Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer party

Tow truck driver texting on
one phone, talking on another,
crashes into swimming pool.

Bubblehead: I forgot to thank you for your comment. I hope you are doing really well.

I applaud Obama for his attempt to shut down the controversy over the Gates arrest. However, I fear he has just added more fuel to the fire. We are now going to have to listen to arguments over which beer is the best. At least one person has objected to Obama’s choice of Bud Light because the company is now owned by Belgians. I heard somewhere that the other two beers were also foreign. The White House will no doubt hear about that. Then there are all those small breweries who will all want to complain that their beers should have been featured. Before this runs its course I won’t be surprised to see a series of beer tastings in the White House. The MSM, in their continual attempt to keep us from any real news, will keep this alive for as long as they can. After all, we shouldn’t be thinking of health care, Afghanistan, the economy, or anything so mundane when we can think about beer.

The Birthers are still at it. Here I thought that after the vote in which everyone agreed Obama was indeed a citizen of the U.S. they would give up. But you can’t say they aren’t creative. One Republican sent a long memo to his constituents explaining the whole issue in detail: You see, Obama’s parents took a trip to Kenya while she was pregnant. Because she was so far pregnant she couldn’t fly back to the U.S. so she had Obama in Kenya. And as she was too young, her birthing him could not make him a citizen, and blah, blah, blah, etc. This memo was read out loud on the Rachel Maddow show this evening. I think the author missed his calling, he should be writing spicy potboilers.

I don’t understand all these arguments over universal health care. It seems to me pretty simple. The American people do not want our current system and would prefer a single-payer system, or at least a public option. The Insurance companies do not because they are making huge profits over the existing dysfunctional system. This seems like a really clear choice to me. The fact that Insurance companies could keep 47 million Americans from adequate health care would seem like a no-brainer. At least it would in any country that actually had the well-being of its citizens in mind. But this, I guess I have to remind you, is the U.S.A., we’re different.

Here in North Idaho it is a banner year for huckleberries. Most everyone is picking huckleberries, even people who do not usually pick huckleberries. They are said to be everywhere. Good, I say, maybe the bears will keep out of our garbage cans this year. Now we have huckleberry pies, milk shakes, cobblers, shortcake, ice cream, jams, sauces, and I don’t know what all else. I heard of one place that served a shrimp salad with huckleberries, aaaaaagh!
I am wondering if Obama is going to stick to his position on the Israeli (illegal) settlements. I understand there have been anti-Obama demonstrations in Israel of late. I guess it is just too much to expect Israel to live up to any of its international agreements or pay attention to the U.N. or anyone else. They never have. You might think Obama has asked them for all their first born children or something. As far as I am concerned it is well past time that someone has confronted them over their reckless, illegal, and genocidal behavior. Oh, I forgot, Obama is too busy having to prove that he was born, that he is not out to kill old people, that global warming is real, that insurance companies are trying to torpedo health care, and so on. In my view, the Israeli/Palestinian issue is almost as important as health care, especially if there is to be any hope for peace in the Middle East…ever. Oh, I forgot again, the whole problem is really Iran where they are (falsely, apparently) said to be eagerly rushing the development of a nuclear bomb to bomb Israel, and apparently the rest of the known world, according to the Israelis. If Obama can’t curb the Israelis, and produce universal health care, we can kiss any hopes of either of those things goodbye for a very long time, perhaps forever.

For a list of topics and comments you may find of interest see Morialekafa, 7-25-09.

Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.
Paul Valery

“Blue Dog Democrats” received their name because they were said to be being “choked blue” by the “left.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Birthers, Deathers, and Cretins

Seven year-old boy leads
police on 40mph car chase
to escape going to church.

Birthers, Deathers, and Cretins. I wonder if it is even possible for Republicans to descend even further into their mindless desperation. For weeks now we have heard them talking about Obama’s birthplace, whether or not he is really an American, and whether or not he is qualified to be President. Then when a recent vote was taken in the House everyone, including the truly goofy Michelle Bachman, voted that indeed he was a citizen. So why did they so relentlessly pursue their theme that he was not when they obviously knew better? I suspect it was because they didn’t want us to hear about anything more important, like health care, the stimulus, and so on.

Now that the Birther argument should be settled, except I guess for Lou Dobbs who seems unable to understand even the simplest facts, they have started their new conspiracy notion, the health care plan is really designed to kill old people. So where we had Birthers, now we have Deathers. Both of these campaigns, if you want to consider them that, are absolutely nonsensical and have no purpose other than frightening people and causing a great deal of unnecessary confusion with respect to the issue of universal health care. It seems they will stop at nothing to destroy any attempt to provide adequate health care for all Americans and insure that the current dysfunctional and inadequate system will continue to provide obscene profits for the Insurance and Pharmaceutical giants.

But these cretinous jerks don’t stop with merely this nonsense, now they are on a campaign to label Obama a racist (if this is not projection a la Freud I don’t know what would be). Glen Beck, that intellect out of the comic strips, just said, “Obama has a deep-seated hatred of white people,” followed by less than two minutes later, “I didn’t say he didn’t like white people.” This is just one example of the absurd claims they make with no evidence whatsoever. It’s like whatever pops into their little minds they just spew out without any further thought whatsoever. They are pushing the benefits of free speech right to the margins of hell with no regards for decency, fair-play, or honesty. I think they must feel that if they are going down anyway, they can say any ridiculous thing they want, as somehow it just won’t matter and won’t come back to haunt them.

Nothing Republicans have done in recent weeks seems to make any sense whatsoever. They criticized the stimulus bill with nothing of their own but four pages of nonsense, now they are doing the same thing with health care, just criticizing but offering no plan of their own. They are opposing Sotomayor on grounds that are simply petty and ridiculous, and will certainly not help them with Hispanic voters in the coming elections. Without Hispanic votes they have no chance of winning much of anything, they just don’t seem to care, as they are without much hope to begin with. I think all their frantic and irrational behavior has to do with our having a Black President for the first time, a situation so foreign to their beliefs about white superiority it is driving them crazy. A Black President and now a Hispanic Supreme Court Justice has caused them to become completely unhinged, even to the point now that they no longer even pretend they are not racists (and sexists).

Interestingly enough, the fact that they (and, indeed, most everyone) continues to routinely refer to Obama as Black is in and of itself nothing but pure racism. Obama is half white, so why don’t we refer to him as white, or even black and white? The reason, of course, has to do with our belief that if someone has any black blood at all they are black. But this is utter nonsense. We would never say that a black person with a little white blood was white. In this view black blood is considered contaminating in a way that white blood is not. Racism, pure and simple.

Any great truth can -- and eventually will -- be expressed as a cliche -- a cliche is a sure and certain way to dilute an idea. For instance, my grandmother used to say, 'The black cat is always the last one off the fence.' I have no idea what she meant, but at one time, it was undoubtedly true.
Solomon Short

It’s true, you cannot herd cats.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Take your pick

Young bikini-clad carjacker
fails to rob RV dealer, who
refuses to believe she has a gun.

Take your pick, either Republicans are totally dishonest or totally stupid, or perhaps both. It is confusing, at least to me. Take the “Birthers,” for example, After days, even weeks, of claiming that Obama was not really born in the U.S., when it came to a vote even the most extreme nutcases, like Bachman, voted that he was. So what was that all about? It would appear they didn’t really believe what they were saying for so long, so why were they saying it? This topic became such an embarrassment for them even Rush, that great fat platter of greasy drug-fed know-nothingness had to give it up.

But the birther conspiracy pales into insignificance compared to the latest conspiracy making the round of the right. The claim that Obama’s health care reform is really designed to kill old people. This idea is apparently everywhere on right wing programs (I don’t know this first hand as I never watch any of their idiotic blather). If they truly believe this they are unutterably stupid. If they don’t believe it they are unutterably dishonest.

It is also perfectly obvious that for the most part they have no idea what they are talking about. It’s like the woman Obama quoted who was warning him about his socialism who ended with the statement, “don’t touch my medicare.” In the U.S. we have Medicare and Medicaid, universal elementary school public education, fine Veteran Administration health care, a public postal service, all kinds of agricultural and other subsidies, and so on, all “socialistic.” Even so, they continue to complain about the possibility that Obama may be trying (horrors) to introduce socialism to the U.S.. Again, if they understand what they are talking about their incessant criticism is dishonest, and if they don’t they are just plain stupid, or again, maybe both.

More importantly, when it comes to universal health care, they are even worse. Some 70 plus percent of the U.S. population is dissatisfied with the status quo and want to see meaningful change. For a large percentage of these people they would prefer a single-payer system, but failing that, at least a public option. So Republicans, with the aid of the so-called “Blue dog Democrats” are opposing not only single-payer (which has not even seriously been considered), but also a public option. As these plans have been studied for years by experts on such topics, and as it is perfectly clear what the facts are, the opposition to universal care is either dishonest or stupid, or both. In this case I opt for dishonest because I know those who oppose any change are being paid off by the Insurance and Pharmaceutical giants who are reaping obscene profits from the current dysfunctional situation. In other words, these corporations and individuals are willing to cause some 47 million of their fellow citizens who do not have any health care, plus even many who do have health care, to continue to suffer and go into bankruptcy in return for bribes. Welcome to the U.S. political system, in all its glorious corruption.

I was amused to see somewhere today that some group (I don’t know who or what it was) wanted people to comment on Sarah Palin, but emphasized they only wanted positive comments. This led one blogger wit to reply, “I am absolutely positive she is a moron.” Personally I believe she is a moron. I also find I am living in fear because of the Palin phenomenon. As she apparently continues to have a following, and as we continue to hear she might be a contender for the Republican nomination for President, I am frightened, knowing there are people that gullible and/or stupid who have the vote. I mean, that George W. Bush could have been elected President was ridiculous enough, the thought of Sarah Palin is really scary (especially coming so closely on the heels of Bush). I guess some people just never learn (which in itself is frightening, when it comes to governing).

Then there is the case of Sonia Sotomayor. Republicans (almost all of them) are going to vote against her for the Supreme Court. Their grounds for doing so are either dishonest or stupid. Sotomayor has a record of 1400 opinions that have been studied carefully. Those who have done this have said there is no record of discrimination whatsoever. She has been highly recommended by the American Bar Association, it is common knowledge that she will be confirmed, but Republicans are going to vote against her. For reasons, they quote (again and again and again) a comment she once made in a speech where she suggested Latino women might (in some contexts) made better decisions that white men. To object to her on this basis is not only deliberately manufacturing a reason, it is dishonest. They also object to her because they think (they do not know) that she might be somewhat against guns. Again, this is no genuine reason to oppose her, just a petty dishonest excuse. They will vote against her because (1) she is a Latino, and (2) she is a woman. They cannot bring themselves to confess they are both racists and sexists, although it is perfectly clear from their questions during the hearings, and now their excuses, that is the case.

It's hard to decide if TV makes morons out of everyone or if it mirrors Americans who really are morons to begin with.
Martin Mull

Hummingbirds are the only species of bird that can fly backwards.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Too hot!

Quite frankly, it is much too hot here at Sandhill to blog. I have been miserable for the past few days and it continues. My cats, garden, and myself are wilting.

I suggest you reference my Fifth Anniversay blog of Saturday where you may find something of interest until my energy returns.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Tenth Muse - book

The Tenth Muse My Life in Food, Judith Jones (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)

It was apparently Brillat-Savarin himself that suggested a tenth Muse, Gasterea, who was to preside over all the pleasures of taste, hence the title of this interesting book about food, cooking, and cookbooks by Judith Jones. You are probably aware of the revolution in American cooking that began with the publication of Julia Child’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in the early 1960’s. You may not be aware that it was Judith Jones who, against considerable resistance on the part of several publishers, eventually prevailed and managed to convince Alfred A. Knopf to take a chance on this virtually encyclopedic tome. It was widely believed that American cooks would never take to a detailed and somewhat complicated book on French Cooking, especially after years of being told that cooking was something that should be quick and easy, if not avoided entirely. The enormous and almost immediate success of “Mastering…” came as a pleasant surprise, Julia Child herself, a fantastic personality, became a television star, and profound changes began to occur in American cuisine. Knopf had published a couple of previous cookbooks with limited success but they were not prepared for the Julia Childs tornado. Book tours were not commonplace at the time, and a book tour for the author of a cookbook was unheard of. But it came about with a resounding success and led to a whole series of fine cookbooks on regional and ethnic cuisines, many of the most important ones under the editorship of Judith Jones. I believe it is fair to say that the development of fine cooking, as it exists presently in the U.S., is due as much to Judith Jones as to anyone, including Julia Child. If you look at all the fine cookbooks that are now appearing regularly, many by the finest chefs in America, they cannot, of course all be attributed to Jones, but without her pioneering efforts they would most likely not be appearing at all.

Judith Jones was herself a fine home cook with a lifelong interest in cooking that was further stimulated and refined by her years as a young woman living in Paris. The first part of this book deals with her years in Paris, meeting her husband who was also a fine cook, and their many experiments with various cuisines. I suspect that like many upper middle class Americans, she tends to exaggerate their poverty while living in France (I have reason to believe that this is fairly common but is a topic for another time). In any case, after a few years of experiencing Paris and French cooking, she eventually landed a job at Alfred A. Knopf, publishers, ostensibly to help in the translation of French works into English. A short time after she was there she was handed the Child’s manuscript, which had been rejected by others, and the rest is history. After her enormous success with Julia Child she went on to meet and work with many of our most famous cookbook authors. The Tenth Muse is basically an autobiographical account of her life, as lived in Paris, and subsequently as lived in the world of fine cuisine.
At the end of this interesting account she provides a number of recipes, interesting because they are recipes she used or developed herself after she found herself living alone. They are for one or two people, are relatively easy to prepare, but also quite delicious and satisfying. Although some of them are perhaps a bit idiosyncratic, for anyone who has tried to cook just for themselves, they will be appreciated. From my perspective, I believe Jones has done an extremely valuable service by changing American attitudes towards food and cooking. Alas, this does not mean Americans have given up their taste for fast foods entirely, but important inroads have been made into this unfortunate and unhealthy development, and Judith Jones played an exceedingly important role in changing this unfortunate trend and in the recent history of American cuisine.

Anyone with an interest in fine cooking and fine food will find this an enjoyable and informative book.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Five years!

Much to my amazement, and consternation I might add, today marks the end of five years of Morialekafa. When it began I had little idea even what a blog was, and I certainly never dreamed mine would continue for five years. I just knew that “everyone was doing it,” and that it might be both fun and interesting. It has been both of those things. Of course no one had ever heard of Morialekafa. Those I told about it, counted easily on the fingers of one hand, read it initially but I think soon gave up. I doubt there are more than two or three regular readers even now. I don’t get many hits. I especially don’t get many looking for Morialekafa per se. But what I find the most interesting are the hits I get from literally all over the world. These people are put on to Morialekafa because they have googled some subject I have written about or mentioned, and get directed here. Peculiarly enough, I think, is that I have received more hits for an essay I wrote on “Being an Only Child” than anything else. But this is followed closely by, believe it or not, by the subjects of sardines and pickled pigs’ feet. There are others, of course, but not with the frequency of the above. If nothing else this has filled me with a genuine sense of awe about the internet. The fact that it literally reaches people even in the far corners of the world remains a wonderful, even magical phenomenon for me. I don’t understand it but I love it.

Morialekafa was not started to be particularly political, but over the years has become quite political. This seemed to be inevitable, as I first watched with disbelief at the Bush/Cheney administration, then with disenchantment, and finally with utter disgust. This has led me to rant and rave sometimes with increasing emotion. I doubt anyone cares, but it does keep me from kicking my cats, beating my wife, and yelling at my son. I remain totally upset about what has happened to our country and I fear I will expire before I see justice done to the war criminals responsible for bringing us to the abominable condition in which we now find ourselves.
For anyone who might be interested, I have compiled a list of basically non-political topics Morialekafa has published over the past five years. These consist of brief essays, short stories, and comments on books and movies. I hope you might find something of interest.

Essays (of sorts)
On Deodorant 7-31-04
On Knitting 8-07-04
Beliefs 8-14-04
Movie and TV Ratings 8-21-04
Journalism 8-28-04
Wisdom Teeth 9-04-04
On Names 9-11-04
Human Universals 9-25-04
On Being an Only Child 10-02-04
Divorce 10-17-04
Cats 10-24-04
On Cute 10-31-04
Advice 11-7-04
On Anxiety 11-13-04
Things I Was Told as a Child 11`-21-04
On White 11-28-04
Death and the Mechanical Model 12-09-04
Holidays 12-21-04
Valley Girls in the Kitchen 12-24-04
Wearing Glasses 1-01-05
Men and Secretaries 1-11-05
On Perversity 1-22-05
On Chewing 1-28-05
Tennis Shoes 2-05-05
Turkey Breasts 2-13-05
Black Hats 3-04-05
Exercise 3-10-05
Frozen Potatoes? 4-14-05
Government Waste 4-25-05
Women and Ice Cream 5-09-05
Put the Seat Up 5-13-05
No TV and Manners 5-20-05
Cell Phones 5-22-05
Wuthering 6-09-05
School Plays 7-14-05
The Church of the Great Mystery 8-03-05
Pickled Pigs Feet 8-14-05
Women and Telephones 8-26-05
Fast Food 9-16-05
A Lesson from the Gila Monster 10-21-05
Bathrooms 10-24-05
Travel is Educational 11-08-05
Gadjets 11-23-05
Save Them 12-18-05
Payments 1-25-06
All You Can Eat 2-12-06
Ask Your Doctor 3-17-06
Reflections on Toilets 5-26-06
Round Up the Usual Tripe 7-01-06
The Vast Storage Epidemic 8-27-06
Never Satisfied 9-29-06
Useless Words and Phrases 10-06-06
On Jokes 10-21-06
Themes of Culture 11-22-06
Why Chickens 2-04-07
Sex, Diets and Chicken Breasts 3-18-07
Milestones in Growing Old 4-21-07
Sins and Virtues 5-10-07
Women and Cookbooks 6-09-07
Themes of Culture 8-01-07
The Concept of the Soul 8-07-07
Drugs 8-17-07
Lutefisk 5-01-08
On Bullshit 6-02-08
On Truth 6-04-08
Real People? 7-03-08
Dining on the Road 7-09-08
The Slave Ship 7-27-08
The Fifth Great Blow 8-29-08
What (or Who) is a Dork? 9-01-08
Seven Deadly Sins 9-13-08
Vienna Style 10-22-08
Greatest Movies 11-24-08
Life in the Land of Plenty 1-17-09
Nacirema Revisited 2-02-09
Addiction 2-24-09
On Hobbies 3-07-09
On Google Recipes 3-21-09

Short Stories
Huckleberries 1-14-05
I Remember Bernard 1-30-05
Frenchy Don’t-You-Know 3-12-05
On the Konigstrasse 4-04-05
Quentin III 4-21-05
Welcome to Southern California 4-30-05
Ugly 5-29-05
Reunion 6-25-05
Charlie the Hook 7-21-05
Flowers for Armando 7-31-05
Old Man 8-21-05
The Billiard Room 9-07-05
By the Waterfall 12-02-05
Yosio 1-11-06
Donkey 3-04-06
A Passion for Liverwurst 5-18-06
The Goatherd 7-12-06
Delivering a Mattress 5-29-07
Bird on a String 7-20-07
The Last Duck 5-09-08
Dawdle 4-29-09

Comments on Books/Movies

For Whom the Bell Tolls 7-02-05
The Lost One 1-07-06
The Godfather – comments 3-14-06
Cannibalism 6-16-07
The Devil in the White City 2-16-07
Apocalypto 8-14-07
Blood on the Wattle 8-16-07
A Long Way Gone 10-27-07
Two Books 11-10-07
How Soccer Explains the World
How Soccer Explains the World
Columbus and Other Cannibals
Murder in Amsterdam 11-19-07
East of the Sun 12-01-07
The Old Way 11-15-08
The Devil Came on Horseback 4-20-08
Casablanca 1-03-09
My Life in France 1-30-09
Big Trouble 2-26-09
A Thousand Splendid Suns 2-28-09
The Forever War 3-14-09
The Man With No Face 3-20-09
Dorothy Parker 3-28-09
Mencken 4-14-09
Crazy Good 4-24-09
Pablo Neruda 4-30-09
A Land So Strange 5-17-09
Armenian Golgotha 5-25-09
The Devil in the Kitchen 5-31-09
Columbine 6-07-09
Go Down Together 6-14-09
Corelli’s Mandolin 6-28-09
The Great Mortality 7-12-09
The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair 7-19-09

Friday, July 24, 2009


Woman auctions her virginity
to help ailing mother, but
no kisses or caresses allowed.

Absolutely amazing. I’m tempted to say, only in America, but upon reflection I’m sure there are other governments just as stupid and uncaring as this one. I’m speaking of health care, of course. Virtually everyone who has studied the issue agrees that a single-payer system would be the best, in terms of efficiency, cost, and universal coverage. Even the President of our country acknowledges that a single-payer system would be the best. A huge percentage of the American population is in favor of a single-payer system. Many leaders in Congress agree that it would be the best system. Canada and other countries have such health care and like it. However, here at home, a single-payer system is apparently not even under serious consideration. Why is this so? Well, some of our Congresspersons, mostly Republicans, are not interested in the health of their constituents or the American public, being only interested in their party and in destroying the other party (it’s their strange idea of politics as usual). Then there are those who, apparently ignorant of the meaning of the term socialism, don’t want a single-payer system because they insist it is socialism (you know, like the Post Office, universal public education, medicare, veterans benefits, and such, that we already practice). There are also those, mostly corporations, that make enormous profits from the existing terribly expensive and terribly flawed system that now exists, so they don’t wish to change it. There are also a small number of Democrats who are paid by these same corporations to sell out 47 million of their fellow citizens for pieces of silver. Finally, there are also the terribly, even obscenely wealthy, that cannot bear to think of giving up even one percent of their fortunes to help others who are less fortunate. The fact that America is the only one of the most “advanced,” “civilizations,” on the planet that does not provide universal health care matters not a whit to those who take the basic position, “I’ve got mine, screw everyone else,” like many of our Congresspersons. I suppose this is only to be expected in a culture that believes “greed is good,” “shop til’ you drop” is a virtue, “he who has the most toys wins,” and apparently can’t built storage fast enough to contain all their excess possessions (probably mostly junk). We desperately need, I fear, a cultural revolution. Even Harry and Louise have come around and now want universal health care. It seems everybody does, but, like the weather, no one does anything (sensible) about it. This bickering about health care has been going on since the time of FDR. Obama is right, it’s time to do something about it. NOW.

I return, somewhat reluctantly, once again, to the subject of Afghanistan. I am still waiting for someone, anyone, to explain to me what the hell we are doing in Afghanistan. We will soon have some 68,000 troops in that far off land, for reasons I cannot fathom. Yesterday, I think it was, I heard some big mucky-muck explain that we would be there for many years because we want to create a nation that…that…that…I think will be able to become a self-sufficient one, with a stable government, capable of managing its own affairs, and whatever. Afghanistan has never been such a nation and most probably never will. But even if it could be, what business is it of ours to waste our troops and money trying to establish such a country. The Afghans didn’t ask for this, and don’t want us there. They got along for centuries, turning back everyone who tried to conquer them. And nation building is certainly not the goal that was explained to us when we attacked them, ostensibly looking for Osama bin Laden, whom we have never found, even though for years we have claimed to know where he was. Nor did we go there initially to fight the Taliban, we went there to presumably fight al Quaida, but somehow this has become a “war” against the Taliban (which the Afghans themselves would probably throw out of their country if we were not there butting in to their business). Most everyone now admits Afghanistan is a mess, we don’t have a really clear cut goal for that troubled part of the world, but, as in Vietnam, we just can’t bring ourselves to acknowledge defeat. It reminds me of a joke I once read, where a boy was asked to use the words defeat, deduct, defense, and detail in a single sentence. He replied “de feet(in Afghanistan) of de duck (al Qaida) went over de fence (to Pakistan) before de tail (we had any plan). Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Will we, as a nation, ever go back to insisting that our elected leaders do something for the public that elected them, or will we continue just stuffing the fat cats and corporations that have managed to take over the world? We have arrived at a point, I think, where no one even expects our leaders to do the right thing by the public. We criticize other nations like Mexico and Iraq for corruption while we have elevated corruption to a level heretofore undreamed of.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
Unknown, Often attributed to Abraham Lincoln

Characters based upon the Apache leader, Geronimo, appear in more than 25 movies.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What a pleasure

Ohio man vacates house,
leaves behind 100 cats
and incredible stench.

What a pleasure to watch a President who actually knows what he is talking about, doesn’t need a “wire,” and is completely comfortable with himself. Can you even imagine George W. Bush giving such a Press Conference? It seems to me that whether you agree with Obama or not, you have to give him credit for being well-informed about all aspects of his health care legislation. I am beginning to believe we may actually, after all these wasted years, get an improvement in our system of health care. Of course it won’t be the most sensible and efficient single-payer plan that most everyone knows would be by far the best, but it will have to be an improvement over the dismal system we currently suffer. Go Obama!

I am really proud of myself today. I managed to get through the entire day without even peeking at the idiot box (except for Obama’s Press Conference). I might have watched my favorite Rachel Maddow, but when she started merely repeating what I had just heard Obama say I gave it up. This is just one of the things I don’t understand about the media. Why do they assume they should have to repeat precisely what you have just been listening to? Do they think you are just not bright enough to understand it? I find this process, which occurs all too frequently, in fact, almost always, to be extremely irritating, to say nothing of a complete waste of time. I have been lobbying my wife to move somewhere and leave the TV behind. I am weak, weak as water, as Molly Sugdan used to say on Are You Being Served, and if I have one of the stupid things I cannot completely ignore it. My thoughts are turning more and more to Lund, British Columbia, but I doubt it will ever happen.

What on earth is going on? Congress actually turned down the billions of dollars white elephant F22. And not only that, they turned down the NRA attempt to allow people to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the U.S. irrespective of any local laws to the contrary. So…a defeat for the Military Industrial Political complex and a defeat for the usually all powerful NRA, what’s the world coming to? Next they may actually turn down some money for the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians. If they would just cut the bloated, obscene Pentagon budget by the 50% it probably deserves, and if they would shut down our hundreds of overseas bases, we’d soon be on easy street. But it’s nice to know they took one tiny step in that direction.

It appears that Obama may be entirely serious about the expansion of Israeli settlements. I read somewhere today that our administration is threatening to withhold a billion dollars of the billions Israel usually scores from us year after year. Wouldn’t that be a shocker (if it’s really true)? Netanyahu has now claimed Israel has complete ownership of Jerusalem and therefore can build there as much as it desires. The fact that this is untrue seems not to faze him. Will Obama stay firm and insist that the Israeli’s curb their insatiable appetite for stolen territory, or will he, as all Presidents before him, just kneel to the outrageously illegal claims no matter what?
What do you do with people who simply refuse to believe things that are as true as things can be true? The “Birthers” are a case in point. Obama’s citizenship has been clearly established in the only way such a thing can be established, but the Birthers simply refuse to believe it. We can’t just dismiss such people as schizophrenic as many, if not most of them, are otherwise apparently sane. It’s the same thing with those who don’t believe we actually landed a man on the moon. They just don’t believe it, and won’t believe it no matter what evidence you provide. More importantly, how about those poor souls (and there are so many of them in the U.S. it’s frightening) who refuse to believe in evolution. What do these people do, just ignore everything they hear and see? That is, virtually every day you see or hear some reference to the age of the earth, geological time, the extinction of animals thousands of years ago, the discovery of new dinosaur bones, remains of human activity more than 6000 years ago, and so on. No matter what you believe, you cannot escape hearing about such things, unless you are completely tuned out to radio, newspapers, tv, and even normal conversations (or perhaps do not possess a fully functional human brain). The few people I have encountered who claim not to believe in evolution, when you question them about these things, do not respond to the questions, saying simply, and repeatedly, “I believe what the bible says.” Being a liberal I tend to think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, when you have large numbers of such people, and they elect Congresspersons or Presidents who believe in such nonsense, it becomes an actual danger to your country as it allows the rest of the world to leave you behind. So what can you do, short of a “cultural revolution?” If anyone has a plausible answer, please let me know.

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
Gustave Flaubert

I thought you might need this recipe:

Moose Nose
1 Moose Nose; hide and hair
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Sprigs fresh thyme OR 1/2
ts Dried thyme
1 Bay leaf
8 Sprigs parsley
1 ts Black Peppercorns
3 Stalks Celery

Place nose, complete w/ hide and hair, in lg. stock pot. Cover the
nose w/ water. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and continue boiling
for about 1 hr. Drain water. When nose is cool, remove hide and
hair. Rinse meat in cold water. Return meat to pot, covering it with
cold water. Add salt and pepper, thyme, bay leaf, parsley,
peppercorns, and celery. Bring contents to a boil and boil nose until
tender. Remove from water and allow to cool. Slice thinly and serve
chilled w/ Gribeche Sauce.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Witch hunt?

New Zealand teenager
tries to auction naked
pictures of his mother.

It has already started. Just the mention of the possibility that our Attorney General might appoint a special investigator to look into the torture question has prompted the first cries of “witch hunt.” The Republicans will obviously oppose any attempt at accountability and justice when it comes to Bush/Cheney and the rest of the criminal gang that spent the last eight years ruining our country. There is no “hunt” involved here, the “witches,” if one wishes to call them that, are well known and have even confessed already to some of their misdeeds. Thus it is not as if we think something might have happened and want to learn about it, we know it happened and seek accountability. We know that U.S. law, International law, and the constitution itself were violated. For Republicans to try to obfuscate and confuse this particular investigation is to verify once again that law and the constitution, as well as the well-being of our nation, do not concern them. They are interested only in clinging to and trying to re-establish the power they so shamefully abused for so long. In my opinion this is immorality writ large and should by all rights destroy any credibility they claim. This is not about some relatively insignificant political disagreement. We are dealing here with the deaths of thousands of our best young people, injuries (probably permanent) to many thousands more, the deaths of perhaps as many as a million innocent Iraqis, the displacement of up to four million, torture and other war crimes, and human misery untold. It is understandable why they would like to see it swept under the rug, so to speak, but if they want to pretend it didn’t happen, and the leaders of their party were not responsible, the rest of the world is not going to forget it. And if the U.S., having created the Nuremburg trials, refuses to investigate our own war criminals and hold them responsible, our hypocrisy and arrogance will be forever displayed, and our image in the world will be damaged forever. The question for Eric Holder cannot be whether to investigate, only who to appoint.

I must say, the Republican party is putting on a show that would make the Keystone Kops jealous. They opposed the stimulus, with no plan of their own. Now they are opposing health care with no plan of their own. Some of their most prominent figures have had trouble keeping their pants on and just dig themselves deeper in their scandals every day. Their supposedly hot shot Governor (of Alaska) resigned after one of the most absurd speeches ever heard, and is herself mired in scandal. Their Chairman rants against Obama’s health care proposal but obviously doesn’t understand it, and doesn’t even know for sure what health insurance he has himself. They opposed Sotomayor for the Supreme Court even before she was announced and have now exposed their blatant racism for the world to see. They have stupidly made it clear they have nothing to offer and are deliberately attempting to destroy Obama and say “no” to everything he wants to do, no matter what it is. Their party is split now between those absolute crazies who think Obama is not really a citizen of the U.S., and those who are so embarrassed by this they want to hide in their closets. One of their putative “leaders” at the moment is a fat, loud-mouthed, draft-dodging, drug addicted, bag of pig pucky, who is also a pathological liar. Some of their Senators have made utter fools of themselves, especially during the Sotomayor hearings, and come across as too stupid to breath. In my relatively long life I have never seen a performance as dismal as this. I cannot conceive of anything they could possibly do to refurbish themselves as a viable political party. It appears to me that when they lost the White House to Bill Clinton, an infectious immorality took over the party, shepherded by Karl Rove who abandoned ordinary politics in favor of “roviating” opponents. What inevitably happened when they renounced their country in favor of their party, renounced politics in favor of crime, and left an absolute disaster in their wake is what we are seeing and trying to deal with now. The best thing these remnants of what was once a genuine political party could do now is just shut up and get out of the way.

I came from a disadvantaged home. They were Republicans.
Paul Tsongas

Scalping was not universal among American Indians, and there is no evidence those who practiced it learned it from Europeans.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Please, don't make me laugh

Three nuns arrested for
driving 120 miles per hour
on their way to see Pope.

Please don’t make me laugh. Our Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has announced that if progress can’t be made in Afghanistan by the end of the year, the American public will stop supporting the “war” there. Progress? In Afghanistan? In a year? If that isn’t the silliest thing I’ve heard in a long time I guess I wouldn’t recognize silly when I see it. Hey, Gates, how about 100 years, maybe more? Now he plans to send another 22,000 troops there. I wonder when we’ll reach the number we had in Vietnam? I wonder where he plans to get these troops? Anyway, this whole Afghanistan business is laughable, or would be if we weren’t losing so many of our young people there, completely wasting their time. There has never been any doubt in my mind from the very beginning of Obama’s vow to send more troops to Afghanistan that it would turn out to be his Vietnam, and it is. Doesn’t it make you wonder how such presumably intelligent people can be so wrong for so long? Maybe not, after the Vietnam debacle.

Another development that would be laughable if it were not so tragic is the fact that a small number of Democratic Congresspersons are threatening to deny health insurance to some 50 million people, men, women, and children. Think of that. Fifty million people are a lot, or at least they used to be before we discovered the magic words billion and trillion. Anyway, can you believe these people who would deny health care to so many millions just because they are being paid money to do so by those who have a vested interest in keeping the system as dysfunctional as it is. Now that’s what I call real public service.

And can you believe that another Republican in Congress actually said publicly that if they could defeat Obama on health care it would be his waterloo and he would be finished? I guess he, too, is vitally interested in doing his best for the public well-being. This would have to be seen as so stupid as to be laughable, but again it is serious politics for these greedy, short-sighted, selfish, nincompoops who call themselves Republicans. Michael Steele, Republican party chairman, helped out by accusing Obama of a “dangerous experiment” with our lives, on, of course, his road to socialism. When questioned about details of the proposed legislation Steele had to admit he didn’t really know anything about it. Is that not laughable? Of course it is also pathetic. I’m absolutely convinced these Republicans must be totally unaware of their stupidity. I have always believed that George W. Bush was marginally retarded, now I believe this is true of Republicans in general. They certainly did nothing during the Sotomayor hearings to disabuse me of this belief, and their behavior with respect to health care is just more reinforcement.

The MSM continues on in its own laughable interpretation of what is news. David Schuster, when talking about health care and other important topics had to insert a segment on Paula whats-her-face, who has something-or-other to do with American Idol. I think it had to do with how much money she was holding out for in her new contract. Now that is real news, right up there with health care, the economy, the “wars,” I guess the daily segment on Michael Jackson wasn’t available at the time, or perhaps there wasn’t a car chase going on somewhere in Podunk.
Finally, for the moment, what could be more laughable than the “birthers.” These “true believers” are convinced that Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore is not our legitimate President. Even though Obama’s birth certificate has been made available, and even though its legitimacy has been verified by the state of Hawaii, and even though there is no credible evidence to the contrary, these conspiracy freaks still refuse to believe it. This would be completely laughable except for the fact that no less than Lou Dobbs himself has lent some credence to it, and there are said to be at least ten Congresspersons who are also moving in that direction. I suspect the phrase “get a life” was created for just such people. Not to worry, there is probably no belief on earth so far-fetched that someone won’t believe it. Some people even believe that Sarah Palin is a serious candidate for the Presidency. Now that’s a truly far-out belief. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make it a chorus girl.

The real question of government versus private enterprise is argued on too philosophical and abstract a basis. Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity and until they do (and find the cure) all ideal plans will fall into quicksand.
Richard Feynman

Bonobos have been observed to engage in cannibalism in captivity.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair - book

The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair, Moshik Temkin, Yale University Press, 2009.
There are many Ph.D. dissertations that do not deserve publication no matter how many revisions they attempt. This is not one of them. It is a truly fascinating account of the still often debated Sacco-Vanzetti electrocutions, a scholarly and well researched work that puts the “affair” in an international context rather than the more typical work on the subject that concentrates more often than not on whether Sacco and Vanzetti were actually guilty as charged, or sometimes on whether or not they received a fair trial. The fact that they were both electrocuted in 1927 does nothing, in and of itself, to answer these questions.

This book traces the arrest in 1920 of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants, who were also anarchists, for the robbery and murder of a factory paymaster and security guard in an industrial suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. To this day it has never been clearly established they were guilty, but they were found guilty in 1921 and finally electrocuted in 1927. What began as a rather routine criminal “case” in 1921, began to change into a national “affair,” and by 1926 had become an international affair of monumental significance. This book traces the history of this transformation and what it meant to the emergence of the U.S. as an international power after the first World War.

The Sacco-Vanzetti affair did not die subsequent to their electrocutions. Indeed, it is still alive and well as this book and others testify. At first Sacco and Vanzetti were supported only by anarchists and those who believed in overthrowing governments and throwing off the yokes of the capitalists, etc. But as the two languished in prison, waiting to be executed, others became interested in their case, including many of the most important liberals of the time who then tried to influence the Massachusetts courts to either free them or at least give them another trial. There were very good reasons why many influential people believed they had not had a fair trial, the trial judge had been shown to be terribly biased toward “wops” and other immigrants, for example. And the quirky Massachusetts laws at the time only allowed for appeals to go to the same judge that had sentenced them (who, of course, stood by his earlier decision). The affair became one in which laborers (the proletariat) were believed by many to be unfairly discriminated against by the (bourgeois) capitalists. Many others were simply outraged by what they believed were the unconscionable actions of the prosecutors and the trial judge. Still others were concerned because they did not belief Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty in the first place. This all took place during the “Red scare” that gripped the United States at that time. Stalin, and the communist party, who were in fact sworn enemies of the anarchists and were at that moment actually jailing them in Russia, seized upon the Sacco-Vanzetti case as an example of labor revolutionaries fighting for the rights of workers everywhere. Mussolini, who was coming into power in Italy, was torn between wanting to defend his fellow Italians and his obsequious desire for good relations with the U.S. In France the affair was seen as another example of their own infamous “Dreyfus affair.” England and other countries were outraged because they thought American laws were unfair and discriminatory against immigrants, especially Italians. Many thought that six years in prison, just waiting to be executed, was enough in itself to free them.
It is somewhat difficult to follow all the nuances of this affair now because, among other things, for all intents and purposes, there are no anarchists today. But there were then, they were organized, and were in opposition to communism as well as other forms of government. It is also difficult for us to understand the importance of the Red scare, but McCarthyism also played into this affair as is not too hard to imagine. Out of this incredible mix of various interests eventually emerged a pretty solid consensus that Sacco and Vanzetti were indeed sacrificed by a paranoid U.S. society, the question of their actual guilt or innocence became largely irrelevant to this wider political context. This view went largely unchallenged until the 1950’ and 60’s when the far right, enchanted by McCarthy, attempted to challenge it. Led by William Buckley and a few others they tried to prove that Sacco and Vanzetti were rabid revolutionaries and deserved to be put to death, etc. This controversy has not completely disappeared even now.

I have not done justice to this fine and compelling book. My opinion, having read it, is that there is no doubt whatsoever that Sacco and Vanzetti did not get a fair trial and should never have been executed. The behavior of the judge who sentenced them, as well as the decision by the review committee that was finally established, was outrageous almost beyond belief and could not happen now. In fact, the Massachusetts law that allowed appeals to go only to the sentencing judge were changed after this awful tragedy. Basically, Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted and executed because they were Italians (“wops”), immigrants, poor, laboring class, and anarchists, critical of government. Their guilt with respect to the crime involved was not established beyond any doubt (nor was any attempt even made to consider their innocence). Nor is it clear that they ever seriously participated in trying to overthrow the government. This shameful episode in our history has much to do with the original creation of anti-Americanism around a world that expected much better from us.

The 1920's and 30's were a truly interesting period in the United States, as it was a time when we were emerging for the first time as a world power. This book makes much of this history much more understandable, and actually helps to understand our current situation as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Iranian hysteria

Felon accidentally shoots off
his own testicle, avoids jail,
Judge says he suffered enough.

I absolutely do not understand this hysteria over Iran and its possible nuclear bomb. First of all there is no evidence that the Iranians are actually pursuing a bomb. Second, what would happen even if they did have a bomb? With one or two or three bombs would they try to destroy Israel and Western Europe? This is a simply absurd assumption, especially as Iran has not attacked anyone for over two hundred years, and Israel and the U.S. would presumably respond massively. Then some say it would set off an arms race in the Middle East. It conceivably could do that, but why assume that Iranians and Arabs are so crazy or irresponsible they would start blowing each other up with nuclear bombs? Even the West versus Russia was not that stupid, and there is no reason to assume any difference for those in the Middle East (unless, of course, you are a bunch of racist paternalists still daydreaming about the “white man’s burden.”). As Israel has had nuclear bombs for years, the only nation in the Middle East to do so, I am rather surprised there hasn’t already been a nuclear arms race in that part of the world. I don’t think it’s because the Arab states are too poor. Anyway, this whole approach to the Middle East seems to me to be predicated on the assumption that Iranians and Arabs must be really stupid and unable to manage their own affairs. Besides, if there were to be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East it would probably not mature until after global warming had already done us all in.

Another article I saw today says that “diplomats” (unnamed diplomats, of course) say that Iran could conduct an underground nuclear test within six months. There is absolutely no evidence for this as far as I can see. Furthermore, the same article then goes on to point out why the Iranians would not do this even if they could (it would tip off Israel which would immediately respond and etc.). The article also suggests that the Iranians are nowhere near having the capacity to launch a nuclear weapon even if they had one, and then goes on, interestingly enough, to point out, it will be years before Iran would be in a position to have and use nuclear weapons. So why, I ask you, all this continued talk about an Israeli attack on Iran, with the blessing of the U.S., and so on? Why do people like Hillary and Gates keep repeating that “nothing is off the table,” and they should not think the U.S. is weak, and blah, blah, blah. At the same time they keep threatening, they also indicate that an attack on Iran is not imminent or planned or whatever. And why do we try to frighten Europeans by pointing out that if Iran had a bomb it would threaten them also? They probably have better intelligence than we do (not a difficult achievement these days) and know more about the situation than we do. Having been following this for months, even years, I have to conclude that it is mostly racist Israeli paranoia which results in nothing but gobbeldy gook instead of common sense on the part of most everyone. I have no doubt that if the West and Israel would reach out diplomatically to Iran, without preconditions, and without assuming they are just irresponsible children, this “problem” would turn out to be mostly a figment of Israeli and U.S. imagination. I believe this would be true no matter who is in charge of Iran at the moment.

As far as I know the American public (at least that portion of it that is actually awake) is in favor of a single-payer health care system. And many of those who are actively involved in trying to negotiate a new health care system also favor a single-payer plan. Obama himself, as a candidate, also favored a single-payer plan. It now seems to be pretty much universally understood that a single-payer system would be much, much less expensive than any other plan, much more cost effective and efficient, and would eliminate the enormous profits that just go to the Insurance industry (an organization completely unnecessary for health care, basically a form of parasitical bloodsuckers). Thanks mostly to Dennis Kucinich it is apparently going to be possible for individual states to opt for a single-payer system should they so desire. The Obama administration, and others, believing there was no chance for a single-payer plan, have opted to create a public option so people, if they wished, could by-pass the insurance leeches entirely. The Insurance and Pharmaceutical and Hospital industries are predictably opposed to even this form of public option. Obama remains determined to get some kind of plan this year, and is talking of just ramming one through without the help of Republicans (and a few Democrats being heavily bribed by the corporations). I don’t know how possible this may be, but if it is possible, why not ram through a single-payer plan and have done with it? If they succeed in getting a public option it will almost inevitably turn into a single-payer plan eventually, so why wait? Why would anyone, especially any Congressperson, who is supposed to have the public interest foremost in their minds, oppose the most efficient and practical plan? Because the Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industries are paying them big bucks to do just that. It is, alas, that simple, and that disgusting.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

Alexander the Great’s horse, Bucephalus, was said to have died of old age at thirty. Alexander named a city after him, Bucephala.

Friday, July 17, 2009

No Numbskulls Allowed

Police seek man with
sexual fetish for slashing
exercise balls.

Should some kind of credentials be required before running for public office? I mean, you know, you have to take a test just to get a driver’s license, and many jobs require either oral or written tests. It seems there is nothing required of those who aspire to public office. Unfortunately, this shows. The Sotomayor confirmation hearings offered glimpses at Senators who seem to be truly dim bulbs. Senator Sessions is a good case in point, and Inhofe has repeatedly revealed his apparent lack of contact with reality. Just now some ten Congresspersons have signed on to some ridiculous “birther” statement. Obama has done everything necessary to prove he was born in Honolulu, part of the United States, but these dimwits refuse to believe it, claiming his birth certificate, certified by the State of Hawaii, must be a fake, and so on. In short, nothing anyone can do or say can make these people believe Obama is a bona fide citizen of the United States. This reveals, to me at least, an absence of common sense, if not the ability to reason. There are probably thousands of examples of our Senators or Representatives saying and doing absolutely boneheaded things. Many of them do not believe in evolution, an indication of genuine ignorance. Even our past President said he wasn’t sure about it. Michelle Bachman comes out every day with some new absurd claim that makes you wonder how in the world she was ever elected to high office. Of course even bright people occasionally make some stupid mistake, but in some cases this is a consistent pattern that indicates something is missing when it comes to brains.

Nothing is required for someone to be elected to office other than just the ability to get elected. Thus our elected officials can have all kinds of backgrounds: haberdashers, schoolteachers, pest controllers, and what have you. Many elected officials come from legal backgrounds, sometimes having never actually practiced law, and still others may be doctors who for whatever reason became politicians. Some of these turn out to be effective public servants, but some do not. The question becomes, how do we screen out the occasional loonies who manage to get elected to high office, then prove themselves over time to be stupid and/or incompetent, but for some reason continue to be elected? I do not know the answer to this question, but I believe it is an important issue we should consider more carefully. I would not suggest that having a college degree necessarily helps, nor is there necessarily anything wrong with having been a comedian, plumber, exterminator, or even governor. But how in the world does someone like Bachman get elected? Or Inhofe? Or Sessions? I confess that watching the performance of these individuals, and others, during the recent confirmation hearings, was an embarrassment, virtually too painful to watch. I do not believe my feelings about this have merely to do with the fact that I disagree with them. There are many people I disagree with that I still admire, but some individuals just do not inspire admiration at any level. They are, in my judgment, truly “dim bulbs.”

Could we not at least consider mandatory classes for anyone who aspires to high public office? That is, once someone decides to become a politician and run for office might they not have to take some courses in politics, current events, the Constitution, things like that, just basic information they should need to know, or is it enough they can see Russia from their front porch? Of course many candidates already possess such knowledge and could be exempt from tutorials. Sarah Palin is a good example of someone who was running for very high office with virtually no qualifications at all, other than a brief governorship of a sparsely populated state, where she has been accused of multiple ethics violations. She knows far less about the world and world affairs and the functions of government than most of my acquaintances and friends. That she could be considered a serious candidate for President of the most powerful country on the planet is not only shocking, it’s terrifying. I’m not certain that in Palin’s case tutorials would make much difference as she shows no inclination to learn or be told anything. But did we learn nothing from eight years of know-nothing Bush? Is that something we should be eager to repeat? If wanting to have someone as President who is intelligent, reasonably well educated, and well-informed, with at least, ideally, some relevant experience as well, makes me an elitist, so-be-it. I do not want my future dependent upon Joe the (non) Plumber, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin or even Sessions and Inhofe. We seem to have evolved a system in which politics has been completely divorced from both common sense and responsibility, and certainly from any sense of trying to improve the public well-being. Perhaps it might help if there was a sign over the entrance to the Senate: “No Numbskulls Allowed.”

“…the level of American elementary school education in America is not high enough for her immense possibilities and her limitless aspiration…The insufficiency of the American common school is a danger to the peace of the world.”
H. G. Wells (in the 1920’s)

Walter Cronkite died today. He was 92. There will never be another one like him, not even close.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sotomayor 100, Republican Clowns 0

Anthrax scare in embassy turns
out to be woman’s ashes, with
request they be strewn in Rome.

Well, it’s finally over and it appears there is no doubt Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed. I think it is perfectly safe to say Sotomayor 100, Republican clowns 0. After asking her the same trivial question over and over for four consecutive days (and apparently expecting to get a different answer each time), they finally gave up, and several of them indicated she had a fine record and they might be inclined to vote for her. What a charade and a four day waste of time (of course there is no other pressing business for the Senate to worry about these days). Most everyone seems to be pretty satisfied with the outcome, except Pat Buchanan.

I have never liked Buchanan, mostly because he is a conservative Republican, but once in a great while he says something that sort of makes sense. His tirade against Sotomayor is not one that makes sense. Buchanan is so blinded by his absolute objection to affirmative action I fear his head may become unscrewed. He insists that she is an affirmative action appointment and is not qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. This, in spite of the fact that she is known to be far more experienced and qualified than any nominee for the past 70 years. According to Buchanan she was admitted to the University as an affirmative action choice (which is true), and he implies she made her outstanding grades only because, he says, “half the students nowadays graduate summa cum laude.” Her record of collegiate success and her years of experience on the bench seem to mean nothing to Buchanan because he keeps insisting, “she is an affirmative action choice, a Puerto Rican.” He also argues that she is not a brilliant legal mind, having not written any outstanding books or articles, and Supreme Court Justices should all be extraordinarily brilliant (like Clarence Thomas, I guess). While I don’t know offhand whether Roberts or Alito have written brilliant legal books, I rather suspect not. When challenged by Rachel Maddow as to why only 2 Justices out of 110 have been non-white, he ranted and raved about how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written by white men, the war of Independence was fought by white men, and it was white men who stormed the beaches at Normandy. To him this seems to mean white men rule forever, never mind that conditions are hardly the same as they were back then (actually, I think there may have been Blacks fighting back then, but probably only in small numbers). Buchanan is apparently unaware of the profound changes in American life that have occurred during his lifetime. Maddow said he was “dated,” and she is dead right.

Affirmative action is a complex and difficult issue. It is sometimes true that a somewhat more qualified white person is passed over in favor of a minority. After so many centuries of discrimination against minorities this strikes me as unfortunate but not exactly criminal. It also raises questions in my mind about how or why the reasons for admittance even matter (as least theoretically). In Buchanan’s racist mind it apparently doesn’t matter how well you do once you are admitted, if you were an affirmative action choice you are doomed no matter how well you perform (I wonder if he would use this same criterion for Obama). When Maddow pointed out how well Sotomayor had done, Buchanan just dismissed her success as a gift from the lowered University standards these days (a questionable assertion in the first place). I wonder if he thinks the same thing about Obama’s success. More importantly, what does he think about so-called “legacy admissions?” George W. Bush certainly did not get admitted to Yale on the basis of his academic record or performance. He was admitted because he was a Bush and his father was important. And apparently he was not awarded high grades just as a matter of policy as he was, by his own admission, a “C” student. Thus we have a situation of obvious discrimination (some other better student, surely white, was not admitted because of Bush), and the individual so admitted was a relative failure (but his name was Bush and he went on to become President of the U.S., certainly a bit of irony there). I would argue that why you were admitted is basically irrelevant if you subsequently succeed (success is apparently not possible for affirmative action appointees, no matter what they do as far as Buchanan is concerned). His idea seems to be: affirmative action candidate = minority person = diminished capacity = failure = blatant racism (he does not stress this latter). There is no doubt that the Sotomayor confirmation hearings were shot through with racism, however disguised, but Buchanan does not even bother to disguise his racism. Perhaps we should give him credit for exposing himself as a bigot. The Great Chain of Being, with white Western-Europeans at the apex, does not disappear overnight, and perhaps never in the eyes of some true believers like Buchanan. The confirmation of Sotomayor, like the election of Barack Obama, are new important steps toward a new and more realistic paradigm.

The world knows of Rosa Parks because of a single, simple act of dignity and courage that struck a lethal blow to the foundations of legal bigotry.
Bill Clinton

Carp were domesticated and used for food in Europe and Asia thousands of years ago.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The circus is not over

Toddler floats eight miles
In B.C. river on toy truck,
when found, wants to continue.

The circus is not over yet. Too bad, I was beginning to truly enjoy not watching it. The little bits and pieces I’ve seen today simply indicate more of the inane questions that have already been answered several times over. The Republican obsession with Sotomayor’s trivial “wise Latina woman” remark appears to be the only thing they have going, and it is not going so well. Why the Republicans are doing what they are to delay her confirmation is somewhat of a mystery to me. It does seem pretty pointless as they all know she will be confirmed. Tomorrow she is said to be having another series of private interviews with Senators and presumably on Friday a date will be set for her confirmation. Sessions, the airheaded leader of the Republicans, wants to delay as long as possible. He says they need the time to read and analyze all of her opinions and publications and so on. This, of course, is nothing but a delaying tactic as her record is already extremely well known, and Sessions lacks the mental capacity to understand any of it anyway. What is going on is so obvious and such a complete and utter waste of time it makes me want to scream at the TV (a bad sign). I guess what is going on here is the last gasps of White racists who cannot tolerate the idea that anyone but White males is capable of being a Supreme Court Justice (or President or Attorney General or much of anything else).

We still do not seem to know precisely what Dick the Slimy’s private assassination group was all about. Today I heard that it not only was meant to target al Quaida members, but also supporters of al Quaida. There may be more to it than this but it remains a bit of a mystery. In any case, it is most interesting. How, for example, would one know for certain who supported al Quaida and who did not? I guess it would be up to Cheney to decide (think carefully on this). I wonder if it was so secret that even Bush didn’t know about it, something that would not surprise me either way.

It appears, at least at the moment, that we might actually get some kind of health care bill, and it looks like it will have a public option. Obama seems to have finally come to his senses and realizes that trying to get bipartisanship our of the remnants of the Brafia is a lost cause. But remember, if we do now get a new health care bill it will not because of any altruism or empathy on the part of Washington, but, rather, because our big companies finally had to realize that having to pay for their employees health care made them less competitive, so they finally succumbed. You might notice that we will not get an efficient, sensible, and cost-effective single payer system, the Insurance and Pharmaceuticals do not give up that easily. What will ultimately happen with our new system is hard to predict, but it could hardly be any worse that what we have now (unless you are either rich or a Congressperson or both).

Here at Sandhill we have developed a problem with cats. The basic problem is one of our own making. I should say my wife’s making, as she is the one who insisted we get four cats to begin with. If you own cats you no doubt understand the problem. We had three cats, two of which died of natural causes. That left one cat. So then we acquired two all gray cats, sisters. The one cat didn’t take very well to the two gray kittens but over time it worked out. Then this young black male cat appeared in the neighborhood. He was aggressive, tore a hole in our neighbors screen door in his attempt to get in, then decided he liked our house better and essentially just moved in (we have a cat door). I didn’t want him but my wife fell in love with him and he with her (he knows a sucker when he sees one). Even after we had him fixed he still bullied our oldest cat and one of the sisters. The other sister, the smallest of our cats by far, was not intimidated and now dominates him along with the others. This has been a problem for some time but in recent weeks has sort of simmered down. However, now there is another cat, Spencer by name, who supposedly belongs to one of our neighbors. He has decided he likes our house and our cat food better and now regularly comes here meowing to be fed. And he always seems to be famished. We are trying to keep him out of the house but I predict this will fail. He is all white with blue eyes and he stands at the door looking in at our other four cats no doubt wondering why he cannot come in. I feel sorry for him, he’s being treated rather like a leper, but we really don’t need a fifth cat tearing up our furniture (the other four have already done that job very well). So Spencer shows up on the porch, he gets fed, but then he goes away (he is apparently learning about his second class status). Now we are threatened with a sixth cat, a gray and white creature that is turning up virtually every day. We haven’t fed him but he sometimes discovers food on the porch that we forgot to bring inside. So, you see how it goes. I like cats okay, but I really wish we didn’t have any. I know people who routinely kill them. I could never do that. Taking them to the pound is not an option (unless I was tired of my marriage), killing them is out of the question, no one I know wants one (there are always kittens available here), so we just go on being adopted by cats we don’t really want but are too soft-hearted to turn away. We should never have allowed the cats in the house, but it is too late now. Well, we could be homeless, displaced, refugees, or even worse, Republicans (they have compassion for no one).

Women and cats do as they damned well please, and men and dogs had best learn to live with it.
Alan Holbrook

There are over three hundred distinct breeds of goats.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why would he not?

Brazilian woman claims she
spent ten hours with husband
in hotel room, unaware he was dead.

It is being said that Attorney General Holder is thinking about appointing a special investigator to look into the torture issue. Thinking about it? What’s to think about? How can he not appoint an investigator? He is confronted with obvious flagrant violations of the law and constitution. He is the head of our Justice Department. There have been multiple and obvious war crimes committed, some of which have already been admitted to, so what’s the problem? Personally, I believe this whole business has been a charade. Obama does not want to appear vindictive and has insisted all along that he does not want an investigation, but only to look forward. Holder has been biding his time, waiting for the best opportunity to announce his intention, as our chief law enforcement officer, to investigate what both he and Obama have had to know all along were crimes of great magnitude. Dick the Slimy has now made it easy for them to finally investigate. If, after the revelation that Cheney was conducting a secret (probably assassination squad), and had instructed the CIA to not inform the Congress about it, our Attorney General would look like an absolute and incompetent fool if he did not investigate. And once the investigation begins there is no telling where it will ultimately lead. Justice delayed is justice denied.
John McCain, probably speaking for most or all Republicans, insists that to open up an investigation of the wrongdoings of Bush/Cheney, and especially releasing the torture photographs, will just cause our enemies to hate us all the more, so we shouldn’t do it. I disagree entirely. It is no doubt true that revealing the depths of our depravity in this matter will (and should) create even higher levels of anti-American animosity, but to not investigate what the whole world knows were serious war crimes, because they were committed by Americans rather than Germans or Japanese, will lead not only to more revenge but also to utter contempt for our nation, a contempt that will linger probably forever. The only way we can avoid the worst of the fallout from our crimes, and to exonerate at least most of our citizens who were unknowingly dragged into this mess, is to investigate and prosecute and hold accountable those who were the guilty parties. In this case Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice/Yoo, and many others. And if what we think we know already about their crimes can be legally demonstrated they must be suitably punished just as any other war criminals have been punished. You cannot seriously try to maintain a case for American exceptionalism based upon a foundation so teeteringly rotten as this one.

What useful purpose is being served by the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings? It cannot be her confirmation which everyone, including Republicans, knows is going to happen. I am proud to say that I did not watch this dreary and wasteful performance (although I did catch a few snatches of it). Why do we need to waste days in listening to every Senator pontificating about the duties of judges (to a judge), the story of Sotomayor’s life and accomplishments, tales their own lives and accomplishments, Row vs Wade, past nominees, and whatever else pops into their heads. Don’t they realize just how silly they look, both Democrats and Republicans? Of course in the case of Republicans they not only look silly, they look positively obnoxiously idiotic. This is especially true of Hatch, Graham, Inhofe, and overwhelmingly true of Sessions. The fact that Sotomayor can sit there and tolerate the levels of stupidity being expressed is enough by itself to assure her confirmation. She appears to me to be so far above the level of her inquisitioners as to be virtually saintly. Shouldn’t we have some kind of rules, regulations, or laws that insist states cannot elect senators unless they can demonstrate intelligence beyond the level of ground squirrels? The level of discourse being currently demonstrated during these farcical hearings is embarrassing, even shameful. If there are any kind of supernatural beings looking down on us they must be laughing hysterically, along with the rest of the world. Racism, sexism, and paternalism live! Intelligence and reason, not so much.

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Ambrose Bierce

The average life expectancy of a Tasmanian Devil in the wild is estimated at six years.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Great Mortality - book

The subtitle of this book says most of it: An Intimate History of the Black Plague, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time. The Black Plague, something of a misnomer, is commonly used to refer to the three types of plague that exist: Bubonic, Pneumonic, and Septicemic. These vary in their intensity and symptoms, with bubonic being the least likely to inevitably kill, to pneumonic, a much more serious form, and septicemic which almost always kills and does so very quickly. These various forms can sometimes be found at the same time, especially bubonic and pneumonic, septicemic being, thankfully, much more rare. For the people that lived through this terrible time the plague was known more commonly as the “Big Death,” or the “Great Mortality.”

Kelly attempts to trace the spread of the Black Plague from its presumed origins somewhere in inner Asia, spreading slowly to the west through the Middle East and thence to Europe. It also spread eastward into China, following the international trade routes that existed in the 1300’s. Virtually no nation was spared. Before this version of the plague ran its course in the 1350’s it had spread throughout Europe, both from north to south as well as from east to west. It devastated China as well as Syria, Egypt, Iran and Iraq, and extended all the way to Greenland and Scandinavia. No one knows how many died but it is estimated that at least 33% of the entire population of Eurasia, with some places losing anywhere from 30 to 70% of their citizens. Only WW II exceeded the total number of deaths. Not bad for a disease primarily of rodents: turbots, marmots, rats, squirrels, gerbils, prairie dogs, and some 200 other rodent species, where human deaths were basically collateral.

For people like me, who knew very little about the plague, this is a very informative work. The author traces the movement of the disease from country to country, and in some cases virtually from city to city. Because of the nature of transportation in the 14th century the disease spread rather slowly, by caravans and ships, while it made its way steadily across Eurasia. Cities often were aware that the disease was coming, but as they had no idea what caused it, whatever precautions they tried to take were pathetically ineffective, as were their attempts to cope with it. It is difficult to imagine how overwhelmed people were in the face of this epidemic, even though Kelly does a fine job of describing the situation. People commonly refused to help each other, parents deserting their children and vice-versa because of their fears. There were, of course, some who sacrificed themselves to help others but this was more rare than not. Deaths on such a massive scale completely disrupted the ordinary ways of life of those caught up in it. People made out wills but often by the time they might have been used all the beneficiaries were themselves dead. Church services had to be modified as so many clergy succumbed. Funerals were often abandoned completely because there were not enough living to carry them out, and so on. Business and agriculture was directly affected because the labor pool shrank, driving wages up, and banks were in trouble and were unable to collect on their loans, or make new ones, and so on.

What I personally found of the most interest, however, was not the plague itself, but the relationship of the plague to the cultural practices of the time, especially those dealing with sanitation and cleanliness. It is difficult for us to imagine people who bathed only rarely, if at all, who changed clothes perhaps once or twice a year, who threw the contents of their chamber pots directly into the streets, and who were perennially lice infested and diseased in many other ways, making them even more susceptible to the plague. Factors of weather, diet, personal hygiene, and many other customs and beliefs were all involved in the movement, even in a sense the inevitability, of the Black Death.

Perhaps of even greater interest to me was the scapegoating. As the people had no idea what was causing this terrible carnage they tended to blame others, sometimes lepers and other diseased persons, but much more commonly, the Jews. Rumors abounded that the Jews were poisoning the wells because they wanted to take over the world, and they were also targeted because of being moneylenders, and because they were believed to want to kill Christian children, and so on. Jews were rounded up and killed, often burned to death, by the thousands, all over Europe. Indeed, this was so common I wonder that the Jews and Judaism survived at all. Even when it was pointed out by some of the more reasonable people that the Jews could not be responsible for the plague because they, themselves, were dying of it in large numbers, few paid any attention, It was not a time for reason. I think my favorite example might be the claim by some that the Jews were killing Christian children because they all suffered from hemorrhoids which could only be cured with Christian blood.

There have been many plagues since the Great Mortality, they still occur periodically, but they are generally more localized and result in far fewer deaths. And we have learned much more about the causes and nature of the plague, as well as much more about preventive measures. Reading about how our ancestors lived in the Middle Ages, and even up to the 1900’s, makes me wonder how the human species has survived at all. This is a fine book for those interested in such disasters, and certainly makes one thankful for living in somewhat more enlightened times. Of course we have our own serious problems at the moment.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Elderly Ohio woman finds
fawn in her flower garden,
beats it to death with shovel.

Let me begin, however immodestly, by saying this is going to be a really “sexy” essay. In the course of pursuing my hobby (collecting sex tips on the covers of womens’ magazines) I have discovered another phenomenon I find of considerable interest, the use of the adjective, “sexy.” It seems that nowadays virtually everything can be described as sexy. Without even trying I have discovered sexy picnics, sexy photos, sexy stocks, sexy strapless dresses, sexy dreams, sexy summer styles, sexy pets, sexy legs, sexy arms, sexy baths, sexy losers, sexy guests, sexy people, sexy pictures, crazy sexy cancer tips, sexy books, sexy strappy sandals, sexy armpits, and an absolute obsession with sexy hair. I am reasonably certain, although I have not stumbled across them yet, sexy eyes, sexy hands, sexy thighs, sexy buns, sexy shoes, sexy handbags, sexy cars, sexy sandwiches, sexy pizza, sexy massages, and I wouldn’t even bet against sexy feet. About the only thing I might feel confident betting against would be sexy insurance policies or bowel movements (I’m not so sure about this latter). In other words, the adjective sexy seems to have little meaning anymore. According to an online dictionary, sexy is supposed to be an adjective for being sexually attractive, sexually suggestive or stimulating. I notice they have now hedged a bit and added a second meaning which is simply attractive or interesting. I believe there is more to it than this. For example, it would be easy, and perfectly acceptable, to speak of attractive hair, or attractive shoes, or interesting handbags and books, along with many other things. But people don’t describe things as interesting or attractive, they prefer to describe them as sexy. Obviously there is something titillating about sexy that goes beyond attractive or interesting. The word sexy seems to be a magical term that brings to mind (however unconsciously) some kind of basic sensuality that is not necessarily even remotely present in what is being described. This seems to hold true even when speaking about things that could not reasonably be considered sexy, stocks, for example, or cancer tips, or pets (questionable, perhaps in some cases). There is also now something called sexpresso stands. I guess this is because the servers are dressed in bikinis and bikinis are, of course, sexually attractive, even though there is little or no chance one would ever engage in actual sex with these dispensers of coffee. We all know, after years of advertising, that sex sells, hence the pictures of scantily clad women leaning over car hoods, riding bicycles, and being featured in ads for just about everything for sale, including sex itself. I guess the adjective sexy, no matter where used, conjures up images that go far beyond the particular item involved. I guess one can only conclude that the use of sexy to describe anything and everything is just part of the American obsession with sex (think Viagra, Enzyte, Cialis, etc., along with rampant pornography and so on). I am bothered with this ubiquitous use of sexy only in the sense that I view it as an example of the increasing impoverishment of our language. I feel pretty confident in predicting that it won’t be too long before there are only two words to describe virtually everything: fucking and sexy. I do not view this as a positive development.

Just another piece of irrelevant trivia? It has now been shown that Dick the Slimy, himself, ordered the CIA to not inform Congress of a secret program that apparently went on for eight years. This was so illegal and/or unconstitutional Panetta stopped it when he first heard about it. So we can add this bit of apparent trivia to the discovery that it was Bush himself who ordered Gonzales to Ashcroft’s hospital bed to get him to sign on to an unconstitutional program. Does anyone care about any of this? Apparently not, least of all the Obama administration. Congress is too busy trying to figure out how they can change our health care system without actually changing anything, that is, when they are not trying to figure out if Michael Jackson should be given a Congressional Medal or something, or Saint Ronnie’s face should be carved on Mt. Rushmore. And Karl Rove was grilled for eight hours the other day about his potential role in the Department of Justice scandal, but so what, we’ll probably never hear about it again. All this will just disappear along with the other infinite number of scandals that occurred during the Bush/Cheney nightmare years. The powers that be know the American public has an attention span of only a few minutes at most, and the memory of amnesiacs. War crimes? What war crimes? Lies? What lies? Elephant? What elephant? And so it goes. I am beginning to conclude that Barack Obama is not really our White (and Black) Knight after all. I’m pretty sure that if he fails to get a “Public Option,” after failing to prosecute Bush/Cheney, his public esteem will probably be pretty much finished.

There are times when one would like to end the whole human race, and finish the farce.
Mark Twain

True oysters, as opposed to pearl oysters, are incapable of producing pearls.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What difference does it make?

Drunk Florida woman undercooks
potatoes, burns bread, assaults elderly
live-in companion for complaining.

It has now been established that it was George W. Bush himself that ordered Gonzales to visit Ashcroft’s hospital room, while he was recovering from surgery, and insist that Ashcroft sign a statement that he had already refused to sign on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Much to Ashcroft’s credit he still refused to sign it. This was a blatant attempt to circumvent the law by authorizing something that was illegal. But knowing this, I am tempted to ask, what difference does it make? Apparently no one is going to do anything about it anyway. No one is going to try to hold Bush accountable. I heard it said today by one analyst (I forget who) that the reason the Obama administration will not go forward with an investigation of the Bush/Cheney war crimes is because they know if they do so it will inevitably lead to Bush and no Democrat wants to go after Bush. What a terrific argument! We won’t arrest any minor drug dealers, or even more important ones, because it might lead us to the Drug Lord himself. If this is not a classic example of moral bankruptcy I wouldn’t know what is. Even without this new information there is a mountain of evidence of the war crimes of Bush/Cheney and their minions, evidence that just goes ignored by the Obama administration. They apparently believe that if they do nothing the public will soon enough forget about the terrible deeds that can be directly traced to Bush/Cheney.

Most probably nothing will come of the recent revelations that the CIA has been misleading Congress for years, not even this recent revelation that the CIA has been involved in some program about which Congress was never informed and was apparently so illegal and/or unconstitutional that Panetta immediately stopped it once he learned of it. We won’t learn what it was because it is all super hush-hush and all that. I must say that I am not in the least bit surprised that the CIA has been less than forthcoming about their activities, or that they have been engaged in programs that are probably grossly illegal. They have always been super-secret and have gone unsupervised for so long as to have become a nation to themselves. I’m pretty sure that Panetta’s assurances that they won’t do such things anymore will just be accepted by the Congress and that will be that. So, again, what difference does it make?

Levi whats-his-face, who was once to become Sarah Palin’s son-in-law, has said that the reason Palin resigned is because she wants to get rich off book deals and speaking engagements. In other words, she wants to grab the money and run. Of all the excuses I have heard so far this one makes the most sense. She wants to cash in on her 15 minutes of fame, so to speak, and must know that she realistically has no chance of ever becoming President (or most anything else). Those who say Palin is finished in politics I believe have it right. Aside from the small but passionate following she has, no one else is going to support her or vote for her, not right-minded Republicans (if there are any), certainly not any Democrats, and also no Independents. With her pitiful following of gun and religious nuts she can go nowhere. Too bad, I would have liked to see her try to run, there isn’t really much in the way of amusement these days. I doubt that even the Republican Party, as loony as it has become, will have the gall to try to run Gingrich, which would also be amusing, and I doubt they will run the comedian, Huckabee, which probably means it will be Romney, the lying Mormon. Unless something exceptionally strange happens I doubt it matters much who they run. Of course predictions of what might happen in U.S. politics are pretty questionable. How long ago was it that everyone predicted Hillary would walk away with the nomination? But I still think it will be Romney, if only by default.

Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.
Paul Valery

Marmots are highly social animals and communicate by whistling.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Science and survival

Man arrested for arriving
five days late, and naked,
for dental appointment.

There is a new book out called Unscientific America How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. I have not yet read this book, perhaps I won’t read it. If I don’t read it, it will not be because I think it might not be worthwhile, it will be because I’m pretty sure I know what it will say, and it will all be true. The current dismal state of our U.S. educational system, plus the anti-intellectualism that has made it so, if not changed, and quickly, will inevitably see us falling even further behind the rest of the modern world. I do not believe this is merely my opinion, I believe it is a matter of fact. If our interest in science, and accompanying technology, does not change dramatically we are going to be relegated to the status of a third world nation. There was, more than a hundred years ago now, a fine book entitled, A History of the Warfare Between Science and Theology in Christendom by Andrew White, one of the founders of Cornell University. Interestingly enough, and sadly enough also, this book may well be still relevant now (I assume it is out of print).

It is well known that the United States is now by far the most religious of the major nations. Nowhere in Europe does religion dominate as powerfully as it does here, and nowhere will there be found as many fundamentalists and evangelists, clinging to their fanatic beliefs about the literal truth of the bible. I realize we pride ourselves on the freedom to practice any religion we wish, but the influence of these kinds of religious beliefs is actively harming our nation, and has the potential for dramatically altering our position in the International Community. It is known that during the Bush/Cheney administration scientific knowledge was in many cases suppressed for political reasons, very often having to do with global warming or other environmental issues, and always in favor of corporate interests and profits. This is not only frightening, but also exceedingly dangerous if we are to continue to compete on the world stage. Science was just not valued by the late administration and, in fact, has not been very highly valued in the U.S. for quite some time. Education in general has been disvalued, a fact that can be verified by simply examining the condition of our schools and the salaries paid to our teachers. There has been for years a strong element of anti-intellectualism that has permeated our culture. Just remember the attitudes displayed towards Presidential candidates, denigrated as “eggheads,” or “pointy-headed intellectuals,” and such. Consider how Kerry was denigrated because he could (horrors) speak French. And think now of many voters who want a President who is “like them” (ignorant and uninformed about most everything), or who is someone they would like to have a beer with, and so on.

We have individuals who wish to run for President of the U.S. who do not believe in evolution (think Huckabee, for example). Bush himself, said he thought the issue of evolution was still open. To elect such people to high office is simply insanity. Just now a State Senator in Arizona announced, seriously, that as the earth was only 6000 years old, and had done very well without environmental regulations, there was no reason to oppose (potentially harmful) uranium mining. And then there are individuals like Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma announcing (with no evidence whatsoever) that global warming was just a great hoax being perpetrated on the American Public. People like this are not, of course, going to bring down our country tomorrow, or even next week or next month, or perhaps even next year, but over time if such people maintain positions of influence and power they will, in fact, destroy us. Other nations, especially nations like Japan, India, and China (and others as well) are rapidly outpacing us when it comes to scientific matters, space technology, computers, robots, nanotechnology, engineering, physics, and other fields. Again, this is not merely my opinion, it is a matter of fact. Education, especially scientific education, is highly valued in other countries. Not so, here in the U.S. This is a national disaster in the making. Scientific knowledge and the technological sophistication that comes with it allowed European nations to conquer most of the world and create empires that allowed them to enrich themselves at the expense of other, less technologically sophisticated people. I know I mentioned this once before, but I think it is relevant here again as an example. Found on a handgun turned over to the police was an engraving that read: “Be not afraid of any man, no matter what his size, just call on me, my friend, for I will equalize.” In a world that is now beginning to embark upon robotic and drone warfare, and will probably end up militarizing space as well, science and technology are going to become the great equalizers. The size of armies and the numbers of tanks and soldiers will be far less relevant. We simply cannot afford to fall behind as these developments unfold. This is going to require a drastic change in our attitudes towards education in general, and scientific education in particular. There is truth in the bumper sticker: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
Stephen Jay Gould

The most likely ancestor of the domestic horse was the tarpon, which roamed in Eurasia at the time of domestication but became extinct.