Just Say Yes — ‘Yes Men’ asks if there can be profit in doing the right, moral thing

Andy Bechlbaum and Mike Bonanno take on big business and big politics in "Yes Men Fix the World."

Andy Bechlbaum and Mike Bonanno take on big business and big politics in “Yes Men Fix the World.”

Andy Bechlbaum has the eyes of a prankster. Although in his 40s, he still has the wide stare and ear-to-ear grin of a kid who has pulled off something naughty. So it’s a wonder how he and Mike Bonanno, collectively known as the Yes Men, can keep it together to fool a string of people, getting them into business conventions, conferences and televised interviews. Once at their destination — usually a podium — one or both of them present thinly veiled Swiftian satire that leads to befuddlement, and they’re usually tossed out for — and this is the scary part — the request for business cards and further information.

In the speedy film “The Yes Men Fix the World,” we see five situationist pranks from these artists, who have made corporation criticism their raison d”tre since 2000. At a conference for bankers, they discuss a way of profiting from tragedy, and, posing as Halliburton representatives, they unveil an absurd SurvivaBall, an inflatable suit in which one can ride out the apocalypse. At an energy conference, they pass out candles made from a former employee for a world where the dead can be used for fuel. There’s no real flesh in the candle, of course, but the real human hair inside smells foul.

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Krugman lays it down: Why the “free market” can’t fix healthcare

We’re living in the reasons why, but still, some people seem to think “competition” will give us all affordable (hahahahahahaha) healthcare. And Paul Krugman is here to tell us why not.

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.
This tells you right away that health care can’t be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can’t just trust insurance companies either — they’re not in business for their health, or yours.

Read the whole thing, it’s quite short.

Galloway on McNamara: Reading an obit with great pleasure

Architect of the Vietnam War, enigmatic bean-counter, and war criminal Robert McNamara died on Monday, July 6. He was 93. What-was-I-thinking, former Bush supporter and ex-military op-edder Joe Galloway says good riddance and offers this anecdote.

The most bizarre incident involving McNamara occurred when he was president of the World Bank and, off on his summer holiday, he caught the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. It was a night crossing in bad weather. McNamara was in the salon, drink in hand, schmoozing with fellow passengers. On the deck outside a vineyard local, a hippie artist, glanced through the window and did a double-take. The artist was outraged to see McNamara, whom he viewed as a war criminal, so enjoying himself.
He immediately opened the door and told McNamara there was a radiophone call for him on the bridge. McNamara set down his drink and stepped outside. The artist immediately grabbed him, wrestled him to the railing and pushed him over the side. McNamara managed to get his fingers through the holes in the metal plate that ran from the top of the railing to the scuppers.
McNamara was screaming bloody murder; the artist was prying his fingers loose one at a time. Someone heard the racket and raced out and pulled the artist off.
By the time the ferry docked in the vineyard McNamara had decided against filing charges against the artist, and he was freed and walked away.

Jon Stewart’s Shining Moment

On Thursday night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart had on Jim Cramer after Cramer criticized Stewart for his evisceration of CNBC last week. And just like Stewart’s visit to the Crossfire set years ago, he stopped being funny and brought a real does of reality to our mainstream media, which is pretty much a corporate propagandizing joke.
At some points Cramer sounds like he’s on the verge of tears, and once again, Stewart does the job that nobody else has the nuts to do. “Who are you responsible to?” asks Stewart (of Cramer and CNBC). This is absolutely must-see and Comedy Central knew they had a fiery thing on their hands: they’ve put the complete uncensored interview online ASAP.

Even the Economist agrees: Legalize it. All of it.

When will this war be over?

Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless. That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.

I’d prefer the “least bad,” wouldn’t you?

The GOP’s Shining Hope!

Two days ago we had Bobby Jindal rebutting Obama’s SOTU address and sounding like a patronizing idiot (or that guy from 30 Rock). And what of the other major star of the new Rethuglican Party, Joe the Plumber? Book tour, baby!
Except!! Book Tour FAIL!

Joe the Plumber (no longer a plumber; first name actually Samuel) popped into our town yesterday evening to sell his new book and to remind people that he’s still a plain and simple guy. Mission accomplished, on at least one of his missions.

About 11 people wandered into the rows of seats set up hopefully in the basement of a downtown Border’s bookstore to hear Joe speak. Joe addressed them from behind a lectern and with a microphone, but that seemed unnecessarily formal.

And! Then!!

Wurzelbacher was scheduled to speak and sign books for three hours, but the Joe Show was over in 55 minutes. Total copies of “Joe the Plumber” sold: five.

Those 15 minutes were sweet. But how will he now pay those back taxes he owes? Hmm.

The End of Bling?

With reports like these about the ailing economy coming out daily, with no more lines to easy credit, and rising unemployment, when will this hit popular culture? Channels like MTV started off as an alternative to the polished world of regular TV, but now I can’t think of a channel that better epitomizes the culture of showy capitalism. Artists showing off their huge mansions, reality shows about the young, dumb, and affluent, and endless (mostly hip-hop) videos of displayed wealth. When will the culture turn? When will showing bling (usually bought on credit from the record company against future record sales) just seem, you know, icky and out of touch? When will the fans revolt?

Here’s a popular and stomach-churning example of what I’m on about.

One could argue that such songs represent dream fulfillment for their fans, much like the jet-set life of previous decade’s stars appealed to legions of folks who could and would never attain that lifestyle. But I would say the difference is that the fame that accompanied older stars was sold as a different world that surrounded the person, that they had entered this world through talent, and it was there waiting for them. Now, we see stars dressed down like you and me, but sporting expensive items, driving expensive cars, and living in expensive homes. And for a lot of the fans, that was attainable through easy credit, and so they followed. Now the fans, like a lot of the stars, are screwed. So what now?

My final profane words on the matter!

Good riddance and get lost, you bloody fucking asshole piece of shit. My deepest wish is for you to rot in a jail cell for your war crimes. And Cheney. And Rumsfeld. You and your gang of thieves and murderers have nearly destroyed our country.

This blog started near the beginning of the Iraq invasion, and was fueled by a lot of anger. Hopefully some of that anger can be turned into positivity seven years later.

Jane Smiley: Goodbye, Cruel World

Writer Jane Smiley sums up our choice in one week. This paragraph is worth quoting in full:

In a week, we have a chance to leave this world behind. If we look at our two candidates, the differences between them are stark. John McCain, who was raised by and accepts the authoritarian model, is evidently never at peace. He is hot-headed, erratic, and has been remarkably cruel. He claims to have principles, but his principles change every time he loses his cool. The more he is pushed, the more it becomes evident that he lives by his own selfish desires — for money, for power, for women. He’s is a classic avoider, who can’t even answer the simplest question — if something “unpleasant” comes up, he changes the subject. Barack Obama rarely changes the subject, because he is fully capable of looking at an issue and considering it. He seems to have been reared in a non-authoritarian household, by a loving mother and loving grandparents. He thinks that the world is a rational place that can be understood and modified. His own family seems happy and loving. Right wingers think he is shallow, but he isn’t shallow — he’s well-adjusted. And we’ve had two whole years to poke him and prod him and discover this. Obama has grown through campaigning because he has learned from it. McCain gets ever smaller and more weird as he campaigns because he doesn’t understand what is happening to him. When we choose between these two men, we are choosing between two worlds — the world of ignorance, fear, manipulation, and cruelty, and the world of rational investigation, weighing of options, and planning. This world is a world where sexual preference is not such a big deal, salvation is not an eternal mystery, and life goes on. It’s a world where bad things happen, but there is no malign Godly intention behind them. It is world that understands the temptations of human nature and attempts to deal with them rationally and systematically. Some of these attempts will fail, but on balance, not as many as have failed in the last twenty-five years.

McCain is the unaware self. Obama understands ambiguity and doubt. Can we please stop voting for people who have unfinished issues with their dads? Thanks.