Sunday, August 30, 2009

Important Message From Dick Cheney!

Cheney calls investigation of CIA "ourageous political act"

August 29, 8:12 PM Columbia Independent Examiner Darren Pope

Newsmax is reporting that in an interview to be aired tomorrow on 'Fox News Sunday' former Vice-President Dick Cheney called the Justice Department's investigation into CIA interrogation techniques an "outageous political act."

Certainly the Obama administration's continued attacks on our nation's intelligence agencies could damage the nation's intelligence gathering capabilities and threaten our security. What nations will feel comfortable assisting the U.S. if they fear being dragged into future criminal investigations? If we continue to show terrorists that they will be coddled and have nothing to fear what deterrence do we have against possible future attacks? (, 29 August 2009)

This story was, of course, carried by a large number of reactionary press sources. This particular direct source quotation from the Columbia Independent Examiner was chosen for this MeanMesa post because of its very interesting -- and very original -- spelling, both on the column's title line and in the Cheney quote in the body of the text. One more time for emphasis.

Newsmax is reporting that in an interview to be aired tomorrow on 'Fox News Sunday' former Vice-President Dick Cheney called the Justice Department's investigation into CIA interrogation techniques an "outageous [sic: 'outrageous'] political act."

Gosh. If an overweight, war-mongering, effeminent draft dodging crook says something like this, I guess we'd better pay attention -- regardless of the spelling!

So, Dick Baby. Apply for another one of your famous deferments and pack your undies and socks for the cardiac ward of the nearest Federal penitentiary. We'll keep listening to every word you say. Tell FOX NEWS, whatever that is, to put your face on the television A LOT and to broadcast all the important stuff you're saying OVER and OVER!

You Betcha!

Best regards,

your friends at MeanMesa

Sunday, August 23, 2009

”Free Market” Health Care

A Quick Review of Talking Points Guidelines

Neo-Con Rule Number One: Always say the opposite of everything as if it were the actual thing! If anyone starts to catch on, increase the speed of repetition. Remember, you own the media! Call Rupert Murdoch or Rush! Remember, you own the hill billies and bigots! The tea baggers'll listen to you and go to town hall meetings. Remember, you've made the "free market" a sacred principle like tectonic shifts, the Shroud of Turin and flouridated water. Remember, no tactic is too cheap or too sleazy. Keep it "trailer trash" for your religious base. Breathlessly pretend no one ever gets tired of it!



federal death panels! dental coverage for illegal immigrants! . . . lots of abortions! . . . rationed care! . . . Stalinist nightmare! . . Kenya! . . . unplug grandma!. . . Canada . . . kitchen sink . . . Hitler . . . just keep going! 111

The last week has seen the “most promising” of all wholly owned Senators dive bravely into the swamp gas of his corporate masters. The Grassley (R-Iowa) closed the circle in a brave, although self-destructive, descent into the most desperate corporate tactics seen so far. The Grassley brazenly cited the carefully scripted “outrage” expressed by the corporate insurance thugs at town hall meetings as a foundational reason to oppose the “public option.”

Stumbling front stage on que, he just went ahead and said what we all expected would vomit forth sooner or later -- "Thet there's jest whut the, uh, constishuents was a shoutin' about in thu meetin'... Gotta listen to the, uh, voters..." By going “the last mile” with the scheme, our bravest neo-con Senator has successfully soiled himself beyond even the previously formidable DeLay/Abramhoff Reprehensibility Barrier (DARB).

Those skunks plied their corrupt loyalties with a thinly obscured, semi-subtlety consistent with what we had come to expect during the autocracy. The Grassley has no appetite for that whatsoever. A lingering shade of that famous, ancient emperor, he insists on a solitary march to Washington absent any clothes at all! After all, his corporate masters spent good money preparing for those “trailer park” dramas, and he, always the faithful servant, felt obliged to make one last breathless attempt to make the plan work.


Does anyone else remember the astounding warmth we felt when Barrack Obama got his start with those “imaginary” conservatives in Iowa?

The debate is well populated with frightening innuendos of an attack on the “free market system," so, let's “dive right in.” After all, this is MeanMesa!

The “free market” idea suggests that the role of the optimal decider of value is always best left in the hands of the informed consumer. The vast herds of credit card holding purchasers, under this practice, will inevitably “ferret out” the values they believe represent the best exchange for their dollars.

Health care enjoys no automatic exclusion from this simple principle. Yearly cost totals of all delivered health care in the country amounts to around $2.5 to $3 trillion dollars. However, more than a few Americans have seen that exchange compared to other examples of similar purchases elsewhere. Based on those informed comparisons, these same Americans now understand that although the price of this purchase might be $2 or $3 trillion, the value of it is, at best, around $1.5 trillion. In this sense, this group of American purchasers has evolved itself into “informed consumers,” a nightmarish development for those currently enjoying the task of spending the other $1 trillion flowing through the system into their corporate profits.

Now, normally, one would expect a simple correction to the purchasing practices of all the American consumers. The “free market” idea implies that, when confronted with an opportunity to make alternate purchases with more value, these American shoppers would simply “cross the street” to a more competitive market. The overpriced product would simply “whither and die.” It has happened over and over in our past, and each time the astonishing efficiency of the American “free market” is once again validated.

Are these “trillion dollar numbers” an exaggeration? Not really. The costs of what we are presently purchasing are not competitive with the alternatives. No grumbling horde of European/Canadian horror stories can accomplish the “character assassination” in the constant dream of their perpetrators. The old white men in the Senate, hoping to frighten everyone away from even so much as considering the prospect of “crossing the street,” have stopped at nothing in their relentless dream of frightening old people with ideas such as the now debunked “death panels,” unsupported claims of the misery of “rationed care” or inflammatory estimates of the cost of “non-free-market” options.

The facts are simple enough – with or without complicated study results. The price of the delivered product is twice as high as the competition. The health outcomes are equally non-competitive – a dismal, 19th Century, Dickensonian medical system which leaves a tragic wake of its forced market consumers staggering in its path – a tale of the “quick and the dead,” carefully cast between the partially cured “walking wounded” and the bankrupt.

The “free market” conflict is equally transparent. The alternate purchases are not allowed. The “free market” idea of maximizing value for the cost of purchase has been conveniently buried under decidedly profitable, carefully fabricated, “non-free-market” legislative franchises. Even when confronted with clear theoretical opportunities to purchase better valued care, that is, both better priced and more successful care, the now traditional franchise emerges. The profit flow into the pockets of the “masters of the Senate” will not be interrupted. The non-competitive plan will be protected without reservation.

Absolutely anything goes.

At stake is one sixth of the dollars flowing through the premier world economy. Such a prize is easily worth the effort of these heretofore outrageously over fed insurance corporations. However, the theoretical metric for value in that premier world economy is well defined by traditional values of innovation, elimination of waste, invention and efficiency, all constantly lubricated with the optimizing possibilities presented in “free markets.” Happily, that traditionally successful system also fortunately excludes what are called “monopolies” and artificially imposed legislative picadellos designed to suspiciously protect cash flows which cannot really be defined as profits should they ever emerge into the light of day.

Suspicious cash flows which can only be defined as “non-free-market” extractions made possible and sustained by corrupted legislators. As consumers, we now realize that the price of such corruption pales in comparison to the scope of what can be extracted.

We also realize that those who profit in this “non-free-market” manner will not allow their “cash flow” to be placed in jeopardy. The price of corruption is the cost of eliminating the “free market” option, and it has proven to be a spectacularly profitable investment.

We know that the neo-con talking machine is at its very best when presenting precise opposites from what it implies that it is presenting. When we hear about urgently troubling “attacks” on the free market system by public health care options, what is actually at hand is a desperate effort to insinuate the idea that the present system is, actually, the “free market” alternative. It is not. The present system is little more than a Senatorial “protection racket.” The only feature which might differentiate it from the sleaziest door to door thuggery one might encounter in a run down suburb is its well equipped public relations machine intent on redefining its criminal nature at any price.

The inebriation of the “profit makers” with their horded billions has led them to the very practices they are now violently attempting to obfuscate and redefine with their million dollar a day self-preservation schemes. The consumer's insight will prevail, however. No public relations scheme can change that unpleasant feeling in a purchaser who, as he pays his premium bill, realizes that he has been screwed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The “Co-Op” Will Save the Day!

“It's like a condom with a hole. It looks like protection.” Stephannie Miller (Albuquerque, KABQ 1350AM, 18 August 2009) 110

The Republicans and the Democratic Senators of the “wholly owned” variety dismissed the possibility of a single payer approach to the health care reform matter at the first light of the first day of debate. The total resistance was presented in a chilling certainty: “We will never vote for a health reform package which includes the single payer option.” Period.

The obvious implication of such a well ordered affront to what the American people had indicated as their first choice was, well, negotiate.

Once those negotiations were in progress, the dramatics were introduced on all fronts. Senator Grassley's (R-Ohio) “unplug Grandma” was perhaps the first of many carefully tuned “word salads” to gain traction under media enhancement. “Federal take-over of health care” placing a bureaucrat “between you and your doctor” quickly followed.

The hill billies and bigots, that is, the base of the Rush Limbaugh Party, found “secret” diamonds in their salads. No thought was required for these reactionaries to literally explode with “free market” outrage, whatever that meant. Dick Armey, a very soiled Senator for the racist past, had been languishing in the rest fields of forgotten bigots for too long. In no time he found himself at the helm of an incredibly well funded “organizing committee” with the stated task of keeping the hill billies and bigots in a frenzy of manageable outrage. There would be the harsh doggerel of the hand made signs, the “Obama is Hitler” and the unchallenged appearance of gun toting “freedom thinkers” on the fringes of Presidential town hall meetings almost at once.

You see, the hill billies and bigots among us had taken quite an affront at the ease of the Obama camp during the Presidential campaign in 2008. It was a predictable response to being excluded from a sophisticated, sincere populous of Obama supporters. The “Yes We Can” crowd was having discussions about ideas which might map a possible emergence from the destruction of the Bush autocracy. The hill billies and bigots were left by themselves, stranded with their vacuous insistence that “there were two sides to the argument.”

You betch'a. Precisely as there are two sides to a plan to bail out a life boat after a ship wreck.

In fact, once the “bail out” plan was executed at a significant cost of Obama's political capital, the hill billies and bigots continued to fervently criticize it. Unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation of the “life boat” or the “bail out,” the hill billies and bigots insisted on pretending that the calamity was no more than politics, you know, a simple matter of which side will prevail. The matter of the sunken ship and the life boat tossing about on the stormy ocean of a very perturbed world meant nothing more than an opportunity to them. The “lesser people” could be inducted to the pedestrian tasks of laboring to save the country while the hill billies and bigots remained unburdened with any of such menial chores, free to savage new opportunities.

The outcome? More negotiating, only, this time, the “public option” was to be removed from the table as a condition of talks. Anything less would be tantamount to an imposition of appeasement. The billionaire insurance masters were emboldened. They issued this “combat order” to their servants in the Senate, and those toadies obeyed, promising to employ every Senatorial “trick” that they had learned after spending all those years in Washington.

Time for more moments with Grassley. His orders included proposing the “health care Co-Op” idea. He very dutifully trotted out his long, warm hearth tale of Co-Operative development in his heartland agricultural state. The trustworthiness of Co-Ops arising from the fact that they were non-profit entities managed by members – innocent consumers of the Co-Op's wares honest, hard working, dedicated to the good of the membership and elected rather than appointed in the thrall of glory oozing out of a Board of Directors who would sell Mother Mary's after birth if given a chance.

Grassley's exposition might have material, factual merit when applied to agricultural co-operatives. Those groups were forced to rise up in their own defense from market manipulators with very starkly “free market” ambitions of controlling agricultural markets to the detriment of farmers. When those farmers saw these economic parasites routinely bankrupting them, purchasing their farm lands for pennies on a dollar and then amalgamating their advances into gigantic agricultural conglomerates such as ADM and Monsanto, they formed co-operatives as a form of self-defense. The continuing threat continually posed by the Juggernauts of those “farm gobbling” monsters has sustained the enthusiasm for such co-operatives even today.

A perfect, prepackaged ruse for the Grassley. What could be more attractive to a population of wounded, health care greed victims than such a story of “good old American know-how” and “stick-to-it-ism.” The plan would include very little government intervention and, yet, would still be a “free range” of health care insurance providers beyond the death grip of the insurance corporations.

The media was ordered to portray the plan as a literal, modern, economic “wet dream.”

It did. In no time, the “co-operative health care” solution was ascending with no less glory than the bright warm, dawn sun of a beautiful new day.

However, as usual with media portrayals, some rather pertinent details were carefully omitted from that gushing media presentation. Those details would be any mention of an example of the recently ennobled phenomena of “co-operative health care.” After all, weren't there contemporary examples of such a fabulous solution to the dilemma?

Uh, not exactly. You see, there is actually a contemporary example of the perpetual blessings of a “co-operative health care wet dream,” and it is close at hand. Blue Cross and Blue Shield began their corporate lives as a co-operative health plan. Along the way, this co-operative of health care consuming members “drank the Kool Aid,” turning into one of the current mega-corporations practicing every one of the profit extracting outrages typical to the industry giants. It now splays itself in a myriad forms, tax exempt, “non-profit,” legally monopolistic (thanks to the good work of its carefully purchased Senators and Congressmen), all deceptive, grotesque (and profitable) denizens of the “big take,” quite able to defend themselves by embarking on “lie campaigns” and freely furnished, misleading television propaganda.

An exaggeration? Media Matters produced an insightful “Fact Check” on a typical Blue Cross Blue Shield operation in North Carolina. ( ) There, in that hill billy paradise of illiteracy and corruption well populated with Republican Neo-Con miscreants and other bigots with ambitions of destroying the President because he is black, every nasty aspect of the stinking game emerges into daylight.

It turns out not to matter so much. The Republicans and their Blue Dog (lap dog) Democrats have already said they will never vote for a Co-Op health care plan either.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tulsa, Teheran and Terre Haute: Creepy Commonalities

Yes, the cultural nuances vary, but, also yes, the common structure is historically suspicious. 109

Recent events in Teheran, at least for those more excited by quick similarity than by more distant analysis, remain detached from recent events in our own country. After all, those suspicious Muslims crowding into the streets or chanting “Allah Akbar” from their night time roof tops don't, at first glance, seem to have much in common with the simultaneous and contemporary dilemma faced by Americans. Yet, when considered, perhaps with a cooler head, the structural similarities are disturbingly refreshing.

The events and motives driving this remarkable similarity are, well, historically explosive.

By the numbers, 2009 Iranian – American parallels:

1. Small issues leading to larger issues:

We have seen the uprising in Iran. Its first, clear cause was the illegitimate election. Prior to the election, there was – at least seemed to be – a passive acceptance of an Iranian government “slightly” tilted toward a medievalist cultural approach, but still “close enough” to comfortable, cultural norms to be generally supported. However, the question of supporting that government had never before been formalized into a volatile, concrete “yes” or “no” dichotomy.

The election revealed the careless, unpremeditated arrogance of an unprepared theocratic autocracy. The Iranian government had not been wringing its hands, lying in wait for an opportunity to very visibly express contempt for popular opinion. It was caught in events astonishingly similar to what “caught” the population. By “caught,” we mean actions taken which were equally unanticipated and unsponsored. In both cases, all parties seem to have been “snatched” by relatively uncontroversial developments which suddenly “grew legs.” There was probably no particular conspiracy to elevate the defects of the election to such a contentious state. Both government and resistance, even now, might agree that it just happened to turn out that way.

In the United States, the population has gradually been confronted with the intractable inertia held by its own “theocrats.” Being a capitalistic, free market nation, those “theocrats” turned out to be “oligarchs,” a privileged rich so highly moneyed as to enjoy a heretofore unexamined authority similar to that of the Iranian mullahs. The American equivalent to the botched Iranian election has emerged in the very suspicious matter of Obama's health care proposal.

Of course, everyone reasonably expected such a fundamental change to unavoidably incite some heated debate. However, the fabrications which “captured” the media's attention in the nation-wide town hall meetings seemed to “grow like Topsey” disguised as a populist frenzy. The carefully dramatized popular uprising against health care, largely populated by Americans who would greatly benefit from the changes proposed, is, like the Iranian election, an affront which the perpetrators assumed would be effective. These scripted fanatics were supposed to influence public opinion, but not in any manner which might require a close examination of any details

Instead, the perpetrators were caught in an unanticipated social conflict. Their assault had been meant to be a background talking point, a subtle bias which could quietly reshape public opinion as a shadowy, detail-free, reaffirmation of ideas supporting their ambitions. In fact, they intended to provide nothing more news worthy than a slight addition to the “straws which might assist in breaking the camel's back,” not an awkward fire storm of “pro-health care” versus “anti-health care” polemics.

2. Revelations I:

The Iranians had not carefully crafted a public relations mechanism to deceive the voting population about the validity of the election. Instead, they had assumed that the election itself would be “close enough” to something appearing legitimate that only a few miscreants would comment on its execution. Low level issues of dissent such as this one, they presumed, could be dependably suppressed by generally accepted applications of theocratic force. When the issue rose above this modest level of anticipated discontent, the Iranian theocrats were unprepared to initiate a “surgical” response. Instead, the waters seemed to be immediately and uncontrollably “muddied” by a “meat handed” reaction. From there, the entire affair quickly “turned South” on them.

Here in the United States, the sponsors of the unruly “grassroots constituencies” made a similar mistake in their estimation of the general impact of the performance of their poorly trained actors. The heavily biased corporate media grasped the fraud far too quickly and far too respectfully, subverting what had been intended as a mere “glancing blow.” The cheap theater was transformed from a useful background innuendo into a front line reporting point. As a background subtlety, it might well have been accepted quietly, effectively plying their relentless wares of deception, that is, constructing simply another unexamined “sand hog,” made real as a mistaken certainty by their usual approach of “1,000 kisses” for consumption by the American public.

3. Invitations to a momentary, culturally numbing acceptance:

Both the Iranians and the masters of the American oligarchy presented their public premises with the hope that they might fulfill this bashful, sideline ambition. Once either of the two outrages had passed through the high speed news exposure, the perpetrators assumed that the implications of their frauds would subside into a very effective “axiom status.” In both cases, the unexpected volatility of their machination caught them by surprise.

Both the embarrassed theocrats and the unprepared corporatists then proceeded to compound their self-inflicted exposure with, at first, plausible adjustments, but these were followed by further insults resulting from unreasonable assessments of what opportunities might suddenly have sprung into existence. The trip out along the “limb,” was transformed into a seriously troubling tactical mistake which threatened to sweep away the numbing, popular acceptance they had previously counted on so heavily. In both Iran and the United States, this describes the situation in which the corresponding electorates find themselves mired at this moment.

For both sets of the schemers, the unsettling realization that the “genie cannot be returned to the lamp” came to call with a very impolite proximity.

4. Revelations II:

Both the Iranian theocrats and the elitist, American billionaires have suffered a penetrating moment of bright illumination. Denizens of the dark realm of cynical manipulation consistently flourish best in dark, dank places. After the phony election and the manipulated town halls, the mullahs and the “capitalists” realized that the interest they had stirred up was now roaming the streets with fog lamps, filled with curiosity. There were questions being muttered on those streets. Who were these powerful few with such outrageous ambitions? How long had they been controlling everything that, at the time, seemed to be something akin to representative democracy?

The Iranian theocrats had been very careful to disguise the luxury of their existence. In a land awash with international oil money, yet still economically castrated by the greed of an authoritarian elite, indulgences must be shielded from public sight. The Ayatollah had inherited a population groomed by our Shah to accept their poverty, an acceptance the new residents of the caliphate's palace were determined not to mismanage. However, this turmoil was not – immediately and directly – founded on a simple disparity of wealth. This Iranian problem was arising from a newly revealed disparity of entitlement. The hoarding habits of a few greedy mullahs might have subsided quietly, but the people in the streets of Teheran now felt disenfranchised.

In the United States, similar revelations were unfolding. The privileges of CEOs of health insurance corporations were unexpectedly “uncovered.” While the masses of Americans were either uninsured or cruelly deceived by the insurance they were buying at an ever increasing price, they discovered that executives were being paid as mush as $5,000 and hour, amassing in one day a greater sum than their victims could hope to earn in a year. In lock step with their Iranian peers, these “free market” giants had always previously guarded their secret lives, and especially, their secret avarice for unbridled power and fortune. The daylight was, well, uncomfortable to the cock roaches – whether Iranian or American.

Much like the “genie,” it turns out that these cockroaches could not be “replaced in the lamp,” either.

5. The chilling reality of “class war” in Iran and in the United States:

The outcome in Iran and the outcome in the United States shared yet another common feature. In both cases, quiet, deeply held beliefs were submitted to a conceptual meat grinder. In Iran, minor difficulties living under the theocracy had been patiently set aside previously. Although this part of the Iranian situation is one which is a dismal constant in nation states which continue to extract legitimacy from revolutions, in Iran there had been some actual improvements since the Shah's stumbling abdication. These, for a while, justified the excesses of the Iranian revolution and the heavy handed suppression by security forces. However, the theocracy found those validations “too tired” among an unwieldy population of unemployed young people who had missed both the battles with Sadam and the unelected Shah.

What became all too clear in the demonstrations following the election was that there had always previously been at least one additional justification for the oppression. That was the paranoia of the theocrats. The clerics had been a marginally religious, secretive elite of power brokers intent on operating every bell and whistle in the entire Islamic Republic to their own benefit. The protesters on the street may have “unofficially” realized this, but the reactionary response of the election doubters brought the image to the very front row. The Iranian public finally realized that, quite aside from the carefully crafted counter revolutionary forces and colonial interventionists, they had been in the midst of a class war with their own religious rulers.

The election brought forth the inescapable conclusion that the Iranian people had lost that class war and were now in the cultural doldrums of the vanquished. The Theocracy had carefully gathered every tiny bit of social power and was hoarding it like an old woman with her farthings. The Iranian population had remain passively malleable as the theocracy had introduced one external threat after another, but, riding the wave of a new, brave awareness after Obama's speech in Cairo, they had proved to have much less of an appetite for simply walking quietly back into the night after the fraudulent presidential election.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in the United States, new players had emerged on the political scene. Although they remained nameless, the common population could still confidently identify them by their uncounted, tax free billions. They were literal dynasties of ill gotten gains. The fact that the health care debacle forced them into the sunlight was only mildly troubling to them. Their comfort arose from their idea that no constitutional process would ever allow the common people to “reach” any of their money. Just as was the case with the ill prepared mullahs, the fear of losing their “franchise” as owners of the United States began to loom larger and larger. The response of reactionaries in such cases is to be even more reactionary.

However, such a state of economic hierarchy did not sit well with the voters. They had been bombarded with difficult to consolidate facts about this horde of predators during the election, the stimulus, the auto bail out and the banking pay-off, but the totality of the situation had, previous to the health care matter, remained conveniently discarded as possibly true but stoically inconvenient to consider too long or too seriously. The people of the United States had been informed of the magnitude of the outrage, but, hypnotized by the fraudulent media, they had succumbed to a silent acceptance of its inevitability.

An American Class War? An exaggeration? Sobering up, the American citizens took another look at the numbers, this time with what they had experienced from this crowd during the health care debate. 400 of the richest Americans had increased their net worth by $630,000,000,000 ($630 billion) during the Bush autocracy. In the depths of the economic collapse of 2008, the top 1% of the population had incomes exceeding the total of the lower 50% of the people.

The entire U.S. economy was shuddering helplessly as a comatose victim of greed and corruption. Laying aside all the complicated answers as to the cause of such a global plague, the salient features paint the picture well enough. The Bushites had managed to extract roughly $3,000,000,000,000 ($3 trillion) dollars from the economy. The “books” had been thoroughly cooked. A trillion dollar tax cut for the very top end wealthy had been covered with borrowed money. The trillions of dollars of expenses for the two wars were also paid for with borrowed money, but never put on the books of the Federal Budget. The Treasury had been ruthlessly emptied. The rich were richer, and everyone else was ordered to do with less.

For the first time during the health care debate, common citizens were staring at a Senate almost completely owned by these billionaires. Before, these voters thought they could still induce the government to do what they wanted in the democracy. After the health care matter was utterly trounced in the Congress, the U.S. citizens began to have the same impression of things that their Iranian counterparts did. There had been a class war in the United States, and the citizens of the country had lost. The visible issue was that, regardless of what they wanted, they would have the health care that the billionaires decided they could have. You know, class war.

The Iranian dream of representative democracy was shattered. Soon the bumbled election moved to the back seat, and the Iranians in the streets were mad not about the election, but about the government. The American dream of fair treatment in the representational democracy was also shattered. The frustration about the health care legislation began the avalanche, but, expanding, it moved quickly into the exposure of corruption in the United States House and Senate. The corruption which “sneaked through” the colossal media fraud reporting it produced United States citizens who were over the health care crime, now focusing on – like their Iranian counterparts – larger issues.

6. The outlook for an uncertain future:

History offers two alternate outcomes for situations such as these. In one case, the momentarily sensitive hides of the voters simply become numb again, edging back into the state of hypnotic acceptance. In the other case, well, let's just say that hypnotic acceptance is no longer the “coping tool” of the voters. The reactionaries have already lost control of their instigators.

It is the studied opinion of MeanMesa that the course of events will pursue the second path. The violence has already begun. The electorate is infuriated. One reactionary Congressman, speaking and writing far too much for those with such a shaky strategy, said that he hoped the health care contest would be Obama's Waterloo. Well, there is to be a Waterloo, but it will not be Obama's.

With the American population already incoherent at the depth of their wounds from the economic collapse, they are in no mood for maudlin dramatics. The Republicans have self-destructed. When the U.S. economy takes its final plunge for this recession sometime in September or October of 2009, and any manageability – even previously imagined -- over the electorate becomes no more than a distant, ancient dream, the reactionary billionaires will become even more reactionary, that is, even more self-destructive.

The cynical division which was the result of the Bush autocracy's attempts to validate its unelected status has a certain new, overly odorous, special quality now. The “sides” are no longer sectioned by politics or ideology, but by psychology. The “brown shirts” of the now deposed autocracy, populated to a man by hillbillies, crooks and bigots, jumped on the command from their reactionary masters to a sort of brief effectivity two weeks ago when they began wrecking town hall meetings, but now, accidentally inebriated by the mishandled media, they are out of control. Although both the “foot soldiers” and the party leadership (Rush Limbaugh?) have now become grotesque, unwanted guests at the country club, all their feet still stink. For their billionaire masters, all these thugs have migrated from being slightly useful to being an endless public relations toothache. There are no opportunities left for which they might serve.

We are certain that the Iranians have not finished with their complaints about the theocracy. Here in the United States, a similar development is unfolding. Obama gets this. He has no intention of succumbing to the traditional corruption he was elected to counter. How will it turn out? Hide and watch.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Surrender of Critical Thought

The high aspirations and the low accomplishment of public education. 107

This morning's conversation at the coffee shop arose from the general topic of the most troubling news of the day. No, it did not range even further among the twisted wreckage of the health insurance corporations' outrageous public relations campaign. It hardly brushed the cheek of the good news from North Korea or the dismal news from Continental Africa. Perhaps it was more than casually directed by the interests of the company at the table.

A teacher.

The troubling news? MeanMesa originates in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What reporting survives in the remnant of a highly biased local paper, that is, a local paper which steadfastly continues the subtle promotion of neoconservative ideology in every possible word selection, there was the embarrassing announcement from the local public school system that only 54% of the senior class graduated in 2009. The educational participant in our little chat was savoring the remnants of her morning latte and a last, desperate cigarette or two before rushing off to her daily teaching duties.

Quite aside from any sort of refutation or denial of the report's conclusions, her comments were reassuringly skeptical concerning the performance of the school system. She dutifully noted the unavoidable demographic difficulties inherent in a population of students affected by every well defined disadvantage from a bi-lingual home life to the myriad insults of undeniable poverty. Her defense for the failing system especially bemoaned the difficulty of inspiring newly learned talents for "critical thinking" in Albuquerque's regional students.

She admirably related her conviction that success or failure of such a public educational system seem to orbit around the critical thinking capacity of the education it produced, an interesting premise which she applied expansively to all grade levels from Kindergarten to High School Senior. Her central concerns with the current process delivering such unremarkable results was chiefly focused on the motivation of teachers to inspire an exciting style of “ownership” in the minds of the pupils. Supporting this idea, she noted that far too many of the tenured teaching staff had carelessly slipped into a malaise of indifference and remained there, securely protected by labor agreements and other unexamined habits dependably yielding a sickening, well congealed mediocrity.

When confronted with such dire and immediate challenges to civil society – after all, the consequences are disturbingly predictable – MeanMesa thoughts quickly ranged to classical examples for possible solutions. Of course, there is the stalwart, patient Aristotle delivering his inspired, optimum effort in the finishing of the young Macedonian Prince (not so many students inherit the trailing qualifiers of “..The Great” in the manner of Alexander). At Aristotle's famous shoulder stands Niccolo Machiavelli with his “dynasty saving” pragmatism so craftily imbued into young Lorenzo DeMedici a few centuries later.

Yes, history undeniably delivers these and many more examples of extremely well accomplished cases of successfully teaching “critical thinking.” Both the details and the applications of it vary throughout history. Charlemagne and Ghengis Kahn undoubtedly learned their “critical thinking” based on very different conditions and possibilities, but there runs along the theme a commonality which might interest us here. The teacher at our table unthinkingly represented her understanding of “critical thinking” as a sort of socially imposed performance metric which, once resurrected and accomplished in a manner consistent with the “good old days,” would remove the “thorn” its omission had imposed on her school system's “batting average.”

What precisely does this society demand to satisfy its appetite for “critically thinking” public school students? Is it reasonable to expect parents and scholastic measuring authorities to enjoy a comfortably well defined concept of exactly what might be required to meet their demands? Do these sponsors and judges of public education know from their own experience what it is they value so highly?

Or, is the question simply too complex? Perhaps successful “critically thinking” students only manifest evidence of such an education long after they have departed the schools and entered the world where such capabilities might produce observable, measurable, “critical thinking” results. But wait, are any of these players presently willing or able to define a serious meaning for the term which might serve to validate such a judgement or define a target for educators to achieve?

When that reasonable requirement is cast into the fray, none of these well armed critics turns out to be endowed with either an actual capacity for the pursuit of “critical thinking” or even a convincing discourse as to its possible definition. What this “mob of critics” is endowed with is a carefully groomed, blind insistence on educating their little darlings to perform “critical thinking,” a desire artfully introduced into their thoughts by “educational experts” of all stripes to make certain that the demand for “critical thinking” is both perpetual and, because it remains mysteriously undefined, never satisfied.

There remains that troubling ratio. 54%.

Did Aristotle and Machiavelli commence the first day of their teaching with an ambition of leading their charges as expeditiously as possible right to a state of “critical thinking?” Or, was that distinguished accomplishment an aside, something that simply “happened” along with all sorts of “non-critical thinking” education which was proceeding with the less flamboyant study of all the “gears and wheels” of more pedestrian topics? Would we expect to encounter 21st Century equivalents to Aristotle and Machiavelli if we were to examine the teachers in this disturbing system grumbling along in Albuquerque public schools?

The abrasive impact of this shocking performance is material enough. Yes, of course, the “missing” 46% of non-graduating seniors could have been well served with more inspiring instruction, but would classes led by Aristotle and Machiavelli have accomplished that? The affront of that 54% number suggests that the primary focus has strayed from the point of its best attention. 54% is not a questionable, subtle hint that focus has faltered. It is a screaming, immediate outrage.

New Mexico, a poor state, spends precious billions on its educational system. Among the states in our country, it is not unique in this respect.

The realization of any “critical thinking” ambitions are clearly not among the modest successes of last year's graduates. Most likely, the more pedestrian elements of a reasonably effective education, once having been sidelined by tantalizing distractions such as “critical thinking,” have failed to materialize right along with more ambitious goals. We dare not “give up,” surrendering to more years of relentless educational mediocrity, but we must face facts. The consequences of not accomplishing “critical thinking” will visit us, but we should not be willing to endure that setback in addition to the company of the consequences of not accomplishing the far more fundamental education of “lesser goals.”

You know, “lesser.” Like arithmetic, grammar, civics and history.

This is not rocket science. There is nothing noticeably defective about our students. We can hope that a well educated student who has mastered these “lesser” subjects, is adequately encouraged by his teachers and not “crushed under the wheel” of a modern educational monstrosity will, perhaps, later master some of the “critical thinking” we have been taught to value so highly.

First things first. And that means “first” – “right away” – “next semester” and not after another dozen tedious evaluation studies. How long will it take to “turn this tanker?”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Surveying the Map to Peace

Another Small Step toward solving the Israeli Palestinian Conflict.106

Conflict, especially conflict hosted by “sides” with strongly established disputes, prospers when the details of those disputes are clouded in uncertainty and confusion. Perhaps the most striking example of such disputes centers on matters such as the ownership of land, water rights, access corridors and the like. Both parties have traditional “certainties” as to the legitimacy of their own claims. These may be as obscure as traditional tribal activities (“We have always pastured in the valley since our ancestors.”) The conflict might be based on the results of warfare, where no precise settlement was considered necessary to calm the concerns of the vanquished. On occasion, even simple discrepancies of maps form the basis of such conflicts.

Ownership, historically, almost always falls to the side still inebriated with a recent military victory. After all, claims to title are most easily promoted when all the parties with counter claims have run off to somewhere else. When months and years slip by, lubricating such affairs, ownership returns to the traditional, except the tradition now validates the newer claims of the victor over the vanquished.

The wars at the center of this system need not be formal ones. Insurgents have the same appetites for new “homelands” as the most stridently nationalistic armies in a parade. Once the first shot is fired in anger and fear, the legitimacy of the title is cast onto the “table,” awaiting only the moment when one side or the other can prevail long enough and strongly enough to claim it as a prize. We see it in Iraq at the borderlines between Kurds and Arabs. We see it in Zimbabwe where homeless past residents gaze at their old possessions now comfortably “owned” by some friends of the autocrat. We see the recently relocated white farmers in Kenya, the displaced white apartheids from old Boer South Africa, the Hutus and Tutsies of Rwanda staring from their new homes at their old homes. The list is effectively endless.

No matter the details, such assignments of “rightful ownership” seldom resolve the seemingly perpetual feelings of injury nursed by the relocated, last residents. This is the case with the West Bank. The “old war” which delivered the territory into Israeli hands is only persuasively material to the elders who participated in it. To the modern generation, although still burdened with the task of living with the consequences of the change in ownership, the causes creep into history, becoming much more comfortably academic or legalistic. To the vanquished, those causes remain the open wound, seeping daily venom of hatred and desolation, tales of the “old home” shared relentlessly with the teenagers who already dream of owning a rifle.

Of course, wars do actually change ownership, at least for a while. Peace, on the other hand, seems intent on restoring whatever property rights grow to sufficient value to make a trade seem like “good business.” Insurgencies are, in this day and age, carefully crafted to be just troublesome enough to make such “peace” a bargain for those old victors.

Between the West Bank and the State of Israel there is a border, of sorts. It is not really a traditional border for those who feel that traditions must be older than the Great War which “planted” the border where it is now, but there always remains the question of all the guns. The longer all parties “live” with such a line, the more traditional it becomes. When a generation passes on both sides of that line, too many of the details explaining its exact origin become dusty, established and academic – especially with the winners of the conflict, especially with their children.

There are treaties which define the precise edges of both the State of Israel and the Palestinian West Bank. There is a great concrete wall, now covered with folk art and grafitti, which seems to effortless stray from those treaty lines. There are property disputes with a constant, strange, chilling likelihood of being always resolved in favor of the Israelis. There are desolate, impotent Palestinians sentenced to watch passively as the line of settlement boundaries inches further and further to the East, deeper and deeper into what country remains the West Bank. There are Palestinian teenagers who throw rocks, or worse, who become faces on posters of bloodied martyrs, but the glacial inevitability of the line never even pauses for a breath, never rests through a night. It just creeps ever more deeply into the remnant of the West Bank, leaving in its wake finished, polished symbols of unattainable urban luxury. Losing the land is bad enough, but gazing at the Israeli version of a bar-be-que pit society is salt in those old wounds.

It is clear now that attempts to resolve ownership issues cannot be approached on a "national basis." No matter how positive developments may become on the "state" level, they inevitably fall apart when specific details of the ownership of specific tracts is negotiated. At the opposite end, the rare agreements made between individuals are crushed by the perfect storm of the relentless state conflicts. Judicial rulings, reflecting the unquestionable disparity of firepower, habitually favor the Israeli interests. Some such decisions have commandeered traditional Palestinian property in cases where legal outrages have been brazenly open.

The solution:

Of course, there is no totally encompassing, absolutely guaranteed solution. That existential vacuum of even a possible step forward has become far too valuable an asset on both sides. To the West, it opens real estate for more settlements. To the East, it provides an endless source of more martyrs. Too much blood flowed on that decades ancient day when “ownership” was first changed, and too many scars and scabs have filled the grandfatherly tales of the “old homes and fields.” (Here, please consult an old post on MeanMesaObama's Foreign Policy for the 21st Century: How Can We Help? However, even amid this current pathos there seems to be a possible starting point.

The carefully (by both sides) crafted confusion about the ownership of what remains of the Palestinian lands must cease. Little pockets of disputed title which gradually grow into rock throwing and gun fire are simply priced too high. The proposition is simple enough: a survey.

For any MeanMesa visitor with the experience of “purchasing right of way,” the full scope of establishing title and purchasing a thousand little bits of land for a new road way is clear enough. Hundreds of legal descriptions of land concessions of a thousand square feet, condemnation hearings, legal challenges and all the rest can turn a right of way project into a career. Nonetheless, the project must be completed. At the end of it, every disgruntled land owner must be satisfied or, at least, nearly satisfied, before the six lanes of the magnificent new urban collector can be built.

As a first step -- and a workable first step might actually mean a great deal -- the existing claims of ownership of every tract of the disputed territory can be researched, surveyed and formalized. This is the task required at the outset for resolving the border dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The entire West Bank must be surveyed. Every land claim from either side to any part of the territory must be recorded, codified, investigated and resolved. The precise property lines of those tracts, and the long series of broken treaties which mangled them, must become common, accepted knowledge made material with surveyors' hubs and the stakes denoting property lines. Once this Herculean task is complete, the ownership matter descends to its inevitable Court fight, a desolate swamp of litigation. Here, though, we can see enough history of Israeli court decisions to know that both the survey and the resolution of ownership claims must be decided by an uninterested third party authority, perhaps the United Nations.

Both parties must agree beforehand on the process. This would not be an agreement on the outcome of the challenged ownership, just an acceptance of the results of the survey and the litigation. Once the precise picture of disputed land claims becomes highly defined, specific questions of ownership claims can be addressed with the hope of resolving the conflict.

We all know, now, the value of resolving this conflict. We also have a well seasoned understanding of those whose interests will suffer most when the present confusion is removed. After all, we have endured the bombs, bullets and convenient lies of all the players for a few generations of dead Americans, Israelis and Palestinians – enough generations of all of the dead. It is foolish to allow the fuse, always either lit or smouldering, of the next conflict to hide in the ill defined confusion of irreconcilable land disputes -- especially when, not only the ownership has not been settled, but the terms and details of the dispute are in dispute.

So? Let's plunge the UN into the field survey business and get on with it.