Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Break for Student Debtors

Do you or your child have heavy student loan debt? Well I have good news for you. This is from the Exit Counseling Guide for borrowers of federal student loans:
If you die, of if you are a parent borrower of a PLUS loan and the student for whom you obtained the loan dies, you may be eligible for a discharge.
How’s that for a deal? If you or your kid dies you may be get a discharge!

Now quit complaining and get my nonfat Latte, you entitled whiners!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bernie Sanders in Reno

I went and saw Bernie Sanders the other night at the University of Nevada, Reno. I estimated the crowd at around 3,000, but the Reno Gazette-Journal reports 4,500 people were there. That’s not bad for this seedy, soul-dead, Republican dominated hell-hole. If it wasn’t for gambling, prostitution and dive bars, the place would be a complete loss, worse than Modesto even (and seeing as how Nevada’s public school system routinely ranks dead last in the nation, the future doesn’t look bright. Abandon all hope, ye who enter Nevada).

I have a neuralgic loathing of crowds, particularly American crowds in summer apparel. On those unfortunate occasions when I’m surrounded by a herd of Americans at play, consuming, waving flags, listening to classic rock, cheering in unison, I look to the sky in search of that liberating meteor that is going to be here someday … someday …

Let’s face it, whenever large groups of Americans get together they either start a war or form a lynch mob (or trample someone to death on route to the stuffed animal aisle or the electronics department).

This crowd was okay, though. The news reports emphasize how young it was, but I was struck by the number of middle- aged and older people there. Many of the of them were the same fading old lefties you see manning the phones at PBS pledge drives, but not all. The crowd was diverse and civil, and no Free Mumia morons or other attention seeking professional “activists” showed up to discredit to the event and turn it into a pointless left-wing circle jerk. All in all, it was a healthy gathering where serious but hopeful Americans booed the oligarchy we live under and cheered for a better way.

Before the speech, a group of cartoonishly voluptuous women in short skirts and tank-tops unfurled a banner that said “Hookers 4 Hillary!” They dressed like waitresses at Hooters, and the fellow next to me thought it was a joke; not I. Those were the real thing. A trained eye can always spot an alcoholic or a hooker a mile a way. You just have to know what to look for. Sure enough, they were employees of the nearby Moonlight Bunny Ranch who actively support Hillary Clinton. That’s a steady source of funding that your average Bernie supporter might have a tough time matching.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pierce on the BLM Protesters

Charles Pierce puts the idiot agent provocateurs “protesters” who disrupted the Sanders’ rally in their proper place (emphasis added):
What happened in Seattle was an embarrassment to the tradition of public protest.  It was a hysterical piece of performance art that accomplished absolutely nothing toward whatever goals its performers sought to achieve. Rage is not an excuse. Frustration is not an excuse. This was a simple act of public vandalism, aimed (again) at the wrong target. … This is taking advantage of the openness of a campaign that is overwhelmingly sympathetic to your goals, instead of bringing your fight to the politicians who actively oppose you, because it's easier to do. Consider me unimpressed by the courage involved. I feel absolutely no compunction about saying that this “action” was stupid and counterproductive. It was loud and spectacular and it accomplished nothing good.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bernie Sanders is Being Sabotaged

Well, well, Black Lives Matter just crashed another Bernie Sanders event and forced him off the stage.

I wonder, why don’t they do this to Jeb Bush or Scott Walker? Why don’t they accost Hillary Clinton? Why do they only attack the the most progressive candidate in the election? Why do they only attack their most natural political ally?

Can anyone explain this to me?

Who benefits most from undermining Bernie in a primary campaign? We all know the answer to that.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The View From The Center

I am a fat, white, middle-aged man sitting on the couch. I’m wearing a baseball cap and watching sports. I pay attention to commercials. I’m not politically active, but I vote out of a vague sense of duty. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat and do not vote along party lines. I proudly say that I vote for the “best person.”

I’ve never left the United States because, as I’ve told my friends, “there’s plenty to see right here.”  I do not read for pleasure. I’m not clear on the difference between a Honduran and a Salvadoran or a Mexican.  For that matter, I’m not one hundred percent on the difference between the Chinese and the Japanese. But it doesn’t matter, because such issues never, ever  come up in my day-to-day life. Such knowledge is totally irrelevant to my work, and nobody in my social circle knows or cares about such information. It is as alien to our concerns as astrophysics or ballet.

I’m a moderate, but my views, such as they are, tend to lean center right. For example, I believe the United States needs to be tough on crime, tough on terrorism, and tough on illegal aliens. I think we need to stand up to Putin, Iran, and other enemies of democracy.  I don&rsquo't like welfare handouts, but I’m okay with a social safety net because I’m basically a decent and generous person.

In my heart of hearts, I believe blacks are less intelligent than whites, and this is why they are continually behind everyone else, but I never admit this unless I’m with friends who I know feel the same way.

(On the other hand, I secretly fear that Asians are smarter than whites, maybe a LOT smarter. This is troublesome to me, but I dismiss it with the thought that they’re robotic and lack individuality. I console myself with the knowledge that intelligence isn’t everything.)

I am, in short, the big fat white American normal. I used to be called “the vital center” in American politics. I am the demographic that candidates try to win after they’ve secured their  party’s nomination.

Lately. just lately, I’ve begun to sense something wrong with this country. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can feel in my bones that something way deep down is askew. It no longer feels like the country I grew up in. What is it?

So for the first time in my life I am paying closer attention to politics. I am listening with an open mind to candidates from both right and left that I normally wouldn’t give the time of day. This weekend I decided to give leftists like Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley a look, and what did I see?

I saw everything Rush Limbaugh says about the left. I saw every cliché about left wing activists all rolled up and bunched into a single, cringe-worthy episode that proves they are totally unfit to be taken seriously as a political force in America. I saw a screeching activist undermining her natural political allies for the sake of getting attention. I saw a spoiled child ruining it for everyone because nobody was giving her pet cause enough attention. Just as the views of people like Bernie Sanders were beginning to gain a little traction among people like me, I saw a fool, an arrant fool, deliberately cutting them off at the knees.

Meanwhile, Trump stuck to his guns. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, but he has guts and he doesn’t back down. He talks straight. And funny as it sounds, he might be just  the kind of person this country needs … 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

No Laughing Matter

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee are not funny. They are not fluffy celebrities that we can laugh at in between bites of Cheetos and jalapeno poppers. They are symptoms of deep political dysfunction that reflective people should be disturbed about. How is it that our political culture has degenerated to a point where these kinds of clowns and charlatans can be taken seriously as presidential candidates? This is not a joke. This is not a laughing matter. This is something that should give all serious people pause.

Has it occurred to anybody that one of these dangerous incompetents might actually stumble into the White House?

This is not a television show. This is not a popularity contest. We are not judging contestants on American Idol. These people are angling for a job that gives them power to use nuclear weapons. We must insist as a culture that it be treated more seriously. One of these rich, celebrity dolts might wind up with the most powerful job in the world. One of these frivolous celebrities might be in charge of negotiating with foreign countries.

We are playing with fire. We laugh at these buffoons, but do you realize how close they are to edging their way into power? Our “serious” candidates, our Bushes and Clintons, are plutocrats with absolutely no clue about life as it is actually lived in America. Their way of thinking is stale and out-of-touch. They offer nothing but the same cliches that have been dumped down our throats like castor oil for the last thirty years. They are dull, unimaginative, and totally unable to grasp the magnitude of the problems that are confronting us. A blunt, outspoken Donald Trump type can easily pose as a “truth teller” and kick them over like so much moldy wood. Sooner or later it’s going to happen.

We are laughing at the show like it is just a joke, like it is just another episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. We are going to laugh ourselves right into a catastrophe.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Dark Prediction

Watching an anthill is more interesting than anything David Brooks or Thomas Friedman ever write. It is infinitely more engaging than anything Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton ever say. Insects are more fascinating than anything our so called “elites” ever do. I get more wisdom from ants dragging a moth carcass around than I do from Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

I’m thunderstruck by how dull and unexceptional our “leaders” are. They are the colorless emanations of an exhausted culture. They can offer nothing but stale thinking and shopworn cliches. Sooner or later, a sinister Ted Cruz type is going to step into this leaderless vacuum and take us all down. Just watch. He’s going to kick the door down while our idiot weakling leaders dither. They will mindlessly repeat conventional wisdom while this evil demagogue speaks the “truth” to people. Fifty percent plus one of the electorate will go along with him.

I’m telling you this country is ripe for it and it will happen if we don’t get our shit together.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Indecision Time

I have a big life decision coming up. Wait, stop yawning! Should I go teach in China or should I stay with a girl I've recently started seeing? Should I choose China or the girl?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sociopath Support

What would a support group for sociopaths look like?

“I first stopped caring about people at ten.”

“I stopped caring at birth.”

“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”

“I don’t care.”

“I don’t care either.”

“Hey, let me explain something: All of you are just objects to me.”

“You’re just an object to us.”

“ I don’t give a shit.”

“We don’t give a shit either.”

What gets me on this subject? This weird blog that I half suspect is fraudulent. At any rate, there is a fine line between sociopath and narcissist. I think we’re dealing with the latter here.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Memorial Day Message

This cartoon is tendentious and carries a dangerous message:

We do not owe everything we have to the military. Our rights, benefits, and living standards are not bestowed on us by the Pentagon. In fact, constant warfare and a bloated military establishment are the most direct and dire threats to constitutional government there is, as Madison famously pointed out: “Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of all the others.” We should honor those who have fought and died in wars, but we should do so from an honest perspective. We do not need not to distort history or succumb to militarism to pay tribute to the victims of U.S. wars. I don’t wish to give offense, but no American soldier has died defending our freedom since World War Two. Ho Chi Minh, Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein posed absolutely no threat to our “freedom.”

Terrorists may threaten our physical safety, but they have no ability to subvert or destroy our liberty. Homegrown flag wavers are chiefly responsible for doing that. Sharia Law is not coming to America and never could, not because of the military, but because of American popular culture, which is totally antithetical to fundamentalist Islam. The burka is no match for American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, not even close. Our crass stupidity will save us from Muslim theocracy, brothers and sisters, count on it.

The invasion of Afghanistan may or may not have been just retribution for 9/11, but our freedoms weren’t threatened by the Taliban and their medieval beliefs. None of the grubby little skirmishes we’ve engaged in over the last half century had anything to do with preserving our freedom. All they did was enrich a few privileged industries and make us hated everywhere in the world.

This constant, uncritical praise of the military is deeply unsettling. It creates a category of individuals — soldiers — and an institution — the military — that are effectively beyond criticism. This is pernicious in the extreme and characteristic of fascism, not democracy. It is also reflective of deep insecurity: It’s not a coincidence that all of this hyper-inflated soldier love is occurring while the U.S. is in palpable decline and losing wars.

Our exaggerated military worship is just one more gaudy extreme in a culture full of gaudy extremes, and stems from the same source: Our inner emptiness and moral bankruptcy. Almost everybody, I think, senses on some level that there is something seriously askew in America. Ever since Bush the country has had a slightly eery, slightly alien feel to it. If you are poor or working class, which I have been most of my life, there is a distinct atmosphere of hostile condescension that wafts down from every American institution. You are treated like complete shit and quite deliberately held down. You experience the utter hollowness and bullshit of our national rhetoric. You live the gap between how we talk about ourselves and what we really are.

You are ripped off by government, you are ripped off by business. You are ripped off by your insurance company, ripped off by your bank, and ripped off by your boss.

One day, you wake and realize that every goddamed institution in the country is ripping you off, and they are not delivering the goods anymore. The trains aren’t running on time. You don’t get rewarded for hard work. The quality of everything feels diminished, and there is precious little that is wholesome or virtuous. You can’t even eat at McDonald’s for under eight bucks anymore, and that shit is practically inedible, and the little plastic and nylon flags you buy on the Fourth of July are made in fucking China! 

So what do we do? Start looking for someone or something to believe in. We start groping around for heroes. But who in this increasingly ugly country is heroic? Banks and corporations are run by out and out thieves, none of them even remotely loyal to the country. Our politicians are low-grade non-entities completely in hock to said thieves. The few who actually grasp the hellish situation we’re in show little inclination to do anything about it because we are not their concern. Athletes are venal, grossly overpaid cry babies and felons;  lawyers are lawyers, astronauts are dull, and most celebrities are vapid twits. Who’s left? Soldiers, and, of course, first responders. That is to say, cops and soldiers. This is not healthy. This is ominous.

I maintain that a healthy society of mature grown-ups doesn’t have a compulsive and childish need for heroes, and that it wouldn’t fetishize authority figures.    

I have students who have never been alive when the US wasn’t at war.  I’m happy to report that many of them display a healthy cynicism about it and occasionally make sarcastic quips about Amurrica! (I have nothing to do with this. I never preach political viewpoints to kids). Nevertheless, this soft core militarism has been the permanent background music of their lives. Bombing, flag waving, drone strikes and sticky soldier worship is the norm for them. The idea that peace, not war, should be the normal state of affairs in our foreign policy is basically unknown to them. It’s just not part of their calculus. They do not necessarily support war, nor do they feel compelled to oppose it. It just is and they accept it, just as you accept smog and traffic jams, work, death and taxes. This is mission accomplished.