Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Family?

Republicans, and sometimes others, are very fond of comparing the national debt and the budget problems to families. You know, they ask, why shouldn’t the government have to balance the budget just like families, or mom and pop do? Families, they often say, sit down at the kitchen table and work out their budgets that, according to those who use this analogy, are at least implied to be balanced.

I have no idea what family or families they have in mind. As I don’t travel with the top 2% of the wealthy, or a bunch of corporate CEO’s, most of the families I am familiar with are up to their knees, if not their eyeballs, or even over their heads in debt. When you consider that most families have mortgages, car and other payments, have somewhere in the vicinity of $14,000 of credit card debt, are often struggling mightily just to make ends meet, it doesn ‘t seem to me to be a very good analogy. Also reflect on the millions of foreclosures and bankruptcies that are occurring every year. I don’t believe families are balancing their budgets very well, if at all.

There is also the question of just what things are included in the family budget. It would appear that health insurance is not always included, especially given there are so many millions without health care. I know families who have fine houses, two or more vehicles, quite likely an ATV and perhaps even a boat or personal watercraft as well, two or more televisions, computers, cameras, iphones, and other gadgets, “living the good life.” They have no health or life insurance whatsoever, and little or no savings. What does this tell you about family budgeting? Other families around here where I live have one or more horses that need to be fed and cared for at considerable expense. These horses are used by many owners probably no more than very briefly once or twice a year. This is, in my opinion, much the same thing as most people who own yachts or power boats, moored probably 98% of the time, and rarely used, resting there as little more than symbols of affluence.

These are mostly the same people who buy prepared foods, frozen potatoes, canned beans, prepared meals that just have to be stuck in the microwave, and are far more expensive than buying the raw materials and cooking. Fast foods and convenience, the typical American family way with food and diet, is more expensive but easier. I even observe people on food stamps buying already prepared meals rather than buying spaghetti or beans or other raw materials and fixing their own meals that would be enormously less expensive and go a whole lot farther. You can argue, of course, this is not a matter of budgets per se, but, rather a question of priorities, but isn’t setting priorities what budgets are all about? Furthermore, when you consider the dozens, perhaps even hundreds, maybe even thousands of individuals and companies offering financial advice to families in debt and struggling, you have to assume this is a pretty common phenomenon in the United States.

It would appear to me the typical American family (if there is such a thing) is no more responsible budget-wise than the government. But it is a ridiculous analogy any case. How can you possibly compare the enormously more complicated budget of a nation of over 300 million people with that of a family of two to perhaps ten members, it’s absurd. This is especially true as it is impossible to maintain a balanced budget at all times because of the fact of wars, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, fires, etc., etc. While the average family might have a small nest egg for emergencies (doubtful), a government with the responsibility for helping millions of families has no idea what may happen or how much money may be required. You could, of course, argue as some do, that government should not be responsible and people should just take care of themselves, an idea presumably abandoned about the time of the invention of fire (but ask Ron Paul and some of his Republican cronies).

Let’s face it, in the United States virtually no one, no person, family, household, government, whether local, state or federal (with perhaps some rare and remarkable exceptions) has lived within its means for decades, it’s just not the American way, what with American exceptionalism, credit cards, keeping up with the Jones’s, two cars in every garage, social climbing, conspicuous consumption, built-in-obsolescence, shop ‘til you drop, and having the most toys.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Separate Realities

Where is Carlos Castenada when we need him? You may remember the excitement generated by Castenada in his first two books when he argued there may be a “Separate Reality.” It was thought by many that what he reported was a more or less factual account of his training by Don Juan, a Yaqui sorcerer, to see and behave in a different reality. These two books were supposedly non-fictional accounts that made an argument for more than one view of reality. The excesses of his subsequent books were so obvious that his entire corpus of work was exposed as a fraud. Nonetheless, Castenada did raise an interesting question about the nature of reality, and the possibility there might be more than one. This is a view still in vogue with some anthropologists. Richard Schweder, for example, a distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago, has argued for the possibility of different cultural realities:

“The relativists (of which Schweder is one) wish to go beyond the positivism that has characterized anthropology from the beginning. They wish to start from the assumption that there may be more than one reality. There can be more than one reality because ‘we should not expect reality to be independent of our participation in it. The likelihood that an event will occur in an intentional world (a culture) is not independent of the confidence we have that it will occur.’”

I do not wish to pursue this claim here, but to suggest that it seems to be the case that those members of the House described as the Tea Party do seem to inhabit a different reality from most everyone else. When most economists, bankers, Wall Street CEO’s, and even their peers in the House believe if we default on our debts there will be terrible consequences, the members of the Tea Party do not. They simply deny our reality in preference for one of their own, one that asserts there will be no adverse consequences and defaulting is unimportant. It appears that no amount of argumentation from the Leader of the House, John Boehner, no presentation of facts and opinions, makes any difference to their fundamental beliefs. They cling to their beliefs that government is their enemy, that it spends too much, that it needs to be shrunk, that the national debt is the most important problem facing the nation, as well as their belief that raising taxes is the worst calamity that can befall us. They insist on cutting spending even though most economists and other knowledgeable people know that is precisely the wrong thing to do during a fragile economy lacking jobs. This does not seem to be merely a political ploy for them but, rather, a matter of deeply held conviction, a separate reality, if you will.

It hard to say if this single-mindedness with respect to our debt, taxes, and small government, is their only divergence from what the rest of us would regard as reality. I would suspect it is not. They most likely hold similar absolute beliefs about the evils of abortion (even though the law of the land), homosexuality and Gay marriages (becoming more and more acceptable), and quite probably do not believe in the separation of church and state (also the law of the land). I do not know this for certain, of course, but it seems to me very likely the case. They apparently do not trust either President Obama or even our Congress to do the right thing, believe that government is somehow the “enemy” that should be vanquished and so on. In short, they might well be said to inhabit a separate reality.

While I do not know for certain I strongly suspect that generally the members of this rather extreme group are probably not very well educated, get their information from Fox “News,” Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and others of that ilk, and probably are not widely read. While they doubtless regard themselves as “rugged individualists,” they are almost more certainly what are known as “ditto heads.” They are so immersed in their version of reality, and so dedicated to it, they have no interest in the well-being of the nation or other citizens, it’s “their way or the highway.” True believers, they think they are absolutely right and everyone else is absolutely wrong, and thus are unwilling to compromise (as we are seeing much to our dismay at the moment). They have been likened to a “cult” which is probably not far from the truth. They managed to get elected at a time of great difficulty with promises of creating jobs, but have done absolutely nothing along those lines, focusing instead on the debt, abortion, and other social issues. They are, in short, a disaster, and there is nothing that can be done about it until the next election cycle which may be too late to avert the disaster they seem determined to bring on our country. But not to worry, Michele Bachmann with her remarkable cure for the “Gay,” or perhaps even Sarah Palin with guns blazing and riding her white charger, modern day Joans of Arc, will emerge out of the pack of dismal Republican candidates to lead us to the Promised Land. Or perhaps Rick Perry will help us to pray our way out of our troubles, or Newt Gingrich will emerge from the dead as our savior. At the moment there is just no way of telling how much more trouble we will find. It’s the American way, shoot first, think later, if at all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So Whataya Gonna Doabouit?

We are, I think, witnessing one of the weirdest and most problematical developments in the history of our country. It seems that Boehner, the Speaker of the House, cannot control the members of his party. He has been unable to muster enough votes to pass his latest version of a raising the debt ceiling bill and has to postpone the vote. At this very moment he is still trying. Apparently the only way he can succeed is by conceding more and more to the Tea Party minority. What this means is the House is out of control and if not, is being run by the Tea Party minority. How do they do this? First, there are quite a lot of them, and second, they are blackmailing otherwise more moderate Republicans by threatening to run candidates against them in the next election if they don’t vote their way (personally I can’t see this as much of a threat as by the time of the next election the Tea Party should have so discredited itself no one would vote for them anyway, but I guess it works at the moment).

More importantly, however, what this means is that the Tea Party is now in control of the House of Representatives, so nothing will be able to pass without their approval, and what they will approve of is not at all what our country needs. In effect, by refusing to govern (instead of politicking) our nation will be basically shut down and subject to the desires of a fanatical and extreme right-wing minority of inexperienced individuals who know very little but seem to think they know what is good for everyone. If the debt ceiling, that should not have been an issue in the first place, is not raised, there is going to be a financial blood bath. Either these Tea Party people don’t understand this or they just don’t care. They are so determined to accomplish their mission of cutting government spending and bringing down Obama they don’t seem to comprehend the monumental stupidity of this, or the importance of anything else (like jobs and economic recovery). As control of the House by the Tea Party seems to a reality, and as they can therefore dictate to the Senate and the President, threatening to block anything and everything, this would seem to me to be a genuine problem. So I ask you, what can we do about it? Given the nature of our (at least pretend) democracy I think the answer is nothing, at least not until the next election cycle when presumably these near morons might be voted out. If you look to what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, and a few other places there would seem to be a good chance these kool-aid swilling true believers will be voted out, but don’t bet on it, the American voters are a strange bunch and often vote against their obvious best interests. The other possibility for action against this attempted right-wing coup is for President Obama to appeal to the public. He has done this, and apparently the phones are ringing off the hook (so to speak). Unfortunately, the idea that anyone in Washington, D.C. is going to pay any attention to what the public wants disappeared a long time ago. The public, for example, even the international public, was very much against the “war” in Iraq, but so what. The public was very much in favor of the so-called “public option,” but so what. The public is currently in favor of taxing the wealthy and the corporations, but so what. Here in the state of Idaho, if you are a non-Republican, you know that no amount of letter-writing or phone calls is going to influence your Congressman or Senator, writing or e-mailing these Republicans is akin to baying at the moon.

The control of the House by the Tea Party will no doubt continue no matter what happens tonight with Boehner’s bill. If he manages to get it passed it will probably be by only by one or two votes and will be seen as basically the farce it is. In any case the Senate has already announced it will be dead on arrival there, and failing that, President Obama will veto it. This is an artificially manufactured “crisis” that is unprecedented. The debt limit has always been automatically raised and is not actually linked to anything the Republicans are demanding in return for supporting it. It should have been simply passed as it always has, and the arguments over the budget should have been treated separately (as they always have). As virtually everyone, from Republicans as well as most others, have agreed the debt ceiling will be raised, it makes you wonder what all the fuss has been about. Of course as our “leaders” on both sides of the aisle have proven to be so incredibly inept they could fumble the ball at the last minute and we could, in fact, default on our debts for the first time in history. All I can say at this point is “I want my mama.”

I think we ought to have a contest to pick the most idiotic member of the House of Representatives. I should think Louie Gohmert of Texas would be a leading candidate, but Peter King of New York would certainly be in the running. Of course no one cares what I think (or apparently what you think either).

In the meanwhile, like schoolyard bullies everywhere, the Tea Party with their new found power, thumb their nose at government and challenge, “yeah, so what you gonna do about it.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Not being a historian, a student of the American Revolution, or even a student of politics, I realize I am on shaky ground here. But I think what we are currently witnessing in our American political scene is totally without precedent. I find it impossible to believe our Founding Fathers ever conceived of a time when one of the three equal branches of our government would refuse to participate, to govern. Our system was deliberately designed to prevent one branch from having all the power, and, in fact to operate on the premise of compromise (I think there are problems inherent in this approach, but that is another matter entirely). The three branches are supposed to discuss our mutual problems, work out a suitable compromise, and then move on. It was, I am pretty sure, never expected that one branch would simply refuse to participate in compromising (by implication, governing). But that is what has been happening during the Obama administration. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, announced early on they would be the party of “no.” They have religiously clung to this position and have, indeed, said no to virtually everything. They have also said publicly their number one priority is to make Obama a one-term President, in other words to destroy his Presidency. There is little doubt this has much to do with their refusal to compromise or say yes to anything, and the consequences for our country of this rigid attitude are potentially devastating. Quite frankly, much of the problem is a result of electing a large number of know-nothings, apparently borderline morons, to the House, selecting those stupid enough to pledge not to govern, but, again, that is a slightly different matter.

As what is happening is completely unprecedented there is no precedent for dealing with it, nothing that can be done. As it was unanticipated there were no provisions made for such a situation. Consider, for example, that in some countries, individuals who refuse to co-operate might well be dragged off to mental institutions, or arrested and put in prison, or even worse, lined up and shot. I am not recommending such draconian actions, merely pointing out that we have no such means available to us, none at all. In the long run we do have a means of dealing with such individuals, we can vote them out of office, but this is a slow process that may or may not eventually work, and in the meanwhile so much damage can occur it is not very helpful.

As far as I know, or can remember, nothing like this ever happened before, and there is no label for it. I personally believe it is certainly traitorous, if not even perhaps treasonous. But at the moment I guess it is considered “politics as usual.” I do not think it is politics as usual. I do not believe the Founding Fathers ever considered there would be a situation in which one of the three branches of government would simply refuse to function. Similarly, I do not believe they contemplated a situation in which one of two political parties would place the interests of their party before the interests of the people at large or the national interest. Furthermore, I doubt they thought people would run for public office for the purpose of filling their own pockets for personal gain, rather than providing for the public well-being. Those who elect to run for public office are supposed to be interested in the welfare of the citizens they serve rather than the interests of corporate giants and the incredibly wealthy. The Founding Fathers were aware of this possibility, and cautioned against it, but over the years their advice has been ignored and largely forgotten.

Obviously our world, and nation, is quite different from what it was at its founding. Public service then was a patriotic duty and those who sought office had only that in mind, having never heard of General Motors, Exxon, Boeing, Walmart, and so on. Of course there might have been individuals who had personal motives as well, but as there were no lobbyists and no huge sums of money available to them this could not have been much of a problem. And so what began as a wonderful dream of a democratic society, for the people, by the people, and of the people, has evolved over time into a near Fascist society controlled by huge international corporations and a few unbelievably wealthy families. This was inevitable under a capitalistic system sold to the public as the greatest economic system on earth, but one really designed to bring about the outcome we are now experiencing, where most of the wealth is in the hands of a few and the general populace is being gradually reduced to serfdom and economic slavery. I cannot help but wonder what Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others would think were they alive today. I don’t think they would be very happy with how their experiment has turned out.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The "Super Congress"

Today marks the seventh anniversary of Morialekafa, Happy Birthday to me! My first blog on July 25, 2004, had to do with the hypocrisy of George W. Bush and his cronies. Little has changed since then and, if anything, I believe things may have become a bit worse. I believe this downward spiral began with the Reagan administration, was briefly interrupted (at least in some ways) by the Clinton administration, and then began a much more serious decline when Republicans abandoned all moral and ethical constraints and tried to remove Clinton by any means, no matter how sleazy or disgusting, who they could not defeat in honest elections. In short, as I have said before, it was during this time the Republican Party, with the help of Karl Rove, morphed into what is more properly described as a criminal enterprise existing for the sole purpose of gaining permanent control of the U.S. government, and willing to use any means to achieve that goal. Obama, too, unexpectedly did not fit well into their plan of complete domination so they have made no secret of their single-minded obsession with removing him from office. They seem to be willing to sacrifice the “good faith and credit” of the U.S. to achieve this coup.

It seems there is no limit to what our “leaders” in the House and Senate won’t do in order to make certain they do nothing. Now both sides have come up with an idea for a “Super Congress.” As I understand it this really means a “Super Committee” consisting of twelve members of the House and Senate, six Democrats and six Republicans, that would be empowered to make decisions that could then be presented to Congress for a strictly up or down vote. Get it, another COMMITTEE! Everyone knows that when Congress wants something to die they send it to a committee. As there seems to be no way we can have a legitimate, serious, thoughtful, constructive compromise on our budget woes, we’ll send it to another committee.

There would seem to be little doubt by now that our so-called “government” has become so dysfunctional as to be virtually useless. Our two party “democracy” has evolved into a one party system in which the only goal is to gain and keep power and thus enrich whatever particular corporate interests are providing the finances. The military/industrial/political complex must be protected at all costs, and the only truly “political” dialogue allowed on the MSM has to do with relative trivia like Gay Marriage, abortion, gun control, Sharia law, Muslims, and etc., issues the corporations have little or no interest in but keep our minds off their shameless exploitation of the poor and middle class. Feeding taxpayer dollars to the obscenely wealthy and the corporations are the primary goals and must be protected at all costs. As these entities are huge international corporations with annual budgets that exceed those of most nations, national interest, as such, is no longer very relevant. What does it matter if the U.S. becomes just another third world nation, the corporations will continue to thrive.

The Tea Party, too, has become another thorn in the side of the more basic Republican strategy, although their desires do support the goal of getting rid of Obama. As the Tea Party consists of a group of true believers who have swallowed the kool-aid of Grover Norquist, have little or no experience in governing, and are obsessed with the single issue of spending, they may actually help bring about the more important goal of destroying Obama and helping the Republicans return to power. They have no more interest in actually “governing” than the broader, more traditional Republicans.

I listened to President Obama’s speech just now. He said nothing new, just the same things he has been saying for a long time. When it comes to the debt ceiling and the national debt I believe he is right and Republicans are wrong. It is, in my opinion, absolutely shameful that Republicans will protect the wealthy and the corporations above all else. There is no reason the Bush tax breaks should not expire, no reason the wealthy and the corporations should not pay much more than they are, and if they do not we will obviously never even begin to confront the problem of debt. I also listened to Boehner’s reply, remarkable for the amount of lies and misinformation crowded into so few minutes: President Obama has brought on this crisis, he has refused to ever say yes, Republicans passed a by-partisan plan in the house, and so on, all lies. It is obvious to me the Tea Party is going to cling to their obsession with the no taxes pledge while they heroically go down with the ship. Stupid is as stupid does. Unfortunately their stupidity is going to possibly sink the Ship of State, and we are all going to suffer from their abysmal ignorance and refusal to compromise. Actually, on the issue of the debt ceiling and the national debt, I don’t believe any compromise should even be offered. Some spending should be cut, of course, but taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and the loopholes, should be eliminated, period, no compromise, no excuses, no further nonsense. There has to be a time when spoiled children are emphatically told “no.” I don’t really believe they are interested in fiscal responsibility. They are interested in getting rid of Obama, grabbing power, and installing a Fascist regime that will eventually rule the world (not the Tea Party members, they are too stupid to even aspire to such lofty achievements, but they are at the moment useful toward these ends and are being exploited for that purpose).

From Superpower to Superslum in a few easy decades, you get the government you deserve, may the Great Mystery bless us, one and all.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The More I Think About It...

The more I think about it the more angry I become. No, I’m not talking about the stupid and unnecessary wrangling over the debt ceiling that has always been a matter of routine until just now when we have a Black President (apparently so bad and untrustworthy the number one priority of Republicans is to get rid of him at any cost, even if it means wrecking the economy).

What makes me so angry is the Norquist Pledge, an absolutely ridiculous document he has managed to blackmail so many of our Congresspersons to sign, the pledge that promises not to raise taxes no matter what. This is an idea so absurd it should never have been taken seriously by anyone. Obviously in a large industrialized society with over 300 million people you cannot have a viable nation without taxes, and the notion that taxes must stay the same over time is not only naïve, it is downright stupid. Grover Norquist was apparently put up to this by Saint Ronnie the Boneheaded. It is an idea that has merit only if your ultimate goal is to destroy government (that, in fact, seems to be what Norquist and his pals have in mind). Think of it, this pledge is rather like signing a promise to never bail out your boat, no matter what, or never call the Fire Department even if your house is on fire, or some other such idiotic promise. Interestingly, it goes far beyond just denying government the funds necessary to operate properly, it also acts as a kind of combination intelligence and aptitude test. That is, if you sign it, it is an automatic admission that you do not think for yourself, or think at all for that matter. Thus once you have proven to not be an independent thinker, or even a thoughtful person, Norquist will allow you be admitted to enter the hallowed halls of Congress. If you refuse to sign (very few have as far as I know) they (Norquist and his pals) will run a candidate against you and you may well be defeated. It operates very much like an old-fashioned protection racket.

Grover Norquist should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail for what he has done to our country with this completely unnecessary and quasi-criminal practice. He should at least be punished for taking advantage of the mentally handicapped (as in my opinion those who agreed to sign his pledge must be). I find it virtually unbelievable that someone aspiring to become a Congressperson would sign a promise to not actually govern when it comes to the question of taxes, but that is what a majority of our Congresspersons did. And the fact that they did offers some insight into why it is our government, seemingly in the hands of the mentally incompetent, has become so dysfunctional. We are in big trouble. Grover Norquist must at least share in the blame. Chalk up another to the Gipper, Saint Ronnie the Boneheaded, who apparently lost his ability to think once he met Nancy. Oh, well, water under the bridge and all that.

This is not to say that Norquist’s influence is not having its effect on the negotiations over the debt. Obviously it is, the Republicans who signed on to this inflexible and stubborn position seem to be holding fast to their pledge and, as there is still no agreement, are attempting to blackmail Obama and the Democrats into agreeing to no increase in revenues whatsoever. That is, they are protecting the wealthiest of people and the wealthiest of corporations, who could easily contribute a bit more to the recovery, at the expense of the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, and those who need help the most. This is, in my opinion, immoral, un-American, and, quite frankly, disgusting. The idea that the filthy rich and the overly profitable are going to “trickle down” their wealth and thereby create jobs has already proven to be a failure. Making record profits with what they have is not going to motivate them to create jobs, not when they can ship those jobs overseas where labor is cheaper or simply use more technology to produce more with less labor. With taxes at historic lows and the country in a recession to not expect more from the wealthy and the corporations is quite plain and simply absurd. If Obama and the Democrats agree to spending cuts and no revenue we will know we have all been “thrown under the bus.”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'm With You, Bernie

Bernie Sanders, Independent and Socialist Senator from Vermont, has just suggested it would be a good thing if President Obama had to face a primary opponent. Not that it matters much, but I agree completely. While I believe Obama has done a number of good things so far during his tenure as President, there are many things he has not done, or not done well. It has become obvious that he is much too directly connected with Wall Street and the Banks. He obviously receives much financial support from them and he equally obviously failed to investigate or prosecute their blatant wrongdoings. Much of what he has accomplished seems to me mostly cosmetic. Doing away (finally) with DADT, for example, an issue I’m pretty certain neither Wall Street nor the Banks give a damn about, nor do they care about Gay marriages or even the pro’s and con’s of abortion. Equal pay for women, while commendable, I think is also irrelevant to his “minders.” I suspect he is free to mess about with issues on the periphery as long as he doesn’t interfere with profits. His signature achievement, the Health Care Bill, left the Insurance companies still in charge and, indeed, added many new customers for them. Obama didn’t even try for a single-payer system, nor did he seriously champion any public option. Similarly, he has continued the Bush “wars,” and even added some of his own, so-called “wars” that as far as I can see serve no purpose other than keeping the military/industrial/political complex in bigger and bigger bucks. Even worse, from my perspective, is his failure to even consider investigating and potentially prosecuting the Bush/Cheney war crimes. For the past couple of years I have defended him (at least in my mind) by assuming he knows so much more than I do about what is happening and perhaps if I knew what he did it would make sense to me. But increasingly it doesn’t, and I am particularly upset over his apparent inability to negotiate anything without selling out the values that I treasure. His constant capitulation to the moronic demands of Republicans is bad enough, but his failure to curb Israeli colonialism and war crimes I simply cannot tolerate.

I not only believe he should have to face a credible opponent for the Democratic nomination, I would hope it would be a serious, well-funded, completely qualified individual who might even begin to lead a meaningful third party, a “Progressive Party” for want of another term. As it currently stands we do not in fact have two separate political parties, but merely two versions of the same bought and paid for goons who simply do the bidding of those who finance them. Our political system is so corrupt there is little hope for reform without a new and credible opposition willing to return government to the people, for the people, and by the people. As it is now, on either side of the aisle, it is government for the corporations and the wealthy and screw everyone else. It reminds me of the saying I once heard about life: “Get rich, sleep until noon, and screw ‘em all.” That seems to sum up the Republican philosophy fairly well. Failing a credible third party candidate we will be faced with the usual “Morton’s Fork,” two candidates who will both be undesirable but the only ones available. Obama has moved so far to the right as to be virtually useless to progressives or the poor and middle class, but at the same time will surely be far better than any Republican candidate. So, once again, we either vote for Obama or refuse to vote at all, thus essentially a vote for the other one, whomever he or she may turn out to be. I wait impatiently to see what new Republicans have been “called” to run and suspect that god may be running some kind of lottery up there. But seriously, if there was a well-funded, well-qualified, third party candidate, and if the current progressives in the House and Senate would quickly get on board, and with the American public in favor of such a movement (which I believe they would be), I should think a third party attempt at this time would have a real chance of success. It would also help if the candidate was an outspoken anti-war, anti-empire spokesperson (unless someone at long last could explain to us what the hell we are doing in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and so on, which at this point seems unlikely). I know it has something to do with oil, but for the money we have wasted we could easily have cornered the market for that commodity long ago.

We have just witnessed another fine example of the anti-Muslim paranoia that seems to be so common these days. The terrible explosion and shootings in Oslo were immediately assumed to be the work of Muslim terrorists, or at least people associated with al Quaida. It turns out they were apparently the work of a single right-wing anti-Muslim, a young, blond Norwegian fundamentalist (at least I think he was a fundamentalist), angry with liberals for their multiculturalism. So now what happened is not described as “terrorism” but, rather, as an example of “extremism.” It now appears that terrorism is something only engaged in by Muslims, if anyone else does it, it’s something else.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Full Catastrophe?

dburwell: I meant to thank you last night for your comment about “In God We Trust.” I had actually looked at the edge of the coin at one point but my eyesight failed me and I did not have a magnifying glass. I will pass on your wisdom to my friendly clerk forthwith.

Lots of excitement today, what with Boehner walking out of the debt ceiling negotiations, his blaming Obama, Obama blaming Boehner’s lack of leadership, and blah, blah, blah. Obviously I have no inside information about the negotiations, nor even much understanding of anything that is going on. What I do know, however, I think is sound: (l) the Republican Party, represented by their leader in the Senate, announced quite some time ago their first priority was to make President Obama a one term President (their first priority!). (2) they have said repeatedly they would be the party of “no” and have stuck rigidly to that pledge, blocking everything Obama has tried to do, and (3) they have taken the position they would not vote “yes” to any raise in taxes whatsoever, and they seem to be fanatically loyal to that fundamentally absurd pledge.

Given these conditions it is obvious that nothing can be done to solve any of the pressing and serious problems our nation is now facing. If their first priority is to get rid of Obama they will attempt to do so by any means possible, even, apparently, if it means destroying the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. By blocking every attempt Obama has made to create jobs and overcome our recession they have succeeded in making it impossible for jobs to be created, and have the unbelievable, hypocritical chutzpah to blame Obama for it. To say, as a Representative or Senator, you will not ever vote to raise taxes, no matter what, is irresponsible (as well as stupid) beyond belief. You might as well have taken a pledge that you will not participate in governing. To cling to this absolutely stupid pledge when it means refusing even to increase taxes on the wealthiest people in the country, now paying lower taxes than at most any other time in history, and continuing subsidies to the most gigantic corporations in the world now making record profits that admittedly don’t even need them, is so unspeakably bull-headed, greedy, and ridiculous as to be laughable (but guess what, ha-ha, it’s not at all laughable as these cretins are serious, and besides, they know who is lining their pockets). It is not surprising, given Republican aims, that no agreements can be reached, no problems can be solved, no compromises can be made, and stalemate will continue. Obama will almost certainly have to raise the debt ceiling on his own, vitally needed, but solving nothing other than that. The deficit will continue and probably even grow larger.

The more conservative, mainstream, traditional Republicans (if there really are many left) seem to fear the Tea Party will run candidates against them in the next election if they do not properly genuflect to their wishes. This seems to me an idle fear. If you look at the backlash in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, etc., to the Tea Party backed Governors and their policies it would seem to me there will be little danger in future elections that Tea Party candidates will be elected even as dogcatchers.

I believe Obama is winning in this current battle over the debt ceiling and the deficit, not because of his brilliance or superior bargaining techniques, or even because of the rightness of his position, but, rather, because of the consummate stupidity, stubborness, and blatant greed of his Republican opponents. Even so, I have pretty much given up on Obama and even the Democratic Party. While I am not too crazy about Cornel West, I think he’s right when he says Obama is just an extension of Wall Street (or something like that). He has failed to investigate Bush/Cheney for their obvious war crimes, he has failed to punish the bankers for their crimes, he has continued the “wars” he inherited and started some of his own, continues to support the Israeli slow genocide of the Palestinians and their war crimes, and has been, for me, a genuine disappointment. I think it is time for a serious third party, a serious Progressive Party that will return government to the people and not throw the poor and the middle class to the wolves while preserving more and more wealth for the few. I want Medicare for all, decent schools and Universities, infrastructure renewal, an end to “empire,” and our murderous meddling all around the world. Although I have been a lifelong Democrat I no longer consider myself to be a member of that now pathetic excuse for what it once was. If anything I am a Socialist, but of course there is no such party here in North Idaho, and to announce you are a Socialist here would be the same as announcing you were carrying the Bubonic Plague. The sad fact is, in Idaho it doesn’t matter what you are or aspire to be, or even who you vote for, it will all continue to be Republican with Rush Limbaugh as the de facto leader. I hope Obama will be able to save my Social Security check. I need it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Journey to the West: The Octogenarian Shuffle

When I stopped writing my preliminary (sort of) autobiographical sketch a year or so ago (The Journey to the West), It was left at about the time I was to finish my first year of University. I still contemplate continuing, but as the next few years of my life were unpleasant, roughly the years from 1948-52, I have been hesitant to continue. From 1952-54 I was in the Army, another unpleasant experience, from 1955 until 1960 also, but for different reasons. In 1961-62 I was in the New Guinea Highlands. After that I survived in several different cultural, geographical, and marital contexts until at last I arrived where I find myself at the moment. As this particular contribution is part of my current life it is obviously out of place chronologically by many, many years. But as it clearly is part of my Journey to the West , a journey growing ever closer to its end, I thought I might mention it.

I clearly have it, the Octogenarian Shuffle that is, although I have resisted admitting it for years. I believe it began in earnest when I turned 80 and has now reached the point where I can no longer deny it. I no longer walk as once did, I distinctly “shuffle.” I don’t like it. It is obviously a gait that belongs to an old man. And it is, I believe, symbolic of other shuffling as well. I was not prepared for how one’s life begins to shuffle around, and be shuffled around, as you begin to age. This doubtless occurs to different individuals at different ages, but as I began to realize clearly for the first time what was happening to me at 80, and for want of a better term, I simply call it the “Octogenarian Shuffle.”

One of the first manifestations of the Octogenarian Shuffle occurs when you realize that other people now regard you quite differently than they once did. They begin to regard you as more or less incompetent to perform acts you have always previously performed, driving, for example. I began to realize that those around me were going out of their way to drive me places that I had always driven myself. No one suggested I could not drive, they just seemed to increasingly insist they should drive. This also manifested itself in their stated amazement that I could actually drive myself all the way back from a hundred miles away. This rather paternalistic attitude also has to do with lifting and carrying things. Whereas all my life I have lifted and carried things, even relatively heavy things, now they are increasingly taken out of my hands by others. Not long before I turned 80 I was surprised to learn they did not believe I could still ride horseback. I notice they are constantly checking on my behavior. If I wash a dish, for example, they inspect it to make sure it is clean. No matter what task I undertake I notice I am being watched to make certain I’m doing it properly. This extends even to the most menial of tasks, like shelling peas or baking potatoes. Frankly, I find this insulting, but then I realize they think they are actually looking after me.

Not only are your everyday tasks and responsibilities being shuffled around, so, too, is your social life. By the time you reach 80 many, if not most of your peers have disappeared, some to cancer, some to strokes, some to heart attacks, some to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even suicides. I suppose this should make one fearful for one’s own well-being, but interestingly enough, I do not find myself worrying about this. It does, however, narrow your social horizons and nowadays, at least, even affects your correspondence and contacts with others. I now, for example, have only one person who communicates with me through the U.S. mail. As I refuse to twitter or create a Facebook page I guess I am slowly disappearing from the community at large.

Similarly, by the time you reach my age, depending upon how lucky or unlucky you are, you have probably had even your internal organs and other parts shuffled around. Some have new knees or hips, some have stents or artificial lenses in their eyeballs, and in extreme cases some may even have new hearts or livers. Some organs are shuffled out and others shuffled in, it just depends upon your health insurances, finances, or whatever, sort of like “the luck of the draw.” In addition to this cyborgification (if there is such a word) there are also the hair implants, wigs, plastic surgeries like belly tucks, face lifts, and whatever.

Of course none of these things happen exactly on the stroke of 80, they all develop gradually over time, but you only realize what is happening at a certain point in time. Your hair grows gray only gradually, as does your baldness, the way you walk changes only gradually, the “minders” only slowly take over your life, and eventually you begin to realize you are not the person you once were, the Octogenarian Shuffle has finally begun to take over completely.

This phenomenon does not occur only with respect to the obvious physical manifestations of your being, like walking, or having your hands begin to lightly shake, but also applies to your mental condition as well. Your short-term memory is especially vulnerable, but as you might well have had lapses of memory all your life you can never be quite certain if this is a completely new condition or if it is something that is just becoming a bit worse, doubt shuffles in to disturb your peace of mind. You find you cannot spell words you have used all your life, and you begin to question even your phrases and sentences. Finally, if you are paying attention at all, you begin to wonder if anyone is actually sane, or if it is just yourself shuffling reality around in a great game of Crazy Eight. In any case your Journey to the West continues inexorably towards its inevitable conclusion, and there is nothing, nothing at all, you can do about it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bits and Pieces

First a comment on the Presidential dollar coins: apparently like most other Americans I do not ordinarily use these coins. In fact, I rarely even see one. However, today, fumbling through my desk, I came across four shiny new Martin Van Buren dollars. I have no idea where or how I managed to accumulate this small fortune. I decided to spend it, but ran into an unanticipated problem, the clerk did not want to accept them. This was not because she did not recognize them as dollars, but, rather, because they do not say “In God We Trust” on them. She inspected them carefully and said, “They recommend we do not accept these.” I do not know who the “they” she was referring to are. She did finally and begrudgingly accept them, but then added, “We have a President who is trying to take God out of our lives.” I found this a most interesting experience. I had not previously heard of the “problem” of not having In God We Trust on these coins. Somehow it does not seem to me to be necessary, nor, I guess, did it seem so to the Mint. I do not know if all of these dollars lack the phrase but I would assume they probably do. It matters to some people. This led me to think about the fact that there is said to be a billion and a half of these dollars piling up, wherever such unspent money piles up, because they have not “caught on.” I thought this was probably for the same reason dollar coins did not catch on the first two times they tried them and failed, simply because they did not stop printing paper dollars at the same time. Note that when Canada introduced the “Loony,” their dollar coin, they did stop the paper dollar and the coin caught on very quickly (as did their useful two dollar coin). You might think whoever it is that is behind the attempt to introduce dollar coins might have realized this, having failed twice before, but, alas, it is apparently too difficult for them. It seems to me entirely possible there might well be some resistance on the part of people who make machines that offer sodas and candy and are designed to take paper money, but I’m not sure how important this resistance might be. I had no idea it was also because of the lack of the godly phrase. As far as “The Presidents who wants…” goes I guess she must have meant President Obama. I don’t think Obama had anything to do with any of the attempts to introduce dollar coins, nor do I know why she thinks he wants “God” our of our country, but, then, I have learned that facts, reason, common sense, and even thought itself are not salient phenomena when it comes to Republicans.

This experience also led me to think about pennies. It now costs at least a penny and a half to make a penny coin. You might think that would dissuade people from making them, but it hasn’t. What with inflation and all over the past years I wonder why we even need pennies. Of course one reason is because our stores continue the absolutely ridiculous custom of pricing things at $2.99, $3.99, or even $24,999.99, sometimes even XX.98. I presume this has become so important culturally that it cannot possibly be changed without great damage to the economy. And finally, whatever happened to half dollar coins? Although you rarely encounter one anymore, they still do exist. Someone once suggested to me the reason stores don’t use them is because the cash registers don’t have enough compartments. They just use quarters instead of the inconvenience. Do they still produce half dollars? Originally, when the dollar coin was introduced, we were told it would save money because they would last longer than paper money. Now they are being phased out we are told it’s because paper money lasts longer. Somehow, I don’t believe it. I have no idea why we have such absurd problems with our money, better to ask the Money Gods.

On to another strange development, the Obama administration has recently announced that marijuana is to remain a dangerous, addictive drug, according to our current classificatory system. This is an administration that prides itself on its belief in science and wants to insure funds for more scientific research. Even a cursory glance at the scientific evidence that already exists with respect to marijuana does not support the classification they want to continue. Science and scientific research apparently does not extend to the study of a substance that has been in constant use for hundreds of years, is well known by its users to not be addictive, is far less of a problem than alcohol, and should be legalized forthwith for many reasons. Science is all very well when it comes to climate change and global warming (at least to non-idiots), but when it comes to marijuana it is magical belief that carries the day, note the absolutely silly restriction on growing hemp (that might apparently have some similar “terrible” effect on an unsuspecting public). Why is it so difficult to understand after all these years, and all the billions spent, that the so-called “war on drugs” is an absolutely dismal failure, and nowhere is this more true than in the case of marijuana, that is no doubt more widely used by Americans now than it ever was. Do you suppose this might have something to do with the pharmaceutical industry, the for-profit prisons, and law enforcement in general? Gee, really? The film, “Reefer Madness,” first introduced in the 1940’s, I believe, is still being shown. When it was shown in my High School in 1945 or 46 we immediately recognized it as piece of utterly ridiculous propaganda and knew it was simply nonsensical. To not legalize marijuana is about as stupid as not raising the debt ceiling, but, of course, we’ve got to have bodies to fill up all the prisons we’re building (instead of schools). For a time during the 1960’s I hardly knew a single person, including Professors, bankers, businessmen, students, or neighbors, as well as Hippies, that did not smoke marijuana. A very few years later virtually none of them did, so much for addiction.

Michele Bachmann claims she was “called” by God to run for President. Now Governor Perry of Texas claims he is “called” to run for President. If God is both omnipotent and omnipresent in our lives why would he call two different candidates to run at the same time? Does he/she/it not trust his/her/its own judgment? Or is it a question of cautiously covering all possibilities? Shades of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti! If you are unfamiliar with this book by Milton Rokeach, it involved bringing together three different inmates at an asylum in Ypsilanti who all claimed to be Christ to see what they would do when confronted with each other. They basically solved the problem by arguing that the other two were insane. So?

According to Rush, the all-knowing, lying fat druggie, August 2nd was chosen as the deadline for the debt ceiling because Ramadan begins on the 1st. According to idiot Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas it is because Obama’s birthday bash is on the 3rd. Sigh!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cossacks - book

The Cossacks, Leo Tolstoy, (originally completed in 1862).

How is it, you might wonder, that I have just read The Cossacks, a book so old and out of date as to be virtually forgotten even by fans of Tolstoy? This might be doubly puzzling since I admittedly do little reading during the summer. Well, it’s like this, the weather was rainy and cold most of the time this year until recently. It has now turned uncomfortably warm so if you wish to work outside in the garden or elsewhere you must do so early in the day and then retire into the relative coolness of the house. I have concluded after many years of complaining about it that television is not worth watching. The commercials are basically insulting, the regular programming on the major networks is perhaps even more insulting, and I do not have the attention span to keep me on the internet for very long. I do not like parlor games and would have no one to play them with anyway, other than my wife who is far too busy to engage in such frittering away of time. I have no hobby other than collecting sex advice for women as it appears on women’s magazine covers (that I have been neglecting now for some time), and my correspondence is now down to only one person who still uses the old-fashioned U.S. mail. I am completely uninterested in either Facebook or Twitter that I regard as probably the worst communication devices ever devised. I do, however, look forward in the future to the publication of volumes of “The collected twitters of so-and-so Twit.” Happily, there are still books. At loose ends one afternoon I turned to our personal library and discovered a Modern Library edition of The Cossacks. Of course I have read Tolstoy before, I’m not entirely illiterate. But I read War and Peace and Anna Karenina so long ago I had more or less forgotten the experiences. I had not previously read The Cossacks and was, in fact, not previously even aware of it.

What a joy and a pleasure to read such a fine book, if even to escape for a short time the never ending lies and hypocrisy of our current political scene. The Cossacks is a short work, especially when compared with Tolstoy’s other more famous works, scarcely more than a novella. It is a simple story (very complicated as all serious simple stories are) about a young man born into privilege in Russia who, disenchanted with his life in society, and in debt from his gambling and life-style, enlists as a cadet in the Russian military and is sent for duty to the Caucasus where he lives in a Cossack village and begins to contrast life there with his former life. He hunts and drinks with the villagers and comes to love the place, the mountains and rivers, the pace of life, and eventually one of the most beautiful of the Cossack young women. She is engaged to the finest of the young Cossack men, a handsome, romantic character that spends his time stealing horses and becoming famous by killing Chechens. In short, the very epitome of an independent Cossack man, hunter and fighter. Of course the young Russian eventually becomes obsessed with the girl, professes his love, and asks her to marry him, a virtually unthinkable marriage as wealthy Russians did not ordinarily marry Cossacks. As he is wealthy, and as her fiancé is absent, she appears to be considering the proposal. Just as the triangle appears to be heading for a collision her fiancé is shot in the stomach by the brother of a Chechen he previously killed and may be dying. The girl is obviously upset and when pressed to marry the Russian turns on him and makes it clear she would never consider such a thing. He learns that however much he loves her, however much he loves the village and the people, the mountains, steppes, and the river, and however much he thinks he might aspire to becoming a Cossack, it is fundamentally out of the question, he would never be accepted as a Cossack. He requests a transfer and sadly leaves the village, realizing that he will be forgotten before he even disappears from sight.

Tolstoy was only thirty when he completed The Cossacks. There is no doubt the feelings and emotions described of the Russian cadet, his confusion over his life and what life should truly be about, reflect Tolstoy’s own disaffection with his own status in life, his growing identification with his serfs and the inequalities involved in Russian life, his developing pacifism and interest in non-violent protest that had such an influence on Gandhi. What makes the book such a wonderful reading experience, however, is Tolstoy’s wonderful ability to write prose. The book is quite ethnographic and describes in considerable detail the Cossack culture of that time, but ethnography is not the goal of the story, but just emerges naturally from Tolstoy’s marvelous descriptive passages and even through his characters. He was, of course, a “realist,” and his writings reflect his interest in that form of writing (he was such a realist he did not describe War and Peace as a novel). His prose is simple and straightforward, there are no pretensions, no convoluted sentences, no esoteric words, no nonsense, and yet it is so flowing and readable it is, to me at least, almost magical. I have always regretted not being able to read Tolstoy in the original Russian as it must be an even more magical experience. Alas, I have always been too lazy and too undisciplined to even attempt to learn Russian.

Of course the book is dated. Modern day Cossacks I am sure are very different. There are a few things I confess to not fully understanding about their lives and material goods, but the story itself is not dated, it could be told over and over again in any language. I enjoyed learning about the Cossacks and their lives so long ago, and having now a much better understanding of their place in Russian society. If you find yourself too cold, or too hot, or with time on your hands, enjoy one of the truly great writers of all time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Days of Swine and Poses

I don’t mean to be unkind, nor do I wish to call people unpleasant names, but “Casting Pearls before Swine,” does seem to me to be a useful metaphor for what is currently happening in what is supposed to be a functioning government. Most economists, Wall Street, Corporate CEO’s, and even people with half a brain are casting pearls of wisdom about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, but members of the Tea Party Brigade (most freshmen Congresspersons) are simply not listening, grunting monotonously they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling no matter what (I mean, what does reason and common sense have to do with political decisions). President Obama, too, is casting pearls about a serious, long-term solution to our problems, Republicans are refusing to consider such a proposal, preferring instead to cling to their selfish and gluttonous appetite for making Obama a one-term President.

Many of our current elected House and Senate members, while posing as serious public officials, have no interest in the well-being of the public at large. They prefer to continue to slop-feed their ever-greedy porcine billionaires and corporations more and more goodies from the public trough and refuse to provide even one nickel for the poor or the middle class. Posing as saviors of Medicare and Social Security they actually continue their never-ending attempts to destroy all entitlements. Posing as fiscal conservatives they continue to demand tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy and corporations already so fat with profit even they tend to admit they don’t need any more. The entire gamut of their political philosophy and plans for our future runs merely from A to B (thank you Dorothy Parker): lower taxes, smaller government. As useful public servants they are completely useless.

The real poseurs can be found among the current crop of Republican would-be Presidential candidates. No doubt the worst of these, now that Donald Trump gave it up, is Sarah Palin. I do not believe she has any intention of running, nor do I think she has had such an intention from the very beginning. She is simply a “teaser,” pretending, in order to stay in the limelight and, more importantly, gather in the big bucks from the simpletons who don’t recognize snake-oil when they see it. Of course Newt, The Hypocrite, Gingrich is not far behind. I suppose it is possible that in his twisted egomaniacal mind he believes he is a serious candidate but his attempt is more akin to a mouse trying to mate with an elephant than a serious candidacy. He either knows this or his ego has completely overtaken his superego (if he has one).

Rudy Guliani, too, is little more than a poseur, if, that is, he has any seriousness at all about a possible run. As I recall, the last time he ran he spent millions and managed to get only one serious vote. And given his past association with the disgraced Bernard Kirk he is little more than a fringe Mafia candidate. I doubt that he is entirely stupid so he probably has some other reward in mind rather than the Presidency itself. Perhaps he wants one of the other candidates to offer him some money not to run. As my neighbor says, “Who knows what goes on in the mind of a baboon?”

Rick Santorum and Herman Cain are obvious poseurs as they must know their candidacies have no chance of going anywhere. I guess it makes them feel good and important to pretend to be serious candidates. I regard Ron Paul also as a poseur as he admittedly knows he can never be elected President. Pretending to be serious gives him an opportunity to spread his often bizarre (but sometimes perfectly reasonable) beliefs to a wider public.

Michele Bachmann cannot be put into the poseur class as she has shown herself to be a serious candidate. Her belief she might become the chosen Republican candidate is, I think, not entirely far-fetched, but if she truly believes she might actually become President of the United States I should think her mental capacity might be in doubt. Neither having a law degree nor being a tax collector is any guarantee of sanity. Likewise, if she really shares her husband’s belief that homosexuality can be “cured” through prayer and therapy, her ignorance is so profound as to disqualify her. Of course receiving messages from god is not a very good sign either.

Romney and Huntsman are serious candidates, not merely poseurs. But Romney should drop out now before he spends a lot of money on what is almost certainly a lost cause. Apparently most of the Republican Party for one reason or another is opposed to him, and the Evangelicals think he is little more than a cult member, neither good signs for success. Huntsman shares the problem of being a Mormon but at least does not bear the same animosity from the Party.

Governor Perry, if he succumbs to the desire to enter the race for the nomination, might well be a serious candidate. But as Texas is apparently in even worse economic shape than the U.S. itself he will doubtless face some strong headwinds. Anyway, it seems he is another religious nut-case, calling on prayer to fix our problems and even inviting other Governors to participate in this nonsense.

I find it impossible to believe that any of the above candidates, poseurs or not, can defeat President Obama. But strange things sometimes happen, George W. Bush somehow found his way into the Presidency, and he and his puppet-master, Cheney are still free of jail. Republicans are never going to give up their demented belief that giving more money to corporations and the filthy rich will filter down to the rest of us, nor will they ever govern in the public interest. But with all the major news sources on their side, along with most of the courts and especially the now political Supreme Court, who knows? “The Days of Wine and Roses,” as I feebly remember, came to an end. Let us hope the days of swine and poses will do likewise.

Friday, July 15, 2011

They ARE Crazy

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
Donald Rumsfeld

I have concluded after the past few years that Republicans really ARE crazy (use any definition of crazy you wish). The House of Representatives, controlled at the moment by Republicans, has now voted to retreat from the Clean Water Act. For anyone in the U.S. to not want clean water is, in my opinion, crazy. They are currently opposed to raising the debt ceiling, also crazy. They have also done lots of other things I believe are crazy, but these two are pretty obviously crazy because the consequences are quite clear and very unpleasant. These are, in Rumsfeld’s terms, known knowns. It is also a known known that Republicans have as their primary goal making President Obama into a one-term President. We know this because they have told us so. As this is the case it is also a known known they have refused to cooperate on everything Obama has tried to do. This is a known known because they have stated proudly they would be the party of “no,” and they have religiously kept their pledge. We also know from their behavior of the last few years they are opposed to labor unions, minimum wages, social security, unemployment insurance, public health insurance, public schools, and virtually everything else that would benefit the poor and middle class. It is fair to say, I think, these too are known knowns, as is their opposition to abortion, Gay rights and marriage, and, apparently, even peace. The greatest known known is their obsession with reducing taxes and shrinking government. While from the standpoint of a stubborn, simple-minded view of human needs and requirements this might make sense (to them), from the standpoint of governing a country they are crazy. I should like to think that even from a political standpoint they are likewise crazy. How can they possibly believe they can be elected on the basis of these beliefs (that they might be is also crazy, but that is a somewhat different matter).

In the matter of known unknowns, things we know we don’t know, I doubt this is a salient issue for Republicans. There appears to be nothing they don’t know. For example, they know there is no such thing as global warming. They know evolution is a hoax, the poor are just lazy, welfare just makes them even lazier, creationism should be taught in school, Muslims are terrorists, privatization and deregulation are what we need, rich people and corporations create jobs with their enormous wealth, and Oil companies need public assistance. Oh, and the moon is made of green cheese, and the tooth fairly provides free dental service.

Similarly, when it comes to unknown unknowns, that is, things we don’t know we don’t know, they apparently don’t think about them at all. They don’t know we don’t know things that might have to do with global warming, or we don’t know we don’t know what will happen as species disappear, or, apparently, even that we don’t know we don’t know what the hell we are doing. With trust in the Lord, respect for the flag, our “values” and “democracy” there is just nothing we can’t do, what with our free-market capitalism, rugged individualism, pioneer spirit, independence, and American exceptionalism. This explains, I guess, why we are doing so exceptionally well at the moment. Hip-hip-hooray, cheers, chins up, and Remember the Alamo!

Many a glass,
and many a lass,
and never a
stormy sea.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I am not interested here in the history and theory of money. It is well known that money is basically a medium of exchange and that throughout history many different objects have been used as money: beaver pelts, tobacco, gold, silver, seashells, feathers, salt, and a virtually endless list of other items. Nor am I particularly interested in the difference between so-called commodity money and fiat money.

What I am interested in is the curious idea that money can somehow breed and make more money. That is, we recognize the truth in the saying, “You have to have money to make money.” If you have money to invest, especially if you have quite a bit of it, you can invest it in any one of a number of things, some risky, and some not at all risky, and your money will grow more money. This strikes me as an extremely strange idea. I understand that if you work and earn a salary you are being rewarded for your labor. You may be being exploited but at least you are doing something worthwhile to earn your money. This is not at all true when your money, sitting in stocks or bonds, or even in a savings account, earns money on its own. When you introduce the concept of compound interest it earns even more.

Think of it, to an unsophisticated person the idea that money can grow and reproduce itself must seem like a magical act. If you put your money in the right place (savings, investments, etc.), and if all goes well, you will end up with more money. It’s magical, or so it might seem to some people who do not understand the nitty-gritty of money and finance. Of course to us sophisticates who understand it (?), it is not magical at all. We know that our money is actually invested in companies that make profits through the (more often than not) shameless and/or or careless exploitation of the environment and others (although we don’t usually think about it in such basic ways). Using our money they manage to make more money both for themselves and for us. Banks, of course, might be the easiest example of how this works. We put our money in the bank, it pays us a very nominal interest for the use of our money, they, in turn, invest it at a higher interest rate and pocket the difference as profit. This is a truly kind of magical process. Cultures that use dog’s teeth, or cowrie shells, or wampum as money would never assume they could invest it in a way that would make it multiply on its own. If you wanted another dog’s tooth necklace you had to go out and find more dogs, or if you wanted more cowrie shells you had to find them, they did not sit in your house and breed.

Of course dog’s teeth and cowrie shells have little or no intrinsic worth. They possess value only because some people desire them. Even in such backwaters as the Island of New Guinea there were complicated trading routes that would bring cowrie shells into the Highlands in return for salt, pigs, bird-of-paradise plumes and so forth. These commodities were not general currencies that could be used for anything and everything. The value of a cowrie shell was agreed to be equivalent to a single plume or part of a pig, or whatever. What we know as money is much more flexible as it can be used to acquire most anything, a car, house, toothpaste, potatoes, and whatever. Our money did at one time have value as a commodity as it was directly linked to gold that had intrinsic value. Now our money, in the form of paper bills, has no intrinsic value at all, but is valued because of the belief our government will guarantee its worth in the international marketplace (this could itself become little more than a magical belief under certain circumstances). Intrinsic value is itself an interesting concept as it can itself change over time. Gold, for example, does have an intrinsic value, but its intrinsic value at the moment is probably nowhere near what the price for it in dollars is at the moment.

The concept of money as a medium of exchange, especially an all-purpose one, is undoubtedly a useful and convenient one. If the price of money was stable and unchanging there would be few, if any, problems involved in a monetary economy (I think). When the concept of interest, especially compound interest enters the picture, things are not so simple. Basically, what such a system inevitably results in is that those individuals with money to lend will eventually win and the borrowers will lose. Interest is great for the lenders but bad for the borrowers. This process is greatly accelerated when compound interest is involved. The higher the rate of interest the more money accrues at the upper end of the process. It has always seemed to me that interest, especially higher interest rates as on credit cards, is fundamentally the functional equivalent of slavery, the main difference being that the lender, unlike the slave-owner, cannot actually beat or rape you at will.

This is not to say there are no potential benefits from a monetary system that includes credit and interest. It does allow individuals who could probably never accumulate enough money to pay cash for a car or a house to enjoy the ownerships of such goods while still paying for them. If the interest rates were nominal or fair, and well regulated so as to avoid actual usury (unconscionably high rates), perhaps that would be a good thing. Alas, that is not the situation we face at the moment. High interest rates and compound interest manage to keep most of us enslaved in debt to mortgage lenders, banks, insurance companies, and so on (personally, I think compound interest is usury). How many people do you know that own their house, or even their car, outright?

An interesting question arises when thinking about our money. If it has no intrinsic value, and has value only because the government of the U.S. is pledged to honor it, and if that pledge is broken (something that could in fact happen very soon), our money would have no value at all (it would become, in effect, a false commodity). Thus China and our other creditors probably wouldn’t even want their money back at all, for why should they want something of no intrinsic or even fiat value? Do I know anything about money and finance? Of course not, but don’t bet our debts will be forgiven.

The world economy at the moment strikes me as little more than a gigantic game of monopoly. Those individuals and corporations flush with money buy up not only houses and hotels, railways and electric companies, but also arable lands in third world countries, huge businesses, including newspapers, radio and television stations, and now even the rights to water, and thus are well on their way to breaking the less fortunate completely.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
William Shakespeare

This is terrible advice for life in the U.S., it should simply say “Be not a borrower!”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Capitalism is an economic system structured upon the accumulation of capital in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit...

of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior

The question that has been occupying my feeble brain of late is quite simple: Is capitalism fundamentally immoral? If the answer is no, is it, then, moral? Perhaps it is amoral, existing outside of a universe that does not even recognize questions of morality? The answer to this question is not easy and would seem to depend upon what you believe human life and existence should be.

In a capitalistic society not only the means of production are privately owned but land also is privately owned. This means that only some members of any given population, those who have somehow acquired capital, have control over land and labor. But land is just another word for the environment, and labor is just another word for human behavior. Thus those with capital effectively control the environment, the means of production, and the behavior of others (labor). Is this private control, placing power over the environment and the behavior of individuals in the hands of merely a few wealthy capitalists moral? Is it, that is, “right” or “wrong,” and if so, how and why?

This is hardly the proper venue for a serious discussion of such a basic philosophical issue, but the beauty of a blog is that you can bring up any issue you wish. I would argue, at least for the sake of the argument, that capitalism is intrinsically immoral. Take first of all the contention that all men (and women) are created equal. This obviously cannot mean that everyone is absolutely equal to everyone else, some people are larger than others, some are much smarter than others, some are more highly motivated than others, some work harder than others, and so on. What saying all people are equal in a democracy means is simply they are (supposedly) politically equal, one person one vote. But clearly in a capitalistic society all people are not equal, not even remotely equal. If you have lots of money you have far more political clout than if you are poor. And now that the Supreme(ly) political Court has decided that corporations are really persons and can donate as much money as they wish the idea of political equality is absolute rubbish.

Take the argument that all people are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In a capitalistic society this is simply not the case. If health care, for example, is in the control of private insurance companies, and if not everyone can afford it, one is not realistically entitled to life, unless you can afford it. Similarly, if you are compelled to work as a wage slave, or even a white collar worker, and this requires roughly a third of your time (life), you are not, strictly speaking, at liberty. Nor can one argue very convincingly that you are entitled to the pursuit of happiness, depending upon your idea of happiness. Some workers may well be relatively happy but many “wage slaves” are not, and indeed, have little time for the pursuit of happiness. Then there is also the question of independence. How much independence does one have when constrained by the rulers of private property and the means of production?

In earlier and more pre-industrial human societies there was little or no concept of private property or private control of the means of production. Everyone was basically equal. Land (territory) was held by a clan or tribe, not by individuals. Individual clan or tribal members were free to use portions of the territory for their gardens as needed but these portions were not owned, nor could they be sold (a condition that did and even now still creates a great deal of trouble when these societies are confronted by Europeans who believe in private property). If there were chiefs or leaders these officials had no power to actually command the behavior of others. All people were basically capable of doing all the tasks that needed to be done, there was little specialization, and certainly no wage labor or profit involved. If there were ostentatious displays of produce during ritual occasions those who organized them gained prominence, became “men with a name,” or “house posts,” or “Big men,” but did not personally profit materially from their activities.

How different the world we currently live in, where wealthy people and corporations control the behavior of millions and also control the use of land, water, health care, labor (behavior), and the control of the political system. How we evolved into this current situation is fairly well known from the historical record and we need not consider it here. But the basic fact is, or at least seems to me, that capitalism is fundamentally (and ironically) in direct opposition to those values we claim to hold so dear, equality, freedom, independence, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

You could, of course, have a quasi-capitalistic situation in which all the participants share equitably in the proceeds from their labor. Notice that I said equitably, not equally. Take the case, for example, of a supermarket owned by the employees, where everyone who works is entitled to a share in the profits. Those with the greatest responsibility, and the greatest managerial or other vital skills benefit somewhat more than others, but not in the ratio of, say, 250 to one, or even more outrageous. Such businesses do exist, the employee/owners are much happier and secure, but, alas, such businesses are unusual and no doubt would be considered by true capitalists as rotten, filthy, disgusting examples of (horrors) socialism.

Capitalism, as we currently experience it here in the U.S., makes profits solely from the (usually shameless) exploitation of workers or the exploitation of the environment, or both. It cannibalizes the behavior of others and tends to destroy the environment, if not the planet itself, and is, I believe, not only intrinsically immoral but also contrary to our own stated values. I realize there are others who have said this far more eloquently than I have, but who is listening?

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Definition of OBSESSION
: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation (online dictionary).

Does this not describe the Republican position when it comes to taxes? Republicans for a very long time seem to have been obsessed with taxes, specifically with not raising them no matter what. This is, in my opinion, obsessional in the extreme, especially when it comes to running the country. Raising and lowering taxes is an appropriate and integral part of governing; that is, if you seriously want police and fire protection, public education, postal service, Veterans care, highways and bridges, and etc. To take the position you will not under any circumstances raise taxes is not only absurd, it is childish. When it threatens the national and even international economy it is both irresponsible and even treasonous. But this is apparently the single-minded obsession of the Republican Party at the moment.

While it is true we have a “spending problem,” it is equally true we have a “revenue problem.” It would seem obvious that the solution to these problems would be to bring the two problems into balance. Yes, we should cut spending, but we should also increase revenue. Under the present circumstances this should not be difficult to do. But to insist, as Republicans are doing, that the only solution is to cut spending, and not increase revenue, is quite simply absurd. In other circumstances it might not be, but under our existing circumstances it is. That is, for Republicans to insist on continuing tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, when their tax rates are very low, and to refuse to eliminate tax breaks and loopholes for corporations now making absolutely unprecedented profits is plain and simply ridiculous. If they are doing this because they have swallowed the anti-tax kool-aid it is worse than ridiculous, it is insane. If they are doing it because they believe it will work politically for them, it is bordering on treason:

Definition of TREASON
: the betrayal of a trust : TREACHERY
: the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family

Is it not the case that by being the party of “no,” and stating publicly their number one goal is to bring down Obama, is this not an attempt “by overt acts” to “overthrow the government of the state…” This is basically treasonous. Should it not be the case that Republicans have an obligation to work with the President to solve the nation’s currently very serious problems? Should they not be expected to cooperate? Since when has our “government” abandoned governing in favor of a deadly game of simply trying to destroy the opposite party by any means possible? This is apparently what we have come to, certainly since Bush/Cheney changed the Republican Party into little more than a criminal conspiracy.

A situation in which a two-party “democracy” is supposed to function as a governing body, but one party simply refuses to cooperate no longer functions as it should. The effect of this has been to change our society and political system from a legitimate two political party system, Democrat and Republican, into a system of opposing Classes. On the one side are the huge international corporations and the obscenely wealthy, and on the other side the “huddle masses” of serfs, peasants, wage slaves, and the “little people.” The current “battle” over the budget has little to do with anything other than determining the relative level of comfort the proletariat will be allowed. Someone once said Marx did not understand the proletariat could be bought off by a six pack of beer and a long-legged whore on Saturday night. I believe he was on to something significant.

If the current “negotiations” were to be taken seriously, and if the public interest had anything much to do with them, President Obama would have conceded nothing to Republicans, nothing at all. The issue of whether or not the U.S. is responsible for its debt is not something negotiable. It has nothing to do with Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, or even when the Cherry trees bloom in Washington, D.C. No serious elected public official would ever protect huge tax breaks for the one or two percent of the absolutely filthy rich, or gigantic corporations making record profits, and argue at the same time for further sacrifices from the poor and middle classes. This should not even be considered a serious proposal, these clowns should be laughed off the stage, but this is the U.S. of A., where we no longer care about our citizens, civil rights, our schools, infrastructure, illegal and unconstitutional “wars,” or even, it appears, human life and well-being. It’s like our wonderful ex-President George W. Bush said, “bring it on.”

Friday, July 08, 2011

What's to Negotiate?

Bubblehead: Yes, I exaggerate. I would think most people reading “a defense budget hundreds of times bigger than any other on earth,” would recognize that as a gross exaggeration, similar to “I told you a million times…” Perhaps it would have been more obvious had I said a million times bigger, but I didn’t. In fact, as near as I can determine, no one actually knows what the defense budget is, and I mean no one at all, including those who supposedly specialize in such things. While it might not be hundreds of times bigger it is certainly, without exaggeration, the largest by far of any other. It is often said by different observers that it is larger than that all other nations combined. I believe it probably is. No one knows what it is because there seems little or no agreement as to what all should be included in the phrase “defense budget.” Does it, for example, include the Homeland Security budget? Does it include unfunded “wars?” Does it include each and every troop stationed all around the world for various purposes? How much of the FBI and CIA budgets is spent on defense? And you cannot really compare our defense budget to other nation’s defense budgets because they often lie about it, as we do. There is also, in my opinion, a real question of whether all the military stuff being built is really being built for defense or merely to keep the military/industrial/political complex running. Also, when they seemingly lose nine billion dollars, does that count for defense? Anyway, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that our “Defense Budget” is highly questionable, obscenely bloated, and could be substantially decreased with no loss of security at all.

As usual, I don’t understand what is going on. What is there to negotiate? We already borrowed and spent the money. We have to pay it back. It seems to me that should not be negotiable, unless, of course, you deliberately want to have us default for the first time in history on our debt, an act with consequences so grave as to be as yet unknown. Are we really negotiating as a third world country, having been raped by the World Bank, over not paying, or paying a reduced amount? The debt limit has been raised routinely for years, some nine times, I believe, just during the Bush administration. Never before has there been any negotiating over whether or not we would pay our bills. Is this what the so-called Tea Party “ideology” is all about, not paying our bills? Or is it really to destroy President Obama at all costs? If you are honorable and honest you pay your bills, period, as we always have. If, after paying them you later want to consider where the money will come from to do so, and argue endlessly about it, that is all well and good, but not paying
them is not an option and should not be used as a threat to the solvency of our nation. I believe that at least some of the motivation for refusing to raise the debt ceiling has to do with the Republican’s stated intention to make Obama a one term President. The more they can keep him from succeeding at anything the greater will be their chances of once again regaining the White House. Indeed, Bachmann has acknowledged that the more unemployment we have the more it will help her candidacy. Since Republicans have controlled the House they have not passed even one law that would help erase unemployment, and have in fact resisted doing anything to help. Frankly, I personally believe there is an element of racism involved. If Obama were not a Black President, a fact they cannot bear (and I’m sure will not admit), this kind of pressure would never have been so intense. Having failed so far to make him into a permanent Presidential Stepin Fetchit, they cannot believe he is actually resisting their outrageous demands for more tax breaks and corporate hand-outs.

This is not to say there is no “ideological” element at all involved in the Republican (and especially Tea Party) attempt to sabotage Obama. Clearly ideology is involved in their assault on Social Security. Republicans have tried to sabotage Social Security since FDR managed to pass it in the first place. Social Security has nothing to do with the national debt, it did not contribute to it, and has nothing to do with the fact that it has increased, except in a rather nefarious round-about way. That is, over the years Congress has borrowed some two trillion dollars from the Social Security Fund, and now they do not want to have to pay it back. In effect they have stolen two trillion or so from American taxpayers and want to welch on their debt. Similarly they cling to their pathological fear of socialism and absurd belief that privatization and the free market is the answer to all our problems. It is this silliness that keeps us from having health care we can actually afford and making millions go without it entirely. As they seem to be opposed to anything that might benefit either the poor or the middle class I can never decide whether they are truly stupid, merely ignorant, or basically just greedy and mean-spirited. I suspect you might find a mix.

I think Obama has made another mistake in his dealings with them over the debt ceiling. He should have said, no negotiations at all over raising the limit, if you want us to default go ahead and refuse to raise it. I’ll watch when the 54 million or so on Social Security recipients don’t get their checks. Good luck with that. But it is moments like this when he does seem to meekly enter into the Stepin Fetchit mold, giving in even when he doesn’t have to do so. When Republicans demand even outrageous concessions, instead of telling them to “piss off,” he tends to say “Yessah Boss.” Let’s hope he may finally have realized the futility of trying to appease the unappeasable and insists they grow up and act like adults.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

In the Asylums

It is often said there is always a grain of truth in stereotypes, perhaps that is so. It might also be said for certain clichés, like “The inmates have taken over the asylum.” In this latter case I do not believe there is merely a grain of truth in it, I believe it is probably literally true, and at more than one level. For example, think of the current Republican Party as an asylum, which is seems to me at this time to be perfectly reasonable. Think of who seems to be in charge of it, the Tea Party. What sorts of things do the Tea Party members seem to believe? Well, first of all they seem to be perfectly willing to see the United States, for the first time in history, fail to pay its debts, a situation certain to have catastrophic results. This seems pretty insane to me. They also are trying to completely do away with abortions, even though abortions are perfectly legal in the U.S., and on the way they also wish to do away with Planned Parenthood, a program on which millions of women depend for their health care. In some cases they have passed laws so draconian as to send women to prison for having a miscarriage. They are opposed to same sex marriages and would like to re-establish Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. They appear to disbelieve science and deny global warming, potentially the worst disaster ever to confront humanity. Tea Party members, and Republicans in general, also tend to oppose Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, environmental protection, education, and just about anything you can name that would benefit ordinary citizens. On the positive side (if there is one at all) they are opposed to taxes, even on millionaires and billionaires, believe the most profitable companies on earth should receive taxpayer subsidies, and also in permanent “war.” Oh, they also profess to believe in small government, think the government should stay out of people’s private lives (except in cases of abortion, consensual sex, marriage, and so on). When it comes to guns they insist they should be allowed in schools, bars, and even churches, and should be carried even without permits. They are, in short, in my opinion, crazy as Loons (actually worse, I apologize to Loons).

It is not only the Republican asylum we need to be concerned about, from a broader perspective the United States of America can also be seen as an asylum also now in charge of the inmates. Not satisfied to have two unfinished “wars” we are losing, and cannot afford, our leaders now have us embarked on still other “wars” here and there. Even though we are trillions of dollars in debt we still try to maintain an “empire” we can no longer afford, and a Pentagon and Defense Budget hundreds of times larger than any other on earth. We continue to support the manufacture of weapons that are totally unnecessary and sometimes illegal. Our government still wants to supply billions for nuclear energy in spite of the horrendous Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, and in spite of the fact that Japan, Germany, Switzerland, China, and other countries are abandoning nuclear energy entirely. Similarly, in the face of massive oil drilling disasters, and in spite of the knowledge the oil companies have no way of coping with these disasters, we are going ahead with permits for further drilling. Although we readily call for accountability on the part of war criminals around the world, we have now agreed to never punish our own war criminals even after they have admitted their crimes. Our much vaunted “war on drugs,” on which we have wasted billions upon billions, has proven to be a dismal failure, but one we stubbornly cling to in spite of the dismal failure. This is a problem that could easily be solved simply by making drugs legal and considering the use of drugs a medical rather than a political problem, but then where would we get enough prisoners to fill up our increasingly private-for-profit prisons? We spend more money on prisons than on schools and the situation grows worse and worse every year. We have allowed our own infrastructure and schools to badly deteriorate while we destroy those in other countries so we can spend lots of money to rebuild them. While we profess equality for all and a belief in justice and fairness, while one of our “allies” blissfully engages in horrible war crimes and near genocidal practices, and shows no signs of wanting to change, we actually help them in this immoral and illegal behavior. We have a health care situation that grows increasingly expensive and out of control year after year, produces less care per dollar than any other system in the industrialized world, leaves millions and millions without health care, and insist on leaving it in the hands of private insurance companies that make their money by not providing health care to those who need it most. We do this even though there is no reason whatsoever why insurance companies should be involved in health care at all.

Our highly touted two party “democracy” has strayed so far from its intentions it is no longer a democracy at all, merely a charade put on year after year by powerful corporations that determine the news we are permitted to hear, the outcome of elections, shamefully bribe our elected officials, judges, and whoever else they need, to make sure they get the rules, regulations, and laws they want, and increasingly rule the world from mostly behind the scenes (although they are becoming so powerful and arrogant they are more and more coming out of the closet). The idea of public welfare or the public good has long since been abandoned in favor of an outrageous two class system in which the top one or two percents have the lion’s share of the wealth while the rest are once again becoming merely wage slaves and serfs. Any changes I can detect indicate things will get worse.

A pox on both of our parties! We desperately need a strong and viable third party and quickly.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Morton's Fork

Live and learn. I have discovered that for all these years I did not understand the true meaning of “Hobson’s Choice.” I have always thought it meant having to choose between two equally undesirable outcomes, but apparently that is not what it means. According to Wikipedia, Hobson’s Choice, named after an English Livery Stable owner, means “take this one or nothing.” Morton’s Fork (which I have never previously heard of), I have learned, means making a choice when two alternatives yield equivalent, usually undesirable, results.

So, while I was prepared to complain about the coming Hobson’s Choice in the 2012 election, I now suggest Morton’s Fork is much more appropriate. We are going to be, as near as I can tell, faced with a genuine Morton’s Fork in 2012. On the one hand will be President Obama who has proven to be (I believe) not really up to the task (of being President). Don’t misunderstand, I like him personally, but his behavior as President has been less than, shall I say, Presidential. He seems to be unable to stand up to Republicans, no matter how outrageous their demands are, or how opposed they are to the desires of our citizens. He appears to just “cave in” in the face of opposition, often conceding points to Republicans even before the negotiations begin. If he now caves in to their blackmail over the debt limit he will have certainly exhausted my support. What Republicans are suggesting is so outrageous, continuing tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, continuing subsidies for huge corporations, while at the same time cutting back on vital services for ordinary citizens should not even be seriously considered. Obama should tell them “no” in no uncertain terms. But apparently he is “weaseling” again and may even agree to cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and (horror of horrors) Social Security. Obama has to “stand tall” and simply refuse to consider proposals that are basically absurd. When it comes to raising taxes on the filthy rich and eliminating corporate subsidies, virtually everyone would be on board (except those who would be at best merely inconvenienced). He must call the Republican bluff if he is to have any credibility as President.

But it is not merely with respect to the budget negotiations that I think Obama has failed. His continuation, even acceleration, of the “war” in Afghanistan is to me unforgivable. When he became President he could have declared the situation hopeless, which it is, and brought our troops home. His Libya adventure is truly “Bush League,” and he has obviously lied about it. He failed to consider investigating the obvious war crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration, and he has in many ways simply continued Bush practices that are undesirable (the imperial presidency, secrecy, wire tapping, patriot act, and so on). Similarly, he has failed to bring to justice the obvious criminals on Wall Street who brought about the recession and who continue to rape and pillage the taxpayers in every way they can.

With respect to Foreign Policy, Obama seems unable to stand up to the Generals and the Pentagon. I gather he is a supporter of “permanent war” in order to placate the Pentagon and all the Defense Industry giants who benefit from it. He will not stand up to Netanyahu, probably one of the worst international criminals of all time, who now seems to be uniquely in charge of the Israeli/Palestinian problem. His continuing support of Israel, no matter how vile their war crimes, is disgusting in the extreme. His opposition to even the ships trying to bring needed supplies to Gaza is deplorable. Obama is uniquely positioned to insist Israel “cease and desist” in their genocidal attempt to rid themselves of Palestinians but does nothing but allow them to continue.

I should think my disenchantment with Obama is pretty obvious by now, and I would not be adverse to seeing him replaced with someone with more of a spine, someone less conservative, less “Bush-like,” and less belligerent in Foreign Affairs. But look at the alternatives! A collection of second and third rate Republicans who have nothing whatsoever to offer except their dislike of Obama, some of them so “far-out” as to be virtually unreal, others so impractical as to be useless, and still others apparently in the race only for the publicity. Romney, the presumptive leader, drips insincerity from every pore and changes his positions daily, Bachmann, under directions from god to save us from homosexuals and who knows what, Pawlenty, with all the charisma of a cedar post, Gingrich, the phoniest hypocrite that ever lived, Santorum and Cain both worse than bad jokes, and Ron Paul who would take us back to frontier days. It is not a pretty picture. I don’t believe the addition of Thaddeus Mccotter is going to improve it.

I suppose one might argue that it is a Hobson’s Choice, either Obama or nobody, but Morton’s Fork seems to me at the moment more descriptive of the situation. Take your pick, heads you lose, tails you lose, but corporations and Wall Street will laugh and tell jokes while counting their winnings in the billions.