Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Clash of the...Losers

Yes, I made the mistake of watching the results of the Arizona and Michigan primaries. I don’t know why I did that as I really don’t care who won or why, both Romney and Santorum are almost surely losers when it comes to the Presidential election. I mean, really, virtually no one wants either one of them to be the Republican candidate. It is obvious Republicans have been searching for the non-Romney for months, stooping so low as to actually consider people like Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum, losers all.

Romney, all but written off a few days ago, did come through and win Arizona by a large margin. And he also won in Michigan, but not by much, even though he should have won handily as it is the state in which he was raised and of which his father was Governor. It looks now that if he can do credibly in the South on Super Tuesday he will probably manage to become the candidate as has been predicted all along. Of course Gingrich is still (amazingly) in the race, hoping to do well in the South, especially his home state of Georgia. Frankly, I can’t image Gingrich going anywhere even if he does win in Georgia. There has to be some other reason for his continuing in the race, perhaps just a whim of his billionaire casino backer who drops millions like the rest of us do pennies. And of course Ron Paul continues even though by now hardly anyone seems to be paying attention. He may, however, manage to acquire enough votes to strike some kind of bargain at the convention with Romney.

I confess to actually have listened to both Santorum and Romney’s speeches. The MSNBC panel, consisting of people I respect, seemed to think Santorum gave a very good speech, at least a passionate one. Yes, I think his speech was passionate, it was also the most incredible mish-mash of words, claims, lies, and predictions I have ever heard. I think no one paid any attention to what he actually said, if they did they should be as horrified as I was. They thought Romney’s speech lacked passion, which it did, and basically just went over the same tired old Republican nonsense about taxes, small government, and so on. Both speeches were the usual kind of crap you have come to expect from Republicans, these were more like crap in the oven than pie in the sky. I found the experience of watching and listening rather frightening.

What was frightening is the simple fact that either one of these losers received any votes at all. I have no idea who might have actually voted for either one of them. Romney, who tried to destroy the auto industry in Michigan got a surprising win, I thought. Santorum, who has managed to alienate most women still received a sizeable vote. For me, as a non Republican, I find it incredible that Santorum gets any votes at all, because as near as I can make out, he is little more than a babbling idiot. Romney, on the other hand, is coming from a culture that has no connection to mainstream American culture. He might as well be from another planet, he is far more than an “other” than President Obama, and seems to have no way of connecting to ordinary Americans.

I suspect that Romney will be the candidate. But the program he outlined in his speech is so unrealistic, so not what we need, so geared towards the 1% that I cannot imagine he can sell it to the American public. As he represents the epitome of the 1%, makes $57,000 a day, and wants further tax breaks for himself and the already obscenely wealthy, I believe he cannot possibly win against Obama, barring, that is, some truly monumental and unexpected development. I can only imagine him as being a current Goldwater and losing in a landslide, but I am often wrong, and he and Santorum somehow do manage to get people to vote for them much to my amazement. Pundits are still predicting a close race in spite of the obvious shortcomings of either Romney or Santorum. I must be dense indeed but I find this impossible to believe as I put the voting population of absolute morons at no more than 20%. But, then, we are dealing with Republicans.

You don't have to be a genius when you're surrounded by morons.
Josh Lieb

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rationalizing Romney

If I were a Republican (I’d sooner flagellate myself), and if I had to think (if I could actually think at all) about which Republican candidate I might support, and if I had to actually reveal my decision (I would prefer not to do so), I would pick Willard Mitt Romney.

It is true that Romney is a terrible speaker, he has not been good in the debates (he seems to be getting a bit better), he makes gaffe after gaffe, is stiff and awkward at times, has all the social skills of an Irish Setter, comes across as the consummate Nerd, and obviously pretends not to be what he is. And when Governor of Massachusetts he passed that absolutely dreadful socialistic health care bill on which Obamacare was modeled. But he does have some advantages. For one, he has more available funds, and two, he has a better organization. He is also filthy rich, that is good. He has a nice family and has only been married once, that, too, is good. He wants to go to war with Iran, another good. And he doesn’t hesitate to make up lies about President Obama, like claiming Obama will make war on religion, his bailout of the Auto Industry was corrupt, that he is weak on national defense, and so on, all good. But he also has one further advantage, by far the most important one --he’s the only one of the four remaining candidates, that is relatively SANE.

Rick Santorum, Romney’s number one opponent at the moment, is an absolute religious nut-case, so extreme in his views about sex, contraception, birth control, Planned Parenthood, foreign policy, global warming, the environment, education, and most anything else you can name, as to be completely nonsensical, to say nothing of coming right out of the 19th century and betraying an ignorance so awesome and profound as to make you wonder if he might be just way too “unbalanced” (to put it politely) to ever be President. In fact, if he were serious about becoming anything but the nominee he would not be saying such ridiculous things. I think there is some reason to believe he was never serious about becoming President in the first place.

Newt Gingrich, a has-been Speaker of the House, is an egomaniacal pontificator who blurts out whatever comes into his head at the moment that he thinks will draw attention to himself. He, too, I believe, never thought he could ever become President and entered the contest mainly to sell more of his fantasy line of books. When every time he has any positive news about his campaign he immediately announces he will be the candidate, and even more grandiose he announced that by the end of his second term as President (he did not even have the nomination) he would have established a colony on the moon, you begin to suspect (if you had not already known about him) that he has “a screw loose” somewhere in that oversized head. There is little doubt that Newton is basically in it for himself. He has managed to survive so far because of his billionaire Jewish backer who believes Newt is good for Israel. Happily, I don’t think we’ll have to put up with his false claims of godlike intelligence or stupid ideas much longer.
That leaves us with Ron Paul, the kindly old septuagenarian doctor who having birthed 4000 babies is thus fully capable of advising us on birth control, abortion, high finance, foreign policy, war and peace, sense and sensibility, right and wrong, and everything in between. His suggestions that we return to the gold standard, do away with government and foreign policy, seem to resonate well with the under 20 crowd and the assorted loonies who I think must be at least partly taken in by his imitation of Pa Kettle.

But, you may object, Romney is the greatest flip-flopper of all time, and that may be true, but in the context of what is going on now in the battle for the nomination that is probably an advantage rather than a handicap. I mean, if Romney has no “core values,” and changes his positions more often than his socks, and if you can’t believe anything he says, then you can rest assured that his far right, Tea Party sops are also false, thus giving independents an excuse to vote for him. But…damn! That works both ways! Oh well, I’m not a Republican. Let them worry about it. They can always bring on New Jersey Fats, or Jeb, to continue the winning ways of the Bush dynasty. On to Iran! How dare they have any national interests in the Middle East!

A life lived in chaos is an impossibility...
Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reality and the Inevitable

Because I believe in reality I also believe in the inevitability of certain things. Reality, I believe, ultimately wins out over everything else. This is why I believe certain things will inevitably come to pass in American society. I could be wrong, of course, I often am, but I think the following things will happen, perhaps not in my remaining lifetime, but not too far in the distant future.
It is inevitable that Gay marriage will eventually be the law in most probably every state in the union. It is now the law in eight, public sentiment is in favor of it, and it can only be a matter of time it will become national. No doubt some states will hold out for a time but ultimately it will not make sense for the country to be divided into those that do and those that don’t.
It is equally inevitable that the Bush tax cuts will disappear and the tax code will be revised so that the wealthy will pay a greater share than they currently do. Again, this makes perfect sense, and while Republican dimwits will try to keep it from happening they will eventually fail.
Drugs, at least certainly Marijuana, will become legal. The criminalization of pot never made sense in the first place, has created a social disaster filling up our jails and making criminals of perfectly decent citizens, and is increasingly being challenged in different states. It is only a matter of time, I think a short time, that it will happen. If nothing else it will be legalized because it will become too expensive not to legalize it. Personally, I believe all drugs will eventually be legalized as the drug problem is a health problem, not a political problem. Reason will prevail and drugs will be seen once again as a medical problem. As in the case of marijuana, all drugs will be legalized because people will no longer be able to deny that the so-called “War on Drugs” has been an abject failure and will be found to be too expensive to continue.
More importantly, I predict we will eventually have a single-payer health care system, most probably based on something like Medicare for all. Our current health care system is simply absurd, is far too expensive for what it produces, and realistically will have to be converted to a far more sensible system. Insurance companies are simply an unnecessary burden we bear because of the current fear of socialism (that will also eventually disappear as we convert to a more social democratic society).
The Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money (speech) to political campaigns will be overturned. It is now obvious this was an absolutely ridiculous decision, probably the worst and most hare brained ever by a Supreme Court, and has clearly converted our (sort of) democracy overnight into a full-blown plutocracy. As this is already obvious there is no way it will be allowed to stand (unless, of course, we fall prey to a true fascist government complete with secret police and brownshirts, which I think will not happen).
On much shakier ground I think it is inevitable that Israel will fail as an apartheid nation. They will eventually be forced, as was South Africa, to concede the civil rights of all people including the Palestinians. Most probably a two state solution will be imposed at last by the world community, Israeli racism and colonialism will be curbed and someday, inevitably, justice will be served.
All of these things are inevitable, they almost certainly will eventually transpire, but the wheels of democracy turn so slowly I sometimes wonder how we manage to survive at all. If we truly operated as a Republic, with elected officials charged with making decisions and managing our country, things would be better. At the moment, as our elected officials have no interest in anything but getting re-elected and looking out for themselves and their corporate sponsors, we suffer little more than chaos.
Although I do not have much faith or confidence in the American electorate, or even the Unite Nations, I suspect that eventually everyone will come to their senses and realize that none of the above things we are currently doing make sense, either rationally, morally, or financially. Even after all these years I still cling to my primitive beliefs in justice, right and wrong, and the eventual power of reason. Probably pretty stupid and na├»ve, I know, but I can’t help it.
Some of the best lessons we ever learn are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future.
Dale E. Turner

Friday, February 24, 2012

Privatization and Purpose

Those who would privatize vital public services apparently have lost sight of the purpose of such services, and the respective purposes of privatization and public services seem to be ignored entirely or simply abandoned, even though they are diametrically opposed to each other. I am speaking here of at least three different public services, health care, schools, and prisons. You might think it would be obvious that the purposes of these services is quite definitely not to make a profit.

The worst example I can imagine is privatizing health care which is, of course what we have allowed to happen. There is simply no reason Insurance companies should be involved in health care, none. They provide no medical treatment of any kind and basically make their money on the misfortunes and deaths of their customers. They do this of course by deciding what medical procedures they can allow and still make a profit. You would think the purpose of health care is to provide the best health care possible, not just the health care they decide you can afford. In return for shuffling papers around they manage to make enormous profits while actually hindering the provision of such services. It is perfectly obvious that something like Medicare for all, a single payers system, would be by far the most efficient and least expensive way to go. Indeed, all major industrialized countries provide such health care, except for the United States.

Privatizing our public schools is an equally absurd idea. The purpose of the schools is to educate our children, prepare them for adulthood and meaningful lives. It is definitely not to make a profit. Privatized schools make a profit by basically paying the lowest wages for teachers they can, keeping as many students in each classroom as possible, cutting the costs of supplies and equipment, heat, minimum maintenance, and so on. This is hardly a way of providing the best educational opportunities for children. It could only happen in a society that places little value on their children and even less value on education in general. For a wealthy society to fail to provide the best education possible for their children is shameful, to say nothing of eventually suicidal.

In the case of prisons I think the possibilities for abuse are even worse, unless one believes that prisons should do little more than merely incarcerate individuals for different periods of time. Obviously the easiest way to make a profit running a prison is to provide the least of everything, small cells, little heat, lousy food, little or no recreation, poor medical attention, no counseling, education, and so on. In extreme cases this could even extend to poorly laundered prison garb, minimal hot water, charges for visitations, and the like. There is also the problem of recruitment. How, that is, to make sure you have adequate prison populations that can lead to unnecessary arrests, longer sentences, and the possibility of collusion between the police, judges and prison officials.

There are other areas that should not be privatized if, that is, they are to serve the public interest, energy, for example, or the Post Office, the VA and other hospitals. In short, those things that are vital for a smoothly and efficient society. I cannot understand why this is not obvious to all, but, of course, when you live in a society that freaks out at the very mention of socialism, and believes free market capitalism is the only possible economic system, privatization is what you get. Privatization is also predicated on the extremely questionable belief that private enterprise can do everything much better than government. I have personally found over time that I have far more trouble with banks, phone companies, insurance companies, and others than I have ever encountered with governmental agencies. Try, for example, dealing with a phone company when they have suddenly, for no apparent reason, decided to unlist your phone number, or with a bank that has been systematically overcharging you, or an insurance company resisting a claim.

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
C. S. Lewis

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Free Speech and Responsibility

I believe fervently in free speech, but with it must come some sense of responsibility, and I find it difficult to precisely delineate what that means. There have been cases where the Supreme Court has ruled free speech might not be permitted, but the only general restriction on free speech has to do with “Inciting actions that would harm others” (like falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater). This helps a bit, but it also rather begs the question, how does one know what might actually harm others, and how much harm must be involved or avoided?

Let us consider the case of what I think should be considered irresponsible speech, and let us use the case of Newt Gingrich. I have to insert a disclaimer here as I am terribly biased against Gingrich and find him “odious” in the extreme. Much of the reason I find him odious is because of his (I believe) abuse of his free speech privilege. I find his use of free speech often pathetically irresponsible for someone in such a public position. Of course Gingrich is not the only offender along these lines, but he is, I think, the poster child.

Gingrich is a demagogue without peer. He says things that appear to have no basis in fact and are deliberately designed to harm others, specifically at the moment, President Obama. Where, for example, does he find the facts to claim that Obama “wants to unilaterally weaken America?” On what basis or authority does he claim “Obama is the most dangerous President in American history?” He has also said Obama is an “extremist” who has voted to support infanticide! I gather this is because Obama once voted to protect abortion doctors (who were practicing medicine entirely in accordance with the law and vulnerable to being killed by right wing extremists for doing so).

How about : “The left-wing Democrats will represent the party of total hedonism, total exhibitionism, total bizarreness, total weirdness, and the total right to cripple innocent people in the name of letting hooligans loose?” Or “These people are sick. They are so consumed by their own power, by a Mussolini-like ego, that their willingness to run over normal human beings and to destroy honest institutions is unending.” Gingrich has also said, “The problem isn’t too little money in political campaigns, but not enough.” I’m sure one could find further examples of this kind of rhetoric. Notice what they all have in common, in addition to being mostly false, they are all gross exaggerations that put everything in the worst possible light. Gingrich could easily and reasonably disagree with Obama without the incredible, usually insulting distortions. I have heard repeatedly that Gingrich is brilliant, an idea man, indeed, THE idea man of the Republican Party. Personally, I doubt it. He is more like an Ann Coulter who says things mostly for their shock value because in fact he lacks anything positive to say, or at least anything that makes much sense. To partly understand why he says such basically negative, even hateful things, you have to understand what he apparently thinks of himself. Here is a sample:

“Gingrich primary mission: Advocate of civilization, definer of civilization, teacher of the rules of
civilization, leader of the civilizing forces.”

“I’m not a natural leader. I’m too intellectual; I’m too abstract; I think too much.”

“I have enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it. I am now a famous person. I represent real power.” It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

Gingrich is infected with the germ of grandiosity and conceives of himself as a kind of oracle, speaking from his position as a famous, brilliant, insightful, superior figure comparable to Churchill, Einstein, Buddha, Jefferson, and all the other Founding Fathers all wrapped up into one. A more precise description would be “Delusions of Grandeur.” He is basically an evil little man with more pretensions than intellect, that deliberately says harmful things to draw attention to himself. I believe what he says is in fact harmful, certainly harmful to the President of the United States, and because of that also harmful to our nation. His demagoguery is out of control, irresponsible, completely negative, factually incorrect, and hatefully presented. It is even harmful to himself, as while he may see himself as a great Statesman of note, he is, in fact, a Pompous Ass. Happily, as even most members of his own party can’t stand him, we need not worry about him ever becoming President. He truly needs to shut up, sit down, slink off into the sunset, and leave the rest of us alone.

“Em I bighet tru,” as they say in Melanesia.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, and Damned Lies

It is true that lying has been part of politics for as long as we have had organized, or at least semi-organized politics, here in the United States, but for most of that period there were at least occasional moments or outbursts of truth. But the truth in politics gradually began to disappear and under the Bush/Cheney administration vanished entirely. It is highly doubtful that either George W. Bush or Dick Cheney ever told the truth about anything, and thus was ushered in a period where the concept of truth disappeared from political discourse. This has now become so ingrained in our discourse that if anyone utters a true statement no one can recognize it as true. Lying has become so ubiquitous and so commonplace I believe we need to study it carefully. Perhaps we need something like “The New Science of Prevarication,” or perhaps “Lieology,” or for those who eschew science, perhaps “Lieosophy.”Allow me to make some rudimentary suggestions as to how to begin this analysis.

I think there are at least three distinct categories of lying that might be distinguished: Lies, Damned Lies, and Damnable Lies. I admit the lines between these three categories are not always clear and distinct, but one has to begin somewhere. Lies are easy enough, more or less everyone recognizes ordinary lies. I will concentrate here on Republican lies, not because Democrats don’t lie, but because Democratic lies are sort of puny when compared to the lies of Republicans, and there are more readily available examples from Republicans. When Willard Mitt Romney, for example, says that his first name is Mitt, we are aware this is a lie. Similarly, when he says he has been a hunter all his life, we know he is lying. When he claims to have been a job creator as Governor we might pause and wonder but suspect he is lying. These are merely small-time, ordinary, relatively innocuous lies that we can understand, lies that do not have a very important bearing on anything, somewhat more than “little white lies,” but not lies that are very important.

Damn lies are more important, more complex, more difficult to deal with, and may have more important consequences. For example, when Boehner says the House has passed 30 jobs bills that the Senate has not acted on, he is lying, and his lie may improperly influence people. When Franklin Graham implies that President Obama may be a Muslim he is probably lying (as I doubt he believes this) and may also influence people improperly. Damn lies are the most difficult kinds of lies to understand as sometimes the person saying them may actually believe them thus complicating matters. Rick Santorum says, for example, that global warming is a “hoax.” He may or may not believe that but it is a damn lie and can have very unfortunate consequences if others believe it. Most everything Santorum says can probably be subsumed under the category of Damn Lies. For further examples: Obama is trying to attack religion, he is weak on foreign policy, he is responsible for the price of gasoline, Obama promotes a different theology, or perhaps ideology, Santorum is not very clear on this point, but it apparently has something to do with Obama trying to protect the environment from humans further plundering the earth’s resources (Santorum believes humans are more important than the earth and should be able to plunder it at will). It is difficult to tell with Santorum’s lies whether or not he is lying or might actually believe what he claims. He has said something to the effect that “when you have a top down health care system run by the government, patients are just commodities…” This is an obvious lie but it is possible he might believe it. It is a lie because it is precisely the opposite of the truth, it is only in a capitalistic system (in this case a system involving insurance companies) that patients become commodities. In government run health care systems, where there is health care for all, the patients and their health are protected by the government because it is in the best interest of the government to maintain a healthy population. Insurance based systems are run for profit. All industrialized societies take responsibility for the health of their citizens, EXCEPT the United States. All claims that Obama is not a citizen, is a socialist, communist, fascist, or “other,” all fall pretty clearly under the category of Damn Lies, and potentially cause damage to our political system.

When you come to the category of Damnable Lies, things are somewhat more easy to understand. Damnable Lies are those made up, often on the spur of the moment, with no basis whatsoever in fact, for the purpose of calling attention to the speaker, shocking the listeners, and deliberately sowing dissention, and for no other purpose than that.

There is a further dimension of discourse currently involved in our politics that does not readily come under any category of lying, although it does involve lies (or sometimes hallucinations or magical thinking). LaPierre, for example, the head of the NRA, insists that Obama has a plan to take away everyone’s guns. Obama has done nothing in the way of suggesting this and has, in fact, signed into law at least one bill making it easier for people to own guns. But LaPierre continues to promote his conspiracy theory that Obama is just pretending and will do away with guns in his second term. It is a lie, but a lie based upon some kind of paranoid fantasy in the mind of LaPierre. Similarly, a Republican, Bob Morris, of the Indiana State Congress, insists that the Girl Scouts are part of a deal with Planned Parenthood to subvert our children, promote abortion, and so on. He also insists that both Michele and Barack Obama are “radical pro-abortionists.” I cannot conceive of anyone being a radical pro-abortionist but, as they say in Pidgin, “B’long all.” More importantly, along these lines, and perhaps more important, when Santorum claims the “Devil is attacking America” you know you have left the realm of reality and entered another world.

Santorum slops over into the category of Damnable Lies when he says things like global warming is a conspiracy on the part of environmentalists to consolidate power, or Obama is attacking religion. But the indisputable king of Damnable Lies is Newt (the Odious) Gingrich. Gingrich blurts out Damnable Lies at any moment one seems to enter his head. “Obama is the most dangerous President in the history of the United States,” for example. Or, “Defeating Barack Obama becomes, in fact, a duty of national security. Because the fact is, he is incapable of defending the United States.” Curiously, Damned Lies are probably not as bad or as dangerous as Damn Lies, because the former are so transparently just manufactured, obvious, and outrageous.

I do not suggest this is anything more than a primitive attempt to deal with the complex web of lies we now confront on a daily basis. We doubtless need a new Foundation, generously endowed and well furnished with the best brains available, to deal with an issue of such monumental importance. On the other hand, we can just go on disbelieving everything we hear from our politicians and news media, accepting that as “just the way it is.”

I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

George W. Bush

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Forget Santorum

Who would have thought it possible that the Republican Party, having gone through Pawlenty, Palin, Trump, Bachmann, Huntsman, Cain, Gingrich, Perry, Paul, and others more or less nameless, would have finally arrived at a leading candidate who is actually WORSE than any of the above? Rick Santorum, who complained until relatively recently that he had not received enough attention, has now received a lot of attention and finally attained that illustrious status called of “Flavor of the month.” And, having succeeded in reaching it, has failed Sanity 101. He will soon join the other flavors of the month that are being forgotten, probably not even footnotes to history.

Where to begin? Although some 98 or 99% of American women, including Catholic women, have used contraception at one time or another, Mr. Santorum wants to make it illegal. This would not seem very astute. He is also opposed to prenatal care, claiming it leads to abortions, which it sometimes does to spare the mother’s health and well-being, and society at large from a far worse outcome. Mr. Santorum would also like to see abortions criminalized and doctors who perform them incarcerated. Women, according to him, should not work but stay home and care for the children (I gather he is unaware of single mothers or the economics of life in the U.S.). He is also completely opposed to Gay marriage, wants those already performed to be annulled, and wants to restore DADT. When he is not raving about his imaginary images of sex that is “not what it is supposed to be” (he must have an incredible imagination), he turns his attention to matters of domestic and foreign policy.

He is, for example, concerned that millions of non-Catholics have somehow strayed from religion, that President Obama’s vision for our nation is not “bible-based,” that Obama, in fact, believes in a different “theology,” apparently having something to do with the environment (maybe he meant to say “ideology,” but it is not clear). He seems to believe the earth is less important than the humans that vitally depend upon it. He thinks there are no Palestinians, that we should attack and destroy Iran as soon as possible, that the Crusaders were not aggressors against Muslims, and of course Israel and the United States are absolutely “good” while all others are “bad.”

Back on the domestic scene, he believes that inequality of income is good and hopes it will last (how much inequality he does not mention), does not believe in taking money from the haves (White people) and giving to others (Black, or other poor people), and wants to do away with public education entirely. He also would also, of course, do away completely with Planned Parenthood. It is probably fair to say that Santorum shares in the Republican belief that our responsibility for life begins at conception but ends at birth. Hence their obsessive concern with when, precisely, life begins, and their complete unconcern about what happens to infants and children after they are born. There would seem to me to be some contradiction here about life beginning at conception but no prenatal care, but far be it for me to understand Santorum’s twisted mind).

I don’t know what all else Santorum would do if (heaven forbid) he were to become President, but it is obvious that if he really wants to become President he is promoting ideas that will surely insure he will never manage to attain that goal. He is so extreme even the current Republican Party is not stupid enough to allow him to become their candidate. As Romney is not doing very well either there is already talk of a brokered convention and a new candidate (Jeb Bush seems to be their solution). As this is considered only a remote possibility, Romney will probably, as predicted, outlast everyone else and become the candidate. In any case it seems to me Santorum has had his moment in the sun, his turn in the barrel, his designation as flavor of the month, and will soon wilt like all the others.

There is one thing that bothers me even more than the specifics of Santorum’s extreme views on contraception, abortion, Gays, foreign policy, or whatever. After trying to make sense of his various statements and apparent beliefs, claims and accusations, I fear he doesn’t know what he is talking about. It is like ignorance run amok.

“Fine fellows—cannibals—in their place. They were men we could work with, and I am grateful to them. And, after all, they did not eat each other before my face…”
Joseph Conrad

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Invisible Harry Gold - book

The Invisible Harry Gold The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atomic Bomb, Allen M. Hornblum (Yale University Press, 2010)

This is an incredible true story of Soviet espionage in the United States in which Heinrich Golodnitsky, born in the Ukraine in 1910, came with his parents to the United States at age three, became Harry Gold, grew up in poverty, a victim of extreme anti-Semitism in South Philadelphia, went on to become a talented chemist, secretly spied for the Soviet Union for eleven years before being exposed, went to prison in disgrace for fifteen years, was finally released to the cheers and encouragement of his fellow inmates, was happily reunited with his father and brother, and continued to make important contributions to medical science until his death in 1972. I loved this book and had trouble putting it down until I had finished it. It is fascinating for several reasons, and on different levels.

First, it is about spies, Soviet spies in the United States. But there are no car chases, shootings, high tech gadgets, trysts on the beach with nubile young ladies in bikinis, no disappearing ink, or other romantic accounts of how exciting it is to be a spy. In fact it reveals the truth about espionage, the basic nitty gritty of the occupation, the endless hours spent waiting for someone, the sacrifice of time and money, the almost unbelievable security, the small rewards for time spent, and the constant fear of exposure. There is little or nothing romantic about it, a sordid business at best, but also enormously successful for the Russians who managed to steal the secrets of the atomic bomb and much, much more for many years.

Second, it demonstrates that the most common motive for spying had little or nothing to do with money (in fact the Soviets looked down on spies who did it for money). The most dedicated spies, like Harry Gold, Klaus Fuchs, the Rosenbergs, and others, were true believers in the promise of the great Soviet experiment. Although Gold was offered money on many occasions he always declined. In fact his spying career cost him dearly both financially and in time away from his family and his work. When he was first recruited as a spy he believed he was helping Russia, not damaging the United States (remember at this time Russia and the U.S. were more allies than enemies). Gold was led to believe, as were many others, that Russia was passing laws to outlaw anti-Semitism and was, in fact, the greatest bulwark against Hitler and Fascism. They were embarked on what was thought was a grand experiment to better the lives of all people. Although he was repeatedly urged to join the Communist Party, Gold consistently refused and was never a member. In fact, he thought the people he saw at the few meeting he attended were disgusting. He truly believed he was helping his homeland to bring about a better world. It is true that later, when Communism was known to have failed and Stalinism was at its worst, Gold had serious doubts, but by that time he was so involved and so fearful of being exposed he had little choice but to continue. He knew he was doing wrong but was in the clutches of the KGB.

Third, this is a remarkable account of how persistence, patience and hard work eventually brought about success. Harry Gold was fascinated by chemistry at an early age and wanted desperately to go to college to study. But it was during the worst of the depression, his father, a cabinet maker who barely spoke English, could not find work, his mother who taught Hebrew part time saw her students disappear, his brother Yus (Joe) was too young. Harry withdrew from the University and found whatever jobs he could to keep the family going. Later, when he had fallen into disgrace, his father and brother stood by him, visiting him in jail regularly, defending him as best they could, and always believing he had done what he believed in to the best of his ability. It is a remarkable tale of family loyalty.

Fourth, there are the two extraordinary lawyers who agreed to defend a Soviet spy during the worst of the great Communist scare. No lawyer wanted to touch the case, so when a famous lawyer who had once been head of the Republican Party was asked, he agreed, risking his reputation, and taking on the defense for no fee whatsoever. He chose a young assistant who also risked his career, but the two of them did everything possible for years to help Gold and finally helped him get an early release from prison. They became friends after their years of collaboration and believed that Harry had received an unfair sentence due to the political climate of the time. Although they had to endure all kinds of hate mail and criticism, even from their own firm, they believed in justice for all and set a standard that has never been surpassed.

Fifth, and perhaps the most important, there was the remarkable character of Harry Gold himself. Small and sickly as a child, subjected to vicious anti-Semitism, and watching his father be even more persecuted, he never gave up, never complained, never faltered. He loved sports of all kinds and followed them even though he could not participate. He had an almost superhuman capacity for work, putting in extremely long days at whatever he was doing, willing to help others at all times, pleasant and soft-spoken, shy, and in many ways rather nondescript, he was nevertheless intelligent and driven to succeed. His greatest failure was apparently his inability to say “no” to people, a trait that many thought had to do with his recruitment to spying. Even in prison he was an exemplary inmate, working long hours in the prison laboratory, volunteering for experimental drugs, and so on. When he entered prison he was a truly despised figure, not only a spy, but worse, a “snitcher,” a “stool pigeon” who had “ratted” on his friends and colleagues, including the Rosenbergs who were executed partly as a result of his testimony. But in fact Gold had only told the truth as he set out to do once he was exposed. He admitted his great mistake and tried to compensate for it by cooperating completely with the authorities and virtually destroying the Soviet spying apparatus for a time. He was viciously attacked by those who supported the Rosenbergs and tried to show he had collaborated with the FBI to falsely accuse them. Of course we know now that Julius Rosenberg was guilty (his wife less so, but I do not believe they should have been executed), and the terrible accusations against Gold were false. Gold was such a remarkable person that when he died some claimed that “Everybody loved Harry,” not bad for a Soviet spy that helped turn over our atomic secrets, and was probably the least selfish person who ever lived.

I cannot do justice to this really fine, meticulously researched, and informative book. I think it is one of the best and most interesting books I have ever read, and I have read a good many by now.









Friday, February 17, 2012

Oops!

Well, Republicans finally put their foot into it now. Their “war on women” has gotten completely out of hand. Darrell Issa’s handling of the contraception issue was so ham-handed and stupid, so arrogant and medieval, so demeaning to women, so politically suicidal, it is going to haunt them all the way to the 2012 election. I believe this blunder was inevitable, given the control of the Republican Party in the hands of the least competent, most ideological, and most ignorant among them. This was a mistake of monumental proportions that will not be forgiven.

While this birth control issue is without doubt their worst mistake to date it is by no means their only one. Although they are trying desperately to change the basic idea of one person, one vote, it remains to be seen if this is going to fly, so to speak. Their political Supreme Court has done their part, deciding that corporations are persons and entitled to spend unlimited amounts of money (free speech) on the elections, and they are everywhere trying to deny people their right to vote by questionable means, this may not work out as well as they would like. It still remains the case that our political system operates on the principle of one person, one vote. And here, as in the case of contraception, Republican efforts to circumvent this basic principle may well fail, due, again, to their transparent and ham-handed means of going about it. Voters are angry, and if their anger turns them out in large enough numbers the Republican schemes may fail. While it is true that much of the anger is directed at Obama (he’s Black, you know), it is also true that the economy does in fact seem to be improving, and however bad Obama may be he will certainly provide a remarkable contrast to his apparently idiotic opponents. Barring some miraculous and unexpected development Obama should be easily re-elected. Notice I said “should” be, given the huge numbers of voters who will have no idea of what is involved, and will vote for whoever strikes their fancy on Election Day, anything might happen.

One of the most interesting aspects of this current election season will be a test of just how important money will prove to be. So far it seems to be of considerable importance, witness Romney’s backers outspending his opponents by huge margins in most of the races. It is said that he is outspending Santorum 29 to 1 in Michigan but Santorum is still leading in the polls (the spending may well prove to work before it is over). Similarly, both Gingrich and Paul are still in the race even though they cannot compete financially with Romney. Will it prove to be the case that he with the most money wins? We are about to find out.

Republicans, I think, will prove to be on the wrong side of history in general, especially if the 1% vs the 99% theme continues. There is no reasonable case to be made for further tax breaks for the wealthy when the discrepancy between the haves and have-nots is so great. For someone like Romney who makes $57,000 a day, to argue for further tax breaks is simply ludicrous. And Romney is by no means the most wealthy of those few individuals who are trying to buy the election. Given the reality of life for the middle class and the poor they will have trouble trying to do away with Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, minimum wages, and so on, the safety nets the majority now has to depend on for survival. Granted the electorate is not too well informed, what with Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, I suspect (and certainly hope) they are not as ignorant as Republican assume they are.

Even in the realm of foreign policy I think the Republican efforts to bring about a war with Iran will fail (at least I sincerely hope so). They are certainly continuing to promote their Iran hysteria, now even to the point of claiming Iran is planning an attack on the U.S., and idea so ridiculous as to be dismissed as some kind of mental disorder. Republicans, with their major stake in the military/industrial/political complex want a situation of permanent war, for how else can they keep transferring money so easily from taxpayers to wealthy corporations and billionaires. Even here, at long last, I detect a significant change. President Obama so far seems to have resisted the Israeli Siren song tempting him to fight their paranoid battles for them. I think our country is so sick of wars, and so broke from investing in them, we might actually have to decide to be sensible rather than constantly belligerent. There are hints of bringing troops back from some of our far-flung bases, reducing the Pentagon budget, getting out of Afghanistan, and so on, and even hints we may pay more attention to our needs here at home. It would be wonderful if we could actually believe “happy days are here again.”

For myself I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use being anything else.

Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Back to the Dark Ages

Okay, maybe the Dark Ages is too much of an exaggeration, but I don’t believe the 1800’s is. You are no doubt aware of the House Oversight and Government Reform Hearing, chaired by Darrell Issa, that consisted of mostly, almost exclusively, White males. This was a hearing about contraception and religious freedom, no women were allowed. Indeed, one woman who was there and waiting to testify was denied her right to do so on the grounds that it was a meeting about religious freedom and therefore she was irrelevant. Now you have to think carefully about this. It was supposedly a meeting about religious freedom, having to do with contraception. You might think a woman would have something to say about contraception, but not according to Darrell Issa. Apparently women have no interest in the question of religious freedom either. This farcical meeting I think is perfectly symbolic of the broader question of male/female relations that continues on now into the 21st century even though it should have been settled long ago.

You will notice, first of all, that the objection to contraception is coming from the Catholic Bishops. The Catholic Bishops organization consists of a number of mostly White old men who dress in medieval robes, funny hats, and carry elaborate staffs, who, while presumably celibate themselves, preside over an organization importantly guilty of pedophilia and its protection. Women are not allowed into this Church hierarchy. The fact that Issa would convene a committee of old men and no women to discuss the problem of contraception and religious freedom is itself a throwback to some previous social condition, indicating an arrogance and outdated view of the position of women in the modern world, laughable, pathetic, stupid, thoughtless, an ultimately politically suicidal. That older White males should presume to decide what women should do with their bodies and their lives in the 21st century is revealing. It reveals that hundreds, even thousands of years of experience have yet to penetrate the brains of men.

But this travesty is only a small part of the apparent Republican desire to return us to the 18th century. Rick Santorum, the current leader of the Republican candidates, believes contraception should be illegal, or at least should be left up to the states to decide. Santorum apparently believes that contraception leads to runaway sexual activity that is intrinsically “bad.” His multi-million dollar supporter has suggested that all women have to do to avoid unwanted pregnancies is to hold an aspirin between their knees (as I guess he thinks they used to do). He is concerned with our seeming obsession with sex and I gather thinks this is because of the availability of contraception. Never mind the overwhelming concern with sex on the news, television programs, print media, and elsewhere, directly related to the capitalistic exploitation of sex for purely commercial, purely profit-oriented, goals. Sex sells, as is perfectly obvious. As fully 99% of American women use contraception at one time or another, and for health reasons over and above the fear of pregnancy, their desire to do away with it would appear to be foolish even beyond belief. Santorum would have some kind of sex police in our bedrooms. I suspect that in a Santorum Presidency chastity belts would make a strong comeback (a potentially profit making enterprise in the right hands).

It is not only in the realm of sexuality that Republicans, especially Santorum, would have us retreat to the 18th century. He now says he wants to do away with government sponsored education, even state government sponsored education, leaving it up to local parents. This is an idea so transparently insane as to guarantee his flavor of the month status will quickly dissipate, as it should. But it is an idea perfectly consistent with other Republican gems that would do away with government altogether. Like, who needs government, when the private sector has proven to be so successful? Ron Paul is perhaps the most important purveyor of this non-government nonsense. He would like us to return to the gold standard, and the joys of the frontier when men were men and women were nothing, there were no homosexuals, Black people were “in their place,” and business was free to pollute and destroy the environment as they saw fit.

Actually, all of this is basically trivial, the underlying problems of female sexuality and male dominance are not much different now than they were during the Dark Ages. There is a universal fear of female sexuality on the part of males. This can be seen in every culture in the world, from our own problems with female suffrage, contraception, laws about loss of consortium, and the legal position of women, to the Middle East with their insistence on the burkha, to cultures in New Guinea where women are considered polluting, to foot binding in China, chastity belts in the middle ages, clitoridectomies in Africa, harems, polygamy, and universal male dominance (at least publicly) everywhere. Even in matrilineal societies women must defer to their brothers, in polyandrous societies they are simply brood mares with no other status, and so on and on. Women are universally considered dangerous, capable of coming between brothers and even fathers and sons, to say nothing of potentially disruptive of social life in general. This was true long before there was effective contraception, and doing away with it will not even touch the basic problem. W. Somerset Maugham’s marvelous short story, “Rain,” is, I believe, testimony to this remarkable power.

I listen to feminists and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men - that's their problem.

Jerry Falwell





Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Blunt Instrument

The patient is now not quite dead but in the intensive care unit, the Republican Party, that is. And although not completely dead we know what the cause of the problem is. It’s called the Blunt Amendment #1520, Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. As I understand it, this not only provides an exception for the Catholic Church to refuse to provide contraception for employees of the Church, whether they are Catholics or not, but goes so far as to claim that any employer of any kind could refuse to provide any particular medical care whatsoever if they believed it was against their moral or religious conscience. I believe it is fair to describe this as a blunt instrument. I also believe it will contribute to the eventual demise of the Republican Party.

The Republicans in the past few years have demonstrated an uncanny ability to place themselves on the wrong side of virtually every issue of importance to ordinary citizens. They have displayed an ignorance of human social and cultural life, and the requirements for successful community life that is truly mind boggling, being opposed as they are to even the most basic amenities and necessities of life for the 99%. I need not recount all of these here, they are well known: unions, minimum wages, health care, unemployment insurance, food stamps, education, and etc.

This amendment by Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri reveals their incredible ignorance of even the most basic requirements for human social life. It is all at once the most mindless, stupid, destructive, impractical, unworkable, short-sighted, idiotic, poorly conceived, and completely ridiculous piece of legislation I have ever even imagined, let alone seen. In effect it does away with any and all forms of health care except those left up to the whims of employers. Thus if your employer, for example, does not believe in modern medicine, but, rather, in prayer, it doesn’t matter what you believe, the decision will be made for you. If your employer doesn’t believe in contraception you’re out of luck on that score as well. If he or she believes all illness is caused by sorcery or witchcraft watch out for your relatives and friends. In fact your employer can plead any absurd belief they want to deny you health care. This idea, if it were ever to pass, would lead to complete chaos as far as health care goes. It was apparently spawned by Obama’s insistence that Catholic businesses, like Hospitals and Universities (not Churches) should be required to provide contraception for their non-Catholic employees. The Catholic Bishops, a bunch of old mostly White men, who dress up in medieval robes and silly hats, objected on the grounds that Obama’s decision infringed upon religious liberties, and maintained their objection to contraception (even though some 98% of Catholic women use contraception). So Obama, not wanting to lose the Catholic vote modified his plan so the Church itself would not have to provide contraception, the insurance companies would pick up the tab. Although many important Catholic organizations thought this was a fine compromise, the Bishops claimed not to be satisfied. Republicans, of course, seized on the issue to make it into a grave political issue and Blunt conceived of his blunt instrument to turn a rather minor problem into an attack on the very nature of health care, part of their broader attack on women, women’s rights, abortion, and contraception.

What is so troubling about this is not the amendment itself, but, rather, what it reveals of the Republican Party and their approach to the most basic fundamentals of human social life. It is so extreme, so stupid and thoughtless, you have to wonder if they have enough intelligence to even dress themselves. Lest you believe this is merely the idiocy of Roy Blunt himself, consider that he has twenty co-sponsors, including the major players in the Republican Party. That such an absurd amendment could be seriously put forward, with twenty Republican co-sponsors, should be proof enough of just how intellectually bankrupt the Republican Party of today really is. By doing this they have betrayed a basic contempt for society itself, perfectly consistent with their idiotic and discredited social Darwinism. Putting power in their hands is the equivalent of giving children nitro-glycerin as a plaything.

Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.

Cato the Elder

Monday, February 13, 2012

Heart of Ignorance

You may remember in Joseph Conrad’s famous novella, Heart of Darkness, when Kurtz, the ivory trader, on his death bed, suddenly perceives what he has seen and done for what it was, and cries out, “the horror! The horror!

That is what I perceive when I look into the heart of ignorance that now constitutes the current Republican Party, and what I fear if by some grotesque failure of the electorate we were to mistakenly elect any of these absolute pea brains, horror! This is not mere ordinary everyday ignorance I am speaking about, it is ignorance on a truly grand scale. Take for example their latest attempt to do away with contraception. Contraception has been with us for quite some time now, probably 99% of American women have used it, including even Catholic women. Thus trying to do away with it, just on political grounds alone, is a demonstration of almost unbelievable ignorance. Their opposition to Gay marriage, insofar as they insist marriage has always been between a man and a woman, reveals their ignorance of human marital patterns around the world, as well as the fact that a majority of Americans, especially younger Americans have no problem whatsoever with Gay marriage. Here their ignorance is twofold, their lack of knowledge about human marriage patterns and their apparent ignorance that a majority are now in favor of Gay marriage. We should also not overlook their current “war” on women. They wish to do away with Planned Parenthood entirely, an institution that primarily has to do with the health care of poor women, their rationale for this unbelievably ignorant idea is that Planned Parenthood offers abortions. Only some 3% of Planned Parenthood has to do with abortions, and, by the way, abortions are perfectly legal in the United States. If they truly believe something might be gained by failing to look after the basic health of poor women they are truly ignorant of the facts of life in the country they live in.

The Republican opposition to birth control and Gay marriage is trivial when it comes to their profound ignorance on the subject of global warming. Santorum and others want us to believe that global warming is some kind of hoax, a belief so ignorant (and so dangerous) as to be laughable if it were not so serious. Then there is their erroneous belief and insistence that our Nation was founded on Christian principles, simply not historically true and apparently founded upon their ignorance of the facts. What is far worse is their insistence that creationism should be taught in the public schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution, a position so incredibly ignorant as to be dismissed out of hand. What is even more ignorant and frightening about this is the rejection of science in favor of mythology. No country in the 21st century can deny science and scientific facts in favor of fairy tales, to do so reveals an ignorance so profound as to be truly frightening and also points the way to the eventual demise of our country.

I have yet to mention the mostly Republican belief in Armageddon that lies behind their uncritical support for the criminal state of Israel, the unbelievable claims that Palestinians do not exist, the idea of American exceptionalism, the belief we can export democracy by military means alone, that the entire world aspires to our brand of “democracy,” and that our constant meddling all around the world is to promote peace and democracy (and not our blatant interest in their oil and other commodities). Need I even mention our incredible ignorance of geography and the cultures of other people.

Of course it is also true that Republicans are opposed to funding education, environmental protection, regulations in general, and most anything that has to do with our future if it interferes with short term profits. How they could possibly be so short-sighted is just another example of ignorance. No nation or group of any kind can possibly continue to exist if they fail to educate their children, protect their environment and plan for the future. The Republican failure to grasp these basic facts is just another example of their mindless ignorance. Similarly, their apparent belief that our nation will survive over time with a tiny majority of billionaires controlling most of the wealth while the 99% are living like peasants is terribly ignorant.

I have not bothered so far to discuss their ignorance when it comes to reality and President Obama. Obama, they claim, is not really a citizen and therefore should not be President. He needs to present his birth certificate (that he has already done). He is, they claim, a socialist, a belief so unspeakably ignorant it should disqualify them from further discussion. He’s a communist, a fascist, the anti-Christ, a Muslim, an “Other” or some kind. He’s destroying America, leading a “war” on religion, and on and on, claims so ignorant it is difficult to believe anyone would possibly hold them. This is not to forget their support for people like Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Donald Trump, and others so patently unqualified for the Presidency as to be ridiculously ignorant.

I would not argue, of course, there are no ignorant Democrats or Independents, but there is no doubt in my mind that the true locus of ignorance resides now in the Republican Party as presently constituted. We are no longer involved in a contest between Republicans and Democrats, between Conservatives and Liberals, between red states and blue states, we are involved in a potential death struggle between reality and fantasy, truth and falsehood, success and failure, ignorance and intelligence, survival or oblivion. Time is running out, the earth is warming, our resources are disappearing, the environment is suffering, our people are suffering, our children living in poverty, millions without health care, our homes disappearing, our hopes disintegrating, we simply can no longer afford ignorance. What, ultimately, is even worse and more basic, Republicans do not even believe in the social contract, preferring instead a primitive idea of social Darwinism where everyone is completely on their own.

“The American Left hates Christendom. They hate Western civilization.”

Rick Santorum

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vultures' Picnic - book

Vultures’ Picnic In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores, Greg Palast (Dutton, 2011)

On one of the first pages of this book it says “Everything that happened here, happened.” I suspect in general this is true. Greg Palast is almost certainly the finest investigative reporter working today. In this book he reports on basically four major types of crimes: (1) voter suppression, (2) those of oil companies in the gulf of Mexico and around the world, (3) the rather fantastic scams and crimes of the nuclear industry, and (4) the vulture capitalists that prey on failing countries for unbelievable profits.

Palast, who studied economics at the University of Chicago under the (I hope now discredited but famous Milton Friedman), where I believe he took a degree in Finance and did very credible academic work. Friedman’s free market economic theory did not appeal to Palast who spent some twenty years seriously investigating corporate fraud and then became an investigative reporter for the BBC (as news companies in the United States did not want to recognize his work). You might say he first “made his bones” as an investigative reporter when he exposed Jeb Bushs’s fraudulent manipulation of the Florida voter rolls to insure his brother’s (very questionable) 2000 win/loss in Florida. In any case, with his background and experience he can speak with authority on the complicated details of international finance.

In Vulture’s Picnic he recounts his work in exposing the failure of the BP drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, following a lead from a similar and identical failure in the Caspian Sea that had occurred two years previously and was covered up by BP that blatantly lied about it. It is an interesting tale of his trip to Azerbaijan to investigate the tip that led to exposing BP’s attempt to cover up their obvious wrongdoing. This also takes him to Alaska and the facts surrounding the Exxon Valdez disaster, also distorted and covered up by BP. I found his account of these disasters both fascinating and entirely convincing.

Palast is unrelenting in his criticism of the nuclear energy crowd. He demonstrates, quite convincingly to me, at least, how it is mostly a scam to bleed the Federal and State Governments of taxpayer dollars with constant delays, overruns, excuses, and false promises, while pocketing the funds and lying about the safety of projects that will ultimately fail to produce the promised profits. He goes beyond just the financial problems involved to explain why the diesel engines failed to perform, how the basic designs were fudged, the basic safety standards compromised, and so on. I admit to being totally opposed to nuclear energy in any form, and I cannot understand why anyone or any country with even a smidgen of intelligence would promote such a dangerous threat to not only themselves but even the planet itself. The U.S., of course, is not noted for smidgens of intelligence when profits are involved.

When it comes to the “vultures” of the Vultures’ Picnic, I think the author is at his best. Like vulture capitalists in the U.S. who prey on failing companies, there are vultures that prey on small countries in trouble. In its simplest form this involves buying the bonds of such countries at ridiculously low prices, holding them until the country manages to get some form of international aid for health care or development, and then suing for the face value of the bonds. If the vultures win they of course make millions of dollars in profits, the country and its citizens benefit not at all, and basically the aid money ends up in the pockets of the vultures. It’s clever, unscrupulous, immoral, unethical, disgusting, merciless, unconscionable, and, alas, technically legal.

I do not doubt the basic truth of what Palast offers in the Vultures’ Picnic. I believe that in general this is the way international companies, including all energy companies, operate. They have by now so much money and so much power they can basically do whatever they wish and get away with it, however immoral and criminal. I also do not doubt Palast’s abilities as an investigative reporter. Further, I can also understand how many can be enthusiastic about this book and praise it highly. I like it. But there are what I believe to be some interesting questions having to do with the style of the reportage and how well it represents the subject matter.

As far as the style goes, it is a curious melange of Dashiel Hammet, Damon Runyan, Mickey Spillane, Max Schulman, and John LeCarre, with a bit of H. L. Mencken cynicism thrown in for good measure. While this makes it readable and entertaining I’m not sure I think it is entirely appropriate for the seriousness of the subject matter. I have the impression that Palast has become so enamored of his work he has come to see himself as a kind of Sam Spade, with his faithful female companion the sexy Ms. Badpenny and others of his jolly band of investigators. Why he has chosen this style I do not know. It is obvious, if you look at his various web sites, he is trying to get on the best seller list. This is not necessarily bad. It is also quite possible that when you know what he does, and have seen what he has seen, you become so cynical as to find it difficult to present yourself in any other way. He might also believe writing in this rather sensational, sort of non-stop manner, will be beneficial for his not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund (see www.PalastInvesigive Fund.com). As he offers no references or citations you must accept his claims on faith. He does, however, name specific individuals, specific occasions, and specific information, details it would be difficult to dismiss as false.

In any case, Vultures’ Picnic is a most worthwhile book and well worth reading. If you ever had any doubts about the ruthlessness and predatory behavior of international corporations, especially energy corporations, and why they might well be described as “vulture capitalists,” your doubts should be dispelled.



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Just Say Anything

Just say anything that pops into your head seems to be the standard operating procedure for the current Republican candidates. How else would you describe Romney’s claims that corporations are people, he’s unemployed, and worries at time about getting pink slips? Or when he asserts with some kind of confidence that if Obama is re-elected Iran will have a nuclear bomb, whereas if he, Romney is elected, they will not? Or how about when he announced at the recent meeting of conservatives, the CPAC, that he has always been a “severe” conservative? It is by now common knowledge that Romney will say anything at all if he thinks it might help him win the Presidency. Does anyone take any of this seriously?

Of course Romney’s ridiculous claims pale when compared with Santorum’s. Santorum, who seems to be the latest flavor of the month for Republicans, had said, for example, Obama is helping Iran obtain nuclear weapons. He has also announced that global warming is a hoax, and that the Crusades were not an example of our aggression towards Islam. Add to this his warning that Mormonism is not only a cult, but a “dangerous” cult. He has also asserted that everyone on the West Bank is an Israeli, there are no Palestinians. And don’t forget his claim that contraceptives provide, “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” He has not, as far as I know, provided us with an account of “how things are supposed to be,” but I assume he does not have in mind homosexuality, beastiality, oral and anal sex, and other sexual activities usually considered “perversions,” that have nothing whatever to do with contraception. I think he is unaware this is the 21st century, 99% of American women have used birth control at one time or another, and there has been a sexual revolution.

Then there is Newt the Odious who has said that Obama will wage war against the Catholic Church if he is re-elected, that by the end of his second term as President (he has not yet even the nomination) we will have an American colony on the moon, or “I have enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it. I am now a famous person. I represent real power.” Or how about, “The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.” If those are not enough, try, “If the Soviet empire still existed, I'd be terrified. The fact is, we can afford a fairly ignorant presidency now.”

How about a few Ron Paul quotes: "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities. They could also not be as promiscuous. Is it any wonder the AIDS epidemic started after they 'came out of the closet,' and started hyper-promiscuous sodomy?" He has also claimed: The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. And again, "The freer the market is and the more respect you have for private property, the better the environment is protected.”

It seems that the license to say anything you want as a candidate, no matter how stupid or outrageous, is given by the fact that reporters and others seldom, if ever, challenge these statements. As most of these claims are either completely false, or just plain stupid, they are allowed to find their way into the public discourse. Many claims are even worse, such as Obama is a socialist or communist, he was not born in the U.S., he is going to take away your guns, he is a secret Muslim, and on and on, should never be allowed to go unchallenged, but they are, and no matter how far-fetched seem to find a receptive audience somewhere. With no checks and balances this irresponsible prevaricating will no doubt get worse between now and November.

Of course the above is merely political child’s play, taking our attention away from far more important matters and even bigger and far more important lies and exaggerations. I have in mind the absolutely idiotic licensing of two new nuclear reactors in Georgia. I guess here in the U.S. we simply are unable to learn from experience, common sense, or others. It is as if Chernobyl, Three Mile, and Fukushima never happened or were not massive disasters that will last for many years. The Japanese, Germans, Swiss, and others have already sworn off nuclear energy and will dismantle (however slowly) their existing nuclear plants. But here in the U.S., where we already know many of our existing plants are potential dangers, we are now going to build more. There is no accounting for absolute stupidity. But stupidity is not allowed to interfere with the profits of energy companies. These plants will cost far more than estimated (I am quite certain those who are promoting them actually know this), will take longer to construct while the billions of federal funds are slowly sucked away by the energy giants, the State of Georgia taxpayers will quite likely suffer greatly, and the billions of dollars involved that could have been used for clean and renewable energy will simply be wasted. I cannot believe that President Obama supports this travesty, but he does. I hope those with more intelligence will do everything possible to prevent these two reactors from ever being built. Indeed, the entire American public should rise up in arms against this terrible decision.

Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.

W.E.B. Du Bois

Thursday, February 09, 2012

What Can He Be Thinking?

Rick Santorum, that is. There is a video of Santorum talking about contraception in which he says clearly some think it is okay, but it’s not okay, as it leads to…Well, it’s not clear what it leads to as he doesn’t finish his statement, or if he does I can’t find it anywhere. But it is clearly not okay as far as Santorum is concerned because, I assume, it leads to promiscuity or perhaps worse. I am forced to merely speculate on what it is he has in mind, or even if he has anything much in mind. Given that 98%, perhaps even 99% of American women have used contraception at some time in their life and Santorum and other Republicans want to make it illegal, it might be wise to just leave the issue there, concluding it is just too ridiculous to pursue. But I can’t.

Pardon my blunt language here but I find his position on this matter somewhat confusing, to say the least. He seems to be inordinately concerned about homosexuality, Gay marriage and DADT, believing that Gay marriages already consummated should be overturned and DADT should be returned to what it was. The issue of contraception obviously does not apply here. Homosexual sex obviously is not in need of contraception. But what of other forms of sexual behavior, sometimes practiced not only by homnosexuals? Oral sex, for example, or Anal sex? Or the rather remarkable perversions that apparently exist in the real world of sex, none of which have anything to do with contraception? Then there is also his concern with “man on dog” possibilities or other forms of bestiality. These would seem to have little or nothing to do with the presence or absence of contraception. Thus his concern with doing away with it must not have anything to do with sex in general, but, rather, certain forms of sex in particular. I conclude from this (1) he has little knowledge of the range of human sexuality, and (2) he must have in mind something in the order of more or less common heterosexual behavior between consenting partners. He must have in mind something on the order of promiscuity, sexual orgies, adolescent sex, sex between unmarried people, adultery, and so on. In other words, the kind of sex normal people engage in without necessarily the intention of having a child and, in fact, free from the possibility of accidentally having one. I guess Santorum must believe that without contraception people would refrain from sex unless they wanted to produce another member for the Catholic Church, and/or engage in sex as a form of Russian roulette. I think Santorum has no idea what he is talking about and is taking a position so far from the mainstream of ordinary human behavior as to be laughable. Ignorance is bliss.

Contraception is not the only subject about which Santorum and other Republicans remain blissfully ignorant. They commonly insist that Gay marriages are wrong because traditionally marriage has always been between a man and a woman. While it is true that monogamy is the most common form of marriage (out of practical necessity I think), polygamy is actually the preferred form of marriage around the world and is fairly widespread. Even marriage between homosexuals occurred in some cases. Some American Indians, for example, had an institution called the “berdache” that involved a man taking on the female role and becoming a wife, or a woman taking on a male role and marrying another woman. Although relatively rare there were also polyandrous marriages where two or three men (usually brothers) would share a single wife. The children of these marriages were allocated to the fathers, not on the basic of actual biological parenthood, but more or less equally. That is, after the first one or two children were legally recognized as those of the eldest brother, the next children would be considered legally those of the next brother. In at least one African society a woman could marry a ghost, bring in a man to cohabit with her, and the children were legally recognized as those of the ghost. Similarly, if a name was about to disappear from a lineage a woman could marry another woman and the child would be considered a descendant of the man who had died childless. Similarly, in matrilineal societies the child belonged to the mother as the actual father was irrelevant and the significant father figure was the mother’s brother. I confess my ethnographic knowledge has dimmed a bit and there are no doubt even other variations in family configurations. It is clear, however, that those who speak with authority about marriage always having been between one man and one woman simply have no knowledge of marriage customs around the world, the typical ethnocentrism to be expected of people who know only their own customs. Actually, I’m pretty certain that even historically in America marriages were not always what they seemed, some were common law, some temporary, some polygamous, and so on. Anyway, what does it matter, those who don’t do what we do can just be dismissed as “savages,” “barbarians,” “towel heads,” “gooks,” or whatever. In America you don’t have to know anything to speak with authority on most everything. George W. Bush, for example, took us to “war” in Iraq unaware there were both Sunnis and Shiities and that that might be important. Hey, it’s the American way.

Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.

Thomas Gray

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Shame, Guilt, or Satisfaction?

You will recall the Supreme Court decision that declared corporations were persons, and that money represents speech. You may also recall that President Obama in his State of the Union address a year ago pointed out this would open the floodgates of private money overwhelming the democratic process, and Justice Alito shaking his head no. This decision, almost certainly the worst and most harmful since the horrible Dred Scott decision of 1857, has proven to be every bit as bad as Obama predicted it would be. You could easily argue it spelled the end even of the pretense we had of democracy up to that time. How demonstrably bad this decision is/was can be seen at the moment with unidentified corporate and private money pouring in to the election process and having a profound effect on it. It is not out of line to point out that a very few billionaires are having an unprecedented influence in the election process. The Superpacs behind Romney, for example, have effectively blown Gingrich out of the race and will no doubt do the same to Santorum. This threat to our democracy is so great that Obama, who was opposed to it, has now had to appeal for Superpacs of his own to counter the Rove/corporate fortunes they have pledged against him. Now, as Robert Reich has said, we will have billionaires on the right opposing billionaires on the left to determine the outcome of the election. Reich believes Obama should have resisted asking for Superpac support on the grounds he could have done just as well by refusing to participate in this development and would therefore have garnered even more small donation support. I agree with this in theory but I also believe it would be thoroughly impractical in reality. I think Obama has no other choice. I wonder, however, if there are enough billionaires on the left to counter all those on the right. However this plays out during this current electoral process, if allowed to continue over time, it will surely spell the end of even any pretense of democracy here in the United States. I believe it is fundamentally absurd to argue that corporations are persons and that money represents speech.

What I really wonder about is that now the extremely deleterious effects of this awful decision are becoming apparent, now that it is demonstrably corrupting our electoral process, what do the Supreme Court Justices truly feel about it. It is obvious they made a terrible mistake, and equally obvious (I think) it was a political decision that should never have been made by what is supposed to be a nonpolitical entity. Now that it has become visible in all its absurdity, and exposed for what it is, do they feel any shame in having been exposed? Shame, of course, is not something experienced in a vacuum, it has to be public, external. If they do not feel shame for what they have done, perhaps they feel guilty. Guilt is something you can experience privately, you can feel guilt over something even if no one else is aware of what you have done. Guilt, unlike shame, is internal, private, unless perhaps confessed at some point. I wonder if any of our current Justices will ever admit to either shame or guilt. If they can ignore public shame over their disgraceful decision, and if they do not feel guilt over it, perhaps they are satisfied. After all, it would appear their decision to aid the development of fascism in America, is working. As I do not believe they are stupid I can only believe this was their intention. Unless something is done quickly to reverse this shameful decision it will do irreparable damage to our nation.

Here again I think one of the major shortcomings of our (presumed) democracy is apparent. It is often just too slow a process to effectively compete against more dictatorial regimes (I am not suggesting we should aspire to a more dictatorial regime). In this case the deed has been done, the Court has spoken, what has been done cannot be undone without a Constitutional amendment, an amendment that can take years to accomplish, while in the meantime the corporate fingers around our throats will just get stronger. It also reveals, at least to me, the problems with the Supreme Court itself, not the least of which is that they have too much power. Being lifetime appointments it is virtually impossible to replace one of the Justices no matter how egregiously they abuse their powers (how often has a Justice ever been impeached). There is no retirement age for members of the Court, they can continue on no matter how out of touch with recent developments or how senile they become. They should not be allowed to decide themselves whether or not they should have to be recused from cases in which they have obvious conflicts of interest. The Supreme Court is supreme only in the sense there is no other court above them. To have faith and confidence in the Court it has to be assumed they are honorable men and women, scrupulously objective, dedicated to justice and fairness to all. I don’t know if the Court historically has ever been completely what it should have been, but it is clear to me the current one is certainly open to question. After all, they have made some terrible decisions that would appear to have been purely political in intent, when they intervened in Florida, for example, and proclaimed Bush the winner, a decision so bad even they said at the time it could not serve as a precedent in the future. And now their ridiculous decision about corporate personhood that seems to me to be also purely political. The Roberts Court has disgraced itself and undermined their credibility, instead of being fair and balanced they have become unconstitutionally and illegally partisan. Imagine how much worse it could become if a Republican were now elected to the Presidency.

What power has law where only money rules.

Gaius Petronius





Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Does it Matter?

It appears that Rick Santorum is having a truly big night and is on his way to probably winning in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado. Assuming he does win all three races, does it matter? Does anyone believe that Santorum is going to be the official Republican candidate for the Presidency and run against President Obama? I don’t believe it. Is Santorum just going to be the last flavor of the month before everyone settles on Mitt Romney? Is it inevitable, as many have been saying for a long time, that Romney, because of his money and organization will win in the long run? It is pretty obvious that Gingrich is finished, just as it is common knowledge that Ron Paul will never be the candidate. What does this all mean?

Being one who despises Republicans even worse than stink bugs and cockroaches I find this rather amusing. I cannot help but wonder where all this indecision is going. What seems obvious is that Republicans in large measure simply do not want Mitt Romney as their candidate. They could not have made this more obvious. Romney, being the little rich boy, just doesn’t seem to get it. He apparently just can’t take a hint. He either just doesn’t perceive how much he is not wanted or he wants to be President so badly he just ignores it and believes he will be able to buy the candidacy and perhaps (in his dreams) the Presidency. He shares this thick skin with Gingrich who also refuses to accept the fact that he, too, is just not wanted. This must boil down in both cases to the basic issue of ego, with both of them so oversized as to render them incapable of believing no one wants them.

With Gingrich basically out of contention, and Paul not considered a possibility, it looks like a two man race, Romney versus Santorum. But I think this is little more than a fantasy. It is true that Santorum might not have the baggage of Gingrich, but his positions are so extreme that baggage is irrelevant. He believes, for example, that global warming is a hoax, abortions should be illegal, along with contraception, DADT should be reinstated, Gay marriages should be reversed where they occur and no longer permitted, we should go to war against Iran, and who knows what all. It’s true he may be the most genuinely conservative candidate, and that might play well in the Midwest, but it won’t play in the general election. I don’t believe he will be allowed to represent the Republican Party in a contest against President Obama. That would seem to leave Romney (as usual) who is obviously not wanted and, more importantly, is increasingly disliked the more people get to know him. What a dilemma! I love it. Romney will be the weakest Republican candidate to run for President in history with his own party barely lukewarm and Democrats drooling to attack him. Unless, of course, there is some miraculous and completely unpredictable event in the offing. Personally, I think in order to avoid some extreme embarrassment, Republicans should simply concede the 2012 election and try to re-group for 2016. But of course this is the United States of America, where what passes for reality makes Alice in Wonderland read like a scientific tome. Strangely, I find myself missing Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Sharron Angle, and that entertaining What’s-her-face, O’Donnell woman, the four Republican “Spice Girls.”

Yes, I saw the Clint Eastwood ad during the Superbowl, but I did not hear it. I was at a party where there were 25 to 30 guests, none of whom were apparently interested in the football game. Thus the din from their various conversations was so great you could only watch. Now, having seen it replayed several times I cannot understand what all the fuss is about. Eastwood is a Republican, the ad was about success in America and hopes for the future. Karl Rove says he was offended, ha ha, imagine Karl Rove being offended by anything. I find Karl Rove’s actual “being,” offensive. I guess Republicans might have found the ad offensive because it reminded them of Obama’s success with turning the auto industry around, but maybe they were offended by the idea that things might get better before the election and their plan to deep six Obama might fail. They should follow their leader, that fat sack of crap, Rush Limbaugh, who has now said he doesn’t care what any facts and figures show, he just won’t believe them. Good on ya, Rush, that’s the way to go, just refuse to believe anything you don’t want to believe. That’s not only “fair and balanced,” it’s also convenient, efficient, and utterly pathetic.

It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Ultimate Real

When I was still enrolled in the University (many years ago now) I had a roommate for a time named, shall I say, John. John was very bright. One Autumn day John was raking leaves from the sidewalk in front of the large house where we shared a room, maple leaves, they were very thick and difficult to rake. John’s Philosophy Professor passed by and asked, “John, what are you doing?” John was very quick witted, certainly enough to know not to insult his Philosophy Professor by pointing out the basic idiocy of his question, so he replied, “Well Sir, I’m searching for the ultimate real,” an answer sufficiently philosophical to avoid the obvious and also indicate the depths of his commitment to the profundity of the subject matter of the course which he was currently taking, which I believe was Aesthetics.

I feel that is precisely what I have been searching for these past two or three years when it comes to the Republicans. What, if anything, is “real?” I do not wish to get involved in a definition of the term “real,” or the “really real,” or even the “really, really real.” Suffice it to say I will use the term to mean whatever I wish it to mean at the moment, consistent with the use of the English language when it comes to politics.

So, for example, are the Republicans for real when they say the solution to our economic dilemma is lower taxes and fewer regulations. They must certainly know by now that is a program that has already failed…miserably. How about when they claim President Obama is a “failed President?” Is that real? Has he really failed or is that just a meaningless Republican claim? What about “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme? Is that real? Mitt Romney is said to make $57,000 a day but still wants tax reductions for people like himself. Is that real or merely a talking point to amuse his peers who make as much or more? How about Ron Paul who insists we should return to the gold standard and people who don’t pay their health insurance premiums should die? The first doesn’t seem very real, the latter seems really real (I think). Then there is Newt the Odious, not yet even the Republican candidate, let alone the President, who is talking about a colony on the moon by the end of his second term. I must say that seems to me much more unreal than real, actually more surreal than unreal. Rick Santorum, seemingly obsessed with other people’s sexual behavior, wants to annul all Gay marriages, undo DODT, and incarcerate doctors who perform abortions. Is that real (perhaps I should say realistic)? All the Republican candidates are all for doing away with “Obamacare,” that they somehow believe is government mandated health care or, even more awful, socialism. Is that real? Do they really want only the wealthiest to have health care? They are against Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, minimum wages, unions, and so forth, how real is that?

Where is the locus of reality (the real) when, having announced their most important goal is to get rid of President Obama, and also having announced they would be the party of “no,” and blocked every attempt he has made to create jobs, and then ask everyday “Where are the jobs?” I guess you could say they really did that, but is it really real? Sometimes they say things or make claims that are so divorced from the real you have to wonder if they even believe their listeners are real. For example, Romney announced with absolute conviction that if Obama was re-elected Iran would have a nuclear bomb, whereas if he, Romney were elected, they would not. How could he know they would have a bomb if Obama was elected, or would not if he was elected? Of course he couldn’t know that, but real has no meaning for Republicans. Nothing they say has to be real, realistic, or even within the range of human knowledge. Apparently a majority of Republicans do not believe Romney is for real and have done everything to find an alternative. None of their proposed alternatives have been real, not Pawlenty, Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Cain, Perry, Paul, Santorum, or Gingrich. I don’t believe it is at all far-fetched to say their entire campaign to date has been basically unreal with little or no chance of unseating Obama. They have put forward no real platform (other than lower taxes, fewer regulations), have passed no legislation to create jobs, have not been able to agree on a suitable candidate, and seem to believe that being virulently anti-Obama for reasons that are not very clear (but smell of racial prejudice), will be enough to usher them back into the Executive office. Try as I might I have not been able to find any ultimate real in their strategy, or even any real, but it appears to me that unreality and even surreality is a more apt description of their rather pathetic performance to date. If they cannot get real before November I cannot see how they can possibly defeat Obama. As Romney is so obviously divorced from anything real about American life and culture, and also even devoid of either empathy or insight, he should be about as helpful as all other wooden soldiers.

Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy.

Dean Koontz

Saturday, February 04, 2012

It's Over

It’s over, the Republican competition for who will run against President Obama, that is. Or so it seems to me. Romney, as predicted, won in Nevada very convincingly. Gingrich may have come in a distant second if that honor does not turn out to be for Ron Paul. Santorum was a definite fourth. I cannot see any scenario for any of Romney’s competitors to overtake him now (barring some strange act of god or nature). Looking at the results that we have seen so far it is clear that Romney won pretty much across the board. He won significantly even among Evangelicals, hard-core conservatives, and others that to him were supposed to be anathema. This indicates to me Republicans have now made their peace with Romney and have already decided he will be their candidate (whether they like it or not).

Gingrich is clearly finished, whether he tries to continue or not. Whatever his past has finally cost him the Romney financial blitzkrieg has finished. It couldn’t happen to a bigger phony, an attention grabbing, loudmouthed blowhard, unashamed to pontificate on any subject at any time, serial adulterer, hypocrite extraordinary, and all-around con artist with no interest in anything but himself, willing to take any position provided the money was right, a kind of caricature of the famous “General Bullmoose” of Lil’ Abner fame. Unfortunately he probably won’t disappear from public view, probably sitting up in his casket pontificating until the very end. Happily we do not have to even consider him as Vice-Presidential material.

Not so the obsessional Rick Santorum. Why MSNBC thought inserting a speech of Santorum’s from Colorado during their report on the Nevada contest I will never understand. I had never listened to Santorum before, other than a few words here and there. I must say his remarks were the most absurd garble of lies, half-truths, unfinished sentences, and complete nonsense I have ever heard. He just tosses out statements like “The failed policies of Obama” (unspecified), “Obamacare is already damaging the economy” (unspecified), “Our country was founded on…” (unspecified), and on and on. It is said he is now running for the Vice-Presidential slot, and given this kind of performance he might well attain it.

Ron Paul, who I cannot separate from the character of Pa Kettle no matter how hard I try, may well end up in second place in Nevada, edging out Gingrich. He does well in the rural areas of Nevada (and Idaho) with folk that like to pretend they are still living in the 18th century, while at the same time collecting their Social Security, farm subsidies, food stamps, aid to dependent children, free elementary education, veterans benefits, and often living on state, county, or city money…rugged individualists all. He will quite likely stick it out to the eventual Republican convention although it is not entirely clear to me why. I have heard it said he may be angling for something for his son Rand (an even bigger loony tunes than himself). In any case, like Gingrich, we don’t have to worry about a Paul Vice-Presidency.

I thought for a while there might be a brokered convention if no clear Republican candidate emerged and if Romney simply would not do. I don’t believe that will happen now that more and more Republicans seem to believe that Romney has the best chance of defeating Obama. This is a belief I do not share as I think he’s probably the worst candidate they could find to attempt such a task. He is the veritable epitome of the One Per Cent, the candidate of wealth, corporation, endless war, and unconcern with anyone but the wealthy, a candidate who makes $57,000 dollars a day and believes he should get a greater tax break.

Not only will Romney be terribly vulnerable as a candidate, Republicans are going to be hard-pressed to specify just where it is Obama has failed. They apparently believe the voting public is unaware of how it is Republicans have blocked everything Obama has attempted to do to improve things, unaware of their stated plan to defeat Obama as their number one objective, unaware of the fact that by most historical standards Obama has actually been a fairly successful President (in spite of their opposition), and oblivious to the fact the economy is improving, however slowly. I cannot see how their claim “they can do better” has any validity whatsoever given their past performance. Most of the things I hold against Obama, his failure to pursue Bush/Cheney and their gang of criminals, his presumed protection of the bankers, his continued “war” in Afghanistan, and his blind support of Israel, are not things that Republicans should object to as they are in line with their own perspectives. Of course Obama does have one distinct handicap, he’s Black. Maybe they can parlay that into a victory. I sincerely hope not.

I believe I have no prejudices whatsoever. All I need to know is that a man is a member of the human race. That's bad enough for me.

Mark Twain