Monday, October 31, 2011

"Presidential"

You sometimes hear that so-and-so is “Presidential,” or ” Presidential material,” or perhaps “not Presidential” or “Presidential material.” I strongly suspect that Presidential, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. I’m not at all certain anyone knows for certain what the adjective Presidential really means, but, like some shoppers who “will know it when they see it,” it seems to exist. Similarly, it is somewhat like art, “I don’t know if that is art or not, but I know what I like.” I can’t speak for others, but for me, I cannot see any of the current Republican candidates as Presidential.

I have heard it said more than once that Mitt Romney is Presidential. Usually this is because he is nice looking, well groomed, stands tall, and is an experienced businessman. But I want a President who has convictions, and the will to stand up for his convictions. Romney appears to have no convictions (other than wanting to be President), he has changed his position on virtually everything you can name. He is, as is becoming well known, a chronic “flip-flopper,” apparently a man with the courage of no convictions. If a candidate claims that after further, more mature consideration, he or she changed their mind about some important matter, that is one thing, but when a candidate has changed his mind on virtually every issue that claim is just not convincing. I do not find Romney Presidential. As far as being good looking or handsome goes, that would be a plus for a candidate but is basically not that important.

After his disastrous speech in New Hampshire you can write off Rick Perry for Presidents. If ever there was a speech more un-Presidential I don’t know where it could have been or who could have delivered it. I want a President who is able to make a fine and inspirational speech. Perry’s speech had “yokel” written all over it. Given his poor performance in the debates, and now this, I’m pretty sure he is finished. He is not, in my opinion, even remotely Presidential.

Herman Cain, like Perry, has demonstrated his rather abysmal ignorance when it comes to Foreign Policy and even American politics. I do not want a President who is demonstrably ignorant about such things. I don’t personally believe Cain was even a serious candidate in the first place, and now, coming under more careful scrutiny, will almost surely fade. I don’t know if the accusations of sexual harassment are true or not, but they will surely hurt him in any case. As Presidential he is little more than a clown. I can’t see that singing about Jesus is going to help him.

Ron Paul is also, to me, obviously non-Presidential. This is because he promotes policies and ideas that are just intrinsically stupid. We are not going to return to the gold standard, nor, hopefully, are we going to return to the medical system of the 19th century. The basic idea that government should play little or no role in our lives is simply absurd in the complex society we currently live in. Besides, Paul comes across as a kind of Pa Kettle figure, not at all Presidential.

As far as the other three candidates go, if you added them together and multiplied by ten you would still not have a Presidential candidate. Michele Bachmann is quite likely far too ignorant to be taken seriously and says things regularly that are demonstrably untrue and even sometimes absurd. Who would want a President that lies and makes things up?

Rick Santorum is about as un-Presidential as a person can be, obsessed with his homophobia and far right attitudes. He says he would make homosexuality illegal if he could. No doubt he would also make being red-headed illegal, or left-handedness illegal. He obviously has no knowledge of homosexuality and apparently has made no attempt to know anything about it. Ignorance and obsession is not Presidential.

Newt Gingrich, the mouth that roars, that says anything that pops into his head at the moment no matter how absurd or ridiculous is equally non-Presidential. I guess he believes that having established himself as probably the worst hypocrite that ever lived, and having failed as Speaker of the House, he is somehow entitled to consideration as a candidate. I would prefer that my President not be a known hypocrite or someone who is so egocentric as to believe the world his hanging on his every pontification. A President should be someone who has charisma, a commanding presence, not a dumpy little has-been hypocrite with an oversized ego.

In addition to their personal undesirable characteristics, all of these candidates also espouse beliefs that I would find completely unacceptable in a Presidential candidate. As far as I know they are all anti-abortion (even though it is established law) and would agree to overturn Roe vs Wade. They also are all for doing away with Social Security and Medicare as we know it. They seem to agree that anything that might help labor or the middle class as opposed to the obscenely wealthy is unacceptable. As far as I know they all question global warming and evolution, and thus science in general, something that to me is absolutely unacceptable in a President. And, of course they are all pro-business and want to do away with regulations they insist make business more difficult and expensive, like protecting the environment, water, air, natural resources, and so on. They seek short term gain at the cost of the environment, have no vision for the future, and that is definitely non-Presidential. They all seem to be perfectly willing to put party ahead of the national interest no matter what the cost to ordinary citizens or to our international reputation. I guess that with the exception of Ron Paul, they are all pro-Pentagon, pro-“war,” pro-empire, and mindlessly pro-Israel no matter what the facts may be. And they all cling to the belief that lower taxes and smaller government are the solutions to all our problems. They are, in short, to a person, as non-Presidential as it is possible to be, at least to satisfy my ideas of Presidential. I would like somehow who actually thinks for him/herself, is seriously interested in governing, is fair minded, can make a meaningful and inspiring speech, knows enough of science to understand it and it’s crucial importance in our lives, and has a vision for the future.

Those who hate Obama will of course not agree with me, but in spite of many faults I can find with him, and in spite of several things he has done with which I emphatically do not agree, I must confess I think he is in fact Presidential.

If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read "President Can't Swim".

Lyndon B. Johnson





Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Journey to the West (continued)

Yesterday was the 82nd anniversary of the stock market crash…and my birth. So Happy Birthday to me! What is it like to be 82 years of age, exactly as it was to be 81 years of age. Optimistically, I assume that if I turn 83 it will be exactly as it was to be 82. However, there will have to be a moment when this seeming continuity no longer continues, and I will have to acknowledge that I don’t still feel like I did last year. It is inevitable, part of my continuing journey to the West.

How did I celebrate this somewhat questionable accomplishment? Well, last night I had dinner at Papa Byrd’s restaurant, the only restaurant in our little city that ever has anything in the least bit unusual. My friend Mark, the chef, presented us with some wonderful pork ribs as an appetizer, a lovely dinner of baked Tilapia on a bed of delicious rice and mushrooms, and a fine bottle of Pinot Grigio. Not to be outdone, my wife cooked for me this evening, along with my Son and his lovely wife, a wonderful London Broil with mixed vegetables from our garden, followed by apple pie from our modest orchard, genuine American food, completely free of chemicals of any kind and lovingly prepared. I am a lucky man indeed. Most of my peers are already gone from one condition, accident, suicide, or another so I don’t expect many cards or phone calls, but there are still a few.

Here at Sandhill (or pile, more realistically described) the seasons are proceeding as they should be. The gardens (we have two) are now shut down, the harvest is in (such as it was), the firewood has been cut and split, we had our first (very light) snow, and the autumn weather for the past couple of days has been absolutely gorgeous. We seem to escape the extremes of weather and disasters that occur in the rest of the country, earthquakes, tornadoes, severe snowstorms, devastating rains, and what-have-you. Somehow life has been unusually good to me. I have no idea why this should be, it certainly can’t be because I have lived without sin or bad habits. I am most grateful to the Great Mystery for this blessing.

Today, my wife who is a contestant in the Charcutepalooza contest (see Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s blog site) spent much of the day butchering a fresh pork leg so she could comply with this month’s contest, making “noix de jambon,” or as Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Les Grrls call it, “noix de Camont .“ This has been a year-long contest that will finally end after the last challenge next month. As there are 400 contestants from all over the world, including several master chefs, she is not likely to win (although I think she should as she has done everything wonderfully well), but we have learned a great deal about charcuterie. From this one pork leg we will make three “jambons,” two tasso hams, one five pound regular ham, several pork schnitzels, four packages of pork for stew, and a great deal of fat for rendering. All this, along with the pickles, jams, jellies, canned beans, corn, carrots, parsnips, and celery from the garden will help get us through the winter (along with a few other things like garlic and leeks we get from another gardener). This is a great place to live. I can imagine myself refusing to retire, wandering the halls of UCLA endlessly with a “minder,” and otherwise miserable with no other life. I have no regrets about retirement.

This is, for me, the finest season of the year. I love autumn. The larch are now turning that marvelous golden color and dropping their carpet of needles, the deciduous trees (we don’t have as many of them as I would like)are dropping leaves of yellow, orange, and red, the hay has been harvested and stretches out on the fields, giving a remarkable feeling of peaceful contentment, and the snow is slowly working its way down the mountainsides of the Purcell range to the East and the Selkirk range to the West. The Kootenai valley with its patterned and colored fields stretches out for miles, the marvelous Kootenai River flows through it as it has for centuries (unfortunately without many sturgeon or burbot that once thrived in it), and our attractive little town lies comfortably along its banks as it has now for slightly more than a hundred years. In my dotage I am must more at peace with myself than ever before. I have omitted most of my adult life so far in my discussion of my journey to the West, partly because I think back with so many regrets, so many embarrassing moments, such stupidity, and such remarkably self-destructive behavior, but also because I know so many things about so many others that have affected my life, but that I could never under any circumstances reveal, it makes me understand that a truly complete, honest, and true autobiography is an impossibility.

The rain fell alike upon the just and upon the unjust, and for nothing was there a why and a wherefore.

W. Somerset Maugham

Friday, October 28, 2011

On "Life"

Republicans in Mississippi (and elsewhere I guess) want to pass a bill that would argue that life begins at conception. They wish to do this, of course, because they want to outlaw abortion completely, and the claim that a fertilized egg immediately becomes a “person” allows them to do that. While I am neither a philosopher nor a theologian I cannot help but reflect on this basic issue (I think, therefore I think that I am thinking).

Of course life begins at conception, all life. But does a fertilized egg immediately become a person and thus entitled to all the laws that protect personhood? I don’t think so. Does an egg immediately become a chicken or a duck or a horse, crocodile or whatever? Of course not, no one believes that as far as I know. It is not the fact of life itself that is at issue here, but, rather, human life. The very same people that want to argue a special status for a fertilized human egg is simply because it is specifically a human egg. To believe a human egg deserves special rights one has to believe that humans are themselves special, that human life is of greater importance than any other life. I understand why humans want to believe this but as they are the ones writing the text it seems to me questionable. I cannot see why The Great Mystery that created all life would have made human life different from all other life. After all, we are all members of the animal kingdom. The primary basis for the claim of human superiority as far as I know comes from the bible, but the bible makes all kinds of nonsensical claims and was, of course, written by humans. There may be other claims for human superiority in philosophy or other religions but they, too, are completely homocentric. This is merely another example of the grandiose ideas humans have about themselves.

I remind you of the several great blows to man’s ego, the Copernican, Darwinian, Freudian, and the fact of cultural relativism. I previously suggested a fifth great blow, the election of President Obama that shattered the myth of the Great Chain of Being with Whites uniquely at the top of the scale. Personally I can see no more rationale for claiming a special status for a human egg than claiming the sun revolves around the earth, or that humans are completely separate from all other animals. We now know these claims to be false and they would not seem to me to allow for a special, higher status for human life as opposed to all other life.

If you consider the human condition as it has developed, evolved, and continues on its course to wherever, it is impossible to make a case for the human belief that human life is uniquely precious. Humans have killed and continue to kill each other in some cases by the millions, and even now are constantly working on newer and even better ways to kill each other. The very people who now want to make human life special in fact are apparently concerned primarily with American life, as they have not hesitated to slaughter other ethnic groups whenever they chose (as we continue to do at this very moment). Indeed, some human groups, like the Tasmanians, certain American Indians, and others have themselves been killed into extinction. Many human groups have practiced various forms of birth control, abortion, different types of infanticide, senilicide, human sacrifice, even headhunting and cannibalism. Different cultures have different ideas and different customs relating to life and death, but I doubt there has ever been one that believes (or practices) in the absolute sanctity of human life (except maybe Buddhists), even though they may claim that belief. It can be argued that even infanticide is sometimes necessary for a group to survive. In the New Guinea Highlands, for example, one of a set of twins is always killed. This is not because they do not love their children but, as they explain, when raided (as they often were) they had to take their children and pigs and flee, and a woman could not manage more than one infant. Other people believe that multiple births are “animal-like” and kill more than one of the infants. Female infanticide has been practiced by a number of societies and still is in at least one, even though it may not always be admitted.

Humans may claim to believe that human life is somehow sacred but obviously the claim is completely out of touch with their behavior towards each other. If human life is not regarded as sacred, life in general is treated even more cavalierly. Consider that humans killed an estimated billion Passenger Pigeons in a relatively short time, causing their extinction. They almost succeeded in completely decimating the buffalo as well. Salmon runs have been destroyed, other species of fish are extinct or rapidly becoming extinct, wolves, grizzly bears, and on and on are threatened. Many species have gone extinct because of human activity and continue to do so. For humans to argue that life is somehow sacred is hypocritical in the extreme and would be laughable were it not so tragic. We engage in killing so routinely we don’t even think about it.

Killing and death go hand in hand with life as virtually all species live off the death of others. This seems to be simply a fact of existence, except perhaps in the case of certain parasites that live off of, but do not kill their hosts (I think this is an interesting life form to which I have not yet given much thought).

The question of life in the abstract is not an issue that the proponents of “personhood at birth” are concerned with, nor, it seems to me, are they are concerned with the implications of what they insist we should do. On the one hand they want all fertilized eggs brought to term, all infants born even out of rape and incest, but do not seem concerned about the future of such infants that sometimes are, I am quite certain, often born into dysfunctional families, neglected, abused, and even abandoned. It is one thing to be opposed to abortion in general, on religious grounds or others, but for them to argue life is sacred and must be preserved at all costs, is totally inconsistent with what humans actually do. To argue that a fertilized egg is a person is simply nonsensical and far-fetched, a feeble attempt to deny reality and accomplish the revocation of an already established law. It also denies our membership in the animal kingdom and continues the questionable belief that humans are somehow uniquely superior and entitled to dominion over all. Look around, stop pretending, reflect on what our dominion has brought us.

- We have, in fact, two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach.

Bertrand Russell





Wednesday, October 26, 2011

From the Unusually Unlikely to the Pitifully Pathetic

Let’s consider a brief review of the Republican attempt to oust President Obama from office. As you may remember several prospective candidates who were highly regarded decided not to run: Haley Barbour, John Thune, Chris Christie, and Tim Pawlenty, who made a feeble attempt that quickly failed. Remember there were others mentioned at one time such as Jeb Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and others. Also there were two possible candidates who disqualified themselves because of Hanky Panky, John Ensign and Mark Sanford. There are also two ex Governors who are qualified to run but have not even been allowed into the game, Johnson of New Mexico and Roehmer of Louisiana. And there is also John Huntsman who I guess is still in the race but has virtually disappeared as he had the temerity to suggest that science could not be abandoned and also refused to debase himself by consulting with the birther guru, Donald Trump. There are still other Republicans who could have entered the race had they so desired. I believe it is fairly reasonable to assume that any of the above would have been respectable candidates with some chance of defeating Obama who appears to be particularly vulnerable at the moment. I don’t know why these potential candidates decided against running, perhaps they think Obama cannot be dethroned, perhaps they could not stomach the Tea Party and the current direction of the Party, or other more personal reasons.

The result of this widespread refusal to run has been a slate of candidates that I think are unusually unlikely to ever defeat Obama and become President. Starting with the current front runner, according to recent polls, Herman Cain, it is difficult to imagine a more unlikely candidate. He has no previous political experience, is a cancer survivor, seems to lack a genuine campaign, and has demonstrated an ignorance of Foreign Policy and U. S. politics that is rather mind boggling. I suppose he could somehow get the Republican nomination but he could never win the Presidency. Then there is the perennial candidate, Willard, “Mitt” Romney. He has already attempted previously and been rejected. He has demonstrated such a remarkable propensity for flip-flopping he has become little more than a joke. Similarly, he seems impervious to the obvious fact that virtually no one likes or trusts him or wants him to be President (except for his virtually unchanging 25% support, probably from Mormons like himself and I guess a few others). He is most unlikely to win the Presidency even if he should win the nomination. We must not forget Rick Perry who came on like gangbusters when he first announced but now has fallen far behind in the polls. As he manages to raise lots of money he can stay in the race but has all but disqualified himself with his unusually weak performances during the debates and his apparent ignorance of politics outside of Texas. Ron Paul has developed an apparently loyal if modest following, mostly of those who like his rather old-fashioned ideas and sort of Pa Kettle demeanor. Rick Santorum is a truly unlikely candidate, obsessed with his extreme homophobia, “the family,” that he seems to know little or nothing about, and obviously has no chance. Michele Bachmann shares his homophobia, is a religious nut case, and has demonstrated an ignorance so profound as to make George W. Bush look like a genius. And of course there is also Newt Gingrich, hypocrite, blowhard, pseudo intellectual, who believes the entire earth waits for and hangs on his every profound, pompous, pontifical pronouncement no matter how ridiculous or stupid. His unlikely candidacy has about as much chance as pigs flying.

This seems to me to be a collection of most unlikely second and third rate candidates to begin with, but as you examine what they are peddling they become a pitifully pathetic bunch with absolutely no ideas worth bothering about, and make statements so absurd as to be dismissed even before they are uttered. Ron Paul, for example, might be commended for wanting us to stop our incessant warring, but he also wants to return to the gold standard and return health care to the standards of the 19th century. Perry in desperation has revived the “birther” non-controversy and also introduced the idea of a flat tax (an idea raised many times only to be rejected immediately as completely nonsensical). Not to be outdone Romney has also now suggested a flat tax would be good, an idea he has opposed in the past. Of course it was Herman Cain with his 9-9-9 proposal for a flat tax that brought all this about, a proposal so ridiculous it has been immediately dismissed. Santorum, in addition to arguing for anti-sodomy laws has now suggested (seriously, I guess) that we should consider assassinating nuclear scientists in other countries. Bachmann has suggested (also seriously I guess) that Iraq should pay us back for the money we spent illegally killing them and ruining their country and their lives. Every one of these unlikely candidates cling to the basic Republican mantra of lower taxes and smaller government, and every one also would lower taxes for the filthy rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor. How anyone can see this as anything other than pitifully pathetic I do not understand. There is not an original or useful idea from any of them, and it is obvious that whatever they propose will make the situation worse rather than better.

Today for the first time in a very long time I think I saw at least a ray of hope, however dim. I have said that if we were serious about our nation and our economic/political system we would not tolerate what it has become. With people now occupying the streets all over the country and even overseas I think people may be once again taking things seriously. Even if nothing much happens immediately I suspect (hope) that in the coming elections Republicans will be swept out of office in droves and a more positive situation will ensue. Oh, how I hope I am not wrong! Obama is correct in insisting that we cannot wait, but with so many Republican nitwits in Congress there seems to be little choice.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

Unknown, Often attributed to Abraham Lincoln



Sunday, October 23, 2011

They Don't Care!

I have heard it said several times by different sources that “They just don’t understand.” The “they” in this statement refers generally to those at the top of the income brackets, in particular the millionaires who now occupy positions of power and influence in Congress. The assumption here has to do with the fact that as they are millionaires they do not live “Lives of quiet desperation” like the rest of us. And as they do not they cannot possibly understand the problems we ordinary folk experience, the poverty, lack of employment and housing, health care, and etc. A variant on this theme is expressed as “They just don’t get it.” I don’t believe either of these statements, I believe they both “understand” and “get it.”

To believe they don’t understand or get it you have to believe any one of a number of quite unbelievable things. First, you might believe they are stupid. While I can think of a number of Congresspersons as almost certainly stupid, it is impossible to believe they are all stupid. Second, you might believe they are simply ignorant of what is happening, this is even more difficult than believing they are stupid. To believe they are ignorant of what is going on you have to believe they are uninformed. But how can they be uninformed? Presumably they watch television, listen to the radio, read newspapers, talk to their constituents, hear testimony from people, and are given briefings about governmental affairs. I find it impossible to believe they are ignorant of what is happening. Third, you might say they merely lack empathy. But empathy is a major characteristic of being human. There may be unique individuals who lack the capacity for empathy but they must be fairly rare.

As I cannot believe they are universally stupid, ignorant, or lack empathy, I am led to conclude they do understand and get it, but apparently they JUST DON’T CARE. If this is so, and I personally believe it is, one must ask, why do they not care? This leads me back to the question of empathy even though I find it difficult to believe they all truly lack this very basic human characteristic. It is possible, perhaps even likely that in some sense they do lack empathy. It could be that similar to morality, their empathy does not extend to others outside of their particular “tribe,” or “clan,” or circle of friends, in this case their fellow members in the Republican party and the upper echelons of the wealthy. This brings up the nature/nurture controversy. That is, it is unlikely any of these individuals were actually born without the capacity for empathy, but as they became enculturated into Republican culture (if we can speak of such a thing), this empathy (along with morality) is channeled only in certain directions. If you are outside the group, or collectivity, or party, or however you want to define it, different rules apply. Most Americans do not appear to be very empathetic or morally responsible for those in other countries, especially Arabs, Africans, Mexicans, and Asians, and especially if we are at “war” with them for some reason. In other words, as you are drawn into Republicanism you learn and adopt certain beliefs that are not characteristic of Democrats, Liberals, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, or whomever.

If this is so, what are the beliefs that Republicans in general seem to possess? As I rarely speak with a Republican, and if I do never about politics, I cannot say what they believe because of what they have told me. I can only surmise some of their beliefs from their behavior as represented on television, radio, newspapers, and fliers they mistakenly send to me from time to time. These indicate to me they believe that capitalism is the only viable economic system in the world, that individuals have little or no responsibility for others, that poor people are poor and out of work because they are lazy and prefer welfare to work, that health care should be only for those who can afford it, Social Security is somehow a bad thing that should be done away with, that a fertilized egg is actually a “person” who should be defended at all costs, but after it is born it is no longer a public concern, and that White Anglo-Saxon Protestants are the highest form of humans on earth, with other races and ethnic groups somewhere “lower” on a scale of worthiness, and that they know what is best for everyone in the world. Many of them also seem to believe that science is not always to be taken seriously, the United States Constitution is based on Christian principles as outlined in the Bible, Homosexuality is an unnatural abomination, Gay marriage is a threat to civilization, material possessions are more important than more modest comforts, government and taxes are bad and regulations should be abolished if they stand in the way of and hinder business in any way. They also seem to believe that short-term profits are more important than worrying about the future. It would seem obvious that if one is raised or otherwise adopts this “world view,” philosophy, platform, or however you want to describe it, they have also abandoned empathy in general and universal morality as well.

When you distill this down into fewer words it means businesses should be allowed to rape and pillage at will, inequality is fine, only the strong (read wealthy) should survive, and, in essence, greed is good. I fear that President Obama and most Democrats have refused to believe there could be people (Republicans or others) like this, and as a result they have allowed themselves to be duped and betrayed time after time. They apparently can’t believe it even when they are told point-blank by Republicans they want to destroy them and that is their major goal. I confess I, too, have found it hard to believe there are people like this but after observing their behavior for the past twenty years or so, I believe it.

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.

H. L. Mencken

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Will the Madness Continue?

The particular madness I have in mind is the horribly failed so-called “War on Drugs.” Vicente Fox, past President of Mexico, has now made a plea for the United States to legalize drugs and thus put an end to the ongoing criminal madness in Mexico. He argues, as quite a few of us have argued for years, that drug usage and abuse is a medical problem, not a political problem, and making drugs illegal is no different than prohibition, the previous failed attempt to make alcohol illegal. I believe he is quite right about this, and while making drugs legal might not completely solve the problem it would certainly go a long way to help.

There is little doubt that our multi-billion dollar war on drugs has been and continues to be a dismal failure. Illegal drugs are no harder to get now than they ever were. I suspect they may even be much easier to get. Going after non-violent drug offenders has done little except to fill up our prisons with individuals that really should not be there. At the moment it appears that for the first time 50% of the American public thinks that marijuana (in particular) should be legalized. There is little doubt that eventually this will happen, perhaps sooner than we think. Legalizing just marijuana would make an incredible difference with respect to the war on drugs and it might eventually lead the way to the legalization of all drugs, something that should have been done long ago.

President Obama has now ended the “war” in Iraq and also vowed that Afghanistan will be next. Ending the “war” on drugs is every bit as important and should be done forthwith, but it is not likely to happen as it is too embedded in our national madness and will, of course, be resisted by many who benefit from its continuation. This is only one element in our national madness, it is joined by our ridiculous and useless embargo on Cuba, our uncritical support of Israel, our infernal meddling in the Middle East, and our current inability to govern ourselves.

Speaking of madness, how about the ongoing Republican contest for a Presidential candidate? The current frontrunner is so ignorant of Foreign Affairs, end even ordinary politics, one has to wonder if the Koch brothers haven’t entered him into the race just for comic relief. The other frontrunner has almost made a career of running for President, having previously been rejected and basically told repeatedly that virtually no one likes him, one of those who is unwilling and unable to take “no” for an answer. Still another wants us to return to the 18th century, one other is so frightened of homosexuality he equates it with beastiality. Of the remaining three, two are Evangelicals every bit as ignorant as the frontrunner, and the last one is a loudmouth hypocrite who believes he’s an intellectual and is only in it for the money and exposure. When these seven take the stage the only thing missing is the circus music. However this turns out it is unlikely to be destined for success.

While I believe our national madness is in general more important for the long run, the Republicans seem to be lost in a madness of their own. They are opposed to jobs for firemen, police, and teachers, opposed to Social Security and Medicare, opposed to unemployment insurance, abortion, Gay marriage, Planned Parenthood, legal drugs, and just about everything else the American public is for or that would improve their lives. This seems to me political suicide. It makes sense only if you understand their goal is to get rid of President Obama no matter what the cost. The cost to date has been considerable but is going to get worse as long as they continue to refuse any form of cooperation. I cannot imagine who in the United States is going to vote for them other than perhaps the 1% they so stubbornly defend. But as we are all caught up in what could become a not-so-gentle madness these days anything might happen.

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.

H. L. Mencken

Friday, October 21, 2011

Spreading the Wealth

It is commonly reported now that at least one of our problems has to do with the terribly unequal distribution of wealth in the United States. That is, the fact that some one percent of the population controls forty percent of the wealth. It is difficult to deny this unpleasant fact about what has been happening in the United States, especially in the past two or three decades. Related to this is the shocking problem of unemployment, officially 9.1 %, but probably closer to 20%. What seems to be needed, rather desperately, is a more equal distribution of wealth and a reduction in the rate of unemployment. Assuming this is the problem to be dealt with, and further assuming that the goal of such action should be (1) a more equitable distribution of wealth, (2) a stronger and more productive nation, (3) higher employment, (4) opportunity for all, (5) the maintenance of some form of capitalism, and (6) the health and well-being of both the nation and our citizens, what kinds of changes might be useful? What would such a nation look like?

Now further assuming that technology has advanced to the point where fewer workers are needed to produce what we need, and therefore there is a surplus population of workers for whom there cannot be enough jobs, what sorts of changes might be in order to make this a better and stronger country? Here are some modest suggestions that will probably strike you as totally unrealistic and, granted, are unlikely to ever come about, suggestions that would solve the problems we face and help to make this truly the greatest country on earth.

We should reduce the work week to 30 hours a week from the current 40 hours. At the same time we should increase the minimum wage to the point where 30 hours of work would produce enough income for a normal family to live reasonably comfortably. Workers should be allowed longer vacations, probably at least one month a year, six months off for having a child, and paid medical leaves, no exceptions. This would allow more people to have jobs and spread the wealth more equitably.

The age of eligibility for Social Security should be reduced to probably 60 years from the current age, thus allowing more people to retire earlier, freeing up more jobs for younger people. Health care should be guaranteed for all, probably in the form of Medicare for all, thus insuring that no one would ever lose their home, savings, and security, because of catastrophic illness.

Education at all levels should be free, at least in the sense that there would be no tuition or fees for attending classes. Anyone who wishes to improve themselves should be free to attend, provided they have the necessary prerequisites, whether they wish to major or not. Those who wish to obtain a degree should have to complete a course of study leading to such a degree. Similarly, anyone who wishes to learn a trade should be able to attend a suitable school for the purpose and, again, to become proficient in a trade should have to complete an acceptable program of study. Students who display unusual talent or proficiency should be eligible for aid. No one should be allowed to drop out of school without attaining at least a High School diploma. All education should be funded by Federal and/or State taxes, tenure should be allowed only to guarantee free speech.

Where there are obvious needs for the improvement of the nation, roads, bridges, schools, housing, environmental protections, and so on, funds should be provided specifically for those purposes and citizens employed to provide the necessary labor at living wages. No jobs that can be accomplished by our own nationals should be outsourced, and companies guilty of unnecessary outsourcing should be punished. Buy American should be the rule, all other things being equal (that is, provided our products are not demonstrably inferior).

Our “wars” should be ended as quickly as possible, troops brought home from our far-flung and mostly unnecessary bases, and the national defense budget slashed probably by at least half. Our national security should be insured by strengthening our nation at home rather than attempting to police the world or maintain an “empire.” This alone would provide a great deal of money to help attain our goals here at home.

We should maintain our “capitalistic” economy at least in the sense that entrepreuners, innovators, and those who are unusually talented and hard-working should be rewarded for their efforts, but with limits placed upon how much wealth they should be allowed to keep. I don’t know what this upper limit should be but I would think half a billion should be plenty. Every several million or billion they acquire over this limit should be devoted to the national good and they should be recognized as “National Benefactors” and rewarded with prestige and great respect. They would not suffer and the nation and citizens would greatly benefit. This wealth, along with drastic cuts in the absolutely bloated national defense budget would together provide ample funds to do what is required to have a healthy, happy, strong, and confident nation.

Sure, I know some will immediately cry “socialism,” “communism,” “utopia,” or whatever. Why, they will ask, should we provide for deadbeats, hippies, the lazy and inept? Why should people be rewarded for not working? I would say, why not, we already pay people for not working. When, for example, there is a surplus crop (commodity) we pay farmers for not farming, not producing it. In a capitalistic economy, when labor is considered a commodity, why should labor not be subsidized like any other commodity? Besides, realistically, the alternative is what we have now, millions, including children, living in poverty, without health care, homes, or hope for the future, lives by the millions wasted, basically just thrown away by a system that cares more for profit than life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, or even common decency. If this be socialism, let me at it.

We have among us a class of mammon worshippers, whose one test of conservatism or radicalism is the attitude one takes with respect to accumulated wealth. Whatever tends to preserve the wealth of the wealthy is called conservatism, and whatever favors anything else, no matter what is called socialism.

Richard T. Ely



Thursday, October 20, 2011

When Success is Failure

Khadafi is dead. President Obama’s decision to help oust him from power is a success. Republicans who criticized him for getting involved in Libya in the first place, and who said “he wasn’t up to the job,” and that it was an effort doomed to fail, have been proven wrong. Now that Khadafi is no more, and Libya will at least have a chance to become a better country, and most of the world will rejoice, what do Republicans have to say? First, they say nothing if they can help it, preferring to simply ignore Obama’s part in this success. Second, if they say anything they criticize him on the grounds that it took too long, could have been accomplished sooner, and was not carried out as it should have been, in other words, no credit for Obama at all. Third, there is a Republican talking point they all have been instructed to repeat, it was really the French and the English that should get the credit. In addition to being an apparently agreed upon talking point, one might say this is also petty to the point of childishness. Republicans were a bit more fair when Osama bin Laden was killed, but not much more and Obama’s accomplishment was not praised by them as it should have been. Obama also successfully managed to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who allied himself with terrorists. Obama again has received faint praise, if any, for this success. Republicans who have been consistently hard on immigration and immigration policy, and insisted that something be done about it, have ignored the fact that under the Obama administration more illegal immigrants have been deported by far than previously, and again give him little or no credit. In fact, as you are probably aware, according to Republicans, nothing Obama has done deserves any credit, not the health care they want to reverse, not the stimulus they keep lying about, not any of the many accomplishments of his administration, not even the bus he is touring in, nothing. They announced they would vote “no” on anything he wanted and they have done so, and having thus kept him from doing much of anything to solve our national problems, they attempt to blame him for the failure. How they think this strategy is going to help them win back the White House in 2012 I do not know, it seems politically suicidal to me. But, then, this is the American electorate where virtually anything might happen (they did, after all, elect Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, probably two of the worst Presidents ever).

I fear those who might expect Republicans to give Obama some credit do not understand the underlying dynamics of the situation. Obama is not to be allowed any success, so anything that appears to be a success must be converted into a failure, even though it might have been something they themselves once favored. I fear Obama himself does not understand this and still, even now, clings to his view that somewhere, somehow, someway, he will be able to find common ground with Republicans. I believe not only will they never give him credit for any success, his successes only make them hate him all the more. Obviously they do not want a Democratic President to succeed, but in the case of Obama there is more to it than that. This can be seen in the fact that he is not only denied credit due him, he has been and is treated with a kind of disrespect that has never before been so publicly displayed towards the office of the Presidency. The only conceivable reason I can see for this is that not only is he a Democrat, he’s also Black, and being Black he is not supposed to have the innate ability to succeed. I have no doubt they would deny this vociferously, and perhaps they are themselves not completely aware of it, but I personally do not doubt it for a moment and I think you can easily find evidence for it, especially in the Tea Party. But, you may argue, what about Herman Cain who is currently leading in the polls? Herman Cain is basically a clown, a kind of modern Stepin Fetchit, who says thoughtless, absurd things to get attention and is probably more surprised by his position in the polls than anyone else on earth. He has ties to the Koch brothers who probably support him at least minimally and manages to disrupt the candidacy of others the brothers probably don’t want to succeed. Of course they wouldn’t care if he did get elected President, they wouldn’t care who got elected, male, female, Gay, polka-dotted, whatever, as long as he/she/it did what they were told.

If there are intelligent beings in the universe (there certainly don’t appear to be many here on earth), what do you suppose they would think of the American political system that now runs endlessly like a long-running soap opera, no longer has any connection with the well-being of the vast majority of the people, has officials at all levels of government who are merely paid lackeys of gigantic corporations considered to be persons who can secretly give any amount of money they wish to put their choices in office, and who promote a military/industrial/political complex that siphons off most of the taxpayers money virtually without accountability, a system that puts profit above all other values including life itself? Power to the protestors!!!

What is genuine is proved in the fire, what is false we shall not miss in our ranks. The opponents must grant us that youth has never before flocked to our colours in such numbers, ... in the end, one will be found among us who will prove that the sword of enthusiasm is just as good as the sword of genius.

Friedrich Engels

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disgust, Depression, Despair

Did I watch the 8th (or was it the 80th) Republican “debate?” Of course not, what would be the point? Some racist jerk, when asked if he watched Professional basketball reportedly said, “Who wants to watch ten (Black men) in their underwear jump up in the air every 24 seconds?” That’s pretty much the way I feel about watching the Republican “debates.” Who wants to watch seven half-wits “diss” each other and President Obama every minute or so? Frankly, I cannot understand why the Republicans insist on having so many debates when all they accomplish is to make each other look more and more foolish. If this were a sane, or even semi-sane world, they would be handing Obama a second term on a silver platter. The fact that Herman Cain is currently leading in the polls is perhaps the best indication of their problem. Cain seems to be completely ignorant of virtually anything that might have to do with becoming President of the United States. He now appears as nothing but a clown out to entertain us with his outrageous antics, saying things so ridiculous as to be laughable, then claiming they were merely jokes, then repeating them again indicating they were not merely jokes. Not only is he apparently completely ignorant of Foreign Policy he seems to be ignorant of American politics in general. But he knows the Republican mantra, “Lower taxes, less regulation.” To be a Republican candidate for President that seems to be sufficient as that is the basic Republican position shared by all of the others as well. The only other theme of their “platform” is that Obama can do no right, even when he presents options they themselves created. There seems to be nothing he can do they cannot and will not try to criticize. John McCain has now gone so far as to even criticize the bus he is using on his current tour. Republicans announced almost immediately after Obama was elected they wanted him to fail, they would refuse to cooperate and vote “no” on everything, and they have stuck with those pledges even though it has brought our country to near oblivion. If they are successful and cause him to fail they will blame him, a classic case of blaming the victim. This is I think truly disgusting.

Last night I had occasion to visit Kellogg, Idaho, once the heart of the Silver Valley where more silver was produced than anywhere else in the world. The result of this mining and smelting was environmentally disastrous, as nothing much would grow there, the air was polluted, the river ran an appalling grey and poisonous color as a result of years of dumping mining waste in it, along with whatever garbage the locals wanted to add, kittens, puppies, old tires, refrigerators, bicycles, whatever. After years of expensive attempts to clean up the mess there has been some success, the river now runs clear, grass seems to grow, and the environment has clearly improved. The city has tried to recover from the loss of the mines and smelter by creating a ski resort and trying to make the place a kind of “Bavarian” community. There is now a wonderful ski lift, condominiums have been built, everything seemed to have been going well. Unfortunately, this attempt has failed. While my wife was teaching a class there I went for a long walk in what was once the heart of the city. I walked for almost an hour during which time I saw only one other person, a man walking his dog. It is not an exaggeration to say that fully 80%, of the buildings, perhaps even more, are either for sale or for rent, this includes the major hotel, the YMCA building, as well as almost all other businesses. It is true this is the oldest part of the city, the buildings are old and unkempt, dirty and vacant. As near as I could tell there is one large antique store still in business, three bars with few customers watching Monday Night Football, one pizza parlor, one furniture store, and I believe one other small antique store. When I was a boy this was a thriving community even granted its environmental problems. I used to swim in the YMCA pool, attend basketball tournaments, dances, football games, and other social events. I thought my previous visit to Wallace, Idaho, just up the road, was depressing, but I cannot tell you how depressing my walk in Kellogg was. It is true there are now other parts of the city that are newer and doing better, but I fear there is nothing that can be done to recover the center of the town short of tearing it all down in an attempt at urban renewal. But as far as I know there are no funds for the renewal of small cities and perhaps no valid reasons for wanting to renew them. Such places are deteriorating and losing populations all over the U.S., with more and more people moving into the cities where they now cannot find work and fall into poverty. I do not know what can be done about this but it is truly depressing. If Kellogg even with its potential as a ski resort and the millions spent on cleaning it up (even to the point of digging up acres of earth and replacing it with unpolluted earth) cannot make it, I despair for what is happening to such communities everywhere.

This was for me a terribly unpleasant experience, and coming along with the current political scene in general is damaging my psyche. I’m all for the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon but I wonder what might come of it (other than perhaps another civil war), I fear the warmongers will somehow convince Obama to go to “war” against Iran, another unnecessary, illegal, immoral, and idiotic enterprise, I fear there will never, ever, be peace in the Middle East or an end to Israeli designs on all of the West Bank and perhaps even other areas, I fear that Osama bin Laden’s plan to bankrupt us is working, I fear the fascism that is threatening our lives, and I am even beginning to fear the fear itself. I try not to give in to despair but I find it increasingly difficult. There is no end in sight.

Sometimes you feel other people's pain worse than your own. We're armored against our own troubles. We can't afford to give in to despair. Then you see someone else struggling, and it breaks your... heart.

Sean Stewart

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Contamination

So now we learn that Herman Cain has ties to the Koch brothers. It is already clear that most if not all of the Republican Governors elected in 2010 received support from the Koch brothers. I assume that Eric Cantor and perhaps even Boehner do also. I’m pretty certain that both Justices Scalia and Thomas do as well. I am beginning to wonder if there is any conservative Congressperson or Governor that has not been contaminated by the Koch brother’s obscene wealth. And when you learn that Karl Roves multi-million dollar fund has come from apparently only four or five billionaire donors, I suppose including the Koch brothers, what do you think. I can tell you what I think, no individuals should be allowed to have so much money, enough money to actually try to buy control of the United States by themselves or with a few friends. No one should be allowed to have more than a billion dollars, and I’m not at all certain the cut-off point should be considerably less than that. The very idea of having individuals with that much money (and power) should be anathema to any supposedly democratic society. No one can possibly need a billion dollars except to buy power, and the only use one can possibly have for so much wealth is to generate even more. Furthermore, corporations that have billions of dollars should not be allowed to donate to political campaigns. The decision by the (what used to be) “Supreme Court” claiming that corporations are persons and should be able to donate as much money as they wish is almost certainly the worst single decision ever rendered by that (used to be) respectable body. They might as well have decided that we need to return to the idea of “The Divine Right of Kings.” I gather there is at least one bill in the works to overturn this god-awful ridiculous decision, or at least I sincerely hope there is and that it will go forward quickly. Of course given the number of bought Congresspersons there is no guarantee the decision will ever be reversed. There are hopeful signs that the voting public is at last waking up to just how disgustingly awful our political system has become. Glenn Beck, perhaps the most financially successful absolute idiot of all time, is worried that the Occupy Wall Street “mob” is going to drag people (the obscenely wealthy) out into the streets and kill them. Why would he say such a thing? I suggest because he knows such things have happened in history, and he also knows why, and he also knows the guilty, those that will not give up even a nickel of their mostly ill-gotten gains, are precisely those who have been so treated, and he knows who the guilty are. Let us hope it will not come to such an end but don’t forget that frustration can lead to aggression.

I find this Iranian business extremely disturbing. First, because I don’t believe the Iranians had anything to do with such a harebrained scheme as it implies their secret service people are morons that we know they are not, and this is not merely my opinion but is widely shared by those who know much more than I do about such things. Second, and more important, in spite of the fact that the whole scheme is pretty obviously nonsense, the Obama administration is trying to make it into something it is not. This means to me it is an obvious excuse to scapegoat Iran and (absolute horrors) gin up a case for a “war” that would be so disastrous as to be absolutely unthinkable. There are those who seem to be determined to bring about such a “war,” and I fear they may have captured Obama’s ear, a fact I find truly unsettling. I cannot reconcile Obama’s apparent intelligence and stated concern for people with his willingness, even apparent eagerness, to commit troops all over the world, employ drones and assassinations, engage in permanent hostilities, and so on. I believe he must be getting some truly bad advice. As for Iran, I do not believe that ancient civilization is necessarily an enemy of the United States. They have made repeated overtures for peaceful discussion only to have them rejected out of hand. Obviously they have national interests in the Middle East that do not coincide with ours but I sincerely believe these differences could be worked out diplomatically and peaceably if we would give them a chance. Trying to picture Iranians as terrorists, hostile, warlike, and stupid may be a way to build up a case for “war,” but has no basis in reality and will lead us only into one more disastrous and completely avoidable, unnecessary, murderous situation.

I suggest a system in which after you make half a billion dollars (or some finite sum), you no longer get to keep the money, and for every so many millions after that you get a gold star on a “National Walk of Fame,” along with the gratitude of your fellow citizens. With such a system you could still be rich and famous, admired by all, and recognized as a national benefactor instead of a greedy capitalistic creep. Just a suggestion.

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

Dorothy Parker





Friday, October 14, 2011

The Devil in the Details

You may be familiar with Occam’s Razor, otherwise known as the Law of Parsimony. If not, this is a “law” that says when you are faced with two or more competing explanations or hypotheses that seem more or less equal you should choose the simplest one, the one with the fewest elements or complications. I don’t think Occam’s law really applies when it comes to economics but if it did what might it entail.

It seems to me that the simplest plan, by far, put forward for creating jobs and helping the economy, is the truly simple and basic plan of the Republicans stated over and over again. It is almost elegant in its simplicity: fewer regulations and more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. This is far simpler than 9-9-9, and certainly far simpler than President Obama’s plan. Indeed, it is seductively simple, and would even work, except when you consider the details. It would work because it would in fact give more money to corporations to hire more workers to expand their various businesses, and would also remove restrictions that govern their behavior so they would be free to pursue their primary goal of making profits, simple, no? But stop to consider what their most fundamental business consists of, namely, raping and pillaging both the citizenry and the environment. If left unbridled by regulations and given more resources it would eventually exhaust the resources of the middle and lower classes as well as those of the planet itself. This has undisputedly been occurring already for a long time what with mountain-top and other unregulated mining, oil drilling, timbering, fisheries, credit, mortgages, and Wall Street trading. Similarly, we would eventually drown in our own pollution, die from eating genetically modified crops or an absence of foodstuffs, or perhaps blow ourselves up with unregulated nuclear energy. Occam’s razor does not apply and the devil is, indeed, in the details. Simplicity is not always the best solution, but as Republicans cannot comprehend anything beyond childish delusions they cannot move beyond their basic mantra: lower taxes, eliminate regulations.

The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has recently complained that the state should not waste money for funding fields like anthropology because there are no jobs (or need?) for such graduates. His own daughter apparently majored in Anthropology. This, to me, sums up what is probably the greatest problem with higher education in the United States, the idea that the point of going to a University is to get a job (for women, to get a husband). I would not defend anthropology as a means to employment, it is true there are few jobs for Anthropologists, especially without a Ph.D., but I would certainly defend it as the basis for a truly liberal education. It provides an extremely well-rounded background, and provides information, skills, and viewpoints that should be helpful in many different careers. If not anthropology, what about English Literature, Comparative Literature, Classics, Latin, Philosophy, the History of Art, Art itself, Linguistics, even History, there are few jobs for any of these disciplines. Should we just abandon everything except whatever is guaranteed to produce a job, hundreds, even thousands of years of scholarship, knowledge, tradition and “culture?”

One of the major problems with our Colleges and Universities can be precisely traced to the insidious idea that a University is a place to go in order to get a job. Our Universities have been infiltrated by professional schools, Business, Medicine, Nursing, Education, Animal Husbandry, Agriculture, Engineering, and so on. Over time these professional schools have managed to capture most of the available resources at the expense of the Humanities that are routinely squeezed for funds and are slowly disappearing. The idea of a Liberal education, producing "well-rounded" scholars, creative thinkers, artists, writers, philosophers, and the cultivation of the humanities in general has all but disappeared except in a few small, expensive, private Universities and Colleges.

I know from many years of personal experience at several Universities that Professional schools like Business, Medicine, and Engineering more often than not produce specialized individuals who are more than competent at their profession but can also be ignorant almost beyond belief when it comes to basic knowledge about anything outside of their profession. There have, in fact, been attempts in recent years to rectify this situation by adding Anthropologists, Sociologist, and Behavioral Scientists to Medical School and even Business School faculties, but for the most part they remain treated as second class members and make only very minor contributions. One of the worst developments I think has been the emphasis on producing MBA’s, Masters of Business Administration, whose sole goal in life is to get a good job in some corporation or family business and get rich.

I am not opposed to Professional Schools in general, I just don’t think they should be important parts of Universities, especially at the expense of more traditional academic disciplines. They also help, I believe, to encourage some, perhaps many, to denigrate other more basic professions that are more and more in short supply, electricians, plumbers, bakers, mechanics, and so on. European systems recognize that not everyone should be encouraged to enter the University, so they direct students fairly early, on the basis of their demonstrated abilities, into the professions. Here in the U.S. the ability or opportunity to enter a University has more to do with whether you can afford it than with any realistic abilities you may or may not possess, or even sometimes your desire to undertake more education. Colleges and Universities have become places to park young people to keep them out of the labor markets and off the streets, the degrees obtained are often useless except as a basis for whether or not you can be considered for certain kinds of employment, or to make it easier to enter the family business with at least a pretense of respectability. Often degrees in Anthropology, English Literature, History, Physical Education, etc. are of this type, but they don’t have to be, and in a culture that valued them more highly would not be.

The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people. (Or at least it ought to be. M.)

Claiborne Pell





Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oblivious, Stupid, Perverse, Crazy, Evil, or What?

Would someone please explain to me what the hell Republicans are doing, I confess I simply cannot understand their behavior. Is this because I am smart and they are dumb, or is it that they are smart and I am dumb? I find their behavior so bizarre as to be inexplicable. The number one priority of the majority of citizens, and the Democratic party has to do with jobs. Republicans ran on a program of creating jobs in 2010. Since that time, after they won a majority in the House, they have done nothing about jobs, absolutely nothing, no jobs bills, no attention to jobs, and have also blocked every attempt by President Obama to do something about the problem. Now they voted, not against Obama’s perfectly reasonable jobs bill, but against even discussing it, and having done so they immediately turned their attention to still another anti-abortion bill, as if jobs were simply a non issue. This was not merely an anti-abortion bill, it’s a bill that would deny emergency health care to potentially dying women! I cannot understand what they hope to gain by this. It makes no sense, either practically, morally, or politically. Can they really be stupid enough to believe this will get them votes in 2012? Are they oblivious to the priorities of the voting public? Did they do it just to be perverse? Perhaps they really are just plain crazy? Or do they, somehow think this will help them unseat Obama in 2012? I suppose maybe they did it to distract attention from their complete lack of attention to the issue of jobs. I don’t like to think they are just evil people but I cannot dismiss that as a possibility. In any case I find it so bizarre I tend to think maybe they are just plain crazy. It seems to me it is rather like deliberately sticking a poker in the eyes of the electorate and then asking them to vote for them. But what do I know? Nothing it appears.

On the basis of a recent poll it appears Herman Cain is leading all other candidates in the race for the Republican nomination, including Romney. The media spent a great deal of time on this somewhat startling development today, along with a focus on his famous 9-9-9 plan. This is a plan so obviously awful, especially in the present context of economic problems, it is little more than laughable. Naturally the Tea Party seems to like it and, I gather so do the Koch brothers and other criminal elements. As far as I can tell even the other candidates think it little more than a joke, but apparently this will not spare us endless hours of hearing about it (anything to keep us from hearing or talking about anything really serious, like jobs). The only thing I heard in defense of Cain is that he is “likeable.” Watch out if they decide he’s the kind of guy they would like to have a beer with.

I guess what’s-his-face, oh yeah, Rick Perry, has pretty much imploded, as has Bachmann, the con artist from Alaska was never really in it, Christie will probably run for Vice-President, Newt (The Hypocrite) Gingrich has never been in the race for anything except hearing the sound of his own voice and keeps babbling on, Santorum and Huntsman can’t seem to gain much traction, and Ron Paul, well, he’s just Ron Paul. Seriously, I can’t see how it can be anyone except Romney (with or without Christie) unless some unknown candidate from a mysterious planet flies in at the last minute on a flying saucer. No one on the Democratic side is going to challenge Obama, or so it appears, no third party candidate is in sight, so the stage is already set (unless Obama replaces Biden which I doubt) for another choice between the two candidates offered us by the powers that be. You had better “gird your loins” because you are going to have to put up with an enormous amount of bullshit for more than a year. We are not a serious country, if we were we would not tolerate this totally absurd procedure for a moment longer.

Yes, it’s true World War II helped us out of the depression. Going to war with Iran is not going to help us avoid one now, so forget it. Two or three or four or however many we are actually engaged in at the moment should be quite enough to insure our demise as a major power, we’ll have to at least pause for a time to shut down our empire and pay off our debts. Happy days are not here again, are not going to be here again, in fact they are over. Get used to it.

America has never been an empire. We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused – preferring greatness to power and justice to glory. (And complete hogwash to truth, M.)

George W. Bush



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Romney/Christie 2012?

I know, I know, it is probably too premature to predict the Republican ticket for 2012, but I suspect the race is over. I know that Christie said Romney had made him no promise of the V-P position, but if the Fat Man doesn’t appear on the ticket I will not only be surprised but downright flabbergasted. It would be a “marriage made in heaven,” as well as probably the only realistic challenge to Obama. Tea Party people and Evangelicals do not like Romney but they love Christie and want to win. And, while they failed to get Christie to run for President they would now have the next big thing. They can also conclude that Romney can’t be all bad if he agrees to Christie as a running mate. Christie has repeatedly said he is not ready to run for President, but what better way to get ready than to be Vice President for a time? Romney claims he and Christie are “good friends.” Maybe they are, but it wouldn’t matter to Romney who wants to be President so badly he would run with the Devil himself if he thought it would help. It is also common knowledge that Romney is the one candidate Obama would prefer not to run against, now he would have to run against both Romney and Christie. While I wouldn’t stake my life on it, I’m reasonably certain it will be “Mitt” and “New Jersey Fats.” Given the apparent idiocy and ignorance of the other Republican candidates, as expressed in their recent “debates,” there is no way Romney could not look far superior. Like we say, “In the land of the blind even a one-eyed person…,” or “Even a blind dog finds a bone once in a while,” and etc. I cannot imagine any of the other candidates seriously challenging any longer for the nomination (thank god). If Romney/Christie do run and win you can expect more “wars,” more money for the Military/Industrial/Political complex, more unemployment, more breaks for the wealthy and the corporations, more attacks on abortion and Planned Parenthood, Social Security, Medicare, in short, nothing much will change from previous Republican administrations. The implications of Romney’s vow to “Make America the strongest nation in the world” I regard as a clear and frightening warning of worse things to come.

It seems the “Let’s go to war with Iran” fanatics are at it again. Apparently not content with entrapping a few “terrorists” here and there to prove how diligent they are in protecting us they have now decided to up the ante a bit and go after Iran. I do not believe the Iranian leadership had anything whatsoever to do with the supposed plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in the United States. First, I cannot believe the Iranian secret service is so inept or stupid they would hatch a cockamamie plot involving Mexican drug gangs bombing a restaurant to kill the Saudi Ambassador. Second, I cannot understand why they would single out an Ambassador as Ambassadors have little power over anything and merely carry out orders given them, not much of a reason for assassinating them. Of course after the initial announcement of the plot the Israeli embassy was added to the plot, everyone knows the Iranians are targeting Israel, just waiting to get the big bomb and immediately destroy them (in an apparent act of national suicide). Perhaps there really was a plot, perhaps it was even hatched without the collaboration of the FBI or CIA, but it appears to me if there was anything it must have been a couple of idiots acting pretty much on their own (and probably goaded on by the CIA). I’m sorry to be so suspicious but after all I have learned in recent years I no longer trust anyone, especially the U.S. secret forces. There clearly are those, encouraged by the paranoid Israelis, who are dying to go to war against Iran, undoubtedly one of the most boneheaded schemes since Iraq.

Please, do we really have to endure any more Republican “debates?” I mean, really, what can anyone expect that we do not already know? It’s like watching seven morons vying with each other to see who can tell the biggest lie or say the most negative thing about President Obama. The format is not useful as all you can expect from each of the candidates is a sound bite or two, almost all of the candidates have absolutely no chance of ever getting the nomination and appear, I guess, because they like the sound of their own voices and have egos that blind them to reality. In order to get any attention at all they have to say something shocking, inane, or completely dishonest. Does anyone believe that Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, Paul, or Gingrich have any chance at all? Why do we have to even listen to them when it is such an obvious waste of time and none of them have anything to add to the “debate” after “lower taxes and eliminate regulations?” I suppose it doesn’t matter much as the entire U.S. system of elections has become so absurd it is nothing but a joke and essentially just another long running Soap Opera. Two years of campaigning, probably now a solid year of voting, more than a billion wasted dollars, all to eventually select one of two basically similar politicians offered by the elites who control the process. It’s a scam concealed in a sham orchestrated by the shameless to protect the nameless.

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” (I hope, M)

Sir Winston Churchill



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Final Solutions

Probably this blog should be entitled merely “solutions,” as I think not all solutions necessarily need to be “final.” Besides, nowadays when we think of final solutions we tend to think of the Nazi attempt to genocide the Jews. I would not want to be seen as favoring such extreme measures. But what does a nation do when it has a fairly large and well organized group of subversives? I think what Republicans have been doing for the past few years should be considered subversion. I don’t know what else it might be called as it is certainly not “politics as usual.” I have been led to wonder if the Founding Fathers were simply na├»ve, careless, or had some reason I do not understand for not leaving us any solution to urgent problems other than the potential ballot box. Republicans announced early on they would not support President Obama, wanted him to fail, and would vote “no” consistently. They have remained true to their word. In effect what they have done is simply refuse to govern. I don’t think the Founding Fathers anticipated such a development, believing, I think, that anyone who aspired to high office was fundamentally a patriot whose primary interest was in the good of the country. I doubt they thought any group would make national welfare second to their narrow political interests. The result of this is that we have no viable means to deal with overt subversion other than waiting eventually to vote the wrongdoers out of office, a solution that allows for all kinds of damage to occur in the interim. The same problem arises when someone abuses his or her office where the only recourse is impeachment, a truly complicated, difficult, and very time-consuming process with no guarantee of success (think Clarence Thomas, for example). There appears to be little we can do about this.

While I am not recommending other solutions I should point out there are other, quicker, more drastic solutions to problems such as subversion and abuse of office. In Tsarist Russia, for example, (and even more recently in Russia) such people could be exiled to Siberia either for a time or permanently. They could also simply be arrested and placed in jail, (or mental institutions) as happens in many countries around the world. In even more extreme cases they could be lined up against a wall and shot. Obviously we cannot use such solutions, nor should we want to, but our only solution, elections, is not very efficient, but the only solution we have.

Our entire justice system is slow, cumbersome, expensive, and inefficient. I believe this sometimes leads to the neglect of cases that surely deserve attention. This is often a problem for small cities or counties that do not always have the money to pursue justice to the end. For example, a woman was tried for killing her husband, exonerated by a clever lawyer who argued she had been abused, and arguably should have been re-tried, but was not due to lack of funds. In this case I think justice probably was served, but what of other more important cases. In my opinion Bush/Cheney and several others in their administration should be tried for their blatant (even) admitted war crimes. At the same time I am aware of how such trials would split our country politically for months or years and disrupted the important business of state.

Innocent until proven guilty, guaranteed free speech, equality under the law, multiple appeals and reviews, are all wonderful ideas but they are not efficient, economical, or in some cases fast enough to produce justice (sometimes guilty parties die before the process plays itself out). Democracy, even a pretend democracy like ours, has much to recommend it, but it is not without its shortcomings as well. I suspect these kinds of problems could be remedied but given our dysfunctional system that is not likely.

Along these lines, should the wealthy Wall Streeters, CEO’s, and others be worried about the Occupy Wall Street phenomena? I should think not if they would admit their guilt, pay their fair share, and make some attempt to help rather than hinder the recovery. If they cannot give up their unconscionable greed (even a little bit) things may well get worse and worse. It does not look like Occupy Wall Street is going to be merely “a flash in the pan.” Our final solution can only be to vote all of these subversives out of office when the time comes.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

John F. Kennedy



Monday, October 10, 2011

Bunkum

Synonyms: APPLESAUCE [slang], BALDERDASH, BALONEY (also BOLONEY), BEANS, BILGE, BLAH (also BLAH-BLAH), BLARNEY, BLATHER, BLATHERSKITE, BLITHER, BOSH, BULL [slang], BUNK, NONSENSE (or BUNCOMBE), CLAPTRAP, CODSWALLOP [British], CRAPOLA [slang], CROCK, DRIVEL, DROOL, FIDDLE, FIDDLE-FADDLE, FIDDLESTICKS, FLANNEL [British], FLAPDOODLE, FOLDEROL (also FALDERAL), FOLLY, FOOLISHNESS, FUDGE, GARBAGE, GUFF, HOGWASH, HOKEYPOKEY, HOKUM, HOODOO, HOOEY, HORSEFEATHERS [slang], HUMBUG, HUMBUGGERY, JAZZ, MALARKEY (also MALARKY), MOONSHINE, MUCK, NERTS [slang], NUTS, PIFFLE, POPPYCOCK, PUNK, ROT, RUBBISH, SENSELESSNESS, SILLINESS, SLUSH, STUPIDITY, TARADIDDLE (or TARRADIDDLE), TOMMYROT, TOSH, TRASH, TRUMPERY, TWADDLE

Related Words: ABSURDITY, ASININITY, FATUITY, FOOLERY, IDIOCY, IMBECILITY, INANENESS, INANITY, INSANITY, KOOKINESS, LUNACY; ABSURDNESS, CRAZINESS, MADNESS, SENSELESSNESS, WITLESSNESS; HOITY-TOITY, MONKEY BUSINESS, MONKEYSHINE(S), SHENANIGAN(S), TOMFOOLERY; GAS, HOT AIR, RIGMAROLE (also RIGAMAROLE); DOUBLE-TALK, GREEK, HOCUS-POCUS

I have taken the liberty of listing all these synonyms and related words to make certain no one can possibly not understand what I think about the current nonsense having to do with Romney’s being a member or not of a cult. Stephen Pizzo has an interesting article on The Smirking Chimp today entitled “How Crazy is too Crazy.” Basically he suggests you examine the Book of Mormon and decide what you think of Romney’s presumed beliefs (he seems to believe but not want to say they are unacceptable for a President). Having perused the Book of Mormon I personally believe it is bunkum, pure and simple. I also believe that whatever the Reverend Robert Jeffers believes, being a smug Southern Baptist ignoramus is every bit as much bunkum. Thus, for me, the argument as to whether or not Romney is a Christian, or whether or not having a Christian President is better than not, is pure unadulterated bunkum and should be treated as such. As far as I am concerned anyone who actually believes the Bible is the true word of God, or the Angel Moroni was real, or their underwear is sacred, or someone was swallowed by a whale, or there was an Ark containing all the animals of the earth, or the earth is a mere 6000 years old, or evolution is not a better explanation than creationism, is simply unfit for any high office, period.

Unfortunately it seems that no one at the moment could be elected President if they did not at least pay lip service to being a Christian. But would the electorate find a snake handler acceptable? How about someone who uses Peyote in their religious ritual? Maybe someone who believes hurricanes are caused by homosexual activity, or earthquakes are god’s punishment for our sins, or so on? Our Founding Fathers deliberately insisted on the separation of church and state because they were fearful of the religious strife that had caused so much trouble in Europe and elsewhere in the world, not, I gather, because they thought religious nutcases were too crazy to hold office, a possibility I think they ignored, assuming that someone’s religious beliefs would be basically irrelevant (things were much different then as no one knew about evolution and such). The Reverend Jeffers boasts that Southern Baptists are the largest Christian denomination in the world, something he is obviously quite proud of, but probably contributes mightily to making us an international laughingstock. As far as I know we are the only remaining large industrialized nation that still has such a large religious presence, all others having more or less given up such nonsense.

If it were ever to be the case, heaven forbid, that I had to choose between Governor Romney and Governor Perry, a “cult member” or an Evangelical like the Reverend Jeffors, I have no doubt I would pick Romney (of course I would never vote for either one of them unless under sentence of death for not voting).

I cannot understand how people can be arguing that the 2012 election is going to be “close.” I realize that President Obama has been going down in the polls, and I also realize the President is going to be the one blamed for whatever has gone wrong, however unfairly. I also believe the Obama has done things of which I absolutely do not approve, like his “wars” in Afghanistan and Libya, for example, or his failure to pursue bankers or war criminals, but when compared to Republicans he seems like a saint. Republican hypocrisy has reached such epic proportions as to be virtually unbelievable. They thought the Tea Party protests, with people carrying guns and racist slogans were fine but now describe the “Occupy” protests as “mobs.” And they consistently repudiate their own ideas if presented by President Obama. They have placed every obstacle possible in the way of helping produce jobs and then blame the President for the problem. They are absolutely shameless in their support for millionaires and billionaires and their contempt for the middle class and the poor, and are engaged in every conceivable way to prevent people from voting and thus steal the next elections, and on and on. In my opinion they are disgusting in every way and yet somehow there will be people who vote for them. I don’t understand it, but, then, I don’t have a criminal mind.

Anyway, if someone running for President believes in handling snakes, speaking in tongues, flagellating themselves, or beliefs that absolutely prohibit abortion and even birth control, or Gay marriages, or Gays in the military, creationism, dinosaurs as pets, or god’s wrath causing natural disasters, I want to know about it and will vote accordingly. If that makes me a bigot, so be it. There is no transparency here, if a Presidential candidate says he/she is a Christian you simply have to guess what that might actually mean. If anything, It’s “no way to run a railroad.”

But the greatest menace to our civilization today is the conflict between giant organized systems of self-righteousness-each system only too delighted to find that the other is wicked-each only too glad that the sins give it the pretext for still deeper hatred and animosity.

Herbert Butterfield

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Passion, Commitment, Optimism?

“…..If I were one of the celestial bodies, I would look with complete detachment upon this miserable ball of dust and dirt…I would shine upon the good and evil alike…But I am a man. World history which to you, dispassionate gobbler of science, to you, book-keeper of eternity, seems only a negligible moment in the balance of time, is to me everything! As long as I breathe, I shall fight for the future, that radiant future in which man, strong and beautiful, will become master of the drifting stream of history and will direct it towards the boundless horizon of beauty, joy, and happiness!...”
Lev Bronstein

Lev Bronstein was a young man, barely in his twenties, when he discovered the belief that was to stay with him until the end of his life. The prose style that helped him to fame was admittedly verbose, zealous, florid, and bombastic, but when spoken passionately in front of a crowd, moved thousands, even millions towards the goal he and his peers had in mind. You may know him better by the name he adopted while escaping from his exile in Siberia on the way to eventually join Lenin at his headquarters in London on the eve of the Russian revolution… Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky was only one of many young Russians of his time who believed passionately that although the immediate future was pessimistic the future was optimistic. The world situation in the early 1900’s was indeed grim: “In France—the poisonous foam of racial hatred; in Austria—nationalistic strife…; in South Africa—the agony of a tiny people, which is being murdered by a colossus; on the ‘free’ island itself—triumphant hymns to the victorious greed of jingoist jobbers; dramatic ‘complications’ in the east; rebellions of starving popular masses in Italy, Bulgaria, Rumania…Hatred and murder, famine and blood…”

It is difficult not to draw at least some comparison with our own moment in history, what with the “Arab Spring,” the “Occupy Wall Street” movement growing and spreading now not only across the United States but also overseas, and even the Tea Party movement. There is unquestionably massive anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo by a remarkable diversity of disparate groups and individuals, such as was the case prior to what happened in Russia in 1917. What was needed was someone to seize the moment, organize the disparate interests into one, and proceed with a single goal. And there was Lenin who had waited patiently for such a moment, aided by Trotsky and many others, able to provide the necessary inspiration and organization for success.

I cannot help but wonder how passionately, diligently, and persistently, our current “revolutionaries” (what else would you call them) will continue to pursue their goals. More importantly, I wonder who, if anyone, will emerge and be able to “seize the moment” and organize this diversity of interests. It is clear that no Republican will or need apply as they are the very people, along with their wealthy benefactors, against whom the rage should be primarily directed. President Obama might have been such a “savior” had he not disqualified himself by his warmongering, stubborn and useless attempts at bipartisanship, protection of war criminals both at home and in Israel, ties to Wall Street, and continuation of some of the worst policies of the Bush/Cheney nightmare years.

It seems to me that if ever there was a time for a serious third party movement that time is now. It is pretty obvious that many people will vote for Obama only because of the absence of any viable alternative. It will, of course, be a virtually impossible task to clear Wall Street and our nation’s capital of the moneylenders, their Congressional whores, and the rest of the vermin and parasites that have slowly and surreptitiously infested our military/industrial/political system over the past few years, especially during the disastrous Bush/Cheney administration, but no less than that must be done.

Whatever you might think of the Russian revolution, Lenin, Trotsky or others you cannot deny their passionate commitment to the socialist/communist revolution, with their optimistic belief that things would be better in the future. That things did not work out as intended does not detract from their monumental attempt to create a better life in the future.

I wonder now about the commitment, passion, and especially the optimism of those now occupying the streets of the world in protest. Given what we have done, and continue to do, both to ourselves and the planet in the roughly 100 years since the young Lev Bronstein joined the “cause,” is there any sense of optimism left in the world? Having fouled the air and water, destroyed so many species and natural resources, brought about global warming, massive unemployment and poverty, and invented so many new means of killing each other, all with no end in sight, what reasons are there for optimism? But conversely, without optimism (hope) there is nothing for the human species. Gratefully, strangely perhaps, hope still does exist. It can be seen in the working class marching in the streets, especially the young who perceive clearly the threat to their futures as well as the injustice and failures of preceding generations. “ A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages…Who can demand that such a class respect this social order?” (Friedrich Engels). We should by all means encourage them and urge them to remain steadfast in their desire for better things to come.

Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.

Vladimir Lenin

Friday, October 07, 2011

How So?

How is it that virtually no talk show host or interviewer ever asks this simple question, how so? For example, when Hank Williams Jr. compared Obama to Hitler why didn’t someone ask him how so? I suppose it could be that they assumed that anyone that stupid wouldn’t be able to answer so they just didn’t bother. Similarly, why was this apparently deranged individual who claimed Obama was worse than 9/11 allowed to escape without being asked how so? Perhaps again it was because it was so incredibly stupid they assumed he wouldn’t have a coherent answer, but perhaps it was they didn’t want to embarrass him, or perhaps it was just that they didn’t want to waste the time.

The above two cases are so obviously loony I guess it really doesn’t matter as surely no one would take such nonsense seriously (but they did get applause). But this lack of curiosity on the part of Newspersons has been disturbing me for a long time. People are allowed to get away with saying things that are so blatantly untrue it makes you wonder. Of course George W. Bush was probably the best case in point. He often, in fact almost routinely, said things that were such obvious lies you couldn’t believe what you were hearing and yet he consistently went unchallenged. Dick the Slimy and Rumsfeld the Senile were just about as bad. In other words our “leaders” have been allowed for years to get away with lying to us with no fear of being exposed or challenged. Maybe reporters or talk show hosts were afraid of recriminations if they dared to ask anyone how so? I guess there could also be another more mundane reason, the television format simply doesn’t allow time for questions. Whatever the reason, think how many thousands of innocent lives and how many billions of dollars could have been saved.

We know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, Oh, how so? The Iraqi oil will pay for this action by itself. How so? We are fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here. How so? Iran is intent on making a nuclear bomb that would be a threat to Israel and the whole world. How so? I could of course go on and on in this vein but I’m sure you get the picture. Our MSM allowed us to be led into the most illegal, unconstitutional, and criminal behavior in the annals of history without once ever seriously questioning those who were intent on leading us down these deadly illicit paths. Our historically touted “Fourth Estate,” once it was taken over by a small number of corporate owners, became complicit in our war crimes and simply no longer exists as it once did. We no longer have “news,” we only have what they deign to tell us, and what they deign to tell us is only what they want us to hear.

Mitt Romney, who will apparently be the Republican candidate for President running against President Obama, has given what is touted as a major Foreign Policy speech. He vows to have a “New American Century” and never to apologize for America, and in fact to return us to the disastrous Bush/Cheney years. One might well ask, how so, Mitt, how so? He seems to have absolutely no understanding of reality. The American century is over, the days of colonialism are over, the might of America is not what it once was, we are no longer the sole superpower in the world, things have changed over the years. You might have heard about them had you actually made any effort to learn or understand anything other than simply running for President. As near as I can t tell Romney is no better informed or on top of things than either Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. I think he is basically a phony who will do or say anything to get elected and is also totally out of touch with the reality of everyday life in the United States. Anyone in his position who could actually say he, too, is unemployed, obviously has no understanding of the problem. Or better yet, claiming his five sons, none of whom have served in the military, are actually serving the war effort by supporting him for President, betrays his lack of understanding even more clearly. He is a “Nerd,” actually probably a Nerd’s Nerd, if not just another empty suit. Quite frankly I don’t believe Republicans are serious about winning in 2012, and they are willing to sacrifice a candidate now for a more realistic chance in 2016. I don’t believe Obama is as vulnerable as they and their controlled media want us to believe. Their failure to cooperate and govern for the sole purpose of defeated Obama may be working in their view but I doubt that even the American public is that stupid. In the spirit of full disclosure I must confess I am often wrong. But as for Romney, I say “Bring him on.”

In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.

Ambrose Bierce



Thursday, October 06, 2011

Jobs and the Future

I could of course be terribly wrong about this but I simply do not believe there are ever going to be enough jobs for everyone, unless perhaps everyone gets paid a living wage for doing someone else’s hair, giving them pedicures, walking their dogs, or shaping their pubic hair into the shape of a heart. I don’t know how many people are out of work as I hear various authorities, or those who believe they are authorities, make very different claims. I have heard 14 million, 15 million, 20 million and even 25 million, and I have no way of knowing which of these figures might be the correct one.

But yesterday, I think it was yesterday, Dylan Radigan was complaining to Ed Schultz that Obama’s plan to create 1.9 million jobs was just a drop in the bucket, not enough to solve the problem. Schultz pointed out, rightly I believe, that this would just be the beginning. If the number of unemployed is truly as great as it appears to be according to any of these estimates I doubt it will be possible to ever solve the problem. Obama and Schultz are right in that we need to create jobs now, and 1.9 million is not to be laughed at, but it clearly does not solve the problem if the problem is to somehow create many millions more. I have no doubt it should be possible to create probably several million jobs by improving our infrastructure, putting teachers back in the classroom, police on the streets, firemen in the fire halls, and so on. But when it comes to the future I think the idea that we can create jobs for all is simply a pipe dream. Technology is going to make that impossible. This is much of the current problem, jobs have been lost, not only to going overseas but also and perhaps even more importantly to technology. This is undeniable. Loggers claim the environmental protection act has cost them jobs but they overlook the invention of the one man chain saw, huge machines that can saw down and carry away whole trees all by themselves, and so on. Fisherman decry the loss of their fisheries and the decline of jobs but don’t seem to think it has anything to do with more modern technologies with respect to methods and overfishing. Factory workers have been increasingly replaced with robots, farmers can do more with one man and a tractor than they could before with fifteen or twenty farmhands. It appears that even restaurants are now replacing waiters and waitresses with computers, and supermarkets are replacing checkers with self check-outs, and on and on. The idea that in the long run we need to create more jobs is in some ways misguided, what we really need to do is devise a society that can function without so many jobs. In a sense this has already happened, except that the profits derived from the new technologies, rather than being shared with workers, has been siphoned off by management and the owners. While their fortunes have consistently increased as a result of technological innovations those of the workers have not. Thus, although it is true we will need to produce more jobs, more importantly we are going to have to decide how to live with so many surplus people and far fewer jobs.

There are, I suppose, different ways of dealing with this problem. A more socialistic society would be one way. That is, devising a system whereby everyone is in one way or another provided with sufficient means to survive at least at some minimal level. At the moment this would seem unrealistic in the United States as socialism is believed to be worse than death. So what about death? Death could be a solution. We could, for example, randomly select every third or fifth child to be euthanized, or whatever number would be sufficient so the wealthy would not have to give up any of their obscene fortunes. If euthanasia strikes you as too direct or brutal we could just let the less fortunate die of starvation or from the lack of health care (a system that seems to be favored by Republicans). If our technology advances far enough we could also, I suppose, simply round up “undesirables” and fire them off into space. Perhaps with the right combination of drugs we could convert them into robots thus saving the expense of having to actually create and manufacture robots. Or, as I mentioned once before, following a suggestion made by Jonathan Swift, we could just eat our children. I guess we shouldn’t overlook just plain old fashioned infanticide and/or senilicide. Maybe we could offer courses in patricide, matricide, fratricide and sororicide. That’s it! As males don’t bear children, the basic problem is girls. Maybe we should just stick with the time honored system of doing away with girls. It appears that soon we will not even need many people for the military, what with drones and other robots. This unemployment situation could quickly get completely out of control.

We could, I suppose, also ban any further technological innovation, and phase out the various technologies we already have, go back to farming by hand and with horses so we would need and use all the people we have. Instead of tractors we could hire farmhands, and we could replace the robots on the assembly line with real people. We could scrap chain saws and go back to the good old two person saw or insist that fish can only be caught with willow poles and worms. The possibilities here are endless.

I suppose as a last resort we could have something like Planned Parenthood and people’s right to choose that might help alleviate the problem, maybe even some form of birth control, but I guess that would be too extreme. We could also have a system whereby everyone shared In the benefits of technology so workers would have to toil fewer hours, have much longer vacations, months off for child care, better health care with more doctors and nurses, and so on, but I guess that would be too “European” for us.

Anyway, if you encounter anyone who knows how to create somewhere between 14 and 25 million good paying jobs in the not too distant future please let me know.

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.

Alice Kahn