Tuesday, January 12, 2016

4th Grade Kids Using 'Trump' As A Synonym For 'Bowel Movement'

There are 4th graders at the school where I teach who use the word 'Trump' to describe a bowel movement. For instance, instead of saying "I have to take a dump" they say "I have to take a trump".   I realized this phenomenon one day last week when I asked one student where another student was. 
"He's taking a trump" the student told me. 
Huh?  I thought the student meant to say 'dump' but then I heard two other students that same day use the term 'trump' instead of 'bowel movement'.  One kid was laughing at another kid as he declared, "Oh man, I almost trumped my pants!"

This was a head-scratcher.  I decided I wouldn't say anything for the time being.  However, the next day I realized that this trend was really catching on.  I actually heard a dozen or more second graders using trump in this way at well.  Like most things kids pick up now days, I figured they had gotten it from TV or you tube, so during my lunch break I started googling to see if I could find any examples of this.  And sure enough, there were hundreds of videos in which 'trump' was being used as a synonym for 'shit'.  I doubt that the grade school kids I teach know a whole lot about Trump or about politics in general, but it made me realize that as they get older, down through the years, they would always associate his name with shit.

So the question I asked myself was, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

Just a week earlier our school had a bullying awareness assembly where we encouraged kids to deal with bullying in various ways.  Teachers were shown videos of kids being bullied which we could show to our students.  As I thought back to the videos I realized how similar these videos were to
video clips of Trump's rallies and interviews.  I did another google search and found a video of Trump making racist remarks, then several videos of him making sexist remarks.  There was also a video of him making fun of a handicapped person.  There was a clip of Trump having working people thrown out into freezing temperatures as he screamed 'steal his coat' at them.  And then of course there was the infamous clip or Trump degrading American veterans by declaring that he doesn't respect those people who get captured.

After watching these clips and mulling over what to do about the situation, I realized that the fact that 4th graders equated Trump to a bowel movement made perfect sense.  As a teacher and a father I have witnessed numerous occasions where children see straight through the facades that adults create much better than adults do.  Kids have a way of immediately getting right to the truth of a matter. And when they see some arrogant tan-in-a-can, hair-plugged asshole on the nightly news and you tube clips spouting out racist comments, sexist comments, kicking people out into freezing temperatures without their coats, making fun of handicapped people and telling war heroes that they dont deserve respect because they got captured then yes, it is VERY appropriate to equate that to human excrement.

So I decided I would just let it go.  And that night I went home, had a nice meal, then retired to the restroom and took one of the most relaxing trumps of my life.

©2016 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Man Who Sold The World

obama 2008 hope photo:  Winter.jpgOn the campaign trail in 2008 Barrack Obama correctly identified Ronald Reagan as one of the few presidents in our nation's history who actually "transformed" the American government.  If there was ever an era when the U.S. was ripe for being transformed it was the late 1970s.   The "era of malaise," to paraphrase a term that Jimmy Carter inspired, was a low point in U.S. history that compared to the Great Depression and the Civil War.  

American's of the Malaise Era had not only spent the last decade watching America lose its first war in our military history, but they watched U.S. soldiers commit unspeakable atrocities to Vietnamese women and children and weaklings on a nightly basis.  The TV was loaded with soldier's testimonies about young girls being raped, savagely beaten and killed in front of their parents and siblings.  The magazines and newspapers were filled with confessions that detailed innocent children being burnt in their villages.  Furthermore, the Americans of the Malaise Era had just witnessed Watergate, a televised live action national tragedy that questioned the very soul and purpose of our nation.  Doubts about America's soul were compounded further as, after 30 years of economic prosperity and expansion, the nation's economy slowed and sunk so low that new terms actually had to be created in order to describe it (i.e. "stagnation").  The Malaised Americans watched hostilities in the Middle East lead to an oil embargo by OPEC and an Iran hostage crisis.  

If this wasn't bad enough, the malaised lived through the disintegration of the American nuclear Family, which added to the general confusion of the era. Everything Americans had grown up believing in - God, country and family - was suddenly being pulled right out from under them.  The assassinations and turmoil and civil right's activism of the 1960's had ushered in the "culture wars" of the 1970's - which not only pitted father against son, but father against mother, mother against daughter, and daughter against son.  The divorce rate doubled in America every single year from 1965 to 1975.  The Pill was suddenly available.  Abortion was legalized.  Gays were not only coming out of the closet but demanding attention and equal rights.  Blacks were forcing controversial affirmative action laws upon legislatures.  Women were burning their bras and speaking up for equal rights.  There was wife-swapping, disco music.  The Malaise Era American witnessed the happy, hippy recreational drug use of the 1960's give way to frequent overdoses of drug addicts and street punks.  Crime was running rampant, hitting all-time highs, urban areas were experiencing white flight and cities were going bankrupt.  The headlines were full of hi-jackings, kid-nappings and cult abductions. By the time Jimmy Carter made his famous "malaise" speech in 1979, the average American was not just in a fog of malaise, but they were exhausted, out of work, resentful and suspicious of their government.  They were confused about the present, afraid of the future and without any hope for tomorrow.
The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America
And then right on cue, as if scripted from a Hollywood screenplay, with his easy smile, in rides the tall, handsome hero on his white horse to save the day, to give our nation the sure-footed direction that it so badly needed, to give our citizens hope and to bring America back to simpler more wholesome times. 

That was the promise at least.  But of course, instead of steering our nation to greater heights, as William Kleinknecht explains in his book The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America, Reagan actually transformed our nation into a vehicle of Greed and set in motion America's seemingly irreversible spiral downward.  

The Reagan administration created the corporate political economic model that continues to this day, a system where corporations and politicians work hand-in-hand to line their own pockets at the expense of the working class minions.  A system that every Administration since has perpetuated, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and even Obama.  But as Klineknecht's book explains, it was the Reagan Administration that really started it all.  It was Reagan who let the foxes into the hen house to such a degree of infestation that they were able to grow to the status of "too big to fail".  It was on Reagan's watch that corporate interests were allowed to become so entrenched in our political economic system that it would take nothing short of a revolution to actually get the corporations out of the political economic system.

Obama actually talked about this as he campaigned in 2008 but maybe he didn't fully understand it.  He spoke a good game, but once in office what has he done to reverse the corporate takeover of our government?  To be fair and to be honest, maybe Obama just doesn't really have the skill or the will or the ability to institute the change that he promised in 2008.   Maybe he does not have the mojo to transform America as Reagan had.  To really understand exactly how Reagan transformed America, a good place to start your research would be William Kleinknecht's book, The Man Who Sold World.  But that is only if you can overcome the one huge flaw in Kleinknecht's book, which is his tone - especially in the introduction - which was overly partisan, petty and even pointless at times. For instance, in the opening pages, Kleinknecht seems outraged that the mainstream media's coverage of Reagan's funeral in 2004 did not bad-mouth Reagan enough. I mean come on, first of all its a funeral. If there is ever a time that the old adage "If you can't say anything nice about someone then don't say anything at all" applies it is at a funeral. And second of all, its the fucking mainstream corporate media - what person with half a brain really gives a shit what the mainstream corporate media does/says? 

Kleinknecht is obviously an intelligent guy, so to be so petty and to give so much importance to the "toilet paper of documentation" that the mainstream corporate media is, was really a distraction that would have served the book better had it been edited out.  The amped up faux-rage only went to discredit his authority.  It made Kleinknecht immediately seems less reliable as he comes off as hyper-Partisan - just another typical close-minded, lock-step, knee jerk hack who goes into his research with his conclusions already drawn without looking at all sides of the argument. 

milton friedman photo: Conservatives Do Not Want Governent Involved governmentrelief_zpse3312947.jpg But if you can get past the introduction you will see that Kleinknecht was somewhat more balanced as he detailed Reagan's biographical material and Reagan's eventual conversion to the Conservative ideology. Then Kleinknecht goes into a left-leaning but accurate account of the progression of thought and the influences on the American economy for the last century, starting with the Progressive Era, continuing onto the New Deal Era and then up to LBJ's Great Society. His even-handed explanation of the back and forth pendulum of American thought in economic theory from the ideas of Adam Smith, to John Maynard Keynes to Milton Friedman, allowed the scope of the narrative to widen and open up to an examination of the unique conditions of the 1970s that set the stage for the rise of Reaganomics.

At that point in the narrative, Kleinknecht introduced the ranchers, oilmen and developers from the booming sunbelt who were among Reagan's largest supporters.  These were all men who had pulled themselves up by the bootstraps to make their fortunes in the post WWII American economy.  They shared Reagan's sensibilities - they were men with conservative social values and buttloads of new money who were looking for ways to make more buttloads of new money.  They were men who saw high taxes and government regulations as the main obstables between them and their desired buttloads.  That desire would be the main motivation behind Reagan's disasterous policies of defunding government regulatory offices and routinely placing white-collar criminals in charge of regulatory agencies. 

To begin his case against Reaganomics Kleinknecht explains how Reagan reached into the boardrooms of large corporations to fill his administration's cabinet: Sec of Defense Casper Weinberger, Sec of State George Schultz, Sec of Treasury Donald Regan, Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan.  Then he goes on to detail how Reagan installed business leaders to fill the positions at the top of the Federal Government's regulatory apparatus. For the most part these were men from within their respective industries who had made a career of violating business regulations and finding loop holes around the laws. Robert Burford, James Watt, John Crowell, C.W. McMillan, Richard Lyng, Joseph Tribble, Thorne Auchter, John Van de Water.

From there Kleinknecht's bombardment against Reaganomics (aka 'trickle down' economics) kicked into high gear as he specifically took aim at Reagan's deregulation policies.  One illustration of how Reagan's most effective tactic to undercut deregulation policy was simply to appoint white-collar criminals as heads of the various agencies that they were supposed to regulate can be seen in the communication industry.  Klienknecht explains how in just 6 years time, Mark Fowler, Reagan's chairman of the Federal Communication Commission(FCC) abolished 89 percent of the regulations governing broadcasting (even doing away with the fairness doctrine). He also points out the ramifications of Fowler's “liberalizing the multiple-ownership rule” - which essentially allowed a few large companies to control all the radio and TV waves with in just a few years.  Unfortunately, Kleinknecht's partisanship tainted the narrative at times as witnessed in such far-reaching passages as this from page 132: “[Because of Reagan] we find the beginning of a movement that would pick the pockets of American consumers, penalize rural communities, and reduce radio and television to commercial drivel.” As though radio and TV had such high standards prior to Reagan. In the next sentence Kn actually blames Reagan for the Telecommunications Act of 1996, an act that was passed under Clinton, almost 8 years after Reagan had left office. 

But Klienknecht's argument was more effective as he detailed Reagan's deregulation process toward other industries.  For instance, the Department of Health and Human Services's 1982 proposal to put a warning label on aspirin after scientific evidence concluded that aspirin was causing Reye's syndrome in young children. The proposal was shot down by Reagan's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). This deregulation policy directly resulted in the death of 1500 children over the next five years--until finally, in 1986, the OIRA flip-flopped its stance and required the warning labels to be displayed on aspirin bottles. Reyes Syndrome in the US then dropped from 555 cases in 1986 to only 36 the following year.  

Although Klienknecht pointed out how abusive Reagan's policies of deregulation were in various industries, he was at his most convincing when demonstrating how the banking and commerce industry was completely transformed by Reagan's deregulation policies.  It began with Reagan's appointment of  Donald Regan (chairman of Merrill Lynch and the creator of cash management accounts) as his Sec of the Treasury.  Secretary Regan set out to transform the banking and investment industry by diminishing the industries regulations to the point that the market would come as close to a free for all as anytime in the history of American capitalism.  Immediately he went after the McFadden Act of 1927 – which prevented large national companies from gobbling up smaller community banks.  Then he took aim of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which prohibited investment banks to be housed under the same roof as commercial banks and investment companies.  The intention of the Glass-Steagall Act had been to prevent the kind of “self-dealing” that largely contributed to the Crash of 1929 where commercial banks and brokerage houses had colluded to artificially inflate their books by lending to themselves.  The result of these artificially inflated books was that they attracted investors, but under false pretenses.  Secretary Regan also immediately began eliminating regulations on ceilings for interest rates and regulations on the types of loans that financial institutions could make.  Basically he set out to get rid of all banking and investing regulations.  With the help of FED chairman Alan Greenspan, the result of Reaganomics, as administered by Sec. Regan, was a total transformation of the American banking and investment industry.  A transformation, which as Klienknecht noted, has been responsible for the multi-trillion dollar fleecing of the American tax payer over the last 30 years in the form of everything from the Savings and Loan scandals to the Too Big To Fail Bailouts during the Bush/Cheney Recession of 2008-2010.

By the end of The Man Who Sold The World its easy to understand Klienknecht's partisan tone, for you would be hard-pressed to argue against the notion that Reagan transformed America into the corporate greed pit that it is today.  Klienknecht sites example after example, including the far-reaching cause and effects of Reagonomics on America.  He explains how Reagan invited the corporate foxes en masse into the government hen house.  He explains that Reagan's policies had not shrunk Big government - as Reagan promised - but they had in fact, just redirected the influence of big government from the working class people to the needs of corporate enterprise. Reaganomics was a champion for Greed.  Business leaders who had spent the 1970s funding free market think tanks flooded into DC once Reagan took the white house. Their corporate industry lobbyists were no longer at the gates of the government looking in, they were now inside the government, soon to BE the government.  It started a trend that has become an institution and none of the four presidents since Reagan have done much, if anything, to reverse that.  In fact, they've all pretty much enabled the corporate political economic model to grow and to strangle the American working class - as is evident by the accelerated disparity in the earnings between the lower/middle and the wealthy class over the last 30 years.


©2010 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

reviews of Ed Hamilton's books

chelsea hotel photo: sid vicious vicious-sid-chelsea-hotel-4900133.jpgI prefer going into a book reading without knowing anything about the book other than what I can glean from the front and back cover, plus a quick scan through its inside pages (99% of the books I read are non-fiction so they often contain photographs). But this wasn't the case with Ed Hamilton's Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York's Rebel Mecca.  Two weeks ago Ed Hamilton contacted me, expressing gratitude for the kind words I had written in a review about his short, non-fiction piece called "Dee Dee's Challenge" that was included in a collection of Rock music tales titled Experienced. "Dee Dee's Challenge" was two and half pages of sharp and focused journal writing, an engaging and economic burst that packed a punch similar to one of the two minute adreneline-soaked punk anthems that Dee Dee Ramone might have written in his hey day. I admired Hamilton's short story immediately and I made myself a note to track down Hamilton's larger work Legends of the Chelsea Hotel and give it a read as soon as possible.

But that had been over a year ago and because I have a busy (and sometimes complicated) life which tends to makes me forgetful, I hadn't gotten around to picking up a copy of it yet. Hamiliton's email reminded me though and I replied to him that I would snag a copy of his book and review it soon. He responded back, offering to send me a free copy. I genuinely appreciated his gesture, but I quickly logged onto the website of my local library and ordered a copy of Legends of the Chelsea Hotel - which was promised to arrive within a week. Then I emailed Hamilton and refused his copy of his book. This might have seemed like a "Don't call me, I'll call you" gesture because I know that offering a reviewer a copy of your book is how things are done.  Not only is it an accepted practice, but its often expected.  However, unless a copy of their book is not available through my library system, I prefer to turn these offers down. The reasons are two-fold. First of all I'm a minimalist. I have a very small collection of about 100 books, seperated into 5 or 6 catagories and I don't have room for any more. The second reason is that I will feel like a heel if someone sends me a gift and then I publicly trash it.

chelsea hotel photo: Chelsea Hotel SNC11687.jpgFortunately in the case of Legends of the Chelsea Hotel I didn't have to worry about this second concern because I liked the book quite a bit. In fact, in retrospect I wish I would have accepted Hamiliton's offer because Legends of the Chelsea Hotel is one of the rare books that would fit perfectly into my small, specific collection (books whose subject matters generally relate to Old, Weird America - Depression era bank robbers, Pin-up girl art work, vinyl record collecting, etc). In his introduction Hamilton describes Legends of the Chelsea Hotel like this:

"...a mix of history and biography, myth and legend, fiction...and non-fiction, memoir and anecdote [that] can most accurately be described as an 'alternative history' or perhaps a 'hisory of an idea' the idea being of course, that of the Chelsea Hotel itself".

What follows in Hamilton's book is all of that and more as he tells of his experiences as a resident of the Chelsea Hotel over more than a decade (beginning in the mid 1990s). And although the narrative is organized chronologically, it has none of the trappings of a chronology because the legends still haunt the halls and rooms and corners of the Chelsea - at least in Hamilton's mind - so that nearly each of the contemporary snapshots that Hamilton shares somehow end up springboarding into these fascinating historical and biographical sketches of the many colorful characters that have called the Chelsea Hotel their home over the years. For instance, as Hamilton writes about being tormented by junkies who continually wreck the shared bathroom on his floor, his narrative gives way to a nice little bio on legendary Beat writer Herbert Huncke. Or while being tormented by a resident who plays Willie Nelson's Christmas album non-stop, Hamilton seamlessly segues into the tribulations of experimental film maker Harry Smith (whose compilation of early folks recordings were influential in the folk revival of the late 50s and early 60s). And so on and so forth.

Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York's Rebel MeccaBy the end, these connections - and how Hamilton ties them all together - provide the narrative of Legends of the Chelsea Hotel with a locomotion that goes beyond the mere day-in-the-life snapshots and colorful biographies themselves. These anecdotes and legends and alternative histories come together to weave a beautiful swatch in the fading fabric that once made up the old, weird America of the early to mid 20th century - and Ed Hamilton deserves to be commended for his inspired work that preserves this swatch and explores its relevence, even to contemporary American sensibilities.


A short story collections is kind of like a concept album or mixed tape, each story being like an individual song on the album/tape.  You wonder if/how the songs are related and you wonder about the song order (or story order).  Is there a theme or a concept?  How autobiographical is each song/story?  How much does it reveal about the writer's world vision and philosophy.  I also look for certain hooks, riffs, solos (soliloquys) that either express the writer's creativity or lack thereof.  Albums are interesting because they can be viewed as a whole as well as being viewed in terms of their individual songs - this allows for various things to be going on at different levels all at once.  

For an album to be great it must have a strong opener.  The same goes for a novel or short story collection.  In Ed Hamilton's The Chintz Age "Fat Hippie Books" is the opener.  It introduces a number of themes and motifs that set up further exploration in the stories that follow.  The most central motif that Hamilton introduces in Fat Hippie Books is that of real estate or domicile uncertainty.  In "Fat Hippie Books" a bookstore owner named Greg is conflicted over selling out.  He contemplates scrapping his dreams when he comes face to face with the reality that his rent is about to be jacked up to $4,000 a month.  This conflict and uncertainty that Greg has over the future home of his bookstore ignites the narrative and it represents a reoccurring theme throughout the entire collection of stories.  In the second story "The Chintz Age" Martha (a former squatter who was responsible for having another squatter booted out of a squat) is now leaving her apartment to her daughter.  In "Westside Hotel" (in which the narrator takes a room in the hotel he works at) a hotel building itself is a central character.  In "Plagiarism," a writer named Theo is getting squeezed out of his domicile and needs to convince Kim (the Sandwich Whore) to let him live with her.  "Rock of the Lower East Side" meanwhile begins with the boarding up of a building that the protagonist once lived in and then decides breaks into in order to find closure to a past relationship and come to terms with his lot in life.  "King of the Underground" is about an elderly man who breaks out of a nursing home and finds a new home in the underground dwelling amongst the mole people.  "Highline/Highlife" is the first person account of a writer's life and times in the Highline building.  And "The Retro-Seventies Manhattan Dream Apartment" revolves around the schemes of three female vultures trying to take over a Manhattan guy's apartment.

With each story involving (in some way) domicile uncertainty, Hamilton is able to explore various themes and schemes that revolve around the relationship people have with their homes - specifically people in New York who are in a set of circumstances that is unique from other American cities.  In nearly every story, Hamilton shows us how a person's relationship to their home can affect their relationship with other people and often cause battles that result in a break or a drifting apart of two people who were once very close.  In some cases the change in these relationships cause Hamilton's character's to completely rethink their entire mission in life, their entire value system.

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©2013 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Old Weird America's Last Stand, part 4

The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality (America in the World)The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality by Thomas Borstelmann is an insightful examination of one of the most confusing decades in America's history.  The decade was mired in government corruption (Watergate, etc) while at the same time people were struggling with an unprecedented change in social values (skyrocketing divorce rates, gay rights, women's lib, minority rights, a rise in religious cults and counter-culture communes).  There was also a series of failed U.S. foreign policies (military loss in Vietnam, the loss of the Panama Canal, debacled rescue attempts of the Mayaguez in May of 1975 and of the Iran hostages in 1979) plus the creation of new foreign governments that were hostile to the U.S. (Cambodia, Angolia, Iran and Nicaragua).  On top of all of that Americans were facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression (inflation, unemployment, stagnation, oil crisises, energy blackouts, etc).

As a collective identity America was having an identity crisis during the 1970s. Prior to the civil rights advancements of the '60s the social order in the U.S. was fairly cut and dry. The economy had been prosperous and expansive since WWII. Our military superiority was clear and our moral compass was intact. We knew who our enemies were--those Godless commie rats in Russia and China. But all that had become topsy turvy by the 1970s and that is when something interesting started to happen. It started with Americans becoming increasingly apathetic in regards to politics (and the government) as well as the ethics of big business.  Instead, Americans trended toward concentrating on themselves as individuals (the effect was the creation of what Thomas Wolfe famously decreed the Me Generation).  Borstelmann does an excellent job of illustrating this apathy and its causes through documentation and examples. More importantly he lays out how all of this apathy provided a vast opportunity for mechanisms to be put in place that would lead to economic inequality. Eventually the Reagan Administration promoted and instituted many of these mechanisms during the 1980s which in turn has led to the corporate globalization that has been putting stress on the American people ever since.

But this book isn't a partisan criticism of Reaganomics or right-wing politics.  In fact it examines something that Liberals/Progressives do NOT want people to think about: that the Liberal/Progressive ideology is PRO-globalization. At the core of Liberal/Progressive thought is the idea of equality among everyone. This idea has led to Free Trade agreements. It has led to nation building experimentation and financial support for third world nations. It has led to other countries starting to catch up to the standard of living that has been widespread in the U.S. for most the the 20th century.  For most of the 20th century we have seen that the overwhelming majority of the world's citizens held a gripe against the USA--a gripe that is pretty similar to the gripe that the Americans who are protesting at Occupy Wall Street have against Big Corporations. The irony is that it is the Liberals/Progressives OWN policies of globalization that has allowed the rest of the world to start "catching up" with us economically. So of course Liberals/Progressives don't want people to know that, because no American is going to vote for a policy that "shares the American wealth" with the rest of the world.

As the subtitle of his book suggest; A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality, Borstelmann keeps this conflict at the center of his focus.  Afterall this idea that racial, gender, sexual orientation, religious equality has actually led to economic inequality is prety fascinating. And as Borstelmann tackles this conflict and shows how it happened, it starts to seem that it was inevitable and, in fact, pretty much a natural part of evolution. And understanding this natural force is important in finding ways to move forward. Inequality is not something people generally stand for. Again, look at the Occupy Wall Street folks who are protesting the economic inequality that is largely defining our own decade. But a huge obstacle in getting rid of economic inequality exists, and it is illustrated in the false assumptions made by capitalists such as Milton Friedman who Borstelmann quotes at the beginning of the book:

The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want.

This of course simply isn't true. Today the market gives people what the Big Corporations think they ought to want. Big Corporation have used ethically questionable predatorial business practices that have skewed the playing field so far in their favor that consumers no longer are given a fair choice.  I mean, why do people really eat crappy tasting pink slimed McDonaldland/DisneyWorld chain store fast-food that will give them a lifetime of health problems?  It's because the corporate consumer culture has made that crappy food 9 times more accessible than healthy food (not to mention that they have brainwashed Americas children into sugar-crazed Happy Meal daze that parents have little defence against). But this is NOT giving the people what they want. That is giving the people what the Big Corporations want them to want.

So where does this leave us? 

How is this corporate consumer culture ever going to be change?  A good start is for "the people" to get a good understanding of how this climate really got traction, back in the 1970s. And Thomas Borstelmann's brilliant book is a good place to start that education. For this and numerous other reasons I give The 1970s: A New Gloabla History a solid 5 out of 5 WagemannHeads.

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©2012 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why Didn't Bush Go After Bin Laden?

bin laden photo: Osama Bin Laden Osamabinladen.jpgThere was a program that BBC aired in November of 2001 (just days before the famous incident in Tora Bora where U.S. troops had cornered Osama Bin Laden) in which news anchor Jeremy Vine produced an FBI document that revealed U.S. agents were told to "back off" from investigating the Bin Laden family. That seemed out of sorts but it became even more relevant a few days later when the Pentagon ordered American soldiers to stand down in Tora Bora eventhough they now had Osama bin Laden cornered.  Dalton Fury, the commander on the ground at Tora Bora, reveals the details of the Pentagon ordering him to 'stand down' in his book, Kill Bin Laden.  Which brings up the obvious question: Why? If you have Bin Laden cornered, literally just feet from where our troops are dug in, just weeks after 9/11, then why order our troops to stand down? 

At the time, the reasons behind the order to stand down were not known to the public at large and the Bush/Cheney gang pivoted into high gear toward a costly effort to misled the America people into supporting an invasion of oil-rich Iraq.  Bush/Cheney famously claimed that they knew that Saddam had WMDs and that they knew exactly where those WMD were, yet when WMDs never actually materialized there was only a slight grumbling of a 'bait and switch'.  For the most part America went along for the ride and soon enough the world was tuned into their mainstream media of choice as the Bush/Cheney Gang mounted a pre-emptive strike that kicked off an unethical war that was not paid for and which eventually nudged the U.S. economy spiraling into the worse recession it had seen since the 1930s.  A large reason for the faint resistance to a war that resulted in the death, displacement and injury of millions of innocent Iraqi citizens along with the death and dismemberment of thousands of U.S. troops was because Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack was still at large.  Americans were either afraid or pissed off and they wanted the government to do something about it.

But once the tanks started rolling into Iraq, the mastermind of the largest attack on US soil in history was no longer a concern for Bush/Cheney. In fact, at a press conference Bush43 famously came out and admitted that he didn't care about Bin Laden and wasnt interested in going after him. Such a comment sparked disbelief in some - especially soldiers in Iraq who had joined the military after 9/11 to fight in retaliation of bin Laden's brutal attack on innocent U.S. civilians.  It also prompted serious questions whether Bush43's loyalty was to the American people or the corporate oil industry.  Then, on top of that, reports came out about how the Bush family had deep business ties to the Bin Laden family - ties that began when Bush43 and Osama's Bin Laden's brother Salem Bin Laden founded Arbusto Energy, an oil company based in Texas.  As research uncovered that a bank controlled by the Bin Laden family had bailed out one of Bush 43's failed businesses during the 1980s Bush's reasons for not going after Bin Laden came under even more scrutiny.  And then eyebrows were further raised when reports came out of the ties between the Bush Family and the Bin Laden family via The Carlyle Group, a private global equity group whose senior advisor was Bush41.  
bin laden photo: Obama bin laden CIAOWNSALQAEDA-1.jpgThe Bush family's connections to the Bin Laden family was interesting and certainly grist for conspiracy theorists, but to understand the real motive behind the Bush/Cheney gang ordering Dalton Fury's troops to stand down in Tora Bora you must go back to 1997 when a rightwing think tank called The Project for the New American Century produced a document outlining how America needed to be transformed. Members of this think tank included Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Several of these future members of the Bush Administration took their plans for a war in Iraq to Bill Clinton with the hopes of convincing Clinton to invade Iraq.  After presenting Clinton with a fully detailed plan, Clinton refused and the wheels were set in motion for the Cheney-led cabal to groom a candidate for the White House who would promote The Project for the New American Century's agenda.

The designs that the The Project for the New American Century had in mind are clearly laid out in a report they issued titled Building America's Defences - which states "The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."  Or a 9/11 perhaps?

Again, conspiracy theorists have since jumped on Building America's Defences report to argue that 9/11 was more than just coincidence.  And in fact, Congressional investigators such as John Farmer, a Senior Counsel for the 9/11 Comission, has said this about the Bush/Cheney gang's involvement in the events of 9/11: "At some level of the governmet at some point in time...there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened."  While Senator Bob Graham added that "the White House was directing the cover-up".  

But the important thing to take from the Bush/Cheney cabal's Building American's Defenses report is that it makes it very clear that when 9/11 (the new Pearl Harbor they needed) actually occured, the Bush/Cheney Administration was already prepared to use such a tragedy and, in fact, was able to quickly ratchet together the machinations for exploiting 9/11 to justify public support for a build-up to a war for oil in Iraq - after all, they had been planning for nearly a decade. Combine this with the Bush Administration's blatant dishonesty, their misinformation campaigns and the military-indusrial complex agenda that they were beholden to, it would suggest that their entire reign was full of evil-minded plots that reveal their obvious intentions. 

In hindsight, you would think the American people would have been quicker to catch on, or more vocal and assertive in their opposition.  After all, Americans had been doubting the government and expecting cover ups in large numbers since the assasination of JFK and the crimes committed during Watergate.  Yet, in general, the American people reacted more like fearful citizens during the rise of Hitler's Third Riech.  There were a few in the Land of the Free however who stood up on the right side of history.  One of those few would become Bush43's replacement who ended up spending the majority of the next 8 year repairing the damage that the Bush/Cheney gang had inflicted upon our great nation.
For more writing by Ed Wagemann click here:  ED WAGEMANN

©2010 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 12, 2012

Where is ObamaCare taking us?

How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in AmericaOtis Webb Brawley, M.D. (the author of How We Do Harm and the chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society) becomes especially upset when he hears politicians and pundits declare that America has the best health care system in the world.  Those who say we have the best health care in the world are either completely ignorant and out of touch with the reality or they are straight up lying out their asses.  Just look at the statistics.  The U.S. ranks 50th in the world in life expectancy with an average of 78.37 years.  Meanwhile Canada is over 81 and the UK is over 80.  And Monoco - at 89.7- has an average life expectancy at almost 90 years of age.  The U.S. also ranks 44th in infant mortality.  Yet we pay more in health care than any other nation on earth. We pay 50 percent more than our closest competitor (which is Switzerland).  In fact, American's health care costs account for 17.3 percent of our gross domestic product and we are on course to hit 25% by the year 2025.

In How We Do Harm, Brawley writes: "I have seen enough to conclude that no incident of failure in American medicine should be dismissed as an aberration.  Failure is the system." 

And he quotes Peter Bach as saying, "America does not have a health-care system. We have a sick-care system."  Bach goes on to say that "system" is not even an accurate word to describe what we have in our country, because "system" denotes organization. 

Brawley further criticizes the "system" by saying, "Too often, helping the patient isn't the point.  Economic incentives can dictate that the patient be ground up as expensively as possible with the goal of maximizing the cut of every practitioner who gets involved."

Question: Who is responsible for American's health-care/sick-care "system" being such a disaster? 

1) Health insurance and pharmaceutical companies
2) Medical professionals and health clinics
3) Consumers, i.e. patients
4) The government/large corporations
5) All of the above

It seems like a trick question.  I mean, is the patient (whether they be a low-informed consumer or not) to be blamed for taking the advise of experts who recommend procedures and drugs that do more harm than good?  Obviously not.  But is that same patient to be blamed for a lifetime of smoking, eating poorly, engaging in unhealthy or exceedingly risky behavior and not properly exercising?  Yes.  They are.

Or who's fault is it that patients do not trust the medical profession, and instead of going to them early enough to be treated in the early stages of a disease (in which they could be fully cured for $30,000) they wait years until they have no choice but to see a medical professional and end up having treatment that costs over $150,000 which will only delay death from that disease for a few months?

Or are the doctors at fault for experimenting with drugs and procedures that have been approved by health care agencies and experts?  What if these doctors did not reveal everything they know and everything they do not know about these procedures/drugs to the low-informed consumer/patient.

And what about large corporations that are polluting the environment and pumping toxins into the air, water and earth we live with? Like in 1977 when big chemical corporations decided they could make billions of dollars for years and years if they convinced our corporate-politicans to put fluoride in the water, even after Congress used the National Toxicology Program (NTP) to determine that fluoride caused the bone cancer called osteosarcoma.  That was over 20 years ago, but guess what we still have in our water?
Also, who is to fault for there not being enough quality medical professionals available to treat all Americans? 

The finger pointing can go round and round and in the end everyone involved is acountable for some of the blame.  Brawley writes of middle-aged black women who are so afraid of hospitals and doctors that they go without medical attention, knowing they have breast cancer, for nine years or more until their tumor becomes so big that it actually causes their breast to fall off.  He writes of sick Americans who actually can not afford health care or who can not afford to take off work to get treatement when they need it.  He writes of patients whose health care companies pay for unesseasry procedures recommended by doctors who are taking advantage of a system that is just out to make money.  He writes of patients who are prescribed unproven drugs that lead to worse health problems and then have their insurance companies drop them because they are too much of a risk.  So in this vicious cycle, where there is plenty of blame to go around, there is one thing that is for certain:  SOMETHING most be done to change the "system".

ObamaCare in a Nutshell

The first step in instituting ObamaCare came in the form of two ("fucking big deal") health care acts passed by Congress in 2010.  Assuming that The Supreme Court does not declare these two acts unconstitutional (the Supreme Court has scheduled six hours for oral arguments from March 26 to March 28 of this year and will issue a decision by the end of June) then the next step in ObamaCare is for Congress to pass the public option. The public option, for those of you not up to speed on the debate, would basically be a government-run health insurance agency which would compete with other health insurance companies - it would not be the same as publicly funded health care (like Medicare) because it would be financed entirely by premiums paid by those who buy into it (with no subsidies from the Federal government).  President Obama, the Congressional Democrats and others say that the public option would:

~Drive down premiums and provide choice where few options exist.
~Break up monopolies that control state and local markets
~Be a moral advancement (as Paul Krugman wrote in his New York Times column, "The most successful [health insurance] companies are those that do the best job of denying coverage to those who need it most.")
~Force other insurance companies to share information and reduce costs.
~Possibly force several insurance companies out of business.

In a recent address to Congress, President Obama explained why he thinks the public option will cost people less money to buy into than privately owned companies.  The public option, according to him, would avoid "some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers, and would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better."  That logic sounds a bit idealistic considering the government's ability to create red tape out of nothinginess, but many Right-wingers who oppose the public option use Obama's reasoning to express concern that the public option is simply a stepping stone toward a single-payer health care system.  They say that the public option will eventually run the competition (the other insurance comanies) out of business and that the public option is an attack on the free trade market beause the public option would mean that the federal government would not only be providing a health care option, but it would also be regulating the health care industry--which is sorta like playing football against a team that not only has their own players in the game, but has their own referee and commissioner as well.

Even if all of these things are true and the public option makes toast of the private health care insurance industry, most Americans honestly won't mind.  How many Americans do you know that have a huge love affair for big private insurance companies?  The real concern with such a public option (that eventually evolves into a single-payer system) is that:

1) the federal government has too often been a breeding ground for fraud, waste and abuse as witnessed in several of its other large government agencies and it would therefore just breed fraud, waste and abuse into a single-payer system. 

And 2) that the government will become even more intrusive in our daily lives--making decisions about our very health and depriving each of us from making these decisions for ourselves. 

But despite these concerns, the public option (and then eventually a single payer system) still appears to be the only way forward in the repairing of a broken, corrupt and disasterous private health care system that is draining the American people and ruining the American way of life.  And the alternative, the Right-wing Republican option, is to DO NOTHING.  And that is just not acceptable. 

So What Changes Should a Government Run Health Care System Implement? 

The Wagemann Health Care Plan could be our most effective way forward. The first part of the Wagemann Plan is something we already see being done: Sin taxes. But the Wagemann Plan calls for this concept to be expanded. Alcohol, cigarettes, foods with transfat, foods with pesticides and preservatives, etc should all be taxed at 100%.  Under the Wagemann Plan a bag of potato chips should cost 9 dollars. A single doughnut or a Twinkie should cost 4 dollars. And so on. The idea is that this will encourage folks to consume these things in moderation.  By the way, the Wagemann Plan also has something that Right-wingers should like: under the Wagemann plan none of the SIN foods will be able to be purchased with food stamps.  If Ghetto Joe wants to buy junk food that is going to risk his health and make him a burden on the health care system, then Joe is going to have to pay for it out of his own pocket--NOT THE TAXPAYERS. 

The second part of The Wagemann Plan calls for something similar to a program that our military has in which military members are required to have a physical fitness test once a year. The Wagemann Plan calls for giving all individuals in the health care system a physical fitness tests at least once a year, and then using that fitness score to determine the cost which each individual will pay for their health care.  Different factors go into determining the test results, like age and height, etc.  And of course the plan calls for exemptions for people with disabilities. 

If implemented, The Wagemann Plan would not only be an incentive for people to eat right and exercise--which would dramatically lower the costs of health care in this country--but it would also be the most fair Health Care Plan there ever was and put some factual mustard on statements such as "America has the best health care system in the world". 

Is the Current Health Care Bill nothing but yet another Bail-Out for Big Corporations?

If you are a frequent reader of Rockism101 you will know that we do not generally delve into politics. One controversial exception was made when we endorsed Barack Obama on the day he announced his candidacy for President a few years ago. However recently R101 has received numerous requests and questions as to where we stand on the Health Care bill signed into law this past week. There is one glaring aspect of this bill that is particularly irksome.  As soon it was known that the bill was going to pass the stocks of all the corporate health insurance and drug companies skyrocketed. This was the first signal that this bill was just more of the same old, same old.

A couple days later, after Obama signed the bill, 13 states immediately filed law suits claiming that mandating Americans to buy into the corporate health care system is unconstitutional.  Whether the bill is unconstitutional or not, the idea of forcing an individual to buy into a very corrupt and profit-motivated corporate health care system is wrong.  It's also wrong because the responsibility for our current health care crisis is not entirely the fault of the Individual.  If you look at nearly any ailment that the typical American is likely to get, it is quite likely a direct result of something that our Corporate Consumer System has caused. Whether the ailment is from the bizarre experimental drugs that the corporations pump onto the market, or by the pollution that their chemical plants pump into the food, water and air, OR from the cancer-causing preservatives and pesticides, etc that they glob our food and drinks with, it is the Corrupt Corporate System that is MAKING AMERICA SICK. 

Take for example the water in this country. Years ago, big chemical corporations decided they could make billions of dollars for years and years if they convinced our corporate-politicans to put fluoride in the water. But then in 1977, some "whacko" enviromental group convinced Congress to use the National Toxicology Program (NTP) to determine whether fluoride causes cancer. It wasnt until 13 years later that the NTP released data showing that lab rats given fluoridated water had a higher rate of a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma. According to a memo by the Environmental Protection Agency, the data indicated "that fluoride may be a carcinogen." That was 20 years ago, but guess what we still have in our water?
This is just one tiny example.  The list goes on and on, so why not make the Corporations take responsibility for the part they have played in the health care crisis in this country? Why are we bailing them out of this crisis--yet again--by making Joe Taxpayer foot the bill???

However, pointing the finger at Corporate America and making them take responsibility is only part of the solution.  American Individuals must also be held accountable.  That is why Rockism101 is a staunch supporter of the Wagemann National Health Care Plan.

The Wagemann Health Care Plan

The first part of the Wagemann Plan is something we see already being done: Sin taxes. But the Wagemann Plan calls for this concept to be expanded. Alcohol, cigarettes, foods with transfat, foods with pesticides and preservatives, etc should all be taxed out the wa-zoo.  Under the Wagemann Plan a bag of potato chips should cost 9 dollars. A single doughnut or a Twinkie should cost 4 dollars. And so on. The idea is that this will encourage folks to consume these things in moderation. The second part of the Plan calls for something similar to a program that our military partakes in, where military members are required to have a physical fitness test once a year. The Wagemann Plan calls for the institution of an agency that is responsible for giving individuals physical fitness tests once a year, and then determine the cost that individuals pay for health care based on the physical fitness test score they get.  Different factors go into determining the test results, like age and height, etc.  Of course the plan calls for exemptions for people with disabilities. 

If implemented, the Wageman Plan would not only be an incentive for people to eat right and exercise--which would dramatically lower the costs of health care in this country--but it would also be the most fair Health Care Plan there ever was.  

©2010 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 13, 2012

Are Corporations People? And Is Mitt Romney a Robot?

The Real RomneyThere is a very simple reason why Mitt Romney isn't going to be our next president and that is that he is not 'human' enough.  He doesn't sound like a regular human being, he sounds like a robot that spews CEO talking points instead of heart-felt views and opinions.  This tendency to sound rehearsed and stiff has gotten him only so far, but to become president there are going to be those inevitable rare unguarded moments of candor that are caught by cameras and microphones.  And it has been during these unguarded moments that the real person, Mitt Romney has been revealed.  And the real Mitt Romney has some very strange things to say. In his climb for the 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination, he has let slip such statements as he "likes to fire people", that he's "not concerned about the poor people" and possibly most puzzling of all that "corporations are people".

These quotes are taken out of context and easily spun by Romney's opposition. Still though, when I hear things like "corporations are people" I find it pretty baffling.  I know that Romney spent the majority of his adult life as a corporate sapien, but does he really believe that corporations are people?  And are there really other people out there who think corporations are people?  

To figure this thing out, I did what any inquiring 21st century mind would do:  I posted a question on a Conservative Republican internet message board to provoke a discussion and perhaps get my explanation. Here's what I got (my user name on this site is Jack btw):
Jack (me): Question. Are corporations people? Yes or No.

Nellie: Yes.

KD: Corporations are designed BY PEOPLE, operated BY PEOPLE, employ PEOPLE and are made or broken by people....so yes, Corporations are PEOPLE!

Mertle: Yes they are!

Me:  KD, movies are designed by PEOPLE, operated by PEOPLE, they employ PEOPLE and are made or broken by PEOPLE. So therefore following your line of logic. Movies are People also. And so are lamps and so are poems and so is Preperation H.  If that is your argument, then you are sounding like the Steve Carell character in the movie Anchor Man "I love lamp!
I LOVE LAMP Pictures, Images and PhotosAnd Romney's statement that "Corporations are people" sounds like it belongs in a Matrix movie...If corporations are people and corporations can own other corporations that means that people can own people. Which is slavery. I'm not sure but I imagine if you polled all the people in America at LEAST 80% of those people would disagree with Romney's statement that 'people are corporations'. Of course if you polled corporations the results would be much less. Oh wait a minute...you can't poll a corporation, can you?

Dr. Rose: yes, they are people!

Me: If you are a Republican then I think you have to worry about this quote by Romney, because this question is going to splinter your Republican party.  The goofball knee-jerk Right-wing exrtremists will HAVE to side with Romney. And that will only make them look like fools as they trip all over themselves trying to rationalize this bizarre Gordon Gekko-esque statement.
The more Independent thinking Republicans here will realize that Romney is completely off his rocker with this statement and it will make them look like fools if they vote for a man who would say such a thing.

Butch: Corporations are people in the legal sense.

Me:  So if Romney is saying that corporations are people in he legal sense, then does he think that the U.S. Constitution should be changed to "We the Corporations of the United States...

Mertle: Do you even know what Corporatism is Jackhole?

KD: ‎Jack Squat - please run along and sue the ever living crap out of your UNION TEACHERS and the Dep of Education for scr3wing you out of a proper education and then your Parents for scr3wing you out of some common sense!! Thanks - the 53% of us who pay taxes!!!

Me:  Come on, face reality people. It is idiotic to think or say that a corporation is a person. Does a corporation have a soul? If you believe that God created people, then you cannot believe that corporations have souls and that they are people. Maybe Romney thinks that corporations go to heaven/hell when they die--I mean he has some pretty unconventional religious beliefs anyway.

KD: Jeffrey Dhalmer didn't have a soul, but he is considered a person! Just sayin'!

Me: So you are comparing corporations to Jeffrey Dalmer then KD? Oh there's a real peak to strive for!

KD: I was making a point Jack Squat - I do not expect you to comprehend this

KD: Do animals have souls Jack Squat? Yes they do, but animals are not people...... can you get THIS point?

Me: So you were making a point that you were not expecting me to comprehend KD??? That's weird.  I mean why bother to make the point if you don't think I'm going to get it...And now you are comparing corporations to animals??? Its wall to wall entertainment here!!

KD: TO sum it up - Clearly Jack Squat - you do not know JACK SQUAT~~~

Me:  Look, if any of you women here have souls and have given birth to a child, you should be able to understand what humanity is all about. You should be able to understand that people can love. Can corporations do that? Can corporations love?

KD: ‎Jack Squat - I have TWO CHILDREN you tool ......and yes, if it were not for compassionate CORPORATIONS whom give money to CHARITIES, the homeless, help the poor go to college, then those people would be SCR3WED.......

Rose:  I work for a corporation. In exchange for my contribution towards the success of this corporation, I am awarded a salary, health insurance, paid vacation, annual raises and bonuses based on my contribution and the success of this corporation. I am an asset to the corporation, therefore I am the corporation along with the other individuals who contribute to the success and, therefore the existence of the corporation. Corporations ARE people!

Me: Corporations give to charities for tax breaks and to improve their public image. It has NOTHING to do with Love. Corporations are NOT about love. They are about the bottom line. They are about money. Plain and simple. And if you or anyone here is comparing the love they feel for a child with what they feel for a corporation, then I truly feel sorry for that child...

Harvey:  Corporations ARE people.  Deal with it, hippie!  

Me: Let me ask you folks this - If corporations are people, then can I marry a corporation? And if I am a mormon, can I marry multiple corporations???

...This discussion went on, quickly descended into a rash of schoolyard name calling and nonsense.  However it did show me that some people actually DO think that corporations are people--or at least that is what they say they believe.  But what about Romney?  Did he actually believe his own statement?  To seek the answer to this I headed to my local library and picked up a copy of The Real Romney by Michael Kranish.  And after reading it I feel that I gleaned a better idea of what makes Romney tick.  A person's values have quite a bit to do with who they are. Romney has some very good values, but I honestly think that his values include the idea that corporations are people. And this value, is the worst possible value a President of the United States could have.  The worst thing for this country would be if we elected a CEO-in-Chief. (CEO=Creating Employment Overseas).  Because not only are corporations not people, but the United States is not a corporation, or at least it shouldn't be.  Corporations put monetary concerns ahead of humanitarian ones.  And if that principle was ever to become the core of our nation--the greatest, most powerful nation on Earth--then quite frankly, humanity is doomed.

Overall The Real Romney was easy to read and well researched and it rates 3 out of 5 WagemannHeads.


For more writing by Ed Wagemann click here: ED WAGEMANN

©2012 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved