Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Knuckle-dragging Neanderthals"

Angry with her former
boyfriend, woman cooks
and eats their pet goldfish.

“Knuckle-dragging Neanderthals,” is one of the descriptions Alan Grayson, Representative from Florida, offered of Republicans. I think it may be a perfectly apt description. Grayson was referring primarily to the fact that the Republicans, being the party of No, have dragged their feet on everything and kept us from making progress on anything. That seems to me to be true. They seem to be Neanderthals in more ways than one. For example, they don’t seem to understand that with modern technology it is no longer possible to lie outrageously or carry hypocrisy to celestial heights. There exist now videotapes and audiotapes and photographs and other means of communication that did not exist in the days of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. I cannot understand whether they are completely stupid, merely ignorant, or if they believe the American public is entirely stupid. Take the current crap they are dishing out about how it is that Obama should not be going to Copenhagen to try to get the Olympics for Chicago. They say he has too many other things to do and should stay here and attend to them. Obama is going to Copenhagen for eighteen hours, a quick round trip on Air Force One, during which time he can stay in touch with everything. It is important for Chicago, but also for the U.S. itself, as if the Olympics do come to Chicago it will create many jobs and much badly needed revenue. Contrast this with George W. Bush’s travel to China for four days merely to watch the Olympics. Is it the case there was no important business for Bush to attend to, or do Republicans just forget about his trip? But their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Remember when Obama and his family spent a week on Martha’s Vineyard. You might have thought it was the end of the world, according to Republicans. Do they forget that Bush spent almost a third of his entire Presidency on vacation? How about their babbling on about Obama speaking to the nation’s school children? No one raised a fuss when Bush or any other President did the same thing. What about their impeachment of Clinton for lying about an extramarital, consensual sex act? They don’t seem to object to the Bush/Cheney outrageous lies about their unnecessary “war” in Iraq that has resulted in perhaps a million or more deaths of innocents. And what about Sanford, who has called for others to resign for such affairs while he, himself, refuses to resign and even wants to continue to run for office? And now we have Vitter, who has broken the law in Louisiana and carried on with prostitutes, but now leads the fight against ACORN over a fake prostitution ring? Then there is whats-his-name from Nevada who also has hypocritically called on others to resign over sex escapades, but he refuses to do the same? And what about Larry Craig of Idaho, caught in a homosexual situation even though he has consistently voted against gay rights of any kind? There almost certainly are others just like him in the Republican party, gay themselves, but voting against gays at every opportunity. Now we have the Republicans demanding an apology from Grayson for describing the Republican health care plan as having two parts: don’t get sick, and if you do, die quickly. Republicans are outraged, outraged, over this, conveniently forgetting that many of them have said equally awful things about “death panels,” “pulling the plug on grandma,” “many will die,” and on and on.

Obviously there are hypocrites and liars in the Democratic Party. But they are no match for Republicans, no match at all. For nine years (actually longer) the Republicans have carried lying and hypocrisy to astronomical heights never before even imagined. The most remarkable thing about this, I think, is they apparently believe that no one will notice, or if they do notice they will easily forget it. But you can’t forget it when they are right there on videotape doing it. And they continue on a daily basis saying things with a straight face that are so outrageous you sometimes can’t even believe your own eyes and ears. Thank god for Congressmen like Grayson who has the courage to speak up, tell the truth, and refuse to back down. His apology to the 44,000 individuals who die each year because for 60 years the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals have refused to pass health care reform, was right on. Actually, Neanderthals were not knuckle-draggers, but being large-brained, if they were around today I believe they would be highly offended by being compared with Republicans.

As witnesses not of our intentions but of our conduct, we can be true or false, and the hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.
Hannah Arendt

The giant panda, although believed to be docile, has at times attacked humans.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I have never been very interested in economics and did not study the subject while at the University. Even so, I do know that even the finest of our economists can disagree completely when it comes to any given topic, program, or prediction. Thus, I suspect that giving a Nobel Prize for Economics is not far removed from giving one for Witchcraft. But by being so uninterested in economics I have also given little thought to such things as money, interest, and profit. The recent problems that have arisen in our country have forced me to think more carefully about such things, especially things like a “for-profit” health care system, as well as our “market-driven” society in general.

First of all, it occurs to me that you do not need a concept of “profit” in order to have a viable, on-going, fully functional society. As far as I know you do not find any such thing as profit in pre-industrial societies, where barter was the major economic activity. In the potlatch system of the Northwest Coast of America, for example, an individual might distribute blankets or coppers or bundles of other items, and he might receive greater numbers of those items in return, but he did not retain this increase as profit, but simply recycled them into an on-going system of exchange. You might say he profited in that he gained in prestige, but he did not gain in material wealth. Similarly, in Melanesia, groups often exchange gifts of pork or live pigs, and they are expected to receive a somewhat greater return. So a man might offer his pigs as part of the exchange, and he might receive a bit more in return, but, again, he did not retain them as profit as they, too, kept circulating in the exchange system. In the famous Kula ring of the Trobriand Islands, certain items passed from person to person in one direction and others in another direction but there was no profit involved. The trading ring provided people with entrée into other groups where they might barter for other items they needed or wanted, but it was by no means a profit-based system. I guess it could be argued that there could be a concept of profit without money being involved but this does not seem to have happened. That is, one could engage in bargaining in such a way as to end up with more than he started with, and I guess that could be conceived of as profit, interest, and income, but I don’t know of anywhere those ideas originated outside of a full-blown market economy.

This raises for me the question of whether you could have a market economy like ours without concepts like interest and profit. As Karl Polanyi so brilliantly observed, in order to have a true market economy everything has to be for sale. And for everything to be saleable, everything has to become a commodity. This was part of the Great Transformation Polanyi wrote about in his famous book by that title. In the shift from a pre-industrial society to an industrial one with a full-blown market economy, land, labor, and money all had to become commodities. A commodity is something produced for sale. But land, labor, and money are not true commodities as they are not produced for sale, land being just another word for the environment, labor a word for human behavior, and money merely a token of exchange. These are basically false commodities that we treat as if they are real commodities.

Because money is treated as a commodity it can be bought and sold in the marketplace. There are various ways to do this through buying and selling mortgages, buying loans, buying currencies, and I don’t really know how many other incredible means there are for doing this. There is no other reason for doing this other than to make a profit (at least as far as I know). And because money is treated as a commodity it can also be borrowed and lent. This, of course, involves interest. Apparently interest is the fee you charge the borrower to reimburse you for the risk you take in loaning him the money. As there are ways of assessing the amount of risk, the interest rates can vary from loan to loan. This is where some real questions arise for me. Mainly, would it be possible to have a market economy without interest or profit?

Consider the question of interest first. Sometimes people do get no-interest loans. A friend, perhaps doing you a favor, loans you money expecting only to get the same amount in return. No profit there. This is rare. Sometimes you can get a no-interest automobile loan. Where is the profit there? It does exist, of course, because the car company makes a profit on the car they sell you whether they get interest or not, and if they want to sell cars badly enough, they do this. If they also charge interest this makes them even more profit (which is why they don’t really prefer you to pay cash). This can work for other commodities as well, refrigerators, stoves, etc., but there is always profit involved. It is the concept of profit that interests me the most. In the case of interest, how does the element of risk enter into the equation? Obviously if one has substantial collateral it is easier to get a loan and get it at a lower interest rate than otherwise. In order to turn a profit through loans like this there has to be a means of assessing the amount of risk, plus the actual amount of time and effort it takes to draw up the necessary paperwork, process the loan, and etc. People are paid a salary for doing this. If the interest on the loan only covered the actual costs involved there would be no profit, although the employees would make a living and the basic expenses, paper, ink, etc., would be covered. Whatever profit there is has to be related to the risk. Thus you would expect if there was no risk, or very little risk, the borrower would pay very little. But the one making the loan calculates the risk, and if the borrower doesn’t want to pay what the risk is said to be, they don’t take the loan. You can be sure the risk is always going to be calculated at a higher rate than it truly needs to be. You could, theoretically, have a system in which the loan payments pay only the actual costs, the borrower would still receive the money and use it for his needs, the employees would draw their salaries, and the system could run without profit as such being involved.

Profit, it seems to me, is fundamentally what is paid in excess of costs. That is, it is not enough that people get paid salaries and live for doing various kinds of work, there must be additional money added in order to make a profit. This is why we speak of “wage labor,” or “slave labor,” and why it is that capitalists become wealthy off the sweat and hard work of others. You enjoy the excess that results from them working harder than they need to in order to earn a living. You could have a system in which the only profit involved would be the personal profit people enjoy from their labor, their salaries, wages, and personal satisfaction. If profit is merely the excess from labor or other activities, theoretically a system could work without profit. Or a society could allow profits to be made but insist they be either saved or used for community purposes (instead of being used for conspicuous consumption). Those who provide the capital (capitalists) would not be able to make profits by doing nothing other than lending money, living off the work of others (the proletariat). Everyone would have to be engaged in some form of productive work (simply having and loaning large sums of money I am suggesting is not productive work, although managing money for community purposes could be). Such a system does not imply or require socialism or communism. As some people work harder and more efficiently or productively and creatively than others, they would reap greater rewards. There would still be disparities in the amount of wealth individuals could possess, but these would be more realistically limited. There would be no question of taking money away from some in order to give it to others. Without interest and profit a society could survive over time and serve the basic needs of its citizens, huge fortunes could not be amassed and there would not be the huge discrepancies between the haves and the have-nots. Each person would have to live out their life doing the best they could without taking unfair advantages of others.

I cannot think of a more egregious example of a profit system than in the case of Insurance-based health care. Here is a system in which the Insurance companies do virtually nothing at all in order to reap huge profits. It is true they keep their employees working, but they are working at nothing but insuring the companies make more and more profits. I have yet to have anyone explain to me why Insurance companies should have anything whatsoever to do with health care. They do nothing but act as middlemen between patients and doctors, taking in fees and trying to provide as little coverage as possible. As a for-profit system it is in their interest to deny care whenever possible. It’s like paying for people to kill us for nothing short of profit. This Insurance-based health care system we have is an absolute disgrace, shameful and disgusting beyond belief, and it exists for no reason other than to profit from the misery and deaths of sick people (and can buy the votes of many Congresspersons).

Yes, I know, I am babbling. Perhaps I am too far out of my element. There is not going to be Utopia. But money as a commodity truly is the root of all evil. Things would not have to be so. Much of the world lives without interest and profit. Indeed, most of the people throughout history lived without such concepts. Were they without problems, of course not. Were they all completely miserable, of course not. Is money required for happiness, not everywhere or by everyone.

“Capitalism turns men into economic cannibals, and having done so, mistakes economic capitalism for human nature.”
Edward Hyam

Monday, September 28, 2009

What to do with the insane?

Ninety-two year old woman
celebrates her birthday by
sky diving from 13,000 feet.

What to do with the insane? I am becoming more and more convinced that we have a growing problem of insanity in this country. I would certainly not suggest that anyone who disagrees with or dislikes President Obama is insane, but I believe that many of those currently engaged in anti-Obama-ism may well be. It is difficult for me to believe otherwise. Take, for perhaps the simplest example, the “birthers.” It has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii of an American mother. His birth certificate has been produced and its authenticity has been verified by the proper Hawaiian authorities. There are still those, including a couple of Senators, who seem to be unable or unwilling to believe this. How would one explain this? Either they do believe it but have some ulterior motive for claiming otherwise, or, I suggest they are insane. At least this would seem to fit most ordinary definitions of insanity. Merriam-Webster, for example, defines insanity as follows:

1. A deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder.

2. Such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility.

3. a. Extreme folly or unreasonableness b. something utterly foolish or unreasonable.

If nothing else the birther belief is, under the circumstances, totally unreasonable. Consider also the belief that Obama is going to take away our guns. Obama has done nothing about doing anything about guns. Yet this belief continues widespread and may even be growing. Is this the result of the arms manufacturers simply using this as a means to increase their sales, or is it just insanely unreasonable? And do not forget those who seem to actually believe that the President of the U.S. is designing a health care program that will contain “death squads.” This is an idea so absurd on its face as to be little more than a form of hysteria, and yet it persists. Perhaps this, too, is simply be used by some for political purposes and is thus merely dishonest rather than insane. There are other areas in which the claims may be the result of incredible ignorance rather than actual insanity. Claims that Obama is a socialist-fascist or a nazi-communist clearly would come under this category. Either those making such claims are ignorant beyond belief or they are dishonestly using them for partisan political purposes. I think we could be pretty certain that claims about women with breast cancer being targeted, or veterans, are merely political ploys, either that or they are just plain delusional. Mike Huckabee’s recent speech in which he suggest we should jackhammer the UN and float it down the East River would seem to be pretty crazy, but it, too, is probably just political grandstanding to a sympathetic base (I think one might well argue that anyone like Huckabee, who in the 21st century doesn’t believe in evolution, might be considered insane, along with those that believe the earth is but 6000 years old, and that humans existed with dinosaurs, but that is for a different place and time).

I fear our current situation is far more complex than simply the sane versus the insane. We have managed over the past few years to create a mixture of ignorance, politics, and insanity in such a way that it is increasingly difficult to delineate one from another, which makes the problem of what to do with the insane more difficult than it might ordinarily be. What might be politics for some might well be insanity for me. The very idea that Sarah Palin might become President I personally regard as insane. That George W. Bush was elected for a second term I also regard as insane (I will ignore for the moment his first term when he was not really elected). That the current Republican party has allowed itself to be primarily represented by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck is also, to me, at least political insanity. On a more fundamental level, the idea that health care should be a for-profit enterprise is truly insane.

One of my favorite quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald is relevant here: “But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike.” I’m sure Fitzgerald was led to this metaphor by the experience of watching Zelda, but to me it also suggests how and why the current insanity seems to be spreading so quickly among right-wing Republicans. These insane ideas are both insidious and contagious, and manage to spread no matter how absurd they may seem to most of us. What do you do with people who simply refuse to believe anything no matter what the evidence against it? Trying to reason or even argue with such people is completely impossible as they cling to their insanity no matter what. Usually when this happens to a family member they end up committed to an institution, but when you cannot easily separate insanity from politics or ignorance that is not a possibility. On the other hand it is difficult to ignore them, especially when they have the MSM on their side. A better educational system, and a healthier attitude toward learning, would help overcome this problem, but with our ethos of anti-intellectualism this would take some doing.

As I was walking among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity. I collected some of their Proverbs.
William Blake
Samuel Colt invented the first revolver and was issued a patent for it in 1836.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shadows in the Sun - book

Shadows in the Sun, Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire, Wade Davis (Island Press/Shearwater Books, 1998).

Wade Davis, with undergraduate degrees in anthropology and biology, soon discovered that if one wanted to live among diverse peoples and get to know and understand them, the best way was through their indigenous knowledge of flora and fauna, knowledge they seemed willing to share with others. Thus he took his Ph.D. in ethnobotany from Harvard University and has traveled widely and lived for various lengths of time with many different human groups, ranging from the Arctic Circle to the Amazon, and many places in between. This book consists of fourteen essays recounting his experiences and education among these various peoples, and they were interesting and educational indeed.

His primary concern that runs through all of the essays has to do with the understanding and preservation of human knowledge, mostly as it refers to flora and fauna. He deals with such diverse phenomena as Voodo, hallucinating drugs, the rubber industry, hunting in the arctic, Clouded Leopards in Tibet, Red Cedar of the Northwest Coast, Shamanic healing, logging in Borneo and elsewhere, and other topics as well. He is concerned that traditional knowledge, along with traditional cultures, should be preserved at all costs, not only because of the potential for important scientific breakthroughs, but also just for its own sake. He reminds us just how little we know about so many things, and how it is that through our greed and negligence we have allowed so much to disappear forever. He is a fine writer, as well as an accomplished scientist, and he obviously writes for a broad audience, not merely for his fellow scientists. His language is sometimes poetic and I wonder in some cases if the poetics are the best métier for his message. For example, I do not know precisely what to make of his claim, “Each incident of extinction represents far more than the disappearance of a form of life; it is the wanton loss of an evolutionary possibility and its irrevocable severance from the stream of divine desire.”

To emphasize the importance of using local knowledge and customs he gives what I think is a marvelous account of a failed British expedition (sorry it is so long):

“The British mostly failed. They wore tight woolens, which turned sweat into ice. The Inuit wore caribou skins, loose, with one layer of hair toward the body, another turned out to the wind. The British slept in cloth bags, which froze stiff with ice. The Inuit used the heat of one another’s naked bodies on sleeping platforms of ice covered with caribou hides, in snow houses that could be assembled in an hour. The British ate salt pork and, to prevent scurvy, carried lime juice in glass jars that broke with the first frost. The Inuit ate narwhal skin and the contents of caribou guts, both astonishingly rich in vitamin C. Most disastrous of all, the British scorned the use of dogs. They preferred to harness their young men in leather and force them to haul ridiculously heavy sleds made of iron and oak. When the last of Franklin’s men died, at Starvation Cove on the Adelaide Peninsula, their sledge alone weighed 650 pounds. On it was an 800-pound boat loaded with silver dinner plates, cigar cases, a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield—in short, everything deemed essential for a gentle traveler of the Victorian age….Like so many of their kind, they died, as one explorer remarked, because they brought their environment with them. They were unwilling to adapt to another.”

This is by no means an unusual example of the attitudes and behavior of many of the earliest travelers and explorers, in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Arctic, and elsewhere. Davis believes that this kind of knowledge should not be lost, just as he believes we should not be destroying species of plants and animals we know so little about. There could easily be secrets locked into creatures and plants that could be of enormous value. One can only agree that we should not be so cavalier when it comes to destroying our planet, but one could also argue that these attempts are coming much too little and too late as so much has already been destroyed. Davis is an ecologist and environmentalist as well as a scientist. What he has to say is of great importance and these essays are well worth reading. Unhappily, one could also look at them as horror stories as basically that is what they are, a record of virtually unending human stupidity around the globe by a parasitic species that seems to be intent upon fouling its own nest and destroying the very host it depends upon, all the while boasting about its accomplishments and questionable superiority. These essays are well-written, accurate in their facts, very informative, and alas, therefore depressing.

Wade Davis, born a Canadian, has been the recipient of many grants, associated with National Geographic and the organization, Cultural Survival, which was created at Harvard by the late anthropologist, David Maybury-Lewis, and is dedicated to helping small groups that are in danger of disappearing because of developments out of their control.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Sunshine Coast

Gizmo, a biting Pomeranian,
ordered out of Aspen, and
sentenced to death if he returns.

Well, I’m back. We had a marvelous trip. We drove to Creston, B.C., and then across Canada to the west, ending in Tsawwassen where we took the ferry to Victoria. The drive across is quite interesting, especially when you leave the lush forest country for the Okanaugan and Osoyoos, where you would swear you were in Southern California. We had a very pleasant day in Victoria, with a wonderful lunch of oysters and mussels. The next morning we drove north to Little River where we took the ferry to Powell River. We then drove first north to Lund and then down to Egmont where we caught the next ferry to Halfmoon Bay, Sechelt, and Gibson (where we feasted on oysters and prawns), then to North Vancouver, catching the ferry to Nanaimo, and then drove back to Victoria (where we dined on Sablefish (also known as Black Cod or Butterfish). Next morning we drove to Sydney to catch the ferry to Anacortes and from there to Seattle where we took in the annual Seattle Library Book Sale. Today we drove from Seattle home to Sandhill, here in Bonners Ferry. It was a great trip. However, I would not recommend the round trip down the Sunshine Coast to anyone as a one day adventure. You should spend at least one night in Powell River, Sechelt, or Gibson. If you were of the James Watt persuasion (arguably the worst political appointment in all of history, who described his rafting trip through the Grand Canyon as “dreary”), you might say this trip consisted of seeing billions of evergreen trees that all looked the same, and long waits at ferry terminals, but if you were more realistic and more in tune with nature, you would describe it as a trip through an area of natural beauty so awesome and beautiful it cannot be described in words. British Columbia is surely one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. Most of it is so huge and empty it makes you wonder how anyone could even think of us being overpopulated (I know the view of this is much different in India, China, and other places).

During this trip I did not watch TV, read a newspaper, or listen to the radio. It was wonderful! I managed to delude myself into once again believing that things are right with the world, we can all go on living happily together, and global warming, the “wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, the failing economy, the problems with health care, and so on, are just figments of my imagination. Alas, such escapist daydreams don’t last long when you are once again confronted with ugly reality. I notice that in the five days we were gone nothing of substance changed. The focus is still on ACORN and Iran, both issues conveniently made newsworthy enough to take our minds off the more serious, important problems facing us. The entrapment charges being leveled at ACORN by Republicans, although real, are absolutely trivial compared to similar, much more serious issues, relating to Blackwater and others. The Iranian situation continues to baffle me as I do not believe Iran is a threat to anyone. Even if they are trying to develop a nuclear bomb, indeed, even if they were to succeed, the only result would be they would have less to fear from Israel and the U.S., they would be somewhat higher up in the “pecking order” than they are now, hardly an earthshaking development.

Afghanistan continues to be an unnecessary disaster as we really have little or no reason to be there and they would be much better off without us there. I hope Obama will see the light on this ridiculous situation and get us out of there quickly (even though doing so might cost him his Presidency, as the Republicans will brand him forever as a “loser,” and a gullible public will mindlessly follow suit). It just doesn’t do to do anything sensible when you are President, because unfortunately your public is easily led into collective insanity. How wonderful it is, as Hitler himself observed, that the public doesn’t think.

I do not understand why sablefish are sometimes called Black Cod as they are not codfish. I can understand why they can be called butterfish as they have such a wonderful soft flesh with those large flakes that more or less melt in your mouth. I’m not sure if anyone truly understands how wonderful it is to visit the coast and be able to buy and eat fresh fish. Although most of our food in Bonners Ferry is wonderful, free of chemicals, fresh and healthy, the one thing we truly lack is a supply and variety of fresh fish. I can truthfully say that the only thing I miss from living in Santa Monica is the Santa Monica Fish Market. It was (is) even better than Seattle in that they always have a greater variety of fish and shellfish. Sometimes in Creston we can get more variety, such as Canadian Whitefish, Arctic Char, Smelt, and occasionally even Skate wings. Having traveled fairly widely during my life I am convinced that Americans do not value food as other people do, having been fed for years on the idea of fast and easily prepared food, somehow the idea being that the less time one spends in preparing and eating food the better. What a pity.
Sham Harga had run a succesful eatery for many years by always smiling, never extending credit, and realizing that most of his customers wanted meals properly balanced between the four food groups: sugar, starch, grease, and burnt crunchy bits.
Terry Pratchett

Bonobos (also sometimes called pygmy Chimpanzees) share at least 98% of their genes with humans.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Let Me Re-phrase That, Ronnie

Mississippi police forced
to use taser and handcuffs
to subdue wayward emu.

I am going away for a few days and probably will not be blogging until next Saturday.

You will no doubt remember Saint Ronnie’s famous (idiotic and exceedingly harmful) phrase, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.” I would like to rephrase that, “Government is the solution, Banks and Insurance Companies are the problem.” Let me give you some examples of my personal encounters in the last couple of years with these basically criminal enterprises.

My most recent encounter (today, as a matter of fact) began when I was perusing my latest bank statement and encountered something that said, “Bill pay service fee, $9.95”). Having no idea what this meant, and not having encountered it previously (because I stupidly do not always carefully peruse my statements) I went to my bank and asked a friendly teller what it was. She told me it was exactly what it said, a bill payment fee. You see, having been encouraged, even nagged, to save the price of stamps by having my bills paid directly by the bank, I succumbed and had two or three bills paid in that manner. To make a long story short, in order to save the price of three or four stamps, I was paying the bank $9.95 for that service. When I confronted the teller with this dismal fact she began embarrassed and said, “I only work here.” Neat, huh? I did get it fixed but only because I raised a fuss about it.

Previously, I had an auto loan with the same bank. I received a notice that if I came in I could refinance at a better rate. So I went in and inquired and, indeed, I could do that. However, there was a fee for doing so. The fee was higher than the amount of money I could have saved by refinancing. I remarked to (a different) bank employee that this appeared to be some kind of scam. She, too, became embarrassed and allowed as to yes, that was so. This same sort of thing happens when you fall for one of their offers to loan you money at a lower rate to pay off other bills with higher rates. What they do not tell you, and it is not at all easy to find out, is that there is a fee for doing this. And the fee can be greater than the amount of money you might save (there is a great deal of turnover of tellers in this bank, for reasons I do not know, but I suspect it has to do with this sort of thing, among others).

I had already had another interesting experience with this bank. If you have overdraft protection, they will “loan” you the money to cover the overdraft. I learned, however, that you do not have to truly be overdrawn before they offer you this service. When you account gets down precipitously low (but you are not yet in fact overdrawn) they loan you $300.00 – at 25% interest! Apparently this is legal, unlike robbing banks at gunpoint.

I have just received notice that the interest rate on my credit card from this bank is being raised from 9.9% to 13.4. I have had this card for years and have been good about paying every month, usually far more than the basic amount required, although my balance has crept up slowly for unusual expenses I have had recently. I have no idea why they are raising the rate, other than, again, it appears to be legal and they can do it if they want. What I guess they do not understand about this is that basically they are about to slay the goose that has been laying their golden eggs for so many years. There is, in my opinion, absolutely no excuse for this other than greed. Indeed, I have become convinced over the years that credit card interest is the functional equivalent of slavery. The only real difference is that they don’t get to beat and rape us whenever the whim strikes them.

Finally, if you have been following the health care debates you will know how shamefully the Insurance companies are making their money, by refusing to pay because of claims of “previous conditions,” refusing coverage because have some existing condition, and so on. In short, they are making huge profits by actually allowing people to stay sick and die. In effect, under the existing system the people who need health care don’t get it, and those who are healthy and do not need it, do get it. But do not think this sort of thing is true only of Health Insurance. My wife and I were in Seattle about a year ago. We spent the night in my son’s apartment, right on University Way. We parked our car across the street with the passenger side against the curb of the sidewalk. In the morning we found that the passenger side fender and door had been severely damaged. Although we did not know precisely what happened, we knew it could not have been the result of a collision (the sidewalk was far too narrow for anyone to be driving on it). So, we put in a claim to have it fixed. The first agent I encountered said it was the result of a collision. I said that was impossible. He insisted it was a collision and absolutely refused to hear any more about it. You understand that if it was a collision I would have had to pay a $500.00 deductible, whereas if it was a comprehensive claim I was only out $100.00. Not only was this agent insistent, he was rude beyond belief. When I reported this to the man who was going to repair the damage he confessed that he had worked for a number of years in auto insurance, and he told me this was their “Standard Operating Procedure.” He said the first person you talk to is required to turn you down or insist on the terms. He also said, call back and ask to speak to his supervisor. I did that (suggesting that this rude son-of-a-bitch ought to be fired) and lo and behold my collision almost instantly became comprehensive (he was not fired, of course, but kept on to bully the next claimant). I have no doubt whatsoever that this is their standard operating procedure, and I bet there are thousands of customers who are thus browbeaten into accepting these bogus demands.

Obviously I am not the only one who has suffered at the hands of banks and insurance companies. Having lived quite a long time I could cite further examples from a variety of companies. These particular schemes are all legal (as far as I know) and I am certain there are many other tricks they use to separate people from their money, various hidden fees and what have you. So let me repeat, Banks and Insurance Companies are the problem. Ronald Reagan did the American public a terrible disservice when he made his absolutely stupid remark. We are now living with his legacy. And Republicans want it to continue!

The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.
Thomas Jefferson

The largest snail is an Australian marine snail that can grow up to 30 inches in length and weigh up to 40 pounds.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paul Newman A Life - book

Paul Newman, A Life, by Shawn Levy (Harmony Books, N.Y., 2009)

As biographies go this is a classic example. Biography is a strange genre, pretty much formulaic. Because peoples’ lives begin with birth, go through predictable chronological stages, and end in death, that is how most biographies are written. Rarely do you see anyone experiment with this format, when they do it is usually to begin with a death and then through a series of flashbacks reveal the chronology that led up to it. There is very little in the way of innovation or creativity when it comes to biographical literature. Of course because some biographers are more clever than others, or have a somewhat better command of prose, up to a point reading some biographical works can be a bit more enjoyable than others. But even with respect to prose, like the genre itself, there is not much to distinguish one biography from another. What makes one biography more interesting than another basically has to do with how interesting the person’s life and career has been. In that respect, it is fair to say that Paul Newman’s life and career were interesting indeed, not only because of his success s an actor, but because he was so much more than just an actor, and his life was long and productive in many other ways. He was at times a sailor, an actor, a race car driver, a public citizen, entrepreneur, philanthropist, husband and father.

Paul Newman, was born of Jewish stock into a family of entrepreneurs that had built up a successful business in sporting goods. They lived in an upscale neighborhood in Cleveland and were comfortably well-off. It was understood that Paul would eventually join his father and uncle in the business. As a boy he very much wanted to be an athlete and tried to play every sport available. Unfortunately, his growth rate slowed in adolescence and he weighed but 98 pounds, which kept him from his love of football. He was said to be a reticent boy, but eager to entertain others and play at being others, so much so that his mother enrolled him at age eleven in Curtain Pullers, an organized program for children to act and participate in the Cleveland Play House. At eighteen he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He wanted to become a pilot but was color blind and was transferred to Officer Candidate School. For some reason he was felt unsuitable to be an officer, so he served honorably, if without particular distinction, as an enlisted man for almost three years as a radio operator and a tail gunner, seeing very little action. Discharged at twenty-one, he applied to Kenyan College. He was not a good student, being more of a bon vivant and beer drinker. But he did become more and more interested in the theatre and acting. Even so, he married at 24 and became a father at 25, which necessitated him to enter the family business for a time. He soon left to attend graduate school at Yale where he studied what became known as “method acting.” After a few hard years in New York he became recognized as an up-and-coming actor and was offered a movie contract. The rest is history: he acted in or directed more than 50 films, was nominated for eight academy awards and was awarded two, became interested in automobile racing where he won competitive races well into his 70,s, started a line of food products, “Newman’s Own,” that was so successful the proceeds, all donated to charity, ran into the hundreds of millions. He kept acting into his 70’s, started a number of extremely successful “Hole-in-The Wall” camps for children with health problems, became a political activist and a philanthropist, awarding large sums of his own fortune for a wide variety of worthwhile causes. When he died of lung cancer at 83 he said simply, “It was a privilege to be here.”

Naturally, Newman was a person as well as a legend. Like most people he was not without some blemishes. He was not a good student, being more interested in drinking beer and partying. He married young and fathered three children, and then left them and his wife for another woman (Joanne Woodward), whom he stayed with and adored for the rest of his life. He was a practical joker and apparently an almost 24 hour a day beer drinker. His “method” acting often drove directors and colleagues to distraction. Altogether he fathered six children, one son and five daughters, their care was left primarily to his wife as he was often absent. Even so, he did support them all and tried to be a decent father. When his only son, Scott, died of an apparent overdose, he was devastated.

Levy reports only one incident of unfaithfulness, forgiven by Woodward (an exceptionally fine actor herself), who was wise enough to know the incredible temptations he faced every day. I found this of interest because Newman’s exceptional good looks made him a constant target of women of all kinds, so much so that when his daughter handled his correspondence for a time, she observed that “American women don’t get laid enough” (I am not suggesting that he was a philanderer, only that the opportunities for him were endless). Being so unusually handsome certainly helped his acting career, but in his personal day-to-day life it was a nuisance. Through it all he was a serious actor and constantly tried to keep improving even though he could have just coasted after being established as a star. Similarly, he worked extremely hard at becoming a first-class race car driver, and overcame the “handicap” of being a “movie star,” to gain acceptance from the Nascar drivers. And unlike so many famous people he remained pretty much a “regular guy,” generous, thoughtful, and loyal to his friends. He appeared in many movies that were not very distinguished, but the ones that succeeded were “blockbusters.” In general his was a life well-lived.

Another curious thing about biographies, and even autobiographies, is that you can never know how true they are to the facts of someone’s life. As handsome as he was, Newman could certainly have had woman after woman, but Levy mentions only the one such incident so there is room to wonder. As is the case with many biographies, Levy was not able to interview Newman himself, although he tried. But if he had, would it necessarily have made the book more true to the facts? Biographies can sometimes probably be more accurate than autobiographies. You just never know, but we seem to endlessly enjoy vicarious experiences.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The CIA Request

Stripper has child, sues
Father (a Catholic Priest)
for child support.

Am I missing something, perhaps a brain? No less than seven (7) former directors of the CIA have written a letter to President Obama insisting he instruct Attorney General Holder to cease and desist investigating torture. Why would they do such a thing? The answer would seem perfectly obvious to me. They know that Holder’s investigation will not be able to restrict itself only to those cases where the torturers went beyond even the illegal parameters set forth by the Bush/Cheney toady lawyers. They are, I am sure, quite right about this. Such an investigation will inevitably have to become focused on just who it was that authorized the torture in the first place. The current Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, also does not want to see an investigation. It seems perfectly obvious to me these directors are fearful they themselves (with the exception of Panetta) might be found guilty of illegal activities in the past and they want to protect themselves and those who worked under them. Three of the directors, at least, are known to be quite vulnerable, the others most probably know of all sorts of illegal acts perpetrated by the CIA over the years. Indeed, secret acts of various illegal or at least very questionable kinds have obviously been carried out by the CIA and the directors (this was their job, however “dark” the assignments). They obviously do not want these things to be made public. And if the American public were to find out about such things it is likely the case they would be horrified, demand more accountability, and even more terrible from the point of view of the CIA, cut their obscene budget. Their arguments against the investigations are the usual ones they have relied upon (pretty successfully) in the past. If the CIA is investigated, officers of the agency may be loath to perform their duties. If there is an investigation it will compromise state secrets and undermine security. Whittaker Chambers put it rather succinctly during the Alger Hiss trial, “For there is some music the world should not hear.”

What makes this all the more interesting and puzzling to me, is, can seven previous directors of the CIA all be ignorant of the law? Or at least what I have been led to believe is the law? I think U.S. law, and also international law, actually demands that an Attorney General pursue investigations into any cases of torture. Thus if Attorney General Holder does not pursue these investigations he will be guilty of breaking the law, and the directors will be guilty of trying to convince him to break the law. Similarly, it is my understanding that the Office of the Attorney General is by design completely independent of the White House and the President, as it is to be kept completely free of politics and partisanship. Thus when the directors demand that the President intervene and order Holder to stop the investigations, they are demanding that he, too, break the law. We have every reason to believe that the CIA has never been shy about breaking the law in the past, so I guess they aren’t concerned with that possibility in this case. If I am wrong about this I apologize, but I don’t believe I am wrong. If I had been a director or even lower level employee of the CIA I am sure I would not want CIA (possibly illegal and even rather horrible secrets) revealed. Of course, just as in the case yesterday of Israel’s Bibi warning against accepting evidence of Israeli war crimes, because others would also be guilty, if none of these questionable CIA activities are ever revealed they will just continue, just as war crimes in general will continue. I am quite certain that many terrible things have been covered up in the name of national security. Judges should have much greater leeway in determining what is vital for security and what is not, and it should not be merely what the CIA desires it to be.

The Republicans are now claiming that Obama’s health care plan is going to tax tampons, along with contact lens cleaners and other such “medical” items. I dunno. When it comes to taxes I’m not against them, necessarily, I’m only against them being used for building more nuclear bombs and stuff like that. Can you believe that the State of Idaho still taxes groceries, the basic foods that people have to eat? Now that is a really bad tax. Personally, I think beer and wine should be considered food items and, as such, should not be taxed, just as no other food items should be taxed. However, when it comes to soda that really does relate to obesity, maybe it should be taxed, along with double bacon burgers. Be of good cheer, or at least try to be.

If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.
Kahlil Gibran

A large female codfish lays up to five million eggs in mid-ocean but most do not survive (if they did we’d all be up to our ass in codfish?).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bibi Gets It Right!

Man discovers severed hand
in backyard; previous owner explains
it’s just a medical school souvenir.

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu gets it right! But what of it? Netanyahu says that all nations should reject the U.N. Gaza War Crimes Report because it might lead to other nations being accused of war crimes. Think of this for a moment. It’s fascinating. First, one might well argue that just because others have done something terrible doesn’t mean you should do it and get away with it. On the other hand, Bibi is surely right in claiming that other nations have committed war crimes. Indeed, it should go without saying that in all wars there are almost certainly war crimes. Indeed, we know for certain that the Bush/Cheney administration was deeply involved in war crimes. And there are those, following the same logic as Netanyahu, think they had best be ignored because to investigate them would only cause divisions in the body politic and no one knows for certain just where it would all end. For example, it might lead to a situation where any new incoming administration could open criminal proceedings against the previous one, something that has been generally avoided up until now. There are, however, few, if any cases quite as egregious as is the Bush/Cheney case. This might be the perfect time to set a precedent for holding individuals and administrations accountable. But why, some would immediately ask, stop here and now. The Clinton administration probably committed war crimes as well, in Bosnia and wherever, and what about the first Bush administration? And why not go back to Teddy Roosevelt’s war in the Philippines, or our Indian wars, or…? Anyway, you get the picture, and it’s not a pretty one.

Of course we did hold the Nazis responsible, even hanging some of them. But war crimes by the U.S., Britain, and Russia went unpunished. This is why it is said that only the defeated can be found guilty of war crimes, a pretty kettle of fish indeed. If this is allowed to stand, we are still basically living in the law of the jungle, where only the strong survive. And following Bibi’s line of reasoning, there can never be an end of this, as anyone who engages in warfare is just as guilty as anyone else. Curiously, at the same time Netanyahu is making his claim that we are all guilty, Israel is claiming they are not guilty. So why would they warn others not to accept a report in which they should not have to fear being guilty. If they are not guilty, why worry about it? Of course they know they are guilty, but, then, so is everyone else, so let’s just move on. Moving on in this way is simply promoting perpetual non-acountability and perpetual war.

It seems to me the only hope of any way out of this unfortunate situation, ever, is if the United States puts an end to it now. That is, investigating and prosecuting our own known war criminals, and thus making it clear to the rest of the world that we, at least, are not going to stand for any of this from this moment on. We can acknowledge and admit there were terrible things done in the past, virtually by all nations, but as they are past, and extend back in time so far, it is completely impractical to now pursue them. We are starting over as a species that recognizes our past behavior has been totally unacceptable, and that if we wish to live in peace and harmony, we simply must not continue as we have in the past. Would this completely violate our basic human nature so much as to be impossible? It might seem so.

As I do not believe for an instant we are going to give up our past behavior when it comes to war, killing, murder, arson, rape, plunder, greed, short-sightedness and all the other terrible things we seem to be obsessed with, I have another suggestion. I think we should ignore Bibi entirely and set about seriously holding each other accountable. Given our litiginous inclinations, and refusals to believe that we, ourselves, are ever guilty of anything, this would almost certainly keep us occupied for so long we would not be able to find the time for killing each other. It’s true we would have to find something to replace the military/industrial/political complex that keeps our economy going, so I suggest we train thousands, nay, even perhaps millions, of new lawyers, judges, and politicians, all subsidized by the corporations that are causing all this trouble in the first place. In this way we could replace our constant fighting with constant bickering (no violence allowed) and many lives would be saved, for what reasons I do not know.

Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

In pre-Columbian Peru, holes were cut into the skulls of the living so diseases would have an avenue of escape.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some Rare Good News

PETA wants to start a
“Chicken Empathy Museum”
in closed Virginia prison.

Some rare good news: First, Intelligence sources have now confirmed there is no evidence of a nuclear bomb program in Iran. This should, I would hope, make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for Israel to launch an attack on that unfortunate country, and even more difficult for the U.S. to support such an attack should it occur. Second, Obama has done a truly brave and intelligent thing, scrapped the ridiculous Bush plan to put a missile defense system in Poland. This was claimed to be to defend Europe (and us, I guess) from Iranian missiles. The Russians were terribly upset by this plan, believing it was in reality aimed at containing them. By abandoning it Obama has measurably improved our relations with Russia, but more than that he has shown remarkably good sense. This would have been a missile defense system that doesn’t work, aimed at Iranian missiles that don’t even exist. Of course the Right is outraged that Obama would do anything sensible, and most of all try to mend things with Russia. Poland is upset because no doubt they will not receive the millions or billions this boondoggle would have brought them. Obama, acting in accord with his military advisors, will do away with the nonsensical plan and replace it with one that has a much greater chance of working. He has been immediately denounced by such Foreign Policy experts as Mitt Romney (no experience at all), and Joe Lieberman (almost tied with Dick Cheney for having been wrong about everything). Third, the U.S. has apparently closed our largest detention center in the Middle East. Hurray! Fourth, there is mounting opposition in Congress to putting any more troops into Afghanistan and Obama has sensibly, for the moment at least, not agreed to send them. Fifth, the excruciatingly horrible Baucus health care proposal is so bad, and so transparently a gift to the Insurance Industry, it will quite likely help to pass a bill with a public option. Sixth, along those lines, Governor Dean has announced there are already 51 votes in the Senate for a bill including a public option, and a similar majority vote in the House. And seventh, although Netanyahu has publicly refused to stop the settlements (except perhaps temporarily), there is evidence that the behind-the-scenes negotiations may well be bearing fruit and thus there is some hope, albeit remote, that we might actually see peace negotiations take place. I see all these developments as good news. The Republicans, predictably, will bitch and moan and whine and criticize endlessly. By their own admission they do not want to see Obama succeed in anything and apparently take pride in being the Party of No. I guess they cannot see or understand where their behavior is perilously close to treason. What is worse is that it makes perfectly clear their contempt for, and lack of interest in, the American Public and its well-being.

Rachel Maddow pointed out tonight that generally speaking the worst health care is in the southern states. The worst of all is apparently in South Carolina. The Senators who are most opposed to health care reform, Wilson and DeMint from South Carolina. Go figure. She also called attention to Governor Pawlenty’s instructions to all state agencies in Minnesota not to fund ACORN. The state of Minnesota does not fund ACORN. Nice try Gov, that’ll get you some points towards the Presidency in 2012.

Back to Iran for a moment. This missile defense system, both the original one and the new one, are apparently both designed to protect European nations from Iranian missiles. I would like someone to explain to me why on earth anyone thinks Iran is going to attack European nations when and if they ever get the missiles to do so? Iran has not attacked anyone for more than 200 years. The Iranians do not require more space, nor are they, as far as I know, desperately in need of resources they could find in Europe. They are not a hostile nation (except in the paranoid eyes of Israel). There is some fear of Iran on the part of Middle Eastern Arabs, mainly I guess, because Iranians are Shiites whereas most Arabs are Sunnis. I don’t know how well-founded these fears may be. But fears on the part of Europe that Iran might attack them? I believe this to be absolutely nonsensical. Personally, I do not believe that Iran, even a nuclear armed Iran, would attack anyone, not even Israel. I think this fear of Iran is totally irrational and I cannot see any foundation for it. Even the U.S. seems to buy into this fear, possibly because Israel keeps harping on it, but does anyone believe Iran is a threat to the U.S., and if so, how? Iran has a very small standing army, not very well equipped. It has virtually no Navy or Air Force. Its military budget is apparently one (1) percent of the U.S. military budget. And yet there is this (irrational) fear. I simply do not understand it. It’s as if the U.S. and Europe, having no obvious enemy anymore, has to have a scapegoat, and for some reason have decided Iran is it. I am beginning to understand that International Affairs has a great resemblance to a huge soap opera, As the World Churns.”

For most folks, no news is good news; for the press, good news is not news.
Gloria Borger

Apparently no one knows exactly how many species there are on earth, but we do know they are disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rampant Silliness

Couple “dumpster diving” to
enjoy intimate moment, robbed
of shoes, jewelry and wallet.

Really now, can things here in USA get any sillier? I mean, we’ve now gone beyond stupid, and have reached a point that can only be described as silly. And things grow even sillier day by day. Think of our reactions to virtually any problem you can think of at the moment. Let’s begin with health care, as that silliness took front and center today with the release of the Baucus health care plan, the result of months of discussion and supposed compromise that was to produce some bipartisan support. Neither Democrats or Republicans support it. It is not clear why Republicans don’t, as it is exactly the kind of plan the health care Insurance and Pharmaceutical giants wrote and is nothing less that just a gift to their corporate profits. This is a bill so bad you can smell it from here in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. I won’t go into details as they are too horrible even to contemplate. So why is this silly? Because we knew damn well this was going to happen and we waited for months to allow it to happen. Baucus has received somewhere in the vicinity of three million dollars from the health care giants. We knew that, but allowed him to chair a committee anyway. He produced for them just what they wanted. Nay, even more than they wanted. Thus we taxpayers paid for his endeavors, knowing full well what would happen would not even remotely be close to what we desired, a bill so ridiculously transparent as to be dead on arrival. This was a complete waste of time and taxpayer money. There is a name for people who put up with this stuff… suckers!

Related to this silliness is the silliness of the health care reform movement in general. Most everyone knows, or should certainly know by now, that a single-payer system would be the easiest, most efficient, least expensive, and most desirable form of health care we could have, Medicare for all. However, such a system has not even been seriously considered. Having given away even any consideration of this before the negotiations even started (on the claim that it would be impossible and too disruptive), there was talk of a public option that would keep the Insurance giants honest. But this, too, may well be on the chopping block (it doesn’t even appear in the Baucus plan). Health care reform without a public option (or some reasonable functional equivalent) is no change at all. No one seems to know what will emerge from all the negotiations in the House and Senate, but fussing around for months about something that is both important and fairly clear-cut, and having to put up with Republican fascist tactics is, I fear, more and just plain silly.

For even greater silliness consider the argument over racism. Republicans and others (I guess there are others of some kind) have brought their racism right out in plain sight. Looking at their signs and their behavior towards Obama there is absolutely no doubt about their racism. And yet they have the gall to stand there and tell us it is not racism, that they are merely protesting Obama’s health care reform. This is absurd. It’s like saying, who are you going to trust, us, or your lying eyes. It’s mean, it’s even vicious, it’s obvious, it’s right there in plain sight, it’s stupid and un-American. What is silly about it is that we even pay attention to this minority of racist hatemongers. They can never be convinced otherwise, they should simply be ignored and bypassed by the vast majority who still have some claim to sanity.

Of course there is nothing sillier than our policy in the Middle East. I would have to say that our policy in Afghanistan (if we even have one) must be seen as sillier than our policies on Iraq and Iran, but these latter certainly no not want for lack of silliness. Our “war” in Afghanistan will enter its ninth year next month, far longer than WW II. What do we have to show for it, nothing, nothing at all. If anything we have made things progressively worse. Virtually everyone has admitted that we cannot win anything militarily in Afghanistan, rightly described as the graveyard of empires. We seem to be fighting the Taliban, for reasons that are a mystery to me. The Taliban are a local problem, interested in problems within their own country. They are no threat to us. The excuse that they harbor al-Qaida is silly. They once offered to turn him over to us, but Dick the Slimy turned them down. The claim that we know where he is, but we can’t get him, is even sillier. Now there is serious talk about sending even more troops to Afghanistan, even though it is obvious that the more troops we send, the more the Taliban and al-Qaida recruit to fight against them. We know this. But we do it anyway. If that is not silly, what is?

Iran, perhaps. Our approach to Iran is sillier. We are still threatening to attack Iran militarily if they won’t do our bidding, actually, not our bidding, the bidding of the Israelis. Iran, we believe (because the Israelis tell us so) is trying to develop a nuclear bomb. There is, as far as I know, no evidence of this. They deny it and the International Inspectors find no evidence of it. The idea seems to be that if Iran gets a nuclear bomb they will be a threat to Israel and to us. Like, the Iranians are crazy, and will immediately attack the rest of the world with their one or two nuclear bombs. Iran is a threat to Israel only in the sense they would be able to defend themselves from a nuclear armed Israel, Pakistan, India, and the United States. This paranoia about Iran is silly. Perhaps there will be talks, perhaps they will lead somewhere, but given our closed attitude towards them, perhaps nothing will come of it. So then we can have another “war,” kill thousands more, displace millions more, create more misery than can be imagined, all because of Israeli imaginary scenarios that are basically silly. Their demand that we should attack them, or help attack them, is even sillier. That we would actually do it is even sillier than Glenn Beck.

Then there are the obscene bank bail-outs, the failure to investigate and prosecute our known war criminals, our complete subservience to corporate interests, our failure to do something about don’t ask, don’t tell, our…, our…,our, our pretending we are an empire while we are rapidly going bankrupt, our failure to face up to global warming,…our, oh, to hell with it all. We seem to have settled upon a permanent silly season. It probably won’t last long, because we won’t either. In the meantime, don’t forget to watch Monday Night Football and always dry carefully between your toes. Cheers.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
Sir Winston Churchill

According to Michael Moore, 40 million Americans read only at a 4th or 5th grade level, and even more cannot comprehend what they do read.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The shame...

Devout Catholic, released from being
trapped in elevator, goes directly to
Church, is killed by falling stone altar.

The shame of a once great country. There is a new motion picture titled, “Creation,” the producers claim has been unable to find a distributor in the United States. They want you to believe this is because only 39% of U.S. citizens believe in the theory of evolution, therefore, it would be too controversial for distributors to risk showing it. This is all nonsense, but it certainly has generated a great deal of controversy, pitting those who think it’s all just a publicity ploy to try to make an audience for a bad film, against those who believe it actually has something to do with our beliefs about evolution. My comments here have little or nothing to do with this film per se, or with the outcome of this particular controversy. I simply want to reflect on the claim that only 39% of U.S. citizens believe in the theory of evolution.

The 39% figure comes from a Gallup poll conducted in February. The actual results of this poll were: 39% believe, 25% do not believe, 36% have no opinion either way, and 1% did not answer. I wonder if these figures have any meaning at all. It is probably pretty safe to think the 39% represents a better educated, better read part of the population who probably actually understand the theory. The remaining percentages may or may not represent anything meaningful at all. For example, do the 25% who do not believe do so because they truly understand the theory of evolution, and having thought about it, reject it? Without knowing the actual questions asked it is impossible to know what this means. Does it mean they believe in creationism as opposed to the “big bang theory?” Does it mean they don’t believe humans are related to and “descended from” monkeys and apes?” Do they believe the earth is only 6000 years old? Or do they just dogmatically believe the biblical account is the literal truth? Do they, in fact, think at all?

What about the 36% who have no opinion either way? Do these people just not want to be bothered? Do they think it’s a stupid question? Are they bothered by polls and pollsters? Do they just not want to think about it? Have they actually thought about it and concluded that they just aren’t certain? With all due respects to Gallup and their polls I believe for the most part they are not very meaningful and can be misleading.

That said, it does seem to be true that religion in the United States has much more of a following than in most of Europe, and as a corollary, probably has a large population that does not believe in evolution in any form, preferring the biblical account or some variety of creationism. In spite of the geological evidence for the antiquity of the earth (accepted by geologists in the 1860”s!), the presence of fossils, and the archaeological and paleontological records, these people seem to cling to their belief that dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time (people killed and ate them all, hence their disappearance and the scattered bones?), God created everything in a mere six days, the bible is literally true, and so on. This means they are also anti-science, preferring to believe in superstitions and faith rather than empirical evidence. While most of the rest of the industrial world has moved beyond dogmatic religious beliefs and more and more into scientific modes of thought, the U.S. has lagged behind. We are seeing the results of this unfortunate lapse more and more. Where we used to lead the world in science and technology, we no longer do. Where we used to lead the world in education, we no longer do. And related to this neglect of science and scientific education also comes our falling behind in longevity, in health care, in our attention to our environment and the other creatures that inhabit it along with us, and the general well-being of our citizens. More importantly, we have also become a warlike nation, going out of our way to meddle everywhere in the lives of others. I submit that all of this is related either directly or indirectly to our rather primitive beliefs about Christianity and religion in general, beliefs that urge us to “spread the gospel,” and to “have dominion over the creatures of the earth,” and so on. This downward trajectory began long before the Bush/Cheney administration, but Bush certainly pushed it to extremes of suppressing scientific evidence, denying the obvious, making appointments for political motives rather than scientific or other expertise, and promoting “faith-based” initiatives as the expense of more practical and important means. This in turn was linked to his big business orientation. As Margaret Halsey once said, when a nation depends too heavily on a single institution is becomes primitive. Business has become the primary U.S. institution, bar none. It has insidiously permeated our educational system, our political system, and keeps our obscene military/industrial/political complex going full blast at all times. Thus, along with religion it has even made major inroads into our military forces (now receiving religious indoctrination, being followed by missionaries, and supported by all kinds of private enterprise contractors). The business powers that be have made great use of the religious in their takeover of our society (even though they themselves surely disdain such simpletons). Bush’s claim of a “crusade” was not merely a slip of the tongue. All of our basic beliefs, Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism, White Man’s Burden, The Great Chain of Being, The Shining Beacon on the Hill, and others, are related to our Christian tradition and history. What Lewis Henry Morgan said of religious ideas in l877 applies to the U.S., circa 2009:

“The growth of religious ideas is environed with such intrinsic difficulties that it may never receive a perfectly satisfactory exposition. Religion deals so largely with the imaginative and emotional nature, and consequently with such uncertain elements of knowledge, that all primitive religions are grotesque and to some extent unintelligible.”

Thus having, according to Sir James Frazer and others, evolved culturally from magic to religion and finally to science, we are now sliding backwards, reversing the sequence, culturally devolving as it were. And we are beginning to pay a heavy price that will only get worse if we do not come to our senses sooner rather than later.

The chief business of the American people is business.
Calvin Coolidge

Hat-makers commonly used mercury to cure felt for hats. They could not help but inhale the poisonous vapor, thus causing neurological damage like distorted speech and vision. Thus the phrase “mad as a hatter.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Satchel - book

Satchel The Life and Times of an American Legend, Larry Tye (Random House, 2009)

Millions of words have been written about Satchel Paige, arguably the greatest baseball pitcher of all time, including two books that Paige himself wrote (with some editorial help), thousands of newspaper, magazine and television accounts. As Paige truly was a legend, even in his own time, and like legends everywhere do not always resemble the truth, about all one can glean from all this prose is that, indeed, Satchel Paige was an extraordinary baseball pitcher, public relations expert, unusual personality, and remarkably complex individual who suffered greatly and unfairly from the Jim Crow laws and customs of his time. Although the absolute truth can never be known, this book by Larry Tye, that I am quite certain will become the definitive biography, probably comes as close as is possible. It is a masterful job, carefully researched, and unusually well documented for such accounts. It is also well written and fun to read. Among other things, Tye attempts to provide statistics for Paige’s career, virtually an impossible task, given the length of time he pitched, the various leagues and teams he played in and for, and the fact that records of Black teams were not always accurately kept. But even assuming a large margin of error, Paige’s records can only be seen as incredible. The true numbers of his no-hitters and shut-outs will never be known, but I’m certain no other pitcher even comes close.

The basic legend of Leroy Robert (Satchel) Paige is pretty well known to most everyone who has even a passing interest in the Great American Pastime (or used to be before football). A Black baseball pitcher with a 100 mile and hour fastball, extraordinary control, and almost unbelievable longevity, who was also a genuine “character,” was kept from the Major Leagues until well into his forties. For all of his most productive years he barnstormed across America with Black teams, and even pitched in Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. He also led a team of all-stars that played against Dizzy Dean’s all-stars in what became a long-running rivalry, and also a barnstorming series against Bob Feller’s team. He also played for years on the Harlem Globetrotter baseball team. Having little by way of education (most of it acquired during his five years in reform school), and no other way of making a living, he played baseball his entire life, following the money wherever it led him. In addition to his remarkable baseball skills, he was also a master showman, leading some to say he was just a baseball version of the famous Black actor Stepin Fetchit. Of course this was merely an act that helped him draw unprecedented crowds to games in which he was featured. Tall and very thin, with long arms and legs, he shuffled slowly out to the pitcher’s mound, or later lounged in a special rocking chair near the bullpen, making sure all eyes were on him. No less an authority than Henry Aaron, who rather unsuccessfully batted against him, claimed Satchel was, in fact,” brilliant.” There is little doubt that Paige pitched more baseball, for more fans, in more ballparks, for more teams, for a longer time, than any other player in history. And remember that during this time Black players could not room in most hotels, eat in most restaurants, and even use most bathroom facilities. When they could they relied upon Black families to take them in for a night, feed them, and so on. Often they slept on floors, in barns, or wherever they could find shelter. It was Satchel Paige, who more than any other Black player, demonstrated that Blacks could play against the best White players. By all rights he should have been the first Black player to make it into the Major Leagues, but he was passed over in favor of Jackie Robinson, a slight that hurt him for years, even after he was finally allowed into that august body.

As he grew older, fans wanted to know how old he was. He obliged with tales so fantastic they just kept adding to his legend. My favorite, as reported by Tye: “Proof of his birth date was in the family bible. Unfortunately, his Grandfather was reading that bible under a chinaberry tree when a wind kicked up, blowing the Good Book into the path of the family goat, who ate it.” He cleverly managed to keep his age a topic of mystery, just as he claimed to have a mysterious magic salve he rubbed on his pitching arm to keep it strong for so long. Most people nowadays probably remember him best for his more colorful sayings: “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter,” “Don’t look back, someone may be gaining on you,” and others.

There was, of course, a more serious side of Satchel Paige, one that is far less well known. He was married three times, bigamously for a time to his second wife (but no one seemed to know or even care), before settling down with his third wife and raising a family. Children, including his own, idolized him and he was, by all accounts a good father. Having no way of making a living outside of baseball, and desperate to provide for his family, he continued to play wherever he could until his dotage. Along the way he had bit parts in a couple of motion pictures, was heard on radio, appeared on TV, and had thousands upon thousands of words written about him. In my opinion he was not only a truly great baseball player, but also an unusually fine man.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pursuing bin Laden

Well-dressed elderly man
hooked to oxygen tank
holds up La Jolla bank.

President Obama says we will never give up our pursuit of al-Qaeda. This would be a noble enterprise…if we had any idea where al-Qaeda is (are), or any idea where Osama bin Laden is. In recent days I have seen reports that actually confess we do not have any idea where bin Laden is. There are also reports that there is (are) no al-Qaeda in Iraq or Afghanistan. There may be some in Pakistan, maybe some in Somalia, perhaps Yemen, and who knows where else we might find some, perhaps the Waldorf-Astoria or the Ritz-Carleton. I believe this whole enterprise is little more than chasing our tail. First of all, there really aren’t that many al-Qaeda to begin with, and if they are increasing, as they no doubt are, they are probably increasing because we are constantly chasing them and trying to kill them. Second, al-Qaeda terrorism is fundamentally a criminal problem, not a military one. We do not really need thousands upon thousands of soldiers to fight al-Qaeda, especially when we don’t even know where they are. Third, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not one and the same. I strongly believe that if we got out of Afghanistan the Afghan people would themselves get rid of al-Qaeda (after all, who wants to live with a bunch of terrorists in their midst). At one point the Taliban offered to turn over some al-Qaeda, including Osama himself, but apparently Dick the Slimy and his dummy turned them down. I don’t know positively if this is true, but I have read it on more than one occasion and I rather suspect it is true. Why would they have turned down such an offer? I believe it was because they truly want a never-ending war (how else will the military/industrial/political complex continue their war profiteering?). And besides, don’t forget they wanted (and probably still do) a pipeline through Afghanistan, bypassing Russia.

As far as Osama bin Laden goes, the more time goes by, the more I am convinced we never had any intention of capturing or killing such a valuable “ally.” We know that bin Laden was a CIA agent during the Russian/Afghanistan war. Although I am not much on conspiracy theories, I suspect he may still be a CIA asset. Whether he is or not, he is surely an asset, because without him we would have little excuse for being in Afghanistan. And remember, Bush played on his threat to us constantly as one means of keeping us in fear and himself in office, using fear as an excuse for doing all kinds of illegal and unconstitutional things. For years we were told that Osama was in Pakistan, way back in the rugged territory just over the border from Afghanistan. I always wondered why, if they knew where he was, we couldn’t capture or kill him (after all, we have the greatest marine corps, army, and air force in the world). To me, the excuse that he was hidden there and protected by warlords was kind of weak. Now it has recently been admitted they don’t know where he is (I guess you should live in fear as he might turn out to be your next-door neighbor). Wherever he is, with all his money, several wives and umpteen children, I don’t believe he is hiding in a cave somewhere. I wonder if the truth about all this will ever be known. Somehow, I doubt it.

I guess the Glenn Beck hate-fest did manage to bring out a lot of people. I saw somewhere there must have been bodies in the six figures. I haven’t as yet seen many details but I suspect many were there simply because they hate Obama and many others were there because they were there… where some kind of event was taking place. I think I would be pretty confident to assume they were there for many different reasons, not because they all were merely protesting health care reform. In other words, there were loonies of all kinds, including some who actually listen to and believe Glenn Beck. I confess it does not please me to know there are people who actually follow Beck, a pathetic little twerp who is at best a hatemonger and at worst a genuine lunatic.

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Muskrats can swim under water for as long as 15 minutes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Denial and Civil War?

When cat uses his bed
instead of litter box, he fires
handgun to “scare” it.

The right-wingers cannot accept the truth. They cannot accept the fact that a Black man is President of the United States. They are in a consistent and persistent state of denial. It looks like some may even be prepared carry their denial all the way to a civil war. Remember what I said a few days ago: they tried to deny Obama the Presidency because he was a Muslim. Then they tried to deny him because of his relationship to a Black Minister who (in context) used the phrase “god damn America.” The next attempt tried to link him to a (former and reformed) terrorist (even though Obama was six years old at the time of this domestic terrorist activity). When none of these charges seemed to work, and Obama was elected in spite of them, they started in on his birth, claiming he was not an American citizen and therefore could not legitimately be President. They publicly stated they wanted him (and by implication our nation itself) to fail (it just wouldn’t do for a Black Man to succeed at anything, just another form of denial). They even conspired to break up Town Hall meetings to keep anyone from hearing what he had to say. They basically continued this tactic when he was to speak to the nation’s school children, they went so far as to try to even deny the legitimacy of the Office of President itself. That is, if Obama could be President, the Office itself was not legitimate (the legitimacy of other Presidents to speak to our children has never been questioned). As none of this has worked, they now are arguing that the Nation itself is not legitimate. In fact, in their view, it is so illegitimate they are prepared to separate themselves from it by first invoking the tenth amendment (incorrectly). And, I gather if that fails, they may resort to civil war. So how’s that for denial? I can see no other explanation for this other than just plain old-fashioned racism. When Joe Wilson interrupted Obama’s very important speech by calling him a liar he was speaking as a White man talking to a Black man. This was totally unprecedented and would never have happened to a White President. This is why he refuses to make an honest and sincere apology. It would be, no doubt in his view, beneath his dignity to apologize to a Black person, even if he is President of the United States. It will be interesting to see if anyone can force him to apologize to the House itself, if he can bring himself to do it, as some are calling on him to do. Further, I doubt very much that anyone would be carrying guns to meetings if the President was White (and when did you ever hear of someone wishing a White President would die of cancer?). Racism is so much a part of American history, and still so ingrained in some of our citizens, I fear it is going to take much more than having a Black President for one or two terms in office to significantly change things (and I am certain there are some that would prefer he not serve out his current term, apparently there have been an unprecedented number of death threats). Racism is similar to a disease that can spread from one person to another and also from one generation to another. Education helps to do away with it, but we do not have a highly educated population. There is hope, however, as many younger people do not share the prejudices of their parents and the traditional black/white dichotomy means little to them (probably one of the few good things to emerge from television and the movie industry in the last few years, helped along, of course, by the Civil Rights agenda).

I think the last time I heard “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” was when I was in the fourth grade. I am not surprised to hear it from Republicans as that seems to be about the point when their average mental age was halted. What could possibly be more childish that shouting down other speakers, calling them liars, and trying to prevent others from speaking? This is the level Republicans have brought us to when it comes to serious discussions of anything. At least they seem conscious enough to know that whenever they try to engage in serious discussions of something they will lose, so what better way to keep that from happening than to resort to childlike behavior. I think Obama should put an end to this idiocy by simply refusing to pay attention to anything they suggest, just as they automatically say no to anything he suggests.

Things seem to continue pretty much the same in Afghanamess. Obama is faced with a choice of sending more troops or not, Pelosi is reporting there is not much sentiment in favor of it in the House. Good, I say. The best thing Congress could do is simply refuse to fund any more adventures in Afghanistan. If Obama is determined to continue trying to establish Bush/Cheney’s dream of a pipeline through that ravished land he will no doubt send more troops (and probably eventually destroy his Presidency just like Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam). If he thinks he is responsible for building a viable democracy there he should give up now rather than 100 years from now. Why should we be responsible for creating a democratic Afghanistan (modeled after our own rather questionable one)? The assumption seems to be that the Afghans cannot govern themselves, even though they have been doing so for a thousand years or so. Just because they don’t have a democracy doesn’t mean they don’t have a government at all. And if it is a form of government we do not think much of, it’s their country. If they want it ruled by a series of clans led by warlords or whatever, let them. I suspect that if it were not for our unwanted presence there they would manage to get by just as they always have.

There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.
Bertrand Russell

Houseflies watch each other to locate food, so when one discovers food others quickly assemble.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Speech

Suspected robber arrested
when he returns later
to ask victim for a date.

I thought President Obama’s speech was excellent and precisely what it is he needed to say and what we needed to hear. His plan makes perfect sense to me. I particularly enjoyed watching the Republican audience who all appeared to be either dead or dying. And true to form, the Republican response by Dr. “Lord” Bustany was pretty obviously written before he heard Obama’s speech and as a result had little or nothing to do with what was said. I knew, of course, that whatever Obama said would be rejected by Republicans who have no interest in changes to our totally dysfunctional health care system, preferring instead to support the Insurance and Pharmaceutical giants that presently control it. Bustany’s suggestion that we start over from the beginning was not only irresponsible, it was ridiculous, just another stalling tactic by the Party of No.

Just because Obama’s plan makes sense to me, and perhaps is as reasonable as can be under the existing circumstances, doesn’t mean that I’m crazy about it. First, as far as I am concerned the Insurance industry should be put out of the health care business entirely. There is no logical or even practical reason why the Insurance industry should have anything whatsoever to do with health care. Thus, Obama’s plan to carefully regulate it, regulation that is surely necessary, would be unnecessary because it would not even be an issue if there were no Insurance industry involvement in an area where they do not belong in the first place. Second, although I admire Obama for not giving up on the so-called Public Option (or some functional equivalent), if we had a single-payer system such an option would not be necessary. There is no doubt a single-payer system would be by far the most sensible, efficient, and affordable way to go, but Obama is probably correct in assuming that such a system would not be possible at the moment. Third, Obama apparently is incapable of giving up on his idea that somehow he can squeeze bipartisanship out of the Republicans, even now in this fine speech he is still trying to reach out to them, a lost cause if ever there was one.

I am beginning to wonder how the Republicans decide who will offer the rebuttal to Obama’s speeches. Remember the Bobby Jindal disaster? This one by Bustany was in its way every bit as bad. It is clear he just stood there mouthing the Republican nonsense about starting over with a bipartisan plan, making it affordable, how the Republicans supposedly have a plan or plans, and more utter nonsense. He might as well have been speaking in Polish for all the sense his response didn’t make. I think they pick someone from the bottom of the bottom of the barrel they currently occupy. I doubt we have seen the last of their outrageous claims about killing old people, and such. According to Olberman, Dr. Bustany is a “birther,” and has been sued for malpractice three times. I should have thought that alone would make him a bad choice, but with Republicans you never know. Apparently there is nothing so absurd or outrageous that some members of the Republican base will not swallow. “Death Panels,” mandated abortions and sex change operations, discriminating against Republicans for health care, and against women with breast cancer, taking away Veterans health care, destroying medicare, and forcing us to become socialists are probably not the last of such claims that will be made against Obama’s plan. It makes one wonder what fantastic claims might come next. How is it that anyone can actually believe this crap, but they do. Some still insist Obama is not a citizen, just as some apparently still believe that Sadam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, and the earth was created a mere 6000 years ago. I suspect that if I told some of these people that the dinosaurs disappeared because our ancestors ate them, they would believe it. I cannot see why we should take seriously anything said by Republicans from now on. They have demonstrated their total unconcern for truth, for the Constitution, for our laws, for International law, and even for common decency and fair play. Some of them are just unbelievably ignorant, others are dishonest. As a political party they are a disgrace. Frankly, I cannot see why Obama would even want to break bread with them.

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

The current form of chess originated in Southern Europe in the 15th century, having itself grown out of an older game of Indian origin.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Silencing the President?

Cricket-spitting contest so
successful it will become
annual event in Wisconsin

Well, Obama’s speech to our school children has come and gone. The whole controversy was of course much ado about nothing. That did not keep the right-wing lunatics from trying to actually muzzle the President of the United States, a totally unprecedented, stupid, and outrageous attempt. People could have simply not listened to the President, as people sometimes do, but trying to prevent the President from speaking at all is quite another matter. This was simply another fascist tactic, a continuation of their attempts to shout down speakers at town hall and other meetings, so they would not be permitted to exercise their right of free speech. Instead of having serious discussions about a very important topic, we witnessed chaos, just as they intended. I think their attempt to muzzle those they did not want to hear has backfired. It never should have been allowed in the first place. When the Republican “Brown Shirts” descended on Florida to shut down the vote count with their beating on doors and shouting, they should have been arrested then and there. When nothing happened to them, they now think they can employ the same tactics elsewhere, even to the point of carrying guns to ordinary citizen meetings. The attempt to keep Obama from speaking to our children is merely an extension of this same shameless anti-American behavior.

Speaking more generally, the old adage, “You reap what you sow,” is proving true once again. Having sown the seeds of ignorance, fertilized them, and encouraged them to grow, we are now seeing the outcome. By failing to adequately fund education, disvaluing learning, and encouraging anti-intellectualism for so many years we are now seeing the results. We have a large population that cannot read above about the level of the eighth grade, that by and large doesn’t read at all, that thinks those with an education are no better equipped than those without, that prefers their leaders to be every bit as ignorant as they are, that spends hours of each day being bombarded by such intelligent advertising as talking bumblebees, cookies, vegetables, cars, even the branches of trees, and who watch television programming so stupid and insipid as to deaden brain cells. It is little wonder our country is dissolving into the third world by leaps and bounds. Even if they try to watch “news,” all they find is misinformation and outright lies offered by those with a vested interest in keeping us all at the lowest common denominator. We now lag far behind many other countries with respect to science and engineering and many other things, and certainly behind most Europeans in knowledge of world events. We are, I’m afraid, unusually ignorant people.

Obama, quite soon, is going to have to “fish or cut bait.” Not only will he have to announce tomorrow what he really supports by way of health reform, he will soon have to decide whether to send even more troops to his Afghanistan “Vietnam.” Additionally, he is going to have to decide what to do about Israeli arrogance and their continuing to expand in the West Bank. These are certainly not envious problems for someone to have, and how he tries to deal with them will tell us a great deal about our President. At least it appears he has pretty much given up on his futile attempt at bipartisanship. It has become so obvious that Republicans are not going to act in good faith, and will oppose everything and anything he wants to accomplish, that no other conclusion is possible. Being a genuine liberal, I hope Obama will force through a health care reform, with a public option, without Republican support (just as medicare was passed), and the Republicans will never recover from their attempt to feed the Insurance companies at the expense of the public. Their behavior with respect to the Obama administration, and specifically health care, has been shameful in the extreme. They seem quite incapable of understanding that “American (and White) exceptionalism” and their outdated Social Darwinism are things of the past, just as they seem to be unaware that we are now in the 21st century, not the 18th or even 19th or 20th, and that the rest of the world is increasingly passing us by. Their irrational fear and hatred of anything Obama is so intense they seem willing to sacrifice the nation itself.

We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Most lemur species feature female dominance.