Monday, October 06, 2008

Good luck, America -- but if luck fails you, there's always St Louis!

  • (Photos are of the Mississippi River bridge to nowhere, abandoned train cars, the half-buried entrance to a cave, run-down housing, the famous St Louis arch and my daughter and granddaughter who I should be out baking cookies for. Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Many years ago, a soothsayer once told me, "Wherever you go, you will always bring good luck to the people you meet."

"Oh yeah sure really?" I was skeptical. "And just exactly what do I have to do to make all this happen once I meet all these people? Hand out four-leaf clovers, horseshoes and rabbits' feet?"

"Nothing. You don't have to do anything. You just have to BE there." Hey, I could do that. I'm really good at just standing around.

So instead of spending my declining years out in the kitchen baking cookies for my grandchildren and living in a rest home like a normal human being, I'm off trying to bring good luck to the world instead.

In the last ten years, I've been to every continent except Antarctica and every single down-on-their-luck troubled hot-spot on the planet I can get to with only a Social Security pension budget, frequent-flyer miles and a passport. I've been to Iraq, Iran, India, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Palestine, the Amazon jungle, Australia's drought-plagued outback, Tibet -- and even Alaska. I haven't gotten to Darfur yet, but I'm working on it.

So far, however, there's been one down-on-its-luck country in the world that I've sort of been ignoring and leaving out -- America. But this year it suddenly occurred to me that AMERICA needs all the luck it can get. And that is why this year I'm trying as hard as I can to get my own little "Country First" tour on the road, starting with South Carolina, Mississippi and St Louis.

I figure that since rational behavior is obviously not happening in my country of birth then America is gonna need a hecka lot of good luck and I'm gonna do whatever I can to supply it.

Rational people would send trusted and competent leaders to Washington, develop a strong industrial infrastructure, avoid debt like the plague and stop hare-ing around the world killing innocent strangers. But obviously that's not happening here. Americans seem to be missing the Big Picture and most of the time we behave like we are living in a cult.

After giving 700 billion dollars to Wall Street with hardly any strings attached, it's pretty darn obvious that rational behavior has been replaced here by magical thinking -- and voodoo.

Here's what economist Ann Berg has to say about all this mess.
"So here we are: a phony monetary system, $3 trillion wasted on wars, and a citizenry mired in debt. And what does Congress do? It adds more debt – a trillion dollars, just for starters, since once starting down this slippery slope, it won't be able to stop. It then gives the Treasury the green light to buy securities that are trading as low as 20 cents on the dollar at the hold-to-maturity value, i.e., par! Not surprisingly it has engaged in a media blitz to 'sell' this boondoggle, convincing the taxpayer that this bucket of dross will one day turn to platinum. Sensing that working stiffs are a little perturbed about the fleecing, it has leapt to the offense: 'No, this is not a bailout of Wall Street. This is a rescue plan for Main Street.' By embracing the mortgage waste dump, U.S. citizens are supposedly saving jobs and retirement dreams. They are told that interest-free car loans will stream from dealerships and refinance windows will again beckon, even to those with homes worth half the value of mortgage paper."

Berg then lets the American people know just HOW unlucky we are. "With Congress granting the Treasury (along with an 'oversight' board) almost unlimited power over the country's financial landscape, the U.S. has terminated its democracy and is well on the road to serfdom. As Friedrich Hayek explained in 1944, 'Economic control is not merely control of a sector of human life that can be separated from the rest; it is the control of the means for all our ends. And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lower – in short, what men should believe and strive for.'" In other words, we're screwed.

Bush, McCain and even Obama all talk about the economic disasters ahead of us -- yet they still keep funding our military adventures abroad like we had all the money in the world. However. We can no longer afford an empire. Period. Plus the rest of the world is totally pissed off at us for fouling the world's economic nest and has started to treat America like an out-of-control two-year-old who needs to be sent to its room.

According to economic expert Mike Whitney, "The era of Superpower America is coming to an end. The financial crisis was the last straw. Whatever good faith was left, after the invasion of Iraq and the shrugging off of international treaties, is now gone. The United States has polluted the global economic system with worthless mortgage-backed securities and, by doing so, has pushed 6 billion people closer to a long and painful recession. That's not something that's easy to forgive."

So. Just as soon as I get back from Iran and Burma, I'm gonna have to go visit every single state in America. With the bozos, con-men and cult leaders that we now have in the White House, in Congress and on the Supreme Court, and with the American people giving their civil liberties, freedom, moral high-ground, jobs and national treasury away to the first hucksters who ask for them, we are sincerely going to need all the luck we can get!

But if luck isn't enough, then there's always St Louis.

When I was there this past week, my friend Patrick showed me all around the city. "I look at this place as a post-apocalypse boot camp, the perfect apocalyptic training ground," he said. "Our infrastructure is rotting and there are abandoned buildings everywhere, making it the perfect place to find out how to survive if all systems fail. To survive successfully in some of the failed areas of this town even now, you gotta know more than just how to make your own granola."

Patrick showed me people who were living in boxcars. He also showed me deep sandstone caves under the city where you can keep food cold without refrigerators and which also act as natural air-conditioners. Eight stories underground, they could resist even an atomic blast.

"After our current energy supplies fail and unless we do something right now to develop new ones," said Patrick, "Americans will be forced to live like they do in the old-order Mennonite farm communities -- except that we'll be living here in an urban environment instead of out on the farm."

I will quickly be the first to say that some parts of St Louis are really really nice, but the parts of St Louis I saw through Patrick's windshield sucked eggs -- and apparently people from all over America who are interested in alternative energy and lifestyles are gravitating here even now because St Louis comes as close to being a post-apocalyptic city as you can get in the continental USA. "Throughout St Louis there are abandoned buildings, guns, open violence and society's cast-offs and dregs. People here are already stripping the buildings and selling the copper. They call them scrappers."

As we drove through the streets of St Louis, there was nobody out on the sidewalks. "You can see the cracks in America's boat here in St Louis," Patrick continued, "because 'corporate' influence is even greater here now than it is in Washington -- and has been for a much longer time. If there's a buck to be made, nothing in St Louis is sacred. They even tore down our perfectly good stadium and put up a new one that is 15,000 seats smaller and far less structurally sound."

Next we talked with some people who, without grants from big corporations or government, were developing ways to create alternative energy sources of their own. When the lights go out, these visionary young men and women will be ready.

Then we drove past more derelict factories, deserted buildings and boarded-up homes. Patrick then finished off his tour with a trip to the original "bridge to nowhere," an abandoned iron pier jutting out into the Mississippi where ships used to dock and unload their cargo. They don't do that no more. Both the ships and the cargo have all gone to China.

PS: In order to save money for my various trips throughout the world, I don't own a cell phone, live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bike a lot and don't subscribe to cable TV. As a result, I hadn't watched CNN in years -- so imagine my shock when I was forced to watch CNN for several hours in the press filing room at the recent Biden-Palin debate.

All the news, all the time? Bull-dookie.

Gossip, innuendo, rumor-mongering, opinions masquerading as facts and out-right lies? Yes. News? Hell no. CNN should be ashamed of itself for broadcasting such treif and actually calling it "news". And America should be ashamed for watching it.