Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Bonfires of the Banalities

Sarah PalinWhen the mundane becomes revelatory, when banal pronouncements are considered startling epiphanies, when orchestrated spectacle is considered the apex of statesmanship; a society is fast approaching the finish line in its race to the bottom.

The corrupt leaders of society’s broken institutions remain busy spinning a self serving zeitgeist of denial, sowing gardens of ubiquitous ambivalence.  The liturgy of mass self delusion anoints a polity comfortably numb and safely ensconced in a political paralysis; keeping the Bozos bouncing along on the bus sans wheels, happily enthralled in the reverie of their disillusionment.

Sarah Palin, looking slim and extremely fit slugs down a mega calorie Big Gulp on the CPAC dais. Sarah’s slurp becomes an iconic moment in GOP history, as fawning star struck conservatives believe it to be the symbolism of a new Statue of Liberty.

Morning Joe stuffing handfuls of Captain Crunch into his mouth to tweak the eat healthy nose of liberal manikin Mika, cheers the American driving public for making the 6 mpg Super Duty pickup the best selling truck in the USA.  Morning Joe relishes any opportunity to confirm the resplendent truth of America’s voracious appetite for radical entitlement.

Newly elected Pope Francis closes his first Sunday address by advising visiting pilgrims to “have a good lunch” and the media falls all over itself with adulatory elation.

In a world understood as a branded sound bite, the affirming credo an individual adopts as holy gospel is self serving institutional propaganda that vigilantly defends the status quo.

In such a world, sound bites have become a school of famished piranhas that are devouring the body of rational understanding and the ability to peek beyond the veil of obfuscation.

The messages and symbolism signaled from our leaders and political celebrities is clear, loyal constituents are offered an absolution to remain stuck in the certitude ensuring the perpetuation of failing institutions badly in need of reform.

The CPAC crowd cheers Palin’s clownish moxie as she charges the battlements of Bloomberg’s Nanny State.  Though I wonder if Palin’s salute to Seven Eleven was more of a product placement exercise than astute Kabuki theater; Palin’s masterful pandering played well to the partisans.  She brought down the house and successfully sidestepped the issue of a commercial food chain that is progressively poisoning their customers with unhealthy food due to lax regulatory oversight, harmful food additives and corn fructose syrup infused processed food that is driving an obesity epidemic amongst the poor and minorities residing in the food deserts of America’s cities.

Palin’s showmanship appeals to the growing libertarian streak in the GOP.  Let the market decide is the mantra. The jury is out but when the toxic food chain has killed off enough of the process food industries customers, General Foods will hire a Stanford MBA as a new product manager to design and market better foods for a better world. After all that’s how responsible job creators work.

Mornings Joe’s insistence on his free market right to be a mindless consumer is codified in the divine celestial ledgers of Laissez-faire capitalism.  His fattened bank balance is the sole moral imperative to drive an inefficient gas guzzling truck that poisons the environment with carbon emissions. This is the same mind set that insists on building vacation homes on barrier islands. If a major storm destroys the dwelling so be it. FEMA and private insurance have socialized the risk to preserve the right of these homesteaders to settle on endangered land, tipping into the swelling seas, fueled by a changing climate brought on by excessive carbon emissions from Morning Joe’s Super Duty.

In the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre the yearning of citizens to strengthen gun control laws is met by the intransigent commercial interests of gun manufacturers.  In a society bleeding from gun violence the NRA got busy greasing the palms of senators with filthy lucre to encourage diligence to protect 2nd amendment right to market high powered automatic rifles and 30 round magazines that can spray instant death into a room full of 1st graders.

Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA gave an impassioned speech at the same CPAC conference pointing to “the Washington elites” and “liberal media” as the root of all evil.  States LaPierre, …gun control advocates “insult [us], they denigrate, and they call us ‘crazy’ for holding fast to [our opposition to gun control]. In their distorted view of the world, they’re smarter than we are; they’re special; they’re more worthy than we are; they know better than we do,” he said. “The liberal media can keep hating on me, but I’m still standing.”

How the CPAC attendees and the three million members of the NRA can fail to see the irony in Mr. LaPierre’s condemnation of “Washington elites” escapes me.  To be sure, like many CPAC attendees, Mr. LaPierre and the NRA are fully integrated with the elites of Washington.  In point of fact many are on the NRA payroll.  His pernicious attack on a free press belies his unquestioned fealty to the constitution.

Which brings us back to Pope Francis.  He is hailed as a much needed change in a scandal ridden Vatican.  The global prevalence of sexual abuse by clergymen and the institutional protection of predatory pedophiles continues to trouble the church.   Money laundering and other untoward financial transactions conducted by the Vatican Bank is another explosive issue that continues to fester.  The rising voices of women and LGBT communicants seeking reforms to fully enfranchise them as equal citizens in the church are liturgical and theological issues that will continue to be repressed. These questions beg an urgent response from the ossified paternal hierarchy that resists transparency and fails to transcend practices that sacrifices the faith in service to the institutional religion.

Yes the monied pilgrims that made their way to Rome will enjoy the day and most surely find a wholesome meal to eat. What will sate today’s pilgrims and sustain the future generations will be to sit at an inclusive communion table to richly feast on the bread of truth. Throw the institutional banalities into the ovens to stoke the fires capable of baking a rich wholesomeness into the glorious bread of life.

Music Video: Fleetwood Mac, Hypnotized

Risk: political, religious, psychological, cultural

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March 19, 2013 Posted by | conservatism, faith, gay rights, LGBT, Palin, psychology, religion, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kristallnacht in America

The passage of the Health Care Reform Bill has incited an angry reaction by rightist militants.  These incensed and deeply aggrieved ill led people are self deluded uber patriots.  They believe themselves to be striking a blow for individual liberty when in fact their actions consistently undermine the central tenants of our democratic republic.   They are convinced that the new heath care legislation is  America’s decent into a fascist hell led by Il Duce Obama;  and are prepared to water the Tree of Liberty with the blood of tyrants and in some cases their own.   They spit on and hurl racist and homophobic epitaphs at those they disagree with.  Under the cover of darkness these imbecilic cowards have embarked on midnight drive-bys of the local offices of congress members who supported the legislation.  They smash windows, fire bullets and leave threatening voice messages to let the politicians  know of their anger and  resentment.  It’s an American version of a Kristallnacht.

There are some interesting parallels with Kristallnacht that goes deeper then a convenient metaphor of broken glass.  Though I don’t draw any equivalency with the severity and consequence of Kristallnacht with the rightists night of egg throwing and window smashing;  I believe similar motivational ideals triggered the emotional response of the midnight ramblers and the Nazi zealots that authored the first chapters of Hitlers Final Solution.

Indeed both are inspired and encouraged by pernicious and dangerous sycophants who are skilled practitioners in the fine art of The Big Lie. The Nazi’s were goaded into action by Joseph Goebbels; while our American Brown Shirts have Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and mainstream media giant Fox News to instigate a 24/7 anti-Obama diatribe that whips the ditto heads into anger fueled action.  Right wing politicians like Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Tom Tancredo and a growing number of far right conservatives freely use the rhetoric of armed resistance to any government initiative.  They cull the support of angry Teabaggers and a growing Militia Movement that flies the Don’t Tread on Me flag.  The latter  are armed to the teeth and stand minuteman ready to exact swift retribution if you step on their toes.

Radical conservatives have waged a Rovian campaign to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama through red herrings like the Birther Movement.  The rightists deliberately work to confuse and frighten citizens to further their political careers and agendas.  Like Joseph Goebbels they are skilled practitioners in the use of The Big Lie.  The more outlandish the lie, and oft repeated the more believable it becomes.  Since assuming the office of President we have been harangued with negative messaging initiatives by radical conservatives.  Obama is a fascist.  Obama is a Muslim.  Obama is a socialist.  Obama is the Antichrist.  Obamacare will form death panels to conduct social triage.  FEMA is building concentration camps to inter  Teabaggers.  Obama will confiscate your guns and take away your right to bear arms.  Obama wants to address our nations school children indoctrinate them.  Don’t fill out the census because it will allow the government to better track your movements and whereabouts.  The  incessant repetition of these ideas and the complicit silence of conservative leaders to refute them has served to delegitimize the Obama presidency and undermine our nations ability to converse and form a consensus to address the deep problems of our country.

The political culture of America is a landscape of extremes.  The growing fissures are making it more difficult to form any consensus.  These fissures are exploited and exacerbated by competing media channels which define and shape political understanding and context.  A shared political vocabulary and nomenclature of understanding is increasingly undermined by words and symbology that are appropriated by political factions.  Meanings and concepts are codified to create a language and political context that is used to understand factional ideology to support a political cosmology that is understood and accepted by the faithful.  This makes dialog even more difficult if not impossible because the language of political discourse across the partisan divide translates poorly and in fact helps to solidify the meaning of otherness.   Martin Bubur’s  “I and Thou” is an instructive work on how the objectification of the other leads to  their dehumanization.  Once a person is dehumanized,  any action taken against them can be  justified.  Those on the other side of the isle are now the “other” who you cannot trust.  We wrote about McCain’s pejorative use of “That One” to describe Obama during one of their presidential election debates.  The “other” becomes  an actual suspect lying  at the root of the problem confronting the aggrieved.  The problem of incompatible dialects and protracted partisanship eventually leads to the dehumanization of the other.  It doesn’t take much of  a leap to believe that the elimination or suppression of the other will lead to a final solution to our country’s problem.

Kristallnacht was a watershed event in the history of German Nazism.  In response to an assassination of a German diplomat in Paris the Nazi’s initiated a wave of terror against German Jews.  On orders from Nazi zealot and the party’s Chief of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels,  a wave of hate fueled attacks were unleashed by gangs of SS , Hitler Youth and Gestapo thugs to attack and destroy the property of Jews.   The pogrom resulted in the deaths of 91 Jews and 25,000 to 30,000 were arrested and placed in concentration camps.  267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked.  The broken glass that littered the streets from ransacked shops is how Kristallnacht (Chrystal Night) derives its ignominious name. Kristallnacht is understood to be the beginning of Hitler’s Final Solution, which lead to the Holocaust.  It is certainly one of modern civilizations most shameful and tragic events.

The howling yodelers of talk radio and the ministers of propaganda at Fox News intent on exercising their right of free speech by dehumanizing their opponents, inciting angry lemmings into vandalism,  racist diatribes and vigilante terror are stoking the flames of a bitterly divided nation that threatens to immolate our badly divided house.   More rightly this movement could be considered a Falange movement and is not without precedence in history.  Falangism advances a reactionary agenda.  Its  violent temperament is nationalist and often religious in character.  Falangism emerges in weak democracies  and are symptomatic  of a society in decline.  Falangists promise a return to the prosperity and values of the past  that are quickly dissolving in the embroiled clash of cultural, political and economic contradictions democracies find difficult to resolve.   Glenn Becks’s Brownshirts need to understand that their misguided faux patriotism leads to some very dangerous and ugly places.  Its easy to smash the glass encasing our fading constitution.  Its more difficult to come together to address what needs to be done.  I hope its not to late.  I hope Mr. Beck’s final solution is not an historical inevitability for America.

You Tube Music Video: Rolling Stones,  Sympathy for the Devil

Risk: political

March 26, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, Obama, Palin, social unrest | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cedar River, Five Feet High and Rising

The flood of Cedar Rapids seems like an ugly rerun of the Katrina disaster.  Hospitals are being evacuated, homes abandoned, businesses closed, commerce halted and a community is in acute distress.

The City of Five Seasons, population of 120,000 boasts a strong economy, rich culture and engaged citizens whose civic pride and community involvement is the city’s greatest asset.  It is a great city of The Great Plains and its people will rise to the challenge to rebuild itself. The Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce lists 1700 members.  Some will do well as a result of this flood.  Construction companies, waste management firms, building suppliers and others will find opportunity as the flip side of this risk event.

This extreme risk event however, may prove to be a coup de grace for small businesses already stressed due to the slow economy and inflationary pressures. As this incident unfolds the disaster response agencies FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security will be closely watched to see how they perform in their recovery and restoration efforts.  We wish them well.Floods and their destructive aftermath are becoming a cruel joke on the American people because these types of events can be mitigated.  I am of the mind that the severity of geo-risk events can be mitigated by investing in the country’s infrastructure like levees, dams and other engineered solutions.

It is a question of priorities and all citizens should ask why the Federal Government continues to ignore the crumbling infrastructure of this country?  Why must needless lives be lost, businesses bankrupted and communities destroyed because the priority seems to be an open checkbook to fund the prosecution of a war that is exhausting the political, emotional and economic capital of this nation.

The administration spends over $10 billion dollars a month to bolster the failed state of Iraq in their nation building project.  What they seem to have forgotten is that the infrastructure of the USA is worthy of this type of investment and certainly demands its undivided and immediate attention.

Consider what New Orleans cost this country and the many billions of dollars we continue to spend to partially recover from the Katrina disaster.  Consider what the return on investment a $1 billion improvement project to upgrade New Orleans’s antiquated levee system prior to Katrina disaster would have yielded the American taxpayer?  Not to mention the avoidance of the utter devastation of a great American city and it’s people.

That’s the hallmark of true leadership.  Leaders need to offer solutions to problems before they occur.  Unfortunately, current leaders are too preoccupied with other priorities and immediate returns on political capital to propose solutions that look beyond the next election cycle or special interests checkbooks.

Today in Cedar Rapids the front line in the war on terror is being fought against an unrestrained river that is carrying away lives, fortunes, dreams and the personal security of citizens that only a strong, vibrant and stable community can provide.Yes, infrastructure is an area where government matters.  Being anti government, anti tax, anti federal bureaucracy are nice radical platitudes that play on voters political suspicions and partisan sentiments; but eventually the bill comes due at all to often too high a price.  This country can ill afford to lose another city.

All politicians should note, as the Cedar River rises’ so too does the personal anguish and political discontent of our citizens.  We pray for their safety and full restoration.

Here is another version of Five Feet High and Rising by the great Johnny Cash.

Risk:  geo-risk, small business, political, infrastructure, opportunity, community, culture, ROI, opportunity cost

June 13, 2008 Posted by | Bush, cities, community, infrastructure, war | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disaster Response Triad

The earthquake that devastated the Sichuan Province in China, the cyclone that flooded the Irrawaddy River delta in Myanmar and the hurricane that leveled the beloved American city of New Orleans is an interesting study in comparative approaches to disaster response.

All of these natural disasters were terrible human tragedies. The significant loss of life, the destruction of property and environmental damage has forever altered the way of life for millions of people. These disasters have also revealed telling insights into the values of the national governments responsible for rescue, relief and recovery efforts.

The Myanmar effort or more appropriately, non-effort to address the mass misery of its people is a stunning example of authoritarian ambivalence towards the suffering of its subjects. This abomination is more criminal then tragic and is a striking example of the lengths a despotic ruling clique will go to preserve its power through control of the means of subsistence.

Myanmar’s paranoid government uses obfuscation to conceal the impact of its governance practices on its people is damning. Clearly the world has a clear understanding that the Emperor has no cloths and hopefully it will not be long before the people of Myanmar will be able to fully execute its will and rid itself of a repressive government that’s sole purpose is the perpetuation of its oppressive rule.

The Peoples Republic of China’s response is the antitheses of Myanmar’s government’s non-response. China has quickly and efficiently mobilized its state apparatus with military precision. China’s militarization is pervasive and its army is a powerful extension of the state that touches many aspects of daily life and serves as an organizational focal point for the culture and the country’s rural political economy. Here the military is an instrument of relief not of repression as in the case of Myanmar. To be fair the economic strength of China puts it in a better position to respond and provide the relief that a disaster of this magnitude demands. The earthquake has silenced the public relations debacle of the worldwide tour of the Olympic Torch. The Olympic Torch tour has served as a focal point of protest and has eroded the stature of China’s reputation. The earthquake has helped to create some sympathy for the people of China and has shown that the rulers of the Forbidden City are very capable managers of a very formidable state apparatus.

The US Government’s rescue and response efforts following Hurricane Katrina have been scrutinized, dissected and politicized since the time of the event almost three years ago. Lots has been written and we should examine in more detail the risk management lessons from the numerous historical, political, economic and cultural dimensions of the Katrina event. The most salient feature of the US response was how FEMA and Homeland Security could organize and manage a market solution to Katrina. Wal-Mart had the trucks and the logistics, Home Depot had the generators, AT&T the phone cards, General Honore brought the honor and President Bush dispensed funds from the Federal treasury.

I suspect that the Federal Government’s initial reticence to respond to the Katrina crisis was the ideological conviction that the market will provide a solution. Bush’s circle knows that capitalism like nature abhors a vacuum. The spirit of entrepreneurialism will fill the breech that Katrina blew into the intricate levee structure of America’s most idiosyncratic city.

You Tube Video: Dr. John, Sweet Home New Orleans

Risk: Force Majeure, Government, Market, Political, Civil Stability

May 14, 2008 Posted by | China, government, infrastructure, military | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment