Monday, August 31, 2009

Roviating Obama

Man arrested for sexually
assaulting 9 year-old girl
claims it was her fault.

In my blog of September 18, 2005, I suggested we add a new word to our language:

roviate v. to smear, slime, malign, denigrate, and attempt to destroy an opponent through the use of innuendo, rumor, slander, outright lies and any other despicable means available.

I added that roviation works more effectively when done in collaboration with the major media.

Karl Rove did not invent roviation, but he perfected it, and managed to get it incorporated into the general tactics of the Republican party. Rove (aka turdblossom) has not been as visible lately as he once was, and I doubt that he is now single-handedly responsible for the roviation of Obama, but this is precisely the technique (or strategy if you prefer) that has been employed by Republicans against President Obama from the very beginning.

Obama, it was claimed, was anti-American because of his association with the Reverend Wright who, in one of his sermons said “god damn America.” Wright did in fact say this, but in a context in which he was criticizing America for killing innocent civilians in an unnecessary war. Of course it didn’t matter to Republicans whether there was any truth to the matter or not. Then Obama was a terrorist, or at least he was associated with a man who had been a domestic terrorist (when Obama was six years old). When these claims eventually died down a bit, it was claimed that Obama had not really been born in the United States and hence could not legitimately be President. This claim, demonstrably absurd, is still making the rounds in some places. Also, from the beginning, the rumor that Obama is a Muslim, or a “secret Muslim,” also demonstrably false, but effective among some of the more dimwitted. And, as he is in favor of choice, he is obviously a “baby killer.” As none of these claims are taken seriously by most people with a brain larger than a sparrow, we are now beginning to hear that his health care plan is really just a plan to kill old people, and, perhaps, as Sarah Palin put it, handicapped children as well. There are also claims that Obama wants to take away medicare benefits and take away veterans care. We also have to hear repeatedly the ridiculous argument that Obama is a socialist (perhaps even a communist!). He is trying to convert our wonderful capitalistic country into a socialist nightmare.

The most recent outrageous claim is that Obama’s plan is really targeting Republicans who will be discriminated against when it come to health care. And all along, with no evidence whatsoever, it is claimed that Obama wants to take away our guns. Of course in some circles he is known as the anti-Christ as well. Then there is the insistence by Cheney and others that Obama doesn’t know what he is doing and is making our nation less safe from terrorism. This is part of the more general claim that he is too inexperienced to be President, weak on national security, and a patsy when it comes to foreign affairs. And of course the worse thing of all, he’s a (run for your lives) liberal! While this amounts to a series of nothing but lies, innuendoes, rumors, false claims, outrageous accusations, and preposterous arguments, all jumbled together with no logic or reasoning behind them, Republicans continue to broadcast them non-stop. They have accepted roviation as a legitimate part of the political process, along with shouting down speakers at town meetings, showing up with guns, and even interrupting the legitimate counting of votes. This is not at all acceptable, but, then, crime never is.

These scurrilous rumors and claims are not being made simply by the lunatic fringe, but in some cases are being supported by presumably respectable Republican politicians like Grassley, McCain, Hatch, and others. This is a classic case of roviating at its best (worst). Rove, with his plan to establish a one party (Republican) nation, managed to convert what was a legitimate political party into little more than a sleazy criminal conspiracy that is now beginning to unravel in a most unpleasant way. It could be unraveled a lot faster if Democrats were not so spineless and would follow the law and constitution to investigate and prosecute the obvious war criminals in our midst.

There is little doubt that roviation is the order of the day for Republicans, but there is also at the moment a kind of viciousness that did not occur in their previous attempts to destroy their opponents. Unfortunately, there is now a racial element that did not exist even when the Swift Boaters went after Kerry. Obama is subjected to racial insults, threats of assassination, and even prayers for his death. There are some in our society that simply will never accept a Black President and a Black First Lady. I am still amazed Obama managed to get elected at all, and I don’t believe most people understand, even now, the true implications of his election, a threatening change that violated the most basic belief of most white people everywhere, the centuries old, basic, emotional, and strongly held belief in white superiority. As most of the hardcore white supremecists are doubtless Republicans to begin with, I don’t know that this adds measurably to the actual numbers opposed to Obama, but it certainly creates an important element of outright hatred that is frightening and terribly disruptive to the orderly conduct of our national affairs.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
Douglas Adams

Macademia nuts are toxic to dogs, bringing about an inability to stand that lasts for about 48 hours.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Incredible Voyage - book

The Incredible Voyage, Tristan Jones (Sailors Bookshelf Publishing, 1977).

A few days ago I had to visit our local Court House. As I was leaving a man I know (although not very well) approached me from behind and handed me a small piece of paper upon which was written, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Ambrose Bierce.” He said it was one of his favorite short stories. I was so lost in thought and surprised and taken aback I did not immediately recognize him. He must have thought I was either rude or perhaps a bit “dotty.” I had never read this story although it has been widely anthologized, provided the basis for several movies, and was called by Kurt Vonnegut one of the greatest works of American literature (who added that anyone who had not read it was a “twerp”). I have been a fan of Ambrose Bierce for a long time, but I knew of him only through various quotations and, more importantly, his famous “Devil’s Dictionary.” Strangely, I guess, I had never thought of him as a writer of short stories. I mention this because it has reminded me of just how vast our literature is, and how impossible it is to read it all. It also applies to The Incredible Voyage, which, having been published in 1977, is a book I somehow missed all these years, even though it is precisely the kind of book I am often most interested in reading. I think it is fair to say that although I have been an avid reader all my life, even a binge reader at times, and reading has been one of the unremitting pleasures of my life, I cannot even hope to read all the books I would like to read.

The Incredible Voyage is an incredible book by an incredible man about an incredible tale about an incredible sailing adventure with an incredible goal. Tristan Jones set out to accomplish what he calls a “vertical voyage.” That is, he wanted to sail both the Dead Sea, the lowest body of water, and Lake Titicaca, the highest body of water (that could be sailed). This turned out to be a six year journey of unbelievable hardships, sailing thousands of miles in two small yachts, a failed attempt to reach Peru from the Atlantic, via the Amazon River, a subsequent trip through the Panama Canal, a voyage all the way around the African Continent, most of the way around South America, three crossings of the Atlantic, and even transporting the smallest of the two yachts by land clear across South America.

The voyage began in a 38 foot yawl, Barbara, that belonged to a wealthy friend who wanted Jones to sail it to the Mediterranean for him, with the understanding that he would join him from time to time as he sailed from one place to another to eventually reach the Dead Sea and then Peru. This was his sixteenth crossing of the Atlantic. As the Barbara had no dependable self-steering gear he had to take on a crew, but he has at times sailed an estimated 180,000 miles solo. At later stages of his adventure he took on a crew member as required. When Barbara eventually proved to be too large to navigate the Amazon and be shipped overland to Lake Titicaca, he returned it to the owner and bought a smaller 20 footer, the Sea Dart that allowed him to complete his journey and eventually return to England.

Tristan Jones , a Welchman, claims to have been born at sea on his father’s ship offshore the island of Tristan Da Cunha, but according to Wikipedia was actually born in Liverpool as Archie Jones, the illegitimate son of a working-class woman. In any case, with little formal education he went to sea at thirteen, joined the Royal Navy when World War II began, was sunk a number of times, suffered a severe spinal injury that brought him a discharge. Since then he has apparently sailed somewhere in the vicinity of 400,000 miles. His left leg was amputated in 1982 but he still sails, teaching handicapped children the arts of sailing.

At some point in the 1970’s he decided to become a writer and has written a number of books, and many, many articles. He seems to have had a natural gift for writing, as for sailing, and has managed to sail the world unsponsored for most of his life. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorer’s Club, the Slocum Society, and other sailing organizations. He also holds the First Award for Literature in Wales.

It is said that most of his writing is a blend of fact and fiction, with a bit of sailor’s exaggeration added in the best tradition of Welsh storytelling. In The Incredible Journey he recounts stories of rather extreme moments of hunger, being jailed, having to deal with crocodiles and piranhas, as well as occasional hostile natives. You wonder how much of this might be exaggerated but there is no way of knowing for certain. There is no doubt that he did accomplish what he set out to do, as there are photographs, and he kept careful logs of ports of call and repairs to his yachts and so on. If there is a bit of exaggeration I’m sure it merely adds a bit to the tale in general. If you were an incurable romantic as I was as a youth, and dreamed of sailing around the world, reading this book will probably make you thankful that you did not actually attempt it. On the other hand, perhaps you will be envious of the grand adventures you missed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Expediting Obsolescence?

Deveronvale Perfection,
Scottish Ram, fetches
record $347.000 at auction.

The United States is well known as a consumer society. It is also known for its penchant for built-in obsolescence, resulting in a throw-away mode of production and incredible waste. I don’t believe this is a secret, although with the amount of storage space being built nowadays I guess you could argue that people don’t just throw away things, they hoard them for reasons that are difficult to understand. No one in America expects their appliances to last. Nor do we any longer, in general, even expect anything to be repaired if it breaks down. You probably by now all know this from personal experience. If your DVD player or TV or some other appliance goes bad you will be told it would be cheaper to buy a new one that have it repaired (this is slightly less true for major appliances but still applies). I don’t know how many times I have experienced this, but I know it is common. Not only do we not expect things to last, many people feel they must have the latest thing, whatever it is: automobile, refrigerator, washer-dryer, fashion, and so on. We have developed a culture which implicitly assumes that the earth’s resources are infinite and “there’s always more where that came from.” Virtually no one in the U.S. builds a house or even a building, with the idea that it might last a hundred years or more. In Europe many people live in buildings and houses built far more than a hundred years ago.

So what happens when a consumer-driven society like ours begins to slow down and falls into a recession, when consumers just do not, or cannot, buy things as fast and furiously as usual? Up to a point they try to just make-do with what they have. But this is difficult if what they have is shoddy, not well-made in the first place, and deliberately designed to last only a relatively short time before going on the scrap-heap. Our brilliant masters of the dismal science have begun to implement a solution, they have decided to simply expedite obsolescence. Automobiles were their first choice to try out this new idea, “Cash for Clunkers” was born. That is, if you have an older car that doesn’t get very good gas mileage, the government will subsidize your purchase of a new one up to the tune of $4500. Almost a half million clunkers have been turned in for that many new cars. This program is regarded as such a resounding success there is now talk of expanding it to washer-dryers, refrigerators, and what-have-you. The clunkers are not going to be re-sold, repaired, or used any longer. They will simply be destroyed. Is this not a great idea? Look at all the happy faces on those who were able to benefit from it. Think of all the gasoline it will help to conserve. Think of all the production of new cars it will stimulate. Think of how it will help the economy recover. I wouldn’t, however, think too deeply about it if I were you, because it seems to me it will accelerate the doomsday scenario that inevitably awaits our waste-driven society even without such draconian measures. It actually glorifies waste and will use up the earth’s finite resources even faster than usual. I am not a practitioner of the dismal science but this seems to me to be a truly stupid idea, and if it is expanded to other items it will result eventually in an absolute disaster. Like so many of our ideas it is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. It replaces one piece of planned obsolescence (junk) with another machine that will not be much better. Granted this puts people into a kind of awkward bind at the moment because you can’t very well tell them to make-do with what they have when what they have is basically junk. What we need to do, of course, is build far better products, cars, houses, appliances, etc., that will last longer, be subject to repairs rather than just being thrown away, and be much easier on resources and the environment. I can’t resist pointing out that when I was a boy people actually darned their socks. Because our economy has existed for so long based upon waste, inefficiency, profit and short-term gain, this would call for a cultural revolution. Frankly, as all of us, including our leaders most of all, have internalized these dysfunctional values, I fear we may not be up to such drastic change. The basic question for all cultures, is how do you motivate people to want to do what they have to do in order to keep society thriving and successful over time. What you should not do, it seems to me, is encourage them to increase the very behaviors that spell out so clearly, DOOMSDAY!

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he know that every day is Doomsday.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no viable long-term solution for the storage of nuclear waste.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Unidentified man in monkey suit
arrested in Perth for dancing
and hugging shoppers in mall.

Should Afghanistan be more properly regarded as Pipelinestan? I can see no other reason for our continued presence in that rugged and inhospitable country, whose inhabitants do not want us there. Is someone still dreaming (the probably impossible dream) of building a pipeline across Afghanistan, subverting the Russians, and delivering oil directly to Pakistan? Why else would we be there? The Taliban were not originally the reason and are not even now any threat to the U.S. (except in their own country while we occupy it). Al Quaida does not really need an entire country as a base of operations, they can and do operate out of hotel rooms all over the world. And please don’t try to tell me we are there for humanitarian reasons, to free women, build schools, stop the poppy cultivation and so on. If that is what we were to do we would surely have done a lot more of it by now. Besides, we do not interfere in other countries for humanitarian reasons no matter what the MSM or others try to tell you. Whatever our reason for this nonsensical Afghanistan misadventure, you can be sure it is for our perceived self-interest. But what is that self-interest if it is not a pipedream (I mean pipeline)?

There is perhaps one other possible reason although I think it may be questionable. It is necessary for us to have an ongoing “war” to support our obscene military/industrial/political complex. Thus we can say we are there to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, but this is but a feeble excuse to continue our warlike economy. It could be that bin Laden is the crucial linchpin of the whole enterprise. The Pakistanis won’t capture or kill him because we would stop giving their military vast amounts of money, an income they surely do not want to give up. And we do not want to kill or capture him because we would then have even less reason to be in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was a CIA asset during the Russian war in Afghanistan. It seems possible to me that he still is such an asset. But if he is no longer a CIA asset, he is an asset nonetheless because we need him so desperately. I find it virtually impossible to believe that in eight years the (mighty and most sophisticated) U.S. Military, plus the Pakistan Military, could not have found and captured or killed bin Laden, wherever he is. I’m not certain I even believe he is in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. He could be in Paris or Istanbul or even Rome or Cairo for all anyone seems to know for certain. He easily could be in Yemen or Somali for that matter.

That slimy little cockroach, Glenn Beck, is back on Fox News after his “vacation.” Fox is not going to fire him in spite of the fact that he has lost a majority of sponsors. It is said that Fox will keep him on and eat the lost revenue because he is so valuable for stirring up the public, promoting assassinations, revolutions, and chaos in general, and thus keeping our government from functioning properly enough to challenge the corporations, bring about health care reform, and so on. If this is true, is it not clear by now that Fox News is not truly offering news, but is, in fact, a subversive organization promoting the downfall of our government? I know we are supposed to have freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and all that, but Fox News does not really constitute a “News” network, and also functionally just repeatedly yells “fire” in a crowded theater. As a subversive organization Fox News should be shut down, and Glenn Beck should be tarred and feathered and run out of town.

Do Republicans really believe the things they say, or are they just stupid or ignorant (stupidity and ignorance are not one and the same). They seem to say things without engaging their brains. For example, how can one say something like, “I’m totally opposed to government run health care, but don’t touch my medicare?” Or “I’m opposed to a public option (which is designed to offer choice) because Republicans want choice?” Or remember when Sarah Palin railed against funding fruit fly research for being so stupid, when in fact it was doing precisely the kind of research necessary for the very problems she professed to be interested in, or when Bobby Jindall made fun of funds for volcano research a week or so before another volcanic eruption. The most recent examples of Republican idiocy (or ignorance, or stupidity, or carelessness) can be seen in the case of an audience member proclaiming he was proud to be a right-wing terrorist, and the Congressman saying, “Now there’s a real American.” Still another example, a Kansas Congresswoman saying the Republicans were looking for a “white hope.” Even ignoring for the moment Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck calling Obama a racist, or questioning his birth, and other such extremisms, it is difficult to figure out if they say these things out of ignorance, just plain stupidity, Freudian slips of the tongue, or if they really mean them. They seem to be willing to say anything at all, no matter how far-fetched. What they say reveals far more about themselves than it does about anyone else. The best example, probably, is the recent statement by one of these cretins that Ted Kennedy was “garbage.” If that doesn’t reveal more about the speaker than anyone else I would be amazed. The best I can think of these obvious misstatements and lies is that they represent the last gasps of a dying party.

I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.
Edith Sitwell

The largest Giant Pacific Octopus ever caught weighed approximately 600 pounds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Thinking Stick - short story

Here, for want of anything better, is another short story from my collection: Encounters, the unfinished, uncollected, unwanted, and unpublished short stories of Morialekafa.

The Thinking Stick

He knew, when she addressed him icily as Robert, she had still not forgiven him.

“Hello Molly, you look great, as always. Is he ready?” Just as he spoke the boy appeared.

“Hello son,” he said, looking down at the solemn seven-year-old. “Are you ready to go on a picnic?”

“You have to have him back no later than six,” Molly spoke with the authority of motherhood. “Remember, six! He has to go to his piano lesson.”

Robert took the boy’s hand and the two of them walked quickly to the Subaru. “You like the piano?” There was no answer.

Bob drove the car gently along the winding road that led to the lakeshore, past expensive, beautifully landscaped homes, each one unique in its own way. On both sides of the road was a kaleidoscope of rhododendron, azalea, dogwood, and camellia, against a background of evergreens, reminding Bob once again how beautiful the city was, and how sad he had been to leave it. The boy sat quietly watching him. When they came to a shopping center Bob stopped at a supermarket. “Let’s get something to eat, okay John?” Still silent the boy dutifully took his hand as they entered the huge store with aisles as far as they could see.

“What kind of sandwich would you like, ham, chicken, cheese, what? How about some fried chicken? You have to tell me what you want.” With no response forthcoming, Bob bought two ham and cheese sandwiches, a container of potato salad, a coke and a pepsi. We’ll eat down by the lake,” he offered.

Although it was a gorgeous, cloudless, late spring day, a chill in the air had apparently kept many people away. The two of them easily found a private picnic table near the water, protected from others by a grove of alder and some mature madrona trees. The red bark looked out of place amidst the diverse shades of green, the azure sky, the small whitecaps beginning to form on the lake, and the grey blue of the lake itself.

“I know you won’t remember,” Bob said, “but you’ve been here before. We brought you here when you were still in diapers, you were not yet two. You loved the water so much we had to watch you constantly to keep you from running out into the lake and drowning. I bet you can swim now.” With still no response, Bob tried again, “Here, I brought you a present,” he said casually. He handed a pocketknife to the boy who accepted it with a look of surprise. “It’s a fine knife for a boy. Every boy ought to have a knife like this. But you have to be very careful with it because it’s really sharp. See, it has two blades, a big one and a smaller one. They’re both sharp. Your mother won’t like it, she’ll be afraid you’ll cut yourself. But if you’re careful you won’t, because it’s a sharp knife. Its dull knives that make people cut themselves, ‘cause a dull knife doesn’t do its job, and when you try to force it you cut yourself, understand?”

John hefted the knife in his hand. It was heavy with a bone handle. He was pleased it was a real knife, not just a plaything. It made him feel grown up. He tried to open the big blade but it was too stiff. “That’s okay,” Bob said, “It’ll loosen up after you use it a few times.” He opened the blade and handed the knife back to the boy.

“Gee, thanks,” the boy spoke for the first time, “I never had a knife before. It’s awesome.”
Pleased with himself, Bob said, “I’m hungry, let’s eat something.” He handed a sandwich to the boy, along with the container of potato salad and a plastic fork. “You like coke or pepsi?”

“Pepsi,” John said. “My Mom doesn’t let me have it, but sometimes at school I have one. All the other kids drink it all the time. Mom says it isn’t good for me.”

“Well, you know, your mother’s right about that. It isn’t good for you, but if you only drink one once in a while it won’t hurt you.”

Bob couldn’t abide soft drinks of any kind, but he watched quietly as John finished his sandwich and part of his pepsi. The boy then went into the bushes and with some difficulty cut a thin switch from an alder. He returned to the table and began playing with his knife. Suddenly he asked quite matter-of-factly, “Why did you go away? Mom says that if you loved us you wouldn’t have gone away. She used to cry all the time. Now she says she hates you. Well, she used to say that, she doesn’t say it any more, she doesn’t say anything anymore except that you won’t ever come back. Will you ever come back?” John paused for an instant and then continued shyly, “ I like you... I’d like you to come back. The other kids tease me sometimes because I don’t have a Dad.”

Bob, taken by surprise by this unexpected outburst, was silent for what seemed a long time, collecting his wits, and searching carefully for a reply. He began, “Well, you do have a Dad, and he loves you very much. He just can’t be with you all the time. I don’t know what your mother has told you, but I’ll try to tell you what happened and then you can think about it.” Bob shifted about on the picnic bench so he faced John and looked directly into his eyes. “You know,” he continued, “I teach in a University. That’s what I was doing when you were born. I was just beginning and it wasn’t a very good job. There were lots of better jobs for people like me at that time and I was offered much better jobs at other Universities. Naturally I wanted to move to a better job, to earn more money and to have more opportunities.” Bob paused to see if his son was listening and, satisfied that he was, continued. “It would have meant moving to another city, but your mother didn’t want to move. She wouldn’t even discuss it. Her life was completely caught up in creating the shop. Her father was helping her and the two of them couldn’t think of anything else. She was very close to her father, perhaps too close. Anyway, she wanted to have the shop, which would allow her to travel and buy things all around the world. She wanted me to go with her and help with the shop. I thought about it, and I even tried for a time to get enthusiastic about it, but I just couldn’t. I knew I did not want to spend my life as a shopkeeper, just buying and selling things she thought were wonderful but I didn’t care about. I understood how important the shop was to her, but I don’t think she understood how important my career was to me. Anyway, the more we talked about it, and the more time went by, the angrier we both became and the more we fought about things. We had terrible fights. You wouldn’t remember because you were so small and usually in bed. But it was a terrible time. Your mother wouldn’t budge and it became obvious she never would. I decided I would just have to leave. I didn’t want to leave you, I loved you very much, but I couldn’t see any other way. Do you understand any of this?” Bob deliberately omitted the vicious unforgiveable insults that had been traded, and the occasional frightening physical violence that had marked forever the end of the relationship.

During this monologue John had continued his whittling, but he had been listening carefully. He turned away to face the water. “Why didn’t you ever come to see me,” he accused. “You were gone for a long time and you never came to see me.”

Bob, on the defensive, knew how impossible it would be to explain to a seven-year-old the irrationalities, absurdities, and pettiness of adults, but he tried to explain. “I wanted to visit you,” he began, “but when I finally left, your mother sued for divorce. She was terribly angry and not at all cooperative. When I suggested visiting you she made such terrible scenes that it just didn’t work out. I took a new job and moved so far away it was very difficult to see you even if she would have allowed it. Then I was awarded a grant to do some work in Australia. I knew I would be gone for at least two years. I tried to see you before I left but your mother slammed the door in my face and made it impossible. I did write to you. I wrote almost every week, and I sent your child support check faithfully. I never missed. Not even once. Didn’t your mother read you my letters? You must never think that I didn’t love you or didn’t want to see you. I think maybe your mother didn’t always tell you the truth.”

“Sometimes she read me letters. But I didn’t understand very well. Your letters were mostly about where you were and what you were doing. They didn’t mean anything to me. Mom said you were living with a lot of dirty black people way out in the desert somewhere. She thought you were crazy.”

“Yeah, I know. She never understood why I wanted to go to graduate school in the first place. She just wanted me to be a shopkeeper. Didn’t she tell you about the money I sent?”

“She just told me about a year ago. She said she had deposited all the checks in an account so I would have some money in the bank. I thought that was neat, but I didn’t know about it.”

“Well, that was good of her. I’m glad she did that, at least.” Bob stopped talking and began to
look across the huge lake. John did likewise. A lone sloop was running downwind and moving fast. The billowing white sails against the background of the heavily timbered mountains formed an unforgettably lovely image. The wind had picked up, making the whitecaps larger and appear angrier. High above a large flock of geese was flying so high up and into the wind, their honking was barely audible. “Look, John,” Bob said, “Canadian geese,” pointing up at the large V formation. “They’re late this year, it seems to me, usually they’d already be in Canada or Alaska by now. That’s where they spend their summers. Can you hear them honking?” He started to say, “You know, they mate for life,” which was one of the things he loved most about them, but caught himself before he did so.

John looked up from his whittling at the distant shapes, but said nothing.

“Now that you’re older,” Bob began, “maybe you’ll be able to come and spend part of the summers with me. Would you like that?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so, if Mom lets me.”

“Not only that, I’m trying to get a job closer to here, where you are. Then I’ll be able to see you more often. I’d like to see you play baseball and football and stuff. I’ve already applied for a couple of jobs and I’m hoping one of them will work out. I’d like to see you often. I love you very much. You must never think otherwise.”

John looked away, and silently continued playing with his knife. Bob was disappointed. He wondered if perhaps his son was embarrassed. “I guess I’d better take you home, your Mom will be mad if you miss your lesson. Do you like piano lessons?”

“No, I hate them,” John blurted out. “Mom makes me take them. She knows I hate them but she makes me take them anyway. All the other kids are playing and I have to go to stupid piano lessons.”

Bob, momentarily taken aback by such an unexpected and obviously truthful outburst, finally replied, “I know just how you feel. My mother tried to make me take piano lessons. I never liked them either. I always just wanted to play football. Do you like football?”

“Yeah, but she won’t let me play football. She says it’s too dangerous. She makes me play soccer. Soccer’s a sissy sport. It’s not as good as football.”

They drove in silence for a time, back through the same upscale neighborhood they had driven through on their way. The boy, obviously having been thinking about it, announced unexpectedly, “I’m not going to tell Mom about my knife. She’ll probably want to take it away from me.” He looked questioningly at his father, as if for advice.

“It’s your knife,” Bob said. “You can do what you want with it. Your Mom will probably be mad when she finds out I gave it to you. Mom’s are sort of like that sometimes.

As they pulled up to the curb in front of the small but well kept house, Bob stopped to let John out of the car. “It’s a quarter to six, you’re right on time.”

As he left the car John turned and said, “Here, this is for you.” He shyly handed Bob the stick he had been whittling all afternoon. It was a slender stick, about two feet long. The bark had been carefully removed, it had been bent into a half circle, and small crude knobs had been carved on each end.

“Thank you Son, what is it?”

“It’s a Thinking Stick…Dad,” the boy said softly. He turned and walked dutifully toward the house

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A little bit pregnant?

Mayor of English town caught
on camera stealing women’s
underwear, performing sex acts.

No one believes it is possible to be “just a little pregnant,” so why are we being expected to believe there is such a thing as “a little bit of torture,” “a little bit of guilt,” and “a little bit of justice?” We apparently all have ringside seats to a performance of the theatre of the absurd. Eric Holder, our Attorney General, after some resistance, has now appointed an investigator to look into the Bush/Cheney torture program. However, he says he will only look into cases where the torturers went beyond the bounds of authorized torture. Does that make any sense? That is to say, we know that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and others actively pursued a program of torture (enhanced interrogation techniques) which was in and of itself illegal, but Holder is not going to bother about that. Instead he is going to look into a few cases where the torturers went beyond the illegal methods of torture they were approved to perform. And he is, he says, not going to look into the lawyers and others who authorized the illegal torture, but only at individuals who may have gotten carried away with their torturing. In other words, he is going to look into a little bit of torture, a little bit of guilt, and a little bit of justice. But I submit, as in the case of pregnancy, there is no such thing as a little bit of all this.

Torture is an international war crime, as well as illegal in the United States. Torture, at the very least, includes waterboarding. Bush/Cheney have admitted to authorizing waterboarding (along with other illegal methods of extracting information). Is there such a thing as a little bit of waterboarding? Of course not, nor is there a little bit of the other terrible techniques that were employed. It is not surprising that some of the torturers went too far. Experiments have shown that when people are given power over others they will go to greater and greater lengths to inflict pain and suffering on others. The initial experiment to demonstrate this proved that individuals, given the power, authority, and encouragement to inflict pain on their subjects, had to be stopped even before the experiment ended, as there seemed to be no end to how far they might go. The idea there could be a little bit of torture is absurd. Either someone is tortured or they are not.

The idea there might be only a little bit of guilt is equally nonsensical. This would seem to imply that the only ones who were guilty of torturing were a few individuals who tortured beyond the authorized limits of torturing, but how about those who authorized the torture in the first place? Are they supposed to be free of guilt? Actually, it would seem to me that those who tortured, and also went over the authorized limits, should be doubly guilty, while perhaps those who authorized the torture were less guilty. But clearly no one involved was free of guilt. The degree of guilt may vary a bit, but people are either guilty or not guilty. They are not merely a little bit guilty.

As far as justice goes, if only those who actually went beyond the authorized limits of torture are held accountable for their acts, there would be no justice for those who authorized them in the first place. Could this be meaningfully considered a little bit of justice? If no one else is held accountable we might well conclude there is no justice. So, once again, there is either justice or there is not. There is no such thing as a little bit of justice.

This entire procedure, if carried out as it seems to be planned, is truly an Alice in Wonderland experience. Personally, I do not see how this can possible work in the manner described. It is going to be impossible to investigate a few hyper-torturers while ignoring so-called authorized torture. Further, it will be impossible to demonstrate anyone’s guilt or innocence without investigating the circumstances, including who authorized them to torture in the first place, who, if anyone, was supervising them, who was making the decisions as to what to do, and so on. I would like to think that Obama and Holder cleverly had this planned to do this in this way in the first place, appearing to be dragged or forced into doing something they could publicly profess to not want to do, and thereby avoiding the appearance of vengeance or retribution or whatever they will inevitably be accused of. But given Obama’s continuing use of renditions, his Bushian secrecy, and his apparent defense of Bush/Cheney I am not at all very sure about just what is going on.

One of the things I find the most puzzling (and somewhat amusing, although nothing about this is very amusing) is the seriousness with which the Media take Cheney’s claim that torture “worked.” Cheney’s main, and perhaps only argument about the usefulness of enhanced interrogation techniques (commonly known as torture), is that they worked. But there is no evidence whatsoever that this is true. But even if it were true, why would it matter? Torture is illegal and a war crime, the fact that it might have worked is totally irrelevant. It isn’t legal because it worked. For some reason no one seems to want to acknowledge this, certainly not the MSM. If I invented a sure-fire technique for robbing banks successfully would that make it okay, because it worked, of course not. This is an argument that is just plain silly, but no one seems willing to just say so. Cheney, in fact, has no viable argument for “taking the dark side,” other than perhaps it made him feel important and powerful. This would seem to be a case in which the old adage is true, perhaps even truer than true: “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.
Elie Wiesel

TILT:Hammocks were first introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus who brought them from the Bahamas.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Just say "whoops"

When he objects to her feeding
the dog before serving his
dinner, she stabs him to death.

Lieutenant Calley, of infamous Mai Lai fame, has recently apologized for that terrible war crime of 40 years ago. This leads me once again to reflect on what seem to me to be useless words and phrases. Calley, who was convicted on some 22 counts of murder, and was responsible for the deaths of many innocent and defenseless people, has now apologized and said he was sorry. Of what conceivable use is this? Is this supposed to console whatever survivors there might have been? What is the point of the apology? It seems to me that saying you are sorry and/or you apologize simply does nothing useful and is therefore meaningless. Just the other day some dentist mistakenly pulled 12 or 16 of a woman’s perfectly good teeth. Do you think his saying he was sorry makes any difference to her? Fairly often someone’s home is mistakenly torn down, how does saying you’re sorry help? Several years ago I recall the Catholic Church announced they had decided to forgive the Jews as they did not murder Christ after all (I think this is what was said, or certainly something like this). Is it really helpful in any way to forgive something that happened (or perhaps didn’t happen) a couple of thousand years ago? I mean, like, what is the point? You might as well go out and bay at the moon. It’s as if people believe that no matter how horrific their behavior, saying they are sorry will make it better. I suppose you could argue that it makes the guilty person feel better but I wonder if even that is so. I guess maybe they get some satisfaction out of saying they are sorry as that is all they can do after committing some irreparable act, but even if genuinely felt and said that has to be a useless substitute for actions that are by then impossible to rectify. What if someone gets drunk and kills your wife and children in a car wreck? Does apologizing make anyone feel better? I suspect that in most cases the injured parties really don’t give a damn if the perpetrators are sorry or not, they say they are sorry whether they are really sorry or not because that is all that’s left to say. Sorry is not a magical word that can someone makes wrong things right.

“We can agree to disagree” is another basically nonsensical thing to say. I guess if you and a friend are having a drunken argument over whether Ursula Andress looks better in a bikini than Raquel Welch, and the argument rages until the wee hours of morning, it’s probably all right to agree to disagree. It was not a meaningful issue in the first place. Probably most arguments over whose team is the best, or whether hamburgers are better than hot dogs, or Budweiser is the finest beer, or if Sonny Liston took a dive, and such ordinary topics of conversation are of this meaningless variety. It is because they are intrinsically meaningless that people can say they agree to disagree. It just doesn’t matter. However, sometimes in even these types of arguments people become angry enough to murder or destroy lifetime relationships. It is when arguments are meaningful that it becomes impossible to agree to disagree. Do you think Congress is going to adjourn over health care reform, concluding they just agree to disagree? Should we all agree to disagree over torture as a matter of public policy? Some might say we agree to disagree over abortion, but do we really? Is that why abortion doctors are sometimes murdered? Can we agree to disagree over evolution versus creationism? This is impossible because it cedes credibility to positions that are just simply not credible. Agreeing to disagree is analogous to saying you’re sorry, both are just meaningless phrases that are somehow supposed to allow discourse to continue (however temporarily). We probably should invent a single word or phrase that combines all meaningless apologies and stalemates into one, then that could be universally understood, even cross culturally, to mean something like, “meaningless word agreed upon and understood to arbitrarily make us all feel better temporarily.” It would become a word like “okay,” that I believe is a pretty universally understood American word by now even in some of the remotest areas of the world.

Maybe something like “whoops” would suffice. So when you feel you should say sorry, just say whoops, or when you want to apologize, just say whoops. And when you arrive at the point when all you can conclude is that you agree to disagree, just say whoops. You know, like when you invade the wrong country you can just say whoops and everyone will understand. Actually, this word works for all kinds of things from farting and belching to executing an innocent person, dropping cluster bombs or accidentally killing people at wedding parties, or killing someone while torturing them. So remember, from now on, no matter what you do, no more apologies, false or otherwise, no more wimpy agreements to disagree, just say whoops instead. Like the word “okay,” whoops is easily identified as an American word, which is appropriate because Americans probably have much more use for such a word than most other people, but it could soon gain international acceptance as (1) an admission of guilt or confession of having done something really stupid, horrible, and offensive, (2) a symbolic statement of revealed and mutually acknowledged wrongdoing, (3) a signal that whatever it was is over, nothing can be done about it, and no further discussion or action is required, and (4) a statement to the effect that it is absolutely finished, so “don’t bug me about it any more.”

It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.
P. G. Wodehouse

No more than eight billiard balls could be made from a single elephant tusk.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dirty Dishes - book

Dirty Dishes, Pino Luongo and Andrew Friedman, (Bloomsbury, 2009).

If I had asked you what kind of name was Pino Luongo, what would you have guessed? Maybe African? Maybe some kind of Pacific Islander? Might you, like me, have never guessed Italian? It turns out that Pino is a common Italian nickname for kids named Giuseppino. Luongo is an Italian surname apparently dating back perhaps to the 10th or 11th centuries, although I confess I had never heard it before. In any case, it is an interesting name for a most interesting character.

Pino Luongo arrived in the United States as a young man in 1980 with very little money and even less English. He was escaping the draft in Italy, where he had been a reasonably successful actor. His one asset at the time was that he was living with an American woman who for a time acted as interpreter and helped him to find an apartment and etc. He was horrified when encountering his first American supermarket where most food was wrapped and packaged and without flavor or appeal. As an Italian, born in Tuscany, and with a mother who was an excellent cook, he was passionate about food and cooking, which he had learned from her. He had also worked for a time in his uncle’s restaurant where he learned the basics of the business.

Luongo looked for a time in vain for employment until finally one day, in desperation, he walked into an Italian restaurant in New York City and was hired as a dishwasher and busboy. Within three years he had started his own restaurant, featuring authentic Italian food, which became a resounding success. This was followed by his opening a succession of fine upscale Italian restaurants that drew a very wealthy clientele. He introduced New York to Italian food that began to rival the best of the then popular French restaurants, in effect popularizing authentic Italian cooking in the United States. His restaurants, from the first one, Il Cantinori, to others including Sapore di Mare, Le Madri, and Coco Pazzo became legendary, as he became well known as one of the top restaurateurs in the city, was featured in the finest cooking magazines, survived the top restaurant critics, and became well-known and famous enough to make friends and acquaintances among the elite of the film industry, politics, and high society. He also wrote successful cookbooks. Not bad for a poor, draft-dodging, non-English speaking, but handsome and clever young man. His is a success story of which anyone should be proud.

And yet, it was precisely his great success that eventually led to his downfall. He foolishly took on too many restaurants to manage successfully, and also suffered from the attacks of 9/11 when the restaurant business seriously declined for a time. Forced to declare bankruptcy he survived and now lives happily owning and operate only one fine restaurant, Centolire, coaching one of his children’s soccer team, and enjoying life and his family.

Luongo was and is a man of unusual talents, far beyond merely being an excellent chef. He designed his restaurants down to the finest details, supervised their construction, and put together successful staffs in all of them. When he discovered how much it cost to launder his napkins and tablecloths he started his own laundry for that purpose. He managed to keep his costs for food far below that of the average restaurant, imported cooks and materials from Italy, and built a food empire that lasted for almost two decades. Like all very successful people he made enemies along the way as well as friends, was rumored by some to be a tyrant, accused of stealing chefs and waiters from other restaurants, and so on. It is, however, much to his credit that unlike some other famous chefs I will not mention, he did not turn out to be an insufferable egomaniac seeking constant publicity by terrorizing his staff and customers.

If you have any interest in the restaurant business, fine Italian cuisine, success stories, and interesting personalities, you should find this finely crafted book of interest.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Man wearing only a speedo
arrested for attempted car thefts
while holding stolen tool box.

Gary Trudeau has been writing about Berzerkistan, some mythical country in the Middle East, for quite some time now. I have enjoyed his tales of that bizarre country immensely. However, it occurrs to me that Berzerkistan is a far better description of the U.S. than it is of one or more of the several “…stans” that exist in the more remote regions of Asia. At least those countries know what they are fighting for, namely to protect themselves from us. We here in the real Berzerkistan have no idea what we are fighting for, how long we are going to go about it, what the end will be, what the best means for attaining some unknown end may be, or even why we are there, wherever we are, in the first place. This does not, of course, keep us from sending more troops there, where they are not wanted, and for the most part don’t even know why they are being sent there. Berserk, according to my thesaurus: mad, violent, wild, crazy, deranged, crazed, frenzied, maniacal, manic, insane, hysterical, frantic, raving, out of control, out of one’s mind, and more. I should think these adjectives pretty much sum up our foreign policy in general, but especially in Afghanistan, unless, perhaps, there is a goal that is being kept very hush-hush, like building a pipeline across that rugged country for Cheney’s oil buddies? I don’t know if this is a goal still held by the Obama administration, I wish I did, as the enterprise might then make at least some sense, however dubious.

Berserk about Afghanistan is only the tip of the berserk iceberg we are currently floating on. We can’t even seem to agree that health care is “good,” or good for only some and not others, or good enough to pay for, or only good for getting rid of senior citizens and the handicapped. Nor can we decide whether or not guns should be allowed at public meetings, whether everyone should be allowed to speak or not, what kind of t-shirts are allowed, whether free speech should be allowed to the dismally ignorant and uninformed, whether free speech is truly a good thing, or whether socialism is creeping up on us in the dark like a giant anaconda about to smother us all. We can’t seem to agree even if our President is really our President. If this doesn’t represent berserk I wouldn’t know what does.

Getting away from health care for the moment, we also can’t agree on who is allowed to marry whom, who should control a woman’s body, what drugs should be legal, whether the Geneva Convention is quaint or not, does torture work, should adultery keep a person from holding public office, is the earth older than 6000 years, is the bible literally true, should prayer be allowed in our public schools, whether males should or should not be circumcised, does our President resemble Hitler, whether the First Lady should wear shorts, and in some cases whether a person is male or female. Now you might think these are all questions that can be legitimately asked, carefully considered, and democratically decided. But alas, they aren’t. There are always some who feel the only way to solve problems is through violence, so we shoot doctors, lynch people, blow up buildings (even churches), picket clinics, shoot and stab each other, beat our wives, abuse our children, and in general behave far worse than animals.

On the international level things are even worse. Here we find war crimes commonplace, including the killing of innocent civilians (known by the euphemisim, “collateral damage”), torture, massive destruction of property, war profiteering, murder, arson and rape on a grand scale, the use of supposedly banned weapons of war, renditions, looting, you name it. Even genocide is tolerated, depending upon who the victims are.

The center of this berserk behavior is our nation’s capitol, which should rightfully be called Berserkistan-on-the-Potomac. Here reside (at least for part of the year) our elected leaders. These esteemed leaders are elected by the various states. They seem to commonly pick the most stupid among them to be their leaders (that is to say, they tend to elect people most like themselves). These leaders meet in Berserkistan-on-the-Potomac to decide the course of national and international events. They take an oath, which can justly be described as The Hypocritic Oath, which vows they will support the Constitution of the U.S. and perform their various duties faithfully. Supposedly they are to look after the public well-being in general and their constituents in particular. They swear this oath on our Holy Book of Violence, which, although badly dated, is held in esteem. Of course no one expects these leaders to do anything like what they are supposed to do. It has become common knowledge they are there for one purpose only, to raise money for themselves and make money for their wealthy benefactors at all costs. If anyone has the temerity to suggest something that might benefit the public good, they are shouted down with derisive cries of “socialism,” “communism,” “Marxism,” “anti-Americanism”(terms they do not seem to even understand) and what has become the generic term for all these bad things, “Liberalism.” Because the citizens of Berserkistan-on-the-Potomac live in such intimate and close proximity to our seriously berserk leaders, it is believed their brains are so addled they are not allowed to have a vote in serious matters of state. Such as it is in Berserkistan today, it was not always so. There were in the past serious voices that spoke for the public well-being and conscientiously attempted to promote it. This was before Berserkistan became a one-institution society, where business became the only institution that mattered, profit was the singular goal, and huge corporations ruled the earth.

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone
John Maynard Keynes

White cats with blue eyes are not always deaf.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Betsy Boop

“Hudson Hayward Hemingway,”
a Chihuahua with pink earrings
stolen from Gay bar, still missing.

Boy, I am naïve! I had never heard of Betsy McCaughey until I saw Rachel Maddow say one night that she (Betsy) was the person who started the “Death Panel” nonsense, and that she also had been responsible for helping kill the Clinton attempt at health care reform. She was also said to have some position in the health care business, so I just assumed she must be somebody of some importance. She appeared last night on the Daily Show, an appearance so pathetic it made me swear never again to assume anything. Far from being someone of importance she turns out to be just another blond Republican bimbo who has no idea what the hell she is talking about. Her attempted explanation of why she was opposed to whatever it was she claimed to be opposed to was so pathetic, so disorganized, so tortured, so absurd, I actually began to feel a bit sorry for her. Of course the damage has already been done, with old people in a panic that Obama is going to pull the plug on them, and the Obama people in a panic trying to convince a gullible public they are, indeed, a gullible public. It’s absolutely amazing how one idiotic woman can cause so much trouble. But, then, look at Sarah Palin.

I am constantly amazed at what constitutes human behavior, especially when it is something I simply cannot understand. A man in Seattle, with a history of domestic violence, stabbed his wife some 17 times with a barbecue fork, killing her, in front of their children. He was sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison. What amazes me the most about this is not why he didn’t get life in prison, or 99 years, or even 50 years, but why he got 22 ½ years. I concede there may be some reason or logic behind this kind of sentence that I simply do not understand, but really, 22 ½ years? Some people have received more than that for marijuana possession or other crimes nowhere near as serious, and what does the ½ year provide? I think perhaps the State of Washington may just have something against even numbers, I recall their fine for not having a seat belt is $101, a similarly strange sum.

Is Jerrold Nadler a lone voice crying out in the wilderness of fraud and deceit? He has reminded us that if Obama fails to investigate the torture business under the Bush Administration he will be breaking the law. Under the law a country is required to investigate instances of torture, they supposedly have no choice. Nor can the nation legally, as Holder apparently wants to do, simply investigate one small element of a broader torture pattern. Nadler is regarded as one of the brighter legal minds in Congress. He insists there should be an independent investigator. Will anyone listen?

I must say that I like Obama, I like the idea of a stimulus package, I am all for putting people back to work, I also think we should have cars and trucks that get much better mileage. However, I’m not sure I think the cash for clunkers was such a great idea. I mean, we have enough trouble in the U.S. with planned obsolescence, and this program seems to me to just be a new and perhaps worse example. This is especially true, I think, because these old cars will not be sold to poor people who can’t afford anything else, nor will they be the source of parts, they will, as I understand it, just be junked. Now this might be great for people who can take advantage of the situation right now, but there must be many who cannot, and how long will the effects of this program last? That is, the car companies are rehiring and hiring at the moment to replace the cars sold under cash for clunkers, but what happens next? Will we eventually scrap the next generation of cars to keep the factories going? I mean, this seems to me terribly artificial, and perhaps short-sighted, when it comes to solving our long term manufacturing problems. Can we just keep manufacturing products to fail and be replaced in order to keep our system functioning as we have been doing? In Europe, especially in Germany, they manufacture quality products that last. Indeed, many people live in houses and use other buildings that are two and three hundred years old. Here we tend to tear everything down after thirty years or so. Our economy is based on waste, and what can be more wasteful than cash for clunkers? I don’t think we should have an automobile manufacturing system in which cars have to be replaced every year, or even every two, three, four, or five years. Cars and everything else we make should be made to last, and they should also be made to last. And we should also stop buying all kinds of stuff we don’t really need and then having to rent storage space to store it when the next generation of junk comes along. If we really want to solve our economic crisis we are going to have to drastically change our ways. I wonder if it is at all possible. I am not sanguine about the possibilities.

The world is too much with us;
late and soon,Getting and spending,
we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
William Wordsworth

Siberian tigers sometimes kill and eat Asiatic black and brown bears. It is said that some tigers imitate the sounds of these bears to attract them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Innocence, bah!

Man to be arrested
for assault, after licking
and kissing woman’s foot.

The case of Troy Davis has brought up what seems to me to be a truly strange question, should it be ruled unconstitutional to execute an innocent man? The first thing that pops into my apparently naïve mind is, why in the world should the Supreme Court even have to rule on such a ridiculous question? It would seem perfectly obvious to me that of course you would never in any circumstances execute an innocent person. Apparently Antonin Scalia and his butt-licking toady, Clarence Thomas, think it would be okay because the Supreme Court has never ruled otherwise. This is a view so patently absurd it could only be held by Supreme Court Justices who need have no connection whatsoever to reality and seem to believe the law is something akin to mathematics, a mode that exists only as a system of abstract rules that can be manipulated merely for fun and games. I have no firm evidence that Troy Davis is innocent, although from what I have seen I strongly suspect he is. But it doesn’t matter to Scalia and Thomas whether he is or not. Such is life in the upper echelons in the land of “liberty and justice for all.”

Another case that has arisen also strikes me as strange in that it seems to me to make enormously complicated something that should not be so complicated. This has to do with gender identification. An African girl, Caster Semenya, pretty dramatically won the women’s 800 meter race at the World Competition in Berlin. Now some are demanding she be tested to prove she is actually a she. Her parents who raised her say she clearly is a female and has always been so. Her roommates who have seen her naked in the shower also testify to her gender. This is not good enough for some who are demanding she be tested for chromosomes. That is, does she have the XX that would clearly identify her as a woman, or might she be XZ that would indicate…well, it would indicate that genetically she might not be so clearly a woman. Okay, fair enough, but I think Ursula Andress, who was just voted the all-time “bikini goddess,” should also be tested. If outward appearances and eyewitness testimony are not enough I should think this would be not only fair but important. Similarly, this brings up for me, questions about the great Babe (Didrikson) Zaharias. As you (most of you anyway) won’t recall, Babe Zaharias was a championship golfer. She also excelled in basketball and track and field. She won two gold medals and a silver at the Los Angeles Olympics. The nickname “Babe” was acquired because she once hit five home runs in a baseball game. She was also a singer, a harmonica player, and a championship seamstress. She was married to a Greek Wrestler, George Zaharias, for a time. With a record like that, how can we be certain she was a female (or at least might have had some slight genetic abnormality). Olympic champions are sometimes stripped of their medals for different reasons. While we’re about these draconian measures, I wonder that no one has called for her exhumation to prove she deserved all her championships. By the same token, how do we know for certain that Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Tiger Woods, and Brett Favre are really male? How can I trust my lying eyes? Obviously the only really safe way would be to test everybody. Perhaps where there are questions a separate category of competitions could be established. Perhaps…oh, to hell with it, it’s just too complicated.

Now it comes out that what many of us suspected all along was true, the so-called color terror alerts were manipulated for political purposes by the Bush/Cheney administration, or so suggests Tom Ridge, the first head of homeland security. I do not find this surprising in the least, nor do I find it surprising that Karl Rove was deeply involved in politicizing the Justice Department, or that Dick Cheney was behind the outing of Valerie Plame, or told the CIA to not inform Congress of his death squads, and on and on and on. Sometimes I believe the utter incompetence of Bush/Cheney, and the dozens upon dozens of scandals they hatched, were done on purpose. Perhaps they figured out that if they screwed up literally everything, lied non-stop about everything, and stonewalled everything, it would all be so complicated no one would ever be able to figure it all out and therefore ever do anything about it. They ran a criminal enterprise for eight years and apparently, having done everything they wished, are going to get away without being held accountable for anything. Democrats refuse to take any action, probably because so many of them were themselves involved in various crimes and immoral acts. It seems there are only two “sort of” parties at the moment, the large and successful corporate criminal party and the much smaller party of the absolutely bonkers.

The world is governed more by appearances than realities, so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.
Daniel Webster

Lake Titicaca, situated between Bolivia and Peru, at 12,500 feet above sea level, is the highest body of water upon which someone has sailed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don't provoke

Three drunken women
savagely beat the wrong man
for wolf-whistling at them.

Do you remember in the movie, For Whom the Bell Tolls, when Akim Tamiroff, in a magnificent performance (for which he was never given sufficient credit), kept repeating the line, “I don’t provoke?” Probably most of you don’t, but it doesn’t matter. I mention it only because it is so applicable to the situation President Obama is in at the moment. You will recall, no doubt, that when George W. Bush was President, protesters were arrested merely for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts. Now protesters at Obama rallies come armed with 9 mm semi-automatic pistols and even assault rifles. They are not arrested, presumably because carrying observable arms is legal (wearing anti-Bush t-shirts is illegal?) in some places. I suggest that this is, among other things, a deliberate provocation. What do you think might happen if they were arrested (personally, I think they should be and their guns confiscated and melted down into paper weights). The hue and cry would be immediate and huge, “Obama is going to take our guns away,” “Obama is a Fascist,” Obama is Hitler,” and probably even worse totally unfounded accusations. Large numbers of loonies would believe this and would be spurred on to even more outrageous acts. Of course this behavior is not only provocative, it is also threatening, especially because our President is described as Black (he is just as much White). I am surprised we have not seen more overt threats of lynching. Anyway, Obama must stick to the refrain, “I don’t provoke,” much to my dismay. So far he seems to be remarkably adept at this. I admire his patience, but I also think sometimes he is wasting his time by being overly cautious with these corporate funded nitwits.

Kudos to Barney Frank for putting at least one of the most outrageous of the lunatic fringe in her place. Of course the Fox Propaganda machine immediately jumped all over him for “talking down” to the people. One might well ask, how in the world can you not talk down to such utterly ignorant people. I think he might have insulted dining room tables as they are probably capable of greater understanding of the issues. Actually, I suspect these people are so abysmally ignorant they are not even aware they are being talked down to.

It seems like the public option will be the measure of Obama’s Presidency. I don’t know what kind of reform would be possible without it, but obviously there is more to health care reform than the public option. Nonetheless, it appears that the public option is becoming symbolic of Obama’s resolve, if he continues to insist on it he will be seen as a strong and courageous President, if he backs down from it he will look weak and ineffective. I do think Obama made a great mistake when he did not present Congress with his own plan and insist they pass it. It is pretty obvious that you cannot let a Democratic Congress try to do anything on their own. He also made a mistake by assuming he could get bipartisanship out of the current Republicans who are more of criminal conspiracy than a political party. Their aim is to bring down the Obama Presidency, just as they tried to bring down Clinton. They don’t care about the public, the public good, the nation, health care or anything else that might improve things for common citizens. It’s power they want, power that brings them more and more wealth at the expense of everyone else. They are in truth the party of greed and “no.”

The Afghan elections must be going on at this very moment. The Afghans are not stupid, they know the elections are already determined by the U.S. and U.N. Karzai will win and continue to rule (in Kabul, at least) along with his appointed warlord ministers. I find it unbelievable that we continue to support him (and his drug dealing brother), especially now after they just passed a law allowing husbands to refuse their wives food if they refuse their husbands sex, and also making it a law that women must have their husband’s permission to work.

John Ensign, our Nevada Senator who disgraced himself with an affair with a woman who worked for him, now argues that he did nothing illegal (and that should somehow make it okay for him to run for office again). He is also trying to argue that what he did was not as serious as what Bill Clinton did. This is interesting as I believe you could easily demonstrate that what he did was far, far worse than what Clinton did, but why bother. If he thinks that the legality of what he did is really the issue he is obviously too deluded to understand even morality 101 (and in fact, his claim begs the question, as he quite likely did do something illegal). Somehow we seem to muddle along, lost in our clouds of illegality and immorality, while even the animals must be laughing at us.

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.
Mark Twain

More deer are killed annually by automobiles than any other way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Absolutely not!

Mother kills eight year-old
daughter because she
refused to take a bath.

Absolutely not! There is an article on Antiwar today that says the Pentagon wants authority to place as many as 400,000 troops in American cities and towns. In other words, to do away with the Posse Comitatus act of 1878. This is unthinkable! It is even more unthinkable now that we are a military that is a result of voluntary enlistments rather than a civilian draft. It could easily be the case that members of the Armed Services today owe their loyalty to those who pay them, rather than loyalty to country. This is dangerous beyond belief. It would essentially give the President (and apparently the Secretary of Defense) their own 400,000 member private army that would be able to enforce their wishes on the American public. The Governors of our states would lose control over their militias, which would become subject to Federal control. The very fact that anyone would seriously even suggest such a thing makes me very suspicious. We have gotten along very well for over a hundred years with Posse Comitatus, why would anyone want to change it now? Of course they say these troops would only be used in case of emergencies, but what might constitute an emergency, a demonstration against the White House? Reading this article makes me far less surprised there is an increase in militia activities around the nation. It seems to me this is just inviting local militias to form. I was never in favor of mercenary armed forces in the first place, for the reason stated above, where would the loyalties lie, with those who paid them or with the well-being of the country. I find this idea totally unacceptable and I suspect the motives of those who would even suggest such a thing. Apparently, at the moment, there is no Congressional sponsor for this dangerous change. Let us hope it stays that way and this idea gets buried so deeply it will never again resurface.

Robert Novak died today of a (cancerous?) brain tumor he had apparently been battling since 2008. While I never wish ill-health or death for anyone, I cannot honestly say I will miss him. And while I realize you are not supposed to speak unkindly of the deceased, speaking the truth about Novak is just as bad. He prided himself on his title, “The Prince of Darkness,” a title he richly deserved. He was a right-wing operative who pretended for years to be a reporter, but he was so obviously biased I don’t think anyone was fooled. Probably his greatest legacy will be his helping to “out” Valerie Plame, a treasonous episode we certainly could have done without, and one that did not hold the guilty accountable. Perhaps he will find the peace in death he obviously did not value in life.

It appears the Iraqis may actually vote for U.S. troops to leave a year earlier than scheduled. Wouldn’t that be great, we’d then have all the more cannon fodder to send to Afghanistan to fight our glorious “war” of…of…I dunno, maybe our glorious “war” to keep alive the possibility of a pipeline through Afghanistan. I still like and support Obama, but sometimes I wonder how he can be so incredibly stupid as to keep sending more troops to Afghanistan to do something no one really understands and, for the most part, even cares about. Similarly, I don’t understand his protection of the obvious war criminals in our midst. These two things are of great importance to me. Perhaps if he can get a health care bill passed he might give greater attention to them.

I read today that the Israelis are quietly starting to cut down the number of building permits they have been giving in the West Bank. Is this a sign, no matter how slight, that Netanyahu is actually feeling some pressure from the U.S. to stop their illegal theft of land and water? I hope so, but frankly, I don’t trust the Israelis to do anything positive when it comes to making peace with the Palestinians.

More and more individuals are carrying pistols and even assault rifles to Obama events. This is apparently legal in some states. I wonder if they could be arrested for idiocy? I guess not, if we arrested for idiocy in the U.S. there would be very few of us left. Sigh!

We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
Anton Chekhov

Crickets are common pets in China and can be bought in pet stores.

Monday, August 17, 2009

To be or not

Mother throws out his toys,
so twenty-nine year-old man
burns down her house.

To be or not to be – a public option. I don’t know about anyone else, but I, for one, am tired of hearing about health care. I know it is tremendously important, and I know it needs some serious thought and debate. But first of all we are not hearing much in the way of serious debate, mainly just more loud noise. And even when you get away from the loud noise you find that over here they are saying a public option is off the table, and over there they are saying it’s not off the table. A few still cling to the idea of a single-payer system, but most everyone else, including Obama, believe such a system is not possible. Then there is talk of setting up some kind of co-operatives that would essentially be the same as a public option (which they would not). There are a large enough number of Democrats who say they will not accept a system that does not include a public option. And Governor Dean insists that when a bill finally does emerge it will include a public option. It seems to me that no one really knows what is going to happen by the time this is over. Some say Obama is so desperate to get a bill, any bill, passed he will compromise and compromise until no true reform will happen, merely some cosmetic change that he can pass off as health care reform.

If the system that emerges does not negatively impact the Insurance industry it will be useless. There is no sensible reason that the Insurance parasites should have anything to do with health care. There is no reason Insurance people should have anything whatsoever to say about an individual’s health care, especially when we know their bottom line is profit. Health care should not be a for profit enterprise, period. When you hear Republicans braying about not wanting government officials between you and your doctor don’t forget that what you have now are Insurance bureaucrats inserting themselves (from a great distance, in fact) between you and your doctor.

I cannot see what all this fuss is about. The basic problem is simple. Insurance companies are ripping off their clients right and left, the cost of medical care increases far beyond the means of many people to pay for it. Thousands go bankrupt if they have a serious illness. Millions go without health insurance (or care) at all, in the only industrialized country that allows it to happen, the current system is inefficient and much too expensive, much of this is due to having to pay Insurance company profits and pharmaceutical companies ridiculous advertising campaigns, and so on. It is perfectly obvious that a single-payer system is by far the most sensible, reasonable, and cost effective. If such a system is impossible to achieve at the moment we need a public option. There is no other way to hold Insurance companies responsible, not through some hanky-panky co-ops or some other Rube Goldberg ideas. Obama and the Democrats should insist on a public option and ram it through no matter what the bought and paid for Republicans demand. And if any Blue Dog Democrats want to prevent it, they should be publicly ridiculed for their greed and short-sightedness and voted out of office as soon as possible. Frankly, if it comes to this, I would urge Obama to husband through a single-payer system and have done with it. If he keeps on insisting on bipartisanship there will be no health care reform at all, so why not go for broke. The only even remote chance Republicans have of ever regaining power is if they can block Obama’s health care reform and/or see the stimulus fail. They have made it clear they want Obama (and the nation) to fail. This is little more than treason. They must be avoided and bypassed just as would avoid a rabid dog.

Last words are for fools who haven't said enough.
Karl Marx

A sting from a striped eel catfish can be fatal.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Running with Reindeer - book

Running with Reindeer, by Roger Took (Westview Press, 2004)

The subtitle of this book, Encounters in Russian Lapland, sums it up pretty well. There is no single theme to this book, It describes a series of encounters the author had while spending time in the extreme northwest of Russia during the 1990’s. As there is no single theme, the book is part travelogue, part ethnography, part sociology, part geography, part history, part about tourism and angling, and, finally, a report on environmental conditions in that remote part of the world.

Roger Took is an art historian and museum curator, an active member of the Royal Geographic Society, but more fundamentally, a man in the best tradition of English naturalists. He apparently wanted to wander in Russian Lapland partly just to see and explore it, and partly because he wanted to try to reconstruct the aboriginal culture of the Sami Reindeer herders as it was before the Russian development of the region.

The book begins with a brief account of running with (herding) reindeer but after that it becomes a record of his encounters with the Sami, as they exist today, and with other interesting characters he meets along the way, especially in the area surrounding the city of Murmansk, but also in the little-known hinterlands. It is clear that in their heyday the Sami people lived in a cold and difficult land, but also one blessed with animal and other resources in abundance. Their reindeer numbered in the thousands and the salmon ran so thickly they could easily catch and preserve all they wanted. There was wildlife in generous supply providing a trade in furs that was easily exploited. Of course all this changed when the area became of serious interest to the Russians just before and during the Second World War. Many of the Sami were ordered to leave their homes and make room for military installations, mines, and hordes of laborers engaged in constructing the gigantic submarine base at Murmansk and other nearby areas. This led to a period of very hard times for the Sami and others in the region, from which they did not recover economically until the late 1990’s and early 21st century. They will never recover culturally. Most of the young people have no knowledge of life outside in the vast territory outside of Murmansk.

This book confirms for me one of what I believe is the most interesting things about the human condition. It seems there is no culture, no area of the world, where a stranger can visit and not find acceptance. This seems to be true even of the most primitive cultures on record. Anthropologists and others almost invariably manage to establish rapport and even friendships with people from the most “primitive” parts of the world, from New Guinea to South America to Africa to wherever. There may be rare exceptions to this successful human enterprise but usually, even after initial hostilities, satisfactory contact is made. Took spoke Russian, although far from fluently, but he made friends along the way that often went out of their way to help him and make him as comfortable as they could. As he wandered sometimes in areas that were closed to outsiders he had to avoid the authorities if possible, and this was usually accomplished with the help of friends he made along the way.

Towards the end of the book Took reports on the growing tourist industry, primarily for fishing and skiing that has grown up in the area. Very expensive fishing trips occur with wealthy fishermen from the West as well as Russia itself paying large sums to fish for Atlantic salmon during the immense runs of those fish. The recent successes in the area, and the important improvements in the well-being of the Sami and others, are unfortunately offset by the incredible environmental damage that has been done and the alcoholism that seems to be widespread. Took describes the deterioration of the huge submarine facilities, with rusting and damaged nuclear subs tied up to docks and dangerously neglected. He also reports on the dumping of contaminated waste and nuclear materials into the Barents Sea and pollution drifting over Sweden and Norway. As he describes it, it is a scene of such incredible waste and degradation it may be doubtful the area will ever recover from it, just another instance of humans carelessly and stupidly fouling their nest. There is a great deal of information in this work, some of it of considerable importance.

Through his interviews with elderly Sami who remember how it was before the great changes that occurred, and also through the discovery of some incredible rich and informative petroglyphs, Took was able to get a reasonable picture of an unusual way of life based primarily on reindeer herding, fishing and trapping, a way of life, like so many others, now gone forever.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Trouble with Spencer

Sandal-clad nuns chase
down armed burglar,
hold him for police.

The problem with Spencer is that he is a cat, an all-white, blue-eyed cat, skinny, with long legs and a piteous voice. Supposedly he belongs to one of our neighbors. He has, at least, been fixed. But he seems to have decided he likes us better. One morning he showed up at our door, a glass door that opens on the upper deck of our house. He just sat there looking in, watching our other four cats eating their usual breakfasts. I interpreted his expression as one of longing and, more importantly, hunger. What to do? With four cats we certainly do not need another. I suppose we could have just ignored him, but that was not in us. Neither my wife, my son, or I even considered merely ignoring the skinny creature sitting there watching our every move. Nor did anyone suggest we take him to the local pound (where, my son insisted, he would be “put away”). My wife insisted we feed him even though even she acknowledged we really did not want him around. We put a bowl of food on the deck and locked him outside. He ravenously devoured the food, took a drink from a bucket of clean water we keep there for that purpose, and left. We hoped that would be the end of it, he would return home where he rightfully belonged.

Of course, early the next morning he was lying there in front of the door. Yes, I know, we should have known better. And of course my wife fed him again. We still inisisted he not be allowed in the house. This routine lasted for a few days until the weather heated up enough to leave the screen door ajar so the cats can go in and out without our having to jump up every few minutes to let one in or out. We have a cat door in the basement but our cats are apparently too lazy to use it if they do not have to do so (and they know suckers when they see them). So…it was inevitable that Spencer would eventually come in where all the cat food is lined up enticingly for the four gourmet cats my wife insists we need (why this need has never been explained to me), and who seem to have different tastes from one another (they are very particular about what they will eat). Now Spencer comes in whenever he chooses and, always starving it appears, he systematically eats a bit from every available source. To his credit, after eating most everything in sight, he leaves. We have no idea where he spends most of his time.

When my wife confronted his reputed owner, as to why they apparently didn’t feed or take care of him, she was told their other cats (they have several) don’t like him. They also said they didn’t care if he came to our house or if we fed him. In fact, they suggested we might want to adopt him (this seemed to already be a de facto arrangement already). There are many people here who would happily shoot cats on sight, or who would at least turn them in to the pound, but we could never do such a thing. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is Spencer’s relationships with our other four cats. You might think they would object, even strenuously, to the presence of a strange cat that shows up uninvited and consumes their food. Strangely (at least it seems strange to me) they don’t. Our male cat, Midnight, also fixed, although perhaps dominant, just pals around with Spencer, although he obviously doesn’t like him in the house. The three females (also all fixed) mostly just ignore Spencer. They watch while he invades their space but do not interfere with his eating. I attribute this to some feature of cat behavior in which they seem to know that it is necessary to allow all other cats to eat for the good of the species, even if they don’t like them. I have never seen any of our cats squabble or fight over food (perhaps they would if food became scarce?). So far Spencer is treated much like a leper. He is tolerated but as yet has never attempted to stay in the house beyond his meals. I have no idea what would happen if, like them, he decided to sleep on the couch or in one of the chairs, or wherever. He seems to know “his place,” eats, and then departs for his life in the forest (I guess). Sometimes he lies by the side of the driveway where he can disappear into the vegetation when necessary. He is friendly now with us, but shy. He will rub up against our legs but does not seem to enjoy being petted, and definitely does not like to be picked up. We seem to have come to an understanding with this loner that works okay. Spencer never complains. But, as my wife asked, what will we do when it turns cold and begins to snow? Unfortunately, I know what we will do. I like Spencer, and I feel sorry for him, but I don’t want him sleeping on my bed. Are we crazy? You might well think so.

"I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?"Death thought about it."Cats," he said eventually. "Cats are nice."
Terry Pratchett

An estimated one million wild camels now live in the Australian outback.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


“Witch Doctor,” who
“cleanses” money of evil,
makes off with $140,000.

Dick Cheney, lashing out at George W. Bush for turning “soft” during his second term, said, among other things, “He showed a streak of independence I had not anticipated” (or something close to that). This strikes me as terribly revealing. In other words, Cheney is admitting that Bush no longer just did his bidding as he had until then. This confirms what many people believed all along, Bush was simply a puppet President, following instructions from the “Prince of the Dark Side.” If this is true, it is probably a good thing (the only good thing Bush might have accomplished) as if he had not become more independent we would no doubt still be torturing on an even grander scale, and would probably be locked into another lost “war” in Iran (and maybe elsewhere as well), at a cost of who knows how many more innocent lives sacrificed for oil profits. Perhaps by the beginning of his second stolen term in office even his marginally retarded brain figured out that Cheney was always wrong and was, in fact, potentially damaging his Presidency. Cheney, who has never been right about anything, seems to believe that if we do not follow his advice faithfully (as he, and only he knows best), we are doomed. Why is this evil, evil man not in prison?

It appears the fascist tactics of the Corporate/Republican co-conspirators are working. At least they are in the sense that you don’t hear much of anything about the real issues involved in trying to work out health care reform. Now it’s just “shout down” time in the town hall and other meetings, and when it’s not that it’s talking about the shout down strategy. In either case we are prevented from having any serious discussion of the enormity of the problem confronting us. Those who are profiting from the dysfunctional system we now have, have no intention of allowing any changes. They do not care about the 47 million Americans without any health care insurance, nor do they care about how the Insurance companies are dishonestly making their profits (refusing to insure anyone who really needs it because of an existing condition, dropping people making claims whenever they can, and so on). Basically, these people are capitalist ghouls, making their obscene profits off the misery and death of those they are supposed to insure. Health care is far too important to leave to the private sector and the idea that the market itself will insure successful health care is quite, plain and simply, absurd.

Paradigm Lost. As I mentioned last night the paradigm that has informed all Western-European thought for hundreds of years has been shattered. Instead of picking up the pieces and trying to cope with this reality many are in a state of denial. Obama is not really President, he is an imposter from somewhere, anywhere else, Sotomayor is a Hispanic racist who will discriminate against white folk, the stimulus is not working, health care reform is not health care reform, it is socialism and/or a plot to kill old people and/or a plot to allow gays to take over the hospitals and/or a government takeover, Obama is going to take away everyone’s guns, and so on. Just denials, after denials, as far as limited brain can see. As no one is allowed to listen or seriously debate, some people actually believe this utter nonsense. They are not going to allow anyone to learn otherwise. They are neutering the messengers. This is shameful. It is not politics in a democratic society. It is fascism in the exact style of Hitler and Mussolini. All they need are the distinctive brown or black shirts and a suitable emblem (but this, of course, would be far too obvious). Rachel Maddow is by far the best newsperson to expose all this for what it really is. Unlike the bloated, lying windbags that command 90% of the airways, Maddow has the facts, and does not hesitate to reveal, explain, and debate them. Would there be many more like her.

Another possible source of guidance for teenagers is television, but television's message has always been that the need for truth, wisdom and world peace pales by comparison with the need for a toothpaste that offers whiter teeth *and* fresher breath.
Dave Barry

The largest cat in the world, Hercules, is a liger (lion father, tiger mother). He weighs 900 lbs. and is 12 feet tall (when he stands on his hind legs, of course).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paradigmatic change

Burglar captured in
victim’s garage, dressed
only in her underwear.

There is much more to what is happening in America at the moment than plain old racism, although that is the featured theme. The election of Barack Obama carries with it a much more profound message than mere racism, and the success of Sonia Sotomayor reinforces it. While even those currently overwhelmed with their hard to understand rage may not be able to explain it, what is happening is the most important change to occur in hundreds of years. We are witnessing a basic paradigm change. The traditional underlying paradigm of Western-European thought, certainly from the 15th century until the present, has always included the belief that there has been a kind of evolution (or change), both physical and cultural, that resulted in a great Chain of Being with white people (especially men) at the very apex of this creation. You did not have to actually even believe in the process of evolution itself to know that this was supposedly true. White men were regarded as superior to all others, just as Christianity was superior to all other religions. Extreme forms of this saw Black people at the very bottom of the chain, Asians a bit higher on the scale, along with certain others like Hispanics, but with whites unquestionably at the very top. This was just understood by all who were fortunate enough to have been born and raised as white. It is built into our language, permeates our literature, and has been the foundation stone of our civilization for a very long time. The election of Obama, far from being merely the election of a Black man as President, has shattered this paradigm (indeed, the very fact that we describe him as black is itself a result of this way of thinking, logically he could just as well be described as white, or at least black and white, or even white and black). The selection of a female Hispanic for the Supreme Court rubs further salt into the wounds of the whites in the process of being dethroned. The recognition of the overwhelming, even monumental change involved did not occur instantly, but is now slowly manifesting itself as whites are beginning to understand and rage against it. Paradigmatic change does not come easily, as the cases of Galileo and others have repeatedly demonstrated. While the hatred, prejudice, and violence we are witnessing can be and is mostly described as racism, it goes far deeper than mere racism. It is the desperation of those who see their most cherished beliefs violated with no way to strike back short of intimidation and threats of violence, the last gasps of those whose priviledged positions are slowly slipping away from them, while they are helpless to prevent it. It is a perfect and predictable, if magnified example of the frustration-aggression hypothesis being played out in front of a worldwide audience. It is potentially as dangerous as the American Revolution or the Civil War (and perhaps not surprising that it appears to be more intense in the Southern States, and it has given rise to more and more militia activity).

I suspect the “birther” phenomenon is probably a rather piteous way of attempting to deny the reality of what has happened. If Obama can be shown to be not truly President, his Presidency is simply a temporary mistake, a fraud, and the whole thing did not truly happen, then nothing has really changed. If it could be shown that he is from another planet entirely, that would be even better. It is going to be most interesting, and probably very frightening, to see how this plays itself out.

“Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”
Dylan Thomas

The harvesting of salt dates back at least 6000 years.