Friday, September 30, 2011

Comes the Revolution?

I don’t have much information about what is actually occurring in New York City and elsewhere as the news is by no means generous about what is happening. I do know that what began with a relatively small number of protestors has grown into a much larger protest movement. And now it appears some of the unions are going to join. The protestors have been occupying a square in Wall Street for almost two weeks and there is no sign they are about to give up very soon. Their cause has been aided by the unnecessary brutality of the New York Police that finally resulted in at least some coverage by the MSM. What is probably of more importance is that this protest movement appears to be spreading to other cities. Washington, D.C. is to be targeted tomorrow, there are, I believe, incipient movements in Los Angeles and elsewhere that might easily grow into more important protests.

The protestors in front of Wall Street are most specifically angry with Wall Street for having created the recession and bringing about the shameful imbalance of wealth between ordinary citizens and the Wall Street “Barons.” But it seems not all protestors share the same goals and many are there for different reasons. But all are there because they are basically fed up with what is happening to our country and especially to the middle class at the hands of Wall Street and the Corporations that now control the world.

While the Wall Street situation has now become perhaps the most important protest movement it is by no means the only one. Thousands of nurses, for example, have already been marching in California and I believe there have been other smaller strikes going on here and there. Some of the Longshoremen have been threatening and I believe GMC has recently reached a settlement with their union. It does seem that protest movements (“strikes”) are “in the air” and growing. I don’t see how these various protests can be described as a “revolution” but they may be the forerunners of a genuine revolution, something that has always been described as not possible in the United States. I suppose it depends upon what one might describe as a revolution. We did, of course, have a revolution that brought us our independence from Britain, but that is not at all similar to our present problems. A better example would be the labor unrest and strikes of the early 1900’s that involved a great deal of violence before unions made significant gains against management. Remember that miners in North Idaho commandeered a train in Burke, Idaho, ran it several miles to Kellogg, Idaho, where they blew up the Bunker Hill Smelter, and this was only one incident among many. This period of serious unrest and labor troubles is not usually referred to as a revolution but in many respects it was a revolution.

Could what is happening at the moment in New York and beginning to happen elsewhere develop into a genuine revolution? Perhaps not, but do not think it would be impossible. The citizens are angry, very angry, as is apparent not only by their taking to the streets but also by the name-calling and animosity within the Congress and the media as well. It is clear that bipartisanship is virtually non-existent and both sides are growing farther apart. Members of Congress, virtually all millionaires, show no apparent understanding of just how angry ordinary citizens are, nor do they seem to understand the reasons for this anger. Republicans, especially of the Tea Party variety, have been opposed to anything that might possibly help the middle class and the poor, and in their zeal to defeat Obama have blocked everything that might give him even the semblance of a victory no matter what that means for ordinary citizens or even the country. If they continue in this vein it could very well lead to some genuine unpleasantness. If the greed of the wealthy and the corporations is not tempered, if they continue to cling to their obscene wealth and privilege, refusing to make any concessions whatsoever, there may well be rioting in the streets. This would not be unprecedented as the early 1900’s have shown us (if anyone is willing to listen).

We are, I believe, seeing the demise of “free-market capitalism” as we have known it for the past couple of decades, and with it the demise of “the American century,” the demise of our “empire,” and the demise of our previous high position in the pecking order of nations. I know that many do not want to acknowledge this, and many are denying it, clinging to the belief that with a few adjustments here and there all will be well. It is true that things could get measureably better, but I fear “the good ol’ days” are just that, and “You can’t go home again,” so to speak, is just too true.

What I fear will happen is there will be some minor concessions, the wealthy will agree to paying another two or three percent in taxes, the Republicans will drop some of their more outrageous demands, and things will then basically continue as they have been for the past few years. Once again the proletariat will be bought off with “a six-pack of beer and a long-legged whore on Saturday night”), while the basic system remains unchanged and the powers that be will continue laughing all the way to the bank and their offshore shelters.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

Douglas Adams

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Greed is defined by an online dictionary as: “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as MONEY) than is needed.”

Try as I might I cannot think of any motive other than just plain greed to explain the behavior of Republicans. All of the current Republican candidates are singing the same old song about the need to reduce taxes and lessen regulations, it seems to be their only solution to anything and everything. But this is at a time when taxes (especially on the wealthy) are as low as they have ever been, and also at a time when the disparity between rich and poor has never been greater. Many of these people are sitting not only on millions of dollars, but on multiple millions, and in some cases even billions. How much more do they need? It is also a time of rather grave national circumstances with runaway unemployment, personal bankruptcies, foreclosures, and millions living in poverty and without health care. Republicans don’t seem to care about this, they still demand more and more and more. What other motive might there be other than just plain naked greed? I suppose you might also argue they want power, to regain control of government, and while that may be true, the reason they want that power is to insure their greed can continue uninterrupted. You might also conclude they desire a two class system with themselves at the top and peasants, serfs, and slave laborers at the bottom, but again only so they can cling to their forturnes and increase them even further at the expense of everyone else. Similarly, the reason they want to do away with regulations is so they will be free to make even more profits. A majority of people in the U.S. want to see taxes increased for those making more than $250,000 a year, those very people who acquired their money during years of relatively “good times.” They have more money than they can easily spend, and contrary to the rather absurd Republican claims this money does not “trickle down” substantially or create jobs (except perhaps for a very few makers of expensive yachts, jewelry, and other luxuries of various kinds). They don’t want money to create jobs, if that were so we should have seen massive job creation in the past ten years. I m not often at a loss for words, but in the face of such awesome greed that I neither understand nor condone I find it hard to say anything except perhaps SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!

I have essentially the same problem of explanation when it comes to the behavior of the Israelis. Not content with the borders and resources they were initially given they have slowly expanded like a cancer into the territory that was supposed to be Palestinian land, even destroying Palestinian orchards, homes, and lives in the process. They seem willing to stop at nothing to illegally grab more land and water, expanding illegal settlements while completely ignoring all pleas for them to stop. You could, I guess, believe that what they were given was not enough in the first place, and they therefore have had to try to expand, but as they keep saying they are interested in peace, peace that can only come with at least some concessions to the Palestinians, you have to question their sincerity. At the very moment they say they are offering the hand to peace to all their neighbors they are expanding housing projects in Jerusalem, an activity directly in opposition to peace or even negotiations. Just as always, with the support of their puppet state (the U.S.) and its lickspittle President, they proceed to do whatever they choose and the entire world is apparently helpless to stop them. They simply ignore the United Nations and continue to engage in war crimes and quasi-genocide at will, all with the backing of the U.S., a nation apparently with no shame, steeped in hypocrisy and fairy tales about a poor, helpless, victimized Israel. Again, it seems to me the only explanation for Israeli behavior, if you disregard their false claims about lacking security, is basically greed.

At the moment we have nurses striking, people camped in front of Wall Street, union membership increasing, various other strikes here and there, and massive discontent with the disparity between the rich and the poor. Even so, Republicans are not only turning a blind eye to this growing dissatisfaction but continue to insist on even more of the same. I think they are unaware of the frustration-aggression hypothesis and seem to believe they can continue their unprincipled selfish behavior with no fear of the consequences. I think they may be in for a real surprise, as it appears virtually the whole world is now caught up in one or another form of rebellion and the movement is growing. The belief seems to be that “it can’t happen here,” but there are indications that may well be incorrect. I suspect that some, like Warren Buffet and the wealthy French (who are probably more sensitive to this possibility than we are) are fearful of what could happen if they do not make at least some concessions. But arrogant greedy nitwits like Grover Norquist and his followers continue to make even more outrageous and childish demands. Now is the time to take away their baby bottles, security blankets, and infantile tantrums, and wean them once and for all from their exploitation of the public trough. Even Republicans should have to grow up at some point.

There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Human Nature and Culture

Two quite different things have recently turned my attention once again to the question of human nature. First, I have been appalled by Republican audiences that applauded Rick Perry’s multiple executions, and those who also approved of Ron Paul’s position on letting a 30 year-old man die if he did not have life insurance. More recently there was the booing of a Gay soldier. I would not have done those things and I do not understand why anyone else would. It makes me wonder if Republicans are somehow importantly different from others with respect to their very nature.

Second, in going through some books I came across a copy of Robert Redfield’s fine book, “The Primitive World and Its Transformations.” Among other things in this work is a chapter on “Folk Societies” and how they differ from urban societies. It occurred to me that the changes that were needed to convert the former societies into the latter were so profound they must have had an impact on our basic human nature. But I don’t believe they did. I have concluded there is a basic human nature that is shared by all living humans that is fixed and basically unchangeable.

I base my belief primarily on my own experience with humans of different cultures. Obviously I have not experienced every human culture, but I have experienced ones with what have usually been described as about as “primitive” as any, as well as our highly industrialized, urbanized, and “modern” ones, and even a few that might be seen as in-between. I firmly believe that all of the individuals I have met in all of these cultures are fundamentally the same when it comes to what we think of as human nature, they are all sentient beings, thoughtful, with the ability to reason and get along with others. As they all share being mammals, primates, and hominids, with the behavioral and other characteristics that go along with being such, they share in a basic humanity.

If this is so, how is it humans are capable of such an awesome range of behaviors? Why do different people engage in such strange (to us) behaviors as circumcision, subincision, clitoridectomies, scarification, ritual homosexuality, tooth filing, neck and lip stretching, infanticide, senilicide, genocide, wars and brutalities almost beyond description? Why do some eat dogs and horses while others are horrified at the thought, still others thrive on mares’ milk and/or blood, some eat pork that others revile, and so on and on. There is virtually no behavior you can think of that cannot be found to exist either in the past or the present of the species. The easiest answer but also the most complex is, of course, culture.

Although some animals exhibit behavior that can be described as at least somewhat cultural, a full-blown cultural life-style is unique to humans. This is because the human species is unique in having no instincts, no naturally prescribed ways of behaving, no behavioral imperatives they must necessarily obey, no firm guidelines to follow. Hence the necessity for culture, those learned and extragenetically transmitted ways of behaving that we acquire during the course of maturation. Although all people have emotions even these are shaped by culture and experience. The emotions I experience when seeing a bird plucked alive, roasted and eaten, are not shared by people in the New Guinea Highlands, nor is my revulsion when thinking about eating eyeballs shared by those who commonly consume them. We share the possession of emotions even though our expressions of them vary widely. Although human life is highly valued by all humans, the definition of humans is not, and some people can kill more easily than others, taking heads, and even sometimes consuming the flesh so harvested. All people marry but marriage customs range widely from monogamy, polygamy, to polyandry and even other variations. I believe the ability to reason is common to all humans although reasoning often begins with very different premises. In New Guinea, for example, I was told one day by a man that white women didn’t menstruate, an obvious falsehood. But he explained that no man would sleep with a menstruating woman, white men slept with their wives, hence the wives must not menstruate. Similarly it was explained to me by another that the only conceivable reason I had, consulted, and needed a calendar was to know the day I would die (they planned funerals in advance of death). All of the people I knew were thoughtful, curious, and reasonably intelligent (as opposed to the ignorance they could not escape because of their isolation and illiteracy). Anyway, all in all, I cannot say I found anyone, no matter how culturally different from myself, unable to converse and deal with me basically like everyone else, no matter how naked, how dirty, how ignorant, how seemingly bizarre, or how sophisticated and well dressed. Similarly, I never saw women, no matter how said to be oppressed, without a sense of dignity and an awareness of their basic positions of influence in society vis-à-vis males. In short, I think they were all very similar in their basic humanity.

There is a curious paradox involved in human nature. There is a tendency to label individuals as inhuman or inhumane when they indulge in behaviors that would appear to be of that character. But it is precisely because they are human that they have the ability to be inhumane. The absence of instinct among humans and the dependence upon a cultural mode of life means they can be whatever they are because of their own cultural and individual experiences. You tend to become like those like yourself with perhaps a bit of idiosyncratic behavior because of your unique experiences. This is why we have sayings like, “birds of a feather flock together,” or “if you lie down with dogs you get fleas,” and also why we hear of “the culture of poverty,” or “corporate culture,” or “academic culture,” or “the culture of the FBI,” and so on. It is also why each human has the potential for extremes of behavior that can be triggered by certain circumstances, “the banality of evil,” that Hannah Arendt wrote about, the outrageously criminal behavior of soldiers, the torture and humiliations inflicted on enemies who become identified as non-human, vermin, inconsequential, expendable, and collateral damage, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” “nits make lice,” and other atrocious human actions against their fellows. As we know, these are not atrocities carried out by a few aberrant individuals but, rather, by individuals who could otherwise be considered perfectly “normal” or “respectable” humans.

What this seems to mean is that our cultural mode of existence, an apparent blessing that supposedly puts us at the apex of creation, is also a curse that also enables us to embrace the very depths of evil. It is, I guess, much like free-will (if there is such a thing) that allows us to choose good over evil but also unfortunately the opposite. I wonder is it possible, perhaps even probable, there is a “culture of Republicanism,” that compels them to despise the poor, the helpless, the needy, those who are not like themselves? You notice they are almost universally white, relatively well-off, supposedly Christian, and tend to be isolated from those who are different from themselves.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

President Lickspittle

Well, I’m back. Our trip to the book sale was a success. We did well. Except for about 15 minutes when the television was out of my control I was true to my goal of no television, no radio, no newspapers, no news. It was refreshing. I returned having avoided what I gather was the usual utter nonsense that passes for news these days.

Going over the various internet stuff I usually read I learned that the Republican debate must have been as absurd as usual (I would not have watched it in any case), Perry and Romney were up to their usual claims against each other, and Michele Bachmann is probably finished as a candidate. I thought Herman Cain’s victory in the Florida straw poll was hilarious. I suspect Floridians voted for him in such numbers mainly as a protest against both Perry and Romney rather than a genuine preference for Cain. Can you imagine a racist Tea Party accepting a Black candidate to run against Obama? I think it would be great but don’t look for it to happen. Given the overall quality of the Republican candidates they could just as easily run another know-nothing as they did in 2000, and probably will.

I guess the only thing I missed of note was Obama’s pathetic speech to the United Nations in which he disgraced himself and our country and made crystal clear to the rest of the world that he is Netanyahu’s lickspittle and will do whatever the Israeli government wants. I don’t suppose this comes as anything new to most of the world as it has been obvious for a long time but as of now there can be no doubt whatsoever that the United States cannot possibly be an honest broker in the Israeli/Palestinian problem. We are now on record as unquestionably supporting a racist, criminal, colonial, rapacious, greedy Israeli administration whose goal is to continue the status quo forever if possible. To say the Israeli/Palestinian problem can only be solved by negotiations between the two parties is to say it cannot be solved at all as the Israelis have never and will never negotiate in good faith for something they do not want to happen. Obama’s claim there are two equal parties to the dispute is quite simply absurd, as the Israelis hold all the cards and the Palestinians virtually nothing. Robert Fisk, an authority on the region I regard very highly went so far as to say Obama made it sound as if it were the Palestinians occupying Israel rather than the opposite. The U.S. claim to being an honest broker has been a terrible myth for years. How could a nation that gives billions per year to Israel and a relative pittance to the Palestinians be considered an honest broker? How could a country that has voted in favor of virtually every Israeli war crime and violation of international law be so considered? I hope Obama’s current admission of being an Israeli bootlicker will make it eminently clear that others will have to try to bring about a solution to what is the single most important issue in the Middle East, treating both Israel and the U.S. as pariah nations that need to be somehow brought into at least some semblance of sanity when it comes to this seemingly intractable problem.

I truly do not like being a conspiracy believer and I have pretty consistently avoided believing in such conspiracies, but having been both alive and sentient for the past few years I may be becoming more unable to ignore what appear to me to be unanswered questions about a number of things. It seems there is now some reason to believe members of Saudi royalty living in Florida at the time of 9/11 were in touch with the terrorists that flew into the towers and were allowed to leave the U.S. precipitously and without being questioned. As the Bush family has had long and intimate ties to the Saudis, and as George W. was President at the time I cannot help but wonder about this. Similarly, I have always wondered why Bush/Cheney could not, or at least did not, capture or kill bin Laden, and did not even seem to try very hard to do so. Osama bin Laden was a CIA “asset” during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, George Bush Senior was not only President by also ex CIA director. Could it be that they did not really want bin Laden captured because he knew too much about the Bush’s and their involvement in Middle Eastern affairs? My increasing doubts about all this were not put to rest when bin Laden was finally captured, shot, and then hurriedly buried at sea. The excuse that we did not want to see a bin Laden tomb become a martyr’s grave does have an element of credibility to it, but would not an alive bin Laden been a source of information about many things, things the Bush/Cheney administration may well have preferred to stay buried? Frankly, I have come to the conclusion that we (the public) have no idea whatsoever is actually going on with respect to the Middle East, who is behind it and why, or even what is going on within our own government. There is no transparency whatsoever. We are left with either ignoring the situation of wondering incessantly who, what, where, when, and why. Truth seems to be a commodity that no longer exists, honesty is no longer considered a virtue, and ethics are a quaint concept from the past. I hate what is going on and want to run away, but there is nowhere to run. I would like to hide but there is nowhere to hide, I want to escape but there is no escape, I would like to no longer participate in this contemporary world of seeming insanity, but as I know that is what “they” want, I refuse to give up. There is, of course, the possibility of a “final solution,” but that is purely selfish and harms too many others. Thus we exist in a surreal world over which we have no control, observing the passing scene as if in a gigantic mental institution where the patients have taken charge and the attendants are helpless. This is not the world into which I was born and lived most of my life.

Where does the violet tint end and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blending enter into the other. So with sanity and insanity.

Herman Melville

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Last Barbarians

As I was writing this I learned that Troy Davis was executed at 11:08 Eastern Standard Time, irrefutable proof of our outrageous Barbarism. I tend to believe he may well have been innocent, but even if not his execution was at best immoral and at worst a genuine tragedy. The Supreme Court of the United States turned down his plea for a stay with one sentence, the apparent reason being “there was nothing new for them to consider,” another example of our American tradition of shoot first and ask questions later, but in this case there is no later for Troy Davis.

Note: I am going away for three days for our annual experience with the “Gently Mad” (book people), the Seattle Library book sale. I will take this opportunity to refuse to watch television, listen to the radio, or read newspapers, in short, to take a much-needed break from the appalling and seemingly never ending lie fest, otherwise known as politics. You have no idea how refreshing such a break can be, it almost allows one to begin to recover from the insanity that is part of our everyday lives these days. I will probably not blog again until Sunday, the 25th.

I think there is little doubt, at least in the eyes of most of the world, that we are the last barbarians. First, we are, as far as I know, the only so-called Christian, industrialized nation that still clings to the death penalty. You are no doubt aware that some other countries refuse to extradite prisoners here because of the existence of our death penalty. This has been at least part of the reason that Julian Assange has not been extradited to the United States, but there are many other instances as well.

Our barbarism is being exposed to all the world at the moment in the case of Troy Davis. Not only was he sentenced to death in the first place, he was sentenced some 18 or more years ago. During that time he has been living on Death Row. Four times now, including at the moment, he was sentenced to be executed only to be spared at the last minute. As I write this he was supposed to have executed some three hours ago and, again, it has been delayed pending a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States, The Georgia Board of Pardons and the Georgia Supreme Court having turned down requests for a stay of execution. It is bad enough he was sentenced to death in the first place, but surely the 18 years he has spent on death row, along with the four last minute delays, is barbaric in and of itself.

I have no idea if Troy Davis is innocent of the crime he has been found guilty of or not. At the moment, however, the question of innocence is not even the issue. The issue is whether or not there is sufficient doubt to question his conviction, and it seems there is more than enough doubt. If anything that is being said on television about his case is true, even if any single part of it is true, there is sufficient doubt. No physical evidence, improper ballistic information, seven of nine eyewitnesses recanting their testimony, several of the jurors now saying if they had known what they know now they would not have convicted him, and so on. If any of this is true I would think there is plenty of doubt, but this apparently did not convince the Georgia Board of Pardons or the Georgia Supreme Court (as far as I know they have not told us why). Troy Davis has been supported by no less that ex-President Jimmy Carter, the Pope, one of the ex heads of the Justice Department (I think), as well as by the ex Warden of the Georgia Prison where he is presently incarcerated, the ex Wardens of several other Prisons, and apparently hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. In spite of this outpouring of doubt and support the barbarians remain unmoved. Some actually cheered when Rick Perry’s 234 executions were mentioned, others cheered at the thought that a 30 year-old might well die from lack of medical insurance. Need I remind you these were all Republicans.

Our barbarism extends far beyond just the issue of the death penalty. For example, with our unemployment rate above nine percent (actually probably closer to twenty percent) Republicans actually sent a letter to the head of the Federal Reserve asking it to do nothing to help improve things. Aside from the fact this is a virtually unprecedented attempt to politicize the Fed, ordinarily considered a definite no-no, it is a deliberate attempt to insure that no help for the unemployed or the disenfranchised should be allowed, an act that in my opinion is ultimately just as barbaric as the death penalty. Indeed, the entire Republican program for our country is about as barbaric as one could imagine: no Social Security, no Medicare or Medicaid, no unemployment insurance, no taxes on the wealthy or the corporations, no Planned Parenthood, no abortions, no food stamps or welfare, no help for anyone other than the wealthiest among us, no jobs; I can’t think of a better description of their program than barbaric. It certainly does not resemble anything that one might expect in a so-called “civilized” society. There was an idea that societies had evolved from a period of “savagery,” through a period of “barbarism,” to ultimately “civilization.” I suspect this idea is still with many and I also suspect this is precisely where most Europeans think our fledgling country still belongs.

We should face up to the fact we are an unusually violent and bloodthirsty society. This is apparent in the movies we make and watch, the sports we favor, the television shows we follow, the comic books we read, the widespread pornography that exists, the not uncommon child and spousal abuse, and our attitudes towards the death penalty and lack of health care. The execution of Troy Davis, surely not guilty “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” is another shameful confirmation of the barbarism that survives in our culture.

I believe that people would be alive today if there were a death penalty.

Nancy Reagan

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Oil?

You have all no doubt heard the old story of the man caught walking along the road with a stolen cow on a leash. When asked what he’s doing with the cow he says,” what cow?”

That’s the way I feel about what we are doing in the Middle East. You never, or at least almost never hear the word oil mentioned. President Obama yesterday talking about Libya gave us the usual stuff about how the Libyans themselves instigated the civil war, how we and the U. N. nobly went to their aid, and now we have to help them, and etc. At no point did he mention oil or our and the English and French interest in it. When people ask what are we doing in Afghanistan after all these years, and why don’t we get out, oil is never mentioned, or the pipeline that oil companies are planning to cross Afghanistan and avoid Russia. Our presence, and continued presence, is always given in terms of fighting al Quaida to make us safe, helping the Afghans in nation building, improving the lot of women, and blah, blah, blah. When we illegally and unconstitutionally attacked Iraq the Bush administration denied it had anything to do with oil, it was to rid the country of a dictator, to stop his weapons of mass destruction (that did not exist), to bring democracy, and the same old, same old. The fact that Dick the Slimy hosted a meeting of oil giants even before the attack to divide up Iraqi oil seems to have been conveniently forgotten by all. The talk of attacking Iran and bringing about regime change is, of course, because Iran sits on oceans of oil. Our intimate relationship with Saudi Arabia is all about oil, as are our relationships with all countries that possess that particular commodity. And yet this is never really mentioned, we continue to either say “what oil,” or just ignore oil as a motive for our desire to control the Middle East and our oil supply. As I’m sure I said somewhere before, when I saw a bumper sticker in Sandpoint, Idaho, even before we attacked Iraq, that said “Nuke their ass and steal their gas,” I thought it was just some warmongering crank, I didn’t realize it was in fact our Middle East policy.

I am always impressed by candidates and want-to-be candidates with absolutely no foreign policy experience themselves who immediately begin to criticize President Obama for his foreign policy. Sarah Palin and now Rick Perry come easily to mind. Perry has said (I should say read) that Obama’s foreign policy is “naïve, arrogant, misguided, and dangerous.” He seemed to have a bit a trouble reading this from the obviously prepared comments he had in front of him, clearly written by someone else. It reminded me of Bush’s speeches where he obviously did not even understand what he was asked to read. Of course both Palin and Bachmann have also been critical of Obama’s foreign policy, based, I gather on their own vast experience in that domain. I guess this is why it really doesn’t matter who the President is as long as they can read. I noticed that Bush improved as he went along, perhaps Perry can do the same, but somehow I doubt it.

I note that some restaurants are now using tablet computers for orders and to replace waiters and waitresses. Groceries are increasingly using self-checkout computers. Of course we already have things like chain saws, computer operated machines of all kinds, robots in factories, tractors, and all kinds of technology to render human help less and less important. At the same time we seem to be wondering why the private sector doesn’t create jobs. It is no doubt possible to create some jobs but I do not believe we can possibly depend upon the private sector, even along with the government, to create some 15 or more million jobs. You might think some provisions would be made to deal with the increasingly technological sophistication involved and realize that the necessity for jobs is not what it once was. Workers should have to work fewer hours, take longer vacations, have more leisure time, and so on, but, of course, all the gains just go into the pockets of the wealthy and the corporations. These gains are certainly not being shared by all as they should be.

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.

Omar Bradley

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Bald-faced" Lies

I recently heard someone accuse Republicans of “bald-faced lies.” In my endless but largely futile quest to understand Republican behavior I asked my wife what a bald-faced lie was. She said it was when a person said something they knew was a lie but said it anyway. She also suggested I “google” it. I did:

“The original term seems to have been bald-faced (bare-faced) and refers to a face without whiskers. Beards were commonly worn by businessmen in the 18th and 19th century as an attempt to mask facial expressions when making business deals. Thus a bald-faced liar was a very good liar indeed, and was able to lie without the guilt showing on his face.

The more correct term is "bald-faced lie" or "bare-faced lie" (bare is more common in Great Britain). It refers to a "shameless" or "brazen" lie. One where the teller does not attempt to hide his face while telling it.”

I found this a rather strange definition. First, I find it hard to believe our ancestors grew beards in order to cheat one another in business deals. While that could have been one function of a beard I do not believe it could have been the motive for the widespread male practice of having a beard (interestingly enough it could explain why women were not very successful in business in those days, but this is just silly speculation). I also do not find the teller not attempting to hide his/her face very useful. It does not seem feasible to me that anyone would attempt to hide their face while telling a lie as that would probably be self defeating. I like my wife’s definition better.

However, when I try to analyze various Republican statements using her definition (or any definition) I find it difficult to decide what they truly mean. You know there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. There are also white lies, innocent lies, lies told out of compassion, and of course, bald-faced lies. I think we can easily dismiss white, innocent and lies of compassion when speaking of Republican lies. That leaves us with lies, damn lies, statistics, and bald-faced lies. They seem to have mastered all of these forms.

But how do you know when a Republican is telling a bald-faced lie? Probably when he or she opens their mouth, but perhaps that is unfair and rather begs the question. When, for example, Mitch McConnell says we can’t raise taxes on the rich because they are the job creators, how do you know whether he actually believes that or not? Unless you believe he is completely stupid you have to believe he is knowingly telling a lie because the evidence is quite clear that this “trickle down” theory is bogus and we know it has not worked as claimed. Similarly, when Rick Perry announces that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and an outrageous lie, you have to believe he is incredibly stupid and believes that, or he is only saying it to win support for his election (but that would be also incredibly stupid). As Social Security has been a very successful program for over seventy years it is hard to believe Perry does not know that and is, therefore, telling us a bald-faced lie.

It is not always so easy to understand when someone is lying. Michelle Bachmann, for example, claiming that the vaccine causes mental retardation. She might believe that or she might not. But she didn’t actually claim that connection, merely that a woman told her that. Thus she didn’t actually lie, but she did imply something for her own political purpose that was of questionable veracity. I guess when she reports that god wants her to run for the Presidency she probably believes that. Thus it is from her point of view, as well as ours, not a lie at all, but from the standpoint of reality just a form of psychobabble. When she claims her husband does not attempt to cure people of homosexuality, but the evidence is clear that he does, she is telling us a bald-faced lie, unless of course she has no idea what she is talking about, always a possibility with her.

Some candidates seem to use bald-faced lies more readily and more often than others. When Mitt Romney claimed he had been a hunter “all his life” it was an obvious bald-faced lie as he had only hunted twice and did not have a hunting license. When he claimed to have created jobs when Governor, when in fact he had not, it was, again, an obvious bald-faced lie. Romney’s reputation as a flip-flopper rests largely on the accumulation of the all-too-obvious bald-faced lies he has told. It is usually obvious when he is telling a whopper, not because of the look on his face but by the eagerness with which he blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind, like, for example, when he blurted out that we needed to expand Guantanamo.

Then, of course, there are the obvious bald-faced lies Republicans have put out from time to time about President Obama. He was not born in the U.S., he did not have a birth certificate, he’s a Muslim, he’s a socialist, he’s not one of us, and so on. Most everyone recognized these as bald-faced lies except for the few fanatics that are willing to believe anything negative about Obama. Lies over time do take a toll on public opinion, whether bald-faced or not. How many Republicans do you think truly believe global warming is a hoax? How many truly believe that raising the tax three percentage points is going to destroy jobs? How many believe that “Obamacare” is a socialist plot? But they repeat these lies over and over again as part of the Republican litany of lies and they, with perhaps a few insane exceptions have to know they are not true. Virtually the entire Republican platform rests on the repetition of bald-faced lies. Bush/Cheney knowingly performed them repeatedly without hiding their faces or growing beards, without apparent shame or regret, and their legacy is with us still. They lied so repeatedly and so shamelessly people came to assume that if they were talking they were lying. Does anyone believe they did not know they were lying? Virtually everyone on earth knew they were lying but very few ever challenged or exposed them. Bald-faced lying has become the hallmark of Republicanism and goes unchallenged by their owned and operated MSM. Bush/Cheney set an example that has been eagerly adopted by other Republicans, it has become all too true that you know they are lying as soon as they open their mouths. Is it possible they have told these lies so often they have come to believe them? No, they are only serving their international corporate masters who apparently believe nations are now expendable.

Now that President Obama has announced his plan to reduce the deficit, and there are only some 13 months until the election, prepare yourselves for a hurricane of dishonesty, bald-faced lies, invective and false information unmatched since the rise of the Third Reich that will make the Swift Boaters look like Pollyanna and drive us further along the road to premature oblivion.

He who is not very strong in memory should not meddle with lying.

Michel de Montaigne

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recant or Resign

The Grover Norquist pledge to never raise taxes is probably the single most idiotic idea ever hatched in American politics. Norquist, head of American for Tax Reform, an organization he formed after a suggestion by Saint Ronnie the Boneheaded (wouldn’t you know), has, is, and potentially will continue doing more damage to our personal and national well-being than any other organization I can think of. Apparently all but a handful of Republicans in Congress have signed this pledge. Each and every one should either publicly recant or resign from office.

Taken seriously and honored this pledge means you would not vote to raise taxes even in the most dire national emergency, if we were attacked and had to go to war, if there was a huge natural calamity, a monumental depression, or whatever. This has already occurred as Bush/Cheney started two wars that were not paid for with increased taxes but, rather, with more borrowing. Similarly they passed a huge Pharmaceutical bill that was also not paid for. At this very moment these anti-tax maniacs are refusing to fund disaster relief without first taking money from other necessary programs. Further, with our unemployment rate at over nine percent (the actual rate is probably closer to twenty percent), and apparently still rising, they refuse to even consider raising taxes even on the obscenely wealthy and corporations making record profits.

What this means, at least to me, is that they are refusing to govern, at least when it comes to the most basic of tasks, keeping the economy going, funding our “wars” and other hostilities, providing health care for the millions upon millions without it, and so on. If they refuse to govern they should not be in office. They should either recant their pledge or resign from office. This could mean a mass resignation of Republicans, small loss. If they had any decency they would get out of the way and allow more responsible people to do whatever is necessary to help the nation recover.

Don’t you wonder what these morons were thinking (I guess they weren’t really thinking) when they signed this ridiculous pledge. Would they have signed a similar pledge that said “I will not raise taxes even if we are attacked,” or one that said, “I will not raise taxes even to keep my fellow citizens from starving,” or “I will not raise taxes in the event of a nuclear attack that destroys one of our largest cities, like New York or Chicago,” or even if a meteor falls to earth and destroys a thousand square miles of the Midwest, or if fires or floods destroy an entire state. I have to presume that no one would have agreed to sign a pledge when stated in terms of precise potential disasters, but in effect they have signed such pledges, at least implicitly, and within certain limits they have and are already living up to such pledges. If they claim they would break their pledge in cases of national emergency they should not have signed in the first place. Grover Norquist should be considered public enemy number one, tarred and feathered and run out of the country. What he has done with his stupid pledge has been and is not in our national interest and thus is subversive. In fairness to Saint Ronnie I doubt that he himself had in mind such an absurd pledge, and as he raised taxes eleven times during his Presidency, I cannot help but wonder what he would think of the current situation. Somehow I don’t think he would be very proud.

[George Bush] has raised taxes on the people driving pickup trucks and lowered taxes on the people riding in limousines. We can do better.

Bill Clinton

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Obama vs The Great White Dope

Unless some as yet completely unknown super candidate mysteriously appears from some as yet unknown planet it will surely be Obama versus some Great White Dope. None of the existing candidates for the Republican nomination look at all promising, some of them appear at best to be only on the margins of sanity, others seem to have no credentials other than ego, and still others haven’t as yet even declared their intentions. This latter doesn’t matter as the undeclared are every bit as loony as those who have, or perhaps even worse.

Two of the three leading candidates are obviously religious nut-cases (probably “Dominionists”) and the third belongs to a religion that, among other strange things, believes underwear can be sacred. It is likely that one of these three will actually get the Republican nomination but also unlikely any of them can win in the general election. Why Republicans believe any one of these three might defeat President Obama is a mystery to me, but they do, apparently because they think Obama is “weak” and in trouble. Don’t know about weak but he is in trouble, trouble of the Republicans making as they have blocked him at every turn, are trying to destroy the economy so they can falsely blame it on him, and have in general acted in what I believe is a rather treasonous fashion. Moreover they seem to ignore the fact that however bad Obama appears they themselves are considered even worse. The only candidate that has said anything even remotely reasonable, like believing in science and evolution, is going absolutely nowhere and may be lucky to escape the fate of Galileo. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that this is the United States where any form of intellectual activity, even reason, has long since been abandoned in favor of ignorance, so there is no telling what might happen.

Speaking of ignorance brings to mind for me the two and a half years I spent with natives in the New Guinea Highlands, people usually described as “primitive” or still living “in the Stone Age.” I never thought of them as stupid but they were terribly ignorant of so much as they were illiterate, had no television, no education, and rarely even a radio. One of their most outstanding features was what I took to be a lack of curiosity or a concern with explanations. If you asked them why they did certain things they would typically reply in Pidgin, “Fesin b’long tumbuna” (this is what the ancestors did). As a simple example, when a girl experiences her first menses there is an elaborate ceremony for her. She is isolated for a month, not allowed to touch the ground, serenaded at night, and so on. On the day she reappears she is feasted with pork and vegetables, has to carry an arrow in her left hand, and, at one point in the ceremony an older man pulls on her finger to crack her knuckles. If you inquire as to why this is done they will tell you it’s “the way of our ancestors.” They don’t know any other explanation and seem unconcerned to know any. There are many more examples of this, apparently a kind of magical thinking.

This is, in my opinion, not entirely different from what I take to be Republican magical beliefs. They constantly claim we need to reduce taxes , shrink government, and balance the budget, and wait for things to “trickle down,” even though these ideas are demonstrably false as has now been shown to be true. Not only that, Republicans have not even followed these ideas themselves when they had the power to do so. You may recall that one of their greatest culture heroes, Saint Ronnie the Boneheaded, raised taxes eleven times during his Presidency. Similarly, there is little evidence that government ever shrunk much under Republican administrations. Nor, as far as I can remember, did any Republican administration ever balance a budget. These are little more than magical beliefs. If you ask them why they still believe them they offer no sensible explanation. They seem to believe them because that is what Republicans have always believed, little more than magical thinking.

The Republican Party, as it is currently constituted, seems to have nothing to offer except these magical beliefs. They have no concrete proposals to create jobs and/or improve the economy. They just repeat their magical formula, lower taxes, shrink government, balance the budget, with no serious suggestions as to how to do this or what the outcome would be. However bad Obama may be he does appear to be trying to do something, Republicans predictably stand in his way at every opportunity, yet they believe this is going to return them to power in 2012. In any other country I would suggest this is merely magical thinking, in the U.S., perhaps not, as their magical thinking takes precedence over science and reason, their religious beliefs deny even the basic facts of evolution and the age of the earth, some even believe god is telling them what to do, and all we have to do is return to the bible and pray for directions and all will be well. There are many citizens who apparently agree with this assessment. If ever there was a time for Mohammed Ali’s “Rope-a-Dope” strategy it is now, it doesn’t even matter which Dope it turns out to be.

The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.

H. L. Mencken

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Woman of my Acquaintance

This is a woman I know, whose name I will not mention. She does not live here in the small town where I currently live but in a large city where I once lived. She and her husband of thirty years live in a fine house in an “upscale” neighborhood, a house they purchased years ago for somewhere around $150,000 that is currently worth a million or more. She is well, if modestly dressed, has her hair and nails done weekly, occasionally has a “facial,” tries to look as young as possible, and is in general quite a nice lady, rather like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “…’good sports’ preserved by an imperviousness to experience and a good digestion into another generation.” She and her husband have “made it” and are living the American dream. I like her very much, although I do not share her apparent philosophy of life.

She is a woman who truly believes that “shop ‘til you drop’ is a serious credo, and that “he/she who has the most toys toys wins” is a major philosophical position. The frightening thing about this is that there are thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands just like her. Her first question when she calls her sister as she does almost daily is “Did you go shopping.” Her second question is “Did you buy anything?” I like her, but I feel sorry for her at the same time. Her life, it seems to me, is impoverished. She has nothing to do but shop and watch motion pictures. Her taste in motion pictures seems to be whatever is playing. It is obvious that to her shopping is the symbol of success. She acquires and gloats over her material possessions just as a miser does with his/her gold, but not quite, because she doesn’t hoard her possessions. She gives them away to her friends, knowing full well that they will reciprocate. They all end up with more or less the same hundreds of dishes (for Christmas, Easter, Halloween, the Fourth of July and etc.), towels, cute little figurines and wine glasses and Christmas decorations and kitchen gadjets and shoes and blouses and candlesticks and aprons and hotpads, thimbles, spoons, pitchers, cocktail glasses, cheese knives, nutcrackers, teacups, earrings, thank you notes, and what it was all the others had, while at the same time striving for that little edge that keeps them in first place. I was never able to adequately inventory their seemingly inexhaustible possessions.

She and her friends are true believers in the American dream. But what a dream it is, a nice home, two cars, and just get, get, get, accumulate, accumulate, accumulate, a never-ending shopping trip on the way to nirvana. Never mind the starving masses, the poor and the miserable, the famines and starvation. “It’s not my problem, what’s mine is mine.” “Oh, isn’t that cute,” “I found the most marvelous strawberry shortcake dishes,” “They wouldn’t appreciate these things anyway.”

What I always found the most fascinating about this is that these women are not truly greedy, nor are they ungenerous (at least among themselves). They, or at least the one I know best, exist in their own little world, they read only the latest novels (if they read at all), interact only with others like themselves, know little or nothing about others and have no interest in doing so. In their own way they are just as “culturally impoverished” as children in Appalachia or the inner cities. Their entire experience is one of tea parties, birthday parties, holidays, country clubs, dinner parties, and restaurants, daytime television, sans news, and perhaps a bit of tennis or golf, face and tummy tucks, along with endless diets. Of course they go on occasional cruises where they dress for dinner and go ashore to shop. They are indeed living the American dream as they understand it. They (more likely their husbands) worked hard for what they have and share it with others like themselves. “Others” are just that, foreign people that live somewhere else, anywhere else, but not with them. The closest they come to another culture is if they have a maid with whom they do not socialize or ever even see, apart from their working hours. Traditional conservatives, they always vote a straight Republican ticket, nice people, but I wouldn’t want my daughter (or son) to marry one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chutzpah, or?

I must say, Boehner either has a remarkable amount of chutzpah or something else, maybe just no shame, ignorance, orders from headquarters, or perhaps just plain perversity. How else could he stand in front of us and claim that President Obama’s jobs bill is inadequate, a pale imitation of what is needed, while at the same time telling us that the solution to the jobs crisis is less regulation and fewer taxes? It was a pathetic performance that was nothing but just mouthing the same old Republican nonsense they have been spouting for years, promoting precisely the same useless plan that got us into our terrible situation in the first place. I don’t like to think it is just plain stupidity as I don’t believe Boehner himself could possibly believe it, but whatever it is, he said it and appeared to be both sincere and serious. I don’t want to be unkind but perhaps all those hours in the hot sun on the golf course or under the tanning machine have singed his brain to the point where he is no longer completely connected to reality. It was an incredible performance, both insulting and a complete waste of time. We already knew what the Republican plan was as they have promoted the same ideas since time immemorial, fewer taxes, smaller government, less regulation. Sometimes I hear it in my nightmares. It adds absolutely nothing towards a sensible solution to our jobs problem or the national debt, nothing, nada, zilch, zero. Obama’s plan may not be perfect, and it no doubt is less than needed, but it is a plan on the right track, 447 billion is not exactly chicken feed, and for Boehner and his Republican nitwits to counter with the same old, same old, is even below pathetic. You have to give Boehner credit for even having the gall to suggest it, I guess he is immune to embarrassment, shame, or making a complete fool of himself. “They” must be paying him very well indeed. He probably had no choice as he has to support the two major goals of the Republicans, bringing down Obama and defending corporate interests (the two actually go together).

There is a controversial new book about to appear about Sarah Palin that will no doubt give the media days of virtually endless blather about it. Those that adore her will think it’s just a “hatchet job,” and those who hate her will probably believe it all whatever it is. I should think that anyone with even half a brain would by now already know she is an absolute “phony baloney” in it for the money and the attention, shrewd enough to keep it going but dumb enough not to know when to stop. Will she be dumb enough to actually try to enter the race? Who knows? If she does I’d venture to guess that after 14 months of listening to her screeching fishwife’s voice she’ll be lucky to get a single male vote. Go for it Sarah, we need all the laughs we can get these days.

Appropos of nothing, and with apologies to Bill Maher, I have a new rule to suggest. From now on every advertisement for a drug has to begin with the possible side effects first and the potential benefits as an afterthought. This would probably wreak such havoc with their sales they would soon stop advertising altogether. Hurrah!

If President Obama would refuse to veto the Palestinian request for statehood at the U.N. he would make it crystal clear that the U.S. and the rest of the world are sick to death of Israeli foot dragging and looting. Our excuse for the veto is that if the Palestinians succeed it will complicate or make impossible a peace agreement. Israelis, too, argue that peace can only come through face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In my opinion this is utter nonsense and just another way of making any settlement impossible. The Israelis have made it clear they do not want a Palestinian state and they have never negotiated in good faith over the issue. They refuse to even stop building more and more illegal settlements on Palestinian land in order to make negotiations possible. They will never negotiate a viable peace agreement with the Palestinians unless they are absolutely forced to do so. If the U.S. would do the right thing and refuse to veto the Palestinian request it might very well finally force Israel to do the right thing. As the U.S. has made it clear we are not a non-partisan participant in this endless dispute it would be better for all concerned if we would just butt out, refuse to veto, and then give the Palestinians a fair chance for once. As it is the veto will just continue the status quo, no negotiations will succeed, Israel will continue its colonial expansion and quasi-genocide, and the Palestinians will continue to suffer their terrible discrimination. Quite frankly, I am ashamed of our continued participation in this ongoing farce.

marks the path of victory,
and also the shame


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Killing Us Slowly

I had decided this morning to use the title Killing Us Softly for tonight’s blog, but it seems that R. J. Eskow already has a piece by that name, so Killing Us Slowly will have to do. It’s probably more descriptive in any case. What, you might ask, is killing us slowly (or softly), our own behavior, that’s what. We are the only species on earth that is totally out of sync with the environment and the ecosystem. This is far more apparent in our contemporary urbanized, industrialized, and technological society but I suspect it has always been true. Some like to romanticize about the “noble savage” living in tune with nature, communing with the animals and worshipping the earth mother, which is perhaps at least partly true, but I suspect they did so well mainly because they lacked the means or necessity to do worse. After all there is only so much damage a small group armed with bows and arrows can do, and when they exhausted the game or the land in one area they could simply move on. The idea that American Indians could have exhausted the estimated 50 million buffalo, before the advent of firearms (or even with them) is absurd, and they certainly could not have killed the billion or so Passenger Pigeons. But they were not always in sync with their environment, slash and burn agriculture was not necessarily such a good thing, and there is evidence that some societies like the Inca and others perished because they exhausted their resources.

R. J. Eskow’s contribution has to do with politics and those calling for smaller government and such. I have in mind a much more basic problem, how our behavior is slowly leading us to extinction. You may recall Garret Hardin’s famous article on “The Tragedy of the Commons,” in which he illustrated what happens when individuals, acting perfectly rationally on their own behalf, would eventually destroy a common territory. This has been used by some as an argument for private property, an idea that could make sense in a carefully bounded area. In a broader context, however, private property could actually make things worse.

For the sake of the argument, think of the United States as a “Commons,” or even the earth for that matter, as a single universe where the behavior of individuals is basically unregulated. In such a universe the behavior of any individual seems perfectly innocuous. Surely, for example, the fact that I use a plastic water bottle every day, or two or three plastic bags, is pretty inconsequential. But when you multiply my individual usage by millions and over time it can be seen quite differently. You have probably seen the commercial about water filters that points out that in the U.S. alone we use enough plastic bottles to go around the earth something like 194 times. I don’t personally use many plastic water bottles (in fact I personally don’t use them at all) but obviously many do, just as they also use a great many plastic bags. No individual usage amounts to much of a problem but collectively they add up to disaster. We already know there are huge dead spots in both of our major oceans caused by huge islands of waste plastic, but for the most part this does not change the behavior of individual usage. Thus it is that our individual behavior has potentially disastrous consequences for the environment. The same thing is true of many of the things we do every day as individuals, such as driving a car, throwing away dated drugs, batteries, computers, and what have you, all of which when viewed collectively are terrible for the environment. But of course we can’t all stop living, can we? Of course we can’t even though our very living is leading us on the road to potential oblivion.

In the case of humans, when you think of our collective activities, the situation is even worse. As collectivities we have damned the rivers with little concern for the fish, established industries that have eliminated mountaintops and bulldozed them into our rivers, mined minerals and thrown the waste into the rivers, polluted the oceans with oil, raped the fisheries, fouled the air with our factories, robbed various species of their critical habitats, and so on. Until recently most of this has been done thoughtlessly and we are just now (when in some cases it is too late) beginning to understand our past environmental sins. The fact is our everyday activities, mostly done innocently enough, are slowly leading to our extinction.

It is true that our “primitive” forebears and/or neighbors did and or do live in better harmony with nature, even if by necessity rather than choice. In New Guinea, for example, if one needs a basket or a container he/she simply fashions one out of a bit of grass or twigs and no lasting harm is done. If the pigs become too numerous and threaten to destroy the gardens, they are slaughtered and given as gifts of pork to others, if the gardens become too unproductive they move and start new ones on virgin land, if game becomes scarce they hunt in other areas until it recovers, and so on. For the most part most such small-scale cultures were aware of their activities as they related to their resources, and husbanded them for the common good. Of course most people no longer live in small scale societies where they live so close to nature. Indeed, for many nowadays nature is almost a foreign concept where milk no longer comes from cows, steaks from animals, fish from the ocean, or vegetables from gardens, such things come in packages from the supermarket. Obviously we cannot live like our ancestors, nor do we practice anything even resembling self-sufficiency or sustainability. We are, in short, through our ordinary every day behavior, bringing about our own extinction through global warming, environmental degradation, corporate agriculture, careless mining, overconsumption, greed, and lack of enforceable regulations.

In morning’s half-light
my darling sits quietly
writing a sonnet


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Let 'em Die

Let ‘em die might well appear to be the new mantra of the Republican Party, if not a mantra, perhaps a kind of meta-plank in their Republican platform. That is a fundamental principle that, while not actually stated, is behind their platform. If this has not been apparent for a while it has certainly surfaced in the last week or two in all its ugliness. You will recall, if you watched the first Republican debate (I guess technically it was the second debate), when Governor Perry was defending his rather shocking record of executions his audience applauded. In the debate last night when Ron Paul suggested that if a young man with no insurance needed help he could, in effect, be allowed to die (basically for irresponsibility). This hateful announcement was also met with applause. So much for the previous Republican claims of being “compassionate conservatives,” a Bush claim that was known to be utter nonsense even when he first uttered it and now even the pretense has been abandoned.

I do not think these two recent examples of the Republicans lack of empathy or compassion should come as a surprise. They are perfectly consistent with everything they stand for (or, rather, don’t stand for). They have made it entirely clear they do not approve of welfare in any form, and are opposed to everything that might help ordinary Americans to live decent and happy lives: no minimum wage, no unemployment insurance, no tax breaks for anyone but the wealthy, no Medicare, Medicaid, no Social Security, no food stamps, nothing for those whose unemployment insurance has been exhausted, and so on. A short time ago I encountered a woman who swore that anyone who had not actually worked should not be entitled to Social Security. As she was quite adamant on this point she meant everybody who had not worked, widows with small children, handicapped people, victims of serious industrial accidents, everyone, no exceptions. When you ask these people what they think should happen to such people they do not, of course, say “let ‘em die,” but rather mumble something about their families or churches should be responsible (an idea, of course, out of the 18th century). And they cling to their belief that poor people are poor because it’s their own fault, the unemployed are unemployed because they are too lazy to look for jobs or want to work, and etc. They appear not only to lack compassion but also empathy as well as what one might think of as basic human virtues.

This same attitude exists in an even stronger form when it comes to “others,” especially “gooks,” “huns,” “Japs,” “towel heads,” “Arabs,” “Iranians,” “savages,” or anyone from other countries and, at the moment, especially Muslims. They are eager to start and continue what become endless “wars,” the “winning” of such efforts being basically irrelevant so long as their Military/Industrial/Political pot of gold continues. The fact that millions are killed and millions more reduced to abject misery seems not to bother them in the slightest. They resist all efforts to reduce our killing budgets and don’t even bother to count the lives of others that perish in these ridiculous and unnecessary hostilities. Nor do they balk at the most basic of war crimes, attacking innocent countries, torturing their captives, and even going so far as to incarcerate for life innocent captives who are never charged with anything and are in many cases known to be innocent (in such cases a fate probably worse than death). No habeas corpus for those who are apparently not even regarded as human. Even children are dismissed as simply “collateral damage.”

The only conclusion I can deduce from all this is that Republicans truly believe people of all kinds who for whatever reason lack the means to care for themselves should die, preferably as quickly as possible (maybe not even that as they seem to enjoy misery as much as death). Former Congressman Grayson recently suggested there was an element of sadism involved in their behavior. I’m not sure about that because I suspect in order to be a sadist you have to first have enough empathy to understand what you are doing, but this is a question for another time.

I cannot not say the inhuman tendencies in human beings are the exclusive property of Republicans, but it does seem to me they are much more pronounced among Republicans than others. I’m not certain whether such people have such tendencies and are therefore attracted to the Republican Party or if they learn them after they become Republicans. This attitude toward death (and apparently the value of human life in general) represents a most primitive form of Social Darwinism discredited long ago but surviving still among the “haves” who are determined they are the “chosen” and everyone else is expendable. It is possible this is an attitude only held most seriously by the Tea Party crowd but it is possible they are only the most willing to publicly express it (as they seem also to lack common sense). In any case, I believe part of Obama’s problem with these people is that he simply cannot believe such people could actually exist, Pollyanna in the Devil’s workshop, so to speak.

elusive temptress, evades
Barack Obama.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Two Worlds

When President Obama gave his fine speech on jobs and the economy the other night there was one glaring omission. He said nothing about the Pentagon/military budget or about our various “wars” and hostilities around the world. It was as if there were no connection between our current predicament and the military budget. This has reinforced my belief that for all intents and purposes we now have two separate worlds: the military/industrial/political world, and the ordinary more mundane world of everyday life, entitlements, work (if you can find it), infotainment, and sports. It is true there are occasional mentions of cutting the defense budget but no one seems to be taking this very seriously and the 400 billion in cuts that have been suggested will probably never materialize, and even if they did it would be the proverbial “drop in the bucket” given the amounts of money involved.

Let us call our everyday world the “Real World” and the Military/Industrial/Political one the “Secret World.” In the Real World we are told such things as Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that are a danger to us and the world, Saddam Hussein is a terrible dictator that has to be eliminated, he was in league with al Qaida, had something to do with 9/11, we have to bring democracy to the Middle East, improve the lot of women, and other nonsense. We heard nary a word about oil (except denials that was why we attacked), the need to control the Middle East, or what we must surmise were the true reasons for our illegal and unconstitutional, criminal attack on a country that was no danger to us and had nothing to do with 9/11 or al Qaida. There may be hints of what the real reasons were but we have no way of knowing what was behind the attack because it all occurred in the Secret World of the Military/Industrial/Political complex.

Similarly, in the case of Afghanistan, people are still wondering why we are there, or at least why we are still there. No satisfactory explanation has ever been given. Oh, yeah, there are the usual fairy tales about helping them become democratic, improving the lives of women, nation building, protecting us at home by fighting them there, protecting them from the Taliban, and other balderdash. Originally we attacked them in reprisal for the 9/11 tragedy and the fact that al Qaida had been training there. But al Qaida was quickly put on the run, do not now constitute any serious danger to us (and probably never really did after their 9/11 success), and in fact the terrorists were mostly from Saudi Arabia (a country we dare not attack). There is talk of a pipeline that is to be built across Afghanistan, and talk that our presence there is required because of the conflict between Pakistan and India, and I guess other things, but of course we do not know what the real reasons are for our being there. I can only assume there are secret reasons, or reasons we are not to be privy to, but, again, that is all in the Secret World.

We in the Real World have little or no reliable information about what happens in the Secret World of the Pentagon, the Military, the CIA, the FBI, and so on. We hear about our bases all around the world, places involved in our “secret renditions,” CIA activities here and there, the activities of our various “special forces” and so on, but what do we actually know about any of this, virtually nothing. Our Real World and their Secret World are completely different universes. If we try to find out about various activities in the Secret World, like torture and the use of illegal weapons, for example, we are told that, of course, they are secret and cannot be revealed because of national security (an excuse that almost surely involves embarrassment for them as well as national security). We don’t even know just how large the budget for the Secret World is or what it is used for. This Secret World is all-powerful and determined to stay that way. There is something to be said for national secrets now and then. As Whittaker Chambers once put it, “For there are kinds of music that the world should not hear,” but this excuse has been terribly abused in the past few years and keeps from the public much of the music that should be heard.

This is why President Obama did not mention it in his speech. He did say something to the effect that we should raise taxes on the wealthy and cut out corporate loopholes to pay for jobs, and he may have indicated in passing that there were to be cuts in the defense budget (I can’t remember if he did nor not), but if he did it was mentioned only in passing and not made at all relevant. Thus whatever cuts are to be made in our national budget are to be made in items that have to do with the Real World and definitely not in those items in the Secret World, even though these latter comprise much more of our annual budget than the former. We know there are enormous wastes in the budgets of the Secret World, but aside from idle talk of them they, too, are virtually immune from inspection. We are told sometimes that billions were wasted here and there, that the Pentagon cannot even account for billions, and so forth, but that is as far as it ever goes. Wasting billions is apparently acceptable in the Secret World because it is more important than the Real World and, of course, accounting is difficult during times of “war,” and so on. Even war crimes committed by those in the Secret World go unpunished because they were, it is argued, committed in defense of our country (whether they were or not). Besides, the Secret World has its own lawyers that tell them whatever they want to hear about legality and the Constitution. It is surely as if the Secret World is “Sacred” and the Real World somehow “Profane.” As long as this remains true there will be no “Recovery,” few jobs, decaying infrastructure , inadequate schools, poverty, and crippling disillusionment, depression, and what is worse if it happens, hopelessness. As a great deal of the so-called Defense Budget has more to do with fattening the bank accounts of corporations and the rich than having any genuine connection to national defense it should be entirely possible to drastically reduce it. But this would require some inconvenience for members of Congress and involve putting country before party, general welfare above individual desire, and is probably out of the question at this moment in American history.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Peace, remember that quaint concept that we used to occasionally hear about. We don’t seem to hear much about it anymore, the anti-war (peace) movement is virtually silent these days, we are engaged in either “wars” or “hostilities” in several countries at the moment, and likely will be for years to come, we are the world’s primary source of weapons that we sell pretty indiscriminately all over the world (including Mexico), and our euphemistically termed “Defense Budget,” dwarfs all others combined. The concept of peace has virtually disappeared from our language. In the Middle East we continue to support dictatorial regimes unless, of course, they stray too far from our desires. We continue to support a colonial, genocidal, thieving, Israel administration that fears peace even more than war, lest they might have to give up some of their ill-gotten gains, and keeps trying to get us to attack Iran on their behalf. As there can never be peace in the Middle East as long as Israel continues to deny even the most basic rights to the Palestinians, and as we (the U.S.) continue to support them, there is obviously not going to be any peace. Soon the Palestinians are going to request the United Nations grant them status as a independent nation, we are going to veto it, whereas the vast majority of other nations will vote for it. As far as I can tell the U.S. and Israel are together the greatest opponents of peace on earth. This has not always been so, why is it so now?

There are, I guess, different levels at which one might explain this. For example, after the collapse of the former Soviet Union we were left as the only genuine superpower on earth. This led to the idea that somehow we could, and somehow should, become the “world’s policeman,” responsible for keeping order on the planet. There was no genuine necessity for this, the world had managed for hundreds of years without it, but because we were the only superpower it just seems sort of reasonable or even logical. But there is a fatal flaw in this development as a policeman of the world should presumably be nonbiased and neutral in carrying out the law, and we are far from that. In fact we have national interests that transcend all others making us not an objective police force but, rather, an authority imposing our desires on the world. It was very easy for some powerful and influential interests to decide that we should simply take over and rule the world. We had the power, who could stop us? Thus while the rest of the world had given up colonialism we could continue it under the guise of a benevolent desire to “help” the rest of the world become “democratic.” While we were nobly helping them to attain democracy we could continue to take over their natural resources and maintain our “higher” standard of living. In short, we could create a (sort of secret) empire. But empires are not created out of good will towards all but, rather, through force against any who would stand in our way. So we now are engaged in various “wars” that will seemingly be never ending and have turned us into a permanent military oriented nation with a military/industrial/political system that has become untouchable and dominates our economy.

At a more fundamental level, one might well ask how a nation that went to war “to end all wars,” established the United Nations in the name of seeking world peace, and for years attempted to avoid military involvements, could have so easily morphed into a virtual police state? First, if you review our history we have never been a very peaceful people. Think of the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Indian wars, the Mexican war, the Philippines, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and etc. Except for brief periods it seems we have always been at war. Of course you can say these were wars of necessity, especially WWII, but they weren’t always wars of necessity. More often than not they were wars of aggression, motivated by greed, attempts to expand our territory, and sometimes just to impose our ideology on others. But, you might say, the American people are not really warlike people, we just seek peace and justice for all.

Well, historically I don’t think you could make much of a case for seriously wanting either peace of justice for all. And to say we are not a warlike people seems to me entirely questionable. As a people we seem to be obsessed with violence. It seems to me this can be seen in the movies we watch, the books we read, the sports we prefer to play and watch, and even our somewhat cavalier attitudes towards death. We are virtually the only nation that still imposes the death penalty for crimes. These attitudes can be seen, for example, in the cheers Rick Perry received when discussing his multiple executions in Texas, but they can also be seen in moments when people actually encourage people to jump during suicide attempts, when they refuse to intervene when witnessing violent crimes, and so on. Extremely violent video games are popular, pornography is popular, including even child molestations, and “snuff movies.” Boxing and wrestling and martial arts have long been popular, and more recently even more violent versions of personal combat have become increasingly popular. We have such a huge number of guns no one really knows how many, and gun violence is commonplace. The right to own, carry, and use guns is defended even more strongly than the right of free speech, or so it seems. We have become so inured to violence it has become simply an ordinary part of our everyday lives.

Along with this it appears that very large segments of our population lack empathy for others, wanting to deny them employment, unemployment insurance, health care, housing, and even the most basic necessities of life. Children are going hungry, living more and more in poverty, while the obscenely wealthy demand more and more and gigantic corporations are making record profits. With this attitude towards our own poor is bad enough, when it comes to outsiders they seem for us to be totally unimportant. We don’t even bother to keep track of how many we kill.

“Well…the Oriental…doesn’t put the same high price on life as does the Westerner. Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient…and uh…as the, uh philosophy of the Orient, uh…expresses it, uh…uh… life is, uh, is not important.”

General William C. Westmoreland

Friday, September 09, 2011

Stuff Happens

Yes, stuff happens, and there doesn’t seem much we can do about it. The President gave a fine and rousing speech, somewhat bolder than predicted, more aggressive than expected, more passionate, and in general better received than expected (some Republicans apparently see the “handwriting on the wall, so to speak”). Of course the speech will count for naught if the bill he sends to Congress cannot pass or gets so diluted as to be useless. Predictably, some have said it was too little, too late, others say it was “right on,” and still others were more interested as usual in football. I thought it was a fine speech as speeches go, but let’s see what happens. He did manage to put the Republicans in a somewhat awkward situation, about time.

Rick Perry, leading candidate for the Republican nomination, managed to survive his first debate without falling on his face, but he did say something that should immediately disqualify him from serious consideration. His claim that Social Security is a “monstrous lie” and a “Ponzi scheme,” which he apparently believes, are plain and simply false, in addition to being politically suicidal and absurd. It is not clear to me how he can possibly now extricate himself from this “monstrous claim” now that he has stuck by it. No doubt some Republicans, especially Tea Party Republicans, might want to believe this, but they are probably the same ones that believe we used to live with dinosaurs. I guess some of them will never give up their futile quest to undo what FDR achieved, a program that has served us well for seventy some years.

Of course we should observe the anniversary of 9/11, on Sunday, the actual anniversary. I don’t know why we should start observing it two or three days in advance and then probably two or three days afterwards. I mean no disrespect for the dead and their mourners but I suspect the time spent on this is just another excuse to tell us nothing about what is actually happening in the word, especially the Republican attempt to reduce us all to wage slaves and serfs.

This is also now the time to celebrate our great victory in Iraq! Now you may not consider Iraq a victory, especially given the several thousand American dead and the ten times more wounded, along with the trillion or more we spent on it. There is also the fact that the “war” was launched on a bed of outright lies, involved torture and other war crimes, and has brought shame and disgrace on our nation. But as of now it must be seen as a great victory. Consider what I believe to be the facts, and ignore all the lies we were told about WMD’s, wanting to overthrow a terrible dictator, Iraq being a threat to the world, freeing Iraqi citizens, bringing democracy to the Middle East and the rest of the absolute hogwash we were told. The basic facts have to do with oil (of course), American interests in the Middle East, and the Bush/Cheney desire for regime change. We certainly weren’t bothered by Saddam Hussein being a dictator, we love and support dictators all over the globe if they cooperate with us. We also knew Iraq was not a threat to us. And we certainly didn’t want regime change just for the sake of regime change, we would not have accepted a replacement for Hussein that was anti-American. No, we wanted to overthrow Hussein to replace him with an American puppet who would cooperate with us. This has now been achieved. We have established the largest embassy in the world, with a staff of some 25,000, and we have also (I believe) managed to establish four permanent bases that will be home to several thousand American troops for a long time. Iraq has thus become another “client state” which is exactly what we set out to accomplish. So much for withdrawal from Iraq, we may well face some continuing and serious opposition from some factions in Iraq but that is merely the price you pay for empire. So we have won a victory, but a Pyrrhic victory at best, and not one of which I think we should be proud.

Meanwhile the criminal Republican enterprise, financed by the Koch brothers and others, continues their attempt to win in 2012 by any means possible. In many states there are attempts to disenfranchise as many voters as possible, almost all democratic voters, of course. It is no coincidence that similar attempts are being attempted in several states at the same time, along with attempts to destroy unions as well. By insisting that voters have photo identification cards they are targeting younger voters and minorities who are known to vote democratic. Wisconsin I think has the dubious distinction of leading the way in this sleazy behavior and may have gone too far towards the functional equivalent of a poll tax. Governor Walker and his cronies know they cannot win in a legitimate election so they are desperate to change the rules and undermine the basic right to vote. Unless the courts intervene there will no doubt be more and more devious means employed between now and 2012.

The one Senator that is a veritable fountain of good and sensible ideas for saving Social Security for 75 years, for creating jobs, and in general doing the right thing for the people, is Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont. He will not run for President. I think he should be drafted. However, as he is a self-described socialist, he would not be acceptable to the masses who have been brainwashed into believing that socialism is worse than child abuse, pedophilia, premeditated murder, arson, rape, animal cruelty, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, atheism, and crimes against humanity all rolled into one. Such is life in the last bastion of unregulated capitalism where the wealthy consume the poor and throw their bones to decompose along with our jobs, infrastructure, education, medical care, environment, or anything else that might give even a glimmer of pleasure to the “little people.”

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Republican Debate

I am somewhat ashamed to admit I actually watched the Republican debate. I had to force myself, thinking that if I wanted to blog about it I should watch it. I cannot say that I learned very much that I did not already know, but the opportunity to watch eight semi-lunatics at once was tempting. If I had not been told this event was being held in the Ronald Reagan Memorial Library (or whatever it is called) I might have thought it was taking place in Hogwash Hollow. I confess I found it difficult to follow and even more difficult to understand. I found it interesting to learn that each of the three Governors had the best employment records during their terms as Governors, or at least so they claimed. All eight did seem united on at least four points: (1)Everything is Obamas’ fault, (2) they all want Obama defeated, (3) they all want “Obamacare” repealed, and (4) they all want fewer taxes and smaller government, although on this latter point they did not actually dwell as much as usual and you had to mostly infer it from the various comments they made. I found the almost two hours more or less a random miss-mash of Republican ideas we already know about.

As far as their debating skills go they all seemed to me about equal. There was some doubt beforehand that Perry might not hold his own at debating but I think he did. Bachmann likewise, although she appeared to be more careful than she usually is. Everyone else did okay but did not have many opportunities to say much as there were so many of them and the focus was obviously on Romney and Perry. Santorum, Cain, Gingrich, and Huntsman, although when featured did pretty well, they might as well not have been there. Ron Paul was his usual nineteenth century crank who in some ways is probably right, as in wanting to end our empire and get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It appears that the MSM have decided that Romney and Perry are where it’s at, and the others will no doubt begin to fade (unless one or more of them comes up with something really unusual and appealing).

What I thought was of the greatest interest was not what was said but what was not said. Romney, for example, when criticizing Perry on Social Security, defended the program, insisting that it had to be kept, but it was not mentioned that he is apparently in favor of privatizing it. Even more interesting was the lack of questions having to do with abortion, same-sex marriages, guns, religion, or other so-called social issues. Chris Matthews in the post-debate discussion began criticizing Santorum for not mentioning any of these issues, which I thought was unfair as Santorum pointed out none of those questions had been asked. There was of course no mention at all of Bush/Cheney, their contribution to the deficit or their war crimes. I also thought there was surprisingly little attention paid to jobs, given the importance of that issue at the moment, and what there was revolved around the same old tired Republican line about reducing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, doing away with regulations and letting the market economy make things right, exactly the same beliefs that got us into this terrible situation in the first place.

I think the one thing I learned to my horror was that Rick Perry actually seems to believe Social Security truly is a Ponzi scheme, and that global warming and evolution are still unsettled issues. I suppose you could argue it is to his credit that he stuck up for these ridiculous claims, but I believe that while these positions might help him with the Tea Party and the Republican nomination, they will never get him elected President. As far as I am concerned his defense of them tonight should have ended his candidacy. Of course neither he nor Romney mentioned Bernie Sander’s relatively simple solution to keep Social Security solvent for the next 75 years, while insisting it is either a Ponzi scheme or “in trouble,” nor did they mention the fact that Social Security has nothing whatsoever to do with the deficit. When it comes to Social Security, for Republicans, no lie is too egregious to be used against it.

The one thing that continues to be crystal clear is that the Republican Party and all of these candidates are completely devoid of any serious ideas about ending the recession, creating jobs, or doing anything for the betterment of the middle class and the poor. It is not even clear to me they have any real concern for anyone but themselves and their corporate masters. They will do nothing to help Obama even if it means reducing our nation to third-rate status, and our citizens to serfdom. Indeed, it would seem from their behavior, this is what they actually desire.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

"The Mother of all Wars"

You may be aware of the audiotape made at the large meeting sponsored by the Koch brothers to discuss strategy for the coming election. I have no idea how this tape was made or who made it but it is apparently authentic. I heard a small portion of it played in which one of the brothers said something to the effect of, “We have Saddam Hussein and are engaged in the mother of all wars.” This was interpreted by some as a reference to President Obama and the coming election. A spokesman for Koch claims it was not a reference to Obama and the phrase “mother of all wars” is commonplace. If I heard correctly, and if he actually said “we have Saddam Hussein,” I would think that clearly was in that context a reference to Obama. Whether it was or not, the fact that he said we are engaged in a “war” is revealing. I thought, foolishly I guess, we were merely engaged in a democratic election for the Presidency as we are every four years.

I think my naïve belief about the election has been unfortunately shared by President Obama and Democrats in general. Certainly Obama has gone out of his way to try to win bipartisan support for his various programs, only to be snubbed repeatedly by Republicans. Why Obama has persisted in trying to enlist Republicans for anything has been a mystery to me for quite some time now. Obama and the Democrats appear to have been living in the past when elections were more or less democratic with both parties playing the same game and more or less by the same rules. This is clearly no longer the case, for Republicans this is “war,” and for them this means all-out war with no rules, take-no-prisoners, and ends justify the means.

I believe this attitude started with Saint Ronnie the Boneheaded when he announced “Government is the problem.” I don’t think dear Ronnie thought of it as “war,” but it has become a war in the minds of Republicans and has now culminated in our present predicament. Republican tactics changed during the Clinton administration. When they could not defeat him in the voting booths they adopted, among other things, what I have described as “Roviation,” that is, sliming, denigrating, false accusations, outright lies, unprecedented sleazy attacks on his private behavior, and whatever necessary to bring down their opponents. Clinton outsmarted them by refusing to give up and also by becoming himself “Republican-like.” Republican tactics have grown more and more “warlike” since that time, witness what they did to Al Gore and John Kerry. During the 2000 election they even resorted to what were blatant “brown shirt” tactics, storming the vote count in Florida, pounding on doors, and shutting the process down. George W. Bush was elected only by the unconstitutional, illegal, and unprecedented action of a politicized Supreme Court.

Since Obama’s election their tactics have grown increasingly strident and desperate. They tried the “Obama is not really a citizen” path, then “he’s a Muslim” claim, also he’s a socialist, a communist, a dictator, has Kenyan anti-colonial views, and so on. While these false claims and accusations have mostly failed, they still insist in one way or another, subtley and not so subtlely, “he’s not like us,” he’s an “other,” determined to destroy our way of life. They only rarely come out in the open with their basic prejudice, he’s Black, but there is no doubt their racism plays an important part in their determination to bring him down. I guess you might describe this situation as a form of “asymmetrical warfare.” Republicans wage war and Democrats, especially Obama, turn the other cheek.

This “war” was not started by Democrats, but, rather by Republicans and most recently by the Koch brothers funded Tea Party. Having managed to get a number of Tea Party Governors elected these toadies immediately mounted an attack on unions, teachers and social programs the Kochs and their ilk have been after for years, Social Security, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA, the ESP, and so on. It has taken way too long but there are at last signs Democrats are waking up and beginning to fight back. Unions and public employees are furious, nurses are marching in the streets, Democrats are challenging Republicans so directly many of the latter have stopped holding public forums. There seems to be a great deal of “buyer’s remorse,” and there are recall movements in several states. The Tea Party fanatics have seriously overplayed their hands and will almost certainly pay the price during the next elections. Unless, of course, having virtually destroyed our economy and national reputation they can somehow convince the voting public that it is all Obama’s fault. They are attempting a not at all secret and bloodless coup. With corporate and enormous private wealth at their disposal, control of the MSM, many politicians already bought and paid for, the Supreme Court and who knows who all else on their side, the odds are clearly stacked against the middle class and the poor. Obama has to throw down the gauntlet and the real definitive battle must begin. This is one of those moments when the future truly is in the hands of the people, timidity will not do.