Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Letter to a DICK and a RANT to the Citizenry

Vice President Cheney, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" articulated the harshest conservative case against the president's plans, accused the Obama administration of "using the current set of economic difficulties to try to justify a massive expansion of government, and much more authority for the government over the private sector." (Yahoon News / Politico / Mike Allen Mike Allen – Sat Mar 14, 7:41 pm ET)

Dear Former Vice President,

As a working-class citizen of The United States of America, I would welcome the expansion of MY government, particularly as it pertains to oversight of the private sector which continues to loot MY tax dollars with the misappropriation of T.A.R.P. funds and bloated no-bid military contracts, just to name two things which occurred with the blessing of your administration.

Though you don't think it is in your best interest, please allow the rest of us to re-build OUR country from the political, financial and constitutional devastation YOUR administration left behind.

Have you no shame, sir?


Dear American Citizen,

Don't be fooled into fearing YOUR government which was designed by our forefathers to be of, by and FOR THE PEOPLE. True, it's been so long since that has happened, I can understand your suspicions, but it is possible.

But know that YOUR government, unlike private industry, has no profit motive for itself. For what can a well-regulated government do with a surplus but re-invest it in programs for you and your countrymen? And if those programs are wasteful or fruitless, have a free press (with well-protected sources) investigate those excesses and let the people know where the problems lie.

Some elements in the private sector, however, want to turn your tax dollars into their bottomless, no-risk profit-center. They claim endless tax cuts will lead to re-investment and profits that will "trickle down" to meet the needs of the masses. But the last 25 years have shown that it's just not true. Wages and benefits have stagnated for the many while profits have skyrocketed for the few. Jobs have been exported by the millions as private industry continues to seek ever-cheaper wage slaves.

Left to its own devices, some members of the private sector will do anything, legal and otherwise, regardless of who it hurts and regardless how much damage it does to OUR economy and OUR infrastructure, to achieve its profits. Like the small percentage of every population who succumb to drug addiction, some capitalists are powerless to help themselves, always reaching for a higher Profit Nirvana while everything around them collapses. This has been demonstrated time and time again over the last decade. It would behoove the American public to REMEMBER AND LEARN from its recent history and build long-term guards against such dangers.

When the private sector controls so much of the money that it HARMS THE GENERAL WELFARE of the citizens of the United States, it's the government's duty to strike a new balance in defense of its citizenry. The profit motive must be balanced with oversight so citizens aren't victimized by it in the form of predatory lending or shortcuts on food & drug safety or inefficient and expensive private contractors gaming the system or industry that pollutes our natural resources or simply by not providing enough money for the work performed (necessitating a minimum wage).

As recent evidence strongly suggests, unfettered capitalism can drain a treasury dry until it is stopped by some outside force or by bankruptcy. If YOUR government doesn't control the excesses of greed through legislation and proper enforcement, who will?

Will your desire as a consumer be enough to keep your credit card company or mortgage company or cell phone company from charging you more in interest or fees? Will your personal protestations stop your health insurance company from denying you a claim in a catastrophic health event? Who will defend you from injustice of private profiteers if not the laws or representatives of your very own government agencies? Don't fear your government because you have no better ally in defending you from opportunists and hucksters who only wish to feather their own nests at your expense.

It's clear that market forces alone are not sufficient to curb the insatiable appetite of today's "disaster capitalists". And public citizens shouldn't be forced to subsidize enormous private losses for fear of corporations who are "too big to fail".

Private capital's tendency to shirk risk and transfer accountability using unusual and creative accounting practices must be countered by stern government regulation and enforcement.

But GREED FEARS GOVERNANCE. And a vehement hatred and resentment is born from that fear. You can see the evidence of that hatred and resentment on every major media outlet in the country, but particularly on that bastion of right-wing ideology known as Fox News. Bill O'Reilly deliberately stokes that resentment night after night in an attempt to inspire a populist uprising against President Obama. You have to wonder, what would motivate such fear and resentment from a supposed journalist? Ratings seem too trivial a thing to inspire such face-twisting disgust. Perhaps a loss of profit for his underwriters? Only a thorough auditing of Oreilly's private wealth would tell us for sure if he was protecting some ill-gotten gains or merely suffering from some psychological pathology.

But we must ignore the right's attempts to spread the fear of governance and join OUR president in his plan to rebuild our country which once held such great promise. We don't have to live in fear of poverty from medical bankruptcies. We don't have to live in fear of unfair mortgages or foreclosures or homelessness. We dont have to live in fear of race or sex discrimination and we don't have to fear religious persecution by an intolerant majority. WE CAN BE SO MUCH BETTER than that and Barack Obama is our best chance of realizing it.

Thank you,


Monday, January 05, 2009

"Operation Filmmaker" Gets Under Your Skin

So I wake up this morning thinking about the documentary I saw the night before on PBS' Independent Lens - always a good sign when you're exposed to art of any kind.
"Operation Filmmaker" is the troubling portrait of a young Iraqi film student, Muthana Mohmed, who is invited to participate on the production of a Hollywood movie, but quickly finds himself in over his head and at odds with his Western hosts who expect him to be grateful and humbled for the opportunity they've afforded him - working as a production assistant and serving crunchy snacks to over-pampered Hollywood film producers.
Instead, Mohmed grows increasingly resentful of the fruit that's been dangled in front of him but seemingly held just out of his reach - a fascinating parallel to the American / Iraqi - Israili / Palestinian relationship playing out on the world stage as I type.

Mohmed can't go back to Iraq because he'd most likely be killed for working with the Americans, and particularly for aspiring to work for an Israeli-owned film company. Desperate to extend his opportunity, he repeatedly asks his hosts for money - and even attempts to extory money from them, increasing their resentment. He eventually lands a year's tuition at The London Film Academy from The Rock who he meets working on the set of Doom.

My first thoughts this morning were, either that's the most brilliant piece of propaganda I've ever seen, or the most poorly conceived gesture of good will gone bad. In either case, it's a fascinating film, but one that leaves this viewer suspicious of everbody's motives.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Faux News Ministry Of Information Reliable Source Of Propaganda For Israeli Lobby

So I'm laying there in bed (I'm on vacation), flipping through the channels when I land on ch 66, Fox News - or as I like to call it, The Faux News Ministry Of Information. Unfortunately, it's the only news network Comcast allows basic cable subscribers (mostly old people and poor people) to watch, seeing how they're so reliably susceptible to right-wing propaganda.

Anyway, it's a commercial break and there's some charity begging for dollars for Israel to build bomb shelters for the Israelis. No, seriously. You see, Hamas has been lobbing Katusha rockets over the border again and, this time, they actually managed to kill about four people in southern Israel which is not cool. The voiceover in the commercial begs, "Now is the time to stand beside Israel!" They're begging Americans to send money to Israel.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Not only does Israel receive BILLIONS of dollars (estimated at $108 Billion annually) from the U.S. in foreign aid, more than ANY OTHER country in the world (approximately 1/3 of our total foreign aid budget), but they also happen to be bombing the shit out of that hellhole known as the Gaza strip with OUR F16 fighter jets. Over the last week Israel has managed to kill 100 times as many Palestinians as Hamas has managed to kill Israelis. Doesn't sound like they need any more help from us. And yet, they still need our sympathy - for political reasons.

What's sad is probably half of the U.S. - the half that voted for Bush & McCain, I'd bet - probably believe that Israel needs U.S. money to build bomb shelters to protect them from Hamas. Yup, grandma's cutting the check right now for those poor, poor people who suffered so terribly at the hands of Hitler during the war.

Well, I'm here to tell ya grandma - over the last sixty years the oppressed have become the oppressors and they've got a marketing budget that would make Disney blush (anyone remember the tens of millions of dvds the Israeli lobby sent out through the mail just before the 2008 U.S. presidential election?). And as long as they have such a reliable vein into the heart of the American electorate (i.e. Fox News), you can bet they'll continue to inject it with propaganda.

So Israel, when you have all the power, all the money and all the weapons, with apparently no problem in using them (e.g. Lebanon last year), it's pretty hard to take you seriously as the victim. I think that politcal well has finally run dry.

Oh yeah, and they don't want anybody else helping the Palestinians either. Israeli patrol boats rammed a U.S. relief yacht full of medical supplies, a U.S. Senator & journalists from CNN and Al Jazeera. Typical Israeli belligerance.

Check out the video from CNN.

...and another about the conflict in general.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Campaign Fatigue & New Song "Liars & Cheats"

I haven't posted anything in a while, mostly due to campaign fatigue from the 2008 election. Thankfully, Obama won. What that's going to mean remains to be seen, but as a friend of mine quipped, "At least he doesn't spell his name backwards with a broken crayon." I'm pretty sure that was a dig at GWB - who, I think, has done more damage to this country than I thought humanly possible - so much so, I can't even keep track of it all. The last eight years have left me drained, politically speaking. I have guarded optimism for the future.

I did write a new song during the campaign, called "Liars & Cheats" - my cynical take on electoral politics over the last forty years. I started it near the beginning of the campaign, because of all the nonsense spewed by the candidates to get one over on their opponents. Here are the lyrics.

Liars & Cheats by ejp ©2008

Verse 1
Get ready people, it's time for the race
the horses are all at their gates

The odds have been set, so please come place your bet
on the one you would trust with our fate


but it don't really matter if you never choose
no matter the outcome, you're still bound to lose, because...


Liars & Cheats & Harlots & Charletans
don't give a damn about what you might need
they're only concerned with their schemes and conspiracies
using your vote to serve their own greed

Verse 2

When the wolf starts to cry, the sheep start to lie
they both want you to live in fear
but they'll quiet down if we all stand our ground
it's the same nonsense every four years


courage is shining a light on a lie
and having good reasons to fight or to die, but
(alt: courage is doing what you think is right, no matter how many sheep try picking a fight)

(repeat chorus, ending with "using your fear to serve their own greed")

Part B

Well, don't, don't, don't be fooled again.
No we won't, won't, won't be fooled again.
Well, maybe....

Verse 3

Don't hold your breath while you hope for the best
your face will just turn red to blue
and don't you complain while you wait for a change
because changes are waiting on you


turn on your conscience from zero to one
drag them out from their rocks and into the sun, because

(repeat chorus, ending with, "using your hopes to serve their own greed")
(repeat part b and end with "well maybe we'll be fine")

The chords are as follows (I don't know how to format them correctly over the lyrics so you can experiment on your own if you want to record your own version - just give me credit, please).


F#min, Bmaj, G#min, C#maj

A,E,A,E, F#, B, back to E

Part B:
F#min, G#min, Amaj, C#maj, B#maj (followed by descending bass line & repeat)

repeat of part b ends with Amaj, Abmin, C#maj, Bmaj, E


So, the 1st verse was written first - an obvious "horse race" metaphor for political campaigns. The third verse was written next - the "red" and "blue" references regarding the bi-polar political mapping of America. The second verse was added later. I alwasy get hung up writing a third verse. It's a bit of a non-sequitor and I'm not entirely pleased with how it sits, but there it is. The "part b" (whatever you want to call that part of a song that isn't the verse, bridge or chorus), I'm pretty sure was added last - and is a quote from The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again".

So there it is. E-mail me with any thoughts or comment below.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

McCotter Drinking The Company Kool-Aid™ Again

My illustrious congressional representative Thaddeus McCotter (R - MI, 11th district) has sent out his quarterly e-mail, dutifully towing the Republicon line as predicted - in this case DRILL DRILL DRILL DRILL! Well, actually he said...

If the government would just get out of the way, remove its regulations, litigation, taxation, and other obstacles to the production of American energy by entrepreneurs and allow free markets to work,the supply of oil will increase...

Riiiight - because de-regulatioin has worked so well for us in the past, eh congressman? Remember Enron? How about the results we're now seeing from the deregulation of the mortgage business? I can't believe neocons can still make this argument with a straight face. Then again, their nominee is blaming Barack Obama for the price of gas. Good thing their party-faithful are hateful nincompoops.

Do you know what happens when you leave businesses to their own devices with no oversight? They steal everything they can from the consumer. I've seen it time after time after time after time in my own life. Business only does for the consumer and for the public what it's required to do by law - and only then when there are enough resources to enforce it. They loot the U.S.treasury, YOUR treasury, for everything they can get.

And do you know what happens when nobody's watching our so-called representatives? Ted Stevens happens, that's what. Ted Stevens....tee hee hee hee. I knew they'd catch you with your hand in the oil drum.

Oh, and by the way, Congressman McCotter, the next time you go bashing the government, remember - YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT GENIUS!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You Can't Escape The Batman Boyo

If I see, hear or read one more Batman "The Dark Knight" tie-in I'm gonna puke. NPR, The History Channel - all the f*cking major networks have deconstructed this stupid movie from every conceivable angle. You couldn't escape that marketing budget if you tried.

What does this level of attention given to something so ...... so......RETARDED....say about our North American culture?

That we're just as simple and shallow as the rest of the world believes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Review of STP @ Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort

We went to see Stone Temple Pilots at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mt. Pleasant, Mi on Friday night. I'd never been there before; I see most of my concerts in the Detroit area. But I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see STP on their way back around again; they'd already played The Fillmore (formerly The State Theatre on Woodward in Detroit) several months before. I chose not to go because I was a bit put off by their marketing practices. To join their fan club and view their blog it's $45 - that's on top of the $65 to $95 for tickets! A big WTF to STP! I passed. But I couldn't pass on the concert twice. Who knows when singer Scott Weiland might disappear again - or disappear permanently. He'd been busted twice for possession of heroin and cocaine in as many years and even did an eight-month stint for his bad behavior before the tour, at least according to what I've read online.

STP has been one of my favorites since the early nineties, back when Rolling Stone wrote them off as grunge-era copycats. But I knew there was more there than just hard-rock songs about rape, dead bodies and serial killers; there was a singer/lyricist who could empathize with those severely troubled souls - and do it convincingly. That takes a special personality, a troubled personality, or perhaps a very talented actor - but for some reason I don't think Weiland is acting.

The Venue

Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort is a sprawling complex whose driveway entrance is bedecked by two giant eagles with splayed wings and whose enormous, cedar portico covers eight lanes of valet parking. A dozen stories of hotel rooms are located in a seperate building to the right of the casino. Just inside the main automatic doors is the gambling pit. Slot machines and various games of chance chatter just below the pumped-in musical tones, creating a mesmerizing cacophony of sound designed to help part you from your cash. To get to the show, you have to walk past all the gambling action, naturally.

The Soaring Eagle show room is much like you'd imagine Las Vegas show rooms of the past; an enormous open room with maybe three or four levels, each level only elevated a couple of steps below the last, continuing like that toward the stage. But unlike the glamorous Vegas shows of the past which included linen-draped tables and over-stuffed chairs, this one is filled with hard, plastic, stackable chairs laid out in countless rows. Because of the low angle and the fact that there is no stadium seating, the stage is difficult to see from most points in the room when the audience is standing - which, in an American rock show, is almost always.

We were in section L3, seats 31 & 32 about mid-way back and all the way to the left of the stage. The pros were that it was easy and quick to get a beer or go to the bathroom (short, fast moving lines), but the cons were that we could barely see the stage and watched the video monitor through most of the concert. I probably wouldn't come to see a rock concert here again unless I had seating directly in front of the stage.

The Show

STP opened with "The Big Empty" and Weiland, much to the audience's delight, was wearing an Native American Fox Headdress! He tilted his head down while singing so it covered his face completely. It was kind of surreal - especially in an indian-owned casino. A stranger next to me smiled, hi-fived me and said, "Don't take it off! Don't take it off! That's Awwwwesome!" I had to agree. It was a great way to start the show.

Weiland's performance reminded of Jim Morrison's classic performance at The Hollywood Bowl I'd seen play on a loop at The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame just the week before. Morrison was INSIDE his performance - completely removed from his surroundings, a spectacle to behold. Weiland has that same unwieldy, unpredictable and INTENSE nature; it's a drag for his band mates and handlers, a delight for his audience, but probably not sustainable for the long-haul; at 41, Weiland's survived the pure rock & roll lifestyle much longer than he should have - by most accounts he should be a member of the "27 Club" with Janis, Jimmy, Brian & Kurt. According to some reports, his exit may not be too far away; a post at the STP forum claims that Scott has once again left the reservation. Here's an excerpt from the STP forum regarding show at The Chippewa Valley Music Festival the following night.
If you saw tonight's know that Scott is in big trouble. The band was terrible... I don't say this lightly...I've seen STP before, and they were great...What I saw tonight was a dead man walking.

If this tour continues, Scott may not survive. If I don't read tomorrow that the tour is canceled, the rest of the band may have some serious moral issues to deall with very soon.

It's not worth the money. You're friend isn't going to make it. - posted by TheShorn

By the second or third song, Weiland pulled off the fox headdress to display a freshly-shaven dome, an unsettling haircut for what some already consider a drug-addled psychopath. But his performance was sharp and lively, dancin' the "shaky jake" while he blasted through his vocals. Never once during the show did he stand idle or disinterested. At points near the end of the show he waved Native American feathers while doing the traditional pow-wow dance (arms extended like wings, knees bent, flying in circles on the stage).

Between songs, however, he mumbled incoherently. Sometimes it was about existential matters relating to the songs, something about his mother and father, and once he even shared an explanation of his in-ear monitor which, presumably, some audience member close to the stage had asked him about.

"It's just like this," he said, landing a foot on a nearby floor monitor. "And this one, and this one, and this one," making his way to the floor monitors across the stage. "But I can hear myself and I don't have to shout. We can keep the stage volume low," he said. Adding quietly, "and I can speak like this."

I don't have the official set list so I'll just tell you which songs I think I remember. Let's see, in no particular order - "Sex Type Thing" "Coma" "Vaseline" "Plush" "Interstate Love Song" "Hollywood Bitch" "Sour Girl" "Meatplow" "Silvergun Superman" "Big Bang Baby" "Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart" and "Lounge Fly" among others. "Dead & Bloated" was one of the encores. There were choice tunes from every record they released but they didn't play "Days of The Week" or "Pretty Penny" unfortunately. Overall, a very good mix of STP. Hmm, did they play "Unglued" too? Maybe.

Other Facets and conclusions...

The show started about an hour late (around 9:00 pm) and lasted a little over two hours. But it wasn't a long wait and gave us time to get settled in and get beered up.

Robert & Dean DeLeo & Eric Kretz performances were, as usual, energetic and on the mark, a necessarily steady base from which Weiland can jump. Bassist Rob DeLeo's slick-backed hair, tear-drop sun-glasses and satin shirt always cracks me up. It reminds me of my childhood in the late seventies.

The light show consisted of psychedelic overlays on the video feed, various vivid colors and patterns and aircraft lights on towers on either side of the stage that flashed when appropriate. The only props were Weiland's Indian Headdress and feathered handles. Oh, and I think he brought out that wide-brimmed black hat during the encore.

The sound was a little dead in the heavily carpeted and fabric-laden room, but was considerably better toward the rear of the hall by the bar & bathrooms.

The STP merchandise was, as usual, overpriced - about 25 percent above the prices at the online store. There was a really cool looking "Four" t-shirt with the big white star but it didn't come in 3x for big guys like me - so I didn't buy. $50 for a t-shirt is a bit much anyway.

All in all, a satisfying show, particularly for those who could actually see the stage. Let's just hope Weiland leaves plenty of room for recovery during this grueling tour. He's got this week off, so I hope he makes good use of his time. Some long bouts of sleep and some Pedialyte are probably in order.