Monday, August 4, 2014

Netanyahu's Bible Story: Genocide by the Book

I was at the corner market last Sunday, picking up some food and sundries for the week, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began speaking on the television above the checkout line. I didn’t see who it was right away, but I was immediately struck by the tone of his delivery. He sounded genuinely concerned but reassuring; disappointed but optimistic; reluctant but resigned. He could have been talking about having to take away his child’s cell phone privileges after a lousy grade on a trigonometry test. What he was actually talking about was a ruthless and bloody military assault on a confined, impoverished and largely helpless people.

Curiously, the group on the receiving end of this profligate carnage was made up of the natives who used to call that region home before a few charitable foreign powers decided to drop a whole new country down on top of them as if the place were uninhabited. To be fair, a native might be forgiven for thinking this peremptory exercise in nation-dumping somewhat rude; but keep in mind, some of the new residents’ ancestors had actually lived in this region only a couple of millennia ago, so this was really more like returning home from a protracted vacation only to find that the parties taking care of the place in your absence were less than enthusiastic about leaving now that you’re back. WTF, right? But not long before you returned, many in your number had just survived being evicted from where they were living at the time—and then imprisoned, enslaved, tortured and very nearly annihilated—so it wasn’t like you didn’t know the feeling. Maybe if you just gave them a few additional lessons in what you'd recently gone through, they’d be more understanding (nice to see you got right on that). But either way, once you explain to the previous residents that you’re a people chosen by your god, aren’t they kind of obliged to grab their hats and start making for the door?

Let's be clear: an awful lot of Israelis and even more Jews around the world have disagreed with the way Israel has treated its native Palestinians in the strongest possible terms, among them many of the planet’s most influential thinkers. Unfortunately, even the most distinguished of these voices are pretty thoroughly swallowed up in a cacophony of righteous nationalism and zeal before they can get a fair hearing. Leading the primal chorus is the great Benjamin Netanyahu, man of his people and scourge of the heathen. He is a canny political operator and a shrewd media manipulator with a crack team of messaging specialists. He can conjure the narrative of a beleaguered father figure for his international audience from one side of his mouth, while whistling up the dogs of genocidal war among his compatriots listening at home from the other.

A number of times over the past five years the name “Amalek” has come up in both the official and unofficial communication of Netanyahu and his inner circle when speaking of countries deemed enemies of Israel. If you aren't Jewish or haven’t read the Old Testament, the name 'Amalek' might not resonate at all in your symbolic infrastructure. But once you know the back story, you realize that it's actually pretty absurd to invoke Amalek when speaking of, say, Iran or Palestine in the nation of Israel. The Amalekites were early Israel's arch-enemies. Israel's interaction with this group constitutes some of the most ignoble chapters in their bloody history / mythology in the region1. It also provides a splendid example of the Hebrew sky god YHVH's2 renowned predilection for scorched-earth genocide. 
Curiously, on the Genesis account, the eponymous Amalek wasn't an Arab or Persian ancestor; he was actually Hebrew. [OT geek alert] In fact, he was Esau's grandson, through his first-born son Eliphaz - Jacob's own great nephew! This is, of course, the same Jacob who was dubbed 'Israel' (yea, the eponymous) after a rather, eh, puzzling all-night wrestling match with a frisky angel back at the end of Genesis 32. So Isaac and Rebekah are the common ancestors. This is a family feud.

In Exodus 17, the Amalekites attack the Israeli tribes from behind at a spot called Rephidim in the Sinai desert. Sources don’t offer a reason for the attack, but if you saw a massive group of armed strangers marching across your patch of wilderness, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the worst and act accordingly. In any event, in our story Moses tells Joshua to choose a few good men and go crack open a can of Twelve-Tribal whoop-ass on these rapscallions. It was Israel's first major battle. According to the story, Moses goes to the top of a nearby hill to watch the fun, holding aloft his rod toward his sky god. In a remarkable twist, so long as he holds his rod erect, the home team scores; but whenever he begins to droop, the Amalekites prevail. So he has two young men bring him a rock to sit on, then instructs them to stand on either side of him to keep the thing up until Joshua's team brings the day to a satisfying climax. Hey, what are friends for?

The Lord then tells Moses he's going to "blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven" (oh, thanks a lot, Bibi—you weren't supposed to remember...). Two verses later, however, we are informed that "the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation," so one is inclined to suppose that the threat of obliteration from memory just two verses earlier was more of a divine crotch grab than an actual statement of heavenly intent. And, of course, Bibi's off the hook in the eyes of the Lord for summoning a bothersome memory of an unkept promise. This should occasion no small relief—you know how He gets. If not, read on.

The unpleasantness resumes a few hundred years later, in especially pungent form, in the book of 1 Samuel, wherein Israel's sky god—still sore about that business in the Sinai—instructs their first king, Saul, to pop on over to Amalek and "destroy them utterly3." In fact, this is a point on which he's fairly specific:
[G]o and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.
Now you or I might think, (D)ude, that seems a little severe... But no, YHVH (some consider the tetragramaton to be an unusual misspelling of 'S-A-M-U-E-L' in this case) still has an axe to grind with this crew and he appreciates attention to detail. Alas, the original King of Israel decides to be a bit creative in his interpretation of YHVH's commandment:
But Saul and the people spared Agag [according to tradition, Agag was the hereditary name of all the Amalekite kings], and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
As with any unlicensed good deed in such a superstitious climate, Saul's rather dubious clemency (if "all-but" counts as mercy) goes neither unnoticed nor unpunished. His reluctance to comply with YHVH's edict to the very letter turns out to be costly indeed. When Saul returns from his shoddily prosecuted genocide, the high priest Samuel confronts his star-crossed king. Of course Saul tries to play it off at first:
Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord!
Oh yeah? says Sam,
What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? [I kid you not, that's what it saith—rather amusing, one might suppose, in any other context]
Oh, that... goes Saul.
They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
After a bit of back-and-forth in which Saul tries to pass the buck, he is more or less asked "what part of 'genocide' have you failed to understand?"
And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord.

And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.

 But you know, as the adage goes, when you want something done right...

Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, "Surely the bitterness of death is past."
And Samuel said, As the sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.
Atta boy! One imagines Samuel resting easy on that night, the requisite human sacrifice—culminating in regicide-by-dicing as the coup de grĂ¢ce—properly discharged, secure in the knowledge of a job well executed.

So, where were we... Oh yes: this self-righteous memory of the total extermination of an entire people, down to the last helpless animal under their care—men, women? children? Infants? oxen? sheep? camels and donkeys?—is the image Bibi's crew is inviting modern, semiotically-aroused Israel to entertain vis-a-vis its current relationship with people by whom it feels threatened. You’re either for us or you’re burnt toast. It pointedly suggests not only a war of extermination, but a war in which mercy is a sin that can cost you your job.
While some might protest that the historicity of the Biblical account is highly suspect (to put the matter charitably), that objection perfectly misses the point. An awful lot of scared, angry and pious people actually believe it’s literally true. And here’s the terrifying part: they believe it approvingly. The fate of the Amalekites in this account is their perfectly just and unexceptionable penalty for messing with the Chosen People—so much so that, should even a leader of Israel fail to carry out the prescribed annihilation with sufficient assiduity, he might find himself inscribed indelibly on the Lord’s shit-list. Natanyahu's invocation of this episode from the shared history of his people is nothing short of criminally insane. If there were any justice in our world, this man would be socked away in a safe, antiseptic, cozily padded room for the balance of his days.

See chapter 17 of Exodus; chapter 15 of 1st Samuel, through verse 33, as well as numerous passages in the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges and 1st Chronicles

2 Lordy, it's the divine tetragrammaton! Just don't say it out loud in the Auld Holey Lande. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but this word got you snuffed. For heaven's sake, of course.

3 To enact cherem, or "total destruction." Like, in the kill-iest way imaginable. As in "Cherem if they got 'em." Crazy as a fly in a fucking drum. The next time you hear somebody say “we’re gonna get Biblical on their asses,” you now have the picture.

An important distinction: in modern times, cherem 'merely' means complete exclusion from the Jewish community - the highest current ecclesiastical censure available. However, in early Israel—back in the tribes—the term denoted the practice of "consecration by total annihilation" at YHVH's command. Israel visited this special form of worship on a number of ungrateful indigenous peoples, e.g. those of Midian, Amalek, and Jericho. Our dubious accounts do not recall whether or not the annihilatees felt any particular spiritual elevation during their participation in this sport as they were consigned to oblivion. To be fair, it appears not to have been their game.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Endgame Chicanery: On Death, Taxes and the Moochers at the Top

In an earlier post, we talked about a remarkably vicious and destructive species of wetware hackery called the "fuckweasel," which is essentially a viral form of organized irrationality. Some of the most dangerously effective GOP shenaniganeering in this area to date deals with the process permitting wealth to migrate, largely intact and undiminished, through succeeding generations on a schedule of extremely expensive funerals. Wildly enthusiastic campaigns of disinformation have been mobilized over the years to promote the hare-brained conceit that inherited assets should be accorded some super-sacred pride-of-place in the hurly-burly hierarchy of capital. The arguments put forward for this privileged status range from clever sophistry to shameless lunacy, but they all seem to share in common a certain rank obliviousness to even the most elementary attributes of financial inheritance.

Here's what happens: somebody you either know or have received hand-me-down genes from has clocked out while sitting atop a massive pile of financial resources, and you've made the short-list for its redistribution. It's like winning the lottery, only slightly less respectable. If you've inherited a boatload of money, you've simply won a lottery in which somebody else entered your name—either by default, in the form of a birth certificate, or for various other reasons of relationship and/or affinity. The question of whether or not these winnings should be heavily taxed is a remarkably trivial one. Of all the possible paths by which one might acquire financial means, this one lies the furthest from any activity that could even remotely be thought of as "earning it." You never had any "skin in that game" (to repurpose a particularly nasty little fuckweasel from our contemptuous, tax-dodging gravy-trainrobbers); you only came by that windfall because you had a guy on the inside — one who died getting it to you. Some serious economic thinkers have suggested that such inheritance not be permitted at all. But if we are going to let you harvest the fruits of somebody else's labor at no expense or inconvenience to yourself, we are absolutely obliged, under any sensible conception of fairness to those who legitimately work for a living, to levy taxes on that form of income at higher rates than we do on any other. While such ethically sound notions of economic justice have been dying a slow and excruciating death for some time, a few weak and feeble vestiges do still cling to life in some quarters. And so, at least for absurdly exorbitant sums of inherited money, our government continues to insist on some pittance of tax responsibility on the part of these newly endowed beneficiaries. It's called the "estate tax." While the thresholds are far too high and the rates too low, we do at least still pay some meager respect to the irrefutable logic of this duty.

But the beneficiaries of our recently-reaped financial royalty and their courtiers say "Not so fast!" And they've got something we don't have: a high-performance, lab-cultured, lizard-spec fuckweasel — and it's so elegant its almost guaranteed to work. It operates by way of a simple and thoroughly gratuitous terminology swap. They merely replace the words "estate tax" with "Death Tax!" — and watch the gooseflesh bloom...

And that really is both the genius and the imbecility of it. Never mind that common sense might suggest that we actually raise the rate significantly and call it the "Murder Tax," given the number of suspicious deaths related to this type of wealth transfer that have to be investigated every year — at considerable public expense — due to obvious motive. It's a remarkably tasteless and unfunny joke to suggest that such unearned, posthumously awarded largess ought not be taxed out of some vague, implicit sense of sympathy for the deceased or respect for their wishes. We've all got wishes, but the departed can own nothing more than their imprint on our memories, and their heirs have just been paid dearly for the luck of some form of association with them — the original "money for nothing." Clearly, the living must not be permitted to reap the wages of the dead without so much as minimal public responsibility attached. This is an insult to even the flimsiest notion of merit, and a transparent attack on the foundational value of actual human enterprise. It offers free lunch—and in many cases free room, board, and lavish entertainment in perpetuity—to well-connected "takers" for generations to come. The inimitable Warren Buffet put it this way: "The idea that you get a lifetime of privately funded food stamps based on coming out of the right womb strikes at my idea of fairness." Indeed.

Exempting the inheritance of private wealth from public responsibility also consolidates already overwhelming financial advantage in an ever smaller number of hands, and increasingly enables them to yank the "socioeconomic mobility" ladder up after themselves and their posterity once they've used it to shinny up to that opulent clubhouse on the top floor. Well guess what — that ladder was never theirs to begin with; it has always belonged to us all. Once they've been accorded every other advantage of privilege imaginable, why they gotta steal our ladder? Perhaps they have a hard time imagining a world in which they're not exclusively entitled to pretty much anything that strikes their fancy, even when laying false claim to it destabilizes the very system that allowed the wealth to accrue to in the first place — and even when they know they'll never need to use it themselves.

Then there's the old canard about the renamed tax being an underhanded attempt at "double taxation" — the notion being that these superhumanly industrious and enterprising tycoons had already rendered unto Caesar quite enough on the loot they'd amassed by the time they punched out, thank you very much, and laying on any additional responsibility following the transfer would just be extracting a punitive additional chunk from wealth that has already been properly trimmed. But even if it were true that all of the wealth that qualified for the estate tax had already been subject to a round of taxation, the estate tax would still be perfectly unexceptionable given that this wealth is now somebody else's completely unearned income. If I buy a car, I use income that I pay taxes on to acquire the right to call it my property. If I pay a mechanic to fix that car, I likewise use taxed income to do so. Yet the car dealer and the wrench-man also pay taxes on the income they take in from that sale or service. Do we call that "double taxing?" Of course not; that's simply the dues we pay for the privilege of citizenship, life and commerce in the society in which we live. Our government quite rightly taxes income acquired, say, through the sale of physical commodities, that are purchased using income that is also taxed; ditto for labor or service. We'd certainly better tax income that the recipient has simply mooched (or "won," if that still feels more palatable) through the demise of their well-appointed relatives or benefactors. So there you have it: even if we suppose this claim (that tax on the wealth was already paid by the person or entity previously holding it) to be generally true, it would still be a demonstrably fatuous and irrelevant objection to the estate tax.

The kicker? It's a rubbish claim to begin with. Most of the estates that are big enough to be subject to this tax consist, to a surprisingly large degree, of "unrealized" capital gains that have never been taxed at all! In fact, one of the more compelling reasons for the creation of the estate tax, back in 1916, was to make sure this stealth wealth didn't get unfairly shoveled through the cracks untaxed, and thence back into the pockets of parties propitiously connected to the obscenely prosperous departed. These unrealized, untaxed capital gains amount to more than a third of the assets held by estates of sufficient size to qualify for the tax ($5.12 million per person at the current exemption level, up from $3.5 million in 2009), and a full 56 percent for estates worth more than $10 million. Moreover, if the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center is to be believed on this point (and it most assuredly is), the exemption bar is so high that 99.87 percent of the estates in this country comprise too little wealth to owe even a dime of the estate tax in question. Make no mistake, repealing the laughably mislabeled "Death Tax!" is really about squirming out of any tax responsibility at all for a vast share of the wealth changing hands here, not about being spared any tax treatment that could be sanely viewed as unfair or punitive.

But ethically, the issue is even clearer. It is precisely those parties who have prospered most in our economy who owe the greatest debt to the necessary economic and political system — as well as the public infrastructure — that both enables and safeguards that success. Teddy Roosevelt summarized this point succinctly in 1906, pointing out that "the man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government." This observation is much truer today than it ever was in TR's time, given the far greater role of government in creating, maintaining and protecting the vast and complex landscape in which commerce and corporate activity take place in our current age. But don't get them wrong, these takers are perfectly content to soak the government for every conceivable public advantage that makes their wealth possible; they just reserve the right to pitch a first-rate hissy-fit if that government looks askance at the prospect of being stiffed by their broods and bros at the end. Now that's a pharm-grade dose of chutzpah right there. But , miraculously, if you just slap a tag like "Death Tax!" on the enormous bill justly owed to their country upon their passing, one could almost be forgiven for imagining that the lucky winners are the ones getting shafted. Such is the power of shrewdly-crafted fuckweasels: sometimes they can even convince people that you're getting hurt when you're getting over. So the next time the term "Death Tax!" turns up in polite conversation, do us all a favor and explain — calmly and politely — to the agent propagating this mindless malware both that they're full of shit, and why. Do it for your country.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

You And I and the Parking Lot Mendicant

How does she recline on this delible day

In those ribbons of bruise      her back

Creased by the vertex of car sandwich tiers

These stacked slabs of slots--the periodic

Numbered accommodations of this year's

Motto of mobility?     She runs down

Done in outside the locus of brand royalty

Awaiting the accumulation of lunchtime.

Whatever else I'm not

     Am I not as her as me?

          I pray to doubt.

I can't find the space to leave     to lose

These roots     to tender the truth about me

I try     this is not me     I try again

Is it nothing     again     breaking outward

Dispersed     with the crucible suspended

Whole on hot tongues?     Remind me

How my consequences funnel light.

Hold up these fire-worn branches

     Know the unsung numbers

          Of our secrets through this soil.    

Give us back  


Monday, September 3, 2012

Is Your Newsroom Breeding Fuckweasels?

There’s an infestation plaguing the newsrooms, publishing houses and web-feeds of America. The minds of many of the people we all rely upon to provide reporting, information and perspective on the events that affect both our lives and our future have been severely compromised by one of the most diabolical threats we’ve ever faced as a nation. They are succumbing in droves to the ruthless onslaught of ravenous, mind-mulching fuckweasels.

The fuckweasel is an invasive species purpose-built to devour reason and excrete confusion and nonsense; to sniff out our fears, consume and consolidate them, then bind them selectively to the most sensible and helpful ideas on offer. They subsist—nay, thrive—on a steady diet of seed-corn, scrambled brains, and fear. To make matters worse, the cognitive viruses these malignant memes carry induce hallucinations that paint horrifying death's-heads on those who think and act out of compassion for their fellow human beings while elevating the avatars of avarice, whose ends they serve, to the status of heroes and royalty. Their sole function in the world is to recycle unwary brains for someone else's profit.

If you’re like most Americans, you probably feel like things have slipped for you pretty badly over the past few years, but you’re still holding onto a fairly sizable reserve of hope. Hey, this is capitalism, you might be thinking; they’ll sort it all out for us sharpish just as soon as the smoke clears! Yet maybe you’ve also noticed that this sorting and re-sorting has been going on for some time now, and that somehow you keep getting shifted further and further from any arrangement you might consider reasonably “sorted” in each round. At the same time, a tiny subset of citizens—the very people who were best situated to begin with—just keep finding themselves levitated higher and faster every time you look. It’s like somebody keeps handing them winning lottery tickets every day of their charmed lives!

The wires and the WiFi are awash with explanations for why you’ve pitched up at this sorry turn. Many of these voices will instruct you to believe that it was inevitable, or that your government is preventing the winners from coming to your aid—or even that it’s your own damned fault. Narratives like these are pressed into service on behalf of a set of institutions and interests that political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson refer to as “organized money.” The mouthpieces of organized money often speak of even the most meager concessions to any reasonable idea of equality with the kind of contempt normally reserved only for the most scurrilous and contemptible of scandals. But these aren’t “evil” people; rather, they are profoundly ill. Their systems of thought have been compromised, corrupted by fiendishly sophisticated malware that subverts or disables their capacity for sustained contextual analysis and sound ethical reasoning. That is to say, their meme-space is infested with fuckweasels. Consequently, they consistently confuse excuses with explanations, rationalization with ratiocination, and emotionally-charged assertion with telling evidence. And the longer these scripts run against their brains—their wetware, if you will—the more extensively the wetware gets rewired, and the more susceptible they become to more comprehensive infiltration. It’s a rabidly vicious cycle.

There are rules, of course. To do its job properly our fuckweasel has to summon your inner lizard: that gallingly primitive security system deep in your brain that handles threat detection, sirens, klaxons, flashing red lights, and of course soiling your undergarments. Therefore, these pernicious chunks of viral code don’t carry out their destructive hacks by way of clever reasoning, or by any other legitimate means of rational suasion; instead, they accomplish these feats by gate-crashing your cognitive party under the guise of opinion or thoughtful commentary, then taking to the trees. Once inside, they brachiate1 gleefully through the dendritic branches in your lush, unguarded brainforest, chopping away meaningful associations; cross-wiring2 your lizard-class limbic alarm system; suppressing the paths to those pesky critical thinking circuits in the neocortex; and generally reducing every complex, multivalent issue to a simplistic, bivalent schema of right versus wrong, good versus bad, pro- versus anti-everything-that-matters.

This last, reductive feature is perhaps the most insidiously effective function of fuckweasel code. Under the gentle ministrations of our work-a-day fuckweasels, every sophisticated proposition (or even any targeted feature of a larger proposal) gets mashed down, its useful complexity bitten away, until—like a simple, household toaster—it admits of only two states: right on, or way off; toasty warm and safe, or chillingly cold and terrifying to the point of incontinence. They don’t even bother to say why in any coherent or compelling way; they just grab our complex issues, chew them up, shape the resulting bolus into these ridiculous wank-toasters, then trot them out on the evening news and flog them like they’re the only mental products that any right-thinking person must judge indispensable. And lo, they’re selling like gold-plated love-batteries with a lifetime guarantee! How do the fuckweasels accomplish this? Branding and labeling, dear reader—and exhaustive repetition.

Another crucial point to bear in mind is that the fuckweasel isn’t designed to be viewed straight-on; rather, it uses misdirection to induce you to haul your head sideways and let it hump your ear. Because the minute you start passing notes to your cortex or making like you’re actually trying to rationally understand something, those little contacts that it has clipped into your fear circuitry start to lose their purchase and the lone fuckweasel begins to lose its mojo. In fact, once properly comprehended, this tiny, doomed blighter will simply explode (or “pop,” if you must…) in a diminutive puff of applied horse-sense. For this reason, they seldom undertake solo operations at all, but are nearly always to be found in roving packs of close-knit family members. 

For example, have you noticed that a woeful lack of both meaningful regulation and reliable enforcement has rendered our economy dangerously fragile and brittle, permitting fraud to permeate the world of finance to the point where even the most powerful institutions in the sector are now regularly complicit in gaming the global system in ways that sabotage its future sustainability and threaten the very credibility of its present foundations? Wait, did you just say that out loud? Heaven forfend—already I fear I detect the patter of tiny paws, the gnashing of razor-sharp incisors ravenous for the rending of reason! Oh dear, here they are, and right on schedule...

“You wretched, job-crushing cretin—why, you’re anti-business! Regulation Bad! How dare you offend the tender ears of our innocent citizens with your anti-employment heresy! Pipe down for God’s sake; you’re scaring the job-creators!”

But wait, you protest, if a practice is unfair, fraudulent, anti-competitive and unethical—resulting, say, in the elimination of quality jobs and the looting of hard-earned pensions—and done merely for the short-term gain of unscrupulous investors, how is making it against the law anything other than necessary? After all, if it’s legal then those who do engage in the unethical practice gain an unfair market advantage over their competitors who suffer the inconvenience of a conscience! I’m only opposed to certain particular, unrestricted applications of business practice, which are actually themselves bad for business! And by the way, what are you even talking about? All I’m saying is…

“Oh we hear you loud and clear: 'Elimination of quality jobs!', 'Opposed to ... business practice!' and 'Bad for business!' (See, you’re doing this to yourself!) Market scold! Business-hater! Job-killer! Nanny-state socialist! (We’ve got a million of ‘em—what are you still doing here?) If markets want regulating, they’ll send us a memo with their next prezzie!”

You see? How can a calm, coherent and carefully-reasoned argument ever hold a candle to an incendiary label that’s engineered to simply scare the pickled bejeezus out of anyone who might be tempted to listen to you? You can’t dispatch them with cogent counterargument. These little vermin burrow and cling with deer-tick tenacity. Their notional content is crafted in advance and hard-coded. Any effort at earnest sense-making is likely to be futile; the fuckweasels' carriers will just keep methodically lobbing the same resonant, focus group-tested, semiotically-charged word-bombs and catch-phrases into your rebuttals—often through distracting interruptions—until your own bemused weariness and incredulity begins to seem more and more like resignation, like concession to the implacable logic of their strident abuse. That’s the genius of this malware: fuckweasel code doesn’t have to “think”; it just has to prevent anybody else from thinking. It often does so by preventing them from even finishing their sentences.

While some random fuckweasels are born in the wild, so to speak—on some factually-challenged blog, say, or in a newspaper column by one of the usual stable of "Fair and Balanced" meme-ponies, or occasionally on one of those “analysis” shows that feature a motley collection of blowhards talking shit at each other at the top of their lungs—that’s not where most of the heavy lifting in this highly selective breeding process gets done. Many of the most brutally effective specimens are in fact carefully designed, decanted and tested in the specialized laboratories I alluded to above, called (apparently without irony) “focus groups,” which often reside in (wait for it…) “think tanks.” These dedicated environments are like wind-tunnels for the professional streamlining of industrial-grade fuckweasels for optimal assimilation by the thinking impaired—usually people whose wetware has already been invaded and "softened" by virtual armadas of the bristling varmints well in advance. Because that’s the demographic that offers the most powerful vector, reproducing and propagating these lovingly-crafted strings of organized and highly viral irrationality to the broadest possible audience, and repeating them ad nauseam until they acquire the familiar texture of common knowledge.

Take the “Job Creator” fuckweasel—please! This one is widely deployed and swimmingly successful (never let it be said that there are no amphibious versions available). Its frustrated detractors often refer to it as a myth—and like many myths of old, it contains a grain of truth. That’s one of its strengths as a first-rate scrambler of brains. Tennyson once wrote that a “lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies.” But myths also generally contained moral guidance: tropes and themes that signaled strength of character and nobility of mind. This “Job Creator” fuckweasel is no myth; there’s nothing ennobling about the way it lays waste to any meaningful discourse about power, privilege, income inequality, or the current structure of our economy. Sure, wealthy individuals generally have more people employed under them in the hierarchy than above—hence the term ‘hierarchy’—and they are also the ones who often make the decision to take on more labor as it becomes expedient to do so; but that doesn’t mean they got there by increasing hires (the opposite is often true). Nor does it mean jobs would decrease if you added to their tax responsibility (this is the fraternal fuckweasel that usually arrives in tandem with the “Job Creator” type). Indeed, empirically, the opposite is generally true!  The wealthy do not "create jobs"; demand for goods and services creates the expediency of hiring more labor to meet that demand. Paying customers create jobs. The idea that even slightly increased taxes on the wealthy might somehow make that fact less true is not a legitimate point raised for thoughtful consideration; it’s just the knobby, lofted middle finger of our super-rich prima donnas raised in unconcealed contempt for their supporting cast. Period.

Or how about that exceptionally vicious fuckweasel that maintains that massive income and wealth inequality is the result—and not the enemy—of freedom; or its sibling that suggests that this is a country of equal opportunity, not equality of means? Hate to piss on your fireworks, boss, but if you’re actually blissfully unaware that nearly all of the examples that are summoned to mind when we speak of “opportunity” in this country are profoundly mediated by money, that is, by financial means, then there are almost certainly a number of doorknobs in your immediate vicinity with a more formidable intellectual endowment than your own. In fact, the one you just used to enter the room is probably twisting in a fit of pique at the comparison. This kind of dishonesty is hardly worth dignifying with a proper rebuttal. But, thankfully, very thorough and rigorous refutations have been made (e.g.), and they are quite unanswerable.

One of the sillier companions to the two rodents of irrationality mentioned in the foregoing paragraph is the idea that people who argue for greater socioeconomic equality are merely jealous of the “success” of the obscenely wealthy: the recently popular “Don’t Hate Us Because We’re so Goddamn Awesome” fuckweasel. This is a critter that fairly howls with imbecilic risibility. As if, had you an ounce of initiative, you too could have contrived to be born into a family with a lifetime ticket on the gravy train. It’s not their fault that they entered the world pedigreed with multiple generations of power, privilege, influence and entitlement in their silk-lined pockets. You think it’s easy carrying a wallet that heavy? Show some compassion! Uh-huh. Nobody hates them because they’re rich; we may, however, think they (or more to the point, their besotted courtiers) are rather tedious fools for denying the countless lifetimes of grueling labor on the part of those in the strata beneath them that were required to place them where they are. The tragedy here is not coveted wealth but mind-numbing stupidity.

But it gets worse. You can’t donate your head to the care and feeding of fuckweasels for very long before you begin to lose your mooring in the rational and observable world. You lose the ability to make—or even acknowledge the significance or validity of—crucial distinctions. And you lose the capacity to reliably apprehend the empirical domain. Like the Bush operative in that classic Ron Suskind piece who proudly spoke of creating reality in their new, high-powered “culture of assertion” while contemptuously dismissing the apparently outmoded “reality-based community.” Like Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, who recently waved aside those who noted absurd fabrications in their campaign copy by sneering “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Or how about that amazing sub-three hour marathon that Paul Ryan never ran? Apparently facts are such impossibly stubborn things that some candidates have entirely given up trying to work with them. Imagine feeling so besieged by—or disdainful of—reality that your last line of defense is to downplay the very idea of facticity. There’s a creepy thread of unhinged solipsism at work in their bizzaro positions—the notion that the hacked, ad hoc version of reality between a partisan’s ears is somehow preferable to any version that insists on recourse to observation or rational critique. It’s a thread that begins to unravel in a frayed tangle of beleaguered identity at the first off-hand tug.

Yes, it’s so much more exciting to be afraid than to be informed. That’s the principle fuckweasels operate on. So they dig away at the core of our identities and plant explosive fecal matter at the foundations. They tell us that who we are is being stolen by who somebody else is. They whisper that heterosexual marriage is being burgled by "the gays," and that if we don’t stand up and graffiti our constitution with bigotry, they’ll abscond with the very meaning of our sacred family union. They shriek that Muslims are making off with our “way of life,” whatever that means, and warn us that if we aren’t prepared to defend it, by force of arms if necessary (oh, and it will be!), we’ll all wake up one morning way-of-lifeless—which apparently is a pretty big deal to any life-ectomy survivor who actually believes it. So maybe you do wake up on the wrong side of the bed one morning before that fateful day, with one of these nattering monsters in your ear, and decide to give your soul the day off. Maybe you determine it’s finally time to round up your all-too-easily-acquired assortment of necessary firearms, nip off to the public space of your choosing and start pumping projectiles into anybody who’s committed the inexcusable indignity of failing to be you. Hell, maybe you get on a real tear and even decide to take out the one guy present who got that right in the end. You just can’t be too careful these days, as any self-respecting fuckweasel will tell you. Because these things are about fear, and fear controls; fear rationalizes; fear makes the senseless appear sensible—even necessary. But most importantly, fear drives us to the polls, to vote for the party that stands the best chance of keeping it alive.

A couple of final notes:

Fuckweasels are flexible travelers. Primary distribution usually takes place via cable television, radio and Internet; but after infecting their initial carriers they can easily be transported with no loss of potency via sneakernet to the bar-stool nearest you. They are commonly found in densest proliferation on the systems of people who can’t be bothered to wrangle their hapless rummage sale of ideas into any semblance of coherence or consistency. These meme-beasties thrive on intellectual laziness. And though fuckweasels may sound fairly innocuous—or even patently stupid—when first encountered, they acquire considerable strength through repetition. They also crash every system they compromise, converting them into mindless relayers—a kind of crowd-sourced bandwidth for the transmission of bullshit on behalf of the well-heeled saboteurs who pay their makers.

Don’t ever let them intimidate you! When confronted with even the most casual interrogation, they crack like a cheap pair of shoes. While fuckweasels are not always easy to identify, it helps to keep your eyes skinned and your ears tuned for simplistic buzzwords and phrases—strings of words that sound too glib and facile to actually explain anything, but which are suddenly too ubiquitous to ignore. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can kill them with anger or by force. They can only be deactivated through careful, calm reasoning and well-formed questions—and even then, only if you're dealing with a relatively intact mind of sufficient breadth and complexity to compute the contradictions. Keep in mind that some mental systems are simply too small to hold both the fuckweasels and their effective countermeasures. Don’t let that get to you; just let them go—because man, they’re gone.

So, in closing, be careful: don’t let the fuckweasels in. Don’t entertain them as guests and don’t let your kids keep them as pets. They’ve done enough damage already. But don't blame their victims either; they ain't mad atcha, they're just scared out of their minds. Literally.

1. Yes, the wily fuckweasel, once inside your wetware, displays an almost preternaturally superb adaptation to neural brachiation. Some have even suggested changing the taxonomical designation to “fuckmonkey.” This would accord nicely with the defining question that currently guides GOP policy and debate: “What Would Rhesus Do?” But no, too many other features militate in favor of the fuckweasel classification, rodentia bohica (from the U.S. Armed Services acronymic vernacular “Bend Over, Here It Comes Again!”).

2. Most likely by jacking your amygdala with your subcortical auditory and visual processing circuits using pre-primed linguistic and visual input.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Terminal Freedom

You know America's collective bad trip has taken a turn for the surreal when it dawns on you that a sizable gaggle of your compatriots have taken that decisive, "one-too-many" pull from the Big Brother bong and are now convinced that the delusional crackpot in the front yard--that guy in the sandwich boards, standing on the violets and muttering insults at the host--is the most enlightened soul at the party. Our political system here is now so broken, so polarized and so ethically bankrupt that, for a large and growing chunk of our electorate, even extreme and alarmingly simplistic libertarian ideas have begun increasingly to seem like a welcome improvement.

Of all of the bizarre characters that have held our attention during this Republican primary season, libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul is perhaps the most peculiar. Reedy and resolute, "Dr. No" maintained the same positions he's held throughout his entire political career in every debate. In a sea of makeovers, pandering and closely-supervised molding of public identity, this personage stands alone as a singular island of unyielding public consistency. The man is immutable. In the interests of his personal vision of "Freedom," his stated aims never vary: slash taxes at every opportunity; return to the gold standard; kill any market regulation that still breathes; physically secure all borders and coastlines; dramatically reduce defense spending (a lovely idea if he'd agree to use that vital revenue to create new jobs, but alas...); end the Fed and the IRS--in fact, eliminate any federal agency big enough to draw a bead on (Education, Interior, Commerce, Energy, FEMA, and HUD, to name a few disfavorites). His idea of freeing America is to balkanize it: in short, to give states maximal sovereignty while stripping away the overwhelming majority of the already fraught connective tissue of defining national institutions and oversight that permits us to cohere as as a "united" entity. In Ron Paul's America, the federal government has no business being anywhere near your life, not even to set minimal standards for your health care,  your safety, or your education--and certainly not to maintain the stability of our national economy. The man is honestly trying to work himself out of a job.

While I've always been impressed with Mr. Paul's ability to hold the same views on an astonishing range of issues year after year, and to vote accordingly, I'm not at all impressed with the actual views themselves. The fact that he hasn't bothered to update these opinions in light of all the new data and exceptionally cogent analysis that has emerged in the interim is shamefully tragic. As Emerson once noted, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." If Paul could legitimately plead ignorance, I'd be inclined to view him more charitably. The fact is, he made up his mind forty years ago about how the world works, and he hasn't considered a single compelling counterargument since. During that time, his spartan economic ideology has not merely been disputed, it has been roundly and irretrievably refuted. From a few simplistic notions of narrowly-defined responsibility, individual liberty and minimal government, he has fashioned a single tool--one that does few things at all well, and breaks far more meaningful freedoms than it builds. This is a classic example of Maslow's "Golden Hammer" ("I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."). Building and maintaining a complex, modern society is a bit more sophisticated than just banging the lumber together. That kind of constructive work wants all the tools you can get your paws on. But you won't get far with any single one of them--especially not one designed for demolition.

The libertarians' concept of freedom--both their popular rallying cry and their intellectual albatross--is hopelessly impoverished. It is impossible to sustain even a minimally coherent contention of equal freedom in a country where (1) every option to exercise this putative endowment, from the minimal necessities of subsistence to the most absurd extremes of extravagance, is mediated by money; and (2) both the allocation of this medium and the disposition of opportunity for its acquisition are vastly and increasingly unequal among individuals at the outset. Without the means to exercise a claim of freedom in any given situation, or even the viable opportunity to acquire the means, that claim is a cruel lie. Yet whenever anybody publicly disapproves of the extreme inequality in America they are immediately set upon by these faux freedom fighters, who dutifully remind them that it's not the job of government to ensure equality of outcome, only equality of opportunity. But this assertion takes as its implicit premise the assumption that equality of opportunity is actually a current feature of American life. This popular misconception is not only laughably preposterous, it's also deeply insulting. Opportunity is an empty word without the means to use it, and true equality of opportunity requires that such necessary means be equally shared. But "education isn't a right," Dr. No insists, "medical care isn't a right--these are things you have to earn!" Indeed. Presumably the children of affluence "earn" their enviable privileges by the simple, repetitive act of continually hoisting their hands to accept the proffered bounty.

While simply increasing government funding for the poor won't meet the challenge alone, that's not an argument against it; in fact, it's a point in favor of much more than mere dollars. There is some legitimacy to the claim that merely providing financial assistance can create dependence on the part of recipients over time, though this objection should apply with equal validity to the much more substantial assistance supplied by the wealthy to their own dreamy little write-offs. If you want to see what real "entitlement" looks like, have a quick peek at that end of the financial spectrum. (You're gonna want to tip your head back all the way--that's right--and use this spotting scope. No worries bruv, just doin our job...) See, we don't simply need a more refined sense of noblesse oblige. Quality education must be a right enjoyed by every citizen if the process of democracy is to move beyond the mere servicing of moneyed interests, punctuated by shallow seasonal pageants. Without a decent baseline of both knowledge and opportunity, a little sympathy bump in spending once in awhile provides little more than a dollop of salve on the festering wound of social injustice and a cheap analgesic to dull that brief prick of vestigial conscience in our elected representation while they leg it out of the projects to collect their gold star. It preserves the existing structures that created the problem while permitting a hollow claim of remedial effort. The deferential affirmation of privilege is woven into the fabric of our institutions and our identities. Without a dramatic increase in both the quantity and quality of available jobs, and a matching increase in educational investment, our democracy will run aground on its own insecurity, ignorance and paranoia.

We've done better in the past. The time of this country's longest longest interval of broadly-based prosperity, from the end of WWII into the Seventies, was also the time when it was most deeply regulated economically and most vigorously taxed at the top end--a libertarian's gooseflesh nightmare. Since the seventies, our economy has become increasingly libertarian and deregulated, and also insanely unequal. In fact, the graph of household income for each percentile of our population increases fairly gradually until the last decile, then approximates a freakishly climbing power law distribution that approaches vertical near the top end. The wealth distribution curve is even more extreme, and at both ends: a full quarter of us have zero or negative net worth This isn't because anybody in those last fractional percentiles is working correspondingly harder or doing anything significantly better; it's simply an artifact of the way our economy and our financial system is set up. Those who are already ahead get further ahead, and faster, than those behind them--even the nearest lagging players whose wealth is increasing in the same way.

Of course, the wizards of Wall Street have crafted instruments to insure canny investors against downside risk. But the rollback of the meaningful regulations (in the name of "Freedom!") that served to prevent broader systemic risk created a situation in which even those devices were not sufficient to prevent disaster. And as we recently discovered, at that level of play the scale of the conflagration was so great, the potential fallout so dire, that the very government that let them write their own rules had to summon every lowly, unwashed, tax-paying hand in the country to man the fire brigade.

So what did we do then, change the building codes? Oh go on! No self-respecting believer in the sanctity of markets could ever agree to such an abridgment of "Freedom"--and organized money was spot on point to make sure no seriously relevant or binding changes occurred. We let them rebuild everything pretty much just like it was. Moral hazard? Check... Perverse incentive? Check... Systemic risk? Check...

Blank check? Check.

They're flush again now (in truth they were never not) and they can afford all of the shrewd political machinations and the brilliant campaigns of disinformation that may be required to defeat you should you disagree with the wisdom of their regime. When life gave them lemons, they promptly had them bronzed and stitched them into their scrotums. Yet even these luminous beings are not the most exalted spirits in the heavens; they are mere avatars of ethereal powers beyond accounting in the transcendent logos of logo. The names and potent sigils of these ineffable effers adorn every available surface of their earthly places of worship, every official letterhead, and every object fashioned in their interest. And praise be to their holy names, they're more efficient now than ever!

But no, you protest, these are just names and symbols that identify, you know, like, official sources of goods and services. T'yeah, no--not after the Citizens United decision entered holy writ. In conferring personhood on these branded interests, the stunted souls of SCOTUS have deprecated the very meaning of that term beyond recognition, robbing it of its last essential breath of empathic entailment. Gone is the element of sentience as sine qua non; gone is the assumption of discrete and uniquely experienced identity; gone is the implied responsibility of a living agent among living peers--the conscience of consciousness--or even the merest presumption of sane fellow-feeling. These newly-naturalized, titanic toddlers exist in a domain beyond feeling, and know only one overriding directive: the infinitive of grow. We've even given them voices--the loudest ones in the country, by all accounts--in the only language they know.

That wage-slave job you humped at week in and week out for ten years to prop them up? Silly camel, that was never your job--it was theirs all along! And they gave it to some other poor sod even worse off than your luckless self, in a country that won't complain if it kills them, for an annual salary you couldn't live on for a fortnight. Only the misplaced loyalty and confidence you brought to that work was your own--an overvalued product of marginal futility. It'll happen to your successor too if the numbers look right--this isn't a popularity contest. And your struggle isn't special; it's just another used-to-work-a-day externality for this freshly-minted being, on the path to some optimal market nirvana. They're the very Gods of job genesis--don't you dream of causing them to knit their figurative brows at the prospect of an insulting increase in tax responsibility, or a more respectful relationship with the labor that allows them to persist. It was your staggering good fortune to have them smile upon you for that enchanted, sweat-filled decade--you're so welcome!--but, mercifully, your services are no longer required. Just don't let's think they've "terminated your employment" or "fired you"--that kind of frankness is for defeatists and disgruntled former associates. No, they've simply "let you go." Did'ja catch that?--the script, she is flipped! You've lost nothing, poor thing; they did you a solid. You've been liberated from the cruel shackles of your meager means. The discarded world is now your oyster. Henceforward you can arise proudly each morning from your gifted blankets, bedizened with still-moist pearls bestowed by generous pigeons and perfumed with the invigorating redolence of rat spoor, secure in the knowledge that you are now officially, utterly and deliriously free. Welcome to WTF-istan. Don't take any wooden nickels...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Unequal by Design

In case you just beamed in from Mars, there's an awful lot of bad blood about right now between Americans and their government. While the reasons for this are varied, one major factor is that we have a shocking number of decent citizens who have played by the rules and worked hard, who now find themselves either without a job or working their fingers to the bone in dead-end employment for a smaller and smaller piece of the American pie. These people can't help but notice that this pie is actually growing very quickly once again, but that that growth is almost entirely reserved for others who are better connected or less ethical than they are. Consequently, and not without some justification, many blame their government. But very few of those who are hurting most have any real sense of the root cause of this disease at the heart of our political system. To compound the problem, those who have zeroed in on the diagnosis are being accused of waging "class war," or trying to kill jobs or undermine the freedoms of "ordinary Americans." The reality is that they're merely trying to win back opportunities for these very Americans and to rebuild a system of responsibility, accountability and broadly shared prosperity that has been systematically dismantled over the past thirty years.

The entities that have brought about this massive unraveling claim to be operating on behalf of businesses and commerce at all levels, but the changes their influence has wrought have channelled an accelerating majority of our growth, in increasing wealth, advantage and preferential treatment, to those at the very top of the income distribution. The parties that expend the most resources on framing our national narrative are well aware that if you say something loudly enough, and repeat it sufficiently often, it can very easily achieve the status of truth among a passive electorate—even if truth bears no relation to it at all. Today, we find huge and angry swaths of the society who have been convinced that the very government programs that are keeping them afloat—and that could, if wisely built upon, help them move beyond mere subsistence—are actually their worst enemies. In a grotesque parody of thoughtful protest, many of these citizens now get themselves up in colonial garb, fasten disposable beverage infusers to their clothing and accessories, and take to the streets to declaim their bizarre received wisdom of indignant slogans and nostrums: sentiments that undermine the few remaining features of their social architecture that actually redound to their benefit.

When we say that we live in a nation of laws, we're essentially paying lip service to the fundamental constitutional principle inspired by John Locke (whom our framers rightly admired a great deal), namely that the individual is free to do anything except what's forbidden by law. Any complex contract or legal system can be gamed; all you need is a sharp eye for holes you can shovel money or unfair advantage through, and a regular dose of bad faith. But once these holes are identified, they should be closed. That's one of the most important and under-appreciated roles of the legislative branch.

Our financial royalty currently spends (literally "untold") billions on lobbying, both to keep existing holes open—called "policy drift"—and to create new holes. This spending constitutes their most successful investment to date in terms of their bottom line. Often, these new holes are ostensibly promoted for other reasons that seem unexceptionable at first glance, but on closer inspection it becomes apparent that they license behavior that rigs the framework to the advantage of those who promote them. These loopholes pay massive dividends to the people who spend the money to create them or keep them in place, but they also undermine the social contract in insidious ways. When both your threadbare framework of rules and your lax regimen of enforcement preferentially rewards "legal cheaters," what message does that send to those who are trying to play fair? I think we can sum it up in one word: "Suckers..." It doesn't take a Nobel Prize-winning economist to point this out, but few seem to listen even when they do.

As citizens, our job is to do our homework and keep close tabs on this process, then use the ballot box to make sure the grifters don't take over our country. But who has the time, the education or the discipline for that task when we're too busy working overtime to keep our families healthy and fed? The tiny minority that the game actually favors can afford to pay handsome salaries and benefits to the professionals who tilt the table on their behalf. And we have more pressing matters to address in our discretionary time—like figuring out who the Antichrist *really* is, or discovering where Lindsay is blowing lines this week, or making reproductive decisions for women we've never met. Genius, I tells ya...

The question of whether or not we can retrieve our country from the clutches of organized money remains very much up in the air at the moment. The dollar is a powerful reinforcer; it's not easy to find public servants who are resistant to its allure. It will very much depend on our willingness to tear ourselves away from our trivial entertainment for long enough to fulfill our own civic responsibility to hold our elected representatives to account for whom their legislation legitimately represents. If the framers of our constitution are to be believed, that was supposed to be us. And the people waging class warfare are the ones trying to destroy this compact, not the people trying to uphold it—that's the critical difference. It's time for the latter voices to find a thoughtful audience. You can help make that happen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nanny and the Freeloaders

All of this teabag-smoking, pea-poddy, pity party talk of liberals getting all "redistributy" with other people's money while the indignant-but-longsuffering conservatives try to reel them in (so as to let them keep a little more of "their own hard-earned money," we're told) is a hilarious little pant-load of pungent poo. The red states are the undisputed Welfare Queens of the United States of America. The blue states "redistribute" billions of their tax dollars to these states every year just so they can squeak by; yet the recipients are continually wringing their hands in poutrage and whinging about how unfair and "socialist" America is—all while raking in these massive handouts from their malevolent "big government" benefactors. They owe their very subsistence to redistribution from the blue states, and they're so irrepressibly grateful that they all put their fiercely independent little heads together every other day to cut us these lovely, broken records of cheeky abuse. We have to wear earplugs now when they hit us up for cash just to preserve our dignity when we capitulate.

And speaking of "illiquid and insolvent," some of these states are actually our equivalent of Greece! But not to worry, the blue state "nannies" have always got their backs, because that musty old scrap of parchment—the one that noted (among other things) the reasons our country was actually "constituted" back when Adams wore knee breeches—listed things like "to form a more perfect union" and "promote the general welfare" and "insure domestic tranquility," and some of us are foolishly convinced that those reasons still matter. Maybe they've read it, these states that are perennially in the red? Yeah, I doubt it too. In fact, non-partisan publications like the UK's Financial Times have speculated that the only way Greece is going to be able to stay afloat as part of the eurozone is if the EU adopts structural measures similar to those of the U.S. and agrees to start treating it like we treat some of our red states. I shit you not.

No, seriously, "Reds," don't mention it. In fact, nanny thinks maybe you could use a little time-out. Yeah, we're gonna need you to just stop talking until you have something intelligible to say—like "thank you!" or "we're not worthy!" or "golly, this socialism sure tastes mighty fine!" ...Or until you can sink your own stop signs, patch your own roads and fight your own goddamn fires without the hitherto uncomplaining largess of the blue states. Maybe take a break from Fucks' News and do a little homework? Seriously, there's a reason why those "fairly unbalanced" drama queens can't tell their heads from their asses; it's because the two are concentric. There are bags of pounding tools with more formidable reasoning skills—and better manners. What was that old line you used to give us, "God helps those who help themselves?" You thought that was in the Bible somewhere—I believe that was in the book of Tracheotomy, if memory serves... Well I'm not sure "help yourself!" means what you think it means here. You see, some of us know that the minute we let your vaunted "Lazy Fairies" begin working the invisible hand without adult supervision, it starts digging graves—and it starts with yours. Yes, even with all of the flaming ordure you pile on our doorstep year in and year out, and despite the parasitic relationship you've carved out with us, we still have a hard time viewing your destruction as "creative."  Lucky you.

What? Oh nothin', never mind—nanny was just venting (I suppose you could say she's in a "blue state." No, no, stop, that's not... that's just not funny at all). Go back to sleep. The check is in the mail again, per usual. Yeah, just whistle us that Chet Baker song while you drift off—you know the one: "Everything-depends-baybay . . . awn yeeew!" (And don't we just know it.)