American Dream? More like “Rude Awakening”

A modern-day nightmare: the story of a foreclosure

Watched a video this morning where a commentator said, “money is ruining America.”  Specifically he meant Big Money — you know, the Koch Brothers variety.  Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know where I stand on that issue.  I think a large majority of people in the U.S. probably agree with me, and the rest are teabaggers — or else, they just haven’t been paying attention.

Later I started to think about an immigrant family who allegedly came here chasing the “American Dream,” as pro-mass immigration politicians and media pundits so love to put it, usually with accompanying dewy eyes.

Well folks, here’s this family’s idea of the American Dream.  It has to do with Big Money, but these people are not the Koch Brothers.  They are eastern European immigrants who came to this country only in the last 20 years or so.  Where I live there are lots of them, and let me tell you — a lot of them are currently bailing out and going back to their homelands while they still can live well on whatever is left of their “American Dream.”

This particular family moved into a relative’s neighborhood about 7 years ago, when a homeowner there, (a credit junkie who was about to face an enormous hike in his mortgage payment — he had an ARM — at the same time he started paying a hefty mortgage on a dream farmette he’d built far in the boonies), charged this family almost half a million dollars for a house in an area where even at the height of the bubble, houses were only about $375,000.00.  May sound like a lot now, but a few years ago it could be considered a bargain, even if you were only getting a 2-bedroom 1950’s tract house for that amount of money.  And what these people bought was that and only that, even if an unfinished room had been added onto the back of the house (which supposedly accounted for the extra-high asking price).

They moved in with an army of relatives helping them.  The formerly wide, quiet suburban street was transformed into a congested urban nightmare with rows of BMW’s, Lexus’s and other luxury cars parked along both curbs, often sitting idle for days.  At times it was so jammed that getting down the street was impossible.  Then they started blocking driveways, and as I remember, at one point my relatives couldn’t back out of their driveway (even when it wasn’t blocked) because there was no room to maneuver the car once it was out in the street.

The unanswered question in all this — which remains unanswered to this day — is how these poor, hard-working immigrants who came here with nothing, came upon all this money (or at least enough to get a half-million dollar mortgage plus loans on a caravan of luxury vehicles).  As I said, there was and is no answer.  We still don’t know what this family did for a living.  We do know that they were culturally ill-adjusted to the point where they were astounded and furious if you asked them to kindly NOT sit in your driveway making cell phone calls (I’m not even talking about sitting in a car making a call, I’m talking about parking one’s designer-jeans-clad ass on the driveway and making a call), or not to dispense with their endless cigarette butts, beer and Coke cans on your lawn.  May sound petty, but this is life in suburbia, and they were continually breaking the unwritten rules.

As the years went by, the hordes of relatives dropped away and it was possible to traverse the street again.  The family started to behave somewhat more civilly, even though they maintained a haughty distance from their neighbors.

This past year the remaining fancy cars and SUVs have pretty much disappeared, and the house has looked almost abandoned, and lately brightly-colored notices have been appearing on the front door, often hanging there for weeks.  Someone said they saw a sheriff’s deputy deliver one of these.

An obvious conclusion: the money well has dried up and they are facing foreclosure.  It’s even possible that the are making plans to flee the country.

This is not the first such story I’ve heard in recent times.  And somehow, such stories almost always involve immigrants.  And so I ask, as I have before, “what is this American dream?”

Is it merely about stuff?  Is it about owning, however temporarily, an overpriced house and fancy cars?  Is it nothing more substantial than that?

Judging from comments I’ve heard from some immigrants in the past decade, for a portion of them, that’s all it ever was.  And that is not enough.  But I guess to people like the Kochs, on whom we can partially blame the present state of things, it was enough to help set up an immigrant industry that dumped an unsupportable bumper crop of immigrants in the U.S., the sheer bulk of which was unlike anything ever seen before, helping to throw our salaries, housing market and finally our standard of living into an unstoppable tailspin.  In the end, it has benefited no one except those who weren’t affected by it.  People like the Kochs, for instance.  And it is people like them I hold responsible for bullshit like this.

Yes, I’ve seen immigrants come here and work their asses off.  They deserve all the best, and our help.  But people like the ones I’ve just mentioned?  The Just Here for the Stuff crowd?  Forget it.  No sense in coming here merely to get mountains of junk that you couldn’t get at home.  In the end, it only drives you broke and if you’re smart, you’ll realize you were better off without it.

If this sounds teabaggery to you, go stuff it.  Think about what I am saying.  This country was never solely about things, and anyone coming here solely for things is in for a rude awakening.  Kinda like that family I just told you about.

Time to rethink it all, Hoss.

Collision with Reality

Yesterday two elderly relatives, who are spending their retirement listening to right-wing radio shouters, came face-to-face with the fact that those shouters, whose every word they imbibe like a poisoned martini, are the same people who want to destroy them in order to save the wealthy from taxes.  But they still didn’t quite get it.

Why not?  Because the shouters are shouting louder than ever, blaming everything on Obama.  Remember, the louder you shout, the truther you are, even if you are spewing nonsense.  It’s the first law of the propagandist.  And because of the screaming propagandists, there is a contingent of about 30 million people in the U.S. who have absolutely no idea what is really going on.  The rest have a sort-of half idea of what’s going on, and it’s all because of the rest of the media.  (No, there is no mainstream “liberal media.”)

I did try to tell one of my relatives that if it weren’t for Obama, whatever Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits they are already getting would have been completely erased by Republican/Teabagger hands.  She sorta got it, but only after I lectured for about 10 minutes.  The other one remains hopelessly marooned in his easy chair next to the radio, swaddled in an inescapable cocoon of anger over the fact that there is a half-black man in the White House.

I gather that one message has reached through the loudly vibrating  cocoon, however: the message that Social Security, at least, has never been the cause of the government’s financial problems.  That much even these two folks get.  Apparently, however, the right-wing flapjaws have been concentrating their attacks on Medicare/Medicaid.   “But there’s so much fraud in Medicare!” protested my reluctant student.  I told her if she wanted to see fraud, she need look no further than your average private health insurer.  She agreed, but I believe it was only to keep from being forced to have to think.

(One upside: if Medicare/Medicaid are cut, it will only serve to demonstrate how badly a national health insurance plan is needed.  And maybe this message will come so loud and clear that the army of flapjaws will not be able to shout it down, quite as they were unable to shout Social Security down.)

Meantime I’ve gotten a few private e-mails from Teabaggers who are chortling that “this is the end of Obama” and “he’ll never be re-elected now!”  I usually don’t take the bait but this time I did write back to one of them and only asked the following: “and who will be blamed the next time?  Bachmann?”

In true Teabagger fashion, he hasn’t replied.

The Doors of the Loony Bin

I guess my burnout started in mid-2010; it’s only grown worse in 2011 and I’ve run out of excuses.  It seems like every day there are so many targets that I run out of arrows, or even the time or the will to shoot them.

Most depressing is that if you read the archives of this blog, (while you’ll find a few factual errors such as Murdoch’s citizenship), you’ll find that I’ve been on target most of the time, even though in some cases it’s taken the rest of the world a bit of time to catch up to people like my readers and myself.  Why is this depressing?  Well, I can only call it by the phrase someone else coined not so long ago: that giant sucking sound.  Everything, it seems, is going down the drain — including reality.

The reality gap started in earnest during the Reagan years.  After having spent 4 years in high school playing hippie, one day a few years into the college-age time of life I woke up to the proclamation (which I believe was in Time magazine or something like that) that my generation was “the most conservative ever seen.”  “Huh?” I asked.  I’m still asking the same question.

Yes there were goofs around then, but they were confined to UHF channels.  Sometime in the 1970’s I remember one guy whose show, (the old-time equivalent of the modern-day cable-access or USTREAM type show) consisted of a half hour of him screaming at his evil liberal guests.  No matter what they said, he’d scream at them.  No matter that he was making no sense, he was miked at least 4 times louder than anyone else and shouting on top of it.  He was all you could hear.  That’s a basic rule of the propagandist: shout louder than anyone else, even if no one can understand you.  The louder you shout, the truther you are.  To hell with facts.

He died of a heart attack, and his Republican-coiffed wife took over the show and faded into oblivion.  Actually, having started out in oblivion, there wasn’t far for her to go.

Those were the days.  The goofs were restricted to the outer fringes.  When did they become mainstream?  Again, during the Reagan years.

The Reagan years gave birth to Fox News, which is the core of the lunatic fringe (no longer really fringe) right now.  Yes, they are on dangerous ground with the current controversies, but the fact is, I’m willing to wager that most of the U.S. public was on to them all along.  But it did us no good.  Fox was allowed to bend reality until it snapped, then create their own, and they are still being allowed to do so.

Worse, they have a fairly large, hard-core brainwashed contingent of fans (some of my Facebook friends among them), who view every criticism as an evil liberal conspiracy — likely including the recent revelations of illegal cell-phone hacking or whatever it is.  Actually, being hard-core Fox maniacs, they are barely aware that there is any controversy at all.  But what they know of it?  THAT EVIL LAMESTREAM MEDIA!!!!  Yep, that’s what’s to blame!  Just like OBAMA IS THE ONE WHO CREATED THE DEBT CEILING CRISIS.

Bullshit times ten, but this is the shit Fox News is feeding its audience. And its audience has quite a taste for shit.  Stop to consider that these are the same people who have probably chosen to believe — because that’s all they’ve been told — that Sarah Palin’s “The Undefeated” movie hasn’t been defeated.  Yep.  I’ll bet at least one of the minions has even been heard to say that the movie has been a resounding success, so much so that it defeated Harry Potter (oh yeah?  You mean Voldemort won?), when in fact it’s almost gone straight to DVD.  This is the kind of upside-down reality we’ve been dealing with, and when you meet someone who has swallowed the shit tea, you cannot change their mind any more than you can rescue their taste buds.

There is very little chance that Fox News will disappear as a result of all of the controversies — how can you suffer from something you deny exists? — but I do sit and fantasize about what might happen if that came to pass.  Where would these people get their fix (you can’t call it news) then?

Unfortunately, plenty of places — and they won’t have to search long and hard.  Again, thank Reagan.  He was the one who opened the door of the mass-media loony bin, after all.  And look at the mess we have now.

As for me, as I said, there is too much mess to deal with: too many alternate universes to waft about in, too much shattered reality to sweep up.  I’ll be around, but I will no longer make promises to be more active.  I’m just in permanent overload.

Must be all those headless bodies exploding…

Just read that John McCain is blaming the Arizona wildfires on illegal immigrants.  Ah.  So I guess we’ll have to rephrase Smokey the Bear’s famous warning to read, Remember, Only Illegal Immigrants Can Cause Forest (or desert) Fires.

Of course, when you have thousands of people traversing thousands of square miles of land as quietly and covertly as they can, somebody is going to do something stupid.  But to blame ALL the fires on illegals?

Oh, I forgot…there is no global warming, so it can’t be anything else.  Unless it was a non-illegal person.  But what would they be doing there?  Therefore, whoever done it must have been illegal.  Or something like that.

And what about that global economy that forces these people to cross  borders to find work at pittance wages with no benefits (and they don’t pay taxes either because they are usually PAID UNDER THE TABLE) except for what is routinely offered to the poor at the cost of the rest of us because we have no socialized medicine except for Medicare/Medicaid which the teabaggers want to get rid of because they don’t want death panels and social benefits are too expensive but wars are not?  Oh, I forgot.  TOO FREAKING COMPLICATED for Senator McCain to ponder.

(Yes, your head must be spinning after reading that last paragraph, but believe me, it would be spinning less if you accepted that there is nothing evil about socialized medicine.  The only evil is the people who have decided that it has already failed even though it hasn’t even begun — I can think of a right-wing radio yapper or two who are telling their minions that over and over and over again, until it sinks into whatever is left of brains between their ears.  The Big Lie thing, you know, kinda like when they kept asking if Obama had fixed the economy yet long before he was sworn in as President.)

And so we are left with this: Illegal Immigrants Cause Forest Fires.  Simple as black and white.  And don’t you forget it.

I’ll be getting to the matter of the Supreme Court vs. women later on this week.  But first, let me offer Senator McCain the Stupid of the Day Award.  He’s earned it.

The Bubble Reality

First, read this.

I’ve covered this subject before in this blog.  It never ceases to amaze me how the world catches up eventually.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back.

But there’s one problem in this case: the guy they’re quoting is a billionaire, and a billionaire’s contact with most people’s everyday realities is limited.  And one reality is this: if you’re U.S. born, try to get a job (most people are not born entrepreneurs), let alone one with a living wage, if you do not have a college degree — or these days, even if you do.  The majority of people are not born scholars, but college has become a requirement.  It follows that most of our colleges have degraded into career academies, and most college degrees are nothing more than career certificates.  And that’s a ridiculous waste of time and money.

Take my own former career, for instance.  I was a secretary for many years.  When I graduated from high school, this was one of many job opportunities for females who were not going on to college.  Yes, I said “many.”  There are fewer opportunities now.

Sometime during the acid (not LSD, just nasty) 1980’s, all this changed.  It was during the reign of that “nice man” Ronald Reagan.  And during the 1990’s, when the hippie-yuppie Clintons ruled, it became written in stone: if you were born in the U.S., you could not get a job that paid a living wage if you did not have a college degree.  Period.

Of course, that has graduated to “if you were born in the U.S., you cannot get a job.  Period.”

And so I found myself in the job market again and again, being pushed to the bottom of the barrel in spite of my long experience because I did not have a college degree.  You see, by the 1990’s, a secretary had to have a two-year degree; later they wanted a four-year degree.  It was and is, of course, ridiculous.  But the claim was (and is) that people who only had high-school educations lacked the skills necessary to do secretarial work.  The skills they were talking about were mainly grammar and writing skills, and as a person who spent part of the 1980’s correcting the grammar of a master-degreed English major who used hyphens to the point where entire paragraphs consisted of completely hyphenated sentences, you might say that my view on this was a little dim.  (This was also the era during which corporations, using their new-found might, attempted to alter the English language to suit the spelling deficiencies of their own college-degreed executives.)

Later they went to hiring British and other foreign secretaries, usually on the excuse that not only was their accented English better, but they worked cheaper and heck! a lot of them could speak second languages (not that they had to prove it with degrees, mind you — how racist!). But this was not before years of insisting on the bogus college requirement for the rest of us who were born in the U.S.

Fact is, the whole thing was and is bogus.  In spite of the requirement of a college degree, the average salary for a secretary sunk.  Considering that it was never good to start with, that’s pretty revealing.  See “cheap labor” comment above.

Here’s the absolute truth behind it all: once upon a time, women graduated from college and were made to prove themselves by becoming Girl Fridays.  Pretty often, they were Girl Fridays for good.  Women, you see, could not be relied upon to remain in the workforce and thus were bad bets as hires and/or career candidates.  And as a woman, you could forget the idea of earning a solid wage; if you were lucky, you might be able to live on your salary — just barely — after several years on the job.

Not surprisingly, most secretaries did not have degrees.  It was considered a waste of time.  And believe me, English skills in the days of yore were no better than the English skills of today.  And isn’t showing a college girl to the nearest word processing program just an update of the old “Girl Friday”situation?  Yes, it is.  So let’s add sexism into the mix.  It’s so fashionable right now, anyway.

Back to the point, however, the fact is that it was never about degrees.  It was about cheap labor.  That’s all this ever was about.  Anyone who told you otherwise, including Reagan, Bush, and the Clintons, was lying.

For the majority of people, college degrees have no value.  They are an expensive waste of money, rather like a luxury car.  Once upon a time, a college degree had a certain social status, and in a way it still does — but only as long as one has a master’s degree (in the job market, having a PhD is almost as bad as not having graduated from high school).  For a while, college degrees were like drugs for employers: first they required an AA or AAS, then a BA or BS, and then came the “must have” MBA, and after that, the MBA from a short list of choice colleges.  Clubs formed for the advanced-degreed only (of course, not too advanced).  The rest of us need not apply no matter what our experience.

But the thing is, college degrees are so ubiquitous nowadays that…get this…there’s even a degree for hotel/motel management.  Now that, folks, is carrying things to the nth degree for no reason.  It’s kind of like requiring a secretarial job candidate to have any sort of degree at all past high school.

And so I give you my story about secretaries.  They’re nearly extinct now, but the few you do see are usually degreed, foreign, or just damn lucky to have a job that pays a living wage (sort of, maybe, eventually).  And it was never about college.  It was always about cheap labor.

That’s why your degree is not getting you a job, friend.  My sympathy to you as you stand in the unemployment line, wondering how you will pay off your student loan.

A government small enough to fit in a uterus…

…this seems to be the Republican ideal.    Oh, you haven’t heard?  Well, apparently they want a government that consists of a rubber stamp Congress, a plastic doll President, a Supreme Court made up of chimpanzees, and a teeny tiny IRS that only audits rape victims who have had abortions. The rest of their plans…you know, the military intervention everywhere in the world to spread Christianity…oh, sorry, democracy…well, I guess the Koch brothers will direct and pay for that.  The Kochs have already have bought the University of Florida, you know, but the stipulation is that they get to choose the professors at that school.  Which translates into this: all education at the University of Florida, from here on out, will be on a level with that given by Trump University and Glenn Beck University.  Which is to say that education there is at an end.

Put that together with the Republican plan to force children into the job market during their grade school years, and you have utopia.  But I don’t know for whom.

Word has it that the Repugs are very, very nervous about a new plan to require government contractors to reveal their campaign contributions.  I wonder why.

Meantime, a right-wing radio screamer in Wisconsin continues to lie through his teeth, actually blaming most of these Republican plans on Obama.

The Truth about Ronald Reagan

I’ve said this before in this blog and I’ll say it again: Ronald Reagan was not a great president.  He was not even a good one.  Even with all that, though, he had one redeeming quality: he was no teabagger.  Or maybe two: as vague as Reagan was, he was a mental giant compared to George W. Bush.

In spite of those facts, I, for one, have been sick and tired for years about the attempts to rewrite history on behalf of this idiot.  Even during his Presidency, many people suspected that he was (1) dumb, and (2) a mouthpiece; i.e., someone else was actually running the Oval Office.  Some people way back then very vocally suspected that Reagan was suffering from senility; he was that vague and detached.  The only thing slightly solid that we had to latch onto was his anorexic, arrogant wife who wore oh-so-chic “Nancy Reagan red” and refused to bow to the Queen of England  (probably less on an insult, however, than GW landing his helicopter on the Queen’s rose garden).  Some people suspected that Nancy was (gasp!) RUNNING THINGS BEHIND THE SCENES, but this only became a sin later, when the same rumor circulated about Hillary Clinton.

The attempts by the slow-witted Reagan’s handlers to make him look “vigorous” were often noted even by the media, who were not such placid corporate lapdogs as they are now (although those years were the start of their comfy slumber).

If Reagan was responsible for anything, it was for quickly turning this country from a forward-looking nation (even if angry and smarting from economic woes) into a nation of back-biting, backward-looking bullies and haters.  The ’80’s were a particularly horrible time for all but people like, say, Paris Hilton’s parents.  Those years were all about ostentation and contempt for anyone who could not buy the shiniest new toys on a whim.  Some people even had private submarines, for crying out loud.  The people who could afford shit like that were “players;” the rest of us were dog meat.  “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it,” was a popular sniff of the day.  And then they started importing cheaper dog meat to replace the poor here at home.

One thing that has been conveniently forgotten is that in his day, some of Reagan’s most ardent worshippers wanted him to be named king.  Not President — KING.  Failing that, they wanted the “two terms and out” rule to be put to an end, so Reagan could be king forever.

Ahem…I meant “always be President.”  Such respect for that Constitution his supporters had…and have.

Thom Hartmann sums it up here.  I can sum it up as someone who was there at the time.  If anyone tries to tell you that this guy was even a decent President, Hoss, they are lying to you.

P.S.  The one place I disagree with Hartmann is in his assessment of the illegal-immigrant amnesty Reagan enacted.  Of the 3 million eligible, only about a third took advantage of the amnesty.  What illegal aliens want has nothing to do with citizenship; all they want is jobs.  The idea of portable workers is a dream of the U.S. wealthy — they make money off of cheap labor; that accounts for the immigrant (legal and illegal) tsunami since the 1980’s.  Amnesty is a red herring.  Let’s forget about it and move on.