Sunday, July 29, 2007

More weapons for "peace"

In a 7/28/07 article, MSNBC News Services describes plans by the Bush Administration to expand sales of weapons to "friendly nations" in the Middle East. The Israeli government, usually supportive of US militarism, is objecting to this expansion on the grounds that some of the technology at least could be used to attack Israel. Not an unreasonable objection, since historically weapons nearly always fall into the "wrong hands" -- meaning people that we don't like at the moment.

Which is, of course, only of ancillary concern to the Bush crowd, as it looks for new ways to spread the benefits of freedom and democracy to as much of the benighted Middle East as possible. The stated objective is to support "moderates" in Iraq (whoever they may be) by surrounding Iraq (as much as possible) with friends of the USA that are armed to the teeth. Of course, the most important objective is really to send a message to Iran not to "interfere" or else. It's interesting that the US invasion of Iraq is not defined as interference, but that any activities of Iran that might thwart US ambitions in the area are considered interference. Somewhat odd, if you look at a map of the world: Iran is Iraq's next-door neighbor, while the US is 6200 miles away! But that's how things are supposed to work when you are "the world's only remaing superpower," as we like to refer to ourselves.

The Bush Administration has been rattling its sabres in Iran's direction for some time now, but the idea of an invasion of Iran has been somewhat unpopular with a Congress, already smarting from political fallout over its appalling lack of oversight in allowing Bush to invade Iraq. Perhaps Bush wants to increase the concentration of weapons in the already over-armed Middle East in hopes that he can provoke a regional war between Iran and US allies that the US can back behind the scenes without the embarrassment of a direct attack by the USA. There's a lot of precedent for this indirect approach, which has been a smashing success whenever we have used it in the past.

The best thing, though is that, no matter whom the weapons get used against, US armaments manufacturers will make lots of money. And perhaps that is the ultimate purpose after all.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hummer bummer

In a Washington Post article entitled "Hummer owner gets angry message," we read of Gareth Groves, whose newly purchased Hummer was vandalized while parked on the street near his house. The act of vandalism was presumably a political statement, since the perpetrators scratched "FOR THE ENVIRON" into the paint.

No one interviwed for the article made pro-Hummer remarks, but most of the disapproval of the vehicle was tempered with the liberal disclaimer that "of course I don't condone violence" and one anti-Hummer neighbor, Lani Fremaux, said "They've got everything at their disposal in this city to make a statement in a legal way," ... I consider this a hate crime."

Hmmm. "Hate crime." Let's talk about what the Hummer is and what it represents, at least from my point of view:
1. The Hummer is a military vehicle, often used in close encounters with civilian populations. It has always struck me as odd at best that a civilian would want to own one outside of a militarized zone. What image is Mr. Groves, who works in sports marketing, which he says is "image-based," trying to convey? My car is bigger than your car? I'm a bigger fucker than you are? Don't mess with me - I'm a mean mo-fo? The Hummer is all about projecting an image of hatefullness.
2. The Hummer costs more to manufacturer and wastes more steel, plastic, aluminum, and energy in the process than most, if not all other non-commercial vehicles. The Hummer gets lousy gas mileage. Yet, for those with money, these very facts are what makes it attractive; it is a testament to waste and to the notion that you can do anything you want if you have the money. The decision to buy a Hummer is often justified by apologists of American capitalism with the "why shouldn't he buy it if he can afford it?" argument. This is the notion that money justifies any act. And it's a short logical leap from there to the idea that, if you can afford it, why shouldn't you own 50 newspapers, 13 TV stations, and a handful of congressmen. The Hummer says that might makes right and money talks.
3. The Hummer is, in fact, an anti-Prius: where the Prius is smaller than other vehicles and therefore less likely to cause damage to other vehicles in an accident, the Hummer is larger than all other non-commercial vehicles and therefore most likely to inflict heavy damage to other vehicles in an accident. where the Prius gets mileage in the mid-40s, the Hummer gets 14 mpg. where the Prius uses state-of-the-art engineering to make a small, fuel-efficient, well-appointed car, designed for a commuter, the Hummer uses the principles of "bigger and heavier" to make a chariot fit for Caligula. But, under the might makes right principle, this is supposed to be OK. My safety doesn't matter, the world's oil supply doesn't matter -- if you have the money, you should own a Hummer.
4. The Hummer's weight allows its purchaser a tax break (supposedly) intended for owners of commercial vehicles, such as construction companies, farmers, and the like. Yet, Ms. Fremaux thinks that objection to the Hummer should be expressed only in legal ways. Nice thought. American automobile manufacturers have whined for 5 decades that they need just a little more time to be able to manufacture fuel-efficient cars and Congress has gone along, mandating fleet mileage standards that European and Japanese car makers were able to meet (and beat) in the 1950s. How have the US manufacturers expressed their thanks for this liberality on the part of Congress? By making bigger and bigger cars, the Hummer being the biggest of all, and sized -- funny coincidence -- to take advantage of the tax break. Does Ms. Fremaux really think that there are legal ways to challenge a partnership between some of the largest corporations in the world and the people who are supposed to be making laws to protect us?
The Hummer is a symbol for me of so much that is wrong in America: too much wealth in the hands of too few; a belief that we Americans have a right to use up all the world's resources, so long as we can afford to pay for them; the need to project an image of meanness to everyone around us. And Ms. Fremaux's answer is unfortunately the liberal response to so much that needs fixng: fix it through the system. But what if the system itself is broken? What if Americans are so intellectually lazy, so besotted with consumerism, so brainwashed by 24-hr doses of FOX News, that they no longer know right from wrong?
In my opinion, the Hummer itself is a hate crime.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Child health insurance too expensive

Surprise, surprise: our president, who has no problem spending half a trillion dollars on Iraq (by borrowing it, no less), has threatened to veto a cigaratte tax increase which would be used to expand a federal program that helps to pay for for health insurance for low income kids. Heaven forfend we should increase cigarette taxes!! This president and his neocon supporters claim that abortion is murder, but, apparently, once the kids are actually brought to term, it's perfectly OK to keep them poor, unhealthy, and miserable.

The more I read, the more I realize I live in a nation of fools!