Sunday, February 27, 2011

1877 - book

1877 America’s Year of Living Violently, Michael A. Bellesiles (The New Press, N.Y., 2010)

Hoot, mon, get yourself in the bloody parlor and read this interesting account of the year 1877. I would be tempted to say if you think things are bad now, look to 1877. Perhaps things were worse 1877, perhaps not, depending upon what “things” you have in mind. There is one striking difference today from that unsettled time, the violence, the subject of this book.

I confess I thought it unusual for an author to select one particular year to write about. But it is true, 1877 was a year of almost unremitting, and seemingly acceptable violence. In the aftermath of the Civil War the South did not want to accept the newly acquired freedom of the ex-slaves, and they certainly did not want them to have a voice in government. They resisted any and all attempts by Blacks to better themselves or engage in politics, and they did this through the systematic use of intimidation and violence. Of course I knew there had been violence, what with the KKK, lynchings, and Jim Crow, but I had no idea how widespread, virtually universal this became in the South. Nor did I have an idea of how institutionalized and acceptable it became. The North, tired of hearing or thinking any more about the war, or about the problems of Blacks, and determined to get on with business, turned a blind eye to what was occurring in the South, basically sacrificing Blacks in favor of order and life as usual. As we know, this resulted in the South becoming and staying Democratic until not very long ago (remember, it was the Republican Party of Lincoln that was anti-slavery in those days). This book offers a definitive, if depressing, description of how violence was deliberately, even officially, used to keep Blacks in their place, force them into sharecropping and continued poverty, and thwart their supposedly new-found civil rights.

It was not only in the South where violence reigned. The year 1877 also saw the end of the Indian wars, the campaigns to destroy them, again by using the most violent means, and the ultimate success allowing Whites to complete the theft of their ancestral lands. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and his raggedy band made fools of the U.S. forces for a time but inevitably succumbed. The Sioux, too, were finally overcome, Sitting Bull was commercialized and stereotyped, Crazy Horse was betrayed and murdered, and the bloody mess that had been going on in the West for so long more or less came to a violent end. Bellesiles describes this well, but in this case I was not at all surprised.

To me, the most interesting part of the book, was the situation in our country in general during this period of time. I knew about the depression of the 1870’s, and I also knew there were unemployed tramps and homeless people and poverty and hunger and despair. I did not know how extensive this really was, not aware of the almost unbelievable “Tramp Scare,” and not aware of the almost complete indifference and ignorance of what was actually occurring. It simply did not even occur to people that tramps and poverty had something to do with economic conditions, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the wealthy industrialists, and the terrible conditions of those who actually had employment. People thought then, as some still do, that poverty was the fault of the poor who were just lazy, criminal, and undeserving. The popularity of (the false but useful to them) Social Darwinism that swept the country at this time of course made this attitude respectable for a time (we still have some who apparently believe this even now).

The plight of the working class became so terrible, as wages were cut and cut again, until a family could barely survive at all. This inevitably led to the Great Strike of 1877, the first nation-wide strike in our history. It was a battle between labor and capital and, as in the case of the South, the only solution was believed to be violence. Companies hired gangs of strikebreakers, National Guards were ordered, and the President of the U.S. Rutherford B. Hayes did not hesitate to order Federal Troops to put down local strikes that were occurring with more and more frequency. This also led to the great Communist Scare in which anyone who even sympathized with workers was labeled a communist. Pittsburgh was burned, Philadelphia was barely spared, and the situation was never truly resolved (it’s still going on in Wisconsin and elsewhere at the moment).

As Bellesiles points out, the entire nation was homicidal during the 1877’s. Guns were carried by a great many citizens and they did not hesitate to use them often. Police work was not highly developed, people often took the law into their own hands, and so-called justifiable homicides were commonplace. This situation was exacerbated by the lunatic theories of criminality that became popular at that time, primarily those of the Italian Criminologist, Cesare Lombroso, who thought he could recognize criminal types just by their physiognomy, and Richard L. Dugdale who thought criminality ran in families and was passed down generation by generation. The situation was further exacerbated by the Pinkertons who made much of their living off strikebreaking.

This period of terrible violence continued until the rise of organizations like the Salvation Army, the Women’s Suffrage Movement and Temperance Crusade, and the emergence of charismatic leaders like Frances Willard, Booker T. Washington, Anna Dickinson, Susan B. Anthony, the reporter, Jacob Riis, and others. Eventually even Rutherford Hayes began to see the light (after he was President), and many Protestant Churches who had traditionally supported violence against the poor eventually changed their positions. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt played a key role in the changes that were finally leading the country in a new and different direction.

Someone asked me if there weren’t any positive things that occurred during this period of time. There were some, the first department store was created, the telephone was invented, but these are not the subject of this important book. I would be remiss if I did not point out that echoes of this ugly and mean time still exist in our culture (think Wisconsin again), but happily so far without the insane violence.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

No News is...No News

Voodoo sex in New York
triggers five alarm fire,
kills elderly woman.

No news is said to be good news, but that would seem to be relative, as for most of us no news is just no news. It’s good news for our corporate masters because they don’t want us to have any news. There was supposed to be demonstrations in every State capitol today in support of the Madison demonstrations. Did you see anything much in the news about it? I certainly didn’t. But, then, it is Saturday and we don’t ever get much news on Saturday, or Sunday either for that matter. I guess that is because the entire world shuts down on Saturday and Sunday just like we here in the U.S. do. Of course we don’t get Al Jazeera news in English either. Now that I think about it, we just don’t get much news at all, other than the latest Charlie Sheen nonsense, or the doings of Lindsay Lohan, or predictions about the Academy Awards, you know, really important stuff.

It does appear, as near as I can piece things together, the Arab world may still be in an uproar. And it seems the people in Wisconsin are still protesting Governor Walker’s fascist moment while doing the will of the Koch brothers. I think there actually were some demonstrations in other State Capitols and perhaps a few other cities as well. I guess we’ll just have to wait at least until Monday to learn anything at all, and you can be sure that won’t be much. I mean, we can’t interrupt the basketball and golf on the week-end, or the church services on Sunday to bother about what’s happening in the world (is there a world outside the confines of the U.S.?). News 24/7 is the most amazing scam yet perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. As near as I can tell the only real reason for it to exist at all is that it allows companies to advertise over a much larger percentage of time, and you may have noticed, advertising also seems to take up more and more of the programming time. Many of the ads are now so atrociously stupid and embarrassing, I find myself averting my eyes. There should be laws about how long any given ad can be continued, and how many times it can be shown in a single day. This is another case where business is basically becoming so greedy and excessive they are eventually going to lose their audience. Maybe not, but in my case I have drastically cut down the time I watch television and, in fact, have moments when I swear I will stop watching it altogether. It appears that greed, once it becomes a motive, grows exponentially until it threatens to consume itself. This is not only happening with television but is characteristic of American culture in general.

We are, I believe, reaching the tipping point, where either we give up our “empire” or we collapse like the Roman Empire or the Soviet Union. Realistically, we cannot afford further “adventures” in empire building or even empire maintenance. We have already slipped so far down in most measures as to be perilously close to third world status. We are now, I think, when measured on some scale of quality of life and solvency, somewhere around 33rd. And we are far behind in math and science, superstructure, life span, medical care, and on and on. We are, in short, a failing nation, no longer the “shining beacon on the hill,” the envy of the world, the superpower that can simply impose its will on the rest of the world. More and more we are being ignored, left behind, decrepit and old-fashioned.

In my opinion this is in important part due to the fact that too many are under the influence of the “Churches of the Absolutely Bonkers,” and others are too eager to swallow the kool-aid of free market capitalism. The former are so totally divorced from reality as to be unable to act rationally, the latter are so greedy and self-centered as to be oblivious to the requirements of social, or even sustainable life.

Interesting, that while life-threatening global warming is creeping up on us, and the world around us is erupting in an unprecedented and increasingly violent manner, our life here at Sandhill goes on pretty much as usual. The weather is cold, record-breaking cold, there is snow two feet deep on the ground, a cold wind blows virtually every day, it is hard to get around or even comfortably go outside, but yesterday we started corned beef and tongue, today we ordered seeds for the garden, our Son is about to marry, we continue.

It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.

A Judas goat is trained to lead sheep to the slaughterhouse or into certain pens, and for finding feral goats to be killed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Forgetting the Past

Brazilian mother finds
three year-old son
petting head of 5 foot alligator.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I believe this seemingly true statement can be attributed to George Santayana. I confess I wonder if Republicans (and those corporate interests who support them) cannot remember the past or are just so ignorant and uninformed they are not even aware of the past. If history is any guide it shows conclusively that every time capital (management) has tried to overly exploit labor, they have failed and, in fact, have had to eventually give in to the latter. I guess our current Republicans, like Governor Walker of Wisconsin, are unaware of the “Great Strike of 1877,” when, for the first time in history there was a nation-wide strike against the abuses of management: “The Great Strike of 1877 was unique in American history. Within a few days the pent-up frustration of the previous years poured forth in a spontaneous shout of ‘Enough!’ Within a week, some five hundred thousand workers walked off their jobs from New Jersey to San Francisco in the first nationwide strike in American history (Michael A. Bellesiles, 1877:2010:145). Similarly, I guess they are also unaware of the labor unrest, strikes, riots, and virtually unprecedented violence in the early 1900’s when fed-up laborers took the law into their own hands and blew up plants and often brought production to a standstill. Republicans, now supported by enormous corporate wealth and increased corporate arrogance, seem to have no knowledge of where our 8 hour work day came from, or the 40 hour work week, or various benefits that American workers now enjoy (still far less than many European workers enjoy). In every case workers were united by the excesses of corporate greed, repeatedly cutting wages, offering no benefits, and expecting labor to be content with wages that did not even allow them enough to feed their families: “We eat our hard bread and tainted meat two days old on the sooty cars up the road, and when we come home, find our children gnawing bones and our wives complaining they cannot even buy hominy.”(Bellesiles, 2010:146). Typically, if workers complained they were told they could just quit and find a job elsewhere. There was, in 1877, not even a suggestion that management should ever sit down and bargain with labor. When workers threatened to strike or did strike the immediate response was to overcome them with unremitting violence. Eventually, as we know, workers slowly did manage to win some concessions, better pay, better working conditions, better benefits and so on. These concessions from management did not come easily by any stretch of the imagination.

Of course we cannot say that the conditions of workers in the U.S. in the year 2011 are anywhere even nearly as bad as they were in the early 1900’s. The situation, however, is similar. We know that wages have not kept up with inflation, and, indeed, have actually gone down in recent years. We also know that corporate greed has remained as always if not grown even worse. The benefit s of technology and increased worker efficiency have not been shared with labor but have gone instead to the wealthy and corporations. Many workers have lost their pensions and in some instances even their homes, some have been unemployed for so long they cannot even draw unemployment compensation or even expect to find jobs. Millions of children live in poverty, thousands upon thousands are homeless. Unions have systematically been reduced in membership and importance. The distribution of wealth in the U.S. is more skewed toward the upper one or two percent than ever before, and corporations now possess more power than ever before. They also are making profits far in excess of ever before. A few people have fortunes measured in the billions, some traders on Wall Street make a billion a year. This is precisely the same situation that obtained in 1877 and again in the early 1920’s, with the unequal distribution of wealth, when workers united and brought about significant changes.

It is also precisely the conditions that obtain now, and it appears that workers are once again, so fed up with the injustices and abuses they are on the verge of once again taking action against them. This has been provoked by the actions of the Governor of Wisconsin, acting on behalf of billionaires and corporate interests. Not content with forcing financial concessions from the workers of that state, he insists they give up their hard-fought and basic right to collective bargaining. This has resulted in massive protests by unions and union supporters, not only in Wisconsin but also around the U.S. There are supposed to be demonstrations in all State Capitals tomorrow. Organizing such massive protests are now made much easier than they were in 1877 or 1900 because of the internet. Even if these protests do not appear large or completely well-organized tomorrow, having been put together very quickly, they should serve as a warning to those who would take away the rights of workers they will once again fail. I suspect that in fact union membership will begin to grow again, labor will once again acquire more influence, and eventually the greedy bastards will have lost once again.

Bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work, acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything, do not work."
Karl Marx

The Carib language has been considered extinct since 1920.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Don't Blame the "People"

In an article today in Smirking Chimp, “Dig Down Deep: An Open Letter to the Nation,” Doug Giebel, a writer from Montana, chides us for being to blame for the nation’s ills. This is a theme we often see, as many believe that “the people get what they deserve,” and so on. This idea that the public is basically irresponsible or worse has been often expressed. H. L. Mencken, for example: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” or. “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Giebel makes no pretense as to who he thinks is guilty: “We should call a halt to this charade and take matters into our own hands. After all, we're the guilty ones for having permitted the earmarks of greed, arrogance and malfeasance to trump effective government.”

And again: “Ignoring the past, we have encouraged our "leaders" to become hedonistic sycophants of big money and power. Ego and self-preening hubris substitute for reasoned discourse, contemplation and a dedication to the principles of constitutional fairness and human decency. It's time we accepted responsibility and atoned for our negligence.”

I agree we should atone for our ignorance, but I would also suggest the situation is not as simple as it may appear. There is, at the very least, a kind of chicken or egg quality to this argument. That is, if we had a truly serious and highly functioning democracy, in which we had an informed (and better educated) citizenry, and if we also had a situation of complete transparency with respect to information, and if the public was always made aware of the facts and different possibilities of matters of government before having to decide, and if they then made mistakes leading to ill effects, then, and only then, could one honestly say the citizenry was responsible. We here in the U.S. are far from meeting these conditions. When you have a population in which very large numbers do not believe in evolution, believe their President was not born here and/or is a Muslim, believe in Armageddon, or that people and dinosaurs roamed the earth together, or that the earth is a mere 10,000 years old, apparently also believe in ghosts, or believe their President is the anti-Christ, and you should vote for someone you’d like to have a beer with, or believe someone like Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann is qualified to be President, and so on, I do not believe you can honestly say we have a well-informed or educated citizenry.

Education, especially higher education, is not highly valued by a great many of our citizens, and, even if some do value it, it is not easily obtainable, especially by the poor, whether minorities or not. And education has not been a very high priority in the U.S. for quite a long time now, a situation that has allowed our schools and Universities to deteriorate at an alarming rate. In some of our cities fully 50% of students fail to graduate from High School, and many who do graduate cannot read much better than 5th graders. Our students have fallen far behind other countries when it comes to math and science, and the arts and humanities struggle mightily to get funded at all. In many school districts I understand that courses in civics and government are no longer offered. A recent study reveals that our College students spend very little time on their studies and much more time in socializing. Grade inflation has increased year by year. From the point of view of a strong and viable democracy this is a truly shocking state of affairs.

What is worse, when it comes to having an informed public, we are subjected daily to what is mostly infotainment rather than news. And as the major networks are all corporate owned they basically only offer what it is those particular powers want us to hear. We rarely hear the truth about anything, and one of the most watched networks is no more than the propaganda arm of one party that skews everything in their favor. We are not only badly educated we are also not at all well-informed. I know from personal experience that most ordinary citizens in Europe are far better informed about world affairs than the average American. Indeed, ordinary Americans seem to know nothing about geography and even less about other cultures.

Giebel is obviously aware of this but still believes it is our own fault. He asks, “How stupid do they think we are?” And answers: “The answer is obvious. We the people have been bamboozled by sweet talk, promises promises and self-imposed laziness, hoping (even believing) that those we send to manage the nation's business will do the job. But, my fellow Americans, the buck doesn't stop with our elected potentates. The buck stops with us.” And also: “In an age awash with "information," we the discontented live in a state of self-induced ignorance prodded to anger 24/7 by professional ranters who have no shame.”

But is it truly the fault of ordinary citizens who do not have access to information and facts and are, in fact, mostly kept in the dark. It seems to me to be a gigantic stretch to argue we are in a state of “self-induced ignorance” when it is extremely difficult if not impossible for an ordinary citizen to acquire the kind of information needed to make truly cogent decisions, even if they had the time and the resources to make the attempt. We have been kept poorly educated and ill-informed on purpose by those who prefer to have us that way. It is easy for them to manipulate a public kept in ignorance and fear, and that condition also keeps us docile and unlikely to revolt or even participate in decision making. Indeed, at this very moment they are trying to take away the right of workers to have a voice in their own affairs. With their powerful media and endless lies and propaganda they can lead a gullible public into the most outrageous beliefs: capitalism (greed) is good, socialism is unspeakably awful, right-to-work laws (actually, right to make less money) are good, labor unions are bad, abortions are never useful, poverty for children is good, immigration is bad, cheap labor is good, Social Security and Medicare are bad, endless “war” is good. Tax breaks for the wealthiest are good, workers make too much money, Israel is good, Palestinians are bad, Our national interests are good, everyone else’s are bad (unless they are like ours), America is exceptional, others not, and so on and on and on until everyone succumbs to such ennui and disgust they either don’t bother to vote at all or they vote for someone who promises the impossible and inevitably just delivers more of the same.

Is it reasonable to believe that ordinary citizens were prescient enough or sophisticated enough to realize there was (and is) a conspiracy to quietly and systematically betray them, that the very people they elected to represent them, trusted to represent them, would slowly over time fall prey to the evil siren song of corporate money and cease to represent the public interest entirely in favor of keeping their jobs and perquisites? Having chipped away at our rights and privileges, as well as our wages and benefit, they are now poised to administer the coup de grace, taking away our right to even have a voice in our own affairs. Giebel is right, we have certainly been “bamboozled,” and we should certainly attempt to overcome it, but to argue that it is entirely our own fault, under the circumstances, is both unfair and unreasonable. Perhaps it is not too late to defeat this fascist threat, Wisconsin would seem to be an ideal place to begin.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Don't Believe It

Florida woman arrested for
assaulting her roommate who
ate her Girl Scout cookies.

I don’t believe it. I absolutely, positively, one thousand percent don’t believe it. General Petraeus has made a claim so outrageous, and so outrageously racist, I find it hard to believe. He has accused Afghans of setting their own children on fire to make the U.S. look bad. Underlying this ridiculous claim is the obvious belief that Afghans are not like us, are somehow like “savages” who don’t care about their children. This is like saying they don’t value life as we do, life is cheap in Afghanistan, they are somehow less than human. The idea that Afghan parents would set their own children on fire is so disgustingly awful as to be completely beyond the pale and Petraeus should be shamed in the eyes of all of humanity. You don’t even have to be in Afghanistan, or even investigate this claim to know that it is utter hogwash, uttered by a General who is losing the “war” he is supposed to be winning, and now waiting to be relieved of his duty there. Pathetic. This is not the first time our military has made such claims against those they cannot defeat. Why doesn’t he admit that Americans are sending their children halfway around the globe to be killed for no reason at all other than, perhaps, the greed of International Corporations, and the stupidity of U.S. Foreign Policy?

Yes, it is true that what is happening in Wisconsin is part of a Republican strategy to destroy unions in the U.S., and is not about budgetary matters. If this were not so the “movement,” if it can be called that, would not be spreading so rapidly to other states like Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey and Florida. This is a genuine conspiracy funded by the Koch brothers and other corporate interests who think they can finally destroy the unions and further consolidate their Fascist state. I do not use the term lightly, fascism is, as Mussolini made clear, the marriage of the state with corporate interests. This is precisely what these people are trying to bring about, and they have nearly succeeded. The only thing still standing in their way is the continued existence of collective bargaining. They want a return to the 1920’s when workers had no rights at all, no minimum wage, no 8 hour work day, no 5 day work week, no benefits, and were little more than wage slaves. They long for the days when they had peasants, serfs, and slaves. Wisconsin has to win on this one, big time, and make it clear the people are simply not going to stand for this. The moneyed interests seem confident that no revolution will occur in the U.S., but they are treading on very slippery ground. They seem to have found a very willing stooge in Governor Walker who, unfortunately (as I understand it) cannot be recalled before 2012.

It is not very clear what will likely happen in Wisconsin. The obvious solution would be for Walker to simply withdraw his demand that workers give up their collective bargaining rights. It does appear that he is slowly losing whatever support he had from business and others. And it also appears that Governors in other states who were thinking about union busting themselves are beginning to have second thoughts. Walker has a history of being very anti-labor, and also very anti-abortion. I do not believe the voters of Wisconsin voted for him for those reasons, and I’m pretty sure that many who voted for Tea Party candidates are having second thoughts.

Tom Luna, the head of Education in Idaho, has come up with a plan to reform education by increasing class sizes, letting go teachers, going to online classes, abolishing tenure, and stuff like that. As near as I can tell it’s a lousy program and is meeting with a great deal of resistance. I guess it basically is an attempt to privatize education in the State of Idaho. I find the idea of privatizing education, prisons, energy, water, and most other things, horrifying. It seems obvious to me that when schools and prisons are run for profit, they are by definition not run with the best interests of students or prisoners in mind. After all, how do you make a profit on such enterprises? Obviously by scrimping on food and care, overcharging, and whatever else you can do to maximize profit. Privatization is a really dumb idea and is, in my view, diametrically opposed to the public interest. If they must privatize something let it be cosmetics or the fashion industry or other things that have little redeeming value to begin with. Basic necessities should be exempt by law from privatization.

Pittsburgh & the riots neither surprised nor greatly disturbed me; for where the government is a sham, one must expect such things.
Mark Twain

If the mass of ice in the Antarctic were to melt it is estimated the sea levels would rise as much as 26 feet.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Strange and Remarkable Case of Osama bin Laden

I am not ordinarily much of a conspiracy buff. Many conspiracy theories strike me as not even remotely plausible. For example, that there was a conspiracy to plant a false birth notice in a Honolulu newspaper in 1961 so that a secret half Black Muslim named Barack Hussein Obama , even though not a citizen, would become President of the U.S. some 40 plus years later and change our country to that faith. I don’t care if he resided in Indonesia for a time as a child, or that his father was from Kenya, this is just too far-fetched for me. In other cases I wonder about something for a long time but eventually resign myself to never knowing. For example, I still wonder to this day who it was that arranged for a male prostitute to visit the White House regularly and for no apparent reason. This has always struck me as particularly bizarre. I have my own suspicions as to who might have been powerful enough to have arranged this and kept it quiet, but as there is no evidence whatsoever I rarely mention it anymore.

There is something about the case of Osama bin Laden that I find fascinating and I cannot help but wonder about it. How is it possible that an unusually tall Saudi man who has been on the wanted list for years has never been captured or killed? We know (or at least think we know) that Osama was born in March of 1957. If he is still alive he will turn 54 next month. He is reported to have taken his first wife when he was 17, and as of 2002 he is said to have 4 wives and about 25 children. He attended University for a while but it is not clear that he graduated. In 1979 he went to Afghanistan to fight against the Russians. In 1984 he established an organization called Maktab al-Khadamat with a man called Abdullah Azzam. This organization provided funds for various terrorist groups around the Middle East. In 1988 he split from Azzam because he wanted to be more active militarily, and in that year apparently al-Qaeda was born. By 1990 he had returned to Saudi Arabia as a hero. But when Kuwait was attacked by Iraq he wanted to lead an attack to defend that country. He was rebuffed in favor of allowing American troops into Saudi territory, a move that infuriated him. He became critical of the Saudi Government and kept it up until he was banished and exiled to Sudan. He kept criticizing the Saudi Government until in 1995 they were said to have cut off his allowance (of some seven million dollars a year). In 1996 he returned to Afghanistan where he met Mullah Mohammed Omar. During the 1990’s Osama apparently kept on funding terrorists, he apparently still had money or at least access to it. Finally, after other terrorist actions, and some involvement in Bosnia, he conceived the 9/11 attack on New York. At first he denied this but by 2004 admitted to it. When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan to find him, Osama managed to escape capture at Tora Bora and has not been seen since except on an occasional and sometimes questionable videotape.

President Clinton first put out an order to capture or kill Osama in 1998. This means that for 13 years Osama bin Laden has been free and apparently in hiding. This also means that in spite of the entire might of the U.S. military, our 80 billion dollar a year intelligence apparatus, our spy planes and satellites, our sophisticated communications, and a 50 billion dollar reward, he has eluded us. I find this more than remarkable, I find it incredible. While it is true that our intelligence agencies (all 17 of them, I believe) were not intelligent enough to foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union, know about WMD’s in Iraq, or recently the uprising in Egypt, one might think that in 13 years they would have at least found Osama’s whereabouts, if not have captured or killed him. They haven’t, and not only that, they don’t even know if he is still alive. We’ve been told for years that he must be living in caves somewhere in Pakistan. He was not found in any of the caves they once overran and investigated. Our Secretary of Defense, Gates, said in 2009 we have had no reliable information about Osama for years. How, I wonder, is this possible?

There are some obvious questions one can ponder in this case. Why, for example, did Osama escape at Tora Bora? It was because the U.S. refused to commit ground troops at the time that would have been able to capture him. So why were no ground troops offered? Similarly, why were all Saudis in the U.S. at 9/11 allowed to get on flights out of the country without even being questioned? Who was President at that time? George W. Bush. It seems that during the Russian/Afghan war Osama bin Laden was regarded as a CIA “asset.” Who was President during this time? George H.W. Bush, who had previously been director of the CIA. Who stood to gain anything by the continued existence of bin Laden? George W. Bush did, he needed an excuse for attacking Afghanistan and keeping up the fight against international terrorists. Is it possible that Osama bin Laden continued to be a CIA asset and thus no serious attempt was made to actually capture or kill him? Consider also that in 1995 the CIA was prepared to apprehend him in the Sudan but was denied authorization. The Taliban offered to turn him over in 2001 but President George W. Bush refused the offer. I have no idea why these attempts were thwarted, but he’s never been captured or even found. He has, somehow, lived a remarkably charmed life. Who has been (literally) “thick as thieves” with the Saudis for years? Who walks hand in hand with them? The Bush family. Who has gained enormously from this relationship? The Bush Cartel. It is even suggested by some that George W. Bush stood to gain from 9/11. I have a bit of trouble with that, although Bush certainly used it as an excuse to attack Iraq, a twisting of logic, lying, and reality I have yet to understand how he got anyone to believe.

There have been many claims over the past few years that Osama is dead. Some say he was a kidney patient on dialysis and could not have survived in the caves without proper care. Others say he died of untreated lung disease, a stroke, kidney failure, massive organ failure, typhoid fever and murder. On the other hand, there are claims of people having seen him in recent years, and claims that he appeared to be in reasonably good health. As late as 2009 there are reports of seeing him and in 2010 he was said by someone to be in northern Iran. The fact is, we obviously do not know to this day whether he is dead or not, or even where he may be. Given the apparent hopelessness of our quest, I would not be surprised if Osama, having been reinstated as a hero by his royal relatives, was not a bit more plump, living comfortably at home in Saudi Arabia, having achieved his desired victories: defeating the Russians, destroying the twin towers, getting the U.S. Military out of Saudi territory, and laughing as he sees billions of people taking off their shoes at airports, and gleefully watching the U.S. spending itself into oblivion as did the Russians (and exactly as he planned). I suspect at least some of his 4 wives and 25 children are with him, his grandchildren playing happily at his feet, and all living a comfortable and private life in a luxurious villa. Not bad for a young man of 54. Of course if you prefer, you can believe that an intelligent, sophisticated, university trained millionaire with 4 wives and 25 children has been huddling with them in caves in the remotest area he could find for the past ten years. I’m damned if I know, but I do know it is a strange, remarkable and mysterious story.

With apologies to Leigh Hunt

Osama bin Laden (may his tribe decrease!)
Awoke one night from a nightmare of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
an agent, writing in a secret code.
Destroying peace had made bin Laden bold,
And to the agent in the room he said:
“What writest thou?” The agent raised his head,
And with a look both sly and treacherous,
Answered, “The names of those who hate the West.”
“And is mine one?” Said bin Laden. “Aye, of course,”
Replied the agent. Bin Laden spoke again,
But eerily stiff, and said, “I pray thee then,
Write me too as one who randomly kills his fellow men.”
The agent wrote and vanished. The next night
he came again, and with a gushing shame,
Showed the names of those addressed,
And lo, Osama’s name led all the rest.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Changes You Can Believe In

In domestic dispute she gets gun,
“shoot me,” he says. She does.
in the face. He’s dead.

I hate to say, I told you so, but I did. I am so seldom right about my predictions I cannot help but gloat. In January, when a group of steelworkers, wearing their hard hats, interrupted a meeting of bankers and caused them to flee, I suggested it was a “shot across the bow,” and those sitting on so much wealth should probably pay attention. That shot across the bow has now turned into a full-fledged battle, certainly in Wisconsin, but in other states as well. Financed by the filthy rich Koch brothers, and no doubt other corporations, there is a plan to destroy labor unions across the country. The Governor of Wisconsin is leading the charge and will probably be lucky to survive the backlash at all, let alone remain Governor. His outrageous demand that citizens of Wisconsin give up their rights of collective bargaining appears to have gone much too far. He did not run on such a platform, it was unexpected, and it seems to have struck a raw nerve, rightly so as far as I am concerned. I hope he is recalled or impeached or whatever. Other states with Republican Governors are trying to pull off the same thing and will probably end up with similar results. People can only be pushed so far and it seems the critical point may now have been reached.

This is true not only in the U.S. but even more importantly across the Middle East. There was a successful revolt in Tunisia, and now another in Egypt. This revolutionary fever is spreading widely with similar attempts in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and even in Iran. Everyone wanted change, we are now getting change you can believe in. Egypt may not continue to honor its treaty with Israel and Iranian ships are now passing through the Suez Canal for the first time in many years (if not ever). The rulers of Saudi Arabia and other countries are becoming more and more nervous as monumental changes are in the wind. It is believed that Muammar Khadafi, the Libyan dictator has fled his country (this may not be true). The U.S., now with egg on its face, is trying its best to play all sides of the aisle, having supported these dictatorial regimes for so long while at the same time hypocritically touting democracy.

President Obama, and the U.S., has been demanding (actually begging, beseeching, pleading is more accurate) Israel to stop settlement expansion in the interest of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. These settlements are blatantly illegal and involve the theft of more and more of the West Bank. The U.N. wanted to pass a resolution condemning the settlements. The U.S. vetoed it! Now that’s what you call real foreign policy. Our Secretary of State still travels around the world paternalistically peddling our foreign policy nonsense as if we still have a voice in the affairs of others. We are increasingly becoming more and more impotent and being ignored by the rest of the world. They know we are approaching bankruptcy and are falling further and further behind. Our manufacturing base has grown smaller and smaller, our economy is becoming more and more service oriented, we go further into debt each year, and there is no end in sight. Perhaps we’ll be able to survive providing manicures and pedicures for the rest of the world. It is not clear that our Congress is even aware of the vast changes taking place in the world, so obsessed are they with attacking women and abortion, doing away with Social Security, Medicare, and anything else that might be of help to the new peasantry they are trying to create.

Speaking of awareness, where has Chris Matthews been for the past eight or ten years? He is now calling for an investigation into why we went to “war” with Iraq. He has apparently just discovered (I guess from reading Rumsfeld’s book) that we were told lies about their nuclear program and such. He seems to be quite outraged about this and insists he will not stop until some investigation takes place. Chris Matthews has a national television show, has for years, is supposed to be politically knowledgeable, and doesn’t hesitate to tell us virtually every day what is what. How is that even I and many others have been calling for an investigation of Bush/Cheney for years but Matthews has been silent until now? I find this virtually impossible to understand.

The incompetent, with nothing to do, can still make a mess of it.
Laurence J. Peter

A donkey “bray” can be heard for three kilometers.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Morality and the Concept of the Person

It seems to me that if you look at the contrasting approaches of Republicans and Democrats to our current national problems you might well conclude there are two different conceptions of what a person is or should be, especially as moral agents.

Republicans in the House, for example, just passed a bill that would outlaw all funding for Planned Parenthood. I guess this primarily has to do with their moral objection to abortion, but Planned Parenthood offers many more vital services for women than merely abortion. That aside, they obviously believe human life begins at conception, human life is sacred and should in no circumstances be artificially denied. This ignores the life of the mother, the complications of pregnancy, and the realities of possible pathology. But one might argue anti-abortion is a strong moral commitment to the sanctity of human life.

Paradoxically, at the same time they believe all pregnancies should be brought to term and all babies born, they don’t seem to think Planned Parenthood should exist to help mothers in any way. Nor do they believe in providing funds for child care, food stamps, unemployment insurance, health insurance, or welfare in general. In other words, their sense of moral responsibility for children and mothers appears to end at birth.

Not only does moral responsibility for mothers and children arbitrarily stop at birth, Republicans do not seem to bear any responsibility for human welfare at any level. They do not want a minimum wage, they are adamantly opposed to unions, they do not want to provide unemployment insurance for anyone, they don’t want universal health care or even Social Security. Welfare of any kind is anathema to them. Not only that, they tend to be in favor of endless “wars,” and killings, as long as those being killed are “gooks,” “towel-heads,” “krauts,” “Japs,” or other non-whites and non-Christians. This suggests to me that Republican beliefs about morality do not extend beyond a very limited universe. In fact, it probably doesn’t extend much farther than a small number of relatives and individuals they know, and they are recognized as a “person” only within this limited circle. Not only that, in the context of their belief system, they are not only a person, but a “rugged individual.” Vis-à-vis the rest of the world it is up to them to survive, as those who are not like them, those who are poor or disadvantaged or sick or crippled or lazy and shiftless, or widowed, or members of other cultures or religions are not their responsibility. This is a truly strange moral system, virtually unique, in which even some within the same society are not entitled to help, and those outside are simply not included in the moral universe at all.

By contrast, Democrats in general seem to feel a moral responsibility for all, or at least most others, certainly for all within their own society, and not merely their own in-group. They tend to believe it is their moral responsibility in general to take care of those who cannot care for themselves. Thus they want universal health care, aid for dependent children, aid to mothers that need it, aid to the unemployed, Social Security for the elderly, and so on. They see themselves not so much as individuals but more as “persons” embedded in groups, and in a much larger universe, and believe that basic morality should extend to all human beings and groups (except sometimes, like Republicans, when there is a “war”). Here is a case in which a more “primitive” and circumscribed tribal morality is attempting to expanded to include a much wider range of “outsiders.” This attempt, however noble it may be in theory, doesn’t fare well in practice as it inevitably runs up against the problem of “cultural relativity.” That is, how do you accept certain cultural practices that violate your own ideas of the moral, female circumcision, for example, or the sexual abuse of young boys, or the stoning of adulterers, or honor killings, and so on. We see the problems inherent in these attempts in what is increasingly being reported as the “failure of multiculturalism” in Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, and other countries that have attempted to assimilate large numbers of mostly Muslims. Shari’a law does not mesh well with European legal systems, and if immigrants refuse to assimilate, and if the parent culture refuses to accommodate them, the attempts are doomed to fail.

Now we are faced with a situation in which Republican ideas of morality and personal responsibility are far too narrow to be functional, and Democratic ideas of morality and personal responsibility are far too broad to be functional. Republicans want no one to be granted universal human rights, Democrats want everyone to have them, and it seems there is no middle ground. As long as there are these two diametrically opposed views of personal and moral responsibility we are not likely to find a solution. You could say this is an even more fundamental problem, having to do with the nature of human nature. Is it part of our nature to be altruistic or are we, indeed, just rugged individualists looking out mainly for ourselves? Is any change possible? What might it mean for the future?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Locus of Responsibility


It is comforting to know that you are ever vigilant and protecting viewers from Morialekafa’s overgeneralizations, exaggerations, and carelessness. Of course one can’t blame all of South Dakota for the mindlessness of one of its legislators. Nor can you blame all Arizonians for the idiocy of their legislators, all of Wisconsin voters for the evil of their Governor, all of Florida for the stupidity of their Governor, or all U.S. voters for the behavior of their Presidents. But you do raise an interesting question; just where is the locus of responsibility to be found?

Taking South Dakota for an example, it does not seem reasonable to me that this legislator, whoever he/she is, would have suggested legalizing the murder of abortion doctors just on his/her own. He/she must have had enough votes to get elected to office. Perhaps those who voted were not aware of what they were voting for as it’s unlikely the person campaigned on murdering abortion doctors. But they must have known the candidate was a conservative, and must also have known he/she was probably virulently anti-abortion. The bill must have been introduced with at least the expectation of some support. There must have been a climate of belief in South Dakota that allowed such a fantastic bill to even be considered. So where does the responsibility lie? With the lone legislator, only those who voted for him/her, the leader of the branch of government that allowed the bill to be put forward, the Governor of the state, or the people in general who for whatever reason allowed this person to be elected? It is pretty difficult to pin the responsibility down in a case like this.

In some cases it might be possible to narrow down the possibilities, at least somewhat. Take Wisconsin, for example. It is obvious (I think) that voters of that state did not expect their newly elected Governor to almost immediately attempt to take away the right of workers to engage in union activities. Even here, however, the Governor has the support of the Republican Congress (sans Democrats) that must have known and even promoted this draconian proposal. Republicans in Wisconsin are in the majority at the moment and only need to capture one Democrat to pass this bill. But why are Wisconsin Republicans so dedicated to breaking the unions? There is every reason to believe they are acting on behalf of corporate interests, the Koch brothers in particular. As this seems to be part of an organized effort to destroy unions in the U.S. there must be other corporations involved. Wisconsin is not the only state where anti-union procedures are taking place. In this case it is probably reasonable to conclude that the locus of responsibility for union busting lies with our corporations that would stand to gain a great deal from getting rid of union demands. The practical responsibility for bringing this about lies mainly with the Governor and his supporters.

Were Bush and Cheney responsible for the “war” in Iraq? In this case I would say yes, they were. It is true they represented oil and other interests, but in this case they had the power to say “no” had they chosen to do so. They not only chose to invade Iraq, they even lied and schemed to do so. We know now that Bush/Cheney wanted to attack Iraq even before 9/11, and we also know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Whether Bush/Cheney were representing oil and other interests in this case is essentially irrelevant. They and they alone had the power to do what they did. It might have been difficult for them to resist pressures to attack Iraq, but they could have done so.

It seems to me it is only when you reach the level of the Presidency, or the highest level of authority possible, that you can truly pin down responsibility, for it is only the President or the very highest CEO who enjoys virtually absolute power. It is not absolute in theory, but in practice it might as well be. President Obama, for example, could have decided not to continue the “war” in Afghanistan. He must have been under enormous pressure to continue, and he may even have believed it was the right thing to do, but he, and he alone, could have decided differently.

It seems to me the true locus of responsibility always comes back to leadership. It is true that leaders have supporters that put them in their positions of authority, but it is always the leader that has to decide how to use that authority. The Governor of Wisconsin could have said “no” to the Koch brothers and their plan to decimate the unions. He obviously decided not to do so. Obama could have said “no” to Afghanistan. Bush/Cheney could have decided against “war,” as well as torture, but did not. When you think about it, it is hard to conclude that the perilous situation we find ourselves in at the moment is not the result of failed leadership all along the way for a very long time. Why, for example, have so many species gone extinct? I would say it is because our leaders did not protect them and their environments. Why are we now confronted with failing bridges and deteriorating schools? Why are our states in such terrible financial conditions? Why do we have such a tremendous national debt? Why are so many people living in poverty? Why do so many millions of Americans lack health insurance? I would suggest that all of these things are the direct result of the wrong decisions made by our leaders. In some cases leaders may have thought they were doing the right thing but it didn’t turn out that way. I strongly suspect, however, that they more often made bad decisions for questionable reasons.

Why, we might ask, have our leaders made such poor decisions? Do we have a propensity for electing bad leaders? I think we often do, but our leaders are under tremendous pressure to satisfy special interests, and in order to get elected and stay in office they have to try to satisfy these interests. But special interests are special in that they are, indeed, special, as opposed to the general interests of all, To make matters worse, these special interests tend to share one primary characteristic, greed. There no longer exists in our country any conception of the common good. Virtually no decisions are made with the common good in mind. What makes things even worse, we have not only abandoned legislating for the common good, almost all of our legislation is the result of compromise. But as this is compromise between different special interests, two different versions of greed, rather than compromises involving the common good, nothing we do, virtually by design, can ever be in the best interest of the community at large. There is something to be said for Benevolent Dictatorships, but benevolent dictators are almost as rare as benevolent Republicans.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Throwing Caution to the Wind

Infant in Myanmore with
12 fingers, 14 toes, will
set record for polydactism.

I do not understand what Republicans are up to. I have never understood what Republicans are up to. I suspect I will never understand what Republicans are up to. In a way that’s not entirely true, I do sort of understand what they are up to, I just cannot understand why they think what they are up to is going to bring them any rewards. Remember they campaigned on creating jobs. But instead of working toward that end they have thrown all caution to the wind and are seemingly entirely focused on issues that have nothing to do with creating jobs, but are perennial Republicans wishes, namely abortion, union busting, repealing health care, pretending to want to reduce the national debt, getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and opposing everything President Obama does, trying to insure Obama will be a one term President. I find this all rather amazing and I cannot see what they hope to gain.

You might say they are not only not working on creating jobs, they are engaged in activities that will increase unemployment. The more they insist on cutting spending the more that will affect the loss of jobs. Obama wants to increase aid to education, the internet, and our infrastructure to position us to be more competitive in the rapidly changing world. Republicans are opposed to all of these aims, even going so far as to refuse money for building high-speed railroads (that other nations already have and we desperately need). They seem to hold the bizarre idea that unemployment, no unemployment benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no government jobs, fewer teachers, police, and firemen, will somehow result in an economic recovery (of course it will increase profits for their corporate masters and the filthy rich).

The Republican obsession with trying to overturn Roe vs Wade is almost certainly a waste of time. Choice is already the law of our land, has been for years, and is favored by a majority of Americans. Trying to make it harder and harder for women to obtain legal, medical abortions, and even suggestions that abortion doctors might be legally killed, cannot benefit them in the long run. Their concerns over the cost of Medicare and Medicaid have some foundation in fact, but their trying to get rid of Social Security at the same time will surely prove to be another loser (and it is no secret they want to get rid of Social Security no matter what the facts about it are). While they pretend to want to bring down the national debt and carp incessantly about it, they have no trouble in insisting on tax breaks for the wealthiest people in the world that add billions to the debt, and they seem oblivious to the fact that repealing health care will add even further billions to the debt. It is obvious they want to bring down the debt by taking money from those least able to pay.

Union busting has always been big on the Republican agenda. Now there seems to be a coordinated attack on unions by the various Republican Governors. Wisconsin is the focus at the moment but it is not the only state that is attacking unions. Indeed, Governor Christie of New Jersey is becoming a Republican hero for his attacks on unions. Governor Walker in Wisconsin has even threatened to use the National Guard to suppress union activity. I can only assume he is totally ignorant of the history of labor unions in the U.S.

Republicans are once again threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get their way. They apparently have short memories and have forgotten what happened when Gingrich tried this. It is doubtful they will actually try to do it again, but with the large numbers of Tea Party true believers it might actually happen, a disaster of monumental proportions. About the only thing one might say about the current scene and the near future is that it is at least interesting (as well as disgusting, unsettling, unpredictable, undesirable, uncooperative, unconscionable, unreasonable, and, in fact, un-American).

It seems to be true that whatever Obama is for, Republicans are against. This now seems to have spread to include Michelle Obama. Both Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have made snide remarks about Michelle Obama’s attempt to reduce childhood obesity. The latest has to do with her suggestion that more mothers should breastfeed as it has so many positive advantages. Palin remarked in a recent speech that maybe it was a good idea, “now that the price of milk is so high.” In 2007 Palin extolled the virtues of breastfeeding in exactly the same way Obama has, and even proclaimed a “Breastfeeding Month” (or maybe a week or something). I am not absolutely positive about this, but I do know there is no hypocrisy so vile or unreasonable or dishonest as to be off-limits for Republicans.

They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program.
George W. Bush.

All species of sea turtles are listed as either threatened or endangered.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mindless in Wonderland

Hungry and Out of Work? Eat a Republican!

It appears to me the United States has become a sort of strange wonderland where the more mindless among us have discovered a mandate for exercising their most outrageous ideas. Perhaps South Dakota now holds some kind of record for mindlessness. A Bill was introduced there that would change the definition of justifiable homicide to include the murder of abortion providers. Really, I’m not joking. This bill would have allowed fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and I guess even others the right to kill an abortion doctor because he/she was interfering with the life of a fetus. While there was enough outrage to make the sponsor of this bill tone it down a bit, it now appears that only the mother has the right to kill the doctor. Wow.

The abortion issue seems to have virtually taken over the platform of the Republican Party. Mike Huckabee, for example, is going to make abortion the number one focus of his campaign if he runs again for the Presidency. There is also a plan in the works that would make it impossible for women to even use their own private money for abortions or insurance that provided coverage for abortions. Interesting that many don’t think people should be told to spend money on health care, but they think it fine to tell them where they cannot spend it. More importantly, Republicans have now mounted an all-out and vicious attack on Planned Parenthood. Mike Pence, Representative from Indiana, is introducing a bill that would take away all funding for Planned Parenthood. He was inspired, apparently, by a fake videotape showing someone at Planned Parenthood advising young people how to get an abortion. As in the previous case of Acorn, this involved a fake pimp and an underage girl. The fact that this was entirely faked, and was also promptly turned over to the FBI seems to make little difference. Steve King has come out against Planned Parenthood’s “ghoulish, ghastly, and gruesome” practices, and claims they are involved in child prostitution and illegal immigration (no lie is too outrageous when it comes to abortion). It is hoped that after the exposure of the Acorn fraud, Democrats will not fall for the same scam again (don’t bet on it). Remember, abortion is completely legal in the United States and has been now for quite a long time and, as far as I know, a majority of Americans still favor choice for women over back alleys and coathangers.

Elsewhere here in wonderland we find someone in Mississippi wanting to issue license plates honoring a former KKK leader. In South Carolina there is a move towards printing their own currency as they apparently don’t trust the dollar (would you accept a S.C. bill?). In Arizona (the true never-never land of the 21st century) they are trying to pass legislation that would make it mandatory for anyone seeking hospital care to have to prove their citizenship first (“Die alien, die”). And of course the NRA is actively calling for some kind of armed militia. Representative Connie O’Brien of Kansas has announced she can tell illegal aliens from the color of their skin. And also in Kansas you can apparently now own and use a gun even if blind. Of course Republicans are once again trying to stop funding National Public Radio. The Governor of Wisconsin was to slash wages and benefits for employees and destroy the unions. Ron Paul continues to want to return to the gold standard (as if there’s enough gold in the world to cover all those greenbacks).

The new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has said that if Republican proposals for slashing budgets results in a loss of jobs, “so be it.” You might think that Republicans would be interested in creating jobs as they claimed they were. And you might think they were going to downplay social issues during this election. Obviously their priorities are much the same as always. No abortions, no unemployment benefits, no Social Security, no welfare, no empathy, no mercy.

Of course the “birthers’ are still around, I guess almost 50% of Republicans (maybe more) still don’t believe Obama was born in the U.S. (this is truly incredible). Many more apparently seriously believe he is a Muslim. This is a particularly interesting and revealing case of mindlessness and prejudice, given that it is not illegal to be a Muslim and it wouldn’t really matter much if he was (except, of course, he would have no chance of being re-elected). Notice I have not even mentioned the main axis of mindlessness, that trio of “strong Republican women,” Palin, Angle, and O’Donnell. Don’t forget the axis of has-beens but still wanna-be’s, Gingrich, Bolton, and Giuliani. There are so many hot Republican candidates for President it just makes you want to shout and sing for joy…if you’re a Democrat. Blend any ten of them together and it would still not spell “White Hope.”

Jim Dandy to the rescue!
Jim Dandy to the rescue!
Jim Dandy to the rescue!
Go, Jim Dandy! Go, Jim Dandy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts on Social Security

A few comments on Social Security, something I know little about. But it appears to me that most of our Congresspersons don’t know much about it either, nor, apparently, does the MSM. We hear talk incessantly about the necessity to do something about Social Security, and very often in tandem with complaints about the deficit.

If I understand it correctly, Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, nothing at all. This is not to say that nothing needs to be done about S.S. At the moment it is entirely solvent and supposedly will stay that way at least for another ten years or so. The problem is not like Medicare, that is an entitlement, and will have serious problems soon. Social Security is not funded out of ordinary tax dollars and usually runs a surplus. The fear is that with the retirement of the Baby Boomers there will not be enough young workers to produce enough to meet the increasing demand. There are at least two considerations here that I believe have not received much, if any, attention. If funds for Social Security are produced by contributions taken out of worker’s paychecks, as those paychecks rise because of increased productivity, the contributions should also rise, or should have risen. This has not happened because workers have not been given a proper share in the increased productivity. The additional profits generated by technology and increased productivity, as we well know by now, have not been distributed equally. Worker’s pay has not risen for years and in some instances has actually declined, while the benefits of increased productivity have been given to the wealthy and corporations. Thus, it seems to me, if workers had received their fair share, the discrepancy between what is needed and what is being produced would not be as great as we might think it is or will be. This in and of itself would not solve the problem entirely, but it would have helped.

Second, the argument that there are going to be too many old people to support and not enough young people to support them may well be true. But that can only be a temporary problem, because if there are too few young people now there will also be fewer old people in the future. The system will eventually correct itself. This assumes that birthrates and life expectancy will stay more or less as they are now. If for some reason people begin having more children the system will run pretty much as it was designed. If the birthrates keep falling our society will probably eventually disappear. Of course I have no real idea if this is the way things will work, but I am truly tired with hearing about cutting Social Security along with other “entitlements,” when Social Security is a completely separate entity, backed by the full “faith and trust” of the U.S. Government. There are those who believe the Social Security Trust Fund has essentially been stolen and used for other purposes and to minimize the severity of our debt. If that would prove to be true, and if the U.S. Government now tried to renege on its debt, it would simply be a case of theft, and those responsible should go to jail. I find the thought of our entire Government in jail amusing and under the circumstances justifiable.

I’m not really sure of any of this. I’m pretty sure, however, that Republicans are using every excuse and argument they can find or make up to get rid of Social Security. They have been opposed to it ever since FDR managed to establish it, and will obviously continue to attack it no matter what the facts may be.

Anyway, I have pretty much come to the conclusion that our Government is not really serious about governing. When our Congresspersons complain about the deficit after just giving billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest people on earth, and when they want to repeal health care that will cost us further billions it is hard to take them seriously. When you consider some of the things being proposed it is also difficult to take things seriously. President Obama’s budget, for example, barely dents the Pentagon’s obscenely bloated budget, a situation so bad there is no accountability and they don’t even know where all their billions go. Then consider that Congress is approving funds for certain projects, like extra airplane engines, that the Pentagon doesn’t even want. State Governors are certainly not acting very seriously when, for example, one state now is thinking of establishing its own currency, several others are passing state laws that they think will allow them to override Federal laws, one Governor is threatening to call out the National Guard to suppress unions (shades of the 1920’s), Republicans are all criticizing Obama’s budget but have nothing of their own to offer, as is also the case with repealing health care. In Arizona and Texas there is talk of seceding, the “birthers” are still at it, some now believe the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the Tea Party, and Ron Paul wants to return to the gold standard and has suggested that people just “opt out” entirely. When you consider this along with the fact that laws are being blatantly ignored, like those against torture and such, and Supreme Court Justices engage in exceedingly questionable political behaviors, refuse to recuse themselves from cases when they clearly should, and have obvious conflicts of interest, one can only conclude we are not very serious about things. Things are becoming so absurd it is laughable. How long we can continue this way I do not know. Maybe the Libertarians are right, every man for himself, to hell with anything or anyone else, let the strong survive, organized society is such a drag.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fraser's Penguins - book

Fraser’s Penguins A Journey to the Future in Antarctica, Fen Montaigne (Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2010.

This fascinating book is partly about Bill Fraser who began studying penguins in the Antarctic in 1975, and, with various collaborators, has continued his research on them for thirty years, mostly from Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. It is also, and primarily, about the Adelie penguins he studied most intensively. As it is impossible to study one species without knowing their interactions with others, it is also about giant petrels, brown and South Polar skuas, seals and sea lions, whales, krill, silver fish, other species of penguins, and also about still other related species that are part of the complicated ecosystem of Antarctica. And, as it is also impossible to study creatures independent of their environment, it is also about the sea ice, glaciers, the wind and weather, and the particular geographic niche the Adelie inhabit. The author, who was one of Fraser’s collaborators for a time, has done quite a fine job of explaining how their research was conducted, the difficulties involved, the reasons for collecting things like feces, regurgitated food, pumping out penguin stomachs for information on diet, the condition of the sea ice, the force of the wind, conditions of the water, and so on. It is an exceedingly complicated procedure and over the years has provided a wealth of information about this previously unknown continent.

Montaigne also attempts to explain the strange fascination researchers develop for this extreme part of the earth and why so many wish to return over and over again. He attempts to paint a picture of the Antarctic in prose and does what I think is a very credible job. However, a serous reader soon is forced to conclude that words cannot truly do justice to this mysterious land and you suddenly realize it must be necessary to see it for yourself. As this is not possible for most of us we can only admire this admirable attempt to capture the scene for us. We also get a bit of a history lesson about earlier explorers and researches and some marvelous quotations from their works.

More importantly, this is a book about global warming and the future. Bear in mind that Fraser did not travel to Antarctica in 1975 to study global warming. Indeed, the concept of global warming was not commonly discussed as it has become lately. Global warming was not on Fraser’s mind when he began studying the penguins he became so involved with. He could not, over the years of his experience there, overlook what was obviously happening to his main research subjects. The Adelie penguins survival depends importantly on the presence of sea ice at certain periods of the year. As the sea ice, reliable for hundreds, even thousands of years, began to occur less frequently, the Adelies have began to disappear and the survivors have had to move further and further south where sea ice still remains. Thus the niche the Adelies inhabited has now been more and more taken over by Gentoo penguins that are not dependent upon sea ice and thrive on barren coastal regions. While this is one lesson to be learned from Fraser’s Penguins it is, of course a far more complicated situation, having to do with such things as the temperature of the ocean, increasing amounts of snow, the slowly disappearing plankton and krill, the relationship of the Adelie penguins to the Brown skuas who depend upon them as food, and who, once the Adelie populations begin to decline, can easily wipe out their colonies completely. It is clear that creatures less dependent upon cold environments are moving into areas that are warming and that the ecosystem is changing in ways that simply cannot be denied.

For reasons I could not possibly explain here the Antarctic is quite obviously warming faster than the rest of the globe. Thus it is, in Fraser’s words, like the “canary in the coal mine,” and it should serve as a warning about the massive changes that are taking place in our atmosphere and environments. No reasonable person, reading this detailed account of what is happening at the ends of our earth, could possibly deny that global warming is real, it is largely man-made, and it poses a threat so potentially serious that global warming deniers are putting the rest of us at risk. Their shameful gifts of silver will avail them little if serious action is not taken quickly.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Speculation is the Thief of Time

Speculation is the thief of time, at least when it comes to our 24/7 news programs. If you haven’t noticed, probably 90% or more of what we are exposed to as “news” is merely rampant speculation. I am truly pleased and happy that the Egyptian people have managed to bring down the Mubarak era, and I wish them well for the future. Most of what we have been seeing and listening to for the past 18 days was speculation about what was likely to happen, or not likely to happen, what Mubarak would do, what the police would do, what the army would do, and so on, until, at last, Mubarak stepped down. Now that has happened we will be in for more and more speculation probably for a very long time. What will happen now? Who is going to be in charge? Will the Vice President be in charge? The army? Will they be able to bring about elections? Will they be fair? Who might emerge as the spokesman? What will happen in other Middle East nations? Will the revolution spread? How far? What is going to happen to Israel? What does it mean for the Palestinians? All of these questions will be addressed over and over again ad nauseam. This is because the MSM has to fill up time, and what they cannot offer in just plain “infotainment,” they will take up with this kind of endless speculation. Perhaps this is unavoidable, I don’t know, but sometimes I think we received better news years ago when it used to appear weekly before the local movie. The sad fact is, I guess, it is far cheaper to pay a few talking heads to speculate endlessly than it is to pay genuine reporters to travel the world to gather and report on what is actually happening here and there. And quite frankly, there probably wouldn’t be enough happening to soak up all 24 hours all 7 days a week.

What is going to make this worse is that campaigning for 2012 has already started. This is going to result in non-stop speculation from now until the elections. Will Obama face a Democratic challenger? If so, who? Who will the Republicans pick? Will it be Huckabee? Maybe Palin? Perhaps Romney? Then there is Pawlenty, to say nothing of Barber, Thune, Allen, Santorum, and certainly Ron Paul. Perhaps even Michelle Bachmann will try the waters? And don’t overlook the Bush lurking among the Bushes. There is enough grist here for the speculation mill to last probably a thousand years, too bad it’s only a couple of years until the election. The one thing you can be certain about is that no one will have the patience to wait and see who the candidate is, and we will have to just go on wasting valuable time in idle speculation. This could be avoided if, for example, campaigning was only allowed for a month or two before the election, or if candidates were allowed only limited amounts of public funding, or even if our elections were in any way sensible and not mostly a charade. Of course the major virtue of our current virtually never-ending elections, with their endless speculations, is that they keep us from having to actually worry about what is truly happening in the world or here at home. I mean, why should we worry our pretty little heads about “wars,” or debt, or jobs, or decaying infrastructure, Social Security, health care, and stuff like that, when those things are being taken care of behind the scenes by those very people who control the “news,” and offer us daily the pithy observations of Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and those who decry global warming and environmentalism in favor of instant cash.

Oprah Winfrey is concerned that President Obama is not getting the respect he deserves as President. Others, too, have been concerned that O’Reilly and others have not treated him with sufficient respect, especially those of Fox “News.” I will tell you why, but you will want to deny it. He is being treated disrespectfully because he is Black. It doesn’t matter how good a job he is doing as President, how inspirational he might be, how much he tries to cross the aisle or get along with business, or even if he makes wonderful speeches, denies prejudice, and eats at the lunch counter with Biden, he’s still Black in the eyes of those who cannot give up their long-standing prejudices. However unconsciously on the part of many, and even consciously on the part of a few, they simply cannot believe a Black man can be as good as they are, or even better. Don’t expect them to admit it, they can’t, it would be denying their most deeply held and cherished beliefs, their enculturation, part of their very being. In two or three more generations these “survivals” will have passed away and things will no doubt be different. President Obama is unexpectedly before his time and suffers for it. History has already spit on George W. Bush, I guarantee it will not do the same to Barack Hussein Obama.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's the Media, Stupid

Beautiful mini-skirted Russian
women in high heels shovel snow
in St. Petersburg to attract men.

These Republicans, like me and grandpa, they just don’t seem to do well with these new-fangled gadgets like the internet (you know, that network of tubes), google, instant replay, or even videotape. The latest victim of this burgeoning technology is Representative Christopher Lee, a Republican from New York. Mr. Lee apparently thought he could go public on Craigslist to impress a young lady, with a bare-chested photo of himself, lie about his age and marital status, and somehow get away with it. As he is married with at least one child he was exposed and resigned immediately.

Representative Lee is hardly the first or only Republican to fall victim to a technology they apparently do not understand or appreciate. Bill O’Reilly was just caught in an egregious lie when, to make a point, he authoritatively cited a Parisian publication that doesn’t even exist. Probably even 50 years ago he could have done this and it would have taken so long to discover the truth it wouldn’t have made much difference. Now, however, what with google and the internet and such, a lie can more often than not be exposed immediately.

Nowhere has this been shown more brilliantly than on the Daily Show. When one of the blond bimbos on Fox “news” that pass as commentators (or whatever they are) tell a lie as they often do, they can immediately be exposed as blatant liars. Recently one of them claimed that no one on Fox ever used the term Nazi, but almost instantaneously appeared four or five videos of Fox employees doing just that. They just don’t seem to understand that lying just isn’t what it used to be.

Politicians are beginning to learn (or perhaps not) that lying and hypocrisy is not easy anymore. When a politician now claims he or she did not say something they did say, it has most probably been caught and preserved on videotape and can quickly be found. Even emails, as the Bush White House learned, do not easily disappear and can often be dredged up even when supposedly lost. Similarly, when someone makes a faux pas or is caught in an unguarded moment it can haunt them forever. How many times, for example, did we see President Clinton hugging Monica, or Bush trying to give Merkel a back rub, or the former Senator Allen repeating “Macaca?” How about the sometimes excruciatingly embarrassing confessions of extra-marital affairs? This is, of course, a truly serious problem for serial flip-floppers like John McCain who has been recorded as making at least as many as 61, besides having to admit he didn’t even know how many houses he owns. At the moment many Republicans are being exposed as flip-floppers because in their eagerness to destroy health care they have forgotten they are now opposed even to elements they themselves originally suggested and wanted. One of the things that amazes me the most about this is their complete lack of shame. They are so determined to destroy Obama they are willing to do and say anything even though it completely contradicts their previous positions. If Obama is for it, they are now against it.

The internet and related technologies are slowly changing the way politicians and others have to behave. It was easy to deny history in the past but that is no longer true. History is no longer merely written by the winners, it exists on film and audiotape, not merely as a written recrord. If there is some disagreement about what someone actually said or meant we can now go to the original and usually settle the argument. And as Wikileaks has now made clear, even governing is no longer as simple (and private) as it was. Transparency is not something we just think about, it is increasingly demanded. There is no doubt that the internet has played an important role in the current unrest in Egypt and the Middle East. Facebook, for example, has been apparently instrumental in the revolutionary uprisings in Egypt. As more and more of the world is becoming part of this amazing development who is to know what monumental changes might be in store for the human community? I sometimes fear that technological developments are moving too fast for moral and ethical standards to keep up. I think this is true, for example, of genetically modified crops and animals, and certainly the case in the technology of war and killing. Somehow I don’t fear the internet, that I hope will eventually prove to be a remarkable aid in human affairs (that can certainly need all the help we can find).

They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.
Dorothy Parker

Paper money originated in ancient China in the form of “notes,” allowing the bearer to redeem coins left with trustworthy individuals.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Delaware Grifter

Christine O’Donnell, the Delaware Grifter, is at it again, fund raising that is. This is a woman, somewhere now around 40 years of age, who has never had a job (or masturbated?), and, aside from some apparent talent for getting on TV shows, has no particular qualifications for office of any kind, let alone the U.S. Senate. She has run for office several times and never even come close to winning. Nonetheless, she wants people to send her money so she can “defeat the left” and save our country from something-or-other. I rather suspect she also needs money to pay her rent, but perhaps not. It seems you don’t need any qualifications whatsoever to run for public office, and running for public office has now apparently become a career in and of itself for some. Think also of Sharron Angle, and the absolute Prince of this kind of “con,” Alan Keyes. Actually, the Housewife from Hell, Sarah Palin, has probably worked this particular racket much more successfully and profitably than anyone in history. Short of starting your own Church of the Appallingly Demented this would appear to be a fine career choice.

Republicans have been in charge of the House of Representatives for more than a month now, during which time they have done absolutely nothing in the way of creating jobs or improving the economy, other than threatening to cut budgets indiscriminately and wherever found. They appear to be absolutely obsessed with trying to denigrate women and overturn Roe vs Wade, long established law in the U.S. Was there some secret understanding on the part of voters to vote for candidates who would attack women and their rights? I thought they were elected to “take our country back,” create jobs, and reduce taxes and government influence over our lives. Boy, was I wrong! I wonder, is there going to be some voter’s remorse?

I have been trying to think of when it was that I began to believe Republicans were either stupid or crazy or both. I know when I began to believe they were criminal. That was even before Bush/Cheney, when they attempted to destroy President Clinton by any means possible. And of course this criminal approach to politics continued with the Bush/Cheney administration, especially under the guidance of Karl Rove who perfected the technique of “roviation,” the absolutely unprincipled attack on anyone who stood in the way of their attempt to create a permanent criminal empire. Happily they did not succeed in this attempt, and the present Republican Party is so inept it has now become a completely lost cause.

However much I did not agree with Republicanism throughout my lifetime I did not until fairly recently begin to believe they were stupid and crazy, not even during the last years of the Bush/Cheney catastrophe. I might have thought they were criminal, perhaps even evil, but I didn’t think of them as stupid and crazy, not until more recently. I guess this change really began with the election of President Obama and has to do, in part at least, with the fact that he is Black, or Black and White, or at least “Other.” This fact seems to have completely “unhinged” some people. I don’t see how else one might explain the “birthers,” for example. I do not believe that if a White person, raised in Hawaii (or even Indonesia for a time), had been elected President, anyone would have questioned his citizenship (or the state of Hawaii). Nor do I believe anyone would have been concerned about his being a Muslim. The fact that Obama’s father was a Kenyan, and that as a boy, Obama, went to school for a short time in Indonesia, is apparently too exotic a background for many Americans to fully accept. There is an element of racism involved I am sure, but it is his “Otherness” that seems to be the most important element making people suspicious of him. There are still, even now, citizens who do not believe Obama was really born in the U.S., and there are apparently fully 46% of Republicans who believe he is a Muslim. There are also those who believe he is a Marxist, socialist, communist, fascist, or alien “plant,” as well. As there is absolutely no truth to claims that he was not U.S. born, or that he is a Muslim, and as there is apparently no way to convince these unbelievers, I can only conclude the they are either stupid or insane, or both. This poses a genuine problem for Obama and his administration, because while it is possible to deal with criminals, one way or another, it is not possible to deal with the insane and the stupid. I still believe in the 20-20 rule, 20% of the people think you are wonderful, 20% think you are awful, and the remaining 60% don’t really think much at all, but unfortunately, that is where the future lies.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Republican Infanticide

I know where Republicans stand on abortion, but I’m not clear on where they stand on infanticide. If a woman does not for whatever reason want to have a child there are only three possibilities, abortion, adoption, or infanticide. Infanticide is by no means unknown on a worldwide basis. In the New Guinea Highlands where I once worked for a while infanticide, while not common, was certainly practiced. First of all the people there believed that having twins was “animal-like” and one would be put to death usually right at birth. They also lived in a state of perpetual fear of attack by their enemies, and they argued that in event of an attack a woman could not take two children and flee, so they sometimes sacrificed one child for that reason. I would not say they wanted to do this, but it was, in their eyes, a necessity at times. I know that infanticide also occurs in other parts of the world, certainly among people who have no reliable means of abortion.

Why do I think this has anything to do with Republicans? Well, basically because they seem to be obsessively concerned that all pregnant women must deliver their babies, but do not seem to be much concerned with the fate of those babies. Obviously they cannot argue against abortion and then in favor of infanticide. Besides, infanticide in the U.S. is illegal and no respectable person, even a Republican, would argue in favor of infanticide. But infanticide does rarely occur in the U.S., we read occasionally of a woman, usually a young woman, leaving a newborn infant in a restroom or a dumpster, or wherever. And sometimes we hear of women who drown their children, or shoot them, or smother them, or kill them in some other way. And, of course, there are terrible cases of child abuse where an infant is put in a dryer or a microwave or even in a frying pan. In cases like this we usually assume some form of mental illness for the perpetrator, or a situation in which the mother is not in a position to have a child. In general, no one in the U.S. would favor infanticide of any kind.

I cannot help but wonder, however, what it is Republicans believe is going to happen to all these babies women will be forced to have against their will? It is most unlikely that all of them will be adopted, and they cannot simply be destroyed. Republicans do not seem very interested in welfare, they would prefer not to even offer food stamps. They also are not interested in minimum wages and are unconcerned about unemployment benefits, and they are opposed to spending money on child care. They would like to do away with Social Security which offers some help to young mothers. They also are not in favor of universal health care. They are not interested in full employment and seem to favor shipping American jobs overseas where labor is cheaper. Thus, if a woman is forced to bear a child, has no means of supporting it other than perhaps at a genuine poverty level, what is she supposed to do? It certainly seems to me that Republican anti-abortion positions are clearly not consistent with, or even related to the reality of life in the U.S. This is just another example of our “shoot first, worry later” philosophy. And of course this Republican insistence on no abortion is completely inconsistent with their claim they are opposed to government intervention in our lives. Given their attitudes towards welfare and such you would think they would welcome abortions, the more the better. I believe it was Jonathan Swift who suggested a cure for poverty would be to have people simply eat their children. I guess Republicans haven’t heard of this possible solution. We do have to make some allowances for them, they are, after all, Republicans.

Well, I learned today that still another of my best friends has died. Professor John G. Kennedy, a truly fine anthropologist. He was 83 and has been under care for a very severe case of Parkinson’s for several years. I believe his death was a blessing. I do not know how it is, or why it is, that I have been so fortunate. Most all of my former classmates, friends, and colleagues, are slowly slipping away, truly sad, but inevitable. It was John who first exposed me to Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.
rave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, and Wrong

She calls 911 because they argue,
again because he calls her names,
finally, because he “won’t shut up.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. I find it amazing that so many things could go wrong at once, at least in my humble opinion. I think, for example, it was wrong for President Obama to give an interview to Bill O’Reilly. It was totally pointless, as are all interviews with this pompous bullying jerk, and nothing of any importance whatsoever was accomplished. Obama should have known better. I think it is also wrong for the MSM to report on whatever the Housewife from Hell has to say about anything. Sarah Palin, a housewifely brood mare, somehow managed to get herself elected as mayor of some little dump of a town in Alaska and parlayed that into becoming Governor of a state with a small and scattered population where much of the population was most likely not even much concerned with who their governor was. She was, by most accounts, not much of a governor and quit halfway through her first term. If she had not been mysteriously picked as John McCain’s running mate she would have remained a nonentity. It is widely agreed she is not qualified to become President of the U.S., she knows little or nothing of world affairs, but she is now allowed on national television to criticize the foreign and domestic policies of the President of the United States. It is rather like going to a bowling alley and asking one of the women bowlers what they think of foreign affairs. Apparently she can see Egypt from her front porch. This is not only wrong, it is utterly disgusting.

More importantly, I believe it is wrong for President Obama to believe that corporate America is in any way patriotic. In his speech today to the business community he appealed to their patriotism to create jobs here in America, saying, “I know you all love America.” These are nowadays mostly international corporations, they are interested in profits, not patriotism. And there are few jobs to be created as these corporations are doing better than ever with the employees they have, they are not going to hire more out of some sense of patriotic duty. He should have read them the riot act, closed their loopholes and raised their taxes, rather than try to sweet talk them into something they have no intention of doing.

It is also wrong, very wrong, to keep uncritically supporting Israel if, indeed, we are supposed to be serious about establishing peace in the Middle East. There can never be peace in that part of the world as long as Israel persists in stealing Palestinian land and water and building more and more illegal settlements. Obama has asked them to cease and they have just ignored him. In Egypt he has called for Mubarak to step down (more or less, it is not completely clear what his position is) and that, too, is being ignored. Iran pays little or no attention to our threats. The U.S. is increasingly becoming a “paper tiger” in the eyes of the world, our influence is disappearing, our “empire” is in trouble, and we are on the wrong side of history.

On the Republican side it is wrong for them to claim they are interested in creating jobs. They have done absolutely nothing along the lines of creating jobs and seem to be concentrating on an all-out attack on women and reproductive rights. Some of their proposals are little more than horrifying, like letting hospitals allow pregnant women to die on their doorsteps rather than give them life-saving abortions, and changing the definition of rape to chip away at Roe vs Wade. Amazingly, there are still women who support these sexist butchers. Apparently they keep pursuing this theme relentlessly because they have no other ideas, other than cutting taxes and reducing government, the single theme they parrot over and over and over. And all of their pie-in-the-sky promises to reduce government spending by billions is now running up against reality and they have little to say that makes any sense whatsoever.

They are also wrong to keep threatening Social Security as a way to reduce our deficit. How many times do they need to be told that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, Medicare and Medicaid, yes, Social Security, no. They have hungered to do away with Social Security ever since it was started by FDR and they cling to this desire like eels on a horse’s head. This desire is not only wrong, it is wrong in triple digits. We are clearly wrong not to take global warming seriously, and wrong to drill in the deep oceans and the arctic, wrong not to spend on education and infrastructure, and certainly wrong to think President Obama is a socialist.

I guess one might argue I think everything is wrong. It is wrong to continue in Afghanistan, wrong not to have closed Guantanamo, wrong to not get out of Iraq, wrong not to have investigated Bush/Cheney for war crimes, wrong to use drones, cluster bombs, and assassinations, and wrong to give tax breaks to the obscenely wealthy, and wrong to cling to the idea of American exceptionalism. We seem to be swimming in an ocean of wrong and, strangely, getting farther from shore the harder we swim.

Yes, I do think there are things that are right, certainly in principle, but not many seem to be interested these days in doing things that are right.

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!
H. L. Mencken

There are approximately 800 species of eels.