Belaboring the Obvious

Friday, April 25, 2008

Capitalism's Irrepressible Spirit....

Okay, the goddess can take me now... I've seen everything:

At the cost of nearly $500 million, a Los Angeles-based company is “developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum.” The park “is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland.”

I'll bet the penny arcade is a doozy. Dodge-an-RPG, based on the whack-a-mole game, shooting galleries for all tastes ("Shoot a Shiite," "Shoot a Sunni" and "Shoot an Infidel," with real AK-47s), and the rides will feature themed vehicles, such as the "Bullet-Ridden Ambulance Chase," "Mr. Toad's M1A1 Wild Ride," and in Tomorrowland, "Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile." Little Iraqi kids will get their chance to test their reflexes in little gas-powered taxis in "Checkpoint Challenge."

Of course, there will be a General Electric Carousel of Progress, complete with exhibits of the many weapons GE produces for U.S. use against stubborn Middle Eastern countries, and ExxonMobil will reprise "The World Beneath Us," in which clever and humorous animations will appear on huge plasma screens, showing rapt Iraqi children how oil comes out of the ground and goes directly into the fuel tanks of giant General Motors Hummers, while the oil profits make a lazy circuitous loop in the sky over Baghdad and then streak thousands of miles at high speed into giant American banks.

Monsanto will happily sponsor an updated Iraqi version of the "Hall of Chemistry," where the much-loved chemical and bioengineering corporation explains all the good things to come from forcing Iraqis to stop saving and sharing crop seed, and to buy GM seed and billions of gallons of Roundup
from Monsanto.

WalMart will sponsor the return of "Fashions and Fabrics Through the Ages," with the aim of introducing Iraqis to magnificent polyester plaids produced by slave labor in Burma. Little Iraqi children will even be able to learn by doing, by sitting at their very own sewing machine for up to fourteen hours each day (abbreviated hours during Ramadan).

Verizon and AT&T will team up to bring back the ever-popular Circlevision-360 extravaganza, "America the Beautiful," where Iraqi children will get an opportunity to discover just how much better, how much richer and how much more religiously superior Christian Americans are than they.

The museum will, of course, have genuine imitation plastic replicas of all the 5000-year-old artifacts stolen, smashed or looted from the Iraq National Museum and Library in April, 2003. Where possible, wealthy collectors around the world will loan the museum originals bought on the black market so that accurate molds can be made.

Unfortunately, the zoo will not likely open before 2018, because most of the animals in old zoo died during the invasion, or were stolen by looters for food, or because U.S. Marines shot escaping animals.

It'll be just like Disneyland... only better (especially on the days when there's electricity, and the sewage in the streets isn't too deep).

Ain't free-market capitalism grand?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

David Frum, Stand-Up Comic....

Via Roy Edroso comes a snippet from a recent David Frum editorial in USA Today, in which the voice behind George's tongue-twisted visage wistfully opines on the possibility of a future Republican utopia, where the young embrace Republican philosophy once again:

If the inexperienced Barack Obama wins — and then discovers that there is more to being president than giving speeches — we could discover that the next generation of young people reacts to the failures of an Obama presidency by rediscovering the enduring Republican principles of limited government, individual rights, strong national defense and pragmatic effective governance.

Why haven't Frum and Gerson teamed up? They could single-handedly revive vaudeville.

If the Republican principles Frum describes above are so damned "enduring," why was he lamenting just three months ago that the `pugs were headed to defeat for years, and were "intellectually exhausted?" (Given the effort it must take to defend the indefensible, I can see why they're exhausted.) Let us not forget that it was, indeed, the Republicans who told us in 2000 that George W. Bush was a good, "compassionate" conservative--that he had been vetted by the party faithful and met with their approval regarding his conservative creds, and when selected by the Supreme Court, the very same party that said, oh, thank goodness, the adults are back in charge. Yep, that same George W. Bush.

So, what of those hallowed Republican principles, once the Republicans controlled the entire government? Limited government? Give me a break. The government is bigger, more expensive (thanks not just to war, but to a concerted effort to bloat the budget through privatization, of everything from disaster relief to intelligence gathering). The `pugs are making a big deal of earmarks now that they're out of power (and they're still lining up at the trough more than their Dem counterparts in Congress... old habits die hard), but they were the undisputed leaders in that particular practice for years, as many of the various recent bribery scandals have more than amply shown. The `pugs have become experts at off-the-books spending, having failed to incorporate Iraq/Afghanistan war spending into the defense budget (where it would be subject to at least marginal auditing), choosing instead to continue the practice of folding those expenditures into emergency supplements. As well, Frum would be well to go look at the National Debt Clock before he starts crowing about enduring Republican principles. By the time Bush's last budget is complete, the debt will have nearly doubled (exceeding the total deficit of all the Reagan years by almost three trillion dollars, wherein Reagan tripled the national debt).

Individual rights? The `pugs have indulged every authoritarian fantasy they've harbored since Nixon got his comeuppance. Spying inside our borders without warrant, steady erosion of and disregard for the Bill of Rights, the wholesale introduction of some of the worst and most corporate-friendly jurists in the history of the country, a string of Attorneys General that make John Mitchell look like an ACLU activist. Implied threats of retaliation for exercise of free speech rights. Prosecutions initiated for the basest of political motives. Not to mention the normalization of torture and state-sponsored kidnapping.

Strong national defense? That's a real knee-slapper, that one is. Readiness is down throughout the services and the National Guard is in a shambles. The Pentagon has been showered with money, much of it unaccountable, and for what expenditures accounting has been made, the results aren't pretty. The country's reputation around the world is in tatters, making genuine cooperation between the United States and allies much more tenuous. Outright aggression on the United States' part has caused increases in defense spending elsewhere. There's been virtually nothing done to further arms reductions, while at the same time, this administration has been working hard to be a friend to defense contractors, increasing conventional arms exports at a feverish pace. Suppressing terrorism has been the ostensible reason for this mad set of circumstances, but worldwide terrorism has steadily increased since 2001. China now has more of our national debt--much of it due to the combined evils of out-of-control defense spending and tax cuts for the wealthy--than even Japan. What the hell happens to national security if, regardless of reason, China calls in all its markers?

Pragmatic effective governance? Holy shit. There's a line in answer to that: "You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie." Eighty-one percent of people polled recently think the country is on the wrong track, the economy has never recovered from the 1999 downturn for much of the middle class, and the government actually encouraged the housing bubble and promoted it to the public as a sign of a healthy economy, where it was, in fact, a function of serious systemic decay. Combined corporate, governmental and private debt is at an all-time high. Savings rates have gone negative recently. Much of that debt is held by foreign investors. The dollar is sinking well below the point that should have balanced imports and exports, and imports are still leading by a wide margin, further exacerbating the debt problem. Inflation-adjusted oil prices in 2000 were $33/bbl; oil prices today are over $100/bbl. The war in Iraq was wrong, sold on lies, and its execution has been designed to prolong it, in part to benefit the immense U.S. contracting vulture which descended upon that country after U.S. forces seized Baghdad now five years ago (not to mention the eventual returns expected by U.S. oil companies by the subversion of government there). Corruption in this administration is virtually endemic, with a healthy dollop of it originating in the Vice President's office. The rich are getting much, much richer and the poor are getting steadily poorer. Twenty more years of what we've had in the last seven and the United States will be the modern-day equivalent of a medieval feudal society.

The simple truth is that, ever since the Goldwater rout, Republicans have wanted to control government absolutely, one-party rule, with the intention of doing exactly what they've done in the last few years. Raping the Treasury, starting wars for political benefit and to serve the interests of cronies, to cash in on the privatization of the entire government, to quash individual rights while elevating the power and position of big business in Congress and the courts. In other words, to utterly subvert public government to the will of powerful private interests.

And, boy, howdy, how they've succeeded at that. Frum can hide behind those "enduring Republican principles" as if they are immutable icons of truth, but, they've never been more than PR homilies intended to deceive the voters about Republicans' true intentions. The real truth is that Republicans achieved, for a number of years, their goal of complete domination of government, and they fucked up both government and the country, and, finally having seized the opportunity to show what they could do for the common weal, instead have behaved like the confederacy of thieves, cutthroats, petty tyrants and dictators that, deep, deep down, they have always been and always will be.

Good luck with that next generation of young voters, eh, Frum?