Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stop Dithering!

Mercedes hit-and-run driver
claims he didn’t see six foot
orange rabbit’s bright pedicab.

Quityergoddamnedithering, that’s what I say. I’m not talking about Afghanistan. I’m talking about health care. For Dick the Slimy to criticize Obama and his many advisors of dithering over Afghanistan is not only insulting, it betrays once more Cheney’s complete indifference to reality, rules, morality, and the deaths of our troops. Obama and his advisors are attempting to try to craft some way to gracefully get out of the incredible mess Cheney and his puppet, Bush, left them, and it is not an easy task. Someone said they are looking for an exit but can’t find it. I suspect this is true. By shifting our troops early on to Iraq (itself a terrible mistake) and neglecting Afghanistan (which Bush/Cheney shamefully did), they made matters much worse than they might have been. Now Obama and his advisors are trying to find a way to correct these horrendous mistakes (not an easy task) and Cheney (who has been wrong about literally everything and should not even be showing his face in public) should just shut up and hope he can disappear into the dustbin of history without being put in jail (where he clearly belongs). Carefully reviewing the complete situation and trying to find a decent solution cannot reasonably be seen as dithering. Of course Cheney would have just sent in more and more troops, forever, to make sure his buddies in the defense and oil industries continue to make their exorbitant profits from permanent “war.” What does he care if more and more of our young people die and keep on dying as long as profits are to be made. Not only is Cheney a blatant and unrepentant war criminal, he is also a chronic liar. How he continues to avoid accountability for his evil deeds I will never understand. To think Bill Clinton was impeached for lying, as Cheney’s record of lying goes unpunished, makes me want to weep. Whatever good Obama manages to do, and I think it will be quite a lot, I will never forgive him for letting Cheney avoid responsibility.

But when it comes to dithering, can there be any greater example than our President and Congress dithering for months over health care? It is perfectly obvious that the easiest, quickest, cheapest, most efficient system of health care we could have for all our citizens would be a single-payer system, basically medicare for all. This apparently was not even considered. It was taken off the table even before negotiations began. Now, if we are lucky, we are maybe, possibly, perhaps, going to get some kind of public option that would make insurance companies have to compete for customers. But even the public option is slowly being made into an impossible dream as it has been modified into a system that will have only a very small percentage of the population eligible, which means it will not have enough clout to really compete with the insurance giants. Of course as things are going we may end up with no public option at all, in which case there will be no meaningful change in our totally dysfunctional health care system. This vacillating, pussyfooting, wishy-washy, timorous approach to health care will get us exactly nowhere. Having failed for 60 years to pass a decent health care system it appears we may be on the brink of failing dismally once again. And why is this? It is because our political system, from the Executive Branch right on down, has become completely dysfunctional itself. Whereas the President and Congress are supposed to act in the public interest, they no longer do so. Corporations and big money rule – everything, including our Senators and Congresspersons. The very few elected officials that argue for a sane system that would benefit the people, like the late Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders, are marginalized and even ridiculed as “socialists” by the bought and paid for morons they have to serve with, most of whom wouldn’t know socialism from a wart on their ass. What makes this worse is the fact that it is so blatantly obvious. Both Lieberman’s and Bayh’s wives, for example, are making big bucks from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. This is known. If Lieberman and Bayh claim this has nothing to do with their decisions they are lying. But even this pales in significance when compared with the money Baucus and others have taken from the corporations who want to kill health care. Most Americans want affordable and universal health care. The corporations and their whores in Congress do not. It’s unfortunately just that simple. I want universal health care in the form of a single-payer system like those that prevail in decent, moral, “civilized” cultures such as Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, and others (systems that are lied about and distorted constantly by those who want no such thing, who want to continue our broken system that provides them with their annual obscene profits that come from nothing but shuffling paperwork around and devising new schemes to rip us off). This is really what the dithering has been about, trying to create the impression of change without interfering with (and perhaps even improving) the profits of those who have been gaming the system for all these years. ” I’m mad as hell and…” what the hell can I do about it?

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

An estimated 2000 species of geckos is thought to exist and there are more to still be discovered.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Who's Stupid?

Caught with stolen ferret
stuffed in his pants, thief
uses it as “deadly weapon.”

It is obvious by now that no matter what President Obama does, or doesn’t do, some Republican will attack him for either doing it or not doing it. The latest case in point is Cheney’s daughter criticizing Obama for meeting and honoring the caskets of our dead warriors, and taking photographers along. This can be dismissed as just another example of how absurd and petty Republicans can be. But there is a dimension to this ubiquitous criticism that I find of interest, as much of what they have been doing is so stupid I can’t understand why they are doing it.

You are all familiar I am sure with their “birthers” argument. Some of them have claimed, and some still do claim, that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore cannot truly be our President. This claim has repeatedly been shown to be completely false, Obama’s birth certificate has been produced and the State of Hawaii has vouched for its authenticity. Most people have given up pursuing this lost cause but there are still a few who haven’t.

Then there came the “deathers,” who have argued that Obama’s health care plan is really a plot to kill old people. This belief has been expressed not only by the real nut cases but even by some of our Senators and Congresspersons. Here, unlike the birthers, they picked up on a statement in one or another of the proposed health care bills that suggested doctors should be paid for counseling people about dying and death. This made their claim of “death panels” at least remotely plausible, but only if you believe that Obama and Democrats in general really might desire to kill old people (a most unlikely claim). Other forms of this argument had to do with Democrats apparent desire to kill women with breast cancer, handicapped children, and even our veterans, to say nothing of using registration rolls to select out and kill Republicans.

Also recently has been their stated outrage over the fact that in one pre-school, in one state, one time, in honor of black history month the children sang a song about the U.S. and also included lines referring to President Obama. To listen to Republicans on this you would think this was an established, universal, and fully required procedure, akin to the Chinese cultural revolution or the Nazi youth movement. It was, by the way, seven months after this happened that they saw fit to bring it up and raise such a fuss.

Now there is a rumor making the rounds that Obama is going to take over the Internet and thereby control what we can read and write and so on. This one seems to have such little foundation in fact that it hasn’t received as much play as most of the others. I think perhaps the best one of all, however, is the rumor that plans to maybe build a high-speed rail system across the U.S. is really a plot to be able to transport people more quickly to the concentration camps that have been built here and there by FEMA.

What I find of the most interest about all of these rather outrageous claims is not really where they originate, we know they originate with Republicans, desperate to attack Obama at every opportunity. There are many others having to do with false claims of raising taxes, how expensive health care will be, and so on, which might have at least some semblance of validity. But most of them are so completely far-fetched, so virtually insane, so absurd or ridiculous, I cannot believe those who say them can in fact believe them. This would seem to leave only two possibilities: either they do believe them and are completely stupid, or they don’t believe them but think they can get others to believe them, in which case they think the American public is unutterably stupid.

Could anyone actually believe that President Obama, or anyone in his administration, would want to kill old people, women with breast cancer, veterans or the handicapped? If so, how and when did we come to be so suspicious and fearful of our government? I may be wrong about this, but I don’t recall anything like this happening prior to the Clinton administration, when Republicans accused the Clintons of everything including outright murder. It is true that Lyndon Johnson was accused of killing Vietnamese children (“hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today”) but these were anti-war chants, not claims Johnson was about to kill our children or old people or such. I think the use of such outrageous claims can probably be traced initially, and mostly, from the Republican unfounded attacks on Clinton, through Karl Rove and the Bush/Cheney administration until they have now become institutionalized as part of the regular Republican strategy. Yes, I know that techniques such as false accusations can be traced back earlier, certainly to LBJ, but they were never before systematically used by an entire party to destroy the Presidency of another party, no matter who was President. Karl Rove has had much to do with this as he has always seemed to believe that anything at all was fair, as long as it benefitted Republicans and would help to bring about a permanent ruling class (of Republicans). At the moment they do it because they have no record of accomplishment they can stand on, and no ideas whatsoever about solving our current problems. I guess they think it is better to babble idiotically at every opportunity than to actually try to help (which might require effort and would no doubt reveal them as true enemies of the public).

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
Bertrand Russell

What was previously known as Bechuanaland is now Botswana.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Becoming an Octogenarian

On October 29, 1929, “Black Tuesday,” the U. S. Stock Market crashed… and I was born. I have never allowed my sometimes runaway ego to actually relate these two monumental events. But here I am now, eighty years later, another octogenarian, and it is quite possible the Stock Market could do it again. Things change, but stay the same.

If anyone asks me how to live to be eighty I tell them to live an exemplary life, completely free of sin and decadence, mind your mother, eat well, get lots of sleep and do everything in moderation…You there, I see you laughing, and that other guy smirking…I didn’t say this is how I, personally, managed to become eighty. Frankly, I have no idea how I managed to live so long, especially as during much of my life I was terribly self-destructive. You could say medical science has had much to do with it, as they have sometimes patched me up and also slowly turned me more and more into a cyborg. When I was a teen-ager I thought anyone would be lucky to live to be thirty-five. When I was 35 I figured maybe 50, then after that 65, but I never anticipated being 80…never… until yesterday. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the longer I have lived, the more the goal posts have changed. There are now, I estimate, probably at least 100,000 centenarians in the U.S., so I guess at best, by those standards, I am really just a young old man, or perhaps middle-aged.

But, depending upon how you look at it, eighty is pretty old. Naturally I remember (not always with nostalgia) many things from what does seem like a very long time ago. I remember when there was no Airline travel and no television. We listened to Amos and Andy and Jack Benny on the radio. I remember as a boy we had no refrigerator, only an old-fashioned ice box, and the iceman carried the 20 or 25 pound block up our back stairs once a week. Milk was delivered in bottles to our back porch, and during the winter it would expand, lifting the cardboard lids an inch or two in the air. Our only source for both heat and cooking was a wood stove in the kitchen and we had no telephone until I was in my teens. On the family farm in Post Falls we still farmed with horses until WW II, and I remember driving a team to rake the hay, and a horse-drawn stone boat to pick stones out of the fields. We had no hay bailer and pitched hay up into a horse-drawn wagon and then into the barn. People still darned their own socks, butchers gave away dog bones and even liver, and there were no supermarkets. Most every town had its own brewery. We used metal roller skates that you screwed onto your shoes with a key you hung around your neck and we swam only in the lakes and rivers. People wrote their manuscripts by hand, typewriters were not common, electric typewriters not yet invented, computers not even conceived. During the “Good War” there was rationing of gasoline, shoes, butter, meat, and I don’t remember what else, and we collected tinfoil, grease, and newspapers for the war effort. It was a time when men still tipped their hats to ladies, and perhaps even more shocking, there actually were “ladies.” I cannot deny thinking those were good times. Perhaps I was just too young to have become cynical. But I think I would argue even now that in general things really were better in those halcyon days than they are at present. Although I cannot explain it, it seems to me everything began to change for the worse with the atomic bomb.

For a long time, through my studies of anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, history, sociology, and diverse other subjects, I believed it would be possible to not only understand human behavior but perhaps be possible to change it for the better. I no longer think so. My eighty years of existence have revealed to me there is a dark and perverse side of human nature we do not understand that is apparently impervious to change and unpredictable in the extreme. While we have words for our behavior: envy, hate, sloth, gluttony, lust, greed, jealously, and so on, these are merely descriptions with no useful explanatory value. How do you explain a human history of virtually unremitting war, murder, arson, rape, torture, misery, and plunder, a history of the most unbelievable acts of savagery even by those societies who have claimed to be the most “civilized?” Man’s in humanity to man continues unabated, only the means of causing such misery change over time. If there is a “missing link” in human evolution it is not some mysterious skeletal intermediate form midway between man and non-man, but, rather, some basic element that would allow us to live in peace and harmony with our fellows. It is unlikely that such an element ever existed in our evolutionary past, far more likely it has just never developed at all.

So… now I am pretty old, pretty cynical, not likely to change, and certainly not going to get any younger. Many of my classmates and friends are now gone, although a few are still alive, in conditions ranging from horrible to not so bad. One is still alive after suffering two devastating strokes, another is still alive hospitalized with severe Parkinson’s, several have wives that have recently died, and one has just entered a Nursing Home he terms the “Penultimate Arms.” Still another keeps going, although he has more health problems than you can count. He keeps reminding me that “we all just remain infants, but in increasingly decaying bodies.” I think he is right, although some of us are lucky to decay much slower than others. I am one of the lucky ones, a situation I accept with much gratitude from the “Great Mystery.” Perhaps if my luck continues I will someday join that cohort of centenarians who, after being broken down by age and sex, and carefully studied, might actually give us a useful clue to longevity.

Would I do the same things if I had it to do over again? No way, and I suspect people who say they would do so, did not really "live." Do I have any regrets? Yes, many, but mostly, and most personally, I regret not having been able to be a father before I became a son.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Time to Surrender?

Man claims he is too fat
to have climbed stairs
to shoot his son-in-law.

“Tell General Howard I know his Heart. What He told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting, Looking Glass is dead. too-Hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are--perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

The above is the famous surrender speech of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce delivered at the Bears Paw Battle, October 5, 1877. It was clear that he could no longer deny being defeated and surrendered with dignity. Although the circumstances are entirely different, there are some eerie similarities between what happened to the Nez Perce and what is happening to us now. Many of our warriors are dead, or dying, or exhausted. Our children are hungry and without food, many are ill with no health insurance, more and more are becoming homeless, many are functional illiterates, there is no work, we have exhausted our credit, winter is coming, and we are facing defeat.

Unlike the Nez Perce, we are not facing defeat by enemies far too powerful to overcome, rather, we have defeated ourselves. Evil, greedy, power-mad men, temporarily in charge of our nation, took what should have been a relatively simple police problem and converted it into two completely unnecessary and illegal “wars.” The results have been and continue to be disastrous. We have spent ourselves into near, if not de facto bankruptcy, almost destroyed our military, become a pariah among the nations of the world, and are rushing headlong into potential oblivion. We have become weak and what we are doing is no longer in our own best interest. The only way we will ever recover from these terrible mistakes is to admit defeat, with as much dignity as possible, and begin to repair our seriously damaged country. In order to do this we must admit we cannot subdue and dominate the rest of the world by force, bring all our troops home, use the money we will save by reducing our obscene budget for the military/industrial/political complex system to pay off our debts and rebuild our country and our reputation. We should give up the absurd idea that we are the world’s policemen and tend to our own business.

Do I believe this will happen? Do I believe it is politically possible? Of course not. Do I believe it ought to happen? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Could it happen? I think so. The neocons and their fellow travelers who got us into this mess now say these are Obama’s wars. They are not. Obama did not start them, but he could stop them. He could apologize to the rest of the world, admit that Bush/Cheney made terrible mistakes, and announce that we will no longer pursue them. He could, and should, hold those responsible for these war crimes accountable. With the vast sums of money he could save he could easily reduce our outstanding debts as well as provide health care, more and better education, and rebuild our seriously deteriorating infrastructure, thus actually making us a much stronger nation than we are currently. Not only that, he could actually help other nations instead of destroying them. This, I believe, would be the right thing to do.

Of course if Obama were to do this, even though it would be the right and brave thing to do, those on the right who long for permanent wars and more killing, torture, and human misery, would be on him like a pack of attack dogs. He would be termed a coward, soft on terrorists, weak, unfit to be Commander-in-Chief, an appeaser, to say nothing of being a socialist, fascist, communist, treasonous scoundrel who sold out the country. He would probably lose his Presidency. But what a way to go! All the rest of the world would consider him a martyr, the President who gave up his Presidency to save his nation. What greater reward could anyone desire?

For myself I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use being anything else.
Sir Winston Churchill

The Ironwood tree is found only in the Sonoran desert, and only below 2,500 feet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rope a Dope?

Woman scares burglar away
by scratching on her door
and acting like a large dog.

You know the saying, “Give them enough rope and let them hang themselves.” I have no idea if this was President Obama’s strategy all along, but it seems to be what is happening with both the Insurance and Banking corporations. At the very moment the Insurance giants are under attack for their outrageous practices, they come back with even more outrageous demands. For example, premiums for employer sponsored health care have risen 131% from 1995 to 2009, according to Time, and employee contributions have risen 128%, so now small business owners are told to expect a 15% increase for the coming year. It’s like they are saying, things haven’t been bad enough, let’s make it worse (you would think they might have kept it quiet, at least for the moment). Similarly, it has been revealed that health insurance was going to be denied to a baby because he was too healthy (too fat), and in another case because the baby was too thin (or so I read somewhere). In Colorado a mother of two was denied health care because she was not sterilized after her latest C-section which they said would constitute a pre-existing condition. Rape also was apparently considered a pre-existing condition in another case. And while their bought and paid-for man, Senator Baucus, has created a bill just for them, the Insurance companies want mandates with no cost controls. That is, they want it made a law that everyone must have health insurance (thus adding many millions to the system), but there cannot be any cost controls (so they can rip even more people off even more outrageously). And, of course, they keep insisting at all times that if a public option is included costs for insurance will rise (and they have their own statistics to prove it). If that is not bad enough, Representative Paul Broun, a Republican from Georgia, has introduced a bill to privatize medicare! I would like to think they are just deliberately spreading fear, rather than that they are just too dumb to realize the impact of their actions.

If the Insurance industry is acting stupidly (or perhaps not stupidly, depending upon your point of view), the Banks are doing much the same thing. Under attack at the moment for their (virtually criminal) tactics when it comes to banking and credit cards, they are raising their interest rates and fees. I read the other day that Citicorp was raising their interest rates on credit cards to 29.9%. Frankly, I find it hard to believe this is true or that anyone could be that greedy, but I gather it might be true. I do know that other banks are almost universally raising their rates as well. Not only that, apparently Bank of America is going to start charging people for paying their bills on time! It might seem strange that at the very moment people are beginning to hate banks more than ever, banks are deliberately trying to make people hate them even more, with hidden fees, higher interest rates, tighter credit restrictions, and questionable regulations that amount to little more than legalized theft.

Banks and insurance companies have had it all their way for far too long. Basically, what they have been getting away with is lending money to people who don’t need it, and refusing to lend to people who do. The Insurance companies have been insuring health for people who don’t really need it, and withholding it from people who do need it. In America if you are rich and healthy you are fine, if you are poor and unhealthy, tough. These are rackets that put Ponzi to shame as by dint of having lots of money and being able to buy all the influence they need, they have managed to legalize theft and make people even believe it is fair (if it’s legal it must be fair?).

I have no idea if Obama figured this out in advance, but by carefully staying somewhat quietly out of the way he has managed to accomplish something no other President has managed to do for 60 years, bring about some kind of meaningful health care reform and also bank reform. You can describe this as the joining of two strategies, “give them enough rope…,” and “rope a dope.” That is, allow them to exhaust themselves fighting you and thus become vulnerable to attack, or let them hang themselves through their own actions. This may not have been consciously planned but it does seem to be happening. Could it be there is a significant correlation between greed and stupidity?

Little Known but Interesting Quotes:
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.
Thomas Jefferson (Attributed)

Things I Learned Today:
Pope Sixtus V condemned the practice of charging interest as "detestable to God and man, damned by the sacred canons and contrary to Christian charity.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Common Knowledge"

If you stop to think about it, common knowledge is a strange concept. Depending upon how you look at it, one could argue that common knowledge is not really knowledge at all, but, rather, belief. For example, when I was a boy it was common knowledge that fish would bite better in the morning and afternoon, boys were smarter than girls, men smarter than women, white people were smarter than others, Jews were money-hungry and hard bargainers, if you ate watermelon seeds they would give you appendicitis, smoking would stunt your growth, girls could not go swimming when they had their periods, the genitals of Asian women were different from those of Caucasians, masturbation would cause hair to grow on your palms, black cats, broken mirrors, and walking under ladders were bad luck, four-leaf clovers were good luck, and if you put horse hairs in water and left them in the sun they would turn into snakes (I am exaggerating here for effect, but not as much as you might think).

Common knowledge, although related to common sense, is not truly the same thing. Common knowledge (like culture) is something that you possess mainly by being a member of a group of people who believe such things (although common knowledge can also vary from individual to individual). Common sense is more a directive to action. That is, it was common knowledge that if you stood behind a horse you might be kicked, common sense forbade you from doing so. Likewise, common knowledge told you black cats and broken mirrors were bad luck, common sense directed you to take some action, like aborting a trip or throwing a pinch of salt over your shoulder. At the moment it is common knowledge that Dick Cheney is a war criminal and was also involved in the treasonous act of “outing” a CIA agent. Common sense would demand that something be done about this (and even the law in this particular case), but as yet nothing has been.

In some cultures it is common knowledge that all illness and death is caused by either witchcraft or sorcery. In some it is common knowledge that you can foretell things by examining the entrails of chickens or goats, or certain crops can only be grown at certain times, or that camels require much more attention than horses, or you can only mature into an adult if you have taken a head, or a scalp, or counted coup. In still other places it is common knowledge that if you walk about at night you will encounter ghosts, or snakes, or evil demons. Some Pacific Islanders knew that if you sailed toward certain stars and followed certain currents and sailed at the right time of year, you would arrive safely at a distant island. In parts of the world you cannot attain adulthood without being circumcised or undergo a clitorectomy. My point here is that what is considered common knowledge varies a great deal from place to place, and even from individual to individual, and is in fact a strange mélange of both useful and useless information. I guess the parts that are truly useful do constitute knowledge, but how can so much of what we depend on and believe in be so utterly fanciful? It is common knowledge that allows us to act, and common sense that directs our actions (or is supposed to).

It should be clear that this human situation does not bode well for human action and interaction. Clifford Geertz said wisely and rather elegantly that as humans, “we are suspended in webs of significance that we ourselves have spun,” but he didn’t say much about the fact that these webs were so largely false. Is it any wonder we continue year after year beating and killing each other, often knowing next to nothing about our “enemies,” who know no more about us that we of them? Common sense would indicate how ridiculous this is, but common knowledge often overshadows common sense. Thus our common knowledge, more often than not simply false, tells us our enemies are “gooks,” or “krauts,” or “towel heads,” or “Japs,” and common sense is bypassed in favor of stupidity, greed, and blood lust. Even scientific knowledge, an equalizer of sorts, fails us when it comes to our interpersonal and intercultural affairs. I have no idea how we solve this intractable human dilemma, but massive educational efforts coordinated on a worldwide scale (with some agreed upon basic curriculum) might eventually have some effect, if, that is, we could stop fighting long enough to work on it. Think what the world could be like if all those billions upon billions were spent on universal education and international cooperation instead of more and more weapons of destruction. Unfortunately, although our common sense might think this a worthwhile idea, our respective common knowledge would doubtless make it impossible.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mr. Wrong Tries Again

Rather than face house arrest
with angry wife, Sicilian man
requests police jail him.

Bubblehead: A very good question, and now a mystery. I am positive I found that quotation by googling “Michael Steele quotes” and it came up with some others. I do not believe it specified it was attributed to Steele but it might have. Anyway, I spent a good deal of time last night and again this morning and I cannot find it again. I have no explanation for this. I confess I did think when I used it that it was kind of vile, even for Steele. Now that I have looked further it is also inconsistent with other things Steele has said about Obama. I think you may be right, it was probably falsely attributed to Steele by someone. But why would it seemingly have disappeared? Perhaps I am just not clever enough to find it again. If it was merely attributed, I apologize to Michael Steele and anyone who might have read it. At the same time I must say I can’t see that it makes much difference to the point I was trying to make, namely, that since Obama’s election the Republicans have been saying things so stupid, outrageous, silly, and negative, as to put off even their own. In the case of Michael Steele and many others, it is not difficult to find some pretty idiotic quotes.

What does a person have to do these days to go to jail? Dick Cheney, who by virtually any standards you can think of ought to be arrested and tried for war crimes and treason, is on the loose again, and for reasons I cannot fathom, some people actually continue to listen to him. Not only is he a blatant and unrepentant criminal, he has been wrong about literally everything from the very beginning of the Bush/Cheney Presidency. He was wrong about Weapons of Mass Destruction, wrong about where they would be found, wrong about how we would be greeted, wrong about how much it would cost, how long it would take, wrong about the relationship between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, wrong about the intelligence, wrong about torture, and even wrong about what a quail looks like. Not only was he always wrong, he lied incessantly in order to get us into a “war” with Iraq. He was also responsible for shifting our troops from Afghanistan to Iraq, thus leaving Afghanistan badly neglected for years. And now he has the gall to criticize Obama for not immediately plunging us into further nonsensical bloodletting in that country. It is true that while Obama deliberates some of our troops may die, but that is nothing like the price we will pay in lost lives if Cheney and others lock us into a permanent conflict there. If Dick Cheney had any decency at all he wouldn’t even show his face in public, let alone try to influence any further Foreign Policy actions. He is at the very best a public nuisance and at worst a raving lunatic who ought to be locked up before he can do any further damage.

But not only is he personally attacking Obama’s Foreign Policy, he and his daughter are getting really big bucks from some Florida real estate mogul to do so. There are going to be a host of ads making Obama look weak and indecisive (as compared with Cheney of course who was strong and decisive, if always wrong). In short, they want to bring down the Obama Presidency (so the lunacy party might somehow regain power and insure we will always be at “war” somewhere and the military/industrial/political complex will continue to thrive). Dick the Slimy is almost certainly one of the most unpopular people on earth, if not the single most unpopular, so why the Republicans want him to front for them I cannot understand. But, then, I cannot understand anything they do or believe any longer as I think they have all “lost their marbles.” So to speak.

John McCain, having previously admitted that he doesn’t use the internet and knows nothing about it, is now putting forth a bill that would take away internet freedom and allow corporations to influence the content and accessibility. I guess all the money he is receiving from the Telecom industry has nothing to do with it. Give a Congressperson enough money and you can get them to do anything, including killing thousands of their own citizens year after year and murdering hundreds of thousands around the world. Our political system has become completely dysfunctional (“the best democracy money can buy”) and no longer has anything to do with looking after the public interest. If Obama can pull off health care reform against the wishes of the Insurance Industry and other corporate opponents, he will be the first President to successfully do so in 60 years. I take this as a sign of better things to come.

Darkended dreams
become modern grapes of wrath
reaping a bitter wine.


Contrary to popular belief toads do not cause warts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Republican Sampler

Robber spends 10 minutes
on his knees praying with
crying clerk, robs her of $20.

Somewhere today I saw a comment that the Republican Party was rapidly becoming the party of semi-lunacy (or something to that effect). I started looking at some recent Republican quotes that tend to make me believe there is something to this claim:

“As a veteran, I believe that any veteran lending their name, to promote the leftist propaganda of global warming and climate change, in an effort to control more of the wealth created in our economy, through cap and tax type policies, all in the name of national security, is a traitor to the oath he or she took to defend the Constitution of our great nation!” Mr. Metcalfe’s email reads. “Remember Benedict Arnold before giving credibility to a veteran who uses their service as a means to promote a leftist agenda. Drill Baby Drill!!!”
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, Pennsylvania

Two Republican party chairmen from South Carolina, in trying to defend Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) practice of not using earmarks, said DeMint "is watching our nation's pennies," just like "the Jews who are wealthy."
O. Merwin and James S. Ulmer

"Little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and perhaps they should try it."Senator Michele Bachmann, Minnesota

"As I said on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, "much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science." I called the threat of catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," a statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by environmental extremists and their elitist organizations."
James Inhofe, Oklahoma

It is a real shame that America doesn't have a real president in the White House, and is instead subjected to the racist rants of a drug-damaged community organizer from politically-corrupt Chicago.
RNC Michael Steele

“If the Soviet empire still existed, I'd be terrified. The fact is, we can afford a fairly ignorant presidency now.
Newt Gingrich

There are moral absolutes and that God's law indeed is there to protect you from yourself, and there are consequences if you breach that. This press conference is a consequence.
Governor Mark Sanford, South Carolina

“That marriage is the union between a man and a woman is a truth known to each one of us already, and any attempt to allow same-sex marriages is a detriment to the family unit and hurts our state and nation.”
Rick Perry, Texas

They are also building schools for the Afghan children so that there is hope and opportunity in our neighboring country of Afghanistan.
Sarah Palin, ex-Governor, Alaska

Our goals in Afghanistan are reasonable, but they cannot be achieved if we significantly reduce our military presence in the country at this critical juncture. We must remember that the safety and security of the American people and our allies are at stake. We abandon our long-term interests in this strategic region at our own peril.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House minority whip.

Ronald Reagan's vision of smaller government, less taxes, and a strong national defense has led to a prosperous America. As president, he rebuilt our military and reinvigorated our confidence in ourselves. David Vitter, Louisiana

“Michael Moore is free to denounce every manifestation of American foreign policy; is he not? And we are upholding his right to do so, as ridiculous and inane and asinine as his comments are.”
Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah

Why all these Marxists in the Administration? Why do all have coincidentally reflective of these Marxist views. Senator George LeMieux, Florida

We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma." Senator Grassley, Iowa

How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?”
John Boehner, Ohio

Some people, for some reason, seem afraid to admit it, but the fact of the matter is that American health care is the envy of many, many people around the world. And Americans don’t want to lose it. That’s why Americans are telling us that we can reform health care without bankrupting the country or destroying what's so unique and special about our current system. That’s why a growing number of politicians in Washington are hearing the people’s concerns — and speaking out. And that’s why many of them are now urging the administration to take a different path.”
Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky

Senator Shelby said : “Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.”
Senator Richard Shelby, Alabama

Senator Kerry voted to undermine the troops in the field, and that is not only inexcusable, it is reprehensible.
Senator John Ensign, Nevada

By dragging out the decision-making process on our Afghanistan war strategy, the president has not only irritated the military and our allies and given our foes reason for optimism.
Senator Jeff Sessions, Alabama

You will notice that these quotes are by no means all from the more extreme members of the Republican ultra-right. They also represent a fairly decent cross-section of Republicans. They do not reflect other statements from Republicans that are even more questionable (or nonsensical), such as Michael Steele’s recent announcement that we don’t need comprehensive health care change, or Joe Wilson’s accusation that President Obama was lying, or the more outrageous blather by Limbaugh, Beck, and others. It would be possible to find many more of these comments if one had the ambition or desire to look for them. It is difficult at times, when trying to decipher Republican comments, to decide whether they are being made for purely political reasons, if they really believe what they are saying, or if they are just hopelessly stupid. Collectively, they represent to me either ignorance, stupidity, or naked partisanship. They also seem to validate the Republican claim to be the party of NO, as for the most part they are all negatives, confirming also that Republicans have no positive suggestions for anything. Is it any wonder that a mere 20% of Americans now admit to being Republicans?

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
George Bernard Shaw

Thomas Wolfe is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Violence

Missing his father, Vermont
man digs up his remains
and takes them home.

I have abhorred violence for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this is because I was raised in a small mining town where violence was common, especially on week-ends, when the miners and lumberjacks came to town for their weekend entertainment. Fights occurred regularly, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, and they could be quite violent with heads being smashed on the concrete sidewalks and such (most fights were not this bad, but did result in a lot of blood and black eyes and such). This kind of behavior was also by no means uncommon among high-schoolers and teen-agers. During WWII, when a naval station was created at Farragut on Lake Pond Oreille, and the sailors would visit our town there were also many fights over the local girls, and there were most always fights after our football games. Having grown up in such a mileu, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the natives in New Guinea where I spent some time, who were said to be violent, did not seem to me to be very violent at all (within their own groups, that is). I recall as a teen-ager asking my parents if I could please go away to school, but that did not happen. Hunting with my father I soon learned I did not really like killing things. I guess I was a “sissy,” although I never felt that way. Anyway, this is not really about me, only about my reaction to what I am hearing about what to do in Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
I cannot believe, for example, that John Bolton is urging us to use nuclear bombs on Iran. He was recently seconded in this by one of our Generals who said if Israel bombs Iran we should join them. There are many other “hawks” as well, including, I gather, even Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, and even President Obama has refused to take military action off the table. I am unable to understand this. First, there is no evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. These warmongers apparently just refuse to believe it, even though our own intelligence has verified it. For the most part I guess these are pretty much the same people who thought we were right to illegally attack Iraq and now want us to continue the carnage in Afghanistan. Do people like this have no idea of what it is they are promoting? Are they brain dead when it comes to human misery and death? What do they think happens when we start dropping bombs on people? Are they not satisfied that we have already killed probably a million, mostly innocent civilians, and displaced four million from their homes? Perhaps this might be necessary if we were under attack by these countries, but we aren’t, weren’t, and aren’t going to be. So I don’t get it. Are they in it for the money or the black gold or what? Personally I am led to conclude these warmongers are mindless creatures who have no understanding or empathy when it comes to others, basically ghouls who take pleasure in torturing and destroying other people, monsters who are so enraptured with power they believe they can do anything (they have so far and have managed to escape responsibility for it). We are not in danger from any of these people, except for a tiny few who might legitimately be considered terrorists, but that hardly justifies attacking other countries or engaging in “war” rather than police action. Perhaps there are reasons for what we do that I am unaware of, in which case I would have to bow to their superior knowledge and understanding of our Foreign Policy, but at the moment I simply do not believe this is the case. I think they (and even we) are quite simply mad.

Are our banks suicidal? It seems they are all raising their interest rates on credit cards. I know my own rates are going up from 9.9% to 13.4% (or close to that) for no reason at all other than that they can apparently legally do it. I saw a report today that Citibank is raising their rates to 29.9%! Can you believe that! Apparently their short-term greed is such they cannot realize they are actually killing the goose that has been laying them the gold eggs for so long. Everyone should just refuse to pay, ending the credit card business once and for all. Unfortunately, credit cards and credit have become so integral to our lives we would probably go on with such a thieving situation no matter what they did (we really are not very bright, you know).

No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded.
Margaret Mead

The Semai of Malaysia have two main values, avoiding violence and sharing food.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I cannot blog this evening due to circumstances beyond my control. If you go to my blog, "Five Years," you will find lists of essays, short stories, book reviews and comments, some of which you might find of interest.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jim Morrison - book

Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend, by Stephen Davis (Gotham Books, 2004)

The last time we saw Paris (four or five years ago), my son insisted he had to visit the grave of Jim Morrison. It seems his grave is now the third biggest attraction in that lovely city, after the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. I confess I did not understand this. In fact, I had never heard of Jim Morrison or the Doors. I guess I am too old to be of the sixties generation and besides, I think I was in New Guinea during the greatest popularity of the Doors. Anyway, my son recently gave me a copy of Morrison’s biography. I have been trying to read it for two months. I am sorry to report, I have failed dismally. After I read the first two chapters, the first thing that popped into my head was a great line from one of Dorothy Parker’s book reviews, “This book should not be tossed aside lightly, it should be thrown with great force.” I was prepared to do this, but my son insisted I should read on as it would tell me a lot about the 60’s. I was not certain I wanted to know more about the 60’s than I already knew, but I soldiered on. Soon I was again ready to give up, but my wife (who is much younger than I am) insisted that some of the music and lyrics were not so bad. So I continued on, but not for long. I have failed to read this book. My mother taught me, “If you can’t say something nice about someone or something, don’t say anything.” So I am not saying anything.

I see that Greenspan has suggested that perhaps we should break up the big banks into smaller ones. Too bad he didn’t say so several years ago before they were “too big to fail.” I think it is a splendid idea and I am all for it. But why stop at banks? I think we should break up all the huge corporations which now basically rule the world. We should especially put a stop to corporate farming, but also corporate ownership of our primary means of (mis)information, the major news outlets. And along the way we should break up the big oil conglomerates, the telephone and energy ones, especially the food giants like Monsanto, the gigantic cattle lots, pig and chicken (fake) farms that pollute like crazy and bring us chemically loaded meats, and anything else that is claimed to be too big to fail. Walmart, Home Depot, and the other big box stores should also go. Think what this would do for unemployment, all those smaller businesses that have been put out of business would return, the quality of food and service would improve immensely. We would not be at the mercy of greedy hungry companies that are willing to provide us with terrible genetically modified foods in order to increase their short term profits at the risk of our long term health, acquire a monopoly on our seeds, and so on. Smaller farms would mean much better and healthier food and also using the land in a much more sustainable fashion. The costs of transporting food would go down and with it prices that are now approaching levels no longer possible for many to afford. I do not believe nature intended us to live the way we are now. We should be much closer to the land and our resources and nature in general. When was the last time you saw the stars? Do your children even know where their food comes from? Yes, I know this would mean turning the clock back a bit, interfering with “progress,” and returning to our agrarian roots, but so what, it would be a good thing. Why is it that Norway has the happiest citizens? We don’t have to go back to using digging sticks and clubs, but there must be a balance somewhere between technology and human needs and requirements that does not demand the physical destruction of the world we have to live in. Do we really need one or two thousand pounds of metal to take us singly to our petty destinations? What is wrong with trains and buses, even bicycles? Does every small town need massive storage facilities so we can store the stuff we acquire so rapidly we can’t even use it? Must we manufacture more things to kill each other than things that would improve the quality of our lives for everyone? There is something very wrong with our culture. Much of it can be summed up in the phrase “free-market capitalism.” As we experience it, it seems to mean simply that you never plan for anything, you just depend upon the market to take care of it. From a basic human perspective this is an idea so stupid it should never have been allowed. You like it, you live with it, you are.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Sick puppies?"

When 50 year-old son
refuses to stop drumming,
83 year-old father opens fire.

“Sick puppies,” indeed. President George Bush the First characterized Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow as a pair of sick puppies because, he said, they unfairly picked on George the Second. I have watched Maddow almost every night since the inception of her program. I do not think she has “unfairly” attacked anyone, although she certainly does attack. I think she has the best show of its kind on television by far. At least she makes no pretense about being bipartisan and comes across clearly and honestly in what she believes. She manages to find the facts about things, checked carefully to be sure she hasn’t said something incorrect, and then pursues the news like a genuine reporter (a very rare performance these days). Usually I agree with her but rarely I do not. She lacks pomposity, thankfully has not insisted on being called “Dr. Rachel,” although she is entitled to that term of respect (I doubt that most viewers are aware she has a Ph.D.). She simply tries to tell it as it is, and obviously takes her work very seriously. She does not hesitate to offend if that becomes necessary. She does not hide her lesbianism nor does she flaunt it, but she does downplay any feminism by dressing in a Spartan fashion, pretty much the same costume every night and never any jewelry (even football players outdo her in this respect). I gather she is a baseball fan and also loves fishing. I have the utmost respect for her, but I do wonder how long she will last. Speaking the truth on television and radio (especially to power) is a risky business these days and even though she is popular and has a wide audience the powers that be may decide the truth is just too threatening. Olberman is a somewhat different case. We must thank him for Rachel as I believe he was responsible for getting her a show even though I think she now outshines him. I like Olberman, but he does have a kind of aggressive edge to him that Rachel avoids, and he is also much too given (I think) to pontificating. Even so, I believe the Olberman/Maddow hours are the best news on television and I sincerely hope they continue. George the First should be more concerned with the “sick puppy” he has for a son, rather than casting aspersions on anyone else.

Speaking of sick puppies, what do you think of the 34 Republicans who voted against Al Franken’s bill to crack down on rape by some of our contractors? Hard to believe, but true. Of course these are mostly the same people who apparently think it is fine that so many of our citizens have no health care and also that it is fine the Insurance Companies continue to make their obscene profits off the misery of the sick and the dying, so what’s a little rape among friends. I guess we might forgive them their insanity, no doubt years of listening to Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and that skinny horse-faced blond woman, has addled their brains so completely they can no longer help what they do. Maybe there has been too much inbreeding among Republicans, how else could we have been cursed with the likes of Inhofe, Grassley, Palin, Bachmann, and others (mostly from the sub I.Q. belt)? Texas wants to secede? Let ‘em, I say, we’d soon be able to buy it back really cheap.

Pity the poor Israelis who are beginning to find out they will not get their way as easily as they have in the past. The U.N. refused to back down on their report on Israeli war crimes in Gaza (even though Israel demanded they do so), they are under increasing pressure to give up building more illegal settlements and may even have to start talking about peace (if, in fact, they even remember how). Netanyahu is proving to be not very popular, their Foreign Minister even less so. And even their long-standing friend, Turkey, has refused to stop showing a film of Israeli soldiers shooting innocent children. More importantly, they cannot find anyone (including the U.S.) who thinks they should bomb the Iranians for manufacturing imaginary nuclear bombs. Adding insult to injury, that awful Black Man in the White House, who doesn’t seem to like them quite as much as his predecessor, George the Dim, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for, of all things, trying to bring about peace! Should he succeed the Israelis might eventually have to give up some of their stolen goods. What, I ask you, is the world coming to?

If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known.
George C. Marshall

An 18 year-old man in Nepal has laid claim to being the smallest man ever, at 22 inches in height.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stand on their own?

Berlin brothel offers discount
for customers who arrive via
public transportation or bicycle.

Some general or other said the other day that we must stay in Afghanistan until “they can stand on their own.” I guess it would not occur to anyone that the Afghans have “stood on their own” for thousands of years, and very successfully too, having eventually defeated all comers who have tried to conquer them, including Alexander the Great, Britain, Russia, and now the U.S. (there is no way we will ever “win” in Afghanistan, whatever that might mean). Afghanistan is a tribal and clan-based country where various clans either dispute each other or collaborate with each other, depending upon the circumstances at the moment. In such a political system (as it is a political system that works), the one thing that will make two or more clans work together is the threat from an outside force. They may fight each other at times but they will come together and act as one when the situation requires them to do so. This is precisely what they are doing now, joining together to fight against an unwelcome invader (the U.S.). You might notice that in general both Taliban and non-Taliban want us out of their country, and they are not going to give up until we are. They don’t need a pretentious Uncle Sam to come and lead them by the hand to a form of government they don’t even understand or even necessarily want to understand. What we are doing now with respect to our unstated “empire” is in reality no different than what Christians did during the Crusades when they attempted to force Christianity on the rest of the world. After all, who are we to decide how the rest of the world should live? We don’t like al Qaida or the Taliban, it is my understanding that most of the Afghans don’t like them much either (and would quite likely get rid of them if we let them mind their own business). We don’t like the way they treat women, what about our staunch “friends” the Saudis as well as other countries that do not treat their women very well (we have not exactly been paragons of equality here in the U.S., although granted we are trying to change a bit). The best thing we could do for the Afghans is to get out of their country and leave them alone. If they want help they will eventually ask for it. I sincerely hope (and even pray to the Great Mystery) that President Obama is not going to be fool enough to send 40, 45, or 80 thousand more troops to Afghanistan. Even eighty thousand troops will not be enough, quite likely even a million wouldn’t be enough. The Taliban are not a threat to the U.S., and al Qaida is weak and apparently growing broke. Afghanistan is not worth another American life. Let’s be sensible for once and bail out as graciously as possible.

Speaking of women, Terry O’Neill, President of NOW, has been speaking out against “men behaving badly.” She cites Roman Polansky and David Letterman as examples. But whoa, wait a minute, there’s an issue here that needs some more careful consideration. I believe there is no doubt that Polansky committed a truly vile deed and deserves to be severely punished for it, but David Letterman? Yes, he confessed to having had sex with his employees, which you might say is undesirable. But no one has come forward to complain about having either been raped or otherwise coerced into having sex with the boss. It also appears that women do hold relatively high and important positions in the Letterman organization. Furthermore, there is at least one testimonial from one of them that she has never seen any instance of impropriety on the part of Letterman or anyone else in the organization. O’Neill’s assumption that “the lord of the group” has been setting the stage for improper sexual behavior is highly questionable at best, and at worst completely without foundation, and what about those women who willingly, perhaps even eagerly, had sex with the boss? How about “women behaving badly?” It would seem only fair and reasonable to me.

John McCain has urged President Obama to retroactively pardon the great black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson. You may recall that Johnson was grossly discriminated against by being railroaded to jail for engaging in what was then known as “white slavery” or some such thing. That is, he openly appeared with white women, much to the horror of many citizens of that day, and I guess must have crossed a state line with one of them. I do not recall the details, nor is it necessary to go into them here. I am all in favor of Johnson being exonerated. It should probably have happened long ago. But I do wonder about retroactively pardoning people for past deeds. It seems to me there ought to be a time to stop, except, perhaps, in the most egregious cases. I recall that many years ago there was a to-do about the Catholic Church exonerating the Jews from having killed Christ. I confess I thought that was kind of unnecessary as I think by that time hardly anyone thought about it. But maybe in religious circles it was something. It certainly meant nothing at all to me. Reparations for the Japanese who were forced into camps during WWII I believe was entirely justified, even though pitifully small compared to what they lost. The case of American Indians, too, I thought was more than justified, but, again, how could their surviving remnants ever be compensated for losing the whole of the Americas? I think an excellent case can be made for the Palestinians, but the Israelis prefer to believe they do not exist or have rights of any kind. There has often been talk of reparations for American blacks because of slavery. I agree they certainly suffered, and in principle I think it might be deserved, but it does seem to me completely impractical, especially as no living blacks were involved in any way, there are so many of them, their precise circumstances and losses completely unknown, and so on. I am not suggesting that we draw the line with reparations for blacks, but only questioning if a line does not have to be drawn somewhere. Should all South American Indians be awarded reparations? How about East Indians? Africans? Tibetans? Armenians? And how about the millions upon millions of individual cases of terrible discrimination that are only known by those who suffered them? The entire history of the human species is just one instance of murder, arson, rape, theft and genocide after another. We have become so inured to this we now just fall back on the old saw, “life isn’t fair.” It ought to be.

War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military.
Georges Clemenceau

Brie and Camembert are virtually identical cheeses.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Health care? Who needs it?

Wearing a black dress,
300 pound man tries
to steal rum and cola.

Health care? Who needs it? The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not offer universal health care to its citizens. We have some 47 million people without health care. Some 47,000 people a year die as a result of having no health care. Thousands upon thousands of American citizens, even though hard-working and diligent about paying for their health care go bankrupt each year because of some medical problem they cannot afford. Even those who are completely paid up on their premiums often find they can be denied health care because of some “pre-existing condition.” People often are forced to stay at jobs they would prefer to leave because they fear they will lose their health care. It is also possible to learn that after years of paying for health care you might find that your benefits have been used up. The price we pay for health care rises at something like four or five times faster than wages. No one doubts the Insurance Companies are abusing their near monopoly on health care and taking advantage of our existing “health care system.” There is no doubt that our existing system is unsustainable and will bankrupt the nation if allowed to continue as is. The Insurance giants are making obscene profits from the illnesses and deaths of our citizens because their bottom line is profit rather than proper medical care. What makes this worse is that Insurance Companies need not be involved in health care in the first place as they basically do nothing except shuffle paperwork and try to find ways not to pay whenever possible. These are the basic facts of the case, not merely my opinion. Put at its most cynical, they make their money by capitalizing on human misery, illness, and death.

Given the facts of the situation, you might think that those elected to represent the people would be concerned enough to act quickly, thoughtfully, and seriously, to do something about this shameful situation. But when you realize this situation has endured for at least sixty years, and resisted all attempts at reform, you know they have done nothing and it appears they are poised to do nothing once again. Instead of serious debate about health care we have heard mostly nonsense about Obama’s plan really being designed to kill old people, women with breast cancer, the handicapped, even Republicans. Or we are told this is a plot for the government to take over health care (presumably from a caring private insurance system that is so dysfunctional it smells). Similarly, we hear the same pathetic cry opponents have used for years, socialism (run for your lives). And of course we are told we can’t afford health care (we can afford two ongoing unnecessary “wars,” a ridiculously expensive and completely failed “war on drugs,” and a military/industrial/political complex that is so overpriced, wasteful, and in large part useless, that it takes up half of our national budget and is more expensive than all other nations expenditures on defense put together). We are also told that we might have to raise taxes somewhat to pay for it (health care is apparently not worth paying for).

What makes this so unutterably tragic is that it need not be. We could easily have a single-payer system that is known to be more efficient, less expensive, and entirely workable (as virtually all other nations have such a system). But our government, from the President on down, did not even allow a single-payer system a seat at the table. It was not even considered. Having deep-sixed the best system we could have had, they are now squabbling over whether or not there should be a “public option” which would compete with the private companies. The House says yes, the Senate says no. They are trying to reconcile the two different plans. If they fail I guess that would mean there would be, once again, no health care reform. Or, perhaps what is worse, they will agree on some ridiculous compromise that will give the impression of change but still just allow the Insurance Companies to continue robbing us blind, perhaps even worse than before. We could, of course, simply expand medicare to cover all in a simple single-payer format, but Republicans, and probably some Democrats would be totally opposed (even though medicare works pretty well and Taiwan, that just passed a universal system, based it on our medicare program… what do those Chinese know about anything). Remember Republicans fought desperately against medicare at the time it was passed, just as they fought against social security, and virtually anything else designed to help ordinary citizens. Thus Obama’s ambitious plan to reform health care has devolved into fighting over things that really have nothing to do with health care per se. That is, should the Insurance Companies continue to benefit from their obscene profits or should our citizens actually receive adequate health care at last. Or, are we to become a socialist country or remain the marvelous capitalist paradise that has brought us to where we are today? Should the government be involved in health care at all, or should it be left to the private for-profit sector? Should profit be allowed at all when it comes to health care (it would be so much cheaper without it). Is health care a basic human right? It seems Congress is willing to talk about anything other than meaningful and desperately needed health care reform.
Why is this so? We know perfectly well why it is. The Insurance Companies, Pharmaceuticals, and other opponents have so much money they have bought our Congress (maybe even our President). Our government no longer is in the business of acting for the common good, meeting the needs of its citizens, doing the right thing, but is, rather, acting in the best interests of their corporate masters. But there are some things that are too important to be left to the private sector: health care, energy, and water, certainly, but also prisons, schools, communications and such. Government is not the problem, or certainly doesn’t have to be, the real problem at the moment can be traced back to our nitwit former President, Saint Ronnie, and his merry band of Republican outlaws who have privatized everything but common sense, and even that seems to be in great danger.

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

In living species, larger penguins tend to live in colder climates whereas smaller ones live in more temperate zones.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


She won’t take him back,
he beats her and
stabs her pet fish.

An Australian anthropologist, Peter McAllister has apparently written a book entitled Manthropology The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male. I have not yet seen this book but I read some brief comments about it on the web today. He points out, among a great many other things I guess, that Australian Aboriginal men could probably run faster than our fastest sprinters today, and no doubt for longer distances as well. This is of course because Aboriginal men had to run while they were hunting and did it just as a matter of course. Similarly, he points out that in certain African tribes all the men could high jump at least their height, as they had to do so for male initiations. He also claims that any Neanderthal would be able to beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in arm wrestling. Some of his data come from measurements of ancient footprints and estimates of the body characteristic s of earlier people, which may or may not be highly questionable. In any case, I confess I do not find it surprising at all that at least some earlier humans were physically superior to modern men, although this was not a conclusion reached by Francois Peron when he set out very early to test his hypothesis that “moral perfection must be in inverse ratio to physical perfection.” At the time (the early 1800’s) it was generally believed that “savages” were much better physically than moderns but were less moral. Peron concluded that moderns were both physically stronger as well as more moral (I don’t know precisely how Peron measured physical strength), he “measured” morality simply by comparing the beliefs of “savages” to the then moral beliefs of Europeans. I also do not know which groups Peron studied as there is little doubt that some “savages” were probably much healthier and stronger than others. Australian aborigines and many Africans had to be strong to survive and no doubt could run and jump at unusually high levels. What I do find most surprising is that it took someone so long to write a book about this subject.

Actually, I don’t think you have to go very far back in time to know that even our most recent ancestors, like the pioneers and explorers, were also much stronger with greater physical abilities as well. If you read accounts of early explorations it is pretty obvious the explorers had to endure conditions that would very quickly have been unendurable to modern men, and engaged in feats of strength far beyond what most men would be capable of doing now. When reading such accounts I often marvel they endured at all. Of course the same goes for pioneer women who had to put up with hardships modern women can hardly imagine. Those who were not strong enough just didn’t survive. I guess I might say this book is only telling us the obvious, but having not read it as yet that would seem unfair. Of course we can justify our own physical inadequacies rather easily by simply pointing out there is much more to life than mere physical strength and that modern technology makes possible many things that previously required more physical prowess. Interestingly enough, I believe it might be possible to argue that earlier men and women were also equally as intelligent as moderns but simply lacked all the information they would have needed to develop more rapidly. There probably is no such thing as a “primitive mind,” in spite of Piaget, Levy-Bruhl, and others. If this book was published in Australia it probably won’t reach us for some time, if ever.

That great fat barrel of pompous bullshit, Rush Limbaugh, has been turned down as part of a group trying to buy the Rams. You can bet the reasons are purely financial as the NFL owners are all conservatives and must have simply concluded it would be bad for business (I suspect they could care less if he is a racist). Limbaugh’s racism has come back to haunt him and he cannot deny it because there are tapes of his blatantly racist remarks made over the years. In the age of audio and videotape it is not as easy to lie as it once was. It’s actually kind of fun watching how Congresspersons and others get exposed lying as much as they do, having apparently not yet realized how times have changed.

Now it appears the stage is finally set for a great showdown between the citizens of the U.S. and the Insurance Companies. It appears to me to be about that simple. The problem is the fact that we have Congress in the middle of this gargantuan battle and some of them, perhaps many of them, will side with the Insurance Companies because they have been bribed to do so. In a sense it is not a battle about health care as much as it is a battle between rapacious profit-driven corporations and ordinary citizens. It is also complicated by the idea held by many that government is simply unable to do anything right and therefore would not be able to handle health care (falsely labeled socialized medicine). One of the things I find interesting about this argument is that it seems to be predicated on the idea that huge corporations, and even businesses in general, are paragons of organization and efficiency and therefore more able to manage health care than the government. My experiences over the years with large corporations like telephone companies, banks, insurance companies, and even aircraft industries, do not allow me to believe in their greater efficiency, and although the government does have its bureaucratic and other flaws, it is just as well suited for managing health care as private enterprise and a whole lot less expensive.

We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don't know anything and can't read.
Mark Twain

Forty percent of all described insect species are beetles (350,000) and new species are continually being found.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Whatever happened to common sense?

Tennessee couple arrested
for burglarizing chapel where
they were just married.

Whatever happened to common sense? A six year old first grader was so excited about becoming a cub scout he wanted to take a camping tool that served as knife, fork, and spoon (all in one), so he could use it for his lunch. He faces 45 days in reform school! Previously a little girl’s grandmother sent her with a birthday cake to school and included a knife with which to cut it. The teacher used the knife first, then reported it, and the girl was expelled from school for an entire year. I remember another case a while back when a young boy brought to school a plastic gun and got in big trouble. This was not a plastic gun that could have been mistaken for a real gun, it wasn’t even a full sized plastic gun, it was a small one taken from an action figure. I forget exactly what happened to him but I know he was punished.

Unfortunately, schools are not the only place common sense is apparently unavailable. Consider the airlines, where their policies of searching have attained absolutely comic dimensions. Not only do the airlines now prohibit people from bringing their toothpaste and perfumes and such (unless they are in tiny quantities), they prohibit little old ladies from bringing their knitting needles (very dangerous, those). You cannot bring a golf club, but you can bring a guitar. Probably more than a billion people have been made by now to remove their shoes because once, quite a while ago, one person was caught with a small amount of explosives in his heel (I have no doubt Osama bin Laden is laughing his head off over this). Eighty year old perfectly normal looking women have been searched at airports, as has a ninety year old man who could barely walk with a cane (interestingly, they didn’t take his cane away from him). You do not have to appear to be from the Middle East to experience these maddening and absurd attempts at security.

Border crossings are another case in point. We live very near the Canadian border and often go to Creston, B.C. to shop (as they have many things there we never find in our home town). For a time, during the mad-cow scare we were not permitted to bring beef across the border. This included veal. It was commonly accepted knowledge that mad cow disease did not occur in cows under three years of age, veal is by definition much younger than that. But no matter, it was prohibited anyway. And now, of course, although we go to Creston probably at least once a month, and have for years, and all of the border agents know us, we are still required to show passports and answer the same questions over and over again. A Canadian woman friend of ours, who was once busted for marijuana, about thirty years ago, was not permitted to cross now unless she paid a rather large fee, even though the high quality marijuana from B.C. is routinely smuggled across the border.

Then there are tasers. Police across the nation have apparently gone overboard in their use of tasers. They are known to have used them on girls as young as eight, on woman as old as ninety, and even on a paraplegic in a wheelchair. In many cases they use them even when confronted with relatively minor resistance. Perhaps in some cases like these there might be some reason to resort to the taser, but there are many accounts in which their use clearly violated ordinary common sense. I guess there are supposed to be rules about the use of tasers, but if so, they are often violated by overeager police personnel. Personally, I don’t believe the police should be allowed to use them at all, and there have been many deaths because of their overuse.
Even doctors are sometimes prohibited from using their common sense. I know of cases where doctors will admit their patients need certain drugs but refuse to prescribe them. They are forced to do this because of their fear of being punished for oversubscribing certain drugs to younger patients, even though they know they need them. Doctors, like teachers and school administrators and policemen and border agents, and many others are apparently not allowed to have or use common sense. We have become a nation of bureaucrats so fearful of criticism we will do anything, including avoiding common sense, to keep from being blamed for anything. I am confident that if one wanted to do a bit of research he or she could find dozens of cases even more atrocious than the ones I have mentioned.

What is worse about this situation is that it also occurs in government, even when the issues are of great importance. Anyone who spends even a small amount of time on it will learn that a single-payer system of health care is the most efficient, least expensive and wasteful system to have. Knowing that, would your common sense not lead you to believe you should have such a system? Alas, such a system is not even being seriously considered. Similarly, if you are aware that Insurance Companies are siphoning off huge profits from our existing system of health care, and there is no logical reason they should have anything to do with it, would your common sense not tell you they should be left out of health care? This appears to be not even a remote possibility. My common sense tells me that unless there are secret reasons I am not aware of, we have no business staying in Afghanistan and should withdraw as soon as possible. Common sense obviously has nothing much to do with our lives anymore.

Science is good furniture for one's upper chamber, if there is common sense below.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Unlike most marsupials, the Australian wombat has a relatively large brain and a backward pouch.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Prize

Police seek pudgy man
who invades backyards
and dances naked.

Yes, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. And yes, he probably deserves it. Listening to the crazies you would think it was an insult to the United States. They say he was only in office two weeks before he was nominated and so therefore he had done nothing to deserve it. He was nominated two weeks after taking office, presumably the vote must have occurred sometime later, they could certainly have changed their minds had he done something terrible in the meantime. Perhaps he has not done entirely enough to deserve it, but it has often been awarded to people for their attempts to do something desirable for the world. How, they say, can he be awarded a Peace Prize when he is involved in two “wars?” Has everyone forgotten these are not wars he started, but inherited from Bush/Cheney. He was, as you should remember, opposed to the war in Iraq. And he is trying desperately to figure out what the best course of action should be in Afghanistan. He is closing down Guantanamo although it is turning out to be somewhat more difficult than expected, and he has presumably stopped our horrible torturing. It has also been said that this was an anti-Bush award. Perhaps in part it is, but in fact, Obama has done a great many things so far, rolling back some of the more egregious rulings and practices of Bush/Cheney and, above all, starting to re-establish once more our legitimate place in the world community. His emphasis on diplomacy rather than the “shoot first, ask questions later” style of the McCain’s and others on the right is itself worthy of the prize. Others say they gave him the prize, not for what he has done, but for what they wish him to do. Perhaps so, but what is wrong with that? Rush Limbaugh, that great fat, lying, drug-addicted cauldron of pig pucky, says Obama is being laughed at by the rest of the world. Yeah, he’s so pathetic they just awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize and desperately want him to exercise leadership to help solve the crucial problems of the world. Winning this prize is a great honor, not only for Obama, but for the United States, and it symbolizes at the very least their respect for a leader who is actually trying to do something constructive about the problems of nuclear proliferation, global warming, health care, and human rights. If changing our foreign policy from one of pre-emptive war and aggression against anyone we even imagine to be enemies, to an emphasis on cooperation and diplomacy doesn’t rate a Peace Prize, what does? Obama is resisting the pressures on him to panic and simply order 40 or 60 thousand more troops into a gaping black hole, and trying against long odds to do something intelligent for the first time in a long time. But it doesn’t really matter what Obama has done or will do, the hate-Obama crazies will always oppose him. I’m sure they would bitch even if he was hung with a new rope.

What sex scandal? Everywhere you turn at the moment you are confronted with someone talking about Letterman’s “sex scandal.” Since when was adults having consensual sexual relations scandalous? So Letterman had sex with one or more of the women who work on his show, so what? Most of the time, if not the entire time, he was unmarried. No one has come forward claiming they were raped or coerced into having sex with the boss. While there may be rules, both written and unwritten, about preventing sex with superiors or underlings, it happens so commonly it can hardly be considered scandalous. And it wouldn’t matter even if Letterman had been married, sex between consenting adults per se, is not really a scandal. But of course the media want it to be a scandal because they have to fill up their air time (one of the reasons news 24/7 has turned into infotainment rather than news). I guess the fact that Letterman was being blackmailed perhaps makes it a scandal. But even this is commonplace enough that if it happened to ordinary people we would probably not even hear about it. Thus it is a scandal because it involves a celebrity and because the news says it is, a sad commentary on the state of the news industry in our time.

Now, if you haven’t heard this before, try not to collapse into hysterical laughter. Not content to ignore science, to reject the theory of evolution, to believe humans were contemporaneous with dinosaurs and the earth is only 6000 years old, some on the right are now going to rewrite the bible…. because it is too liberal! I don’t know much about the bible, having tried and failed to read it several times, but I cannot believe these religious nutcases are going to be allowed to tamper with the eternal and absolute truths found therein. I guess, after all, this is an admission that the bible is not the really the literal truth of things they always insisted it was. So I say, go ahead, write away, if, that is, you even know how to write.

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the bible is filled, it would seem more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.
Thomas Paine

Modern geologists tend to accept the age of the earth to be 4.54 billion years (they don’t give the exact time of day it all began).

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Dazed and Confused

Pair of teen thugs attack two
cage fighters dressed as women,
are left dazed and bewildered.

Dazed and bewildered I think is a fairly good description of where I am at the moment. I really cannot understand why it should be so difficult to pass health care reform with a public option (or even a single payer system). It is common knowledge the Insurance Companies are ripping us off right and left. If it is not also common knowledge they do nothing to make their obscene profits other than shuffle papers around and try to devise new ways to take advantage of us, it ought to be. The very idea that Insurance Companies should be involved in health care is simply ridiculous in the first place. How anyone in good conscience could defend these parasites escapes me (or it would if I didn’t know the answer was large bribes to our Congresspersons).

Another source of my bewilderment has to do with Afghanistan, and why President Obama cannot see that it is just another Vietnam. Unless we still have secret plans to build a pipeline across that rugged country I can see no reason for our continued presence there. It has already been admitted that we cannot “win,” even if anyone knew what winning might consist of in the “graveyard of empires.” The Afghan people do not want us there. Most of our troops probably do not want to be there. The threat of a Taliban takeover is greatly exaggerated as most of the Afghans don’t like them any better than we do, and they are no threat to us in any case. It is now being acknowledged that al Qaida is not much of a presence there and only a very minority presence anywhere else. So, I ask myself, what the hell are we still doing there? We can’t seem to withdraw because that would indicate that we “lost.” “Pride goes before a fall.” Continuing a “war” in Afghanistan, against a group that is not even an enemy, and another group that is not even there, and that we can also ill-afford, is, to put it mildly, stupid.

Something that truly dazes and bewilders me is the Sarah Palin phenomenon. She just doesn’t go away, this woman from Alaska, who was not even regarded as qualified to be Vice-President is now being regarded as a possible candidate for President, an obvious know-nothing now giving speeches on American Foreign Policy to people in China. By her own admission, her Foreign Policy experience was being able to see Russia from her front porch, and she has done nothing to improve it since then as far as I know. The idea of Palin as President of the U.S. is even more than ridiculous, it’s just plain silly. Of course when you consider what some of the rest of the “Republican base” is up to you might conclude that Palin is the only sane one among them. Now there is a move afoot to impeach Obama. As near as I can tell the only reason for impeaching him as to do with their absurd insistence that he is really a Kenyan (in the face of genuine evidence to the contrary). There is no danger whatsoever that this would happen, but the fact that some of them could even suggest it demonstrates an ignorance so profound as to make one wonder if they are actually sane.

And speaking of stupid, why do we continue to let Israel tell us what to do? If they want to bomb Iran (a truly stupid idea) they should not expect any help from us. Iran is not a threat to the U.S., and most probably not much of a threat to Israel, if the truth were ever to be told. It might well be true that Iran would like to see the Middle East free of Israel, but they are not about to send an army against them, or bomb them with nuclear bombs they don’t even have. Israeli greed for land and water, and their paranoia, is a far bigger problem in the Middle East than Iran. They do what they want, and take what they want, and listen to no one, violating international rules at will, and we continue to support them, even in their genocidal attitude towards Gaza. To me this is truly bewildering. They refuse even to take the first small step towards peace with the Palestinians and continue expanding their illegal settlements at will, thumbing their nose at Obama in the process.

But what confuses and bewilders me most of all, is what happened to the country in which I grew up? You know, the country “where all people are equal,” “for liberty and justice for all,” “one nation undivided,” the country where once there was a viable “fourth estate,” and the President was honored, and the dollar was actually valuable, and politicians, whatever their party, were basically there to serve the public interest, the nation of which we were once so proud, “the shining beacon on the hill?” We were never without our problems, to be sure, but politicians worked together to solve them and we were all proud to be Americans. That country seems to have disappeared. We now live in shame and increasing poverty, and kiss the feet of our creditors, even our lives have become commodities as the corporations profit more from out deaths than from our labor.

Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.

Both male and female mountain goats have short tails, beards, and long black horns.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Could we please start over?

Woman throws cell phone
at boyfriends face, her
small dog at police officers.

Do you think that, like, maybe, we could start over? That is, we have somehow destroyed our country and, not content with that, seem to be embarked on destroying the world. I am not enough of a historian, or political scientist, or economist, or whatever, to truly understand how all this came about or how it is we have arrived at such a precarious position. And when it comes to starting over, I don’t know exactly from which point in our history we should attempt to start over. What I do know is that we have failed dismally as a nation. I don’t know the details of this but I do know that it somehow has to do with Ronald Reagan (aka Saint Ronnie) and his attack on government. It also has to do with “privatization,” “globalization,” a “free market economy,” and the creation and growth of corporations that are now more wealthy and important than governments (indeed, in our particular case, for all intents and purposes they are the government).

Along the way on our trip to oblivion we have polluted our environment something terrible, destroyed our fisheries, fouled our rivers and streams, removed mountaintops, raped our forests, changed our climate, failed to look after the welfare of our citizens, killed millions of people in totally unnecessary “wars,” destroyed our currency to the point where no one wants it any longer, and are poised on the brink of bankruptcy if not, in fact, bankrupt. As I do not believe this was the original intention of those pioneer spirits that arrived here full of hope and worked so hard to establish our nation, somewhere along the way we went wrong.

Some of our mistakes, I believe, have to do with allowing automobiles and trucks to take precedence over railroads and public transportation in general. The internal combustion engine was, from a purely human standpoint, a terrible invention, and has contributed much to the destruction of the environment. Corporate agriculture, too, was a mistake. We have allowed huge corporations to take over the production of food and have thus changed the very nature of the foods we consume. This has also contributed to our real problem of unemployment as one or two men with modern equipment can do the work of dozens. Now with corporate control of the food supply, and genetic engineering of crops, a process we do not really understand, there is no telling where it might lead. The pharmaceutical industry has grown apace and provides new drugs daily, all for a profit. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from some rare affliction you probably will not find a drug for it as there is no profit in producing drugs just to help people. A few insurance giants have taken over our health care system, generating enormous profits from doing absolutely nothing but paperwork. Banking giants control our monetary system and are allowed to systematically rob us in ways that are regarded, strangely enough, as “legal.” Enormous oil and coal corporations have prevented us from making progress against global warming and against even producing “clean” energy. Failing to heed the warning of President Eisenhower, we have stood by idly while a gigantic military/industrial/political complex has taken over most of our annual budget and hence is now the backbone of our economy. We produce bombs and other means of killing as many people as possible rather than useful products for human welfare. Our current military budget is greater than all the rest of the world combined and growing. Failing to follow the advice of our founding fathers we have meddled throughout the world in the affairs of others and now have military bases all over the world, many for very questionable reasons. We have become a nation of warmongers.

We allowed Bush/Cheney to lie us into a completely unnecessary “war” that has decimated our economy and our military, and made us a pariah in the world community. We are locked into a “war” in Afghanistan that we know can only result in failure and yet we cannot bring ourselves to end it. We have spent billions on an absurd “war on drugs” that has been a complete failure for years but continues year after year. We have shamefully neglected our infrastructure to the point where our bridges and schools are unsafe and our public buildings are deteriorating. Our educational system has failed to keep up with the rest of the world so that our children, if they don’t just drop out, end up believing in fairly tales so absurd as to make them effectively useless citizens. Science, too, has been neglected, and we have fallen further behind for many years when it comes to math, physics, and all the physical and biological sciences. The arts have not fared any better. We have now reached the point where government no longer has anything to do with serving the public and everything to do with doing the bidding of a small number of corporate masters who now even effectively control our news media and feed us only what they want us to hear.

We are a failure as a nation, and this failing continues under our attempt to maintain a “capitialistic,” free-market economy that has proven to be a disaster. We seem helpless to change it. Obviously we cannot start over, but we could come to our senses, withdraw from our two failed “wars,” do away with the ridiculous “war on drugs,” tell the insurance companies to get lost (no one would miss them as they do absolutely nothing for health care), shape up the banking industry so they can no longer just rob us blind, and do away with the more obscene discrepancy between those who have and those who have not, including health care. We could probably become solvent again. Will we do any of these things? Probably not, unless we get the big money entirely out of politics, and especially the news industry. The future, in my opinion, looks dismal.

Mighty hard to tell the people you love you’re a failure.
Laura Moncur

Buttonholes first appeared in Germany in the 13th century.