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Alex Baer

Stealing: All Hail, the Self-Righteous Profit Center

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There are a lot of things one might say about the times in which we live.  Here are a few terms which come to mind right this second:  Creative.  Untraditional.  Pioneering. Voracious.  Larcenous.  Insatiable.  Limitless.

Put it this way:  If our times were a go-kart, we'd slap 40 kinds of governors on the thing,  pull off the wheels,  drain off all its life-giving fluids, wrap it in bales of jet-fuel-soaked hay, and bring in the healing fire of flame-throwers.  We'd even lob in a few Molotov-cocktail-cases of thermite-and-white-phosphorous grenades for good measure.

Then, when the molten slag cooled, and the worst of our glare-burns had been treated, we'd hack apart the pieces with cutting torches, and ship the chunks to distant galaxies, on a hundred different spacecraft, in the hopes of forestalling reunion of the pieces for as long as humanly possible.

(An added plus would be the shot in the arm of this country's space program.  Based on the renewed, full-speed-ahead activity to save our species, we'd rediscover the benefits and boons of a fully-functional space program and thriving industry, while marvelling at the numbers of product and services -- and jobs -- created, allowing us to get to work fixing the nation's aging, 1940s infrastructure with the booming, coast-to-coast kick-start in the tax base.)

Of course, this will never happen, even though sci-fi plotlines since the 1920s have told us the only way the species will band together and defeat a common enemy is from an outside, repulsive, alien threat.

And, of course, we know that sort of plotline no longer applies, because the right-wing is still with us, in a spectacular array of diverse psychoses and stunning, baffling ailments.  This banding-together thing, to defeat a common world or national threat, became a blindingly apparent failure of the species with the continuation of Ronald Reagan as president.

By 1984, the Full Boat Crazy was on the poker table as the hand to beat, and all the chips were down, and out, and drowned out back, where no-one could hear their whimpers, moans, and death rattles.  Who says History has no sense of humor, irony, or appreciation of the works of George Orwell?

It was a swell year, 1984.  Then as now:  War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.

Well, no matter.  In the wink -- or nervous twitch -- of an eye, at least in geologic terms, all that feverish espousal of trickle-down economics would soon be recanted by the high financial priests of the land, but only when they got up to stretch out their muscles, gone lame from having lounged on all those hard sacks of gold bars sacked in raids on S&Ls, burgled from shakedowns by the financial industry, and raided from the vast lakes of 401(k) retirement funds created solely for Wall Street and crony pilfering in The Big Con of the American public.

Yes, it was probably a misquote from the original, that old adage:  The right wing psychotics will always be with you. It's an easy mistake to make.  Completely understandable, what with the endless chains of translations involving Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Babylonian, and who knows what all in the mumbo-jumbo and limbo of the jingoistic lingo stew of the times.

(You know the old demonstration of starting a rumor on one side of the room, and having a number of people repeat it -- then checking to see what the ending rumor was like, and comparing it with the original, to see how much it had morphed?  Yes, well -- try the same experiment, but with each person speaking different pairs of languages, hearing one but relaying the heard rumor with another, and see what you get at the end.  Besides a migraine, I mean.)

But, no matter.  The bankruptcy laws sorted out the collapse of the S&Ls.  The financial industry was fined a nickel for every billion dollars stolen.  All was forgiven, Again.  And a new trend was begun, in which yet another new industry sprouted roots, wings, and tentacles:  How to Steal the American Public's Retirement and Pension Funds, with No Repercussions from The Law, and No Awareness by (or Objections from) the Masses.

Best of all, nobody went to jail, not bankers, and not even the hundreds of thousands of families who were soaked with sudden, very bad financial news and who were sucked either partially or wholly down the impersonal drainage pipe of Best o' Luck (TM) and Hold on Tight! (TM) brand Capitalism.

Of course, had any of that foul trickery and theft happened today, events would have had a completely different outcome:  Yes, whole families would instead be packed off to debtors prisons in wholesale lots, and be stripped of any financial holdings or possessions via lawful forfeiture, and all goods sold off (or kept) by the very same bankers who bankrupted them, and had been left free and untouched.**

Carting families off to jail for daring to owe money during a time when every penny needed to be accounted for, in order to be stolen, is one of the bullet points in the Family Values Charter.  It appears to be, ironically enough, a hollow-point bullet point.

Yes, this global financial crisis helped solidify one of the implacable codes of Hammurabi, handed down to us through the eons by generations, via laws and lore, and still commands us all to this very day:  Bankers always eat.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 00:00 Read more...

The Humble Spud, Global Lifesaver

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Any loose familiarity with current events, whether from last week or on back to 1492, and it's difficult to remain feeling upbeat and not beat up.

There is always terrible news.  Things can always get worse of course, but they can't always,  automatically, get better -- not using the same downhill-gliding autopilot that Reality tends to use.  Rarely is there both good and amazing news.  Today, there is some of both -- news that may even turn the world upside down.

Before we reach that particular cool, oasis spring of thirst-quenching information, we have a hot trek through desert sands ahead of us.  The subject of travel is food.  And, when it comes to food, it's a desert without end for many Americans:

  • One in six Americans struggles to get enough to eat.
  • One in seven Americans relies on food banks for their food.
  • One in five children in America is at risk of hunger.
  • Fifty million people in America struggle to put food on the table.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 10:32 Read more...

Arcs, Rings, and Running Out of Mario

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No more timely time to consider Time itself than right around the time we all make the consensual, arbitrary, stolid-but-capricious agreement to watch every midnight tick of the clock one night a year and swap out calendars, jumping from one felled tree to another in the roaring river of Time, as we log-drivers all shoot the mandatory rapids, trying to balance, stay upright, not get soaked or knocked in the drink, not get socked in the head by something large, unyielding, and not likely to stop at skull, once it gets up a head of steam, develops a mind of its own, aimed at our own head-meat.

When alive, those de-limbed trees blitzing the white-water once counted time on an arc far longer than the beings who felled them.  Time is more relative than we think -- perhaps more than we can think.

We've all experienced the paralysis of time passage when laboring under weights of various dreads, known the palpable, brake-locked stoppage of time during moments of life-frozen crisis, felt the jet-winged shredding of clocks while swooping, soaring, and threading our many delights.

But, accounting for longer arcs and eras?  That takes, well, time -- the nearest we're likely to get to feeling the stuff of tree-time, of sensing our inner rings under our barks and bites, of telling histories from what lies between those rings, from drought to drowning and back again, is experiencing a long wink of time, even though a brief blink in tree-time.

You see, I just discovered, moments ago, that Mario Cuomo left the planet on New Year's Day:  The day where we all envision the mythic figures of Father Time, cloaked and stooped over, handing off the marathon baton and large, double-dome-chimed windup clock, to the diapered babe, freshly powdered, chest-bannered, and ready to assume the mantle and yoke of its year-long master.  This day has had me feeling that tree arc in my roots, like that sensibility just fell across my windshield, out of the blue, crushing my hood and roof.

The news might as well have been a spent jet engine, augering into the driveway, so much excess baggage shaken off the fuselage, shed from an out-of-sight overflight.  Contemplating such a deep, sharp, gash and sudden shaft in the gravel drive, and sighting such an impromptu, scattergun-style decorating scheme of spare aircraft pieces and shattered piecemeal geology, would have been much easier to do, simpler to take in.

Having a hand the size of an alpine peak, say, come down, scoop me up, and set me gently down in Tahiti, would have been a piece of comparative cake to absorb.  Being invited in to the glowing saucer by the little mauve men -- green is out this year on the universal fashion palette, I guess -- with their spindly antennae and nine eyes each, would have been something I could have taken in without a wince, grimace, comment, or shrug.

Losing this fiery, passionate, fair, sane voice of reason locks me into slow-motion and then freeze-frames me, stretching life all rubbery, like cold taffy, both daft and daffy, banding my timeline as if my motions and emotions were framed around the room in swirly frescoes and friezes.

Last Updated on Friday, 02 January 2015 21:15 Read more...

Year-Ender Benders and Synapse Slips

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So, here we are, just about to be slammed up alongside The Big Day, and I haven't a clue what to get you for the advertised Consumption Festival, for the co-opted Pagan Fest, for the sparkly Celebration of Lights, now that we've turned the corner on the darkest day of the year...

If only we could have already turned the corner on the darkest year in some years, too.

Of course, I suppose we should have all been braced for some fine holiday jeer, once Dick Cheney remorselessly rode back into town, sharing with us his trust-less leer and his lopsided sneer, riding in his throne of delusion, high atop a fetid holiday float constructed of bile and manure, throwing out razor-bladed candies for the kiddies, and certificates of replacement freedoms to be made good some day, drawn up on the backs of harrowing sets of torture photos and memos.

Yes, you had better watch out:  Dickey Cheney's coming to town -- just to remind us all, apparently, that all our humanist, or even religious, objections of having bobsledded our way to fast-track international lawlessness are crap.

You just can't get that kind of cheery, holiday eloquence anymore.

I still cannot believe that this man, and his hand puppet, were handed the top office by SCOTUS on an invisible, unknowable whim -- and that a good part of the nation signed up a second time, even after seeing what Part One of the Horror Show was all about.

I really wasn't going to revisit those endless horrors -- it's just a reflex to Cheney's sense of good will that prods me into this aghast holiday recoil, this sense of shock of American actions, this clear sense of squandered good will from the nations of the Earth after 9-11, and how we managed to convert it right away into terror and fear and destruction we visited on others, right away.

So much of what we have done as a nation is a shame, given what we could have done for our own, and for the world;  and so much of what we have actually done as a nation, for our own and the world, has visited on us yet more shame.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 December 2014 22:43 Read more...

Digging Deeper into the Cosmic Stuffing

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Atheists, agnostics, and religionists can all agree on at least one thing at Thanksgiving: The staggering, blinding, on-target brilliance of the phrase "mixed blessings."

We mere mortals can only stand in awe, slack-jawed and agape, at the stunning mind that spotted that shared genetic trend-line, and first put that blunt, apt description into play.

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(This is as good a time as any to remind myself that my screenplay -- there are now nine people in the country, by actual count, who are not working on a screenplay -- Slackjawed & Agape would be a fine name for a law firm of hapless lawerly bunglers -- or maybe a pair of washed-up private detectives who drive around in a souped-up muscle car, exploring catch phrases, cornering escaped grammarians, arresting suspicious syntax...

... except that a lot of people would think that I meant the other agape -- the outbursts of spontaneous, altruistic love... the love of a deity for its people... the meal that early Christians shared in brotherly love...  Well, there's nothing like Thanksgiving to shake that whole concept loose for another year.)

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Last Updated on Thursday, 27 November 2014 20:00 Read more...

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