for business expenses — were shared by the two men, both incomes would most likely fall well below the top tax brackets on which Mr. Obama wants to raise rates, as would the company itself.

... According to public records, Mr. Wurzelbacher has been subject to two liens, each over $1,100 [Ed.--According to Ohio state websites, his state income tax lien is $1, 182.98.]. One, with a hospital, has been settled, but a tax lien with the State of Ohio is still outstanding. ("Real Deal on 'Joe the Plumber' Reveals New Slant," The New York Times, 10.16.2008)

Why would Mr. Newell and Wurzelbacher be so coy about their financial arrangements? Questions directed at candidate Obama were by "Joe" were skewed and loaded regarding his own actual situation, which begs numerous others.

Even if the faux-plumber buys-out Newell's share of the plumbing firm it's unlikely that he'll be paying more taxes under the Obama plan, and he probably understood this when he confronted the presidential candidate. Perhaps he just had a lot to hide? There are other facts regarding the business he works for that he wasn't exactly upfront about, though it's becoming clear that he has problems with mathematics (don't we all?) in many areas.

According to an analysis by Dun & Bradstreet on Wurzelbacher's employer, A. W. Newell Corp., the plumbing and heating contractor has annual sales of $510,000.

If Wurzelbacher bought the company, by the time he took proper business deductions, Bankler said, he'd be left with between $150,000 and $200,000 in taxable income and wouldn't be affected by Obama's proposed increase in the top rates. (" 'Joe the Plumber,' Obama Tax-Plan Critic Owes Taxes (Update 2)," Bloomberg, 10.16.2008)

And so, either Mr. Newell isn't being forthcoming with his "employee," Wurtzelbacher is simply poor at math, or one or both of them isn't being very honest. To be sure, we'll all be finding out very soon who he really is and what their company is really up to.

Then, there are other troubling possibilities, such as the fact that Wurzelbacher lived at 1960 W. Keating Dr., Mesa, Arizona, part of a sprawling apartment subdivision (Dobson Ranch) constructed during the 1970s by the Savings and Loan corruption scandal figure of almost twenty-years-ago. Keating is connected to McCain from that time, and even earlier, and Wurzelbacher's connections to the former perp could be quite intimate.

Maybe these are just coincidences, but one fact is particularly bizarre: it appears that Wurzelbacher purchased his current residence in August of this year. It's either one of an incredible series of coincidences, or it isn't, yet it has all the markings of a Karl Rove job, including possible past break-ins and/or infiltration of the Obama campaign by various GOP operatives. It's possible that Mr. Wurzelbacher is one himself.

At the very least, his 13-year-old kid, his ex-wife, former in-laws, and every person he's ever snubbed or offended now have a new stick to hit Wurzelbacher with for the rest of his natural life. When Obama suggested he wanted to "spread the wealth," Wurzelbacher retorted the standard line of "That's Socialism." Why yes, it is, and it's coming, Sammie. Not tomorrow, but today, now, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. That's how history works sometimes.

" 'Joe the Plumber,' Obama Tax-Plan Critic Owes Taxes (Update 2)," Bloomberg, 10.16.2008: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aC4j3T5.s_eQ&refer=home

"Real Deal on 'Joe the Plumber' Reveals New Slant," The New York Times, 10.16.2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/us/politics/17joe.html

More on (moron) Sam J. Wurzelbacher (might need to be pasted): http://www.privateeye.com/Search/SearchResults.aspx?vw=people&input=name&fn=Samuel&mn=&ln=Wurzelbacher&city=&state=OH&criteria=Samuel;;;;Wurzelbacher;;;;OH;;;;;;

Wurzelbacher's August 2008 purchase of his current residence: http://apps.co.lucas.oh.us/areissummary/report.aspx?Parcel=6562411

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Nader/Gonzales campaign on the final presidential debate of the 2008 election

Ralph Nader for President 2008

October 16, 2008

Donate $3 to Nader/Gonzalez now.


Well, on three key issues last night -- energy, health insurance, corporate crime -- Obama stood with the corporations against the interests of the American people.

Compare Nader to Obama.

Last night, McCain challenged Obama.

Tell me one time you have stood up to the leaders of your party, McCain said.

Obama couldn't name one time when he stood up to the corporations that control his party.

So, instead he named a couple of times when he stood with the corporations.

And against the interests of the American people.

I voted for tort reform, Obama said.


Brave of you Barack.

You stood with the National Association of Manufacturers against injured people.

I support clean coal technology, Obama said.

Wow Barack, you stood with the polluting coal industry against people who suffer the consequences.

When McCain accused Obama of supporting a single payer, Canadian style national health insurance system, Obama said he didn't.

And he doesn't.

Despite the fact that a majority of doctors, nurses and the American people want it.

On national health insurance, Obama stands with the insurance industry and against the American people who are demanding single payer.

Over 5,000 U.S. physicians have signed an open letter calling on the candidates for president and Congress "to stand up for the health of the American people and implement a nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance system." (Here's the ad that ran in the New Yorker magazine.)

Obama says no.

McCain says no.

Nader/Gonzalez says yes.

Yes to single payer.

Yes to solar and no to coal.

Yes to protecting the American people from corporate recklessness and crime, no to tort deform.

So, donate $3 to the candidacy that is not on the debate stage.

But that is right on the issues.


Today, while Obama fronts for his corporate donors, Ralph Nader, Matt Gonzalez and the Nader Team will be on Wall Street protesting corporate America's sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior.

Nader/Gonzalez continues to stand with the people.

Against the corporate criminals and their candidates in the two major parties.

Onward to November.

The Nader Team

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Weird Chicago site

Chicago, Illinois--What, you mean the fetor, the cops, the gangs, the smarmy rich people, the general rudeness of the people there, a basic climate of assholism, the 90 mph traffic on the freeways, the poverty, the town that found Lenny Bruce guilty, the thieves, Roger Ebert (OK, that's unfair), the Bears fans, organized crime, the gerrymandering, the South side (very little is worse than this), crime, and corruption of the place wasn't thrilling enough for you? Nope. There are ghosts in Chicago too, and I don't like the place.

One member of my father's side of the family whom I never met was a fireman in Chicago several decades ago. This guy stole things out of people's homes after they'd doused the flames. Charming, isn't it? My dad's immediate family owned a grocery store until the early-1950s--until my grandfather stopped paying protection money to the Outfit. That's Chicago.
Sure-sure, other big cities have these problems and some of them are worse. My reply to that is go to Canada's larger cities like London, Toronto, or Vancouver, for a North American comparison. By God, they're congenial in Toronto, and it's practically the same size as Chicago. Their cities are cleaner too, and they aren't nearly as rude, that's for sure. This is due to a different history, a less violent one.

At this point, I should mention the absurdity of the notion that Chicago is haunted by pointing-out the fact that the city barely existed before the 1830s as a large trading post. [Ed.--Perhaps some of the ghosts are Atlanteans and Lemurians. I jest!] Let's get this straight: Europeans come to the place, and all of a sudden we have European-style concepts of ghosts. Sure-sure, Native Americans believed in ghosts too, I know, but since they lived here longer, wouldn't they be the majority of the apparitions? No, the truth is that we ran them to the reservations too, and Chicago needs its tourists, just like Edinburgh does. Do ghosts have an expiration date?

Out of necessity, there are ghosts there, and not just around Stoney Island. There's Resurrection Mary, victims of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the Haymarket Square anarchists, Al Capone, H.H. Holmes, but as far as I can tell, no Fred Hampton. Granted, Chicago's history is short, but it could be argued a lot has happened there in the last two hundred years, and not a lot of it was very pretty, hence the hauntings--except I just can't make that leap. By now, you've probably deduced that I don't believe in ghosts. This is correct. Yes, there was time when I did, but I was young.

I'm not an atheist, I just don't believe in ghosts. Is there something after this life? I doubt it. Why does there have to be? More likely, it's zip, zero, nada, just the inky-black unconsciousness you feel at the dentist, only it's forever. Now, how bad can that be compared to having to go to church every Sunday or being around most everyone living nowadays for more than five minutes? Maybe "ghosts" are some kind of phenomena we don't understand yet scientifically, but we should be past these kind of supernatural explanations by now. Chicago isn't Sicily...or is it? Why would anyone want to come back to this thing we call the human condition anyway, especially to Chicago? Couldn't these ghosts have a little bit more imagination? If I came back, it would be to Tahiti, get real.

Regardless of all this, "Weird Chicago" is a really great site, even though I have no respect for the belief in ghosts as a supernatural phenomena whatsoever or the for the city itself. Right, if I can enjoy it, you'll probably love it, and they conduct tours of some of the oddball sites of the town by the lake.

But seriously folks, where are all of the ghosts of Native Americans, French fur traders, and Vikings in Chicago? It's not an unfair question. But go to Weird Chicago and see how wacky the superstitious beliefs of Central European immigrants (my father's ancestors) who came to the Windy City were during the 19th century (shit, how about right now), never mind your own wacky ones. I don't like Chicago, you can have it, but it's a fascinating disaster area, and makes for a great snapshot of what the Apocalypse might look like. I still don't understand why people pay lots of money to live there, frankly, especially with the winters and the suffocating press of humanity.

So what's Chicago good for? That's right, pizza, condiments, potato chips, and sometimes the Sox and the Cubs. Pity the working-class people who have to live there. The place doesn't have the breadth of history of a London, so the plausibility factor seems low. The running theory seems to be that if you die violently that you have no choice but to come back, and since the city has such a storied past, they must be teeming with ghosts. If you want a taste of human iniquity, Weird Chicago has some historical ephemera worth looking at.
Or, just go there and smile a lot at people. That should work wonders.

Superstition and the obsession with the paranormal strike me as religion for the terminally-bored. Perspicacity? Hardly, it's just the obvious, and it's my lot in life to state it for all the oogah-boogah people out there, the true believers in the inane.
Gots nuthin' to do with the bruthas, and for the record there was no Mrs. O'Leary's cow starting any fires in 1871, that's apocryphal. You build a city out of matchsticks, and whaddaya expect? It was frat boys, that's who. Who else could it have been?

And while I'm at it, why do so many bands born-and-raised in Chicago sound so namby, so wimpy and pathetic? That's all you can come up with living--if you want to call it that--in the midst of a Bosch-painting? There's a word for people like that: bourgeois. I don't like you or your town. What do I look like, a country & western band shouting-out names of towns for audience approval? Nonetheless, Weird Chicago is a great site that at the very least is educating people on some of the urban history of the city. But ghosts are really just our fear of death, I don't believe in them as the survival of personality. The Japanese love Chicago, though I don't know why.


A gracious comment from Adam Selzer of Weird Chicago (excerpt): "There are stories of ghosts of the victims of the Ft. Dearborn Massacre around 16th and Prairie, but I don't know of any about the fur traders that are at all reliable (unless the stories that Jean LaLime is haunting the Tribune building are true). There are plenty of stories about "indian burial grounds," and native american curses, but I don't think any of them are true - most of them are the products of less reputable tour guides looking to embellish a story."

The ACORN "scandal"

Indiana--We don't even know what really happened, yet Fox News (as far as anyone can tell, the first source of the story) has been crowing about it louder than any other news outlet, even making easily debunked speculations on a variety of issues. Does the story look like a coordinated media campaign from the outside? Yes. Do we truly know yet what happened? No.

A modest proposal (no, not eating Irish babies, silly): create an independent inquiry from outside the United States to investigate the ACORN allegations and the all of the polling problems that plagued the 2000-2006 national elections, and hold to the recommendations regardless of the outcome. But the conclusions must be based on solid evidence, not hearsay, and so far that's all we're getting.

How do we even know the registration forms are real and not bogus evidence that was planted? What was the chain-of-evidence? Why the timing? Why does it once again benefit the GOP? How do we know ACORN wasn't infiltrated by provocateurs? It's happened in our political history. In other words--don't think we didn't notice this is being treated differently from those questionable activities by GOP operatives in past elections, because we do. Let the chips fall where they may, it works for me.

Or, is it that ACORN also went after predatory mortgage lenders and that we're also seeing some payback? You tell me. You had better be right. You had better not be lying, because we're going to find-out soon. This has all the markings of a Karl Rove job. We might ask where he and Tim Griffin have been these days.

On the partial nationalization of the American financial system, the rebounding of the DOW, and the return of the nebbish word "bolster"

WWW--The media's take on the past two-day rallying of stocks on Wall Street is presumptuous and smacking of an underlying desperation: high capital and finance still want to achieve a further scaling-back of wages and bargaining power (what's left of it) for the American worker and to keep playing the deregulation and unaccountability game in commerce and finance.

In other words, the big players are starting to act as though they might be able to continue "business as usual," though the message from Washington D.C. and from notable economists is the reverse. Events have a way of forcing the hand of fate and the marketplace, but most importantly, of the big players who have erroneously convinced themselves of their own invincibility. You aren't God. The choices are now fewer, and going down the same path as before will ensure an almost total economic collapse that could conceivably dwarf that other global crash, the Great Depression.

This has the potential of taking-down most of Western civilization with it, including the Persian Gulf States and their current authoritarian regimes. Change and reform will come no matter who gets elected on November 4th in the American presidential race. As in most times of rapid change, up-is-down, and down-is-up.

Who would have ever expected that one of the most laissez-faire administrations in American history could find itself forced into rescuing the banking and financial system through even a "partial nationalization"? Call it "Socialism," call it what you want, but regulation and a government (meaning we, the people) share in these institutions is going to be vital towards preventing such a widespread collapse.
After the purchase of preferred stock in nine large banks, the new program is expected to be expanded to many others. Among the initial banks participating will be all of the country's largest institutions, including Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley, said one official, with each institution expected to receive billions of dollars in return for the sale to the government of preferred shares.

The advantage to the taxpayer is that if the rescue plan works, then the shares can be sold for more than the government initially paid, providing a profit on the transaction. ("Government moves again to unclog credit lines, AP, 10.14.2008)

This goes much further than a simple "partial nationalization," considering that the stock being bought is "preferred," which offers greater advantages to holders--us--and is traditionally the first kind of share to receive payments of dividends, often higher than that of other shareholders.

Where's the missing-ingredient, accountability? With the Justice Department (hello Jeffrey A. Taylor) still under the control of the Bush II administration, and a bought Congress, we shouldn't expect much if we don't pressure them to mount massive investigations into Wall Street as former New York Governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer did several years ago.

Additionally, we should already be building third parties in the event that we get the usual response of inaction from the Democrats. We can bank on it.

As usual, the constructive contributions are coming from the public, and the most responsible citizens we have on-hand nowadays are people like Ralph Nader. The independent candidate was granted (since there's no other word for it) time on CNN just a few hours ago because there was no other choice. Major events have a way of bending a news giant like CNN into having the most viable third party candidate on to speak when it should be a matter of course.

Such are the vagaries of the Statist market economy--ratings and advertising dollars trump public responsibility when you the politicians of both major parties in your pockets. The "problem" now is that many of these very same pockets are emptying with the very economic decline they have caused. Sometimes one should be careful what one wishes for. The K Street lobbyists did their jobs too well.

There's no irony here since reality is outpacing satirical humor and the occasional literary and philosophical observation of the existential mess we've allowed to grow. Nader had some great observations of his own on the bailout, bouncing-off of viewer comments sent in to the cable news Shibboleth: at the very least, it's time to go after the culprits and widen criminal inquiries. If there are those who broke the law, they should be held-accountable. What average American could disagree with that? Nader also made a good point in his hand-delivered letter to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson who made $200 million at Goldman Sachs when he was their CEO, suggesting he kick-in some change to help. It's doubtful that he will, but it makes a good point of putting your money where your money is--or was. At least his life is hell right now.

Nader's time on CNN was an interesting few minutes that should be commonplace, but it should be remembered that the official line wouldn't be able to withstand it, and therefore, these kind of viewpoints must be marginalized. Yet Americans are on the same page when it comes to social policy, ranging from foreign aid (we all really want to spend more when the right questions are posed), our healthcare system (we want a single payer system), progressive taxation, military spending, and so on.

The public's opinions are decidedly progressive and Populist, which is why the mainstream narrative is being pushed so hard, and why culpability in business/finance fraud and criminality aren't topics for discussion. We don't have faith in the economic system because we smell a rat, hence Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments today:

As in all past crises, at the root of the problem is a loss of confidence by investors and the public in the strength of key financial institutions and markets, which has had cascading and unwelcome effects on the availability of credit and the value of savings. The actions today are aimed at restoring confidence in our institutions and markets and repairing their capacity to meet the credit needs of American households and businesses. The voluntary equity purchase program will strengthen financial institutions' capacity and willingness to lend. The guarantee of the senior debt of all FDIC-insured depository institutions and their holding companies will restore the confidence of these institutions' creditors and reinvigorate the crucial inter-bank lending markets. Additionally, the Federal Reserve is pressing forward with its facility to provide a broad backstop for the commercial paper market, so vital to the functioning of our businesses.
The general goal of various financial interests is to isolate and divide us and to make us believe that we're alone in our thinking, a patent falsehood. With the advent of the internet, this is becoming less-and-less tenable and stretches its credibility to the breaking-point. Remember that billions are spent keeping us in this dysfunctional state towards the maintenance of what is basically an unstable system model.

Make no mistake: the bailout is similar to the New Deal in one core respect, and that's to save American-style capitalism. It's not a worthwhile goal. We've already had a mixed-economy with elements of Socialism that stretch-back to FDR, though the examples of the subsidizing of the phone companies and the railroads in their development precede it by several decades. The EU is going significantly further with their nationalization plans, which will have a very real world effect on our own economy, possibly driving it closer to a continental European model by default. The time for a social dividend has come.

But don't hold your breath on Hank Paulson throwing-in to help with his own money. It doesn't matter--damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If the scions of commerce and finance get their way, they lose in the inevitable (and deeper) crash that will come sooner rather than later. The day of the giant firms and corporations is ending, just as the hunter-gather and feudal orders have before it. Time to finish the job.

The key is pushing for a better order and determining what comes next. The public holds this power more than elites do. Their hold on power is almost always weak-at-best. Once the average person realizes this fact and acts responsibly and accordingly, and understands that civic duty is a lifetime responsibility, things will stabilize and improve. Fine, the market's up...today. It won't last, because the underlying-causes (extralegal deregulation, white-collar crime, criminal speculation, etc.) are still going to be firmly in-place. This is because the current business and financial establishment aren't good at what they do.

When the rules and the "invisible-hand of the marketplace" attempt to correct them and their faulty-logic and criminal incompetence, they run to the government for help. That's Socialism for the few, and nothing new in America. Angry investors should take note of the fact that they've been ripped-off too and demand widespread accountability. That doesn't mean they should all be bailed-out, however. Like the Demiurge of the Gnostics, these fools have proclaimed themselves to be "God," but the universe answered back with bad news that this wasn't the reality of things. No simple or easy solutions here.

Postscript: Alright, so this is what George W. Bush meant by an "ownership society," gotcha. In retrospect, Aaron Burr's 1804 shooting of Alexander Hamilton in a duel seems to have been prudent but belated.

"Government moves again to unclog credit lines, AP, 10.14.2008: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081014/ap_on_bi_ge/financial_meltdown

"Financial Panics of the 19th century," Robert McNamara, About.com, "19th century": http://history1800s.about.com/od/thegildedage/a/financialpanics.htm

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My favorite photo, and the turning of the wheel...

This is a photograph of my mother and grandfather. He'd just returned from WWII, from the European theater, having served under that nut General George "Blood and Guts" Patton. My mother looks so thrilled to see her daddy coming home. WWII was necessary.

Military-style fascism had to be crushed in Germany and Japan and all of the occupied territories. But this same fascism still infects America, and it must be crushed. Luckily, it's extinguishing itself.

My grandfather never fully recovered from his experiences in the war. For the rest of his life, he was very nervous man with a hair-trigger temper. He couldn't connect very well with my mother because she had been born in 1944, after he'd left to serve in the Army. He wasn't a dumbass, he was drafted, he didn't enlist. I respect him for this greatly. He had sense. When he came back, the economy was far worse than it is right now (just wait). What can I say? He was a good man who found it hard to express his feelings to his family, but we loved him just the same.

Today, I dug-out some of these old photos to show to my three-year-old niece, Zofia, to show her what her grandma looked like as a baby (exactly like Zofia, since we have non-recessive genes). She's a precocious little baby with a big heart and a mostly peaceful temperment. She rarely cries. She's a joy. When I showed her this and other photos and told her "This is grandma," she said, "No--this is Zofia!"

Rollie and Billie, father and daughter, finally united--it was 1946, and the Cold War had yet to be invented by the politicians (mainly the utterly corrupt GOP). When the wars have ended, when tyranny has been smashed, when people finally learn to live amongst one another in relative peace, and when we realize that we're all a family, we'll have the same moment of love that Rollie and Billie lived 62-years-ago. That moment was--and is--love. Love for ourselves and each other, because it really is that simple. The circle is unbroken.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Bug-London Zoo (2008) album review

Kevin Martin almost never fails to surprise, and this new-installment of "The Bug" project featuring several Jamaican and UK dancehall and dub poetry artists is just another example of his prowess at creating something new and astonishing musically.

The differences between his first "Tapping the Conversation" (1997, with DJ Vadim), 2003's "Pressure," various EPs and 2005's "Killing Sound" compilation of hardcore electronic reggae, are vast here. The reason? A bigger budget, meaning Martin had more time to refine and actually be in the same room with the vocalists rather than through tape/disc-trading and internet transmissions, then pasting it all together at the end. Face-to-face collaborations tend to work best.

"London Zoo" edges more towards a dub sound without as much of the extreme hardness of earlier "Bug" releases, and vocals take more of a center stage role. Also different is how melodic and more expressive the vocals by the singer/MCs are, which makes for a very lively sound that must be heard to be appreciated. Still, to many this is going to sound very hard-edged and extreme. For the initiated, it's a new direction with a lot of dub layering and subtlety that could very well snag more mainstream reggae and dub fans.

"Murder We," already very popular in underground listening-circles as a single has vocalist Ricky Ranking very close to singing a mix of reggae and American R&B. While this isn't necessarily new in other contexts, it is here in a decidedly electronic environment. Ranking's vocal on the superb "Judgment" has an energy and a power that could quiet any remaining doubters and skeptics. But it's Warrior Queen who steals the show here with cuts like "Insane," and "Poison Dart," both of which can be marked as some of the more subversive cuts on the album for all the right reasons. When she raps, "What's wrong with the world? ...Has the world gone mad?," and when Ricky Ranking sings "...People killing themselves over [it]," they're both spot-on about the present state of things internationally.

The music production here is much warmer and inviting than on previous releases which could open things up more for this project of extreme electronics melded with the organic singing of authentic Jamaican and British dub and reggae vocal talent. Holding-up the UK side is the return of dub poet Roger Robinson whose wordplay is a real treasure to behold. His voice and delivery have a very powerful emotional side to them, existing comfortably within the musical environments Martin creates. Robinson's words and delivery are transcendent as always.

You have to admit, it's a good time for dubstep and hardcore dub and dancehall fans these days. These could be the outlines of the next big thing, the new punk, the new psychedelia. Get it before the final crash comes, it's good end-times (for Western capitalism anyway) music. Now, let's get Lee Perry on some sides before Babylon falls!

Religulous (2008)

You know, Bill Maher is a smarmy, egomaniacal asshole, a complete jerk. I wasn't going to bother watching this movie when my brother called me about wanting to see it. We almost never see movies together, maybe every five-years-or-so. What did I have to lose?

So I went, and my brother showed-up about five-minutes-in claiming it took a flying saucer to get him there--something like that. Then he started shouting at the screen unintelligibly, throwing popcorn everywhere like a Hunter S. Thompson sidekick. Anyway, I would have been missing-out had I not taken him up on seeing this very provocative movie.

I can't say that I expected much: Maher's HBO shows like "Politically Incorrect" and "Real Time," are reasonably popular but also tend to showcase Maher's egocentricity and brand of reactionary assholism. The comedian frankly reminds me of his personal friend Dennis Miller whose long-lost career as a comedian caused him to go begging around at Fox News for a job at...being who he really was all-along, an arch-conservative, reactionary asshole. Maher strikes me as different, but with tendencies towards the same direction as his pal Miller. It's isn't that I don't agree with him much of the time; it's how he tends to come-off, which is as a cocksure materialist Hollywood asshole.

And yet, here in his film "Religulous," he's correct again and a much more restrained kind of asshole.

The film is a kind of documentary with more than a few nods to Michael Moore's style, interspersing the interviews with rapid-fire retorts from Maher and company in the form of excerpts from cruddy Hollywood biblical epics (think Cecil B. Demille), dorky religious "educational" films, and from news archives. It's a very effective style, especially when Maher goes as far as to have text-comments responses and observations on the screen when he's sparring with various religious idiots of various persuasions. This makes for a very funny approach that gets a lot of well-earned laughs for their wit and concision. At times, Maher competes with Lenny Bruce in how astute and unique his observations are, but like Lenny, he has similar limitations.

But how can you beat those Christian creationist-themed museums and amusement parks? One can imagine hipsters running-roughshod over each other to get into the places to experience them in an "elevated" state of consciousness...

One might call the film's approach to its subject unfair, but this is also entertainment, let's face it. It's hard to say how much input the oddly-attired director Larry Charles (Borat) had in all of this, though it appears that most of the time all he and Maher had to do was to concoct a few meetings and scenarios, write a few questions, and let their camcorders record what happened after that. This is a simple and economical way of film-making in many respects since the comedian has a decades of improvisational experience. Several reviews have stated that Maher picked straw-man opponents who were easy targets for a man who's done stand-up comedy and media appearances for 30 years, yet you don't tend to get this impression watching the film. That's a red herring argument. He approached believers, the main criterion. It's about faith, stupid.

Yes, sometimes one could say that Maher's "rude" and even "pointed" in his interrogations (sorry, couldn't pass on that one), that he's "unfair" and "biased" in his sense of "superiority," but they're simply missing-the-point. It's doubtful that very many religious thinkers and fundamentalists were going to talk to him at all, so he took a more "populist" approach and went out to talk to the rank-and-file, really the most important part of religion as a problematic part of human life and culture.

One specific interview with a UK Pakistani rapper
Aki Nawaz (aka Propa-Gandhi) who extols religious intolerance and war makes a good argument for the renewal of Paki-bashing, though his his subject does a much better job at undermining his arguments than Maher does. Nawaz is clearly an idiot and a hypocrite, but you have to show these people for what they are. Some have written that Maher won't let the bizarre rapper get a word in edgewise, but when you see the lyrics to his raps on a split-screen, it's forgivable. It's one of the few times he does it in the entire film.

This is what's so impressive about the movie itself: Maher is generally known for being much more hyperbolic and confrontational than this, and he tends to let his subjects skewer themselves, often just posing a few reasonable questions and listening to the absurdities flowing from them. Granted, when he hits, he hits hard, but he's not being unfair here. The man has certainly grown and I'm impressed.

But then, there's the faults in the film (though they're few): Maher does a strange thing and trots in Jewish Rabbi
Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta sect who's against the existence of the state of Israel (an "anti-Zionist") on theological-grounds. This is where Maher strays badly, as there's an inverse to the rabbi in the far-right Israeli and international Jewish community's--and strongly religious--reasoning of a sole Jewish stake in Palestine. This is just one example of the comedian's arch-conservatism inside and outside of the film. Indeed, Maher shows us how truly bizarre and wrong Judaism and most other major faiths are, but he makes an exception with the rabbi, exposing his own very slanted bias about the Palestinian question. This isn't to say that he's "wrong"--his very strong opinions for a Jewish state are valid after the Holocaust. They ring true, as Western history has amply illustrated. As a matter of fact, the core of his own reasoning here is more-than-valid, and Jews have good cause to aspire to statehood for logical security reasons. But he's making a very odd exception here that's troubling, and like most Jewish statists, he goes too far, just as Yisroel Dovid Weiss and his inverted opponents. When Maher walks-out on him, it's unsurprising, and I don't support his views here at all.

Yet, with 1 billion Muslims in the world, and 14 million Jews, his opinion is not unwarranted. What he misses, however, is that Israel is still being used a client state to control, destabilize, and divide the Middle East for geopolitical aims. Once it was the Romans, now it's the Americans and the rest of the West, hungry for cheap oil. In some ways, he misses his own point underscored at the end of the film. Whether his omissions are intentional or just a matter of running time, or just too many roads to go down, is the question. One could go on-and-on about the Palestinian question, and Maher probably saw a real quagmire in his section on Judaism and so just stuck to more superificial-aspects of how wacky the Orthodox version of the faith really is (trust me, it is). For the record, this writer believes that Israel has the right to exist, as does a Palestinian state and that it should be brokered diplomatically rather than through violence by all parties.

Even with its problems, Maher and Charles have made a very accessible argument for why religious belief is a "plague" (stated not by Maher, but by a Vatican astronomer) infecting humanity.

One of his finest-points is about Islam: like Christianity, it's undeniably a conquest faith that nowadays has very little tolerance for the beliefs of others on almost any level, and that's coming directly from the Koran. Judaism is essentially the same these days in its statist incarnation, but a quick look at the Torah (the "Old Testament" to Christians) offers-up numerous examples of conquest and even genocide by the tribes of Israel.

What's so interesting and enjoyable about Religulous are the gaggle of morons he interviews and just how obviously hypocritical (and possibly nuts) many of them are. His interview with Senator Mark Pryor, a faux-Democrat from Arkansas, must be seen to be believed. At one point, Pryor admits, "There's no I.Q. test to be a senator." No shit? There should be, even trumping election results if they don't pass. While we're at it, how about a mandatory psychological examination for office-holders as well? The audience I watched the film with all laughed very heartily over Pryor's statement, their chortles coming from the news of our current economic crisis and the last eight years of misgovernance. Hey, people still went to the movies when the Great Depression was on, so why can't we?

Perhaps the biggest hole in the film is the exclusion of other major religions, though they're tapped by the film by-implication. Surely, though, we could have seen how ridiculous many Eastern religions are, especially Hiduism with its castes and absurd rules and laws dictating behavior. There are so many other examples as to be dizzying, and that's part of the answer. Maher goes after the "worst offenders," the major world religions. He might have included Buddhism, though it really does struggle to match the absurd credulities required to be a follower of Islam and Christianity.

Maher's most successful accomplishment is in illustrating that religion has enslaved humanity to the few for millenia, and he deserves a great deal of credit for stating it where he states it. The majority of us know about the Inquisition, the witch hunts, the crusades and Islamic holy wars that spread the faiths across the globe, and violently more often than not. We all know this. Truisms don't need repeating. That's one of the main messages of the film itself--the toxic-effect religion has had on humanity is well-known from the historical record, and talking with biblical scholars isn't going to shed much more light either as they tend to agree generally with Maher on the oddness of literalism and fundamentalism in religion rather than a symbolical or allegorical reading of the "sacred texts." No film--even one five-hours-long--could adequately address all of this. Good job, and we "non-believers" have a lot of work to do.