Thursday, May 25, 2006

Got Faith?

"The point is that faith, even moderate faith, is pernicious because it teaches that believing something without evidence is a virtue."
Richard Dawkins

Of course, Dawkins is referring to religious faith, but there are all kinds of faith that are at least as destructive – faith that the Iraq War is about anything but oil; faith that America stands for liberty and justice; faith that our elected representatives actually care what we think – and this rampant faith has infested our public discourse so badly that it is impossible to calmly discuss the best course of action for our society.

In Hennepin County, where I live, for example, many people have faith that the newly ratified $500 million Minnesota Twins stadium will generate enough revenue to justify the cost. This is in direct conflict with well-publicized facts. Just across the river in St. Paul, the Chamber of Commerce estimates that fans of the Minnesota Wild NHL franchise generate about $23 million of revenue per season. So at $23 million per season, it would take about 28 seasons to recuperate the $500 million cost of a new stadium. That’s if there are no strikes or steroid controversies or any other interferences with the sports fans’ mindless adulation.

Meanwhile, health clinics that serve the uninsured – around 50,000 strong in supposedly liberal Minnesota – are closing left and right because the legislature rejected an initiative that would have provided them with $1.5 million in grants. We know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, thanks to that notorious liberal, Benjamin Franklin, but far be it from us to put those wise words to use.

Faith – 1
Evidence – 0

This is nothing new, of course, in Minnesota or America. Dumbfucks infatuated with the glory of the ballpark – or the battlefield (or the Elysian Fields) – always prevail over common sense.

In addition to the healthcare crisis alluded to above, Minneapolis’ schools and libraries are also in financial trouble despite the obvious and well documented correlation between education and financial stability.

Faith – 2
Evidence – 0

And the local Ford plant, which has been a source of jobs and revenue since 1924, is also in danger due to soaring gasoline costs and plummeting common sense among Ford’s leadership, which insists upon churning out Rangers and Explorers instead of more fuel efficient vehicles.

But don’t worry. Real estate developers will come to the rescue. You see, they have faith that despite increasing unemployment and diminishing wages, the housing boom will continue unhindered and it will profit all of us to convert the abandoned Ford plant into condominiums.

Faith – 3
Evidence – 0

Next year, Twin Cities residents can look forward to another stadium proposal. This one will benefit the Minnesota Vikings, who just can’t seem to make ends meet in the 60,000 seat Metrodome. A new publicly financed football stadium is just the ticket.

In Major League Losers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who’s Paying for It, Mark S. Rosentraub, of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University, analyzes the finances surrounding publicly financed sports palaces. What he has found in city after city is that public financing of professional sports stadiums provides a dismal return on investment, and that team owners and their minions in government use falsified financial projections to promote the schemes. In the introduction to the book, Rosentraub writes, “A welfare system exists in this county that transfers hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers to wealthy investors and their extraordinarily well paid employees.” Rosentraub also suggests that professional sports leagues use team loyalty against fans who fear of losing the team to another, more deserving city.

Faith – 4
Evidence – 0

But of course, Barry Bonds didn’t check 714 books out of the library; he hit 714 home runs, which allows us to vicariously enjoy his display of testosterone (and other hormones). For those of you who are keeping score, you can see that this is going to be a trouncing. We have faith that the telcom companies don’t want to fuck up the internet for narrow self interest; we have faith that the TeeVee never lies; we have faith that The Big Game isn’t rigged. It’s a collective faith because we share a collective fear of reality.

UPDATE: Make that 715 home runs. Bonds broke Babe Ruth's mark on Sunday, putting him in second place on the all-time home run list, right behind Hank Aaron, but first among prima donna steroid junkies.

UPDATE II: Compare and contrast the new Twins stadium deal with other such corporate bailouts around the nation. Neil deMaus provides the lowdown in the City Pages - the only local publication to critically examine the scheme. Like Major League Losers, mentioned above, deMause's book, Field of Schemes, thououghly debunks the local-profits-through-billionaire-bailout myth. His web site is here.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Caspian Sea Pimps

The Bush Era has been good for Big Oil, and vice versa. Record oil profits are the reward for the massive cash infusions Big Oil pumped into Republican coffers - $27 million in 2000 alone – and Congress’ limp-wristed response to voters’ complaints is customary.

In case you haven’t figured this out yet, the ultimate goal of our mid-east misadventure is the vast, untapped ocean of oil that allegedly lays like a waiting virgin beneath the Caspian Sea. Mini-Mussolinis like this guy and this guy and this guy can’t wait to pimp their constituents and natural resources to these overpaid johns. All that stands in their way is access to international shipping lanes.

The first attempt to bring Caspian Sea oil to market began in the early ‘90s. Unocal led a multinational consortium of public-private entities called CentGas, which was determined to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar.

Desire for stability among Afghanistan’s bickering factions triggered CentGas’ support of the Taliban. When, in 1998, the Taliban balked at the proposed financial arrangements, CentGas pulled out of the deal. In repeated public statements, Unocal blamed the Taliban’s poor treatment of women for the deal’s failure, but the real reason it collapsed is that the Taliban wanted more money for the many services they would be providing, including protecting the pipeline from northern warlords. In 2000, President Bush tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the deal. Shortly thereafter, oil industry support shifted to the so-called “Northern Alliance.”

At the same time, Big Oil turned its greedy eyes to Iraq, which had been weakened by years of sanctions and constant harassment from American and British warplanes. The US and British invasion and subsequent manipulation of ethnic rivalry has produced a power vacuum soon to be filled by a feudal corporate dictatorship disguised as democracy. A succession of pseudo-democratic puppet governments will be the public face of a Halliburton-led borg collective whose goal is the complete assimilation of the Mid-east, or at least the oil-rich portions thereof.

Next stop, Iran.

Plans for the inevitable invasion of Iran have been accelerated due to Big Oil’s fear of losing its grip on Congress in the November mid-term elections. Military preparations for an Iran attack are already in place; all that remains to be done is the production of an adequate bullshit story to justify the action. Be prepared for another massive terrorist attack designed to galvanize public support for military action against Iran. The WMD meme probably won’t work twice – even on America’s bovine press.

Of course, there’s nothing new in any of this. America has a long, long history of incidents in which powerful corporate interests duped the public into supporting nefarious foreign policy. Click here to learn how Panama was created by Wall Street, and here to learn how Big Oil toppled the democratically elected government if Iran once before.

President Eisenhower recognized the threat posed by Big Oil many years ago, but he underestimated their power, writing in a letter to his brother, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Unfortunately, as Ike was writing this, his friends the Dulles Brothers were doing Big Oil’s bidding in Iran and Big Fruit's in Guatemala. But if Ike was right, we won’t be hearing much from the Big Oil Republicans after 2008.

If the last three elections are any indication, however, Diebold, ES&S, GE and Fox have more to do with choosing our leadership than do the voters. But that’s a discussion for another post.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I'm Back. You Can Relax, Now.

Well, I guess it’s time for Big Daddy to crawl out of his cave. Encouraging words from Blue Gal and others have roused me from my hibernation. See, the thing is, my interest in Current Events alternates between morbid fascination and utter disgust, and when I’m in the utter disgust phase, my brain goes into this sub-human mind-lock thing during which I can only utter random syllables – to say nothing of actually typing them onto a computer. It’s kind of like being a guest on the O’Reilly Factor 24/7. The bullshit spews out so fast that my brain can’t process it and the mind-numbing rage takes hold. Not only that, but I’ve got a lazy streak in me a mile wide. Not only that, but I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. Not only that, but so many other bloggers are doing a pretty good job of covering the bases without me – bloggers like this guy, and this guy, and these guys

But the stupidity grows exponentially and the intelligence only grows gradually. What good are bloggers, after all, when the Shiny Happy People in my fair town cannot seem to grasp the concept of NOT DRIVING ON THE LIGHT RAIL TRACKS? They could’ve put the thing underground, but the Shiny Happy People didn’t want to cough up the dough. You see, the Shiny Happy People don’t want mass transit; they want more roads – that is, more venues in which to ostentatiously display their wealth. So they put the thing at street level where the Shiny Happy People are free to drive their SUVs on the tracks while talking about themselves on their cell phones. AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!




Must. Not. Think. About. Useless. Self-absorbed. Yuppy. Dildoes.