Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spain, Guns & Butter & Crazies

Got back from Spain recently and the reentry back into USA life has been rough - particularly because of the ever-present 24-hour news cycle that hovers over bad news like a buzzard over a carcass.

But first, Spain.

According to The New York Times, "
the Spanish economy expanded faster than almost any other economy in Europe over the past decade, but economic activity has dropped quickly over the past year as the construction sector collapsed and the global crisis hit.

Spain's economic outlook is now the grimmest in Europe.

But everywhere we looked we saw workers and we saw signs of government investment in infrastructure improvement - in every city we visited we saw men and women working on bridges, roads, and subways, and cleaning streets, washing windows, etc.

Xavier Segura, chief economist at the savings bank Caixa Catalunya, said that Spain was "spending billions of euros on public infrastructure projects" but the government also needed to take long-term measures to improve productivity.

“We need to change the model of growth,” he said. “The problem is that it’s when you are in a positive economic cycle that you should foment value-added activity. When you are in a crisis with high unemployment you have to feed money to local governments for labor-intensive public works.”

Labor-intensive public works - what a great idea.

Just where is the Obama administration re implementing serious public works projects in this country? Maybe he should visit Spain during his European Vacation and see what we saw.

Now, about reentry back into the good ole USA and that ceaseless news cycle.

News "Highlights" were:
  • Unemployment numbers hit a 25-year high (the NY Times reported the answer "a lot" to the question of how much longer and how much worse will the recession get!)
  • US funded Afghanistan showed it's true colors by passing a law allowing marital rape
  • The FBI reported a link between long-haul truckers and serial killers - thus giving credence to the plots of all those horror movies and TV shows portraying the "killer" truck, racing at high speed through the night, just inches from your car's rear bumper.
  • North Korea showed us their "Big One" - posing just one more threat on the global front
But the worst of the really bad news was the escalation of gun violence in this country. If anything best defines the culture shock of reentry back into the USA from another country, it is the never-ending incidence of gun violence and the attendant reportage.

An unidentified 31-year-old woman is gunned down in the middle of a Brooklyn street. 5 children are found murdered in Seattle - killed by their father. 13 people, most of whom were looking for a better life in the US, are mass-murdered in Binghamton, New York by a "troubled" unemployed man.

And just two weeks after after a parolee shot and killed four police officers in Oakland, Calif., 3 cops are murdered in Pittsburgh by a gun nut who believed the Obama Administration was preparing to negate his 2nd Amendment right to own guns - lots of guns - an AK-47 rifle, a .22 long rifle and a pistol. Friends said the gunman recently had been upset about losing his job and feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

A few people die from eating contaminated pistachio nuts and this country goes on the immediate offensive to tackle the problem - but people get killed every day by gun violence and this country stands by and does nothing.

Jesus, is this not some crazy shit?

And you know what? This "armed and dangerous" mentality is being fed by people like Glenn Beck and other Ministers Of Revolution on right-wing radio and TV all over this country.

Charles Blow addressed this very issue in his NY Times column, "Pitchforks and Pistols."

"...But, it’s not all just harmless talk. For some, their disaffection has hardened into something more dark and dangerous. They’re talking about a revolution. Some simply lace their unscrupulous screeds with loaded language about the fall of the Republic. We have to “rise up” and “take back our country.” Others have been much more explicit.

"For example, Chuck Norris, the preeminent black belt and prospective Red Shirt, wrote earlier this month on the conservative blog WorldNetDaily: “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?”

"And between his tears, Glenn Beck, the self-professed “rodeo clown,” keeps warning of an impending insurrection by saying that he believes that we are heading for “depression” and “revolution” and then gaming out that revolution on his show last month. “Think the unthinkable” he said."

"At the same time, the unrelenting meme being pushed by the right that Obama will mount an assault on the Second Amendment has helped fuel the panic buying of firearms. According to the F.B.I., there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year. That’s 5.5 million requests altogether over that period.

Coincidence? Maybe. Just posturing? Hopefully. But it all gives me a really bad feeling."

Gives me a really bad feeling too.

When will this country wake up and finally address the guns and crazies issue?????

Welcome home.