Monday, April 25, 2016

Week of 04/25/2016

Dear Federal Government: Stop Messing With Our Money!
This is an open letter to the US Government.
I know that you guys have been ignoring people like me for years.  You haven’t listened to what I’ve said for the past twenty years, and I’m reasonably sure that you probably won’t start to listen to me anytime soon.
But if there is any part of you that still watches free-thinking libertarians like myself and could still relay a message to your boss, President Obama, it’s this:
Please leave our money alone!
I’m not talking about taxes or regulations or even the way that you allow all of these different private entities you regulate to impose fees on top of fees on us that steal more and more of our hard-earned money for their own largesse.  Those are subjects for you to ignore on a different day.
No, I’m talking about your new fetish to change the look and feel of our currency.
Look, I get the idea that you want to make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to reproduce it and spread counterfeit currency.  I mean, it’s bad enough that the Federal Reserve can get you to pump out as much as it wants without any accountability whatsoever and make the bill almost worthless.  So I really don’t mind it too much if you want to make the image in the front a little bigger and maybe off-center, add a few security layers in the paper, even change the ink in certain spots.
But where I have the problem is when you decided to change the images on the bills.
When I first saw the opinion articles in the Huffington Post whining about how there should be a woman on the face of our currency, I thought that maybe the Treasury Department was going to start issuing new bills.  Maybe bring in the $3 bill, or invent a $25 bill.
Andrew Jackson is out on the $20 bill.  Harriet Tubman is going to take the place of our seventh President of the United States.  And Lew apparently wanted to replace Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s most influential Founding Father, with Susan B. Anthony on the face of the $10 bill.  Thankfully there’s a popular Broadway musical about Hamilton, so that is keeping him on the face, but Lew now wants to substitute the Treasury Building image with a rotating collection of influential women.  And the $5 bill will also have a rotating collection of images, only from historical moments.
And even our pennies aren’t safe, because Lew wants to get rid of them altogether.
And I have a problem with all of this.
First, let’s get this out of the way: I have no problems with putting a woman, or an African-American, or a Native American, or any other kind of minority on the face of our currency.  But only if we are talking about a new kind of currency bill.  Why not have a $25 bill?  Why not bring back the $500 bill?
And it’s not like we’ve never had women on the face of American currency.  There are still plenty of Susan B Anthony dollar coins in circulation, along with the new coins featuring Sacagawea.  Vending machines still accept them.
But why take this time to demonize and shove out American presidents from our currency to replace them with other figures?  Why spend time circulating hate on Hamilton, who sold America on the very principles that this country was founded on, not to mention was an opponent of slavery?  Why demonize Jackson to validate substituting Tubman?  Granted, he signed the law that shoved several Native American tribes westward, but he was far from the first nor was he last to do that.  If a President could be kicked from a banknote because they pissed off some segment of the country, then Abe Lincoln would have been booted from the $5 bill because he pissed off the Civil War loonies here in the South!
But let’s get brutally honest here... by playing all these games with our currency, by booting out old Presidents and memorable images of our country and putting in swappable figures and images, you’re actually trivializing our currency.  You’re making it seem worthless to us all.
I realize that our quarters have become a collector’s game with all of the various state images on the backsides of the coin, but that doesn’t mean you should translate that into our banknotes.  We don’t normally use quarters to pay for groceries or for other essentials.  We do use the $5 and $10 and $20 bills for that.  I can clearly see some families having domestic fights in the near future because a family member needs to break into “Daddy’s dollar collection” to get money to buy food or to fuel up the car so they can go to their underpaid job.
I should point out that you’re not making it difficult to counterfeit when you play this game.  Quite the contrary, you’re inviting very creative people – and believe me, being able to accurately replicate currency would require an artist – to come up with their own take on that currency and be able to pass it off easier than if there was a standard design for all banknote denominations.
Picture this: someone comes up with a $50 bill featuring President Barack Obama on the face.  The store manager says “No, that’s not a real bill,” but the forger can then say “But wait, this is the brand new design that I got straight from the bank, and you have to recognize it because it’s legal tender!”  Given all of the changes that you’re about to do to the $10 and $20 and $5 bills, do you really think the store manager will want to find out if this is also valid?  Or do you plan on having some kind of mass-publication to tell people which images are “valid” for each denomination?  That can get pretty expensive if your successors follow your legacy of catering to the vanities of special interest groups.
Oh, and it’s interesting that while you’re busy changing the images on the front and back of the bills, you’re not removing the stain of the Cold War that the Christian extremists managed to slip into all our bills back in the 1950’s.  Yes, I’m talking about removing “In God We Trust” on our bills, which was added only because of a campaign of fear-mongering from Christian Dominionists.  News Flash, federal government: the Cold War is over.  We won.  It may not look like it if you watch Fox News, but we really did win it.  Funny how you’re eager to accommodate other special interest groups, but not the growing segment of the populace that have no official religious denomination in their lives.
And don’t tell me that this is the “future” of our currency, because we know what the future really will be.  It’ll be online, with either bank-issued credit accounts or bitcoin.  Either one that owns you, or the one you can’t control.
But trivializing our current currency and making it into collectable “Monopoly Money” to appease the special interest groups won’t hasten that future.  It’ll only show our government’s disrespect of the very economic system that President Hamilton came up with, and the same system that President Jackson tried to defend he vetoed the resurrection of a centralized bank.  And that is probably a bigger insult to their legacies than substituting their likenesses.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Week of 04/18/2016

My Problem With... The 2016 Farce
(Note: This is the first of a series of articles focusing on one element in the great farce that we dare to call the 2016 Presidential Election season, or, as I like to call it, the 2016 Farce.  I’m not going to play a game of “X is bad but Y is just as bad if not worse”, nor will I entertain any rebuttals along those lines.  Each participant in the 2016 Farce deserves my full attention and spite and I will not allow anyone to try to negate that attention and spite by comparing it to other factors.  They all will get their turn, and believe me when I say that you won’t like it when I get to yours.)
I have a problem with the 2016 Presidential Election season, or, as I refer to it, the 2016 Farce.
Actually I have several problems, but I’ll get to each of the “official” candidates in due time.
My first problem is something that I’ve talked about repeatedly, and that is that the “campaign season” itself starts a whole year before anyone actually votes.
The media and their self-appointed political “experts” now call that time the “secret primary” because the candidates supposedly “need” that time to line up their campaign war chests and get their names out for the public to remember.  But I would dare suspect this extra “campaign time” is really just a way to make those aforementioned “experts” a permanent full-time profession.
Imagine waking up one day in America and finding out that, instead of sending out our tax statements on an annual basis, we now have to do them on a monthly basis.  Who would benefit from that?  Why it would be your local tax preparer, of course.
That’s what happened to our elections.  It really wasn’t that long ago that campaigns were few and far between.  You had four years before you even heard about the next presidential wannabe, and two years before the next Congressional race.  Today pretty much every year is a “campaign” season in one form or another.  Presidential war chests start being built right after the November elections.  Congressional strategies are “plotted” even before the current batch of incumbents can mockingly take their “Oaths of Office” for the umpteenth time.  We can’t even get any peace during the so-called “off-year” as wannabes start lining up for media attention.
Who benefits from all of this?  K-Street and C-Street lobbyists do.  So-called “political consultants” do.  Self-professed “advisors” are able to double-dip as they churn out talking-point memos in the morning and then serve as “political consultants” to the various news stations in the afternoon and on Sunday mornings to talk about those memos.
And all the while, we’re not hearing about the substantive matters that our current batch of career parasites are engaged in.  We hear wannabes talking about “breaking up the banks” and saying no to “Too Big to Fail”, but nobody is talking about how they’re already getting away with their criminal activities by throwing the government some pocket change (which they already budgeted) and a mealy-mouthed promise to make things better.  We hear about the lead in the water in Flint, Michigan, but we don’t hear about who’s being impeached over causing it, or who is going to get arrested over it, or, for that matter, what is being done to fix the problem.  Instead, we hear wannabes and political flakes whine about science and scientists. 
Hey so-called “experts”, how the hell did we find out about the lead in the water in the first place?  Or, for that matter, knowing that lead in our drinking water is actually a bad thing?  It’s because of science!  Jesus sure as hell didn’t come down and tell us this!  Oh, and on a side note: you really do not want that carpenter’s son back down here, despite all your bible-thumping rhetoric.
We hear about special interest groups and unlimited money, but nobody is talking about the role the media is playing in all of this.  Who do you think is making the conscious decision to turn politics into a continual freak-show?  Who do you think are paying the consultants to double-dip when by all rights they should be disqualified from ever appearing on the business side of a camera for conflict of interest?  Who do you think are behind the daily “polls” that are run with wild abandon?  It’s not K-Street or C-Street behind it.  It’s the mega-corporations that own and control the so-called “mainstream media” that have made this the Farce that it currently is.
What’s worse is that this turn towards continual campaigning is affecting the operation of our nation.  Already we have a Supreme Court, the highest court in our country, that is hobbled because the GOP is deliberately using their control over the Senate to prevent a vacated seat to be filled at least until after the November elections, if not later.  And that’s not the only judicial vacancy that goes unfilled in the name of politics. 
We have a government that has been operating on an endless series of continuing resolutions, without a real budget for years.  Why?  Because political brinksmanship and gridlock make for great campaign tools for the perpetual campaign season.
Do you know how to end the need for presidential executive orders?  Simple: the members of the House and Senate need to get off their pampered asses and actually do their jobs in passing reasonable legislation instead of fulfilling some unrealistic campaign promise or spend their days whining about it on the campaign trail.  Do you know how to control the runaway regulations that get imposed?  Simple: the members of the House and Senate need to stop whining about “runaway regulators” on the campaign trail and actually do their jobs in Washington.
All of these things have turned our government into a joke, and all in the name of campaign platforms, all so our career politicians can continue to get elected and re-elected over and over again.
Finally, there is the one part of the continual campaign season that this commentator that been complaining about for twenty years now, and that is the perceived lack of significant options.
Let’s get brutally honest here... the whole 2016 Farce, from its bastard unofficial and insane beginnings in 2014, has been a colossal commercial for the two dominant political parties, with a continual Orwellian subliminal message to the great unwashed that these are the only options that they can choose from.  That we have to pick from only one of the two candidates that survive the primary and caucus process and the national conventions, and that there are supposedly no other options.  Even if there are several options on your ballot, you are told – and you, the vast moronic voters, actually believe – that there are only those two horrible options.  And you don’t know too much about those other options, because the media has been fixated on the two dominant parties, so you stupidly buy into the script that those options “can’t win”, so you don’t vote for them.
I can’t stress this enough: a huge part of the problem we have with our political system, especially with the 2016 Farce, lies firmly at the feet of you, the great moronic voters.  The politicians lie, but you choose to buy into them.  The media presents us the script, but you choose to follow it.  The parties may be rigged, but you choose to support them.  The career politicians are corrupt and inept, but you choose to re-elect them.  As long as there are options and you consciously refuse to accept those options and you continue to choose failure and ineptitude and incompetence and corruption, then you – each and every single one of you – are to blame for the mess that we are all in.
Now that I have that out of the way... on to the “contenders”.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Week of 04/11/2016

The Despicable Theo-Conservative Script
My best friend and adopted-brother-by-another-mother-and-father RJ Evans is fond of saying that “the hypocrisy always reveals the lie”.  No truer words could be said when it involves America’s self-righteous and self-appointed “defenders of Christianity”.
The bible-thumpers have been on a tear this year, imposing New Jim Crow laws across the American Southeast.  But, unlike the original Jim Crow laws which were being challenged and overturned a half-century ago, today’s New Jim Crow laws seek to legalize discrimination based not on race, but on sexual preference and identity.  And they’re using religion as their justification for their discrimination.
Of course, the thumpers will never characterize their New Jim Crow laws as a right to discriminate.  Rather, they pull out their trusty C-Street scripts and recite some hypothetical situation of a priest being “forced” to marry some same-sex couple, the infamous bakery refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  Like any other slick manipulative bully, they’re quick to pull out the “poor persecuted victim” card to justify their actions.
But some of these measures do more than just “protect priests” or bakers.  If you’re transgendered in North Carolina, then you’re now forced to use the public restroom of the gender you were born with.  Even if you had the “plumbing” changed, even if you look and sound of one gender, the state of North Carolina now forces you to use a public bathroom of the gender you were born with.
Sorry Chaz Bono, but you’re going to bear the shrieks and screams of terror from the women who will see you go into a ladies’ room in order to comply with the law in that state.  Same with Kaitlyn Jenner, although I imagine the reaction will be a little different.
The thumpers have been able to prevail in some states, but not in all of them.  In the State of Georgia, Governor Nathan “Raw” Deal wisely heeded to calls to veto that state’s so-called “religious liberty” bill, in defiance of the freedom-hating thumpers.
But one would suspect it wasn’t simply the outcries of the voters that swayed Deal to veto the bill.  Rather, it was the overwhelming number of businesses that threatened to end all business in Georgia if he did sign that into law.  Some even went so far as to already end expansion plans or to pack up shop for fear of the bill being signed into law.  And these weren’t so-called “mom and pop” businesses either, but major corporations that bring billions into the state, including the big media companies.  When you have Marvel Films, who have filmed several of their blockbuster movies in Atlanta, and Time Warner, owners of Atlanta mainstay CNN and the Turner cable channels, and AMC, whose setting of “The Walking Dead” is all around Georgia, all threatening to pull up stakes and walk, you’re going to pay attention to that and ask yourself if a gang of bible-thumping Dominionists are worth driving the state headfirst into economic ruin.
This is something that the thumpers did not take into account.  When Dominionists threaten to boycott something, they’re usually all talk and no action.  Remember when they tried to “boycott” all things connected to Disney?
But now the tables were turned, and big corporations were threatening to boycott the State of Georgia, and, unlike the whiny Dominionists, they actually could hurt the state with little consequence on their part.
So what did the thumping Dominionists do?  They whined and stomped their feet and wailed like spoiled children that “it’s open season on Christians!  Wah!  Wah!  We’re being persecuted because we can’t get our way!  Wah!  Wah!  We’re going to stomp our feet and hold our breaths until we turn blue and then you will all be sorry!”
Actually them stomping their feet and holding their breaths until they turn blue would actually be a good thing.  It could even increase our collective IQ by a few points.  And if you think I was exaggerating about their tantrums, then you weren’t listening to the local talk radio stations in the days after the veto.  You would think Christians were being fed to lions given the phony tantrums they threw here in Georgia.
No, what the Dominionists did was to attack the corporations with their carefully-scripted C-Street talking points.  First they called them part of the “Liberal-Hollywood cabal”, which got them nowhere.
Then they used the false-equivalence argument.  “These companies do business with China and Saudi Arabia.  China and Saudi Arabia have an even worse record with the LGBT community!  Why aren’t these businesses pulling out of China and Saudi Arabia if they’re so concerned about the LGBT group!”
Three points...
First, there’s a distinct difference between going into a country with such discrimination already going on versus being in a country where it is just being imposed by legislature.  It’s the difference between going to the scene of a drunk driving crash versus being there before the drunk driver gets into the car.
Second, we’re talking about the United States of America!  The country that is supposed to be better than any other, and now all of a sudden the Dominionists are using those countries to justify their actions?  That goes against everything that the so-called “family values” crowd have been whining about since pretty much the days of Ronald Reagan!  Not to mention this is the same faction of society that manufactured the whole self-righteous circular logic known as “American Exceptionalism”, and now you’re suggesting we follow the path set by other countries, after you spent the past two decades condemning it?
Not to mention that if those businesses did what you whine about, if they did cut all ties to those countries over their treatment of the LGBT community, what do you suppose would be the first thing the leaders of those countries would say?  Oh, come on, you know what they’d say!  “Why don’t you fix the problems in your own country first?”
Which takes me to the third point, because there’s a nice biblical passage that addresses that very argument.  Actually there are two.  Both the Book of Matthew and the Book of Luke tell the so-called “Christians” that they should not worry about the sawdust in the eye of their neighbor while they have a plank in their own eyes.  And in this case, we’re talking about a whole political plank that is not only in their own eyes, but one that they want to shove in the eyes of everyone else!
In fact, the man who supposedly is at the center of those two New Testament books had a specific word to describe our so-called “Christians” and their current political crusade.  “Hypocrites!”
Let’s get brutally honest here... the actions and rhetoric of the so-called “Christians” in their efforts to impose the New Jim Crow laws into state legislatures exposes just how morally bankrupt they really are.  They know that they’ve lost any pretense of “moral authority” in this matter.  They’ve lost the overwhelming majority support of the public that they used to hold as recently as even a decade ago.  And now all they have left to cling to is their distorted belief that they have a “right” to discriminate with impunity.
“The hypocrisy always reveals the lie.”  And here we see the lie imposed by the self-righteous.  The lie that says they are better than the people they condemn.  The lie that says they have a right to impose their bigotry on others.  And the lie that says that their own beliefs should be used to trump the rights of others.  And in the end, that’s all they have left.  Lies.