Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Let’s hear it for hyperbole! There’s nothing like a bit of exaggeration to make things more interesting and try to stir up as much trouble as possible. In Israel, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon has recommended that the entire International community should together attack Iran because “Iran is a threat to the entire civilized world.” Wow! The entire civilized world! Iran is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It has not been an aggressor nation in somewhere around 200 years. It has one of the smallest military budgets in the Middle East and the focus of their military is clearly on deterance rather than offense. Iran is widely suspected of trying to build a nuclear bomb although there seems to be little evidence of this, and even if true would obviously be employed as a further means of defense from the constant threats of attack by Israel and the U.S. Netanyahu, who recently boasted that the U.S. doesn’t have to protect Israel because Israel protects itself, has been trying to encourage the U.S. to attack Iran for years, and maintains Iran is an existential threat to their nation, basically a bit of hysterical paranoid nonsense. They would like us to believe that if Iran gets a bomb it is going to immediately attack Israel with it, a notion so ridiculous it should be laughed out of existence as it seems to assume that Iranians are insane and would welcome the inevitable destruction of their own country. In fact, Israeli intransigence, racism, and illegal expansionism is a far greater threat to the entire civilized world as they simply refuse to even consider a serious peace with the Palestinians. I think Ya’alon’s insane hyperbole is perhaps the worst example of exaggeration I have ever seen. But there are others.

Of course if you are interested in outrageous hyperbole you wouldn’t want to miss Mitt Romney’s claim that President Obama “Is one of the most ineffective Presidents ever.” I think Romney has in mind here only the fact that Obama has been unable to immediately create jobs and overcome the recession brought on by matters mostly outside of his control. Whatever you might think of Obama, when you consider his accomplishments in the first almost three years of his Presidency, you cannot realistically accuse him of being ineffective, think health care (when Romney did it, it was viewed as a great success), American auto industry successful bailout, Osama bin Laden, DADT, stimulus, fair pay, etc., etc. Romney is unfortunately one of the most inauthentic candidates ever, taking positions he sometimes has earlier disdained, saying things purely opportunistically, sometimes outright lying, and dripping with insincerity at all times. I believe Romney is not even aware of how phony he comes across to many of us. If he thinks Obama is ineffective I suppose he thinks George W. Bush was effective (after all Bush is said by Republicans to be responsible for getting bin Laden).

Let us not give up this topic without mention of John McCain who has now said the President does not need any Congressional approval to go to war at anytime or anyplace. He also said we need more wars, not fewer wars. The fact that a President is supposed to wait for Congressional approval before going to war, according to the constitution, is somehow lost on McCain and other believers in an Imperial Presidency. McCain has also said Sarah Palin could beat Obama in a Presidential race. Now if that’s not hyperbole I don’t know what is.

There is no doubt one could find many examples of terrible exaggerations in favor of one thing or another. People sometimes believe so fervently in one cause or another they are willing to say anything, often with little thought to the consequences. While this may be understandable it is not helpful, especially in a situation fraught with deliberate lies and distortions. It seems we have reached a point where truth has become a forgotten commodity, having been misplaced in a culture so given to lies and misstatements it is so rarely found. Truth has simply lost its importance, especially after the Bush/Cheney administration that never told the truth even when they didn’t have to lie.

Related to this, and far more important I fear, is that law has also become a victim of culture change. We used to pride ourselves on being a nation of laws, but laws have been increasingly jettisoned over the past few years. This can be seen in the President’s illegal behavior when it comes to warring, the law has also been ignored when it comes to those guilty of war crimes even when they have been publicly admitted. There is no law or constitutional sanction for the President to order assassinations of American citizens, nor is there any law that legalizes torture in spite of the claims of Yoo, Bush, and Cheney. Laws against wiretapping and invasions of privacy have been swept aside, Bankers guilty of crimes go unpunished, and on and on. I honestly think that by now most American citizens fully expect our leaders to lie to them as a matter of course, and I also think they have lost respect for our terribly abused legal system (the Supreme Court has not helped). In our contemporary culture only Nerds believe in truth and justice.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

La Vie en Rose - movie

As the weather has not been conducive to gardening, and as I don’t read much during the summer, and as there wasn’t much to do last night, my wife talked me in to watching a motion picture, something I rarely do. This was a French film made in 2007, a biography of Edith Piaf (biographical films, I learned, are now called biopics). I am hardly a movie critic but I can’t resist commenting on this experience.

To me this was an unpleasant film about an unpleasant time, an unpleasant place, an unpleasant life, and (in this movie, at least) an unpleasant woman. This is not to say it was not a fine film, I guess it was, it seemed to be well cast, the performance of Marion Cotillard (as Piaf) was truly remarkable (she won an academy award for it), and the supporting cast performed their roles about as well or better than could be expected, including Gerard Depardieu whose role was quite limited. On the blurb that comes along with this Netflix disc it claims, “…director Olivier Dahan creates a loving portrait of legendary Parisian singer Edit Piaf…” I did not think this was a loving portrait of Edith Piaf, indeed it seems to me the director concentrated so exclusively on the negative aspects of Piaf’s life there was virtually nothing that could be considered “loving” at all. This is perhaps understandable as so much of Piaf’s mystique has to do with her terribly unpleasant early life, the alcoholic mother who tried to be a singer, her father who performed as a contortionist in the circus, her years as a child living in a brothel run by her grandmother, her temporary prostitution and exploitation by a pimp, the drinking, drugs, and what have you. Although she became a great success as a singer there is little attention paid to how this came about and what role she actually played in it herself, other than her being discovered singing on the street, given a job in a nightclub, coached for a short time by a teacher, and eventually succeeding on a rather grand scale. The years of her greatest successes were reduced to shots of newspaper headlines, she was rarely shown doing anything positive, having fun (other than drinking), or in any very positive light at all. The closest one comes to seeing her happy is during her year and a half (adulterous) affair with Marcel Cerdan, the year in which he became the world champion boxer by defeating Tony Zale. Even this brief period of happiness turned sour when Cerdan was killed in a plane crash on his way to France to be with her. Her reaction to this tragedy is by far the most moving scene in the film.

As you probably know, she died fairly young, addicted to heroin, stricken with terrible arthritis, and reached a point where she could no long perform at all. I do not believe the director deliberately tried to give a negative portrait of her, but the myths of her life are so strong they seem to override everything else about her. She must have had (or at least I assume so) real moments of happiness (there is one brief scene of her in California, riding in a convertible, laughing and enjoying herself) was unusually successful and reached the epitome of her profession, was married for a time, but the movie says little about any of this. In fact, watching the movie you suddenly realize she is married, have no idea where the husband came from, who he was, what, if anything, he meant to her, and so on, all very strange to my way of thinking. Not only that, it is only at the last moment you realize she had a child who died of meningitis. There is no doubt that Cotillard’s performance dominates the film but she does not make Piaf into anything even approaching a very likeable human being, hunched over, awkward, mostly angry, drunk, and difficult. Aside from her remarkable voice Piaf does not come across as a very likeable person. Although the film was shot in color it was so depressing I think of it in black and white. It is undoubtedly a pretty realistic portrayal of her life which was, beyond doubt, unpleasant in the extreme. It is much to her credit that she managed to make of it a success, it is a shame she does not receive much credit for it. She must have been much more of a person than how she is portrayed in this stark portrayal.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Insanophobia: the nagging doubt that everyone is sane.

I think I may have coined a new and I hope maybe useful word, a possible addition to our already rather garbled psychological and psychiatric terminology. What I have in mind could also probably be described as “Are they in their right mind syndrome.” Once you fall prey to this malady you may never completely recover.

Perhaps the best recent example of this condition, or problem, or syndrome, or whatever you choose to call it, is the “birther” phenomenon. Apparently large numbers of people, mostly Republicans, did not or do not believe that President Obama was born in the United States in spite of the overwhelming evidence that he was. To believe he was really born in Kenya and the announcement of his birth in Hawaii was part of some kind of plot decades before he was to become President, and all the rest of the birther nonsense, a secret Muslim infiltrating the U.S. to convert us, a socialist planted by the Soviets, or whatever other cock and bull stories different people tried out from time to time, you would, I fear, have to be out of your mind, thus the nagging doubt that these believers are actually sane.

Suffering from insanophobia can sometimes have genuine effects on your behavior. Say, for example, someone brings false charges against you, you know they are false, and you also know the person has no evidence, therefore you assume the charges will be dropped, no prosecuting attorney in his/her right mind would pursue them. But there is that lingering, nagging doubt that perhaps the prosecuting attorney is not completely sane. You wait helplessly on pins and needles until finally some decision is forthcoming and the charges are (hopefully) dismissed. During this time you cannot sleep, have difficulty focusing on your work, lose your appetite and so on. You are in the grip of insanophobia.

Insanophobia, as the above example indicates, is clearly is not something that happens only in politics, but at the moment the best examples come from that mysterious realm. Take the case of tax breaks for the wealthiest two (2) percent of the U.S. population and the most profitable corporations in the history of the world. The country is deeply in debt, trying desperately to dig its way out of a recession and avoid an actual depression, there is an obvious and pressing need for more revenue, taxes on the wealthy are at an all time low and huge corporations are getting unnecessary tax breaks as well. An obvious solution that would greatly help alleviate the deficit would be to increase taxes on the wealthy and do away with unnecessary tax breaks for corporations. Republicans, however, refuse to accept either of these solutions and, indeed, are holding out for even lower taxes. Surely they cannot be serious about this, no one in their right mind would do such a thing, and boom! There it is again, that nagging doubt that everyone is sane.

Health care is another perfect example of potential insanophobia. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation on earth that does not provide universal health care for its citizens. Our private insurance system is far more expensive than, say, Medicare for all. Not only that, it does not provide coverage for all, and also makes its profits off the sick and dying because the insurance companies will not provide insurance for those who need it, and basically insure only those who do not need it. Furthermore, there is no logical or necessary reason for insurance companies to have anything to do with health care, they bring nothing to it but paperwork and decisions about your health services provided by bureaucrats who are not physicians and are interested only in maximizing profits for their companies, and certainly do not have your best health interests in mind. Now you might think anyone in their right mind could understand this and would eagerly seek a more efficient and far less costly system. But again, Republicans do not accept this and insist the private insurance racket is the only way to go. You see, there it is again, insanophobia, the nagging doubt these people are sane.

I could go on, there is no lack of examples, both in politics and everyday life. The belief the world is a mere 6000 years old, dinosaurs and people existed at the same time, we did not put a man on the moon, St. Ronnie ended the cold war, etc., etc., etc. Of course it is not as simple a problem as it may appear. While you may believe someone cannot be sane because of their seemingly irrational, even nonsensical positions, it could be they actually are sane, and merely dishonest, greedy and evil. If, for example, you are dependent upon some pharmaceutical or oil company to finance your continuing career in politics, and perhaps your more luxurious life style as well, you might no doubt cling to the most outrageously obvious falsehoods: global warming is a myth, socialized medicine is the worst health system invented by the devil, nuclear energy is as safe or perhaps even more safe than deep-water oil drilling (which is not at all safe), 90% of Planned Parenthood is for abortions, people desperately need guns in churches, bars, and University classrooms, you cannot tax the wealthy because they are the ones that provide jobs when their money trickles down, even though oil companies are making record profits they still need subsidies so they can drill more, we need to spend even more than all the rest of the world combined for national defense, and on and on and on, just more potential insanity to worry about all the time.

When you become a full-blown insanophobe like me, it can turn on you. If you continue to suspect that not everyone is sane, people come to suspect that of you. Oh, well, it’s all in a day’s work, it’s all just in my head, it, too, will pass, just take two aspirin and call in the morning, these are just minor differences in opinion, there’s no cause for alarm.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Culture and Values

Culture and values, two huge words in terms of their potential meanings and breadth of applications, or also perhaps potentially huge because of their possible lack of meaning, but they are commonly used and in that sense, at least, are meaningful enough. It is an obvious truism to report there is something to the idea of cultural relativity, values certainly are different in different cultures. Human sacrifice, for example, was valued by the Aztecs and a few others, headhunting was highly valued in many different parts of the world, in some rare instances ritualized male homosexuality was valued (to promote fertility, strength or other male virtues), in still other cultures practices such a suttee were valued, while completely abhorred in others, monogamy is the norm in some places whereas polygamy is common in others, and in more rare cases polyandry was valued and practiced. While these things are true it is not always easy to understand the relationships between values and actual cultural practices. There was a brief TV report on education in Finland today that I believe helps to understand at least one such connection.

Finland is now believed to have the best educational system and the most educated population in the world, or is at least in the top two or three nations in this respect. This was not always so, so how and why did it come about? Finland is large in land mass but small in population. As much of the country lies above the arctic circle, and there are also large area of taiga and water, it is not blessed with an abundance of resources other than timber. In brief, the Finns realized their most precious resource was their children, and if their children were going to be able to survive and compete in a world economy it was critical for them to become highly educated. They made education a high priority and invested substantially in it. They raised the standards for teachers, insisting that if a teacher was to teach in certain areas they should be themselves expert in those areas (this is not a policy well followed in our current schools). Teachers were required to get degrees, even advanced degrees, and certain Universities were designated primarily to train teachers. Salaries for teachers were raised to encourage more capable candidates to choose a career in teaching. Needless to say they invested generously in their schools and in the equipment and materials required. In addition to their degrees Finnish teachers were also expected to attend additional special courses in pedagogical techniques and practices. In a few years Finland went from much further down on the educational ladder to the top. I would suggest the primary reason for this is the fact that Finland has always valued education as well as teachers of all kinds. The teaching profession was not looked down upon and denigrated as something only the less fit chose to engage in (indeed, even now Professors in Europe are held in high esteem). The Finns also valued intellectualism and intellectual endeavors. And of course they valued their children and were concerned about their future. These were values that were present in Finland all along although they were not as highly developed as they subsequently became.

I would argue (as I often have) that such values are not present in U.S. culture (although they were perhaps somewhat more prevalent at an earlier period (the Schoolmarm, for example, was usually looked up to and was a sort of cultural icon, although male teachers, not being cowboys, were probably not so much). Although children were expected to attend school, this was mostly only if school was available and they could. “Book larnin” was separated from “the school of hard knocks.” Children often, as my mother and father both did, and as we now joke about, had to walk or ride horseback to school. Higher education was rare and only available for the wealthy. Many children who would have liked a better education could not be spared to seek it (as they had to work on the farm) and did not, in any case, have the necessary resources. Even in the 1950’s, in the Army, I encountered young people who had not attended school at all and were completely illiterate, and many who had attended school only briefly. Somehow over the years our interest in education, insofar as it ever existed, began to become even less than it was. Teachers in the U.S. for many years have worked for small salaries, have been poorly trained, looked down upon, and the teaching profession has not, in general, attracted the best of our students. It is common to hear, “them as can’t do, teach,” and other such ideas. Professor are often described as absent-minded, fuzzy headed, or “pointy headed intellectuals,” with no practical experience. Our schools have been terribly underfunded for years and have deteriorated badly. They are currently under attack in virtually every state, denied funding to be used for other purposes (like corporate tax breaks). Whats-his-face, the fat Governor of New Jersey, has had to be told he cannot slash 50 million from education to balance his budget, so much for the Governor’s value of education in New Jersey. The dropout rate in our High Schools and Colleges is huge, and those who now do manage to graduate often have crippling debts to pay off, with little chance of finding employment that might even allow them to pay. Large numbers of them have neither jobs nor futures. It certainly appears to me that we here in the U.S. do not value education, are unwilling to pay for it, and are willing to throw our children (and the future of our nation) to the wolves (for short term profit).

Our political system that features so prominently one person, one vote, also implies that all votes are equally well-informed, but that is just not true. I would suggest that many people who vote are probably terribly ignorant and misinformed about what they are voting for or against. But if you were to suggest to them that someone with a PhD in political science, having studied politics for years, might have a more cogent grasp of things than they do from listening to Rush (or not listening at all), they would be outraged, even though it would be true. They would tell you there are lots of “educated fools” coming out of Universities and they are no smarter or better able to vote than they (who have often never been more than 100 miles from home, don’t read, and only listen to right-wing radio or watch Fox {pseudo} news). In one sense they might be right, lousy schools and Universities turn out lousy products, and they turn out lousy products because they are supported neither by sufficient funds nor by people interested in funding them to do otherwise. Generally speaking, however, I believe that some voters are far better informed than others. I am not suggesting there should be different categories of voters, or that some votes should count more than others, what I am saying is that we need a much better educated electorate than we have and a much better educated citizenry in general. To modify a quote from John McCain, cultural survival in the contemporary world “is not bean bags.” The Finns realize this, we apparently do not.

In Finland the cultural conditions were firmly in place to allow the creation of a superior educational system to emerge, in the United States these same cultural conditions do not obtain. It used to be said, and sometimes still foolishly is, that the U.S. has the best educational system and Universities in the world. We don’t, although not so long ago we might have, but we have allowed them to decay, disintegrate, and deny the future to our children. From the standpoint of the nation this an absolutely suicidal course, the facts are clear, the judgments are in, the collapse, while perhaps not imminent, is inevitable. Perhaps it is just as well, a society that so disvalues its children probably doesn’t deserve to continue.

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

H. L. Mencken

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Living Frugally

As merely an ordinary member of the hoi polloi I would not have thought having a half million dollar interest free line of credit from Tiffany’s was evidence of a “frugal life style.” But the revelation does raise some interesting questions (that unfortunately for Newt I fear are not going away soon). The first question might well be, just what was Newt buying with this generous account? Perhaps he was trying to “gussy up” his third wife to make her presentable as the President’s wife (remember his rather cruel quote about his first wife, “she isn’t young enough or pretty enough to be the President’s wife.”) You have to hand it to Newt, he doesn’t mince words (just facts, truth, and reality). He obviously does not want to answer any questions about his spending on jewelry and, of course he cannot be forced to do so. He says it’s his money and he can spend it as he likes, that, of course, is quite true. I doubt this is a good enough answer to please everyone. To be uncommonly, and suspiciously curious I wonder if his wife really possesses a half million dollars worth of his jewelry, and if not, who does? You don’t think perhaps he buys occasional “baubles” for some of his other “friends?” Actually, I don’t care what he does with his money or who he spends it on, what I do find the most unsettling about this is that, considering his truly big money supporters, having to do with a mere half million account, means he actually IS living RELATIVELY frugally. He does have a creative mind (as he constantly reminds us), remember his statement that he prefers oral sex because he can then truthfully say he hasn’t been sleeping with anyone (this was, as I recall, about the same time President Clinton was involved with Monica). Newt Gingrich has distinguished himself as almost without peer the greatest hypocrite of all time, to say nothing of one of the most accomplished liars and opportunistic flip-floppers the world has ever experienced. So long Newt, we finally knew you all too well.

It has become quite apparent that Americans like Medicare. They really like it. This is to me of great interest as they don’t seem to like socialized medicine. Either they are confused about the nature of Medicare or about the nature of socialism, or both. Perhaps they just don’t think about things like that, at least not two things at the same time. It would seem to me this would be the time to push really vigorously for “Medicare for all.” At the very same time people want to cling to Medicare, and at the very same time they complain incessantly about the high cost of health insurance (other than Medicare), you might think the obvious solution to the problem would be to adopt a universal health care program, as Vermont has just done. There is no doubt this would be the least expensive form of health care possible, it works fine as does the VA Hospital program, would make health care much more affordable, and would bring the U.S. into the modern world of universal health care that now exists in all other industrialized societies. It appears we cannot benefit from such a program because Insurance companies, and their paid supporters in Congress, have enough clout to prevent it. But I would like someone to explain to me honestly what Insurance companies bring to health care, other than a lot of paper work and rationing. Insurance companies make their generous (to say the least) profits by denying treatment to those who often need it the most. They refuse to insurance the sick and the needy, insure only those who need it the least, and basically exist on the misery of the ill and dying. Republicans often say, “Do you want the government to come between you and your doctor?” I guess the answer should be, “No, I would prefer an Insurance bureaucrat whose interest is in profit rather than my health would be more appropriate.” Insurance companies come between you and your doctor for no purpose other than to profit, they are totally unnecessary when it comes to your health and have no obvious (or other) reason to be involved. By eliminating them the cost of health insurance would be immeasurably less expensive and an unbelievable amount of misery and suffering would be eliminated. There are things, mostly the most important things in life, that simply should not under any circumstances be privatized. Health care leads the list. To me this is all so obvious I cannot understand why there should have to be any further discussion. Let’s do it now.

Isn’t it remarkable how little we hear now about the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Oh, you can find information if you bother to look, but apparently the fact that this Japanese disaster is far worse than Chernobyl is not regarded as main stream news anymore. Both Japan and Germany have now vowed to have no more nuclear energy plants and go all out for renewables, but here in the U.S. our Congress is still considering massive financial aid to build more of these utter monstrosities (that won’t exist at all without massive infusions of taxpayer money). What will it take before we realize that nuclear energy should be completely banned forever from the earth? The sad fact is that our political system, our government, no longer exists to deal with the public interest. It exists only to generate profits for those who are in charge of it, corporations and the one or two percent of the wealthiest individuals on earth.

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”
Vladimir Lenin

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All Hail Bibi

I tried to watch Netanyahu’s speech today but after a short time simply had to turn it off. I have never before seen such servile obeisance to anyone, let alone the leader of another country. You might well have thought you were watching the “Second Coming.” It seemed to me that after every third or fourth word, no matter what they were, everyone jumped to their feet and applauded enthusiastically for a strangely long time. What on earth was this all about? Netanyahu is probably the single most serious obstacle when it comes to peace in the Middle East. He is, I think, arguably a war criminal, having authorized the assassinations of Palestinian leaders, the killings of people in Gaza, and so on. He is a racist who has never disguised his contempt for the Palestinians, a thief who has authorized the theft of Palestinian lands, an international criminal for blithely ignoring international law for years, and a liar as well. I actually began to fear there would be a rush to the podium to be the first one to kiss the hem of his trousers (let alone his ass).

President Obama made it very clear, I thought, that the 1967 borders were simply a starting point for negotiations and said that no one believed they would be the borders ultimately established. There are to be land swaps, mutually agreed upon, that would establish new borders (unfortunately when pigs begin to fly and fish begin to tango). Netanyahu ignored what Obama said and insisted, completely unnecessarily, they would never return to the 1967 borders. He then rather grandiosely claimed the U.S. did not have to “build a nation” in Israel because they already were one, did not have to export democracy to them because they already had one (except, of course, for Arabs), and did not have to defend them as they defend themselves (with the help of billions every year from the U.S.). It was, I thought, an absolutely shameless performance, and watching it one could not help but see the Palestinian cause disappear before your eyes (and ears). I have no doubt that had President Obama been in attendance Netanyahu would not have hesitated to tell him what the U.S. should do next to benefit Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. The strange love affair between the U.S. Congress and Israel insures there will never be peace in the Middle East, never, and it insures the Arabs will have no other option than to oppose the state of Israel. It makes a mockery of even the pretense of a two state solution, fairness for the Palestinians, or even a serious attempt at peace.

The unconditional, unbreakable, and unquestionable support promised Israel by President Obama (and many others before him) means that we will (and have) supported even Israel’s overwhelmingly asymmetrical aggressive towards Lebanon and Gaza, their blatant war crimes, including the killing of innocent women and children, use of supposedly forbidden weapons, targeted assassinations, the bulldozing of Palestinian orchards and homes, deliberate daily humiliations, and naked colonialism. We are, in short, just as guilty as they are.

President Obama, it is said, has the support of Russia, the UK, and many other countries for his Israeli/Palestinian solution. Unfortunately it appears he will never have the support of his own Congress. Is this perhaps because like everything else he tries to do they will oppose him on principle, or is it because they worship the Israeli cause (the destruction of the Palestinians), or perhaps both? It would seem obvious Republicans will do anything they can to keep Obama from succeeding at anything, even if that means preventing peace in the Middle East (or perhaps even making us default on our debts for the first time in history). When Republicans announced they would become a party of “no,” I naively believed it was merely political posturing, when they announced their number one goal was to make Obama a one term President, I thought it was just talk. But now that I have seen what they have done to cripple and oppose every positive thing Obama has attempted, regardless of the seriousness of the consequences, I think it is no longer just politics as usual, but, rather, flirting on the boundaries of treason. Also, I have to ask, do you believe this would be as it is if Obama were not Black?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Palin for Senate?

I have been racking my brain, not only racking it, but also compartmentalizing it, dividing it up into quadrants, arranging it alphabetically, ranking things chronologically, dividing it into segments, arranging things into pie graphs, flow charts, statistical probabilities, and even bar graphs, and I’m still not sure I’ve solved the mystery of why Saucy Sarah, the Alaska Housewife from Hell, she with the shrill voice of the screech owl, the tenacity of the barracuda, the talents of a used car salesman, the stamina of a pit bull, the opportunism of a coyote, the cleverness of an arctic fox, and the brain of a peacock, is rumored to be buying a 1.7 million dollar home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I mean, really, the Sarah who claims to love Alaska, the life style, the shooting of wolves from helicopters, hunting big game with high-powered rifles, watching grizzly bears, fishing with her husband, cooking Moose noses, walking in the forest primeval, protecting the oil industry, keeping an eye on Russia from her front porch, making television shows touting how great it is to live there, now wants to move to the Arizona desert to live with gila monsters, rattlesnakes, cactus, Joshua trees, and road runners? Why, I ask myself, would she do this? It was while engaged in this basically waste of thought the epiphany occurred. She is going to run for the Senate!

Remember that Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona has recently announced he will retire at the end of his current term (next year I believe). And also bear in mind that John McCain, Palin’s mentor, is not a young man and will have to retire soon as well. Think of it, where would a clever but mostly empty-headed woman, who has managed to convert her 15 minutes of fame (thanks to McCain) into a few years of extremely lucrative activity, have a greater chance of being elected to the Senate than Arizona? Palin must know she has no chance of ever being President, and she must also know that her career will necessarily fade if she does not manage to stay in the press and on the political scene. So why not the Senate where she can join the many other empty heads, like Inhofe, DeMint, Sessions, Nelson, and others that exist there in oil-financed and other corporate luxury with little to do except vote as they are told and keep getting re-elected? She’d be perfect as a Senator from Arizona as she’s always been interested in death panels, guns, and fundamentalism. There must be a residency requirement in Arizona to run for the Senate, so if she buys now she will probably meet that requirement. Just remember if she does run for Senate in Arizona you heard it here first. If she doesn’t, pretend you never heard it at all, I didn’t say it, and you don’t know what anyone is talking about.

If good ol’ Newt’s run for President wasn’t already over last week it certainly will be soon. It’s the “bling” that will bring him down for sure. Five hundred thousand dollar debt to Tiffany’s that he does not want to explain. Now that the question has been raised you can bet the media won’t let it go and will ask it over and over until they get an answer. Why doesn’t he want to answer? How much money in jewelry is his current wife wearing? If he lives as frugally as he claims how could he owe five hundred thousand? Sorry Newt, I’m afraid your years of living frugally or otherwise are about to come to an end. Good riddance to one of the greatest phonies who ever lived.

I bet you didn’t know that President Obama’s great, great, great grandfather was not born in Ireland at all, but, rather, in Bechuanaland, now known as Botswana. He left there with a false birth certificate and passport to emigrate to Ireland where he took up residence in Moneygall. It was there that he laid the foundation for his great, great, great grandson’s ascendancy to the Presidency of the United States. The truth of this can be found in the Republican version of world history, particularly as it relates to fake Presidents and other stuff and nonsense. The reason there was an attempt on the life of St. Ronnie when he was President is because he had uncovered evidence of this nefarious plot and was about to warn us of what would happen if Obama ever became President. Fortunately, the assassination attempt failed and St. Ronnie passed the secret information on to his faithful Republican followers who have treasured and used it ever since. They could not keep Obama from being elected because the angels’ space ship from the planet Evangelical had a flat tire and did not arrive in time to nip this disaster in the bud. All will still work out, however, as Mitt Romney, protected by his sacred underwear, will swoop in at the last moment with his plan to destroy the health of all who are not Republicans and thus insure no diseases or defectives will go to heaven during the rapture which has been unexpectedly delayed due to a biblical miscalculation. They foolishly used the wrong bible. This, too, will be corrected as soon as the multi-million dollar creationist theme park in Kentucky opens and the dinosaur diaries are made available to the public. It is my understanding that the contemporary dinosaurs, disguised as chickens, have been working for years to decipher the 6000 year-old diaries written in tongues. So not to worry, all will be well, Republican heroes will emerge from the current chaos, God will speak to some of them like Palin, Bachmann, and Pawlenty, and we will once again be living in the land of plenty where the free market will take good care of us, one and all. Cheers.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

On Terrorists

Well, surprise, the world did not end! Were the true believers disappointed? Probably. What will they do? I don’t know for certain, but if I had to guess they will wait a while, claim they simply made a mistake in their calculations, and eventually make another prediction. It’s just like magic, there’s nothing really wrong with it, if you just do it right and nothing unexpected intervenes. My personal prediction for the end of everything is 11/11/11/11. Why? Why not?

Anyway, I was trying to consider the problem of terrorism. I have learned (although I’m sure I already basically knew this) there is no agreed upon definition for terrorism. Indeed, there seem to be at least 100 different definitions. In one dictionary is says terrorism is “the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion.” Basically, it seems to be agreed that terrorism employs violent acts to create fear, for religious, political, or ideological purposes. It seems also to be agreed that terrorism disregards or actually targets civilians. Thus terrorism could be applied to just about everything that happens between nations, and certainly describes the Israeli treatment of those in Gaza. It would also apply, I think, to our continuing inhuman and obscene drone attacks in Pakistan. However, in order to get around this obvious truth it is also usually said or suggested that terrorism has to be done by “non-governmental agencies, or “subnational or nonstate entities.” How convenient. Thus if Israel fires into Gaza, killing people, or if they target individuals for assassination, or if they bomb indiscriminately into their pen of Palestinians, this is apparently not terrorism, whereby if Hamas or Hezbollah fire missiles into Israel, or conduct suicide bombings, that is clearly terrorism. Technically, in these two cases, it isn’t truly that simple. First, Hamas, that does sometimes employ terrorist tactics, is not, strictly speaking, a non-governmental agency, being the duly and legally democratically elected government of the Palestinians. Hezbollah, who also sometimes employ terrorist tactics (as the Israelis once did and continue to do), is also a legitimate part of the Lebanese government and is, in fact, the only bulwark against Israeli aggression and occupation. Hezbollah and Hamas are said to be terrorist groups supported by Iran, but Iran has a functioning government so is not itself a terrorist organization (see how simple this all is). The U.S. supports Israel to the tune of billions very year, a condition that seems to be regarded as perfectly reasonable and legitimate, but Iran, that supports Hezbollah and Hamas, is regarded as a rogue nation that supports terrorists. See, Iran, right in the middle of the Middle East, is not supposed to have any national interests there as we do, at least not any that are not approved by us. I hope the absolute hypocrisy of this does not escape you. Most of the discussions of terrorism omit the obvious fact that it is mostly employed by those who are at a terrible disadvantage, without the resources to engage in more overt or traditional military means. It is, that is, asymmetrical. Although I do not approve of terrorism at any time or in any form, I confess I find it much more understandable on the part of the Palestinians than on the part of the Israelis or the U.S.

I thought President Obama’s speech to AIPAC today was mostly reasonable, considering what he obviously had to say to please them, and it did seem to be well-received. But consider carefully what he said, our relationship with Israel is absolutely permanent and unbreakable. Thus no matter what Israel does, murder, genocide, violations of international law, torture, or whatever, we will support them (as we always have). He did not pass up a cheap shot at Iran as well, mentioning the oft-repeated falsehood that Iran wants to “wipe Israel off the map,” which is not what was actually said even though it has now become regarded as factual. And, of course, we will go to any length to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb (that they are quite likely not even doing) because, by implication at least, if they did develop a bomb they would immediately use it on Israel. The utter imbecility of this belief leaves me often speechless, but of course they are Iranians, they have no sense, and would of course welcome having their country completely obliterated in a matter of minutes.

I am not at all sanguine about the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. If the plan is simply to wait and allow the two parties to swap territory and establish their mutually agreed upon borders, it is not going to happen. The Israeli government (as opposed perhaps to many Israeli citizens) does not want a settlement, does not want a Palestinian state, and thus will not want to give up much of anything toward that end, so why should they. The U.S. and the entire international community will have to demand a settlement (probably even if not an entirely fair one to the Palestinians) and force Israel to agree or it will just never happen. The U.S. has long since exposed itself as an obviously biased participant and thus cannot by itself arrange any satisfactory outcome. In short, the situation remains the same mess it’s been for years, the rhetoric and the intentions are the same, the spirit may or not be willing but the flesh as always is weak.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bibi Counts His Facts on the Ground

Netanyahu must be basking now in even more pleasure than usual as he has two excuses at the moment not to make peace. He predictably rejected President Obama’s suggestion that peace negotiations begin with the 1967 borders and changes to those borders could be negotiated and settled by various land swaps and such. Bibi apparently didn’t bother to consider land swaps and just announced that the 1967 borders would leave Israel indefensible. I suspect that without massive uncritical U.S. support no Israeli borders would be secure (but perhaps I am wrong). What is truly at stake here are the massive illegal settlements the Israelis have been building for years on occupied Palestinian land, settlements they do not want to give up, and apparently do not want to have to swap much of anything to keep them as they are now “facts on the ground.” Clever, no? It’s like saying to bank robbers, “Well, you already took the money so you might as well just keep it.”

The other reason Bibi must be happy is he can now refuse to discuss peace with the Palestinians because of Hamas. Remember that very recently Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement to merge and operate together to negotiate for a Palestinian state. For years Israel has refused to negotiate on the grounds that there was no viable Palestinian organization to negotiate with. Now there is one, but happily for Bibi, he can still refuse to negotiate because he won’t negotiate with Hamas. So with the 1967 borders out of the question, and Hamas considered illegitimate, Bibi can continue with his plan to keep the Palestinians divided and spread out in such conclaves a viable state will be impossible to emerge. So why is Hamas illegitimate? Because Hamas won the 2006 election, a perfectly legitimate democratic election, but one that did not produce the result Israel and the U.S. preferred. So rather than recognize the legality of the election and the win by Hamas, we withdrew our support for them and labeled them a terrorist organization. While we and Israel claim they are a terrorist organization, Russia, China, and others countries do not so consider them. So, so much for our hypocritical claims of wanting to encourage and spread democracy in the Middle East.

I believe it is obvious that Israel does not want a peace agreement with the Palestinians, certainly not if they have to give up any of their ill-gotten gains, and they certainly do not want a viable Palestinian state for a neighbor. If an agreement is ever to be reached it can only happen if the U.S. and the other world powers drag the Israelis kicking and screaming all the way. There is some reason to believe that enough pressure is building, especially now because of the Arab spring, to bring this about. Basically it will be mostly up to the U.S. to force the issue. President Obama has made an important gesture to the Palestinians, let’s see if he can work the miracle that has escaped all past Presidents (of course even if he did he would not get any of the credit for it as it must be the result of something George W. Bush did).

The Republican circus continues to produce candidates, it appears that Herman Cain is now definite, along with Romney and Pawlenty, as well as Gingrich, Santorum, Johnson, and I suppose Bachmann. Sarah, the Housewife from Hell, is still teasing but I doubt she will run. I sure we can count out Cain, Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann. Romney and Pawlenty are not what you might consider heavy hitters but for the moment it seems that’s about it. Huntsman I gather is still thinking about it but he’s much to coy about it and will probably not get in (I think). If employment continues to pick up as it seems slowly to be doing, and if some of our troops begin to come home, and if the economy continues to do well, President Obama can probably take on the whole lot of the Republican candidates with one hand tied behind his back. If that were to happen, and if Democrats manage to take back the House and a few Governorships, it might be possible to go back to running the country once more.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Dare He!

How dare President Obama suggest that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should start with the 1967 borders? That is something Palestinians want. Whoever heard of such a thing? Naturally Netanyahu is opposed to even the idea of such a thing, arguing once again that Israel will be indefensible, never mind that they possess the best army in the Middle East plus having the only nuclear weapons, plus having the full support of the U.S. It’s always the same old story, poor Israel, surrounded by Arabs backing the outrageous demands of the Palestinians they be treated as humans. Pro-Israeli lunatics like Alan Dershowitz are outraged, others are accusing Obama of “Throwing Israel under the bus,” and no doubt cries of anti-semiticsm will soon reverberate from virtually every corner of the land (if you care to say anything against Israel it is always anti-semitic).

Poor Bibi! It appears that his racist, basically genocidal plan to prevent Palestinians from ever living like human beings is about to crumble at last, and there probably will be nothing he can do about it except keep stalling until the very last desperate moment. The Arab spring has already, and will certainly in the future, both immediate and long-term, change things in the Middle East, and it is unlikely these changes are going to benefit Israel. Of course the Israelis could, if they wished, act honorably and cooperate in a plan to create a truly fair and completely viable two-state solution in which the Palestinians would have the same civil rights as other people around the world. But heaven forbid the Israelis might have to give up some of their illegal settlements and some of the land they have systematically stolen over the years. Of course I don’t believe that even if Israel is at last forced by international pressure to give in to a solution it will be entirely fair to the Palestinians, but perhaps half a loaf is better than none at all. I must commend President Obama for a brave and sensible position but I wonder if he will treat the Palestinians as fairly as he will the Israelis.

When are people going to admit that Newt Gingrich is a complete phony masquerading as the leading Republican intellectual? He is not only just a plump, over-the-hill, blowhard who blurts out what he seems to think is his latest (usually stupid) revolutionary idea, he has now reached the point of total irrelevancy (or would if the ridiculous MSM would stop showing us his every precious word). For the Democrats sake I hope he stubbornly stays in the race as long as he can (it doesn’t look promising).

I must admit to a kind of strange fascination with the Republican Keystone Kops approach to finding a candidate to run against Obama. They tolerated for a time the greatest phony pretend candidate of all, Donald Trump, until he finally gave in to what he sought, his truly stupid TV show. Then Huckabee finally admitted that he, too, did not want to give up his newfound fame on the idiot box and dropped out. Gingrich, who had no chance, will soon be gone. Haily Barbour said he lacked “fire in his belly” and gave up quickly. For the moment that seems to lead Mitt Romney (who literally oozes insincerity from every pore) as the current frontrunner (and I would guess probably the eventual candidate). But there are still other clowns out there making noises about running. Sarah Palin, for example, who almost certainly will not run (it would cost her money) but has to keep teasing that she might in order to stay newsworthy. Michelle Bachmann, who might run (probably with to no purpose other than gaining fame and party influence).Rick Santorum seems to be seriously running although for the life of me I cannot see why. Governor Pawlenty is still around putting audiences to sleep. There is also the somewhat mysterious Huntsman who seems to be considering a run but is being rather secretive about it. I guess there are others even less well-known. I think the Republican party has decided to let these not very promising candidates just play in the sandbox until 2016 when they will try to find a more potentially viable candidate (if, that is, the party has any credibility at all left by then).

President Obama is enjoying himself immensely no doubt, as he knows that no matter how bad he performs (short of outright disaster), the Republican candidate is going to be worse. And if he brings home a few troops from Afghanistan, employment picks up a bit, the economy shows more signs of recovery, and Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot with one terribly unpopular idea after another, he should win in a landslide (his own mistakes notwithstanding).

Monday, May 16, 2011

True Patriots

After weeks, even months, of blathering on endlessly about how they were thinking about running for President, and how great they would be as President, both Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump have both finally announced they are not going to be candidates. This is not at all surprising in the case of Trump as most everyone, including myself, never believed he would run in the first place. Huckabee’s decision is not much more surprising as there were at least some who predicted earlier he would not actually become a candidate. What I find most interesting about this is the completely unserious and cavalier attitudes that were obviously at play. Being President of the United States, probably the single most important position in the world, is not, I think, something one should merely toyed with, but that is what both of these individuals were apparently doing. Our country has serious problems at the moment, two (or more) “wars,” an out of control national debt, a badly divided electorate, problems with Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, Health care, and so on. We desperately need leadership, serious people who would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the national interest, dedicated patriots who are truly interested in seeing us through these difficult times. You might think that anyone who would spend weeks, even months, touting themselves as serious candidates, would be of this type, but you would be wrong, at least in the case of these two phonies. I doubt that anyone took Trump’s donkey brayings about how great he was and how he would be a marvelous President (because of his business experience) seriously. It was pretty obvious he was interested more in publicity than running for President. Huckabee has recently claimed he would be a much better President than Obama, and has been rather outspoken in his criticism of President Obama. He was doing fairly well in the early polls and it appeared he might well have had a chance to at least capture some of the early, more conservative states.

But consider what both of these basically false candidates have done. In the case of Trump, who has some idiotic TV show that pays him lots of money (that he apparently needs in spite of his grandiose claims of fortune) he has chosen to continue that rather than try for the Presidency. Huckabee is no different, he, too, has some TV show, is apparently building an large expensive house, and does not want to give up his new found luxury for the possible (mere) Presidency of the United States. In other words, neither of these jerks were dedicated to the nation or seriously interested either in the Presidency or in solving the problems of our country, but, rather, in their own comfort and well-being. So why did they take up our time for so long with their absurd posturing and false claims? It must have been partly ego and a desire for attention, but in these two cases in particular it had nothing to do with the needs of the nation and everything to do with their own naked self-interest, true fake patriots all the way. Of course neither of them would have been decent Presidents anyway, Huckabee so ignorant and religiously intolerant, Trump so grandiosely ridiculous and phony.

I cannot but believe that running for President ought to be a serious business, not merely a lark engaged in for publicity or ego satisfaction and attention. There is no doubt in my mind that Newt Gingrich is in it for no reason other than his massive ego and belief that he is a really important person, a worthy historical figure (rather than a pathetic has-been or never-was, hypocritical, dishonest faker, willing to say anything at all to further his VIP fantasies). He, too, is wasting our time. Sarah Palin is another one, as are Rick Santorum and what’s-his-face, Cain. Pawlenty, Romney, and Huntsman are probably the only serious candidates at the moment, and even they are flawed more or less second raters. Unless someone truly unusual and unexpected turns up I fear the Republicans will have to wait until 2016, if they have not completely imploded by then.

I suspect there are at least two reasons the Republican candidates are so unusually weak in this election cycle, (1) they don’t believe they will be able to defeat Obama in spite of their overwhelming desire to do so, and (2) they realize that it doesn’t matter much who the President is as he will serve and dance only at the whims and desires of those “who brung him.”

Patriotism, I fear, is dead. We no longer have leaders with a genuine interest in the well-being of our nation, with extremely rare possible exceptions, they are now all in it for themselves, serving those who pay them well and allow them to continue to serve in office under false pretenses. “The best government money can buy” is no longer just a cynical phrase, it is now an accurate description of how our political system functions.

As an aside, Germany has renounced nuclear energy and Japan has now done the same. Will we be intelligent enough to do the same? Don’t bet on it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Egos Gone Wild

Apparently the only prerequisite for running for President of the United States, probably the single most important position in the world, is a massive ego. If you want to drive a car you must have a license, if you want to buy a gun you have to pass a background check (at least theoretically), if you want to apply for most jobs you have to show some form of preliminary experience, even if you want to buy something on credit you have to be approved. None of this applies to running for President. That is why we have had Presidents who were peanut farmers, haberdashers, second-rate movie actors, as well as Senators, ex-Generals, Governors and so on. This does seem strange to me, as I think there should be at least some conditions candidates should meet before they decide to run for President, but there aren’t any. As near as I can tell, aside from being an American citizen, at least 35 years of age, and having lived in the country for a certain amount of time, nothing else is formally required. Informally there seem to be two or three conditions, he/she has to believe in religion (only certain religions apply), has to have at least some modicum of support, and has to have an ego larger than life (notice that even sanity is not a necessary condition).

Thus it is that we have candidates for the Presidency that in some cases have no genuine qualifications other than ego. I have already commented on probably the most gigantic ego of all, Newt Gingrich, who has no realistic chance of ever being elected President but seems to be driven by nothing but his gargantuan ego. He seems to believe that he deserves an important place in history (that he has already achieved, being the most egregious hypocrite of all time). But really, what is it that motivates individuals to think they should run for President, or makes them believe they are even entitled to, if it is not just plain egotism? I guess t here are at least two different categories we might speak about, those individuals that might conceivably have a chance of becoming nominated, and those who almost certainly do not have any chance. Aside from Gingrich, in this latter category, are people like Santorum, Trump, Bachmann, Palin, Paul, and other lesser-knowns who are apparently so divorced from reality and egomaniacal they don't realize the obvious. In the first category are people like Pawlenty, Romney, Daniels, Huntsman, Barbour, and perhaps others who might conceivably have a chance, but probably not. This is why even the Republican Party is trying to find more suitable candidates (without much luck so far).

In either case, either with a chance for success or no chance at all, the individuals involved have to be driven primarily by ego. They have to believe they are somehow special enough, talented enough, clever enough, smart enough, or somehow gifted enough to lead the nation (or at least pretend to do so), and they have to be able to convince at least a few others of their superiority. You might think that for a position of such tremendous importance there would be some kind of training involved, or some provision for continuity, or at least some form of relevant experience other than, for example, having been a terrible governor, actor, or businessman. You might even expect, for example, that a Vice-President might be picked and groomed for the position, expecting to run after the President’s term is up. Even that possibility is not followed anymore (if ever it truly was). Joe Biden, for example, is not going to run for President, Sarah Palin was certainly not picked for that eventuality, nor was Harry Truman, Spiro Agnew, Dick Cheney, or others, so who the next President will be is no more certain than who will win big in the next crap game. This is not, I think, “any way to run a railroad.”

This in turn brings up the question of what, if anything, would or should disqualify someone. For years it was widely believed that no Catholic could become President, until John Kennedy managed to overcome that prejudice. It is still most probably the case that a Jewish President is not on the horizon. Of course no one ever dreamed of a Black President, so perhaps anything is possible. A Socialist President is almost certainly not possible, at least in the foreseeable future. But what about a Mormon President, both Romney and Huntsman I believe are both Mormons and are both considered possibly viable candidates. Many people believe Mormonism is little more than a “cult,” and most probably would not accept a Mormon President. This brings up the question of religious beliefs that for people like myself is a problem. I do not really have anything more against Mormons that any other organized religion, but I doubt I could bring myself to vote for someone who believes in magical underwear or other such things, or for some fundamentalist who was opposed to abortion and/or Gay marriage, or insisted on public prayer five times a day. In fact, I doubt I could bring myself to vote for a candidate who did not believe in evolution, or global warming, or science in general. As there is an unspoken or informal belief that no one could be elected President who did not profess some religion and attend church, this means I could probably not vote for anyone, unless I assumed their church attendance was mostly for show rather than serious. But how might one know this for sure?

It is pretty obvious that a massive ego is not enough to get you taken seriously, Gingrich and Trump are perfect cases of all ego and no “meat,” “cattle,” “honesty,” or even honest achievement. But as no one will ever achieve the Presidency with a genuinely weak ego, all we can hope for is someone with enough sense to at least pretend humility, or realize they are not truly fit for the office and stop wasting our time while they massage their egos.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Talking Endless Nonsense

Boise man arrested for walking
nude, wanting to “end his fear
of walking nude in public.”

I have lost all patience for talking nonsense. We seem to be wasting time discussing things that need no further discussion. I am thinking of subsidies for the oil companies. Usually when there is an argument about something there are two sides that can be more or less reasonably advanced. In the case of further oil subsidies for companies that are currently making the highest profits in the history of the world there really is no valid or reasonable argument, and those oil executives who insist there is are just talking nonsense and wasting our time. This is a case so completely absurd it does not require any further discussion, the subsidies are so ridiculous they should not even need to be an issue. The same thing is true of further tax breaks for the wealthiest people in the country. In fact, continuing oil subsidies and tax breaks for the wealthy are every bit as silly as arguing we should subsidize feathers for birds or fur for Polar Bears. Republicans who insist on arguing otherwise should simply be laughed off the stage and told to go home to collect and save their belly button lint, while allowing serious people to at least try to run the country.

There are other issues that should probably also be settled with no further ado. Torture, for example, as the only people who are defending it are those who illegally and unconstitutionally instigated it. The facts by now seem quite clear, torture (whatever you call it) doesn’t work, the experts have spoken, the research is available, there is no honest argument about it. In any case it is illegal always. There is no reason to discuss it any further, Bush and Cheney and the rest of their criminal conspiracy should be silenced about it once and for all and consider themselves fortunate indeed they are not all in jail. I would include global warming here also as something about which there is no further doubt. It is real, it is happening, mankind is at least partly responsible for it, and it is urgent that something be done about it. There are only two reasons I can think of why this should still be a matter for discussion, either those who deny it believe they know more than the entire cadre of the world’s scientists, or they are so short-sighted and greedy they don’t care what happens to the earth.

Still another even more pathetic subject that seemingly will not go away has to do with evolution vs creationism. The argument that the earth is a mere 6000 years of age was settled in the 1850’s, to maintain otherwise is just talking utter nonsense. Similarly, the existence of dinosaurs existing contemporaneously with humans is even worse nonsense. There is no reason we should have to be now spending time on such absurdities, but we do. We are wasting our time, chasing our tails, baying at the moon, indulging in fairy tales. Those who cling to such outmoded and obviously ignorant views should simply be ignored while serious and informed people try to deal with the real problems that currently beset us.

It seems to me that all of the abovementioned issues are settled, clearly, obviously, and finally. They should need no further attention. I grant there are other issues that are not quite so clear-cut (although these, too, are clear enough for me), abortion, for example. Roe vs Wade is the law of our land, but there are large numbers of citizens who simply cannot accept this. You might think that people should just obey the law and let it go at that. But those who cannot accept this particular law are now going to extreme lengths to try to subvert it in any way they can, by imposing impossible conditions for women who seek abortions, bombing abortion clinics, killing abortion doctors, and so on. Although a majority of Americans believe in a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body and life, there is a very large number who apparently do not. It is not at all clear what can ever be done about this problem as those who believe in choice truly believe in it, and those who do not, truly do not. Unlike the above issues that should no longer be controversial at all, this one is substantially different and may not even be amenable to a solution. But surely killing abortion providers and bombing clinics should not be allowed. So here is an issue that should be settled but is not, and no solution even seems possible because not everyone is willing to follow the law. Homosexuality is another case in point. There is no doubt that homosexuals are born and do not willfully choose to be the way they are. Thus laws and discrimination against homosexuality are basically futile and impossible to enforce. But here, again, there are many who are unwilling to accept the fact that this is so, and therefore continue to deny reality and the law. You might think this would be an easy prejudice to overcome but that is not the case. The fact of homosexuality will probably be accepted long before abortion but in the meantime we will continue put up with nonsensical claims and waste time.

All of these issues are not merely matters of opinion, my opinions against others, they are factual matters that should by rights simply be accepted. It is not, for example, simply my opinion that global warming is real, or that creationism is not. Nor is it simply my opinion that oil subsidies are unnecessary. But how do you deal with those who simply refuse to accept the obvious and tenaciously cling to opinions without any foundation in fact or demand impossible solutions to matters of critical importance? I guess you just put up with war criminals, lawbreakers, thieves, and the abysmally ignorant and just hope that someday, somehow, someway, it will all go away.

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.
Robertson Davies

The unicorn was once regarded as a wild, woodland creature that could only be captured by a virgin.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Academic Freedom

Police were shocked, schocked,
to discover nudity and gambling
in Lingerie cafes in Garden Grove.

I don’t know how many people are shocked to learn that the Koch brothers have donated a million and half (I believe that is the right amount) to the Florida State University Economics Department to hire faculty, but only if they have the right to decide who is hired. (and presumably will be able to conrol). I am pretty sure this kind of thing has been going on for years but never before has it been exposed so blatantly. Business has slowly and insidiously infiltrated our schools for years, from the kinds of food served to our children, to enhancing the school budgets for selling their products, the kinds of textbooks available, the funds available for research, and to the quality of the faculty hired and retained. This attempt by business to take over control of our educational system has reached crisis proportions (in my opinion). It can also be seen in its more outrageous form in the recent movement to privatize our schools. Fundamentally, what it means is the abandonment of the very basis of academic freedom.

This shocking development can also be seen in attempts in various states and localities to do away with the tenure system. What opponents of tenure do not tell you, if, indeed, they are themselves even knowledgeable enough to understand it, is that the tenure system was not installed to insure permanence of employment for teachers. It was begun to insure freedom of speech, and to make certain that teachers could not be fired because they were minorities or considered ideas that were unpopular. Even in the tenure system as it exists currently it is entirely possible to fire teachers for incompetence, moral turpitude, or criminal behavior. For the most part elementary schools and High Schools do not usually have tenure systems as such, although they can reward teachers with relative permanence of employment once they have proven themselves. If there are abuses in the system they are not the result of the system but, rather, of misunderstanding, misapplication, or corruption.

The result of having business meddling in our institutions of learning is that it destroys the very basis of academic freedom, the major reason for having education in the first place. If teachers are not at liberty to teach various points of view, if they have to fear losing their jobs for not following some party line, the entire foundation for their existence disappears. This Koch brothers’ shameful attempt to interfere with a University faculty is just the tip of an iceberg that has slowly attempted to do away with free speech and academic freedom. I have seen this before when politicians have attempted to overrule faculty decisions about tenure or other matters. This is dangerous beyond belief to a democratic society. The very idea that schools (and Universities in particular) should be privatized is diametrically opposed to the very idea of education as we have formerly conceived of it. A truly viable democratic system assumes an informed citizenry, no doubt the origin of the public school system to begin with. But public schools, just like public anything, are now accused of being socialistic and as such, taboo in the U.S.

Another place this attack on education can be seen is the increasing use of adjunct or part-time faculty members. If a University can hire part-time teachers they are, of course, cheaper, and there is no question of tenure or even benefits involved. This is a trend that has become more and more prevalent in these times of budget shortfalls. But here, again, this is terribly destructive of our educational institutions, to say nothing of shamefully exploiting faculty.

Universities should be generously funded by states and the federal government. They should not be allowed to be exploited by private interests, nor should they have to fear being unfunded because they engage in education rather than propaganda. Professional schools, like Medicine and Law should not be considered part of a University system unless they are independently financed and do not accept research funds from pharmaceuticals or other business interests, where such exists essentially makes a mockery of education, academic freedom, and even democracy itself.

If a nation, any nation, is seriously interested in its continuation and success it cannot disvalue education, and in fact should give it one of its highest priorities. Our schools should be well funded, our teachers well paid, our Universities kept independent and allowed to pursue knowledge for its own sake with no strings attached. I would personally go much farther and argue that we should have free public Universities where anyone of any age or interest would be welcomed to enroll in classes and even encouraged to do so and thus improve their minds, whether they sought a degree or not. You must have an educated citizenry or eventually perish as a democracy. As we here in the U.S. have come to believe education has no basic value other than perhaps getting one a job, and the educated are regarded simply as “pointy-headed intellectuals,” or those who “teach because they cannot do,” higher education is becoming beyond the reach of most people, and the ignorant are allowed to override the informed as in the case of global warming, we are eventually going to pay a price we cannot afford. It is already beginning to happen.

Today I saw something I have not previously seen. One of Huchabees primary advisors, a woman named Janet Porter, apparently claimed that President Obama was born in the Soviet Union and was bred to be a spy. Where do they find these people?

One of the arguments you sometimes hear about the deficit is that the government is no different than an ordinary family, and just like a family should not overspend its budget. This is of course utter nonsense, but there is another thing about families these people never mention, when Uncle Harry or Grandpa, or some other member of the family becomes so difficult and impossible to deal with, arguing for example, that no additional revenue is needed to pay the bills, or just automatically saying “no” to everything, or that the solution to the family debt would be to send money to the filthy rich side of the family, or by taking food out of the mouths of the children, and so on, they can eventually fall prey to the men in the white coats that come to take them away. Our government cannot do that, pity.

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
John Adams

It has now been established that at least some animals have a sense of right and wrong, hence morality.

Monday, May 09, 2011

What is it...

Chicago man keeps four
foot alligator in kitchen
“to impress women.”

What is it that makes people like Newt Gingrich think they should run for President, or might even remotely be Presidential material? Gingrich is little more than a disgrace to the human race, a failure as Speaker of the House, thrown out in disgrace, quite likely the world’s greatest hypocrite for attacking President Clinton for an illicit affair when he was engaged in precisely the same thing himself at precisely the same time. A man who told his wife while she was hospitalized with cancer he wanted a divorce, a thrice married man who acknowledged himself to be an adulterer, and someone who is willing to tell any lie no matter how outrageous if it will benefit him. Not too many years ago such a despicable person would not even have considered running for President (and probably would not have been allowed to), and would quite likely have completely disappeared from the political scene in disgrace.

I confess I cannot understand it. It seems to me there are three possibilities: (1) Gingrich has concluded (perhaps rightly so) that the political scene in the United States has reached a point so surreal it doesn‘t matter anymore what kind of unprepared person or outright scumbag runs, (2) his ego is so powerful he doesn’t understand reality and how it actually affects him, or (3) he has wealthy and powerful supporters who want him to run for reasons we do not understand, whether he wins or not. And speaking of supporters, just who is it that has given him such huge amounts of money (32 million, I believe) to run, and why? As I do not believe he has any chance whatsoever of ever becoming President, it seems strange to me that people would support his candidacy so generously. Do his supporters really believe he has a chance of being elected? I find this almost impossible to believe. I am beginning to suspect there must be an inverse correlation involved, such that the more generous the contribution and passionate the support, the dimmer the bulb, the fewer cards in the deck, the more sawdust between the ears, the smoother the brain, the lower the I.Q., the emptier the head, and etc.

I suppose Gingrich should get some credit for somehow convincing his Republican colleagues that he is a serious, thoughtful member of the party, indeed, the party’s “intellectual.” Here are Newt’s comment on himself:

“I have enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it. I am now a famous person. I represent real power.”

The most serious, systematic revolutionary of modern times.

I’m not a naural leader. I’m too intellectual; I’m too abstract; I think too much.

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

Newt Gingrich - Primary mission, Advocate of civilization, Definer of civilization, Teacher of the rules of civilization, Leader of the civilizing forces.”

He seems to have convinced at least some that he is all of this and more, when in fact he is a nothing but a blowhard pontificator with little more claim to intellectualism than a toad and no more morals than a chicken hawk.

Here are some examples of his intellectualism:

The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting industry or private sources is essentially

a socialist argument.

In Washington, D.C. 800 babies a year are left in Dempsey dumpsers (actually it was 4)

Give the park police more ammo. Newt Gingrich response to a reporter who asked what to do about the homeless a few days after the police thot a homeless man in front of the White House.

Thirty years of hedonism, liberals have driven god out of the public forum, and it is time we put him back in.

It is not difficult to find examples of Gingrich’s outright lying from everything to the dope-addicted Clinton administration to the future of Russia. He is the biggest phony ever. The late Molly Ivins (bless her) summed him up well:

“Newt Gingrich is a draft-dodging, dope-smoking, wife-divorcing, deadbeat dad, which I assure you, meets all the standards of accuracy set by Rush Limbaugh.”

He thinks he ought to be President.

Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.
Frank Leahy

The teddy bear was created because of an incident involving President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt while bear hunting.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Horse Boy - film

I have just watched a documentary film called “The Horse Boy.” This film, produced in 2009, is one of the strangest ideas for a documentary I have ever encountered. Rupert Isaacson is a documentary filmmaker. His wife, Kristin, is a psychologist. They have an autistic son, Rowan, four years old, who has not responded well to any therapy. As Rupert has spent time with the Bushmen, filmed, and was impressed by their healing ceremonies, he and his wife decide to take Rowan to Mongolia to seek out shamans (that are known to still be active there) in the desperate hope that perhaps they can do something for the boy. Mongolia was also picked because the boy has also shown he has some strange affinity for horses, and of course horses are of great importance in Mongolian culture.

So off they go to Mongolia where they made this film (with some juxtapositions with their life in Texas). There are some wonderful scenes of Mongolia as they travel across much of it in a large van and also on horseback. There are scenes that make it clear just how difficult it is to deal with an autistic child as he has terrible tantrums, no control over his bowels, and is difficult to control. They obviously are caring parents and deal with the situations as best they can. With a Mongolian interpreter they do manage to expose the boy to shamanistic rites on some occasions and you get a reasonably good idea of what is involved. You also gain some appreciation of what everyday life in Mongolia, living in both tepees and yurts, is like. They, themselves have tents and are obviously well provisioned for such a journey. Their ultimate goal is to reach the reindeer herders near the Russian border, which they do, and find a powerful shaman who treats the boy in a brief ceremony. He tells them that perhaps Rowan will someday become a shaman himself, but in the meantime at least some of his difficult behavior will change for the better almost immediately. There is not very convincing evidence that this occurs, but the implication is that the boy begins to control his bowels and also begins to interact more normally with other children. Back home in Texas he finally learns, more or less, to ride a horse by himself. The parents believe he has changed somewhat for the better but they make no claims about why this actually occurred. That is, they do not claim shamanistic success, or the strange foreign experience, they merely indicate they believe some change has occurred. If you want some insight into how difficult an autistic child can be, and how difficult it is for the parents, and if you also want some very nice scenes of Mongolia and life there, you will find this film of interest.

I confess to being perhaps unnecessarily suspicious about the whole undertaking. First of all, of course, is the fact that autism is still pretty much a blanket term for a condition no one understands very well. Second, I am having trouble trying to decide whether they were serious about their quest for help or just using the situation as an excuse for making a documentary. There is no doubt they made this difficult trip with hardships along the way, and there is no doubt about the reality of being in Mongolia and encountering Mongolian people. But there obviously must have been a film crew with them, and they obviously were well provisioned along the way. I cannot help but wonder how much they paid the Mongolian shamans for their performances and I therefore also wonder if the shamans themselves were serious about what they were doing or just performing for the camera. I wonder just how serious this trip truly was. Did they really expect the shamans to help their son (or was this (1) just an excuse to make a film and have an adventure, or (2) was it a sincere but desperate attempt to really find some help. Finally, as a documentary film, does it even make any difference?

There is no doubt the Isaacsons love their son, no doubt they are fine and patient parents, and no doubt they wish him well and rightly worry about his future. But I also wonder how much thought they gave to the possible outcome of such a trip. A four year-old boy, already disturbed, exposed to strange people in a strange culture, worked over by strangely costumed adults beating on drums, muttering incomprehensible words, and performing strange rituals over him, and so on. It could have been a rather traumatic disaster. It does not seem to have been. But will anyone ever know for sure what it meant to him, if anything at all? Did they assume that he was so autistic nothing could potentially harm him, a kind of “go for broke” therapy. I do not mean to be unkind, and I assume they were well intentioned, but I cannot help but wonder. In any case, as above, if you are interested in autism or Mongolian culture or both you will probably find this film of interest.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Mindless Republicans

Are there no Republicans at all who think for themselves? Now all 44 Republican Senators have signed a letter (or something) saying they will not vote for anyone to be Director of the New Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (unless it is made essentially powerless). I find it impossible to believe there is not a single Republican Senator who believes in consumer protection. How can this be? This is the same thing they did earlier when they voted as a group for Ryan’s budget plan to gut Medicare. Was there really not a single one who was opposed to doing away with Medicare? They have been doing this all along, at least since President Obama was elected, when they said, again as a group, they would vote “no” for everything he wanted, and for the most part, they did. There is something very strange about this behavior. Senators enjoy a great deal of power, they are important people, one would assume that no one would be elected to the Senate if they were not believed to have a mind of their own and act according to their conscience and/or what is best for the nation. But they don’t. They don’t seem to think it is necessary to think for themselves. They do what they are told. I don’t believe this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned, nor do I believe most Americans think this is a proper way for Senators to behave. They are by now so much financed (bribed) by corporations, pharmaceuticals, big oil, big agriculture, etc. they apparently cannot act independently at all. Big business does not want consumer protection so Republicans are going to insure (if they can) there will not be any. I guess the only positive thing about this is it will apparently give President Obama an opportunity to make a special appointment for Elizabeth Warren who is clearly the best person for the job.

I must say I find it interesting that after three attempts Florida has finally passed an anti-beastiality law. I mean, how could anyone be opposed to such a law? But, then, has beastiality become so commonplace in Florida that it requires a specific law against it? Aren’t there laws against animal abuse that would cover such (presumably rare) cases? Or is beastiality much more prevalent than I think it is? Oh, well, it is Florida.

As it appears we will never know the truth about anything again, and the lies and misinformation about the death Of Osama bin Laden continue, I have decided to ignore it for a time. It is Springtime (more or less) here at Sandpile (I mean Sandhill), time to plant the garden and such. The weather has not been cooperative so I have had to take advantage of the rare moments of rainless days and do what I can. I’ve managed to plant peas, carrots, beets, and spinach so far. Today I planted some asparagus roots as most of our original asparagus plot was destroyed by unusually cold weather two years ago. Most of the raspberries we replanted last year seem to have survived and are beginning to grow. The Green Gage Plum I planted, that the deer virtually destroyed, appears to still have some life in it and is coming back. I will soon be planting the leeks that I started five weeks ago. The huge old cherry tree that bears spectacularly year after year will do so again this year, and the Bosch pears the same. Our blueberry bushes that have never done very well are showing signs of life and all in all, if we get some decent weather this year should be much better than last (never count your chickens…).

More importantly, perhaps, our time has been taken up by charcuterie. My wife is involved in a contest, “Charcutepalooza,” that involves 300 contestants from all over the world. Each month for twelve months there is a different task the entrants are required to attempt. First we did salting and curing and made our own pancetta, then we did smoking and smoked pork sirloin and pork hocks. This month’s task is sausage. Yesterday and today we were occupied making sausage, something we have never done before. We completed this afternoon small amounts of four different kinds of sausage: Italian, Garlic, Fennel, and Merguez (having never tried it before we wanted to see which ones we might like the best and didn’t want to risk wasting a lot of pork and lamb). I am pleased to report, indeed, even proud to announce, that all four of these sausages proved to be quite outstanding (I swear my wife was born to do this kind of stuff). We cooked small amounts of each of them to taste. I thought the fennel and the merguez were the best but they were all delicious. Obviously we are caught up in a movement to grow your own food, and avoid fast foods and factory produced meats and vegetables loaded with chemicals of all kinds. Of course they are also now becoming so expensive one can barely afford them. We are blessed by having friends that raise Highland beef cattle with no chemicals, lambs with no chemicals, and a large meat company that raises both beef and pork completely chemical free. We also have a fine farmer’s market in the summer that supplements our own organic garden. The biggest problem living here has to do with the lack and variety of fresh fish. We do get marvelous flash frozen wild salmon and halibut every year but not much else (we can, of course, get shrimp, oysters, clams and crab sometimes, but never really fresh). We make up for it by occasional trips to the Washington and Oregon coasts.

Such is life here in (alas) Republicanville.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Abandon all Hope...

Dubai woman sues ex-husband
for 12.5 million for not having sex
with her, causing her mental anguish.

Abandon all hope Ye who might wish to know the truth, or even a rough approximation of truth, about anything, anything at all. Truth no longer exists in our supposed democracy. I believe the death of truth probably began with Saint Ronnie’s absolutely idiotic proclamation, “Government is the problem.” I assume he must have received this revelation from Nancy, who in turn must have learned it from her Astrologer. In any case, after hearing this marvelous piece of utter nonsense the Republican Party has been on an obsessive course to try to prove it true. Thinking back on things, I do not remember people distrusting their government anywhere near the extent to which they do now. It is true there were always disagreements about policies and priorities, but by and large we assumed and believed we were being told the truth. I’m pretty certain that most people knew there were occasional government secrets but they did not think secrecy was a major characteristic of government or political life.

We have now reached a point where virtually no one trusts the government or the media to tell the truth about anything. Facts are no longer considered to be different from fictions, even science has been losing its credibility, and people seem to believe anything they wish, even things of such monumental importance they could actually destroy our lives. The denial of global warming is perhaps the best example of this, but there are other claims equally as potentially dangerous, “clean” coal or nuclear energy, for example, or the benefits of privatization and unregulated capitalism. Even things of much lesser importance are grist for the fantasy mills that seem never to stop grinding these days. Even now there are many who still believe President Obama is not truly a citizen of the U.S. and should not be President. Huge segments of our population deny the theory of evolution in favor of outright fairy tales about the age of the earth or people being swallowed by whales, or living with dinosaurs. Some 61% of us at the moment appear to believe that Osama bin Laden is already in hell, a destination known only to those who believe in angels and the happy hunting ground.

The Bush/Cheney administration shares greatly (even more than that) in our present distrust of our government. I cannot remember when they, or members of their administration, ever told the truth about anything. They lied about weapons of mass destruction, the potential cost of the “war” in Iraq, how easy and quickly it would be over, the benefits that would derive from tax breaks to the wealthy, the “spreading of democracy,“ the outing of Valerie Plame, the benefit s of torture that was not torture at all, but merely “enhanced interrogation,”and on and on and on, all lies piled upon further lies upon even further lies. Is it any wonder government no longer has credibility? The case of bin Laden’s death demonstrates just how far our distrust has lead us, as the Obama administration has elected to continue this reign of lies, misinformation, and secrecy. Virtually no one, as far as I can tell, believes what they have been told about bin Laden’s death. And why should they? First he was killed in a firefight, later he was unarmed. He was shot once in the head, then once in the head and chest, then twice in the left eye. He resisted although he was unarmed and not in very good health and was facing our absolutely crack heavily armed troops. He was to be killed, but not if he offered to surrender, he was hiding behind his wife, no another woman, no not hiding at all. His twelve year-old daughter says he was captured and then shot ten minutes later. His burial was rushed to be dropped in the ocean, ostensibly to meet Muslim burial traditions (that do not include burial at sea). Now we are not even allowed to see pictures of his corpse. We are never going to know what truly happened, and our distrust of government will be intensified. It is so bad it is even being acknowledged that people wouldn’t believe it even if they did see pictures of the corpse. Now many are demanding we remove our troops from Afghanistan because Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaida pretty much destroyed. There is little sign so far that we are about to withdraw troops from that troubled land, most probably because those are not the real reasons we are there, but no one has ever explained clearly why we are there. I’m pretty sure that by this point, even if the government deigned to tell us the truth about something, no one would believe it. If, however, someone told us we were about to be attacked by “Mole people” from Nowhereistan, and therefore needed to double the Pentagon budget, many would believe it. I once heard it claimed that a man, on a busy payday, successfully cashed a check made out to U.R. Stuck from a bank in Nowhere, Alaska. This pretty much sums up where we are now.

How did this come about? Why and how did we arrive at this point where truth (and beauty) no longer exist? Saint Ronnie had something to do with it, as did Bush/Cheney. But so does the (mysterious, I believe) survival of so many Evangelical Christians (that for the most part do not exist in other modern, industrialized societies). This, in turn, is related to our contempt for education and our anti-intellectualism. And this is related to the corporate takeover of virtually all means of communication, radio, television, newspapers, and what have you, by a very small number of huge corporations that prefer to keep us in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant (so to speak). The powers that be do not want us thinking about how it is they are destroying our planet in their mad desire for short-term profits, or how our wealth is stealthily being transformed from the middle class and the poor to the obscenely wealthy. Is this partly, at least, our own fault? When did you last hear of an uprising or revolution of sheep?

Facts are stupid things.
Ronald Reagan

"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.''
-Mark 16:18, the King James Bible

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Just Another Day

West Virginia man dressed in bra
and panties, high on bath salts,
kills neighbor’s pygmy goat.

If you thought the only things inevitable were death and taxes you must have forgot Republicans predictable and apparently inevitable attempts to denigrate President Obama. Surprisingly, Obama did receive a standing ovation at a bipartisan meeting of politicians, and perhaps equally surprising he received praises from John McCain. But others went out of their way to either ignore or denigrate Obama’s triumph over Osama bin Laden. The strident fishwife from Alaska, Sarah Palin, who fancies herself Presidential material, with her usual lack of even rudimentary noblesse oblige, actually thanked George W. Bush for bin Laden’s death. Governor Pawlenty did offer some minor thanks to Obama, but only after thanking Bush first. Romney gave credit to “the President” but did not actually mention him by name. Huckabee managed to avoid having to mention Obama by “welcoming bin Laden to hell,” that, I guess, his religion probably believes is an actual place reserved for sinners (and probably, I suppose, Muslims). There are others who shamelessly thanked Bush in one way or another even though he is on record of saying he was no longer even interested in Osama bin Laden. So much for history or reality.

Among the more extreme Obama haters there are other themes. Andrew Breitbart seems to think bin Laden was not really killed, someone named Alex Jones I guess has a blog where he claims bin Laden’s body has been frozen for months, and some other ultra right-winger claims the whole incident was planned as part of Obama’s re-election strategy. Of course it should be clear by now to everyone that some will never accept Obama as President no matter what he does.

Among other Republican actions here and there, in spite of their multi-billion dollar profits in just three months, Pawlenty says it would be “ludicrous to cut oil subsidies.” The Governor of Pennsylvania wants to cut 2 billion from the education budget and suggests the schools can make it up by allowing the oil companies to drill under their schools. The Texas legislature, facing enormous budget shortfalls, are considering a bill that would give tax breaks to those who buy yachts worth more than $250,000. And, of course the Republicans have not given up on their attempt to subvert Roe vs Wade by changing the definition of rape, doing away with unions and Medicare, Social Security, public schools, and unemployment insurance. Dick the Slimy is still trying to claim that torture worked, contrary to the evidence and reports by the experts. Quite frankly, I do not understand how Republicans get anyone to vote for them, except, of course, the basic hard-core loonies that seem to be about their only remaining base. Perhaps Obama’s wonderful success in finding and killing Osama bin Laden will make a difference, if they don’t roviate him successfully in the next few months as they did John Kerry. Put nothing past these contemporary Republicans as they have demonstrated in the past twenty years they will literally stop at nothing to get their way, democracy, nation, and truth be damned.

Unhappily, questions about what really happened when Osama bin Laden was killed seem to multiply daily. First he is standing (hiding, depending on who you read) behind his wife, then it is not his wife but another woman, he is unarmed but resists so he gets shot. This seems to me a somewhat questionable assertion as I’m not sure what significant resistance an unarmed man standing behind a woman can put up. One reporter said the command was to kill bin Laden, another says capturing him was a possibility, if he did not resist. If he did not raise his arms and lie down on the ground was he resisting? Apparently his wife was shot in the leg and another woman, so far unidentified, was killed. While the killing of bin Laden is welcome news, the reporting of it has been atrocious. I don’t know how much of this is the fault of the White House and how much the fault of the news media, but surely it could have been reported in a much more detailed and straightforward manner (perhaps not, given the dismal state of our news media). It is not clear whether they will release any photos of the corpse but even if they do, don’t bet it will put all the questions at rest.

A suspicious mind always looks on the black side of things.
Publilius Syrus

There is still a risk of catastrophic disaster at Fukushima nuclear plant.