Thursday, July 31, 2008

The truth hurts

This fuss over racism being introduced into the campaigns is most interesting. McCain claims that Obama has introduced race into the campaign because, among other things, he said he doesn’t look like the pictures of Presidents on our bills and this implies racism. McCain, disingenuous as always, wants to portray himself the picture of innocence and says he did not, and would not, introduce race into the campaign. But his whole strategy is based upon doing just that, however much he wishes to pretend otherwise. His strategy, as is now widely known, is to get everyone to focus on Obama, who is he, can he be trusted, does he have judgment, experience, and so on. But what does anyone think of when they focus their attention on Obama? He’s black! McCain doesn’t have to articulate this, it is simply built into the strategy. They want voters to mistrust Obama, think he is too inexperienced, and most of all, is risky. To get them to believe that, they insist he is himself the important issue in the campaign. But he is inescapably black and that is the first thing people will notice when they focus their attention of him. So McCain can say he didn’t introduce race into the campaign because, in fact, he didn’t. But he didn’t have to. Simple, no? I would not have thought McCain and the Brafia that clever, but it seems they are. That they are doing just that is clear when you realize that Obama has already commented upon his own blackness previously. In fact, he even used the same remark about the Presidents before. They didn’t cry racism then, so why now? Because they are becoming desperate and have no positive record to run on and they don’t dare come right out in the open with their racial prejudice. I have to begrudgingly admit this is pretty clever. Linking Obama with a couple of immoral white women just adds to the picture of Obama they want viewers to believe, there is no other explanation for why they would have produced such an ad. Spears and Hilton have no connection whatsoever to politics. They might well have wanted to portray Obama as a celebrity, but why with Spears and Hilton? Why not Oprah or even Streisand? Why not any of the other celebrities that are supporting him? Spears and Hilton were carefully selected to make precisely the kind of sleazy connection they want the viewer to come away with. This is the same dishonest bit they used against Harold Ford (black man with white women). The McCain campaign has crossed the line, and having crossed it will probably not now be able to change. This is the strategy they chose and they can pretend it was not racist if they wish. But it is, and they must know it is. What bothers them is that Obama has revealed the truth about it. He’s no fool, he knew they would depend upon racism as well as his inexperience, and it would only be a matter of time before it would happen. He has rather cleverly parried it.
As I said last night, I believe McCain is a far greater risk as President than Obama. I think his attitude toward Obama even proves it. He’s a hater. He hated Romney and now he hates Obama. And he’s angry. Allowing yourself to become angry in a fight is a recipe for failure. He is trying everything to make Obama mad and upset. But Obama keeps his cool, Calamity John does not. McCain is very apt to self-destruct before this is over.

Jon Steward on the Daily show tonight got it just right tonight about the claim of arrogance. He pointed out the obvious truth: both Obama and McCain are running for President, the most powerful position in the world. What are they supposed to say, “I’m really not much of a person or anything but you should vote for me?” In fact, like most everything else McCain has claimed about Obama, it’s more true of him than Obama. Think of his delusional, “I know how to win wars,” claim, or his description of exactly what the world would be like at the end of his first term. No one harped on McCain’s presumptiveness as they have about Obama’s. White men are just not seen as “uppity” (presumptiveness in blacks is uppity, in whites it is just presumptivesness), just another example of the no longer veiled racism involved. But search your brain. Can anyone see McCain as a possible really great President, carrying on as he will in the marvelous achievements of the Bush Presidency?

It is dangerous for a national candidate to say things that people might remember.
Eugene McCarthy

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"My friends," watch out!

Boy’s arm recovered from
belly of alligator,
re-attachment doubtful.

When Calamity John McCain starts inserting the phrase “my friends” after every third or fourth sentence, be prepared for the barrage of lies that is certain to follow. I guess it’s a phrase he picked up from Huey Long and thinks that people will be dazzled into thinking he is really their friend. McCain is the only person I’ve ever heard to make “my friends” sound like something dirty, like he’s inviting you to join him in a Dempsey dumpster or something. McCain has apparently decided to follow the Bush/Cheney strategy of constantly lying. And like Bush/Cheney he doesn’t even bother to tell lies that might actually be taken seriously. Obama is responsible for high gasoline prices, for example. Or Obama doesn’t respect our troops. Or Obama doesn’t care if we lose the “war” if it will get him elected, and so on ad nauseam. This is the John McCain formerly of the “straight-talk express.” The John McCain who vowed he would not run a negative campaign. He is trying desperately to make this a question of Obama’s lack of experience and understanding, his recent appearance in politics, and the fact that this makes him a “risky” choice to be President. A risky choice? What could possibly be more risky in a President than a man with a known bad temper, quick to anger and bear grudges, with a hair trigger finger, whose immediate response to most everything is military action, and who wants to kick Russia out of the G8 and attack Iran? At the rate he is currently going, his attempt to make this election about Obama is more likely to make it an election about himself, and his unfitness for office. He and his backers are trying to characterize Obama as arrogant. Could anyone be more arrogant than McCain? Even his friends are turning against him, or at least against his negative campaigning.

Will anything ever come of anything? That is, as Rove has been charged with contempt of Congress by the House Judicial Committee, will the majority of the House agree? Don’t bet on it. Senator Stevens of Alaska has been indicted on 7 charges of accepting illegal gifts from an oil company. Will he go to jail? Don’t bet on it. John Conyers has held a session to discuss possible impeachment charges against Bush, but at the same time has made it clear this is not really about impeachment. Apparently it’s just a game like charades meant more to amuse than anything else. Monica Goodling has been accused of basic idiocy as well as illegal acts within the Department of Justice. Will she be held accountable? Don’t bet on it. Alberto Gonzales has been accused of gross amnesia, as well as improper management of the Justice Department. Will anything happen to him? Don’t bet on it. This should become a national mantra with respect to both the House and Senate: Don’t Bet On It! Apparently they are either themselves so involved in improprieties they don’t dare act, or they are just simply pussies. If it weren’t for Kucinich and Wexler we wouldn’t have heard a word about any of this. Now here is talk of Bush granting a blanket pardon for himself, Cheney, and all the rest of his gangster cronies. Do you think the Supreme Court will say he can’t do it? Don’t bet on it.

The great animal conspiracy against humans continues. Now the alligators have joined in. Two young boys have lost arms to alligators within the last few days. Not only that, raccoons are threatening to take over Germany and beavers are threatening to take over Patagonia and parts of Chile. I tell you, the animals are sick of humans and beginning to organize. This is going to make the French Revolution look like child’s play before it’s over. I guess the only thing to do is label all animals as terrorists and start a war against them. Ridiculous you say? No more ridiculous than our present war on terrorists, and most certainly no more ridiculous than the war on poverty, the war on drugs, or the war on fat. Speaking of this latter, what do you think happens to all those millions of pounds of fat we are told are being lost through Jennie Craig and the myriad other weight loss programs that almost single-handedly must be supporting the advertising industry? Do they end up in fat heaven? No, as they are bad, I suppose they end up in hell where they just melt. Beats me.

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
John Adams

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is anything worse?

When even friends of long standing begin to announce that you are running a nasty, very negative campaign, as Hagel, Daschle and others have recently remarked about the McCain campaign, you might think McCain would take notice and perhaps try to clean up his act. There is no sign he is about to do so. McCain and his backers know they are losing, and as they have nothing positive to run on, they have little choice but to roviate Obama, which they are doing now with a vengeance. Part of McCain’s problem is that everything he tries to criticize about Obama, he is guilty of himself. Obama a flip-flopper, he’s an amateur at it compared to McCain. He criticizes, even makes fun of Obama’s suggestion that more troops are needed in Afghanistan, but then later he wants to outdo him by sending even more troops. He makes fun of Obama’s desire to see an end to the Iraq business in 16 months, but then says maybe 16 months is a reasonable time line. He says Obama just doesn’t understand (anything, I guess) while he is the one who makes one awkward gaffe or mistake after another. He mistakes Shiites and Sunnis, doesn’t know where the border of Pakistan is, admits to knowing nothing about economics, and so on. He says Obama doesn’t support the troops when his own voting record indicates he is far worse about supporting them than Obama is. It seems that everything he tries somehow backfires or makes him look silly. Obama makes a speech in Germany in front of more than 200,000 people, McCain has lunch with Lindsay Graham at Schmidt’s Sausage House. Obama talks about the economy, McCain visits a grocery store where he interviews a woman planted by his staff, and while doing so a bunch of cans fall off the shelf. He tells blatant lies that unfortunately for him can be proven as lies by videotapes and witnesses. He accuses Obama of not wanting to solve the energy crisis by drilling offshore, yet he himself previously was opposed to such drilling (when he changed his mind he apparently received a million dollars in donations from the oil companies). His worst moment came when he basically accused Obama of treason: “he’d rather be President than win the war.” This, of course, was the ultimate low blow, virtually unprecedented in political campaigns. Decent people just don’t accuse their opponents of things like treason. Even here McCain should be very careful with his accusations about how bad someone wants to become President. Consider his own situation: he has virtually sold his soul to try to become President. He has sold it to the oil companies, the corporations, the evangelicals, the Brafia base, and anyone else he could find. Most of all he sold it to George W. Bush who slandered and insulted him terribly in his previous bid for the Presidency. No matter, he subsequently was hugging Bush and identifying himself and his campaign with him, and, in short, shamelessly doing anything and everything to ingratiate himself. He has obsequiously pandered to those he formerly held in contempt. No one wants the Presidency more than McCain, and few would go so far as to sell their soul for it. McCain has done just that. He is not in a position to judge how badly Obama wants to be President. He is perhaps the worst Presidential candidate ever, although in 2000 he was an entirely different person, the “maverick” that people admired. I think it is a sad story and I fear it will get worse as the campaign continues.

I don’t understand some of these claims about what candidates need in a vice president. For example, Obama, who is said to be weak on foreign policy, is believed by some to have a vice president who is strong on foreign policy (like Biden, in this case). McCain is said to be weak on economics so he needs someone like Romney, and so on. This seems to me to be utter nonsense. Any President is obviously going to have dozens, even hundreds of experts of all kinds at his disposal. He isn’t going to single-handedly make up his foreign policy, nor is he going to consult with only his vice president. Are we supposed to believe that Biden would refuse to advise him if he isn’t vice president? Like so much of what we hear about the campaigns this strikes me as ridiculous. It may be the case that Bush pays no attention to his advisors (except Cheney?), but that has never been true of other Presidents (who, for the most part, unlike Bush, actually had brains that functioned). I suppose is does make sense to pick someone who might help you politically, like win a crucial state, or a given category of voters (Hispanics, Jews, Blacks, White women, etc.). But as the entire electoral process is fundamentally absurd I don’t know why even this matters. It is being said now that most voters haven’t been paying attention, and some even say they won’t pay attention until probably October. So what the hell has the past year or more been all about? What has been the point? It is apparently just one extra long media event, like a Christmas season for the television and newspaper industries. Who else benefits from this ongoing diarrea of the mouth, other than these industries? Certainly not the voters, or even the candidates. What would all these people do without wars and elections? I guess they would have to find something useful to do.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Bible, Matthew xvi. 26.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Whatever happened to right and wrong?

Whatever happened to those old fashioned ideas of right and wrong? I realize there are times when there are legitimate differences of opinion about what is right and what is wrong. Abortion, for example. While I do not believe abortion is wrong I recognize there are those who do, and they have arguments that are at least worthy of consideration. Then there are questions like, should Michael Jordan have attempted to play major league baseball, or should the Green Bay Packers play Brett Favre for another year or not, and so on. Issues that are not at all easy to decide on the basis of right and wrong. But now we are confronted with a situation in which it appears virtually most everyone acknowledges that something is wrong, but some people defend it anyway. I am speaking of John McCain’s recent ads attacking Barack Obama. In one, for example, he accuses Obama of being responsible for the price of gasoline. Everyone, or at least most everyone, knows this is totally wrong. Now there is another attack ad which claims that Obama passed up visiting the troops in a hospital in order to go to the gym. Again, we all know this is completely false. Yet some are arguing that so what if it is wrong, it works. That is, the truth or falsity is irrelevant as long as the ad works. Watching the program, Road to the White House today, with David Gregory and his panel, I was amazed to hear at least one member of that panel argue that it didn’t matter if the ads were honest because they worked. Interestingly enough, he allowed as to how they wouldn’t work on himself or the rest of the panel, but they would work on dumb people. His definition of dumb people seems to have been white male voters who lack college educations. Ignore for the moment just how insulting this is to a large groups of people (who are by no means all dumb), and consider what is at stake here. It’s perfectly fine to lie as long as it might bring about votes, no matter how stupid the voters may be. What does this tell you about a democracy that supposedly can only be viable with an educated and enlightened electorate? What it tells me is that members of a certain party have nothing but contempt both for the voters and for democracy. This is just another case of the ends justifying the means. I desperately want to believe that our political system involves two or more people and/or parties that want to do the best for our country, although they may disagree over which is the right way to do it. But this is not now what we have in our political system, at least it is not what both parties are about. I am willing to give Barack Obama and his followers the benefit of the doubt, and believe they do, in fact, have the best interest of our nation and people at heart. But after the past few years of the Bush/Cheney administration, now to be continued by McCain, I can give no such benefit of the doubt. I know what they are up to, and it has nothing to do with the welfare of our people or country, outside of those who now already control the vast majority of all wealth and incessantly demand more and more. McCain, who claimed he would not run a negative campaign, is now running a completely negative campaign. This is because he is losing, and those who support him think that gives him an excuse for what he is doing. It doesn’t. It is wrong, and there is no argument about it being wrong. So I guess right and wrong no longer apply to our current situation. McCain seems to have adopted the Lyndon Johnson approach: “I don’t care if it’s wrong, I just want to see him squirm trying to explain it.” While you might think this is funny, it’s one miserable way to conduct a nation’s affairs. Does no one believe in the concepts of right and wrong anymore?

I rarely agree with Pat Buchanan on anything but I do agree with his assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and the folly of Obama’s insistence on sending in more troops. Ten thousand more troops is not going to make a significant difference in Afghanistan. So what will come next, another ten thousand troops, and then another and another, as in Vietnam. Short of a one or two million man military effort we will never be able to control Afghanistan. And why do we need to anyway? Is it just to perpetuate the fantasy that someday we might have a pipeline through that difficult country? Do we really need more and more troops just to capture Osama bin Laden (if, indeed, that might even be possible). Pursuing this fake “war” in Afghanistan is our human equivalent of chasing our tails. Let’s face reality for a change and give it up before it becomes worse.

I don’t suppose anyone in the U.S. would even entertain the possibility that Ahmadinejad might actually be right when he says nuclear bombs are passé. Tell me what good are all of our nuclear bombs? We don’t dare to use them. No one else who has them dares to use them. Everyone knows the world would be far better off without them. Ahmadinejad says Iran doesn’t aspire to having them. He may well be telling the truth (but no on here is prepared to believe him). He claims Iran’s nuclear program is purely for energy and they are enriching uranium for only that purpose. They have every legal right to do so. We insist they stop doing something they have a legal right to do or we won’t even talk with them. Now that’s real diplomacy! Furthermore, contrary to what the neocons and the Israelis want us to believe, the Iranians are not stupid. Even if they had nuclear bombs they would not rush out and use them on anyone, even Israel. To think otherwise is pure racist bullshit. Quite frankly, I think a case could be made that the world might become safer if Iran did have nuclear weapons. At least they wouldn’t have to live in constant fear that the paranoid Israelis might attack them at any minute, and drag the U.S. into it as well. Obviously, as long as no nation on earth is entitled to have any national interests that are not also in the best interest of the U.S., we are not going to get along. And contrary to what we want to believe, we are not all powerful and will not be able to impose our will militarily on the rest of the world. Might does not make right. In fact, it more often than not makes wrong.

That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.
William J. H. Boetcker

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Slave Ship - book

I have been reading The Slave Ship by Marcus Rediker. A fine book, as the title suggests, it is primarily about the ships that were employed for this dismal trade. Although there are, of course, references to the slaves and their treatment, this book offers details about the construction of the ships, design, tonnage, amenities (or lack of them), provisions, profits, and most importantly, the officers and sailors who served on them. Rediker describes them as machines that operated for one purpose only, acquiring and transporting human beings as slaves. He traces these various types of vessels from their construction in places like Liverpool and Bristol, to the coast of Africa where they purchased whatever slaves they could find, to their Atlantic crossings to deliver this human cargo to the “New World,” and then back to Liverpool with their loads of sugar, lumber, and other commodities. The horrors of this miserable enterprise are carefully described, from the terrible conditions the slaves had to endure to the common practice of throwing their dead bodies (and sometimes even live bodies) to the sharks. The death toll was always considerable. Male slaves were typically shackled together with at least one other, often two prisoners together who did not even speak the same language (this was done deliberately to help prevent insurrections), they were given barely room for their bodies for hours at a time, could relieve themselves only with great difficulty, were subject to numerous diseases, and allowed only minimal exposure to fresh air and exercise. Needless to say there were frequent attempted rebellions, suicides, and hunger strikes. Occasionally a ship’s captain and/or part of the crew were killed, but of course in general the rebellions were harshly punished. So many slaves attempted suicide by throwing themselves overboard the ships were fitted with nets to prevent them from succeeding. Paradoxically, slaves were not treated so horribly because of hate or prejudice, but, rather, for purely economic considerations. The captains had to carry as many slaves as possible, and they also had to at least try to keep them alive and in reasonably good health, else they were not marketable. But under the circumstances keeping them healthy was not an easy task and the mortality was always high. Slaves were basically a valuable commodity and treated as such. Most slavers tried for younger people, between 14 and 25 or thereabouts. They usually took two men for every woman. And the also took a percentage of children, usually 10 and above. Women tended to be selected for their looks and suffered many indignities (women with sagging breasts, for example, were generally not taken).

What I found even more interesting than the treatment of the slaves, was the plight of the sailors that were engaged in the slave trade. Aside from the officers, the sailors represented pretty much the dregs of society. Those that were hired on these floating prisons were themselves often former prisoners, or men who agreed to serve to avoid prison sentences, or others who were tricked in one way or another to serve, often by not being told what the ships was actually going to do. These seamen were expendable and a great many died on these voyages. As they were treated brutally at times by their officers they often took out their feelings on the slaves. The conditions under which they were forced to live at sea were hardly better than the slaves and it was often the case they felt they were not fed as well as the slaves. Punishments for any infractions of the rules were harsh indeed, and the cat of nine tails was commonly used on sailors as well as slaves. The captains at sea were the law, absolutely, and they could do as they wished. Naturally, some captains were far worse than others. One, for example, was known to have whipped a 15 year old slave girl to death because she refused to dance nude for him. He was acquitted because it was believed those who testified against him held grudges against him. Still another captain repeatedly flogged an infant because it refused to eat. When it finally died he forced the mother (through flogging) to throw its body overboard. It was not uncommon for sailors to be whipped just as severely. Not only that, sailors were sometimes abandoned by their captains and left in port when they were sick and/or destitute. This was because when the ship was loaded with slaves it required more sailors than when it was on a return voyage loaded with less volatile cargo. Ship owners were known to suggest to their captains they might jettison some of their excess sailors to save expenses, which they did. This practice became so commonplace that in a few places special hospitals had to be created to deal with this surplus humanity. All in all, this book gives one a realistic view of this absolutely horrible time in human history. You cannot help but be struck by the horror of it all. Even so, as Rediker chose to focus primarily on the ship itself and its operations, and less so on the human dramas that were being played out, you do not come away with the same shock and horror that you find in books like King Leopold’s Ghost, The Devil Came on Horseback, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and others of that genre.

I must say that my reading in the past two or three years, mostly for a book I was working on, Savages and Savagery (which is in publication), makes me wonder how it is that the human species has managed to survive at all. The conditions under which our ancestors, even the best of them, lived, were harsh indeed, especially for those who were not born into some form of nobility. Consider even trying to cross the United States in a covered wagon, or exploring in Equatorial Africa, or Siberia, or trying to eke out a living on the prairies of Kansas with 40 acres and a mule, or voyaging across the Atlantic with Columbus, or whatever. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have lasted more than two or three days, at best. If you put it in the proper perspective I guess even Bush/Cheney haven’t been all that bad (yet). When I read our history, which is little more than a chronicle of man’s unbelievable inhumanity to his fellows, I am forced to the conclusion there is a fatal flaw in the human species. I cannot pinpoint it precisely but it has to do with the psychology of power and interpersonal relationships. Other species rarely fight to the death over anything, and they certainly do not torture. They manage to get along. We, on the other hand, seem to lack similar mechanisms, and, more importantly, we also seem to lack empathy beyond a very narrow range of family and kin. Is this just a sadistic prank being played on us by our so-called “intelligent designers?”

I am not a conspiracy buff but I am truly beginning to believe the animals are engaged in a conspiracy to strike back at humans. I have mentioned this before. Now, in Sweden, the Elk (what we know as Moose) are getting drunk and attacking children and schools (I am not making this up). Grizzly bears, black bears, monkeys, baboons, sharks, elephants, rats, and now moose. What next, house mice?

It's a lot like nature. You only have as many animals as the ecosystem can support and you only have as many friends as you can tolerate the bitching of.
Randy K. Milholland

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The audacity of pointlessness

Calamity John rides on, on his trusty ploughhorse (anyone remember the ploughhorse), tilting at imaginary windmills of his own making. Is anyone going to believe that Barack Obama wanted to “lose” the “war” in Iraq just so he could become President? This is a claim so pointless as to be absurd. Is anyone going to believe that Calamity John, seeing that we were “losing” in Iraq, fashioned and championed the “surge” that has now led us to a glorious “victory?” Is anyone going to believe that Calamity John “knows how to win wars?” Just what wars has he won? Korea? Vietnam? World War II? Maybe World War I? Perhaps Grenada, we had a great victory there. He keeps insisting that Obama would have surrendered in Iraq. What in the world is he talking about? His persistent insistence that we have “won” in Iraq is so far-fetched he might as well be talking about his imaginary giraffe playmate. The very idea of “winning” or “losing” in Iraq is absurd. He seems unable to give us a definition of victory, so it is not clear what we might have won. There is no successful unity government in Iraq. The Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds are still bickering over who will get what, when, and how. It is obvious that all three groups are just biding their time until we withdraw. The Sunnis will want to restore themselves to power, the Kurds will want autonomy if not independence, and al-Sadr is just waiting to become the next strong man of Iraq. So if we have won, why don’t we leave? According to Calamity John and his backers we can’t leave because the results would be disastrous. So if we can’t leave how is it we have achieved a victory? We thought we had installed a suitable puppet government under al-Maliki but he is proving to be too independent and insists we should leave. But leave all that oil to the Iraqis? Impossible. If it is hard to determine what imaginary victory we might have won, it is not difficult to see what we have lost. First, we have lost our moral compass. We pre-emptively attacked a sovereign nation in an unprecedented manner that was not a threat to us, a major war crime. We thereby have also lost the respect of the rest of the civilized world. We have lost our position as the “beacon on the hill” that others looked up to, and have become a rogue nation feared by all thinking and fair-minded people. We have lost our aura of invincibility and demonstrated that we cannot defeat any people who simply refuse to comply with our demands (guerilla warfare is not our forte). We have lost our claim to being an honest broker in world affairs, with our one-sided and uncritical support of Israel, the number one problem in the Middle East. We have lost our reputation of being a nation of laws, both domestic and international. In world affairs we are now a pariah. And not least, we have lost a trillion or more dollars of taxpayer money that could have been used for our critical domestic problems here at home. So Calamity John insisting we have won a victory is as pointless as baying at the moon. If there is such a thing as winning or losing in war, we have clearly lost. We have lost and the loss cannot be redeemed no matter what may now happen in Iraq.

It is not difficult to fathom the immense success of Barack Obama, both here at home and abroad. It’s not clear how much is Obama and how much is anti-Bush/Cheney. It is clear the world is sick to death of Bush/Cheney and is just waiting for them to lose the next election. And they are not interested in having a continuation of these horrible nightmare years of the budding 21st century.. They want Bush/Cheney gone. I suspect even if it were Smoky-the-Bear running, the feelings would be much the same. I fear that the expectations for Obama are so great they may be beyond the power of any mortal man. Calamity John can flail away pointlessly all he wants, I believe the writing is on the wall. Let’s get it over with and try to get on with some form of the more “normal” existence we enjoyed in the past. We have never been without problems, but problems doesn’t even begin to describe what we have now. Bush/Cheney will be cursed from now until eternity.

In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.
Edward P. Tryon

Friday, July 25, 2008


July 25, 2004, marked the first appearance of morialekafa. I find it virtually impossible to believe that I have written this blog for four years. I don’t even remember why I wanted to start a blog in the first place. More on this in a moment, but first, an observation about Calamity John.

McCain appears to be so obsessed with getting Obama to admit that he was wrong that he keeps embellishing his story. Is he really trying to take credit for our glorious “victory” in Iraq? His latest rants would seem to indicate that. He says, for example, we were losing. I told people we were losing but they didn’t want to listen. Then we began the surge and I was for it and Obama was against it. The surge worked and now we have won a victory. It sounds like, I, John McCain salvaged victory out of defeat. Is he really trying to take credit for the surge? Was it all his idea or did he just promote it after it surfaced. Did he have anything to do with it other than supporting it? When al-Maliki was asked why the violence had subsided in Iraq, he gave four reasons, the surge was not one of them. Now they are trying to say that Obama maligned the troops because he won’t admit the surge worked. Obama, sensibly it seems to me, suggests that yes, violence is down, and maybe the surge had something to do with it, but so did the so-called “Sunni awakening” and the decision by al-Sadr to have his militia cool it for a while. According to McCain, Obama not only opposed the surge but said it might even increase the violence. It did not do that. So I guess you could conclude Obama was wrong on that point. But, of course, we cannot know what might have happened if there had been no surge. In any case, I fear that if McCain continues to obsess over the surge and Obama’s failure to admit he was wrong, he is going to become a modern day Captain Queeg. But, then, better for McCain to keeps talking about the surge than anything else because any other topic might prove to be disastrous.

When I wanted to start a blog I initially wanted to use a Melanesian Pidgin English word like “masiki,” or something, but found that most of the ones I tried were already taken. So I decided on a word from the Bena Bena language of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea. Among other things I spent some time trying to get names for the incredible variety of insects, spiders, and such. Most bugs and spiders have names of their own. But when I encountered certain small bugs I was always told they were morialekafa. Kafa is the generic name for bug. I concluded from this experience that morialekafa must mean something like “little insignificant bug with no other name.” It seemed to me a perfect name for my blog, emanating from a nobody in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. It has served me well. Morialekafa has a small but fairly loyal following, mostly, but by no means exclusive, to Idaho. I did not intend it to be an Idaho blog although I do at times remark about Idaho politics and such. I do not get a lot of comments but occasionally I get one or two. What has proven to be the most fun, however, are the hits I occasionally get from all over the world. These are not a result of people seeking out morialekafa itself. They result from people trying to find information about some topic that I happen to have written about at one time. For example, one fellow wanted to look up “sild oil.” I had written a silly essay about my love of sardines in which sild oil was mentioned. I have no doubt the fellow was surprised by what he found. Similarly, someone was looking up the word “wuthering.” I had written an essay specifically about that word. I’m sure it was not what was expected but I hope he was not too disappointed. Another person was interested in filling wisdom teeth. Again, I had written a silly essay bout how it is that Dentists hate wisdom teeth, resist filling them, and invariably want to pull them. Still another person was interested in only children. He or she found an essay on just that subject, probably not the serious account of only children they were looking for. As I have now written over 1200 blogs in the past four years, on a wide variety of topics (unfortunately, mostly political comments), there will no doubt be other innocents that will end up with morialekafa. It’s exciting to realize that you can get hits from people in India, England, Paris, the Philippines, Jamaica, Brazil, Australia, Germany, Poland, and most anyplace on earth. The internet is a truly marvelous thing. My first blog had to do with Bush hypocrisy. Here I am four years later often writing about the same thing. Obviously I have not been very effective. It continues to be fun but, more importantly, it allows me to vent my rage at what Bush/Cheney and their criminal gang have done to our wonderful country. Impeachment would be far too mild a punishment for their crimes. Obviously they don’t listen to me, just as they don’t listen to anyone else. They only listen to the cash register as it rings up their billions upon billions of war profits.

Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest.
W. H. Auden

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When is a surge?

I’m glad that Calamity John has finally cleared up this surge business. As he explains it, it’s pretty easy to follow. His latest version is that the surge actually began before the 30,000 troops arrived. Silly me, I thought the 30,000 troops were the surge. But it seems that, according to McCain, some Colonel actually started surging well before the troops arrived. You see, the surge was a complicated diplomatic, political, and military strategy that seems to have primarily involved taking over a neighborhood and then holding it. McCain says that Colonel so-and-so deserves a lot of credit for this. As this began before the troops even arrived, the troops apparently were sent only to assist him in his ongoing surge. As near as I can make out Colonel so-and-so’s surge differed from what had been going on all the time in that after they cleared a neighborhood they stayed in it to prevent whoever it was they were fighting from moving right back in. The 30,000 troops apparently just assisted in this process. So now after the incredible success of the surge we have more troops in Iraq than we had before the surge. The Sunnis have apparently now agreed to re-join the al-Maliki government. But the Kurds have now walked out. Thus, if the surge was to allow the Iraqi government to work its problems out, you might say it didn’t actually succeed very well. The violence is down, which I guess is related to the task of giving the Iraqis more time, so maybe the surge did work. The MSM, and the McCain campaign are desperate to get Obama to admit the surge worked. Obama rightly points out there were other factors involved in the reduction of violence so whether the surge itself was responsible is not at all clear. Calamity John is absolutely obsessed with the success of the surge and our marvelous victory in Iraq. Even today, when interviewed in a grocery store, where he could have focused on the price of food and the economy, he preferred to emphasize once again, the surge. Better for him to talk about the surge endlessly than have to talk about any one of the almost endless failures of the Bush/Cheney crime syndicate.

Before Obama spoke in Berlin it was estimated that 100,000 people might attend. It turned out to be over 200,000. He wowed them. Obama is the real thing when it comes to charisma and inspiration. I hope our expectations of him do not become so unrealistic he will be seen to have failed before he even begins. Obviously he cannot be all things to all people. But he will have to be perceived as doing his best. You can be sure the Brafia will do everything in their power to ruin his Presidency. These evil people who put their profits and party above the national interest have to be exposed for what they are and shut out of the system.

A few days ago a young woman on a bicycle was attacked by a bear in Alaska. A couple of days ago a bear entered a tent and bit a camper near Yellowstone. Another Grizzly attacked a young woman near a Lodge in Alaska just yesterday. Not only that, in Kamchatka two huge bears have been killing and eating miners. The miners are now refusing to return to work because they fear these enormous hungry animals. While I am not usually a conspiracy buff, I suspect that the animals all over the world have had more than enough of us. Bears, elephants, baboons, monkeys, sharks, and others are more and more rising up in protest against the destruction of their territories and ways of life. Is there a central intelligence behind this animal movement? Naw, I bet it’s just Obama. Even the animals are jumping on his bandwagon. Maybe the violence will subside once hes sworn in as POTUS.

We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.
Anna Sewell

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yes, "Calamity John"

Wiccan dancer celebrating
good fortune accidentally
thrusts sword through her foot.

Seventy-seven year-old sleazeball Robert Novak hits pedestrian with his black corvette convertible and claims he didn’t know it (even though the pedestrian was said by an eyewitness to be splayed on the front of the car).

Barack Obama continues his whirlwind and highly successful tour of the Middle East. He’ll make a speech in Berlin tomorrow where he will probably have a huge crowd. So much adulation may not be the best thing for him. He says he will be an honest broker between the Palestinians and Israelis. I give him the benefit of the doubt and will wait and see. I think he is terribly wrong to commit more troops to Afghanistan and continue the doomed-to-fail “war” there. I think you cannot win a war against terrorism or terrorists because terrorism is a strategy and terrorists can multiply like rabbits. You can only try to prevent it and deal with it as it occurs. Anyway, more fighting in Afghanistan is a mistake. Obama will just go from one disastrous “war” to another, thus keeping alive the neocons dream of eternal war (and profits). Perhaps he will come to his senses.

John McCain (somebody recently referred to him as “Calamity John,” which I think is quite fitting) has now accused Obama of wanting to lose a war for political reasons. He also has accused him of being indifferent to genocide. These seem to me to be unprecedented and slanderous claims and far worse than anything I’ve ever seen before in a campaign. I wonder if it is possible to go downhill from here. McCain is obviously frustrated and desperate, but that is no excise for sinking this low.

Calamity John’s close friend and advisor, Lieberman, has now compared whats-his-face Magee to Moses. McCain still listens to Phil Gramm on economics. I am beginning to wonder if these people are actually sane. If it is true that Obama is leading McCain by only 6% in the national polls I am beginning to wonder if anyone is sane. I am not the only one predicting a landslide Obama victory in November. How can he be leading by only 6%? Somehow this doesn’t pass the smell test.

Beware of Wiccan dancers with swords, and old men with sporty convertibles.

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Leadership at last

Drunken practical jokers
pour cologne on friend’s
crotch, set it on fire.

Obama’s trip to the Middle East so far has been a resounding success, and he is emerging much stronger than when he left. But, of course, he is under non-stop criticism from McCain and the Brafia. McCain harps on his theme that Obama made up his strategy even before he visited the Middle East and consulted with people on the ground – namely General Petraeus. Obama’s response was absolutely breathtaking in its “truthiness:” I did listen to General Petraeus. But I also listened to many other people. On the basis of the information I received I made a judgment. That judgement is that my idea of a 16 month period to withdraw our troops is both reasonable and in our best interest. I said, if I were General Petraeus I might feel as he does. But as the potential Commander-in–Chief I have to look beyond just the position of the Generals, at the broader world picture. And I am confident in my judgement on this matter. He is, of course, being accused of arrogance, even though he is speaking the absolute truth. What he is really saying, besides the obvious truth, is that he is not going to hide behind the skirts of General Petraeus as Bush/Cheney have been trying to do. Remember, Petraeus is their boy, having replaced all the other Generals and officers who disagreed with them. Petraeus is simply reflecting what Bush/Cheney want him to do (he could also truly believe in his position, which is basically irrelevant). Obama has consulted with other Generals, with troops on the ground, with the leaders of other countries, and who knows who all else. He has weighed this information and made a decision about the situation. He is confident in his own judgment. This does not make him arrogant. But it does indicate that he intends to be a leader and not just try to pass the buck off to one or more Generals as Bush/Cheney have tried to do. Obviously, it is not up to General Petraeus to decide American Foreign Policy. It is true that Obama is not yet President, but it is also true that the world is looking at him as if he is, and wishing that he will be. He is being given what is basically Presidential treatment (apparently al-Maliki even literally rolled out the red carpet for him). He was almost mobbed when he spoke to our people in Bagdad.

McCain says that Obama was against the “surge” and now refused to admit that it worked. Obama says he would vote against it again if he had the chance. McCain insists it worked and that we have won a great victory (the New York Times just turned down an article by McCain on Iraq because there was no definition of victory). Obama says it is impossible to tell whether the surge actually worked or not, because the Sunnis decided to turn against al Quaida and al Sadr ordered his militia to stop their activities, and it may well have been this that made it look like it was the surge that reduced the violence. McCain insists the so-called “Sunni awakening” was a result of the surge. In fact, it occurred at least six months before the surge. McCain is either lying or unaware of the actual facts of history. There is an interesting, if confusing, situation here with respect to the surge. If the goal of the surge was to give the Iraqis time to get their political act together (which it supposedly was), you cannot use the reduction in the amount of violence as a measure of success (that was not the purpose of the surge). On the other hand, if the Sunnis have now agreed to rejoin the al Maliki government, and that government is now confident enough to insist we leave their country, you might well argue that the surge did, in fact, work. However, if it worked in this sense, and if we have thus achieved our objective, why do Bush/Cheney and McCain insist we have to remain there? Could it possibly be that the real aim of the surge was not what they claimed in the first place (giving them time to form a viable government), but, rather, just a further attempt to gain and maintain control over all that oil? Oh, I forgot, oil had nothing to do with our invasion of Iraq. So, either the surge didn’t work, so we have to stay in Iraq, or the surge did work, so we have to stay in Iraq. Heads we win, tails the Iraqis lose. It’s the Brafia way. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they are having the mint make some two- headed coins.

In any case, I am proud of Obama. So far he has lived up to my expectations. He is now in Israel where things will perhaps not run so smoothly for him. He is on record as saying he wants to re-establish the U.S. as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israelis will not like that. They have to have it all their way all the time, and if you dare to question anything they do, you are automatically labeled an anti-Semite. Of course they can’t come right out and admit they don’t want an honest broker – but they don’t). When Obama speaks in Berlin it is estimated there may be 100,000 in attendance. The Brafia will no doubt use this to brand Obama as a secret Nazi, or some such absurdity. I think we should be prepared for absurdities about Obama that will set a record for fantasy and science fiction. The Brafia record is so criminal and abysmal what else can they do?

The idea of an incarnation of God is absurd: why should the human race think itself so superior to bees, ants, and elephants as to be put in this unique relation to its maker? Christians are like a council of frogs in a marsh or a synod of worms on a dung-hill croaking and squeaking "for our sakes was the world created."
Julian the Apostate

Monday, July 21, 2008

Now I get it

I guess I’m a little slow when it comes to insight. You see, I had thought that John McCain was running a campaign for the Brafia nomination for the Presidency. I didn’t realize until just now that what they are really doing is a pilot for a 21st century version of the Keystone Cops (does anyone remember them). Now that I understand this I can more easily understand what McCain has been doing. Take, for example, his recent pronouncement that Social Security was (is) an “absolute disgrace” (why any U.S. politician would say this is a mystery to me, even if he believed it). It turns out that this absolute disgrace is paying him almost $2000 a month. He and his wife are filthy rich, with an estimated fortune of 100 million, but she, too, apparently draws her social security disgrace check (now this is disgraceful). Take also his claim that we have won a “marvelous victory” in Iraq, and having won such a victory we must, of course, remain there for a long time (that’s what winners do). He sticks to this view even though al-Maliki and Gordon Brown both subscribe to Obama’s desire to withdraw within 16 months, as does the vast majority of American voters. When al-Maliki announced he approved of this plan for withdrawal, the Bush Administration tried to argue it was an error in translation. That failed, leaving McCain almost alone in wanting to stay in Iraq (forever?). Even Bush has capitulated and decided now there has to be some kind of time line for withdrawal (although he won’t call it a time line, as such), leaving McCain even more isolated. Then there is his repeated insistence that we will not engage in any diplomacy with Iran, contrary to what Obama would like. Bush has now begun to engage in at least preliminary diplomatic relations with Iran, thus undercutting McCain’s insistence that such behavior would be unthinkable. McCain made fun of Obama for wanting to send more troops to Afghanistan. Now, however, he wants to one-up Obama by sending in even more troops to Afghanistan than Obama. Also, after goading Obama into visiting the Middle East, it turns out to have been a terrible mistake from McCain’s perspective. Obama is getting all the press and is obviously making his position as a candidate much stronger than it was. McCain’s campaign was literally drooling over the possibility that Obama would make some sort of gaffe they would be able to exploit. The only gaffe that has been made so far was by McCain himself when referring to the non-existant border between Iraq and Pakistan. This is in the same genre as his repeated reference to Czechoslovakia, a country that ceased to exist about fifteen years ago, and his repeated confusion over Sunni and Shiite. He now insists we have “succeeded” in Iraq and keeps repeating that he “knows how to win wars” (does anyone know what the hell he is talking about). I am not very expert at such things but this sounds delusional to me. McCain also keeps insisting that we need to drill offshore for oil even though most people are opposed to doing so (and even though he has previously voted against it). Even T-bone (aka T. Boone) Pickens, a lifelong oil man, has said we cannot drill our way out of this “crisis,” and seems to want to invest in wind and solar a la Al Gore. McCain wants us to believe that such drilling will reduce the price of gasoline at the pump which everyone knows it utter nonsense. Utter nonsense does not seem to affect McCain. His idea to reduce the Federal gas tax for the summer has also drawn nothing but ridicule. And of course McCain remains staunchly anti-abortion (the official position of the Brafia “base”) even though the majority of American women are pro-choice. This would not be quite so ridiculous were it not for McCain’s attempt to woo the so-called “Hillary vote,” which is decidedly pro-choice. He has also referred to his wife in public by an exceedingly derogatory term and has been known to tell a joke about how women enjoy being raped (according to the MSM this is merely an example of McCain’s “authenticity”). I’m sure this will help him immensely with the Hillary vote. Then there was McCain’s attempt to enlist what’s-his-face Magee on his behalf. When Magee’s true lunacy became apparent and even too much for the Brafia insiders, McCain threw him under the bus. Now, however, it looks like he might get the endorsement of another loony evangelical, James Dobson. Remember, these religious right wingers were soundly criticized by McCain earlier, who now is desperate for their endorsements. Don’t forget McCain’s claim that he was against lobbying while surrounding himself not only with lobbyists, but lobbyists for some of the worst people in the world. And he picked Phil Gramm to be his economic advisor. Phil Gramm, who was personally responsible for the Enron disaster and now for the mortgage meltdown. He, too has had to resign. McCain previously said he didn’t know much about economics, but later reversed himelf, just as he has reversed himself on just about everything else, while at the same time accusing Obama of being a flip-flopper. In short, his campaign has been nothing but one long comedy of errors, putting even the Keystone Cops to shame. Today it raised hilarity to an even new and unprecedented dimension when he released a video placing the blame for high gasoline prices on…tad da… Barack Obama! Even some of the MSM pundits were doubled over in hysterics. If you think this is funny, there are still people out there who claim to support this troupe of clowns. When a fighter is overmatched, over the hill, and taking on too much punishment, his handlers usually mercifully throw in the towel. I doubt that McCain will get much mercy from his “compassionate conservative” backers. They are, as we already know, a sadistic bunch.

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.
Horace Walpole

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Helpfulness and helplessness

Another Sunday. I guess I might be one of the few people on earth who looks forward to Monday. I am a charter member of the TGIM club. The MSM, including both TV and print, seem to believe passionately in the idea that Sunday is a day of rest, so trying to find any news on Sunday is pretty much a lost cause. Thus, confronted with the horrors of having to watch TV for anything but the news, I have spent the day in one of my favorite pastimes: thinking about the peculiarities of human behavior.

I have been struck by the fact that human beings, however awful they may be in some respects, are almost universally helpful. How many times have you asked someone for help and been refused. I don’t believe I have ever been refused help, no matter what the problem was. You’re lost and you ask directions, people go out of their way to help, sometimes going so far as to actually accompany you part way until it is clear what you need to do. You’re at a gas station and you can’t work the pump. Someone will show you. You can’t work some machine at the automat. Someone will help you. You don’t know what kind of wine goes with turkey. Someone will help you. People, no matter how grouchy they seem, will almost always help you do whatever it is you need to do. You can even avoid problems with language by presenting an aura of helplessness. I lived for an entire year in Germany with only one phrase, Ich warte auf my Frau (I’m waiting for my wife). Anyone who asked me a question or tried to engage me in conversation (in a language I could not speak) would hear this, nod sagely, and move on to someone else.

Helpfulness seems to be a near universal human response to helplessness. If you present yourself as helpless, someone will help you. This is no more true anywhere than in doing anthropological fieldwork. Indeed, I believe I would be prepared to argue that helplessness in the field is the key to success. Think of it, you find yourself in a strange culture where you do not know the rules or customs or whatever. You stand or sit there helpless when confronted with even the simplest of tasks. Someone always helps you. This is one of the main ways you learn. What I find even more fascinating about this, is that it seems to be universal. That is, it doesn’t matter if you are in the New Guinea Highlands, the depths of South America, the suburbs of Rio or Istanbul, the slums of Chicago, or wherever, the people will almost always react to your helplessness and aid you in your endeavors, whatever they may be. Having discussed this with some of my colleagues who have worked in various parts of the world, this seems to be the case. One friend, who did work in Newfoundland, suggested that without depending upon this human tendency to help the helpless, anthropological fieldwork would necessarily fail. This may well be true.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon how to look at it), unscrupulous and shameless people like me can use helplessness as a strategy to get through life. Thus my helplessness, real or feigned, has allowed me to successfully negotiate life with a minimum of frustration and angst. Being helpless, or appearing to be helpless, has resulted in maneuvering my wife, bless her, into doing all sorts of things I do not wish to do. For example, when some bureaucratic or other problems crops up, as with the phone company, the insurance company, the bank, the doctor or dentist, calling the plumber, taxes, or whatever, my wife ends up taking care of it as she believes I am too helpless to succeed at it. Even problems around the house lend themselves to this strategy: stopped up sinks or toilets, dirty windows, dishwashing, vacuuming and dusting, you name it, are nothing to me, as my wife has been convinced over the years that I am too helpless to be depended on to fix or do them. Even if we have a flat tire while driving she will automatically attempt to take care of it (please, I am not actually so shameless as to allow her to do this). She does, however, automatically pump the gas, wash the windshield, and deal with the credit card operated pumps (these pumps, along with ATM’s, are far too complicated for me. I never insert credit cards or money into strange holes in machines that I do not understand or trust). Helplessness and procrastination have served me very well over the years. Not only is my wife convinced that I am basically helpless in the face of life, she also believes I am unable to learn. She has given up even trying to teach me even simple living skills. While she may be disappointed in me, I am triumphant. I get away with this because I am otherwise loving and kind. The secret to a successful marriage, I have learned, is to say “yes, dear,” with sincerity. One thing, though, I have never been able to get her to take out the garbage (she is not at all stupid, she knows perfectly well what I am doing, and for whatever reasons, tolerates it, another of the Great Mysteries that fascinate me).

Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


I don’t usually think a lot about piffle. But I know it when I see it. I see a lot of now, oozing out of the mouths of dishonest Brafia and others who wish to mislead us. They are doing everything they can to make light of Obama’s trip to Europe and the Middle East. “A five minute visit won’t make him an expert on foreign policy,” “it’s just a political trip, a photo-op,” “it’s just going to be an overseas political rally,” and so on. Anything to make his trip as trivial as possible. But think about it. Does anyone believe that the powers that be in the Middle East and Europe are not going to take seriously meetings with the man who will almost certainly become the next POTUS? It doesn’t matter if they are friends of Bush or not (if, indeed, he really has any friends), nor does it matter what they might think of Obama himself, they obviously have no choice but to take him seriously and try to explain to him what they see as problems, solutions, and strategy. Obama will gain more on this trip that McCain did on all of his previous trips while wearing his rose-colored glasses. The behavior of the Brafia during the Clinton administration, and all through the Bush/Cheney administration, and now while trying desperately to cling to power and denigrate Obama, has been shameful beyond belief. I am not a political historian (or any other kind of historian, for that matter), but I do not believe there was ever a time in the history of American politics when one party consistently and shamelessly put their party before the interests of the nation. It seems to me that all politicians, no matter what party they claimed, always had the best interest of the American people and the nation in mind. It has not been so under this current administration. They have consistently favored corporations and corporate profits (for their friends and supporters) over the national interest. How else did we arrive at such a dismal situation. A soaring national debt, wages lower than they were even a few years ago, the price of gasoline and food rising daily, decaying infrastructure, recession, a complete loss of confidence in government, and so on. This is all the result of the Brafia and the military/industrial/political complex that has systematically squeezed all the money out of the taxpayers they can to feed their unfathomable greed. No politicians in the past that I can remember, no matter what their stripe, promoted endless war with whatever countries they fancied at the moment. However much they may have disagreed they were all patriots at heart. They believed in the country and the constitution and the rule of law. This Bush/Cheney criminal conspiracy is the first administration to abandon those beliefs, and we are now paying the consequences for their greed and short-sightedness. I sincerely hope (and wish) Obama will sweep all 50 states and show, once and for all, that people of the Brafia ilk are not welcome in our country and such behavior will not be tolerated. Some say, “a new broom sweeps clean.” Let’s have a new broom and sweep out the filth that has infiltrated our political system and government.

I know, I get carried away at times. I can’t help it. I am absolutely convinced that the Bush/Cheney bunch are nothing more than a criminal conspiracy, running their rackets at a higher level than those of Capone or Dillinger, and guilty of multiple war crimes. I cannot see how anyone can honestly dispute this, nor can I understand why more people do not want to see them held accountable for their horrific crimes. Hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, torture, profiteering, misery beyond human imagination, and they wish it to continue, apparently forever (it’s good for business). We cannot allow this to happen.

Be wary of the man who urges an action in which he himself incurs no risk.
Joaquin Setanti

Friday, July 18, 2008


When the Brafia begins attacking a candidate’s wife I can only conclude they are in fact desperate. I agree that when a candidate’s wife is out campaigning actively for his or her spouse they should be fair game. But fair game for what? And what, precisely, is the purpose of their attack on Michelle Obama? She is not running for President. As far as I know, the only thing they have to attack is her statement, “for the first time in my life I am proud of my country.” Big deal. Quite frankly, I can truthfully say that with Barack Obama as a serious candidate for President, this is the first time in at least the last eight years that I am proud of my country. How could anyone in their right mind be proud of Bush/Cheney’s America? But of course in the case of a Black woman in America I’m sure she has many other reasons not to be so proud of her country. Has everyone forgotten racial prejudice? I cannot see that the position of Black women in the U.S., generally speaking, has been so wonderful that they should all be falling all over themselves praising their experiences. How could they not be a bit angry? While I agree she might be fair game in some sense of that idea, I fail to see the point of attacking her. I should think that Cindy McCain is fair game also, but Obama, much to his credit, has said he will not go there. Furthermore, the fact that the Brafia would even think of attacking her strikes me as pathetic. Not having too much luck attacking Barack himself they have to go after his wife? I won’t be surprised to see them go after the children next, especially if Rove and Dick the Slimy get involved. They would slime their own mothers if it suited them.

Similarly pathetic is McCain’s babbling about how Obama is starting his policy about Iran, etc., before even going there. Do you remember how many visits Bush paid to Iraq, Iran, and Korea, before he stated his policy? There is, as far as I know, no particular history of American Presidents ever insisting on traveling anywhere before they had a policy. I would not be surprised if George W. Bush couldn’t even find Iraq on a map before he stated his “policy,” such as it was (is). And what did McCain find on his trip to Iraq, surrounded by a hundred armed troops with armed helicopters hovering overhead – that things were going fine and it was safe to walk around in the market? What a bunch of utter crap! Again, just a measure of despertion. The fact is, the Brafia has nothing positive whatsoever to run on, just one dismal failure after another, so what else can they do except try to focus on trivia and nonsense? Desperate, pathetic. hopeless, ridiculous, absurd, childish, stupid, foolish lies about things that don’t even matter. What a campaign! Now they are hoping Obama may make some slip of the tongue or slight remark they can pounce on to prove he is unfit for the Presidency. I hope he doesn’t have any problems at all, but let me repeat what I said previously: there is absolutely nothing they can say about Obama, nothing at all, nothing he could possibly do, that would cause me to vote for McCain who is, in my opinion, not even a serious candidate. It’s as if the Brafia has decided they cannot win, looked at McCain, and said something to the effect, “he’s wanted to be President for a long time, let’s give the old guy a shot at it, what do we have to lose that we’re not going to lose anyway. If we do lose, as we surely will, we can at least blame him. Then we can concentrate on ruining Obama’s Presidency so we can take back power in 2012.” Each day, thankfully, brings them closer to oblivion. It couldn’t happen to a more evil, criminal bunch. Yes, let us begin by putting Rove lin jail where he clearly belongs.

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
Joseph Conrad

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Commander-in-Chief Test

The MSM has been spending a lot of time and energy over the question of who would be the best Commander-in-Chief, between Obama and McCain, that is. I do not recall this ever being an issue in previous elections. Why, I wonder, is it now? It probably has to do with the Brafia’s attempt to keep Barack Obama from becoming President, and thus Commander-in-Chief. This allows them to argue that as McCain has military experience and Obama does not, McCain would be a better Commander-in-Chief. There is no evidence whatsoever for this position. Furthermore, had this been considered a requirement in the past, John Kerry would be President and George W. Bush would probably still be in the brig. Similarly, Bill Clinton would never have been elected President. The (perhaps) unfortunate reality is that there are no known requirements for becoming POTUS, and hence no requirements for becoming Commander-in-Chief. Other, that is, than having to be at least 35 years of age and born in the United States. I don’t think there is even a requirement that you be completely sane. I suppose if you were blatantly and obviously completely bonkers you probably couldn’t make the grade (you can become pretty bonkers while in office, however). Anyway, as this question has now surfaced, perhaps we should devise some kind of test, the successful passing of which would allow you to run and possibly become President and Commander-in-Chief. Based upon my unscientific study of past Presidents I should think the following questions might suffice:

1. Are you reasonably fluent in the English language, yes or no?
2. Can you locate the Middle East on a map of the world?
3. Can you locate either Russia or China on a map of the world?
4. How about Iran, Iraq, and Israel?
5 Which one of the ten commandments is the constitution?
6 Is the Washington Monument a phallic symbol or just a cigar?
7 Did you graduate from High School?
8 With better than a “C” average?
9 Are you financially secure?
10 Round off your holdings to the nearest ten million ___________.
11 How many wives have you had?
12 Which one did you like the best?
13 Have you ever been completely sober and drug free for more than ten days at a time?
14 Does your current spouse bake cookies?
15 Can she use a machine gun?
16 Should morality play any role in government?
17 How about ethics?
18 If the U.S. spends more on national defense than all other nations combined, is that sufficient? 19 Are you now, or have you ever been a Muslim?
20 Is Christianity the official religion of the U.S.?
21 What church do you attend?
22 What is your favorite hymn?
23 Should atheists have the same rights as homosexuals?
24 Are homosexuals made or born?
25 Can homosexuality be cured?
26 How about with stem cells?
27 Was Abraham Lincoln a slave?
28 Was George Washington a cherry tree?
29 What happens to people when they die?
30 Is George W. Bush alive or dead?

Now you may think these questions are not sufficient to answer the basic question of who would make the best Commander-in-Chief. But in psychological testing you have to understand that it is not necessarily the actual content of the questions that matter, but, rather, whether or not the answers correlate with being a successful Commander-in-Chief. It might be a bit difficult but no doubt our historians could go back to the records of past Commanders-in-Chief, find out how they would have answered these questions, and then correlate their answers with their success as Commanders-in-Chief. Simple, no? Of course you would have to have a measure of their success as Commander-in-Chief. I can’t pursue this here but it would be relatively simple: how many wars have you won? How many people did you kill? How many troops did you waste? How much money did the industrial/military/political system make (estimate only, of course), how long were you able to keep it going? Measures like that. You may think this is absurd. I assure you it is no more absurd than the MSM trying to tell us this is an important issue that can actually be decided by endless and meaningless discussions of it on TV.

In politics, an absurdity is not a handicap.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ass b'long tok-tok

One of my friends has a business that brings him into daily contact with quite a number of people. He is one of the rare Democrats in North Idaho and is, as we all are, surrounded by Republicans (I do not refer to North Idaho Republicans as Brafia as they are so far out of the loop to be irrelevant). He sometimes tells me of his strange encounters with people. Today, for instance, he reported that one of his female customers, responding to his mention of Barack Obama, assured him that Obama was both bisexual and a drug addict. My friend does not believe this woman made this up herself, nor do I. But she must have heard it from someone, somewhere. So what could be the source of a rumor like this? I mean, there are all kinds of rumors circulating about Obama and his wife. He’s a Muslim (apparently some 13% of Americans still believe this). He’s a Marxist (as far as I know this came from that font of wisdom, Newt Gingrich). Others say he is a socialist. Still others believe he is a secret Muslim that is trying to take over our government (and presumably force us all to become Muslims?). He secretly agrees with Reverend Wright and hates America. He is unpatriotic. His wife is an angry black woman who hates “whitey.” He attended a Muslim school. He’s really not who he claims to be (in spite of producing his Hawaiian birth certificate that was authenticated by the Hawaiian authorities). I’m surprised we haven’t heard that he was actually raised by wolves (that may still come). He’s going to raise everyone’s taxes because he is a “tax and spend liberal.” He is a leftist. He wants to surrender in Iraq, He’s an elitist, and etc.

Now, it’s not too difficult to see where some of these rumors originated. He did go to a school in Indonesia when he was a small child. His father was a Muslim (so he must also be one?). He wants to help the poor and the middle class (he’s a socialist, Marxist, radical, liberal, leftist). He admits to having tried drugs as a teenager (he’s a drug addict). He doesn’t always wear a flag pin or put his hand over his heart (he’s unpatriotic). He will probably raise taxes on the rich (so he’s going to raise everyones taxes). Anyway, you get the picture. But where on earth did the rumor originate that he is bisexual? Does the Brafia employ people to make this stuff up? Obviously they promote all the rumors they can, but are they really the source of all of them? Perhaps some originate in the pea-brains of the Republican right, and, like all rumors, easily spread to those who apparently are unable to think for themselves (like fans of Rush Limbaugh, for example). Rumors of this type are strange because it is unlikely that the people who make them up really believe them. It’s the Lyndon Johnson approach (make up some terrible rumor about someone and just watch them squirm trying to deny it). Personally, I don’t believe any of these rumors. It’s obvious to me that he actually has descended here from somewhere in outer space to save us from ourselves. That’s why he is so skinny and has funny ears. Did it ever occur to you that if you were born into a society where there were all different races, and no one talked about it, you would think that was just the natural way life was, different colored people, just like M and M’s. I think prior to about 1500 a.d., that’s the way life was in certain parts of the world. Race was not even an issue.

Obama is about to embark on his trip to Europe and the Middle East. Obviously he’ll be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Perhaps we should bribe the French to pretend not to like him (if the French like him there must be something wrong with him?). Who knows what rumors they can make up about him while he’s on this trip? I fear he may be mobbed in Europe and elsewhere. The world is waiting for the sunrise. I suspect most Americans are suspicious of Europeans because they subconsciously believe they are smarter than we are (and when it comes to politics and world affairs, they are). In any case, Obama has to go. Let us all wish him well (except for those who will claim he is a polygamist, with wives in every country on earth, to say nothing of hundreds of concubines and a golden stool to sit on while he eats all their children).


I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.
Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Should John McCain be allowed in he ring?

Three young Wisconsin men attempt
to dig up a corpse for sex. Judge says
“no,” as corpses cannot consent.

You know there are State Boxing Commissions that determine whether or not a fighter will be allowed to fight. They determine the health and fitness of boxers, based upon their physical condition, injuries, age, skills, and etc. The aim of this is to protect fighters from being hurt or embarrassed if they are for some reason regarded as unfit. Watching John McCain and his campaign so far, I cannot help but think perhaps we should have a National Commission for Presidential Candidates. McCain’s campaign so far seems to me to be unusually disastrous. Many of the lobbyists he surrounded himself with have had to resign. His major economic advisor, Phil Gramm, is known to be a scumbag who was largely responsible for Enron’s ripping off California and now the great mortgage meltdown. Gramm and McCain seem to believe all our problems are merely psychological. Now he has apparently fired his entire crew, saying he wants to speak for himself. He has recently made one gaffe after another. He gets confused over who is a Sunni and who is a Shiite. He keeps referring to Czeckoslovakia, a country that ceased to exist some fifteen years ago. He always has his minders with him, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, as well as his wife. He constantly shifts positions, embracing those he formerly treated with contempt. He is known to be short-tempered and his emphasis, no matter what the problem, seems to be violence. He insists he is not a 3rd term for George W. Bush, but he has voted with him 95% of the time and has repeatedly said he supports his Iraq policy. He is a known adulterer and is rumored to be a high stakes gambler. He is a terrible public speaker and lacks charisma. Supposedly a sophisticated world traveler with foreign policy experience, he comes across more as a Missouri farmer who hasn’t kept up with the modern world. He also shows what I believe are signs of senility. He bad-mouths Obama but then turns around and follows his lead. The best case in point at the moment: he said a while back that Iraq was not affecting the situation in Afghanistan, as Obama has claimed all along. Now Obama wants to withdraw troops from Iraq to go to Afghanistan, and McCain has called his two brigades and upped it one more. McCain insists he knows how to win wars. In this case I guess it is by following Obama’s lead. And what wars has McCain won? He is also a sexist, having publicly addressed his wife with a particulary derogative term and is known to have told a scurrilous joke about how women enjoy being raped. His positions on abortion and the Supreme Court are out of touch with the majority of American voters. He doesn’t seem to know the difference between Viagra and birth control, and is only just now trying to cope with the internet. He is, in my opinion, “over the hill,” and if not “punch drunk,” is acting like it. I cannot believe the Brafia is allowing him to be a candidate. He should heed the hint from General Douglas McCarthur, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” I fear he is grossly overmatched and each day seems to bring a new gaffe or embarrassment.

Dream or epiphany? I don’t know if it was the result of a dream or if I somehow had an epiphany, but suddenly I cannot rid myself of the idea that, in the cosmic scheme of things, humans are nothing but minor but troublesome parasites. I know the idea of humans being merely parasites is not a pleasant one. But what else am I to think when I suddenly realize that is most probably all we are. Here we are, inhabiting our host, planet earth, sucking everything out of the ground we possibly can, while at the same times using up whatever other resources the earth has provided us for all these years. Ingrates that we are, we have given nothing back to our host. Nothing. Now that it appears our host may not be able to supply us much longer with the sustenance we require, we are already making plans to move on to another host, if possible. Is this not a classic case of mindless, even perhaps instinctive parasitic behavior?

I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it.
Terry Pratchett

Monday, July 14, 2008


When Harold Ross started the NewYorker magazine (in the 1920’s, I think) he announced, “this is not going to be a magazine for the little old lady in Dubuque.” The magazine has been faithful to that credo ever since. Now, however, it is causing them some controversy. It is difficult to say whether this is good or bad for the magazine. On the one hard it is getting them lots of publicity which I suppose is good. On the other hand they are getting a lot of flack from different sources. The problem, of course, has to do with their recent cover. The cover drawing features Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim, with Michelle dressed as a weapon-carrying, combat-boot-wearing, 60’s type revolutionary. They are doing a “fist bump.”In the fireplace an American flag is burning, and on the wall is a picture of Osama bin Laden. Many feel this is offensive and tasteless, which it is. But what is worse, at least from my perspective, is that it is soooo stupid. The editor of the New Yorker defends it as being satirical, supposedly pointing out the stupidity of the various rumors circulating about the Obamas: he is a Muslim, she is an angry black woman, he took the vow on the Koran, and so forth. Some people are outraged, others defend it as satire benefitting from our emphasis on free speech, etc. The problem with this is that the editor sees it only from his perspective at the New Yorker. Yes, it is probably true that the sophisticated readership of the New Yorker will perceive the cover as a satire, but unfortunately the little old ladies in Dubuque will not. They will see it as verifying what they already believe about the Obamas (he is a Muslim, she is angry, etc.). I guess this can be described as editorcentrism. The editor believes it will sell magazines (which it no doubt will). He also believes that people will see the cover and want to read the article within (which I very much doubt, as the very people who will interpret it as confirming what they already believe, most probably don’t read). In the case of the New Yorker I suspect that even many of its subscribers rarely do anything but look at the cartoons, which tend strongly to the satirical themselves. Anyway, the problem here is the same problem with all egocentric positions, believing that everyone either will or should see the world as they do. I think the New Yorker made a mistake and I will be surprised if they don’t eventually apologize to the Obamas (it is, after all, a more or less liberal magazine whose readership probably tends to support Obama). There is, of course, the possibility that they did it deliberately to belittle and smear Obama, a possibility that should not be overlooked.

As usual I am confused. Now I am confused over the “central front on the war on terror.” Bush and McCain insist that Iraq is the central front, whereas Obama claims the central front on terror is Afghanistan. If terrorism is simply a tactic, and if it is carried out on a world-wide stage, how can there be a central front on terror? Furthermore, as the terrorists that blew up the trade centers were from Saudi Arabia, as was Osama bin Laden, why are they not included in the war on terror? There were no terrorists in Iraq until after our unnecessary and criminal attack on that country, and the Bush administration claims that al Quaida has been pretty much eliminated there, why should it still be considered the major front? I suppose Afghanistan might be so considered because al Quaida is reportedly getting a safe haven there with protection from the Taliban. But it should be obvious by now that they can never be defeated or destroyed in that country, short of a massive invasion by hundreds of thousands of American and/or UN troops. No such “war” can ever be won as long as the guerrillas are fighting on their own turf and have the support of their own citizenry. Osama bin Laden is reportedly holed up in Northwest Pakistan where the Pakistanis have now said they do not want any foreign troops to go. It looks like we may be shifting the central front to Pakistan soon. Ironically, as far as I know, Osama bin Laden may even be dead by now. He may even be living in luxury in Paris or Rome or Istanbul, who knows? It should be equally obvious by now that the chances of successfully building a pipeline across Afghanistan to tap resources from Central Asia and by-pass Russia are nothing but fantasies, apparently believed in only by Dick the Slimy and a few others. Thus, I do not understand why Obama wants to send more troops to Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter if its two brigades or three or four, nothing is going to change in that wild and rugged land. It is not worth it to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar. Someone today asked the question: what is McCain’s strategy in Afghanistan? There was no coherent answer. They also asked: what is Bush’s strategy in Afghanistan. Again, there was no coherent answer. Obama claims to have a strategy for the Middle East in general. Does he have a strategy for Afghanistan? That is, other than just sending more troops? Personally, I do not believe we have any business being in Afghanistan. What, if anything, do we hope to accomplish there? If anyone knows I would appreciate it if you would explain it to me. Why are we killing Afghani civilians to get a Saudi terrorist who is reportedly living in Pakistan, if, indeed, he is living at all? Perhaps I am just easily confused.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken

Saturday, July 12, 2008


And here we have Idaho, winning her way to shame…

We had a terrible windstorm. Many trees, even very big trees down. Our power was out for about 30 hours, hence no blogs. We were spared damage by the sandpile on the north side of Sandhill, but many others on the north side of us were not. At least two barns lost roofs, one house lost part of a roof, another house or two had huge trees fall right on them, our county road was closed for several hours, and etc. Not much fun. But it could be California or the Midwest. We count and appreciate our blessings.

But, ah, yes, Idaho. The Gem state. And a gem it is, physically. In other respects it is a kind of wasteland. Education, for example, is shameful, with a state legislature for years searching for every way they can find not to fund it. Indeed, at one point one of our legislators even suggested changing the State Constitution so we would not have to fund education at all. For years now there has been one legal battle after another, trying to force the state to pay up for education. The state is still resisting and the battle continues.. After all, who needs schools? They just cost money. Money that can otherwise go to promote businesses. The fact that some businesses refuse to locate here because the schools are so bad does not seem to register in the brains of our legislators. Our Idaho teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. We pay less per student than many other states. Many of our school buildings have deteriorated badly. Many of our children never finish High School. Many more do not go on to college. If they do, and graduate, they mostly leave the state because of lack of opportunity.

Idaho has also one of the lowest, if not the lowest, minimum wages to be found in the U.S. And we have archaic right-to-work laws designed to insure that it stays that way. I don’t have the figures but I’m pretty certain that the annual income for Idaho families is among the lowest in the country also. One can go across the border into the state of Washington where the minimum wage is approximately $3 a hour higher. Idaho is also one of the few states that charges sales tax on groceries. I suspect our legislators are working on plans to tax air and water as well.

Idaho must be one of the few states that encourages businesses to actually seek out and import hazardous waste. Contaminated soil is imported from thousands of miles away to be stored here. I guess this is a business we can all be proud of. Now many influential Idahoans are promoting nuclear energy, the only form of actively “anti-life on the planet” energy source there is. Idaho is well-suited for renewable energy sources, solar, wind, hydro, and such, but they still want nuclear. I understand that France is now shipping its nuclear waste to Russia. If we can’t produce our own, perhaps we could compete with the Russians to get it shipped and stored here instead? No doubt a profit could be made, isn’t that what life in Idaho (and the U.S.) is all about?

Idaho is so well represented in Congress that in most respects we might as well not exist at all. Our senior Senator, Larry , now famous as “wide-stance” Craig, embarrassed himself and the state by being caught soliciting sex in a Minnesota airport, and compounded the offense by offering excuses so transparently false as to be laughable: “I have a wide stance,” “I was picking a piece of paper off the floor,” “I was just waving my hand,” and so on. His wife was even dragooned into defending him, all to no avail. It made for good press and it is unlikely Craig will ever live it down. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bronzed the cubicle and put his name on it. I guess it is already becoming a bit of a tourist attraction. Craig’s other claim to fame seems to be that he was widely known as “the Senator from Boise Cascade.” For years he has promoted the timber industry in Idaho, the environment be damned (and all environmentalists moreso). For some reason he hates salmon and has done everything possible to make certain they cannot be restored. The marvelous Snake River salmon runs that existed for thousands and thousands of years are being sacrificed so a few Southern Idaho farmers can send their spuds and stuff more cheaply to the coast. Idaho is much like Texas in this respect, “bidness comes first.” Our other Senator, Crapo, thankfully, is not often in the news. It is not entirely clear to me what he does but I’m certain he does whatever Republicans want him to do. Our crowning glory, however, has to be Congressman Bill Sali who apparently believes that always voting “no” with the minority is the way to represent your state. Sali was so unpopular as a State legislator he was regarded as an idiot, and I believe one gentlemen actually threatened to throw him out the window. This did not keep the good citizens of Idaho from electing him and he is said to be perhaps re-elected. Probably the best way to describe Sali is as a Doofus. You can be pretty certain that if any bill is designed to improve the lives of the citizens of Idaho, Sali will vote no.

Idaho’s governor, Clement LeRoy “Butch” Otter is almost a textbook case in mediocrity. He was lieutenant-governor of Idaho under three different governors and mostly did nothing. He served two terms in Congress where he also did mostly nothing. His only claim to fame that I can see is that he worked himself up in the Simplot organization, married the Boss’s daughter, became wealthy, and once won a tight jeans contest. It was apparently only name recognition that allowed him to win a close race for governor. Predictably, he is mostly a do-nothing governor whose main passion seems to be killing wolves and making noises about Idaho’s highways. The one thing you can count on with Otter is that he will do anything to keep Idaho under Republican control, the same Republican control that has brought Idaho to its current state of malaise, sub-mediocrity, and irrelevance, and seems determined to keep us there as long as business requires it.
I believe it is well past time for a change. Vote LaRocco. Vote Minick. Vote Democratic. Vote as if your future depends on it. It does.

Alone in the dark
all shadows become longer
and more frightening.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Dining on the road

Woman refuses sex,
is stabbed by her own
stiletto heel.

I find it more and more difficult to find anything to eat anymore, when traveling, that is. First, I completely refuse to eat in fast food restaurants like MacDonald’s, Wendy’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Jack-in-the-Box, and so on. I believe their food is designed to please people who either need or want to eat cheaply. Generally speaking, I suspect this kind of food is not very good for you and probably contributes to the obesity epidemic that we are hearing so much about. Fat food appeals to most people as, unfortunately, that is most likely where the taste is. I do not necessarily condemn such restaurants, I merely refuse to eat in them. Besides, I prefer wine with my meals.

Similarly, I do not like eating in chain restaurants like Chili’s, Friday’s, Outback, Denny’s, The Cheesecake Factory, The Olive Garden, and such. Obviously lots of people like these types of restaurants. I don’t, even if they do serve wine. These chains, I suspect, serve mostly already prepared foods that can easily be put together and/or put in the microwave. I like my food prepared from scratch. Fat chance of that nowadays. Again, I do not mean to condemn these places, I just like to avoid them if at all possible.

Obviously, if you eliminate Fast Food places and Chain Restaurants, that doesn’t leave much. Indeed, very often it leaves nothing at all. I always look for little Mom and Pop restaurants where they try to please by serving truly fresh foods, preferably locally grown, and put together after you have ordered them. Such places are increasingly rare. While there are still a goodly number of privately owned restaurants, they are not necessarily as described above. And I have learned to be careful of certain things. Cute names, for example, turn me off. “The Mangy Moose,” for example, might be a terrific restaurant, but I wouldn’t eat there. Nor would I eat in a place called “The Hungry Bear,” “Fat Alberts,” “The Rustler’s Roost,” “Grandma’s,” or “Home Base.” I believe such places think that the name will appeal to you and bring you in so they do not depend upon the food to do that. You also have to be wary of Restaurants that trade on the view, natural landmarks, unusual décor, and such. The Space Needle in Seattle, for example, offers a tremendous view but to me the food doesn’t match the view. Snoqualmie Lodge is another such place, as are many restaurants perched right on the ocean shore. I do not believe such places trade on the quality of their cuisine, but, rather, on their locations and such. Naturally, I could be quite wrong about some of these places. There may be some that have both great food and a view. My personal experience does not, generally speaking, bear that out, so I tend to avoid them if at all possible.

I have also learned there are certain other things that should be avoided in selecting a place to dine. “Giant Pronto Pups,” is perhaps too obvious to mention. And any restaurant that advertises “All you can eat” something-or-other, whether it be spaghetti, fried chicken, fish, or whatever, should be avoided. “All you can eat” restaurants have to be peculiarly American, appealing as they do to gluttonous types who care more for quantity than quality. Can you imagine a French or Italian restaurant advertising all you can eat? You should also avoid restaurants that have huge menus that offer most everything that can be cooked. It seems obvious they do nothing well while striving to do everything. These places are tricky because sometimes you have to be inside before you realize what you are getting into. When I encounter such a situation I leave (unless the nearest other place is too far away). I personally also avoid restaurants that advertise “A Family Restaurant.” I don’t hate children, I just don’t want to deal with them while trying to enjoy a meal. They tend to be noisy, sloppy, mischievous, and cry a lot. I prefer to do without them when dining.

No doubt you have concluded that I am a snob when it comes to food. That is not entirely true. For example, I would cheerfully eat pickled pig’s feet, hog’s jowls, sardines, and many things that could not conceivably be considered snob food. And I love home made sausages, pierogi, borst, and such things. Furthermore, I would not necessarily avoid a place called “Babe’s,” or “Joe’s Diner,” or any number of “local” dining spots. I wouldn’t necessarily even avoid places that advertise honestly with signs that say simply, “Food,” or even “Eats.” But alas, such places are rapidly disappearing, being squeezed out by chains and cheap fast foods. What a pity. So what do we do when we travel? We prepare and take our own food in a cooler and a picnic basket. It’s not only cheaper, it’s far, far better, and better for your health.

Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.
W. C. Fields]