Creativity: Creating Memorable Characters

With the incredible success of my new novel, The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 1: Archipelago, released only two weeks ago but already peaking at #11,496 on Amazon’s Fiction/Coming of Age/Fantasy/Zombies /High School Cheerleader/Romance best-seller list, people often ask me:

“John, how do you come up with your characters?”

First, I drive my Mercedes to a local ramen restaurant, where not only do they have great meals, but I can get my kitchen knives sharpened.

I walk in and sit down. I say something in Japanese. They just roll their eyes.

An eighty-five-year-old lady is across from me, slumped over at her table. She might be breathing but I don’t see how, with her face immersed in the bowl of noodles.

I picture her as a twenty-year-old university student, dressed in either sexy lingerie from Fredericks of Hollywood, or a Lycra fetish costume purchased from an online store in the West Village. There’s a tennis ball strapped in her mouth.

Now . . . what is she feeling?

Suddenly, an off-duty Japanese police officer drives through the front of the restaurant on a Harley Davidson. There is broken glass and disposable chopsticks everywhere!

Inspiration!

And the plot thickens.

I thought the police officer had tattoos on his arms but they are just temporary removable sheer hosiery tattoos he picked up in Thailand, while on his police precinct’s annual sex tourism holiday.

He orders the lunch special, Salty Miso Beef Ramen with Deep-Fried Pork Dumplings on the side. Of course, all the rice you can eat is included . . . and it’s free!

Now I hear the sound of a helicopter hovering overhead. Understandably, my first instinct is that it must be Navy Seals either conducting exercises or mounting a raid. There are so many suspicious people everywhere you look these days. Especially here in Japan!

But no, it’s a medical rescue team. Four paramedics tethered to long nylon ropes drop down onto the street out front. They rush into the restaurant. The first medic through the door grabs the old lady’s hair. He violently yanks her head out of the bowl of ramen, then gagging, gives her mouth-to-mouth. But it’s too late. Her wind pipe is clogged with congealed noodles. She is dead.

While they drag her body out of the restaurant to hoist it into the helicopter, some young boys, probably elementary school age, are passing. Several of them are taunting a pathetic little guy, who unfortunately is cross-eyed and suffers acute lymphedema. His legs look like pontoons, very unusual for someone his age. The other boys are mocking him by chanting: “Dalai Lama! Dalai Lama!”

Hmm. I don’t get this. Dalai Lama? But I can use it! Sometimes you need something a little off the wall to keep a reader’s attention.

All this time I’ve been slurping away. The food here is truly amazing! My bowl is just about empty, when a huge stabbing pain shoots through my gut. I feel like someone has stuck a samurai sword in my belly button, twisting it like they’re wrapping pasta around a fork.

Food poisoning!

I don’t know why I keep coming here. Every time I eat here __ I mean every time! __ it’s the same thing. I get food poisoning and spend the next six hours . . . well, you know.

My only excuse for this habitual self-sabotage is that this place has been so good for my writing. This is where it all starts. The huge cast of misfits and miscreants that populate my stories are all denizens of the social tapestry of this little hole-in-the-wall soup shop.

I’ll tell you something else. No way am I giving away my secret.

You can try Googling “ramen shops Japan” if you like.

Ha! Good luck finding it.

______________________________________________________________

The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 1: Archipelago

Apple (iBook) . . . bit.ly/1ycltFD
Amazon (Kindle) . . . amzn.to/1tyIRiw
Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/ZDnQVO
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/1w62HOX
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1r6qWYQ

Posted in Books, Creativity, Food, Nihilism, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creativity: The Writing Process

With my brand new book, The Man Who Loved Too Much, Book 1: Archipelago __ my sixth novel! __ arriving this month, people sometimes ask me:

“John, how do you get inspired to write?”

First, I turn on the fan. Then I suddenly realize I that forgot to take out the garbage. So I do that. Of course, now I see there’s all sorts of gunk in the bottom of the garbage container from the tomatoes that went bad and the mushrooms that turned to slime. So I have to clean up that mess.

Finally, I pour a cup of coffee and sit down to write. Oops! Forgot to check my FB account. Whoa!!  87 new notices.  People loved that video I posted of a kitten chasing a rhinoceros. Hmm. Bad news. It looks like over 30 people deleted me as a friend. Cold! What did I do? Could it have been the blog I wrote about Mitt Romney being a pedophile?

I’m exhausted.  Writing sure takes it out of me.

I decide I need a nap.  I’ll get 20 winks, wake up fresh, ready to really roll!

I try to sleep.  But they are slaughtering a yak next door, beating it to death with garden rakes.  You’d think they could come up with a more humane way to kill the thing.  Jeeez!

I take a sip of wine from a newly opened bottle to try to relax.  I decide to just finish the whole thing off.

The next few hours are a blank.  I wake up in the bathtub.  I’m hugging a bag of fertilizer. The doorbell is ringing.

I run to see who it is.  Ah!  The post man.  My new Fiction Writing software has arrived. Excellent!  This could be the shot in the arm my career needs.

I spend the rest of the day trying to install the program.  My Windows laptop keeps giving me error messages.

The library catalog file ‘clusterfck.dll’ is missing. Please reinstall operating system.

After five hours of this, I am famished!

I head down to the drive-thru window for Magic Rainbow Happy Luck.  It’s Chinese fast food.  But they refuse to serve me because I’m on a bicycle.  I go inside.  Everything is in Chinese.  I order something by pointing.  They bring me monkey entrails on a croissant. Not very appetizing.

This would be a total waste of time, except thinking ahead, I brought my computer. Munching away, being careful to keep the blood and grease from dripping into my keyboard, I begin . . .

Once upon a time, there was a large tree in the middle of an island. A boy of eleven years old leaned against it. A stranger approached him from behind. The boy turned. The man was wearing a ‘Mitt Romney for President’ button.

Alright!

Now we’re getting somewhere.

______________________________________________________________

The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 1: Archipelago

Apple (iBook) . . . bit.ly/1ycltFD
Amazon (Kindle) . . . amzn.to/1tyIRiw
Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/ZDnQVO
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/1w62HOX
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1r6qWYQ

Posted in Books, Creativity, Nihilism, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ten Commandments For The New American Century

First Commandment: THOU SHALT TAKE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS

No money in politics. Zero! First, people should stand up and declare unequivocally they will not vote for anyone who takes ANY money from corporations, lobbyists and PACs. Then, down the road, by having elections 100% financed out of public funds, we can build a democracy where our legislators might actually have some time to legislate. It is common knowledge, most federal office holders spend enormous amounts of time raising funds and worrying about winning the next election, instead of doing the job we voted them in office to do. Let’s end this right now!

Second Commandment: THOU SHALT HONOR CHOICE AT THE POLLS

It’s time to institute instant run-off voting. This will allow minor party candidates to run at all levels of government without the understandable fear that a voter is throwing away her or his vote. Our current system has, as Ralph Nader has been saying all along, turned into a choice between Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. Without real choice, meaning a range that covers the entire spectrum of political opinion, democracy becomes a sham, and purely an exercise in futility.

Third Commandment:  THOU SHALT RESPECT THE COMMONS

Right off, we need to re-establish a commons. So much of what constitutes the foundation for a functioning society has been privatized __ prisons, education, utilities, mail, roads, bridges. And it hasn’t worked out well, has it? The nation’s infrastructure is a shambles. There are some basic things we should all be able to have free and open access to, facilities and services which should not be at the mercy of the so-called free market: education, clean air and water, energy, health care, retirement security, the INTERNET, police, fire and ambulance services, nutrition and mental health counseling. This is not socialism.   It’s having a country that works.

Fourth Commandment: THOU SHALT PUT MONEY CREATION AND THE CONTROL OF THE NATION’S CURRENCY BACK INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN

The control and issuance of currency must be returned to the federal government. The Federal Reserve is no more “federal” than Federal Express, and as a result America is now hostage to private banks and we rapidly becoming their serf-slaves. Either nationalize or abolish the Federal Reserve and return creation of our fiat currency to the people of America, regulated by a legitimate, functioning system of representative government.

Fifth Commandment: THOU SHALT LIVE BY RULE OF LAW

We have a two-tiered legal system, a gentle one for the privileged, a brutal one for the rest of us. The oligarchs do what they want unfettered by pesky laws. Sometimes the same laws are used to restrain and incarcerate the rest of us. Same thing on an international level. Two tiers. The U.S. bullies the world, ignoring treaty obligations and international law, treating other countries as vassal states. But it uses the same legal instruments as a bludgeon, holding every other nation’s feet to the fire with sanctions, UN resolutions, trade agreements __ whatever__ when it serves our interests, or more accurately, the interests of the corporations who are really setting the agenda. This gross hypocrisy is creating enemies everywhere. We are long overdue to again respect the law, apply it equally and fairly across the board, both at home and around the world.

Sixth Commandment: THOU SHALT REIN IN CAPITALISM

A nice breeze on a clear spring day __ good! . . . A level 5 hurricane that destroys vast swaths of dwellings and kills countless people __ bad! . . . Surfer and swimmer-friendly waves lapping up on a sandy beach __ good! . . . A tsunami crushing whole towns with a 100 foot wall of terrifying force __ bad! . . . Sunlight from hydrogen fusion nurturing our planet with gentle rays of light and warmth __ good! . . . An inferno of hydrogen fusion raining down on cities across the world as mammoth nuclear bombs, destroying the entire human race __ bad! We mostly tend to agree that capitalism provides a powerful engine to drive development and progress. But too much of it and societies are crushed, democracies destroyed, vast numbers of people are relegated to serf status. Other countries have strict regulation and state control to check the ravaging effects of unfettered capitalism. Now it’s America’s turn. Either we rein it in or we can kiss good-bye our once-great country as it descends into the dustbin of history.

Seventh Commandment: THOU SHALT MAKE CORPORATIONS SERVANTS OF THE GREATER GOOD

It will be tough but the whole bogus concept of corporate personhood must be expunged. Totally voided. It was put in place by devious methods and now must be rooted out. In general, it’s way past time to drastically restrict the charters of corporations, such that the interests of people are balanced with the pursuit of profit. This is the way it used to be in the early days of our nation. Back then, corporations were set up for specific and usually public-spirited projects, assigned a very narrowly defined charter and a fixed duration. When whatever was supposed to get done got done, the corporation was dissolved. Maybe we don’t have to return to such a limited implementation in our modern world, but we do have to require that corporations serve the common good. It is entirely legal to dictate that corporations act responsibly and take into account the needs of the community they serve, especially the communities where they reside. We have to elect individuals who are not in the pockets of the corporations and have them re-write the laws for doing the business of America. If the multinational behemoths don’t like it, let them set up in China, Vietnam or Bangladesh. That’s where they already have their factories anyway. Ultimately this will not harm the economy, it will create a society which is healthy and prosperous for everyone.

Eight Commandment: THOU SHALT PROMOTE PEACE AND BE LOVED AGAIN

America must be taken off of a war footing. The high-alert status both at home and around the world is nothing more than highly destructive fear-mongering. It is used to promote a belligerent self-sabotaging approach to international relations. It’s the product of a grossly delusional neocon imperialistic agenda which Americans don’t support __ “exceptionalist” chest-beating which fills the coffers of the defense contractors but bankrupts the rest of us both financially and spiritually. We’ve meddled and bombed enough. It has accomplished nothing and created more problems and more enemies than we had before we decided that military force was the only way to deal with disagreements and crises in the world. It has also subjected the American people to unprecedented and unconstitutional levels of surveillance and a gross abrogation of our rights as citizens. Time to try peace and cooperation instead of threats and bullying.

Ninth Commandment: THOU SHALT RESPECT MOTHER EARTH

Enough silly arguing and tiptoeing around climate change. It’s happening, it could destroy the human race. It will without a doubt reduce civilization to a shell of its former glory and sophistication. Let’s get to work. Global warming and resource depletion represent the greatest threats to mankind in recorded history. Responsible use of resources and creation of sustainable sources of energy are not only necessary, but could be the greatest unifying force ever! Brainstorming and planning will create a monumental paradigm shift and the subsequent implementation of our collective ingenuity will create jobs and bring together behind a common purpose, a world which is torn by divisiveness, fear, suspicion, anger. Though time is quickly running out, the challenge of a planet in crisis doesn’t have to end in total disaster. On the contrary, this could be a historic opportunity for a massive global initiative __ one of renewal and fellowship.

Tenth Commandment: THOU SHALT LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD

The rich and powerful have had a good run. The party is over. The wealthy should start paying back the country which gave birth to their monumental success. Inherited wealth does not give back to the community, the social and political environment that supported the accumulation of all that money. Tax it at 95% above $5 million. The heirs of the Koch brothers will just have to squeak by on their $5.2 billion. Capital gains? Capital gains is income. Tax it at the same rate as personal income. Speaking of which __ time to return to the progressive tax rates of the 60s and 70s. You know them. The ones which resulted in a thriving economy! Massive tax reform across the board is in order, closing of all loopholes, penalizing off-shoring of profits, and the complete elimination of corporate welfare. Do I hear screaming of ‘SOCIALISM!’ out there? Get a life! Yes, this is redistribution of wealth. It’s been going on for thousands of years. It’s what makes a functioning society possible.

I confess, I’m not up to speed on my Bible studies. But I remember hearing at some point, there were originally twenty commandments. I guess our good guy, Moses, lost a tablet or two on his way down from the mountain.

I take this as meaning there’s room on my list for even more. So let’s come up with some ideas for Commandments 11 – 20. All reasonable and constructive ideas are welcome.

I’ll bet there’s a little Moses in everyone just hankering to bust out.

Come on. Go for it!

Let’s make America great again.

Posted in Banking, Corporatism, Deconstruction, Democracy, Political Analysis, Social Commentary, War and Peace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bye-Bye Miss American Pie

I love pie charts!

They are so deliciously informative. A good pie chart makes statistics so digestible!

The short and sweet of it is this:

There are 400 incomprehensibly wealthy people in America who have more money and property than the 150,000,000 individuals in the bottom half of our population. The .000133% vs. 50%!

The now infamous 1% controls 43% of America’s vast riches. And their share is increasing daily.

By the way, I got the pie chart already baked and ready for consumption from an article that appears at the website for the Curry County Democrats based in Brookings, Oregon. You can read the whole article here, and I thank them for their tasty work.

Of course, unlike a lot of the social and political crimes against the average American by our corporate-government oligarchical junta, income inequality is no secret.

Elizabeth Warren has railed against it. Obama has thrown his expensive hat into the ring. Even the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, has expressed alarm, a plea for sanity which was more twerking than real love.

From the people themselves, Occupy Wall Street created the most viral meme in modern history __ the 1% vs. the 99% __ but we saw how that ended up. The 1% brought some big guns to the skeet shoot and the clay pigeons turned to dust.

There is hope. But it’s down the road. The house of cards, aka the American economy, will collapse and the people at the top will have the furthest to fall.

In the meantime, we can expect more of the same. Which means more to them and less to the rest of us, the slobbering masses who amble idly like anesthetized sheep outside their gated communities and opulent private estates.

I will say this. The well-fed titans of economic tyranny at the top get paid well to stick it to the rest of us. As this graphic shows (sorry it’s not a pie chart but more of a stale cracker), the income ratios between CEOs and their worker-slaves in America is ridiculously out of sync and beyond excessive!

When looking at the obsessive hoarding and soul-numbing, society-gutting greed of our privileged patrons of profligacy, we have to ask ourselves: What is the point?

Yes . . . what is the point?

To paraphrase that classic song by Don McLean . . .

I remember when the music died
That was the day that I cried

R. I. P. . . . the American Dream.

Posted in Corporatism, Deconstruction, Democracy, Nihilism, Political Analysis, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Absentee Patriotism

It’s no secret that I am very critical of the policies of this administration, and the general direction America has been taking for the past three decades.

As a result, infrequently but uncomfortably too often, I get this remark from some rabid, myopic super-patriot who gets their understanding of our political system from the box that his hot glue gun came in . . .

“You don’t even live here. You have no right to criticize America.”

It’s one of those battle cries from desperately small minds which on the surface offers some common sense logic but with bare minimum scrutiny falls apart like stale Saltines.

Let’s imagine . . .

It’s 1938 and I am a Jew who has been living in Nazi Germany. I am getting increasingly uncomfortable with developments both locally in my village and nationally. So I leave and become an expatriate, a German citizen living in a foreign country.

While living outside the sphere of the Reich and its pervasive propaganda machine, I see that my discomfort was more than justified, that there are horrible things going on in my home country which threaten not only my fellow Jews, but threaten other individuals and the peace and stability of the whole European continent. I learn from other expatriates about the forced labor and concentration camps, and what appears to be a well-planned program being put in place for the extermination of millions of people. I learn of a massive build-up of military machinery which portends provocations of neighboring countries and promises massive military confrontation.

Are the people who question my now living overseas saying I would have had no right to warn people about the developments I had learned about? That I was disqualified by my foreign mailing address from speaking out against the policies of “my country”? That I would not have had the right to at least warn other Jews __ my fellow citizens __ and urge them to escape as soon as possible or face possible extermination?

I would argue that not only would I have the right to be critical of my country, I would have a moral obligation, a duty to do so, openly and aggressively.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”  -  Edmund Burke

Am I making a comparison between today’s U.S. and Nazi Germany?

Yes and no. Of course, anytime anyone wants to provoke a hysterical public outcry on any matter these days, they just yell ‘Nazi’ or ‘Hitler’ or ‘holocaust’ and the knee jerk response is right there for the having. That’s not what I’m doing here. The U.S. is slowly descending into a form of autocracy, a totalitarianism quite unlike Nazi Germany in many respects. But I believe it is potentially as thoroughly and ultimately menacing.

We can fret and argue about whether that’s correct but that’s not the point I’m making.

The simple point here is that, regardless of where I live or choose to travel, I share with every other American citizen the duty to keep a watchful eye on what my government is doing in my name, and to speak out when and where I see objectionable plans, policies, declarations, or provocative acts towards other countries. It is especially incumbent on me __ it is my responsibility as a citizen __ to share from out here what is not available from within U.S. borders, because of what is clearly massive censorship of the news there by the government and main stream media, which have become Siamese Twins joined at the pocketbook.

It is particularly my duty to warn others in America who are not as I am in a position to live elsewhere, of developments which portend the worst and pose threats to them.

We all see the signs. Often we don’t know what to make of them. The incessant puerile prattle of politicians and pundits creates a constant stream of obfuscation and confusion.

But it is the duty of every single American citizen to try to make sense of our increasingly precarious situation, and to share their insights with their fellow citizens. It is our duty to call out the official lies, the gross imbalance of power, the horrific inequality of wealth, the ongoing and systematic efforts by our government to promote and prosecute in our names policies and initiatives, foreign and domestic, which if the public had full knowledge of, it would steadfastly reject.

It takes a lot of courage these days to speak out against the government, especially the current administration, which has done a phenomenal job of PR and spin, and certainly makes no secret of its intent to squash dissent in America.

Yet, despite massive surveillance of citizens by the security agencies, the watch lists, the no-fly lists, the kill lists, the persecution of whistle blowers, the beatings and arrests which the most peaceful demonstrators now endure at the hands of the police, the suspension of habeas corpus, gross abuses of the FISA Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, there are still many courageous individuals and organizations which continue the daunting but necessary battle to expose the deeply entrenched and dangerous corruption which now poisons our system of government.

I make no claims to be on the same level as these exemplary patriots, speaking truth to power under the threat of persecution, an unconstitutional repression of free speech and basic human rights, the whole of which is more and more is beginning to exhibit parallels with some of the more oppressive regimes in history.

Right or wrong, I’m just an ordinary citizen merely doing my duty.

Just like you.

I watch. I listen. I speak out. I vote.

I do what little I can.

I wish it were more.

Posted in Democracy, Political Analysis, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Starts With ‘C’ Rhymes With Dancer

I often get very frustrated with politics. So I  do understand why people prefer to look the other way, though indifference and ignorance lubricate the self-destructive mechanisms which I believe are taking us towards either World War III, economic collapse, social Armageddon . . . or all of the above.

At the same time, there is so much which is confusing, horrifying, nauseating, just plain stupid and wrong, it’s impossible to keep up with all of it. Most crises seem so far away,  not relevant to the day-to-day business of just trying to survive and keep our heads above water. ISIS, the Ukraine, China, Afghanistan, Palestine, all place a distant nineteenth to paying the mortgage, feeding ourselves, trying to put clothes on our backs that don’t disintegrate in the laundry, keeping the neighbor’s dog from pooping on the lawn.

Regardless of how consequential all of these international disturbances may ultimately be, the simple truth is they don’t hit home until they hit home. The primary reason Americans are now concerned about Ebola is their fear that it may spread in America, understandably so, though chances of infection are pretty remote. But until people started dying inside our own borders, it was just more bad news piled on bad news from “somewhere over there” where bad news seems to grow like mold on an old chunk of cheese in the back of the refrigerator.

Recognizing all of this, I am still very puzzled why people aren’t up in arms about things which are, without a shred of doubt, a clear and present danger to them, right now, right here in our own U S of A. I don’t mean unlikely, remote threats, like the prospect they will be hit by a drunk driver or be the victim of a swarm of killer bees. I refer to very real, very imminent hazards which have the potential to kill them, shortening their lives by many years! Who wants to die before they have to?

In my travels, people ask me why I left the U.S. in 2006. I have a straightforward reply . . .

The political climate and the food.

Both were toxic. Both were poisonous to my health and happiness.

Since I’ve already written over a hundred political rants, here let’s just talk about food.

The food in America is a death warrant.

Maybe not as poisonous as rat poison but ultimately just as lethal.

Some might think I’m being hyperbolic. I don’t think so. Americans are being slowly and methodically undermined by their diet. Meat is chock full of hormones, antibiotics, toxins, often tainted with fecal matter and  various parasites, both viral and bacterial pathogens. Vegetables are often laced with herbicides, insecticides, chemical residues, too often lacking any nutritional value, due to bad farming, and premature harvesting to accommodate supply chains that stretch over continents.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we fill our faces with so much fat and sugar, snacks, sweets, and fast food of every shape and color, it’s amazing the sidewalks aren’t littered with the carcasses of people who have just simply keeled over from the sheer glut.

Beyond all of that, which basically is either a matter of choice __ eating junk food __ or a lack of choice __ the prevalence of unhealthy and contaminated food staples at the market __ I want to focus on one specific issue which I see as emblematic.

How many people can say they haven’t had cancer directly impact either themselves or someone they personally know, perhaps even a close relative or friend?

If you said ‘no’ I would be shocked. According to the American Cancer Society: “In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the US. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths.”

There are certainly many causes for cancer. To whatever degree we can, we try to avoid exposure to carcinogens or anything which causes or encourages the growth of tumors.

But what do we do if we are not allowed to know about a potential source of cancer?

Monsanto has been very effective at suppressing any research findings about the health implications of both its highly lucrative herbicide Roundup and its expanding range of GMO products.

But reports are beginning to surface. This recent one on Roundup brings into focus how dangerous this extensively used, putatively harmless chemical killer is.

GMOs are the evil stepsister of Roundup. Most GMO crops are genetically altered to give them resistance to Roundup, so that the weedkiller can be sprayed on in copious amounts killing the weeds but leaving the edible plants intact and supposedly healthy.

Given the many reports __ here and here are merely a couple references __ coming out of research laboratories from around the world which are suggesting that these genetic modifications are extremely dangerous, posing all sorts of risks, first and foremost among them the promotion of grotesque and potentially cancerous tumor growths, people are requesting that at least the foods containing GMO products be labeled as such.

This is hardly an inconsequential concern. 88% of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. 93% of our soybeans are GMO. Because these and other food plants are the basis for the thousands of processed food products commonly included in the typical American diet, now “70 percent of processed foods in your local supermarket contain genetically modified ingredients.

Mind you, people are not demanding a total ban on GMOs __ though a case can be made for one, at least until it is determined with absolute certainty that these Frankenfoods are safe __ they just want it PUT ON THE LABEL, so they can make an informed decision.

Polls show that 93% of American voters want GMO labeling. 93%! This cuts across the entire political spectrum __ Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Tea Party, liberals, conservatives, anarchists, Free-Tibet-Nuke-The-Gay-Whales Party of Patriotic Polemicists __ a historic and unprecedented consensus. And we can’t even get this done!

Our play-for-pay, follow-the-money, corporate lapdog politicians, from the President, all the way through the entire gutless reeking-with-corruption ranks of Congress, all beholden to the likes of Monsanto, refuse to stand up to the scumbags who put profit before people!

Uh-oh . . . I’m back to ranting about politics.

Sometimes it seems unavoidable, eh?

Anyway, let me wrap this up with a suggestion. While you’re munching away on that corn dog as you drive to your polling place on November 4th, you might want to ask yourself:

“Who should I vote for . . . and what the hell am I eating?!”

Posted in Corporatism, Democracy, Food, Political Analysis, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Will they put a meter on my peter?

Pepsico, Nestlé, Coca Cola, and several other major suppliers have frequently been caught bottling tap water and selling it back to the public under exotic and appealing monikers such as Ice Mountain Water, Aquafina, and Dasani.

Then there’s the former Nestlé CEO, Peter Brabeck making the surreal claim that water isn’t a human right but a foodstuff, claiming it’s just another item we must purchase from corporate profiteers, like padded bras and tennis rackets.

Why did this selfish, narrow-minded corporate manikin even get air time to spout this sort of self-serving nonsense? Why wasn’t he viciously mocked? Why wasn’t he discredited and shamed into hiding so we never have to look at his tanned, country club face as he explains how every aspect of human life must serve rampaging corporate greed?

The drive by corporations to own and monopolize everything is a classic case of . . .

To a hammer everything looks like a nail.

To a corporate CEO, everything is a commodity and an opportunity to make money.

So several giant multinational corporations have unilaterally decided that H2O, which happens to cover 75% of the Earth’s surface and comprises about 67% of the human body, is just another item in their catalog of products.

The heads of these monolithic corporate monsters, who are willing to cannibalize their own species just to make a buck, seem to have forgotten __ or probably never learned __ that in a self-determining system of government, if we decide that everyone has a right to water, then it’s everyone’s right!

Thus, many groups are actively fighting back.

The corporations, naturally, are putting a friendly face on their attempt at absolute control over the Earth’s most abundant single resource. They talk about spearheading and funding conservation efforts, trying to achieve minimum quality standards worldwide, and so on.

They promise profound improvements in the standard of living and the quality of life.

They always do, don’t they?

Corporations can spin it however they want, but having a corporation’s first priority __ the bottom line __ trump every facet, even the most fundamental aspects, of human habitation of the planet is an indisputable recipe for species extinction __ ours.

What can we expect if the corporate coup is tolerated __ even lionized as it is in today’s business press __ and we accept their dysmorphic portrayal of progress?

Will Monsanto file a patent claim on breast milk and every time a new mother wants to nurse her baby, she has to ante up?

Will Pantene trademark hair? So unless you are 100% bald every place on your body, you have to pay a licensing fee for your body hair?

Will GlaxoSmithKline convince the FDA that air should be a prescription item, so that if we don’t wish to suffocate, we’ll have to buy breathing tanks from our local pharmacy?

Will they put a meter on my peter, so that every time I take a wiz or make love to my wife, I have to pay a users fee?

Posted in Corporatism, Democracy, Food, Political Analysis, Political Rant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rod Serling Is Alive!

"Hi, kids! I'm your new English teacher. Let's talk about poetry."

Rod Serling is alive and well!

What’s my proof?

That’s easy!

It’s this article in Great Britain’s The Guardian reporting that:

“School police departments across the U.S. have taken advantage of free military surplus gear, stocking up on mine-resistant armoured vehicles, grenade launchers and scores of M16 rifles.  At least 26 school districts have participated in the Pentagon’s surplus program . . .”

If this isn’t the stuff of the Twilight Zone, I don’t know what is.

Maybe I missed something. But has common sense and asking obvious, quite reasonable questions been outlawed in America?

Take the grenade launchers. Do the geniuses who are arming our schools with weapons of war think that if some psycho is holed up in a classroom holding hostage a bunch of school kids, they’ll just lob some hand grenades in there to flush him out?

And how many kids fit in a MRAP? I know children are small but is it realistic to think you can put 250 elementary students in one of these?

Moreover, as everyone knows from way too many examples, usually the whole thing of killing a bunch of kids goes down in just a few minutes. How long will it take to get this monster truck fired up and out of the garage? Unless this thing is parked in the hall next to the school cafeteria, it’s not going to do the job these school administrators have in mind __ whatever that is.

Parallel to the point I made previously about militarizing our communities, if I were a psycho killer __ and really, I’m not, the many rude comments left on my Facebook page notwithstanding __ and I saw one of these vehicles coming at the school, my attitude would be: “Well, now I’m screwed. Guess I’ll have some fun while I can.”

Then I’d blow away every living thing in sight.

Of course, I don’t personally know Adam Lanza. Maybe if he had spotted a MRAP outside Sandy Hook Elementary School, he would have immediately hugged the kids he hadn’t killed yet, fallen to his knees and repented.

But I really doubt it.

And taking the long view, I just can’t believe that having kids go to schools filled with machine guns, grenade launchers, tasers, MRAPS, heavy artillery and the like, will give them a healthy, wholesome perspective on life. Their world will be so violent, so filled with relentless anxiety and apocalyptic paranoia, with every aspect of human interaction viewed through the lens of killing machines and conflict, their expectations so fatalistic and full of potential horror, their elders __ that’s you and I living in the regime of GWOT and SWAT and MAD and ISIS __ will by contrast look like carefree, frolicsome oompa loompas.

So, welcome to contemporary America, land of the free, the greatest, truly exceptional nation in history, where being totally insane can land you a high paying job running a public school.

Alright . . . I got a little off topic.

Seriously, I merely wanted to wish the best of luck to Mr. Serling on his new high concept reality TV show: Please Don’t Shoot Me, I Only Work Here”.

Keep up the great work, Rod!

Love ya, babe.

Posted in Deconstruction, Nihilism, Political Rant, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Conscious . . . Conscience . . .

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, being ‘conscious’ means being “awake and able to understand what is happening around you.”

And ‘conscience’ is defined as “the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong.”

People who have no conscience because they are unconscious due to no fault of their own can hardly be criticized for their lack of morality __ e.g. the brain dead, coma victims.

People who are fully conscious but have no conscience are often referred to as sociopaths.

People who are fully conscious but consciously or unconsciously destroy their conscience might be categorized as full-blown psychopaths.

My quandary is how do we deal with people who are fully conscious, basically stable and mentally sound, have a conscience, but who ignore what that conscience is saying to them.

# Vietnamese killed in unnecessary and unsuccessful Vietnam War:  882,000

# America soldiers killed in unnecessary and unsuccessful Vietnam War:  58,220

# innocent citizens killed by death squads of U.S. backed El Salvador government: 35,000.

# innocent citizens killed by death squads of U.S. backed Guatemala government:  60,000.

# innocent citizens slaughtered by U.S. backed Indonesian autocrat Suharto:  1,000,000+.

# dissidents killed by Chilean dictator Pinochet installed by U.S. backed coup:  Over 3000.

# Iraqi children starved to death by U.S. sanctions 1993-2000:  500,000.

# Iraqi citizens killed in illegal and unjustified Iraq War:  Over 460,000.

# Afghanistan citizens killed by our unnecessary war there:  At least 18,000.

# innocent citizens killed in illegal drone warfare (Pakistan, Yemen):  400-600

# innocent people killed (so far) in Eastern Ukraine by U.S. installed coup government, one which includes neo-Nazis:  Over 3500.

# innocent people about to be killed in Iraq War 3:  To be announced.

“No man is an island . . . ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Riiiiight!  No man is an island.  Great stuff.  Ha ha.  Totally!  I hear ya, babe!  Boo hoo hoo. Anyone with a violin up for playing “Hearts and Flowers“?

“Exactly what’s your point, John Rachel? . . .

. . . are you in the running for this year’s Bleeding Heart Liberal Award? Mother Theresa and all that cow poop. Maybe you and Bono can do tequila shots in the back of his limo.”

Hmm. What’s this about?

Oh, now I remember!

I’m not in a coma.

Posted in Deconstruction, Philosophy, Political Rant, Social Commentary, War and Peace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Bully Pulpit vs. American Idol

I have long criticized Obama for not using the bully pulpit. When he had the vast majority of the country at his feet after his election in 2008, instead of laying out a positive vision for the country and leading the charge for rebuilding the nation, he embarked on a charm offensive directed at Wall Street, big banks, neoconservative empire builders, and became the Appeaser-In-Chief towards those responsible for the Afghanistan and Iraq disasters, a wink-and-nod apologist for the criminal bankers who crashed the economy in 2008, and a card-carrying member of the inside circle who continue to inflict our country with the fraudulent War on Terror.

It was all in the name of love __ the cuddly love Obama craved from the oligarchs, whose approval was more important to him than the enormous groundswell of support he had from the people. Remember them? The ones who have to work to make ends meet, the ones who see their kids off to school in the morning __ the same ones who flocked to the polls and elected our first black president, duped into thinking he was one of them, a man of the people with their best interests at heart.

In a fascinating analysis of Obama’s presidency that appeared in Truthdig, author David Bromwich discusses what a shallow and self-serving enterprise it has proved to be.

What an understatement.

There is no coherency to this president’s policies. In a clear attempt to promote image as a substitute for substance and apparently with an insatiable desire to be loved by everyone, President Obama often fashions positions totally at odds with one another.

Protect the environment vs. drill baby drill.

World peace vs. bomb bomb bomb.

Individual freedom vs. the NDAA.

Jobs for Americans vs. TPP and TTIP.

To add insult to confusion, in critical areas of leadership, we see policies diametrically opposite to the high sounding and noble words of Obama’s breathtaking rhetoric and crafted public image, offering inconsistencies, even outright hypocrisy and treachery.

You’ve got a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has become a drone assassin.

You’ve got an putative constitutional scholar who using his phenomenal intellectual gifts to trample on the Constitution, squashing dissent, and openly harassing journalists and undermining freedom of the press.

You’ve got a president who spoke eloquently during his first campaign about inclusive democracy and transparency in government __ promising to change the way Washington DC does business __ who has built upon the worst aspects of Bush’s nascent police state and now oversees a vast growing domestic surveillance complex spying on its own citizens. Mr. Openness is classifying record volumes of government documents, restricting citizen access to the workings of our government, conducting questionable military adventures often in secret, fostering aggression against the express will of the American citizenry who have made it very clear they are sick of war and the self-defeating politics of confrontation. Then to top it off he is prosecuting well-meaning whistleblowers at an unprecedented rate.

You got the self-declared “environmental president” who refuses to even attend the Kyoto summits, who is promoting risky East Coast and Arctic drilling, nuclear power, fracking for natural gas, so called “clean coal”, and now boasts about America being the number one oil and gas producer in the world __ so much for concern about climate change.

You’ve got a man who offered the world the outstretched hand of peace in the first months of his presidency, who has since bombed his way into creating more enemies and hatred for America than ever before in our history.

But we get what we pay for. Obama is just another brand, like Cheerios and StarKist Tuna.

We wanted a great president. We got a rock star.

We desperately needed leadership. We got self-aggrandizement.

I will say this. Obama talks a good game. He is incredibly articulate. Charming. Funny. Always gives an Oscar level performance at all of his public outings.

And he is beautiful . . . his wife is beautiful . . . his family is beautiful!

But when presidential elections are run as beauty pageants, talent contest spectacles, when making history is just more reality TV, we can’t expect real leadership. We can only expect a president who struts and works the audience, plays the judges, postures and poses for his fan base, puts on dazzling, crowd-pleasing shows, and soaks up the all the love he can get. We certainly can’t expect thoughtful, principled stands on the vital issues, responding to the greater needs of the country and serving the general welfare of the public.

There’s no business like show business.

And politics has become American Idol.

We no longer look for results. We look for good ratings.

What an epic disappointment. We certainly had high hopes, didn’t we?

There is one thing I will concede. Who can deny it? . . .

He sure looks great in a suit and tie!

Posted in Deconstruction, Democracy, Political Analysis, Political Rant, Social Commentary, War and Peace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments