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November 20, 2011

Chains of Gold: rap against the Wall

Politically inconsistent. I am often glad for serious moderate competent people running things (like the new Monti government in Italy), but my impulse would be toward drastic immediate radical upheaval. Things are so bad! Things are so bad? Compared, say, to the Middle Ages? Compared, say, to an ideal world?

In a moment of certainty, I wrote this rap about the most interesting movement in decades. And happily it’s not even organized. There’s no head honcho, just a bunch of pissed-off people who won’t go away. We haven’t all lost our moral compass.

chorus:  Chains of gold, bought and sold, chains of gold in a stranglehold
Lose your blindfold, you just been rolled, they stole your payroll and sold your household.
The rich never pay, we pay every day.

Gold in rings, rings in rings, forming strings of shiny things
Chains of fun, glittering sun, I want one, I want two for one
Two three four, count out more, more and more, you credit whore
I want my chains, I can’t abstain, it takes no brains, cigars champagne, to maintain this gangsta domain (Wall Street gangsta, that is)
It’s a human trait, what makes us great, you eat a full plate, an’ load on the weight
Weigh me down, oh golden crown, pool of money, I want to drown
Go down, underground, where the gold is found.

Wall street, your elite street, where you cheat neat, now our sweet street
Main street, mean street, easy street, sleazy street,
Your deceit, your conceit, listen to the flock bleat:
You’re obsolete, you’re obsolete, man, get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand
Who’s to blame? Here’s your name:
Citigroup, Bank of A., Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae
Morgan Stanley, GMAC, General Motors, AIG
JP … Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, disgrace
Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and old Bear Stearns,
Wachovia, watch the Lehman Brothers burn,
Burn, Money, Burn! Wall Street Fire Sale!
Investment bankers in my rhyme, say, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”
Traders on welfare, o.d.ed on their junk bonds, another big scare for the upper echelons
When we cut your chains of gold, watch your golden parachutes implode
Flying bankers, lost their anchors, we saved your asses, you still rich bastards,
We paid your debt, with our sweat, think we’re pissed off? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
99%, 99%, can’t afford a lobbyist, can’t pay the rent
Tax the rich, the wherewithal, Arab spring, New York fall
Break down the walls, open the halls, fight for your future in the Wall Street brawls
Sick of your greed, heed our need, you see that bull, now watch the stampede!

Globalization against our nation, we invented our own ruination:
Sub-prime mortgage, Ponzi scheme, Corporatocracy, American Dream
Toxic hedge funds, Matrix scheme, Bubbles and scams: the American Dream
Like Uncle Sam is now Scrooge McDuck, screw your neighbors, what the fuck?
We work for peanuts like hamsters on a wheel, for the Madoffs to steal
Wheel and deal, bow and kneel, believe your own spiel, spin the big wheel
Banking fees, got us on our knees, credit card debt, but we’re not dead yet
Lower pensions, lower wages, fewer benefits, smaller cages, the assembly line, lining their pockets, never mine
Dwight D. Eisenhower warned, when the military-industrial complex was born
Evil child, mean and wild, don’t be beguiled, by its gentle smile
You broke the unions, you broke the youth, your Fox News sluts broke the truth
Permatemping not professions, time has come for major concessions
If you won’t give a living wage, you’re the one who set the stage
Bars on the banks, bars on the doors, doors on the bars say come in, drink some more
Hey man, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.
Who me? Who me? I’m the sleeping giant nation.
And you just woke me up!

Homeland security, economic purity, democratic assembly, a sign of maturity
Our Declaration of Independence, the beginning is near, a compassionate world, with no more fear
I am not a number, I am a free man, (ha ha ha) not your property, not your brand
End war, feed the poor, war’s a racket, don’t back it,
Rebuild the dream, that’s the theme
Let’s turn this whole world around, okay?
Nation build in the USA:
Easy to see what we’re fighting for:
Healthcare for all
Environmental overhaul
Jobs with dignity
Educational quality
So occupy everything, everywhere, Oakland, Pittsburg, Wilmington, Delaware
It’s our country, it’s our government, we’re the people, the 99%
Peaceful protest is a right, you cops know we’re not here to fight
We’re occupied days and nights, defending our free speech rights
Can you hear us now? Can you hear us now?
How much noise till you awake?
How much pushing does it take?
To break these chains of gold.

Want to hear it? It's on myspace:

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: You up for a good one?
Jeff: No, I'm up for the one you're going to tell no matter what.
Mutt: One day, an elderly woman was walking along the street, coming home from the supermarket. Her bag of groceries was especially heavy that day, and as she passed Nathan Hale's Used Cars, she got an idea that she could drive herself to the store and save a lot of shoe leather, time and aching muscles. She walks into the car dealership and, as it just so happens, gets the owner himself. He asks her what kind of car she wants and she replies,
  "Well, sonny, I can't remember the name exactly, but it has something to do with hate or anger."
  The owner replies, "Well, let's see... Oh yes, you want a Plymouth Fury! We have a couple on the lot. What color do you prefer?"
  The lady has some trouble explaining the exact color to him, so she reaches into her shopping bag, takes out an ear of corn, strips down the shucks and says, "I want this color sonny."
  To which Nathan replies, "Ma'am I'm sorry, but we don't have any in this color. Could I show you a nice blue one?"
  "No son, I want this color."
  "But ma'am, they didn't make that color! Maybe a cherry red one would suit you?" says the owner, obviously worried about losing a sale.
  By this time, the old lady gets mad, and starts throwing things at the owner, thereby chasing him out of the office and into the lot. One of the salesmen, coming into the office from the back door, notices the disruption and asks the secretary what the old woman was so upset about.
  The secretary replies, "Apparently, Hale hath no Fury like the woman's corn!"
Jeff: I should have stayed in bed this morning.

November 14, 2011

La Liberazione, part two

“Thank goodness for Napolitano!” is the most recurrent and heart-felt phrase around these days. Berlusconi was head of the government; Napolitano is head of the nation. They are opposites. Giorgio Napolitano has a limited role and stays out of all government/parliamentary affairs unless a law violates the constitution or the prime minister no longer has a majority to support him. But he is a symbol of statesmanship and gentlemanliness even in the political arena. His behavior is always above reproach; his voice is always calm; what he says always makes sense. His choice of new prime minister, Mario Monti, is better than anyone ever elected. He is a man, while Berlusconi was a boy, a naughty disturbed boy.

You may wonder how Berlusconi, this political freak, ever won elections. In our town everyone knows what a vote went for in the last election. The working class, or unemployed class that is, voted en masse for the highest bidder. Isn’t buying votes illegal? There are laws and then there is the enforcement of laws. Berlusconi went for the lowest common denominator, ignoring the thinking minority and gathering huge numbers from the slums. After all, there’s a satellite dish on every shack. He then did nothing for the poor, so they’d be there to vote for him again next time.

Maybe you’ve seen crowds of flag waving, cheering supporters of Mr. B and wondered. They are brought in on busses and special trains from the countryside and paid, one professional fan admitted, to appear on TV. As if whatever happens on TV is real. Berlusconi, even last night, made a polished video announcement, not a real press conference where journalists might ask embarrassing questions. He has a large image-making staff, marketing experts, spin doctors, etc. They dress him up, comb his hair and tell him what to say, all very calculated for maximum effect on those who would buy anything from this confidence man.

Deep down he’s a huckster, a TV salesman of miracle creams and vacuum cleaners. But he nearly ruined a beautiful country. He and his entourage of evil-doers remind me of Dante’s Inferno: The pagans wandering in limbo, carnal malefactors blown in violent storms, blind gluttons lying in the foul slush from ceaseless icy rains, the avaricious pushing enormous bags of money as punishment, the wrathful fighting and drowning, heretics trapped in flaming tombs, violent souls trapped in a river of boiling blood, suicides transformed into gnarled thorny bushes fed upon by harpies, blasphemers and usurers in a desert of flaming sand and fire raining from the sky, then the fraudulent, panderers and seducers marching in lines whipped by demons, flatterers steeped in human excrement, those who bought and sold blessings head-first in holes with flames burning their feet, sorcerers, astrologers and false prophets with their heads twisted backwards, corrupt politicians immersed in a lake of boiling pitch kept down by flying devils, hypocrites wearing lead cloaks they can never take off, thieves guarded by a fire-breathing dragon with snakes covering its back, evil counselors burning, sowers of discord hacked to pieces by demons, falsifiers afflicted by various diseases, traitors immersed in ice, and then at the very center of Hell is Satan, the giant, terrifying beast with three faces weeping, also trapped in ice, ignorant, impotent, full of hatred. Wow, if you knew the people who’ve been governing Italy for the past two decades you’d recognize them all in this Italian poem of 1300 a.d.

Next, my suggestions (to whom?) for social reforms (who am I?). And who’s listening?

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  Did you know that old academics never die, they just lose their faculties.
Jeff:  Old bankers never die, they just want to be a loan.
Mutt:  Old basketball players never die, they just go on dribbling.
Jeff:  Old bookkeepers never die, they just lose their figures.
Mutt:  Old bosses never die, much as you want them to.
Jeff:  Old chiropractors never die, they adjust.
Mutt:  Old composers never die, they decompose.
Jeff:  Old frogs never die, they just croak.
Mutt:  Old grammarians never die, they just fall into a comma.
Jeff:  Which reminds me … Old English teachers never die, they just complete their sentences.
Mutt:  Oowah!

November 13, 2011

La Liberazione, part one

I imagine some of my non-Italian readers asking me, “What’s going on over there, dude?” You’ve heard the news: puppet and puppeteer Silvio Berlusconi finally out of power, but what does it mean and how did it happen? I’ll attempt the impossible, explaining Italian politics (impossible because I don’t understand it myself, even after more than 30 years here).

Berlusconi started in real estate development and then, through strong political connections, built a media empire. The first non-public national commercial television channels were all his, as well as several national newspapers, etc. When they were on the verge of collapse, he went into politics and gave them/himself public money to keep going. He consolidated his monopoly. He kept himself out of jail for crimes like bribery, tax evasion and collusion with the mafia with his power as head of the executive branch. He bought the majority in parliament, which block-voted in his favor. He bought the racist Lega Nord party too.

For years he railroaded through laws called reforms that were destructive to the social fabric and the constitutional democracy, while helping himself and his friends with their business ventures. See my old blog about his dismantling of the universities, public schools, public health system, etc.

Along the way he had at his command an army of professional liars, appearing nightly on national TV (still his own property, as well as the government-run RAI networks). As if Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter, etc., were cloned into the hundreds and sent to invade every public space with their deliberate bullshit. Those were the hysterical voices screaming at us for almost 20 years. Naturally some people grew to believe Berlusconi’s Black Is White tactic, but most voted for him because they thought they’d make more money in his alternative reality.

A pathological but strategic liar, earlier this week he said that there was no economic crisis in Italy; the proof being that the restaurants were full of people. Out of touch? Out of his mind? But was the current economic collapse the cause of Berlusconi’s downfall as all the foreign papers are saying? I think not. There’s more to it than that.

When a couple years ago, the alternative press broke the bunga bunga orgy story, that Berlusconi held nightly Hefner parties during which he had kinky sex with a number of the thirty-something prostitutes that he personally employed for his own use, at least one underage (16, he's 75), that would have been the ultimate scandal in almost any country except Italy. But we knew he’d been at it all along. In the early days of his television career, any young women wishing to work on his shows had to go through his bedroom. Many of the females “elected” (imposed) in parliament had the same apprenticeship. It makes you look at them differently when they’re on talk or variety shows. Berlusconi lives in a world of prostitution and treats all Italians as his whores.

Don’t forget that we’re talking about the richest man in the country. He can buy anything he wants, and he behaves as if he can do anything he wants. Scornful of the law, the institutions, the constitution, political decorum or just common decency, he is famous for his bizarre personality. It is no surprise that Muammar Gaddafi was one of his closest political allies, one that he apparently admired and copied. Never seen in public without thick pancake make-up, with regular hair transplants and face lifts, elevator shoes, comically excessive body-guards, he seemed to be acting the part of a statesman, but came off more like a lowlife mobster-clown, reminding me of Jack Nicholson's Joker in the first Batman movie. His favorite activity, other than those mentioned above, was telling dirty jokes, the filthier the better. A true sleazebag.

So why, you ask, could he stay in power so long? By far the longest-serving premier in Italian history, he stayed in power because the rules are written to allow and encourage cheating. When he needed more votes, for example, he approached opposition parliamentarians and offered between 200,000 and 500,000 euros for them to change parties. It worked, of course. Isn’t that illegal and punishable by law, you ask? Apparently not. He regained his majority by purchasing these traitors. So why did some of his own people vote against him this last week, so that he lost his majority? I don’t know the true answer to that one. The truth is, again, hidden in a cloud of lies.

It happened at the same time as the economy imploded, and Berlusconi didn’t have the strength to win another fight for his political survival. Even his closest allies (he has no friends) were sick of him. Perhaps the Arab spring has been imported across the Mediterranean. Now what awaits Berlusconi are a series of criminal prosecutions that will probably mark his pathetic end. I’d guess he’ll run rather than do time, and the authorities will let him, as they did his mentor Craxi.

Does crime pay? Not in the long run. If we don’t believe that and it isn’t confirmed by history, we’re sunk. But if, even after twenty years of hell, we can finally liberate our country of a disgusting, embarrassing, trashy, immoral, purely self-interested leader, then there is hope for political maturity. Representative democracy in Italy is only sixty some years old; it has a lot of catching up to do.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  Once upon a time, a tribe of cannibals caught a saint sent to them as a missionary and ate him. He was very tender and tasty, yet they were all violently sick afterwards.
Jeff:  I’m waiting.
Mutt:  It shows that you can't keep a good man down.
Jeff:  And an incompetent ship captain grounds the warship he walks on.
Mutt:  Oow, clever. Did you hear about the optician? Two glasses and he made a spectacle of himself.
Jeff:  How about the man who ran through a screen door? He strained himself.
Mutt:  One can tell that a tree is nomadic when it packs up its trunk and leaves.
Jeff:  That’s awful.
Mutt:  I know. The truth may ring out like a bell, but it is seldom ever tolled.
Jeff:  Okay, when you lose something, why do you always find it in the last place you look?
Mutt:  Help me out.
Jeff:  Because you stop looking as soon as you find it.
Mutt:  Did you hear about the guy that lost his left arm and leg in a car crash?
Jeff:  I did. He's all right now.
Mutt:  So what do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?
Jeff:  You got me.
Mutt:  Polaroids.
Jeff:  Sounds painful, but less than these jokes.
Mutt:  Jokes? These are legitimate questions.
Jeff:  Fer instance?
Mutt:  Fer instance, how does a spoiled rich girl change a lightbulb?
Jeff:  She says, "Daddy, I want a new apartment."