Saturday, May 29, 2010

Enough Already!

Man fined $65 for allowing
uncontrolled pet python to
excercise in hotel hallways.

Enough already! How much longer is idiocy going to prevail? Somebody do something! Our ridiculous “war” in Afghanistan continues even though our soldiers don’t even know precisely who the enemy is. The Taliban, who just want us to get out of their country, seem to be growing stronger and more successful with each passing day. We are spending ourselves into national bankruptcy, failure, and disgrace for a cause no one believes we can ever “win,” and if our efforts have a purpose it is being kept secret (although we can surmise it has something to do with regime change in Iran, making sure our evil empire continues to try to control events in the Middle East, and desperately clinging to our claim of being the greatest country on earth, while merely managing it in the best interests of the ruling international corporations.

Turkey and Brazil managed to get Iran to agree to something the United States originally proposed, but now that they have done so they are being castigated for it (how could any other countries have the temerity to try to bring about peace and avoid war in the Middle East). This indicates pretty clearly that it is not an end to Iran’s (perfectly legal) processing of uranium that we seek, but, rather, regime change. Iran, contrary to the big lie the Israelis keep promoting, is not a threat to the U.S., the world, or realistically, even Israel. But whatever Israel wants, Israel gets (from the United States). We continue to allow Israel to commit even the most terrible war crimes and even collaborate in them. Having herded thousands upon thousands of Palestinians into a ghetto called Gaza they are systematically starving and slowly killing them at will, all with the compliance of the U.S. They continue to bomb and assassinate them, and even now the Israeli navy is going to keep aid ships from delivering aid of any kind, including toys for their children, with the incredible, jaw-dropping and utterly false claim there are no hardships in Gaza.

And how about this for trying to fool all the people all of the time, we have now signed on to a plan to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, but we don’t want to single out Israel for non-compliance. But Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has any nuclear weapons, and as long as Israel has these weapons, and as they always do whatever they wish, thumbing their nose at the U.N. and even the U.S. whenever they feel like it, what are the chances of ever having a nuclear-free zone? Of course as the Obama administration has preached nuclear disarmament, they could not very well have refused to sign on to this plan for the Middle East, even though there is no chance Israel can be made to comply. It’s merely an attempt to make people believe we are actually trying to bring about the abolition of nuclear weapons while we and the Israelis continue to develop and maintain them, hypocrisy at its very best.

We are well on the way to becoming a third-rate nation. This can be allowed because nations and national interests no longer control the world and vie for power and position. The world is now under the control of a small number of huge international corporations whose annual incomes exceed those of most, if not all nations (probably even the U.S. if you subtract our national debt from the equation). These gigantic corporations are so wealthy and so powerful they can act with impunity, as BP is doing at the moment. You may be told that BP will be entirely responsible for the horrible disaster they have wrought, but considering that the Exxon-Valdez spill has yet to be settled twenty years after the fact, and considering that the BP lawyers are already hard at work, don’t bet even a nickel on their being held solely responsible for the crime they have committed, and don’t believe the taxpayers will get away without paying. And do not forget that our Congresspersons no longer represent we the people, they represent their corporate masters and will do their bidding no matter what. Democracy, as the term applied to the government of the United States, is a laughable farce that has slowly and insidiously over time been converted into a charade that masks the grim reality that hides in the shadows and persistently and hungrily eats away at human worth and dignity. Democracy is dead. Long live Kleptocracy!

Surprise! Top Kill has failed. Stay tuned for the next questionable experiment while the Gulf keeps on dying. Hey, it’s only the Gulf of Mexico, who needs it? It’s not as if it’s the whole planet. Accidents do happen, especially when you are recklessly 98% accident prone. Don’t worry, next time will be different, probably even worse. Stupid is as stupid does.

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.
H. L. Mencken

The coconut is a fruit, not a nut.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do Ask, Don't Tell

Two North Carolina surgeons
reprimanded for performing
C-section on woman not pregnant.

There seems to be a variation on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that politicians have been using for years. That is, encouraging people to ask questions but not telling them meaningful or intelligible answers. A classic example of this can be seen in President Obama’s press conference this morning. He encouraged Helen Thomas to ask her question, which she did, about why we are still in Afghanistan. He then gave a reply that was so evasive, so blatantly untrue, so ridiculously simple-minded and useless he might as well have just refused to answer. He said something to the effect that we were there because of al Quaida and the threat they posed to us. This is, of course, utter nonsense. First of all, al Quaida is not much of a threat when you consider they are a relatively small group of Muslim extremists who engage in terrorist activities rather than full-scale military attacks. They are, in effect, criminals rather than soldiers fighting a conventional war. Furthermore, there is now said to be perhaps no more than 100 or so in Afghanistan. There is no way to explain our billion dollar a month (or whatever it is) expense to fight al Quaida. And now we are supposedly fighting the Taliban who were never and are not now a threat to the U.S., wanting us merely to get out of their country. So whatever it is that is keeping the “war” going in Afghanistan cannot simply be because of al Quaida. I suppose if you want to know why we’re there you might want to follow the money. Who gains from our phony “war” halfway around the globe? The military/industrial/political complex no doubt gains the most. Additionally, it allows us to maintain our presence in the area and attempt to maintain control of the Middle East, that glorious land swimming in oil. I saw today on the web that the Afghans believe we may actually be funding the Taliban in order to keep the conflict going. A few years ago I would have dismissed an accusation like this as nonsense, but now I’m not at all certain it is not entirely possible. I suspect this is much the same reason we have never captured or killed bin Laden as we need him, along with the Taliban, to give us an excuse to continue our otherwise inexplicable continuation of this stupid “war.”

As far as the press conference went (sans Helen’s question) I thought Obama did as well as possible under the circumstances. After all, it’s not easy to explain and/or defend the idiocy of our government when it comes to their oversight of corporate behavior. They are, unhappily, not truly interested in what is good for the country or the citizens anymore, only in what their corporate masters require of them in return for their largesse. It is not surprising that people, especially Republicans, are trying to blame Obama for this disaster, they would blame him if the sun didn’t rise in the morning. Is it really Obama’s fault that the supposed regulators were literally in bed with and sharing drugs with the oil executives? Is it Obama’s fault that BP lied consistently about the spill? Is it Obama’s fault that the U.S. government does not have the technological know-how or the required machinery to deal with deep ocean oil drilling and thus is completely dependent upon BP and other oil giants for such equipment? The fact that this is so is shameful, short-sighted, and stupid beyond belief, but it clearly is not the fault of Obama who has, in fact, tried to clean up the mess he inherited from the previous Oil administration. It is not at all clear what more Obama could have done once the disaster occurred. Obama claims, and I have no reason to dispute him, that the many suggestions that were made were considered and either followed or rejected as being worthy or not, dredging giant berms, for example, or having fleets of tankers skimming the oil. James Carville, one of the loudest of the political whores, apparently wanted Obama to travel to the Gulf to scream out “I’m in charge, I’m in charge.” I guess he thinks this would have soothed people and made them feel better while the oil crept closer and closer to the marshes that can probably never be cleaned up and restored. There may well have been some bad decisions made but I don’t think it’s true that the Obama administration did not act quickly enough, and with a disaster the size of this one it cannot be surprising that mistakes may have been made. In my opinion, such as it is, the problem is that this deep sea drilling should never have been allowed in the first place when it is quite clear they did not know exactly what they were doing, and what they are doing now to stop the flow is basically still experimental. As far as future drilling in the deep ocean is concerned they should forget about it. It is time to break our addiction to oil once and for all. We should do it now, not a few years from now. Would it really hurt that much to make a serious effort to actually conserve energy? I don’t see much in the way of attempts to turn off some lights or begin effective public transportation or reign in the destructive waste of gas and oil in gas guzzling recreation vehicles, demolition derbies, and other wasteful activities. And think of all the energy that might be saved if we would admit that our ongoing “wars,” even our secret empire, have no real purpose other than wasting lives and resources, mainly in our insane demands for the control of more and more oil.

Some are already claiming that the only way we can overcome our massive national debt is to do away with social security and medicare. This strikes me as a bit disingenuous as these are no doubt the same people who have tried to do away with such programs from the very beginning. How is it that no one suggests we get out of debt by ending our stupid “wars,” and our obscenely bloated military budget. I repeat once again my neighbors comment, “Who knows what goes on in the mind of baboons?”

It is wise to remember that you are one of those who can be fooled some of the time.
Laurence J. Peter

The long-tongued female orchid bee pollinates the Brazil nut tree.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Always Too Late

German bank robbers miscalculate
explosives to blow open door,
destroy the entire building.

How is it that we here in the United States are virtually always late when it comes to disasters or other problems? And if we are not too late we are almost always almost too late. We were, for example, too late to save the Passenger Pigeons, and almost too late to save the Buffalo. Now we are either too late or almost too late to save many other species, the pygmy rabbits, the salmon, the burbot, the sturgeon, and on and on. We seem to be perennially too late to stop bad drugs from making it onto the market, waiting until many people have ill effects before taking action. We were too late in entering WW II, and would have been way too late had Roosevelt not acted when he did. We were too late in Korea and Vietnam where much of the tragedy could have been avoided or at least moderated. We were too late in confronting Joe McCarthy and his witch hunts that ruined the lives of many completely innocent people, often writers, actors, and University Professors. Of course we were too late to deal effectively with Katrina, too late to build adequate dikes, too late to provide aid and comfort, just too late as always. Now we are too late to deal with the BP disaster. Even if the well is shut down it is well after the proverbial horse is out of the barn, with millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf and now into the marshes where it can never be cleaned up. And it may be much worse before it is over. This is something that could have been prevented, just as many other things could be prevented if we had the foresight to pay attention to what is about to happen before it happens. And we don’t seem to learn from experience. People in power are still talking about and preparing for more offshore drilling even though it should certainly be obvious by now that deep-water drilling is little more than a gamble and we are not really prepared to deal with potential problems. The people who are insisting we continue say we desperately need the oil, but the amount of oil we produce is really quite minimum compared to what we waste on a daily basis.

Anyway, there seems to be something about Americans that makes us do things before we carefully consider all the potential consequences, a kind of recklessness like the “shoot first and ask questions later,” attitude that goes along with the romantic myths of our frontier and western past. We seem to be more willing to take risks than many other people. In some parts of the world if there is a potential dangerous risk in doing something it is avoided until all possibilities outcomes are considered. Even in the New Guinea Highlands when I worked there the so-called “primitive people” were more adverse to risk than we are. When Tilapia were introduced, for example, to provide a much needed source of protein for them, they refused to eat them because, they said, “the little bones might get in the throats of our children.” A visitor from Africa is reported to have responded in astonishment that anyone would buy and eat a chicken when they did not know who raised it and where it came from. We continue to use certain drugs and chemicals even though we know they have been banned in other countries. The crap they have been spraying on the oil is a case in point, it is illegal in England. Is this some kind of character flaw in the American character, or is there perhaps another explanation? It probably has to do with our reckless approach to our economy where many want everything privatized, energy, transportation, medical care, agriculture, even social security (if they could) with no apparent realization that some things are far too important to be privatized and the consequences of privatization are actually quite harmful to the citizenry. So, in our endless pursuit of profit through unregulated capitalism we drill for oil where we don’t know what we are doing, we remove entire mountain tops in pursuit of coal and push the waste and debris into our rivers, rivers which are themselves polluted with mercury and worse, we practice corporate farming even though we know it is harmful to the earth, build dams without foresight enough to think of the fish, and allow species to disappear without knowing what possible benefits might accrue by not allowing them to go extinct. In short, we act stupidly and without sufficient foresight, and we do it over and over again.

“The white men were many and we could not hold our own with them. We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears. We had a small country. Their country was large. We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit made them. They were not, and would change the rivers and mountains if they did not suit them.”
Chief Joseph

Female cassowaries do not incubate their eggs but move on to lay eggs in several nests where the males care for them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Fifth Horse

Angry when dinner is not
on the table, West Virginia
man sets his house on fire.

It turns out (surprise) we do not know how to drill safely in deep water. It also turns out we are completely dependent upon the oil companies for whatever technology there is to stop these deep underwater leaks as no one else has such technology, including the U.S. government. So the leak continues pouring thousands upon thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf on a daily basis, and if next Wednesday’s attempt to stop it fails it will probably continue at least until August (by which time so much damage will have been done to the environment and those who depend upon the Gulf resources the damage will be impossible to repair). Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu has said that if anyone has lost their income because of the spill, say $50,000, BP will write them a check for that amount. Similarly, if a business has lost a million dollars they will do likewise. Landrieu has been a recipient of lots of oil money and has defended offshore drilling for a long time. If she believes BP is going to pay everyone dollar for dollar for their losses she is dumber than a post. This is a claim on the same level of credibility that the CEO of BP made today that BP will clean up every drop of oil. Apparently some people are unaware that you can go to hell for lying the same as stealing, they have done plenty of both and no doubt there will be much more to come. This is going to become the worst ecological disaster in history and there is little to be done about it now. It should never have been either attempted or allowed. There is only one way to stop “accidents” like this from happening. Stop offshore drilling now and forever!!! No ifs, ands, or buts.

Sometimes, indeed, lots of times, I cannot believe what I hear. For example, tonight it was announced on the Rachel Maddow show that some deal had been reached whereby Congress would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell almost immediately, but it would not go into effect until after the Pentagon finished reviewing the situation in the Fall. Does this make any sense? So, like, ah…what happens if the Pentagon reviews it and doesn’t like it? Will it be repealed? I don’t know what this is all about but it certainly seems stupid and pointless.

Dick the Slimy seems to be refreshingly quiet these days. I like it. But I wonder what it has to do with his possibly involvement in the disaster in the Gulf. It has been said that he may have been responsible for BP’s failure to have the proper emergency shut off equipment because “it was too expensive.” I don’t know if this is true but I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if it is. You don’t hear much out of Rumsfeld or Rice these days either, or any number of the others who were responsible for the illegal “war” in Iraq, the torture, and the mess we are currently trying to clean up (if, indeed, we are really trying). Personally, I find it wonderful that I no longer have to listen to their incessant lying, but I still insist they should be held accountable for their monumental crimes. The Bush/Cheney administration was nothing but a gigantic criminal enterprise from the very beginning and some are still repeating rewards from it, not the least of whom are the war profiteers and the industries that provide all the equipment and ammunition that is wasted as quickly as possible so they can make more.

There were no oil spills during biblical times. That is why there are only Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: pestilence (white horse), war (red), famine (black), and death (pale-green). I confess to never having seen a pale-green horse (or a purple cow). All of these are symbolic of evil destructive forces. What could possibly be more evil and destructive than the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Certainly it should deserve a Fifth horse. I suggest brindle as the most appropriate color (brindle is rarely applied to horses but it can be, it certainly beats pale-green).

The Benjamin of Benjamin Netanyahu is complaining that the Palestinians are not fighting fair with their boycott of Israeli products. I must say I find this hysterically funny. Those nasty Palestinians cornered there in their prison-like Gaza strip won’t buy products manufactured by their jailers and the jailers are weeping about it. This is apparently part of the Palestinians new campaign to employ non-violent techniques to acquire a Palestinian state (it may well work). Netanyahu has the chutzpa to accuse them of not fighting fair? He has also once again reiterated his ridiculous claim that Iran is a threat to the entire world. He must have studied Goebbels as he repeats this outrageous lie over and over again.

I was not lying. I said things that later on seemed to be untrue.
Richard Nixon,

Teflon is the only known surface to which a gecko cannot stick.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Profit is Our Most Important Product

Argument about oil spill
leads man to threaten girlfriend
with meat cleaver.

Perhaps you remember the years Ronald Reagan spent shilling for General Electric, with the famous slogan “Progress is Our Most Important Product,” the years before he was fired for criticizing TVA, perhaps his first public attack on “Government,” that was to later make him famous in the eyes of the simple-minded, but notorious in the minds of more thoughtful people. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, there may have been a grain of truth in their boast of progress, they did sometimes improve refrigerators, stoves, and such, if that truly can be regarded as progress. It is doubtful they had any but purely pecuniary motives even during those relatively halcyon days, but “progress” was universally regarded as “good,” and thus their appearance was so framed.

It has become increasingly obvious their motto should have more fundamentally, realistically, and honestly been, “Profit is our one and only motive.” This is not, of course, unique to General Electric, but is the basic mantra of all U.S. businesses and corporations, the very foundation of unregulated capitalism. You might well say contemporaneously, “Profit is Our Most Important Product.” As Margaret Halsey warned us years ago, the United States has become a single-institution society, and that institution is business. It is true, I believe, that over the years business has insidiously insinuated itself into all corners of our life: our schools, medicine, military, entertainment, news, agriculture, science, and even religion… everywhere. We have allowed the profit motive to take over our culture to the point where concepts like the “public good,” or “public welfare” have virtually disappeared, along with ideas of “community,” “fraternity,” and “equality.” If a culture is to survive over time the citizens have to come to want to do what they have to do (that is, to live in harmony, provide themselves with shelter and sustenance, law and morality, prescriptions for ethical behavior, a common ethos, and even a sense of esprit de corps). Government plays a crucial role in allowing this to happen. It is, in one form or another, no matter how simple or complex, an absolute necessity for human life to continue over time. Long ago, and still in some places even now, this is accomplished through ties of kinship, friendship, seniority, community, tradition, a common history, face to face contacts and social solidarity. But for those of us living in more presumably “advanced” cultures these ties have largely been replaced with legal contracts, casual contacts, temporary arrangements, multiculturalism, diversity, and the more traditional ties have either disappeared entirely or importantly weakened. This can nowhere be more true than in a culture that has profit as its primary motive. If what people want to do is merely make a profit there is no foundation for successful human society. Profit is made only by exploiting others (labor) or the environment. Thus it is inherently anti-social, yet imposed upon a species that must be social to exist. It may well be the case that capitalism helps promote innovation and entrepreunership as is commonly argued, and perhaps a tad of profit may help toward that end, but unregulated profit-making over time encourages the rape and pillage of the population and environment, eventually puts all the wealth in the hands of a very few, and is inevitably destructive of the social fabric. If it is possible to have institutions “too big to fail,” it is also possible to have cultures “too big (and too greedy) to succeed.” I strongly suspect we may have reached that point. Neither socialism nor communism has demonstrated any success in managing the affairs of human beings. Unregulated capitalism has been a dismal failure as we are now experiencing. So far the most successful systems seem to be the social democracies that exist in Scandinavia and Europe, where the ravages of unregulated capitalism are carefully controlled by the state. This can never happen in the U.S. as long as citizens, a la Reagan, believe that government is “evil,” an idea so far-fetched, so absolutely contrary to social life, and so bankrupt and even evil in its own right, as to make one wonder how it could have been accepted in the first place. Sadly, I think Ronald Reagan was simple-minded enough to actually believe in such nonsense.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

TILT: The long-beaked echidna is the largest egg-laying mammal in the world.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Culture of the Absurd

Sentenced to nine years,
he says he looks forward
to a period of self-reflection.

I think there is no longer any doubt about it. The United States has become a culture of the absurd. It is absurd that an oil company was allowed to drill in the Gulf a mile below the surface with no real idea of what they were doing or how to correct it if something went wrong. It was absurd they did it and equally absurd they were allowed to do it. It will be even more absurd when they will probably manage to escape accountability and, most likely, even the full cost of cleaning it up (if it even can be cleaned up in the marshes in the area). I read today about a hedge fund manager who made 780 million dollars last year. I don’t care who he is or what he’s done or how successful he was or even if he found a way to turn dirt into gold, it is absolutely absurd that any one individual should be allowed to make 780 million dollars for sitting on his ass in some office. What is even more absurd is that he believes he deserved it.

Even more absurd than that is the fact that Bush/Cheney, admitted war criminals, are allowed not only to go unpunished but also to make money and garner publicity by criticizing the present administration. It is also absurd that Rumsfeld and Rove have not been held accountable for their scurrilous deeds. The fact that we now have some 40 million people on food stamps is absurd. We spend billions on dog and cat food while children go hungry. That is absurd. In supposedly the richest country on earth we have thousands upon thousands of homeless people, many of them veterans…absurd. Our defense budget is absurd. The price of our drugs is absurd. That a woman so ignorant she thought Africa was a country is commanding six figure fees for speaking about things she knows little about is absurd. The fact that her daughter who has accomplished nothing except getting pregnant out of wedlock is going to get $30,000 for speeches is quite obviously even more absurd.

There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Americans who do not believe in evolution in the 21st century. That is absurd. There are many who believe dinosaurs and people were contemporaneous, even more absurd. Michelle Backmann is absurd, as are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Hannity, and others who purvey hate and propaganda for the Republican Party on a daily basis and claim it is “fair and balanced.” That so many species are going extinct is absurd. Corporate farming is absurd. Banks too-large-to-fail are absurd. Our lack of decent public transportation is absurd. Our treatment of Cuba is utterly absurd, as is our treatment of Iran. Our slavish commitment to Israel, no matter how outrageous their crimes, is absurd, indeed, our Foreign Policy itself is absurd, as is our “empire.”

Our economy, predicated on waste and obsolescence, is absurd, as is the fact that hundreds of new storage units are springing up everywhere to store all our “stuff” we apparently don’t have room for and don’t even need. “Shop ‘til you drop,” is absurd, as is “he who has the most toys wins.” All you can eat restaurants are absurd. Our obsession with erections and sex is absurd, as is our epidemic of obesity and constant dieting. Our educational system, from kindergarten through University is little more than a parody of what education should be about, and our shameful anti-intellectualism and neglect of education is absurdly suicidal. Our rivers and lakes are everywhere polluted with mercury and other poisonous substances, the air we breathe is often foul, and the food we eat is often unhealthy, just one absurdity after another.

I could easily go on. Some of you may think I am just a cranky old man dreaming of the “good ol’ days.” Perhaps I am, but I don’t think so. The whole purpose of government, even culture itself, is supposed to exist to serve the needs of the citizens that comprise and live it. If it does not do this it is unfortunately dysfunctional and will ultimately fail. Does anyone truly believe that in this huge and complex corporate-dominated culture we currently live in the needs of ordinary citizens come first, or have any particular salience at all? The only “persons” that count are “corporate persons,” because they have all the money and all the power. Ordinary persons are expendable, merely living on the scraps we are thrown from time to time and pretending we have something to say about government and politics. The idea that “government (read culture) is the enemy,” however much it might have temporarily served Reagan and the Republicans, is an idea absolutely contrary to the basic nature of culture and human existence. Without rules and customs and laws (government/culture) human life would be intolerable and even impossible. Privatization and unregulated capitalism have, I believe, made our lives more intolerable, leading us to where we are, living in a culture of the absurd that no longer has much connection to human needs and requirements, and everything to do with “profit.” Marx said, “The last capitalist we hang will be the one who sold us the rope.” Will it have to come to that?

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

From Thomas Gray, Elegy in a Country Church-yard.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baying at the Moon?

Alabama Evangelist gets life
plus 51 years for killing his wife,
storing her body in freezer.

Is Representative Alan Grayson of Florida (bless him) simply baying at the moon, or might he actually get some attention for doing the right thing? He is sponsoring a bill, HR 5353, called appropriately enough, The War is Making Your Poor, that would deny the 159 billion dollars Obama is asking for over and above the Defense Budget of 549 billion. He points out that as our Defense Budget is larger than all the rest of the world combined it ought to be enough to fund the ongoing “wars” without additional funding. What a novel idea. I wonder why no one ever thought of it before. Of course it won’t have even a remote chance of passing, it’s far too sensible and realistic for our present Congress of Dunces. Grayson is smart. I’m sure he knows that the 549 billion for defense has little to do with defense and much to do with maintaining the military/industrial/political complex that has us firmly in its grasp and is not likely to let go. But it’s a great attempt nonetheless to maybe restore some sanity to our increasingly militaristic culture. Grayson claims this bill would make it possible for every American to receive a tax break for the first $35,000 of income, and would also reduce the debt by 16 billion. I’m not necessarily keen on the tax break idea as I think if Americans are not willing to take to the streets, telephones, televisions, internet, and etc. to protest these two ridiculous “wars” they probably ought to suffer. But I have to admit it makes a compelling selling point. I love this guy, I wish we had a few hundred more just like him. I hope he will not become another Dennis Kucinich, a rare sane and intelligent voice crying out in the midst of a cacophony of insanity and stupidity.

And speaking of insanity and stupidity, I sincerely hope that anyone who will now say “drill, baby, drill” will be immediately led off to the nearest insane asylum. It is not comforting to know that BP has been lying to us from the very beginning and the oil spill is immeasurably larger than we were led to believe. The oil has now reached the marshes of Louisiana and the currents that could take it all the way up the Atlantic coast. Maybe the tax break Grayson is promoting will help us pay for the damage, you can be pretty sure that BP will not pay for it all in spite of their claims to the contrary. As there is no longer accountability in the U.S. there is no responsibility either. BP seems to be well aware of this as they deny responsibility for their absolutely criminal behavior.

I am already sick about hearing anything more about Rand Paul. He can be partly excused, I think, because he is a medical doctor. Medical doctors are among the most poorly educated among us and aside from their medical specialty rarely know much about anything else. This is built into medical curriculum that, from the very beginning, demands such a rigorous agenda of certain scientific courses to qualify one for medical school there is virtually no time for learning anything in general. As an anthropologist who worked for many years in medical schools and with medical doctors I must say I was often dumbfounded, even appalled by some of the questions they asked me. Howard Dean seems to be a bit of an exception.

Doctors don't know everything really. They understand matter, not spirit. And you and I live in spirit.
William Saroyan

Koalas are not bears, but marsupials.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eureka Moment

She doesn’t get enough mayonnaise
and mustard packets, attacks
Wendy’s employee with taser.

You might think the U.S. and other countries involved in the “Iran controversy” would be happy to learn that Brazil and Turkey have worked out an agreement with Iran to take much of their uranium and make sure it will be used for peaceful purposes, but apparently not. The U.S. and others are still apparently determined to impose severe sanctions on Iran if they do not stop processing uranium. I may be terribly uninformed but it is my understanding that Iran has every right to process uranium as long as it is not for nuclear weapons. Iran has said repeatedly its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes and they do not even want a nuclear bomb. There is no evidence Iran is producing a nuclear weapon, and whatever evidence there is seems to indicate they are telling the truth. So here we are, insisting they stop doing something they have a legal right to do, and insisting they are doing something there is no evidence for, and pressuring other countries to go along with sanctions to prevent them from doing what they either are not doing or have a legal right to do. As this makes no sense at all, there must be more to it than meets the eye. Somewhere I read recently that Israel and the U.S. are not really concerned with Iran’s nuclear program but, rather, with regime change. I guess they want regime change because the current Iranian regime is not favorably disposed towards Israel and they dream of overthrowing them as they previously did when we imposed the Shah on them. Regime change, however possible, makes more sense than their pitiful nuclear program that will never, never, ever, be enough to challenge the Israeli and U.S. nuclear programs, even if they were eventually to produce a bomb. Ultimately, I have no doubt this is fundamentally all about the U.S. determination to control the Middle East and the oil supply, and also keep the price of oil in dollars rather than euros (this would seem not to be much of a problem at the moment given the condition of the euro).

There seems to be some talk these days of actually reducing the “defense” budget. I put that in quotation marks because I don’t believe it is truly primarily for defense. Somewhere I saw a list of things like how many battleships, submarines, nuclear weapons, and so on we possess. I can’t remember precisely the numbers but in every case it is not that we have more of these things than anyone else, it’s that we have in every category far, far, far more. Indeed, we have so many more it is utterly ridiculous, even far-fetched, I should even say perhaps unbelievable. If we were to cut the numbers in half we would still possess far, far more. This means all this hardware cannot be merely for defense, it has to be related to the military/industrial/political complex that now seems to be so untouchable I doubt it will be possible to rein it in significantly. The presence of this military budget also, I believe, explains why we will not cease threatening Iran or be exiting Afghanistan (and probably Iraq) any time soon (until we can perhaps find some new imaginary enemies like, perhaps, visitors from outer space). As long as we continue to pour obscene amounts of money into “defense” we will inevitably spend ourselves into oblivion. But I guess a few will have a few more years of fantastically luxurious lives while the lives of the masses continue to decline from unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness.

Wait, I just had a genuine “Eureka moment!” We can solve the unemployment problem easily by putting everyone to work building pyramids, castles, massive tombs and monuments honoring all our successful entrepreneurs, billionaires and multi-millionaires, CEO’s, and others in the mold of Trump, Buffet, Turner, and maybe even the highly successful radio and television stars like Limbaugh and Beck. And don’t forget the outstanding athletes who have attained multi-millionaire, even billionaire status like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. What an idea! I’m sure they would be pleased to have grand monuments built for them (they could be even subsidized by the government to spare them from having to pay it all themselves). They could vie for the most spectacular and expensive tombs and monuments and compete for the rarest and most expensive materials and objects of art. Obviously the more money they have the more elaborate their monuments would be. They could make the Pyramids, Versailles, the Taj Mahal, Parthenon, Eiffel Tower, Cristo-Rei, and even the Great Wall of China look tawdry. With modern technology and know-how, monuments for wealthy capitalists could be immeasurably greater, more spectacular, and more durable than anything previously seen on earth (including Dubai). Granted these massive monuments to the Great Capitalists wouldn’t do much for individual citizens, for health care, education, global warming and such, wouldn’t do much for society in general, and the jobs probably wouldn’t pay much, but hey, it would provide a lot of jobs, and all the workers would have to be fed and housed (at least minimally). Maybe after they finished the job they, too, could be honored by being interred with the honoree who, no doubt, would feel it was money well spent (any other use of it would clearly be considered overly socialistic). I better work on this, it sounds too good to be true.

People are the common denominator of progress. So... no improvement is possible with unimproved people, and advance is certain when people are liberated and educated. It would be wrong to dismiss the importance of roads, railroads, power plants, mills, and the other familiar furniture of economic development.... But we are coming to realize... that there is a certain sterility in economic monuments that stand alone in a sea of illiteracy. Conquest of illiteracy comes first.
John Kenneth Galbraith

The Pig-footed Bandicoot is extinct.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Obama's Folly

Colorado psychic nets $290,000
telling clients their cash is evil,
they should give it to her.

Well, mother-in-law, brother-in-law gone. Normal life resumes.

I just read today somewhere on the web that at some point in June the Afghan “war” will have reached the trillion dollar mark. Think of that, eight years of “war,” a trillion dollars spent, and what do we have? If your answer is nothing you get a gold star. I think it is entirely fair that from now on we refer to this “war” as Obama’s Folly. It is true that Obama did not start this mess, but he could have brought it to an early end. He did the opposite, he accelerated it, added more troops, killed more innocents, and has apparently no intention of ever truly ending it. By now virtually all sentient beings know that there is nothing to be accomplished in Afghanistan militarily, nothing is going to be “won,” nothing to be gained, no legitimate reason to continue pouring more and more resources down into a bottomless pit. Unless…unless…unless this nasty business is continuing because the military/industrial/political complex demands it. It is for them, after all, a true “cash cow.” I like to think that it was true that Obama did not have enough Foreign Policy experience and that he was naively taken in by his Generals who gave him bad advice (Generals always seem to want to fight “wars,” for how else do they advance in grade, fame, and such). But whatever else I might think about Obama, I don’t think he was stupid, so perhaps he was not taken in and actually believed in expanding this totally ridiculous “war.”

I saw Rand Paul interviewed by Rachel Maddow tonight. I must say I was not at all impressed. If he’s the best the Tea Party can do I don’t think there is much to worry about from them. He was evasive, not answering direct questions, and seemed to me to hold entirely contradictory views. For example, he claims he is absolutely opposed to discrimination in any form, but at the same time he believes that private businesses should not be controlled by government in any way. Thus if a private business wants to discriminate presumably that is okay. Although I agree with the Pauls on some things, like ending the “wars,” legalizing pot, and so on, they appear to me to be the worst kind of Ayn Rand 18th century capitalists. I think the only good thing that could come of Rand Paul being in Congress is that his views are so extreme he will be basically just the voice of a relatively unimportant and useless participant.

Heavy oil has now reached the Louisiana shoreline, and oil has also now reached the Loop Current that will take up to the Florida coast and northward to how far no one knows. It is disaster beyond belief. In spite of this calamity there are still some total Airheads like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and apparently even Barack Obama, that think we should just go on drilling offshore. They are apparently willing to believe the utter nonsense the Oil Giants tell them about how safe it is, how they know what they are doing, how they have highly developed technology, and blah, blah, blah. And people believe this garbage. It is a marvelous situation, BP blames Transocean Drilling, they, in turn blame Halliburton, who throws the blame back on BP, and now, of course, the Governmental agencies responsible for oversight are being blamed. As far as I’m concerned they’re all to blame, the executives of the various companies should be arrested and jailed, the agencies that failed to oversee what they were supposed to oversee should be fired, if not jailed, and offshore drilling should be banned forever while we develop new sources of energy. I doubt anyone of them will be held accountable for anything, the taxpayers will pay, and our corporate “persons” will laugh all the way to the bank (probably in Switzeland, Luxembourg, or wherever). Hey, it’s the American way. Just remember, if you’re going to drill for oil you’re going to have a little spill once in a while, no big deal. Tell that to the Shrimpers and Fisherman and all the others whose lives will be destroyed. Of course they can always sue, while in no time at all they will be handsomely rewarded for their losses (if, that is, they can wait for twenty or thirty years and stay alive long enough). If we continue to drill after this it will be the final proof that human beings are too short-sighted and stupid to manage their lives and the lives of other creatures on earth. If we continue to build nuclear plants our stupidity, nay, our complete idiocy, will be reinforced, as we say, in spades.


The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.
Karl Marx

TILT: Fennel is a plant disliked by fleas and can be used to keep them away.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Swedish man guilty of harassing
neighbor by dumping sack
of killer slugs In her garden.

Sorry. I am being visited by mother-in –law and brother-in-law. Morialekafa will probably not appear until Tuesday evening (18th) at the earliest.
In the meanwhile enjoy the oil spill and reflect on how safe it is to drill on the ocean floor a mile below the surface, how honest and responsible the oil companies are, nuclear energy, and what for want of a better term, we might call the “ultimate real.”

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Too Many What?

Palestinian man murders
his wife when ultrasound
indicates she is carrying a girl.

So Pat Buchanan thinks if Kagan is confirmed there will be too many Jews on the Supreme Court (33% although Jews apparently make up only 2% of the population). Well, I think there are too many Catholics (5, I believe, and Catholics surely do not make up that percentage of the population). I also believe there are too many New Yorkers, too many Harvard people, too many elitists, too many judges, not enough Protestants, and not enough atheists. Not only that, I think there are also too many old White guys, and too many old people in general. There quite definitely should be a mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court Justices (when the court began the average age of life was far shorter than it is now). I would even go further and suggest there may be too many right-wing loonies on the contemporary court. I suppose if anyone could prove that Kagan is a Lesbian, it could be argued there would be too many Lesbians on the court (unless Lesbians make up more than 10% of the population). It doesn’t matter if she is a Jew, nor does it matter if she’s a Lesbian, nor does it matter that she plays softball, smokes an occasional cigar, plays poker, sleeps late on Sunday morning, and doesn’t love Jesus. What matters is that she has the proper credentials (which she surely does) and that our President wants to appoint her. Furthermore, everyone knows she will be confirmed so why go on discussing it endlessly. Put her on the court and let her do her duty. Aren’t we buried under enough utter nonsense without going on for months about this?

I find it absolutely unbelievable that in light of the total disaster in the Gulf there are still those, like Sarah Palin and others who still insist we should go on drilling. But I find it equally unbelievable there are people like President Obama who seriously insist we should also promote nuclear energy. I wonder if they are just in the pockets of the energy industry (I don’t really wonder much about it), or if they are just plain stupid. I suspect it is both. How can you speak of weaning ourselves from oil at the same time insisting on more drilling? Of course nuclear energy is an even worse proposition. Nuclear energy is basically a position that assumes life on earth is not as important as a bit more energy, and more drilling is not really much different.

Is anyone surprised that we may not withdraw from Iraq as soon or as massively as predicted? Remember, our projected withdrawal always came with a disclaimer about “the situation on the ground.” This creates a marvelous excuse for never withdrawing, because the “situation on the ground,” as long as we continue to be there, will never be propitious. The same will be true for Afghanistan. Thus it is we can continue our never-ending “wars,” and our never-ending support for our military/industrial/political complex, and also help us to keep unemployment from getting worse, and potentially postpone what will probably have to be a full-blown revolution before any meaningful change can take place.

Somewhere the other day I saw the question posed, “Do you think we need a third party?” I don’t think so, what we need is a second party, as we no longer have a genuine two party system. There is no longer any significant difference between Democrats and Republicans, they’re all “on the take,” and the only real issue is how to split up the loot. The corporations have so much money and so much power they control both parties, allow us to pretend we have a choice, and happily go on raping and pillaging the world’s resources (including labor) at will. If they were to decide we should have Sarah Palin as President we no doubt would. If you believe our corporate masters care one iota about abortion, gay marriage, immigration, habeas corpus, Miranda rights, environmental, or human rights in general, think again. It is quite clear they think only of short-term profits, the “name of the game.” Until corporations are deprived of their status as “persons,” and until they can be brought under citizen control, you can forget any meaningful changes in the lives of ordinary people. Sad, but alas, true.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens

College graduation ceremonies are boring almost beyond belief.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

As Usual...

Man arrested for possessing
pornographic picture of man
having intercourse with dead squid.

As usual…I don’t get it. There is all this talk about how the Democrats are liable to lose their majorities in the 2010 election year. Even more interesting is the claim that voters are going to turn to Republicans. That is what I truly don’t “get.” It is not hard to understand why Democrats are going to lose some seats, after all, the country is not in such great shape, what with unemployment, national debt, ongoing “wars,” oil spills, natural disasters, and on and on. But why, I ask, would that lead voters to turn to Republicans? Republicans under Bush/Cheney virtually destroyed our country during their eight nightmare years in office, lying to start an unnecessary, illegal, and immoral “war” with a country that was not a threat to us. They instituted torture, participated in massive war profiteering, ran up the national debt, and were, in short, disastrous as an administration.

What have Republicans done since the election of President Obama? On the positive side you have to admit they have done nothing, absolutely nothing. On the negative side they have boasted of being the party of “no,” and have succeeded overwhelmingly in being just that. They have been exposed repeatedly of the most blatant, even ridiculous hypocrisy. They have put forward no ideas whatsoever as to what they would do to bring our country back to anywhere approaching what we might think of as normal. They have simply proven themselves to be useless, lying hypocrites who should not even have been allowed to draw their salaries (why should they be paid to do nothing). And yet, they seem to believe they are going to make a dramatic comeback in 2010. And apparently others believe this as well. How this can possibly be is a complete mystery to me. I think, however, that after 80 years of being usually wrong about most everything political, I may have figured out why. I guess it’s because I have always assumed that American voters would act at least more or less rationally, and that has proven wrong time after time.

In the coming election I predict there will be a potential “blood bath” when it comes to incumbents. And this, I think, is as it should be. They have, after all, proven themselves to a person to be far more interested in getting re-elected, and getting financial gifts from corporations, than in governing the country in the best interest of its citizens. They have allowed corporations to grow so huge as to be unmanageable at the same time their greed has become insatiable. It is, alas, true, banks and corporations “own” our Congress and therefore even dictate who will be allowed to run for office and how they should vote after being elected. This will certainly not change no matter how many Republicans might be elected, indeed, it will almost certainly get worse. In the period since Obama’s election Republicans have demonstrated their almost complete uselessness, so why should they be elected? I guess they will be elected because they are not Democrats, and there is no viable third party. Thus I guess it is that American voters will legitimately punish Democrats by voting for Republicans who are known to be hopelessly worse. It’s the American way!

American free-enterprise, free-market capitalism, as it has been allowed to flourish in recent years has proven to be a disaster. This was as predictable as the sun rising in the east. Corporations have grown so huge and so powerful as to dictate how it is the country is to be managed, wealth has increasingly accumulated in the hands of a very few, ordinary citizens have no voice and are being systematically reduced to serfdom, and collapse is just around the corner. Nothing can be done to improve the lot of middle or lower class citizens because, of course, that would be “socialism,” a fate we have been led to believe, worse than death. Greed seems to have become the prominent American value, so drill, baby, drill, and keep on until the last ounce of every natural resource has been consumed and the planet made uninhabitable. Remember, “Progress is our most important product,” “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” “My country right or wrong,” “Full speed ahead,” “If you’ve seen one Redwood you’ve seen ‘em all,” “Let the coming generations shift for themselves,” “Shop until you drop” (you can always rent still another storage unit), and “God wants us to be rich.” Whee! We’re on a roll!

One of the weaknesses of our age is our apparent inability to distinguish our need from our greed.
Author Unknown

The Bechuanaland Protectorate, established in 1885, became the Republic of Botswana in 1966.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three Stooges of the Apocalypse

Suicidal elderly man shoots
himself In head, same bullet
also accidentally kills his wife.

The three stooges of the apocalypse were in rare form today. The only thing lacking was the physical slapstick. As could easily have been predicted, BP blamed Transocean, who in turn blamed Halliburton, who then tried to blame BP. It would have been hilariously funny if the disaster was not such a complete disaster. None of them blamed the U.S. government, but don’t worry, it will not be left out for long. In the meanwhile the well keeps releasing at least 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the gulf (and quite likely that is an underestimate). Their first Rube Goldberg contraption having failed they are now trying a second one, smaller than the first one, and if it fails I guess they will throw down the rubber tires and golf balls. It’s nice to know that we live in a culture in which there is neither accountability nor responsibility, at least not if you are members of the elite corporatocracy (I really dislike this word, if that is even how you spell it).

Also as predictable as the sunrise, Republicans are trying to roviate Elena Kagan, but will probably fail. As she has little in the way of a paper trail, and seems to have managed to reveal very little about her political beliefs, they will doubtless go after her for not having been a judge. This will never work simply because there have been many Supreme Court Justices, including some of the greatest, who were never judges. What I find most amusing about this is that Kagan is being described as a cigar smoking, beer drinking, poker playing “hale fellow well met,” not exactly what you might think of for a Supreme Court Justice. Interestingly enough, this is being said not to criticize her but, rather, to endear her to us as someone who has had “real life experience,” which she hasn’t, having been sheltered at Harvard and a rather elite society all of her life. Anyway, I have no real idea what kind of Justice she will become although I personally think she will tend more toward the conservative side of the aisle than the more liberal side (like Obama himself). But as usual, what do I know?

Things have been going pretty well here at Sandhill of late, except for the very rainy Spring. The broad beans are just breaking through the surface, asparagus is doing likewise, but I fear my potato seed may have already rotted in the ground. Nothing else except peas has been planted as yet, but soon. I have had to tear down an old fence and replace it with a new one. What a job! Never build a fence you think will last forever. It won’t, and it is far more difficult to tear an old fence down than to build a new one. When things go well for an extended period of time it always makes me nervous. My doctor says I am in good health, I worry about that. My blood pressure the other day was 114 over 64, the lowest it has ever been. I think it’s because I have long since given up completely the idea that the human species is worth worrying about. It has become quite clear to me we are incapable of managing our lives and our planet and will soon have to pay the piper, so to speak. I take a kind of sadistic pleasure in knowing that I won’t be around to experience the worst of it. I have no fear of death, but I am a bit nervous about the process of dying. But I confess I rarely think about it.

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
H. L. Mencken

Canadian geese mate for life and stay together through all seasons.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We're Being Conned?

While driving, he confesses to
seeing another, she plunges
six-inch knife Into his penis.

I have sadly, regretfully, concluded that we may well be being conned, big time. When you consider what President Obama has done since his election, as opposed to what he has said, you can only wonder where his interests and loyalties lie. Basically, he has continued the Bush/Cheney values, and certainly corporate values, with more than merely random regularity. He has accelerated the useless and nonsensically “war” with Afghanistan. He keeps threatening to bomb Iran. He has kept much of the secrecy characteristic of Bush/Cheney, as well as the illegal wiretapping, executive power, and so on. He pledges loyalty to Israel no matter how they insult him and Biden, and he has not ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” letting Gates argue speciously that it needs further study. This is nonsense, virtually every major military in the world has had gays serving openly, and I cannot believe it has not been studied and re-studied endlessly. More importantly, he refused to promote a public option even though he claimed to be in favor of such an option, and his widely touted health care bill is little more than a huge present to the insurance industry and the pharmaceuticals. He is in favor of offshore drilling and, what is worse, nuclear energy. The White House recently failed to support a move to break up the huge banks, an absolute necessity if we are to avoid further financial meltdowns. He appointed Sonya Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, at best a middle-of-the roader and at worst more conservative than liberal, and is about to appoint another woman who is also a middle-of-the-roader who probably leans toward the conservative side of the court. He made only very modest changes in the tax code, probably slight enough to avoid the ire of the wealthy and corporations. He has done very little to help Blacks, something they complain about regularly. In short, contrary to his fiery claims of bringing change it has been mostly business as usual, and that business has certainly tended to aid the corporate powers that be. The fact that the tea party people and Republicans in general accuse him of being a socialist or communist is simply ludicrous. They may even be in on the big con that seems to be going on, publicly criticizing him but secretly applauding most everything he has done. I am not a conspiracy theorist but I cannot help but wonder just what is going on. Is Obama just a conservative in sheep’s clothing? I have tried to stick with Obama, if for no other reason he’s been the only game in town, but I confess to becoming more disillusioned day by day.

Is there nothing Republicans will not do or say to try to get their way? Mitch McConnell, for example, has already claimed that as Americans expect their Supreme Court appointees to have judicial experience, and Kagan has none, she is not acceptable. This is absolute nonsense, a complete fabrication, McConnell has no way of knowing what the American people expect and there have been dozens of Supreme Court Justices who were appointed having no judicial experience. Either he is just ignorant or a deliberate liar, and I strongly suspect it is the latter. Coulter has apparently come out with a new book in which she claims liberals supported Hitler (like FDR, I guess). If that is not crazy enough, Hannity has apparently said that Iraq should pay us back all the money we spent “liberating” them. They are supposed to pay us back for illegally and immorally attacking their country, murdering them by the hundreds of thousands, displacing them by the millions, torturing them, and exploiting their country in every way? This goes even beyond insanity (I didn’t realize until just now there must be something beyond insanity, an interesting idea). Lieberman thinks we should strip people of their citizenship if they are even suspected of having anything to do with terrorists. That is, merely on suspicion. I think we should strip people of their office and committee assignments on suspicion of their insanity, Lieberman could be the first to go. Indeed, if we could get rid of Congresspersons on the basis of suspicion of insanity, I’m certain most of them would have to go.

The four-story contraption they tried to cap the leaking oil with failed. I knew it would. I don’t know how I knew it would, but I did. I believe this new one will also fail. Now they are also talking of filling the hole with old tires and golf balls, an idea not more ridiculous than drilling at those depths in the first place. Too bad they can’t figure out how to convert oil into fish food, an idea only half as whacky as their other attempts. What a disaster! What a bunch of greedy morons! Watch them go unpunished while we taxpayers pick up the tab.

Do not seek evil gains; evil gains are the equivalent of disaster.

It is far harder to remove an old fence than to build a new one.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Secret History of the American Empire - book

The Secret History of the American Empire, John Perkins (Dutton, 2007)

John Perkins, as you probably know, is the author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, his account of how he and others like him employed the most insidious tactics to help create the U.S. (secret) empire. Apparently after many years of participating in this brutal, unethical, and dishonest endeavor, feelings of guilt overcame him and he felt the need to confess. This current book is a continuation of that confession with many more cases and details and, finally, some recommendations for how we might bring about meaningful change.

I believe that everyone should read both of these eye-opening and sensational books, and reflect carefully on what our country has been about for so many years. As they read in part almost like spy novels there is a tendency to not take it all seriously, but that would be a great mistake. Perkins was there, he participated, he knows what he is talking about, and if it seems stranger than fiction, it is. Both books are well written, easy to read, pull few, if any, punches, and would actually be enjoyable if they were not so unpleasantly true. I bet even Republicans could manage to read them if they would (unlikely). Personally, I would recommend they be required reading for all graduating High School seniors, a recommendation so “far out” it would be like claiming George Washington didn’t cut down the cherry tree.

During his tenure as an economic hit man Perkins participated in events all over the globe. He reviews many of the “projects” in different parts of the world: Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. Everywhere the methods and techniques used to exploit other nations were the same. This basically amounted to finding corrupt officials, Presidents, Dictators, high-level officials, those with power, offering them fortunes for going along with schemes designed to exploit their resources and impoverish their people, and then keeping them so indebted to the IMF or the World Bank they could not resist doing what they were ordered to do. It was a clever scheme that allowed us to create a world-wide empire without having always to resort to naked military aggression. But when the usual procedures failed to work, as they sometimes did when they encountered an honest man or woman, they did not hesitate to call in the “jackals,” the true hit men who carried out assassinations on command (this seems to have been not at all uncommon). After the publication of Perkin’s first book, some of these individuals approached him with their stories, knowing they carried the same burden of guilt that motivated Perkins to write his confession. The books are so fascinating, and read in part so like fiction, I think the style may actually be a tad inappropriate for the seriousness of the subject matter, but maybe not.

While I found his accounts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa of great interest, and there is no doubt of their tremendous importance to world affairs, I found the section on Latin America to be the most interesting, and the outcomes of unusual significance. Here we encountered some rare leaders in recent years that could not be corrupted, and who together are bringing about the most monumental changes in the world, and certainly in the Secret Empire. Presidents of Latin American countries, like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Michelle Bachelet, Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner, Luis Inacio “Lula” Da Silva, Rafael Delgado, Alan Garcia Perez, and others, have moved away from so much U.S. influence, and have discussed joining together for defense and switching their military objectives away from defending multinational corporations to defending their countries from foreign intervention. Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, in particular, have avoided assassination as well as the temptation of big money for doing “the right thing” (selling out their countrymen to corporate exploitation). The relationship of Latin American countries to the U.S. has changed dramatically, they will never again be at the mercy of those who wish only to exploit their labor and resources. This is a change so profound I doubt the full implications of it have completely registered with our unusually dimwitted Congress. Our loss of empire is beginning in Latin America but will inevitably not stop there. You do, I believe, eventually have to pay for your sins.

While I applaud Perkins for his honesty and his exposing of American greed and dishonesty, when it comes to his recommendations for what we might do to change all this, I wonder that he may be overly optimistic. He speaks of the “New Capitalism,” that may result from the pressure on corporations to change their behavior and recognize they should cease being so exploitive. I have no doubt that in some cases corporations have been forced to change their behaviors in ways that are more citizen friendly, but I wonder how realistic it is to believe they will truly change, given their primary motive is short-term profit. Further, it has been obvious for a long time that short-term profits may prove to be eventually disastrous in the long run, but this has not significantly motivated much change so far. What is worse, I fear, is that what he suggests will be immediately termed “socialism” by the powers that be, and Americans have been conditioned to respond to the term “socialism” in the same way they respond to the term “rattlesnake.” I wish I could be as optimistic as Perkins, but, alas, I am not. We desperately need a form of “Democratic Socialism,” but, of course, that would require the filthy rich and the corporations to pay more taxes, a genuine “no-no” here in the good old U.S. of Greed, exploitation, and short-sightedness. The empire is beginning to crumble.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Semi-good things?

Texas woman unsatisfied
with husband’s performance
in bed, stabs him with scissors.

Is it possible that at least semi-good things may be happening, maybe, possibly, perhaps. There are, for example, hints there may be talks leading up to an agreement with the Taliban that might allow for beginning to withdraw some of our troops. At least that is what Karzai is supposed to be bringing up with President Obama. If this is true, and if something actually worked out, perhaps we could cease being involved in a totally unnecessary and fruitless “war” in that beleaguered country and stop stubbornly trying to do something everyone knows is impossible (“win,” that is).

Equally important, perhaps even more important, it was reported today the Palestinians are prepared to begin (indirect) peace talks with Israel. I cannot understand how this could be unless there is some kind of agreement, however temporary, that Israel will stop their illegal building in Jerusalem (I have seen conflicting reports on this). Maybe it was Obama’s threat to turn the situation over to an international commission if there was no movement on the peace process before Fall. I hope it is the case that Obama and George Mitchell are doing better work than is being reported. While I regard this is a positive sign I don’t really believe anything will ultimately come of it because I don’t believe the Israelis want peace. They prefer the status quo that allows them to believe in their innate superiority and defines the Palestinians as inferior creatures who, as only good for wage slavery or death, do not deserve equality of any kind. That the world, and especially the U.S., has put up with this for so many years, will surely go down in human history as one of its most shameful periods.

And speaking of doing the impossible it appears that a great many people, perhaps even a majority of people, do not believe sanctions against Iran will work, or at least not the sanctions that will be employed, as many think the world is not prepared to employ sanctions strong enough to make much difference. The view that sanctions won’t work doesn’t seem to keep Obama and Congress from insisting on them. So, as in the case of Afghanistan, we will just keep butting our heads against the wall trying to do the impossible. As near as I can tell the idea of sanctioning Iran has to do with our fantasy they are doing something wrong. There is no evidence this is true, but as the Israelis keep insisting it is, it’s just like Goebbels said, tell a lie long enough and people will come to believe it. I simply do not understand this hatred of Iran, (although I certainly understand why they might well hate us). There is a commercial by some veterans group for renewable energy that I am all in favor of, but one of the lines in the commercial is that Iran is “peddling hate.” It appears to me this is the opposite of what is happening, and what is happening is the same kind of bullying that is going on among our young people, someone (Iran) has been singled out and all the bullies have joined in to make their lives miserable (except the Russians and the Chinese who are much more realistic about this than others). In any case, sanctions won’t work, but that won’t keep us from imposing them anyway. We never seem to learn.

The disastrous oil leak in the bottom of the Gulf continues. The attempt to semi-cap it with a Rube Goldberg contraption failed. As I understand it, it failed because the water at that depth is just too cold and kept the jury-rigged device from working properly. Why did all the hot-shot engineers and deep-water drillers not know this? I suspect it’s because in fact they don’t know what they are doing drilling at that depth and without the proper safety devices. This is an accident that should never have happened because they should not have been allowed to drill that deep in the first place. They lied about the state of their technology and expertise and now we will all have to pay the price for their unfettered greed. BP should not have suggested such a job, the drilling company should never have agreed to try it, and the government never should have allowed it, and certainly not when they did not have the proper shut-off machinery (thanks apparently to Dick the Slimy). Someone suggested that all BP assets in the U.S. should be impounded and the Executives should be put on trial and probably jailed. I agree. But as Bush/Cheney committed far more egregious crimes of torture and murder and have not been held accountable I don’t suppose the BP people will be either. Our new laws seem to say that when corporations fail they should not be accountable and the taxpayers should pay for their greedy mistakes.

And finally, maybe, just maybe, we may be turning the corner on the problem of unemployment, but there is a long way to go.

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

Cooking bacon in the oven is far superior to frying it.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

On Responsibility

Church to hold monthly
“Perfect Paws Pet Ministry”
to help dogs get into heaven.

Whatever happened to responsibility? It seems to me that responsibility has become a forgotten concept. If someone runs for office and becomes a Congressperson or Senator are they not responsible for the welfare of their constituents? There are all kinds of examples in recent years where elected officials paid no attention to the desires of their constituents, the recent travesty about health care being a good case in point. And if you serve in the administration are you not responsible for defending the Constitution and the welfare of the citizens? If this is so how is it that someone like Lieberman can propose a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional, or the Governor of Arizona can sign a bill that is almost certainly unconstitutional? This seems to me not only wrongheaded but actually irresponsible. Further, if you are elected to high office are you not responsible for participating in the ongoing political life of the community? If so, how can you simply say that you will not participate and just say “no” to everything? Is this not the absolute apex of irresponsibility? Just what are people responsible for these days, if anything? If you are the CEO of a huge corporation is it your sole responsibility to produce a profit for the company and the shareholders? Or is there some greater responsibility as well? For example, for BP to drill in the deep ocean without proper safeguards, and therefore place the planet itself at risk, is that not totally irresponsible, and for our Government to allow them to do this not equally irresponsible? Was it responsible government for Bush/Cheney to lie repeatedly to involve us in an unnecessary, unconstitutional, and criminal “war” with Iraq? Responsibility seems to have totally disappeared from our values. It appears that no one is ever responsible anymore for anything. BP is not responsible for the disaster in the Gulf, no one was responsible for anticipating 9/11, or the storm that decimated New Orleans. Personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past. Criminals are no longer responsible for their acts, it is society’s fault, children are no longer responsible for their wrongdoing, it’s their parent’s fault, alcoholics are no longer responsible for their behavior, it’s just a disease, and so on and on and on. Terrorists are not responsible for their behavior, it’s the fault of those who oppress them, the U.S. is not responsible for the rise of terrorism, it’s because they hate us for who we are, and in those cases where no blame can reasonably be attributed, it was God’s will. I realize that all of these things are not simple, and that placing blame is sometimes doubtful, but in many cases it is perfectly clear who the irresponsible parties were. But as there is no longer any accountability, there is also necessarily no need for responsibility. Bush/Cheney, for example, are war criminals, even admitted war criminals, but they are not being held accountable for their terrible murderous acts. Somehow we must believe they were not responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions, and misery beyond human comprehension. How is it we have come to this situation in which no one is ever deemed to be responsible for their acts? If Israel were to attack Iran, an act of such enormous irresponsibility as to be virtually incomprehensible, who will be held responsible? Israel? The U.S.? The U.N.? Netanyahu? Obama? Anyone? Will it just be God’s will? Is it merely God’s will that human beings are systematically destroying their environment and threatening to blow themselves to smithereens? Is no one responsible? Was anyone responsible for destroying the salmon runs, clear-cutting the old growth forests, dumping nuclear waste into the oceans, destroying hundreds of species of plants and animals, using cluster bombs and white phosphorous weapons, land mines, drone “warfare” (I do not consider this murderous business genuine warfare), the Holocaust, the various genocides that are still ongoing, or the insanity that has become the modern world? It appears that no one is responsible, and no one will be held accountable, two things that seem to go hand in hand. What the hell, there are more important things going on, the Lawrence Taylor rape accusation, Lady Gaga, American Idol, Obama’s birth certificate, Tiger Woods, and no doubt another car chase in Los Angeles. As the world turns, as it turns, the sun comes up, the sun goes down, things change, but stay the same, everything will be okay, unless not, eat your wheaties, drink Budweiser, ask your doctor, don’t worry, there will be a pill for that soon, trust your heart to Lipitor, and if anyone tells the truth for more than four hours call your doctor (psychiatrist). The only thing left is the contest to see who is losing “it” the fastest. I think I may be ahead.

Armies in the Fire

The lamps now glitter down the street;
Faintly sound the falling feet;
And the blue even slowly falls
About the garden trees and walls.

Now in the falling of the gloom
The red fire paints the empty room:
And warmly on the roof it looks,
And flickers on the back of books.

Armies march by tower and spire
Of cities blazing, in the fire;
Till as I gaze with staring eyes,
The armies fall, the lustre dies.

Then once again the glow returns;
Again the phantom city burns;
And down the red-hot valley, lo!
The phantom armies marching go!

Blinking embers, tell me true
Where are those armies marching to,
And what the burning city is
That crumbles in your furnaces!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Drill No More, Baby

Georgia man turns
himself in for biting
eight year-old girls.

Can you believe there are still people who insist we keep on drilling even after we know there has been one oil disaster after another for years and years. I confess I had no idea how many there have been until Rachel Maddow did a quick summary tonight, and I am quite sure she only reviewed the most major ones. Of course this current spill is going to make all others pale into insignificance and there is no telling at the moment just how awesomely terrible and destructive it will prove to be. Even President Obama seems to have consumed the oil drilling kool-aid, as he has said we will do no more drilling until after we know what went wrong with this one. This is magical thinking at its worst, all these accidents wouldn’t have happened if only…If we keep on drilling for oil after this super disaster it will only prove that human beings don’t have the sense God gave an earthworm. Governor Schwarzenegger seems to be the only one to see this clearly and says no more drilling off California. It could well be that this ongoing disaster may prove to be so overwhelmingly destructive that even Republicans will see the light and stop insisting we continue this suicidal path of drilling ourselves into oblivion. Weaning ourselves of our oil addiction will be painful for a while, maybe even quite a while, but is not impossible. There are all sorts of ways to create energy that have not been utilized even close to their potential: solar, wind, hydro, and waves, to mention a few, and of course people might even come to their senses enough to actually attempt to conserve energy for once. Notice I did not mention nuclear power as that, for me, is totally out of the question, as the dangers there are worse even than with oil. And don’t try to tell me that an occasional spill is just the price we pay for such a wonderful fuel. The price we are going to pay for this little mistake is going to sober everyone up very quickly. I say “we” because you can bet it’s a sure thing BP is not going to pay for it all. It seems we are not merely slow learners, we are apparently incapable of learning at all.
It appears that Republicans are simply never going to return to responsible participation in our government. They have obviously opted to dedicate full time to destroying the Obama Presidency even if it means destroying our country as well. I can see no other explanation for what they are doing. For example, trying to blame this oil disaster on Obama, an accusation so ridiculous it can have no other explanation than purely political. According to some, not only did Obama somehow bring it about, he also failed to respond in a timely fashion (as Bush/Cheney did to Katrina), another accusation simply absurd in the face of the facts. They are also complaining that the fact this failed bomber actually drove his van into Times Square proves it was a successful attack even though the bomb didn’t explode (this is stretching things so far as to make one laugh out loud, except that it is part of their ongoing pattern of criticism no matter what is happening). According to McCain the bomber should not have been given Miranda rights even though he is an American citizen (you see, Bush was right, the Constitution is nothing but a damn piece of paper). That McCain would stoop this low just proves once again he is either too senile or too dishonest to be taken seriously about anything. As hopeless as he has become, he is probably still better than his opponent and will quite likely get re-elected, which tells you something about the horribly sad state of American politics.

There is no doubt we are fouling our nest, our only nest. There might be some doubt as to whether this will destroy us before some nuclear disaster does, but it is clear that up until now we have not demonstrated any ability to intelligently manage our affairs. There is considerable doubt in my mind that we will ever demonstrate any capacity for thoughtful management, at least not until the corporations that control us can be domesticated, and the profit motive controlled, and it may be too late for that. It is 2010 and all is not well! Indeed, things are worse than ever.

Do not seek evil gains; evil gains are the equivalent of disaster.

Farro was the standard fare of the Roman Legions.

Monday, May 03, 2010

No Risk too Great?

Australian bigamist exposed
when his first wife sees his
wedding photo in newspaper.

The magnitude of the disaster in the Gulf raises, for me at least, the question: Is there no risk too great to inhibit action? Obviously there has always been risk associated with human inventions and discoveries. There must have been considerable risk involved when humans first invented the making of fire. And again, when someone invented the first bow and arrow, the machete, firearms, dynamite, and aircraft, there was risk involved. It appears that the amount of risk involved rises in tandem with the rise of technology. But risk has always been limited in one way or another. For example, if one group had the bow and arrow and another did not, there was no chance that the entire world would suffer, even if their neighbors might have. Similarly, with the invention of firearms there was never a risk that the entire human race might disappear, although certainly many people did. The same has been true up until the present time. Our technology has now reached the point where the entire planet and the human race can be seen at risk. It is yet to be determined just how bad this oil disaster is going to be. Some say it could conceivably spread throughout the oceans, killing the fisheries for a long time if not forever. If it should reach the Atlantic and get picked up by the Gulf Stream there is no telling where it could end or how much irreparable damage it will have done. BP was allowed to drill in the deep ocean without adequate preparation and without any plan for the disaster that ensued when the oil platform exploded, sunk, and allowed 200,000 barrels a day to pour into the unprotected ocean. And remember, this occurred not merely because someone invented a new weapon like the bow and arrow, it occurred in the absolutely mad quest for profit at any cost. And so I must ask, is there no risk too great for the human species in their quest for profits? Was the risk involved in drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean by a private company in search of profits, even with what was supposed to be the most advanced technology, worth it in terms of the risk to the oceans, wildlife, ecology, and life in general? Personally, I don’t think it was. It should never have been allowed. The risk was too great. Of course the oil companies lied about the risk. Those seeking profits at any cost always lie. The pharmaceutical companies have lied repeatedly about the safety of certain drugs, the tobacco companies lied for years about the dangerous of their product, the meat industry lies about the safety of their product, Monsanto and others lie about genetically modified crops, and so on. But even these lies do not put the entire planet in jeopardy (except maybe genetically modified crops). This oil disaster, if it proves to be as awful as it appears it might be, it quite a different thing, too risky by far. And even this is probably not as risky as nuclear energy, which could easily cause so much damage the earth could potentially become uninhabitable. I believe the risks associated with some of our current activities, oil drilling and nuclear energy in particular, are too great to be allowed.

Although the question of who will pay for these disasters pales into insignificance compared with the ecological and human damage, it is a question of considerable importance. If you believe that BP is going to pay for all the damage they have wrought you are living in dreamland. The CEO of BP has already said they were not responsible, it was the drilling company’s fault. And although he vowed BP would pay, you know they won’t without tying the whole thing up in lawsuits forever, just like the Exxon Valdez case. Not only that, after the Exxon Valdez case the oil companies bribed Congress into setting a limit on oil company responsibility of 75 million dollars, not even a drop in the bucket, but don’t bet they won’t try to hold us to it. And BP has already sent out representatives trying to bribe potentially affected fishermen and others with $5000 if they will sign a pledge not to sue. Apparently they believe that $5000 will enable these people to put food on the table and not starve (at least for a few months) after they have completely destroyed their livelihood.

In spite of this horrible disaster, that will probably be the single greatest human disaster in history, President Obama and others are still talking about the necessity to drill offshore, and even promoting nuclear energy. This strikes me as the epitome of human stupidity, the very apex of idiocy, the crest of irresponsibility, the height of madness. But don’t forget, profit is the name of the game, profit, that is directly in conflict with basic human needs and welfare, profit, the quest for which is quite likely to destroy both the planet and the human species. But no doubt those who are benefitting the most directly from this greedy and immoral system will manage to live out their lives in luxury and comfort, believing fervently they have done God’s work.

We shall never understand the natural environment until we see it as a living organism. Land can be healthy or sick, fertile or barren, rich or poor, lovingly nurtured or bled white. Our present attitudes and laws governing the ownership and use of land represent an abuse of the concept of private property.... Today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see and nobody calls the cops.
Paul Brooks

Orangutans may live up to 50 years in the wild.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Doldrums?

Teenaged killer will not be
allowed to bring “Nicholas,”
his stuffed bunny, to prison.

Are we suffering a period of doldrums? Perhaps I am wrong but I sense a certain loss of energy, a kind of malaise, an absence of “fire in the belly,” or some such thing. I watched the annual Press Dinner and was not at all impressed by anything. I thought President Obama lacked passion and Jay Leno was far less entertaining than I would have expected. Few of the jokes were really funny, although to be fair, inside jokes sometimes do not seem funny to everyone. There was applause, of course, and the newscasters kept telling us how amusing it all was, but I thought it was at best rather so-so. Could it be that the country is just running down a bit, what with all the foot-dragging from the party of NO, the oil disaster, the Arizona move toward fascism, the slow rate of job recovery, the floods, tornadoes, mudslides, and other disasters that seem to arrive in bunches? Or could it be that the full potentiality for disaster has finally become so obvious that everyone is beginning to sober up at last? I mean global warming, the national debt, two “wars” with another being threatened daily, the energy crisis, the lack of bipartisanship, the failure of the Senate to act responsibly, the endless Middle East problem, our deteriorating infrastructure and educational system, the pointlessness of what we are doing in Afghanistan, the failure to create jobs, poverty, people on food stamps, foreclosures, national disasters, immigration, Wall Street criminals, and what-have-you. Even the weather has been screwy of late. And when Mexico refuses to import our beef because of contamination, but it can be sold and consumed here at home, it does make one wonder. Are we just running out of personal energy as well as everything else? Or is this just a pause to catch our breath while we gird our loins for actually taking action on our problems? I hope it is this latter, but I’m not so sure, maybe we are so overwhelmed we are becoming paralyzed.

There is talk of doing things, at least some things. Apparently there are going to be the beginnings preliminary peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in a week or so (good luck with that). And apparently Obama is in favor of trying to arrange a nuclear free zone in the Middle East (good luck with that). And maybe a criminal investigation of Wall Street will happen. But it looks like “don’t ask, don’t tell” is going to be delayed for further (completely unnecessary) review. Women are going to be allowed to serve on submarines, I guess that is something. But everything just seems to drag on endlessly, accountability has become a foreign concept, and corporations have taken over such control of our lives they have become untouchable. And on top of everything else, even when some action is indicated, the party of NO warns they will be against it. They are already opposed to Obama’s candidate for the Supreme Court even though they don’t know who it is. They are opposed to regulating Wall Street and just about everything else you can think of that might help ordinary people. Are we perhaps, collectively, in a period of depression? If so, we must be careful not to allow it to develop into a period of hopelessness that would be far more serious. Depressions can pass, hopelessness can become suicidal.

My wife often refers to me as “moan and groan,” or more frequently, “doom and gloom.” I can’t help it. I feel I am trapped in a completely dysfunctional culture that no longer has any connection with human needs or well-being, serving as it does, merely the wishes of the corporations that now control the world. It makes me feel helpless. Feeling helpless makes me feel depressed. I fear the possibility of hopelessness. I, too, like the tea baggers, want my country back, but not the country of the 18th century, or the country of the Klan or the gold standard, just the country and the life that was so much simpler when I was younger, when we had politicians and leaders who put the welfare of the nation and the citizens ahead of greed and re-election. Things were by no means perfect then, but they were a hell of a lot better than now.

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.
Thomas Sowell

Seabirds known as boobies probably received their name from a Spanish slang word, “bobo,” meaning dunce.