Sunday, Nov 29th

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There's no bread, but we have circuses

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The corporate media is talking constantly about the lottery, and the potential 2/3 of a billion dollar prize tonight. To their credit they do point out the 176,000,000 to 1 odds and how absurd that is, all the while showing the people lined up for blocks certain they can beat the odds. The people they interview in these lines are all gambling to have the American dream: to pay the bills, send the kids to college, buy a house, help their friends or stray cats, or maybe get their teeth fixed.

A lottery like this is harmless fun in itself, but the tragedy isn’t just the occasional person who spends his or her life savings to buy tickets convinced of the possibility of winning. It’s what our society has come to: that these people are increasingly seen as normal, hopeful people, and not as pathetic. Really, they are the tragic victims of 30 years of Republican economic thinking. For the bottom 80% of Americans, the lottery is their one shot at economic freedom.

When these lotteries started you heard lots of stories about people who spent their life saving because they were sure they could win. You do increase your odds by buying more than one ticket, but not enough to matter. There were even companies formed to buy out all the tickets when the odds were only 50 million to one. It’s physically impossible to do this with the new higher odds.

I’m surprised they don’t raise the odds so high that nobody would ever be likely to win, - they’d still sell tickets. In fact, the states play the lottery too, - the state with the winner gets a nice windfall from the income tax of close to a billion dollars. The state might fill some potholes, but more likely give another tax break to individuals who by themselves make a billion dollars a year, or more, and typically pay no significant taxes.

What to do with that much money if you win? I’ve been giving it some thought, people are always wanting investment advice. The thing is, there is no safe place to put money. Besides the fundamental instability of the crazy situation we find ourselves in, there is a realistic level of paranoia to consider. If you have lots of money you aren’t suddenly allowed past the velvet rope by the one percent’s bouncer.

Having a real money makes you a target for those who make their money by looting and pillaging, they don‘t just go after the middleclass. Even if you invest conservatively, you could wake up one morning and find your investment is now worthless, since most investments today are just paper. Buying hard assets is no guarantee of safety as their value is set by markets that are inflated and then collapse to far lower levels than is realistic.

To be safe with your money, you really need to be in the “too big to fail” class, the people who just “create” money out of thin air, and they don’t let riff-raff like you and me in, no matter how much money we have for now. You weren’t a legacy admission to Yale? Forget about it.

With a couple of hundred million, leaving the country is an option, but you are kidding yourself that you’re really safe. Safety is in numbers, but not the kind on your bank account.


Camp 14, Hitler, and Playing the Odds

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It depends how you view it:  How lucky, or unlucky, can any one person get? Here are two books arguing wildly separate cases, two more books identified as must-reads.  It is uncertain who among us will turn-a-dumbed-down-and-blinded, societal eye to either:  Who will bother to low-crawl beneath the barbed-wire past of one of them -- whose head is not already filled with too many fears regarding America's future to sift through the other?  Odds seem heavy against both.

Taken together, this pair speaks of real-life nightmares, cold, bracing bookends embracing all that is harshly dismal and bleak -- salted with flecks of astonishing insight, peppered with humanity.  If you are worthy of the trek, and can bear up under issues of such formidable size, and can render hefty sighs, these are for you.  The books are compelling and will propel you to pinpoints in time and space where no one will hear you screaming -- or, even if someone should, they themselves might be screaming, too.


Designed To Fail

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Trayvon Martin was killed last month for the same reason Eugene Williams died 93 years ago in Chicago. A white man decided Williams was where a black man shouldn’t be … so he killed him. The white man was tried for Williams' death and acquitted. Trayvon Martin died because The United States of America is still … one evil son of a bitchin’ country to live in if you’re not white.

There are about a dozen holocaust museums in the United States. The largest is The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.. It is dedicated to “helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy.” The most visited exhibit at the Museum is made up of more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, and four theaters showing historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies. Nazi Germany was one evil son of a bitchin’ country to live in if you were Jewish.

9,000 miles from The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is the American War Atrocities Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


Stuff Happens, Cross Your Fingers.

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Humanity has a bunch of rabidly-serious, snarling-mad problems, not the least of which is a god-complex that sooner or later gets in the way, swaggering in, sure we can save the day. Otherwise, humans tend to be binary, mostly switch off, do little to nothing constructive, leaving end-results to The Fates, to an assortment of denominational gods and goddesses.

In the latter scenario, we eventually despair, throw ourselves on the fire of last resort -- Science -- and expect its wizardry to sort everything out, help remove our well-toasted behinds, roasted glutes, and charred butts from the inferno.  The track record here is spotty, maybe 50-50 on a good day, despite some really impressive showstoppers -- returns from the space program, amazing leaps in medicine, too.


Another Steam Plume - Epilog

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More than a month we are now from Trayvon Martin's killing, still unable to get any clean traction of facts amid all the slipping and sliding of local cops tripping all over stand-your-ground laws.  So, here we are, wondering why it is we have to step back to take in this view, a scene that seems pretty cut and dried, simple for anyone to understand why this teenager died.

Racism never likes to announce itself, though. As drivers of action, it's quite retiring, instead preferring to hang in the background, make excuses, nudge other notions closer to the front as reasons for things people do.  See:  Racism understands that if it came right out and spoke its mind, truth would be revealed:  I don't like you because you are different from me.


Another Steam Plume - Part 3

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A Florida teen was killed more than a month ago and no arrest has been made.  Taking of human life without penalty cheapens life, laughs at our laws.  Many people are steamed about this.  We should have pillars of steam rising over our heads, too -- clouds of moisture running away as fast as it can from our great source of heat, we should be scorching, burning up mad over such things.

These killing events are tragic and keep repeating.  We plop bad laws onto the books, imbue them with pet names to make them seem housebroken, like humans are still in control.  These pet peeves, these pests answer to the name of "stand your ground," although "paranoid shooting gallery" would do just as well.


Another Steam Plume - Part 2

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More than a month ago, Trayvon Martin was killed.  We are still trying to find out what happened, precisely, amid cascading failures by local police, temporary steps and side-steps to shore up this or take a peek into that.  The static view to date of these "stand your ground" killings shows us later-stage symptoms of an American disease no longer in remission: Racism.

You need not be an expert to know something has gone terribly wrong in life and liberty here, and feel a cold, clammy, unsettling change in the American character and nation, whatever its superficial and surface appearances may say.


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