Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
Here's a Rocketboom discovery that I'm getting a kick out of. Simply put, call Buzz-O-Phone toll-free in the US via 1-800-591-5375, speak for a minute or two about anything you want, (a rant or complaint is best), and then your message is instantly sent out in digital form via a podcast. It's also put in a queue for all to hear on the web, and it's so swell!
Check it out now, just before it reaches the 100th entry point. Some of the callers are borderline insane, others are completely logical, while another group is simply looking for an ear to spew or whisper into. It's all quite sweet and low key, and perhaps even informative.
No matter, just visit the player to get started, and if you're inspired, call up and give your few cents worth. I know I probably might sometime.
How do you like your video blogs, or "vlogs"? I like mine with SNL Weekend Update tendencies, although with a better hit/miss ratio. Take that general comedic aesthetic, with a dash of some Daily Show, only on a much smaller scale, and you have the vastly entertaining Rocketboom.
Who's that attractive, intelligent and goofy host? That'd be Amanda Congdon, the talented hostess of this small scale yet large at heart weekday show. Think of a couple of minutes about whatever she and her partner are into, from what's happening with various websites, products or items of interest, to just cute and crazy things, like secret societies for random dancing or pillow fights.
This New York city based show is more intellectual than you think, only to shift madly into farce or product placement, but always with an unique style. Visit the site from Monday to Friday for a new segment, or you can look over the scores of past entries at your whim. Some are better than others, but as long as Amanda's our guide, I'll be content.
By the way, I'm just getting into them during their almost famous period - Rocketboom recently was on CSI (yes, the CBS show) as itself, which has to say something. What does that say? Ummmmmm..... well, it says that the Hollywood types are taking notice, and that you should probably expect large things from them in 2006. Why not jump on board now, before the adoring crowds get any larger?
For the past 8 years I've had a thing for Tabuchi Hisako, who's been up to a lot more than just guitars for the dearly departed Number Girl. Take Hatsuiku Status, a wonderful side project with Sheena Ringo. Or how about her recent work with the Bloodthirsty Butchers?
All fine stuff, but her latest project named Toddle blows them all away. [I dedicate D chord] was one of the best albums of 2005, but I wasn't aware of this until last month, after I realized it had been out since September. Hisako's at the forefront of a quartet, singing up a storm in Japanese, in between micropower chords and distortion, and every single song is a keeper. It's quite dense yet melodic, very much not like the more atonal Number Girl, and is more in the indie pop realm, albeit with some twists.
Her voice is pleasing, without being overly slick, and the lyrics are clearly enunciated and a nice complement to the superlative sounds. The ten songs are similar in tone, yet different enough that new and exciting moments jump out every minute or so, guaranteeing sonic satisfaction. I'm particularly partial to [Hesitate To See], which is both "radio friendly" (not too harsh, lots of hooks) and quite beautiful at times. [Wanderlust] is more propulsive, offering both a structured front, and allowing the instruments to roam a bit more at the end, bringing Pixies, Boyracer, Sonic Youth and a score of other references to the fore.
I could go on about the positive attributes of each song, but in the end it's the whole package that really charms, offering more depth with each listen. First time around you might be a bit lost, but it would be truly difficult not to come under Toddle's spell before long. A Junk Magnet pick.
I adored Ednaswap. They are one of my all-time favorite bands, best known for [Torn], a song covered by someone who shall remain nameless for the sake of this discussion. That cover became ultra-famous, yet the superior original was largely unnoticed - thus is the fickle nature of the universe.
In any case, Ednaswap had three albums which are amazingly great, especially [Wonderland Park], which is pitch perfect. Thus, I was distraught when they "broke up", or at least stopped populating the stores with CDs. Now, I was never a huge scholar of the band, but I did know some things about Anne Preven, the lead singer and songwriter. Occasionally I would search for news of her activities, but for 6 long years I suffered in silence, assuming the worst.
If I was a true Ednaswap fan, I would have found out sooner that the band changed into Annetenna in the late 1990's, going so far as to record an amazing self-titled album, that even had a promotional single released from it, only to be killed at the last minute by Columbia, their record label. That album has been hosted by the Annetenna website since then, with freely downloadable MP3s, not to mention the album graphics.
I had no idea until last night, when I searched for "Ednaswap" at Amazon, and found an EP I never knew about ([Chicken], now on order), plus a mention of Annetenna that led to my bliss. It's such an amazing album, even better than [Wonderland Park] in some ways, and my life is all the better because of it. It's hard for me to review it, since I've only heard it about 6 times in the past 24 hours, but it reminds me of the new Metric album meets classic Ednaswap, and is well worth saving from the trash bin of music history.
You must download it now - it's far better than most everything you can buy in a record store, and it's totally free. Since their website has a Flash interface that makes right-clicking hard, I've redone the links for your downloading pleasure:
Ultraviolet [MP3], 3.6MB
Oblivion [MP3], 4.0MB
Halo [MP3], 3.7MB
74 Willow [MP3], 3.9MB
Extraordinary [MP3], 3.9MB
What We Are Not [MP3], 4.2MB
Don't Think About It Now [MP3], 3.6MB
Homewrecker [MP3], 3.8MB
This Is Not A Love Song [MP3], 3.6MB
My Favorite Song [MP3], 4.1MB
From All Sides [MP3], 3.8MB
If you want to find out more about Ednaswap and Annetenna, then follow that there link. There are also live tracks you can enjoy, plus a video or two.
It's already been established that I'm a big fan of Lindsay Powell of Cake Bake Betty. Therefore, it stands to reason that I'm also a fan of the label she's on, Infinity Cat, and perhaps other albums they're put out that she's had a part in. Well, Art Circus is such a project, and I adore the recent CD of that name.
This is a group effort, involving the multi-talented Orrall family (creators of the label) not to mention lots of magnificent vocalists, including Elise Tyler, Maggie Jones, Hailley Collier, Emma Schwartz, Justine Orrall, Jessie Henry, Marianne Leba, Coco Bridges, Alex Eaton and Lex Powell. I included the whole list because each and every one of them have constructed a rich tapestry that ranges from cute and sweet to nuanced and profound.
As mentioned earlier, I was blown away by Lindsay's effort, the everyday tale of family flight to [New Jersey], led by the narrator's mother. It might not be autobiographical, but it has that air of truth, and is a fine song to boot, with great lyricism and sonics.
Most of the songs are keyboards and programing, as opposed to the typical guitar-bass-drums, coming across a bit like Brittle Stars, another one of my faves. The focus is more on the vocal texture and melody, rather than slapping listeners around with dense waves of sound. I like that simplicity, and the straight-forward lyrics appeal to me, not to mention that variety of moments, from giving a fake number [When Boys Lie] to learning through sibling spying in [I'm Watching Big Brother].
Overall, [Art Circus] is a personal, independent product of young women, full of spirit without being stereotypically punk, and witty without being blunt. I'm enjoying it more with each listen, and invite you to check it out when you have the time.
As mentioned before, I work at Elgato Systems. Without giving excessive detail, we participated in Macworld 2006, an expo open to the public in San Francisco. Fun might be too generous a word, since so much labor was involved in seeing things go well, but I did enjoy things in retrospect.
While I was working the booth, I gave a demo to a nice woman, that I seemed to recognize. Indeed, she was Irene McGee from the No One's Listening podcast, and now radio show in SF, which is largely concerned with Media Literacy. I was familiar with her work, and thus had something to talk about besides EyeTV (our product). Go ahead - check them out now, with the new season beginning and all.
Which brings us to this video clip, taken a few days after our first meeting, where you can see Irene and I chat for a few seconds, before one of our Macworld employees gives a demo. Thus, if you want to see Junk Magnet in a moving image, with sound, then this is your chance. Please excuse how the weird aspect ratio of the footage makes my meager girth seem much more impressive than it is - I'm saving all of the pounds that the camera added for an extra pair of free weights.
Over a year ago, I told you all about DJ BC and his Beastie Boys vs. The Beatles project called The Beastles. Then, the first "album" was deemed "rather groovy", and now, the second collection has been leashed on the world.
[Let It Beast] is more of the same greatness, with the hip hop being the skeleton to graft classic pop rock onto. It sounds nice, and it isn't that hard to determine what's borrowed and what's blue. I'm not a mash up expert, and am definitely not a part of the scene, but I usually enjoy what I do hear about.
You can download these MP3s via a torrent, and the overall consensus seems to be that the music industry is more concerned about the piracy of unadulterated tracks, rather than creatively combined ones. That said, participate in this grand game according to your conscience.
Also make sure to check out Best Of Bootie 2005, which is a Bay Area focused collection of mashups. Lots of Party Ben from Live 105, but I'm not sure if that's because he has talent, or just because the station has a lot of mash ups lately. No matter - fun stuff combining popular tracks with old standards
I love Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re, as a whole and in three separate parts, all beauty noise fun. They visit the US quite often lately, and basically everyone who sees them live adores what they're up to. Shouldn't you love and adore them too?
Here is the show information as it stands today, with updates to come:
The Emeralds, The Rodeo Carburettor, PE'Z, ELLEGARDEN, Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re, and VASALLO CRAB 75, for SXSW
03.18.06 - Austin, TX (SXSW), Elysium
The Emeralds, The Rodeo Carburettor, PE'Z, ELLEGARDEN, Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re, and STANCE PUNKS, for US Tour
03.20.06 - New York, NY, Knitting Factory
03.21.06 - Cambridge, MA, TT The Bear's
03.22.06 - Philadelphia, PA, Khyber
03.23.06 - Chicago, IL, Empty Bottle
03.24.06 - Denver, CO, Bluebird Theater
03.26.06 - Seattle, WA, Nuemos
03.27.06 - Portland, OR, Berbati's Pan
03.28.06 - San Francisco, CA, Independent
03.29.06 - Los Angeles, CA, Knitting Factory
I will make an extreme effort to catch the tour in SF, but attendence at any stop near you is recommended.
Not exactly due to popular demand, but definitely desired by yours truly, the second volume of [BAMBi And Her Pink Gun] is now translated into English, for the sake of US audiences.
This release was a few months late, as was the first volume, but I just received my copy from Amazon.com today, so it should be hitting select stores any day now.
This volume is where the action starts to get heavy, and you can't help but be impressed by the increasing rendering power of Kaneko Atsushi, who is one of my all-time favorite manga artists. It's definitely skewed towards the visual tastes of more Western audiences, but still Japanese enough to appease more traditional manga fans.
Arguably, the series really doesn't come alive until Vol. 4, but Vol. 3 also has its moments. Hopefully we'll see those two books released in 2006 - having all 6 volumes completed this year is probably too much to hope for. No matter, I'm having fun comparing this English translation to the one I already made in my head, from reading the original Japanese volumes.
If you ever have the ear of Digital Manga Publishing, please try to convince them to bring over [Bambi Alternative] too, which is an anthology of stories that slip between the cracks of the main series, and are really essential for full enjoyment and understanding. That's actually what I read first, before I ordered all of the other Japanese collections, and it's well worth tracking down.
Part 4 In A Series: Reasons Why The US Really Sucks
So, I decided to share some of my "political" thoughts this month, but I'm stopping now for a few reasons. First of all, it's probably boring as heck. Second, it seems that more sites than I once thought are talking about the very same issues in almost exact terms - like minds and all that, but it's redundant. Third, I figure people would rather find out about entertaining stuff they might not already know about, rather than the "true" nature of our sometimes oppressive reality.
These are the main reasons why I'll be stopping such long winded anarchistic entries, at least for now. Perhaps I'll have more to say in the future, but in little bursts, and not at the expense of innocent readers who just want to find out about the usual good junk.
Thank you for your tolerance, and for the few visitors who actually read all of that, hope you got something out of it. I had "fun" throwing it all together, but it's time to move on.
Part 3 In A Series: Reasons Why The US Really Sucks
To recap for the already bored, the past two entries this month were designed to establish the argument that the current US government, thanks to the machinations of the Executive Branch and the Republican Party, is effectively an elective monarchy. I don't think I need to belabor this point - either you see the evidence for this, or you ignore it. Best of luck to the myopic.
Now, I have to ask myself, just what does it mean to live under a rights-abridging monarchy, instead of a Democratic Republic, as our forefathers intended? Well, just look out of your window - that's it. As the saying goes, the rich get richer, and follow that link for particular proof. Of course, since our tax base is what feeds the maw of our King and his court, you would think that they would love to tax rich people - the more, the better, right?
Now, don't stoop to logic. In fact, since our government is made up of rich folk, with friends/donors in big business, the sworn task of our lawmakers is to protect the money piles of the rich, and take more from the little stashes of everyone else. I'm sure I'm not losing you here, since this is equivalent to teaching someone that clouds, in fact, float in the sky.
So, much like feudal serfs, the majority rent or own their little homes, on mortgaged bits of land stolen from the slaughtered prior tenants, and send regular offerings to the crown for this solemn right. 'Tis the way it was, 'tis the way it is now, only with more hierarchies of class and station, and those crazy "individuals" known as corporations, that always seem to cut into the front of the line.
To bring things back to an even starker reality, today the Fact Sheet: Highlights of the President's FY2007 Budget was graciously released by our White House, so that we all may better understand how the fruits of our labor are wasted. Oh, I mean wasted for us - the king will see that the victors get the spoils.
The Executive Summary:
The President's 2007 Budget continues the successful pro-growth policies that have encouraged robust economic growth and job creation. A strong economy, together with spending restraint, is critical to reducing the deficit. The Budget builds on last year's successful spending restraint by again holding the growth of overall discretionary spending below inflation, proposing to reduce non-security discretionary spending below the previous year's level, and calling for the elimination or reduction of programs not getting results or not fulfilling essential priorities. Like last year, the budget proposes savings and reforms to mandatory spending programs, whose unsustainable growth poses the real long-term danger to our fiscal health.
Let's break this down line by line, with my translation:
Our deficit will be amazing in 2007, truly world class, and we owe our creditors (the rest of the world) big time. Due to this success in deficit-growth, we want to make sure we keep borrowing lots, so we can spend lavishly and reward the faithful, but in secretive ways to mimic "spending restraint". This was the plan last year, and the year before, but we'll make sure to spend more on our essential priorities of war and security, but far less on those evil "liberal" social programs that only make our big government bigger. That way, our overall spending increases radically, but we can claim with a straight face that we're all about fiscal health, which is much more important than the actual health of the body politic.
Approximate, but it'll do for now. Next, let's jump down to Continuing Our Economic Expansion:
The Budget continues the President's pro-growth policies vital to our economy's continued expansion. With the full implementation of the President's tax relief plan in 2003, the Nation has added more than 4.7 million new jobs, productivity has increased at a 3 percent annual rate, homeownership has reached all-time highs, and the American economy is growing faster than other major industrialized nations.
Clearly, growth is everything. The growth of work (productivity has increased), the growth of debt (homeownership has reached all-time highs) and the growth of our "economy", which I'll take as more people spending at Best Buy and gambling more money in the stock-market. No mention of hard cash savings here, because there's no need for that when you have a virtually unlimited line of credit. No doubt we're "growing" more than a few top 10 countries, since we're borrowing all of our money from them.
The next section cracks me up - Restraining Spending and Cutting the Deficit:
Through continued pro-growth economic policies and spending restraint, the Budget keeps us on track to meet the President's goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009.
Remember, this is the very same deficit that the previous administration all but took care of. How, I wonder, did it ever get so large all of a sudden? In any case, we have amazing goals to grow a lot and spend a little less, and the primary ways to do this, in summary:
1) Grow spending less than Inflation, but still spend more on security and war
2) Cut 141 unnamed programs that "aren't fulfilling essential priorities", of the non-Republican type
3) In full: Requests that Congress give the President a Constitutional line-item veto. All savings from the line-item veto would be used for deficit reduction.
That's the funny part. Change the constitution so that the President can tear apart any proposal, only keeping the very best parts, which will obviously only be about spending less. Well, actually not spending less, or saving more, but just "deficit reduction". I think the trick here, since they don't want tax more, is to borrow more somehow, and spend that on the deficit (the difference between spending and income). This is not my strong point, but I can sense that something is definitely wrong with this formulation.
Of course, the President will only use this surgical tool when it comes to spending less, and not something base like increasing political power, or all sorts of Republican plans for "national security."
Next: The Long-Term Fiscal Danger. Pay close attention:
The greatest threat to our fiscal health over the long-term comes from unsustainable growth in entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Get it? It's a royal joke. The greatest threat to our money, is spending it on retirement and health care, using money specifically set aside for that purpose. You have to remember the trick of perspective. Since our government wants as much money as possible, but doesn't want to save it, the strict allotment of funds to directly better society is a threat to unencumbered spending. Just look up what happened to the Social Security "trust fund" over the past few years - very telling.
Apparently, such "entitlement spending" is the worst, because the public simply shouldn't feel entitled. Once you let go of your money, it's effectively shipped off to China to line the new suits of our captains of industry.
So, instead of taking care of the aged or sick, we need to be Focusing On National Priorities, like:
Fighting the War on Terror - 7 percent more defense spending, but that doesn't mean that only 7 percent more will be spent in 2007 on war-mongering. I'm sure they'll find ways to increase this radically - that's what the pet Congress is for.
Defending the Homeland - 8 percent more, not to mention all of the new people that will protect our borders, arrest bad non-American people who find their way in, and staff the jails where I'm sure they'll be tortured in the most secretive way possible.
Reducing Health Care Costs and Improving Access - Yes, save money by moving from guaranteed cash ("entitlements") to the stock market. Perhaps this cash infusion will allow us to spend and borrow even more ("growth")? As for actual health care, well that's a lesser priority.
Reducing our Addiction to Foreign Oil - Note, not the "addiction" to all oil, just oil that's too expensive to acquire (either through the marketplace, or war). Of all the priorities, this is the least believable coming from a FOO (Friend of Oil) like Bush. All the green talk is nice, but when coming from this administration, sirens should be going off.
Strengthening our Competitiveness - I'll take this to mean "USA #1", at all costs. Increase investments in research and development, recruit new math and science teachers, encourage American innovation, and strengthen our nation's ability to compete in the global economy. Sounds like - spend a little more money on higher education, and a lot more as gifts to business, to make sure that we can afford all of the stuff we're having made for us in China.
Promoting Compassion and Strengthening Families - God as a budget item. "Faith-based and Community initiatives" are another way of really strengthening those barriers between Church and State. I'm sure they'll have initiatives supporting all the diverse faiths that involve Jesus. Seriously, compassion is great, but show me the attached strings.
Delivering Results and Controlling Spending - The best comes last, with amazing innovations like biennial budgeting. See, we're in massive debt, and even more massive denial of the true extent of said debt, so instead of making a budget we can't handle every year, we should do that every other year, so that we can be less responsive, and more likely to incur more financial issues, due to other amazing innovations in the war on terror, which I'm sure will not be biennial from now on.
Even better, you have to check out ExpectMore.gov, where you can find out about those terrible, Not Performing programs like the American Printing House for the Blind and College Assistance Migrant Program. Basically, everything that sounds good, is really, really bad, and should be cut to pay for all of those extra border patrols. You know, to protect the kingdom? Good fences make good neighbors, right?
Don't forget to check with real journalists, to find out the truth about the 2007 Budget Monstrocity - how does 2.77 Trillion sound?
Part 2 In A Series: Reasons Why The US Really Sucks
Last time, I suggested that the US Presidency is little more than a Kingship. That might be an unexpected and controversial opinion for some, so let me lay out that argument in more depth.
First of all, I'm going to call upon the most Pro-American reference source possible, the White House Website. To fully grasp my point, we need to first establish/review the basic structure of our government. As per the White House:
The power of the executive branch is vested in the President, who also serves as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
The judicial branch hears cases that challenge or require interpretation of the legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President.
The legislative branch of the federal government consists of the Congress, which is divided into two chambers -- the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In theory, this structure is supposed to provide "checks and balances", specifically to prevent the Executive from turning into a monarchy, which our Founding Fathers feared.
So, the people can "elect" the tip of the Executive, and the meat of the Legislative. Besides taxes and labor in various governmental positions, that's our primary contribution to the system.
The Legislative is supposed to listen to the people, representing them by proxy, and pass all of the laws and regulations that actually run the country. There's more to it than that, but they have the power of creation, but not of ultimate action.
For that, the Judiciary checks the Legislative will against our Constitution, and clears up the fuzziness. Before law is enacted, the Executive has certain veto powers, to prevent every little pork barrel from rolling down the masses.
Finally, note that the President is the Commander in Chief, which effectively puts the Military, both the armed and intelligence wings, under the power of the White House. Congress has some say, but not as much as they should.
Sound familiar? It should, because that's the fiction that we've been taught since childhood. While that may have looked good on paper, the system has actually been corrupted since the get go. The main stumbling block is who exactly checks the "checks", and balances the scales?
We've had more than a few political parties over the years, but right now most people assume that a two party system is the only way to go. The interplay between those parties is supposed to provide debate and perspective for the Legislative, and is not supposed to come into play at all in the Judicial. For some reason, we want a highly partisan Executive, perhaps so the "head" of government won't be wishy-washy.
But, what happens if all three branches are of the same party, either directly, or due to influence? That's what we have now in the Legislative (Republican), Executive (Republican) and Judicial (a majority of conservative appointments by Republicans). Since the President is seen as the de facto head of the party (not counting the actual head, who is less publicly known and more of a fundraiser), and since the President also heads the Executive, then the checks and balances become avoidable for those in power.
Any oppositional legislation will never leave Congress, and if it does, veto is certain. Any oppositional legal opinion does not leave the bench, less the party in power take retributive action (one can argue the "independence" of the Court, but only rarely do judges bite the hands that bestow them power). And, the best part of all, anything the Executive wants, the Executive can get.
The past 6 years of our current administration speak to this almost unprecedented power. War, unbalanced budgets, corporate buyouts, the monetizing of all legislation (money gets a seat in Congress, money runs the Congress), the ability to ignore severe problems at whim (New Orleans) - there's about 100 separate points I could make, but the daily paper can do that job better.
If it's not clear by now - our three branches are now controlled by a select few in the Executive. Any potential action of our government is therefore suspect, and not beholden to the stop gaps that were written into our supposedly immutable scrolls of foundation.
It goes without saying that our Executive doesn't have to take advantage of this circumstance, that one doesn't have to raid the cookie jar when the babysitter's asleep. But, since we are the babysitter, who's long since forgotten that our charges are not our rulers, I'm afraid that we've gotten the trouble that we deserve.
So, we now have one effective branch of the government, run by one cabal of rich men (yes, mostly men). They control all the weapons, laws, purse-strings, and means of punishing the opposition. The President effectively has the means to steer this SUV, even if the real power is riding shotgun. Which makes it far to easy to force all the lights green, put the petal to the metal, and get all Death Race 2006 on our asses.
Now, the real question is, how would you define an all-power Presidency, of the most "powerful" country on earth? Since we are an Empire in everything but name, would that be Emperor? How about Dictator - that might be too extreme, since it's more of a collective decision to rush for the tree at the heart of Eden, than one bad apple.
No, in my mind, the historically simple "King" does nicely, especially due to the irony that our country was founded to be contrary to the monarchy that sired it. That said, there are more ceremonial Kings that still exist today, but not a whole lot with the throne and scepter and crown.
I would call Bush more of a Virtual King, with the symbols of his power transmuted to forms more acceptable to modern audiences. There is the castle (White House) the chariot (Air Force One) the queen (First Lady) the wise advisors (Cabinet) the knights and sundry killers (Pentagon) and even a wizard or two (government contractors) and jesters (opposing parties). The media are perhaps the lyric poets, hanging off the throne (press briefings), or those in the racks and dungeons (alternative press and bloggers). It's a rough metaphor, but you get where I'm going. It's not a coincidence that the Kennedy White House was Camelot.
If you're still with me, check out the Wikipedia entry for Elective Monarchy. Apparently our new system is quite traditional:
In the ancient Kingdom of Rome, the kings were elected by the Assemblies. The Holy Roman Empire was another example of this, in which the Emperor was elected by a small council of nobles called prince-electors.
I would say the prince-electors are now the Electorial College, who in turn are puppets of the various partisan powers. The electors are chosen by the party/system, and only officially sanctioned candidates have a chance of winning, so effectively each new monarch is hand-chosen from a stable of the select few, power-drunk yet still loyal and controllable.
Of course, I'm not the only one to think this. Just Google "King Bush", and you'll find articles like this: An Imperial Presidency Based on Constitutional Quicksand.
So, at least for now, our Democracy (actually, a Republic) is being transformed into a Monarchy, right under our noses. The only real difference is that the King is a position, rather than a biological heir to the Divine Rights that justify the nation. Of course, with our Presidents having to call upon a specific God at every occasion, it seems we're really wanting to find a crown along with the burning Constitution, safe behind some space age clear stuff.
Finally, I have this question for you: Doesn't the public have its own veto power over the Executive? Besides voting the King in, can't we kick his ass out? We'll, sad to say, that with an unified one-branch government, Impeachment is now effectively impossible, since it will never happen in the Legislative. What's worse, the possibility for censure and removal has to happen one person at a time - the whole system can't be revamped without a new Constitutional Convention (amendments won't be enough), with a plurality of states going along with it.
That means the only way to revoke the new monarchy are mass action and protest, or other methods that the mere thought of are grounds for strict punishment. Yes, the ultimate veto is extremely illegal, immoral, and pointless ("The Grassy Knowl"), so all we have left is for various levels of mass labor strike (especially for Governmental workers), taking care of business at the grassroots level (working with the system, checking those balances), civil war, constructive anarchism, or calling upon the rest of the world for help.
I want to explore those and other options in over the course of this month. How can we turn the American Dream back into a reality, and clean house once and for all?
Oh, by the way, the White House has declaired 2.5 to 2.11 to be National Consumer Protection Week:
During National Consumer Protection Week, we highlight the importance of consumer education in the ongoing fight against fraud and encourage consumers to make wise decisions.
Since we are usually referred to by "consumers" instead of "citizens", then I'll just take this as a call to arms to expose the fraud that is our system. Make a wise decision, protect yourself against blatant evil.
Part 1 In A Series: Reasons Why The US Really Sucks
This month will be unusual for junk.log, since the focus will not be on the various material and artistic things I enjoy. Instead, I'm going to give a little insight into my perception of "the way things are", and hopefully by the end of the month, some constructive ideas will come out of that. Or, at least I'll have the opportunity to vent, rant, spew, etc. I claim no particular authority, knowledge, or profundity - this is just what I think. There are also reasons why the US realy "rules", but that is not my topic.
First of all, what about the title of this series, "Reasons Why The US Really Sucks"? Doesn't sound that patriotic, huh? Yes, I am born and raised in our flag-waving empire, and there are some good things about the United States, that one can be proud of. We're well-intentioned "freedom" loving folk, and perhaps that's a better alternative than our fore-Empires (Rome, the UK). We might collectively rape, pillage, and steal from the rest of the world, but we feel really bad about it afterwards, even throwing in some prayer and protest to make it all better.
That said, I've had my fill of empty propaganda, that may start from these positive facts, but gets all conflated to bumper sticker wisdom and the things we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night. So, this is my version of the straight talk you're supposed to have with your pubescent teens, all condoms and sanitary napkins, except in a political way. Thus, sit down at the edge of the bed, son/daughter, because we need to talk.
Tonight, the subject are rulers, specifically presidents, kings and dictators. Supposedly, we're supposed to be anti-king, and extremely against autocrats, fascists and their ilk. I'm not going to cite our colonial history in this regard, because everyone knows the way we walk - straight into the waiting arms of a sorta-republic, kinda-democracy. The fact remains, however, that for a country that really doesn't want to invest all powers in the ruling few, we seem to always get that one important part wrong. We started out with a general who refused to be crowned (Washington) and now we treat our Presidents like Kings, and allow them to dabble in universal rule.
Yes, I'm talking about our current Bush, and his apparent goal of an all-powerful Executive Branch, but he's only the latest in the long line of interchangeable figureheads. Who am I to question our red state, blue state game of musical chairs, especially since it doesn't matter if there's an open fix, or perfect poling? All you need is to talk to the Electorial College, maybe the Supreme Court, and our Big Brother is constantly renewed. We seem to like a certain type, one who has talent reading speeches that others have written, holding hands with Bono at prayer breakfasts, and taking the initiative to maim and kill our "enemies", which I have gathered lately to mean anyone who doesn't owe us money, or tends to pray in the wrong direction.
I didn't watch the State Of The Union, but I did read the prepared text, and I've found an effective way to understand the true message is to negate all claims. Try it: here's the text, so let's read along.
"Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal - we seek the end of tyranny in our world"
Does anyone believe that? We're both politically and economically tyrannical to a degree that no one else can match. There's a reason only we can have all of the best weapons - we're afraid that everyone else is going to attack us for all the things we've done.
"Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom's cause."
Technically, this only works if "freedom" is defined as "our best interest". If we actually thought that the rest of the world should be free to do as they pleased (which we clearly do not) then we wouldn't have to act boldly - just leave everyone else alone.
"But our enemies and our friends can be certain: The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil."
Sounds to me that we'll attack instead of retreat, no matter what, because we have already surrendered to that evil, the belief that we are the best, and that everyone else must ultimately bow down, or perish.
"The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions - and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons."
Who has the most weapons of basically all types? The US. Who is defying the world, and threatening everyone with our might? The US. Only our "friends" can have the best weapons, and aren't we our very best friend?
"America is a great force for freedom and prosperity. Yet our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society."
This statement is scary in its lack of reality. No matter what we say or believe, our actions are fascistic and greedy. You can measure that either in our war dead or national debt, but don't dwell on how we treat each other, which is either to ignore our neighbor, or to punish those who don't quite fit. I don't care how we're striving, but ask the rest of the world if we're decent to them, caring about their needs and perspectives, with both open eyes looking towards a collectively beneficial future. Does global warming sound familiar?
"As we look at these challenges, we must never give in to the belief that America is in decline, or that our culture is doomed to unravel.
This is the worst - if anyone looks at our actions and notices a certain negative trend, then they are always wrong. We can only be right. We are the best. USA! USA! Just fill in the name of your favorite "evil" government from history, and it works the same way. If to criticize is unpatriotic, actionable or even illegal by default, then what does that make us?
I could continue, but this is my point: Whoever wrote this speech apparently wants us to believe its words, but it has to be clear that they don't actually think it reflects any sort of truth. It's good to hope, to wish for the best, but that's inappropriate when the US acts the way it does. I'm not really talking about individual action - I know lots of fair, kind, intelligent people - but about the actions we allow to happen, in our name.
So, the question remains - by what process are these actions being taken, and does the body politic have any say in that mechanism? I may not want the US to kill Iraqi folk, but we do, excessively. I could use pretty much any group that's "in our way" as an example, from African slaves and Native Americans, to the millions we starve away with targeted neglect and a general inability to share the wealth. No matter - who are the people pressing the buttons, and is there anyone that can stand up and say no, and have that mean something?
You would think that would be the President, the very same person who can order funds to be shuffled or death dealt. Can't he tell someone to tell someone to take care of things? Or maybe I could tell my representative, who can meet with a committee, and perhaps pass a resolution to give a firm suggestion to the "head" of it all (figurehead or mass behind the curtains)? That sure seems to work well.
Maybe in the end it doesn't matter. We wanted a king all along, and now we have one. Every 4 years he dies, only to be resurrected in a slightly different form. There's pageantry and even the appearance of choice - we get to press buttons for once! - and when that's all said and done, the parade ends back behind the same fences, under the same snipers and satellites, and our fearless leader, suitable for saluting and "hooah", gets to lie, cheat, steal, maim and kill, and none of us can do anything about it. The American Dream finally realized - King George is dead, long live King George.
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