Monday, August 31, 2015

Week of 08/31/2015

A Need For Justice, Not Attention
I have been really hating the TV commercials being done for American Family Insurance.  Previous commercials from them regurgitated Jiffy-Pop pre-packaged messages with an overplayed jingle from a certain pop song, and they played them over and over to the point that any time the actual song would appear on the radio, I’d have to change the station or turn the radio off.
The most recent commercial they are airing, though, is really pissing me off for a much different reason. 
The commercial features kids playing football in a junior league capacity, each of them saying out loud that they have “plans” and that they’re “going places”.  And then, of course, you get the message that AFI would supposedly “back them up”.  AFI wouldn’t help them make those “plans” happen or help them “go places”.  They just would provide “insurance” in case something were to happen to those families.
It’s deceptive because it implies something that they cannot really promise, but that’s not why I hate it.
I hate it because I had “dreams” and “plans” too at that age.  And mine didn’t become real, no matter how badly I wanted them to.  There were simply too many people who made it their mission in life to destroy my “dreams” and “plans” and to make sure that the “places” I could go to were limited.
I wanted to play varsity sports.  Other people decided that I wasn’t “worthy” of it.
I wanted to be a police officer.  Other people decided that I wasn’t “worth” hiring.
I wanted to be a radio personality.  Other people decided that I wasn’t “mainstream” enough.
I wanted to be a writer.  Other people decided that I wasn’t “good” enough.
Sure I can make do.  I’ve been doing that with this column for almost twenty years now.  I was doing that with the Talk Liberty Network and later with ShockNet Radio.  I still do that with Battlerock Comics.
But those aren’t really living “the dream”.  And those “places” are limited to a very small audience in a microscopic forum.  Nor do they pay the bills.  In fact, they haven’t paid anything.  They don’t even pay attention, never mind currency.
That’s why I hate the commercials from American Family Insurance.  Because they tap into something that I’m sick and tired of being reminded that I don’t have anymore.
But here’s something else for you to ponder, which I’m sure will get under your skin like the AFI commercials have been doing for me:
Do you think that Vester Lee Flanagan had “dreams” and “plans”?  Do you think that he believed he was destined to “go places” and “do things” like those kids playing football in those AFI commercials?
Mister Flanagan is the guy who murdered a reporter and her cameraman during a live broadcast in Virginia this past week.  Without any warning, he shot both of them and then shot the woman they were interviewing.  He would later fax the media his confession and post his video of the killing on the Internet so the whole world would know who he was and why he supposedly did what he did.
Flanagan, a.k.a. former TV reporter “Bryce Williams”, wouldn’t have any way to further explain his actions, of course.  He would later take his own life when the police found him on the highway.  So, as always, the self-appointed “experts” in the air-fluffed ego-driven media would go on writing the narrative. 
And, because this involved one of their own, you can imagine they are quick to dismiss Mister Flanagan as a lone nut case who “needlessly” killed two saintly people.
Members of the Atlanta media pretended to be experts and declared Flanagan to be an “Injustice Collector”, as if that was some kind of profession.  They characterized him as someone who just “collects all sorts of slights, no matter how minor”.
Another member of the media whined about how their own people should stop “glorifying” the killers and focus on the victims, because, according to his own hired “expert”, the killers are simply doing this “for attention”.
Tell you what, members of the media, you take a good hard look at your own damned vocation, because the guy who did the killing was once a member of your own damned vocation, and you yourselves wouldn’t be in your own damned vocation if you didn’t crave some modicum of “attention”.
I’m not validating what he did, or deny that he quite possibly had some problems, but let’s get brutally honest here... the air-fluffed ego-driven media is only doing our society a greater injustice by trying to wash their hands of people like Vester Lee Flanagan and beautify the victims without really answering they question they keep on asking... “Why?”
You really want to stop future tragedies?  Then stop trying to come up with Jiffy-Pop explanations for people like him.
Here are a few truths... a few realities... that you need to accept, and accept them pretty damned soon:
First of all, “difficult people” aren’t just loners and people on the fringe.  They’re also your neighbors, your co-workers, your bosses, your boss’s bosses, and, yes, even contenders for President of the United States.  The trick is how to work with them, not dismiss them outright or find ways to get rid of them simply because they get under your skin.
Second, people in “human resources” are not gods, nor are they impartial.  They are human beings who filter things through their own biases.  If they have two people that are butting heads, and they happen to favor one over the other, or that person is more “liked” than the other person, well, it sucks to be the one left out.  And understand as well that “HR” is not there for the employees, but for the company.  They’re not picking personal favorites.  They’re deciding what’s best for the company, and, yeah, sometimes a little personal favoritism is involved.  It doesn’t make it right.  It just makes it what’s “best” for the business.
Third, no amount of gun regulation or legislation could have stopped Flanagan from lawfully getting a gun.  None.  I do not care how “outraged” you are about this any more than you care how “outraged” Mister Flanagan may have been over his lot in life.  You are not god.  You do not get to decide who should and who should not “deserve” to get a gun.  We do not have precognitives that are able to tell us with absolute certainty what people will do in the future like in the movie “Minority Report”, and you should be thankful that we don’t!
Fourth, contrary to the fiction spun by you and your so-called “experts”, just because your life turned out as you wanted does not mean that other people are so fortunate.  Yes, your plans and dreams can be crushed, shattered, and taken away from you by the mechanizations of others, and sometimes for no other reason than personal entertainment.  It could very well be that Mister Flanagan’s life was ruined by other people.  It doesn’t justify what he did in response, but it also shouldn’t be written off in an asinine way as saying “Oh he’s just looking for attention, boo-hoo!”  In fact that only contributes to the kind of response that you didn’t want happen.  Aren’t you proud of yourselves now?
What would happen if you lost your job tomorrow through something out of your control?  What if you started to lose the very things that help make the worst of your life tolerable?  What if you lost support of your friends and family members?  What if you lost the things that you enjoyed outside of your work?  And what if you were getting continual reminders of what you’ve lost subtly thrown in your face?  Do you really think that you’d handle all of that with grace and optimism for two or three or even five years without end?  Ha!  Keep dreaming!
A person suffering from antisocial personality disorder or avoidant personality disorder or borderline personality disorder are not “born” with their problems.  Their problems are the result of other acts done against them.  And don’t forget that we in our supposedly “modern civilized society” have a piss-poor problem in dealing with mental disorders.  We expect people with such problems to handle them on their own, quietly, and not bother anyone else with them.  Our failure to deal with the problem mirrors our own ignorance and apathy on them.
And, by the way, how the hell do you expect government bureaucrats to somehow magically divine when issuing gun permits that the applicant is suffering from a psychological disorder when everything in our society screams at those that suffer from them to keep that sort of revelation buried deep down so nobody else will know about it?  Go ahead! I dare you to explain that one!
Vester Lee Flanagan wasn’t looking for “attention” when he did what he did.  He was looking for some modicum of justice against all of the perceived injustices done against him.  The systems he was supposed to turn to and put faith in failed him.  That’s not an “injustice collector”.  That’s someone who sees himself at the end of his rope.  His faxes and Internet posts were his failed attempts to control the narrative so the air-fluffed ego-driven media wouldn’t be able to.  And, of course, his hasty suicide was his final method of control over his life when he realized that he couldn’t escape the police like he wanted to.  It turned out to be the one thing that he did do right that others couldn’t take away from him.
If Flanagan was looking for “attention” like the so-called “experts” claimed, then he wouldn’t have killed himself.  He would have instead turned himself in, forced the state to try him in court so he could tell his life story and air his perceived grievances, pushed for the death penalty and then drag the process out in appeals for decades, all at the taxpayer expenses, so he could repeat his grievances endlessly, and maybe even get a book and movie deal out of it, and certainly gain some sympathy down the line.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: we make our own enemies.  When we fail to recognize the mechanizations of others, we make our own enemies.  When we pompously and ignorantly expect the sick and injured to heal themselves in silence and solitude, we make our own enemies.  When we tell others to put faith in a system that later fails them and then say that it’s their own fault, we make our own enemies.  As long as we do these thing, we are partially to blame for the tragedies that have happened, and the ones that are yet to come.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Week of 08/24/2015

Ours Versus Theirs
Mike Buffington, publisher of the local Barrow Journal newspaper, recently did an editorial about how easy it seems to be that local politicians are willing to waste money when that money isn’t “theirs”.  He cites several examples of this, including a recent one in the “city” of Nicholson (there are no towns in the South), where their mayor used SPLOST funds to pave a “road” that was later revealed to be his mother’s driveway.  It supposedly wasn’t his only questionable expense this year either.
DeKalb County’s officials are tripping over themselves and their egos over the preliminary report by former Attorney General Mike “Hypocrite Adulterer” Bowers, who was brought in to assess the county’s corruption problems.  Mister Bowers, who once championed the state’s blue laws in the U.S. Supreme Court, minced no words when he said that DeKalb County government was... and I quote... “rotten to the core”.
Reaction from the county officials?  Jaw-dropping delusional disbelief on the same level as the “Global Warming is a hoax” and “Where’s Obama’s Birth Certificate” crowd.  Interim CEO Lee May – who is still “interim” because the convicted criminal he’s sitting in for still has his job – said that he expected a full report and got nothing but a letter full of innuendo.
This comes after their CEO was convicted in court for extortion, and after a former county commissioner and her husband pled guilty in a lengthy scheme involving embezzlement and kickbacks which is still being sorted out as of this column.  The hornets are still coming out of that kicked nest.  Oh, and let’s not forget the former COO of DeKalb County Schools pleading guilty to theft by taking in a case that involved her sending millions of dollars to her ex-husband’s construction company.  And we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the head of that county’s Board of Ethics resigning after “reprimanding” another county commissioner for a conflict of interest.
Nothing but “innuendo” you say?
Anyway, Mister Buffington uses some of these as examples of the old adage how easy it is to spend other people’s money, especially when that money comes from “us”.
“It’s our money being abused,” he concludes.  “And we ought to be mad as hell about it.”
But here’s the problem... it’s not really “our” money at that point.  It’s “theirs”.
Let’s get brutally honest here... every time you write a check or pay a tax bill or fill out that tax form that allows a portion of your money to go to the government, it stops being “your” money!  It’s “their” money... as in the government’s money.  And you really don’t have a say as to how “your” money is being spent after it leaves your hands.  It’s not like you can say “Okay, I want my portion of the tax money to only pay for police and fire services, but not for the mayor to spend on conventions.”  Reality just does not work that way.  You forfeit any control over that money once you give it to them.
And, yes, they really do see it as “their” money.  Not only that, but they firmly believe that they are entitled to every single penny that you have and then they will decide how much of that money they will “allow” you to keep.
The only way you can really control the money is by controlling who gets elected into government.  But even this has limits.  You’re limited to only your vote, not that of your ignorant, apathetic, incompetent, delusional, and/or possibly corrupt neighbors; you can only vote for the politicians in your “area”; and you really have no control at all over those people that are not elected but are instead appointed by other elected officials.
Yes, you can “control” some of the funds through programs like the Special Local-Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, which imposes a temporary one-percent sales tax, and the proceeds of which must only be used for specific government programs that must be announced in advance before they can be voted on, never mind enacted.  But that didn’t stop the mayor of Nicholson from using those money to pave his momma’s driveway.  And it still relies on voters being knowledgeable enough about what they’re voting for instead of blindly voting for anything put before them.
I know some communities like those in New Hampshire have a more hands-on approach to local governing, in that the public actually votes on the annual budget, line-by-line, item-by-item, and each item must be addressed in a town hall meeting and defended by the local officials.  And, yes, the people in those communities can and have vetoed spending on segments of the local budget that otherwise would be unthinkable. And, really, this is the only way you can have the kind of control over the tax money that people like Mister Buffington think we should have.  But I don’t see that happening, because that takes the power out of the local elites.
And here’s the real catch: it’s not about political parties.  “D’s” and “R’s” are irrelevant here.  Cons and Libs have both been caught with their greedy hooves in the local cookie jar, and neither group can claim superiority in ethics.
The only politically ideological competition in this case is not “conservatives versus liberals”, but instead “libertarians versus autocrats”.  We don’t just need politically-active neighbors, but ones that understand that the only way we can stop government from abusing its power is to stop giving it to them long before we give them our money.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week of 08/17/2015

Big Corporate Refuses To Accept Basic Reality
You’ve probably been hearing the news as it trickles in these past few months...
The economy isn’t doing too well.
Oh, sure, the fans of President Obama – and, no, I am not one of them – will tell you that things have been great!  Unemployment is “down”, jobs are “up”, corporate profits are out-of-the-ballpark, gas prices are dropping like a rock, the U.S. Dollar is holding its own, Wall Street is making out like gangbusters...
Well, the last part is certainly true, thanks in no small part to the previous Attorney General aiding and abetting those Fortune 500 criminals by letting them pay pittances in “civil” fines instead of criminal charges like the common people would face.
But the rest of it... well if you were to believe what the Obama White House is telling us all, then the United States would be in the greatest economic boom since the Dot-Com craze of the 1990’s, or the mega-mergers of the 1980’s, or the housing bubble of the 2000’s.  Except that each of those hypes also ended with horrible economic failures.  Dot-Com Boom ended with the Dot-Com Bust, the mega-mergers ended with the Savings and Loan disasters and the mini-recession that sank George H.W. Bush’s re-election hopes, and, of course, the housing bubble facilitated the Great Recession, which Obama’s former AG aided and abetted the getaway of those criminals.
The truth, however, is out there; in plain daylight if you know where to look for it.  You just need to ignore the political spin and the TMZ diversions that have been carefully orchestrated to keep us distracted.  But it is out there.  And that truth is not good.
You’ve been hearing what’s been going on with Greece.  Their problems are more extreme than ours, but the overall causes are still the same.  They need private sector jobs, and they’re not getting those.  The Greek government has been trying to make do by creating state jobs, but it’s been like a Band-Aid trying to cover a near-amputation.  You can only do that for so long, and Greece recently went for their third bailout.  Oh, and they’re not the only ones in economic trouble.  Poland’s economy is teetering.
China’s economy is in a free-fall.  They’re devaluing their currency to keep inflation in check.  They have whole cities that they’ve built, but their own people can’t afford to live in them.  This is supposed to be the “new great economic superpower”, and they’re still treating their own people like a second-world society.
Yes unemployment is supposedly “down”, but those numbers are a bold-faced lie.  What we consider to be “Unemployment” figures are really all the people who currently get Unemployment Insurance payments.  It’s not a true representation of the people out of work because not everyone can get those Unemployment Insurance payments, and those payments are only for a limited period of time.  Once those payments have been exhausted, that’s it.  That person no longer gets counted. 
The actual lie – and yes, this is a criminally libelous lie if anyone decides to take the Department of Labor and the media to court over it – is that hundreds of thousands of Americans simply “drop out” or “give up” finding work.  It is a bold-faced criminally damaging lie because it assumes that those who stop getting payments also stop looking for work. 
The truth is that these Americans did not “drop out” or “give up”, they were given up on.  They were forsaken!  They were negligently abandoned by politicians and by Corporate America.  But it’s “easier” for those in power to claim that those Forsaken Americans simply were losers than to admit that they’re the real villains.
Real wages have not kept up with the cost of living for well over a decade now.  Yes, Corporate America has reaped record profits, but none of that has translated into more money for anyone except for the 1%.  We hear the modern-day Yorkshire Men and their sycophants on Fox News and talk radio scream like the spoiled babies that they are about the push to get the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour, but the truth is that this is not only a symptom of the overall problem with real wages, but as a concept it is also just another Band-Aid trying to patch another near-amputation.
Here’s a really simple question: if the economy is supposedly so successful and so strong, why has the Federal Reserve been keeping interest rates at near-zero since 2009?  “Near-Zero” is supposedly the Fed’s emergency brake, and we’ve been riding that emergency brake for over six years now.  The business world has supposedly been begging and pleading and waiting with badly-baited breath for the Fed to raise rates for the past few years, and every time the Fed chairperson (and there have been two now) says they can’t because the economy is still “too unstable”.  That doesn’t match up with what we hear from Wall Street and the Obama White House.
And... you have been hearing about this recently as well.  There have been more announced layoffs.  Time Incorporated, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, American Apparel, J. Crew, HSBC... even the United States Army is laying people off!  The Army!
Now folks, when I’ve seen these signs before, I’ve correctly predicted that an economic downturn is just over the horizon.  And my track record has been far better than the so-called “experts” that you see on the news.  So when I say that you should get ready for things to get worse, then that means that (1) things will, and (2) the so-called “experts” will lie and try to convince you otherwise.
And yet... this is one upcoming downturn that did not need to happen!
Let’s get brutally honest here... America has been treading economic water ever since the Great Recession.  In fact, we have not stopped treading water!  Yes, some folks who lost their jobs got new ones.  Some folks had to get and are still working two or three jobs just to keep the bills paid.  And hard-working Americans can only tread water for so long before they start to falter, and that is what we are seeing right now.
But we’re not “seeing” this because we’ve all been fixated on one thing: corporate profits!  The White House and the Congress and the state and local governments and certain the media have all latched onto this myth – and, yes, it is a myth – that as long as companies are raking in big profits, that everything else will just fall into place.
The cons and the neo-cons in the GOP have been singing this myth like it was a Christmas Carol for decades now!  Just let Big Business make all the profits and that they want and they’ll put that money back into the economy in terms of jobs and promotions and raises.
Only they haven’t followed through on their part of that agreement, have they?  No, they haven’t.  We, the great unwashed, have to tighten our belts a little more and go without a little longer and swallow a little more austerity, but CEOs have enjoyed raises and bonuses and more and more money, and corporate investors have used the profits to fatten their own accounts.
What’s going on is quite simple.  Big Business, corporate or otherwise, and those that have sold their souls to Big Business, and, yes, that includes the media and talk radio and cable TV channels and all of those so-called “experts”, have all forgotten one simple and basic reality when it comes to the economy.
It’s not about profits.  It’s about people.
You want the economy to truly succeed?  You want economic prosperity?  Then you need to focus less on profits and more on people.
You want to whine about countries like Greece creating public jobs to keep people employed at the expense of their own tax monies?  Then the private sector needs to get off their duffs and actually create those private sector jobs over there!
You want to quell the call for raising the minimum wage?  Then businesses need to be putting more into wages for the rest of the employees and not just rewarding their CEO for his or her continual frugality.  That is, after all, what your mouthpieces in the media have been promising you guys would be doing.  Remember that?  That whole “re-investing the profits back into the infrastructure” song-and-dance your friends in talk radio and CNBC and Fox News continually mention.
It is one thing to be frugal with money when times are tough, but when you’re reaping record profits and you’re still penny-pinching the general payroll and telling your underpaid workers that they need to be doing more and more for less and less, then you are the reason why the economy fails!
It’s funny, because if you watch shows like “American Greed” on CNBC, you continually hear the message that anytime you hear a promise of reaping continual profits regardless of the economy, that it is a scam.  And yet this is precisely the thing that Big Business demands now from their employees!  They demand continual profits at all costs, even if the market cannot provide it.  They simply call it “being aggressive” instead of it being a scam on the rest of the world.
I understand that this is not a new problem.  This mentality of putting profits ahead of people has been going on for quite some time, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon.  But it does need to change, because you cannot have the general populace suffer at the expense of your largesse without there eventually being consequences.  And the next time that consequence won’t just be some “Occupy” protesters.