Thursday, January 27, 2011

You're Welcome, Now Give Us a Kiss

My point this week: Eastern Washington should thank Seattle in writing for being so liberal.

See what I just did there? That’s a first! Fifteen years, and never before have I made my point in the first sentence! Sometimes I never get around to it at all!

I’m doing it now for two reasons. One, last week I opened with what I thought was an amusing misleading statement “Today’s topic is insanity”, and nobody got it. Two, recently I’ve been obsessed by something said to me 23 years ago. I was homeless then and a man I’ll call Luke Sidewalker had asked why, and I had given him four answers, the first three being impromptu jokes.

Luke, who had recently graduated in Advanced Pre-Modern Sociology, told me that my last reason, the true one, was false, because he had “learned” in Sociology Science 101 that people always say the truth in their first answer.

Not a sociology class; a sociology experiment.
I respectfully told him you can’t learn something that isn’t true, that sociology has yet to establish itself as a science, that sociologists don’t study whole people, they study half-formed college students because they make cheap plentiful guinea pigs, and that he was an idiot. But I have long pondered his words.

Mostly I’ve pondered, how many people are as stupid as Luke Sidewalker? How many really take every study ever generated by sociologists as gospel, without appreciating how much trickier it is to study people than atoms, and the tools aren’t there yet? Does diet cause such stupidity? Can we do a study?

But I digress. Last election, Washington State defied the national trend, re-electing Democrat Patty Murray over Republican contender Dino Rossi, and I spent hours on the internet trying to explain to various representatives of The Rest of The State, why there was a perfectly good reason that should have happened, even though only 9 counties went for Murray, and the other 30 went for Dino Rossi.

What looks like a failure of democracy is not, I said, because counties only report the votes, they don’t do the voting. The voting is done by people, and one-person-one-vote means if more people vote for one candidate than another, it’s not their fault that so many of them live in King County, which just happens to have 25% of the population of the state even though it’s only one county.

Contrast that with last Friday’s Seattle P-I headline: “King Co. pays for the rest of the state - is that fair?”

It doesn’t look fair! Our taxes make up 42% of the state’s income, but only 25% of the budget gets spent here! Wah!

However, as I have just now said, we’re 25% of the population, approximately, so the spending amount IS fair, on that basis. So what’s going on?

What’s going on is, King County is liberal. And liberals vote for liberal policies. Liberal policies are better. So the businesses here do better. So King County residents make more money. So they pay more in taxes.

More importantly, we’re liberal so we believe that’s exactly the way it should be! Let the wealthiest people pay the most, they that have the most to pay. Let everyone reap the benefits in accordance with their numbers and it will all work out for the best for all of us.

Now, a few conservatives happen to live in King County. For example, Luke Sidewalker lived in Eastern Wallingford, of all places. They might complain like this: “Hey, we King County-ers earned our money through hard work. Why should those the bare-foot children of Eastern Washington hippies, drunks, deadbeat dads, and other ne’er-do-wells get our money? They should earn their own!”

But most of us see the error in that reasoning. We know that our money will go to good use. It will be especially needed to raise the educational level of Eastern Washington, to the point where they could at least write that thank you note I mentioned at the beginning of this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Above All, Please No Creepy Fake Smiles

 [We are up to date now. Reminder: these are my own versions, pretty much as submitted, with occasional graphic embellishments and added notes. The titles don't usually match.]

Today’s topic is insanity.

Ha, ha, that wasn’t very specific was it? Everything is insanity! The voices tell me so.

Seriously, an insane man recently killed some people while trying to kill a Congressperson, and this has been taken by many as a call to action. I don’t like what happened either, but honestly a lot of these calls to action are just nuts.

The idea that mental illness causes good people to do bad things is generally false. Mental illness most often causes good people to do good things that aren’t practical and not in their own best interests, or good things that aren’t efficient. Whereas, it causes bad people to be bad out in the open. Mental illness itself is morally neutral, like pneumonia.

When I was 12 I was visiting the house of another kid I’ll call “Charlie”. Charlie was the little brother of a former babysitter of mine. I hadn’t seen him in years. His parents begged my parents to get me to play with Charlie, because he was so lonely. His idea of playing that day was to hit me repeatedly with a stick, for half an hour, until I finally snatched it away from him, and broke it in ten pieces.

The parents, when notified of all this, sobbed, and said, “It all started when another boy threw a rock at Charlie’s head. He’s been mean like that ever since. That’s why he has no friends.”

Very sad, very tragic, very false. When I’d known Charlie before the tragic blow to his head, he was also a vicious jerk. He was just more efficient at it, and didn’t do anything so overt, so he could drag it out longer. All the blow to his head did was put him off his game. He lost his gift for creating deniability.

My mother was verbally abusive to people who visited her near her death. They excused her for it by saying it was “the brain tumor talking”. But she hadn’t had a talkative brain tumor 22 years earlier when she decided it would be fun to burn the back of my hand in one spot over and over again with a cigarette.

It’s all irrelevant until you start talking about prescriptions. The most popular prescription for the latest tragedy isn’t as bad as Homeland Security was for 9/11, but it’s just as illogical. We can’t be forcing ourselves to be civil just to keep from touching off a Jared Loughner.

It’s like saying, “we can’t integrate the Armed Services, Mr. Truman, it will touch off some violent racists, and there will be riots in the barracks!” Well, we did it anyway, there were riots, and anyone who says “I told you so,” give them a dirty look for me.  

It’s not that we shouldn’t be civil, it’s that you can’t be civil for that reason. It isn’t a sustaining reason to be decent. You have to be decent and civil to begin with. Some of you aren’t, and you know precisely who you are. Don’t strain yourselves to act civil for the sake of public safety. We’ll all see through your phony civility, including the Jareds. Be civil for the sake of your own self-respect, or forget it.

Topical local applications

The typical Seattleite is always smiling and civil.
Most of you good readers live in the Greater Seattle area, AKA The Passive-Aggressive Capital of the World. Is this is a great place to observe phony civility in its natural state, or what? If you say it is, the teacher likes you. If you say “what,” the teacher smiles at you, says, “let’s get together sometime” and avoids you from then on.

As I write this, the state legislators debate eliminating programs that help pay for mental health treatment and the survival needs of the mentally ill. This is happening because state voters wouldn’t approve higher taxes for the rich, for fear that it would cut into their own chances to be rich one day. Who’s crazy in that picture?

Monday, January 17, 2011

If It's Monday, We're In Hell

[from 1/12/10]

Here’s an expression I’m getting tired of hearing: “sign of the Apocalypse”. Now the End-Times are underway, do we really need to note that this, that, and everything else is a “sign of the Apocalypse”? Hey, it’s the End-Times, OK? If it’s morning, it’s a sign of the Apocalypse. If it’s on the internet, it’s a sign of the Apocalypse. If it’s Folgers, if it walks the walk, etc. Quit rubbing it in. We’ll all die and burn for eternity except the Christians (of the correct sect.) We get it, shut up.

I’m so over these End-Times. They started, as I’m sure you know, in the Summer of 1986, in the middle of Reagan’s second term. That was when the rapture occurred. My first thought, when Reagan and I weren’t rapted, was uh-oh, our lives are going to get way too interesting.

Well, they did. George Bush Sr., Iraq War I, Alzheimer’s, Clinton, Monica, Kosovo, Paul Schell, George Bush Jr., 9/11, Afghanistan War, Iraq War II, MySpace -- one daytime nightmare after another. Reagan didn’t survive it.

But now it’s just old. I’m sorry, I don’t have the attention span it takes to stay awake for this bore-fest. The real thing is as tedious as every end of the world movie I’ve ever walked out in the middle of.

The Bible totally over-hyped it. I thought birds were supposed to fall out of the sky everywhere at once. So far, what’s it been? Kentucky, Italy, and Sweden? That’s not everywhere. I’ve only been to one of those.

It turns out thousands of birds drop dead out of the sky, here and there, hill and dale, all the time, and have for hundreds of years. It just that before it didn’t get noticed as much as it does now that the world is ending.

A recently homeless man is now the spokesperson for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, while Bernie Madoff sits in prison. OK, that sign is exceptionally interesting, but not enough to sustain me.

I was fortunate that I missed one major sign of the Apocalypse, the reading of the US Constitution, except for the naughty bits, 30 words at a time, into the Congressional Record by the one third of Representatives who are able. I was busy doing something important, so I wasn’t at home in a zombie trance, glued to C-Span. Had I been, my innards -- bones, brain, and all -- would have liquified and spilled out my orifices, ruining my day.

What matters is, with a huge federal deficit hanging over us all, the Republican Party decided it was important for taxpayers paying Congresspeople’s salaries to see them demonstrate that they know the document (or most of it) that is the basis for their jobs. This proves that US Congressbeasts are indeed human with at least 2nd grade educations, and not horses, as they were (well, one of them was) the last time end-times were rumored. Hooray.

Locally, the Highway 99 tunnel project was officially handed over to the Dragados Company. (Dragados = Spanish for “pertaining to seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns,” an accurate description of a tunnel-borer.) This sign is simply annoying. Much like the collapse of the Minneapolis Metrodome. Ten years ago I might have cared. Now? Overdone. What isn’t collapsing, and what won’t be? Why should I have to keep track of every bit of it?

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” blah, blah. We only wished it was that simple. We know how to deal with mere anarchy. We’re talking massive cost overruns here.

An exercise by which to wait for your fiery plunge to eternal agony:

List ten signs of the Apocalypse that you have witnessed since Monday. You can do it. Been on a bus? In traffic? Read a newspaper? Write them large on separate paper and arrange them chaotically at your feet. Stare at them, and contemplate the next two or three years of your life.

Goodbye, supportive housing!

[from 1/5/11]

Last week I mentioned that Anitra “Cosigner” Freeman and I have moved out from rooms where we have lived together for 13 years, into a one bedroom apartment in a different building. When I mention that the old place was supportive housing, and the new place is nonsupportive housing, some people raise their eyebrows. “Why, Wes & Anitra? Why would you give up all that warm fuzzy support?”

Was I the kind of kid who hated Teddy Bears? Did I stick pins in them and kick them down stairs? Is that why I reject other people’s earnest efforts to help me through life?

Well, yeah, maybe. I was the kind of kid who could spot the lie behind Teddy Bears. Why do Mommy and Daddy give you a Teddy Bear to hug? Because they don’t want you hugging them.

Those earnest efforts aren’t always what they seem. Let’s talk about what supportive housing looks like to someone like me, someone who hates Teddy Bears. As usual I may exaggerate here and there, for the sport of it.

I got into supportive housing because I was homeless and have PTSD. That’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for those of you who never heard of wars, but I didn’t get mine from Vietnam, I got mine from my parents. The Teddy Bear bastards.

Theory was, an agency would provide permanent housing and also support tailored to my specific needs as one whose emotional wiring has been whacked. They would have professionals on staff for me, who understood me. So, at least, was it presented to me at the time I was offered the place.

I may have missed something in the fine print. After all I was homeless and I just wanted off the street.

However, looking back, I really think the best support I got was help leaving, just this past month.

For example, how is it supportive for someone who has PTSD to subject him to three room invasions per month?

To start, we had one monthly inspection. Because we’re all psychos, you see, we had to be forced to majorly clean our rooms once a month, instead of every Spring and Fall like normal people do. OK, I could see that if we really were all psychos, but guess what? PTSD doesn’t impair your ability to clean. It impairs your ability to tolerate room invasions.

Old time fans of Real Change might remember that Dr. Wes here once dabbled in the graphic arts. This ended roughly 1998, around about the time I moved the art supplies into my room. I set up an easel, laying down old newspapers to protect the floor. The room invaders cried, “Clutter! Awwwk!” Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978. The easel had to be put away, the paints had to be put away, every month.

That and the woman upstairs screamed all night, and once even threw a chair through her unopened window, bringing glass and chair past my window to crash 3 stories below me, while I had flashbacks of Mommy screaming and torturing me. I complained for 2 years about the effect her disability was having on mine. She was finally evicted when staff decided she was too much for them to handle. I didn’t want her gone, I just wanted a quieter room, away from hers. So I could paint between inspections.

Then bed bugs invaded America, and we got an extra invasion per month because we had to be protected from bed bugs. Who’s the real bug in this room, I would ask.

Then we failed one annual inspection by Seattle Housing Authority, done by a retiring inspector who’d gone postal, and it was decided that to prevent that recurring the number of room inspections should increase by another 12, because by now they were just looking for ways to push my buttons?

I’m all for Housing First and supportive housing. But, can these agencies never learn that different people have different needs?

I Lie About Bricks

[from 12/29/10]

This will be almost my worst column ever. Isn’t it good to know that now? That’s how I feel. Get it over with.

I have multiple excuses. There’s a world-wide recession going on. The Earth just turned on its axis. I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, and I’m being pummeled by Christmas music.

Worse, through all of that, I’m working at Real Change today. Real Change vendors live on their daily earnings so we can’t close the office two days in a row. Reality sucks. So I have to be here making sure the papers are available.

Worse than worse, through all that, Anitra “Ooo -- Let’s Keep This Pretty Brick Forever” Freeman and I have landed a new apartment together, and have been having to move out of our old studios. Thus, my life is now an endless repetition of putting Anitra bricks in milk crates, putting milk crates on shopping carts, and lugging shopping carts the 4 blocks uphill to the new digs. When I am not working at Real Change. Or writing. this. next. word. Anitra keeps thousands of painted bricks. I’m not lying one bit. Or did I just? Ha, ha! Yes.

With all that going on, I’m supposed to make some fun while drawing out one or two cogent comments reflecting upon politics, the environment, society, the condition of modern personhood, family values, and/or homelessness, without having a permanently debilitating emotional breakdown.

OK. Well. Let’s see. How about politics? What do you think of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? How long have I been whinging on about that? Isn’t it great that I’ll stop now? That’s cogent. Note to Congress: Don’t any of you dare come around asking for a pat on the back for it. You all took too long.

Great. We’re making progress. Now, what can I say about the environment?

This reminds me of a true story. When I was 13 I had something they called “social studies” in what they called “Junior High School” at the time. I was put on a panel of students to make a group presentation to the class on the issue of nuclear fallout from nuclear weapons testing. My specific assignment in the group was to report on the dangers of Strontium-90 in the environment to people. I studied my topic to death.

My entire prepared presentation on Strontium-90: “Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope of Strontium which has chemical properties similar to Calcium which is why the body absorbs much of it into bones where it is liable to cause bone cancer and leukemia.”

Then the teacher said, “Yes, go on. What happens then?”

“You die.”

That story is all I can think of to say about the environment at this time. Take it as allegorical in applying it to present conditions.

Speaking of present conditions, in human society news, I’m being told Lady Gaga is a guy. No way! Stop messing with me.

I don’t even know what “the condition of modern personhood” means, and past-Wes wrote it less than an hour ago. Past-Wes is always making trouble for me. I think he does drugs. Modern personhood indeed. What, like people have evolved just because we have computers?

Family values. Well, let’s see, a Seattle P-I story last week announced that “more than 21,000 homeless students go to school in Washington state,” an increase of 5% over the previous year. That can’t be good for the perpetuation of family values. Would somebody get on that right away? Thanks.

I just talked about homelessness and family values at the same time, so I get to tick both off the list! We’re done, except for a gratuitous exercise.

Exercise for the reader

Load up a shopping cart with two hundred pounds of bricks, or two hundred pounds of marshmallows, or a ten stone bag of cats. Push it uphill four blocks. Imagine you were homeless and that was all the belongings you had. Pretty realistic exercise, actually.

Gratuitous Annual Christmas References

[from 12/22/10]

Let’s talk about a stupid sentence!

I heard this sentence on a stupid TV news show, uttered by a stupid “conservative” member of Congress: “You can’t balance budgets by taxing.” Whaaa?!

We don’t need to know who said that. We don’t want to get personal here at Adventures in Irony. We just want to laugh at the stupidity of stupid, stupid ideas. And this Dumbo’s idea is a doozy!

Let’s eliminate all our taxes then, and balance our budgets your way, “conservative” Dumbo! Start flapping your ears! Hey, everybody, clear the room! Elephant flapping his ears!

I’m sorry. Not only was that last comment entirely based on supposition, in that I don’t really know how the stupid “conservative” thinks budgets can be balanced without taxing, I also used a reference to a movie that 95% of my readers are too young to remember. I should have found a way to get my point across using Lady Gaga.

No, let me go back even before the flying elephant movie. Let’s go back to Joseph & Mary. That’s right. It’s Christmas. Here’s my gratuitous Christmas reference. Joseph & Mary knew all about taxes. They traveled by donkey 100 miles to pay their taxes in tax season, without a hotel reservation.

“So, what’s your point this time, Wes?” Well, I’ll tell you, Wes. Two thousand years ago the parents of JESUS didn’t have to be defeated in Congress to pay THEIR taxes, they paid them willingly, even when it meant riding a stinking donkey for over a week.

And how does all that fit in with this “conservative” label? How is balancing budgets using taxes some new-fangled liberal idea, when 2000 years ago the Romans were funding THEIR empire by taxing?

OK, let’s turn that observation around. How SHOULD the Romans have funded their Empire? Setting aside for the moment the notion that the Romans ought not to have had an empire, should they have funded it with bake sales? Rummage sales? Used book sales? Rock music benefits? Pledge drives? Subscriptions? “Your ad on this shield?” Selling naming rights to monuments?

I don’t know that they didn’t do all that and a lot more! The Romans, give credit where credit is due, were very creative. They invented ipso facto. They invented indoor heated flush toilets. They invented bat spit crazy politics. They were the real inventors of French fries, which are misnamed, as you all know, only they didn’t make them out of potatoes, they used parsnips. The French today call them “Panais frits” and make you wait an hour for them, then only bring two bites worth with a teaspoon of gravy on top.

But that’s beside the point! You can’t fund a whole empire charging a quarter quadrans per toilet use, or exporting fried parsnips to the Teutons. Even those and all the other tricks I’ve mentioned put together aren’t enough. Empires are very expensive.

So what’s it going to be, “conservatives”? Are we going to go so far back to the good old days that we don’t even have an empire? Seriously? Are we withdrawing from Afghanistan, Iraq, the Korean DMZ, our German bases, Diego Garcia, Okinawa, Kosovo?

Hell no, we won’t go. We never go. We’re going to be the Empire of a Thousand Years. So how do you fund an empire? How do you ALWAYS fund an empire? What’s the plain old normal way that all conservative governments that do things plain old-fashioned old normal ways use to fund an empire? They tax. Tax, tax and tax some more.

Going into Christmas time, or whatever you heathens call it, “End of the personal year” “No COLA Time”, “Unemployment”, let’s try to keep in mind that there could be no War on Christmas if there were no Christmas, and there’d be no Christmas without imperial tax collectors.

This is real conservatism: You balance budgets any way you can, and if that means raising taxes, you get on it. Grow up, people who want to call themselves conservatives.

All Men Are Smelly Rutty Ibexes

[from 12/15/10]

Top ten Wikileaks revelations so far.

#10. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange favors Golden Trojans. Old joke recalled from college: what do you call a man who uses Golden Trojans? A. Dad. New joke for a post 9/11 world: What do you call a man who uses Golden Trojans? A. Surprising.

#9. All US State Department employees and dependents agree that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is a ‘smelly rutting ibex.’ [Actually a mild family-friendly euphemism. The exact kinds of things they say about him can’t be repeated in front of impressionable children, because they’d just repeat it back to us endlessly, and spoil the fun of it.]

#8. That Hamid Karzai knows that he is a ‘smelly rutting ibex’, but he doesn’t feel that should keep him and the US apart. He is enjoying having ‘a dance’ with us.

#7. Iyyad Allawi, former US-appointed puppet leader of Iraq, begged us to invade Iran, at a time when we had already invaded two countries, including his, also at his insistence. We wrote him back a very polite letter, the gist of which was, “Get a life.”

#6. Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak actually told US officials America should install our own dictator in Iraq once and for all, and forget this silly democracy business. At that time we told him we had Iyyad. Hosni said he had an uncle that would dictate for us for half what Iyyad was charging. We said, “no thanks,” money is no object, we just steal from the Iraqis.

#5. After a German of Lebanese descent was kidnapped, rendered to Afghanistan, and tortured under the direction of the CIA, the CIA discovered they had the wrong guy and released him, and he complained. Germany was all set to prosecute the CIA operatives involved in the kidnapping, then dropped the effort after one of our ambassadors told them the United States would spank Germany if they arrested any of them.

#4. While Germany was making us mad by wanting us to obey laws, a naughty judge in Spain was getting ready to prosecute no less than Alberto Gonzales, our attorney general, for allowing Spanish citizens to be tortured at Guantanamo. We sent Spain a very firm cable reminding them that children don’t tell their betters how to behave, and threatened to spank them, as well.

#3. Pakistan is providing safe havens for the Taliban. We should spank them. Oh, wait, they have nukes. Never mind that, then. But we’ll keep sending soldiers to Afghanistan to die, because otherwise the terrorists will have won.

#2. Hillary Clinton authorized spying on UN officials, including the Secretary General, in violation of international law that the United States has ratified. But let’s cut her some slack. After all, she’s married to Bill. She’s bound to be a little paranoid. We need to recognize, too, that paranoia is as much an ability as it is a dis-ability, and be accepting and celebratory of that fact.

#1 It’s not really a Wikileak, but the main thing we’ve learned from the whole affair is that Americans believe that the US government can withdraw freedom of the press from anyone merely by unilaterally declaring that they are not a journalist. Like all the other “revelations” from Wikileaks, this only surprises the inattentive. We already knew that the average American thinks that a citizen’s legal rights can be cancelled by arbitrarily being declared an enemy combatant. So, big whoop.

Nevertheless, Julian Assange and Co deserve awards, if only for proving to the rest of us that Pay Pal,, and MasterCard are also as cowardly as the German and Spanish governments, or as uncaring about freedom of speech and the rights of all the people of the world to know how much their governments violate their trust.

And now, a completely off-topic facetious remark. There’s a rumor Hillary Clinton advised Obama to compromise on continuing the Bush tax cuts for the rich. I’m sure she did, with his best interests at heart.

Goofy Is As Goofy Does

[from 12/8/10]

Disneyfication of the world takes many forms.

I understand the impulse to Disneyfy. You want something done, but you don’t want to do it yourself, it’s too hard or too boring. On the other hand, you don’t want it done by the people who do it every day and have done it every day for years, because you don’t trust mere people. You’re a modern manager. You want it done by modern professionals. You call in Mickey Mouse.

[The above does not refer to the actual Disney Corporation or the actual Mickey Mouse. I am using them as metaphors.]

Illustration #1. Used to be when America was nation-building, we’d pick a spot and have our Army clear it of foreigners and funny-talkers, then have our Army Corps of Engineers build the nation we wanted. Now, we have to hand the nation building off to KBR and Halliburton.

Illustration #2. I am thankful to Teresa “With No ‘Aitch” Reeves for this one. Now that TSA employees themselves are complaining about having to grope travelers at airports, there’s talk of hiring outside professionals to do it. The possibilities make my head spin!

You know what they won’t do. SeaTac masseuses have been doing excellent work in this area for decades, with highly recommended happy endings. But TSA won’t hire them. They’ll hire Disney itself, and you’ll get a smelly old drunk in a Goofy suit sticking an over-sized gloved hand between your Fruit of your Looms and your looming fruit. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just predicting.

Or the job will be offered to clergy under the Faith Initiative, and you’ll come to think of it as part of the lingering Bush Legacy. In your pants, ha, ha, ha.

Illustration #3. What the Seattle Administration is talking about doing with Nickelsville.

The Nickelsville encampment has had as its goal a permanent site within the city for its own members to build permanent residential structures. The mayor’s office has come up with some potential sites. When one is chosen, what next?

The people residing in Nickelsville, the Nickelodeons, have always run their own affairs and done a fine job of it. But the city is talking about asking social service agencies submit proposals for the task of managing Nickelsville. They are seriously suggesting Disneyfying Nickelsville.

Even to suggest such a thing is truly insane. Nickelsville has been extremely successful as a self-run community. Its management structure is part of what it is, and it isn’t broken.

When Washington applied for statehood in the 1800s Congress required the people of this territory to come up with a constitution that was “not repugnant” to the US Constitution, and to generally respect the laws and contracts of pre-existing states. Aside from that, the settlers were expected to run their own affairs.

Perhaps that was a mistake. Maybe Congress and/or Benjamin Harrison should have called for proposals from social services agencies to manage the affairs of the new state. The Salvation Army, having formed in London in 1865 and being the biggest, most experienced social service agency of the day, in the entire world, would have surely got the job.

So instead of becoming the Soviet of Washington at the corner of the 47 Contiguous States, we would have become the only US state that was also a territory of an unestablished English church. I’m sure it would have worked out fine.

In fact, maybe we should go back and fix the mistake that was made 121 years ago. OK, probably there wouldn’t really be a lot of enthusiasm for having the Salvation Army run this state now, but maybe we can think of a good fit. I mean, the idea that people can govern themselves is a load of rot, isn’t it? We need to be managed by an organization with a track record.

I know, let’s turn Washington State over to Qatar! Second highest per capita GDP in the world, home to the 2022 FIFA World Cup!

Let's Be Swell!

[from 12/1/10]

I think I have finally figured out my own country. For 61 years I have been trying to understand what has seemed at times as a death wish among my fellow countrypersons, at other times as a rather very-long-nap-time wish, at other times as a prolonged-stupidity wish. I now realize how wrong I’ve been.

Americans really are idealists in the truest sense. In the sense of wanting the ideal life, regardless of what it takes. It’s just that, the ideal American life is something we saw on television and in the movies.

The dawn of my awakening came when I saw the recent Seattle Times headline, “Washington drivers are spending less time in traffic,” along with the sentence further down, “People drove less because of economic recession, the state says.” My first thought was, “Wow, the state is smart today. Give the state a cookie!"

Then I thought, “Wait a minute, Wes” (I like to think to myself in the third-person, to keep in mind who I’m thinking to) “breezy traffic is the American Dream.” When has a James Bond Lotus or Aston Martin ever been stuck in traffic? I can’t even remember a traffic jam on Dragnet. That was set in Los Angeles! We’ve been taught to think that’s the way it should be!

Well, if that’s the way it should be, there should never be traffic congestion. So then, let’s bring that about. Let’s totally ignore the poor in our country. Pay them so little they can’t afford good food, much less drive to work. Take away health benefits and hope as many as possible are disabled and have to pay their gas money for oxygen instead of gasoline. If that doesn’t clear the roads, ship their jobs overseas.

And we’re doing it. The ideal American Dream Driving Experience, for all the drivers left. The day isn’t far off, when Paul Allen will have the highways to himself. I’m sure he’ll tell us all about it, how wonderful and freeing it feels.

It’s a little like the way we figured out how to solve the housing crisis. Kick everyone out of their homes. What crisis? But I digress.

The coolest thing we’re doing is rebooting the Korean War. The Korean War, as anyone who has seen M*A*S*H knows, was the ideal war. It was funny without being cloyingly sentimental. It was tragic-comical, just the way a war should be. It followed closely after the invention of Groucho glasses and the Tiki bar, which set the tone. Best of all, it never actually ended, so it was the Peter Pan, or the Saturday Night Live, of wars.

Don’t let anybody fool you. The Korean War isn’t restarting just because Kim Jongs are all nuts and because the North Koreans already have enough plutonium to do to Japan what we did, 8 times over.

The Korean War is restarting because America has always wanted it to restart. We’ve sat back and encouraged policies that would isolate North Korea economically and breed and feed nutty dictators there, and our passive-aggressive codependent diplomacy has trained North Korea to threaten us periodically to get concessions.

By the way, here’s a fun true fact for all you boys and girls: Kim Jong-il’s dead Dad Kim Il-sung is the incumbent Eternal President of North Korea. I think that sends a very clear message to the world, “Back off, we’ve been off our meds since 1994.”

Questions just to be asking questions

1.    Suppose you think the author of this column is wrong. How wrong is he? Is he Jeopardy wrong? Is he Who Wants to be a Millionaire wrong? Or is he Gong Show wrong? Punctuate your answer with an appropriate sound effect. (If you can’t do the sound effect -- no credit for you! Wah wah.)

2.    Estimate the number of Posthumous Medals of Honor it would take to get North Korea to surrender, first, assuming China enters the war on our side this time, and second, assuming they go with North Korea again. How long would you wait in line for that movie?

I Actually Wear a Nine and a Half

[from 11/24/10]

Hello, Seattle Police department (SPD). Please meet Good Wes (GW) and Bad Wes (BW). GW and BW just want to talk to you for a few minutes, and address some feelings and concerns that they are having about you.

Good Wes: Nice to meet you, SPD. I’m a long time fan. I’d love to talk to you some time about the great work you do, but there’s just a little problem I’ve been having. You see, we write a column for Real Change, and we’d like to use it to write about other issues.

For example, the fact that Nickelsville, the homeless encampment, might settle into a long term site in SODO is great news to us, and we’d like to write about that. We’d also like to talk about misgivings we have about the process tending toward that result...


GW: What my partner is referring to, is a tendency your people have of harming people who are not being a threat, and a tendency you have of being less than forthcoming about that kind of behavior.

Recently one of your people killed a man, and then you knowingly let a falsehood stand about the circumstances. This week it emerged one of your men kicked a suspect who was surrendering...


GW: Please forgive BW, he gets a little carried away. Understand, it’s not just the beatings and the killings that concern us. For instance, the beating, you know, was recorded, and you said the video was lost. Alright, alright then...


GW: Now, now, he might be telling the truth...


GW: Alright then. But, getting back to the matter at hand. It then surfaced that another video was taken appearing to show your same man, the one doing the beating in the first video, assaulting a camera holder minutes after that other incident.

This comes as no surprise, but what bothers us is that the Seattle P-I had occasion to report “Asked to comment on the new video, [SPD] declined to view it, citing the existing investigation into the officer.” Really, SPD? Really? Because, you’re making it very hard to control my partner here...


GW: Please, please, settle down. Let me get back to our fundamental issues. As I have said, we’d rather not devote so much time and space to you, SPD. We want to return to our business.

We were looking forward this week in particular, to writing 666 words discussing the US external debt problem and its potential to increase US poverty, when you came around with your size 11s, and, uh, metaphorically, kicked our writing table out from under our pens...


GW: Let’s not go there, BW. Let’s try to reason with Mr. SPD. Um, getting back to this beating, which occurred in October, almost a full month before the video was released to the public. The video shows a man, who has put his hands in the air to surrender, being kicked in the groin.

Does the SPD want all potential suspects to believe they will be beaten even if they surrender fully? Doesn’t that promote resistance to the police? I don’t know, I just think that’s something you need to be thinking about, SPD, while the ACLU calls for that federal investigation...


GW: Exactly. Thank you, and I hope I don’t see you here next week.