Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another winter storm, another day at CCS...

First day of a real drawing session at the Center for Cartoon Studies, and I'm psyched. I'll finally be seeing what the students do; a few have kept me supplied with copies of their work from last semester with other classes, but given the lecture-oriented nature of last semester's comics history sessions I was responsible for, I really didn't have much access to engaging with their work, which is after all the reason we're all at CCS.

However, I'll be driving to and from in another Tuesday winter storm -- my wife is already on her way to work (a daily commute, and a long one) through this sleet/snow mix. Wish us luck.

Since Mark Martin is on vacation, I'll ease off the Condi remarks after this morn. A portion of yesterday's post was indeed inspired by Mark's blog posting:

"About halfway through this Santo review you can see where a liberal has yet again portrayed Condi as an aggressive dominatrix. One appearance in knee-high fuck-me boots (which were specifically worn to convey strength to a bunch of mysoginistic [sic] neanderthal foreigners) and she is pegged as a man-eater for life.... it amazes me how these so-called "progressives" are intimidated and driven to insane fantasies by the reality of a strong woman."

Well, no, it's amazing how male friends will continue to bait male friends in this wacky American culture we've grown up in. If it weren't for Mark's professed affection for Rice, I'd focus elsewhere; I'm neither intimidated nor impressed by Rice. I haven't any fantasies about Rice or cyborg Cheney or anyone else in this Administration; I'm just tired of seeing a single one of them elevated as being in any way honorable, much less admirable, as they continue to lie, lie, lie and fuck about with all our lives, all in the name of professed ideologies about "freedom" and "downsizing government" and "tax breaks" (which have only increased localized tax burdens in all arenas to make up for unfunded federal rules and mandates; it's all a shell game).

The central aspect of "...the reality of a strong woman" regarding all women in Bush's circle, from his mom to Rice to failed Supreme Court Justice nominees Myers, is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Bush partriarchy, another of its implicit hypocrisies: even as the Administration actively erodes women's rights as a matter of principle and policy, Bush is utterly dependent on his circle of powerful women, with their undying fealty and devotion to him and only him. It's sick and compelling and quite a case study -- if only it weren't so central to how completely diseased our country has become. It's not a "strong woman" per se that's so perversely compelling; it's her/their interaction with straw patriarch, the "Mission Accomplished" man-in-the-flight-jacket, will-only-speak-to-hand-picked-'safe'-crowds Bush that invites derision.

So, OK, Mark, I'll quit kidding around about Rice. There's nothing I could possibly write here that would approach the ongoing reality of her true antics, anyway.

What is infuriating about life as an American today is seeing years of this sociopathic behavior rewarded time and time again, and seeing people I love, respect and admire look up to such behavior as not just proper, but somehow worthy of my respect, too.

Fuck that.

America the Plutocracy has become such a predatory culture, feeding on its own with such alarming ferocity and rapidity, that the ongoing pretence that there is some shred of an American "ideal" left is a nauseating conceit. We are eating our young while claiming otherwise (really: infant mortality rates in the US are increasing annually, in impoverished populations, natch), and our elected leaders actively and blatantly conspire with dangerously out-of-control deregulated business interests. The Federal government is now quite transparently an active broker for such interests, from Halliburton to multiple pharmaceutical and insurance interests; 'outsourcing' has become so prevalent, we now 'outsource' torture and foreign policies (as Rice so visibly spent the weekend and yesterday 'outsourcing' US policies regarding Palestine).

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina laid bare the internal collapse of our once-mighty, once-production-driven "empire" for all the world to see -- it's just the majority of Americans who refuse to see it. We're a weak, imploding consumer culture lionizing the very forces that are bleeding us dry, and we not only can no longer "take care of our own" as we once could (as evidenced by the speedy coordinated federal and state government responses to the major natural calamities of the late 1930s-'60s), we now espouse and/or embrace self-serving ideologues who pretend we can while they, like a termite infestation, aggressively excavate and hollow out what little is left of prior generations's hard work.

I've heard and read this morning that "health care" is paramount in tonight's Bush "State of the Nation" speech (heard & read from multiple sources, from the local station we listen to for weather, WTSA in Brattleboro, to the three public radio stations we pick up -- yes, HB3, I do listen to lots of public radio, in part because we live between three NPR stations that add up to a picture of the weather Marj and I drive through, but that aside, my alternatives in southern VT are pretty dire otherwise: it's now entirely corporate-programmed radio with almost no local content). This would be amusing if it weren't so fucking perverse: this Administration has done more to unravel health care than any in memory, reducing government to being a broker and muscle for pharmaceutical corporations and interests, with this past month's Medicare disaster (which again the states have been left to deal with, including massive emergency funding) the most recent and most visible result. This president and administration's steadfast devotion to inflating corporate profits on the backs of the American consum-- oh, excuse me, citizens (including that announced this weekend, very quietly, by Exxon Mobile, the highest record profits in corporate history anywhere at anytime -- out of our pockets!!!) is nowhere more evident than the government policies in place that don't even allow the federal government to negotiate for better pharmaceutical pricing. "The American way of life is not for sale!" Poppa Bush, when President himself, declared; but it is and has been and Poppa and Son Bush have been the most transparent about selling it to the highest corporate bidder/lobbyists, under the lie of "free market" strategies and "ownership society" where only the wealthy will be left standing.

Heaven help us if the dreaded pandemics -- any pandemic! -- indeed arrives. The scenario of, say, Los Angeles's monolithic homeless community being ravaged by any infection inevitably spilling into the rest of the community, however affluent, just doesn't seem to carry any weight. If the wealthy think class divisions will be respected by virulent disease outbreaks, welcome to the bubble Bush and his cronies live in.

I say, who needs pandemics? I've seen with my own eyes how lack of affordable health care impacted daily on coworkers at First Run Video and impacts daily on my own now-adult kids and their circles of friends. Scraping by on low-paying local jobs, when available, and unable to afford any form of dental or health care (except that my ex-wife and I can spring for, in the case of our kids), this upcoming generation don't have any concept of preemptive or prevention health care. They can't afford it, it isn't available to them, and any safety net they had until age 19 is yanked away so quickly it leaves them utterly vulnerable and seeing no alternatives. They're afraid to visit the doctor when they have a genuine emergency, and even then they're postponing any care until they're on the floor and the ambulences are on the way. Seeing states like Massachusetts proposing mandatory health care policies -- with punitive consequences for those who don't buy in -- misses the point entirely: these kids can't fucking afford health care in a system where costs have doubled and tripled and health insurance premiums escalate as services dissolve. If states legally exact health insurance, however meager, from the pathetic weekly paychecks even the hardest-working young adults and working poor struggle to bring home (some juggling two or more jobs and still unable to make ends meet) amid the climbing rents and heating costs, disaster (personal and societal) must follow. At that point, too, we have the ultimate merger of corporate insurance and government, with the government acting as enforcement for collections: the corporate rule almost complete.

Black market economies already thrive in the good ol' U.S. of A., and I'm not talking about meth labs. Among the dirtiest secrets of the current Administration that peeks its head into light of day whenever Bush feebly addresses the immigration issue is how increasingly dependent the New Gilded Age Rich are upon migrant labor to tend to their needs, how firmly portions of the corporate agricultural market depends on migrant work populations living in slave-like conditions -- it keeps strawberries affordable, for instance. As real estate, home prices and rentals spiral into the stratosphere, affordable housing isn't just an issue for the poor: how do the rich keep their maids, gardeners, servants in reach, with the lowest-pay possible (as bussing from greater and greater distances becomes not only more expensive, but less possible as once-subsidized trains and bus routes are discontinued)? These are "the jobs working Americans don't want to fill," the soft-shoe done around the reality of jobs that pay so little they're below the radar. Ah, the perils of the New Gilded Age.

As this continues, once-reliable economic barometers cease to function. "Median income" and "job creation" figures succumbed during this Administration's watch to meaninglessness: when CEOs are yielding (I can't use the word "earning" here) 400 times what their average laborer earns, and minimum wage (federal and state) is so far below any livable standard that it ceases to mean anything but 'indentured servitude' and guaranteed poverty, "median wage" is meaningless. Averaging minimum wage jobs with what CEOs bring home (not counting, of course, their obscene packages: benefits, stock, parachutes, etc.) tells us nothing about the American economy -- nor do unemployment figures now that millions have fallen off the other end of the unemployment process and are no longer counted at all.

We now have a "Hunger Belt" in America -- with almost all families in that belt with one or more adults in the family working full-time. We now have a working class that cannot afford housing: mobile home gypsies who live in camping areas seasonally and work full-time in those areas they settle in (depending, usually, on employment). We now have more uninsured working families than any time since the Depression, and insurance is only becoming less affordable, as is health care. We now have a cataclysm-scattered population that once lived in the Gulf region left to their own devices, and another hurricane season soon upon us -- even as the present Administration continues to stifle as best they can the science relevent to the escalating weather patterns precipitating such disasters, servicing "the special interests that have obfuscated the topic" (as stated this weekend by James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, on ongoing government attempts to silence his public conversation about global warming).

By mobilizing attention to 'moral' issues, feeding on & fomenting homophobia, hot-button emotional issues like abortion and 'Intelligent Design,' illusory 'assaults on Christian/family values,' and (heaven help us) "The War on Terror" (an undeclared war on nonexistent enemy states -- in fact, a nonsensical 'war' on a tactic, that's not even mobilized against the factions involved in 9/11), the ruling class and corporate culture has neatly kept what passes for a national attention-span on anything but the realities of the imploding empire.

It wouldn't be so completely nauseating if the Bushes and Rices of the world had some facet of imagination at work, but they don't. I mean, c'mon -- both claim surprise at the outcome of the Palestinian elections, that they didn't see it coming that Hamas would displace the long-reigning Fatah movement in the PLO. They still think "bringing democracy" to the Middle East will somehow serve US interests? The Middle East is sick to fucking death of US interests, and this Administration has done more than any before to escalate that (to put it nicely) disenchantment. Even Texan President Lyndon Johnson had the empathic ability to grasp that repressed populaces, once 'liberated,' can hardly be expected to be thankful to their "liberators" when the "liberators" were the oppressors (as Johnson said in so many words to Governor George Wallace amid the civil-rights violence of the '60s, making it clear to Wallace the times were a'changin' and Wallace had better adjust accordingly, one southern politician to another); Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice et al have been idiots in every step of their radical Messianic determination to "reshape" the Middle East, to the collective peril of all.

Only an utter lack of fundamental imagination and empathy can rationalize their ongoing rhetoric and policies, and that promises only three more years of dire consequences for the globe and all Americans.

So, if you're wealthy and rooting for the Bushes and Rices of the world, hey, I can see exactly where you're coming from. More power to you, though you don't need it.

If you're not in that top 5% bracket, assume the position.

We can see you're already somehow enjoying it.

Just don't ask me to join in.

OK, off to draw, a great relief, no doubt, to all.

I'll stick to lighter and more entertaining fare the rest of the week, or at least try to. But, oh, wait, the Enron case begins...