Monday, April 13, 2015

Week of 04/13/2015

Is Iran Playing Saddam Hussein’s Game?
Remember when you were a kid and you were told to clean up your room?
You didn’t want to, right?  You liked your mess.  Everything you needed was right there for you to grab.  You knew where it was.  You didn’t care if it looked messy or chaotic.
But your parents would tell you that you needed to clean up your room and you needed to do it right that minute, or else you wouldn’t be allowed to do the things you liked doing.  You couldn’t go see that movie you wanted to see or go play with your friends or go bike-riding like you wanted to do unless you cleaned up your room.
So you did the least amount of “cleaning” that you could in the fastest possible time.  You pushed things aside, you piled things up, and you swept or vacuumed just enough to “look clean”.  You broke land-speed records for cleaning, because you had more important things to do than waste your time doing something you did not want to do in the first place.
Then your parents would make that required inspection, and you would hope that they just took a quick look and give you the okay to go on with your life.  You hoped they wouldn’t look under the bed to see the piles of stuff pushed under it.  You certainly hoped they wouldn’t open up the closet door to see all the stuff you crudely piled up in there and are balancing only on the flimsiest of platforms.  You hoped they wouldn’t notice that your bed wasn’t really made or that you only vacuumed the parts of the carpet that they could see from the door.  You hoped they would just take your word for it.
Except it never would work out that way, would it?  Your deception would eventually be discovered. If not then, then at some later point when things would come crashing down around you.
There’s a part of me that is wondering if the leadership in Iran is playing that same game right now.
America’s longest-running constitutional-theocratic villains are in something of a bind right now.  Once upon a time their biggest export was oil.  Then, after they overthrew the Shah and took Americans hostage, their biggest export was fear and terror.  Then they lost their credibility as the fear-mongers of the world when the extremist sects of Sunni Islam took over from their own Shia Islam craziness in terms of American-hating fear-mongering.
I mean, come on Iranians!  You guys used to own the “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” chants!  Now you’re getting usurped by Syria and Somalia.  That’s like Emenem losing a rap contest to Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory”!
About the only thing Iran has left to stay relevant right now is their hunger for nuclear power.  They want the world to think that it’s for “nuclear power” in terms of electricity and power plants, but there are many that fear that the “nuclear power” Iran truly wants is for nuclear weapons, so they would automatically join the “elite” group of countries with the power to contaminate a whole city or small country.
Yes, having a nuclear weapon is a huge international stick, and the war-mongers and fascists here in America (and “certain other countries”) continually shriek in fear of Iran making and exporting nuclear weapons to every terrorist group around the world, turning the “Cold War” into a radioactive Ice Age of death and destruction that will take untold millenniums to clear.
That’s the image that the fascists and the war-mongers want to stick in our heads when it comes to Iran.  Iran gets “the bomb” and suddenly every terrorist around the world will have one. 
The war-mongers in those “certain other countries” have an even grittier picture to paint.  Iran gets “the bomb” and suddenly those “certain other countries” would become radioactive dead zones.
Here’s the thing: terrorists don’t need to get “the bomb” from Iran to spread fear and radioactive death.  They can accomplish the same thing using waste materials from nuclear plants or hospitals or universities.  There have been plenty of “dirty bomb” scenarios thrown about in the media during the Bush Imperium and their “duct tape and plastic sheeting” fetish to show that it’s not a dirty little secret or an inconceivable scenario. 
But what “the bomb” really represents is political power.  It’s about being able to lord over other countries, acting as the “big bully” for fear that it “might” be used, and to do so would court possible nuclear extinction.  After all, that’s what many nations see America as being.  We are still the only nation in the world that has used nuclear weapons against another country.  Twice.  And don’t assume for a moment that America’s cons and neo-cons don’t have that in the back of their minds as a positive.
It’s an image, and the one thing that fascists and war-mongers understand is how to use images to manipulate the masses.
Which has me wondering about the recent events concerning Iran and their strange talks with America about their nuclear ambitions.
America wants Iran to abandon any dreams of getting nuclear weapons.  Iran wants to have the crippling economic sanctions lifted.  It seems to be a simple enough of a barter, right?  Get rid of the nuclear weapons development in exchange for the lifting of those sanctions.
So why isn’t it that simple?
Maybe it’s because Iran doesn’t really want to deal with America.  They just want to mess with all of our heads.
Let’s see if you guys can keep up.
President Barack Obama would like a deal with Iran to cement his place in history (as if he doesn’t have enough of those little cemented places).  Jimmy Carter got Israel and Egypt to the table.  Bush Junior got Mommar Qadaffi to behave... for a little while anyway.  Even Richard Nixon managed to go to China.  So why not get Iran to behave?
Iranian leaders know that talks with the so-called “Great Satan” would shove a wedge between America and Israel.  Israeli leaders don’t want Iran to have any kind of nuclear technology, never mind a bomb, because the Iranian extremists don’t believe Israel should exist.  Israel depends on American support, so if they feel they’re not being “loved” in Washington, they’ll throw a temper tantrum until they get their way.
Plus the Iranian extremists know that America’s own political extremists are obsessively in love with Israel and with the idea of war, and also with their seething hatred of Obama, so much so that they’ll do anything in the world to sabotage the talks just to spite Obama.
So Iran goes into talks with America, and just in time for their artificially-imposed “deadline”, they have a supposed “framework” for a possible future deal that would satisfy everything that America is looking for, and would result in ending the economic sanctions, which is what Iran is looking for.  Nothing is set in stone, of course, never mind on paper.  But it’s enough to give the pretense that there is a deal in the works.
Right on cue, the Israelis throw their temper tantrums, and the GOP throw their temper tantrums.  And, as an added bonus, the price of gasoline and the price of oil start sinking at a time when they should be going in the opposite direction.  Big Oil is in deathly fear that Iran will flood the market with their crude, so they’re preparing now for the supposed “shock”.
But then... that country’s supreme leader throws in a new curve that is certain to sabotage any talk of a deal.  He demands that any deal include the immediate removal of all sanctions instead of using them as an eventual reward for compliance.
This should sound a little familiar.  This was the same trick used by Saddam Hussein in the months prior to the launch of the Iraq War.  He kept on demanding that sanctions be lifted for simply allowing weapons inspectors to be there, never mind validate that there were no weapons of mass destruction. 
But why throw this curve ball?  The framework was set, the political wedges were in place, political fear was rampant, and the economic fear had taken hold.  It would seem stupid to go through all of that effort only to hose it at the last minute.
Unless it was by design.
Let’s get brutally honest here... I strongly suspect that all of this is just one big game.  Like the kind Saddam Hussein used to play for Iraq, and like the kind that North Korea has been playing all this time.
The leaders of Iran don’t really need the sanctions lifted.  They have everything they want.  They’re still in power.  They are still able to continue their quest for nuclear power.  Hell, they can still ship drugs around the world all they want to.  The sanctions only hurt their people.  And those people won’t do anything to hurt them.  After all, to go against the religious leaders there is like going against God.
So they can play these games to keep themselves relevant, to keep themselves in the news.  To keep the other nations interested in them.  And, of course, to piss off the war-mongers and fascists in America and Israel.
The childish Iran says they’re cleaning their room.  Just don’t try to look under the bed or open up the closet door.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week of 04/06/2015

Silly TheoCons, Tricks Are For Kids
I sometimes wonder what people are thinking when they find out that they’re on the wrong side of history.  Is there some point when they know that they screwed up?  That what they are thinking, what they have been brought up to think, was wrong?
I know people here in the South – to this day – refuse to acknowledge that they were on the wrong side of history on a lot of things.  They refuse to acknowledge that they were on the wrong side of history when it came to slavery.  They refuse to acknowledge that they lost the Civil War.  They refer to it as the “War of Northern Aggression”.  They refuse to acknowledge that they were on the wrong side of history when it came to the Civil Rights struggle of the 50’s and 60’s.
Outlaw slavery, and what happened?  Jim Crow laws were created.  The Klu Klux Klan got started.  Riots and lynchings and bombings and out-and-out murder went on.  We’re talking about acts of terror that mirrored those being committed by Islamic extremists around the world today.
And we’re not talking about just a handful of “lone extremists” and “nut-job wackos”.  We’re talking ministers and businesspeople, mayors, police chiefs, and even governors.  All of them firmly believing with every fiber of their being that they were right.  Hell, that they were consecrated by God that they were in the right!  That history and “heritage” and God-almighty were all on their side!
In the 1920’s, the KKK was so large that they actually had a march on Washington DC.  They had a movie made in 1915 called “Birth of a Nation” that painted themselves as “modern-day” crusaders.  And that was back when making movies – never mind releasing them – was a major production in and of itself.
You can’t just turn that off and say “all is forgiven”.  We are talking about generations of institutionalized bigotry and discrimination that had to be challenged.  And every step forward, every obstacle that was overcome, resulted in still more obstacles put up.  “We can’t kill ‘em, but we can prohibit them from voting.  We can’t stop them from voting, but we can stop them from doing business with us.  We can’t stop them from doing business with us, but we can zone them away from our neighborhoods.  We can’t zone them away, but we can keep their kids from going to school with our kids.  We can’t keep their kids from going to school with our kids, but...”
And on and on and on.  Every time it gets smaller and smaller, but every time it’s an effort for them to try to impose their self-righteous superiority over others.  A superiority that they believe was handed to them by God.
And I have to wonder, will any of them ever admit that they were in the wrong?  Or would it have to be their descendants that make that proclamation? 
That brings us to today, and the latest efforts by self-righteous people that fail to accept that they are on the wrong side of history.  Only this time it’s not about race or color.  It’s about sexual orientation and their own supposed “religious freedom”.
Gay rights are the Civil Rights struggle for the 21st Century.  The same factions, the same self-righteous minds that used to marginalize and dehumanize people of different colors and different faiths are fighting tooth-and-nail to maintain their dominance in society when it comes to sexual orientation.
And let’s get brutally honest here... this is what the whole issue is really about.  It’s not about “religious freedom”.  “Religious freedom” is simply the buzzword they have latched on to conceal their real goal.  This is about dominionism, plain and simple.  Their dominionism over all of us, no matter the color, creed, belief, or orientation.  
This is about the bible-thumpers of America being able to maintain their dominance into society.  They couldn’t continue to outlaw same-sex activity.  They couldn’t prohibit the LGBT community from coming out of the shadows, starting businesses, moving into their neighborhoods, or raising children and having those children co-mingle with their children.  And their last great pillar of their dominance, the institution of marriage, is falling state-by-state and court-by-court.
The only thing left for the self-righteous is their dissatisfaction.  They are seeking a license to discriminate, to be able to say with impunity and disgust “we don’t cater to your kind!” 
That’s what they said to people of different color a century ago.  It’s what they said to people of different faith even longer than that.  “We don’t cater to your kind!”
Only they really can’t say that to people of different color or different faith today.
And that really sums up their true intent with these so-called “religious liberty” laws. Stripped down of all the pretense and legalese, it is their ability to say with impunity and disgust “we don’t cater to your kind!”
It’s not about liberty.  It’s about license.  It’s about being able to discriminate without consequence.  To be able to put their beliefs above others.
And, make no mistake, this has already been put in play!  A church has actually invoked the “freedom of religion” to defend itself against any consequences in their ongoing problem with pedophile priests.  They say “We can’t be held to the judgement of your courts because of the First Amendment”.
What makes this subject even more disgusting is how the conservatives and neo-conservatives and especially the theo-conservatives have been reacting to the backlash to their efforts to sneak in these “religious liberty” laws.  They’re throwing temper tantrums, stomping their feet and screaming like little children that “Christians are under attack” if they don’t get their way.
Yeah, maybe if you were in Kenya or Egypt or Iraq you could say that.  Maybe if you were actually being hunted down by Islamic extremists simply for being Christian, your claim of “persecution” would be valid.
But you’re not in any of those places.  You’re in America; where you’ve been able to rejoice in your self-imposed dominance over society for so long that you’ve become the modern-day hypocritical Pharisees mentioned in the New Testament. 
And you just got caught trying to cement your hypocrisy.  Get that cross out of your butt and accept the fact that you are on the wrong side of history yet again.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Week of 03/30/2015

Messing Up Their Own Markets
This column will be going online during the week of April 1st, which is the nineteenth anniversary of the weekly commentary that you know today as Brutally Honest.
There is a lot that has happened since that very first article went online.  Some good... a lot bad... and more than some that have been completely horrible.
But what’s sort of interesting is how today’s world has been gradually resembling the fictional one from my very first article.
In “An Electronic Nightmare from the Not-So-Distant Future”, I give you a hypothetical world that has been sanitized and dumbed down to the level of a child, thanks in no small part to censorship legislation.  A world where computers were pretty much nothing more than toys, and an actual computer to do actual business work with was an outdated subject.  A world where a computer store was a rapidly dying business and you can literally hear its dying breath in the closing of the door.
Well the legislation was thankfully squashed in the courts, but it seems a lot of the other things are sort-of coming true.
Computers... actual desktop computers... are being replaced with not just laptop computers, but tablets, smartphones, and, yes, watches.  All of your files can be stored on cloud servers, including your music and videos.
The most popular programs?  Mindless games and apps designed for the simplest of users.
Big electronics stores like Best Buy used to put computers up in the forefront.  Where are they now?  In the sidelines.  You know what took their place?  Cellphones.
And it’s not just the location of the computers in the store that has changed.  Wireless networking is no longer with the computers.  Routers, switches, cables, they all are located in the same area as overpriced wireless speakers and custom-controlled lighting systems.  Battery backups?  Over by the TV sets.  What used to be strictly computer accessories are now shared by gaming consoles, TV entertainment centers, and, of course, cellphones.  Oh, sorry, smartphones.
That brings us to the ongoing downfall of a longtime electronics store, and one that had a hand in the early years of my days in online radio.
When I was younger, Radio Shack was “the” big electronic store.  The toy store for anyone who was “too old” for toys.  Not only could I buy a radio there, I could actually make a radio.  They offered kits and boards and soldering equipment.  Back when CB radios were the “social networking” of the day, you could buy one, and an antenna, and walkie-talkies, and stay connected thanks to Radio Shack.
When I got started doing audio effects for my school theater group, and later did amateur DJ work, I got my equipment from Radio Shack.  My amplifier, microphone, headphones, mixer boards, batch cables, and adaptors galore not only came from Radio Shack, but they carried the in-store Tandy brand.  Most of that same equipment would later be used when I started my online radio shows, ten years after I originally bought them.  Yes, electronic items used to actually last that long.
Those were the days.
So it saddens me to see the recent news reports of Radio Shack’s financial implosion and the news that over eleven-hundred stores nationwide are being closed down so what is left of the company can possibly survive bankruptcy.  My quest for those rare adaptors and patch cords to make my various devices work will be that much harder in the future.
But they’re not the only ones struggling.
Office supply companies Staples and the combined Office Depot/Office Max conglomerate have also announced they’re planning on shutting down stores even as their so-called “business experts” work on a merger that would essentially create one monopolist office supply company.  In fact Staples has already shut down the local store here, forcing customers to either travel further into Atlanta proper or seek those same materials at Wal-Mart.
Funny, isn’t it, how every so-called “smart business decision” ends up driving customers more and more to Wal-Mart?
Yet if you look at these stores, you’d see that there seems to be a common thread to their downfall... and it’s not just the threat of competition from so-called “big box” stores like Wal-Mart.
Radio Shack used to be known as the place you would go for electronic devices and electronic equipment.  Yet, when I would show up in any of their stores, what would be the first things I would see?  Remote-controlled toys, telephones, and cellphones.  They pretty much skipped past the computer revolution, providing only the occasional hard drive or blank CD-ROM discs.  It’s as if their target audience age dropped from 20 to 8.  Oh, they still had the occasional cables, cords, and adapters.  But those would be in the far back... behind the $5 remote-controlled helicopters.
Same with the office supply stores, but not to the extent that Radio Shack went to.  Yes, they would have at least half of their stores dedicated to actual office supplies.  Chairs and tables and folders and filing cabinets and all sorts of papers and cards and pencils and pens and desk goodies.  And, yes, they also have copiers and shredders and printers and printer ink.  In fact, when my mom’s brand-name printer needed ink, I’d have to pay Staples a visit, because all of the so-called “big name” stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart had no idea this particular kind of ink even existed.  (And we’re not talking some rare kind of ink or an outdated printer either!)
But what do you see when you walk through those doors?  First things right up front... cellphones and cellphone accessories.
Are you noticing a pattern here?
Let’s get brutally honest here... I’m not going to Staples or Radio Shack for a cellphone.  In fact, I’m not even thinking cellphones when it comes to those stores.  Do you?  It’s like going to McDonald’s for tofu and bean sprouts.
I understand why these stores would want to expand into cellphones... they were trying to compete against Wal-Mart and the other “big box” stores.  But they were doing it the wrong way.  Instead of highlighting what made them unique, they tried to be what they weren’t, and then wondered why people weren’t showing up.
We keep on hearing that the world of business is a simple matter of supply and demand.  But the truth is that there is a time and a place for both these things.  The “big box” stores are able to appeal to a wide clientele because that is what people see them being; an all-purpose super-general store.  But if your store appeals to a specific kind of “demand”, you can’t bring more people in by trying to provide a different kind of “supply”.  You do it by reminding people why your store is better than the “big box” competition.
And if you can’t do that, then all you’re really doing is just sending those clients right to those “big box” stores anyway.