Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Depths of Despicable

Anyone who has followed or read this blog for any length of time knows that there is no love here for Republicans. I guess it is only fitting that my final blog of 2012 deals with their final descent into the depths of the despicable. When Mitch McConnell tried to introduce a change in the Social Security CPI at the last moment into the current ongoing negotiations it was clear Republicans have finally reached not only the depths of the despicable but also the depths of depravity. It is true they quickly backed down from this despicable attempt, but the fact that McConnell could even consider bringing it up in the current context of negotiations is indicative of their callous attitude towards the middle class and the poor. This change they wanted in the CPI would have meant thousands of dollars taken from those on Social Security who need those funds the most. Not only that, it would have taken money away from the widows of our now deceased military personnel! You cannot , I think, fall much lower than that. They would have us take money from those who need it the most in order to give more money to a relatively small number of people who already have so much money they could literally be buried under piles of it. This would be not only despicable but would give new and added meaning to the adjective “vile.”
What is with these people anyway? Didn’t they have parents? I would certainly hope their parents did not instill in them this contempt for the middle class and the poor. Perhaps they did but I doubt it. Republicans have not been this despicable before, they used to be actually a serious and relatively sensible bunch when it comes to governing and looking after the middle class and the poor. Even Richard Nixon had a plan to help the less fortunate although it never came to fruition. I think the Republican descent into depravity and the despicable began with our idiot President, Saint Ronnie, who apparently had the mind of a six-year-old. Saint Ronnie, oblivious to reality, tilted at the windmills of welfare queens, unions, and government in general, and managed to damage our politics in ways that still continue. Even so, it was not until the Clinton Presidency that the Republican Party began to change from a serious political party into a kind of political mafia determined to use any means to bring down Clinton. They have been going downhill ever since, employing literally any means to gain power, suppressing the vote, changing the rules, gerrymandering, lying, roviating, bribing, holding hostages, and employing every dirty trick they can to get illegally and immorally what they cannot achieve legitimately.
Contemporary Republicans seem to lack even a semblance of empathy, sympathy, or even basic understanding. They apparently think that changing the CPI is just a matter of abstract negotiation with no effect on human beings. Perhaps they just don’t think at all. How could anyone be so callous as to suggest taking money away from war widows, seniors who depend on Social Security, the handicapped? Such Republicans are not only not fit to govern, they are not fit even to be in human society. Indeed, they make a mockery of the very concept of society. I confess I cannot understand them. I find the idea that they would prefer to take money from those with the least to insure more money for those with the most totally incomprehensible, so far-fetched as to make me question their sanity, so absurd as to believe they can’t really be serious. But apparently it is true, they seem to be willing to go to any lengths, even risking the nation itself, to preserve more money for those who already have most of it. It defies reason, defies reality, defies even common sense. It is, in short, crazy. And yet, it is, and it continues, and it threatens our national well-being, and these Frankenstein type monsters just don’t seem to care. Where did they come from, these people? I cannot believe their parents sent them to Washington to take away our safety nets, to throw the middle class and the poor under the bus, to attempt to destroy the fabric of our culture. What can they possibly be thinking, assuming they think at all?
The great weakness of our system is there is no way of getting rid of these monsters at least until 2014, and as they have successfully stacked the deck in their favor perhaps not even then. So we muddle on hopelessly mired in utter nonsense with no end in sight. SO HAPPY NEW YEAR! Things probably can’t get much worse.
Mark Twain

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I have not been able to blog for a long time, partly because of the holidays, but mostly because I have come to the conclusion that everything about American politics, government, and society has become so stupid it is hardly worth the effort to comment any longer. Of course I realize that I have done stupid things in the past, and continue to do stupid things now, but for the moment this is not about my personal stupidity. When commenting on American stupidity it is difficult to know where to begin.
First, I should try to define what I mean by stupid, so let us turn to the online dictionary:
a : slow of mind : obtuse
b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
c : lacking intelligence or reason : brutish
: dulled in feeling or sensation : torpid stupid
from the sedative>
: marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting : senseless stupid
a : lacking interest or point stupid
b : vexatious, exasperating stupid
car won't start>
stu·pid·ly adverb
stu·pid·ness noun

I should say that virtually all of these meanings apply to our current sociopolitical scene in one way or another. Consider a somewhat simple case, the Iowa Supreme Court decision that a woman could be fired from her job by being overly attractive and hence a threat to the marriage of her boss (apparently the wife of the boss complained). Shades of consortium! It was the case that men used to be able to sue for loss of consortium if their wife for some reason could no longer engage in sex. Wives, however, were not allowed to sue for the loss. I’m sure that in some jurisdictions this no longer applies but I would not be at  all surprised if it still exists in some others. But the point here is, could a man be fired for being too attractive if a husband complained? You can be pretty sure this would never happen. Further, if this decision was taken as a precedent, virtually everyone would be at the mercy of their employer’s spouse, a truly stupid idea when carried to its more or less logical conclusion.

Another example of stupid, more important, is the case of Iran. It seems that most everyone these days insists that “we must do something about Iran.” Iran is not to be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb. This is stupidity raised to a very high level. First, there is no evidence Iran is very close to developing a nuclear bomb or the capacity to deliver it even if it had one. Second, there is absolutely no reason to believe that if Iran had such a bomb it would immediately set out to attack anyone with it. The Iranians are not crazy, they know that surrounded by others with already developed nuclear capabilities, plus the constant threat they endure from Israel and the U.S., their use of a bomb would result in their almost immediate destruction. Thus the constant drumbeat against Iran is just  plain stupid (unless, of course, there is some ulterior motive for it which might well be the case).

It would be pretty hard to find an idea more stupid that the latest NRA proposal to arm our teachers and/or provide armed guards for every school in the country. The idea that you might reduce gun violence by the addition of more guns is truly stupid on the face of it. Children are not only vulnerable in schools, but also on playgrounds, skating rinks, movies, and on and on, why should they not have armed guards everywhere? And of course the idea that a teacher armed with a gun would be able to defeat someone determined to attack a schoolroom is rather stupid to begin with, unless they, too, were heavily armed with an assault rifle, in which case the killings would most probably increase. The NRA wants us to become an armed camp with everyone packing some form of “heat,” thus completely militarizing our already over-militarized society and, of course, selling more guns for the gun manufacturers. Indeed, this idea might be considered the mother of all stupid ideas.

Finally, for the moment at least, the idea that you can have a government run by politicians who can be legally bribed to do the bidding of gun and other manufacturers, corporations and wealthy individuals, is intrinsically stupid. Our so-called “public servants” are no longer that, but are simply private individuals out for themselves and the interests that are bribing them. Public service is no longer a motive for governing, what is good for the public is no longer of interest to our so-called “leaders.” Our highly touted “democracy” is no longer  a democracy at all, it has little or nothing to do with the will of the people and they no longer have much control over it. If the goal and purpose of “government” is to provide for the needs of its citizens our current government is stupid, stupid, stupid, little more than a joke concocted by a malevolent supernatural, perhaps for his/her/its amusement (if you believe in such things as supernatural beings).

Will we go over the (mythical) fiscal cliff, another stupid idea being manipulated by a gang of stupid individuals elected by a stupid electorates in mostly in stupid states for stupid reasons having little or nothing to do with what they seems to regard as stupid reality made up by stupid scientists stupidly trying to deceive us into believing stupid ideas such as global warming and environmental protection. It is all, I fear, too stupid for words. Or, perhaps I am just too stupid to understand it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fighting Hopelessness

Depression is bad. It can be very bad. I think I have been depressed for years, certainly since the nightmare years of Bush/Cheney. My depression may have lifted temporarily after Obama became President and I had such high hopes for change. Some positive change has occurred, but as this has been muted by continued wars, drones, civil rights violations and such, things I do not approve of, my depression has pretty much continued. It is not helped by the realization that the country of my birth, and the country I love, seems unable to govern itself. But depression can be fleeting, it can disappear, and however unpleasant it is there is always the possibility that things will get better. Depression can be overcome. Depression does not inevitably lead to suicide, in fact it rarely does, although we may tend to think so. This is not the case with hopelessness. Hopelessness is the attitude that leads to suicide. When there is no hope one has no choice but surrender, giving up, acknowledging there is no solution, death becomes the final solution. That is why we must fight hopelessness. I try, but I confess it is becoming more and more difficult.
Realizing, after the last four years of gridlock brought about by the Republicans because they concentrated on making Obama a one term President, they would continue this vendetta even after the latest election, leads me to believe the situation may well be hopeless. The Republican Party has allowed itself to be taken over y a small cadre of basically know-nothing ideologues who seem to believe their thoughtless pledge to an unelected nitwit is more important than their duty to their country. Unhappily there are just enough of them to cause our country to come to a standstill. Virtually nothing can be accomplished while these fools blissfully lead our nation into eventual oblivion. And what is worse, there seems nothing can be done about it, at least until another two years have passed, and even then it is not clear anything can be done about it. I do not believe the Founding Fathers ever visualized a time when one of our two political parties would simply refuse to participate in governing. In most other countries there would be a solution to what I believe to be near treason, but we seem to be helpless in the face of such obvious neglect of duty. We are, I think, on the verge of hopelessness. But I have not completely given up yet, I cling to two possibilities, (1) perhaps we can hold on until 2014 when maybe these nitwits can be eliminated, and (2) I am old enough that suicide will be unnecessary.
My depression/hopelessness was not ameliorated today when Wayne Lapierre, Executive Director of the NRA, provided us with their “meaningful suggestions for action.” Among other things he said was, “The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them.” Unfortunately Lapierre himself is one of these monsters. As a shill for the gun industry for years he has just as much blood on his hands as if he himself has been pulling the trigger. As usual he blamed everyone for the problem of gun violence in our country, the movies, television, music, everything but guns. Indeed, for a while I thought he would manage to get through his absurd account with no mention of guns whatsoever. But finally he did mention guns, suggesting that the only way to prevent gun violence was more gun violence. His solution, carried to its logical conclusion, would have every citizen in the U.S. armed and prepared to defend him/herself from the apparent multitude of demons prepared to attack them at any moment. He would turn all our schools into armed institutions, arm all our teachers, and thus somehow prevent lunatics armed with assault rifles from killing anyone, an idea so implausible and idiotic I am surprised he didn’t choke on it. He also said, “The only way to prevent bad guys with guns from harming us is good guys with guns,” an idea he must have carried over from his days of watching Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers.  I would like to say that Lapierre is an idiot, and perhaps he is, but more importantly he represents the gun manufacturers and the more guns he can sell the more they profit, and they have certainly been doing well of late. Why the more respectable gun owners in the NRA, the ones who started the organization in the first place, let this ridiculous extremist take over their organization is a mystery to me. Their inattention to their legitimate aims may eventually doom them to extinction. I don’t know if Lapierre actually believe all of the nonsense he peddles, I doubt he does, but whether he does or not he is an evil man promoting more evil all in the service of more profit for a much too unregulated business. Ordinary citizens do not need assault rifles or other military hardware, they probably do not even need handguns, but, hey, anything for a buck. I sincerely advise serious gun control believers to not let this become just another hopeless issue for an increasingly hopeless nation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Well, Damnit, Is it or isn't it, Does it or doesn't it!

Social Security, I have seen and been told by various individuals and news sources, is completely “Off the table.” Similarly, I have been informed repeatedly that Social Security does not have anything whatsoever to do with the deficit. Presumably not everyone agrees with this as it seems Obama may (or may not ) have agreed to cuts in that program during his negotiations with Republicans. Progressives are outraged over this possibility, and for good reason. I have no idea if Obama is indeed going to agree to cuts in Social Security or not (I sincerely hope he is not). In any case why is it so difficult to know whether it adds to the deficit or not, or whether or not it is off the table. This would seem to me to be a pretty straightforward question. I personally believe those who say it has nothing to do with the deficit, but I’m not so sure about whether it is off the table or not. It is apparently not for Republicans who keep worrying over it like a dog with a bone that has been buried several times and has been devoid of sustenance for years, they just somehow keep hoping they will get somewhere with their persistent attempt to destroy it, as they have been trying to do ever since FDR managed to create it so many years ago. Social Security is the greatest government program ever enacted, it has been unbelievably successful, and ought to be expanded.
I fear we are going to have the same situation with the issue of gun control, no matter what Obama might accomplish, there will be those (mostly Republicans, of course) that will never give up in their attempts to arm ever man, woman, and child in America. Even now there are those like Governor Perry of Texas who argues that teachers should be armed, and he is not alone in this completely demented idea (don’t forget Congressman Louie from Texas and many others). How anyone in their right mind (which, unfortunately, I guess eliminates most of these gun nuts) could possibly believe the solution to gun violence is to add more guns is a complete mystery to me. But if that is what they want I suggest they should not stop with merely arming teachers, they should arm the children as well. I suggest that every child entering school for the first grade should receive, along with their other school supplies, a handgun of their choice. You know, either a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol, maybe pink or lavender (they actually produce guns of these colors these days, presumably for ladies) that will fit easily into their childish hands. I have no doubt this idea will absolutely delight the gun manufacturers who have bought the Republican Party to promote and market their product of misery and death. The subject of guns could be part of the regular curriculum just like readin,’ ritin,’ and ‘rithmatic. Among other benefits this would acquaint them with the metric system (6.25 mm equals .25 caliber, 9mm equals .38 caliber, and etc.). As they move up in school they could graduate to bigger and more powerful guns and ammunition, master ballistics and hollow points, concealed weaponry, how to shoot first and ask questions later, stand your ground, and such, until, upon graduation, they could receive as a graduation gift the gun of their choice (probably nothing bigger than .50 caliber). There could be courses in shooting various weapons (maybe starting at first with spear throwing and archery) and fast-draw tournaments (perhaps even knife throwing as an occasional diversion), as part of the regular school sports program.
Such a program would have certain benefits. For example, after a generation or two there would be no one running around with a gun without having been well trained in its operation. There would be a well-trained public in small arms use (unless you wanted to expand the program into the really big stuff) that could easily take up arms in the advent of hostilities (if they so desired, but this could backfire). It would create lots of jobs manufacturing guns, also require more teachers and staff, and so on. It would make the manufacturers money hand over fist and create a demand for certain natural resources benefitting miners, and so on. It would also most likely put an end to bullying as an inscription once found on a handgun suggested: “Be not afraid of any man, no matter what his size, just call on me my friend for I will equalize.”   
Of course on the downside it would no longer be necessary to buy Congresspersons thus forcing them to sell out to someone else. It might also lead to gunfights in the alleys behind the schools as children would probably rather shoot than fight. More importantly, it would doubtless lead to much more gun violence than already exists because if everyone was armed and attempted to shoot those who were shooting at them there would be chaos and more and more deaths. Furthermore, unless there was some way to discriminate against some children you would be training the wrong ones as well as the rest. And finally, the militarization of American culture, already an international problem, would become much worse. Actually I don’t think this is a good idea, don’t know why I even thought of it, and I’m sorry for wasting both my and your time.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Claptrap, a useful word we rarely hear anymore, but a perfect description of much of what we are now hearing from Republicans, especially those on the religious right. The NRA itself has been remarkably silent and absent for the past three days but not so some of their obvious sympathizers. Perhaps the most outrageous claim came from Mike Huckabee, who seems to think that “leaving God out of our schools” is what caused the terrible tragedy at the Sandy Hook school. And of course there is the usual chorus from those who seem to believe that the answer to gun violence should be the addition of more guns. Louie “What’s his face,” a Representative from Texas, who is living proof that one can be elected to high office (at least in Texas) even though completely lacking a brain, expressed his great sorrow that the Principal who gave her life trying to stop the shooter did not have her own weapon so she could have “blown his head off” before he could carry out his massacre. Along those same lines, Governor Snyder in Michigan is prepared to sign a bill into law that would allow weapons to be carried into churches and elementary schools. There are many Republicans that subscribe to the completely illogical, even completely nonsensical  belief, that if people only had more guns this would solve the problem of gun violence. And there are still those who argue passionately that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” That is true, guns do not jump up and murder people on their own, but people who have easy access to millions of guns (9 guns for every 10 people in the U.S.) kill people far more easily than those who do not  have such easy access. It is unfortunately true, we are genuinely awash in an ocean of guns and violence. Even most “Savages” did better at social control than we do.
I am trying very hard to suppress my atheistic urge to comment on the recent ecumenical treatment of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. It seems that people of several different faiths agree (more or less) that “God the Father,” who looks after us and cares for us, has called his children “back to heaven” (or whatever), and is that same “Father,” supposedly both omnipresent and omnipotent, who just allowed the slaughter of 20 innocent children and 6 heroic adults. He/She/It is believed somehow to be a benevolent supernatural being worthy of our uncritical adoration. To me this is just another version of claptrap, but if it really does make people feel better about this cruel, unjust, inexplicable, horrible tragedy, that is fine. It doesn’t do that for me.
Our virtually useless “one story” media allows us to not even think about the tragedies that occur on a daily basis in Gaza, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere in the world. While we pretend we can afford to rule the entire world we cannot afford to hear about it as that is apparently too expensive (reporters have to be paid), so much for private enterprise. Of course there is the distinct possibility that those who control our news don’t want us to hear about it, or know about it, or think about it, or comment on it, or talk about it, or form opinions about it, and it would certainly not do were we to try to do anything about it. Such is life in the little bubble of six-packs, sports, TV garbage, do-nothing politics, and local tragedies (Lawrence O'Donnell is now interviewing two people who were Middle School students of the dead Principal 12 years ago!) we are allowed to experience, such is life in the “greatest country on earth” in the early years of the 21st century.

When I went to bed last night there was one inch of snow on the ground. This morning there was a good 14 inches, maybe slightly more. I have been snowbound all day, perhaps I will be again tomorrow. But not to worry, I have my cats to keep me warm, food and drink, and, mercifully, lots of books.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guns! Again!

So here we are once again having a discussion of guns and gun control. As you doubtless know this latest concern with guns was motivated by the slaughter of 20 innocent young children and 6 noble adults trying to protect them. As you also know this is hardly the first time we have had to endure mass killings involving guns. Will anything meaningful happen this time to control guns or will it be like all the other times, just talk and no action. I am hoping for the best, at least a semblance of common sense and at least a minimum of control, but don’t bet on it.
On the one hand this can be seen as a pretty easy and straightforward task, controlling guns, that is. I don’t believe there can be a truly successful way of controlling all guns in the U.S., and there will always be some deranged minds that will violate whatever rules or laws there may be with respect to guns. The simplest way to approach the subject is to just consider what kinds of guns are involved. As we have a history of hunting in the U.S. that still continues there are hunters who need their guns, shotguns and rifles. So be it. Then there is the question of handguns, revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, arguably valuable for home or personal protection. Hunting, except perhaps in rare rural instances is basically an anachronism, certainly not a necessity as it once was. It is now considered a sport rather than a necessity and much of it is conducted for trophies. Personally, I think trophy hunting is disgusting but I doubt there is any chance it will be abandoned soon. Anyway, granting the legitimacy of hunting, either for sport or meat, it is obvious that shotguns and rifles are here to stay.
This leaves the more gnarly issue of handguns. Many people, like myself, own handguns. They have no purpose other than presumably offer home and personal protection. Many people believe this is a perfectly sensible use of such otherwise basically useless guns. I suspect it is only in exceedingly rare cases that such firearms are ever employed, but let us grant the legitimacy of owning such weapons.
This brings us to the more difficult question of guns, gun ownership, and types of guns, particularly those guns that have no use other than basically killing other people, military type arms like assault weapons, special high-powered ammunition, silencers, and enlarged magazines capable of giving a shooter more firepower. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to own or use such weapons and arguments to the contrary are basically absurd. Some say we need such weapons to protect ourselves from our government. The idea that a few individuals with AK 47’s or even 50 caliber machine guns can protect themselves from the state or federal governments is no more than a kind of childish fantasy. Another argument, that if everyone had a gun, we would be protected from others with guns is equally foolish. To say, for example, that if the wife of the football player who shot her and then himself would have perhaps lived had she had a gun makes no sense at all. Let’s say she might have lived, but then he might have died, or even worse, both of them might have died. And the idea that if people in movie theaters were armed they could have protected themselves from a shooter is equally fantastic, unless, of course, you envision an all-out battle in which many more would be killed. Similarly, the notion that if you have extra rounds to fire you might be safer assumes that individuals killed with guns are killed after several minutes or hours of firing back and forth at each other, not a situation that actually occurs, except in the movies about the standoff at the OK corral.
No useful purpose is served by ordinary citizens owning assault rifles, high caliber machines guns, extra magazines, and so on, none. Nor does it make sense for people to go armed to church, schools, and bars. This idea seems to assume that the people you might encounter there are just as crazy as you are, a very unlikely case to be sure. The major problem here, I think, is that those in charge of the NRA are lunatics. Maybe they are not lunatics but, if not, they are psychopaths who believe that enriching themselves by promoting the deaths of others is somehow a legitimate profession. Apparently promoting guns, and more guns, and thus enriching the gun manufacturers and themselves is considered by some to be a respectable. It is not. It is anti-social at best, and at worst an attack on government and society in general.  But it is also much more complicated than it seems. Someone observed the other day that we are awash in an ocean of guns, which is true, but more importantly we are awash in a culture of violence. Our entertainment has become more and more violent over time. The vast majority of our movies and television programs feature violence, our video games likewise, our favorite sports, all violent, and not only violent often the worst kind of violence, scenes that would never have been allowed when I was growing up. Sure, we had cowboys and Indians, and detectives and such, but the violence depicted was nowhere near what it is today, and the good guys always won. Now, even as a nation, we believe the way to achieve our goals is through violence. And that violence leads to more violence and on, ad infinitum.
There are so many guns in the U.S. I do not believe there is much of a solution to the problem of guns in general. But at the very least we could ban assault weapons, enhanced clips, and all of the military-type hardware that has no place in a civil society, and we could insist upon universal background checks. I hope we will soon do so.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Marketing Misinformation and False Sincerity

I do not mean in any way to diminish the horror and the agony of the terrible tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was a tragedy almost beyond belief made even more tragic by the unusually young age of the innocent victims. It is unfortunately also an example of how the media markets misinformation thus providing an excuse for days of advertising revenue.
I don’t remember the precise details of all the coverage of this horrible event, but I remember enough to know the media, as usual, simply cannot or will not wait for the facts to become known. As I recall at first we were told there had been a shooting but they didn’t know anything about it, then we were told that the Principal had been shot by a 24 year-old man. We learned nothing of children being victims until sometime later when we were told 28 children were dead, then there was the claim the shooter had first shot his father at home, went to the school where his mother was a teacher and shot her and some children. Finally it was 20 children and 6 adults. Granted the story changed as more and more information was being obtained, but why could the media not have waited at least for a time instead of reporting every new piece of (often) faulty information. They could have at least waited until the final body count. And, of course, while all this was going on there was the speculation about how it could have happened, what could have been the motive, what did the ex FBI profiler think might have happened, what kind of personality might have been involved, and on and on about questions that could not possibly have been answered. Even some of the children were forced in front of the camera and microphone to describe what they had seen and heard! This coverage in my opinion was absolutely shameful, but of course the media thrives on misery and death and rarely passes up an opportunity to cash in on it. Of course I want to know something about it, but do I really have to listen to the uncles and aunts of some of the children, someone who once drove a bus he rode on, people who knew the teacher (who was not, in fact, a teacher), every passerby who can be cajoled into giving an interview, psychologists who know nothing about the perpetrator but analyze him/her, those who confess to knowing nothing of the facts of the case but offer us their opinions anyway? This coverage went on for hours, even days, and is not over yet. How many television ads do you think you were exposed to during all this time? And it was not as if there were no other stories anywhere in the world that might well have been of equal or even greater importance, our drones killing innocent children, the civil war in Syria, the troubles in Egypt, our terrible sanctions on Iran (mostly harming innocent women and children)and so on. No, for many hours the media was focused on this one story, although grievously horrible, mostly just giving them a (relatively cheap) excuse for more and more television ads rather than any other important news. The media seems no longer to exist for the purpose of bringing us “all the news all the time,” but , rather, the one story of the moment they can exploit to the maximum. So much for what used to be proudly considered “The Fourth Estate.”
 And what else do we get in increasingly large doses from our media – advertising. Advertising that consists almost exclusively of individuals with a capacity and talent for false sincerity. I think Fred Thompson may be one of the best examples with his serious pitch for reverse mortgages, but virtually all of our ads are predicated on the same use of false sincerity, for beauty creams, deodorant, kitchen ware, automobiles, toothpaste, loans, travel, insurance, credit cards, medicines, and virtually everything and anything else you might imagine. And in most cases we are confronted with pretty girls, dignified actors, hardworking housewives, and even children, looking directly into the camera and telling us in all (false) sincerity just how great their product is. It is highly doubtful in most cases the hucksters have ever even used the products they assure us are wonderful.
When you consider how much of television time is taken up either by ads or by endless premature and inaccurate reports on the latest sensational “news” I think it is entirely fair to say they are making their money by marketing false sincerity and misinformation. Sad, but true, and we seem to just accept this as an ordinary and expected part of our lives, modern day snake oil for the “Rubes.” I confess to being one of them but I am trying more and more not to be one.    
Carl L. Becker

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why do It?

I cannot help but wonder why it is Republicans do the things they do. The Michigan legislature, for example, a lame duck bunch if ever there was one, has been busy passing all kinds of things that they have to know are not popular and not in the public interest, anti union stuff, anti abortion stuff, and so on. It is pretty clear that these things (I do not know what else to call them) are eventually going to have to be changed which will result more or less in their being returned to their original form. I cannot believe these idiots can possibly believe they are going to pass things that are going to stay passed and that will eventually be overturned. So what is the point of passing them in the first place? The only outcome of this lame duck nonsense will be to create confusion and waste a great deal of time. Perhaps that is what they intended. I cannot see any other purpose in passing things that the public does not want just because you have the temporary means to do so.
Similarly, why is Boehner holding up the vote in the House that would maintain the tax breaks for 98% of the taxpayers. He must know this is inevitable, it is going to happen, and holding it up merely creates an enormous waste of time and also does nothing to improve the image of Republicans. So why does he do it? He cannot possibly believe that by doing this he is going to stop Obama from raising the tax rate on multi-millionaires and billionaires. Maybe it is true that he is simply waiting either for the very last minute to demonstrate to his Tea Partyers that he did what he could, maybe he is waiting until he is re-elected as Speaker of the House, maybe he is just helpless in the hands of idiots. In any case this is just another complete waste of time. The House could be co-operating in doing the public’s business but I guess they are too busy doing what they are being bribed to do. This is most certainly not the way our so-called democracy is supposed to work.
I hope John McCain and his creepy little sidekick, Lindsey Graham, are happy with their disgusting “victory” over Susan Rice. I’m not at all certain she was the best person for the job of Secretary of State, but I do know their attack on her was vicious and unfounded. First of all, contrary to their slanderous remarks, she was eminently qualified for the job. Second, their attempt to characterize her as stupid merely revealed their own stupidity. A graduate of Stanford, a Rhodes Scholar, a Ph.D. from Oxford, 20 years of successful public service does not indicate stupidity on her part. They could have attacked her on her record but by attacking her as a person, knowing that as U.N. Ambassador she could not easily fight back, they simply revealed their cowardice (and most probably racism). McCain is, among other things, a vindictive poor loser. Rice apparently at one time made some remarks against him, and of course Obama defeated him in the election, so mounting this sleazy attack on her helped him get revenge on both of them.
So here we are again, starting to talk about 2016 even though the 2012 election is barely over. I think this is ridiculous. But as everyone is doing it I guess I will comment. Will Hillary run for President in 2016? Yes, I believe she will. She no doubt deserves and requires some rest for her many hectic years in public life, but I cannot believe that a woman as ambitious as Hillary will pass up the chance to become the first female President of the United States. And, if Obama has a successful second term and then supports her, along with her husband, she should easily win (not that running for President should be considered easy). If she were running and the election was coming up soon she would certainly win. I can’t see any potential Republican candidate that could beat her, and if Republicans run the same kind of second and third rate candidates they ran this time they would fully deserve another beating.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Remembering the Past

It was George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Generally speaking I tend to believe the past never really repeats itself as things do inevitably change, the same conditions do not usually exist, and even people’s attitudes and values change dramatically over time. However, something is happening now in the United States that may very well prove Santayana right.
The best example of this is occurring right now in Michigan although this is just the most recent manifestation of what seems to be happening more widely throughout our country. We seem to be approaching the brink of a repetition of the terrible labor wars of the 1920’s and 30’s, when the labor unions fought and finally won concessions from the “robber barons” and corporations that were so shamelessly exploiting them. The current corporate interests and the obscenely wealthy that have benefitted so generously in recent years seem to have forgotten the lessons of the past. They are currently attacking labor unions in a blatant attempt to destroy them and so far have been moderately successful. The terrible imbalance between the haves and the have-nots is every bit as great now as it has ever been and very similar to the conditions that led to the great union wars of the 20’s and 30’s. I guess people have forgotten just how terrible these “wars” were, when corporate thugs and “Pinkertons” were hired to beat and kill union organizers and the workers fought back so violently. At the moment the focus seems to be on Michigan where the labor unions are believed to have come into maturity in the city of Flint. But that was not the only locus of union activity by any means. Right here in North Idaho, in the silver mines around Wallace, Burke, Gem, Mullan, Kellogg, and other small mining towns, the battle was joined between the two factions. At one point union members commandeered a train and dynamite and blew up the Bunker Hill Smelter in Kellogg. This was after years of violence during which both miners and strikebreakers lost their lives. And of course there were the famous garment workers strikes, the automobile strikes, the longshoremen’s strikes and so on. It was a terrible time and out of the violence finally grew the 40 hour work week, Sundays off, the eight hour day, vacations, health care, and so on. I’m sure that one of the reasons the labor unions have been weakened in recent years is because so many people alive today do not remember this history of violence and tend to take for granted the 40 hour work week and etc. Either they are not aware of what conditions were like prior to the union movement or they have simply forgotten. Twelve hour work days were by no means uncommon, there were no benefits, the pay was meager, and the suffering was great.
I suspect that some of our current billionaires and multi-millionaires are aware of this history and are now rather begrudgingly suggesting that perhaps they should pay a bit more in taxes before it is too late and the people with their pitchforks will once again arise. Even these more enlightened souls are not offering a great deal, just enough to placate the threatening masses, but their less enlightened peers seem unmoved by the plight of ordinary citizens and are still clamoring for more and more. So far there has not been much violence but we have now seen the divisiveness they are creating between the pro-union workers and those who prefer to benefit from the unions without paying their fair share of the costs. A bit of violence broke out in Michigan when a Fox reporter was punched out. I think there is little doubt that the frustration engendered by Governor Snyder’s sneak attack on the unions in Michigan could very well eventually lead to aggression and violence. In fact, if things do not change and the terrible imbalance in wealth continues I would not be surprised to see the whole country rise up in protest. The re-election of Barack Obama sent a clear message of where public sentiment lies and if Obama fails in his attempt to change things I can only imagine the situation will get worse. And it’s really not much that Obama is requesting from the obscenely wealthy, a paltry 3 or 4 % raise in their taxes. Republicans are making a serious mistake if they persist in insisting on protecting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. They don’t seem to perceive they are waving the red flag in front of the bull. They have now successfully robbed the middle class and the poor for years, weakened the unions, reduced wages and other benefits, plunged millions into poverty, stolen their homes and pensions and still want more. I do not believe this can continue much longer, nor should it, and if it does the consequences may be far more serious than is apparently anticipated.
I would not be surprised to learn there has already been more violence and conflict than we have been told about by the MSM as the media itself is in the pockets of the oppressors. They will not tell us the truth about anything that does not serve their purposes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Nits make Lice"

During the horrible (American) Indian wars in the 1860’s one of the famous (or, more properly, infamous) Indian fighters was one Colonel John M. Chivington, who believed it was his duty to kill Indians:
“When it was pointed out to him that attacking Black Kettle’s peaceful camp would be ‘murder in every sense of the word,’ Chivington became angry and replied, ‘Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians. I have come to kill Indians and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians.’”
The “any means” included all Indians, old people, women, children, and even infants as well as warriors, and it also meant, literally, any means:
“The people tried to run and hide but the soldiers murdered indiscriminately, men, women, children, even infants. They pulled little children and women out from their hiding places in the rocks and killed them all. Eyewitness accounts indicated that all the bodies were scalped but beyond that they were also mutilated. Men, women, and children’s genitals were cut out and displayed in various manners. Some soldiers stretched the women’s genitals over their saddle horns, others wore them on their hats or carried them around on sticks. Fingers were cut off and infants were abandoned to die. All of this was apparently done with the full knowledge of Chivington who had declared previously in a speech in which he advocated killing and scalping all Indians, including infants, as ‘Nits make lice!’”
This was not unusual during the heyday of colonialism. Here is a similar example from Australia:
 “It was commonplace that when a settler was killed posses would be formed and every Aborigine they came across was slaughtered, men, women, and children, no exceptions. “Suppose you don’t kill the pickaninnis, in time they become warriors and kill you. If you kill the women, no more piccaninnis are born.” (a native policeman, 1857).
Having no first -hand experience in combat I do not know what atrocities are committed these days other than the few that occasionally get reported. I suspect it is true that things may not be not quite as terrible as they once were. I doubt that modern soldiers actually kill infants by bashing them against rocks, bayoneting them and such, and perhaps never murder infants at all (except as collateral damage). However, it seems the Israelis seem never to have been shy about killing Palestinian children, sometimes even at play (there have been many reports of this), and if you know the Israelis would like nothing better than to be rid of the Palestinians (which they have made quite clear) I believe there may well be a parallel here.
More to the point here is that according to the Military Times, the U.S. army now has a policy of killing Afghan children if they are suspected of having “potential hostile intent.” I think this statement came about as the result of a recent admission that three young boys had been killed by our military. As the boys, 8, 10, and 12, were digging in the ground we are being led to believe this represents hostile intent. Young boys digging in the ground, how unusual! I don’t know the real particulars of this but I do know that killing children because they might have potential hostile intent is insanely immoral. Things change but stay the same, it’s just as disgusting now as it ever was.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Is it Possible?

Can it be that perhaps, maybe, possibly, hopefully, incredibly, Bibi Yahoo has finally gone too far and the world community will react so strongly he will have to back down? I know this seems improbable, but apparently his new settlement plan involves building 3000 new Israeli homes on the one last strip of land that will render a two state solution impossible. It does seem to be the case that virtually everyone is now outraged about this latest Israeli war crime. I assume this means that anyone or everyone interested in the two state solution, if they are truly committed to that, will have to intervene or just acknowledge there will not be such a solution. Will the U.S., that has claimed all along to favor the two state solution, and is the one power that might be able to do something about this latest outrage, finally  take meaningful action against it? I wouldn’t bet on it.
What will happen if Israel is allowed to actually build these homes and kill the possibility of a viable Palestinian state? It seems to me there are only two alternatives: (l) the result will be an Israel that has managed to fracture the Palestinian community into a bunch of small, insignificant communities spread out over the fringe, or (2) a one state apartheid nation with a large population of second class citizens that will eventually outnumber the Israelis. This second possibility will eventually mean the end of any pretense of a Jewish state, the first will probably mean the same thing but only after a much longer time span. Personally, I think Netanyahu’s decision to build these settlements is basically suicidal, but there seems to be no limit to his colonialism and greed. President Obama has once again asked Israel not to further expand their settlements, but if he does not act drastically to prevent it he will once again simply be baying at the moon. Of course even if he tries to take serious steps against this latest Israeli outrage our nitwit Congress that mindlessly supports all Israeli war crimes will probably block him from doing much of anything. We will probably see dega vu all over again, all talk, no action. The Israeli tail not only wags the U.S. dog, it apparently wags the entire world community as well. All hail Benjamin Netanyhu, Dictator of the Middle East!
Things here on the home front don’t seem to be doing much better. Republicans apparently cannot accept that Obama won the election and is trying to do the bidding of the American public. They cannot give up their support for the billionaires and multi-millionaires that are keeping them in office. One would think their obsessive concern for protecting the obscenely wealthy was entirely irrational were it not for the fact they are being paid generously to do so. And many of them simply cannot accept a Black President no matter what he does. They cannot hide their racism no matter how many code words and innuendoes they employ. Their racism, along with their homophobia, will eventually go the way of the Dodo bird as the younger generations do not accept it. Out of the mouths of babes does, indeed, come wisdom.
Winter seems finally to have come to Sandhill. We now have snow that stays on the ground and it is cold, not North Dakota or Minnesota cold, but cold. I think it was 15 degrees this morning, there is ice on our country road, and I suppose it will stay this way until about March. I don’t mind the snow. I hate the ice, and I don’t really like being cold (age, I guess). I also confess to not being enthralled by the holiday season, the period from November through New Year’s Eve seems to be much more ado about merchandising and not so much about good cheer, fellowship, and peace on earth in spite of the pretense. It will be harder this year without my wonderful wife, but I have a fine son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. I count my blessings.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Please Wake Me...

Please wake me when something actually happens, when the six year-olds that seem to be in charge of the Republican Party finally are forced to face reality and are made to do something positive for our nation. You know, those six year-olds that have been bribed by the obscenely wealthy to insure they can be made even more obscenely wealthy. The same six year-olds that, along with their MSM allies, want us to believe they are engaging in something called “government,” when in fact they are actually engaged in a giant criminal conspiracy to convert taxpayer money into more and more wealth for the upper 2% of the population. We have had quite enough of posturing, pretending, procrastination, prostitution, and prevarication. We are now well enough aware that the upper 2% are not truly “job creators” and their pretense to be such is nothing more than an example of propaganda at its worst.
I find it almost unbelievably ridiculous that we are arguing over whether or not the fantastically wealthy should be an additional 3 or 4% more in taxes when we could be arguing they should be paying far more as they have traditionally done. Taxes on the wealthy are apparently at an all time low and over time have fluctuated at times from the current percent to as much as 90% during the Eisenhower administration. At a time when we desperately need more revenue this argument over a small percentage of revenue from individuals so wealthy they probably wouldn’t even notice it (unless their team of tax lawyers pointed it out to them) is, frankly, mystifying, if not just plain silly. Four percent may seem a lot of money to those of us who do not have it, but it is basically just “chump change” to those who do. As those, mostly in the Tea Party, who oppose raising taxes on the wealthy are not themselves all that wealthy, I can only surmise their motivation for resisting increases must have to do with their being bribed to do the bidding of those who are bribing them to resist. Or, perhaps, they are in fact stupid enough to believe that government can exist and fulfill its obligations without collecting taxes. Even worse, they may believe government has no obligations to its citizens and should just stand by and watch them suffer and die. Their philosophy seems to be merely, “he who has, gets” (and he who don’t have don’t get). It’s the Republican way!
I find it more than merely curious that you often hear some people claim that the only way to solve the deficit is to cut “entitlements,” Medicare, Medicaid, Food stamps, unemployment insurance, even Social Security (that has nothing to do with the deficit). You rarely hear anyone seriously mention the defense budget which apparently gobbles up fully fifty percent of our taxes and is so outrageously overfunded as to be completely absurd. I honestly believe we could cut this bloated gift to the military/industrial/political complex by 50% and not be any the less safe. No other nation on earth is about to attack us with a developed war machine, we have no earthly use for tanks and other heavy ordinance, and the threats we do face come from small bands of terrorists rather than militarized nations. The money we spend on defense is only partly for defense and mostly to enrich the corporations that are engaged in manufacturing war equipment we don’t really need. Furthermore, we certainly no longer need to maintain troops in places like Germany and Japan and most of the other somewhere around 150 other bases around the world. Nor do we need to hand Israeli 3 or 4 billion or more a year.
And speaking of Israel, is no one, not even the majority of nations that oppose their criminal behavior, going to ever reign them in? In full view of the entire world Israel is committing war crimes, stealing land that belongs to the Palestinians, herding Palestinians into Gaza where they are kept in prison-like conditions, assassinating their leaders at will, bombing innocent civilians, and so on, and deliberately blocking any genuine attempt at a just settlement with them. Our shame is that we are deliberately aiding them in their criminal behavior.  Will it never end? It appears probably not. We prefer, I guess, to continue our sanctions on Iranian civilians, especially children, apparently because we believe the Israelis when they falsely claim Iran is a danger not only to them but to the entire world. I am still living in fear of Iranian missiles, submarines, battleships, and landing craft. What a bunch of absolute crap! There will never be peace in the Middle East until Israel is “curbed.” Unfortunately, the only nation that could curb them would be the U.S., which prefers to join them. 
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Reward and Punishment

It is often said, by those who wish to protect the very wealthy, that it is not fair to raise their taxes because, “Why should we punish success?” The more appropriate question in my mind is why should we reward their success, when you consider the nature of that “success?”
Let us say, at least for the sake of the argument, that for any given polity, whether it be a county, state, or nation, there is a finite amount of resources available to the members of that polity. That is, there is only so much timber, so many minerals, so much tillable land, so many rivers, lakes, or so much seashore, so many fish and animals, and so on. There is likewise only so much available labor. These various resources can be converted into “capital,” and similarly into “profit.” The only way someone can profit is by the exploitation of the natural resources, including labor. As Marx so insightfully observed, capital represents dead labor (labor that has been used up, exploited).
If success is measured by the amount of capital someone possesses it ought to be fair to consider the source of that capital, namely the exploitation of resources that belong to the polity, including labor. Members of the polity have to be taxed to provide the services and the superstructure necessary for the polity to continue to function. Your taxes, then, should be based on how much capital you have accrued in a given amount of time through your labor or exploitation of resources. Thus, if you are taxed on the capital you have gained, one would expect that those who have gained the most capital should pay the most in taxes, as what they gained has been at the expense of the resources held by the entire polity (basically the community).
Obviously this is a gross oversimplification if you live in a system where some individuals “own” more of the available resources than others, where both land labor are regarded as a commodities, and even money, too, is also considered a commodity. But as Karl Polanyi pointed out, land, labor, and money are really false commodities, land being the environment, labor being human behavior, and money an artificial creation. I would argue this should not absolve anyone from having to pay a fair amount of the community taxes. It’s fair enough (if you want it to be) that some people own more land than others, or can command more labor, or happen to have more resources on the land they own, but they are still using more of the available resources than others and should not be rewarded for it. To say they should have to pay more in taxes is punishing success is simply not the case unless they are actually being taxed at a higher rate than everyone else. Paying a fair share is not a form of either reward or punishment.
I realize this probably sounds somewhat nonsensical, especially in the context of the tax basis in the United States. We, of course, do not pay taxes on the basis of how many resources we exploit. We pay taxes, or do not pay taxes, depending upon all sorts of complicated formulae having to do with precisely how you made your capital, whether your worked for it or simply inherited it and have it invested, how many homes you own, and where, whether it is used for business rather than pleasure, whether your pleasure is also considered business, what can be amortized, what is considered taxable income and what is not, where your money is located in the world, and so on and on in the most complicated manner imaginable. Probably the only people who pay taxes directly on how much capital they have garnered in a year are ordinary working people who pay taxes on their salaries (and cars, food, services, and etc.).
Curiously, it doesn’t really matter whether you live in a capitalistic society or not, because in any case those who exploit the environment and labor the most are using more resources than others but are not usually being taxed at the same level as those who use less. Those who exploit the most are doubly blessed because not only do they benefit from the basic exploitation involved, they also benefit from paying fewer taxes, and in some cases no taxes at all.
In all communities there are finite resources although the precise enumeration of them may be impossible. There are also some individuals who by dint of harder work or more talent, or perhaps even inheritance, manage to use more of the community resources than others. In reality this is understandable, and in principle may even be fair, but only if they are required to pay for their “success” at the same rate as others. This does not mean you are taking from the rich to give to the poor, it means everyone is paying their fair share of what they gain from exploiting the available resources. I suppose one could argue that those who exploit the most should actually pay even higher taxes because their exploitation diminishes the opportunities for others.
Obviously this is all too complicated for me. I guess this is why I liked living with the “primitives” in the New Guinea Highlands. The “Big Men” (men with a “name”) exploited their multiple wives and their surroundings, it is true, but what they achieved was basically prestige, and what they gained materially was inevitably shared with the community. Give me the simple life!
 The best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Let's Get "Real"

I think I am suffering from some kind of delusional crisis. I cannot decide whether I am smarter than others or so crazy as to merely think I am. I know that I agree with Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, but apparently not with many others, and I cannot understand why there is so much confusion over what seems to me (and Krugman) to be so perfectly obvious. Krugman has said recently that only the Federal Government has enough resources to create jobs. T hat is, if we want to create more jobs it is up to the Government to create them. This seems perfectly obvious to me, but  it is apparently not at all obvious to others, mostly Republicans, who seem to believe the Government has no business creating jobs (and, according to some, cannot do so). This implies that the creation of jobs is something that should be left to the private sector, a belief I think is truly far-fetched.
We currently live in a culture that has changed over the years from an agrarian economy into an industrial economy. Accompanying this change has been mechanization, automation, technological innovations, and the appearance of robotic manufacturing. This has resulted in a situation where far fewer people can produce the necessities and wants of the entire population. When a single farmer  can produce what used to require a dozen or so, or when robots can replace several people on an assembly line, or there are even automatic self check-out stations in supermarkets, and so on, it should be obvious that fewer and fewer employees are required to do what was formerly done by many more. When you couple this with an economic system that treats labor as a commodity, and preys on an overabundant supply of labor, both locally and worldwide, it is absurd to believe the private sector is going to provide jobs for all. Corporations and the various businesses that make up our demand for labor are making record profits, obviously with the employees they currently have. Why, then, would they hire more employees? Obviously they do not hire people just out of the goodness of their hearts, they hire them for the purpose of exploiting their labor for profit. Thus to expect the private sector to create jobs over and above their needs is a false expectation. So, then, what is to happen to the large surplus of labor (people) that exist(s) for which there are no jobs?
When there is a large surplus of labor and no jobs for them one obvious solution is to let them simply starve to death and die. Most societies on earth think this is not a moral or just solution. This is why there are things like unemployment insurance, social security, various forms of the “dole,” and so on. Another obvious solution is for Government to provide jobs of various kinds. These do not have to be simply “make-work” jobs, but can also include such required positions as policemen, firemen, teachers, social workers, construction workers, and even in some cases, artists and writers. In extreme cases Government can create organizations such as the Civilian Conservation Corps that can also provide useful services as they did under the Roosevelt Administration. In any case, unless a society is willing to simply write off its surplus population to poverty, sickness, and slow death, it has to provide employment  or at least some form of subsidy to those in need. I gather our current Republican Party favors the slow death arrangement as they seem to be opposed to anything that might make the lives of ordinary people more comfortable: minimum wages, unemployment insurance, government  jobs, health care, and etc.
All of this seems perfectly obvious to me, and, I gather, to Paul Krugman as well, so I think I am in good company. But why it does not seem obvious to others I do not know. Either they do not understand it or they do understand it but just don’t care, or they are so terrified of anything that even remotely resembles “socialism,” their minds are closed to any thought at all.
In New Guinea, where I worked for a time, when someone has their hair cut (which is not often if at all) they and their friends actually mourn for the loss. Today I finally took the final step and had my stupid comb over removed entirely. It turned out nowhere near as bad as I feared, but I am in mourning just  the same, still another step on my journey to the west.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Participating in Disaster

I have been haunted of late that I am participating in a great disaster that is inevitably going to destroy not only myself but also my species. Perhaps not myself as I will probably not last long enough to see the end of times. I do not mean Armageddon, I mean the real end of times, the point at which the earth is no longer able to sustain a species so stupid as to preside over its own demise. My participation in this coming disaster is not really by choice but is a result of things largely if not completely out of my control. Oh, it’s true I can choose not use so many plastic bottles (actually I do not use plastic bottles), and I occasionally remember to bring my own cloth bag to the grocery store, but I cannot avoid using plastic bags and other plastic objects no matter how hard I try. I feel guilty about this as I know that plastic is already fouling our oceans and our landfills but it seems virtually impossible to live without plastic these days. When I occasionally have to go to the dump (to mostly throw away more plastic) and observe the mounds of trash that accumulate there, I can sense the disaster that I know must eventually await us. Of course this is just child’s play compared with nuclear waste, the pollution caused by the overuse of fossil fuels, the exhaust of millions of vehicles (how many vehicles exist on our planet), the coming exhaustion of so many plant and animal species, the damage being done to mother earth through agribusiness, and our neglect of global warming. I am a participant in this disgraceful business and there is little or nothing I can do about it. True, I guess I could move away to an even more remote corner of the world, become a hermit, refuse to participate in the everyday community, bury myself in a hole and pull a lid over me, but at my age and financial situation that is simply not realistic. So it is that I continue feeling guilty about my participation, and worry about what I believe will be the inevitable outcome, but I still find myself using gasoline and natural gas, plastic, depleted fisheries, and the artificial substances that nowadays pass for food. I would like to apologize for my participation in such a stupid culture, but to whom would I apologize? And what would be the point? I sometimes remember to take my own bag to the grocery store, geez, that makes me feel really good, and I drive to town much less than before, and I try to recycle, but even these noble attempts do not allay the anxiety and fear I experience more and more as things seem to be out of control. We seem to lack even a basic instinct for survival. Sigh!
Something else thing that has been bothering me more and more lately is the behavior of Republicans with respect to taxes. I obviously cannot say this is an entirely new concern as I have no respect for Republicans, but for some reason the obvious has not been obvious enough to me until just now. That is, why are they so obsessed with maintaining lower taxes for people so fantastically wealthy as to not even be bothered by their taxes? What conceivable difference does it make to multi-millionaires and billionaires if their taxes are raised by 2, 3, or even 4 percent (or hopefully even more)? I assume that most of the Republicans (although wealthy enough themselves), do not fall into these unbelievably high levels of income and are therefore not merely out to protect themselves. So why are they so stubbornly determined to not raise taxes even one iota on the already obscenely wealthy? What is the motive for such a (to me) strange obsession? I think I have always known the answer to this question, but probably only subconsciously, it has now reached my consciousness more clearly and the answer depresses me. They are prostitutes. People that were elected to represent their constituents are not doing so, they are prostituting themselves to those who are willing and able to pay them well for their votes. I guess I have known this all along but for some reason of late it has somehow risen to a more conscious level in my somewhat dim and carelessly trusting mind, thus upsetting its delicate balance (or indelicate unbalance as the case may be). It was Saint Ronnie himself who observed this feature of our political system some time ago: