Monday, August 27, 2012

The Romney Campaign's "Two Words"

 Facts, Fact Checking and Fact Ignoring

No one can be sure about how many of the words relentlessly rolling through a political campaign actually penetrate voters.  Campaigns are a very big business, and they've never been as big of a business as they are in this Citizen United year.  There are "bunkers" filled with opposition researchers, political psychologists, economists, ad men, policy wonks and a dozen other types.

"Boy, that last one you told her was a real whopper!" (image and audio source)

It is also not unusual for campaign rhetoric to be quite a ways off to the side when it comes to actually representing unbiased fact.  The spectrum in this case is between dangerous, destructive, out right lies and other messages which have a sort of foundation in fact but which have been "dragged screaming from their point of birth" to the final form heard in a Super PAC television promo.

None of this is accidental.  Every word folks such as MeanMesa visitors hear has cost someone five digits worth of dollars to vaporize into electromagnetic waves and broadcast.

Another perennial conclusion is that the most recent campaign is, somehow, substantially different than the one just two years prior.  There may be some truth to this old urban legend.  Statistics about campaign costs do, actually, show an unsettling pattern of growth -- especially since the Citizens United ruling.  Happily, this drift may not be permanent.  The outrages which that change brought have probably disgusted enough voters that even the politicians are beginning to notice.

But for the focus of this post we are not lamenting the Citizens United money.

A statistical track of the veracity of campaign rhetoric would help much more here than a simple count of the money flying into Super PACs.  For the first time in American politics, statistics of precisely that feature of the politics have become available even though what we can see at this point is only in the early phases.

The fast technology of our times makes "fact checking" incredibly less tedious than it has ever been before.  The "facts" themselves are so easily available to anyone interested in doing the research that such comparisons are no longer three week vacations spent sitting in a library microfiche viewer.  Most political statements are now videotaped, and most of the substance serving as a topic for those statements is also videotaped, transcribed and catalogued in ways which make it "searchable."

Matching the two in a "fact checking" effort now becomes much more "doable" for the average voter.

However, there remain a couple of parameters in this empirical analysis which still seem a bit "up in the air."

First, how much of research like this is a voter interested in doing?  That interest level will always be commensurate with the value the voter places on the outcome of the election and the estimate of whether or not his vote will actually make a difference.  This is not one of those questions which is simply a conversational, academic imponderable.

"Boiled down to the bones," it is a question about exactly how much a voter cares about what happens to the Republic, to the democracy.  Perhaps more importantly, it is a question of precisely what other issues can outweigh the importance of his civic duties, flooding over decisions directed at his responsibilities as a citizen.

This all becomes gut wrenchingly present when the reason that a voter does not commit the interest and effort required for his responsibilities is because the importance of that act is over shadowed with race bigotry.

Or worse, blind, "fact free" hysteria.

Second, for the citizen who is interested enough to search for such answers, there is always the question of the credibility of the contradictory information he might find.  In the age of video, what a politician might say in a campaign about what someone else has said crashes to Earth almost instantly.  However, if that comparison were to include the task of independently arriving at conclusions about facts, statistics or policy, the credibility issue returns -- now enhanced by a voter's lack of confidence in his own discernment.

It should be no secret now that, crippled with "facts" which cannot bear even casual scrutiny, "attacking the messenger" has also become big business.  Every information source from the Congressional CBO to the Environmental Protection Agency has been riddled with "fly by" attacks, maybe not even countering any specific message, but targeting the previously credentials of institutional credibility in general.

That voter's "lack of confidence" is not an innocent coincidence.  Millions or billions of dollars have been spent to carefully groom this abiding uncertainty in American voters.  Further, we know, without any "uncertainty," the exact origin of this work.  The continuing evidence of it is spewed forth daily.

There is a "Party" and a network which is anxious to invest all of its destiny in precisely this gambit.  "Can we entice voters to 'believe no one.'"  The political "pay off" for all this work in creating a horde of drooling, depressed, amateur nihilists remains to be seen.

The election strategy is clear enough.  There are liabilities which derive from campaign rhetoric filled with out right lies.  Those liabilities can only become attractive when that campaign is convinced that the voters it seeks to influence will never actually research the faulty propositions, or worse, not care even if their efforts were to expose the damning contradictions. 

We haven't gotten to the "two words" yet.  So, why wait?  We had to go through all this ranting and raving so far just to "really get ready for the good stuff."

The Romney Campaign's "Two Words"

We focus here on two words among the many which could have been selected from the glacial supply made available daily.  Nonetheless, this particular choice can be easily validated as one which presents a wonderfully robust example of just exactly what's on our mind.

One is a word which is included relentlessly in the campaign rhetoric, candidates' speeches and cruelly emphasized in the inevitable "objective reporting recaps" of it all.  The other is excluded just as fastidiously.

The respectively repeated use and avoidance of these words present perhaps the ultimate example of word by word content management.  The Romney "think tank" psychologists have revealed the foundation of their tactics if not the sepia tone of their souls.  Although MeanMesa remains unimpressed with the potential effectiveness of the scheme, our hat is off to these adolescent Goebbels "wanna-be's" for eagerly embracing such an outstandingly tedious ploy to rehabilitate the heavily soiled candidates their masters have sent them.

The words themselves mean almost nothing once removed from context, but this is the point.  With the carefully crafted context all around either the presence or the absence of these words, the message and all its implications ring just like a broken bell -- and, needless to say, not a Liberty Bell.

Both words are notable for roughly the same reasons:

1. The use and avoidance of both can be very easily over looked.
2. The inclusion or exclusion of both can be easily attributed to another case of the famous GOP "I mis-spoke" explanation given when any utterance comes too close to the party's platform.
3. Since both are adjectives -- syntactically rendering an associated noun with some sort of limit, modification or condition -- the nouns they modify may, indeed, be "bright shiny objects," but the words [adjectives] both represent important additions to comprehending meaning.
4. Even when the words are present or absent, the casual consumer of the rhetoric which hosts them may "absent mindedly" include or exclude them anyway, that is, automatically.


While Mitt Romney has repeated over and over the supposedly reassuring phrase about the taxes he has paid, he has, just as often, repeatedly omitted the word "income."  He says, "I have paid plenty of taxes."  He does not say "I have paid plenty of income taxes."

However, income taxes, and more broadly, the sources and the disposition of the income itself, are completely the point.  This is exactly the fodder from which the Romney nightmares are hatched.  This is exactly what the little hubris soaked, second string candidate has absolutely denied both his followers and his critics.


In this case is is Romney's "side kick" who is tasked with the heavy lifting. A jewel encrusted, gold plated, absolute treasure of the Romney Ryan rhetoric describes -- notably with the repeated inclusion of the adjective "current" -- that there will be no changes in Medicare benefits to "current" Medicare beneficiaries.

"No changes."  Candidate Ryan's "think tankers" are counting on us old folks to "lock on" to this "no changes part" while overlooking the "current" part.  What Mr. Ryan is dutifully parroting over and over is actually quite a bit more sinister than might be presumed at first blush.

Of course the RRR [Romney-Ryan-Republicans] has to do everything possible on two nearly contradictory courses.  They need the old folks' vote so all possible effort must be directed at scaring the pants off grandma and grandpa.  However, they also need to steal the Medicare Trust in order to pay back the $1 Billion dollars that the oligarchs who own the Republican Party have "contributed" to this train wreck of a campaign so far.

Exactly what Ryan is saying, that is, saying with the word "current" included, is that after this generation dies off, no one else will ever get Medicare benefits like the "current" bunch of old people.   The think tankers assume that old people are just like them, willing to vote to keep benefits for themselves but not caring a whit about what will happen to their grandchildren when they get old.


If, for some strange reason, you are even considering voting for this bag of snakes, pay attention to every word they are telling you -- or, not telling you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Syria in September - The "Perfect Mousetrap"

A note from MeanMesa:  The blog has been off the air for a few days while the hand was healing.  It's been a bit of a problem when typing more than two sentences has sent this old bird into a self-pity tizzy!  All that is over now.  Glad you're here!

 The Variety of the Dreams of Victory

Dreams of victory and justifications for fighting seem to run in paired sets.  As one of the historically most war like nations in the modern world, these dreams and justifications extracted from our recent domestic history are telling.  When attacked, we countered with a rueful propaganda effort in Afghanistan married to an oil war in Iraq.  

Drenched in both false shame and quite reasonable trepidation, the Saudis offered up a symbolic pittance as compensation for the grisly work of their countrymen.  Happily, for them, their "connections" diverted the retaliatory attacks and invasions onto two of their unfortunate neighbors.

The war making climate has now become so superficial that practically anything will serve to justify it.  Worse, those flimsy, meat handed justifications are simply too complex to actually metamorphose into workable results corresponding to any publicly held "dreams of victory."  These days find that already questionable old adjacency abandoned in favor of a variety of impulses disgustingly akin to simple religious vengeance, usually amounting to little more than a discarded rag soaked with testosterone and clotted blood driven by a public opinion campaign.

Rather than fighting because we were attacked or might be attacked, because our allies were attacked or in danger or even because our countrymen were attacked in some distant corner of the world, we fight for greed.  Further, it is not national greed which might -- conceivably -- be somewhat more coherent and understandable, it is the craven greed of oligarchs.

Those would be the oligarchs directly behind that line of war mongers eliciting the vast, raucous cheers during the debates of the Republican Primary.  MeanMesa is surprised that the stupefied teenagers in that audience had not already begun to bleed before the applause had ended.

Running along with the "becauses" which "justify" these monstrosities, we can see the chilling absence of any view of success.  There were no informed Americans who thought, even briefly, that an occupied medieval Afghanistan would become a modern democracy.  There were no informed Americans who thought that an Iraq with the autocracy removed would become "just like here."

Amazingly, there were no dreams of victory.  A few inches beyond the "catch phrases," "talking points" and false dichotomies only an empty hole remained where, in better times, victory might have held forth her dream. Down here on the ground we must still discuss the horrors with returning veterans, or even more perplexing, the reasons.  Down here on the ground we must still engage our neighbors in conversations about justifications and national accomplishments.

As one ascends to the atmospheric heights, the mindless realm of the oligarchs, such discourse falls silent.

We have managed to develop a national foreign policy which is absolutely devoid of discernible success. In fact, we -- as a national demographic of consolidated interests -- can't even agree on what such a success might be.

Thanks to the flat sighted reactionaries and their legions of the terrified, thinly disguised servants of those cursed by greed without limit, we are a paralyzed and demoralized remnant of what we were -- of what we must be again.  Relief is unlikely unless our reasonable national goals mature to a place commensurate with our actual strength.

By "relief" we mean a return to cogency.

The "October Surprise" - An American Tradition

There are plenty of accounts of various insurgent operations stepping up hostilities "in the spring" or "after the monsoon season."  We can immediately think of the on-going, annual conflicts in the Congo, in Aceh Banda or the wild western provinces of Pakistan.  We understand the alluring convenience of this scheduling pattern.

Around the world, fighting men without boots are making their way to combat zones in small, hidden places where the mud, heat and mosquitoes alone can be their greatest enemies.  These seasonal blood letting festivals are not the same as our domestic Easter or Thanksgiving celebrations.  They are scheduled to coincide with military and tactical advantages.

Here at home, however, it's just a bit less comprehensible. We have watched seven Republicans with the ambition of high office parrot out the war bait, one after another, to the deafening roar of responding cheers at their debates.  Instead of scheduling the proposed mayhem for better weather, here all such matters must be placed in the context and on the calendar of our the elections.

Systematically instilling a coarse, post literate fear in one crowd while inciting another to inflamed chest beating for the latest war making plan, these bellicose monstrosities from another era make the rounds, first for campaign contributions from those with ambitions of somehow profiting from such adventures and only later for the votes of those they have managed to frighten with hideous tales of the latest synthetic enemy. 

Finally, installed in power, they are taxed only for the maintenance of the respective opportunities of sustained terror and outrage.  Actual policy becomes nothing more than a potentially risky, flippant, unnecessarily complicating public opinion problem.

It's just as if actual blood did not exist.

It's just as if war were cheap.

War by Accident, Hubris or Oversight

We find ourselves in a state of economic collapse.  Although there are many "truisms" which can be uttered about war, one with exceptionally valid continuity is that it is expensive.  The more desperate it is, the more expensive it can become, in fact, the more expensive it will almost certainly become.

Our war with Afghanistan was blessed with only the most tenuous such validity.  It was a war for domestic consumption, and it was a war for unexamined vengeance.  There was essentially no prospect for enhanced national security by changing the warlords currently in power in Afghanistan.  Any actual incremental enhancements for national security would be both defensive and domestic ones.

The al Qaeda who attacked New York knew this.  Their bold strategy was entirely designed to avoid our military power.  They knew that they could pose no substantial threat to the United States beyond the furtive opportunity placed at their disposal.  The advantage which they carefully designed into their plot was the advantage of "pure asymmetry." 

They were protected from US military might because there would be neither traditional attack nor traditional retaliation.  Of course, the weakened US leadership, perhaps an unanticipated additional advantage, "took the bait."

Likewise, the oil war in Iraq could only be made valid in its own right by the proposition that it, too, was preventing an attack.  The argument began to literally fall apart the day it was first proposed, but the hypnotic attraction continued.  It didn't end there.

War.  War.  War.  War. (image source)

The most available and conveniently "hateable" adversary remained in the punching ball of Iran.  The country had already been pilloried by economic sanctions -- foreign policy which was actually effective -- by the time of the Republican debates, but the old penchant for violence hadn't moved an inch.

Plus, there was oil there.

Naturally, the reckless policy promises of those desperately transfixed with the necessity of "collecting" votes from an illiterate base ran immediately to a familiar theme.  Iranian "red meat" outrages could provide electoral cover for the hideous echo of the last Republican administration if only the base could be distracted long enough.

It's not a base which has a history of being difficult to distract.

Syria: The Stars Align for the "Perfect Mousetrap"

2012's "Perfect Mousetrap"

Granted, this post has "wandered" through some rather "big picture" issues of wars and war making.  That largess was precisely the intention.  Americans -- especially in election time and especially as we approach October -- should probably be interested in such a disturbingly sultry mix of both "big picture" and "contemporary specifics."

If one has paid even a passing attention to the commercial news or the content of this little blog from the desert, every one of the little white boxes in the "mousetrap" diagram above will mean something.  Should one or more of them mean nothing, MeanMesa strongly suggests that our noble visitor here tear that attention away from the political "frog festival" long enough to catch up with reality.

This is a potentially very bad collection of current events.

If you felt a few pangs of national uncertainty while we were careening into Iraq, a quite similar feeling should probably be emerging just about now.

The "trigger" seems to be -- at least for the moment -- centered on the question of whether or not the dictator of Syria will grow desperate enough to use his bunker full of poison gas in an attempt to hang on to his "legacy."  The current death toll in Syria now is in the range of around 20,000, mostly civilians.  The dictator's father is reported to have slaughtered 92,000 in his successful bid to "keep the garden."

The United States has very publicly revealed that our policy of not intervening militarily would have to be "rethought" if the gas were used.  The Europeans, Syria's neighbors -- especially Turkey -- would, most likely, be able to "rethink" their own positions even more rapidly.  The now openly fascist State of Israel is currently sipping tea and having wet dreams of its own about the same potentiality.

Presumably there are Russian military and diplomatic folks walking around all over the country.  More than "presumably," there are scores of Iranian nationals in make shift militias handling the dirty work in the dictator's door to door practices.  The orders for those  "door to door" visits are largely too savage to hand off to the dictator's Alaouite regulars.

This means that any substantial military intervention with the purpose of suppressing the use of the gas would be raining down on both Russian Federation military personnel and Iranian nationals.

It's been a while since the United States or NATO killed any Russian soldiers or diplomats.  Obliterating a few Iranians would probably not bother us too much, but the mullahs, already sitting on a wrecked economy [worse than ours], languishing under sanctions which have made civilian life awful and desperately watching the capstone of their tenuous terrorist arch to Hezbollah and Hamas slowly crumble would probably block the Gulf of Hormuz the next morning.

Further, MeanMesa assumes that the Russian defense fortifications at Tartus include either on-site nuclear capacity or hair trigger reinforcement from the Federation proper.  If the Iranians have a bomb of their own, which they might, it could also be insinuated into the defense alliance with Syria, a far more intimidating location for a nuclear test that anywhere in the Iranian desert. 

This level of escalation would not be offered as an indulgence to the dictator so much as evidence of the legitimacy for the Russians to rehabilitate the rather sorry record of lack of effectivity for Russian weapons systems which failed all through the countries of the Arab Spring.  The Iranians are more similar to the loud mouthed bully standing second in a line for a fist fight.

Both the Syrians and the Iranians are watching their dreams become chaotic junk yards, a state which makes them dangerous.

This rambling scenario could unfold a thousand different ways, but the "exciting" parts would easily include some or all of the nightmare being described here.

Sleep well.  Cavort through a moon lit comedy of the Republican Abortion Festival being inundated by an out of control hurricane in Tampa.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

For a couple other MeanMesa posts on Syria:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Russia, China, Syria: Disgracing Great and Noble Revolutions

These Videos Cannot Be Confirmed

MeanMesa assumes that our visitors here have all seen the videos.

From Damascus and Alleppo we see the amateur video streaming out to a stoic, unmoved world clinging desperately to its self-definition of outraged civility.  The horror comes in hideous, blood soaked metalevels of hate, terror and intimidation.  Our domestic commercial media finds the explosions on the urban horizon just too tempting to ignore.  Occasionally, an actual reporter with a bullet proof vest has a few things to say from where he's hiding somewhere in the country.  Still, the thing remains comfortably unreal.

No one on your block is frantically trying to keep the kids away from the television until the news is finished.

In those scenes taken from a distance we see billowing black smoke, impersonal evidence of what can be called "artillery horrors."  Those distant explosions can be what we might classify as first level images.

Some of the explosions are the result of helicopter gunships, some the result of air to ground missiles fired from Syrian jet fighters, some from mortar rounds launched, gleefully and ragefully untargeted, on command of some blindly loyal, frightened, Alawite non-com.  And, finally, some is simply the grisly echo of the ballistic screams from World War II and World War I.  Those would be the relentless Howitzers standing off, safely out of reach, pumping high explosive death into the living rooms, playgrounds, courtyards and streets a few miles away.

The attack helicopters look suspiciously HIND-like and Russian from the silhouette.

Closer in, the second level of horror prevails.  There are clouds of snipers not drawing bead on any enemy, but rather any walking target which, if blown apart in everyone's sight, might promote even the most meagre inclination to submit and surrender.  There are tanks, always a favorite of Syrian dictators, belching diesel smoke from one end and countless tons of 50 calibre shells from the other.

The tanks looks suspiciously similar to the old Soviet junkers from the Israel War for the Golan.

Finally, at the third level, that is, at the front door, we see the personal level of the horror.  Thugs from Assad's murderous Shabiha gangs systematically slice the throats of captured children, still in their homes.  However, impersonal the homicidal snipers, helicopters and artillerymen, the door to door "visits" of the truly maniacally homicidal may be the ultimate among all the savagery.

The bombing and the snipers are, indeed, at least possibly impersonal.  The door to door slaughter is personal.  These first few paragraphs of this post are to introduce conditions in Houla, Alleppo, Damascus and other cities in Syria. 

Before we can honorably move forward to the rest of this post, we must revisit the "visits."

Your front door explodes into the living room of your house. They hit you on the head so hard that you fall to the floor unconscious for a moment.  When you are able to see again, your home has become a horror.

Two of the seven armed men who have rushed in have thrown your wife on the floor and begun to rape her.  Three others grab your six year old daughter and your four year old son.  They hold the children where your wife can see them.  They pull back the little girl's head by her hair and cut her throat.  Your son is screaming for help, but there is nothing you can do.  His head is jerked forward, and then he is decapitated.

When they finish with your wife, they kill her with a rifle butt to the forehead.  They turn their attention to you.  A rifle butt breaks your left femur and a bayonet knife slashes the ribs under your left arm.  You are unconscious again.  When you awake, you are alone, surrounded by the carnage that was your family half an hour before.  You have been left alive to carry this message to your neighbors.

Are you an opposition fighter?  No.  Were you at the prohibited protests?  No.

You had heard rumors that there was resistance fighting two miles north of your home.  Your neighborhood had been shelled all afternoon.  You and your family had hidden in your house.  There was no light or electricity, just the continual explosions of artillery shells landing all around you and gun fire, some close, some more distant, perhaps a block away.

After finishing with your family, the killers moved on down the street. They weren't looking for anyone in particular.  They didn't have a list of suspected insurgents.  They simply wanted to terrorize enough Syrians so any dream of revolution -- of a Syrian Arab Spring -- would become too frightening. They worked for the government of your country.

Now we're ready for the rest of this post.

MeanMesa's Personal Letter 
to the Citizens of the Russian Federation

Granted, your great revolution against the old Czars received a luke warm welcome here in the United States.  By the end of the Cold War everything you had accomplished had been so thoroughly demonized by the suspiciously biased "Western Press" that only a few shards of fact remained available to someone here who was still able to read a news paper.

However, MeanMesa remains convinced that if Westerners such as Americans and Europeans had a more accurate grip on what conditions had been in Czarist Russia before 1917,  the Revolution there would be seen in a remarkably more favorable light.  Yes, there were plenty of outrages, horrors and other missteps before the thing was finally accomplished.  Yes, there were plenty of equally grisly mistakes made after it was accomplished.

However, regardless of the specific results, the yellow press version of a viral Stalinist nightmare so popular during the 1950's looks less and less credible these days.  This brings us to our point.

The 1917 Revolution was a monument to the bravery and perseverance of the Russian people.  By the time Joseph Stalin had taken control most Russians remained "big fans" of the idea of "Czar free living" even though post-Revolutionary conditions in Russia were hard.  None of you would have presumed that your Revolution had produced a perfect alternative to what had been there before, but in the same breath, almost all of you could easily agree that your Revolution had produced a far better alternative to what you had before.

You have revolution in your blood.  For Russians, revolution is practically genetic.

During that Revolution, Russians all across your entire, wonderful country were savaged by Royalist armies -- some of whom, disgracefully, came from the United States.  You found yourselves facing a crushing disadvantage in your own homeland by the resources which seemed to flow almost without limit to the Czar's White armies.

These days, those memories of desolation and abandonment are a century old.  Your brave grandfathers and great grandfathers were cold and hungry, hoarding cartridges for their old hunting rifles, risking everything to make your Revolutionary new country breathe the fire of freedom.

Your freedom.  Your country.  No Czar.

Now, MeanMesa asks you to rest just one moment.  Think of the stalwart bravery of your own ancestors, their desperation of having to face the Czar's heavily subsidized, well fed, armies -- while they themselves had no boots for the Russian winter.  You Russians know in your passionate Russian hearts which side of this your sentiments seek out and support.

Your Russian blood speaks quiet volumes to you.  You can imagine the atrocities of the Czarists as they moved through the neighborhood where your grandfather's family lived, as they looted the dachas, leaving nothing for the winter, as an entire nation, an entire people, suffered, fought, resisted and, finally, won.

We Americans are now maturing enough to set aside Dr. Zhivago in favor of Eisenstein's Potempkin.

Times seems to try to transform everything.  We Americans share the suspicion you feel yourselves as we watch in horror while our own country descends into Mafia-like oligarchy.  Both Americans and Russians know this cruel sensation.  The ideals of even the recent past have been thoroughly set aside into a place where their inconvenience will not hamper the roughshod ambitions of our newest masters.

Inconvenient ideals such as those which might have defined Russia's place in the Syrian Revolution.

In the United States we have the unending justification of the dead bankers of 9/11.  In the Russian Federation you have the unending justification of  Chechen raiders slaughtering school children at Beslan.  For both stories, our respective oligarchs find a chilling -- albeit convenient -- solace, a disgustingly cynical and destructive opportunity to substitute raw fear for those old ideals from 1917 or 1789 which have become so famous.

Russians, you have quietly exchanged something great and noble for something soiled and disgusting which doesn't speak to your brave history.  We Americans don't offer this criticism from the gaudy idealism of some high borne perch, either.  We are fellow travelers in this descent.

You need to stop your government's sponsorship for what the Dictator of Syria is doing.

MeanMesa's Personal Letter 
to the Citizens of the People's Republic of China

Americans criticize the path taken by the PRC in ways too thoughtlessly similar to our treatment of the Russians.  We routinely launch out on petty tirades which seem to focus exclusively on the modern differences between your country and ours while it seems that we are imagining that China's revolution and resurrection should somehow duplicate our own -- even though the pre-revolutionary conditions in China were almost entirely different.

MeanMesa is no stranger to what was transpiring in the old China in the days of Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in the 1930's.  Much like the revolution in Russia, the situation had become too brutal, too suffocating, to continue.  Mao tse Sung was not a perfect alternative, but he and his new policies were certainly an understandably better alternative.  The invasion by colonial forces of Imperial Japan was the crucible which forged the old China into the new one.

Chinese, you know the price which you have paid for revolution.  You completely comprehend the desolation of fighting for your own future in the face of a old guard which seemed to receive help without limit from the Europeans -- and, disgracefully from the Americans.  While you suffered bravely through the Long March, you could not count on any one to come to your aid.  The old interests did not withdraw quietly, either.

In their wake you found your countrymen slaughtered.  You found entire villages of rotting corpses, raped mothers, broken children, hungry, terrified  and cold.  When you had finally staggered to your feet, you found yourselves and your country surrounded by the threatening tantrums of those who used to own you.  You found yourselves on those first mornings of freedom staring at a destroyed economy and a society which had been torn and rent into pieces while it was still surrounded by enemies.

Your countrymen were starving to death.

As Chinese, you know these things.  Your fathers and grandfathers bled and died for this revolution of yours.  Of course it was imperfect.  That is the nature of revolutions.  But it was filled with ideals -- revolutionary ideals.  It was a brave, breathtaking, bloody, noble thing.

Now things are better.  Your new cities are filled with cars, flexing their muscles.  The old enemies of China from the days of the Japan invasion now appear, hats in hand, to do business with your prosperity.  Your stock market and banks bathe in an unimaginably bright new horizon compared to those heart breaking days of darkness when all the Chinese knew was sacrifice and suffering.

How can you rest at ease with having become one of the "outside sponsors" of horror in Syria?  Can't you remember?

Can't you remember the vital spark which was the only light in the darkness of October, 1949?  Your ancestors carried and protected that vital spark through decades of dark days and suffering.  Why can you not see the same spark fighting for its life in Damascus?  How can you turn away?

China, stop your government from what it's doing to sponsor the murderous chaos of the old guard in Syria.  You still have ideals now -- just like before.

Finally, from MeanMesa

America knows shame.

Russia and China, you won't like how it feels.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Interview With An Oligarch

Just for fun -- take a break from the political grind!  Visit the first days of the Adelson/Romney Presidency.

A MeanMesa Future History
A Dark and Frightening Novella
An Interview With An Oligarch

No! No!  Interview with an OLIGARCH!  AN OLIGARCH! (image source)


It is a couple of months into the Adelson/Romney Presidency.  The newly elected President, Mitt Romney, is enjoying a suspiciously thorough victory which has delivered both the House of Representatives and the Senate into Republican hands.

Sheldon Adelson, exercising his new Citizens United legality, has poured hundreds or possibly thousands of millions of dollars into the Romney campaign.  His influence on the government is now a fait accompli recognized by both Romney supporters and others.  Sheldon has tastefully avoided moving into permanent White House quarters after the violent public protest problems following the vote count.

MeanMesa Galactic Headquarters
The Delivery

The invitation to interview Adelson came as a complete surprise when it arrived at MeanMesa Galactic Headquarters.  The immense limousine was so long that it couldn't even navigate the parking lot in front facing the entrance to the Headquarters offices.  When the rather stuffy, liveried servant approached the city desk to silently deposit the faux gilded personal envelope with the now famous Adelson "A" monogram in pearlescent plastic embossed in its center, the entire office froze.

A few of the staff frantically exited the building while a few others, the level headed bunch, screamed to call the bomb squad as they desperately snatched the thumb drives from their computers.  When it was clear that the envelope was, in fact, not a bomb, it was ceremoniously and quite tenderly opened as most of the MeanMesa editorial staff looked on, transfixed.

The envelope's contents seemed to flow out into a limpid pool on the desk, revealing a message which could be read while still not so much as touching the card itself.  The predictably gaudy array of "titles" commenced almost immediately, leaving only room for a couple of lines of actual message toward the bottom of the thing.

There were a lot of media types who would have not so much as even flinched to sacrifice their right hand for a chance to interview the unquestioned "power behind the throne" of the lack lustre Romney Presidency.  The man had been understandably private even during his weekly $100 Million dollar contributions to the flagging Romney for President campaign.

Rumor had it that Adelson ponied up $400 Million all at once just to ease the Mormon's angst.  Prior to embracing Romney, Adelson's favorite had been the hard hitting ex-Speaker, and it had been Adelson who concocted all the hate that Gingrich had dumped on Mitt during the Primary.  Adelson, infamous for "letting by gones be by gones," may have spurred the Newt to sharpen the long blades during that fight, but once the thing had been decided by the Party's owners, the gambling magnate slithered comfortably into the Romney camp almost instantly.

Oh sure, there had been the anticipated outrage over the voting irregularities and there had even been a bit of a hoo haw in the streets just before the heavily guarded Inauguration, but now, only a couple of months later, things had returned to a dull state which most observers would concede was "about as normal as it was going to get."  

The Limousine Calls

The offer to send the car was routine.  Adelson had grown understandably paranoid after the long series of failed bomb attacks and the assassination attempts, but the old bird still had plenty of hubris,  lots of cash and nerves of steel.  No vehicle which was not part of the magnate's security system could penetrate the myriad of locked gates and check points which punctuated the long road to the mansion proper.  Even President Romney had to abandon the "beast," disarm his Secret Service contingent and take his place in one of the Adelson limos in order to pay a visit -- all of which he, of course, did eagerly.

On the appointed day, MeanMesa waited patiently at the curb in from of the Headquarters building.  An impressive, obviously armored, limousine with heavily tinted windows seemed to suddenly appear in a silent rush.  As it came to a stop, the driver remained behind the wheel while another man, also dressed in a tuxedo, quickly stepped out to open the rear door.

Once inside, a beautiful woman was waiting.  She was the "protocol secretary" who was responsible for the proper behavior from all of Adelson's guests. She introduced herself as Miss Grey.

Protocol Secretary -- actual photo prohibited (image source)

"We have a few minutes to talk before we arrive at the gates to the castle. There are a few things we should go over to prevent any unpleasantness during your interview."  She rambled uninterestedly.  "First, do you have any questions?"

"Well yes, there are a couple of things.  Maybe the first thing on my mind is why Mr. Adelson offered MeanMesa an opportunity for an interview at all?  Of course I'm delighted for the chance, but, well, MeanMesa just seems like an unusual choice."  I responded cautiously.

"That's none of your affair.  His Grace always has very good reasons for the decisions He makes.  When that decision is to interview with MeanMesa, that is simply the decision.  I would have assumed that, by now, you might have had a better understanding of how this works."  Miss Grey rambled.  She had obviously been through similar conversations in the past.

"This is your summary of interview regulations.  The Kevlar case has a security identification chip which will allow you to take it with you through the strip search and x-ray check point."  Miss Grey nonchalantly handed over a bullet proof, transparent plastic case with a single sheet of paper inside.

"I'm also a little nervous about the titles.  I've heard a number of different titles used by various people when addressing Mr. Adelson.  What is the appropriate title for me to use during the interview?"  I asked.  "In fact, how did Mr. Adelson wind up with so many different titles?"

"Well, first of all, every one of Mr. Adelson's titles is completely legitimate.  A respectful and grateful Congress has bestowed each and every one of them on Him as an act of the deepest gratitude for the 'democracy-work' He's performed for the country."  Miss Grey had clearly gone through this explanation before, too.
"During the interview you should begin by addressing Mr. Adelson as 'Your Eminence,' but only for the first or second times.  After that, if Mr. Adelson seems to be in a pleasant mood, you should begin to address Him simply as 'Governor General' or 'Liberty Viceroy Adelson.'  However, if you notice that He is becoming perturbed in any way, you should begin at once to address him as 'Father Protector of Capitalism and Peace' or, perhaps, simply as 'Enlightened One.'  I'm sure that you've heard what kind of things can happen should Mr. Adelson begin to feel unappreciated or otherwise uncomfortable during an interview like this one."  Miss Grey stared out the window as she droned on and on.

The magnate had a very bad, infamous reputation for not tolerating even the most subtle disrespect or defiance from those who were allowed into the inner chamber of the mansion.

"Also, I usually suggest that you compliment 'First Citizen Adelson' on his home and furnishings.  Many of the things you'll see inside came directly from the liberated palaces of Sadam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi.  The 'Prelate Cardinal' considers all of this to be a 'gift from God to the righteous.'"  She added.

"I notice that, while 'First Citizen Adelson' is a practising Jew and a staunch proponent of the expansion of Israeli colonial dominance, many of the the titles are much more Catholic than Jewish.  How did that happen?"  I had to ask.

"As the universally ordained 'Defender of the Sacred Western Freedom,' Cardinal Prelate Guardian Adelson has embraced the authoritarian quality of the Catholic Faith as one which can be useful in the rehabilitation of the country.  His good friend and staunch, indentured supporter, President Romney, completely, totally and energetically agrees with this."  Miss Grey answered.

"Of course, both President Romney and 'Inspired Gift From the God of the Old Testament Adelson' are 'uniters.'  The whole country can now appreciate how much better things have become once the Great Free Market Faith Traditions of Judaic Freedom, Mormon Confidence and Catholic Obedience have been reconciled and amalgamated to found the Faith of the New Prosperity.  Many of us who love 'Prophet and Protector Adelson' as a sort of Earthly Servant to the Deity think of Him literally as Moses' Honorary Brother, and, in fact, He does, occasionally, use Romanized versions of Judaic titles such as 'Rabbinus Perpetualus' when He feels  a need to connect His prophetic qualities to his own heritage." she continued.

By this point my head was spinning.  I frantically searched through the remnants of my cogency for some stable refuge from Miss Grey's glacial barrage of talking points and titles.

The giant limousine had now stopped at the first of the check points.  The assistant to the driver opened the door to allow me to exit.  Once again, Miss Grey acted as if she were the only person in the car.  There was no "Good luck" or "Have a good interview."  Absolutely nothing beyond a blank stare and steely silence filled the passenger compartment.  I suddenly realized that what had seemed to be the woman, Miss Grey, had actually been an android, permanently mounted on that rear seat.  This was the predictable bent of Adelson's paranoia about security.

Clutching the plastic coated sheet with my interview rules, I stripped off all my clothes and carefully placed them in a basket.  One of the guards handed me some poorly fitting orange coveralls and a new pair of thongs, still wrapped in heat shrink film from the Chinese factory where they had been made.

I was hustled into a fresh limousine which had appeared from inside the compound.  This time, the passenger compartment was completely empty aside from myself.  There was an overwhelming presence of some sort of noxious antiseptic gas.

"Adelson Acres" -- actual photo prohibited.  (image source)

Zipping silently along the tree lined approach, within a few minutes the thing  arrived at the castle proper.  Amazingly, the place was completely deserted.  As if in a creepy sort of science fiction script, the limo door opened automatically, closing again when I had stepped out.  The main door to the palace automatically swung open in a similar way as I approached. 

Once inside, the lights in an immense atrium blinked on only after I had stepped inside.  I wasn't sure if it were just my imagination, but I seemed to feel another sweep of powerful x-rays passing through my body.  The thing looked like an out of control Holiday Inn from the 1950's -- one where the facility's decorators enjoyed a permanent contract and just kept going, year after year.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by six large guards dressed in the uniform of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) officers.  They were all bedecked with mirrored sun glasses, and each one held a fully loaded automatic Uzi.  Wordlessly, one gestured that I should walk in the center of a sort of phalanx they had quickly formed around me.  We made our way some distance through the entry chamber of the mansion to a heavily fortified steel door with two more guards standing on either side.

The soldiers saluted each other, and one of the guards at the door checked his watch.  He informed the guards in my escort that the door would unlock in 90 seconds, at which time, I was to be escorted inside.

When the massive door opened, I could see that it was quite similar to a bank vault.  Once inside, the thing rolled closed again almost at once.

I found myself in another grand room which must have been a hundred yards long and twenty or thirty yards wide.  The decor in this inner chamber was even more grotesque than the unsettlingly tasteless atrium had been.  I now understood just how many "decorative items" His Grace had lifted from the ruins of the liberated Hussein palace in Baghdad.

Throne Room for His Grace -- actual photo prohibited (image source)

There were gigantic mirrors along a colonade set into both walls.  Giant paintings, most darkened to illegibility by age, punctuated the glaring reflection of huge, overly done, overly bright chandeliers which dangled in a string down the center.  There were sculptures, but every one of them was of too small a size for the burden of balance in the room.  It was impossible to even speculate what they might have represented from this distance.

Everything which hadn't been stolen from one of Sadam's wrecked palaces was just as cheap as everything which had been stolen.  Things seemed uniformly, well, greasy.

The immense room was clearly divided into "regions."  As one moved from the entrance toward the far end of the place, a series of three dias-like steps ascended from the floor where I stood to a gaudy, Sadam-style throne at the top.  Next to the throne proper was an ever so slightly less magnificent, ever so slightly smaller throne with the Presidential Seal clearly visible on the chair's back.

Looking quickly around the gigantic room, all sorts of other unexpected things could be seen.  For example, off to one side, a row of uniformly clad "brokers" sat at a long row of desks making trades based on information displayed on a series of computer screens.  Each one wore a green visor and rubber bands on each sleeve of the white long sleeve shirt which was clearly the uniform of the day.

Over their heads, a huge computerized board displayed a constant total of Magnate Adelson's wealth in dollars.  When the number was increasing, the screen was green, and when the numbers decreased, the characters turned a blood red.  I watched as a subtle trade made somewhere along the row of desks impacted the "rate of profit."  A clanking, mechanical red arrow advanced along a track at the bottom of the screen until it pointed down at one of the traders.

An obnoxious little bell rang once when the arrow stopped.

The man's face was instantly filled with abject terror.  He looked around to his fellow workers, desperately seeking assistance from any of them, but, pointedly ignoring his predicament, they steadfastly continued their frenzied infatuation with the trading screens.  From no where three more of the IDF clad guards in sun glasses appeared, roughly snatching the man at whom the arrow had pointed.  I saw the glint of a syringe in the dimly lit place, the man collapsed, a frightened young replacement scurried in to take his seat and the now unconscious victim was quickly dragged away.

Adelson, himself, sat, uninterested in the events on the floor three levels below his great chair.  He was wrapped in a hideous, multi-colored cape heavily bedecked with jewels and satin ribbons.  All of the jewels looked quite real.

A man who looked very much like a Swiss Papal guard stepped forward onto the middle level of the dias, loudly thumping his ornate, ceremonial peltate as if to catch my attention.  Another, lesser, toadie scuttled quickly to remove a kneeling cushion which had been left before the throne on the room's floor level by the last supplicant.  This signalled permission for me to approach.  At last my interview was to begin in earnest.

I was frantically reviewing all the flood of possible titles in search of the best choice.  Adelson himself seemed to be drilling through my face with eyes like bottomless black pits.  As it turned out, my hesitation was actually an elementary display of reverence and protocol.

The man on the throne began to speak.  It was clear that his voice was being amplified by some unseen mechanism, probably something hidden among the the gilded gargoyles and glitter of the throne itself -- it seemed to boom after it was broadcast through the myriad of speakers around the dias, but the words were also awkwardly delayed from the physical motion of the man's mouth and lips.

I frantically looked down at the interview guidelines which Sheldon's protocol secretary had provided to me in the limousine.

"First Citizen Monsignor, thank you for granting me the honor of an interview. My first question deals with Your Eminence's selection of MeanMesa.  Can You explain why such a small outlet as MeanMesa was chosen over some larger, grander media enterprise?" I began nervously.

"WE have chosen MeanMesa exactly because it is a small, inconsequential and inconspicuous media outlet which will provide an opportunity to measure the public response to OUR latest decisions.  Today, WE are announcing several important new policy decisions, and WE are mildly interested in a small sampling of the public response."  The amplified sound which now seemed to ooze from every corner of the entire dias was irritatingly detached from the man's which could now be heard faintly through the amplified signal.  It seemed as if Adelson was saying everything twice.

"Your Grace, will you now indulge me with the announcements You've decided to make?"  My efforts at appearing sincerely scraping seemed to placate Adelson.

"Yes, WE shall.  You remember to report exactly what has been said here just as MY protocol secretary, Ms. Grey, has instructed you.  You will report these two announcements in the order you have received them."  The magnate boomed.

"Of course, my Duke.  I am Your eager servant for all such matters."  I thought that the faux humility in this response was particularly pungent.

"Very well then.  Pay careful attention so there will be no mistakes or confusion.  First, the people of the United States have expressed a complete eagerness and an entirely favorable opinion with respect to the immediate invasion and liberation of Iran.  Thousands and thousands of the nation's teenagers will be leaving their expensive and ineffective high schools for military training in the next few days following the President's order for a general mobilization."  He was obviously reading from some sort of tele-prompter although none was visible from where I was standing.

"But Highness, it seemed as if the American people had grown tired of Middle Eastern Wars.  Does President Romney actually intend to issue an order like this?"  Afterwards, I realized that I had asked the question too quickly, but the announcement had taken me by surprise.

"Naturally, President Romney completely agrees with my idea that this will be the best possible course.  Both he and I understand that immediate ground war with Iran will permanently solve the unemployment problem for this conscript age group in the US.  I've asked a few of MY own friends and acquaintances about the proposal.  At first, some seemed reluctant, but when WE spoke further about dividing up the liberated oil reserves, opinion settled into a strong positive.  This is clearly the will of the American people.  It's the job of tiny germs like MeanMesa to make it even more popular -- or else."  Now it was impossible to tell if Adelson was still continuing to read his prompter or had simply slipped into bombast.

"Of course, Excellency.  Is there more?"  He had mentioned two announcements before the war proclamation.

"Yes.  The President and the Congress have decided to further elevate the Baroness Bachmann du Minesotaya to the official position of Royal Queen Princess  Michele I as a token of their great appreciation of Her work for the furthering of democracy in the Republic.  Her escort will become Marguis Marcus. The Coronation for the Royal Bachmann Family will be this evening.  For security reasons, no commoners will attend."  The old bird continued.

Royal Princess Michele I, Adelson's Queen of Iran (image source)

"Royal Queen Princess Michele I, Glorious Protector of the Faith,  will be installed as the Rightful Absolute Monarch of the new Kingdom of Iran once OUR armies have established ownership there."

There was a pause.  Adelson seemed to be staring through me even more than before.  He was clearly thinking of anything he wished to add to the MeanMesa story.  Finally, I cautiously broke the gloomy silence.

"MeanMesa is, naturally, always eager to fulfil its duties as a responsible media outlet, Lord Protector of Democracy. Will there be anything further?"

"There remains just a few minor details to be noted.  An appreciative Congress has passed a new bill which makes it a felony to report any news whatsoever about OUR Chinese connections, about OUR tax returns or about dogs on station wagons.  President Romney has wisely signed this into law this morning."

"You weren't thinking of mentioning this in your MeanMesa report were you?"

"Oh no!  Of course not, Prophet Prelate Adelson!  MeanMesa will only be reporting the facts which have been officially approved for reporting."  I rushed to reassure the magnate before he spun off into one his lethally dangerous little tantrums.

"Very well then.  This interview is finished."  The magnate signalled to someone behind the drapes which framed the throne.

The amplifying system scratched off line loudly as my personal phalanx of heavily armed guards quickly reappeared around me.  Following the instructions in the protocol for the audience, I carefully took three steps backwards, bowed deeply and turned to walk out of the throne room.  The clang of the massive steel door closing and the hum of the steel rods sliding into the bomb proof frame actually sounded reassuring.

The remainder of this tale is of little importance here.  The trip back to Galactic Headquarters was uneventful, but upon arriving it was obvious that the entire staff of MeanMesa had been removed and replaced with a strange, thuggish bunch with nearly opaque sun glasses and very, very little to say.

As MeanMesa visitors can see, this story was carefully and accurately reported.