Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stump Ranch Pioneer - book

Stump Ranch Pioneer, Nelle Portrey Davis (Dodd, Mead & Co., N.Y., 1942)

Why did I read this book, a book I almost certainly would never have read if left alone to my own tastes? First, I would not have found a book about a stump ranch appealing. Second, I would have assumed it was by a housewife who fancied herself an author or at least aspired to be one. Third, it was published in 1942, not exactly a current title or topic. Fourth, the copy I have was a reprint of the original, published by the Idaho Historical Society and printed by the University of Idaho Press, hardly a source to look for exciting or, generally speaking, even very interesting books. Here again I am forced to admit that my pre-formed opinions and prejudices would have kept me from reading another interesting work, had it not been for my wife and semi-desperation. I found myself with nothing to read. Our local library acquires only a limited number of new books and there was nothing that interested me. I haven’t been to the North Idaho College Library recently. My wife, who has been caught up in an oral history of North Idaho Project through a course she teaches at NIC, suggested this book. Having read it I am both surprised and pleased.

Nelle Portrey Davis was a housewife, it is true, but she was not an aspiring writer, she was an established writer, having published widely in magazines (I, of course, would not have known this). This was her only full-length book, but she obviously used her talent and previous experience to write a compelling and interesting account of her life, and the life and times of many families caught up in the dust bowl years and forced to move elsewhere. In her case, Davis, her husband, and their two children were forced to abandon their home in Colorado and their dreams of a large sheep ranch, when the dust storms and drought became so intense they were unlivable. Through rumors and word-of-mouth they learned that cut-over timberland in North Idaho was cheap and available, and there was no drought. With little real information they migrated 1500 miles to Boundary County, Idaho where, for $100 down they purchased 40 acres of cut-over timberland (the total price was $530). The 40 acres, plus a huge amount of labor, allowed them to establish themselves comfortably, raise their own food, and through an amazing amount of creativity and ingenuity convert the still heavily timbered land into a home and small farm of which they could be proud. With so little money they existed by selling some remaining timber, cutting cordwood, Christmas trees, a bit of outside labor now and then, an occasional short magazine piece, and just “making do.” They slowly and laboriously cleared enough land of stumps and brush to begin a garden and thenceforth raised their own fruit and vegetables, sheep, goats, cows, horses and chickens, supplemented by venison and fish from the lakes and rivers. Although they never gained much materially they flourished and lived a life idyllic when compared to their dust bowl experience.

In addition to her gift for writing prose, Nelle Davis was also a careful and astute observer of the life around her, the weather, the environment, as well as her neighbors and the culture they lived in. She loved the mountains and was conversant with the native trees and plants and writes of this with obvious love and appreciation. Her descriptions of their various activities, lumbering, animal husbandry, gardening, and neighborly affairs are readable, insightful, marvelously descriptive, and informative. She tells us of a time and place and culture that no longer exists except in the memories of a very few elderly survivors, and here in Boundary County at least, a few remnants that show up at auctions and in antique stores. Indeed, the daughter who is featured in the book, still lives, now approaching her eighties, and has lived on and managed, with her husband, a small farm here all her life. They, by dint of daily hard work and dedication, prospered and raised a successful family. Their farm is itself quite a far cry from the one described in the book, what with more modern equipment, more arable land, and the knowledge acquired over the years, has been able to survive and provide their necessities. But it, too, like almost all small farms, will no doubt succumb eventually to the siren song of “progress.” They say people now don’t understand what it’s like to be farmers, to be committed day and night to their crops and animals, to exist at the whims of the weather and the changes of season. They are right.

The culture described by Davis, although it existed fewer than a hundred years ago, when read about now, seems almost as exotic as if from another land entirely. It is completely unknown to most young people, a culture that was but no longer is. Why was a book about a relatively obscure corner of the world, becoming slowly populated by dust bowl survivors and others with limited means, written by a little-known rural housewife, published by a major New York Publishing House? Remember, in 1942 we were beginning a war. Inspirational books were in demand. This is a book about independent minded, resourceful, creative, ambitious, determined, hard-working, enthusiastic, unwilling to give up or fail people, who lived out the courage of their convictions. It was, and is, a book more American even than apple pie (that, by the way is featured prominently).

It is difficult to say anything truly critical about this book. But, playing Devil’s Advocate, one might say Davis took too literally the fact that she was living in “Paradise Valley.” Similarly, because of the overwhelmingly positive tone of the work, you might say it should have been titled “The Joys of Stump Ranching,” as there is virtually no mention of any unpleasantness or potentially negative aspects of life as she describes it. In any case, if you want a sort of mini-ethnography of American life in the west during the 1930’s and 40’s, you should enjoy this interesting book (if, that is, you are fortunate enough to find a copy).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Good ol' California

Pastor threatens his son
and family with handgun
over poor church attendance.

Good ol’ California, always on the forefront of intelligent change (but not always immediately successful). The California Senate has passed a single-payer health care bill, absolutely the most intelligent, efficient, sensible, economical, and effective way of providing universal health care. Of course the Gropenfuhrer will veto it, but I would venture to predict that someday, somehow, someway, someone, will see such a system materialize for the entire country (if, that is, the country survives long enough). This single-payer system was not even considered by the Obama administration, apparently on the grounds that it would be impossible to pass. It was to be sort of replaced by a public option plan, but that, too, was regarded as too difficult to pass. What finally emerged was an enormous gift to the Insurance giants that are the heart of our totally dysfunctional system to begin with. Now, of course, there is considerable doubt that anything will pass, thus giving the Insurance companies their fervent wish for nothing to upset the status quo. The billions they have invested in acquiring 40 million more citizens who must now be forced to purchase their flawed health care, and enable them to continue deciding those who need health care the most shouldn’t have it, while those who need it least will have it, is about to pay off big time. In any other business this would no doubt be labeled fraud, but the health care rackets in the U.S. are apparently sacrosanct.

Another attempt on the cutting edge of sanity in California is a rather massive attempt on the part of some to legalize and tax marihuana. This is something that should have been done years ago as it has been known for a long time that marihuana is much less of a threat than alcohol, doesn’t kill anyone, does not automatically lead one on to other drugs, and in general is much more benign that it has been described by those responsible for that famous propaganda piece, “Reefer Madness.” Legalizing pot would raise a good deal of money for a state that desperately needs it, and would doubtless lessen by a huge margin the prison population there. Of course this attempt will be opposed by those who either know nothing about marihuana or wish to ignore what they do know in order to keep it illegal. Who wants to keep it illegal? Churches, of course (they are opposed to most anything that gives pleasure), but also the police (who depend on it for jobs), the pharmaceuticals (who would lose money if it were legal), and no doubt others who benefit materially in one way or another (prisons, schools for troubled teens, etc.). Here again, I have no doubt this attempt at common sense and reason will fail, but it, too, will inevitably come about, just as gay marriage will, and probably even the legalization of all drugs (when it finally can no longer be denied that the famous “war on drugs” has been the most dismal failure imaginable). Drugs are a medical problem, not a political problem, but this idea is resisted by those who wish to pretend otherwise to continue the scam.

After listening to President Obama’s speech last evening, and some of the responses to it, and having watched most of his meeting with the Republican caucus today (rather like watching an adult speaking to children), I am led to ask the question: Are stupid and ignorant people somehow led to become Republicans (is there something intrinsic to Republicanism that attracts them), or do otherwise normal individuals become stupid and ignorant only after becoming Republicans? I have no other way of attempting to explain Republican behavior other than perhaps because of some mental aberration. That is, what is one to make of a political party that announces immediately after the election of an opponent, they wish him (and by implication the country) to fail, and they are going to say “no” to everything, and then turn around and whine incessantly they were not listened to and had no input into the political process? I guess you can call this what you wish, to me it is just plain stupid. Of course I believe most Republican ideas are stupid anyway, and they only seem to have a few they employ constantly in a kind of formulaic manner: tax breaks, tax breaks, tax breaks, drill baby drill, kill all entitlements, save the Israelis, bloat the pentagon, government is bad, socialism in any form is an absolutely mortal threat to humanity, except when it comes to their own health care and benefits, a weird bunch, these Republicans. Listening to most of their stalwarts like Her Silliness, Palin, Her Ignorance, Bachman, Fat Rush, the druggy, the Glenn (the Demented) Beck, and others, does nothing to make me think more positively about them. Today I heard one of them say proudly, they do share something with Obama, more offshore drilling and nuclear power plants, two of the most stupid ideas one might imagine. Perhaps this does make sense, after all we’re only going to be here for a short time, might as well use up all the resources and pose a real challenge for coming generations. To quote a famous old Idaho Senator, “Let coming generations look out for themselves.”

Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything.
Frank Dane

President Obama apparently knows more about everything than the entire Republican caucus combined.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is Obama Insane?

Is President Obama insane? I’m serious. You remember Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, Obama has reached out to Republicans over and over again, trying for bipartisanship, and the more he attempts it, the more he is scorned. So, by Einstein’s definition we have no choice but to believe he is insane. Even tonight, in his State of the Union address, he was still trying to raise even a glimmer of hope for bipartisanship, and Republicans, as usual sat on their hands and did not respond (with all due respect to Rachel Maddow’s feeble attempt to read their body language that, to her, seemed to indicate a tiny bit of positive response).

But it was a fine speech, every bit as good as his usual performance. And as you might expect he said all the right things, tried to inspire bipartisanship, told us all not to lose hope, he would never give up, and so on. The Democrats loved it, the Republicans hated it, but, then, what else would you have expected? It’s hard to argue against creating jobs, passing health care reform, defending us from terrorists, helping small businesses, reducing taxes on the middle class, doing away with don’t ask, don’t tell, and equal wages for equal work, and etc., etc. As it was a speech primarily about jobs and unemployment, he did not even mention health care until later in the speech. And of course he said nothing about the inadequacies of the current health care bill he is urging Congress to pass, he obviously wants anything about health care to pass no matter how inadequate it may be. He was also remarkably silent on the question of our current “wars,” although he did mention them more or less in passing. He said our troops would soon be home from Iraq, said virtually nothing about Afghanistan, did not remark at all about the obscene costs of these misadventures, and announced that his proposed freeze on spending would not apply to the military (where, of course, he could easily find plenty of billions to help us out of the mess we are in – military and the pentagon are somehow sacred institutions that are entitled to endless funds no matter how useless they may actually be). More importantly, to me at least, he said nothing at all about Israel, the single most important barrier to peace in the Middle East and an international criminal enterprise (I think he was afraid the Israel lobby might actually materialize right there and bite him).

He resisted the temptation (if he even felt one) to bash the Bush/Cheney administration, although he did point out that he had inherited from them an extremely bad, if not impossible, situation. He obviously has no intention whatsoever of trying to hold them accountable for their war crimes. And he recited the usual accusation about Iran’s attempt to build a nuclear bomb (for which there is absolutely no evidence). There were many positive things mentioned, not the least of which was substantial increases in educational funds, long overdue, more money for scientific research, more money to help small businesses hire more people, tax breaks for the middle class, and so on. But there were some red flags for me: his apparent support for nuclear energy (an absolute abomination), his continued support for the military budget (bloated beyond any conceivable reality), his support for clean coal (which does not exist) and biofuels (fraught with many serious problems), and his assumption that by 2011 we would be in better fiscal shape (which I seriously doubt).

It was a fine and stirring effort, full of many of the usual clichés about what a marvelous country we are, how generous, how creative and innovative, how we only want to help people around the world, how Iraq has been freed to now manage itself, how noble, in general, we are, and how we only seek peace (all the usual falsehoods that a President has to say, thus invariably not facing reality as it truly is). I doubt he could have done a better job, but I’d bet a lot he will not get any help from our treasonous Republicans who have vowed to make him (and the country) fail. He said that now that Republicans have 41 votes in the Senate they should be obliged to participate and stop blocking everything. Republicans spit on participation and have vowed repeatedly to be the party of no. Forty one votes instead of 40 are not going to change them. Democrats should go to reconciliation, pass the best parts of the current bill, continue to promote better health care, and expose Republican sabotage at every opportunity, dwell on it, repeat it constantly, and follow my advice, roviate Republicans as they have roviated you. No more coddling, pleading, compromising, bribing, cajoling, or trying to please these unpatriotic slimebags whose only interests are greed and their lust for power, and who are willing to sacrifice their country to achieve them.

Obama barely got off the stage before McCain announced he was opposed to trying to do away with don’t ask, don’t tell. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stupid Ideas

Customer complains he was
served beef instead of chicken,
gets hit on the head with a plate.

I’m sorry to have to say it, but there really are some stupid ideas floating around out there. This talk of exhuming Leonardo da Vinci’s body should probably lead the list. I think some Italian art historians and scientists may have been drinking some bad Chianti. Whoever first came up with the idea that the Mona Lisa is really a portrait of da Vinci himself should certainly be tested for potential misuse of something or other. Strangely enough this particular issue has nothing to do with her smile (for a change). Anyway, there are clearly a lot of questions about this, certainly enough to render the whole enterprise not worth doing. First, they don’t know what they will find in the grave. The remains may be too far gone to be of much use. Second, whatever remains there are may not even be da Vinci, as he has reportedly already been exhumed at least once and reburied. Third, even if there are adequate remains, and even if they show some similarities to the facial features of the Mona Lisa, it would still not prove their thesis. I guess part of the idea has to do with Leonardo’s homosexuality and, therefore, his presumed desire to portray himself as a young woman, something that could never be proved by exhuming his skull. This whole idea in my opinion is truly far-fetched. If one of the ideas is that the smile is Leonardo’s smile because he is fooling his audience, I think that is nonsense. I have long wondered about all the controversy over her smile, it has always seemed to me to be the same smile all beautiful women have, knowing the secret of their power.

Another really stupid idea is a freeze on spending for three years, the freeze Obama is reportedly going to announce tomorrow in his state of the union address. This freeze is not going to substantially impact the deficit, will slow down things right now when they need to be accelerated, and is nothing more than a political sop to conservative Democrats and Republicans. When is Obama going to give up trying to appease these people, they are not going to vote on anything to help him no matter what he does. Indeed, they are already bitching that this freeze is not going far enough. There is just no satiating the insatiable, and these conservatives are absolutely insatiable when it comes to pleasing them about anything Obama. If Obama hadn’t wasted so much time and effort trying to achieve bipartisanship with those who had already declared they were the party of no, perhaps we would have achieved much more by now.

Of course you’d have to look a long way to find any idea more stupid than the recent Supreme Court decision that corporations are people and should have the same rights as people. I wonder that the founding fathers are rolling over in their graves, trying to get up to toss the bums out. Indeed, this is an idea so stupid that it could only have been a deliberate political decision by the conservative members of the court. Either that or those members have no business being on the court in the first place. The court is not supposed to be political, but this court has made a mockery of that idea. Some of them should be impeached.

Unfortunately, there are lots of ideas even more stupid than the above. The idea, for example, that you could ever have a decent, efficient, effective, and desirable health care system based upon an insurance for-profit system is surely one of them. For-profit prisons are another entirely stupid idea, as is the idea of a for-profit military or a for-profit water supply, or even, as we seem to have now, a for-profit political system. As I have said so often, some things cannot be left to the private sector. I suppose it wouldn’t matter much if there was a for-profit cosmetic industry, or a for-profit toy industry, or a for-profit fashion industry, or other things like that, but I’m not even so sure about a for-profit entertainment industry (but these are questions better left for another time). I’m beginning to think like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, I’ve thought of more than six impossibly stupid ideas before breakfast. I guess it’s just part of the human condition, where seemingly good ideas often turn out to be truly stupid, and seemingly stupid ideas sometimes turn out to be really clever. “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris ... [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping.” Orville Wright. I don’t know how one would prove it, but it seems to me that seemingly good ideas turn out to be bad more often than seemingly bad ideas turn out to be good. I think I may be “losing it,” Donald Rumsfeld is starting to make sense:”Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.” Good ideas gone bad would seem to be a case in point?

As if there were safety in stupidity alone.
Henry David Thoreau

All cats seem to have occasional bouts of mania.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Stalking ex-girlfriend
Idaho man tosses used
condoms on her lawn.

The other day when my mind was idling along as it is wont to do I suddenly came up with what I thought would be a suitable epitaph: Boy, Was I Stupid! No I don’t mean I was stupid to come up with an epitaph, I mean that’s it, my epitaph. Of course I then realized that as I wish to be cremated in the least expensive manner I wouldn’t have a tombstone to put it on. Perhaps I’ll have a skywriter hired to spell it out in the heavens. Anyway, in the meanwhile I keep having some really stupid ideas. I guess they are stupid because I don’t believe anyone would take them seriously.

For example, it occurs to me that if we really wished to make prescription drugs more affordable it would be relatively easy to do. If we simply made it illegal for them to advertise drugs on TV, something that is totally unnecessary, but that they spend billions on every year, no doubt drugs would become much less expensive. Whatever happened to the simple idea that doctors prescribe the drugs you need without having to have you ask them about them all the time? I’m sure you have all seen the virtually unlimited ads asking you to “Ask your doctor if you need x, or y, or a,b,c, or whatever.” You know, if you have something bothering you health-wise you should see your doctor and he tells you what you should try, just like the good old days before all this nonsensical advertising for drugs people don’t need for ailments that are sometimes invented as an excuse to manufacture another drug. Similarly, we got along fine for years without liquor advertisements on TV, so why did they begin again? Why should there be anything like tobacco or liquor ads on TV in the first place?

Similarly, it occurs to me that vast amounts of energy could be saved by the simple step of making it illegal for buildings, especially skyscrapers, to leave their lights on all night long. I’m sure you’ve seen cities at night with every huge building lit up for no apparent reason. Could it be the case that 24 floors of a building could all be burglarized at once? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and probably more efficient to have a night watchman? Probably many building both leave all their lights on and have a night watchman. What do I know?

Then there is the constant Israeli/Palestinian problem. This is pretty widely regarded as the source of most of the conflict in the Middle East and it has been dragging on for years. I see today that Netanyahu has announced that parts of the West Bank will be “Israel’s forever.” Given the fact that the West Bank is acknowledged to belong to the Palestinians this does not seem entirely reasonable and is in violation of all past agreements and etc. The Israelis are also demanding a permanent military presence in any Palestinian state, a sure killer of any potential negotiations for such a state. It would seem to my simple mind that Obama could simply say to the Israelis, shape up and cooperate or you will no longer receive any aid, military, financial, political, or otherwise from the U.S. It is surely clear by now that Israel has no intention of ever seriously negotiating with the Palestinians, does not want a Palestinian state, and continues to steal more and more Palestinian land and water. The entire world knows this, but no one, least of all the U.S., which could solve the problem, does so. I realize this is not a simple as it sounds, but nothing worth doing is ever entirely simple and sometimes everyone has to bite the bullet and make the best of things. Not so, the Israelis, who have been allowed to ride roughshod over International Law since the beginning.

The Supreme Court (if it can even be considered a court any longer) has come up with the most god-awful decision ever, or certainly since Dred Scott. As it was the same court that illegally gave the Presidency to George W. Bush, it is now completely obvious that the court has become political and is doing things it should not be able to do. As the only way to get rid of a Supreme Court Justice, as far as I know, is impeachment, that is what should be done. I don’t see anyone promoting impeachment, instead suggesting ways to change the laws to reverse the decision or get around it in some way. This, I believe, is not going to change the present composition of the court, which is the basic problem. I don’t know what will eventually happen, but you can be pretty sure it won’t solve the problem. Simple solutions do not seem to make sense to anyone but me (I guess that’s why I’m so stupid).

Surely the “war” in Afghanistan could be solved easily. The President could simply announce it was a terrible mistake by the previous administration, withdraw our troops, and offer whatever other assistance the Afghans might desire (that we clearly owe them). Or, conversely, the Congress could simply cut off any further funds for that ridiculous enterprise, but of course neither of these things will ever happen, they are apparently solutions far too difficult for our leaders to comprehend (and they might upset all the war profiteers).

As near as I can tell, there are no problems facing the U.S. that could not be solved if someone had the will to solve them. But as no one seems to have the will they will not be solved. I guess simple things are just too complex, even though complex things can often be simple. I confess I wonder now if anyone has any idea just what the hell it is they are doing (and I fear they do not).
Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.

There are about 4000 species of cockroaches.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Resistance - book

RÉSISTANCE, by AGNÈS HUMBERT (Bloomsbury, NY, 2004)

This book first appeared in France in 1946. The subtitle describes it very well, A Woman’s Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France. It is an extremely interesting book for a variety of reasons.

When the Nazis marched into Paris in 1940, Humbert was a respected art historian with a good job in a museum, a divorced mother of two sons, a left-wing intellectual and 43 years of age. She was comfortable and not what one would consider a likely candidate for the French resistance movement. But almost instantaneously she helped found one of the first resistance movements in the country, rounding up nine others of similar persuasions. This group began meeting in secret and published leaflets and a small newspaper to counter the Nazi propaganda that was rampant. She helped compose and typed these illegal documents and delivered them around Paris, sometimes keeping them rolled up in her stockings. Her group soon learned of other similar groups and a large resistance movement was formed. Unfortunately, after only 10 months she and the other members of her group were discovered by the Nazis, arrested, and sentenced, some to death, and Humbert to five years in prison. This book is her account of these years, written as a journal or diary it recounts her experiences founding the resistance group and her four years in various Nazi prison camps.

During the early phases of the occupation, women like Humbert were not sent to concentration camps but, rather, to work camps where they were forced to perform labor of various kinds. While there were no gas chambers, life in these camps was not much better than life in the concentration camps when it came to food and treatment in general. The women were always hungry, dressed in rags, forced to perform hard labor ten or more hours a day, under extremely adverse circumstances, and lived in dormitories with little in the way of sanitation or other comforts. There is no doubt they suffered terribly. Humbert herself was eventually nicknamed “Gandhi” as she had lost so much weight during her awful experiences. She recorded these experiences, not always on a daily basis, but often, and in a prose style that makes you feel at times you were right there with her. She had a fine eye for detail and a remarkable ability to register fairly objectively the horrors of unreasonable brutality as well as occasional acts of unusual kindness. Being moved several times from one camp to another, she was often thrown together with women from several countries, sometimes murderers, prostitutes, petty thieves, the wives of Jews, and, of course, many women of the resistance. At times they were also able to communicate with male prisoners as well, and somehow they managed to get at least some news of how things were going in the war. They also managed to communicate with each other by speaking through the cracks under their cell doors, through the ventilation systems, and whatever means they could invent. By and large the prisoners helped each other and many became fast friends for life. Through it all they waited patiently, knowing that someday the allies would be triumphant and things would return to normal. Humbert never ceased her resistance as even when forced to work in a rayon factory she found a means to sabotage the spools she produced, and later, when forced to make wooden crates, she weakened the nails so her crates would soon fall apart. She absolutely refused to do anything to further the Nazi cause even at great risk to herself.

As you read further and further into this account of human misery, brutality, and inhumanity you begin to wonder how it could have been that Humbert was able to keep such a journal going, as it became obvious that most of the time she had no paper or pens or even time for such an endeavor. As the entire journal is written in the first person and the present tense, and is so realistic as to completely captivate you, it is somewhat of a surprise to learn that much of the book was written after the fact. This of course raises the question of memory and accuracy and makes you wonder if perhaps much of it was simply made up after the fact. Perhaps it glorified her role, or the roles of others, perhaps her anger led her to extremes of subjectivity and mischaracterization. It is my impression that she remained remarkably objective and reported things and events pretty much as they must have occurred. Humbert was obviously a very intelligent woman with a fine memory. She began writing this account almost as soon as she was freed and back in Paris. It must have still been fresh in her mind, and the experiences she recounts are not the kinds of things one would be likely to either forget or make up. The first ten months of the resistance were written at the time, and her experiences at the very end of the war were likewise documented mostly as they occurred. She also somehow had managed to keep a book of Descartes with her during her ordeal and made some occasional notes in it. It is the actual period of her incarceration that she reconstructed. But she did this with considerable precision, with the actual names of the people she encountered, the towns and prisons she passed through, even the occasional glimpses of the outside, the flowers, spring, the fresh air, the joys of survival and friendship, and so on. There is little to indicate any form of fabrication or dishonesty. She is exceptionally modest throughout, especially at the end of the war when she was put in charge of organizing some towns and, more importantly, an anti-Nazi investigation, for which she was later given commendations. If anyone believes the French did not resist the German occupation they should read this account of these remarkably brave and dedicated French women who simply refused to give up.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Travesty

Barefoot woman in pajamas
arrested twice in three days
for drunken driving.

Our Supreme Court has outdone itself in promoting our increasing evolution into a full-blown fascist state. Remember Mussolini’s definition of fascism as being a marriage between corporations and government, and that is what has been happening in the U.S. for quite a long time now. It was bad enough when the Supreme Court interfered in the 2000 election and illegally awarded the Presidency to the incompetent George W. Bush, but now they have topped even that. It is widely known that many of the problems the U.S. faces are a direct result of corporate lobbyists and the influence of corporate money in our political system. There were a few minor restrictions on such practices but now even they have been brushed aside as corporate money will flow into the pockets of our Congresspersons at an accelerated rate, the result of this absolutely asinine decision.

The idea that corporations should have the same rights and privileges as individuals, one of the foundations of these recent decisions, seems to me to be highly questionable (at best), and at worst is simply ridiculous. The idea that gifts of money are simply an exercise of free speech is itself somewhat questionable, but when there are no restrictions on the amounts of free speech that can be exercised, and when corporations obviously have so much more money than anyone else it, obviously means that those with the most money have a monumental advantage. The Supremes looked at a system that was terribly dysfunctional as a form of government and decided to make it worse. Why did they do this? Because they recognize they are themselves just little cogs in a system designed to take over the world in the (unstated) name of Fascism, once again the dream of empire, in this case the greatest empire ever to be established.

Undeterred by the election of a Democratic administration they are just basically ignoring it, knowing that basically it, too, will be swallowed up by this massive movement, financed by corporate interests and motivated by the quest for power and profit. Nothing will be allowed to stand in the way. The one hope to overcome this fascist movement would be to establish a system of public financing for elections, but this recent ruling will make that impossible, as their money will control what happens in Congress and elsewhere.

As Greg Palast has pointed out, there is another insidious feature of this decision that is of the utmost importance, but seems not to be mentioned. Namely, American elections will now be open to non-American interests. The corporations that control most everything are not necessarily just American, they are international in scope. With this ruling there is nothing to prevent the Russians or the Chinese, or any other country from exercising their “free speech” by donating money to influence political decisions that may affect them, as long as their donations come from corporations in which they have an interest. Some of these corporations already have annual incomes exceeding that of many, if not most countries. This means that a few giant corporations will in fact end up ruling the world, national and individual interests will fall by the wayside as they will be simply brushed aside if they do not coincide with the desires of these corporate giants. This is already happening and will result eventually in a two-class society, a wealthy “Upper” class, and a poor “Lower” class, that will exist only in so far as they do the bidding of the former. Is this not what is already happening in the U.S.? This is a situation far more serious than when Teddy Roosevelt fought the “robber barons” and may already have gone so far as to be impervious to change. Note that Obama didn’t even try to take on the Insurance giants, but instead attempted merely to influence a few of their rules. And if he somehow manages to change the banks you can be sure the changes will be mostly cosmetic. I’m sure he knows that if he rocks the boat too strenuously he will become a one term President. Will he sacrifice himself for the good of the country and truly try to change the system, or will he meekly do the bidding of the powers that be. The former spells greatness, the latter business as usual.

Interestingly, there is a third strategy open to Obama, one that I believe he is more likely to pursue. This is because there are areas in which Obama is probably pretty free to operate because these are areas in which the powers that be don’t really care about (unless at any given moment they want to use one of them to further divide the country). For example, I don’t believe these giant corporations have any particular interest in abortion. They don’t really care if women have abortions or not. Similarly, I doubt they have any major interest in “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Nor do they care whether gays marry or not, whether there is gun control or not, if states offer assisted suicides or not, “death panels,” and so on. That is, there are many issues that do not importantly impinge on profits, but about which many Americans hold strong beliefs, either pro or con. Obama can probably meddle in these areas, perhaps even bringing about some changes that will make him appear to have done something, and for which he could take credit without actually having challenged the more basic infrastructure of the “single party” strategy. Am I crazy? Perhaps.

elusive temptress, evades
Barack Obama

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Woe, woe!

Man, 61, gets six months
for slapping two year-old
for crying in Wal Mart.

Well, it happened. The Democrats lost big time in Massachusetts. Now the finger pointing and blame giving will start in earnest. Not only did the voters there elect a Republican to Teddy Kennedy’s former seat, they elected an ultra-right one, and a male centerfold no less, from the party of No. And this even with a respectable turnout that was supposed to favor democrats. Oh woe, woe! It’s like the end of civilization as we know it (not that we are very civilized to begin with). How could it possibly have happened? What went wrong? Was it the candidate? Was it her campaign? Did the Democrats wait too long to take action? Was it a result of Democratic arrogance and overconfidence? Maybe the voters of Massachusetts didn’t want universal health care? Who knows?

I think I know. And I think the answer is basically simple. American voters voted overwhelmingly for change, obviously change from the previous administration. Obama promised us change. But he hasn’t delivered any meaningful change. Oh yeah, he’s made a few more or less cosmetic changes, and perhaps some useful ones, but he has basically just continued the Bush/Cheney business of aligning himself with the big corporations, looking out for the banks, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies, and ignoring what is now usually described as “Main Street.” His much touted stimulus plan has stimulated no one but the very industries that caused us our problems in the first place. He even appointed Bush’s former executives and such to continue in their offices. He even kept Gates in place rather than picking a new Secretary of Defense. Not only has he done that, he has also not only continued the “war” in Afghanistan (that most everyone knows is a lost cause) but has accelerated it. He has not managed to close Gitmo, has not done away with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” has largely ignored the African-American community, and totally sold us out on health care. He didn’t even try to get a decent health care plan, refusing to even consider a single-payer system, abandoning the public option, and basically giving an enormous gift to the insurance giants. He has made no attempt to bring Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and the other war criminals to accountability, and in fact has become increasingly chummy with Bush, now treating him as any other ex- President, who should be honored and called upon to perform honorary duties such as fund raising for Haiti, the very country that he helped destroy. In ordinary everyday speech, Obama totally “blew it.”

In short, Obama has “talked the talk but has not walked the walk.” People generally don’t expect politicians to keep all their campaign promises, but they also don’t expect them to break promises of meaningful change, and Obama has done this blatantly. He has been rightfully labeled “Bush light,” but I don’t think that goes far enough, he’s been much more than merely light in his continuation of the very policies people voted against. For anyone to charge Obama with being a socialist could not possibly be more ridiculous. As for me, I am sick to death of these phony and unnecessary “wars,” and the continued threat of starting new ones. I am sick of having our country managed in the best interests of the huge corporations that bribe our leaders, I am tired of Israel running our foreign policy and dragging us in to supporting their murder and genocide. I am fed up with “empire.” And I am outraged at the amount of money we are wasting on our military/industrial/political complex year after year, that dwarfs all the rest of the world’s defense budgets put together. I am also sick of having my tax dollars used to kill more and more innocent people. Most of all I am sick of being constantly lied to, not only by our politicians, but also by the media that is no longer even a shadow of the “fourth estate” it was supposed to be. I do not think I am alone in this. In fact, Obama has been caught in a massive lie and the voters of Massachusetts have seen through it. I suspect the rest of the country has too, and this does not bode well for either 2010 or 2012. EXCEPT there is no alternative! It will be either Obama or another Republican, in which case the status quo will continue. As long as there is no significant difference between our two parties there will be no meaningful change of any kind. Obama’s failure to pursue a single-payer system or even a public option “because he thought it would be too difficult,” is an admission that even he doesn’t believe meaningful change is possible. But “Hell hath no fury like an electorate scorned,” and I think that fury is just beginning. Will Obama change his ways? I doubt it, “leopards don’t change their spots.” We need a viable third party desperately, it’s well past time to admit that we have a one party system that is stealing us blind and feeding us fairy tales.

Anger at lies lasts forever. Anger at truth can't last.
Greg Evans

Clever mice sometimes escape from cats, even when greatly outnumbered.

Monday, January 18, 2010

No Good Deed Unpunished

Woman stabs husband
in heart during
argument about tacos.

I do not believe I have a particularly bad temper. Usually it takes quite a lot of provocation to set me off. But occasionally even a very small thing can do it. That’s what happened to me today and I have been irritated, angry, upset, pissed off and disgusted all day, about everything! I went to the supermarket (my mother-in-law is arriving tomorrow for a week-long visit) to stock up on some necessities. There was a large school bus parked just outside the market with a sign indicating it was part of a drive to raise food for the local food bank. I completed my shopping and left, ignoring the food drive. But before I even arrived home I had begun to feel guilty. As my guilt accelerated I finally gave in to it, returned to the market, bought some beans and pasta and stuff and made a contribution. You might think this might have made me feel better. It didn’t. It just made me more and more angry. I wasn't angry about spending a few dollars, I truly believe in sharing, but one thing leads to another.

First I became angry because I felt guilty. Why should I feel guilty because I did a good deed? Because I began to wonder, why did I have to do that? Why, when I live in what is widely touted as the richest country in the world, should I as an individual have to be responsible for seeing to it that no one would have to go hungry? Why should anyone have to go hungry in the richest country in the world? Thinking about that made me even madder. Isn’t the function of government to look after its citizens? Why doesn’t my government do this? Then I thought about how far we are in debt. I guess we can’t look after our citizens because we don’t have enough money. But why don’t we have enough money? Well, because we have been spending too much on wars. Why wars? I guess because we have to defend ourselves. But then I remembered that our “war” in Iraq was not a result of their attacking us. It was unnecessary to say nothing of criminal. Afghanistan came to mind, a “war” even more stupid and unnecessary than Iraq. Of course there is the Iran problem that probably wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t so arrogant and ignorant. Mad about this I then remembered that Israel was trying to get us to attack Iran for reasons I think are just paranoia. All this makes me mad as hell. Then I thought about war criminals and became even angrier, knowing that our war criminals are not being held accountable. In fact, they are apparently “buddies” with our current President. That made me even madder.

I began to think about all the plastic bags full of groceries that I saw in the bus, plastic bags, dozens upon dozens of plastic bags. Then I remembered there is a huge floating island of plastic bags in the Pacific Ocean so huge and polluting it can probably never be eliminated. That made me mad. I began thinking about food in general, and the fact that so much of our food now is genetically engineered, especially corn, which makes up part of almost everything we consume nowadays. Corn enjoys huge subsidies from our government, making it cheap so it can be used for most anything. That made me really mad. Of course you can’t think about food these days without thinking about corporate farming, a type of farming that is slowly ruining the land and most of the food products we need, corporate farms that get huge subsidies for growing corn, and other subsidies for growing nothing at all. I’m not happy about this. Farming led me to think about fish farming, and fish farming led me to think about how many of our natural fish species are depleted by overfishing and unenforced regulations. I love fish and this makes me truly unhappy. The disappearance of fish made me think about the extinction of other creatures, animals, birds, insects, virtually nothing has been spared by human rapacity and greed. Animals made me think of Polar Bears which will probably soon be extinct. I’m not pleased about this. And I’m even less pleased about the cause, global warming, that may spell the end of our own species if left unchecked. I get really angry and upset about this. I get especially angry when I get requests for money to save the Polar Bears. I can’t understand how money is going to save the creatures from man-made global warming unless, maybe, it will be used to bribe corporations to stop poisoning our air and water (this seem unlikely). In short, “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Of course I will take it because I have no choice in the matter.
Why don’t I have any choice? Because our political system is completely corrupt and no longer has anything to do with what might be considered “government.” I’m not much of an authority on the evolution of government, but I do know that leaders were not chosen for their ability to line their own pockets at the expense of their citizens. Presumably leaders at all levels of society were chosen to represent their communities and direct their affairs in such a way as to protect them and allow them to flourish. They were supposed to protect the public interest. Somehow, along the way, our leaders have failed to do this. If they had we would not have hungry people out of work, decimated forests, polluted rivers, mountain top mining, corporate farming, billionaires and paupers, disappeared species, wall street bailouts in the billions of dollars, millions upon millions without health care, nor we now be facing a health care bill that is mostly a multi-billion dollar gift to the Insurance companies, massive unemployment, and just endless nonsensical wars. In my view the “teabaggers” are pikers, making mountains out of molehills, baying at the moon about having to pay taxes or being threatened with socialism, or whatever slogans they happen to be obsessed with. Their perceived problems are trivial indeed in view of the real problems facing us, problems I doubt that most of them even think about.

What is the point of this raving? I don’t know. I’m just mad, mad about just about everything. You think I’m mad because my mother-in-law is coming. Wrong, I like my mother-in-law, and besides, being older than she is, I have no fear of her. You might say this is merely a case of “no good deed going unpunished.”

A country which proposes to make use of modern war as an instrument of policy must possess a highly centralized, all-powerful executive, hence the absurdity of talking about the defense of democracy by force of arms. A democracy which makes or effectively prepares for modern scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic.
Aldous Huxley

If present trends continue one half of all species on earth will become extinct within the next hundred years.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Spy Who Loved Us - book

The Spy Who Loved Us The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An’s Dangerous Game, Thomas A. Bass (Public Affairs, NY, 2009).

This is the fascinating, even amazing story of the life of Pham Xuan An, arguably one of the greatest spies of all time, and certainly one of the most successful. Exceptionally intelligent and wonderfully personable, this Vietnamese newsman was widely regarded as the most knowledgeable person in Vietnam during the war and was sought out by other reporters for his information. He knew and collaborated with virtually all of the most import American newsmen. An actually spent two years in California being trained in American journalism, became a reporter for Time magazine, returned to his country and provided the world with the best and most up-to-date accounts of the war in that troubled nation. He was featured in Time magazine and was highly regarded by all. It was not revealed until after the war that An had been a Communist spy for at least fifty years.

Being a reputable newspaper reporter in Saigon most of the time, and also having secret ties with the communist north, An was in a position to know what was happening and believed on both sides. He hobnobbed with American and European reporters, seemingly knew everyone, and because of his personable nature and natural ability as a conversationalist he was always able to discern what the U.S. position was and what we were going to do next. He became an expert on American psychology as well, and as he spoke English, he was an enormous asset to the Communists. When the Tet offensive failed militarily, for example, An recognized it had succeeded psychologically and would change the American outlook on the war. Because he was so knowledgeable about virtually everything he had to be constantly careful not to blow his cover, and walked an extremely difficult and sensitive line for many years. He offered advice to American and other reporters as well as to the communists. Interestingly enough, he pretty much always told the truth to both sides, knowing how each side would react and use the information he provided. Even after he was exposed, most Western reporters refused to believe he had ever deceived them. An also managed to intervene on occasions in order to save the lives of individuals captured by the Communists, often those Americans he regarded as personal friends. Paradoxically, he loved America and Americans even though he fought against them. He believed that after the war Americans and Vietnamese would become friendly once again and that the war was a temporary mistake and should not have been necessary. An did not seem to hate his enemies but, rather, seemed to understand that human nature often led people to do bad things. When asked about the Mai Lai massacre he replied: “Human beings have two parts, an animal part and a human part. Sometimes the animal nature is so strong that you lose your reason. The Vietnamese do this to the Vietnamese. They don’t know whether they are brothers or enemies. Even God cannot explain it.”

If An did not hate Americans he was not so generous to the French. It was against the French that An first became involved as a patriot. He loved his country and valued independence far more than he liked either the French or the Americans. At the time, Communism seemed to offer a solution to the French occupation of his country (he seems to have also had a sort of overly romantic notion of Communism and how it would be to live under it). It seems he admitted to only one episode in which he actually bore arms against anyone and that did not amount to much. But his information was so valuable to the Communists it was largely responsible for their unusual success against the overwhelming American superiority in arms. When An was given an honorary military burial his medals were revealed, fourteen of them in all, and each one marked an important victory against the enemies of his country. During his lifetime he fought constantly for independence, from France, the U.S., and China. He did not seek nor acquire any personal fortune, what little money he had he saved to be used to support his wife and children after he was gone (he believed he would be eventually exposed, put in prison and tortured). Happily, he avoided such a fate and died at 79 a hero to his country.

Pham Xuan An was truly a remarkable man for any time or place. Although Thomas Bass interviewed him many times, read his articles and articles about him, interviewed many who knew him, and pursued his story diligently, it is unlikely that the full story of his achievements will ever be known. He was a modest man, I believe he did what he believed he had to do, was not necessarily proud of all he had to do, and preferred it be left largely unknown.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Abandon hope all ye...

Hairstylist gets 5 to 20
for shooting woman who
complained about her weave.

Abandon all hope ye who live here in this strange culture now firmly in the hands of war criminals. If, like me, you may have had delusions about George W. Bush, war criminal extraordinary, ever being held accountable for his many horrible crimes against humanity, you can forget about it. Obama has now made it clear that he regards “Dubya” as just another ex-President, deserving of the same treatment they have all enjoyed. There they were, the three of them, Obama, Clinton, and Bush, all happy to be doing ”good” by raising money for the Haiti disaster. This means there will be no justice for a man who lied to the American people and the Congress in order to start a completely unnecessary “war” against a country that was no threat to us (itself a war crime of the first order), who ordered his military to kill hundreds of thousands of largely innocent people, to torture some of them, and to enable his powerful and wealthy friends to steal literally billions of dollars of public money. Indeed, they stole money so recklessly they didn’t even worry about the billions more that simply got lost. Not only did he commit war crimes, he even admitted to some of them. Now he is walking around and giving speeches and cooperating with Obama as if none of this ever happened. American hypocrisy has now been formally announced to the world. We prosecute war criminals wherever found to the fullest extent of international law, unless they are American war criminals. This will no doubt endear us even further to a world grown increasingly sick of us. What’s next, a medal for Dick the Slimy? ‘And what about our constitution that presumably insists war criminals should be prosecuted? Obama and Holder are now, as far as I know, also war criminals. Who is left to enforce the law? Oh, I forgot, the President is now the law. If he wants the testicles of little boys crushed in front of their parents in the interests of national security, he can do so (according to at least one of the ex-White House lawyers). Bush should have been impeached, but thanks mostly to Pelosi, he wasn’t. So now I guess we are supposed to honor him for having been our President “who saved us from terrorists.” This is shameful beyond belief.

Another thing I cannot understand (or perhaps I resist understanding) is how is it that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? This might make sense if Haiti had just been neglected and left alone all these years. But it hasn’t been, as we have been intervening and interfering in their country for years and years. Whatever we have been doing there certainly does not seem to have helped them in any way. In fact, it seems whatever we have been doing there has kept them in poverty and misery. Now Obama says we are going to help them, and the help is not going to be merely for the Earthquake calamity but will continue. Does this mean we are going to continue to keep them destitute and forced to work for slave wages? Why have we not “helped” them substantially in the past? Who and what is responsible for this failure of a nation? I am hesitant to look into the history of this failure because I am afraid of what I will find. Oh, once again I forget, Pat Robertson has already explained this tragic history, it was their pact with the devil to gain independence, the only slave nation to have successfully done so.

It seems there is an international movement forming to pressure Israel in the same way South Africa was pressured to give up apartheid. Not only was there the recent march in Egypt to support Gaza, but there are now apparently more and more institutions refusing to invest in Israeli firms. It’s too bad the same strategy isn’t being employed against the U.S. which has been the great enabler, allowing Israel to flout international law and do whatever it wishes no matter how murderous or vile.

Kudos to Roger Ebert who has written a letter to Rush Limbaugh suggesting he should be horse-whipped for demeaning the highest office in the land. He should have been horse-whipped, tarred and feathered, and run out of the country on a rail a long time ago. Just think about it, this fat draft-dodger druggy gets a 400 million dollar contract to do nothing but spout one hate-filled lie after another to an audience even more mentally handicapped than he is; talk about the unintended consequences of the First Amendment!

True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

There are people who hoard cats, even hundreds of them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pity the Poor Penis

Bubblehead: Your comment has mystified me. Do you think Scott Ritter needs to be edited? If so, why? You think he’s wrong? Too verbose? Unqualified? Too outspoken? Unreasonable? What? Please advise.

Pity the poor penis. I realize this may seem a strange topic for a blog but somehow, as there is nothing else on the news except 24 hour coverage of the terrible Haiti disaster, and there is little or nothing I can add to that, I decided to indulge the survivals of my previous incarnation as an anthropologist. In any case, as we now live in a culture that seems to be obsessed with erections, artificial or otherwise, and female orgasms, faked or otherwise, a few words about the penis should not be amiss. This was actually inspired by my Googling a previous acquaintance out of curiosity. This was a man who, having completed his medical training, decided to pursue anthropology instead. We were in New Guinea doing anthropological research at the same time. He, like me, is now an emeritus professor, and has recently written a book about circumcision, basically acknowledging that this procedure is entirely unnecessary and does not occur in most Anglo-Saxon countries, except the United States, where it exists for very questionable reasons. As you may know, this is a controversial procedure, with some arguing it is unnecessary and perhaps harmful, with others arguing it prevents diseases and so on. At the moment there is no clear consensus. It seems to be performed purely for religious reasons but the argument continues.

What I find of most interest about this topic is that circumcision is merely the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” when it comes to the treatment and abuse of the male organ. For example, in New Guinea, with which I am most experienced, there are all kinds of things done to the penis that have nothing to do with circumcision per se. The Bena Bena, where I worked, during male initiation rites, shoot a sharp stone-tipped arrow into the urethra of the initiates. The Garia did the same thing only with a thorn-headed arrow. The Wogeo cut the glans with with a sharp crab claw. The Awa cut wedges out of each side of the glans with a sharp bamboo knife, as did the Kwoma. The Arapesh rub the penes and scrota with stinging nettles and lacerate the penis with bamboo knives, and also insert barbed grass stems into the urethra. The Abelam tell their sons to strike their penes with nettles to rid them of “bad blood” and later incise their penes. In other places, lengths of “spear” grass, treated with ashes, are shoved into the penis, withdrawn and reinserted and twirled around until the youths cry out in pain and urinate. In several other Pacific societies, Tikopia, Tonga, Tahiti, and parts of Indonesia, a cut is slit in the foreskin, which is said to be either for reasons of cleanliness or to facilitate sexual pleasure. I have never pursued this practice beyond the Pacific area, but I would be most surprised if similar practices do not exist in Africa, South and Central America. Of course in Australia we know that Australian Aborigines practiced an extreme form of penile mutilation in the form of subincision. I suspect forms of penile abuse are widespread, and although I know that the mutilation of the female genitals also occurs, I do not believe it is anywhere near as widespread.

So how would one explain this rather widespread practice of penile abuse? There have been a variety of explanations. LeTourneau, for example, regarded circumcision as a substitute for human sacrifice. Zaborowski thought that circumcision at puberty marked the entrance to adult life. Sir James George Frazer thought that circumcision separated an individual from a vital portion of himself that would later be treated supernaturally. Briffault suggested that that circumcision was an attempt to imitate female genital defloration. Westermarck claimed it was a means for converting a boy into a man capable of procreation and marriage. Crawley regarded it as a means of preventing the retention of magically dangerous secretions and also of sacrificing of a part in order to guarantee the well-being of the whole. Bryk thought circumcision as a substitute for castration and human sacrifice. Freud thought of it as castration, Bettelheim thought it was an attempt to emulate the female genitals, and so on. You might note that all of these attempted explanations deal only with circumcision and therefore ignore all these other forms of penile mutilations and abuse. In the New Guinea case, perhaps the most widespread explanation has to do with the Bettelheim position. Namely, men, envious of the female ability to give birth, bleed themselves in emulation of this remarkable female ability. The bleedings are said to be “male menstruation.” This idea was first put forth, as far as I know by Kenneth Read, writing about the Gahuku-Gama, but it was also promoted by Ian Hogbin in his book “The Island of Menstruating Men,” (Chandler and Sharp, 1970). As far as I know this interpretation is fairly widely shared by many who have written about New Guinea. I personally believe this is an erroneous interpretation. Kenneth Read, who worked very early in the New Guinea Highlands, claimed that the Gahuku-Gama, with whom he worked, said the penile bleeding was “male menstruation.” He was my mentor, and I do not like to question his work, but first, I was never able to find a single informant in the Bena Bena area, adjacent to the Gahuku-Gama, and even intermarried with them, who would agree with this interpretation. Indeed, they thought it was ridiculous. Second, it is not clear to me how this could be adequately explained in Pidgin-English other than by equating it roughly with female menstruation. Third, I have yet to meet any normal male, in New Guinea or anywhere else, who would indicate envy of the female ability to give birth (unless, perhaps, they were “gay”). I regard this explanation as the “Stupid Savage” explanation. That is, “savages” are so stupid they do not understand childbirth, they therefore envy women this unusual ability, and then pretend they are women. This completely ignores the overwhelming male dominance and ethos in these societies, the overwhelming belief in the magical importance of semen, the widespread belief that the womb is merely an “oven” for forming an infant, and the importance of the male gender in the continuity, meaning, and culture of life in general.

When I started this account I did not intend it to be an advertisement. But I have written on this subject previously, “Men and ‘Woman’ in New Guinea” (Chandler and Sharp, 1999). This book was not a commercial or academic success, I’m not even certain it was ever reviewed. I think this might have been because I had the temerity to suggest that the Oedipus complex might not be a human universal, apparently such a heretical view in the anthropological circles I moved in at the time, that it was unacceptable and better ignored. I still think I made a cogent argument. In any case, this remarkably widespread practice of abusing the male genitalia still begs for an explanation. I wonder if anyone has ever considered the long-term consequences of Viagra and Cialis?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Happened to Editors?

Wife kills husband with hoe
when he sells family goat to
buy clothes for another woman.

Whatever happened to editors? An editor, I have learned from the online Merriam-Webster, is someone who edits. I gather there is no one that edits anymore, especially on the MSM. If there were would we be subjected to comments as idiotic as those of Rush Limbaugh on the terrible situation in Haiti? He said, I have seen on TV, that Obama is going to use this horrible disaster to help him with Black people. First, that anyone would be ghoulish enough to even think such a thing is difficult to understand. Second, Obama already has overwhelming support from the Black community so why would he need to use such a calamity to somehow get more? The fact of the matter is, Rush Limbaugh is a babbling idiot, to say nothing of a heartless monster, and if there were any editorial standards left in this country he wouldn’t be allowed within a mile of a microphone. Why should we be subjected to this baboon on TV? What he said isn’t news, it isn’t credible, it isn’t useful, it has no redeeming social value, it is, in short, just plain moronic babbling. He has, apparently, no editorial supervision, and is allowed day after day to spew his hatred and nonsense to an apparent audience of drooling cretins who seem to adore him. Go figure.

Ditto for Pat Robertson. Why on earth should we be subjected to a comment so demonstrably ridiculous as the one he just made about Haiti. We are supposed to believe that the disaster in Haiti is a result of the Haitian fight for independence from France a couple of hundred years ago, when they, according to this senile old goat, “sold their soul to the devil.” Robertson has a whole history of pronouncements about events that are collectively so stupid and patently absurd they should never have been repeated on TV at all. But they always are. Why? Again, they are not newsworthy, they are not true, indeed they are basically just sick fantasies out of the mouth of some religious nut who manages to somehow collect an audience of similar loonies into a Church of the Altogether Bonkers. There is no good reason we should have to listen to this utter crap year after year. And don’t tell me about the 1st amendment and free speech. He is free to say anything he wants, and if he can find an audience crazy enough to want to listen, fine, but his lunatic ramblings should not be forced on the public at large by an irresponsible MSM. Editing is apparently no longer considered a useful profession.

I suppose the ultimate example of this appalling practice is the hiring of Sarah Palin to be a “Commentator” on Fox News. I believe it is fair to say that the audience for Fox News in general is, shall we say generously, a bit mentally handicapped. So a major television network has hired her to inform them of who knows what. It is well known that she is ignorant as a post, has little or no knowledge of the world or world affairs, foreign policy, economics, or whatever, but she is hired to pass on her ignorance to the viewing audience of Fox News. I guess this will be the classic case of the blind leading the blind. Of course we all know by now that Fox News doesn’t even pretend to be a legitimate News source, but, rather, merely a propaganda tool for the extreme right wing. Even so, you might think they would want to employ people who knew at least something worth knowing. But no, they hired her because she would be “controversial,” controversy and shock being what passes for news these days. Infotainment served up much like “sloppin’ the hogs.” I declare, you betcha, gosh golly, darn right, damn tootin,’ Her Silliness will be a resounding success, the pig pucky will fly and Silly Sarah will make her fortune. It must be just what God intended.

It’s just like my neighbor says, “Who knows what goes on in the minds of baboons?”

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Recipes never tell you precisely what size a clove of garlic should be.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vanishing Health Care Reform

Angry because he left her, wife
delivers massive shock by
reversing wires on his power tools.

Have you been wondering what happened to the Health Care Bill? The possibility of a single-payer system was not even considered, the much touted public option has been dropped completely, Obama has been widely criticized for not being actively enough engaged in the debate, has not even come close to fulfilling his promises about health care reform, and we are about to get a bill that is little more than a gift to the Insurance companies. How did this happen? Whatever happened to all the glorious promises he made for universal, affordable, more efficient, and responsible health care, the reform that was going to vastly improve our dysfunctional health care system? Would you be surprised to learn that Obama received more than 20 million dollars from the health care industry in 2008 ($20,175,303 at last count). According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as reported today on Larisa Alexandrovna’s fine blog, “at-Largely,” that is precisely what happened. Do you think this might have anything to do with the vanishing health care reform? It seems our light-skinned President who doesn’t speak with a “Negro dialect,” speaks instead with a “forked tongue,” and like so many others in Washington D.C., has sold out to the “powers that be.” I can’t say that I am entirely surprised by this revelation, but I am surprised at the amount involved and the almost total victory they received for their investment. It’s just business as usual in our nation’s cesspool of capitalistic greed and treachery. It’s like someone once told me, “Don’t trust nobody, not even your own father.”

This seems to fit in nicely with Obama’s plan to tax so-called “Cadillac” health care plans rather than the wealthy. The Cadillac plans seem to be more of a “Chevy” plan and will negatively impact union workers who are outraged and threatening to withhold support for Democrats in 2010. Why does Obama want to stick it to the working and middle class instead of the filthy rich who already have more money than they can spend? Way to go, Barack!

I think I can understand greed up to a point. That is, I understand that if someone has nothing or next to nothing they may get a bit greedy when offered something. Or a child may be greedy for cookies or apple pie or something. And I suppose anyone who wants more in life than they have might be said to be at least a bit greedy. But what I do not understand is massive greed, greed on a scale that boggles my mind, nor do I understand why some people have it and others don’t. For example, many people deliberately pick careers or avocations that are obviously not going to result in their becoming unusually wealthy, teachers, University Professors, scientists, librarians, and many others, for example. They seem to be relatively satisfied with their lives and do not think of life merely as a pursuit to more and more wealth. But then there are those who already have more money than they could ever spend but who still pursue more and more and more. People like Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, Wall Street Executives, CEO’s, and even people like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Having made their fortunes several times over they still never give up, still make more and more commercials, more and more deals, as if there is no way they could ever have enough. Whatever happened to the idea of making your fortune and retiring in comfort, as even Pirates used to do, or sailing Captains, or even pimps, gaffers, and drug dealers, and still others? I guess I can understand Tiger Woods, who continues his pursuit of records and probably just uses his winnings now for his foundation, but this is not true of many others who seem to want to make more just for the sake of making more. This seems to me to be greed, plain and simple. There ought to be a law that once you achieve a certain fortune you should have to retire and leave some for others. Or you should have to pay unusually high taxes, or donate huge sums to charity, or something. Making more and more money just for the sake of it I think is unconscionable and, I am pretty sure, is not a goal that exists in many societies. This kind of behavior seems to be peculiarly associated with free-market capitalism and results in a few having obscene wealth and the vast majority having very little (ring any bells?). Yes, I believe in democratic socialism, as practiced in much of Europe and Scandinavia. President Obama has brought about some welcome changes in his first year in office, but to accuse him of socialism is so far off the mark as to be absurd.

There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Round up the Usual Republican Idiots

Man gets 10 years for
“massaging” $80 worth
of beef under his shirt.

I wanted to say “Round up the Usual Republican Hypocrites,” but they have by now made hypocrisy look almost respectable, compared to the rest of their behavior. There are apparently some revelations in a new book out today that are provoking a great deal of controversy, a book that might make its way here sometime in the next decade. I have not read this book, which is said to be “gossip,” but I gather it reveals some interesting things about the last election. For example, the one thing that seems to have everyone the most excited about has to do with what Harry Reid said about President Obama while he was running for President. This absolutely shocking revelation is that Reid apparently said Obama had a chance to win the election because he was “light-skinned” and did not speak with a “Negro dialect.” Wow! What a terrible thing to say, when you are supporting someone for President who is light-skinned and does not speak with a Negro dialect (I don’t know precisely what that is but I have a pretty good idea what Reid meant by it). This absolutely terrible racist remark is considered so bad Republicans are calling for his resignation. Reid has apologized and President Obama has accepted his apology. I have no idea what this is supposed to be about. Reid has a fine record of supporting Black causes and equality. At the risk of being accused of racism myself, I cannot see this as a racist remark. It appears to me to be a perfectly rational description of what was involved. Does anyone seriously believe that a truly black man who spoke with some kind of Black jargon would have been elected President? Do I believe there are truly black-skinned persons who are qualified to be President of the United States? Of course I do. Do I believe such a person would have been elected at the time. Of course I don’t, and I don’t believe any honest person would believe otherwise. For Republicans to try to compare this to the Lott claim that we would be better off had Strom Thurmond been elected President is Republican idiocy carried to an extreme.

Then there is the claim that Bill Clinton called Teddy Kennedy and asked him to endorse Hillary for President. He reportedly said, “just a few years ago he (Obama) would have been serving us coffee.” As no one wants to believe that Clinton is a racist, they interpret this has a reference to Obama’s being a junior Senator and lacking experience. Either way this was a stupid thing to say and Kennedy was rightly outraged about it. Clinton then made it worse by apparently saying to Kennedy that he was only backing Obama because he was Black, a truly stupid thing to say. I do not believe this is what made Kennedy decide to back Obama but it certainly didn’t help Hillary. I suppose in a kind of perverse way you have to give Bill Clinton some credit for desperately trying to get Hillary elected President.

Someone in the McCain campaign apparently said Sarah Palin was ignorant. I don’t know if this was said in this way or if this is just a general description stemming from the fact that she didn’t know much of anything about history, the various wars we have been engaged in, that there were two Koreas, and so on. I don’t know how many people may have been offended by this, but, again, it’s true. She was (and is) ignorant. You can’t say she is stupid, as she has certainly been smart enough to parley her brief moment in the sun into a personal fortune, but she certainly is ignorant of anything and everything that someone running for an important office should know. That John McCain picked her as someone within a heartbeat of the Presidency just demonstrates his contempt for our country and the pathology of his ambition.

I don’t know the details, but apparently John Edwards and his wife are not portrayed in a very flattering manner in this book. But you don’t have to think about it very long to understand that what Edwards did was every bit as bad and probably worse that what McCain did. If Edwards had become the candidate, or even candidate for Vice-President, at the same time he was having an adulterous affair, the Democratic ticket would have imploded had it been made public. What he was doing was basically insane, suicidal, absurd, unconscionable, even ridiculous, and can only be explained by his own pathological ambition and selfishness. It seems we dodged the bullet in both cases, but the implications for American politics are profound. If this is the quality of our Presidential candidates (along with Geroge W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Giuliani, Jindal, Thompson, Huckabee, Pawlenty, and others of that ilk) we are surely doomed.

The one person who seems to know precisely what he is doing is Dick the Slimy. He knows that the best defense is a good offense. As long as he stays on the offensive vis-à-vis Obama he has a chance to escape the consequences for his war crimes. If Obama or Holder were to suddenly decide to investigate him (apparently completely unlikely) he will be able to accuse them of political motives rather than purely legal ones. The potential charges against Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/et al, would be criminal, having nothing to do with politics, but that’s not the way these filthy thugs would try to present themselves. As Obama and Holder seem to be on the same side with them, we can’t expect them to be held accountable even for their admitted war crimes. Such is life in the corridors of power.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
John Adams

There is no such thing as a gentleman cat.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Red Princess - book

Red Princess A Revolutionary Life, Sofka Zinovieff (Pegasus Books, 2007)

My residual male chauvinist piggishness would ordinarily have kept me from even a cursory glance at a book about a Princess, red, blue, or even polka-dotted. And I would also not normally be interested in a book by a granddaughter about her grandmother, assuming it would be some kind of tribute about a kindly old lady who knitted socks for the soldiers, drank tea and ate crumpets, while imparting the wisdom of the ages to her adoring grandchildren and great grandchildren. So let me explain this strange deviation from my usual prejudices. You must first understand the conditions of my life here on the fringes of the world. Although we have a truly excellent book store, it deals mostly in used books and does not get much in the way of new releases. And, as a result of the Nightmare Years, I can no longer afford to buy books as I formerly did (not that I could possibly afford all the books I might like to read in any case). I do not understand how it is that the number of books being published seems to be increasing all the time while the number of people who read seems to be decreasing, but I digress. I am dependent now on libraries, especially for new releases. We have a very fine award-winning library here, but being a small-town library it has a limited budget for new books. Furthermore, the Librarian, who is truly outstanding, knows the reading tastes of her patrons, and unfortunately they are not very similar to mine. Every few weeks I travel to North Idaho College with my wife who teaches there. NIC has a very fine library for a Junior College, and also apparently a generous budget for new acquisitions. But I don’t go there often enough to keep up with my avaricious reading needs. Thus it was that when I last visited our little library, Red Princess was the only recent arrival even remotely related to my interests (I don’t read much about raising goats, chickens, or other livestock, embroidery, quilt-making, knitting or woodworking, nor am I enamored of reading about Her Silliness, Sarah, or how the world is being taken over by socialism, fascism, communism, and atheism, why we should return to the gold standard, how the Democrats are ruining the country, or why global warming is a myth and the United States is a Christian nation).

Thank god my lingering and insidious bigotry and prejudices were forced aside by circumstances and I found and read this absolutely fascinating book. Sofka Zinovieff, the author, was named after her grandmother, Princess Sofka Dolgorouky, who was the daughter of Countess Olga Shuvaloff, all of them high-level, respectable members of the Russian aristocracy. Sofka Dolgorouky’s first husband was Leo Zinovieff, the father of Peter Zinovieff, the father of the author.

The book is primarily about the life of Sofka Dolgorouky, who I asssure you was far from being a kindly little old grandmother. As a child, Sofka was raised in the super affluent tradition of the Russian aristocracy, with virtually everything she could desire. Born in 1907 she was about twelve years of age when her family fled Russia after the Revolution. Her life was pretty much downhill from then on, as like most White Russians they lost their fortune and were forced to live in extremely reduced conditions in Paris, London, and elsewhere. After some unpleasant experiences, Sofka became acquainted with a wealthy English family and spent much time with them on their estate. She eventually met and married her first real love, Leo, with whom she had two sons. Leo, on business in Russia was imprisoned by the communist government, Sofka, at great danger, expense, and difficulty, managed to smuggle herself back into Russia and spent months trying to get him freed, which she eventually did, and they managed to escape once again to London. Shortly thereafter Sofka met and fell in love with an upper-class Englishman, Grey Skipwith, four years her junior, and left Leo and her children for a new life with Grey. His family was upset with this, never accepted her or her children, and her reputation began to suffer. She and Grey had some fine moments but eventually fell upon hard times, eking out a living as translators, editors, or whatever they could find. When WWII broke out they were living in Paris. Grey joined the British air force, and Sofka, who had a British passport, was rounded up with other women in similar circumstances and forced into a camp for such potential “enemy aliens.” It was not a terrible concentration camp like Auschwitz or others, but it was most unpleasant, they had very little to eat, no clothing to speak of, and so on. Sofka and a new friend of hers, nicknamed Rabbit, managed through letters and outside influence to save the lives of forty or more Jews who passed through their camp ostensibly on their way to the gas chambers. Somehow Sofka’s influence managed to get them sent to Israel instead, for which she was subsequently honored by Israel. Just before the war ended she received word that Grey, who had been a gunner on British warplanes, had been killed. She was devastated for a time and even suicidal but eventually recovered. Back in Britain she worked for a time for Laurence Olivier and his wife, regained some contact with her sons, including Patrick whom she had with Grey. You might say she was a terrible mother, and in some ways she was, spending little time in physical, intimate contact with her sons. But no matter what her circumstances she always made sure they were safe and provided for and they all grew up successfully and helped provide for her in her old age, at which time she was living in a small house in the country with an unlikely working-class Englishman, the last love of her life. Although she had but three serious loves, she was extremely promiscuous at all times, and even boasted of at least a hundred brief liaisons. Some of her critics claimed it was the legacy of Catherine the Great who was also known to have been unusually promiscuous.

Sofka, after having begun her life in almost unbelievable luxury, suffered grievously after the family fled Russia. Having to work to support herself, and being an astute observer of human life, she quickly came to realize just how unjust it all was and eventually joined the communist party and dedicated herself to the communist cause. She worked for the party in various capacities, passed out leaflets, edited articles, and did what she could, thus the title “Red” Princess. Even after the terrible abuses of Stalin were made public she still believed in the socialist dream. This above all else, alienated her from the community of White Russians, most of whom continued to hate communists, and could not understand her conversion. Sofka lived her life as she wished, she loved passionately, traveled far, accomplished much, suffered dreadfully, survived until her mid eighties, delighting finally in her final companion, garden, children and grandchildren.

To truly understand Sofka it is necessary to understand her mother, Countess Sophy Bobrinsky, who was herself an outrageous example of an early, independent woman. She almost steals the book, as she, like Sofka, turned her back on the aristocracy, the gowns, parties, high life, and became a doctor and even a pilot with her own airplane (remember, this was in the 1920’s and 30’s!). She served on the front lines, amputating, and doctoring under terrible conditions. When she arrived in London they would not accept her credentials so she drove a taxi. She was also considered promiscuous and, like Sofka, had quite a reputation. Her mother, Countess Olga Shuvaloff, who lived quite a long time and was an important force in their lives, was the only one who clung to her aristocratic roots and, although living increasingly in poverty, refused to accept anything less than what she felt was proper.

No whitewash this, the author has done a credible job of presenting her grandmother as she was (I cannot bring myself to use that loathsome phrase, “warts and all”). Sorry to have run on so long. I still didn’t even come close to doing justice to this fine book. I suggest you read it for yourselves.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Raped British woman in
Dubai is charged with having
sex outside of marriage.

“Lost” is right! I guess we now know where our priorities are. President Obama’s State of the Union speech has been re-scheduled so as not to compete with the season’s premier of this super-duper combination of soap operas, otherwise known as Lost. Whew, I was really worried there for a moment. I confess to never having seen a complete episode of this program, merely bits and pieces, because my wife and son are addicted to it and I cannot completely avoid it. When it comes on I usually beat a retreat into my study, partly because I do not understand it, and partly because it does seem to me like a series of different soaps all strung together. I’m sure aficionados will not agree to this description, but I am equally certain that whatever it is, it should not be regarded as important enough to influence the timing of the State of the Union speech.

It is this, along with many other things that make me feel that, like Alice, I have fallen into a rabbit hole where everything is terribly mixed up and I am surrounded by characters and events so strange I cannot fathom them. There is the leader, half black, half white, who has tried to convince everyone that war is peace and continuity is change. There is also the mad hatter, the former leader whose speech was often so garbled you had to accept that words meant whatever he said they meant, and to be a great leader meant you had to be at war. As he was not very interested in being the leader he was directed by a sort of evil shadow leader who believed torture was the way to find out things that were not true so he could make people believe they were true. Their warriors were led by a strange fellow who believed that things you didn’t know you didn’t know might be of importance if you knew what they were so you could know them, and perhaps you might learn about them if you could just torture enough. He was sometimes at loggerheads with a black lady who played the piano and liked expensive clothing and boots, did not read her mail, but helped design the tortures in meetings they held for that purpose. Nothing was too far-fetched to be considered, one of their lawyers even thought crushing the testicles of a child in front of his parents would be acceptable. There was also a famous General who reported very important things he did not believe because he felt it behooved him to do so because he was a General. These leaders led a large group who believed that the solution to everything was lowering taxes on wealthy people and using taxes in general to finance endless wars so that people might have something to do to keep them busy. As there was never enough money for these endless wars they just printed and borrowed more as they believed deficits were not a problem. In order to do all this they convinced the citizens that black was white, up was down, east was west, and most importantly, lies were truth. They told so many lies, eventually no one could tell the difference any more between truth and falsehoods. This, of course, led to a situation of such utter confusion they had to pause to select some new leaders who have proven to be just like the old leaders, and so this strange cycle of unreality continues in the same vein. I would like to escape this rabbit hole but all the escape routes have been blocked by officials who want you to remove your shoes, carry no liquids, knitting needles, corkscrews, toenail clippers, or anything that might be considered remotely useful, and are soon apparently going to also inspect your underwear and perhaps even your body cavities. Apart from this, their major concern at the moment has to do with how many times the President should use the term “terrorists.” Everyone seems to agree he should use this term, the problem is how often and how passionately. They also worry about other words, the meaning of which, they have no idea, and no desire to learn. Remember, words mean whatever you choose them to mean, which makes possible a “fascist-communist,” or a “compassionate-conservative,” and so on. I fear I may be trapped in this rabbit hole for a long time, perhaps forever.

The one thing that would help the most to end problems in the Middle East, and terrorism, is apparently never even seriously considered, bringing the rogue state of Israel to heel and forcing them to negotiate in good faith a solution to the Palestinian problem, especially and urgently as it pertains to the situation in Gaza. As long as Israel continues to rule the United States this is not going to happen. The participation of the United States in this slow genocide is shameful beyond belief and absolutely unconscionable.

To-day that seems so long, so strange, so bitter,
Will soon be some forgotten yesterday.
Sarojini Naidu

Friday, January 08, 2010

Life Goes On

Twelve-year-old boy robs
store with toy gun, says
“thank you” when given cash.

Life goes on…somehow. For those of us not really “in the know,” we might as well be living in a different epoch, or even in a different reality. We shovel our snow, plant our gardens, fix our fences, sit in traffic, pay our bills, and ”make do” as best we can. In the meantime, “out there,” things are happening that we really know little or nothing about. Oh, there is the news, but nowadays the news isn’t really news at all, it’s mostly just lies and fabrications that might as well be fairy tales. I saw somewhere, for example, that we might be going to “war” with Yemen. I guess this is because some Nigerian kid passed through there on his way to the U.S. and was apparently planning to blow up a plane on the way, with, of all things, a bomb in his underwear. It isn’t entirely clear whether he got the bomb in Yemen or Nigeria, and he apparently was “radicalized” in London, but in any case we are about to blow a few more billions on some kind of military action in Yemen, which would seem to be a bit of an overreaction, except somewhere in this story there is probably something to do with oil. I guess maybe someone has some idea of what the hell we are doing in Yemen but there is little or no chance I will ever know. This seems to be somewhat similar to our presence in Afghanistan where we are, I guess, “nation building.” The long planned and wished for pipeline through that difficult country is rarely if ever mentioned anymore, as if it has nothing to do with our altruistic desires to make the Afghans “like us” (whether they want to be like us or not). Anyway, trying to understand what we are doing around the world, if you separate it from oil, is like trying to put together a cross-word puzzle that your five year old has mixed up with several others and some of the pieces are missing. I have more or less given up all hope of understanding what we are doing except for the basic fundamentals of killing, stealing, profiteering, looting, arson, rape, brutalizing, and torturing, all in the guise of “spreading democracy.”

I find I am also being confronted now with trying to decide whether Republicans are stupid, ignorant, or dishonest, or perhaps all three simultaneously. Take Rudy Giuliani, for example, who announced on TV somewhere the other day that there were no terrorist attacks on the U.S. during the Bush administration. This was the guy who made his reputation (such as it is) on his “heroism” during 9/11, and tried (but failed miserably) to ride it into the White House. Did he know he was lying? Was he ignorant of the actual dates? Is he just stupid? In his case I’m pretty sure he was lying as that is apparently all he ever does. But this is just one tiny example of what Republicans have been doing for years, without being challenged by the MSM interviewers who have let them get away with the most outrageous ignorance, stupidity, and lies, without ever confronting them about it. Guiliani is not the only one who has gone unchallenged, Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and many others were allowed to get away with the most idiotic and outrageous falsehoods for years. I guess this is not surprising, given that the MSM, and their paid hacks, are on the same side and are no longer interested in “news” as such (and as there is no really useful definition of news, it has become whatever they tell us it is). To listen to the news as presented by the “main stream,” you might as well stand outside and listen to the coyotes howling.

I confess I find it strange that although I try to keep informed, I watch the news, I use the internet, I read magazines, papers, and books, I really have no way of knowing what the truth is about anything anymore. When I was a youth and was told that England had declared war on Germany because the Germans had attacked Poland I didn’t hesitate to believe it. At least it made some kind of sense. But now I am told we are going to engage in military action in Yemen that makes no sense to me (unless somehow I can “connect the dots” between a young Nigerian man, Nigeria, terrorism, Yemen, London, Detroit, his underwear, his father, and something called al Quaida, which is apparently a world-wide criminal conspiracy consisting of somewhere between about 200 or perhaps 2000, or maybe more, that have to be fought with billions of dollars of military hardware and soldiers. Similarly, I could never understand our going to “war” with Iraq, with Afghanistan, and now with Pakistan and Yemen, and perhaps even Iran. There is only one thing that connects all of this (to me) bizarre activity, and that thing is oil. But cats are nice, there are soft and affectionate (sometimes), and pleasant to hold and pet, and they remind me that here at Sandhill there is a form of reality that apparently no longer exists elsewhere in the world.

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

Terry Pratchett
There is reason to believe that Genetically Modified crops can result in organ damage, at least in mice.