Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Week of the Dogs

Lousiana, Mississippi, and other Gulf states are now aswim in a brine brimming with the dead. Though the horrific cleanup of human dead has now begun, that soup and the tarn that remains once the waters subside completely will be punctuated with hundreds of thousands of dead pets -- cats and dogs, lots of dogs.

But the most filthy, toxic dogs of them all stand tall and blather to us now, acting as if the events of the past week can be "made right," that the same debates they've successfully tabled or ignored should once again be tabled and/or ignored, all the while flaunting their utter contempt and indifference to the grim reality of what has happened, where we are, what we have let ourselves become.

Orwell did not predict so much as he recognized, dissected, and laid open the realities of power-drunk governments and deluded nations: once a populace has been shorn from democracy and freedom, it is totally subservient to propoganda, believing what isn't true and disbelieving all that is.

Can this latest spin-cycle actually delude America after the events of the past week? I'm already hearing people who are doubting their perceptions of last week as the narcotic of the GOP and Bush spin-doctors kick into high gear, and I find myself wondering how long we, as a nation, can indulge this madness and pretend what is real is not, and what is not real is.

When the last election went down, resulting in another "victory" for Bush and his cronies, my feelings of anger, resignation, and outrage echoed a previous life experience in the comics industry -- when the direct market distribution system collapsed, and I resigned myself to the inevitable consequences to come (implosion of the market, a monopoly at the helm, the cyclical reassertion of the powers-that-have-been once again vying for domination of the once-fertile marketplace).

When Bush was re-elected -- sans Supreme Court intervention this time, amid a clearly broken election process tainted by electronic and digital voting methods too easily tampered with sans accountability -- and neighbors who are Bush-supporters crowed, I thought, "We deserve whatever happens to us as a country now."

Can any sane person continue to drink in the spectacle of the most recent events and not feel their gorge rise in their throat? The President's and his Administration's spin machine is in full cycle now -- and the ongoing and utter disconnect from reality, the absolutely sociopathic lack of empathy on the basest human level should be prompting guillotines to rise and heads to fall.

We even have our First Mother saying, with nary a hint of shame or black humor, the dead-on equivalent of "Let them eat cake." Read on, below -- where is the collective outrage and will to bring this corrupt pack of power-intoxicated mongrel dogs down? This latest global demonstration of contempt, incompetence, arrogance, and lunacy -- on the heels of Rove outed as the Benedict Arnold of the New Millennium and Halliburton and the pharmaceutical ownership of our government bringing fresh dimensions to the coining of human misery as a profit base -- outstrips Watergate (prompted by a mere bungled robbery of Democratic campaign headquarters, you'll recall) and anything Clinton or his administration ever approached. The nauseating tableau of Bush piously once again conjuring his fucking "armies of compassion/waves of compassion" while maintaining the smug opacity of a sunning reptile makes him the American Psycho to end them all.

A few recent highlights:

* Even as Katrina had immediately departed, The White House was heartlessly downplaying the impact, while its key officials (Bush, Cheney, Rice, etc.) vacationed... A reminder: The AP story for August 31st (now as remote a reailty as 9/10/01) actually was headlined, "White House Says Katrina's Economic Impact Is Modest", and read:

"Hurricane Katrina is likely to have only a modest impact on the U.S. economy as long as the hit to the energy sector proves transitory, White House economic adviser Ben Bernanke said Wednesday. "Clearly, it's going to affect the Gulf Coast economy quite a bit," Bernanke told CNBC television. "That's going to be enough to have at least a noticeable or at least some impact on the aggregate (national) data. "Looking forward ... reconstruction is going to add jobs and growth to the economy," he added. "As long as we find that the energy impact is only temporary and there's not permanent damage to the infrastructure, my guess is that the effects on the overall economy will be fairly modest."

"Fairly modest"??? An entire city was gone, along with many, many more in Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Gulf Region. Cities and communities were completey obliterated, and Bernanke was already trying to spin this into nothing of consequence!

* The spectacle of this current Administration's indifference and lack of empathy only becomes increasingly outrageous as those at the highest circles of power become more visible, tour the horrors, and open their insipid mouths... The sickening spectacle of Bush inserting himself into events has reached Roman Bread & Circuses levels of lunacy. It was utterly characteristic of our President to respond to the stunning sky-rocketing gas and heating oil prices with a pithy, "Don't buy gas if you don't need it" ("President Urges Americans to Conserve Fuel If They Can" by Nedra Pickler, AP).

(It needn't be this way: As my dear friend Diane E. Foulds informs me, things are different in other countries. She sent me the following: "The price of gas at Czech filling stations has risen by several crowns since Hurricane Katrina hit the US city of New Orleans. Petrol is now selling for about 32 crowns per litre, or roughly 5.25 US dollars per gallon. ...the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has announced that as of January 2006 it will increase the annual transportation subsidy given to disabled people in light of rising fuel costs. The Finance Ministry is also considering giving a subsidy to trucker and other professionals most affected by higher fuel costs." Of course, the Compassionate Conservative thing to do is to merely advise an oil-dependent population, "Don't buy gas if you don't need it." Spoken like a true oil man, George.)

The jaw-dropping ugliness of Bush waxing with a smirk about the high ol' times he once had in New Orleans as a youth (ya, we can all imagine: snooooooorkt!) is astounding, as is his belief that he is somehow comforting the masses with Good Ol' Boy small-talk chit-chat predictions of sitting on ol' Trent Lott's rebuilt porch. Not of Lott's one and only home, mind you, but just one of Trent Lott's many houses -- Bush said it was "a fantastic house - and I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." Surrounded by sycophants and toadies who applaud these appalling revelations of Bush's true nature, he revels in the spotlight like Caligula, while any sane person in earshot shudders in the firm knowledge that we are fucked. Bush is seemingly incapable of shame -- as if the New Gilded Age bloat of rich bastards rebuilding mansions and palaces has anything but vile connotations in the context of the poverty levels of New Orleans and the vulnerability of those who scraped out livings in the shadow of that porch. Bush is beyond clueless: he is clearly reveling in power without consequence, incapable of grasping not only the Ground Zero of Katrina and her aftermath, but the reality most Americans live with. It all eludes him: the scope of the tragedy, the shameful magnitude of our country's growing poverty (according to the most recent August 2005 US Census bureau press release, the US poverty-level-and-below populace is now at 37 million, up 1.1 million from their 2003 figures), the lack of services for all those on the bottom of this new Gilded Era imbalance of wealth (45.8 million Americans are now known to be without health insurance -- and that's just the available statistics; what about those beneath the radar?). Poverty levels have only increased since Bush took (and I do mean "took") office, but he is nonplussed, and bucking for permanent "tax reform" for the rich and the corporate. Ya, those Americans eking through this coming winter with record-smashing gas and heating oil prices dwindling their meager $44,389 median 2004 household income (unchanged from 2003) can't fucking wait to take in the view from Trent Lott's porch.

Bob Hebert in The NY Times accurately stated, "Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever by a president during a dire national emergency. What we witnessed, as clearly as the overwhelming agony of the city of New Orleans, was the dangerous incompetence and the staggering indifference to human suffering of the president and his administration."

As the Editor & Publisher website demonstrates, the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. The September 5th E&P staff headline reads, "Barbara Bush: Things Working Out 'Very Well' for Poor Evacuees from New Orleans," and the snapshot of 2005's elder Marie Antoinette is complete:

NEW YORK -- Accompanying her husband, former President George H.W.Bush, on a tour of hurricane relief centers in Houston, Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them." The former First Lady's remarks were aired this evening on National Public Radio's "Marketplace" program. She was part of a group in Houston today at the Astrodome that included her husband and former President Bill Clinton, who were chosen by her son, the current president, to head fundraising efforts for the recovery. Sen. Hilary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama were also present. In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: "Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston." Then she added: "What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

As comic historian Richard Arndt commented in his email to me, "Ah, yes. Those lucky bastards."

* This President's and this Administration's arrogant, pathological contempt for genuine science has finally taken a measurable human toll, and it numbers in the tens of thousands. This storm, this disaster, and this outcome had been predicted and forecast, methods of coping dismissed out-of-hand, and already the conservative pundits are trying to divert that bitter reality into finger-pointing at disenfranchised local civil authorities. I ask those so eager to once again rationalize Bush's lack of culpability: When does the power Bush so transparently boasts about require some measure of responsibility?...

I don't need to link you to sites conservative readers will dismiss out-of-hand to present this as a fact. Rick Veitch and I cited a National Geographic article earlier in the week, and Fran Friel referred me to an even more thorough and mind-blowing piece from Scientific American, circa 2001, which I recommend you read right now and
  • right here.
  • It's six pages, but well worth the read -- c'mon, read it. You know our President didn't, and won't. But of course, Bush doesn't read Scientific American, do he? We aren't bantering about "evilution" or the absurd notion of "Intelligent Design" as somehow equitable as a science (it isn't) here -- we are faced with the consequences of ignoring cold, hard scientific pragmatism, shorn of religion or ideology as a shield. There is a point where willful stupidity as a characteristic of leadership becomes untenable and truly malicious, and I believe we are finally unarguably there.

    * Meanwhile, money (sorely needed) is thrown at the disaster like a balm from on high, while our national economic present and future has aleady been ravaged by the unnecessary "preemptive" war this President and Administration willfully engaged in, despite overwhelming evidence countering their lies and deception... Before Katrina hit, Reuters had already reported that the Iraq War is costing more per month than Vietnam ever did (go to Alan Elsner's August 31st report,
  • "Iraq war costs more per month than Vietnam").

  • Elsner wrote, "The report, entitled 'The Iraq Quagmire' from the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus, both liberal, anti-war organizations, put the cost of current operations in Iraq at $5.6 billion per month. This breaks down to almost $186 million a day. "By comparison, the average cost of U.S. operations in Vietnam over the eight-year war was $5.1 billion per month, adjusting for inflation," it said. As a proportion of gross domestic product, the Vietnam War was more significant, costing 12 percent of annual GDP, compared to 2 percent for the Iraq War. However, economists said the Iraq war is being financed with deficit spending and may nearly double the projected federal budget deficit over the next 10 years. ..."Broken down per person in the United States, the cost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the past 60 years," wrote authors Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver. ...The total cost of the Vietnam War in current dollars was around $600 billion and there are some experts who believe the Iraq War will eventually surpass that total. For instance, the Congressional Budget Office estimated this year that if the United States managed to reduce its troop deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan to 50,000 by 2010, the cost over the next decade would be an additional $393 billion, which when added to the dollars already spent would exceed the Vietnam total. While there are far fewer troops in Iraq than there were in Vietnam at the height of that conflict, the weapons they use are more expensive and they are paid more."

    And that was before Katrina struck, further increasing our deficit spending to unprecented levels. The Administration continues to doctor the reality of that deficit by simply leaving the costs of the war off the table when discussing the mind-blowing deficit sure to impoverish our children -- my children -- and those now pitching in to take in Katrina evacuees into their own impoverished households.

    This is just more reprehensible duplicity by the authors of this war, who have also kept the other costs as invisible as possible: according to Elsner, these include "the deaths of an estimated 23,000-27,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 2,000 U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors; the social costs of domestic programs slashed to meet the budget shortfall; the loss of income to reservists and National Guard troops who spend long periods away from their careers and businesses as well as the anticipated costs of treating returning troops for mental health conditions as a result of their service." Mental health? How about the thousands returning disfigured, maimed, and without limbs?

    Hebert again in The NY Times this week: "At a time when effective, innovative leadership is desperately needed to cope with matters of war and peace, terrorism and domestic security, the economic imperatives of globalization and the rising competition for oil, the United States is being led by a man who seems oblivious to the reality of his awesome responsibilities."

    (With thanks to my friend HomeyDJ) I leave you with something reflecting the reality of the many Americans with brains, souls, eyes, and open hearts, those who have responded to Katrina's wake, the plight of hundreds of thousands, and the incompetency (at best) of our government with true caring, charity, and efforts to aid:

    "The task of man is to help others; that's my firm teaching, that's my message. That is my own belief. For me, the fundamental question is better relations; better relations among human beings-- and whatever I can contribute to that."

    - HH Dalai Lama

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    Blogger marrije said...

    haha, I just wrote a comment on your post about why-the-hell-is-this-not-posting and now that post has disappeared! brilliant.

    Can I ask a small favour? Could you perhaps link your masthead (MYRANT) to the homepage of your blog? That would make it easier for people who come in on a single post (through, for instance a news reader (i.e. moi)) to click through to the whole collection of posts.

    Blogger Jacob said...

    Hang in there Steve! I know the web can be a complete and total pain in the caboose, but since finding your blog last week I have been filled with joy and elation (even in these times of woe).

    It is so fantastic to 'hear' from the man that has been one of my major influences. Anyway, just wanted to throw in a "preach on, brother Bissette!" Your congregation grow-eth.


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