Saturday, January 19, 2008

Madam Jane Predicts: There will be a one-person war on the loss of America!

I arrived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this morning in order to cover the Democratic primary debates. The weather was cold, wet and rainy and there was no public transportation so I had no choice but to take a taxi to my hotel. My taxi driver was nice, hadn't yet decided on who to vote for in the primary and had a son stationed in Iraq.

"Oh, interesting," I replied. "I'm going back over to embed in Iraq on February 12. And don't worry about your son. It's pretty peaceful over there right now and he's probably not in any danger."

But Madam Jane was about to prove me wrong!

"You are just about the most naive person I know," she started scolding me the moment we got to my hotel which, incidentally, was right next to the ocean. "Not only is this poor man's son in danger, but every single other person in American is in grave danger too. Watch out, my friend. We are ALL being screwed -- and headed toward an early grave too."

What! "Isn't that a bit melodramatic, Madam Jane?" But M.J. would say no more. Not even promises of southern barbecue at the rib shack down the street or a trip to the local NASCAR shop would get her to spill, leaving me scratching my head and wondering what in the world is Madam Jane talking about. Danger? America? Us? When I flew through the air hub at Charlotte, the code level was only at "Orange". Hell, it's ALWAYS at "Orange". No danger there.

But then my friend Woody Smith e-mailed me and shed some light on the kind of danger that The Madam might have been talking about -- danger from within. America's greatest danger doesn't come from terrorists. And we're not gonna get any relief from just employing more TSA guys and bomb-sniffing dogs and X-ray machines. "The dollar is falling at a frightening rate," said Woody. "The stock market is highly volatile and sinking, unemployment is high although the true extent of it is masked by statistical sleight-of-hand, most consumer spending is on credit, and the only reason we haven't been in a recession since shortly after Bush took office is that the falling dollar cleverly masks the true extent of our shrinkage."

So. The greatest danger facing America now is economic. But we all knew that. Nobody needs Madam Jane's crystal ball to know that. And then Madam Jane smugly went off to take a nap, to recover from jet-lag. And I checked my e-mail. "Jane," said the e-mail from the people in Iraq who had just approved my embed less than 24 hours ago, "I was just told by our PAO office at Corps, MNC-I, that they will not facilitate your embed request." What the freak does that mean? Can one actually get UN-embedded after having been promised something like that? In writing? Just like that? But I've already bought my plane ticket! They can't DO that to me! That's so UNFAIR! So I ran off and shook Madam Jane awake.

"Help me here, M.J." I blathered. "They've taken away my freaking embed. WHY?" But Madam Jane just shrugged and rolled back over to sleep. What good is having a freaking psychic in my hotel room if she's going to just sleep all day. Wake up! This is an emergency!

"Look," said Madam Jane. "I've been warning you for YEARS that merciless blood-sucking corporate conglomerates have taken over our government, our media, our White House, our Constitution, our economy, our schools, our healthcare and even our churches. And no one did anything about it while there was still time. And now the America that you and I used to know is Gone Gone Gone. Forever. Either get over it or do something about it. I was up all night on the red-eye. Go away. I need more sleep."

Merciless blood-sucking conglomerates? And I'm supposed to put on my Superman cape and go out and battle merciless blood-sucking conglomerates all by myself? That's whacked! "I heard that!" said The Madam. "Stop whining. You got yourself into this mess. Either do it or shut up."

But what can I do? What can any of us do? Nothing. "But," mumbled Madam Jane in her sleep, "sooner or later, when things get so bad that they simply cannot ignore it any more, Americans ARE going to wake up, are going to wise up and are going to act. And when that happens, the merciless blood-sucking corporate conglomerates that have stolen OUR country had better watch out! I predict that in 2008 there is going to be a one-person war on the loss of America -- and this one-person war will start with you. And there are also going to be 300 million other one-person wars on the loss of America, fought in the trenches by all us normal, average" -- since when did M.J. suddenly become average? -- "non-wealthy Americans who are finally gonna be totally pissed off when they finally discover that they have been had!" Good grief. Maybe I should never have woken Madam Jane back up!

But will this 300-million-strong army-of-ones then get me re-embedded back into Iraq? Or at least get me a refund on my plane ticket? And exactly HOW pissed off do these Americans have to BE before they get off their butts?

"Madam Jane predicts that they are gonna get pissed off enough REALLY SOON."

But will they do it before the coming presidential elections? Dennis Kucinich, the top candidate now running on a platform to protect American freedom and put the skids on corporate greed, has already been totally silenced in the media. And now John Edwards, another hero who was willing to take on corporate power, is also being cut out of the debates. Good grief. The next thing you know they'll be telling us that Huckabee is a do-gooder dragon-slayer on our side, that Giuliani is the ultimate family man and that McCain is truly the people's friend and not just a shill for the arms industry.

But will this ever happen? Madam Jane predicts that it will.

But will they ever let me get embedded back into Iraq or at least give me my plane ticket money back? And will people suddenly start running out to buy my book on my last embedding experiences, entitled 'Bring Your Own Flak Jacket' and available at Amazon or special-ordered at your local independent bookstores? "Sorry, but my crystal ball has gone dark."

PS: Here's Woody's simple eight-point plan to put a stop to all this mess:

1. Forbid by law past or present corporate officials from contributing to our regulatory processes. Public service and private interests ought not be combined. This works both ways -- legislators and regulators must be forbidden -- FOR LIFE -- from joining private sector industries whose interests came under their purview. This separation should be at least as bright-line as that between church and state.

2. Re-institute and zealously enforce regulation of our broadcast media, most significantly through stricter ownership restrictions and the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, dismantled by Reagan, that ensured that news over the airwaves is reported and researched fairly.

3. Finance our political campaigns completely and exclusively publicly. There is no place for bribery in a democratic society, at least not without the risk of getting caught.

4. Restoration of steeply progressive income tax rates, combined with implementation of progressive FICA taxes extended to all income. End the favorable treatment of unearned income, a nonsensical thing in the first place. It is in society's interests to redistribute wealth. Big fish eat little fish, and once all the little fish get eaten, the big ones starve too. We're at that point right now.

5. Massive, labor-intensive public works. This both puts more money into the hands of more citizens, it makes life better for everyone in the long term.

6. End these ridiculous wars. No consequences of ending these wars are as serious as the consequences of continuing to fight them.

7. National health care. This would IMMEDIATELY render our manufactured products more competitive on the world stage.

8. A crash program to increase energy efficiency in cooling/heating, transportation, and consumer electronics and electrical appliances. This would include direct subsidies to industries for R&D and marketing, in return for sharing any resulting technological benefits with competitors and other industries for which they may be relevant.

Strangely enough," added Woody, "all of these things are really just tweaks around the edges that would not really have a whole lot of day-to-day impact on the activities of our citizens. But all go against powerfully entrenched interests that profit at the rest of our expense from the status quo. but one thing for sure: It is NOT 'government spending' that got us into this mess."