Sunday, March 27, 2011

Escape to Sanity

I will not be blogging for a few days as I am planning an escape into sanity. The situation in the United States, and also the world, has deteriorated to the point of insanity. I need a respite. I will eschew television and the internet (I never listen to the radio). They will be available to me but I will use my iron determination and self-discipline to ignore them completely (maybe, perhaps, possibly, honestly, hopefully). I intend to sit by the fire and read a fine book I have found on the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution. Once in a while I’ll look out the window and watch the rain.

I believe things began to change for the worse under the reign of Saint Ronnie the Obtuse, when the Republican Party began its precipitous decline. This decline continued under the guidance of Bush senior, the Godfather. When their plans for world domination were interrupted by the upstart, Bill Clinton the Clever, what had originally been an ordinary political party, could not defeat Clinton legitimately, so it began to take on a decidedly unprecedented and dastardly course by mounting an unprincipled attack on his personal life. Under George W. Bush the Dumb, and his chief henchman, Dick the Slimy, it soon became little more than a full-blown criminal conspiracy, a kind of Brafia (Bush/Republican Mafia). Interrupted once again by the failure of John McCain the Traitorous and his poorly chosen sidekick, The Housewife from Hell, to defeat even a preposterously named Black man for the Presidency, the party has now morphed into what appears to be primarily a home for the criminally insane and the altogether religiously “bonkers.” They have not given up their attempt to create a Fascist government. About the last serious organized resistance, labor unions, are now in their sights, if they succeed in taking away the right to assemble and unionize we can kiss any semblance of democracy goodbye forever.

Here in the early years of the 21st century we find ourselves at the mercy of “leaders” who are ideologically driven and do not even attempt to lead. The idea of governing in the best interest of the citizens has been forgotten in favor of arguing positions that were settled long ago by most sentient beings, evolution vs. creationism, the bible vs. science, the age of the earth, benevolent government vs. social Darwinism, women’s rights vs. patriarchy, the right to unionize vs. Fascism, gays in the military vs. homophobia, global warming vs. ignorance, and, if some were to get their way, even who should be allowed to vote. The most pressing problems of our time, like unemployment, recession, the environment, global warming, the unequal distribution of wealth, decent health care, neglected education and infrastructure, and so on, are seemingly not a matter of concern for the Republicans. Indeed, they have announced as their single most important concern is getting rid of President Obama. Towards that end they have consistently refused to cooperate in the urgent needs facing our country. In my view this is insanity writ large. I need to escape, if only for a brief time.

It is not only Republicans who are the problem, of course. Some Democrats are just as guilty of ignoring the public interest in favor of their own political ambitions. As a result of the last election when these assorted loonies somehow managed to get elected and now control the House of Representatives we are pretty much stymied. We have three “wars” we can ill afford, no one knows when or even if they will ever end, or what the outcomes will bring. All three of these “wars” are both unconstitutional and illegal but nothing can be done about it. We had a recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that made it very clear we do not know how to prevent serious accidents, the largest oil spill ever, but now, just a few months later we are going to begin deepwater drilling again. Japan just experienced a terrible nuclear plant accident as a result of an earthquake and tsunami which may, before it’s over, rival Chernobyl in devastation, but some are downplaying its importance and show no serious signs of giving up on this exceedingly dangerous form of energy production (still arguing mindlessly that it is safe). The Germans are giving up on nuclear energy entirely, the Norwegians have stopped ocean drilling, but there is no indication we are about to do the same. We have fallen far and seriously behind the rest of the industrialized world in education, our infrastructure is badly decayed, our manufacturing capacity has been disappearing, our totally inefficient and ridiculous health care system is bankrupting us, the obscene disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots” has made our economics a shambles, but the wealthy and the corporations demand more and more and have the support of the empowered. What is worse, global warming is probably the worst potential disaster ever to face us, but because a significant number of those who now hold power do not believe in science, and therefore do not believe in global warming, little can be done about it. They apparently are not intelligent enough to realize that believing in fairy tales is not enough and that science cannot be mocked without truly disastrous results. Quaint and superstitious religious beliefs have been largely given up by most of the “civilized” world, but not here in the good ol’ U. S. A., where many really believe God created the earth in a few days only about 6000 years ago, and the sounds of the piano are made by little angels dancing around on the strings. At the moment it seems to me we are entirely surrounded by, and adrift in, a sea of insanity. Give me a break! I shall return most probably on Saturday, April 2nd. In the meanwhile, (try to) be of good cheer.

Friday, March 25, 2011


There! I’ve done it again!. Invented another word, that is. I have previously offered definitions for “roviate” and “brafia.” Neither of these has as yet entered the Official English Dictionary, nor, as far as I can tell, have they ever been adopted by anyone. That’s the trouble with genius, it is often not appreciated at the time. Oh, well, another day, another word, another disappointment.

Stragedy n.: when strategy goes wrong and ends up as tragedy. This strikes me as a potentially very useful word. Consider, for example, the current Republican strategy to make President Obama a one term President by refusing to cooperate with him and attacking him no matter what he does. Whatever you might think of Obama, I believe this strategy has a very strong possibility of turning into a tragedy for the Republicans (not that I would care in the least, indeed, I sincerely hope it does). I doubt that a purely negative strategy has much chance of success even in the best of circumstances, but with things as bad as they are, and no Republican alternative on the horizon, I can’t see much future for this negative approach. I think this is reflected in the absence of any truly viable Republican candidate for the Presidency. They seem to understand this, perhaps unconsciously I think, because in the absence of any positive platform of their own they are failing to put forward any first-rate candidates, believing they will be unable to defeat Obama in 2012. You will notice, I hope, that all of the candidates so far are second-raters, even third-raters, or even worse. These obviously egomaniacal Republicans I am sure do not consider themselves second and third-raters, but they are. Probably the best of the sorry lot is Mitt Romney, but he is handicapped by being a Mormon (a cult in the eyes of many of the Evangelicals), has been caught lying more than once, and even worse, is guilty of having promoted health care. Huckabee, who seems to have some traction, is another religious nut case who doesn’t believe in evolution, science, and, I assume global warming. This might get him the nomination but will not get him the Presidency. Pawlenty of Minnesota is said to be homophobic, racist, and misogynistic, and hardly anyone has heard of him. Candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and others are simply laughable. Of course even they are not as laughable as Donald Trump. I find it hard to believe the Republican Party cannot do better than this, but perhaps they can’t (if that is so, they are even worse off than I imagine).

While the above might be the best example of stragedy it is not the only one. Consider our position in Libya. The strategy, I suppose, was/is to protect innocent lives by preventing Gadaffi’s forces from killing indiscriminately. This was presumably to be accomplished by air and sea power alone, with no ground troops, a rather stupid idea to begin with, as we should already have known that air power alone could not possibly succeed. The strategy, according to Obama, should have focused on getting rid of Gadaffi, but the military strategy does not have that in mind. In short, we don’t know what we are doing, our strategy is doomed to fail if Gadaffi cannot be stopped by air and sea power alone, and thus has every indication of resulting in tragedy.

In Afghanistan our strategy has failed miserably, both or all of them. That is, we began by thinking we could defeat the Taliban militarily but that strategy has not worked, then the strategy became “winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans,” but that has not worked either. The Taliban, who were not our enemies in the first place, but then became our enemies, are just as strong as ever. Our hand-picked leader has not been a resounding success, the opium crop flourishes, and, while no one wants to admit it, the whole enterprise has turned out to be a stragedy.

You might well say that our Middle East strategy that we have pursued for so many years is most probably going to result in tragedy. That is, for years we have supported dictators, no matter how awful, because we insisted on stability above all else, stability in the interest of keeping the oil flowing. Our strategy has also involved supporting Israel, no matter how terrible their war crimes and racism, because they were our best ally in the Middle East. There are good reasons for believing this strategy is also going to result in tragedy. With the recent demands in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and other nations in that area for dramatic changes in government there is no guarantee that what emerges will be particularly friendly to the U.S. (probably for good reason, given our history there). It also does not augur well for Israel, the result being quite possibly another stragedy.

I rather like my new words, roviate, brafia, and stragedy. You, of course, don’t have to like them. I refer you to what Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, “When I use a word it means just what I want it to mean; neither more nor less.”

The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur.
George W. Bush

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When is a "War?"

President Obama has returned from his South America trip to face accusations that he went to “war” without first consulting Congress. Ignore for a moment the fact that the last time Congress was properly consulted was apparently 1942. Also ignore the obvious fact that Bush/Cheney also went to “war” without proper authorization, as did Clinton, and still others, depending upon what is meant by war. What makes this current situation interesting is the claim by the Obama Administration that what is happening in Libya is not a war. No war has been declared. If no war has been declared Obama cannot be accused or found guilty of going to war without Congressional authorization. Simple, no? Obama has a point here because there is some kind of humanitarian clause in the U.N. mandate, and who will prove that we did not act on purely humanitarian motives (which I don’t personally believe). Anyway, calls for his impeachment or whatever will go absolutely nowhere, and I bet Bush/Cheney are wishing people would shut up about it.

There’s no point in turning to the dictionary. There are several definitions of war, some of which might think Libya is a war and some would not so consider it. War or not it is certainly a clever bit of fiction. That is, we claim we are not leading this enterprise even though we obviously have been. Now it will be “turned over” to the UN. But everyone knows that the U.S. will still be in charge, however much in the background. I wonder if anyone at all is going to be fooled into believing otherwise?

It really doesn’t matter if it’s a “war” or not, Republicans are going to criticize Obama no matter what he does. What truly irks me, as you know, is criticism from the likes of New Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and that awful Bachmann woman. Obviously any American citizen has the right to criticize the President, and we all do quite often, but the MSM doesn’t drool over us as they seem to do when any of these three jerks speak. Bachmann has a screw loose, Palin in an ignoramus, and Gingrich is a known hypocritical liar, why should their opinions be given so much credence (or at least coverage). I think many of our news broadcasters are similarly of limited capacity. One of them today wondered why Donald Trump (the jerk of all jerks) was insisting on seeing Obama’s birth certificate (if he was not intending to really run for President). I should think it would be perfectly obvious, he does it for the same reason he does everything else, publicity, pure and simple. He has no intention of running for President (assuming the Republicans would be stupid enough to allow it) and is getting millions of dollars worth of publicity by acting as an absolute idiot (maybe he’s not acting).

While Americans are desperate for jobs, Republicans are desperate to stop abortions, gay marriage, gays in the military, labor unions, collective bargaining, Medicare and Medicaid, and most of all (they falsely claim) reducing the deficit by reducing spending (the antithesis of job creation). The newly elected Tea Party Governors have proven themselves to be genuine mercenaries, intent on carrying out their corporate instructions to abolish the middle class at all costs. It appears it will eventually cost them dearly. Perhaps this is a good thing as it seems to have awakened the public at long last and it bodes well for the future, If, that is, we are to have any future. The fall-out from Fukushima is still by no means over, several permits for more deepwater drilling have been awarded recently, Obama is still talking about the merits of nuclear energy, and it looks like it will be business as usual. It seems to be true, we just never learn. Norway has stopped drilling in the ocean because of the potential disaster that might lie there, Germany is doing away entirely with nuclear energy, but we, with our usual shoot first, ask questions later approach, will apparently plunge on mindlessly until it is too late. And global warming, remember that, was briefly considered to be a serious problem. Concern for it seems to have pretty much waned. Perhaps this is because 3/4ths of our Congresspersons are said to not believe in science. This really does not bode well for the future. In a closely related matter, a recent report suggests that most of the industrial nations have pretty much abandoned religion. Here we are building Creationist Museums . If you don’t believe this is an extremely dangerous situation you obviously don’t think.

I confess to feeling trapped in a country I no longer recognize and would consider leaving. But at my age, and in my particular circumstances, this is impossible. It’s even more impossible because if I mention it my wife immediately asks, “Where would you move?” I find this hard to answer, Europe is no better off, perhaps worse off, many places are politically unstable, others are subject to natural disasters, many have dictatorial governments, unstable currencies, and on and on. So I dream of the past, finding a small town somewhere where one can walk to the local family-owned butcher shop, bakery, grocery, hardware store, get a house-call from the family doctor, garden, and live more like I believe people were meant to live. This is my American dream, one that can no longer come true. But if you hear of such a place, let me know.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Can't We Get "Real?"

Montana man uses his
divorce papers to start fire
to burn down his wife’s business.

Why can’t we get “real” (as we once were). I am more and more convinced that news 7/24 is probably the worst idea ever. I don’t want to invoke “the good old days,” as in fact they weren’t so great. But at least back then when we got some news it was real news, not just BS or infotainment. We listened to the news on the radio, perhaps a whole half hour of it, and we read newspapers, and when we went to a movie there was always a short news item before the movie itself. We didn’t really get much news, but at least it was news, not pap.

Why should we have to hear what Newt Gingrich has to say on a daily basis. Newt Gingrich is no more than a has-been who holds no office, in fact lost his office in disgrace, and obviously says whatever he thinks will get him more attention. One day he’s for attacking Libya, the next day he’s not. He is, in fact, a nobody. He keeps telling us, because the media allows him to, that he might, maybe, perhaps, depending, think about running for President if enough suckers send him some money. He does this for publicity and to dupe money out of people stupid enough to believe he is something other than a hypocritical blowhard, having cultivated an image of being some kind of intellectual giant (among Republicans it doesn’t take much to be an intellectual giant). He is not going to run for President, and in the remote chance that he did he would get exactly nowhere. He is a true phony. If it weren’t for the demands of news 7/24 we wouldn’t even be hearing about him.

Then there is Giuliani who spent millions of dollars last time he ran for President and received, as I recall, one (1) useful vote. He, too, is as phony as can be, probably has no intention of running again, but craves attention, and gets it from a media that has nothing better to do.

Don’t forget the Housewife from Hell, Sarah Palin. She, too, pretends she might be running for President. She has managed to convert her 15 minutes of fame (thanks to John McCain who apparently has no shame at all) into a fortune, and blissfully ignorant, tells us now all about foreign policy, economics, and how she and McCain might have won had she been first on the ticket. Again, I doubt she really will run, and if she does she will get absolutely clobbered.

Michelle Bachmann also makes noises about running for President, a development so ridiculous I hesitate to even mention it. There is some doubt in my mind if she is truly sane, at best she is a bit “dotty” and rarely if ever gets anything right. I cannot imagine how she gets re-elected unless her constituents there In Minnesota are just as dotty as she is (what a thought).

Equally as absurd in terms of news are people like Christine O’Donnell, Angle, and the “Rents too High” guy. No doubt there are others in this category as well. My point here is, why do we have to hear about these candidates at all. For the most part they are unqualified for the offices they aspire to, have nothing of substance to add to the dialogue, and basically are just a complete waste of time except for taking up space and time on the pretend news that has replaced what used to be real news. This is, I think, mostly the result of news 7/24 and the need for constant “fill,” being too cheap to actually hire lots of real reporters and sending them around the world to bring us the facts of what is actually happening. It’s cheaper just to get stuff from the central source, jazz it up with a bunch of nonsense, and inflict it upon a gullible public. This sad situation also has to do with the control of the media by just a few giant corporations who prefer it this way. After all, an educated public might actually challenge their outrageous behavior.

There are, I guess, a few genuine candidates for the Republican nomination, Romney, Huckabee, and now Pawlenty would seem at the moment to be legitimate. We don’t hear any more about them than we do about the phony ones, and in some cases even less. Perhaps additional serious candidates may emerge but they haven’t as yet, and none of the above three are any great shakes, so to speak. Republicans apparently believe the way to defeat Obama is to constantly demean and criticize him no matter what he does, so they seem somewhat unconcerned about having a first-rate candidate (if they can find one, doubtful from the ranks of Republicans these days). Given the record of the Tea Party Governors and Congresspersons so far , I doubt that even Superman or Superwoman could save them. No matter how much one might dislike President Obama it appears that once again he may well be “the only game in town.”

Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
George Orwell

“French fries” most probably originated with the Belgians.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Bit Confusing

One of my favorite columnists, Eugene Robinson, being interviewed today by Lawrence O’Donnell, ended his remarks by saying, “It’s a bit confusing.” I think this should win an award for being one of the greatest understatements of all time. Robinson was speaking specifically about the “war” in Libya, but I think his statement surely has a broader application.

With respect to Libya you might well say all there is, is utter confusion. There is no stated goal, no known outcome, no understanding of what might eventually happen. While President Obama has said Gadaffi must go, the Pentagon says he is not a target. It is now regarded as possible that even after our intervention Gadaffi might survive. This, it seems to me, will have rendered our efforts basically meaningless. Of course our efforts are not well defined, according to Obama we entered into this for purely humanitarian grounds (to save civilian lives). Of course in the attempt to save civilian lives from Gadaffi, we will have no doubt taken some ourselves. It is not entirely clear what will happen to Libya whether Gadaffi survives or not. There doesn’t seem to be any organized opposition that could take over the running of the government. The rebels are poorly armed, poorly organized, and most probably would have no chance against Gadaffi’s well armed supporters. Somewhere I read there is someone who is believed to be the successor, picked by the U.S. I don’t know if this is true or not. If there is a “real” reason for our intervention (having perhaps to do with oil), it is not being reported. Some say Obama was talked into this adventure by Hillary Clinton and some other women. Who knows? Obama says we did not lead in this attack (a most questionable assertion), and that in a few days we will turn things over to someone else, but that someone else is not specified (the U.N.?). Obama has also vowed that no U.S. ground troops will ever be employed. At the same time it is widely acknowledged that air power alone will not be adequate to do the job. If that is so, will there ever be troops on the ground, and if so, whose? If we did not lead this attack, why would we be in a position to “turn things over?” Then there is the question of why intervene in Libya but not in Yemen or Bahrain, for example. Good question but can’t be honestly answered because of the obvious hypocrisy involved. No one really asks about why not Saudi Arabia because the answer is so painfully obvious. It seems pretty obvious that realistically we cannot afford a third “war” in the Middle East, so where is the money coming from? Some in Congress are critical because Obama has gone too far, some are critical because he has not gone far enough. Some say he had to get Congressional permission while others say he has all the authority he needs without it. So without going further, I should think it is obvious that it really is a bit confusing (if not worse).

This situation in Libya is hardly the only thing that is confusing these days. How about those Republicans who campaigned on creating jobs but have done absolutely nothing with respect to jobs, other than promote ideas that would undoubtedly result in even fewer jobs. Or how about their promises to reduce the debt when they have done nothing that would not actually create more debt? How about the “culture wars” that were supposed to not feature in the coming elections? Since the election Republicans have launched an all-out attack on abortion. They have also attempted to do away with unions and collective bargaining, something they were clearly not elected to do. Republicans really do confuse me. They don’t have the Black vote, and they certainly don’t have the Hispanic vote, and now they are attacking both women and unions? Does that make any sense for a so-called political party? Not only that, they are trying to do away with Medicare and Social Security as well. That should mean they won’t get the senior vote. Do they really think they can win an election with votes only from a few Tea Party nitwits and the Ku Klux Klan?

Finally, for the moment at least, there is Japan (remember Japan, nuclear disaster, happened just before Libya?). There are all sorts of conflicting reports about what is or might be happening as a result of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant problem. Some say it is under control, others say it is not. Some say the radiation levels are not dangerous, some say they are. It seems there is radiation now in some of the milk, spinach, and other foods, but the extent of this is not well established. The long range effects are unknown. In spite of this horrible disaster we have some who are determined to build more nuclear plants and argue they are completely safe (this is an argument that only makes sense if you realize you are dealing with absolute lunatics or corporations). You have to admit it truly is a bit confusing.

Here is a poem from the latest Saturday Review of Literature that I think is quite fine:

Except That It Robs You of Who You Are

Except that it robs you of who you are,
What can you say about speech?
Inconceivable to live without
And impossible to live with,
Speech diminishes you.
Speak with a wise man, there’ll be
Much to learn; speak with a fool,
All you get is prattle.
Strike a half-empty pot, and it’ll make
A loud sound; strike one that is full,
Says Kabir, and hear the silence.

Kabir (c. 1440-1518), translated from the Hindi
By Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Monday, March 21, 2011

Very Interesting

The United Nations Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, has made a list of things the United States must do to bring itself into compliance with International Laws. Most of the recommendations have to do with investigating torture. We are supposed to investigate the senior people who were responsible for our program of torture. This is a welcome development if a bit late in coming. But it is almost surely going to put us on a collision course with the U.N.

The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to not investigate the Bush/Cheney administration, even though both Bush and Cheney have admitted to torture. It seems to me most unlikely that Obama and Holder will now change their policy and actually try to investigate this unsavory (and most un-American) business. Of course most of the rest of the world already knows that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others were responsible. They have already had to cancel trips overseas because of the fear of arrest. If we now fail to investigate and prosecute, our hypocrisy on such matters will be magnified.

Of course our hypocrisy is already well-known to the rest of the world. It is on display once again in Libya where we are now trying to get rid of a dictator that we have recently been supporting. We have elected to help the rebels, thus taking sides in what is really a civil war, and we are explaining this on humanitarian grounds. That is, we are intervening, we say, to protect civilians from being murdered by the leader of their own country. But we are not doing the same thing in Bahrain where civilians are being murdered by forces from Saudi Arabia. We are also not making a point of intervening in Yemen even though we are undoubtedly doing so behind the scenes. Of course we did not intervene in Rwanda or the Congo either. Some are now saying our intervention in Libya is a result of our guilt over having not done so. We have also supported Israel for years even though they have violated more U.N. rules far more than any other country, ever. There is no doubt whatsoever that Israel has and is committing war crimes, have acted totally without conscience when it comes to the Palestinians, and will continue to do so as long as they are assured of our unconditional support. This is an incredible history of hypocrisy by a nation that claims to lead the world in human rights. As long as we continue to support this racist regime, bent on the slow genocide of Palestinians, there will never be peace in the Middle East.

And what of the hypocrisy involved in claiming to protect civilians from Gaddafi while we drop bombs indiscriminately killing civilians ourselves (collateral damage). There is not the slightest doubt we have been killing civilians for years in Afghanistan. Some of our “brave troops” are now in trouble for having posed with civilians they (apparently proudly) killed. Think of Madeleine Albright’s answer when asked whether the deaths of 500,000 Iraq children as a result of our sanctions was worth it, and she replied that it was, in what has to be one of the most ridiculously callous and asinine statements ever made.

President Obama is being severly criticized from both the left and the right. You know he will be criticized by Republicans for anything he does as that has been their policy from the beginning. Some now say he has gone too far, others that he hasn’t gone far enough, some say he should have gotten Congressional approval, others say he’s completely within his rights as President. Some believe he clearly did the right thing, others believe he clearly did the wrong thing.The pretense that we are just helping others and are not really leading is so transparently false it is laughable. However, if Obama really does “turn it over to others in a few days” he will probably get away with it. If that doesn’t happen I think he will find himself in real serious trouble.

I am not in favor of any more “war” anywhere. I wish Obama had not been involved in Libya, if for no other reason that it seems so confused. Obama has said he wants Gaddafi gone, the Pentagon says he is not a target. There is talk now that he might actually survive. If he does somehow survive I cannot even imagine the consequences. My suspicious mind tells me this is all about oil, like everything else we do in the Middle East, either actually getting the oil or controlling it. Whether Gaddafi survives or not, it is not going to be business as usual.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ho hum, Just Another War

Ho hum, just another war in the Middle East for us to meddle in. Can anyone actually make sense out of what we are doing bombing and shelling Libya? President Obama says we cannot just sit idly by while civilians are being killed. From our behavior up until now I might easily take that to mean we want to be involved in killing them ourselves, as we have been doing for years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now, I guess, Libya. Of course, according to Obama, we are not really responsible for what is happening in Libya, being merely supporters of a noble cause led by France, England, and even the Arab states. This makes no sense to me whatever. I understand why the U.S. wants to pretend it is not responsible for what is happening, and if other countries want to go along with the gag, I guess that is their business. But you can bet we will be in the forefront of the attack (which we are), and you can also bet that if anything goes wrong we’ll be the ones who will have to continue this “war.”

I confess I have no idea what this is all about. It makes no sense (I’m not certain our foreign policy ever made sense). We have supported Ka daffy for years, just as we have supported other dictators in the Middle East. So are we to also now be willing to attack the dictators in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and others? We are certainly not coming to the aid of Bahrain, now being “saved” by troops from Saudi Arabia. And we are certainly never going to attack Saudi Arabia. The fact that Arab countries are complicit now in this attack on Libya is fascinating, given the fact they show no signs of changing their own ways. So what is this all about? It seems that Ka daffy has no friends, no one likes him. I guess that is why other Arab states are willing to support our latest “war.” So now I guess the new standard of who is to be attacked is whether or not they are liked by others. Does that make sense?

It’s not as if we can’t afford another “war.” I heard just the other day that we are not broke and, in fact, can still borrow money are very low rates (that has certainly eased my fears). I also heard somewhere that this adventure in Libya probably won’t cost more than a billion or so. It’s like the late (and very much missed) Everett Dirksen said, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” Now we are confronted with the so far unanswered question, are we to continue to be the world’s policeman? What is going on in Libya, as far as I can see, is a potential civil war. As such, it should not be any of our business. Protecting civilians is obviously just an excuse for intervention. Why would we want to intervene? Out of a sense of basic humanity? An exercise in altruism? How about the same reason we intervene everywhere else, Oil? I suspect this is in fact what it is about. Libya has oil, as do many other Middle East nations. We need oil. To insure a constant supply of that wondrous substance we support dictators, ignore human rights, and fight “wars” to make sure we can control our supply. Whenever you hear “protecting women’s rights,” think oil. Whenever you hear “protecting civilians,” think oil. Whenever you hear, “bringing democracy,” think oil. Whenever you hear, “nation building,” think oil. Whenever you hear, “regime change,” think oil. Whenever you hear Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan you should definitely think oil. It’s not really complicated. You don’t notice us racing to the rescue of Darfur or the Congo where there is apparently little oil to be had.

This new “war” in Libya has at least for the moment upstaged the nuclear disaster in Japan, or so it appears. We haven’t forgotten about Japan, but in spite of the fact the situation there has been upgraded from level 4 to level 5 on the scale of 7, and in spite of the fact that radioactive iodine has been discovered in the Tokyo water supply, and in some of the food, and in spite of the fact that the situation could still blow up into an even greater disaster, it seems to be slowly getting less and less attention. This is as it should be if you have no intention of giving up on nuclear energy and want to continue building reactors, and who wouldn’t want to do that? Remember Chernobyl, oh yeah, I sort of remember hearing about that. Remember Three Mile, or yeah, I kind of remember. Remember Fukushima, or yeah, didn’t that happen not long ago, how did it all come out? How are those two new plants in Texas coming along?

I fear that our new “war” with Libya is going to turn out to be another disaster, perhaps not as bad as Afghanistan, but bad enough. I’m willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt when it comes to failing to get out of Iraq or closing Guantanamo, but I cannot forgive him for the continuing “war” in Afghanistan and this new “adventure” in Libya. Nor can I forgive him for his continued support of the terrible and perennial Israeli war crimes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two Cultures

North Carolina man wrecks
father’s Jaguar in attempt to
“save girlfriend from space aliens.”

Many years ago C. P. Snow delivered his famous lecture on “The Two Cultures” that later became a book and was very influential when it came to education in both the humanities and the sciences. Aside from giving us the phrase “two cultures” we need not be concerned here with Snow’s distinction. We have what I think is our own problem with two cultures but it has nothing to do with what Snow was concerned about.

Our two cultures has nothing to do with the humanities and sciences. It has, rather, to do with the culture of Washington, D.C. and the general culture of the United States. It seems to me that what goes on in Washington has little or nothing to do with what goes on in our country elsewhere. Think about it (and weep). Everything Republicans are doing, and have been doing since Obama was elected President, is designed to make him a one term President. Everything the Democrats have been doing are designed to see to it that President Obama is reelected. Occasionally in an unguarded moment someone on one side or the other admits to this. But more usually they pretend they are acting in the best interest of “the people.” Republicans say the people elected them to create jobs, but they have done nothing whatsoever to create jobs and, in fact, most of what they are proposing will create even more unemployment. They say the people elected them to do away with the deficit, but they insist on things, like tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, and repealing health care, things that will in fact increase the deficit. They do not have the interest of the people in mind. They have in mind only defeating Obama in 2012 and keeping themselves in office, doing so by pleasing those who are bribing them to do their bidding. Wisconsin is the best example of this at the moment, but it is also occurring in other States as well, such as Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and others where Tea Party Governors were elected. This is an all-out attack on the middle class.

The opposition to this Republican war on the middle class is coming from the middle class itself, not from the Democratic Party. What is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and other places does not seem to get much support from Washington, D.C. (although it certainly should). That is, Democrats in Congress are much more involved in opposing Republican legislation than they are in defending the American working class (something they have more traditionally done). I guess Joe Biden made a rousing speech recently encouraging protestors, but Obama himself has been remarkably absent when it comes to what is happening in Middle America. And of course Democratic Congresspersons, like Republicans, are primarily interested in keeping themselves in office. Both sides would have you believe they are doing what the American public wants, and occasionally there is some overlap between what Democrats do and what the public wants, but it is not their desire to do the public bidding that is their basic motivation. Their motivation, like that of Republicans, is primarily to stay in office, retain power, and serve the interests of those who fund them. In no case is that the American middle class. Thus the two cultures, that of Washington and that of the country, are in practice quite separate from one another.

What this means is that we have a political system that is supposed to represent the people but does not. It represents various special interests, few of which have the public good in mind. Part of this has to do with the fact that there is no agreement as to what the public good might actually be, and more importantly, seems no longer to even be a matter of interest to our politicians. The welfare of ordinary citizens has been replaced by the welfare of the politicians themselves and the welfare of whatever special interests they need to support. Historically, the Democratic party was always the party of “the working man,” and while occasionally someone makes that claim today, it does not materialize in behavior. It is possible that the demonstrations taking place by the middle class in Wisconsin and elsewhere will bring about a resurgence of cooperation between Democrats and the middle class, but if so, it will be because the Democrats decide to jump on the middle class bandwagon rather than vice-versa. Of course this might not happen at all if Democrats stay loyal to their Wall Street and corporate sponsors, stay aloof from the “revolution” and just wait things out.

Basically we have evolved a political system that operates completely divorced from the public interest. The idea “of the people, by the people, and for the people” has long since passed out of fashion. What may or may not be in the best interest of the people has simply become irrelevant in what is now a contest between two groups who only argue about who is going to be in charge.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
Bertrand Russell

The longest cricket game recorded was played in March of 1939 in Durban, South Africa, between England and South Africa, and lasted for 9 days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


In domestic dispute
Pennsylvania man pours gasoline
in basement, sets house on fire.

Multiethnic, yes, multiracial, yes, multireligious, maybe, multicultural, no. I know, I know, the big and by far the most important news at the moment has to do with the nuclear disaster in Japan. I cannot comment on it fairly because, frankly, no matter how it turns out, I believe to continue depending upon nuclear energy plants after Chernobyl and now Fukushima is so totally insane as to be completely unfathomable. Either people in power are just insane to begin with or their desire for profit is so overwhelming they are willing to sacrifice even life on the planet for their short-term gain. I don’t even care if it is safe (which it clearly is not), there still remains the unsolved problem of nuclear waste that will be around for centuries. If President Obama truly believes these plants are safe, and continues to provide billions in taxpayer money to promote them, he is truly the Commander-in-Chief of Insanity.

So, on another topic entirely. You are probably aware that Europe is having enormous problems with immigrants and what they are calling multiculturalism. Germany, France, Belgium, and others are now admitting, or at least claiming, that multiculturalism is a failure. I don’t know what they thought would happen when they invited large numbers of immigrants into their countries, but whatever it was, it hasn’t worked very well. After WWII there was clearly a shortage of labor (and men) in these countries, as a result they allowed, even encouraged, immigrants to enter to help them. This in itself was not such a bad idea, but over the years these immigrants, not needed any longer, did not return to their places of origin. Not only that, they had brought their wives, children, and even other members of their extended families. But unlike immigrants to the U.S. they did not assimilate into their host cultures. That is, in the U.S. every wave of immigration within the space of two or three generations essentially became Americanized, recognizing American law and culture. It is true that there are rare cases of individuals still doing things that are not regarded as legal or proper in the U.S., like female circumcision, eating dogs, killing a child who (in their eyes) brought shame on the family, or becomes (again in their eyes) too Americanized (wearing jeans, using makeup, dating, etc.). But, as I say, these are rare and individual cases, and when they violate U.S. laws they are held accountable. There are no organized large groups in the U.S. trying to insist they should be able to follow Shari’a law (in spite of what a few nitwit Congresspersons or others claim). Thus we have in the U.S., however imperfect, a situation in which different ethnic and racial groups exist in relative harmony. Muslims, just like all others that came before, the Irish, the Italians, Germans, Scandinavians, and others are slowly becoming enculturated to American culture. If this were not so we would not be seeing fathers killing their daughters for becoming Americanized and so on. For the most part we also have almost unbelievable religious diversity. And even though people profess all kinds of religious beliefs, for the most part they follow American laws that are pretty generous when it comes to religious freedom. There are limits, of course, as we do not (in principle) allow polygamy, or other violations of law. Insofar as Shari'a law has a religious element this is another problem with respect to the separation of church and state.

In Europe, however, different cultural groups have not assimilated as they have in the U.S. There are large groups who believe they should be able to still follow their cultural patterns even though residing in host cultures. It is not their ethnic heritage or their race, per se, that causes the trouble, it’s their cultural practices that conflict dramatically with the host cultures. Shari’a law is simply incompatible with British or French law. Even wearing burqas or head scarves are seen as problems, let alone more serious behavior practices such as revenge killings, honor killings, child brides, and so forth. To allow immigrant groups to live in your culture while retaining their own culture patterns simply cannot succeed. I don’t believe countries like France, Germany, or England, for example, truly believed they were going to encounter this problem, most probably assuming their new citizens would assimilate. But as they haven’t they now must face the problem of what to do. The possibilities are not attractive.

This is no more than having to confront the problem of cultural relativity practically rather than theoretically. Ruth Benedict and Melville Herskovits, both famous anthropologists, were the chief architects of the doctrine of cultural relativity. They argued that customs had to be seen in their cultural context before they could be properly judged. For them, senilicide among Eskimos, for example, had to be seen as a sometimes necessity if the larger family or group was to survive. Infanticide could also be seen as a cultural necessity in certain circumstances. That is, what is regarded as right and proper in one culture was not necessarily the same in other cultures, there are no universal standards for behavior. As long as they were mostly talking about small-scale cultures around the world, usually semi-isolated and “primitive,” that they wished to both understand and protect, this was a doctrine that made at least some sense. It was also predicated on the view that cultures had to be “functional” if they were to survive, and it promoted an attempt to understand how different aspects of culture were “functionally related.”

The problem with this concept was that it basically overlooked the question of whether there were dysfunctional cultures, or dysfunctional elements in cultures. Or, more simply, were there cultural practices that were decidedly “bad,” or even “evil.” Anthropologists of the time tended to believe that all cultures were pretty much “functioning wholes” and for the most part ignored the fact that some cultures might not be of that character. It is important to note that neither Benedict nor Herskovits tried to make any excuses for Nazi Germany. There is a point where basic questions of morality cannot be ignored. Thus the problem of multiculturalism could have been predicted had anyone thought it would arise, but as nations obviously did not really think about it at all, or at least expected their immigrants to assimilate, it has rather insidiously materialized. Now that Germany and other nations have announced that multiculturalism isn’t working, solutions may be forthcoming. They will not be quick and easy or painless.

Our first and most pressing problem is how to do away with warfare as a method of solving conflicts between national groups within a society who have different views about how the society is to run.
Margaret Mead

Orson Welles did his famous radio show, “War of the Worlds” in October of 1938.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't Play

When I was a boy and first began gambling my father wasn’t very pleased, but as he had been a gambler all his life, he was not in a position to forbid me from doing it. Instead he offered me two pieces of advice, “Don’t play with strangers,” and “If you can’t afford to lose, don’t play.” I have always found this to be sound advice.

One might think it would be equally sound advice for our nuclear energy program. It seems no one is going to take seriously not playing in the nuclear energy game, so we should probably beware of strangers from France and Japan who are eager to build us all the nuclear plants we might want. And given the potential dangers involved you might think we might well risk losing more than we can afford. Unfortunately this sage advice is not relevant in this case. It is irrelevant first, because the players in this game are not playing with their own chips and don’t have to worry about losing. As private lenders have shown little interest in taking risks on nuclear plants they will be subsidized by the government (aka taxpayers). In fact these plants probably could not financially survive without subsidies. But if they fail the promoters and builders don’t stand to lose as it wasn’t their money in the first place. What makes this far worse is that not only money is involved but people’s lives. Lots and lots of lives can be potentially lost and these losses cannot be redeemed by anyone. Thus, while you would think the risks not worth taking, remember the lives at risk, just like the money, have nothing to do with the sponsors of these incredibly stupid projects.

Gamblers are also known to be superstitious, that is, magical thinkers. They have to compulsively stack their chips only in a certain way, have to blow on the dice precisely three times, carry a rabbit’s foot, avoid wearing opals, watch out for black cats, broken mirrors, and hundreds of other behaviors they believe have something to do with “luck.” When they have a losing night at the tables they can usually find an explanation for their loss, “I forgot my lucky four-leaf clover,” “If it hadn’t been for that woman in the low-cut gown I wouldn’t have made the mistake,” and etc., etc. That is, there was nothing wrong with playing, something mysteriously interfered. I think this is also true of criminals. You know, “We would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that off-duty policeman, or if the car had started, or something. There is nothing wrong with crime, just some sort of bad luck.

It seems that people more generally are also given to magical thinking. Nowhere is this perhaps more true than in the energy business. “The plant would have done fine if it hadn’t been for the earthquake, or if we had built the generators on higher ground, or if there hadn’t been human error, or if the dikes had been properly constructed, and so on. The assumption is there is nothing wrong with building the plants in the first place, it’s just that something unanticipated interfered with the plan, “Next time it’ll be different.” Those who favor building nuclear plants are apparently never going to be convinced the risks are too great as they don’t stand to lose much of anything. All we need is more study of all the failures we have already experienced and then we’ll be successful. If a few thousands, or hundreds of thousands of lives are lost in the process, well, chalk it up to experience, we guarantee it won’t happen again. I submit this is simply a variety of magical thinking. It applies to deepwater drilling as well as to nuclear plants, and probably to the idea of “clean coal” as well. As there are available other sources of energy without the same risks involved you might think we would quickly embrace them. While there are moves in this direction they do not seem to constitute much in the way of fervent love or high priorities.

What happened in the Gulf of Mexico not long ago, and what is happening at this very moment in Japan should be taken as not at all unusual in the energy business, but they probably will be. We already know we are still engaged in deepwater drilling, and although the plants in Fukushima will never be rebuilt, other nuclear plants will be built. They will not be completely safe no matter what their promoters promise, at best they will cost the taxpayers enormous sums, at worst they will provide further disasters. Henry Waxman or someone else will hold hearings on the safety of nuclear energy, it will conclude that if designed properly they are safe, and building them will continue as if Chernobyl and Fukushima and Three Mile never happened. As I don’t believe in magic this will be the inevitable outcome. Sigh!

Monday, March 14, 2011


What is it about disasters that people seem unable to understand? No matter how bad things happen people just continue on as if nothing of importance did happen. At the moment the terrible disaster in Japan occupies the news, as it should. And make no mistake it, it is a disaster of monumental proportions and will probably just continue to get worse as the days go by. Obviously there was little they could do about the massive earthquake and the equally devastating Tsunami. They could, however, have done something about the nuclear plants that are melting down. They could, for example, have not built them in the first place, but, having built them they could have taken better precautions knowing they live in an active earthquake area. Nuclear energy should simply not be allowed. The first deaths attributed to nuclear energy occurred as early as 1961 in Idaho. Three young men were so overexposed to radiation they had to be buried in lead coffins with their hands apparently buried separately. That was a least a strong hint that things might go wrong. Then there was Three Mile Island in 1979 in which a truly monumental disaster was barely avoided. Then Chernobyl in 1986, a disaster so great the effects are still being felt to this day. You might think people would begin to understand there are gigantic problems associated with nuclear energy plants, possible disasters so great they should by all means be avoided. But, no, at this very moment President Obama is offering billions of dollars in incentives for the building of more nuclear energy plants. Some people seem unable to come to grips with the scale of these disasters. One person I heard on the news today suggested that all forms of energy production involve dangers, he said that, after all, coal miners die sometimes. Another one said we don’t stop flying just because a plane crashes once in a while, and we don’t stop riding in cars because there are accidents. Brilliant analogies, there is really no difference between what happened in Chernobyl or what is happening in Japan now and a few coal miner deaths, or car and plane crashes! With minds like these in charge you know we are in good hands. There are 104 nuclear plants in the U.S., some of them built right on fault lines that could spawn massive earthquakes that would also probably result in Tsunamis like the current one in Japan. We are apparently going to build more of these dangerous plants under the delusion (or the pretense) they are safe. Of course at the same time we are going to build them we are paying lip service (and not much more) to wind, wave, and solar energy (but along with nuclear, of course, and some mysterious entity called clean coal) so we can wean ourselves from foreign oil.

And speaking of oil, don’t forget the Exxon Valdez disastrous oil spill in Alaska in 1989, the results of which are still with us. And of course we recently experienced the even more disastrous Deepwater accident in the Gulf of Mexico. The same company that produced that monumental disaster that is going to take years to clean up, has recently been awarded license to drill still another deepwater facility. Our madness for oil, just like our madness for nuclear energy, leads to the slow but sure destruction of our tiny planet. And while we talk about alternative sources of energy we do relatively little about it. Energy, we must have it, of course, but do we really need as much as we think we do? One sure way of beginning to wean ourselves of foreign oil and nuclear energy would be to cut our consumption. While there are efforts in that direction they do not seem to me very serious. You don’t notice the lights in all of our skyscrapers going off at night, do you? And, yes, mileage standards for autos and trucks are supposed to change for the better but that is more talk than action and it certainly won’t happen overnight. As far as I know, no one talks seriously about cutting the amount of energy we consume. It’s as if that is an idea inconceivable to anyone. But why should we not have a program designed to produce more with less energy, and reward companies and people who manage to do that? Quite a few years ago a couple of anthropologists argued that the measure of “civilization” had to do with how much energy they used. I should think a better measure these days would be how little energy they used. This could be done I am sure if anyone had the will and determination to do it, but we can’t even get people interested in high-speed railroads and public transportation. And who wants to give up their own personal vehicle? Of course we would have to make important changes in our current life styles that are wasteful and inefficient beyond belief, but are our current life styles the only alternative for living? We could even take some really extreme (science fiction) measures, like giving up plastics and the internal combustion engine (horrors, how unthinkable).

Of course nothing of this magnitude will happen. No one will want to give up anything, let alone their own wasteful use of energy. We will almost certainly continue to go on fouling our nest until we either drown in our own filth or blow ourselves up (seems to be a toss-up at the moment). It is, I regret to say, the human way. Apparently we were given the power of reason but neither the motivation nor good sense to use it. Repeat after me, greed is good, shit happens, you only live once.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pirates of Barbary - book

Pirates of Barbary Corsairs, Conquests, and Captivity in the 17th Century Mediterranean, Adrian Tinniswood (Riverhead Books, N.Y., 2010)

Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.
Sir Winston Churchill

Leave it to Sir Winston to reduce the issue to its essence. It is true that conditions in Her Majesty’s Navy were so bad that many were attracted to piracy where they had more freedom and also a chance to make much more money. But if you, like me, have some idea of semi-romantic, handsome, or even horribly ugly blackbearded men with parrots on their shoulders, burying chests of gold on remote islands for us to find, forget it. Independent pirates roaming the seas in their ships attacking galleons loaded with gold may have existed but if so, they were apparently rare and could not have survived for very long on their own.

This interesting book by Adrian Tinniswood gives a much more realistic view of piracy in the 17th century than most of us (or at least I) imagined. There were some, who for one reason or another, decided to steal ships and turn to a life of piracy. But most of them soon turned to the Barbary Coast where their ships could be provisioned and repaired without fear and they could become part of fleets of such “corsairs.” Piracy was actually either part of ongoing hostilities between nations or a form of business (even big business). That is, nations like England had fleets of corsairs that roamed the oceans with the express purpose of attacking ships of nations with whom they were at war. English corsairs took Spanish, French, Dutch, or other vessels and vice versa, it was all part of a larger enterprise that all participated in. Corsairs were distinguished from pirates in that they were given special papers that made them part of military matters rather than merely ordinary pirates, privileges, that in theory at least, protected them from hanging on the grounds they were legitimate military personnel rather than just ordinary pirates. These predators captured ships of other nations and shared in the wealth they brought back, thus potentially making far more than they could have as ordinary seamen, and often became heroes as well.

It is true that sometimes a person would steal a ship and embark on piracy, using their vessel to capture others, and becoming more successful. But they could not successfully continue their piracy without ports that would allow them to resupply and repair their ships. The Barbary coast was willing and eager to provide such services and most pirate ships sought refuge there. In return for the safety of such safe havens they became part of a fleet of such ships and had license to roam the Mediterranean (and even as far as Newfoundland at times) capturing whatever ships they could. Returning to port they could sell their loot, including slaves, lie in new supplies and go to sea again. I knew there was such a thing as European slavery but I had no idea it was so common and widespread or made up such an important part of this trade (an estimated one million Europeans were enslaved). Cities on the Barbary coast such as Tunis, Algiers, Tripoli, and others, became notorious for having pirate fleets that preyed on merchant ships in the Mediterranean. In some cases local businessmen would buy shares in one of these raiders and share in the profits to be made (profits that were sometimes exorbitant). Captains of these ships often lived in luxury, having huge mansions and living much like kings. Some of them even became Muslims, a fate that Christians regarded as far more serious than their piracy. Huge sums were raised for the express purpose of buying freedom for Christian captives in Africa, and nations like England, France, and Spain sent out large fleets of warships to stop the Barbary pirates who were inflicting serious damage to European business. But as cities like Tunis and Algeria were technically part of the Ottoman Empire, although they had a great deal of autonomy, Europeans had to act with caution. Often in was far cheaper to bribe officials to leave ships alone than it was to attack those responsible. England and other countries entered into treaties with Barbary Coast cities to leave their ships alone, while allowing all other ships to be fair game. Sometimes these treaties were honored and sometimes not. As some of these cities, especially Tripoli, depended almost exclusively upon piracy as their major economic base, they couldn’t afford to make treaties with all other countries. This situation prevailed until the early 19th century when various Navies had become much larger and more able to suppress piracy.

This is a rather pathetic attempt to review this really interesting study. Even though the events recorded in this book occurred 400 years ago, there seems to be a reasonably extensive record available. Tinniswood, a consultant to Britains’s National Trust, has done a fine job of converting it into a readable, detailed, and quite excellent picture of this bygone time.

For him they raise not the recording stone -
His death yet dubious, deeds too widely known;
He left a Corsair's name to other times,
Link'd with one virtue, and a thousand crimes

The ending from The Corsair, by Lord George Gordon Byron. This poem made publishing history by selling out all 10,000 copies in a single day in London, 1814.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Ignorance and Stupidity

This will be my 2000th blog. That, of itself, should tell you something about ignorance and stupidity. For something that started out as little more than a “lark,” it has proven to be remarkably enduring. All things must come to an end, but not quite yet.

It is, as you all probably know, possible to be ignorant, even extremely ignorant, but still not be stupid. The people I lived with for a time in the New Guinea Highlands in the 1960’s were incredibly ignorant when compared with most other people. In a culture in which there was no television, no magazines, no newspapers, no radio, and very limited contact with the outside world, how could they not have been ignorant? Ignorant, that is, of things that were commonplace to most Europeans, like manufacturing, automobiles, airplanes, history, literature, sociology, and whatever. They were not, of course, ignorant about those things they needed to know about their own environment, the flora and fauna they depended on, how to raise pigs and deal with their enemies, and so on. Even though they were in our terms ignorant, even remarkably so, except for a couple of rather extreme and pretty obvious cases, I did not think of them as being stupid. I must confess it was a challenge to try to explain to them that the U.S. (They were dimly aware of Australia, but the U.S. was not at all familiar to them) was about to launch a chimpanzee (there are no apes or monkeys in New Guinea) into space (into the sky above them!) on a rocket ship (they had seen and marveled at small airplanes, but of course had never seen Flash Gordon). I had to try this only because some friends had sent me Life magazines and, although none of them could read, they did look at the pictures. Needless to say, they thought I was absolutely crazy.

But just as it is possible to be ignorant but not stupid, it is equally possible to be both ignorant and stupid. Ignorance means you simply lack information about things, stupidity means something like obtuse, lacking good judgment, an inability to reason, or some such thing. It seems to me that in Wisconsin we have a case where there are individuals in power who are apparently both ignorant and stupid. Someone recently observed that Governor Walker seems not to have ever read a history book. I believe this may be true. In that case he is ignorant of past revolutions, and also ignorant of the history of labor relations in the U.S., and more specifically, in Wisconsin. But I find it difficult to understand what has happened in that unfortunate State unless it is a result of both ignorance and stupidity.

Consider the fact that of all the States in the Union Wisconsin has the longest and finest history when it comes to collective bargaining and union rights. Consider also the citizens of Wisconsin are pretty typical Americans. Typical American citizens, as far as I know, still believe in democracy, and believe both in the right to assemble and certainly in the right of free speech, and as a result of that they also believe in unions and collective bargaining. While Walker (and his supporters) might be able to claim ignorance of history, it is impossible to believe they were ignorant of the thousands upon thousands of Wisconsin citizens demonstrating against their policies, ignorant of the 14 Democrats who left the state in protest, and also ignorant of the rules of Wisconsin politics, as well as the situation they found themselves in. Thus for Governor Walker and his Republican cronies to think they could just arbitrarily, unilaterally, and dictatorially, take away the right of workers to participate in decisions having to do with their work, their lives, their right to collectively bargain, and, indeed, their very well-being, can only be seen as just plain stupid. Bubblehead’s blog, says what needs to be said, “The Stupid Shall be Punished.” They will.

Republican stupidity goes far beyond what is happening in Wisconsin (and other States that are attempting much the same thing). That is, if their goal is to see a Republican President in 2012 and get themselves re-elected, they are acting pretty stupidly. While they are supposed to be trying to create jobs they are actually proposing measures that will eliminate even more jobs. While they rant and rave incessantly about the national debt, they are proposing measures that will obviously increase it. While Roe vs Wade is the law of the land, and is certainly favored by a majority of American women, they are trying to repeal it once again. While claiming to not want government interference in our affairs they are attempting to interfere in the lives of women and how they control their bodies, and while they moan about the lack of bipartisanship they refuse to cooperate on even the most vital of our current needs. They are in favor of doing things that are demonstrably environmentally harmful, and they are opposed to virtually anything that will better the lives of the middle class. If they want to promote their ideology at any cost, let them, but if they want to get re-elected and defeat President Obama, what they are doing is just plain stupid. I hope they will persist.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It Can't Happen Here

Her husband vacations with
another women, she cuts the
crotch out of all the woman’s pants.

For a very long time we have often heard, “It can’t happen here.” Well, it is. Of course it depends upon what “it” is. It could refer to a revolution, a real grass roots people’s revolution against the powers that be (corporations and the wealthy elite). On the other hand, it could refer to the creation of a Fascist State. These two possibilities are currently being played out in the State of Wisconsin. It appears that Governor Walker (who will be lucky to complete a full term) is single-mindedly pursuing a course that could see him end up like his apparent role model, Benito Mussolini. For those of you who don’t remember the end of WW II, Mussolini was dragged out of the state house and hung by his heels. While I am sure this is not the fate Walker might like, if he continues to pursue his objective of doing away with collective bargaining, which the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens are completely opposed to, and if he continues to refuses to back down or even to negotiate, it is possible the crowd could become so frustrated they might turn to violence. As frustration can turn into aggression this is a possibility. The problem here, for his opponents, is if they turn to violence that will only give him an excuse to use his powers to put them down with force. If the crowd can resist turning to violence there is every possibility they and democracy will win. If Walker succeeds he will have managed a Fascist coup that will probably then attempt to spread outward from Wisconsin to eventually take over other states, if not the U.S. entirely. Whichever side prevails doesn’t matter when it comes to the claim that “It can’t happen here.” It is happening here. Here I thought the “Nightmare years” were over when Bush/Cheney finally left and we had a new administration. I am often wrong.

What is happening in Wisconsin is not a unique situation. Very similar things are happening in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Idaho (and still other places as well). This is a concerted effort on the part of corporations and the elite to effectively destroy unions. Some of these attempts are so unbelievable it makes one wonder if we are still living in the U.S. In Michigan, for example, they are proposing that a single individual should be given the power to negate any and all laws and regulations if they do not agree with the goals of the State (as defined by Republicans). The one thing all these attempts have in common is the transfer of wealth from the middle class to corporations and the elite. What I find even more disturbing, however, is the implicit assumption t hat education, in particular, is just not important. Idaho is a good example of this. Idaho already has a chronically underfunded and not very good system of public education. The Idaho Congress, that has been Republican controlled for years, has never wanted to fund education, and never has to the extent it should have. Now they want to cut 700 teachers, increase class size, and basically privatize education in the State of Idaho. This is not because they think privatizing education will lead to better education, but because they think it will be cheaper, and as they have never wanted to fund education at all if they could help it, this would be a means to just get rid of the problem. Get it? Education is a “problem,” it costs money, money that, in their view could be better given to corporations and businesses and tax breaks to wealthy farmers. The fact that this is little more than suicidal over time seems not to be considered.

Republicans did so well in the last election partly because conditions in the U.S. are not what they ought to be, and they campaigned on creating jobs and improving things. But seriously, have you seen them make any attempt whatsoever to create jobs? They have focused exclusively on anti-abortion moves, reducing taxes and spending, busting unions, and trying to make corporations even more profitable than they already are. What they have proposed in every case would in fact increase unemployment rather than create jobs. They have, as others have said, declared war on the middle class. They want to return to a society that is composed of the obscenely wealthy at the top and a basically peasant population at the bottom, rather like the situation in the 17 and 1800’s. They seem to have forgotten the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the nation-wide strike of 1877, the union wars of that time and the early 1900’s, and every other failed attempt to abuse and exploit the poor, as well as what is going on at this very moment in the Arab world. They may think it can’t happen here, but it can and almost certainly will if they continue their present course. Walker and his corporate toadies may win the immediate battle but they will almost certainly lose the war.

Workers of the world unite!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

On Sacrifice

Before I comment on sacrifice I would like to comment on the youth vote. As you may have heard, the New Hampshire Speaker of the House is trying to pass legislation that would make it more difficult if not impossible for younger people, especially those around 18 years of age, to vote. His argument for this has to do with his belief that young people are “foolish,” do not have any life experience, and just “vote their feelings.” They also tend to vote democratic which I am sure has something to do with this attempt to disenfranchise them. Republicans have an almost uncannily pathetic way of trying to explain their attempts to take away the votes from those who tend to vote for Democrats. This case is particularly amusing for a voting bloc that tended to vote for George W. Bush because he was someone “they might like to have a beer with.” It also contains voters, like my mother-in-law (God bless her), who vote Republican because when her husband was still alive they always voted Republican. Of course there are also those who always vote against Democrats no matter who the candidate may be, those that vote against abortion, gay marriage, taxes, and whatever. I strongly suspect that many 18 year-olds are better informed that most average Republican voters. And don’t forget Republicans are also trying to stop voter registration on election day, felons from voting, Hispanics, Blacks, and, in short, anyone who might possibly vote Democratic. I have no doubt if they had their way the vote would be allowed only for White Protestant Landowners. Anyway, enough said on that for the moment.

It seems that lately we hear everywhere that everyone should be willing to “sacrifice” to help us get out of the recession and our national debt. They seem to apply this admonishment across the board and certainly to include the rich. This has made me wonder about the nature or meaning of “sacrifice.” Turning to the dictionary does not help very much, tending mostly to suggest that to sacrifice is to give up something for something else. I don’t believe this is a very satisfactory approach to the question of sacrifice. It seems to me that sacrifice should entail some kind of suffering or at least substantial inconvenience on the part of the “sacrificer.” For example, if you are a married father of four, earning 30 or 40 thousand dollars a year, and you suddenly have to pay additional taxes, there would be a genuine sacrifice involved. But what if you are a billionaire, or even some poorer soul with only a few hundred million, or, say, even ten million, and you are asked to pay 2% more in taxes? Would that entail a similar sacrifice? I don’t think so, as individuals with that much money probably wouldn’t even miss the increase. I mean, if you have more money than you can possibly spend, what difference does a few thousands, or even hundred thousands, really matter? Perhaps I am wrong about this, but I confess when I hear someone says that we all have to sacrifice equally I wonder if they have even thought about it. Perhaps it would be painful or inconvenient to have only seven or eight mansions rather than nine or ten, or owning only a single Rembrandt rather than a dozen, or having only one $50,000 wristwatch rather than several, personally I wouldn’t know, but if it did I suggest the person must have a very strange pain threshold. Strangely, many here in the U.S. are so sensitive to the pains that might be experienced by the super-wealthy we insist they must be given even more money.

This leads me to a final thought for the evening having to do with “greed.” I think if I experience greed, which at some level perhaps I do, it must be a pale imitation of the greed experienced by many others. I simply cannot understand why anyone would want so much money they could not possibly use it, or perhaps even enjoy it. I mean, what joy is there in knowing there is literally nothing you could not have, and having everything, what else could you want? Why do millionaires and billionaires keep on piling up more and more wealth once they have far more than enough. Is it merely to show off, is conspicuous consumption carried to the highest level a goal that one must aspire to? Are those less fortunate truly impressed by someone’s blatant “showing off?” Since when has accumulating enormous wealth become such a noble goal for the human species? It has not always been so.

Consider the case from more “primitive” societies. In the New Guinea Highlands, for example, there were no formal chiefs, nor did power or authority derive from birth. Certain men became leaders, “men with a name,” by virtue of ability and personality. Being a successful warrior could help but just being a warrior was not enough. Indeed, if a man was just a warrior he was more likely feared than respected as a leader. A man acquired a “name” by organizing huge feasts and presenting other groups with massive gifts of pork and sometimes other items. He would probably have more than one wife and thus he would also have larger gardens and more pigs. But in order to put on a huge feast he depended upon others to help him and their gifts of pork would eventually be returned in reciprocal feasts. It was far more complicated than I can describe here, but the basic point is that a man with a name did not become personally wealthy, did not live in a mansion or eat better than others, or so on. His reward was having a name that was known throughout the territory. Similar exchanges took place on the Northwest Coast of America where chiefs would “Potlatch.” That is, they would amass huge amounts of blankets, decorated cedar boxes, and other gifts to present to other groups. All would share in one way or another in this ongoing process. The Chief did not become materially wealthy but wealthy in name and fame. He did not acquire a yacht or mansion or anything much that others did not also have. He was responsible for the movement of goods and organizing such festivals and became much respected. How different from our modern form in which individuals accumulate property through the exploitation of others and the environment, but are not required or even expected to pass it on except to their heirs. If a Kwakiutl chief managed to accumulate so many blankets or other goods they became too numerous to conveniently handle he was presented with a “Copper.” This was a shaped piece of native copper that stood for a certain amount of wealth. It had little or no intrinsic value but was symbolic of his success.

We should have similar symbols of great success that could be given to individuals in lieu of their second or third billion while they in turn would be expected to serve the common good by distributing and redistributing their excess wealth. But, as we cannot even get them to pay their fair share of taxes I guess this would be pretty unlikely.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Fascism Comes to Wisconsin

Fascism has come to Wisconsin! I do not use the term lightly, nor do I mean “something like” fascism is involved, nor do I think I am using the term inappropriately. I mean what we are seeing in Wisconsin is a genuine full-blown attempt at a fascist coup. Consider, first, this definition of fascism from an online dictionary:

“often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

You cannot deny that Governor Walker has been acting in a dictatorial manner, insisting he will not compromise or even negotiate over his attempt to do away with collective bargaining. Is this not an attempt at “severe economic and social regimentation? He is not asking his opponents to return from Illinois, but ordering them to do so. He is forcibly suppressing opposition by unconstitutionally fining them for their absence, and even ordering the police, or perhaps special “goons,” to find and arrest them and forcibly return them to Madison. He has also tried to shut down the capitol building and in at least one instance has had a duly elected official roughed up by the police for attempting to enter his own office in the capitol building. These seem to me to be clearly Fascist tactics ordered by someone who fancies himself to have dictatorial powers.

Consider also the following perhaps more classic definition of fascism:

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
Benito Mussolini

It is no secret who is behind this attempt to do away with collective bargaining, the billionaire Koch brothers and presumably other of their corporate cronies. Labor unions are virtually the only meaningful opposition to complete corporate control of our political system. If they can be destroyed, the state of Wisconsin aligned with these corporate interests, a dictatorial governor in power, what would you have if not a merger of state and corporate power, a Fascist state?

What is happening in Wisconsin is precisely what we have been cautioned about from the very beginning:

“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” Thomas Jefferson

More recently:

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group,”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

It is not surprising that Fascism is attempting to come to Wisconsin and America. It would seem to have been perfectly predictable, at least to some:

“Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans.” John T. Flynn.

“No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.” Buenaventura Durruti

“Fascism will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a bible.” Sinclair Lewis.

“We seem to be a long way off from the kind of Fascism which we see in Italy today, but we are not so far from the kind of Fascism which Mussolini preached in Italy before he assumed power, and we are slowly approaching the conditions which made Fascism there possible.” John T. Flynn.

“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the U.S. are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.” Edward Dowling.

Is it not the case that for years now the rich have become even more rich and the middle class has been disappearing? Is it not also the case there have been stirrings of dissent, demands to tax the rich, to do away with corporate welfare and increase corporate taxes? The gulf that separates the one or two percent of the population at the top from the rest of us is the largest now it has ever been, and still the Republicans continue to try to get more and more from the middle class, and that class is just now seemingly going on the offensive. The answer to this threat seems to be the rise of Fascism. “Fascism is capitalism in decay,” Vladimir Lenin.”Fascism is nothing but capitalist reaction,” Leon Trotsky. And who are those who might most easily be described these days as wrapped in a flag and carrying a bible?”

Does it not appear the conditions are more than ripe for a Fascist movement to appear? This development is most easily seen at the moment in Wisconsin but it is a more nationwide movement than that. It has been building for some time now as Republicans, certainly since the Clinton administration, have been willing to more and more employ tactics far more common to Fascists than U.S. politics as usual. Recall that during the vote count in Florida the counting was interrupted and stopped by a mob of shouting (brown shirted) Republicans. And there was also developed what I call the technique of “roviation,” the deliberate attempt to slime and slander opponents without mercy and in any way possible, far in excess of previous political tactics. There was also their unprecedented attempt to shut down the government. And of course they went after President Clinton with the most extreme and unprecedented attack on his private life that had nothing to do with his politics or performance in office. They roviated John Kerry with the slimy Swiftboaters, and now they are attempting to bring down President Obama with the same underhanded (and in this case, racist) tactics. So determined are they to succeed they are willing to throw our country into chaos, make sure unemployment stays high, and refuse to cooperate in any way to help get our nation out of a severe crisis. I submit this is the work of those who are perfectly willing to see us become a Fascist country with them fully in control. The following quote seems to me to be probably even more relevant now than when it was first written:

“The American Fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism,” Henry A. Wallace. Sound familiar?

There is no doubt in my mind that free-market capitalism in the U.S. has failed miserably. Nor is there any doubt that the wealthy and the giant corporations will resist any attempts at meaningful change. It is obvious we need a form of social democracy in which there are controls over unbridled greed and corruption, the wealthy will have to pay a greater share, and corporate power curtailed. We are, in that sense at least, seeing the decay of capitalism.

The only definition of Fascism I have seen that (I think) has so far eluded Wisconsin would seem
to be that of Upton Sinclair:

“Fascism is capitalism plus murder.”


Saturday, March 05, 2011

On "Rights"

Florida man arrested for
stealing two bras, celebrating
release of girlfriend from jail.

Ron Paul has apparently now said that there is no “right” to education, nor is there a right to health care. Of course, depending upon where you start from, humans have no rights at all. That is, there are no “god-given rights,” no “natural rights,” no “human rights,” no “civil rights,” no “religious rights,” no “basic rights,” no “moral rights,” no “inalienable rights,” just no rights, period. That is, if you are speaking of humans in the state of nature. As an individual human you have no right even to life, no right to be protected from other creatures stronger and more vicious than you are. As you are not well equipped to survive in nature, with no fangs, no claws, not much size, no ink or poisonous odor, no deadly venom, no dragon breath, little speed or brute strength, no armor for protection, and so on, you, as a human, derive your strength from being a member of a group. The group protects you, at least in so far as any protection at all is available. It is also the group that educates you (socializes and enculturates you), and attempts to heal you when you become ill or handicapped, and feeds you if at all possible. In short, whatever rights you enjoy are granted you as a member of an organized group.

It just so happens that in all highly industrialized societies, except ours, you have a right to health care, because it is a right extended to you by virtue of your being a member of that group. Similarly, in most societies it is acknowledged that education is not only a right but a necessity if the group is to continue to exist and flourish. As a member of such a group you have a right to private property, privacy, and in the best of societies, a right to free speech, and protection from your own government if it becomes too dictatorial or arbitrary. As a member of society you not only have certain rights, you also have certain obligations. There are both prescriptions and proscriptions you are supposed to honor. In our particular society you are supposed to enjoy the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Republicans, at least those in our society at the moment, apparently do not think we should recognize rights that are more usually taken for granted in virtually all other societies. They argue, as does Ron Paul, that you have no right to health care (and apparently by implication no necessary or intrinsic right to life). You should have no right to education (that would seem to interfere with your pursuit of happiness). And, of course, if you have no health care and no education, you also most probably will have no liberty. Our current crop of Republicans apparently want us to return to the “law of the jungle,” where only the “strong will survive.” Thus they believe the unemployed should be left without any means at all, workers should have no right to bargain for their wages, education (and science) is not worth funding, if you are sick it’s just tough luck for you, and if you show up for emergency treatment you should be allowed to die on the doorstep if you cannot afford to live. I do not think this is an erroneous description of their beliefs, based upon what they say and do.

In addition to their beliefs about the existence or non-existence of rights, they also believe those with money should be rewarded with tax breaks and special treatment, whereas those without means are better left ignored. They believe that corporations making billions of dollars in profits year after year are somehow deserving of tax breaks, but those who work for wages should be content to fall behind year after year, and those individuals with more money than they can possibly use in a dozen lifetimes should be able to accumulate even more, while those who have little means should give up their homes, pensions, and jobs so the profits of the wealthy few can be improved. From the point of view of a viable, functional, and continuing society this is, of course, quite insane. But this is the good ol’ USA where insanity is rapidly becoming the norm. We are seeing a replay of what occurred in the 1870’s and the 1900’s, the recurrent battle of capital (management) against labor (the people). Fascism has made its ugly occurrence in Wisconsin and Ohio, and threatens to spread elsewhere. States are threatening to secede from the union, or at least refuse to obey federal laws, illegal militias are forming, the basic tenets of our (supposed) democracy are being threatened. Once again we are faced with a decisive moment. It’s as if we have learned nothing at all from the past and are doomed to repeat it still again.

The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs.”
Karl Marx

Guernica was reduced to rubble on an afternoon in 1937 when German planes launched the first massive bombing of innocent civilians.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Fouling the Nest

Tin cans filled with air from
stables and barns are an instant hit
for nostalgic city-dwelling Germans.

Is there something about the concept of “fouling your own nest” that is too complicated for the human mind to grasp? I have been thinking about this for a long time. It seems to me that humans have, since the beginning of history, been either oblivious to this problem or, if not oblivious, recklessly ignoring it. I suppose one might make a case that fouling your own nest was not perceived as a problem at first, when there were relatively few humans with a seemingly endless universe at their disposal. Here in the U.S. for example, when Europeans first arrived, there were seemingly endless forests, hundreds of thousands of miles of pristine rivers so heavy with fish they could almost literally walk across the water on the backs of salmon and other species. Animals of all kinds were in abundance and land was so available it was given away to those willing to work on it. People obviously didn’t give much thought to preservation and the idea that this wealth of resources might run out seems not to have been much on anyone’s mind. I can understand this. But even so, it doesn’t really explain the gluttony that accompanied the discovery of this wealth of resources. There were, for example, literally billions of Passenger Pigeons, billions! They were so thick they sometimes blocked out the sun. But in a relatively short time they were gone, extinct, the very last one shot. There were buffalo, apparently some 50 million of them. In a relatively short time they, too, were almost destroyed. If a few had not managed to cross into Canada they may well have become extinct. In the Kootenai River here where I now live the burbot (ling cod) were so thick people harvested them by the wheelbarrow load and fed them to their pigs. They are now so close to extinction they may as well be so considered. Sturgeon, too, were common here, some so large they needed horses to drag them from the river, and they, too, are now virtually extinct in the Kootenai. The rivers were dammed and many of the miraculous salmon runs disappeared. The virgin forests were clear-cut with no remorse or thought for the future, and the mines and mills discharged their pollution directly into the rivers, turning them into filthy, dirty gray wastelands in which no living creatures survived, and similarly fouling the lakes that depended on those waters. But, yes, we might understand that the people involved at that time were living in such luxurious resources were not given to thoughts of the future or worried about what they were doing to mother earth. That doesn’t explain the gluttony but perhaps explains the short-sightedness.

There is no excuse, however, for what is happening today. There are many, mostly Republicans, who are seemingly unable to understand the concept of “fouling the nest.” At this very moment they are trying to do away with, or at least hobble, the Clean Air Act. They are also attempting to defund t he Environmental Protection Act, along with the Endangered Species Act. They are promoting more deep-water drilling for oil in spite of the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. They also want to protect coal mining in which mountain tops are removed and dumped into the valleys and rivers. Logging, in their view, should still be permitted even in the few supposedly protected places, and they insist on drilling for oil in Anwar and everywhere else, environmental protections be damned. Nuclear energy, the most potentially disastrous means of energy production, is being promoted, as are wasteful and polluting waste to energy plants. Although our oceans are known to be full of plastic island dead zones there is little or no attempt to stop the production of plastic bottles, bags, and other assorted junk. Our oceans have become overfished, coral reefs are being destroyed, more and more species are disappearing, and global warming, perhaps the most serious problem ever to confront us as a species, proceeds apace. Then, of course, there are our endless wars, now being fought with the most environmentally destructive weapons ever conceived, agent orange, nuclear munitions that pollute long after the battles have been fought, phosphorous and cluster bombs, and so on.

There are Democrats, too, who seem relatively oblivious to what we are doing to the environment and ourselves, but by and large, I believe this is more a Republican disaster in the making. They are far more likely than Democrats to defend these environmentally unsound and dangerous practices. Of course the reason for this is clear enough, it comes down basically to greed, and short-term profits. We can’t have clean air and water because it might interfere with business, impinge on profits. As long as corporations are in control, and as long as profit is their primary motive for being, this unfortunate situation will continue. That is not difficult to understand. But it doesn’t change the terrible basic fact that WE ARE FOULING OUR OWN NEST! Those who continue to insist on business as usual, choose to ignore the scientific facts of global warming, and continue to pollute irresponsibly, are, in fact, putting all of us at risk. It seems to me obvious that most of what they are promoting and supporting is diametrically opposed to the best interests of human life on earth. This is nothing short of criminal.

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

The term “collective bargaining” was first used in 1891 by Beatrice Webb.