Thursday, September 30, 2010

Insanity or Treason?

“But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am a great admirer of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I believe he may well be one of the finest American prose stylists ever. I am not necessarily a huge fan of the content of his short stories or novels, at least not reading or re-reading them now in the 21st century. I do not, for example, think The Great Gatsby is the greatest American novel although it certainly was a great one. But all that aside, I love the above quotation and I believe it offers a great insight into the mechanics of insanity. It is open to a number of different interpretations, all of which I believe are helpful when it comes to questions of life and madness. For example, one thing it suggests to me is that insanity may well be an attempt to get around problems one encounters in life. This is sort of like insanity as problem solving, like trying to get around a problem, or a kind of wall encountered in your life so threatening as to have no other solution. Insanity, in this view, is a solution, a method of coping that, while extreme, makes sense, at least to the person having to employ it. No doubt Fitzgerald was led to this analogy by the madness of Zelda and the difficulties involved in such a situation.

At the moment I think it offers at least a bit of an insight into the current behavior of the Republicans, including the Tea Party branch. Confronted with the reality of the complete failure of their ideology: free-market capitalism, trickle-down economics, drown government in the bathtub, anti-union, outsource jobs, protect the wealthy and corporations, social Darwinism, cut-taxes solutions for everything, and to hell with the poor and the middle-class, what else can they do except turn to insane babbling about the current administration? Thus we now get accusations that President Obama is not a legitimate President because he was not born in the U.S. (which he was), he is a Muslim (which he is not), he’s a socialist, communist, fascist, (that he is not), he wants to take away our guns (which he doesn’t), he is secretly trying to bring in shari’a law, he is a racist that hates white people, he’s weak on national defense, afraid of the Generals, doesn’t know what he’s doing, and the whole dismal situation we are currently in is his fault. Of course the latest claim, coming from no less that the absolutely worst person in the world, Glenn Beck, that our President, the President of the United States of America no less, is “evil.”

If these accusations are not crazy enough, Republican proposals for what we should do are equally insane: do away with social security, Medicare, the recent health care laws, the Department of Education, unemployment benefits, freeze government spending, extend tax cuts for the two percent wealthiest people in the U.S., do away with abortion even in cases of rape and incest, attack Iran, engage in endless “wars,” stuff the military/industrial/political complex with more military junk they can ever use, retain don’t ask, don’t tell, oppose Gay marriage, fear Muslims and terrorist attacks, and, above all, keep insisting there is no global warming and, in spite of the facts, insist the U.S. constitution calls for a Christian nation. Oh, most importantly of all, insist that 700 billion in tax breaks for the filthy rich really doesn’t matter to the economy, doesn’t have to be paid for, and is absolutely necessary, whereas extending unemployment benefits is too expensive. Now it is doubtless true that not all Republicans believe all of these things, but it is equally true that many do believe many of them, and it is similarly true that in many cases, even though the Republican Party knows something is nonsensical they still support it (as in the case of the candidacy of Christine O’Donnell, for example). They decided immediately upon Obama’s election they would be the party of “no,” and have stuck religiously to that pledge, thus effectively keeping anything constructive from happening. Now, once again, they are threatening to shut the government down completely. Is this not an attempt to seep, under, around and over the dismal reality they themselves created? For this they expect to be rewarded by being returned to power?

I can think of no other explanation for this behavior than as a form of collective insanity. There are two possibilities here, (1) either they believe in this ridiculous nonsense, in which case they are literally insane, or (2) they know it is mostly all bullshit, in which case they are a treasonous bunch of bastards that think more of their own interests and party than our country. Take your pick.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Furkan Dogan

Montana man gets two weeks
jail time every Christmas for five years,
“to keep him out of trouble.”

You may or may not have heard that Israeli commandos brutally slaughtered a helpless American citizen during the attempt that was made by Turkish ships to stop the blockade of Gaza. Furkan Dogan, a 19 year-old American citizen of Turkish descent was shot at least twice in the head from close range as he was lying helpless on the deck. Why is this not reported with outrage on the part of the U.S.? Why, because it was done by Israelis, our best buddies in the Middle East, buddies that have killed American previously and spied on us for years. It seems there is nothing Israelis can do, no matter how unbelievably awful or horrifying, that the U.S. refuses to accept. As far as peace between Israel and the Palestinians goes, forget about it. Palestinians have said they will not continue negotiations unless Israel freezes the settlements. Israel has refused. What more do you need to know? The Palestinians may decide to continue anyway, as they obviously have no choice if they are serious about wanting peace, but it is perfectly clear the Israelis do not want peace, do not want a Palestinian state, and, indeed, according to the PM “There will never be peace until the Palestinians are expelled.” Now that is a real framework for a serious peace! What if the Palestinians say there will never be peace as long as Israel exists? No, that would be grounds for further genocide. I have to say it again, I do not believe the Israelis are serious about making peace, I do not believe they want to give up even an inch of the land or a gallon of water they have already stolen from the Palestinians, I do not believe they are negotiating in good faith, and, as the U.S. is so clearly on their side, and they have such overwhelming superiority and command of the situation because of our one-sided commitment, there will never be peace. The U.S. could change this, but of course we won’t, and things will muddle on until some future date when perhaps a miracle will occur.

The hypocrisy of the United States is so obvious, so blatant, so excruciatingly awful, it might well be considered the eighth wonder of the world. Eight Iranians are now being put on a blacklist (I guess some kind of financial blacklist) because they engaged in torture and other illegalities during the recent upheavals in Iran. Those Iranians! How awful! They tortured people and did other bad things! They must be punished! But not so for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of our own torturers and war criminals. They just blissfully live out their wealthy comfortable lives with apparently no fear of being held to even minimal standards of accountability. I must have some serious misunderstanding of American law and the Constitution because I thought war criminals must be held accountable. I guess that means only non-American war criminals.

Back to Christine O’Donnell and the Republicans for a moment: not only has Ms. Airhead claimed masturbation is a form of adultery, that evolution is a myth, that mice have been created with fully functioning human brains, and she is guilty of the criminal use of her campaign funds, it now turns out she has lied about her education. These are facts. There is also a rumor (I think it may be just a rumor) that she was once caught cheating in school. A real winner, this O’Donnell, who remains an official candidate of the Republican Party that is supporting her in spite of her obvious, shall we way, shortcomings.. Just imagine the important contributions she could make to our Senate, already choked with enough morons to keep anything positive from ever happening (at least as long as we have a Black Democratic President threatening to take away their license to steal). Having now voted against the middle class at every opportunity, voted against extending unemployment benefits, against a plan to keep jobs in America, having announced they will try to repeal the recent health care provisions, as well as privatizing Social Security, VA Hospitals, and most everything else, and having voted “no” for anything proposed by President Obama (even things they once proposed themselves), plus having brought about the worst recession since the 1930’s, and having no articulate plan of their own for the future, they believe they should be returned to power. You know what is truly “sick” about this? They could possibly win.

The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
H. L. Mencken

The closest relative to the giraffe is the okapi.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Democracy Run Amok

UK site for new homes rejected
for fears that cats would
eat dormice in nearby woods.

If you are paying attention at all you will know that in Delaware the Republican candidate for the Senate is a person who says masturbation is adultery, evolution is a myth, scientists are producing mice with fully functioning human brains, she once dabbled in witchcraft, and God created the universe and everything in it in six days. This is a woman who has apparently never held a permanent job, has never been elected to any significant office, has apparently spent most of her life trying to get on camera, and has no qualifications whatsoever to become a United States Senator. She is, in fact, little more than a bad joke, even less qualified for any office than Palin is qualified for the Presidency. It would, I believe, be an incredible waste of time to even bothering questioning her about her beliefs although it might be fun. For example, one might ask her if unmarried individuals masturbate are they committing adultery or only married people? Similarly, she claimed at age 31 she was still chaste. Is she still chaste at 41? Or you might ask her to produce some evidence that evolution is a myth, or that mice have human brains, and so on. But I digress.

Consider there is a similarly ignorant candidate for the Senate in Nevada, another one in Alaska, still another in Colorado, and still others. Granted that Congressional positions are probably the only jobs for which no qualifications are required, this does seem to me irresponsible. I like to think that Congressional offices should be held by qualified individuals who have at least some history of accomplishment, some relevant experience, at least some appreciation of the importance of the offices they are seeking. Apparently nowadays this is not necessary, anyone, no matter how bizarre their beliefs, how limited their experience, how ignorant they may be, can manage to become candidates for important public offices. This is bad enough to begin with, but consider that most of these so-called “Tea party” candidates are now officially accepted and supported by the Republican Party. As these strange Tea Party people seem to be taking over the Republican Party I guess they have little choice but to endorse them (any old port in a storm) but I believe to put forward and support such candidates is absolutely unconscionable and even subversive. The position of Senator would seem to be one of the single most important positions in government, indeed, in the entire world. Senators have enormous power to influence not only U.S. policy but also International affairs. To fill such positions of power and influence with a number of know-nothing nobodies seems to me to be completely irresponsible, in fact, foolish beyond belief.

Of course we know by now that there has become a complete separation of office holders in the U.S. from the people they are supposed to represent. One might conclude that as this is true it probably doesn’t matter much who holds office as they will merely do the bidding of the corporate masters that actually control things (including our so-called and pretend democracy). But this is not supposed to be the way democracy works. This indicates to me an abdication of responsibility on the part of government. Elected officials should be responsible to the voters (citizens) who elect them, but they no longer are. I suggest what makes this far worse than it might otherwise be is the fact that we pretend to be “the leader of the free world,” the world’s policemen, the beacon on the hill, the greatest country on earth, and so on. If this is what we profess to believe does that not indicate a sense of responsibility for the rest of the world? Does power now come with no responsibility? What do you think other nations must think when we elect our most powerful officials from the ranks of ignorant know-nothings. Does anyone seriously believe that Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, and others of that ilk should be in charge of the domestic and international affairs of the U.S.? If so I fear they are as demented as the candidates themselves. These particular candidates are apparently too ignorant to even understand they are too ignorant to even presume to seek high office. Most of the world found it impossible to believe we were stupid enough to elect George W. Bush, what must they be thinking now? We are acting like a bunch of adolescents, which we are when compared with other nations, and our irresponsibility when it comes to our supposed position in the world seems remarkably like the ordinary adolescent irresponsibility of childhood. Is it any wonder we are falling behind so rapidly, becoming a third world nation? I guess you could argue that it is not democracy that has run amok, but the corporations and the wealthy that have subverted it, but that would not have happened had our democracy not allowed this to happen in the first place.

We've gotten to the point where everybody's got a right and nobody's got a responsibility.
Newton Minow

Bedbugs are capable of feeding unnoticed by their hosts.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Somewhat Different World

Samoan Ministers claim
climate change in Samoa
is caused by homosexuals.

Well, I have returned from three of the most pleasant days I have had in a long time. I deliberately avoided watching any news whatsoever. I cannot tell you how pleasant it was to be completely free of hate, greed, lying, hypocrisy, infotainment, and just plain stupidity and ignorance, if even for a short time. As I have no idea of what went on in the last three days (although I am certain it was just more of the same) I have nothing to comment. Let me instead tell you about our journey to a different world.

We went to Seattle ostensibly to take in the annual Seattle Library Book sale. For reasons I will not bother to explain we missed the Friday night part where the best books are found. But we did attend on Saturday, when the public is allowed in free, and we did actually still accumulate books for Arabella Books (our online book business). What truly impressed me, however, were the hundreds of people who were there buying books. I assume that people who took the trouble to be there to buy books (many of them with their children in tow) must also be those interested in reading. I have been told that perhaps fewer than 10% of the American population are still serious readers so I was impressed by the turnout and encouraged for the future of reading (at least for another generation).

But books aside, a trip to Seattle, for those of us in the hinterlands, is an experience worth having, if only once or twice a year. It is like being in another world entirely. I lived in Seattle for several years, but that was back in the 1950’s and 60’s, and I assure you it is not the same as it was then. Even though Seattle was a fairly large city in the 1950’s it still had a kind of small town ambience that was quite pleasant. You could still get around easily and it only took a few minutes to be out of the city and in the country. Now, however, with the new freeway system, the large increase in population, the increased traffic, and so on, the ambience has changed dramatically.

Seattle is now crowded, much more than it was. I wanted to take a walk from our hotel to the Pike Place Market, approximately 10 to 12 blocks. It was quite an experience. First, as I looked ahead there were so many people in what appeared to be a crowd I thought there must be some special event going on, a political rally or something like that. But when I reached the spot it was nothing but ordinary pedestrian traffic, hundreds, if not thousands of people, crowded cheek to jowl, ventral to ventral, ventral to dorsal, shoulder to shoulder, back to back, face to face, so tightly crowed together you could barely walk (it was an unusually beautiful sunny day). We walked as a huge wave towards the market, which was so unbelievably crowded you were hard-pressed even to purchase anything (although my wife somehow managed to buy some lovely chanterelle mushrooms, my favorite of the mushroom family). If you wish to visit downtown Seattle these days it is best to go on foot as parking is virtually impossible and, if found at all, so expensive as to be virtually prohibitive.

Also of interest to me, coming from Hicksville, on my walk I passed at least two individuals talking to themselves, or possibly the nearest wall, there were street musicians of various kinds, one playing a set of miniature trap drums, another some strange Asian instrument, still others rapping and playing horns or singing. The Hare Krishnas were there, chanting and playing their little cymbals and beating drums, and beggars just shaking cups asking for change. Particularly depressing, I thought were two or three big, healthy, Black men with shoe-shine kits trying to make a few dollars. I was also astonished to find that English now sounds almost like a foreign language, what with such a huge variety of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais, as well as Middle Easterners of all kinds, and a large mix of Europeans. I am not at all opposed to immigrants or ethnics but I confess to being surprised by their overwhelming presence.

As the Pike Place Market, now world famous and always crowded, was impossible to enjoy, I waited to go to Uwa Jimaya, a wonderful Asian market not far from Pike Street. I like it even better than Pike Place as it has everything you could possibly imagine in the way of food, and many of things you would never find in Pike Place (and quite likely anywhere else). Like the Pike Place it has all kinds of fresh seafood, and a large assortment of unusual frozen fish not available elsewhere (even Pike Place). It also features, in addition to the usual meats you would find most anywhere, such delicacies as pig’s tails, ears, tongues, snouts, pig and calves’ feet, duck gizzards, goat meat, and even milkfish bellies. I love it. I had my heart set on buying some fresh sea bass, that they often have, but, alas, not this time. You can find fresh red snapper, oysters, clams, octopus, squid, of course salmon, sablefish (aka black cod), and more. I settled for some lovely fresh Puget Sound Mussels that I kept on ice until we returned home, whereupon I cooked them in something I can only describe as “Morialekafa’s Everything but the Kitchen Sink Mussels.” They were delicious. I truly miss the seafood in Seattle and Santa Monica, but I don’t miss the crowds, the noise, the traffic, the hustle and bustle of the city, and the seemingly never ending sirens. Here where we live, if you happen to wake in the night you might hear a romantic freight train whistle way off in the distance, just enough to remind you there is a world out there somewhere.


The world is so constructed, that if you wish to enjoy its pleasures, you must also endure its pains. Whether you like it or not, you cannot have one without the other.

Swami Brahnmananda


Only one species of dormouse is native to Britain.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's a Guy to Do?

Yoshifumi Takabe, 30, still living
with mother, burns down house
when she throws out his toys.

Note: Morialekafa is going away for three days to fraternize “Among the Gently Mad” (Nicholas A. Basbanes, Henry Holt and Co., 2002). That is, we’re going to the annual Seattle Library Book Sale, a two day event that requires a bit of effort and probably won’t be conducive to blogging until Sunday or Monday. In the meanwhile, at least try to be of good cheer, not so easy these days.

So what is a guy to do? Take the case of our current President, Barack Obama. Here is a White/Black man who is considered Black (black blood is so much more powerful than white blood that even a single drop converts a White man into Black, but excuse the digression). Where was I, oh, yeah, a Black/White man who is said to be, depending upon the speaker, or particular point of view, a Black socialist, fascist, communist, foreign-born, Atheist, Muslim, American, Christian, citizen, who secretly hates Whites, favors big banks and corporations, hasn’t done enough for Blacks, wants to take away everyone’s guns and give them universal health care, is an anti-war warmonger, a constitutional scholar who doesn’t understand the constitution, a pro-Gay rights believer who is opposed to Gay marriage, a non-partisan partisan, a terrorist appeasing wimp who has escalated our “wars,” and who, by way of some sophisticated confidence scheme, apparently hatched when he was born in Hawaii, and who we know very little about, inappropriately, illegally, and unconstitutionally became President of the United States. Ignore for the moment the fact that most of those who are so describing him have absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about, it seems to me you have to admit these disparate views of him make it hard for him to govern. His supposed failure also seems to have something to do with the fact that he has not proven to be from the planet Krypton, has not walked on water, cannot leap tall buildings at a single bound, and is completely unable to work miracles. I suspect, however, it has much more to do with the Republican obsession with destroying him and blocking everything he has tried to do, along with the mostly unstated but underlying unpleasant racist attitude against him simply because he is Black.

Although there are policies Obama is continuing that I am passionately opposed to, such as the “war” in Afghanistan, his support for Israel and nuclear power, his failure to close Gitmo, and the continued use of rendition and torture (if, indeed, it is continuing), and most of all his failure to investigate Bush/Cheney war crimes, I still have to support him if for no other reason than because the alternative is completely unacceptable and even unthinkable. Of course there is a serious problem in our country now when it comes to believing anything at all, the Bush/Cheney administration made pathological incessant lying into such a normal part of government all credibility has been called into question. I know with some confidence that the Afghan “war” is continuing, and I’m reasonably certain that Obama will do nothing about the Bush/Cheney war crimes, but whether Obama is still allowing torture or not, or how strongly he supports Israel and nuclear energy I do not really know. Mostly I seem to go on living on hope, hope that under no circumstances will I ever see Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell or other Tea Partyers ever attain positions of power or influence, hope that Newt Gingrich will no longer be featured on the “news,” hope we might someday experience real news again, hope that we will avoid any terrorist attacks, further “wars,” and so on. You know, “the audacity of hope.”

“For books are more than just books. They are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men lived and worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.”
Amy Lowell

Bi Sheng, a Chinese inventor, created moveable type of earthenware circa 1045.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Defense of Airheads

British Ferry Captain hires foreign
workers because British workers
are “quite fat and covered with tattoos.”

What does it take nowadays to be unqualified for public office? Let us take the case of Christine O’Donnell for an example. Here is a woman who has apparently never had a permanent job, has made her career (such as it is) promoting abstinence and anti-abortion nonsense, along with other rather extreme far right issues. She claims to have “dabbled in witchcraft,” an issue dismissed by many with the disclaimer, “she was only in High School and kids in High School do lots of stupid thing” (personally I find this kind of reasonable). However, she also has said that masturbation is the equivalent of adultery, a claim I find not only extreme but rather absurd. She has said she has now “matured,” but as far as I know no one has asked her if she now thinks masturbation is okay. Apparently her statement that she has matured is sufficient to dismiss this rather absurd claim. She has also said that scientists have cross-bred or otherwise modified monkeys so they have fully human brains, a claim so hare-brained one wonders if she actually has one. But no less a critic than Bill Maher has suggested, “she must have read the report wrong.” He likes her but of course does not want to see her in the Senate. O’Donnell has also claimed she would never lie, even to protect Anne Frank from the Nazis, as God would intervene to do something or other to resolve this dilemma (as far as I know this has left everyone so speechless no one has pursued it). She now stands accused of illegally using campaign funds for her own personal needs, such as paying her rent, buying gasoline, and etc. Naturally she denies any wrongdoing but I’m pretty sure there is genuine evidence to prove otherwise. In short, this woman is a certified “Airhead,” with no qualifications for office whatsoever. But no doubt some will keep making excuses for her, and this is not keeping her from continuing and, what is worse, being supported by the Republican Party. Someone once observed that running for Congress was the one job that required no qualifications whatsoever. He/she was right.

It is one thing to try to defend an Airhead like O’Donnell, but quite another to defend many of them already in the Congress. Today the Senate filibustered the entire Defense Bill for no reason other than to postpone the inevitable acceptance of doing away with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a useless and failed policy that began under the Clinton Administration. Everyone knows, including those who voted to filibuster, this is inevitably going to pass. There is no good reason for this particular filibuster. Their arguments for it were pathetic. The military needs more time to study it is absolute nonsense. They need time to implement it, equally nonsensical. What are they going to do, build separate showers, toilets, and living quarters? The issue has been studied to death. Every major military in the world already allows Gays to serve actively in their respective services. Gays have served since time immemorial in the U.S. forces, many of them highly decorated and highly acclaimed by their peers. This was a shameful performance, and no one was more shameful than John McCain who insisted, in spite of the facts, that searching for Gays in the military was not a policy. One could argue that McCain was right in the sense that this was not a formal policy in the military, but demonstrably has been “the policy,” and McCain has been personally informed of this. I attribute his resistance either to stubbornness or senility. No defense bill like this has ever before been filibustered. Republicans now are so obsessed with destroying Obama they are willing to sacrifice the military and even the nation. In spite of Obama’s election, large numbers of American are not comfortable with a Black President and determined to see him fail. Their racism drips like pus from a gangrenous sore in spite of their euphemisms and not so artful dodges. I said from the beginning that Obama’s election would represent the “fifth great blow to the Western-European ego,” an attack on the most basic paradigm of Western-European thought, and so it is proving to be.

A large Democratic voter turnout could put an end to this ultra-right wing idiocy for a long time. But as Obama has not proven his ability to walk on water or otherwise work miracles it might not come about. This is called ,I believe, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

On Tom today, as featured on Buzzflash, is an article that predicts the end of the American empire, and, by implication, of the American dream. Similarly, one young man was also heard today asking President Obama if the American dream was over for him. There appears to be a strong notion on the part of many Americans that it is. With the end of our empire, the end of the American dream, will come an inevitable decline in our standard of living. Tom Dispatch suggest this is not all bad, as our troops will come home, we will pay more attention to our crumbling infrastructure, education, and so on. The American century, so-called, is coming to an end, and with it the American dream. It also means an end to our traditional way of life, based as it has been, on exploiting the earth’s resources shamefully and exploiting other countries for their resources. I guess we might sum this up as “Stealing less but enjoying it more.”

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.
Sir Winston Churchill
There are at least 372 species of parrots.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Machinery of Life

The Machinery of Life

An interesting aspect of culture (in the anthropological sense, that is), is the fact that we are so largely unconscious of it and seldom reflect long or deeply upon what we are doing. We live our day-to-day lives pretty much oblivious of what we are doing and what it might be doing to us. Consider, if you will, the machinery that regulates our lives from morning to night, and think of our awesome dependence upon that machinery.

Although I doubt that any statistics exist to bear me out, I’m personally convinced that the machine that starts our day, the alarm clock, must surely shorten the lives of those unfortunate enough to have to depend on it for any ext ended period of time. What a shock to the system, that awful din that startles one from a blissful sleep into anxious activity, anticipating assignments, assignations, and other assorted events, often with artful anonymous dodgers one is unlikely to ever see again. This first traumatic event simply begins a series of encounters between men and machines not only unprecedented in human affairs, but also downright mind-boggling (as we say these days).

Next, depending upon your personal habits, comes the electric toothbrush and razor (although all toothbrushes and razors, no matter how simple, are machines of sorts), followed by the shower (also a mechanical gadget). I am ignoring light switches as there are far too many of them to worry about (but if they don’t work you have to pay attention to them). After your ablutions you are faced with the refrigerator, toaster, stove, perhaps an electric can opener and juicer. And, of course, while you are consuming your breakfast you are most probably either listening to the radio or watching TV to catch the latest news.

Outside the home one is still totally at the mercy of these creations of human ingenuity, these mute and not so mute machines that guide and control our almost every movement. The garage door opener, without which one would (ugh) be forced to manually operate. And of course, next comes that most marvelous machine of all Los Angelenos, and, indeed, most of the civilized world by now, the automobile. You had better hope it starts and doesn’t have a flat or some other ailment. Wonderful invention that it is, it appears to offer us greater independence than ever before – and perhaps it does, but not when it exists in proximity to the machines that regulate it, those tall three-eyed sentinels that stand strategically at every corner or hang from above to tell you and your automobile, as well as pedestrians, just what is what. Heaven forbid that you should let your poor human judgment allow you to violate their better judgment – big brother will be watching on his or her faster and better equipped machine.

If, as is usual, you successfully negotiate these benevolent artificial watchdogs, you may well confront still another example of the genre that will allow you to park, but only after extorting some form of payment either on the spot or later. But assuming that the code on your plastic parking card is correct, and further assuming the machinery that raises and lowers the barrier up and down is not malfunctioning, you arrive at last at your place of business. Not quite, of course, there is still the elevator. Elevators, at least some of them of my acquaintance, appear to have independent minds. They come and go as they wish, not as I always like them to do. But not to worry, one typically does get to the office (I have decided to omit locks and keys as well as light switches, this is not meant to denigrate their importance, lest I offend one or another of them and it refuses to cooperate with me anymore).

There is probably no place in the ”modern world” where one is more at the mercy of machines than at the office. From the water cooler and the coffee maker right through the telephone and the computer your life is either well-organized and efficient or so disrupted as to leave you either apoplectic or speechless, to say nothing of helpless. Can there be any more frustrating phrase than “the computers are down again?” This is particularly maddening in banks. I have skipped over a whole host of “middle range” or semi-archaic items such as filing cabinets (do the drawers on your always work) desks, typewriters (remember them), cardex files, and even the more mundane necessities such as toilets, sinks, towel dispensers and the like, life can become pretty miserable when they don’t cooperate.

Then at last, when the clock on the wall or the watch on your wrist, or a bell or whistle, tells you it is time to leave you start going through the whole process in reverse (with perhaps a short relaxing stop for a double scotch or martini). The final ironic act being – you guessed it -- having to set the friendly little round face of that very machine that started you on your day. Who says we are not creatures of free-will and determination, rugged individualists?

Note: I wrote this when I still lived in Los Angeles. I am happy to report that things here in North Idaho are somewhat better, but even though we are born free we remain everywhere in chains. A few years ago we acquired our first stoplight. Sigh!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Prohibition Hangover - book

The Prohibition Hangover Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet, by Garrett Peck (Rutgers University Press, 2009)

This is a truly interesting and worthwhile book for someone with an interest in the topic of alcohol in America, but for me, as a casual reader, it offers much more in the way of detail than I could easily assimilate. It certainly does trace the history of drinking in America from the beginning to the contemporary scene.

The major thrust of this work has to do with our continued ambivalence about alcohol and its effects. Even though Prohibition occurred and failed, as a society we have still not completely resolved this ambivalence, there are still groups of various kinds that attempt to regulate or prohibit alcohol use even though it is now well established as a normal behavior pattern for at least two-thirds of our population. This can be seen, for example, in the national stipulation that one must be twenty-one years of age to drink (a ruling brought about by pressure from several different temperance groups) even though you can be called upon as cannon fodder at eighteen.

The author reviews the different styles of drinking over time, the types of alcohol consumed, and brief histories of the development of whiskey, the beer and wine industries, the creation of cocktails, the changes in fashion from one type of drink to another at various times, and links these patterns to larger events of the time, immigration, the depression, and so on. It is all quite fascinating but not exactly what nowadays would be described as a quick “read” (I despise this current practice of converting verbs to nouns).

In colonial times the favorite drinks were rum and (hard) apple cider. After the revolution, Congress levied heavy taxes on imported molasses, the result being a switch to cheaper locally made whiskey made from corn. Cheap corn whiskey led the nation on a drinking binge that resulted in Prohibition for a time. Beer was of little importance at all until the great German immigrations of the 1840’s and the end of Prohibition. Although wine had been made early by people like George Washington, it only became of real importance with the immigration of Italians that began arriving in the 1880’s. It was not until the relative affluence of the 1950’s that distilled spirits and cocktails became fashionable.

Peck discusses all of these trends in some detail, including the processes involved in the making of these various alcoholic beverages. He explains the differences between different types of beer, bourbon, scotch, Irish, and other forms of whiskey, different wine varietals, and cites more mixed drinks and cocktails than you might have imagined existed. It is a pretty thorough and thoughtful job.

He also compares the positions of the three largest religious groups on the question of alcohol use: the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the United Methodist Church. I did not realize that wine was so fundamental to communion that it was allowed even during Prohibition, whereas some other faiths quickly substituted grape juice (that was more or less invented for just that purpose).There is also some discussion of the health effects of drinking, as well as the numerous groups who still advocate, if not outright Prohibition, at least certain restrictions on drinking. These people have been termed neoprohibitionists or even neo-puritans, and have gained strength since the 1980’s mostly as proponents against the social costs of alcohol. MADD is perhaps one of the best examples of this approach as they have never opposed drinking as such, but only that people should not drink and drive.

Probably the most interesting part of this book, for me at least, is the author’s discussion of teen-age drinking and the problem with the twenty-one year old legal age restriction. It seems quite clear that trying to keep teens from drinking is no more successful than Prohibition was, and perhaps is even less successful, as it seems to have become part of ordinary teen-age rebellion and leads to binge drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse. In countries like France and Italy where wine drinking is part of growing up and children are taught to drink, when and how, this is not such a problem.

In any case, Peck’s review of drinking laws in different states, the control of alcohol, hours of operation, locations where one can purchase alcohol, how alcohol can be transported, how it can be served, the various attitudes toward it on the part of different groups, and so on make it clear that the elimination of Prohibition has not settled our problems with this ancient, virtually ubiquitous beverage.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fear (and Loathing)

When teased about
smelly feet, she stabs
teaser in the back.

I am not one of those who has been driven by (false) fears into believing that Iraq was a threat, Iran is a threat, or Muslims are about to take over the world, nor I have worried needlessly about “Death Panels,” the threat of Gay marriage, or (gasp) the horrors of socialism. I have not been fearful of terrorists either, assuming I would have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than being harmed by a terrorist. Neither am I afraid we are being led by an anti-colonial Luo tribesman who is also a secret Muslim fascist, socialist, communist, creature from outer space. Until now I believe I have not been fearful at all.

Now, for the first time, I am beginning to experience real genuine palpable fear. This is a result of the recently concluded primary season where so many so-called Tea Party candidates won nominations. I find this shocking and fearful for a variety of reasons, the main one being my belief that most of these candidates are either religious lunatics or persons so incredibly ignorant and full of hate they might do anything to further their delusions of grandeur. Just who, for example, is Sarah Palin to presume to perhaps run for the Presidency of our nation? She was already found completely inappropriate as a Vice-Presidential candidate, too incompetent to ever be President, has demonstrated no particular growth since then, and just keeps on babbling about things she knows virtually nothing about: economics, foreign policy, health care, science, and so on. She has no qualifications for the Presidency and yet she has managed to gather a rather large following and has influence with many people. Now we have a sort of clone in Christine O’Donnell, a woman even less qualified for office than Palin, whose views are so extreme even Karl Rove described her as loony (but apparently not loony enough to keep the Republicans from supporting her). Each of these recent Tea Party winners has one or more beliefs and/or intentions that are diametrically opposed to the best interest of our citizens and our nation, and often at odds with even common sense or reason.

My fear, then, is that these holier-than-thou, racist, know-nothing, religious, backward-looking freaks may actually win and thus be able to influence the direction of our country. I cannot conceive of a worse future. We have enough of these morons in Congress already. It is not only their particular beliefs, which I believe are completely misguided, that bother me, nor is it that they individually exist, it is the fact they do not exist in a vacuum that is so terrifying. They have followers, ignorant people like themselves who apparently hold similar views and support and make their candidacies possible. That is what is so frightening (and almost impossible for me to believe). What this indicates to me is that here in the United States, supposedly the greatest and most powerful country on earth, a country that is not shy about boasting about its superiority, and tries to export it at the point of a gun to others, has such large number of people who are appallingly ignorant and who take pride in their ignorance. This is, after all, the 21st century. Anyone who believes in creationism, the literal truth of the Christian bible, the earth is only 6000 years old, dinosaurs and humans existed contemporaneously, Blacks or browns or others are inherently inferior to whites, Muslims are about to take over our country and should not be allowed to enter our hallowed ground, who refuse to accept scientific evidence about the state of the world, and so on, are simply not fit to hold important public offices. These are people who want to have leaders who are just as misinformed and ignorant as they are, someone they can have a beer with, that, in short, value ignorance over knowledge. This is not a formula for the modern world or for good government. If these people should become a majority and take over our country we will inexorably be led to disaster if not worse. I am for the first time seriously fearful for the future. I don’t know why, I am much too old to be concerned about the future. I don’t even buy green bananas.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.

Ernest Benn

New World coral snakes possess the most powerful venom of all New World snakes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Not the End...

Drunken Florida husband
threatens suicide, wife gives
him a gun and he does it.

Well, you can’t see the end of the world from here, but you can certainly predict it. If Democrats (however chaotic, misguided, and wrong-headed about many things) do not get serious about the coming elections, it appears we will be on the way to the end. And I fear we may have reached that tipping point where American voters have become so uninformed, lazy, and ignorant they may just stand by idly and let the new Republican Party win. It is not too hard to imagine what will happen over time if we allow the most ignorant, hateful, greedy, racist elements of our society to take over. With the Tea Party calling the shots we would most likely be doomed.

First of all, they deny global warming, probably the greatest threat to life on the planet ever. They are unwilling to follow the advice of the huge preponderance of scientists who are warning us daily about the consequences of global warming and the urgency to do something about it. It is difficult to imagine stupidity greater than this. Then there is the issue of tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy. A decision to allow these to continue is, as Bernie Sanders has said, the dumbest thing we could do. They will also rescind the health care legislation putting millions more Americans with no health care unless they are wealthy. They would quite likely attempt to do away with the Department of Education. This might not matter too much except that it represents their attitude towards education in general (it is in the best interests of corporate America and the Republicans to keep us as dumb as possible). They would almost surely try to do away with Roe vs Wade, thus driving millions of women into the alleys once again with coat hangers and such. The separation of church and state, as designed by our constitution, would fall by the wayside, creationism would replace evolution in our biology and other classes, turning the clock back at least to the early 19th century. Huge numbers of immigrants would be deported, Muslims would probably be denied entrance into the U.S. and mosques would disappear (no doubt along with every other religious institution outside of Christianity, preferably fundamental Christianity. Hundreds of thousands of otherwise decent hard-working Americans would continue to languish in prison because of minor marijuana violations. There would certainly be no Gay marriages and, indeed, there would be renewed useless attempts to “cure” homosexuality. Stem cell research would not doubt cease. We would continue our insane pursuit of endless “wars,” attempting to impose our way of life on the rest of the world, while at the same time greedily stealing their resources to maintain our self-elevated position at the top of creation. Banks and Insurance companies, along with the Health Industries would continue to rip us off shamelessly, more things would become privatized (water?) and so on. Perhaps not so likely, but not necessarily beyond the pale for these people, masturbation would be made illegal and the Missionary position would become mandatory. Birth control devices would not be allowed and abstinence only would be the only sex education permitted. Abortion would not be permitted even in cases of rape or incest. Think what a glorious world it would be if all these Tea Party beliefs would come to pass.

While it is true that not all of these things would necessarily be realized, many of them doubtless would. But what the bottom line here is, the most ignorant elements of our culture would be empowered to take over our country. If this happens we will be paying the price for our all-around neglect of the most important aspects of our lives, a neglect helped along by our materialistic, free-market, corporate and consumer-driven greed, by our unwillingness to spend any effort to educate ourselves and participate in our own democracy. All of our worst behaviors are now catching up with us and the price is going to be most unpleasant. It may not be too late to restore at least some semblance of common sense and sanity into our body politic. I wonder if Stewart and Colbert are up to the task, they seem to be the only ones much interested in the problem. The Republican Party has decided to support Christine O’Donnell, you can’t fall any lower than that.

Against logic there is no armor like ignorance.
Laurence J. Peter

There are training schools for training pig-tailed macaques to harvest coconuts (which are not nuts).

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Enraged when his wife fails
cook his eggs properly, Kentuckian
shoots five people and himself.

The winners sit and smile and tell jokes, the losers say, “Deal the goddamn cards.” The primary game is now over, the deck is being shuffled for the major events. A brief view of the big tea party winners is probably in order. Let’s start with one of the best, Rand Paul. He has already indicated that he thinks private businesses, like restaurants, for example, should be able to discriminate if they wish. He thinks the civil rights bill went too far. He has also said that child labor is probably okay because, “In poor families the children have to pitch in,” and also apparently tends to believe mine owners are often innocent because, “sometimes mines just collapse.” More importantly he believes that “concentrations of corporate power can’t get too great,” and “capitalism is freedom.” He wants to give tax breaks to the obscenely wealthy, and, although he is an ardent fiscal conservative, he admits he doesn’t know how to pay for it. In other words, like his father, he would turn the clock back quite a long way.

Joe Miller of Alaska seems to believe that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional and should not be allowed. He also wants to phase out Social Security and privatize it, as well as rescind the health care legislation. He is joined in this by Marco Rubio of Florida, said to be a “Tea Party darling,” who firmly believes in the institution of free enterprise (the free market economy that has recently failed). And, although from a Cuban immigrant family thinks that amnesty won’t work. I don’t know much about Mike Lee of Utah other than that he is supported by the National Rifle Association and is another Tea Party candidate. Ken Buck of the neighboring state of Colorado believes that Social Security is a “horrible policy,” abortion should be banned even in cases of rape or incest, the 14th amendment should be changed so that the children of illegal immigrants cannot be citizens, and there should be a closer relationship between church and state. Do not forget Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, wealthy, self-financed candidate who also wants to repeal the health care bill, privatize Social Security, and is ardently pro-life. These winners, with their modestly loony ideas pale into insignificance when contrasted with the completely loony Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell.

Angle of Nevada has said we should do away with the Department of Education (she’s a former teacher) and get out of the United Nations, and that’s just for starters. She, too, like all of the above, would phase out Social Security and Medicare. In addition, she believes there are “enemies” in our Congress, the press should only ask her questions she wants to answer, and has suggested that if Republicans can’t get their way through the ballot they should turn to their 2nd amendment solution (guns, that is). She thinks abortion should not be allowed, even in cases of rape or incest, because she’s a Christian and knows that God has plans for all things. She seems singularly over-obsessed with Harry Reid and has also said she is “For a government of my God, by my God, and for My God.” She is such a strong candidate she beat out a rival who suggested paying your doctor with chickens, and has probably insured a win against all odds by Harry Reid.

By far the most scintillating, dynamic, Tea Party candidate of all (at least at the moment) is Christine O’Donnell of Delaware (said now to be another Sarah Palin) who, in spite of little experience to speak of, upset a strong favorite Republican candidate with a long and proven track record of service for the people of Delaware. The MSM has gone absolutely bonkers over this exciting news. Perhaps O’Donnell’s greatest claim to fame is her anti-masturbation plank. She thinks masturbation is “adultery” and should not be engaged in (a peculiarly interesting philosophical idea probably far too sophisticated for the average mind to grasp). Of course she is against most everything else the above are against and in addition thinks women should not be allowed in military training (or I guess the military in general) as they will decrease the efficiency of our troops. I think the main reason we should think of supporting her is that she never lies, ever. She reported once that even if the Nazis came to her door and asked her if she was hiding a Jew, and even if she was hiding a Jew, she would not lie (like Angle, she believes God would somehow intervene with a solution). Now you have to admit that is a truly commendable virtue, but I believe she will soon have to abandon it entirely if she thinks she has a future in politics. But wait! There’s more. She believes there is more evidence for creationism than there is for evolution and that God created everything in six days. She thinks scientists are conducting cross-species experiments in which mice can develop human brains, condoms cause aids, and she that Bill Clinton might well have had something to do with the “murder” of Vince Foster. She is, indeed, a real winner. Republicans have announced they will support her.

Turning from the Senatorial scene for the moment, and last but not least to this new crop of Republican candidates, consider for a moment Carl Poladino, a filthy rich, filthy fellow trying to buy the office of New York Governor. He says he is angry and against big government (he made most of his fortune renting buildings to the government). Paladino is a blatant racist who sends out racist messages to his followers. He is also into hard-core pornography involving naked women and bestiality. He recently produced a picture of President Obama dressed as a pimp, accompanied by Michelle dressed as a prostitute. Real class, huh? He apparently believes that a majority of New Yorkers share these interests as he says he doesn’t want anyone who doesn’t watch similar stuff to vote for him. Oh well, I guess Governor of New York isn’t much of a position anyway.

So there they are, the big winners of Tuesday, and a truly fine lot they are. I’m sure that if they win they will join Senators DeMint and Inhofe to greatly improve our nation. Many think they can’t win in November. Not Jim DeMint(ed) who says they will. So let the game begin. Oh, I forgot to mention economics. Guess what, they are all for cutting taxes, especially for the richest people of all. They also all deny global warming.

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
Mark Twain

Southern wolves have brains 5 to 10% smaller than northern wolves.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


North Dakota “free thinker” wearing
only thong, pasties, and whipped cream,
cited for indecent exposure in Walgreens.

Those of you who have been reading Morialekafa for some time may remember when I suggested we create a new word to describe the machinations of Karl Rove:

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

This is a word that has not caught on or been used much by others but I still think it is quite useful. I think we may well need another new word:

gingrich n. An utterly ridiculous statement or phrase uttered to make the speaker appear wise or intellectual.

Newt Gingrich is known for saying things that sometimes make sense and sometimes do not. Sometimes he seems to say something stupid mostly for the shock value. For example, when asked “what should we do about the homeless,” he answered, "Give the park police more ammo."

At other times he makes comments so outrageously wrong as to be just downright silly:

“The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.”

Often he says things that are so obvious as to be not worth saying:

"National security really matters because if you lose the country everything else is gone."

Sometimes you can only wonder if he is actually serious:

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

He is not adverse to coming out with bald-faced falsehoods and ridiculous inanities:

“All free people stand on Reagan's shoulders. His principled policies proved that free markets create wealth, that the rule of law sustains freedom, and that all people everywhere deserve the right to dream, to pursue their dreams, and to govern themselves.”

At times his pronouncements involve dubious religious claims:

“The U.S. was founded by a group of political leaders who signed a document which says, “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.” That means that all of your political rights come from God and you then loan some of your power to the State which is why the Constitution begins, “We, the People of the United States.”

At times he can be downright mean, as when speaking of his first wife:

“She isn’t young enough or pretty enough to be the President’s wife.”

More often than not his statements are transparently political with no basis in fact whatsoever:

"The President of the United States, the most radical president in American history, has now thrown down the gauntlet to the American people," Gingrich said. "He has said 'I run a machine, I own Washington and there is nothing you can do about it.' Thats where we are."

In order to understand the nature of a true “gingrich” it is necessary to understand Newt’s grandiose idea of himself. For example:

“I think I am a transformational figure. I think I am trying to effect a change so large that the people who would be hurt by the change, the liberal machine, have a natural reaction…I think because I’m so systematically purposeful about changing our world…I’m a much tougher partisan than they’ve (the Democrats) seen…much more intense, much more persistent, much more willing to take risks to get it done.”

Perhaps this makes it more clear and obvious:

“I’m not a natural leader. I’m too intellectual; I’m too abstract; and I think too much.”

He also is reported to have said to one of his three wives, “It doesn’t matter what I do, it only matters what I say.”

Gingrich prides himself on being intellectual, and many in his party regard him as the party intellectual. This is a persona he works very hard at portraying, and he does it in part by relying on what I am calling “gingriches.” Consider the following two most recent examples:

I think he (Obama) worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true,” Gingrich continues. “In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve . . . He was authentically dishonest.” It would be most interesting to see Gingrich try to defend this rather outrageous claim.

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich told the conservative web site National Review Online, responding to a column in Forbes by noted conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza.

Neither of these statements make any sense whatsoever, but they do give the impression that Gingrich knows something his less intellectual followers do not. Most of those who listen to Gingrich probably have no idea who Saul Alinsky was or what he did. Like Obama, Alinsky was a community organizer for the poor in Chicago and elsewhere. He was not dishonest, authentically or otherwise, but was, in fact perfectly honest about what he was doing. He, like Obama, was accused of being a socialist, but, like Obama, he was neither a socialist nor a communist. This does not keep Gingrich from trying to make an insidious comparison that is entirely false. Alinsky was regarded as an organizational genius, was very successful in organizing and helping the poor, and thus gained the hatred of Republicans who despised him (nothing makes Republicans hate you more than if you are trying to help the poor). There is no such thing as “the Alinsky tradition,” a concept made up entirely by Gingrich to give the impression to his followers that he is an intellectual with a profound knowledge of history. This is a classic “gingrich.”

The statement about “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior” is a better case in point as it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything other than his pretending to be a knowledgeable intellectual (although in this case it allows him to make a subtle suggestion that Obama may be a Kenyan). Gingrich apparently took his cue from Dinesh D’Souza, one of the most extreme ultra-rightists writing (how he gets published at all is a mystery to me) who thinks Obama received his “anti-colonial” world view from his father who was an anti-colonial. First of all, given the terrible atrocities the British inflicted on the Kenyans one would have to be an absolute sadist not to have been an anti-colonial. Indeed, most of the thinking world is now anti-colonial and there is nothing about this that sets Obama apart from most anyone else, and certainly nothing that makes him “incomprehensible.” But again, Gingrich knows his audience most probably knows nothing about the history of colonialism or about Kenya, and thus he can pretend to know something about history that his supporters do not, and impress them with his “sophisticated intellectualism.”

Newt Gingrich is not only the world’s greatest hypocrite, he is also one of the biggest frauds in existence (far worse even than Giuliani, that takes some real effort). As a professional phony he will do and say anything to further his own agenda. While he may know something of history it doesn't matter because he commonly distorts it shamefully. Why he appears so regularly on TV and is regarded as some kind of pundit I cannot explain, but then, I cannot explain Sarah Palin either.

I tried to resist his overtures, but he plied me with symphonies, quartettes, chamber music, and cantatas.
S.J. Perelman

An adult dragonfly can propel itself in six directions: up, down, forward, backward, and side to side.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What Does it Mean?

Brooklyn woman stabs
husband caught watching
pornographic movies.

I see quite a lot of bumper stickers now that say “Let’s Take Our Country Back,” sometimes, but not always, associated with Ron Paul. If you are unfortunate enough to stumble across videos of Tea Party rallies you will also see a number of such signs, often associated with virtually anything. I have been trying to decide what it means to say Let’s Take Our Country Back. Of course these signs can and do mean different things to different people if, in fact, they have any real meaning at all (I’m pretty much convinced that most of the people carrying these signs have no idea what they mean).

These signs can’t mean let’s take our country back from the British. We already did that a long time ago. And they can’t mean let’s take it back from the Indians because we actually just took it away from them. I have little doubt that for some this sign means let’s take it back from this Black, Kenyan-born interloper who should not have it in the first place (he’s Black, you know, but as they can’t just come out and say that they have to pretend he’s from Kenya or even another planet). Similarly, it can mean, let ‘s take it back from the Muslims (Obama being assumed to be a Muslim). No doubt for some it means let’s take it back from the terrible socialists, you know, the socialistic unions who forced management to give us the apparently now unappreciated 40 hour work week, the 8 hour day, and at least a few benefits. It might be the liberals who should give it back, you know, those guys that gave us Social Security and Medicare. Maybe it goes back even further to those obviously misguided fools who thought we should have a Postal Service, Police and Firemen, and other social services. There is little doubt that it also has to do with those that established the awful Income Tax, you know, that money they collect so they can keep participating in unnecessary “wars,” thus enabling them to transfer huge sums of money from ordinary working people to the military/industrial/political complex that now comprises most of our economy. Think how complicated and inconvenient this is when they could just keep all their money in the first place (of course it wouldn’t grow quite so fast but, you know, money breeds money once you have it, no matter how you came by it).

Currently it seems to be mostly Republicans who want their country back, back from those terrible Democrats who actually expect the filthy rich to pay their fair share of taxes and the corporations to give up their totally unnecessary tax breaks and subsidies, and who also think we should have such luxuries as health care and decent schools. A strange lot, Democrats, they seem to believe that taking a huge surplus and turning it almost overnight into a huge deficit was a bad thing, when we all know that Cheney the Great (quoting Saint Ronnie)said deficits don’t matter (and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and torture was good). Some Republicans seem to think that civil rights legislation was improper and that private businesses should have the right to discriminate if they wish, and still others think we should go back to the gold standard (I wonder if there now is enough gold in all the world to cover all the paper money that now exists around the world). I guess some of these types want to take our country back from those stupid and misguided people who think we ought to have rules and regulations of various kinds. These often stand in the way of looting and robbing and stealing and cheating and make accumulating wealth more difficult than it ought to be.

It is obvious by now that most of those who want their country back want it back so they can continue doing what they were doing that brought about the mess we are in now. In brief, they want back their license to cheat and steal. Why don’t any of these signs say We Want Our Country Back to return it to the Greed, Thieving, Short-Sighted Warmongering Bastards that had it during the Nightmare Years of the early 21st century? At least the message would be closer to the truth and more precise than the abstract version currently making the rounds. I want my country back, too, and I want it back NOW!

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.

The black seeds of papaya can be ground up and used as a substitute for pepper.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Culture and Reason

Ukrainian man pesters wife for sex
while she is vacuuming,
she strangles him with cord.

A judge has just ruled that the policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is unconstitutional and “defies logic.” In her 64 page ruling she apparently just about destroys any arguments to the contrary. She is also going to issue an order forbidding the military from employing DADT. I don’t know if her decision will stand up to scrutiny or not, but there is every reason to suppose that it very likely will.

This follows a similar ruling not long ago by another judge that virtually destroyed any rationale against Gay marriage. This ruling was also said to be do definitive it is doubtful that it will even be appealed or challenged. It is clear that both of these rulings are pretty definitive and indicate that there is no basis in either reason or logic for a ban on Gay marriage or the policy of DODT.

What I find most interesting about this is that neither reason nor logic has changed in the past few years. So the question arises, if neither reason nor logic has changed, why were these rules against Gay marriage or Gays in the military established in the first place? They must have been just as unreasonable and illogical then as they are now.

These cases illustrate a basic truth about culture, cultural practices are not established on the basis of reason or logic, cultural prescriptions and proscription just are. If you ask people in the New Guinea Highlands, for example, why they do certain things (that seemingly make no sense at all) they predictably reply, “em fasin b’long tumbuna” (that’s what our ancestors did). More often than not they do not have any explanation for what they do, and what they do often defies logic. For example, they will not eat chickens, because they say chickens eat feces, but if you point out to them that pigs also eat feces, and they eagerly eat pigs, the just shrug. This does not mean they are just a bunch of simple “savages” who don’t really understand what they are doing. All cultures operate in much the same way. There are seldom any logical reasons why members of any given culture do the things they do, and often it is impossible to ascertain any reasons, either explicit or implicit why they do them. Thus we find sacred cattle in India, a taboo on pork in the Middle East, a failure to eat dog or horse meat in the United States, and so on and so forth. We also find extremely painful initiation rites, the excision of teeth, subincision, circumcision, cliterodectomy, and similar rites that make no sense whatsoever other than being perhaps religious in nature.

What this means is that human beings live lives of unreason and illogic, even though we are supposedly uniquely endowed with the ability to reason and apply logic to our lives. Surely it defies all reason and logic for the inhabitants of Easter Island to have cut down all the trees that once grew there, and for parts of Italy to have done the same thing. It is not logical or reasonable that we here in the United States have destroyed some of our salmon runs, the Passenger Pigeons, and almost the buffalo. You might say it also violates reason and logic to continue deep-water offshore drilling or building more nuclear energy plants. And it certainly defies reason and logic to ignore the dangerous threat of global warming.

So why do we do such stupid things? In many cases it is fairly obvious, greed, short-term profits come readily to mind. In other cases it has to do with completely irrational religious or other beliefs. Beliefs that completely defy logic or reason are the backbone of religions. They must be taken on faith alone. And most of them are completely bizarre, even far-fetched, but still believed. Even though humans are presumably endowed with reason they more often than not do not follow the dictates of reason. Currently, for example, it is absurd to be upset because Muslims want to build a community center near ground zero, just as it is absurd to believe that Muslims in general are our enemies. It is equally absurd to believe that Obama was born in Kenya or is a Muslim or a socialist. But large numbers of U.S. citizens seem to believe this nonsense.

Sometimes it is possible to understand irrational beliefs if you understand the underlying premises (which themselves don’t have to make much sense). For example, one day my interpreter in New Guinea announced that white women don’t menstruate. I said, of course, why do you think that? He replied, “No man would sleep with a menstruating woman, white men sleep with their wives, they must no menstruate.” Now that is a perfectly logical explanation, if you accept the premise. But where did that premise come from? Who knows, somewhere lost in antiquity. Such is life among human beings, we live lives of unreason while at the same time deluding ourselves that we know what we are doing. When I was younger and studying anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, and such, I believed that it might be possible to understand human behavior. Now I know better. We will no doubt continue struggling on for a time, but as our behavior seems to be increasingly divorced from reality as well as unreasonable and illogical, the future of our species seems doubtful.

The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.
Paul Valery

The feral horse of Australia is called a brumby.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Ignorance is not Bliss

Sixty-four year-old Kansas City
woman drags naked intruder
out of her house by his beard.

According to a Pew Research Center survey some 61 percent of Americans believe Obama’s either a Muslim or that he may not be a Christian. Forty three percent don’t know what his religion is, and 18 percent believe he is a Muslim. According to Time magazine 61% of Americans are opposed to the construction of the New York Muslim Community Center. One third of Americans do not believe Muslims should be allowed to run for President and some twenty-eight percent don’t believe Muslims should be allowed to sit on the Supreme Court. I have taken this information from an article today that appears in Truthout, entitled “Mediated Racism: Orientalism, Birtherism, and the Muslim Community Center.” You should read it as it shows pretty clearly that when it comes to Muslims things are even worse than the above.

I am not surprised by these findings. I am surprised they are not even worse than they appear. I am not interested here in the precise findings but, rather, by the deeper problem they reveal. Namely, that large numbers of Americans are uneducated, uninformed, lazy, and indifferent louts. Information about Muslims and the Muslim faith, Obama’s birth, racism, and related topics is not hard to come by if one merely takes the time to look. This requires at least a minimum amount of time and involves using the internet and, more importantly, reading, activities many Americans cannot be bothered with. Many seem to prefer getting their information (if they have any at all) from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, or perhaps from their fundamentalist preacher, information they pass back and forth between themselves and their friends who are equally as ignorant as they are. This is a sad commentary on American democracy and culture. It is in large part a result of the failure of our failed educational system that is, in turn, related to the American ethos.

There is a strong anti-intellectual current that runs through American life. Education, both scientific and humanistic, are simply not highly valued by most Americans. Educated people, whether considered intellectuals or not, are in general regarded with suspicion if not contempt. This can be seen clearly in such commonplace sayings as “those that can’t do, teach,” or “pointy-headed intellectuals,” or “ivory tower dreamers,” and so on. There is also the sense that educated people probably lack common sense, or must be unable to understand the lives of those who are not well educated because they have themselves not graduated from “the school of hard knocks.” I have often heard it said that just because someone is educated that doesn’t make his opinion any better than mine, or there are lots of “educated fools,” or “absent minded (or even nutty) professors.” And there is also sometimes resentment against highly educated people because they “think they are better than we are.” Even science is regarded with suspicion here where I currently live. Because scientists sometimes do not always agree about something is taken as evidence they do not know what they are doing. More importantly, there are people here who seem to believe that the function of scientists is to keep them from doing the things they want to do, or in some cases, have, up until now, always done (overfishing, overhunting, unsustainable logging, using harmful pesticides, etc.). It is easy to understand how individuals believe their job is more important than, say, a spotted owl, or regulations about oil drilling and such, but this overlooks situations like Garrett Hardin’s well-known “Tragedy of the Commons.”

This anti-intellectual, even anti-schooling, anti-knowledge attitude that has become characteristic of American culture did not always exist. Not so long ago going to college was the dream of many Americans (for at least some it still is). Generations of Americans wanted their children to become educated, at least more educated than they themselves were. Professors, as they still are in Germany, were highly regarded individuals whose knowledge was actively sought. They were honored for their contributions. Teachers were respected members of their communities. This belief system has slowly changed over time.

Perhaps this would not matter so much if it was not a direct threat to our democracy. While the attitudes and beliefs about education and learning have changed, one of the most important underpinnings of a viable democracy has not. A democracy can only survive, thrive, and function adequately with a well-educated, well-informed citizenry. But this is precisely what has eroded over time. There is no doubt that the invention of radio, and more importantly, television, has played a role in this change. Mass marketing and mass entertainment caters to the lowest common denominator and not only creates a demand for crap but then satisfies the demands it created for short-term profits. The lack of long-term planning, so characteristic of the U.S., is also no doubt related. We used to make fun of the Russian five-year plans and there are at least some at the moment who will deride Obama’s recent six-year plan, but the lack of planning has contributed to our current demise, and those who warn against long-term planning and the possible perhaps undesirable consequences are more often than not shouted down in favor of the short term. Christianity too, at least many of the brands of it as currently practiced in the U.S., has also contributed to our abysmal ignorance. That anyone in the 21st century, for example, cannot believe in the theory of evolution and in favor of creationism is absolutely appalling. That anyone could still believe the earth is a mere 6000 years old is even worse. European nations do not have this problem, having moved into the 21st century, at least when it comes to having abandoned ultra-conservative religious beliefs. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that average citizens of European countries are far better informed about current events than average American citizens. This is partly because they lack the luxury of the relative isolation we in the U.S. have enjoyed, which has influenced our relative lack of interest in other languages and cultures, as well as a necessity to know about them. Our attitudes have been and are being influenced by a few corporate powers that control our communication system and allow us to hear and learn only what they want us to hear and learn. It is in their interest to keep us dumb and they have been successful. Nowhere has this neglect of education been more apparent than in our consistently underfunded and deteriorating schools, underpaid teachers, and lack of adequate supplies. Business, the basic institution of U.S. society, has permeated the schools where it influences curriculums and peddles its unhealthy foods. There is a growing trend toward “For Profit Schools,” (as well as for profit prisons), a trend that not only is an excuses for governments not to fund education, but is fundamentally disgraceful, a complete abandonment of responsibility for citizens and their welfare. It does not take much in the way of thought to realize that schools run for profit are not in the business of providing quality education. On the contrary, they make money by providing the least amount of education for the most amount of money. Our neglect here is beyond shameful and must be rectified. Obama is right to insist we have to become better educated and better informed. I hope it is not too late.

Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.
James A. Garfield

According to Nielsen, the average American spends 4 hours a day, or 28 hours a week, two months a year, or nine years of an average lifetime watching TV.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Change We Can Believe In?

Ninety year-old man sentenced
for beating wife of 68 years to death
with hammer in domestic dispute.

Are we now witnessing change we can believe in? I am not talking about changing our country here, but, rather what appears to be the recent change in President Obama. It is no secret that Progressives and the more liberal among us have been disappointed in Obama. His bailouts for big business and Wall Street have not been received well by the left. There has been some doubt as to just which side Obama is on. If we can believe what he is now saying, especially after his rousing speech of today, it would seem he has now come out clearly on the side of labor and the middle class. He has finally given up on his futile attempts at bipartisanship and apparently has learned his lessons; Republicans are not going to cooperate with him no matter what he does. The six year plan he has outlined clearly favors small business and the middle class and makes it clear he is not interested in keeping the tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy. And he has now singled out Boehner (dreaming of becoming the next Speaker of the House) as representative of the Republican Party agenda in general. Obama is now stating clearly what he believes to be the real differences between Republicans and Democrats and also seems prepared to fight vigorously for his position. What a change from a year ago when he was still extending his hand to the opposition even though they continued to spit in his face. If he sticks to his position and does not continue the ridiculous tax cuts for the wealthy, and if he also appoints Elizabeth Warren, we will know that he is serious about fighting for what is right. If he continues along this path and can convince his Progressive base to once again get on board and vote there is no reason to suspect a major Republican victory in November (or in 2012, for that matter). I still hate his completely unnecessary and foolish “war” in Afghanistan, as well as his failure to hold Bush/Cheney accountable for their terrible and unforgivable war crimes, but at the same time I cannot bear to think of our wonderful country back in the hands of the criminal conspiracy that got us into this horrible mess. If the changes I see in Obama are real they will eventually lead to the changes he promised during his campaign for the Presidency. Go Obama!

Do we really have to be told about every insignificant act of insanity? If the MSM had just responsibly ignored this nitwit preacher who wants to burn the Koran who would have been the wiser? This guy is a nobody preacher with a nothing church in an obscure location and yet he has now achieved international attention by threatening to commit a childishly stupid act, all because some news organization decided it was of monumental importance, so important we have heard all about it every day for several days now. There seems to be no sense of responsibility anymore in any part of American society. Surely there must have been some news somewhere that should have had priority over this ridiculously simple-minded act. In fact there seems to be no concept of (serious or important) news at all anymore. Oh, by the way, don’t forget that the skinny, sort of so-so blond, who apparently tried to crash a White House event is going to pose nude for Playboy. This vital information has flashed across the screen of my TV for the past two or three days. Now it turns out this is probably just a rumor anyway. Should reporters and newspapers and TV not have to be held accountable for irresponsible stupidity? The fact is the Fourth Estate has long since abdicated any responsibility for providing news that is of importance in favor of what is now termed infotainment. I do not believe this is accidental. I think it has been done on purpose by the very few corporations that control our media. It is in their interest to keep us as uninformed as possible for a variety of reasons. No doubt one of them has to do with their fear that if we really understood what they were up to we might revolt. Related to that is the fact that it is easier for them to skew the vote through propaganda and dumbing us down. The media is no longer responsible for holding our leaders accountable, they now just openly control the news for their own purposes. This is a fact of tremendous importance and has much to do with the intensifying demise of our democracy. We are allowed to be told only what they wish us to be told. We get very little international news and what we do get is carefully selected to favor the special interests. About the only place one can find any genuine news is either in articles or books, but as hardly anyone reads anymore this is relatively inconsequential (and may itself be more and more in the hands of a very few). There may well be economies of scale but it has become clear that bigger is not better and in fact can be undesirable in the extreme.

It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.
Rod Serling

All male mules and most female mules are infertile.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

It's Over

Divorce of English Gay couple
stymied over who gets cheese grater
and communal paint pots.

“It ain’t over ‘til its over.” I take no pleasure in this, but I have to say I believe it’s over. It’s true the fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but she is rehearsing. There is still some withdrawing and cleaning up to do but the American Empire and the American Dream are about to disintegrate. There may be different ways to look at this but the indications are there and are becoming more and more obvious. It has been said for some time now that Colonialism is dead, but that is not, strictly speaking, true. The last two colonial powers, the United States and Israel, have been hanging on for some time, but that is changing right now before our eyes. Remember when there was a Belgian Congo, a French Equatorial Africa, a British India, a Dutch East Indies, a Kaiser Wilhelmsland, German East Africa, or a French Guinea, and so on? These colonial empires are all gone. While it is true there has not been a United States of the Congo, or a United States of Bolivia or Peru, or a United States of Brazil or Argentina, we have shamelessly exploited all countries around the globe in the basic colonial pattern for years, either through economic pressures or military threats or both. With some 04% of the earth’s population we have exploited at least 20% of the earth’s resources to enable us to live “The American Dream.” This is coming painfully to an end. I believe there is considerable evidence for this.

The American public, however ill-informed and ignored, are often ahead of their government when it comes to such things. Some 27% of Americans now report they do not believe their children will be able to live better than they do. I believe this is a significant admission that economically things are going downhill. Most economists now predict that unemployment is not going to come down for many years, certainly not in the foreseeable future. This is another indication. Some even believe that.0 9 or 10% unemployment may be with us from now on. Well-paying jobs have been, and continue to be, exported to other countries where labor is much cheaper, thus inevitably bringing down wages in the U.S. for companies that manage to survive. People who have been unemployed and later find jobs are forced to work for less than they did before. Labor unions have suffered significant losses and influence over the last couple of generations, leaving American workers more and more vulnerable to the demands of employers. Home ownership is declining at an accelerated rate, the idea that everyone in American should own their own home, is becoming a thing of the past, never mind “a chicken in every pot,” or two cars in every garage. Food has become increasingly expensive, a reduction in food stamps and permanent unemployment are becoming more commonplace. It is becoming obvious the government has no very workable solutions to these problems. Claiming that things are going to turn around next year or even the year after are probably meaningless. Structurally, there is no reason to believe this, China, India, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and other countries are not going to allow us to recklessly exploit everyone else as we have done for so many years. “The American Century” is coming to an end.

We have lost the ability to govern ourselves. Congress is unable to do much of anything, bipartisanship is a thing of the past, when our elected officials were interested in the good of the country and its citizens rather than what their corporate masters dictated. We are becoming a third world nation where the most of the wealth is in the hands of a few and the majority are little more than wage slaves or peasants. This has no more to do with Obama than it has to do with any other administration, it is simply a matter of fact, the inevitable result of free market capitalism destroying itself. Things are not going to come back the way they were, not in the next quarter or the next year, or ever. As we are virtually bankrupt our empire will slowly wither away, our control over and exploitation of the rest of the world likewise. At best we will eventually continue living, but with much reduced circumstances, and probably with millions either on some sort of modest government assistance (like some European countries) or simply abandoned. The problem posed by having hundreds of thousands out of work and having exhausted their unemployment benefits is confronting us right now. Every day I see people who literally cannot afford the food in the supermarket. Our national debt is beginning to reach its upper limits. We cannot continue on as we have in the past. I do not believe this is just another bump in the road from which we will eventually recover as we previously have managed to do. Our standard of living is going to decline and no political party is going to save us from this inevitability. I have not even mentioned global warming and environmental degradation. To expect Obama or anyone else to rescue us is simply wishful thinking, although Obama might do better for a time than Republicans would. Be prepared for an increasingly declining share of the world’s limited resources and hope for the best.

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so.
Bertrand Russell

Raccoons can both pant and sweat to regulate their body temperature.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Silence and the Scorpion - book

The Silence and the Scorpion The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela, Brian A. Nelson (Nation Books, New York, 2009)

This is a somewhat unusual book in that it deals in virtually minute-by-minute accounts by a number of different people, representing both sides of the conflict, over the three day period of the attempted coup to oust Hugo Chavez. It not only informs one about the actual people involved, their motivations and ambitions, but also tells a great deal about the nature of modern Venezuela and Venezuelan politics and culture.

Hugo Chavez rose from very humble beginnings to become President of Venezuela, the post he currently holds. His political career began when he was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Venezuelan army and participated in a failed coup against the then President, Carlos Perez. He was jailed for a time but became a hero to many because of his attempt to overthrow what was widely believed to be a corrupt government. In spite of its great oil wealth the vast majority of Venezuelans lived in abject poverty while the country was managed by an elite minority. When the Presidency changed and Rafael Caldera became President, he pardoned Chavez, who immediately began building a political machine.

As the country fell farther and farther into poverty for the masses and rampant inflation eroded the currency, the situation had became so bad it led to the socialist Chavez’s election in 1998. During the first 18 months of his Presidency Chavez managed to alienate members of the former ruling elite, the church, the media, and many others by his actions in gaining complete control of the country. This led to a massive, million person march on the Presidential Palace to display citizen displeasure. With this as an excuse and an opportunity the former ruling elite attempted to oust Chavez and return the country to its former condition. When violence broke out and people were killed it was blamed on Chavez who had, in fact, ordered his Generals to unconstitutionally fire on the demonstrators, but they refused. Even so, Chavez was nevertheless thought to have been mainly responsible for the killings, a belief that made most of the country turn against him. It was widely believed that the coup was engineered by the Generals and it was an attempted military takeover that, as it quickly turned out, it was not. Chavez was being forced to resign which, following advice from Fidel Castro, he refused to do (had he resigned it would not have been considered a coup). Once Chavez realized that it was not a military coup against him, and once it was learned that the killings had been engineered mostly by opposition snipers, he managed to hold onto his Presidency. The coup was apparently not well organized or well planned, having been merely a kind of last minute attempt to take advantage of the huge march that had really nothing in particular to do with it. Once the facts became known Chavez was forgiven by the masses that once again rose up to support him, which they continue to do.

This was an exceedingly chaotic situation, far more complex than can be described here. In the end, however, it was the Venezuelan poor who stood to gain from Chavez and his policies. With their support he has managed to remain in power and has, in fact, improved the lives of ordinary Venezuelan citizens. The oil wealth of the country is now used for useful social purposes, education, health care, land reform, and so on, rather than being controlled by the wealthy for the wealthy.

The author seems to have had almost unlimited access to participants on both sides. His portrait of Chavez is by no means all positive, but his portrait of the other side is equally fairly objective as near as I can tell. Another interesting thing about this work is that there is little or no mention of any American involvement, even though the CIA was immediately suspected of involvement. You may recall that at the time it was pretty much assumed that the U.S. was behind the coup. But while it is obvious that the U.S. did approve of the illegal takeover, that did not result in its success. It is impossible to tell from this account just how much the U.S. might have been involved (and I suspect more than the author reports), but that does not detract from the main, unusually detailed account of this incident in Venezuela. It appears that Hugo Chavez, like probably most leaders of most countries, is neither all-good nor all-bad, but I believe he has been very good for Venezuela and South America in general. As a socialist, however, he will not find much sympathy for his new “Bolivarian” moment coming from the U.S. or the Oil interests.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

How Nutty are We?

Loser robs bank, drops loot,
finds his car keys locked in car,
shoots himself in leg trying to escape.

How nutty are we, really? I think we are about to find out in less than two months. According to the polls and the conventional wisdom (if there is any) Republicans are now believed to take over the House and also perhaps the Senate. I cannot bring myself to believe this is going to happen (but, of course, I am more often wrong than right when it comes to predicting American voters). If it does happen what does it mean? It means that we have decided to turn the country over to the very same criminal conspiracy (that once was the Republican Party) that caused our current mess in the first place. This seems entirely nutty to me. Either voters have no memory to speak of, or they believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. But this is only part of the problem.

Thanks to the rise of the Tea Party, there are going to be a few candidates who are so extreme in their views, and in some cases I think so downright loony, it is going to be truly interesting to see if any of them can get elected. I think this Rubio guy in Florida is an example of an extreme right-winger. But he is, I guess, at least partially sane. There is Sharon Angle in Nevada, an example of a candidate so far out as to be perhaps crazy. The Miller guy who defeated Murkowsky is another case in point. There are a few others of this ilk as well. And of course Michelle Backmann is up for re-election. I suggest that if any or all of these candidates can successfully get elected or re-elected it will be proof positive that a majority American voters are as nutty as can be (this will not entirely surprise me). I think this situation is so fascinating I can barely wait until November.

It is undeniable that things are not going well with our country, especially when it comes to the economy. It is equally true that Democrats have demonstrated a lack of spine and have failed to act as the majority party. But to blame Democrats for everything, especially President Obama, when the Republicans have stubbornly blocked every attempt to improve things for Main Street, is also pretty nutty. We find ourselves in a strange kind of double-bind. On the one hand the Democrats do not deserve our vote, but the Republicans are worse, and there is virtually no other alternative, other than not voting at all. This is a classic example a frustration-aggressive complex. As there is no satisfactory choice, there is frustration, and the natural result of frustration is aggression. Fortunately, to date this has resulted in only a few acts of violence, but there is a possibility for more to come (“we came unarmed this time,” and we may have to consider “2nd amendment solutions,” and etc.). While I don’t believe we are, as yet, teetering on the brink of revolution, I think we may be tottering in that direction.

I spent an hour today with a dear, but rather eccentric friend, who is about as apolitical as it is possible to be. I doubt he has ever voted and he is no political junkie. But he believes we are witnessing the end of the “American Dream,” that is, the idea that everyone will own a home and one or more cars, and a swimming pool, and so on. He thinks the current recession is probably permanent and there is not going to be a turnaround in the next quarter, or next year, or the year after. In spite of being withdrawn and apolitical he is a very shrewd observer of the current state of events. I believe he is basically correct, and we can see this happening: rampant unemployment, even of well-trained and talented people, many of whom will probably never find a position to make up for what they have lost, thousands of people who have lost their homes, or are about to lose them, who will probably never recover completely, the price of food climbing year after year which will no doubt be exacerbated by global warming and the cost of transporting food such long distances, social security and medicate being threatened again by those desperate to regain power at any cost, our empire probably about to collapse because we can no longer afford it, the rise of China, India, and other powers competing for increasingly scarce resources, and so on. I believe the future for the American Dream is indeed bleak. As my philosophical, if eccentric friend says, “It won’t be too hard to get used to relative poverty once we have no choice.” One possible bright spot, as the Dream fades it will probably take unregulated free-market capitalism with it, a victim of its own excesses.


To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.

Friedrich Nietzsche


Fishers are one of the few predators that can successfully hung porcupine.