Ideology is a Mind Killer

Ideology is a Mind Killer

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Soap Opera of Mexican Politics - What does it Mean for America?

By Mel Carriere

My wife has an extremely nifty smartphone, a Google Nexus 6, that makes me seethe with envy every time I see her with it.  But I know I am not worthy so I suffer along with my very proletariat low end Samsung.

It always takes my wife a while to get the hang of any new gadget.  She is reluctant to punch any buttons on the device, out of fear that it will explode in a mushroom cloud of malicious computer viruses that will affect not only her phone, but all the electronic devices in the house and possibly even wriggle their way into her cerebral cortex.  It is amusing to watch her index finger orbit in tight circles above an icon for half a minute before she finally has the nerve to press it.

But once she gets it, she gets it good and is reluctant to give the darn thing a rest.  She stays up late at night watching You Tube videos on the Nexus's extremely large screen, which is actually bigger than that of a portable TV I used to carry with me.  Lately her curiosity has been piqued by the scandal occurring in her native Mexico surrounding The President of Mexico, his first lady, and a majestic 7 million dollar residence in an exclusive place called Lomas de Chapultepec, overlooking Mexico City.  My wife can't get enough of this controversy, and her tired phone has been working overtime.

The scandal that Mexico finds itself embroiled in is of Soap Opera-ish proportions, which is appropriate because the First Lady of the Republic, Angelica Rivera, who you see above frolicking in the agave fields with a husky Tequila magnate, was a famous Soap Opera star before forswearing cheap theatricals in favor of the fame, prestige, and allegedly obscene wealth associated with being the wife of the Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.  Although some complain the first lady's qualifications are beneath those required for her lofty position, her husband's intelligence and educational level are well below the standards typically associated with being the leader of a country of 122 million.  He was recently quoted as saying that the battle of Puebla, which occurred on the fifth of May, 1862, and featured musket-wielding dragoons dispatched by the Emperor of the French Napoleon III, actually took place in the year 1995.  Apparently the honorable President was never invited to a Cinco de Mayo party before 1995, hence the confusion.  That's okay, we here in the US can't boast about the intellectual achievements of our Presidents either, having endured George W. Bush's mumbled malaprops for 8 years.

Anyhow, the scandal threatening to dethrone the President of Mexico surrounds the 7 million dollar Chapultepec mansion, which was probably gifted to him by a conglomerate called Grupo Higa, to whom he awarded a cushy 652 million dollar contract while serving as the governor of the state of Mexico.  In a crude and misguided attempt to dispel the scandal, Pena Nieto had his wife Angelica Rivera appear on television to read a very arrogant Marie Antoinette inspired "Let the peasants eat cake" style speech in which she claimed the mansion was purchased with her hard earned Soap Opera bucks and was, therefore, not anybody's business.  Nobody believes her, and now the Pena Nieto presidency may be on the verge of collapse.

Meanwhile, over here on the North side of the Rio Grande, the average American doesn't seem to care or even be aware of the tumultuous political climate in Mexico.  Could it be that we Yanquis are being deliberately kept in the dark over events that threaten to disrupt our south of the border neighbor so that we will continue to assume the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 (one year before the Battle of Puebla, per Pena Nieto) was a complete success and an economic boon for all signatories; these being The United States, Canada, and Mexico?  Is the ominous reality behind the potentially explosive political and economic situation in Mexico perhaps being played down to dampen criticism of another trade agreement; the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) we are about to enter into with the big economic players of the Pacific Rim?

Some of you following the progress of the TPP at home might find it about as hard to swallow as the wild, raving assertions of a sultry Mexican Cinderella Soap Opera star turned Queen of a kingdom by the wave of a magic wand who now fumbles and fidgets desperately on camera as the stroke of midnight arrives and the carriage is about to turn back into a pumpkin.  At least one potential US Presidential candidate, who might very well know the correct years of his country's major battles, shares your doubts.  This is former Maryland Governor Democrat Martin O'Malley, a definite dark horse underdog in the 2016 Presidential contest, a man whose candidacy appears to be lost in the irrepressible onslaught of the hordes of Hillary hashtaggers.  We all know his opponent Ms. Clinton had a Soap Opera-ish spouse as well; this being her husband Bill, whose romps with Monica Lewinsky seem to have been pulled right out of a Mexican telenovela; featuring long, sticky cigars instead of tequila, of course.  But before we get carried away trying to mimic Mexico by mailing in our Hillary-stamped ballots right now, perhaps we should consider what this intelligent, articulate man O'Malley had to say on a recent National Public Radio interview about free trade agreements in general and the TPP in particular.  I don't hear Hillary expressing concerns over this treaty, and it makes me think that we, like the Mexican electorate, are being hypnotized by the melodramatic glamour of our Soap Opera politicians.

The Martin O'Malley NPR Interview

For Enrique

The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other evil corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap.  Therefore, unless the ads to the right and below completely annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.

Image from:

Battle of Puebla from:  "Batalla del 5 de mayo de 1862" by Anonymous - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Is the War on Terror a Cover for the War on the Working Man?

By Mel Carriere

No I haven't turned food blogger.  Even if I was a food blogger I could certainly find something more appetizing to write about than these disgusting smoked fish a la Euro that the English like to scarf down with their afternoon tea and crumpets.

No, the reason I included this pic of a Red Herring is because a blogging friend of mine recently wrote a post about the origin of the term "Red Herring" where it refers to "...something that misleads or distracts from an important issue (Oxford English Dictionary)."  Nobody is really sure where the term comes from.  I'm not sure that many people outside of a handful of Asperger's linguistically obsessed neckbeards like me really care, but the expression has become embedded in our language, and it rears its smelly smoked head at times to point to an insidious, equally smelly smokescreen that politicians and corporate goons use to hide something even more dangerous and malignant behind.

The Red Herring once again flopped out of its fine kettle of fish recently during the nuclear negotiations with Iran.  The politicians that oppose a peace deal with Iran are desperate to preserve this particular Red Herring they use to cover up their agenda to cut the pay, remove the jobs, and destroy the rights of working people and remove them far away from their luxurious Rhode Island mansions and into festering tenement houses a la 19th century, where perhaps the only thing the peasants will be able to afford to eat are these obnoxiously distasteful red herrings.

While we were busy fighting the Red Herring War on Terror the unemployment rate went up as more and more jobs were exported to Bangladesh and more and more engineers were imported from Bangladesh to design things on the cheap.  While we were busy fighting the war on terror wages went down, increasing the income disparity between the rich and poor to the highest level in recent history.  While we were busy fighting the war on terror Americans were convinced that Unions were part of the problem instead of the solution, so we allowed their power to slowly wither away as part and parcel of the plot to bomb Baghdad into oblivion several times over, because those darned Ay-rabs are obviously hiding boogeymen in every basement that will pop out of the shadows and somehow swim with all their goats across thousands of miles of ocean to destroy our freedoms if we let them.

The Corporate plot to destroy the working man doesn't work without a good boogeyman.  The boogeyman keeps children scared and makes them turn their complete focus to distant, unrealistic fears that really have nothing to do with the task on hand.  "If you don't clean your room the boogeyman will get you," we warn them.  "If you keep asking me to up your allowance the boogeyman will sneak out from under your bed in the middle of the night and grab you."  "If you don't keep your focus on Iraq, Iran and Taliban those boogeyman they will sneak out of your closet when you're not looking and trample your family values."  Meanwhile those boogeyman-baiters are the ones who sneak into our closets in the middle of the night and steal our stuff because they've got us all afraid to poke our heads in there to see what that strange noise bumping around in the middle of the night really is.

Enough of this smelly, smoky red herring.  I want a real piece of meat, but at $9 an hour who can afford it?  Let's round up the real boogeymen and let them eat their disgusting canned fish for lunch.

Image from:

Here is the link to my friend Linda Crampton's article on the origin of the term Red Herring

The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other evil corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap.  Therefore, unless the ads to the right and below completely annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Five Point Five Jive - Thoughts from the Hopelessly Unemployed

By Mel Carriere

I warned you on my Twitter account that I would speak heresy from time to time, and that moment has now arrived.  Although my commitment to the fight for the working man remains passionate and unwavering, my commitment to the party that has been elected into the highest office in the land to fight for the working man is lukewarm at best.   So all of you doctrinally pure #Uniteblue hashtag clones might want to plug your ears for a while because I'm not exactly going to be preaching the party line here.

My mailman travels probably give me a cross section of Americana better than any other occupation.  I cross paths with people in all different statuses of employment; from the gainfully employed to the marginally employed to the retired to the temporarily unemployed to the hopelessly unemployed.  I think my job helps me keep my finger on the pulse of what Americans think about our government - and this thinking runs the gamut from the Rush Limbaugh brainwashed Tea Party hacks to the George Noory disciple conspiracy theorists to the radical leftist revolutionaries.

Surprisingly enough, the ranks of the unemployed do not line up neatly behind the politicians we expect them to, and this is a disturbing trend.  An encounter with an unemployed gentleman on my route today pointed out to me very clearly that President Obama does not exactly enjoy religious cult devotion status among the people who have been out of work so long that their employment benefits have expired and they are out of money and out of hope.

I should make it clear that this man I spoke to today didn't look like the type who sits on his hands waiting for manna from heaven or from Jerry Brown or wherever it is manna falls from these days. When I spoke to him he wasn't crashing on the couch in his cigarette burned underwear watching TV, like other chronically unemployed people I have come across since this recession started.  He was tidily dressed and groomed and was out in the yard energetically taking care of whatever duties he had to do around the house.  He didn't appear to be someone who lounges about doing nothing except blaming the government for his woes.

I don't exactly remember what started our conversation about the government, but I think it was a reference to the California drought I made while he was signing for a certified letter.  One thing led to another, and before long he related to me the woeful fact that he has been unemployed so long that he can no longer collect unemployment benefits.  He added that when he goes to apply for a job he is typically in competition with no less than 850 other candidates.  Furthermore, he expressed his belief that President Obama's chest thumping assertion that the unemployment rate has now dipped to 5.5 percent is a complete fraud.  Whether this is propaganda he got from right wing talk show hosts I don't know, but he thinks Obama is the first President not to include people whose unemployment benefits have expired, like him, within the ranks of the unemployed, which of course turns the unemployment rate into a highly inaccurate measure of how the economy is doing.

I don't know if what he told me is true. I certainly do not accept Tea Party inspired fantasies as fact, but I can share some admittedly anecdotal evidence that indicates maybe the economy is not pumping along as steadily as the President would have us believe it is.  Yesterday, for example, I intended to take my wife to Easter Sunday dinner at Sizzlers, where she enjoys the salad bar, only to find that the Sizzler was sadly, distressingly fenced in and shut down.  A few weeks ago I went to Pat and Oscars Restaurant to buy some bread sticks to complement our spaghetti dinner, only to discover that our local Pat and Oscars had sadly, distressingly shut down.  If the economy is really booming, why are all these landmark local businesses that have been institutions here in Southern California for decades now closing their doors?

Like this customer on my route, I am not exactly a passionate fire-breathing advocate for President Obama either.  At best I support him as the lesser of two evils, but in my opinion his fight to improve the lot for working people has been of the too little too late variety.  When he had  a majority in Congress he did nothing to push for increasing the minimum wage, and has only taken up this crusade now that he has a hostile Congress that isn't going to pass anything he proposes.  It seems to me that Obama is more concerned with maintaining the illusion that he supports working people than he is with actually doing anything useful for them, like perhaps stopping American Corporations from exporting living wage factory jobs to third world countries.

Both major parties are steeped in institutionalized corruption and cronyism.  Jackasses and Pachyderms alike desire to keep their hands on the privileges and benefits of power and not much else.  Republicans want to keep people poor because their pimp corporations want a readily available pool of cheap labor, and Democrats want to keep people poor because once people get a little bit of money in their pockets they start voting Republican because they want low taxes.

There, I have said it!  I have spoken heresy, and I sure do feel better.  I will add, in closing, that it is time to take the advice the rock band Rage Against the Machine was dishing out in their song Guerrilla Radio, released on the eve of the 2000 Bush vs Gore Presidential election contest:

More for Gore or the son of a drug lord?

None of the above

F*** it cut the chord!

Rage was right, I think.  The time has indeed come to cut the chord and try something else.

The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap.  Therefore, unless the ads to the right and below completely annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.

Image from:  "Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone, 02-1931 - NARA - 541927" by Unknown or not provided - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -,_02-1931_-_NARA_-_541927.jpg#/media/File:Unemployed_men_queued_outside_a_depression_soup_kitchen_opened_in_Chicago_by_Al_Capone,_02-1931_-_NARA_-_541927.jpg