Thursday, December 30, 2010

Serious Business or Keystone Kops?

Stripper thinks her peers are
stealing her customers, piles
and burns their lingerie.

I can hardly wait for the new Congress. There are three main reasons for my eagerness. First, I want to observe what happens to some of the new Congresspersons (especially the Tea Party candidates)when the purity of their ideological tenets run head on into the hard stones of nasty and practical political reality of Washington, D.C. It is one thing to hold ideological tenets and make grandiose promises while campaigning, but quite another when it comes to actually governing. You want to shut down the government? Try it. You want to cut the deficit, that’s easy, just reduce or eliminate Social Security. Good luck. You want to repeal Obama’s health care bill, good luck. You want to “take back our country” (whatever that means). Good luck. You are going to do away with earmarks, ha, ha, ha, good luck. Maybe you’d like to see prayer in schools, good luck. Perhaps we should shut down the Department of Education, maybe Energy too, good luck. It is always amusing when you see people so eager to force their ideas on others run up against a blank wall of unforgiving reality. And wait until our huge army of lobbyists gets to them.

What looms as even more entertaining, probably hilariously so, if they actually try to go through with it, will be their apparent plan to begin this session of Congress by reading aloud the Constitution and then demanding that anyone thereafter who presents a bill will be responsible to show how it is constitutional. Aside from the fact that the judgment of constitutionality is the ultimate responsibility of the Supreme Court (perhaps we will be able to just eliminate it), and even they do not always agree on constitutional matters, it should provide us with some truly memorable interpretations and obfuscations. In the immortal words of our recently passed (pretend) President, “Bring it on.” I would like to think we are going to see some serious business but I fear it is going to be much closer to a performance of the Keystone Kops.

Third, while I would not be so extreme as to characterize absolutely all of our Congresspersons as nitwits, there are, in my opinion, quite a large number of them there already. It will be most interesting to see how the old nitwits get along with the new nitwits (of which there are plenty). There already seems to be a split between the more established and realistic Congresspersons and these new more ideological types. Many are saying that Boehner is going to be herding cats. This could develop into a situation much worse than it is already. How serious an effect it will have on the workings of the House remains to be seen but it could be crippling.

This 111th Congress could well be the one thing that guarantees President Obama a second term. By the time they get through with their squabbling and idiocy Obama may well look like the only adult still standing. You might say this could be the best thing that happened for his Presidency. And if unemployment does begin to go down, I should think he will be virtually unbeatable. Of course at this point it is all if, if, if. Given the fact that probably 80 to 90% of what passes for “news” these days is just plain speculation, especially when it comes to the next election two years away, we might as well get used to it. And speaking of the news, I hate the last few days of the year when everyone seems to think they are obliged to review what happened during the year. I mostly know what happened and I don’t like to be reminded of it.

Anyway, there will be no blog tomorrow evening as it will be New Year’s Eve. We will be hosting the Second Annual New Year’s Eve Pea Pool Championship of Bonners Ferry. There will be great food and drink, as well as super conviviality. It promises to be a truly exciting event, everyone will doubtless be in bed by ten o’clock (we celebrate the moment it occurs in New York) as no one we know here wants to stay up past nine. So HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!!!

LKBIQ:
Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.
Paul Gauguin

TILT:
The American marten (pine marten), like the lynx, has large foot pads for its size, allowing it to walk on hard snow and giving it an advantage in areas of heavy snowfall.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Defense of Government

Husband, 23, accidentally
shoots 50 year-old wife
during fantasy sex.

Perhaps I am an exception, but I rather doubt it. I have been wondering why it is that so many people seem to think the government is either more incompetent or bureaucratic than other organizations, especially private businesses. You know, all the claims the government should not take over health care because it would be so terrible, government should stay out of business entirely, the private sector can do everything better, and blah, blah, blah. This is, I guess, just part of Saint Ronnie’s horribly destructive and ridiculously stupid claim that “Government is the problem,” as well as our unbelievably ignorant belief that socialism would be a fate worse than death.

I have now been involved as an adult citizen of the United States for 60 years. During this time I have been involved with most, if not all, government agencies and programs, at one time or another, the Post Office, Public Education, the Forest Service, the United States Army, the Veterans Administration, the GI Bill, Social Security, Medicare, the IRS, Passport Services, and perhaps others I do not even remember. Thinking back about this I do not recall any serious problems with any of these agencies.

I cannot say the same for my involvement with other organizations such as the telephone companies, energy companies, banks, insurance companies, and even large Universities and Department Stores. With all of these organizations, especially banks and insurance companies, I have horror stories involving bureaucratic hang-ups and absurd problems you can scarcely believe. There is not room here for me to bore you with all the details of these problems that range from having a telephone company suddenly decide, completely unknown to me, that I had an unlisted number, an embarrassing problem that took literally months to correct, to learning that a bank was literally cheating me out of money in several different ways I was unaware of, that took four trips to the bank to correct, to having an insurance company insist to me with apparently no compunction whatsoever that I had been in a collision when I had not, a problem that required an amazing amount of time and effort to correct. I have other stories as well, with large Universities in particular, that would make you fervently wish for the efficiency and expertise you will find in the Post Office or the IRS. Because of my personal experiences with various organizations I absolutely do not believe the government is any more incompetent or bureaucratic than other large organizations. Furthermore, when dealing with governmental agencies, even if I did have problems, I would not have to worry they were trying to profit from my misfortunes or problems. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the worst example of unnecessary profiteering from human misery has to do with the health insurance industry. Indeed, that is their sole purpose for existing, to make a profit from the health problems of the citizenry. There is no reason whatsoever why insurance companies should have anything to do with health care, they provide no health care at all, and in fact make their ill-gotten gains by denying health care to those who need it the most. They are nothing more than disgusting parasites, no more than tapeworms sucking their nourishment from unfortunate humans who have nowhere else to turn. There is no doubt the United States needs a sensible single-payer health care plan, similar to the ones that all other industrialized countries have, one that does not require a middle-man in the form of a bloodsucking insurance company. It is quite likely the case that the only way to bring health care costs under control, as well as keep our country relatively solvent, is to move to such a system. You can be sure the Republicans will fight tooth and nail to prevent it.

“Them as has, gits.” I don’t know where this saying came from, but it seems to sum up beautifully and simply the philosophy of our current Republican party (if it can be said they have enough mental capacity to have an actual philosophy). I’m not sure how it happened, or how it developed, or why, but it seems to me the United States is unique in its disrespect for the well-being of its citizens. As far as I know, no other “advanced,” “industrialized,” “civilized,” “modern,” “literate,” “developed,” nation treats its citizens with such total contempt.

LKBIQ:
Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.
Herman Melville

TILT:
White-tailed deer and coyotes seem to be particularly well-suited to their current environments.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Taxes

Florida man, 32, calls 911
complaining his mother
took his beer.

I’ve been thinking about income taxes, you know, that perennial obsession of the Republican party that always and under all circumstances want them reduced. Lower taxes and small government has been their mantra as long as I can remember. This was best expressed by their anti-tax guru, Grover Norquist, who famously remarked he wanted to starve government until it could be drowned in the bathtub.

When the U.S. government first existed and was not very big it was financed, I believe, mainly by taxes on tobacco and alcohol (maybe a couple of other commodities). I believe the first attempt at an income tax occurred during the Civil War but did not last for long. I guess there were a couple of other short periods when an income tax was in effect but, again, not for long. The income tax was only made a permanent part of our government policy in 1913 and has, of course, been changed many times since, but never eliminated.

The purpose of taxes, including the income tax, is ostensibly to finance important public requirements, police, fireman, highways, national defense, education, stuff like that (ignore for the moment the fact that our government has frittered away our taxes or years to make the world safe for gigantic oil and fruit companies, along with starting unnecessary and unconstitutional “wars,” and such). In some nations taxes provide universal health care for their citizens, free education, mandatory vacations, maternity leaves, sick leaves, unemployment insurance, and other amenities that we (Republicans in particular) try desperately not to fund at all. While it may be true that our current taxes are largely wasted by our rather obscene military/industrial/political complex, the basic necessity for taxes is perfectly reasonable, we do need policemen, firemen, highways, unemployment insurance, and etc., although Republicans seem not to really think so. They always attempt to brand Democrats as “tax and spend liberals,” whereas their policy of the past few years has been “spend and borrow.” The Republicans recently insisted that not only should taxes be reduced a bit for the Middle Class, they absolutely had to be reduced for millionaires and billionaires before all others, an idea so patently absurd as to make you question their sanity. But they got their way, so now we will add 800 or so billion to our national debt to pay for this absolutely unnecessary largesse, and there is no doubt in a couple of years they will attempt to make these particular tax cuts permanent (if, that is, our nation has not collapsed by then, as seems to be their plan for getting rid of President Obama).

Anyway, I do not object in principle to paying taxes, but I do object to seeing them wasted on militarism, munitions, murder, mayhem, and the mental masturbation that has led to all that. When you consider that the American public is not notorious for saving their money, but are notorious for consumerism, lack adequate medical care, unemployment insurance, decent educational facilities and teachers, and our infrastructure is falling apart, the Republican argument that taxpayers need to keep more of their money for themselves by lowering taxes, seems to imply it is more important for people to blissfully go on buying more and more Chinese junk, bigger cars and houses, more built-in obsolescence and rent more storage space than it is to see their money spent on vital social services. Might I have the temerity to suggest, however ironic or heretical it may seem to some, that in fact we should raise taxes, improve government, and drown Grover Norquist in the bathtub.

It seems to me that clearly, from the standpoint of our society and culture, and certainly from the point of view of our ordinary citizens, it would make more sense to spend our taxes on viable and necessary social programs that would improve our nation and ourselves, rather than on more “stuff.”

LKBIQ:
"When your brother falls behind you don't leave him there. Wait for him to catch up.”
Albert Ward
Mic Mac Elder

TILT:
Forensic science began in the 1880’s and 90’s.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Country You Have

You no doubt remember Rumsfeld’s now famous comment, “you go to war with the army you have” (not, that is, with the army you might want to have). This was really pretty stupid at the time as we did not have to go to war at all, could have avoided it altogether, or could have waited until we had a better army if we had had better judgment. Anyway, I have been wondering about our country. Do we have to live with the country we have, or could we change it for the better? I guess I was inspired to think of this again because of an interesting article on AlterNet, “America in Decline: Why Germans Think we’re Insane.”

Among other things this article points out that Germany spends 9% on health care, compared with our 15%, and manages to have universal converage. In the U.S. we have 59 million people with no health care, 132 million with no dental care, and 60 million with no sick leave. In Germany they have a paid annual leave, paid sick leave, and paid maternal leave. While we have 10% unemployment (really probably 20%) and unemployment insurance that runs out, German unemployment benefits never run out, nor do the unemployed have to do without health care. Thus the Germans are somewhat horrified by our situation and tend to think we must be insane.

It is not just Germany that has things much better than we do with respect to their lives. For example, in terms of reading literacy, American 15 year-olds are 14th in the world. In math they are 25th in the world, and in science, 17th. We are 33rd when it comes to infant mortality and 37th in health care. These are figures I found randomly searching the web, they were not selected to deliberately make us look bad. If you want to look further it is not hard to see that if these figures are not precisely true, there is no doubt they are in general pretty true.

So why is America in decline, and can anything be done about it? It is possible, no doubt, to increase our standing vis-√†-vis education, but it would take more money and more effort and probably a drastic change in American attitudes towards learning and education in general. But it could perhaps be done because we could explain that as we become less competitive we would not be able to make more money. As education in America has already taken on the idea that the only point of it is to make more money, this might not be such a hard sell. But significant changes in health care are not an easy sell, as our recent bout on the subject makes clear. Similarly, unemployment benefits are also virtually impossible as our recent attempts on that score clearly attest. This is so because Americans have been conditioned to violent fits of insanity at the very mention of the word “socialism.” The fact that Germany and some of the Scandinavian countries have perfectly viable economies under forms of “democratic socialism” does not seem to register here. Indeed, any suggestion that we are thinking of “Europeanizing” is met by outright derision. It is true that universal health benefits, free university education, and unemployment benefits have to be paid for with substantial taxes on most everyone, but you might notice there are still very wealthy people in Germany and other countries. It’s true some could be even more wealthy if they followed our lead and provided socialism only for the small minority at the top. Apparently their wealthy are not as greedy as ours. These countries learned long ago that market capitalism left unattended eventually leads to disaster. They are not petrified at the mere mention of Marx, Polanyi, socialism, or even communism.

So, my question is, do we have to live with the country we have? Perhaps more importantly, is it really the country we want to have? Do we really want to throw our unemployed citizens to the wolves (as the 99ers, for example). Do we really want vast numbers of our citizens to lack adequate health care? Maternity leaves? Decent vacations? Do we really want large numbers of our children going hungry day by day, living in poverty? There are reasons we are in decline, they have to do with what are primitive ideas of Social Darwinism, Capitalism, Privatization, a kind of frontier mentality that has not kept up with changing conditions. When one man with a chain saw can do the work of the ten it took previously, when one farmer with machinery can produce enough food for 100 others, when robots replace factory workers, and so on, there is inevitably going to be a problem with unemployment, surplus populations. We can take our cues from other nations that have attempted to deal with these basic problems and try to create a better system for all, or we can cling to our inhumane doctrine of “let only the strong survive” (strong now being merely a euphemism for the wealthy). I fear the Germans are right about us, we are insane. Denying health care to millions, ignoring education, denying unemployment benefits, tolerating poverty, while giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires at the same time, these are all measures of our madness, as well as symptoms of our decline.

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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Axe and the Oath - book

The Axe and the Oath Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages, Robert Fossier (Princeton University Press, English translation 2010, Lydia G. Cochrane)

I did not like this book very well. I forced myself to finish it because I was interested in ordinary life in the Middle Ages. Now that I have read it I’m not altogether certain what I learned about that subject was worth the effort. Robert Fossier is an emeritus professor of medieval history at the Sorbonne and recognized as an authority on the middle ages, a fact I believe contributes somewhat to my dislike of the book. Fossier not only tells you what he knows about the subject, he also tells you why he knows it, or just as often why he doesn’t know it. That is, rather than telling the reader simply about life in the middle ages, he elaborates at length on the available evidence or lack of it. While this might be of use to serious scholars of the period, like himself, it makes it more difficult for an ordinary reader to follow his description. He also has what I think is a disconcerting habit of telling you at times that he should tell you about something but for one reason or another does not. Sometimes this is because the material does not exist, but other times it is because it would, he claims, lead him away from the main topic (there seems to be the implication here that he could tell you if he wanted to but won’t). He is also an inveterate name-dropper, citing scholars that have to be completely unfamiliar to those who do not work in the same field of scholarship. I was also somewhat put off by the fact that the translator often leaves French words and phrases, apparently assuming readers will be familiar with them, or run often to their French-English dictionaries. In short, I think this volume suffers from trying to reach two different audiences at once, ordinary readers and historians like himself, the result being not very satisfactory to either audience.

A basic problem with this attempt has to do with his admission that there is actually very little information on the lives of ordinary people of the period. Ordinary people did not read and write and therefore left no accounts of their lives. Thus scholars of the period have to work with whatever written records do exist, knowing they were written mostly by monks or by a few members of the upper classes who knew how to write. The growing archaeological evidence helps, at least with respect to the material culture of the time, but offers little in the way of the more abstract realms of thought and belief. Apparently this is why he presents the materials in two parts, part one, dealing primarily with man’s place in the animal kingdom and relations with other animals, making a living, working with tools, and existing in a purely physical aspect. He also covers human life at the time from birth to death, illnesses and other afflictions, the relations between the sexes, marriages, households, the forest, the soil, water, and other such natural phenomena. Part two deals with thought and belief as he attempts to understand it from the rather scant materials that are available. This deals with social relations, games, peace, honor, law, power, and then subsequently with such things as memory, measurement, writing, and learning. The final chapter deals with beliefs about the soul, good and evil, virtue and temptation, sinning, dogma and the Church. It is a thorough attempt to understand ordinary life at the time. Unfortunately, because the materials available are so scarce, he is forced to consider a much longer period of time as a single cultural period than is desirable. Obviously people living during the four and five hundreds were quite different from those living in 1000 or 1200, but the nuances are basically just ignored.

Fossier makes it clear that he has a rather low opinion of the human species, both as members of the animal kingdom, and even as a representative of a so-called higher level creature. He portrays the ordinary people of the middle ages as pretty much like people nowadays, only much more subject to the overwhelming influence and control of the Church and superstitions in general, while at the same time primarily interested in just surviving and making a living for their families rather than in anything like politics or philosophy. There was a great deal of violence, mostly in feuds and revenge and violations of honor, and families were pretty much on their own. Common people had no concept of the state or nation and identified themselves only by the vicinity in which they lived, sometimes under the protection of wealthy, militaristic nobles and sometimes not. I found of interest his belief that the concept of feudalism, as described by Marx and others, does not truly apply to this period of time. He insists that ordinary people had no idea of such a form of social organization even if the wealthy knights and others might have experienced something like that. Ordinary people apparently lived their lives in relative ignorance, swearing oaths to the Church and subject to beliefs about sin, damnation, and the afterworld.

I would not recommend this work to ordinary readers unless they are doggedly determined to learn something about the subject and willing to work fairly diligently to dig it out of the generous text. There are no footnotes or references, I assume because it was meant to be a book for general as opposed to professional readers. I also found it deplorable that in a book of this length, complexity, and substance there is no index.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Senilicide

Somehow I found myself last night in a discussion of what should happen to old people if there is not enough money available to keep them all alive. That is, would there ever be enough money available for health care for all, and if not, what about “death panels,” or, as Senator Grassley and others so genteely put it, “pulling the plug on grandma.” I am interested here only the question of the elderly, not whether or not Arizona can afford liver and heart transplants for all that is, of course, a related issue.

You are all doubtless aware of the claim that Eskimos would sometimes leave their old people to freeze to death when there was not enough food to feed everyone. There is little doubt that old people accepted this as a necessity and perhaps even volunteered themselves. I’m sure there are other examples of old people being sacrificed, willingly and otherwise, if others are to live, as apparently sometimes happened in Japan, among some subsistence-based groups, and so on. So, should a society like the United States be responsible for keeping old people alive as long as possible, or should there be “death panels” of some kind to determine who should live and who should not? And what, exactly, would a death panel actually do, if there were, in fact, such a thing?

First of all, I doubt that anyone really knows very much about what happens to old people in the United States at this time. For example, it is clear that the suicide rate for those over 65 goes up rather sharply. As far as I know the suicide rate for white males over 65 is much higher than for any other age. I think it is entirely possible that many of these suicides are deliberate senilicides, carried out to relieve the potential burden on their survivors, but does anyone really know this? There are also cases that would not be considered suicide but might also be deliberate senilicides. For example, I know of one case of a woman, a great grandmother in her nineties, who when told she could have a mastectomy, simply told the doctors they were being ridiculous and elected to let it run its natural course. I know of another case, a man of my own age, who was told he had cancer, and if he let it run its course he would probably have another four or five years. He declined treatment. What would you do when faced with a possible bankrupting treatment in your fading years, how much would a couple of more years of life be worth to you? This is not merely a philosophical issue but a genuinely real and practical problem. While there is no way of knowing, it appears to me that many Americans in their dotage are already practicing senilicide, sacrificing themselves for the benefit of their children and spouses. I suspect this is far more common than anyone thinks, a modern version of an older practice. There are, of course, all those millions without health insurance who have no choice but to die slowly and miserably because they cannot afford to do otherwise. Why should such individuals have to die slowly in pain and suffering with nowhere to turn, no support, no help? There is, of course, at least one organization, Death with Dignity, that promotes forms of euthanasia for those who are terminally ill and no longer wish to continue suffering. Yet there is active opposition to such practices. There is at least one state, Oregon, that actually permits doctors to assist in end of life situations. Why should this not be the norm rather than the exception? Why should suicide be considered a crime as it apparently is in some places? Why should an old person not be able to end their life on their own terms rather than be kept artificially alive for as long as possible in spite of being in a merely vegetative state? It is true that one can have a so-called “Living Will” that specifies what they want to happen to them when the end is near but as far as I know there is no guarantee their wishes have to be followed unless their survivors agree. I do know of cases, for example, when individuals wished t o be cremated but were buried instead because their survivors did not believe in cremation. But that is a bit of a digression.

This is a real problem. It seems to me it has to do with the American obsession with staying young as long as possible and simply denying their mortality. People grow old. They die. Dying is just as much a part of life as being born and living. Death should not be a taboo topic, nor should it be considered a fate worse than death (ha ha). Even if one has unlimited funds, does it make sense to have repeated expensive treatments to prolong life for another few months of relative misery? How much is a week of life, when one is ninety, really worth? Why should there not be death panels, caring, knowledgeable individuals who can advise people of their proper condition, their chances of further life, and so on? And why should someone’s willingness to die for the benefit of others be considered somehow sinful or shameful, or against the wishes of a church or society? Our attitudes towards death seem to reflect primitive ideas having to do with the fear of the unknown, of heavens and hells, ghosts and goblins, guilt and repentance, angels and devils, eternal damnation, and perhaps the fear of being reincarnated as a lower form of life.

I know a few people who say they would like to live forever. Personally, I cannot imagine wanting to live forever, what with all the anxiety, frustrations, ailments, responsibilities, worries, difficulties, and problems that characterize what I assume is a “normal” life. I suspect one can deal with this for one lifetime, but forever? While I do not look forward to it eagerly I am not afraid of death, although I confess to being a bit nervous about the process of dying. I once had a rather massive dose of morphine. It was the most relaxing and wonderful experience of my life. I suspect death is like that, what is meant when we hear those comforting words, “rest in peace.”

Where I worked for a time in the New Guinea Highlands, when a person is considered so old they are obviously near death, their survivors and others hold a funeral ceremony for them while they are still alive, to let them know they are respected and will be missed (also to placate their potential ghost so it will not hang around causing misfortune). These occasions, perhaps needless to say, are very emotional, the speeches can be endless, and the oldsters are sometimes overcome, weeping and even falling to the ground. This seems to me to be a more sensible and genuine way of saying goodbye and expressing grief than by feeling guilty and regretting you did not do and spend more to prevent the inevitable.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Outraged Again

Surprise! The bridegroom
announced, then shot his
bride, best man, and himself.

What does one do when outrage becomes virtually unbearable and there seems to be nothing one can do about it? At the moment I am outraged that Republicans, who just insisted on billions of dollars for tax breaks for the richest 2% of Americans, that did not have to be paid for, are refusing to allocate a relative pittance for health care for our heroic 9/11 police and firemen who are suffering health problems as a result of their brave acts on that date and thereafter, financial aid that is, in fact, paid for. I can see no valid reason for their recalcitrance on this matter other than their usual “no” vote for everything and anything Obama tries to do. This is so outrageous as to leave me almost speechless, so outrageous as to be virtually unbelievable, and in fact so outrageous as to make me wonder if these Republicans are even human beings. How is it that Republicans appear to be completely devoid of empathy, understanding, decency, or any sense of justice and fair play? When you couple this refusal with their stands on unions, unemployment insurance, health care, Social Security, Medicare, and any other program that actually benefits ordinary working people, you have to wonder if they are not just ghouls sent from the underworld to gleefully promote pain and suffering on as many people as possible.

After managing for the past two years to vote “no” as an impervious block, it appears that at least some Republicans have finally realized how un-American, stupid, and unproductive that was. Thus we had a few crossover votes on DADT and it appears there will be even more tomorrow on the START treaty. Even though I will never entirely forgive Obama for continuing and even escalating the “war” in Afghanistan, and failing to investigate the obvious war crimes of Bush/Cheney, and surrendering on the tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy, I have to admit that he and his administration did accomplish a great deal during the first two years of their administration. The fact that this was accomplished in spite of overwhelming opposition from the party of no at every point makes it even more impressive. I believe it is true this two years of accomplishment probably rivals or surpasses that of most other previous administrations. I think it is also true that Obama has not received the credit he is due for what he has done.

I have to admit that my outrage over the above pales into insignificance when compared with my outrage over the general condition of apparent ignorance that seems to prevail in our nation. I saw a brief notice today that, according to a recent Gallup poll, fully 78% of Americans do not accept the theory of evolution. I have no idea how accurate or inaccurate this poll might have been, who, precisely, was polled (perhaps only a sample of fundamentalists), or what the actual questions were, but even if it is only half right (or even less than that), it represents an immensity of ignorance staggering in its potential for disaster. It indicates not only a failure of education but a level of ignorance so profound as to virtually guarantee the eventual collapse of our nation. It is one thing to question evolution as perhaps not exactly right, or lacking in certain respects, or potentially amenable to improvements, and so on, but to reject it in favor of the alternative fairy tales and accompanying nonsense about the age of the earth, the presence of dinosaurs, biblical creationism, and etc. is just plain suicidal from the point of view of a nation that will have to compete in the contemporary world.

When you couple the above with another report that claims fully 25% of our population of young people cannot pass a basic test to enter the military, or are otherwise unacceptable because of obesity or other physical imperfections, I believe there is true cause for alarm. Join this, in turn, to another report that says our college graduates leave the University with substantial debts that may well turn into a credit default of monumental proportions, and you have to wonder if (1) education is of any national importance at all, (2) do we value our young people and their futures, (3) are we truly interested in surviving as a nation, (4) is democracy worth having or even possible without an informed public, and (5 are we absolutely out of our minds?

In general I am appalled at the condition of our country, and equally appalled by the quality of our leaders, particularly in the Senate. I have always been a supporter of the Senate, believing there is something to be said for the representation of smaller states and so on. Recent years, however, have made me begin to question the utility of this institution. With only 100 Senators I think they individually have too much power and also too much ability to abuse it terribly. When a lone Senator has the power to do so much damage to the country, even on a whim, I think the situation is not in the best interest of the country. Perhaps if there was some test of basic competence before one could run or be elected to the Senate it might help. Perhaps if Senators had to retire while still in control of their minds, it would help. While it is true there are also a number of basic “loonies” in the House, there are at least so many other members of that body their influence is diluted. This is not true in the Senate, however, where even one stupid, ignorant, senile, or insane member can wreak untold havoc with the national interest.

LKBIQ:
Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution yet.
Mae West

TILT:
When Thomas Wolfe died in 1938, William Faulkner said Wolfe was the greatest writer of their generation.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Strange Case of the Burqa

I know there are some people who are outraged because Muslim women, in their opinion, are “forced to wear a burqa”. I find this strange because I know of no other item of clothing that is believed to be worn because men insist on it. Indeed, I find the idea that clothing is/was designed deliberately by men (or women, for that matter) to be rather far-fetched. So why is the burqa singled out for this particular reason? I suspect this has to do with Bush/Cheney grasping for straws to justify their “war” on Afghanistan. That is, we were/are there to “save” Afghan women, and the most obvious symbol of their enslavement is the burqa. This is, of course, just more nonsense, Bush/Cheney were no more concerned with saving Afghan women that they were with a woman’s right to choose or equal pay. It was just one more false rationalization for their completely unnecessary and absurd “war” in Afghanistan and their equally absurd “war” in Iraq. If anyone were serious about saving Afghan women the burqa would seem the least of the problems.

I don’t know exactly how wearing the burqa came about, but it apparently existed in parts of the Middle East even before Islam. There are restrictions of this type all over the Middle East having to do with covering parts of the body, especially the face and the hair, but other parts as well. The full length burqa is a rather extreme version of this. And it is true t that the Taliban, an extreme example, insisted that women within their control wear such garments. This is/was unusual in its severity, and went along with other Taliban extremism like not allowing women out of the house unescorted by male relatives, not being allowed to go to school or work and etc. But surely customary modes of dress are the result of usually long-standing customs and beliefs that are not simply imposed on women by men.

Would you say, for example, that American women are forced by men to wear uncomfortable spike heeled shoes, or bikinis? Even when I was a child both men and women wore bathing attire that covered large parts of their bodies. Single-piece bathing suits came later and eventually bikinis, and now what might be called super-bikinis, little pieces of cloth so skimpy they might as well not exist at all. If I had been raised in a Muslim country where women dress extremely modestly, and suddenly was confronted with women dressed in bikinis I have no doubt I would be offended, if not absolutely horrified. But American women were not forced by men to dress in bikinis or spike heels, they chose over time to do so. It is true they probably did this in some sense to please men, but there is no doubt in my mind that Muslim women wear burqas to please their men also. The burqa allows respectable women to move about in society preserving their modesty rather than being forced to stay at home in seclusion. Much the same is true for veils that can be opened for certain categories of people and not for others, and well-mannered women know when it is proper to be veiled and when not. There is a long history and tradition of proper dress in the Middle East just as there is elsewhere in the world.

Some Australian Aborigines went about completely naked, both women and men. Obviously women did not go naked because men demanded it. In many cultures it is common for women to go topless, that is their custom, it is not forced on them by men. In Highlands New Guinea, where I lived for a time, women wear tiny little grass skirts over an even tinier bark undergarment, and go topless. This is not a well-designed mode of apparel for a place where people suffer commonly from colds and other respiratory ailments, but it is the customary attire. If you ask them why they dress the way they do they answer simply it’s the way their ancestors dressed. Among the Tuareg of North Africa only men go veiled. This is quite probably because men spend their time on horseback in the desert and the veils protect them from blowing sand and the hot sun. No one would suggest that women make them wear veils, or even that other men make them do it. It is a custom that developed over time and apparently makes sense to them. In New Guinea in some areas men wear penis gourds and very little else. No one would suggest they do this because women insist on it although it does constitute modesty in dress. Wearing penis gourds is customary, the ancestors did it. Decent women in the United States when I was a child did not wear pants, nor did they paint their faces or peroxide their hair, all of this has changed during my lifetime. There is little doubt that the burqa is slowly disappearing, as it was in Iran and Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The Taliban are an exception and even they will no doubt fail eventually. There are more and more indications that as Muslim women move into Europe and the U.S. they will be under increasing pressure to give up their traditional dress. It is, of course, not appropriate for a culture paranoid about secrecy with airport screening and so on. The burqa has already been banned in France and other countries, indeed, even the headscarf has been banned, along with other so-called religious symbols (I wonder about the yamulka).

In any case, to say women are forced by men to wear the burqa is no more accurate or sensible than to say women are forced to wear bikinis or Catholic clergy are forced to wear long expensive gowns, or American business men are forced to wear business suits and ties, or orthodox Jews dress in black, it’s all just “fesin b’long tumbuna,” (the way of the ancestors), and fashions change over time. It’s unfortunate the burqa has been singled out for purely political reasons, merely giving bigots more false ammunition against Muslims.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Free at Last!

Woman stopped in car
pulls drugs from her crotch,
denies they are hers.

Bubblehead: I am so happy you stick around to keep me from saying ridiculous things. Karzai has recently signed an agreement for a multi-billion dollar pipeline to be built across Afghanistan to bypass Iran and provide oil to our allies in India and elsewhere. We do not hear of this in the media, according to you, because it is apparently just an imaginary pipeline dreamed up by 9/11 conspirators. I guess there has been no real planning for this, no surveying, no actual agreements between Karzai and the Oil companies, and thus no reason for the media to mention it. No doubt it has nothing to do with our staying in Afghanistan until 2014 (and almost certainly longer) to protect this imaginary project and maintain our attempted control of the Middle East and its resources. I am trying very hard not to be a 9/11 conspiracy buff but I confess it gets harder and harder.

Free at last! Free at last! Great God A’mighty, free at last! Today by a substantial majority, bipartisan vote, the doctrine of DADT was finally laid to rest. Now the United States can join all the other major powers who have allowed Gays in the military for a long time. We may be joining the 21st century after all. Of course one has to truly worry about the state of our military now that Gays and Lesbians are free to serve openly. Our delicate Marine corps in particular may just fall apart, just as it did when Truman integrated the services. This has been nothing but much-ado-about-nothing for a long time and I have no doubt the military will be all the better for it. Just think of all those rare Arabic language specialists kicked out previously when I guess we really didn’t need them (after all, why would you want anyone fluent in the language of a country you were about to invade when mutual unintelligibility makes it so much easier to murder, rape, and pillage?).

Of course some continue to otherwise dishonor our heroes at every opportunity. Republicans blocked the DREAM act that would have allowed citizenship for a particular group of young people, brought to the U.S. as youngsters, who have lived here for most of their lives, speak English, and are willing to serve in our military or attend college and thus gain citizenship through their devotion to improving their lives and serving our country. They have also blocked money to provide health care for the 9/11 heroes who are now suffering serious health problems because of their valiant, risky, and more than noble attempts to deal with the 9/11 disaster. I can see absolutely no reason for their blocking either of these pieces of legislation other than their obsession with bringing down Obama and thus hoping to regain power for more thieving.

Michele Bachmann, of all people, has been chosen by Boehner to serve on the Intelligence Committee. I guess you don’t need any particular intelligence to serve on the intelligence committee. Indeed, I have learned over time that one does not need much in the way of intelligence to serve in Congress, some legislative districts seem to think the dumber the better. I can hardly wait for Sarah Palin to become President and appoint Christine O’Donnell as Secretary of State.

President Obama in the last couple of days has been on a bit of a roll with his Pyrrhic victory on taxes and his completely welcome victory on DADT. It’s remarkable how much can be achieved with a few brave Republicans who become willing to do the right thing. But I’m not looking for much when the new batch of loonies moves into Congress in January. Now that Republicans successfully blackmailed us into obscene tax breaks for the filthy rich they will surely go after Social Security, Medicare, and who knows what. I suspect the best we can expect is gridlock tight enough to prevent anything much from happening until at least after 2012.

LKBIQ:
In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
H. L. Mencken

TILT:
At least 256 different recordings of the traditional song, Frankie and Johnnie, have been produced since the early 20th century.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Courage of No Convictions

Would be rapist hospitalized
after 71 year-old victim
attacks him with frying pan.

It appears more and more clearly that Democrats are those with the courage of no convictions. The House passed the ridiculous tax bill giving billions to the richest people in America. They did this because they wanted to give at least something in the way of tax breaks to the middle class. This has been described as “the battle over tax cuts,” but it was no such thing. You don’t have a battle when one side surrenders before the first blow is struck. This is just another stupid example of the end justifying the means, in this case giving up billions for a temporary goal worth much less. If they really wanted to help the middle class they should have told the Republicans to “go to hell,” and make them stand up and try to justify their greed to the American public. Then there might have been the possibility of a real change in the tax code. This is what happens when there is no sense of “community” and everything is privatized and run on a strictly “for profit” basis. Those who make their money on the backs and labor of others, or by raping natural resources, should at least have an obligation to at least share more equitably with those who “brung them.” It is difficult to imagine there could even be this much greed in the world, but there it is for all to see.

Why is it we hear nothing, virtually nothing at all, about the pipeline that is presumably going to be built across Afghanistan? I see articles frequently now asking “what is our goal in Afghanistan?” “Why are we still in Afghanistan?” The answer, now that Karzai has signed the pipeline agreement, that has to pass through Taliban controlled territory, would seem to be pretty obvious. This is the same thing that happened in Iraq. After years of murder, arson, and rape, the Oil companies finally got their agreements for Iraqi oil and it is clear we are going to stay there to protect them. Now that the pipeline plans are finalized in Afghanistan we will stay there to protect that also, there will be no end to the occupations until some possible day in the future when oil is either no longer there or no longer required (or when we finally go bankrupt trying to maintain our “empire”).

I see that Governor Richardson of New Mexico is thinking of granting some kind of pardon to Billy the Kid. Apparently some official in the past offered the Kid a pardon if he would help them convict someone else, but then reneged on the deal. Now I don’t really know if this is true, nor do I care if Billy the Kid gets a pardon or not, but I do wonder if the Governor of New Mexico and others have too much time on their hands these days. Maybe they could take some lessons from Arizona, there’s a lot going on there.

Who says there is no bipartisanship in the U.S. these days? Everyone I have spoken with in the past few days, progressive or not, agrees things are going to get worse instead of better. Now that’s bipartisanship!

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

TILT:
There are 150 different breeds of dogs registered with the American Kennel Club, but no one seems to know how many different breeds actually exist.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beyond Outrage

I cannot bring myself to write much of a blog tonight because I have been thinking, always a dangerous thing to do these days. I could say I was merely outraged, but that would be putting it too mildly. The more I think about it the more I am upset by the scandalous, unreasonable, atrocious, horrendous, abominable, egregious, execrable, horrid, barbaric, inhuman, abusive, monstrous, vile, foul, indecent, obnoxious, even vicious, cruel, heinous, iniquitous, and unthinkable behavior of our Republicans. That they could even attempt to hold up the important business of our country by demanding further tax breaks for the top 2% of taxpayers (a mere increase from 36 to 39%) is the most appalling thing I have ever seen. This absurd tax bill should not only be defeated in the House, all 42 of the Republicans that signed the disgusting threat to do nothing until they got their way should be tarred and feathered and run out of their respective districts on rails (if not worse). I find this so ridiculous I cannot understand why anyone is willing to put up with it. There is no excuse for President Obama and the Democrats, they have simply and cowardly allowed themselves to be bullied by a minority party completely in the wrong on this issue. It shouldn’t even be an issue, it shouldn’t even have been considered, Republicans should simply have been laughed out of town for even proposing such a thing. The very idea that we should give billions of dollars further into debt to give tax breaks to the wealthiest people on earth when we are already dangerously in debt is beneath contempt, a non-starter, a concept so patently absurd I cannot believe anyone would have had the gall to even suggest it. But not only have our shameless Republicans suggested it, they have insisted on it, attempted to blackmail our President in order to achieve this more than unworthy (and in fact not truly very important) goal. Aside from the damage it will do to our deficit, does anyone really believe it will matter very much to the multi-millionaires and billionaires, do any of them really need a few more millions? Because this is true you have to not lose sight of the fact that there are other, more ulterior motives at work, like eventually making these cuts permanent, attacking Social Security and Medicare, and so on. The House should nip this in the bud right now, just say “no,” absolutely not, and force these bastards to fight publicly for their outlandish tax cuts for the wealthy and their less than noble motives, and there should be no mincing of words about what they are doing. Of course we can’t expect our corporate controlled MSM to cooperate, there may be no alternative to massive demonstrations. They simply cannot be allowed to succeed in this nefarious business.


The only bright spot I can see at the moment is that the House voted to repeal DADT and there is at least some reason to believe the Senate will follow suit. Let us hope so, let us hope we can get this ridiculous discriminatory policy behind us and go on to more important business.

The Crystal Gazer
I shall gather myself into my self again,
I shall take my scattered selves and make them one.
I shall fuse them into a polished crystal ball
Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.
I Shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent.
Watching the future come and the present go -
And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
In tiny self-importance to and fro.

- Sara Teasdale

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Confusin' but not Amusin'

Wisconsin Postal worker
delivers in the nude to
“help woman cheer up.”

Confusin’ but not Amusin’ is about all I can say about the tax bill that is currently under consideration, having been approved by the Senate but not yet by the House. Hardly anyone seems to like this bill except the mainstream Republicans. The Tea Party hates it, even Mitt Romney doesn’t like it, the Progressives hate it, President Obama doesn’t like it, but it will probably pass anyway, perhaps with a bit of tinkering. Of course different groups dislike it for different reasons, some of them because it doesn’t do anything for some, some because it doesn’t do enough for the rich, some because they don’t like the way it was created, some because of the estate tax changes, some because it’s not permanent, and no doubt some because Obama had something to do with it, and so on. But as so many seem to dislike it intensely it would no doubt probably be wise to let the House kill it and start over from scratch. I do find it amusing when I see it described as “Obama’s tax bill,” as though he somehow single-handedly forced Republicans to accept it. Why isn’t it called the Republican’s tax bill, they are the ones that doggedly clung to their demand that the obscenely rich become even more obscenely rich or they would not allow anything to pass until they got their way? I confess to be confused about this because it is so intrinsically wrong, both morally and economically, I cannot understand how anyone could vote for it. I also cannot believe there are people so greedy that no amount of money seems to satisfy them. It is up to the House to save us from this travesty, but don’t hold your breath or get your hopes up very high.

Someone pointed out today that Wikileaks is only doing what the Fourth Estate used to do, that is, uncover news and exposing it for what it is. I believe this is basically correct, our MSM has long since abandoned what must be considered real news in favor of infotainment or worse, simply reporting what they are told to report. Once the corporations took over control of the major news outlets this was inevitable. Obviously these corporate giants should be broken up and made more competitive and more objective. No one should be allowed to have a virtual monopoly on the news.

Here it is, Christmas once more. Another innocent tree sacrificed for an event that probably didn’t happen to celebrate the birth of a person who may not have existed. Of course the event that is supposedly celebrated has been mostly obscured by the crass commercialization of it all. The success of the Christmas season seems nowadays to be measured by the amount of money merchants managed to get people to spend (largely on Chinese made junk). The standard Christmas carols that I have heard now for 81 years have taken on an aura of mechanical monotony, but even so they are far better than the more modern songs that are slowly replacing them. Sometimes I think if I hear Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer one more time I might burst something, “I Saw Santa Kissing Mama” makes me sick, as do some of the others. In spite of all this I am not really a humbug, I do enjoy the season, the food and drink, the conviviality and even “The Night before Christmas” (but, alas, not the Nutcracker). I think I might enjoy it all if there was much less of it. Excesses of anything, like gluttony, are unpleasant.

If you haven’t seen it, you should get on Buzzflash and watch the video of Vladimir Putin singing “Blueberry Hill.”

LKBIQ:
Dear Lord, I've been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us... a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird... a social being... capable of actual affection... nuzzling its young with almost human- like compassion. Anyway, it's dead and we're gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family...
Berke Breathed

TILT:
According to Google there are more an one million books published worldwide each year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Who Knew?

Man caught naked in
Mississippi cemetery
trying to take pictures of spirits.

Who knew? I guess lots of people must have known. Even I knew. But because it took so long to surface I had almost forgotten. The “war” in Afghanistan actually did and does have a purpose. It was, as the “war” in Iraq, all about oil, in this case an oil pipeline that will bring billions of dollars worth of oil to India while by-passing Iran. Karzai has now signed an agreement to allow the construction of this pipeline that will, among other things, have to pass through territory currently controlled by the Taliban. I guess that pretty much explains why our troop withdrawal has been put off until 2014. In fact, it will probably be put off completely as in the case in Iraq. So it is that we have “won.” Or, more specifically, the oil giants have won. There is apparently no sacrifice of lives or money too great to satisfy the needs of the giant oil industry (and the U.S.). There is little doubt that we will maintain our presence in the Middle East until some potential day in the future when the oil there is exhausted. Well, at least this seems to indicate that President Obama was not entirely crazy to maintain the “war” in Afghanistan or remain a presence in Iraq, he did have a purpose, no matter how hidden or dishonest for so long. I wonder what will happen when our “empire” collapses? But let’s not worry about the long run, short term profits are all that matters.

The Senate is set to pass the Obama/McConnell tax bill tomorrow. So the Senate, having now demonstrated their almost overwhelming lack of conscience, will send this terrible bill to the House. It is most likely the case the House will pass it also, with perhaps some minor tinkering here and there. How anyone with a mind above the level of chipmunks or squirrels can vote to add 900 billion to the national debt in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 2% of the population, plus giving them billion dollar windfalls on estate taxes, is utterly, even fantastically, beyond my comprehension. I’m completely with Bernie Sanders on this, it is absurd, ridiculous, and unnecessary. There will probably be a few votes against it but more likely than not the majority will go along with the gag because, after all, “there is no other choice.” There is another choice, they can vote it down and then insist on passing a more reasonable tax bill, but that, of course, would involve some courage, something in very short supply in our nation’s capital. Democrats are apparently worried that if taxes on the middle class increased they would be blamed for it. How that could be I do not know as it is more than crystal clear where the blame lies in this disgusting business. Either Democrats don’t trust their ability to communicate with the public or they believe the public is too stupid to know what has been going on. As an aside, what has happened to Denis Kucinich, he’s been remarkably quiet for a long time.

If ever there was an abuse of power the Julian Assange case would seem to be it. He has been arrested and held in jail even though he has not been charged with a crime (other than some rather ridiculous “rape” charge that obviously has nothing to do with any ordinary definition of that term), and will probably be extradited to the U.S. to face some newly fabricated charge, all because of pressure the U.S. is exerting on Sweden and the U.K. This case would be somewhat amusing if it were not so tragic. Here we have American Congresspersons calling for his execution without any trial, without knowing all the facts, without any consideration of the assumption of innocence until proven guilty and so on. I am not a lawyer but I seriously doubt that legally there is much of a case, or even any case, against Assange, but legality seems to have been abandoned in the U.S. during the Bush/Cheney era and seems to continue even now.

I never thought I would see my country in as bad a condition as it is presently, but, then, I never thought, even in my wildest thoughts, I would see and hear Vladimir Putin sing “Blueberry Hill.”

LKBIQ:
Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.
George Carlin

TILT:
Macaws can apparently live to be from 50 to 100 years of age.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Empty Cradle - book

The subtitle of this work explains succinctly what it is about, “How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prospertiy (and what to do about It). From my own prospective I might have added “Humanicide Revisited.”


My son has been telling me about falling birthrates for some time but for some reason I didn’t pay much attention. He finally insisted I read this book. I did, and I found it a genuine eye-opener as well as greatly disturbing. If the author’s statistics are valid, and I have little reason to suppose they are not reasonably so, it appears that the human species may be on the way to a type of humanicide not heretofore well considered. You may recall that I suggested there were probably two separate meanings of the term humanicide, the primary one having to do with the threats to humankind from pollution, war, and technology that might be seen as leading to the suicide of the species. Another meaning, I suggested, may lie in the use of the term to describe certain acts of terrorism in which the targets were humanity at large (as in 9/11 or the Oklahoma bombing). I did not suspect there might well be a third type of humanicide, a kind of Lemming-like behavior that could be the result of falling birthrates (remember the myth of Lemming suicide when their population explodes). It is true that Lemming populations, and that of other rodents, can fluctuate widely from time to time for reasons largely unknown. It is also known the populations of predators of various kinds will also fluctuate depending upon the availability of their primary food supply or changes in their environments bringing about new demands on their behavior.

Longman says in this book that contrary to the fears of some about overpopulation, the birthrates of all European nations are not sufficient to maintain their populations over time. Indeed, this unprecedented drop in fertility rates is occurring all over the earth, in both hemispheres and in nations both wealthy and poor. In Industrialized countries an average woman must bear 2.1 children over her lifetime to replace the populations. In Italy, perhaps the best example of the magnitude of the problem, the present fertility rate is only about 1.2. Alarm over this is being sounded all over, in Turkey the fertility rate is 2.32, barely enough to replenish the populations and dropping, a situation that has caused the Prime Minister to urge people to have more children. Both China and India have seriously declining birthrates. In Russia I understand they are offering cash incentives for women to have children. Birthrates are also declining in Muslim countries. In the U.S. the declining rate is approaching danger.

The reasons for this decline in human populations are not completely understood but obviously have to do with the availability of contraceptives, feminism, better educational and economic opportunities for women, and the crowding and related factors associated with urbanization. Although Longman does not mention it, there is some evidence that sperm counts have been slowly decreasing over time. This would seem to indicate that in general the human species has been and is undergoing significant and probably detrimental changes in environmental and the cultural conditions of human life, changes that may even threaten the continued existence of the species. There is little doubt that life styles have a marked impact upon both health and human birthrates as the author shows with a number of comparisons (a most interesting one between the states of Utah and Las Vegas, for example).

Some, especially those who have been concerned with overpopulation, may think this reduction in the population is a good thing, fewer people less demands on natural resources, and etc. This might be true except for the fact that as the population shrinks because of low birthrates there is a larger and larger proportion of elderly people compared to younger people, and these elderly are living longer and longer than ever (only because of less infant mortality, rather than in absolute years of longevity) with an insufficient population of younger workers to support them. Longman discusses the problems attendant upon this situation in great detail and concludes that if this trend continues the human species will be in trouble.

If all this is true, and it seems to be, it would seem to be a much slower and more insidious form of humanicide that the fear of nuclear explosions or even global warming. The Empty Cradle is a fascinating and enlightening book, the moral of which seems to be, do your duty and breed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No, No, No, No, No!

Woman stabs new husband
seven times with steak knife
as he refuses to give up TV control.

The party of “no” is still at it. Republicans vote no on a bill to give financial aid to 911 responders who are suffering from health problems relating to their heroism. They also voted no on the Dream Act that would give citizenship to immigrants who are willing to serve our country. Similarly, they voted no on the START treaty, widely regarded as absolutely necessary for our security. Finally, they voted no on DADT, the terribly discriminatory policy that has to do with Gays in the military and has widespread support from most everyone else.

Obviously this is just more of the Republican vow to vote no on everything Obama wishes to do. It seems to me unlikely that among the 42 Republican Senators who voted against these bills there is no one who believes that none of them have merit and should not be passed. The fact is, President Obama is not to be allowed a victory on anything, Republicans are admittedly on a campaign to destroy his Presidency at any cost. Is this really what the voting public voted for when they voted to give the House back to Republican control? It makes me wonder if the voting public is even paying attention to what is going on in Washington, D.C. One or more of these bills will probably manage to get passed before the end of the year, even Republicans cannot block everything, no matter how much they desire to destroy Obama. We know destroying Obama has been their plan from the beginning as they announced it rather proudly, and they have managed pretty much to stick to this indecent plan. While some things are hard to prove, I personally believe there is an element of racism involved here. You have to ask yourself if (1) there is any precedent for a party of “no.” And then (2) would they have attempted to do this if the Democratic President was White, say even Hillary Clinton or John Kerry? I could of course be wrong about this, but I don’t think so. However consciously or unconsciously, I think White Republicans (and quite likely some Democrats as well) are not willing to acknowledge that Blacks can truly compete in traditionally White professions, tight ends and linebackers maybe, but not quarterbacks and managers. It is true there are now Black quarterbacks, coaches and managers, but this is fairly recent and is still not without controversy.

I could also be wrong about this, but it seems to me that only in America could someone like Sarah Palin be considered a candidate for the highest office in the land, or Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell be considered Senatorial candidates. The fact that they are (at least by some) leads me to believe that Americans are just not serious about their government and who represents them. I will not be surprised to see Michelle Bachmann announce she is running for President (although I am not so demented yet as to believe she could win, but, hey, who knows, this is America).

Is anyone surprised to learn that the Israeli/Palestinian talks have basically been dropped? The Israelis simply refuse to give up stealing and the Palestinians won’t talk unless they do. So, once again, and again, and again, and again, there is going to be no solution other than the status quo, just as Israel prefers (why not, they are in the driver’s seat, no one seems to be able to stop their drunk driving, and I guess most of the world doesn’t care about Palestinians, fairness, decency, or even slow genocide). Obama seems unable to stand up to Netanyahu and aside from withdrawing his offer of free bombers as a bribe, once again nothing is going to change. And is anyone surprised that Alan Dershowitz is blaming the Palestinians? The single greatest obstacle to anything like peace in the Middle East is Israel, but, hey, let’s blame the Iranians, or better yet the Palestinians. The entire world, and especially the United States, should be profoundly ashamed for allowing this problem to fester year after year after year, and in effect participating in this indecent charade.

LKBIQ:
If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.
Moshe Dayan

TILT:
Maine Coons are known as “the gentle giants of the cat world.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Wrong

Let me see if I have this straight, two of the most pressing priorities facing our nation are job creation and reducing the deficit. President Obama has just agreed to a deal that will do little or nothing to create jobs and will also substantially increase the deficit. He did this without bothering to consult either House or Senate Democrats. Now he thinks Democrats are being unreasonable because they are upset about this and don’t want to support it. I hesitate to say it, but President Obama, YOU SHOULD HAVE YOUR HEAD EXAMINED!

Some are buying into the explanation that Obama actually got more out of the deal than he gave up. At least one person seems to think this was a clever ploy by Obama to get a 900 billion dollar stimulus bill but the logic here escapes me. The major explanation for this strange agreement seems to come down to a form of Republican blackmail, whereby they threatened to hold up everything until they got these obscene tax breaks for the filthy rich. I don’t buy this and I believe Obama and the Democrats could have achieved tax breaks for the middle class and not for the upper 2% had they stood their ground and just refused to go along with this travesty. There seems to be some Democratic movement in this direction now that is probably too late to do anything but perhaps make some cosmetic changes in this terrible pact with the Republican devils.

If they had just allowed the Bush tax cuts (that never should have been allowed in the first place) to expire, taxes would have risen for most everyone including the middle class. This is widely considered to be highly undesirable if not a terrible disaster. I have heard people say that middle class taxes would have risen by thousands of dollars. Somehow I doubt this. Taxes would have risen to the levels of the Clinton administration (when things really weren’t too bad). Besides, if one goal is to reduce the deficit we could have used the money, and why should not everyone share the burden (they might even have come to their senses and realized their tax money is being wasted on completely unnecessary military adventures around the world). If this sounds callous I would like to hear the facts about how much taxes would have actually increased. One Union leader today said he didn’t think his members would notice much of a difference. I don’t know exactly what to think at this point. What is clear is that Obama has truly alienated his base and they are more than just mildly upset. I suspect this will end up as little more than a slap on the wrist for Obama and perhaps some minor tinkering with this terrible agreement that will allow Democrats to claim they actually made a difference.

Given my primitive grasp of economics and capitalism I cannot understand why anyone thinks we are going to create “good paying jobs” in America when all the manufacturers can get things built elsewhere for less. If there are no laws about shipping jobs overseas what will prevent them from doing what they have been doing all along? I know there is talk of giving tax breaks to corporations to keep jobs here in the U.S. but I won’t believe it until I see it. Furthermore, given the amount of money saved by shipping jobs overseas, the tax breaks would have to be considerable. This strikes me as having to bribe American companies to do what they ought to be doing in the first place, little more than a modern protection racket. As long as profit alone is the overwhelming goal of business there is no reason to suppose good paying jobs in the U.S. are on the horizon. There are, of course, some things that could be done only here at home. For example, we can’t fix our schools overseas, or our highways or dams and other infrastructure, but so far this doesn’t seem to be much of a priority (anyway we can’t afford it, you know, because we have to at least pretend to fix these things in Afghanistan and other countries).

The sad fact is, as is often acknowledged but never acted upon, the idea of government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” (or however it is described) is a thing of the past. It probably never completely existed in pure form at any time but has now simply disappeared entirely. Our Congresspersons and most everyone else that has to do with government are bought by the corporations and do their bidding, government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations, is the reality of American politics and government. Nothing much is accomplished for the “common good” because that is no longer a goal that motivates our leaders. Indeed, the only time things have been accomplished for the common welfare are when a strong leader does what is “right” in the face of often overwhelming opposition. Think of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, Teddy Roosevelt taking on the robber barons, FDR starting Social Security, Truman integrating the military, and Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights. Would any of these important achievements have come about if they had depended exclusively on compromises? There are times when compromise may be in order, but there are some things that should not be compromised, some things that are just fundamentally wrong and are demonstrably not in the public interest. Tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans may not be the most important example one might think of, but as they do not create jobs and do increase our scandalous national debt, they are clearly wrong and should not have been allowed under any circumstances. It doesn’t matter what Obama might have got in return, they are still, under the prevailing circumstances, obviously wrong.

Unfortunately there seem to be no real sanctions to prevent political wrongdoing in the U.S. I think what the Republican Party has been doing for the past two years, deliberately saying “no” to anything Obama attempts, for the admitted purpose of destroying him and his administration, is clearly wrong. As I have said before I think it even borders on treason. Nothing can be done about it short of eventually voting these undesirables out of office, but there is no guarantee even of that, especially when they control the media, the judicial system, and most of the nation’s wealth. The only hope is to get money out of politics entirely. Good luck with that.

LKBIQ:
Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
Malcolm X

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Grandma's Dishes

Foreplay goes bad when
her knife slips as she tries
to cut off his underwear.

As the United States government has proven to be so dysfunctional as to be little more than laughable, and as I cannot even think about it at the moment as anything but another Loonytunes cartoon, or maybe a Three Stooges movie short, or maybe at best something out of W.C. Fields, I have decided to consider a problem closer to home, Grandma’s dishes, a problem I think symptomatic of our times.

You see, my wife still has her Grandmother’s dishes. Her grandmother died in her nineties and probably acquired these dishes when she married, which means she must have had them for some seventy years at least. As my wife is approaching sixty that means these dishes are very old, antiques beyond a doubt. My mother-in-law could have inherited these dishes but chose not to as she already has far too many dishes and, besides, she didn’t want to bother taking care of them (they cannot simply be put in the dishwasher). These are fine china, a full setting for eight, with crystal wine glasses (white, red and water), and all the extras that you need to set a grand table and serve your guests in style. Not only do we possess this fine china, we also have her sterling silver for eight, along with a number of sterling silver serving dishes. In the twenty-five years we have possessed this marvelous setting we have used it probably no more than three times, always when we had a special guest who was sensitive enough to appreciate what it was all about. We love it and treasure it as a valuable heirloom.

Lest you misunderstand let me make clear that this Grandmother was not what you might call truly rich. She was at best what might have been described in those days as “well-off,” or perhaps upper middle class, but definitely not “upper crust.” Also, lest you might misunderstand, Grandmother’s possession of fine china and silver was by no means unusual. True, poor people did not possess such treasures, but most people of the middle class, especially the upper middle class, had such possessions. Indeed, it was so common for brides to receive gifts of silver and dishes it was not considered in the least unusual. Most of the families I knew when I was young possessed such treasures and I assure you we were by no means wealthy. Some of these family possessions were worth more than others, it is true, but such possession were regarded as necessities for decent families who “entertained” from time to time (as most people did in those days). This was, I guess, part of what went along with the “parlors” many homes had, rooms that were used only for “company,” and “putting on the dog,” but were otherwise unused. As families were large in those days these treasures were usually passed on probably to the eldest male or else broken up to be shared by all the siblings. (I recall that my mother’s major share of the family treasures was an expensive upright piano).

I have no doubt that we are not the only family who has in their possession such china and silver. The question that arises is what is to happen to such things now that our culture has changed so dramatically in certain respects? My son, for example, is a vegetarian and has no real interest in food, let alone in entertaining, beyond sending out for pizza. His wife soon-to-be also does not cook, has little interest in cooking, and although not a vegetarian, eats very simply. They have no need whatsoever for a dinner service for eight and most probably never will have. And even if they did they would almost certainly not want to wash it all by hand, polish the silver, or have the responsibility of caring for it all. So what is to happen to this survival of bygone culture? Unless there is some kind of nostalgic return to “the way things were” I guess it will end up in an antique store somewhere, along with the thousands of other sets of china and silver that seem to already be there. I do not believe my child is much different in this respect than others of his generation, and while he might treasure the historical existence of such treasures I doubt he will find any use for them other than perhaps as a source of a bit of money. A full set of china for eight cannot be simply mounted and hung on the wall like your grandfathers gold watch or your grandmother’s woven hair necklace. Of course with the price of silver what it is nowadays it will probably be worth more melted down than as what it was intended for, after all, who wants to bother polishing silver?

I find this incredibly sad and I deplore the loss of elegance that is involved. It is symptomatic I think of what has happened to American culture in general, what with the demise of family dinners, the popularity of fast food and plastic cups, drive-through places, and all you can eat fried foods, instant mashed potatoes, and 16 ounce Pepsi colas. I know, I know, people don’t have time to eat these days, they have to grab their food and eat on the run, running, I guess, as fast as they can, perhaps waddling is more precise, to the grave. American culture has slowly changed for the better for some, but not for the middle class in general, and at the moment it appears things will just continue to get worse.

Who says the rich don’t create jobs? Didn’t Michael Jackson’s glove just fetch a cool $350,000? Didn’t Babe Ruth’s 702 home run ball sell for $264,500? Isn’t Tiger Wood’s yacht worth 20 million? Duane Hagadone’s house worth 30 million? Donald Trump’s 125 million? Bill Gates home worth 150 million? Doesn’t Jay Leno own 84 cars and 73 motorcycles? Didn’t Pablo Picasso’s Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur recently sell for 106.5 million? Think of all the jobs this creates! It’s no wonder these people need more money.

LKBIQ:
It is partly to avoid consciousness of greed that we prefer to associate with those who are at least as greedy as we ourselves. Those who consume much less are a reproach.
Charles Horton Cooley

TILT:
The ostrich is the fastest running bird and can attain speeds of up to 45 mph.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Right, Wrong, and Politics

It appears there may still be “right” and “wrong,” but not in politics. For those who might still believe that right will triumph the tax cut “compromise” must have come as a shock. Rarely has there been an issue in which one position was so clearly right and the other so clearly wrong. There simply is no convincing argument for why tax breaks should be extended to the wealthiest 2% of Americans, especially when it means adding 700 billion to the national debt to do so. Even President Obama himself has acknowledged that the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy should not be continued, that it would be the wrong thing to do, but he did it anyway. I do not believe he needed to do it and I do not agree with his explanation for why he had to do it. If he had stood his ground and fought I think he could have arranged tax breaks for the middle class without having to extend them to the filthy rich who do not need them, because, to put it simply, it was so obviously the right thing to do, and he so obviously would have had public opinion clearly on his side. And if he failed he should have let the tax cuts expire for everyone, making it clear that Republican intransigence was responsible, the outrage would have been so great it would have fairly quickly brought about an even better outcome for the middle class and shown Republicans up for the immoral hostage takers they were. But he didn’t and now the only hope for right to prevail is if the Democrats refuse to agree to this immoral agreement. Only contemporary Republicans would have stooped so low as to hold the middle class hostage in order to line the pocket s of the obscenely wealthy, especially at a time of such obvious need.

I suppose it is somewhat amusing, in spite of its being so disgustingly awful, to hear everyone, especially Republicans claiming to know what THE American public voted for. Of course Democrats also chime in about what it is THE American public wants. They all seem to agree that what THE American public wants is for the two sides to come together and solve the momentous problems that now beset our country. I am willing to assume that that is indeed what the American public wants, but given the current circumstances it certainly is not what they are going to get. This desire presumes that the two sides will come together and work on solving our national problems, but it fails to consider that in order for that to happen both sides have to agree to try to solve the national problems. Republicans have made it clear for the past two years they have no interest whatsoever in solving the pressing and important national problems. The announced immediately upon Obama’s election they would be the party of “no” and they wanted Obama (and by implication the nation) to fail. Subsequently they have announced publicly their primary goal is to make Obama a one term President. They could not have been any clearer about this even had they tried. Thus the hope the two parties will come together to work out solutions to our urgent problems is no more than a pipe dream. As long as Republicans stick to their stated goals there will be no progress towards solutions to our problems until Obama is gone.

I suspect that if we manage to only have gridlock for the next two years we will be lucky. Of course by then it probably won’t make much difference. I wait in vain for the White Knights to rescue us, or even Black Knights, or even Polka Dot Knights. Maybe someone from the planet Boobala, anyone, please help.

Monday, December 06, 2010

He's no Harry Truman

I didn’t like Harry Truman when he was President. I don’t know why exactly, maybe because my father didn’t like him. My father professed to being a democrat all his life but he didn’t like Truman. Even though my father was a democrat he was also pretty conservative, Truman might just have been a bit too liberal for him. Of course in the small mining town where we lived people did not like Missourians, perhaps that had something to do with it. I may have not liked Truman because my father didn’t like him, I was fairly young and didn’t pay much attention to things in those days. My father was little educated (fourth grade) and little read, I think that might have had something to do with it. Remember it was the time of McCarthyism, my Dad thought what McCarthy said must be true because he thought otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to say it. He may well have felt that Truman did nothing to silence McCarthy even though he was being attacked by him. I do remember disagreeing with my father on this particular issue (I was in college then and becoming more and more liberal).

In any case, over the years my impression of Truman has changed immeasurably. I knew, for example, that he had integrated the military, but I didn’t know for a long time that he did this in spite of enormous opposition on the part of almost everyone. He did it because, he said, it was right. I also came to admire him for firing Douglas MacArthur when he attempted to override civilian authority over the military and wanted to attack China. And Truman did speak out against McCarthy eventually. Of course he also authorized the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, a decision I thought was terribly wrong and unnecessary. I still think so in spite of the new evidence that claims he had little choice. But I guess you have to admire him for making such a horrendous decision, even if it was one of the most mistaken and unnecessary ones ever (the Bush/Cheney decision to attack Iraq was almost as bad). The little haberdasher from Missouri turned out to be a real leader whether one always agreed with him or not. Remember his sign, “the buck stops here. ” So, while I began by not liking him, I subsequently came to admire him for his leadership.

Unfortunately, I have had the exact opposite experience with President Obama. At first I believed he would have no chance to become President (he is Black, you know). When he ran such a wonderful campaign and had a chance to win I supported him. I believed he may have been precisely what our country needed and would, in fact, bring about important changes. I have supported him ever since although my support may have finally reached the limits of its endurance. I did not approve at all of his continuing the ridiculous and unnecessary “war” in Afghanisan, but I thought perhaps he knew something I did not and there might be good reasons for this (I think I was wrong about this). I have been appalled by his failure to investigate the blatant war crimes of Bush/Cheney et al., but, again, I could sort of understand that such an investigation might well tear the country apart and gave him the benefit of the doubt. When he caved in to Republican demands to include large tax cuts as part of the Stimulus Bill I did not approve, but once again, I thought perhaps he just had no other choice. He failed to close Guantanamo as he promised, and once again I assumed there were powerful forces working against him. When he claimed he wanted a public option for health care I was all for it, but when he again caved and didn’t even try for it, I was again disappointed. His latest shameful capitulation on the Bush tax cuts I think has finally made me realize he is not a real leader. Truman, with universal opinion against him, integrated the military. Obama, even with the American people behind him, failed to stick to his position and simply, as he has done repeatedly now, given in once again to the outrageous demands of the Republicans. I know, I know, he has another excuse, if he hadn’t compromised everyone’s taxes would rise. I don’t care, I think he should have stuck to his position even if it meant everyone’s taxes would increase. If he had done so, and if he had made it clear what the Republican blackmailers were doing, the tax situation could have been corrected soon enough. But like the Stimulus Bill and the public option, and DADT, he simply gives up before he even puts up a fight. This is not leadership, it’s politics, pure and simple. As the current saying goes, “he talks the talk,” but he doesn’t “walk the walk.” He says he is opposed to further tax cuts for the wealthy but is afraid he will lose politically if he truly fights for what he acknowledges is right. With the Presidency, the House and the Senate all controlled by Democrats he has allowed himself to be pushed around time after time by Republican demands that have nothing to do with what is right or in the public interest. I strongly suspect he was pushed into his Afghanistan adventure because he couldn’t stand up to the military. He has failed miserably to stand up to Netanyahu. I do not look forward to anything different from him. He will be, and probably should be, a one-term President – EXCEPT – is there anyone else around who will behave any differently? Probably not, as long as the oligarchy reigns. What is truly amazing about Obama is that he has continued to reach out time and time again to Republicans even though they have made it perfectly clear they will not cooperate with him on anything and have as their highest priority making him a one-term President. I’m not much for psychoanalytic theory, but perhaps Obama suffers from one of Freud’s pet defenses, “identification with the aggressor.”

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Third World America - book

Third World America How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream, Arianna Huffington, Crown Publishers, New York, 2010.

This is a book that should be required reading for everyone, particularly those in the Nation’s Capital who would be in the best position to do something useful, if they would. Very succinctly and with no frills, Huffington describes the manifold problems that beset us and appear to be forcing us more and more into the status of a Third World Country. Using appropriate statistics from the various agencies involved she paints a dismal picture of America as it presently exists, sparing no one from either government or the private sector. Starting with jobs and the problem of unemployment, she discusses our massive debt, the definition of middle class and what has slowly happened to it, the obscene unequal distribution of wealth, taxes, bankruptcy, credit cards and their abuses, and the fear and anxiety that has been generated by all this and now reign in our nation. There is also a long section on our failing infrastructure, including the effects of the stimulus bill, our failing water supply, deteriorating bridges, sewers, electric grid, roads and the problem of commuting long distances, the railroads, dams and levees. Our deteriorating and failing educational system does not escape her attention as she discusses why they are failing and the overwhelming importance of education both in the modern age and in the functioning of our democracy. In short, it is a pretty comprehensive, intelligent, if brief review of where we unfortunately are as a nation.

Arianna (if I can be so bold) discusses in some detail how it is we have come to be in the situation we find ourselves in and how the control of the country has slipped away from the people and into the hands of business, including the huge corporations that now wield such enormous power. She discusses lobbyists and the fact there are none for middle class America and the American dream. The dangers of corporate power have existed in America for a long time. Huffington describes briefly the problems that both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt had to deal with in this respect. But the American Congress has become more and more on the auction block, which has allowed business interests to more and more write their own rules, rules that do not favor the disappearing middle class, and rules that are written with deliberate loopholes to allow things that should not be allowed, thus enabling businesses to in effect regulate themselves, often with devastating effects. She also shows how it is that the beliefs of the business community have become identical with the beliefs of our politicians, how now there is a revolving door between politicians and lobbyists, politician one day, lobbyist the next and sometimes even vice-versa. In closing this section Huffington does not overlook the fact that corporate crime rarely goes punished.

In the concluding section of Third World America the author offers suggestions as to how we might reverse this trend towards Third Worldism. The first and most important element would be, of course, to get the money out of politics entirely and create a system of public financing for campaigns. We must also fix our broken educational system and create jobs, as well as overcome the mortgage crisis. Similarly, we must exert more control over Wall Street. She does offer suggestions as to how these things might be done but I think this is the weakest part of the book as she doesn’t offer any suggestions as to how her suggestions might actually come about. She seems to believe that if the American people just work together, just “pull up their socks” as they have always done, just use that famous American ingenuity and creativity, they can force the system to change. While this might be so if it happened, one wonders how the very people that have been brainwashed into either believing in the system or have been too “dumbed down” to even pay attention, are going to pull themselves together to do anything. Asking politicians to give up their current, lucrative ways is rather like asking successful bank robbers to stop robbing banks. This is not really meant as a criticism of her book as no one could expect her to do everything, especially the impossible, and what she has done is certainly revealing and worthwhile and deserves a broad audience.

Something that bothers me about the spate of books now appearing that discuss how it is we might recover is that they seem to suffer from one, or two, or possibly both shortcomings. First, they all seem to accept the clich√© that “history always repeats itself.” Second, they all seem to me to be entirely “Amerocentric “ (I’m not sure that is actually a word). That is, in the first case I rather doubt that history always repeats itself as that seems to me to assume that nothing really changes. In the second case it seems to imply that America can solve these problems purely internally with, again, ignoring the vast changes that have occurred in the world since the 1929 crash. This is not the place to attempt a detailed argument about this, but in brief, the world has grown much smaller, the oceans are no longer as protective as they once were, the available resources are no longer as great as they once were, competition for them is much greater, and Western-European dominance in general is beginning to slowly crumble. While it is true that we could do things to make our situation much better for all, there is never going to be a return to “the good old days” and the American standard of living is not going to survive as it has been for so long.

Friday, December 03, 2010

"Gimpy"

“Gimpy” strikes me as a potentially more useful word than is acknowledged in our language. According to my online dictionary the primary meaning is “cripple.” It also indicates that gimpy did not exist until 1925 and may have been introduced by Damon Runyon as a substitute for “limp.” Why this should matter to me I do not know. However, I am led to it because of a deer. Living as we do in a semi-rural area we have quite a few deer around most of the time. Somehow there are more of these creatures this year than usual. They seem to be rather intelligent in that during hunting season (now) they tend to congregate more often right around our house (they apparently know they are less likely to be shot here). Anyway, one of them, a small and quite lovely doe, is gimpy, and has a difficult time getting around on only three legs. We do not know what happened to her but we suspect she may have been shot in one leg but escaped the hunter. I give him the benefit of the doubt that he may not have known she was wounded rather than assuming he was simply too lazy to follow up on his attempted kill. Of course she may have been damaged in some other manner, hit by a car perhaps, or escaping the coyotes or something like that. Although we know we are not supposed to feed the deer, and do not ordinarily do so, my wife has been unable to resist helping Gimpy, and puts out small amounts of cracked corn from time to time where she believes the poor creature will find it. We notice with some satisfaction that today, for the first time in three weeks, she has actually been able to place her injured foot on the ground albeit quite tenderly. We have hopes for her.

I am sad to say that I do not hold out the same hopes for John McCain who is, I believe, gimpy in another way, crippled, that is, by what I think must be increasing senility. I have no other way to understand his strange behavior when it comes to DADT. As I recall he was once more or less for it (I think), then he was against it, then he said he would be for it if the military was for it, then when they were for it he still wasn’t for it but wanted a study, then there was a study that was for it but he was still not for it and wanted still another study, and now, even though the military has emphasized they are almost overwhelmingly for it (except mainly Marines) he is still not for it. I don’t know how to explain this shifting but stubborn opposition, either he will not allow Obama a victory of any kind, or he is mentally handicapped (crippled). The fact that he now compares Sarah Palin to Ronald Reagan does little to change my suspicion of his mental condition. This is another example of behavior that leads me to believe there should be a mandatory retirement age for all public servants, Senators and Congresspersons, as well as Judges and whomever. Being “elderly” myself I realize there are many older people who continue to be alert and productive even into their dotage, but I believe that even one seriously handicapped elder can potentially do great damage to the country (as in the case of McCain selecting Silly Sarah to be his running mate).

I suspect that the adjective gimpy should truly be used to describe our current Congress that seems to be crippled almost beyond belief. Aside from an occasional relatively innocuous bill passed, our Congress seems to be terribly dysfunctional, riven by partisanship, and rendered almost inoperable by the Republican party of “no.” This means that nothing of any particular importance can be passed at all unless there is some form of forced “compromise.” Compromise for Republicans means getting their way or nothing. As I have previously mentioned, even in the best of circumstances, if you govern by eternal compromise this means the best outcome can never occur because the compromise always waters it down to a less desirable result. Look at what happened to the stimulus bill or health care for perfect examples of this problem. While I hold out hope for Gimpy, our deer, I have little hope for our gimpy Senator and even less for our even gimpier (if there is such a word) Congress. I heard a bow and arrow hunter once complain that when his arrows fell harmlessly at the feet of a herd of deer he felt they were laughing at him. They must certainly be laughing at us now.

MY HOVEL

The world before my eyes is wan and wasted, just like me.
The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered.
No spring breeze even at this late date,
Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.

Ikkyu